December 28, 2011

Feist - Metals

Beauty exists in many forms in our society. We are frequently bombarded by media that is designed to inspire within us one specific reaction. Although any piece of art that fails to inspire any response whatsoever is arguably a waste of time, too frequently we are told how to respond to a piece of art. It is too often that we hear a song that crams its sadness down our throats, for example, to the extent that we cannot listen to this song without feeling this reaction. Although this bludgeoning may be useful in short exposures to convey simple emotions, this style of media is helpless in any attempt to express anything deeper. For instance, while Randy Randall and Dean Spunt of No Age can draw out your inner 17 year old punk and make you do your best to resist banging your head in less than a minute with their high powered vibes, can any three minute song truly force you to be in awe?

Thus, it requires something more special to be truly beautiful. True beauty is not something that can be shoved in your face. It may not even be something that is immediately evident. Ladies and gentlemen, let me present Feist. On her fifth full length Metals, we witness a subtle beauty, one that feels no need to flaunt itself.

Feist has been recording for more than 12 years now. After a few years spent bouncing around Canada covering old Bee Gee’s tracks, the Canadian singer-songwriter started releasing her own material. As early as 2004, Feist was releasing tasty music videos, something that, to this day, she continues to do. A cute cover of fellow-Canadian Ron Sexsmith’s Secret Heart earned Feist fair amounts of attention. Apple picked up on the first single off of her 2008 release The Reminder, and before anyone blinked 1 2 3 4 was officially “that iPod commercial song.”

Before I can say anything about her latest album, Metals, I must pay homage to this singer’s voice. Feist has perhaps the single most recognizable voice of any contemporary female singer. Her vocals effortlessly rise and fall with minimal accompaniment. She coyly teases you into The Circle Married the Line, while she knocks you back in your seat with a stunning performance on How Come You Never Go There. Her voice approaches and falls back into the instrumentation like a constantly shifting tide; you only need to feel the gentle foam rolling up the beach to know there is a powerful ocean behind it. However, with such a delicate vocal performance, Feist sounds best when the music drives the song; the strong instrumentation pushes Graveyard forward, one of Feist’s best songs to date. Although Feist loves to tug you through her songs with her voice alone, she does not acheive the same success of Get it Wrong, Get it Right and Cicadas and Gulls on each attempt. Feist is at her most vulnerable when she leads the music with her vocals alone. Bittersweet Melodies, altough beautiful, could use a bit of a kick in the pants to drive it forward. You could also find her guilty of lilting a bit too much on Anti-Pioneer as well.

However, what I love most about Metals is that no song feels like a throw-out. All 50 minutes of the record are well conceieved and laid out beautifully in front of us. To return to what I was discussing earlier, Feist does not overemphasize the beauty of her work. She lures you into each song, encouraging you find your own emotion between soothing organic instruments and stunning vocals. Having a totally unique experience with each track is an experience not many artists can provide. While her lilting vocals may lose you at first, the imperfections are just too beautiful to complain about. Sometimes thirlling, occasionally boring, but always gorgeous, Metals is well worth your listen.




- Owen

December 11, 2011

Thee Oh Sees - Carrion Crawler/The Dream

One of my favorite bands right now, not even in the garage rock scene exclusively, but in general, is Thee Oh Sees. If there's anyone that stands out in the garage rock scene more than anyone, it's these guys, especially thanks to lead singer John Dwyer's distinct vocal delivery.

Earlier this year, they released Castlemania, a departure from their familiar territory, as a chance to explore lead singer John Dwyer's intricate melody-making capabilities and acoustic side, and I really liked it. They knew that they needed a change at least once. But on Carrion Crawler/The Dream, we find these guys returning to their raw rock 'n roll spirit that can even date back to 2008's The Master's Bedroom. However, a lot of the songs here are much longer than we're used to with these guys, even reaching the 7-minute mark on The Dream. Now I'm all for long songs, but not when they stay the same throughout. That's what happened with the title track of their 2010 release Warm Slime, which started out awesome, then quickly lost my interest after 3 minutes. Basically, the long songs on Carrion Crawler are fantastic for the first couple minutes, then become tiresome, especially when we generally have one sound coming from these guys.

Also, it seems as though Thee Oh Sees are running out of ideas for hard-hitting tunes, so they just bang it away for 40 minutes, and after a while, the constantly banging drums and shredding, although spot on, starts to sound stale and monotonous. Each song sounds like a generalization of what The Master's Bedroom or Help sounded like as a whole. I can't say there are too many stand out tracks here because of that, but I do love the first two tracks a lot. Robber Barons is basically The Coconut, just duller, and almost nothing changes on Chem-Farmer. At least The Dream varies it up a bit, but still, why 7 minutes? The song could have been 3 minutes, and I probably would have loved it.

Carrion Crawler/The Dream, although fun, is just their previous efforts compiled together and made blunt and uninteresting. However I'm glad that they're back to their old selves, and I'm positive that their live shows are still amazing as ever.




-Julian

Tracklist:
1. Carrion Crawler
2. Contraption/Soul Desert
3. Robber Barons
4. Chem-Farmer
5. Opposition
6. The Dream
7. Wrong Idea
8. Crushed Glass
9. Crack in Your Eye
10. Heavy Doctor

Contraption/Soul Desert:








Kyle Bobby Dunn - Ways of Meaning

Ambient music is sort of one of those genres that can either make me lose interest pretty fast, or enthrall me completely and make me wish the sounds coming through my ears could somehow be received at a higher level. Sometimes it even depends on the setting I'm in. If I could, I would have listened to this album for the first time on an airplane, just as it was floating over the clouds, but alas. The best I could do was a late night drive through the city. I can't say that's the right mood that this album captures, but it made a difference, if only slightly.

Ways of Meaning is the follow up to Kyle Bobby Dunn's 2010 release 'A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn', which I probably should have given a higher score now that I think about it, because I listened to quite a bit of ambient/drone music after that, and that album is among the best I've heard so far. This album is more or less the same sort of stuff that was going on on that record, although definitely simplified and toned down. Where 'A Young Person's Guide' varied with each track, some of the songs on Ways of Meaning sound awfully similar. I guess you could say it's more of an album as a whole, rather than an album with individual songs where you can point out each song by a defining characteristic. With this one, you just sort of play the whole thing, and absorb everything at once. Although the track Canyon Meadows is the one track that is pretty distinct among the rest, and it ended up being my favorite track here. The track I felt really bored of though was Movement for the Completely Fucked, even though it had a slightly darker atmosphere, like New Pures.

Another difference with this album is that each song has a reoccurring melody, or just simply a few chords that just repeat throughout the whole song, whereas his previous release was full of constantly changing melodies and ideas. I'm not saying that these tracks are boring though, in fact the ones that did have distinct chord progressions seemed the most interesting to me.

Although I generally enjoyed listening to Ways of Meaning, it didn't grab me like A Young Person's Guide did. While the atmosphere and intricacy is still completely there, ambition and ideas are lacking.




-Julian

Tracklist:
1. Dropping Sandwiches (In Chester Lake)
2. Statuit
3. Canyon Meadows
4. New Pures
5. Movement for the Completely Fucked
6. Touhy's Theme

November 27, 2011

Artist Feature: The Summer Knights

In recent weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of spending some time with Luke DeWilde and Chuckles O’Neill, the magicians behind San Francisco-based alternative act The Summer Knights. The duo have two releases to date, 2010’s Quest for California and this year’s Kairos EP. Shamelessly inspired by teenage heroes Blink 182 and Nirvana, DeWilde and O’Neill often channel the alternative punk vibe. However, TSK have a few more tricks up their sleeves than their punk role models, as Quest for California features even a Death Cab for Cutie Cover. While the band’s strengths are many, they are young and their work is not without its flaws.

We’ll start with the Summer in a Shoebox, the first song off Quest to California, The Summer Knight’s only full-length release to date. The opening track shows off the many strengths of the duo: aggressive songwriting, catchy guitar riffs, and great drumming. DeWilde dives right in to the album’s opener, Summer in a Shoebox, with one of the strongest guitar lines of the album. He never looks back. The Summer Knights turn up their amps all the way and keep them there. Fellow high-power tracks Seventy Five and You’d Think I’ve Changed are highlights of the LP. O’Neill is a constant presence on the drums, frequently adding some much needed depth to the band's sound sound.

However, Summer in a Shoebox is also the perfect platform to discuss the band’s weaknesses: thelack of a middle range end and limited vocal
explorations. Although DeWilde loves to noodle (and often crafts some great hooks) in the expansive gap between his mid-range vocals and O’Neill’s drumming, his guitar alone is sometimes not enough to fill the void. The Summer Knights are occasionally in need of a middle range. There’s one last thing. DeWilde’s presence at the mic is begging for some flavor.The group’s well-written songs are craving some harmonies, something that DeWilde, no matter how dynamic his performance in front of the mic may be, cannot provide for himself.

However, it is important to remember the big picture. DeWilde and O’Neill are both still youngsters on the music scene, and the amount of growth that we can see already is promising. These guys will do nothing but improve. I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes on these two.

-Owen

November 20, 2011

Tristan Clopet - Name It What You Want It


Tristan Clopet dove into the vast pool of independently recording singer-songwriters earlier this year with his debut LP Name It What You Want It. However, before I say anything about the record, I owe the guy I huge thank you. He mailed up not only a copy of his CD but also a pretty sweet custom t-shirt only to wait patiently while his CD racked up the plays in my stereo. Thank you Tristan, you're a gentleman.


There is a lot to talk about here, but I'll start with undeniably the strongest aspect of Clopet's music: his voice.It's been a long time since I've heard such incredible vocals. Clopet's voice rumbles over the piano's lower octaves in A Chat with My Brain, it gently pulls you through the slower ballad Idiosyncrasies of the Resolute, and it absolutely soars in Hold on Lover, Hold on Girl. The vocals on Name It What You Want It are near flawless. Clopet helps himself out; his well-written songs really help him show off his full range. Although harmonies make only a cameo appearance in the album, you can't find a much sweeter hook than in Summer in Sussex, the dynamic first track. Songwriting is very strong aspect of this album. Simply put, Clopet is a fantastic songwriter. Clopet's genre-bending songs are all absurdly catchy. Small hooks grab you at every turn leaving absolutely nothing feeling boring.


Clopet drives his music forward with a wide variety of percussion, and this leads to the only real problem I can find with Name It What You Want It. Especially on the closing tracks An Introduction… To Forward Thinking and Fife and Drum, Clopet leans on his drums just a bit too much to pull you through the song. Clopet obviously experimented the most with the last few songs and they still feel a little bit raw. Although unfinished, they are certainly not throw outs.


Regardless of the highs and lows of this album, Clopet has one ace that is unavoidable. This guy has great style. Not only are his songs well-written, well-sung, and well-orchestrated, they radiate cool vibrations. We can almost hear him crack a smile as he hits that perfect funky chord. For such a young artist, Clopet's intuitive sense of flair is impeccable. Clopet's verve adds an entirely new level to his work, one that allows you to keep coming back more and more.


Crafty songs, beautiful lyrics, and a great dose of panache characterize Tristan Clopet's debut LP Name It What You Want It. He is, without a doubt, one of the most promising young artists I have heard in a while. Well done, Mr. Clopet.





-Owen

October 17, 2011

Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Naming the follow-up single to your successful debut album Vomit is nothing short of an audacious move. However, Christopher Owens and Chet White of Girls did just that (it seems appropriate to mention that Vomit is just one song on a growing list of deliciously-named Girls’ songs, including standouts such as Big Bad Mean Mother Fucker, Hellhole Ratrace, and Die). However, the much lauded 2009 release Album introduced Girls’ jangly instrumentation and lyrical focus predominately on angsty teenagers. Girls’ relaxed surfer-style ballads won over the hearts of many. However, while Owens and White hit several enormous highs on Album, the overall work felt patchy and unfinished. In late 2010, Girls dished out the Broken Dreams Club EP, a superb six song album-ette that showed great stylistic growth and maturity. Two years after an intriguing debut, Girls have given us Father, Son, Holy Ghost.


Groovy, jangly, and catchy as fuck, the opener Honey Bunny is everything you could want in a Girls song. The cute riffs and sweet harmonies exhibited here characterize the album. Owens turns his amp volume up from his usual four to maybe five or six on Die, a song that tries hard to mix things up and throw some White Stripes-style heavy guitar at us. Simply put, the song is too pretty to give off any harsh vibes. Exhausted after going all out, the amps are quieted down and Girls settle down into a really solid five song streak, including my personal favorites Saying I Love You and Just a Song. Girls once again channel Elvis Costello on Magic, a song led by White’s strong drumming. Likely under-appreciated, White’s consistently great performances on the drums tie any loose ends on the album together, such as the closers Love Like a River and Jane Marie.


Father, Son, Holy Ghost is another great album from Girls. Owens continues to establish himself as a strong songwriter in a band that is settling into its own style. With the exception of some extraneous minutes that could have been cut out, this is album is fucking great. As reminiscent and sentimental as it is innovative and original, Father, Son, Holy Ghost is one of the most interesting listens of the year so far.






Tracklisting:

1. Honey Bunny

2. Alex

3. Die

4. Saying I Love You

5. My Ma

6. Vomit

7. Just a Song

8. Magic

9. Forgiveness

10. Love Like a River

11. Jamie Marie


- Owen


September 12, 2011

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Hysterical

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is a band that's easy to hate upon first listen. Not because their melodies are crap, or that their far too lo-fi, because both of these things are untrue. It's simply because of Alec Ounsworth's singing voice. And I think that was starting to catch on with the band, because on Hysterical, the vocal crack has definitely been toned down, probably to appeal to a larger audience. I, however, found it pretty easy to get past the incessant voice crack, but for others, it was impossible. So I guess if you hated his voice on previous records, but in general liked the music, then you're in luck with this one.

But unfortunately, it seems as though the memorable hooks have disappeared with the vocal crack as well. The record, on a whole, is pretty enjoyable, but it's hard to think of a memorable melody once it's done. It basically plays on vanilla the entire time, with occasional forays into catchy territory. The songs often blend together and sound the same as well, so much that you might just miss a track or two. A good example of this is the entire last half of the album. Though I should note that Same Mistake is a damn catchy tune. Maniac varies it up a bit as well. In Your Alien Arms is a decent track, even though the last two minutes are exactly the same throughout. In A Motel and Misspent Youth are both graceful tracks, the former with its beautiful string arrangement and an actually memorable melody.

And then there's the rest of the album. Nothing in those last 5 or 6 songs will make me want to give them another listen, except for Adam's Plane, the closer to this 50-minute-long record. At least that song left me off feeling a little happier.

Back in 2005, they were rocking the indie scene with their quirky exuberance and catchy hooks. Here, they've lost their quirk, along with uniqueness and energy. With the exception of a few key tracks, Hysterical is a mostly forgettable, mildly enjoyable record with too much form and not enough substance.




Tracklist:
1. Same Mistake
2. Hysterical
3. Misspent Youth
4. Maniac
5. Into Your Alien Arms
6. In a Motel
7. Yesterday, Never
8. Idiot
9. Siesta (For Snake)
10. Ketamine and Ecstasy
11. The Witness' Dull Surprise
12. Adam's Plane

-Julian

September 8, 2011

The Really Important Music Video Review

Since this little site is now growing into a much more music orientated place for reviews, I have decided to ride the wave built by Julian and Owen into musical territory. I have not an ounce of the taste they have in music, but I do know a bit about music videos. So, I hope you will all humor me as i try my hand every once in a while at reviewing some videos. As a major video fan I will have a great new video each time I do this. I also hope to each bring more attention to a video I bet you have not seen, but will love. I hope you all enjoy.
-Brendan

An awesome new video: Matt and Kim: Block after Block
Even though Matt and Kim's new album is no where near the powerhouse the 2006 "Grand", but "Block after Block" is one of my favorites off their new album. In the video for "Lessons Learned", Matt and Kim did their first ode to The Big Apple they love by getting completely naked in Times Square, ending with Kim getting hit by a bus. "Block after Block" brings back their love for the City by starting impromptu concerts all over the city as they sprint around avoiding cops and staying still. I love any video that shows the power of a good piece of music bringing random people together, especially if they all share a craving to party. Another thing I love about Matt and Kim is how every time they preform or make a video, they look like the happiest kids on Earth doing what they love and one can not help but smile along with them.
Watch the video here!
A music video I bet you have not seen: The Decemberists: Sixteen Military Wives
Seeing that The Decemberists seem to come out with a new album each month, none of us fans of them can keep up with all the music and videos they produce. Recently, I stumbled across this gem from the folk machine that is The Decemberists from their album "Picaresque". The video is a brilliant and obvious (in my opinion) to Wes Anderson's masterpiece "Rushmore". In the video, the band is in a high school Model U.N. club where The U.S. representative reigns supreme and the little countries band together for a mutiny. The video is goofy, well acted by the band and is gorgeously directed by Aaron Stewart and I'm sure good old Wes would be pround
Watch the video here!

September 6, 2011

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy

I suppose if you were one of those people whose introduction to this unique artist was her sophomore effort Actor, you probably fell in love with the edgy, intense march-like feel of Actor out of Work, or the impromptu distorted sax/guitar combo on Marrow. Either that or you turned it off immediately from the shear cacophony, but then later came back to it because you couldn't resist. When ever I listen to that record (and this one as well), I feel like I have to blast the loud parts to full volume, otherwise I don't get the same experience I got the first time.

This time, her quality-album-streak has continued with Strange Mercy. If you had to describe it based on sound, it's basically the same deal as Actor. Lots of fuzz, distortion, and of course, her lovely voice. There are a couple things that have changed, though. There are more electronic elements, and the drums are more prominent. The idea of more electronics might sound a little off-putting, but frankly they go brilliantly with the whole mix, especially on tracks like Cruel, Northern Lights, Champagne Year, and Dilettante.

My favorite track on Strange Mercy, by far, is Cheerleader. It opens acoustically with a beautiful melody, while Annie rolls out a few clever one-liners. "I've had good times with some bad guys, I've told whole lies with a half smile". After that, it's as if the four "I"s she sings are cracks being banged into the chorus, and then it just gives way and bursts open with overwhelming distortion, heavy beats, and synthy-goodness. This is definitely one of the best songs she's given us yet, if not the best.

The slow-going Surgeon is another superb number, with its playful guitar blips and shuffling drums. The random cheesy synth solo toward the end, though it spices up the track a bit, is pretty annoying to be honest. The title track, however, is a beautifully-crafted piece with drums that chug along, and a softly rolled out melody, but towards the end she turns up the amp and busts out the fuzz box, to my utter enjoyment. There are a couple tracks that I couldn't really get into, mainly Neutered Fruit, which is a bit too kooky and all over the place for my taste. Hysterical Strength is a pretty forgettable track which feels like a filler. Luckily the album concludes really well with Year of the Tiger.

Strange Mercy is an album filled with pleasurable grooves, blissful pop tunes, plenty of messy distortion, and of course, Annie Clark's endearing vocals. Yet her ability to blend all these elements together is just as outstanding as ever.




Tracklist:
1. Chloe in the Afternoon
2. Cruel
3. Cheerleader
4. Surgeon
5. Northern Lights
6. Strange Mercy
7. Neutered Fruit
8. Champagne Year
9. Dilettante
10. Hysterical Strength
11. Year of the Tiger

-Julian

September 4, 2011

Wilco - The Whole Love

It's been nearly 10 years since Wilco graced us with their phenomenal album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and, at least to me, they've never quite matched up to it since. And I'm sure they hate to be the band that's been living in the shadow of their one truly great album, but they seem to be having a great time regardless. They've released a couple above-average records after YHF, namely their last one, which got my hopes up just a little. However, I've listened to The Whole Love through a few times, and I can safely say that they've gotten back in the game, pulled through, gotten their shit together, whatever you want to say.

And they haven't just done so with subtlety, no no. The opening 7-minute track, Art of Almost, is chalk-full of searing guitars, courtesy of Nels Cline, muddled distortion, electronic blips scattered about, and many layers of sonic epicness. They always knew how to open an album well, but this just takes the cake. Next up is the firm-footed I Might, which I wasn't taken with immediately upon first listen, but I'm finding myself warming up to it. More distortion and a rhodes organ make this song quite enjoyable. Now the next track, Sunloathe, is probably my favorite one here. It's got beautiful harmonies, a beautiful, heart-warming melody, and a nice, light feel to it. This is not Wilco, but I'm loving it.

After that, we've got a string of excellent songs, including Dawned on Me, which is just tons of fun, the softer Black Moon, which also has a stunning melody and a lovely blend of pedal steel, rhodes, and finger-plucking, and Born Alone, which has a great guitar lick. Capitol City is another great one, with a San Tropes-esque melody, and the ascending rhodes line makes this song even better. Rising Red Lung is another beautiful little number. The only ones I don't love as much are Open Mind and the title track, although they're still pretty decent.

So yeah, terrific melodies, terrific tunes, just overall a terrific album. Great job, Jeff and friends. You had me smiling all the way through the album.

By the way, if you ever get the chance, you have to see these guys live. They're incredible.




Tracklist:
1. Art of Almost
2. I Might
3. Sunloathe
4. Dawned on Me
5. Black Moon
6. Born Alone
7. Open Mind
8. Capitol City
9. Standing O
10. Red Rising Lung
11. Whole Love
12. One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)

-Julian

August 30, 2011

Portugal. The Man - In the Mountain In the Clouds

30 days. 30 listens. That was the promise I made myself when I pre-ordered Portugal. The Man's newest album, In the Mountain in the Cloud, earlier this summer. After a month of intense time spent with the album, I am speechless.

There's something about Portugal. The Man that I struggle to put my finger on. The band has released five quality albums in the past five years, and any musician will attest to the remarkable feat that that that is. Their 2009 release The Satanic Satanist's sweet harmonies and jangling guitars quickly helped it become one of our favorites of the year. 2010 left us with American Ghetto, another superb album packed with lush instrumentation and breath-taking harmonies from the Maine-based quartet.

In the Mountain In the Cloud, however, is beyond anything the band has done so far. And I am, embarrassingly so, speechless. In the Mountain in the Cloud is beautiful, unique, confident, and damn near perfect. The swelling instrumentation meshes excellently with Gourley's permanent falsetto. The ambient fuzz with which the album is suffused is so sweet it kills. The melodies are beautiful, infectious, and superbly mixed. I tip my hat to Portugal. The Man; this album is excellent.




- Owen

July 10, 2011

Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

Handsome Furs is a name under which former Wolf Parade guitarist and complete badass Dan Boeckner and his wife record sandpapery electronic music. The duo blasts simple melodies constructed with heavy guitars and powerful beats. The follow-up to their solid ’09 release Face Control, Sound Kapital is another Boeckner-taught lesson in badassery.

Despite my profound admiration for Dan Boeckner, I was a little nervous when I heard that Handsome Furs’ latest album was written entirely on keyboards. Why would Handsome Furs, a band that lives, eats, and breathes harsh and fuzzy guitars, ditch their guitars for infant-sized synthesizers? Simple, they were just too busy doing badass shit to spend time in the studio with their guitars. Keyboards would fit in the tiny van they used to illegally tour in southeast Asia. That seems like pretty awesome excuse to me.

This transition has, amazingly, resulted in an overall improvement in the band’s sound. Boeckner’s vocals mesh well with the in-your-face attitude of their electronic style. The concise melodies that are a staple of the Furs’ sound are now more fleshed out. Although Sound Kapital may at first feel cold, Handsome Furs have successfully injected a blast of life into their electronic music, not by any means an easy task.

Sound Kapital, like all of Boeckner’s works, is very consistent. The band gets going with the brilliant Damage and never looks back. Sound Kaptial is great. Pick it up.




-Owen

Tracklist:
1. When I Get Back
3. Bury Me Standing
4. Memories of the Future
6. What About Us
8. Cheap Music
9. No Feelings

June 10, 2011

Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys


If you have listened to Death Cab for Cutie for the past few years, then I bet you are reading this sheepishly. I don’t blame you. It took me a while to summon the strength to push play on Codes and Keys, the four-piece’s sixth LP. One simple question left me perplexed: Who are Death Cab? A decade into their career, the band has released underground lo-fi (Something About Airplanes/We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes), crafty acoustic guitar melodies (The Photo Album/Transatlanticism), piano ballades (Plans), and most recently Narrow Stairs, a melting pot for pretty much everything they have previously tried.
Not knowing what to expect from the album, I took several lazy summer afternoons and listened. And while the album itself is neither spectacular nor terrible, I struggled to focus on individual songs. Looking at Codes and Keys as a whole was more revealing. The album is not depressing, per se, but there is something pensive and sad about it.
Codes and Keys feels distant, as if a gentle haze has descended between the band and the listener. We can still hear Gibbard and Walla writing the same types of songs that they always have, but they seem to be playing on the other side of the curtain. We can hear their old work on the record as St Peter’s Cathedral gives a nod to 03’s Transatlanticsim, Underneath the Sycamore to 05’s Plans, and Doors Unlocked and Open to 08’s Narrow Stairs. However, songs are a tad more relaxed and more introspective. Codes and Keys is not the kind of record that makes me want to jump up and down and buy tickets for the newest tour; rather, it gives me an urge to dig out my old Death Cab CDs and enjoy all the great music that the band has made over the years.
While the album itself may not be great, what it means to a fan of the band is. If you like the band, pick it up. If not, don’t bother.




-Owen

Tracklist:

1. Home is a Fire
2. Codes and Keys
3. Some Boys
4. Doors Unlocked and Open
5. You are a Tourist
6. Unobstructed Views
7. Monday Morning
8. Portable Television
9. Underneath the Sycamore
10. St Peter's Cathedral
11. Stay Young, Go Dance

June 7, 2011

Ty Segall - Goodbye Bread

What a fucking adorable album cover. I'd buy the album just for the cover, I'm not kidding. Anyway, Ty Segall is one of the more prominent garage rockers that peaked out of the ever-engrossing scene just last year with his third studio album 'Melted', which actually ended up on our Top Albums of 2010 list. That album was total lo-fi bliss, 'Finger' and 'Girlfriend' being clear-cut stand-outs for me.

Though he said he was trying a more pop-enthusiastic record, it's not completely obvious that he's shying away from the rough, raw garage rock approach. He's still retained the lo-fi aspect (don't mean to sound snobby or anything, but thank goodness), and the raw power of most of the songs still shines. I Am With You even borrows the melody from The Drag, a song off of his debut. But I suppose the poppiness is more apparent on tracks like 'I Can't Feel It', whose light-hearted dual guitar line totally lightens up the whole song, and the opening track Goodbye Bread. The songs here definitely feel more thought out too, whereas back on his first couple albums, it seemed as though he was just picking a few chords, going with it, and rocking the fuck out.

At a certain point though, the songs start to blend together, and the melodies get monotonous at times, especially on Comfortable Home, My Head Explodes, The Floor, and Fine. That's probably because all of the songs use the same four elements. An electric guitar line, sometimes two, drums, bass, and lazy vocals. I can see liking this album a little more if he had varied it up a bit, like on his previous album.

It's not as though his music is groundbreaking (not to say any of the music in the garage rock scene is), plus his melodies have never stood out for me that much, and his vocals leave a little to be desired, but there's something about his music that just draws me in and makes me feel good, and for the most part, that feeling remains on Goodbye Bread.




Tracklist:
1. Goodbye Bread
2. California Commercial
3. Comfortable Home
4. You Make the Sun Fry
5. I Can't Feel It
6. My Head Explodes
7. The Floor
8. Where Your Mind Goes
9. I Am With You
10. Fine

-Julian

May 14, 2011

Thee Oh Sees - Castlemania

Thee Oh Sees have been rocking the whacked-out garage rock scene for about 5 years now, yet they've released 6 or 7 LPs, a live album, a bunch of EPs, some comps, and a handful of 7 inches. And if that wasn't enough, they're supposed to be releasing another LP this fall. Yet it only occurred to me that they might be rushing things after listening to last year's 'Warm Slime', a fairly disappointing release, which didn't have much to offer other than a couple good tracks, and a 13-minute, mostly boring jam. It didn't take a lot to get my hopes up for this release though, especially after listening to the blissfully catchy opening track 'I Need Seed' back in April.

It's safe to say that Thee Oh Sees have severely toned down the whole loud, raw, in-your-face garage rock approach that admittedly made me fall in love with them in the first place, and replaced it with an even more raw, psych folk sound. In other words, the raw electric guitars have for the most part been replaced with raw acoustic guitars. Unfortunately I can see this being a major turn-off for more than a few people, but it's totally refreshing to hear these guys out of their comfort zone. Above all, the melodies are still top-notch, especially on Corprophagist, Stinking Cloud, Pleasure Blimps, A Wall A Century 2, and The Whipping Continues. The psychedelic aspect is still there too. If anything, it's even more so.

Other stand out tracks include the sheer raw power of Corrupted Coffin, the addicting little 1-minute track Spider Cider, the cleaner-sounding Blood on the Deck, which has a nice solo, and their excellent rendition of The Creation song If I Stay Too Long, which is a little bit ironic, because both are bands that should be more popular than they already are. All of the other tracks are highly enjoyable too, with the exception of the title track, which though pretty epic-sounding, is a little too hectic for its own good, and too ill-fitting to the rest of the album. I Won't Hurt You and the closing track What Are We Craving? also get old pretty quick, and set the album back a little, which sucks because those are the two main tracks with long time Oh Sees member Brigid's vocals, and she has a really likable, soothing voice.

Coming in at a little over 40 minutes with 16 tracks, Castlemania is a refreshing, fairly strong comeback from the mostly tiresome misstep 'Warm Slime'. It didn't come close to reaching the heights of Thee Oh Sees' strongest effort 'Help', but I didn't expect it too. For now, I can't stop listening to it, and that has to count for something.


P.S. - The link for I Need Seed is actually a link to an awesome stop action music video.

Tracklist:
1. I Need Seed
2. Corprophagist (A Bath Perhaps)
3. Stinking Cloud
4. Corrupted Coffin
5. Pleasure Blimps
6. A Wall, A Century 2
7. Spider Cider
8. The Whipping Continues
9. Blood on the Deck
10. Castlemania
11. AA Warm Breeze
12. Idea For Rubber Dog
13. The Horse Was Lost
14. I Won't Hurt You
15. If I Stay Too Long
16. What Are We Craving?

-Julian

May 13, 2011

Architecture in Helsinki - Moment Bends

The problem of bands that base their sound on childish instruments and melodies is that, at some point, they have to grow up. The cute niche of indie rock, now far distant from its 90s predecessor, the twee scene, has, in recent years, become characterized by childlike instruments. Xylophones and kazoos made bands like Architecture and Helsinki. However, Architecture could only clap their hands and sing together at circle-time for so long. After relatively positive reception of their debut, Fingers Crossed, Architecture in Helsinki released a few redundant follow-ups which wore thin their welcome in the genre. After 2007’s weak Places like this, it was clear the band had to mature. With Moment Bends, the latest release from the Aussie cute-pop group, it was make or break. In all honesty, it sucks.

Perhaps the strangest novelty of Moment Bends is its instrumentation. The joyful bounce that made Architecture enjoyable to listen to is surprisingly absent for long spells on Moment Bends. Synthesizers, cold and lifeless, weigh down parts album, especially the central tracks W.O.W and Sleep Talkin’. But most importantly, you won’t find all the instruments used here in a fourth grade music classroom. The instrumentation is much less carefree, but, at the same time, shamelessly produced.


As a matter of fact, the production on this album is a huge double-edged sword. The studio effect can take credit for the surprisingly catchy hit Contact High and the euphoric instrumentation of Escapee. However, the hyper-produced, often artificial production virtually nullifies any hipster-cred that the Aussies had left. The cute-pop fans, who, to be fair, represented a massive percentage of this band’s initial success, are likely burning any Architecture in Helsinki albums they owned. Whether this abandonment of a great portion of their band’s fan base was a wise move or not is still up in the air. Architecture in Helsinki are no longer playing with recorders and recording in tiny closets; they’re trying to make it big.


However, the worst and most important change on Moment Bends is the singing. What the hell happened? Like, actually, what the hell happened? Architecture in Helsinki’s vocals have been butchered on Moment Bends. This slaughter is best characterized by the closer, B4 3D, which reeks of the singing and dancing boy bands of the early 00s. The vocals on W.O.W make Architecture in Helsinki sound like they’re rolling over and begging the radio to fuck them (to loosely quote Johnny Borrel discussing the Kooks).


Similarly to the cute-pop genre as a whole, Moment Bends’ pluses are its minuses. The lyrics are both cute and immature, the instruments are both peppy and annoying, and the vocals, well, those just suck. The overall coat of polish on the band just looks tacky in the end, and perhaps subtly hints at the lack of overall quality of the band to begin with. Moment Bends reveals that Architecture in Helsinki might just have been a one trick-pony, and a mediocre one at that. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was disappointed.




Tracklist:
1. Desert Island
2. Escapee
3. Contact High
4. W.O.W
5. Yr To Go
6. Sleep Talkin'
7. I Know Deep Down

8. That Beep
9. Denial Style
10. Everything's Blue
11. B4 3D

-Owen

May 8, 2011

Scream 4

Scream 4 is the newest and last in the Scream series that brings Ghostface into the digital era and in my opinion, he fits in just fine. Wes Craven brings Sydney Prescott (Neve Cambell) back to her home town where nothing could possibly go wrong. Shocker, Ghostface is back and this time he has a digital twist of streaming the killings live to the web. It is up to the hilarious duo of Courtney Cox and David Arquette to find the killer after they have been settled down since the last film. The film tries a little too hard for my taste to integrate the new young cast, but Craven still has the perfect mix of horror and self deprivation that I loved in all three of the other movies. Many critics have said that the first film was the only good one, but I am one of the last people who thinks they have stayed consistently good. It seems like the youth was sort of forced into a movie that would have been perfectly fine without it, but I enjoyed it overall.
My Review: B
-Brendan

Your Highness

Your Highness is the newest film from many-time stoner movie supporter, Danny McBride, who writes and stars as a spoiled medieval prince. The film also stars James Franco as the more heroic prince, who's bride (Zooey Goddess Deschanel) is kidnapped by  an evil warlock (Justin Theroux). This forces both of the princes to go on a quest to save the damsel in distress. Natalie Portman co-stars as a tough archer, also trying to defeat the warlock who killed her family. Portman and Franco put in a great effort to do what she can with one of the dumbest scripts I have heard in a long time, with not a second going by without a masturbation or weed joke. It is obvious that this film was originally a short for Funny or Die that McBride thought he could extend into a feature-length film. If you have to see this movie, see it for the hot and hilarious Portman and Deschanel.
My review: C
-Brendan

May 6, 2011

Top 10 Worst Movie Sequels

I recently heard that the year of 2011 will have the most sequels of any other year in the history of film. To mark the occasion, I have compiled a list of my least favorite movie sequels.
-Brendan

10. The Godfather: Part III: Marlon Brando: The greatest. Al Pacino: awesome. Andy Garcia: meh.
P.S. Sofia Coppola, please dear god never act again.
9. Spiderman: The scene where he dances down the street. Enough said.
8. Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over: I actually enjoyed the first two, but Robert Rodriguez put absolutely no effort into this terrible film, which was just a bunch of annoying teenagers that were far too old to play little kids playing a terribly boring video game.
7. Ocean's 12: Whenever I see this movie, it's just like all the actors are saying "There is no plot or demonstration of any effort put into making this film, but we are pretty so fork over the cash."
6. Terminator: Judgment Day: In retrospect, this film was actually not that bad of a movie. I think I only didn't like it because the first sequel blew the first away and might have been one of the best sequels of all time, so I expected this movie to be a gift from God when it ended up just being okay.
5. Batman and Robin
4. The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day: A film that once stood for one of the most thought-provoking messages in indie cinema, came back with this meaningless violence once they knew it had become a cult flick. If you are a real true fan of the original, you hopefully have never seen this.
3. Men In Black II: want an effective way to ruin a sequel to a decent movie? A talking pug-dog, that will do the trick.
2. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: I don't know this is one of the clearest things I remember about this movie, but I saw it when I was pretty little and seen all the others already and when I saw it in theaters, all I could think about was "Is Jar-Jar Binks mentally disabled?" I still wonder this today and if you re-watch this crappy movie with that question in mind, you will see it completely differently.
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull: I can not give you a brief one sentence synopsis of why this film sucks so hard because when ever I think about it, its like I go into the stages of grief. First, denial ("I bet it was just a goof, the real one will come out in a couple years!"). Then, anger ("A FLYING SAUCER? REALLY? THAT'S YOUR ENDING?") and finally, i go into a deep depression ("They pissed on Indy's grave, there is no hope for the world"). I think later I might transcribe the tangent I give about this terrible film to random people on the street that takes hours to explain.

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is the newest film from semi-animated director of 300 and Watchmen, Zack Snyder. The film centers around Baby Doll (Emily Browning) being forced into a Brothel/strip club/insane asylum after she tries to kill her evil stepdad. Baby doll and the other girls are forced to dance for high powered politicians and a little something extra (if you know what I mean) and they dream of escape through a parallel universe Babydoll creates where they fight dragons, zombies, samurais and so many more over foes with Snyder-style graphics and production value. When I first saw this trailer, i was so excited to see some good old fashion ass-kicking, but was disappointed to see that it was exactly like an eleven year-old boy had written and directed it. The only thing I can never hold against Snyder and kept my attention through the whole film was the punk-rock, ass-kicking tunes he always brings to his films, with tracks from Bjork, Queen and Beck. I also have to give credit to Snyder for his gorgeous graphics, but without a good storyline like Watchmen or 300, the novelty wore off. I would say if you are a pre-pubescent boy, go check out this flick, but to everyone else out there, just get the soundtrack, listen to it and imagine your own better movie to go with the great music.
My review: C-
-Brendan

May 5, 2011

Brendan Returns with The MovieFortnight!

To my many loyal readers-

I have been insanely busy with school and all that stuff that I have had no time to write. I feel so crappy that I have been such a deadweight as Owen and Julian have kept up writing the awesome reviews, that I have created the Movie Fortnight. for the next two weeks, I will write at least 2 reviews/articles a day. I promise to stick to my goal and will write many more as we move into summer.
-Brendan

May 1, 2011

tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l

Sound-a-likes: Dirty Projectors, Micachu, Deerhoof

After giving w h o k i l l about ten thorough listens all the way through, I think I can confidently say that this is one of the freshest things I've heard in a while. The main instruments of this album are Merill Garbus' amplified ukelele, and her unmistakeably unique voice. Saxophones, primal drum beats, and a booming bass are also prominent. Oh yeah, and there's tons of looping, drum-wise and vocal-wise, which is an automatic plus in my book. Apparently she went to Africa before the recording of the album, and that seems to rub off on the music quite a bit.

Not only is this one of the freshest things I've heard, it's also quite strong, and in-your-face. Right out of the gate, the album opens with an unexpected beat, and Garbus' powerful vocal delivery. Not the most inviting way to start off the album, but it worked just fine for me. I only had to hear the first minute of the quirky next track Es-So, and I knew I would love this album. Gangsta only pulled me in further, with it's upfront beat and brilliant bass line. It's honestly something I can listen to for hours on end. Plus Garbus contorting her voice to sound like an ambulance makes the track amazing. The saxophones are a nice touch too.

The blissful eccentricity continues on tracks like the primal-sounding Bizness, where Garbus' vocals are especially enchanting, the light-hearted You Yes You, and Killa, the upbeat closing track with a bit of added sass and another classic bass line.

Now, a word of warning. Like I said, this stuff is very strong, and the kookiness only lets up on a few tracks, those being Powa, which is probably my favorite track here, Wooly Wolly Gong, and Riotriot. I can see this album being very off-putting to a lot of people. I can't promise you that you'll like it. You may even find it completely revolting, I don't know. You'll just have to see for yourself. But I can guarantee you that you won't forget it.




Tracklist:
1. My Country
2. Es-So
3. Gangsta
4. Powa
5. Riotriot
6. Bizness
7. Doorstep
8. You Yes You
9. Wooly Wolly Gong
10. Killa

-Julian

April 28, 2011

Bass Drum of Death - GB City

Bass Drum of Death’s debut, GB City, hit the lo-fi heavy rock scene this month with little effect. Their rather anonymous effort stands out in no way whatsoever. As more and more bands try to ride the wake left by No Age’s successful splash into the genre of blessed out synthesizers, it is becoming harder and harder for young bands to establish a sound of their own. Just layering static above synthesizers and loud vocals isn’t cutting it anymore. This is the problem that Bass Drum are suffering from: a near complete lack of originality.

The general sound of GB City is evident only ten seconds into the opener, Nerve Jamming. It borrows a couple lines from the Black Keys, gives a quick nod to No Age, but, as a whole, goes nowhere. I found this to be true about most of the album; not much grows or changes. GB City is, for the most part, eleven songs that all are a bit too reminiscent of someone else.

Bass Drum do find themselves a few times on the album, such as on the throwback Heart Attack Kid. However, thirty seconds in one or two songs just isn’t enough to make me take any interest. Bass Drum of Death are a genre band, they would make great playlist fodder, but I don’t recommend picking up GB City. If you like this type of music, you’ve probably already heard everything that’s on here, anyways.




Tracklist:
1. Nerve Jamming
2. GB City
3. Get Found
4. Velvet Itch
5. High School Roaches
6. Spare Room
7. Young Pros
8. Heart Attack Kid
9. Leaves
10. I Could Never Be Your Man
11. Religious Girls

-Owen

April 27, 2011

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

I never had any trouble warming up to Fleet Foxes' music. They're one of those bands that's immediately likable upon first listen. There's no thick sonic layers that you have to sift through to get to the heart of the music, it's all right there, and it makes me feel all cozy and warm inside. That's what I love about this band. They're unique in that they're most comforting on cold, wintery days, at least to me.

If you don't know Fleet Foxes, they're characterized by their wonderfully smooth-flowing harmonies, intertwining acoustic guitar lines, endearing, sometimes sad lyrics, and pleasing melodies. They sound like sweethearts, right? At least that's what their music suggests, it must be true.

Helplessness Blues shows more or less the same of what they displayed on their debut, except some of the songs here seem to strive to be more ambitious, which I like. And that certainly rubs off on tracks like Helplessness Blues, my personal favorite here, and The Shrine/An Argument, which actually changes it up a bit towards the end with Andrew Bird-esque string arrangements and a bunch of cacophonous saxophones playing at random. Totally un-Fleet Foxes. And I'm cool with that, I'm glad they're trying something different. Other stand-out tracks include Grown Ocean, a track which seems to sum up the music on the album perfectly, Montezuma, whose harmonies seem especially resonant, and Bedouin Dress, which takes a slightly different route and is lead by a jiggy-sounding violin line and drum combo.

Overall, the songs here are extremely pleasant, and there is just the right amount of exploration past their usual boundaries, but it's missing a lot of the hooks that made me fall in love with their debut. I can see myself listening to this a lot, but I won't remember the songs as well as I did on their debut (with the very strong exception of Helplessness Blues). And that's why this album falls short of something that could have been really great. But none the less, this is actually a really good album, and for everyone who was worrying that this would be a disappointment compared to their debut, I can guarantee you that you'll enjoy this to say the least.




Tracklist:
1. Montezuma
2. Bedouin Dress
3. Sim Sala Bim
4. Battery Kinzie
5. The Plains/Bitter Dancer
6. Helplessness Blues
7. The Cascades
8. Lorelai
9. Someone You'd Admire
10. The Shrine/An Argument
11. Blue-Spotted Tail
12. Grown Ocean

-Julian

April 25, 2011

The Antlers - Burst Apart

Let's start with the most notable differences between this record and Hospice. Firstly, the tracks here are much more immediate. While Hospice required more attentiveness to how the songs were developing, and often the songs would just burst open out of nowhere with blazing drum beats and more pronounced vocals, here you know right off the bat how the whole song is going to turn out. In that aspect, I applaud The Antlers, as this is a record that plays in relaxed mode, and I can just listen to it without paying close attention to detail.

The next big difference is that Burst Apart is less moving than its predecessor, and the level of depression has gone way down, lyrics included. Another reason why this will make for an easier listening experience. Easier, but unfortunately less memorable. The first time I listened to Bear, I literally couldn't stop, I had it on repeat for days. Same goes for Sylvia, Two, Kettering, and almost all of the others. From this album, I'll certainly remember the raw scratchiness of the guitar chords on Parentheses or the catchy melody of Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out, but I can't say the same for the rest. It'll take a lot of listens for these songs to really stick. But this doesn't mean I don't like it. It's even one of the best things I've heard all year, and I can see myself returning to it several times in the future. And despite what I said about it being less moving, there are moments of sheer beauty here, like on the opener I Don't Want Love, Corsicana, and even Tiptoe, which puts me in a 1950s New York kind of environment, just kind of roaming the streets on a rainy night, and I love that. There are some other really chill tracks here too, like Rolled Together, which, to me, seems like it could fit in nicely with The Moon & Antarctica, and Hounds, which is one of the most touching, though one of the least memorable.

Overall, The Antlers have taken the safe route for this one, and I'm kind of glad that they did. Though much more accessible, these tracks don't hit as hard as most of the stuff on Hospice, but enough with comparisons. I definitely recommend this album to fans of The Antlers, new and old.




Tracklist:
1. I Don't Want Love
2. French Exit
3. Parentheses
4. No Widows
5. Rolled Together
6. Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out
7. Tiptoe
8. Hounds
9. Corsicana
10 Putting the Dog to Sleep

-Julian

April 18, 2011

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart’s first album sounded like it fell right out of the 90’s. Front man Kip Berman’s hushed, pondering lyrics floated over jangly guitars and lo-fi fuzz. Adorable at times, contemplative at others, the indie pop group’s debut was a great success. Since then, only a few things have changed.

First, Kip Berman is now Kip Berman. The Pains have a definite front man on Belong, their second studio album. Berman’s voice was an integral part of The Pains’ precious sound, and his delicacy was responsible for much of their debut’s success. Vocals, sunk deep into the shoegazing style, were also essential to the group’s initial throwback sound. However, on Belong, Berman's vocals are clearer and more pronounced. This change could have proved costly for the band, yet, surprisingly, it wasn't. Thankfully, The Pains haven’t lost their magic. They’re still as cute and as shameless as they ever were.

However, the biggest change on Belong is evident in the opening seconds. Belong, the album’s title track, sounds very familiar, but there is something definitely different. The Pains have never sounded this hard. Above the fuzz, there is suddenly a commanding lead guitar, fuzzed enough for My Bloody Valentine, loud enough for The Jesus and Mary Chain, yet sharp enough to really get your attention. This significant change is really symbolic of the band’s progress. On The Pains’ debut, their gentle shoegazing was relaxed. But now, The Pains of Being at Heart are still cute, but they're a little more aggressive about it. On Belong, they're adorable and they make sure you know it.

While there is something tantalizingly reminiscent of the past about The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's style, Belong distinctly belongs in 2011. While often Belong can evoke that 90's bliss that they have become recognized for, The Pains no longer sound like a cassette tape. The Pains are growing as a band, and are developing their own sound, freeing them from sentimental labels that could have run them into a rut. All in all, Belong is a great album that shows growth and maturity from the young shoegazers.




Tracklist:
1. Belong
2. Heaven's Gonna Happen Now
4. The Body
5. Anne with an E
8. Girl of 1000 Dreams
9. Too Tough
10. Strange

-Owen

April 6, 2011

Panda Bear - Tomboy

Panda Bear has been the darling of the indie music scene and hipsters alike ever since the release of Person Pitch back in 2007. But he's one of those musicians that when I listened to him for the first time, I was confused, wondering why people would listen to this and like it (with the exception of Comfy in Nautica). Several months later and a reluctant return to Person Pitch found me singing a totally different tune, and I realized that I never really gave the hypnotic loops and soothing harmonies a chance to sink in.

Let me start by saying that this is a fairly different record than Person Pitch. On Tomboy, although constantly there (he still managed to keep me guessing how he makes the sounds that he does), the experimentation takes a step back and leaves more room for Noah's vocal harmonies to shine. The production is much tighter than the tinny sounds on Person Pitch. Also, while that album contained short loops repeated for long periods of time, the melodies here are stretched out, and the songs open up more. This makes the songs more immediate, especially songs like 'Slow Motion', 'Late Night at the Jetty', and 'Alsatian Darn', which are actually my three favorite tracks here (although I have to say, I don't like the reworking of Noah's vocals on 'Slow Motion' here as much as on the single).

The weak points on this album, though few, are pretty distinct. Friendship Bracelet is a pretty unpleasant experience, I'll admit, Afterburner, being just shy of 7 minutes in length, gets pretty boring after 2 minutes, and even after several listens, I still can't warm up to the title track, whose melody is almost aggressively repetitive. But that's pretty much all that's keeping this album back. Other highlights include 'Scheherezade', a beautiful, single-chord piano ballad that shows Panda Bear in a totally different light, and more unexpectedly 'Drone', which starts off sounding like it will be the most annoying track on the album, but turns out to be one of the most gratifying. And I couldn't think of a more perfect closer than the wonderfully dreamy 'Benefica'.

So there you have it. It's weird enough to hit the spot of experimental-loving Panda Bear fans, but accessible enough for newcomers, and that's why this album succeeds so well.




Tracklist:
1. You Can Count on Me
2. Tomboy
3. Slow Motion
4. Surfer's Hymn
5. Last Night at the Jetty
6. Drone
7. Alsatian Darn
8. Scheherazade
9. Friendship Bracelet
10. Afterburner
11. Benfica

*highlighted = highlights (duh!)

-Julian

April 5, 2011

The Strokes - Angles

I have to admit, the announcement of a new Strokes album last January wasn't terribly thrilling. I didn't like First Impressions that much, although it has some really good songs (Jukebox, Fear of Sleep), and I figured that this would be a similar trail of boring melodies and over-produced songs. But the release of their excellent lead single Under Cover of Darkness is what got me all giddy. That and it's similarly great b-side You're So Right. But I guess I was tricked. Unfortunately nothing else on the album matches up to the exuberance of those two songs. Almost everything else takes an unexpected 80s approach, which doesn't settle with me at all, especially on 'Two Kinds of Happiness' and 'Games'.

Although I have to say, the opener 'Maccu Piccu' is a damn catchy track, and the power beats and synths are simmered down just enough to make it enjoyable. 'Taken for a Fool' is a good little number too. 'Metabolism' is decent, but it tries too hard to be the cool, out-of-place track, however 'Gratisfaction' is the most unfitting one here, with its poppy beat and happy guitar strums, and those tracks just happen to be elaborately placed right next to each other.

Angles closes on a slightly positive note (positive compared to the previous tracks) with 'Life is Simple in the Moonlight', a pretty neutral track that sounds nice with the rest of the album, but pretty boring alone. Another thing to add is that Casablancas has lost his attitude almost completely here, which is partially why I loved them so much in the first place. No more screaming into the mic for this guy I guess.

Overall, it's just descent. 'So decent' would sound too much like a compliment.
You literally can't even compare their music with anything from Is This It anymore. The songs are all polished and shiny now. But then again, they're evolving, that should be a good thing. So I guess it would be naive to say that I WANT THE OLD STROKES BACK!!! Especially in all caps like that. But I think that this case is different.




Tracklist:
1. Maccu Piccu
2. Under Cover of Darkness
3. Two Kinds of Happiness
4. You're So Right
5. Taken for a Fool
6. Games
7. Call Me Back
8. Gratisfaction
9. Metabolism
10. Life is Simple in the Moonlight

-Julian

March 25, 2011

Destroyer - Kaputt

Destroyer is Canadian singer-songwriter Dan Bejar's most consistent project. Bejar has collaborated with The New Pornographers and Spencer Krug in recent years, but his best work has always been with Destroyer. On Kaputt, his ninth studio album under that name, Bejar is at his best. Often, on indie rock/pop albums, guitars are blissful, harmonies sweet, or xylophones pretty, but it is rare to stumble on something truly beautiful. Kaputt is just that. Bejar's gentle vocals and soothing saxophones and synthesizers are the best they have ever been.

A genre is hard to place on Kaputt. Equally as fit as a backdrop to a quiet dinner party as a late night drive, Kaputt is incredibly soothing. Bejar sings softly over natural synthesizers and saxophones for the majority of the album. He slides into a groove within the first few notes of Chinatown and rides it to the finish of the album. Kaputt has many small crescendos; it is filled with subtle peaks and grand valleys between them.

Occasionally rambling but always meaningful, Bejar's lyrics tie everything together. His voice is a little raspy and a little low by itself, but combined with the gentle swells of the music and lyrics, it fits. His lyrics, his melodies, his harmonies, and his instrumentation all fit together amazingly.

You'll never guess just what I've seen...

A horse abandoned midstream...

Quatrain etched on a dirtpile...

Quatrain etched, hey that's your style!

Bejar sings and we can almost hear the smile on his face. Bejar opens up his heart on Kaputt, letting us join in for the ride. On his ninth album, Bejar has made something special: Kaputt is beautiful.




-Owen