June 26, 2010


Phillip Seymour Hoffman stars in “Capote”, the gritty drama about Truman Capote that
earned Hoffman his first Oscar. The film is about the process of Truman Capote writing
one of the first non-fiction novels about a gruesome murder in Kansas. As Truman
interviews the killer, they begin to develop a relationship and it is only more complicated
by the killer being put on death row. I was very surprised seeing the trailer for capote
because of; you guessed it, Hoffman’s crazy weird voice. However, as I got into the film,
Hoffman depicted the character so beautifully, I didn’t notice the squeaky voice at all.
Hoffman delivers one of my favorite performances of all time and completely carries the
film past the fact the plot is not that interesting. Also, Catherine Keener plays Capote’s
assistant and only makes the film even better.
My Review: A-


June 23, 2010

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Sound-a-like: Bibio

The beginning of Cosmogramma is divided into short eccentric tracks with unavoidable beats, catchy loops, arcade-sounding drones, and mumbled string arrangements that go by so fast you might just miss the subtle incoming of Thom Yorke's appearance on the track ...And the World Laughs With You, unless you're paying close attention. That's what I love about these songs, they blend together so smoothly and fly by so effortlessly, despite sounding so hectic. Guest appearances from musicians such as Thundercat, Laura Darlington, Thom Yorke, and Stephen Ellison's own family members (his brother on the sax, his aunt on the harp), and the fact that each song has its own character really contribute to its diversity.

Unless you've listened to previous Flying Lotus albums, it's unlike anything you've ever heard. Trust me, if your taste in music is bizarre enough, you'll fall in love with Cosmogramma.


June 22, 2010

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record

Sound-a-likes: The National, Male Bonding, Metric
Forgiveness Rock Record is a confusing album. Some songs try hard to be more like straight-forward mainstream rock songs, such as Meet Me in the Basement or Water in Hell. Most sound like unfinished ideas and mediocre melodies that they either stretched out over 5-7 minutes like Sweetest Kill or Ungrateful Little Father, or made faster, like Chase Scene or Sentimental X's (which shouldn't have an apostrophe). None of the songs blend together as well as on their previous albums, and some end up sounding more mainstream and unoriginal, so I guess that's the biggest disappointment.

There are a few high points to this album, for example the upbeat and catchy Forced to Love, the smooth yet provoking World Sick (which has some great guitar licks), and most of all All to All, which effortlessly blends rapid beats with the smooth vocals of Lisa Lobsinger. Romance to the Grave, Texico Bitches, and Highway Slipper Jam are up there too. But despite their efforts, no song manages to match the perfection of 7/4 (Shoreline), Stars & Sons, or Lover's Spit.

In general, this album makes me a little disappointed. More specifically, about 7 out of 14 songs disappointed.


Local Natives - Gorilla Manor

Sound-a-likes: Grizzly Bear, Ra Ra Riot, Fruit Bats, Real Estate, Regina Spektor, Broken Bells
First impressions are important. So then what could Local Natives be getting at by naming their indie pop debut Gorilla Manor? All I can think of when I hear the name of Natives’ first LP is entering a giant white mansion with massive Roman pillars in front, but then immediately getting torn to bits by hundreds of massive apes. That couldn’t be a worse description of this album.

Anyways, the poorly named Gorilla Manor seems to be a medley of everything that has worked over the past five years on the indie pop scene. However, they don’t go about it in a lame copying way, where each song sounds distinctly like another band’s hit. Remarkably, a compilation of Grizzly Bear, Ra Ra Riot, and Dirty Projectors produces an incredibly distinct sound, which is a major plus.

Don’t get me wrong; there are a couple awkward moments on the record. Something is terribly (almost comically) wrong with the beginning of Airplanes, but beautiful awkwardnesses arise later in the song with the harmonies.

Keeping in mind that Gorilla Manor earns a strong nine, perhaps one reason why Natives’ debut doesn’t earn a ten is a lack a really strong lower section. How can that be when the band’s drummer is very generous with the bass and they do have a pretty skilled bass guitarist, you ask? Sometimes on the album the vocals and guitars take off way up in the high range, and feel unattached to the bottom parts, leaving a big gap in the midsection. What clicked with Grizzly Bear’s Veckatimest was that the high harmonies and the funky bass were always tight, while here they are only sometimes tight, as on a couple tracks when they sound a bit detached. This very well could be stylistic, as I doubt these guys didn’t realize this, but it’s something I noticed.

Despite the fact that this review has mostly highlighted just one small flaw on this great album, Local Natives do so many things right in so many places that it is hard to pick out just one without writing an encyclopedia for future indie bands to follow. Being an indie pop album, and a good one at that, it draws you in at the first listen with some gentle lyrics, smooth harmonies, and resolving chords, but from the first listen to the tenth, there will be something there to keep you hooked.

By the way, it’s all free on their site.


Caribou - Swim

Sound-a-likes: Delorean, Animal Collective, The Knife, The Whitest Boy Alive

Here is one-man-act Caribou latest album in one sentence. A mix of a less-captivating version of Animal Collective and Delorean, and a vocal mix of The Whitest Boy Alive and Yo La Tengo, with The Knife thrown in to dim it down and make it more boring.

Swim is part of a group of albums being released this year, where you can hear the electro-synthy creative juices of the 10s gradually seeping in. Such albums include, but are not limited to, Subiza by Delorian, Black Noise by Pantha du Prince, There Is Love in You by Four Tet, and Odd Blood by Yeasayer. This electronica/pop trend will probably go on for a few more years, and hopefully some new genre of music will arise. It's actually been going on for quite a while, and I've gotten to the point where I only really like an electronic album that has some elements of guitar, and a cool drum track. And for this, Swim almost gets the boot, but not quite. If he had stuck to the style of his previous record, Andorra, it would have been great, but alas.

I mentioned that Swim was also slightly dull. Well, there's another trend going around that to make a good electronic record, you have to give it 9 to 10 tracks, and have all the songs be 5 to 6 minutes, like this album. This makes regular songs that would normally be okay at regular length longer, and harder to get along with because they stay the same throughout. This is probably the biggest mistake about this record.

To boil it down, Swim is easy to appreciate, with its catchy beats and primitive sound (see Odessa), but it's harder to love, even though the album cover makes me want to. I think it's is a good album, and a disappointing follow up to his last album. However, this is just an opinion. If you like Delorean, The Knife, Yeasayer, Four Tet etc., then I think you'll find Swim to be a gratifying record, overall.


The Tallest Man on Earth - The Wild Hunt

Sound-a-likes: Bob Dylan, Iron & Wine,
Dr. Dog

After releasing Shallow Grave, you'd expect Kristian Matsson of one-man-band The Tallest Man on Earth to try something new for his next album, after all, that is how artists evolve. But for the most part, he sustains the same folky tone. And I mean really stripped-down folk, like only guitar and vocals, much like his first album.

So is The Wild Hunt better than Shallow Grave? Yes. In general, the songs sustain a lighter tone, and on The Wild Hunt, Matsson tries out some more ambitious singing. Also, the songs are still very catchy, and the melodies and lyrics are superb. There is a small part of me that wished that he had tried maybe a drum track, or some sort of string arrangement for some of the songs, but you have to give this Swedish Bob Dylan credit for making such a simple album again, that is easy to catch anyone's attention and draw them in. There isn't a lot to expect from this guy, and I think that's a good thing.


MGMT - Congratulations

Congratulations is sort of catchy, but it doesn't get my immediate attention like the uplifting resonance of Time to Pretend, or the funkiness of Electric Feel. There's no depth to the album, but that doesn't mean it isn't good. Just not as good as Oracular Spectacular.

It's almost like the beginning Congratulations is on coffee. The energy is there, but it's kind of empty. It might even seem like they made the songs fast to cover up for the fact that none of the melodies are very interesting. Same goes for the song Brian Eno. Luckily this feeling clears up when Someone's Missing and Flash Delerium. The tunes get a little better, and FINALLY we get a little guitar action, and cool drum tracks that aren't coming out of a keyboard.

The best songs on Congratulations is I Found a Whistle, with its waltz-like, hopeful spirit. Unfortunately, it turns out to be the only real fresh breath of air on the album. The next 12 minute song Siberian Breaks is interesting, but it changes way too much, as if the duo decided that they had too many songs for the album, and tried to cram them all together into "one" song. I find it to be too synthy for me too.

I think that you either like this album, or you don't. Or you're in between, like me. Give it a listen.


Frightened Rabbit - The Winter of Mixed Drinks

The Winter of Mixed Drinks is a good album. And that’s the biggest flaw that I can find with it. On one hand, it’s good, but on the other, it’s just good. Virtually nothing really stood out on the first, second, or third listen.

Song-by-song, this album is great. All thirteen tracks are well crafted and have nice little tunes. The Scots mix it up with some fast songs and slow songs and some electronic and some acoustic. So then what’s the problem?

Drinks has a way of fading into the background. Whether it is coming through your headphones, or being played through a stereo, it loses your attention after just a couple tracks. If you take the liberty of buying just a couple songs and playing them independently, you won’t regret it, especially if you pick up great songs like Things, Swim Until You Can’t See Land, The Loneliness, or my favorite, Living in Colour.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Frightened Rabbit makes a major mistake. Track-by-track it’s hard to find a problem. Each song makes me want to say “Eh, not bad.”

Thus, The Winter of Mixed Drinks is an album that may confuse a listener, as each song is likable, but after just a couple they may drive you nuts. If you’re a Frightened Rabbit fan and you’re used to this, go ahead, but other listeners, be warned.

I could make some guesses and try to get much more technical about why this is, about track placement and such, but the bottom line is The Winter of Mixed Drinks is a bunch of great songs, not a great album.

Frightened Rabbit’s latest effort earns a complicated five stars out of ten.


Love is All - Two Thousand and Ten Injuries

Something you might have to get past on Two Thousand and Ten injuries is the lead singer's squawky singing voice, which truly came out on their second record, A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night. It makes it very original, but it may also make for an uncomfortable listening experience. Unless you pay more attention to the uplifting and awesome melodies, like I do. However, it doesn't have the same energy that A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night had, which is what made that record so fun to listen to. That doesn't mean it's boring, though. It's still very joyful, and their take on the Pachelbel Canon in D is something to enjoy. If you loved their earlier albums, then you'll still like this one.


Black Tambourine - Black Tambourine

Black Tambourine recently reissued their self-titled compilation album, and it appears it's finally getting the attention it deserves. In short, it's a very original mix between The Jesus & Mary Chain, Echobelly, Galaxie 500, and The Cranberries. Meaning it's distorted-to-shit, noisy, poppy, punky, and shoegazy. Essentially the summed-up sounds of the early 90s. It doesn't match the same feeling you might get from the 80s gem Psychocandy, The Jesus & Mary Chain's debut album, but it's still one band not to be ignored...again.

Recommended songs: For Ex-Lovers Only, Black Car, Can't Explain, Throw Aggi Off the Bridge, Drown, By Tomorrow, Dream Baby Dream.


Titus Andronicus - The Monitor

A More Perfect Union starts off with a distorted quote by Abraham Lincoln, backed up by a crescendoing guitar chord, then burst out into a ruckus of loud drum beats, echoey guitars and a punk-rock version of Conor Oberst's singing. Then at about the 4-minute mark, it changes its pace and busts out a few guitar riffs, and finally at the 6:30 mark, changes back to the original pace and diminishes with another quote by an old American activist. Yes, this rousing song is 7 minutes long, but it's still very uplifting, and is similar to the beginning of The Airing of Grievances, in the way that it picks you right up on your feet. This band is great at that. And again, the energy doesn't die down, it just picks up speed on the next song Titus Andronicus Forever, which ends with another Abe Lincoln quote.

However, the constant vibrancy in each song can't fully cover up the fact that the melodies aren't very elaborate, or interesting. They did fine with this on their last record, but somehow skipped over this on The Monitor. A descent melody can only really be heard on A Pot in Which to Piss, Four Score and Seven, and To Old Friends and New.

Something surprising, though, is that each song is 5 to 9 minutes long, yet they keep changing, so they keep you interested, which is hard without many notable melodies.

All in all, it doesn't give the same gratification as The Airing of Grievances, but it's very lively and sustains the same tone of energetic glee, despite the saddening lyrics. I like this album a lot.


The Yupps - Y

Y is a strange album, and I will hold off judging The Yupps until their next LP (which is scheduled to be released later this year). Here’s why.

Y is an 8-track semi-LP filled with short, terribly catchy tracks. Up-beat songs like Love Me Twice and The Girl from the Eastern Country are instant favorites, but even after just one or two listens One More Day and Astronauts won me over.

The Yupps are French, and it is clear that maybe English isn’t their strong point as they joyfully shout on an on about a wrong door on the cheery Not This Door, but that’s a small objection.

However, what makes The Yupps so likable is their sound, which I hope they don’t lose. Their songs are based solely on simple guitar lines and simple drums beats. That’s it. I didn’t realize it at first, but that’s all there is on this record, which is something that will undoubtedly change if these guys are picked up by a big record label.

Maybe I am underestimating The Yupps, but only their next album will expose the truth.

But for the moment, the only thing The Yupps have done is craft a great little album filled with great little songs. However, if you’re looking for deep and intimate lyrics maybe this isn’t your album.


Broken Bells - Broken Bells

Maybe it's not quite that new Shins album that some might have been hoping for, but Broken Bells' debut doesn't disappoint. Shins' frontman James Mercer and snazzy producer/Gnarles Barkley keyboardist Danger Mouse (Brian Burton) teamed up last year to form an unusual but promising duo.

Their styles blend together well on The High Road and Trap Doors, but their differences are evident on tracks like Citizen and Mongrel Heart as the duo fails to create a really solid sound. Although all the work on songs was split 50/50 according to the duo, one could mistake Vaporize and Your Head Is On Fire as old Shins songs.

Although Broken Bells might not necessarily be considered a step forward for either Mercer or Mouse, they have seemed to find a happy medium.

However, some songs where Mercer's stamp is evident work well, while others aren't quite there, if you know what I mean. The same goes for Danger Mouse's and their "combined-sound" work as well. So Mercer and Mouse haven't quite found the winning formula just yet, but they're close.

Great tracks like The High Road, The Ghost Inside, and October earn Broken Bells' self-titled debut seven and a half stars out of ten.


The Morning Benders - Big Echo

Big Echo pretty much sums itself up right there in the title. It makes a bold entrance with the almost overpowering awesomeness of Excuses, and ends with a loud bang, leaving all the tunes you just heard swirling around in your head. Even tunes from the quiet side of the album, like Wet Cement, Mason Jar, or the softly-sung Pleasure Sighs, which sounds a lot like a Deerhunter song. I can also tell you that the sonic, yet uplifting tone of All Day Daylight will be on repeat on your iPod.

One important thing to add, Chris Taylor (bassist for Grizzly Bear) produced the album, and some of the songs really show his influence, like the starts and stop sounds of Promises, or Hand Me Downs. I'd say that he definitely was a huge contributing factor for how astounding this record is.

I think you can see that a lot of songs are mentioned above. Meaning that almost every song is really good. It almost seems like Big Echo is The Morning Bender's first album, or like Talking Through Tin Cans was their pick-up note.
Anyway, definitely give it a listen.


She & Him - Volume Two

Volume Two has two sides to it, like Volume One. A sincere, heartfelt part, and a light, feel-good poppy part. And both have tons of harmony. However, Volume Two is different from Volume One because its songs don't have that feeling you get with Volume One where straight away, you know this is going to be an extremely sad, or extremely happy song. With Volume Two, your sort of stuck inbetween, trying to decide which one it's going to be. This is nice, but it means that there aren't many stand out songs. Volume One had Sentimental Heart, Why Do You Let Me Stay Here, This Is Not A Test, I Thought I Saw Your Face Today, Take It Back, and Sweet Darling. Volume Two has In The Sun, If You Can't Sleep, and maybe Brand New Shoes.

But enough of comparisons. This album has got tons of talent from the lovely-as-always Zooey Deschanel, great harmonies, like I mentioned before (If You Can't Sleep especially) and great melodies (In The Sun, Brand New Shoes, Me and You, Home). The rest of the songs kind of blend together, like Sing, a song that starts out to be about the TV show Cribs, but turns into a song about singing. WHAAA? Oh well. When you think about it, who could really write a whole song about Cribs anyway?

One other disappointment is that M. Ward is only really audible on two songs, Ridin' In My Car, and Me and You. His voice goes perfectly with Zooey's, they should have used it more on the album.

Overall, it's less than great, but it's more than good, if that makes sense. I'd buy it, if I were you.


Portugal. The Man - American Ghetto

Six months after The Satanic Satanist, which quickly became one of my favorite albums in a long time, Portugal. (pause) The Man released American Ghetto.

Since they are a band that changes album to album as much as they do, I was nervous that their follow-up to The Satanic Satanist would have no remnants of the awesomeness that was that album. I was worried until seconds after I put it in my stereo.

Portugal. The Man are back, with a different sound, but not completely different. They seem have done everything right on American Ghetto. They have taken The Satanic Satanist and built on top of it.

I would like to think of The Satanic Satanist as a traditional 16x16 Lego plate. For American Ghetto, Portugal. The Man built a couple buildings and cars and put some little figures on the plate. You can still see the 16x16 plate that supports everything, but there is all this cool and interesting new stuff on top of it.

Don't get me wrong, all of the buildings are totally weird looking, and all the little guys have some creepy look on their face, but that is sort of expected coming from these guys.



OK Go - Of the Blue Colour of the Sky

Oh boy! LA Band OK Go has a brand spankin' new album, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky. The rock group, originally hailing from Chicago, has previously delivered two rock albums, OK Go and Oh No.
As of early March, they're newest album has given us thirteen new tracks so we can all treadmill dance to our heart's content. The style has shifted a bit resulting in more polished, refined songs. With a a new unique, borderline rock sound, the lead singer has shifted his vocal styling a bit. In of the Blue Colour of the Sky, the vocals of Damien Kulash are fainter, more dreamlike, and a heck of a lot harder to understand, which can be invariable good or bad. The first track on the album, WTF?, opens with some sinister electronic beats that are quickly accompanied by Kulash's hazy singing. An interesting song on the album, Last Leaf, differs from the theme of the album to give us a lighter, acoustic song with soft, clear vocals. Not a bad song, and offers a bit a variety to the sometimes bland repetition of the album. Another song, This Too Shall Pass, clearly the star of the album, is pretty outstanding. I really would never have expected a song like this to come from a band like OK Go. The song consists of a thick haze of Kulash's mystifying vocals and loud, adrenaline pumping instrumentals. It all blends together nicely, and I could see it being popular with a lot of people. (On a side note, the song is accompanied by an equally mind-blowing video, which can be found here.
Now it's time to talk nasty behind OK Go's back. There are a few things that are quite annoying about the album, like the noticeable deviation from their style. Not that it's bad, I personally think it sounds great. It just always bugs me when bands can't stick to one thing. I say this about a lot of bands but repetition really killed some songs. It's not that bad, but the first few songs on the album are a little too similar. Also, the much more faint, harder to hear lyrics didn't seem right. It felt like they were trying too hard in some songs. They really should have just stuck to clearer, more natural singing.
So there are a few blemishes, nothing too huge. Overall, I'd say this album is worth buying. I can see how people could grow tired of the style pretty easily, but for the most part I think they did a spot-on job. 8 and a half stars for this gem of an album. OKAY, it's time for me to GO to bed, get it!?


Beach House - Teen Dream (Bonus DVD)

After making another routine stop at Newbury comics, I departed with The Antlers' Hospice, and my brand spankin' new Super Deluxe Teen Dream by Beach House (both of which, mind you in cardboard packaging, which is really starting to be a major turn-on for me). Or at least the sticker on the cover told me that it was Super Deluxe. Little did I know that one half of the package was going to be Super Deluxe, while the other side was going to be Super Deluxe-coated crap.

Well, anyways, to the review. Beach house had a bit of fun with their package. On one side of the case, you can pull out the actual CD and the little booklet. However, on the other side was the real Super Deluxe-ness. A DVD with music videos to the songs all done by independent film directors. Sometimes I'll read somewhere in some post by someone that the word 'indie' is becoming more and more synonymous with 'bad.' Well, up until now, I had blown these certain someones off. Beach House's Super Deluxe extra DVD has single-handedly destroyed this album for me.

Here's why: First of all, Teen Dream is a great album, right? Yeah, nice pleasant harmonies, sweet vocals, good instrumentals. Check. So then who on the face of the earth would make a terribly gross and unappealing music videos to go along with it. Well, I have found that person. Actually, I have found ten of those people. It is unbelievable that I cannot stand to watch a single music video on this DVD.
Here's a little breakdown:
USED TO BE: Basically an ugly face singing at you and blowing steam into your face for four minutes.

BETTER TIMES: Crappy footage of dandelions, more ugly faces, and people in parkas. None of it in focus mind you. Oh yes, and little kids singing. Overall, not as bad as some, surprisingly.

WALK IN THE PARK: Don't even get me started. A guy with a really bad facial hair problem takes a stroll in a poor neighbor hood and checks out this girl who spits on her glasses. The dude is tortured by these creepers, that I guess are in his mind, and are really, REALLY creepy and move (digitally) in and out of the picture's foreground and background. They dance creepily, too. Then he gets beaten up by these people, pulls a sandwich out of his middle chest, and we get a close up of each creeper eating the sandwich. And then throwing up.

Sound appealing?

ZEBRA: I don't really know. Seems to be some sort of thing. It's moving, too. Maybe if it was slightly in focus we might know what it is.

10 MILE STEREO: "Hey, dude, you know what would look great in this corner next to the fire and the BH logo? A baby's face and some Japanese!" said one of the two completely wasted guys that used a couple special effects on their iChat conversation and stuck some random stuff around the edges.
SILVER SOUL: Females wearing sunglasses and swimsuits spray-painted silver. Oh yeah, and they're hoola-hooping.

LOVER OF MINE: Some mostly-naked dudes holding bananas and jumping off a roof.

NORWAY: Ahh, finally. What would this album be without some puppets? Kind of cute, actually. I think I like this one.

REAL LOVE: Are you still really watching this?

TAKE CARE: An old lady swinging and dancing to the music. Are you kidding me?

So, to conclude. Writing this album was sickening, as I had to watch each one of these again. I plan on locking this up in my closet so I can actually listen to Beach House and not feel the need to know where the closest bucket is.

So please, for your own safety, don't buy the Super-Deluxe version. But if you do, don't open the DVD, because you will be scarred. But if you do open the DVD, I suppose you could watch Norway, because the puppets with Snowbeast are pretty darn cute.

I'll give the REALLY IMPORTANT Super Deluxe DVD a two out of ten. Why so high, you ask?

I was feeling generous today.


Beach House - Teen Dream

A few things happened to Beach House after their second album Devotion. For one, they signed to Sub Pop, a semi-indie label with a lot of cool artists like Iron & Wine, No Age, and Fleet Foxes. Now, these bands are completely diverse, so don't think Beach House is going to sound like any of these. Secondly, back in January, they made their television debut on Late Night w/ Jimmy Fallon, so that probably got their stardom fired up. And one more thing, which I guess isn't a huge deal. Teen Dream was featured on the home page of iTunes. Nothing special. Just saying. Anyway, let's give it a track-by-track review:

1. Zebra (4/5) - The crescendoing harmonies make a beautiful contrast to the thumpy bass and maracas in this opener to Teen Dream.
2. Silver Soul (4.5/5) - The droopy swoon of the electric guitar and the melody pull this song along, and the slightly distorted guitar in the background plus Victoria Legrand's heart-filled vocals make this song twice as good. It comes close to the perfection of Gila, a song off their album Devotion.
3. Norway (3.5/5) - Not as good as the others, and I'm sure my buddy Owen would argue about that. The breathy ha-ha-haaa's are pretty catchy, though. And when she wails "Norway", it gets me every time.
4. Walk in the Park - (4/5) A yummy melody with a nice keyboard line in the chorus.
5. Used to Be - (4.5/5) The beat comes in, then the syncapated synth, and you have a gut-feeling that this is going to be an awesome song. Its lyrics, "Are you coming home, are you still alone, are you not the same as you used to be" match the melody perfectly. It's a epic, if there ever was one.
6. Lover of Mine (4.5/5) Maybe the catchiest song on Teen Dream. They basically came up with a really neat keyboard arrangement and built around that. It's what makes the song. That, and the franzy drum track that kicks the song off after the chorus (I call them franzy, because Franz Ferdinand uses them them so often).
7. Better Times (4/5) - Man, can this band come up with stunning melodies. This song in particular reminds me of snowflakes falling, and winter in general. Some bands should learn from them (*cough cough* Au Revoir Simone)
8. 10 Mile Stereo (4.5/5) - Before the chorus sets into motion, this just seems like an average song. The chorus makes it more dramatic and...scenic, if it makes sense.
9. Real Love (4/5) - The more delicate yet powerful Victoria's voice gets, the more beautiful the song is, instantly. With the added innocent piano arpeggios, it's a weep fest. Sort of.
10. Take Care (4/5) - It's always good to end and album on a great song. It leaves the person thinking "Hey, that was a spiffy album! I wanna listen to it again!"

I think an 8.5 would be fair. 2010 has got itself off to a very good start already, with Contra, this, Surfer Blood, and all that jazz.

Click here to see Owen's review of the not-so-special edition Teen Dream Bonus DVD.


Vampire Weekend - Contra

Contra starts off with the overly-dramatic Horchata. I guess you'd call it a sappy epic, with many African-sounding harmonies. Next comes the up-beat White Sky, with a chorus that includes a bunch of cheerful cries of joy. Then Holiday starts up, and you're thinking "Alright, the old Vampire Weekend back, cool!" But in the midst of the song, you hear something that sounds like a provoking auto-tune crack in Ezra's voice. "It can't be! Nah, they wouldn't do that." Next up: California English. "Ah fuck, they did it." I guess if you don't really know the old Vampire Weekend, or if you liked Discovery's debut album, then the auto-tune vocals won't be a problem. I find myself skipping this song because it sort of ticks me off. But after this minor speed bump, it's all back to normal. The beautiful and echoey melody of Taxi Cab, the victorious sounds of Run, the quickly-paced perfection and extreme catchiness of Giving Up the Gun and so on. But the real scorcher of Contra, the dominant track, is of course Cousins. If you absolutely had to purchase only one song from this record, I would recommend Cousins. The rapid-fire drums, the melody, and the Christmas-like bells all leading up to the final note make it a perfect song. Your foot will tap uncontrollably.
Well, I guess that just about does it. Contra definitely deserved its Number 1 spot on Billboard's Top 200.


St. Vincent - Actor

This is perhaps one of the coolest albums I have bought in a while. St Vincent is the recording name of Annie Clark, who dropped out of Berkley, where she was a guitarist / multi-instrumentalist.

On her second album, Actor, she successfully makes her point early. I have never heard a first track that sums up the entire album so well. The Strangers is almost Actor in a nutshell. Slow, beautiful harmonies backed by synthy strings and mellow backbeats. Then, suddenly, noise. Static. Whatever you want to call it. The Strangers is a milder form of the album. There are much slower songs, and much louder, noisier ones as well.

So, in short, Actor is musical genius masked in fuzz. Slightly annoying fuzz, though.

But then I saw her live. And I was blown away. The bright white light that so often filled the stage highlighted every frizzy curl in her hair. She threw herself across the stage with her music, constantly working dozens of little pedals on the ground. All of a sudden, the music would stop suddenly, and the lights would go out. Sometimes seconds and sometimes minutes later all possible strobe lights would go off and she would almost violently throw herself to the floor or unbearable noise would fill the room. It was pretty cool. Her music had me sometimes frantically plugging my ears, and sometimes jumping up and down. It was a great show.

St Vincent easily earns eight out of ten for a pretty darn cool album.


Dan Deacon - Bromst

Some facts about Dan Deacon and Bromst:

-On the inside of the Bromst digipak (the best kind of cd), there is a little cardboard sheet that says 'Bromstent' with instructions on how to build it (folds and flaps etc.)

-I've never been to a Dan Deacon concert, but I have a feeling they're filled with seisure-endusing strobe lights, lots of jumping up and down, moshing, sweating, and confetti. Oh, and Dan Deacon. I actually heard that when performing live, Dan is at level with the hectic audience, and he jogs around with his little electro-pop synth machine, slappin' 5's. Hence, I would love to go to one of these joyous concerts.

-Has a tour bus that runs on vegetable oil.

-Was classmates with Regina Spektor.

-According to Wikipedia, he used something called a player piano to record. The piano had to be re-wired so that each line was tracked individually, so the piano could keep up with what Deacon composed, which is said to be impossibly fast to play on one piano.

-Has actually had a spinal injury due to jumping up and down so much at one of those those spectacular concerts I mentioned earlier.

-Because of its chanty-synth vocals, quickly-paced melodies, heavy drumbeats, and overall dissonant-but-satisfying electronic feel that makes you want to get up and jump through the ceiling, Bromst is one of the best albums of 2009.


Islands - Vapours

Islands' new record, Vapours, is filled with great music and great lyrics, but lacks a really complete feel.

Vapours has a very broad range of sounds. After listening to the songs many times, it feels like some of them are attempts at sounding like other bands. Don't get me wrong. They're darn good attempts. At times the way he sings in Devout reminds me of Modest Mouse. The refrain in Vapours strikes me as an old R.E.M tune. And On Foreigner, why that even sounds like a tune off Grizzly Bear's album Veckatimest! Heartbeat - Kanye attempt-vocals, anyone?

Maybe if you read that previous paragraph and were like Grizzly Bear, Modest Mouse, I have no idea what he's talking about. Then this very well could be a fantastic album for you. The lyrics are great, the music styles vary incredibly, and there is very little fluff on this album. Maybe one filler song (see Heartbeat).

Even having listened to Grizzly Bear, Modest Mouse, and R.E.M, and (unwillingly) Kanye, this still finds a way to grasp me. Overall it makes me wonder what Islands' sound actually is.

And although Islands' most recent effort might not make my extremely prestigious and highly selective (note: sarcasm) top albums of '09, Vapours and Devout are two of my favorite songs in a while, and will definitely be in the running for the even more impressive and influential top tracks of '09.

Vapours earns a fair seven out of ten.


The xx - xx

The xx are four twenty-year-olds from England. Their self-title debut has received incredible reviews from almost every source. If you are familiar with Stars, and their album Set Yourself On Fire, and you kind of enjoy that album, there is a good chance that you will like The xx. Imagine Stars without their loud upbeat guitar and their instrumentals, and maybe more duets. Voila, The xx.

I seem to buy albums in pairs, and I purchased this album with St. Vincent's Actor. Why does this matter? Well, while St. Vincent goes for maxing out the noise, the instruments, and the fuzz (see Marrow), The xx is the exact opposite. They break down music to its raw basics and then rebuild, bit by bit. For instance, Intro, the well-named first song is a beautiful instrumental with a few "Oh's" and "Ah's' thrown in there. It's quite impressive actually, and very effective. And then there is VCR, which reminds me very little an old VCR with its xylophone/glockenspiel intro and gentle rhythm guitar. It introduces the duet theme, which is pretty consistent for the whole album.
Later come Islands and Heart Skipped a Beat, both very catchy with nice synthy drums and instrumentals. Unfortunately the follow-up tune Fantasy is not quite as exciting. The album proceeds in a similar fashion with Basic Space (one of my favorites) and closes off shortly after.

This band has nice sound, and although it may not always be something you can hum along to, it is definitely music you can relax to. There style is very much their own, which I admire in a time where some bands are struggling to find who they are. These guys have got it down.

8 out of 10 for this really solid, mellow debut.


The Flaming Lips - Embryonic

Ah, the Flaming Lips. The spacey American rock band has had quite a run, I'd say. Formed in 1983, the band has had several popular albums such as Soft Bulletin, Clouds Taste Metallic, and Yoshimi battles the pink robots. I admit, I don't listen to them often but I was a pretty big fan of Yoshimi. When I first heard about Embryonic, I was pretty darned excited to get back into them. My first impression of the album was mildly disappointing. I mean, what's on that cover anyway? A bearded girl bring held down by her face? She looks like she's desperately trying to eat that pink circle but she doesn't notice she's being held back.The names of the songs also didn't give me that mild chuckle that some other Flaming Lips songs give, like "Yeah, I Know It's a Drag... But Wastin' Pigs Is Still Radical" and "Free Radicals (A Hallucination of the Christmas Skeleton Pleading with a Suicide Bomber)" Yeah, all the song titles are about zodiac signs and whatnot. But you know what they say, ya can't judge a book by it's cover.

So I listened to the songs and again I wasn't wowed. They offer a pretty cool psychedelic trancy feel. But I found that the songs didn't have very good replay value. For me, it's important that once you purchase a song, it's timeless and you always get a kick out of it. After about the 4th or 5th listen, they start to get pretty stale. Not to mention that the songs themselves are pretty repetitive. You keep waiting and waiting and waiting through four minute songs for things to vary or pick up a bit, but it feels like the first minute of the songs are just repeated over again a couple times. In this album, things are a bit too quiet and boring. They have a good idea, the Flaming Lips, but they need to expand on it with some clearer guitar or maybe less "tangled" sounding synthesizers that flow better. There are tons of ways this album could have been improved without varying too much from their style. There are some pretty catchy tunes here, don't get me wrong. Songs like "Worm Mountain" and "Convinced of the Hex" are great, creative songs that you can get in to, especially if you're more of a Flaming Lips fan than I am. But overall, the songs needed to keep more of a clear, consistent rhythm and the album's mellow psychedelic style needed a bit of a face lift, just like our good friend Brendan in the movie reviews department.


Sufjan Stevens - The BQE

When I first heard about the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway), I didn't know what to expect to hear. I looked it up on amazon, only to find that the album is comprised of 'Movements' and 'Interludes'. I thought that maybe some modern-classical shit, Sufjan-style, was about to go down. And yes, that's what The BQE is all about. Mostly. Sufjan did like to use a variety of strings, oboes, flutes, clarinets etc., and different instruments in his songs, but not to this extent. This is a fully-blown symphony, or suite, or whatever you want to call it. They've got the whole orchestra on this one!

Now, there is only one movement, that's the "odd-one-out". Movement IV, or Traffic Shock, the only time you get to hear lots of spurts of electronic mishap and what-not.

The BQE is filled with action/adventure, drama, hectic moments, romance, and tragic moments. Very unlike the Broolkyn-Queens expressway, which has traffic, dirt, and not much else. Seriously, I don't know how he was inspired by the BQE to make this beautiful masterpiece.

Anyway, here's one possible let-down for some, which I think is alright. You don't get to hear his voice. They're all instrumentals. But that's why the album kind of fits together all so well. 7.5 out of 10.