February 27, 2011

Cut Copy - Zonoscope

From Cut Copy, there has always been a sense of instant satisfaction. Short songs off of In Ghost Colors and Bright Like Neon Love bombarded us with hooks that were impossible to forget. On Zonoscope, that instant catch is gone. For better of for worse, there’s a lot more going on.

The songs are no longer simple three-and-a-half minute dancehall anthems. This is immediately obvious as the opening track, Need You Now, makes you listen a little closer than normal. It sounds a familiar, but at the same time, a little different that usual Cut Copy. In other words it’s a reassuring start. After establishing that sense of comfort, the ridiculously catchy Take Me Over plays, and then that’s it. Things just get weirder.

Synthesizers are sharper and the music sounds a bit more spaceship-y. The distinctively retro song titles are replaced by names like Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution, which is, to be fair, still a great song, but a terrible name nonetheless. And with the disappearance of cool names like Bright Neon Payphone and Voices in Quartz comes the disappearance of that bright sound that Cut Copy used to have.

With Zonoscope, Cut Copy were trying to explore new areas their sound. Recording in an empty warehouse, they were trying to revamp and revitalize their music. Success in this regard could have been excellent, if they had pulled it off. Unfortunately, the new "explorative" moments are boring, bland, and uninteresting, and weigh down the effortless charm that Cut Copy radiates

However, Cut Copy still shine through this gooey “explorative” coating that has covered their sound. The dance pop veterans are so good at what they do that even when they try their hardest to not be themselves, you can still hear them. They probably could have smeared their sound in dogshit, and it still would have sounded good. Zonoscope doesn't do what it was likely supposed to do, but it's not bad. I like it.


February 20, 2011

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Following the anticipation that has been building up since last Monday when Radiohead released the information that their eighth album was going to be released on Saturday (actually turned out to be Friday), here's a full track-by-track review of The King of Limbs.

An odd keyboard loop fades in and starts the album off, then 4 synthed blips, and a clumsy beat begins. The song sounds as if it's stumbling over itself, until Thom's hauntingly reverbed vocals come into the messy mix and smooth everything over, along with Colin's bassline. I can't say I've heard an opening track to any Radiohead album that's set the mood as well as Bloom.

Morning Mr Magpie:
This might be my favorite song off of the album. More of the same structure of the first track, it has the schizophrenic beat, the echoey vocals, only this song is a little more eerie. Somewhere in the middle, the beat drops, and Thom's spooky vocals float about. Try to imagine you're in the middle of a dank, cold forest, at night, lost, running from something. I think that would set the right mood.

Little by Little:
Much more catchy than the first too, still quite dark though. Most notable on this track is that the beat is clear and the melody is more Radiohead-esque. I can tell that this is going to be a live favorite. I can already see Thom doing some crazy dance onstage.

The beat here is much more straight forward, but the warped vocals are so scattered that it's hard to make sense of the song. I'd say that it would fit nicely with Thom's solo album.

Lotus Flower:
One of the more pleasant tracks. Thom's voice climbs high here, which could be very soothing for some, but a bit unnerving for others, as his pitch stays the same throughout, and it can become tedious. For me, the song doesn't evolve enough.

This slow-churning piano ballad might not reach the heights of Pyramid Song, but it certainly comes close, and it surpasses the likes of In Rainbows closer Videotape by a long shot.

Give Up the Ghost:
For those of you who were listening to this album scratching at your eyes, begging for the electronic blips and confusing rhythms to stop, and for some sort of acoustic song to come up, well this is as close as you're going to get. The presence of the guitar here almost makes it feel like a Department of Eagles song. The song stays relatively subdued throughout, as Thom warbles innocently "Don't hurt me", and several sonic layers of vocals comes up towards the end. Pretty, but underwhelming.

Couldn't think of a more perfect way to end an album. The quick but simple drum track and light hearted singing really lightens up the mood, especially when the playful guitar melody comes in about halfway through. The last couple of minutes of the song really prove to be the best two minutes of the album. Thom's singing "Wake me up, wake me up" towards the end, and the syncopated guitar notes descending feel distant, but very, very blissful.

So to wrap up, Radiohead have released another solid LP that has turned out to be one of their most consistent records to date, but feels a little more like a follow up to Thom Yorke's solo album, and unfortunately lacks on the memorable scale. Where In Rainbows had the awesome distortion of Bodysnatchers, or the excessively beautiful string arrangements on Nude, this album will have to make do with Little by Little, or Morning Mr Magpie. Of course I know that they're not going to make another OK Computer or The Bends, but that doesn't mean they can't pull through and make another superb record like In Rainbows. I'm curious as to whether they'll release more tracks on this double vinyl that comes out in May. In the mean time, I'll enjoy these songs just fine.

As an album, I'd give it an 8. As a Radiohead album, a 6.5. Also, if you don't like it at first, give it a few more listens and then see.

1. Bloom
2. Morning Mr Magpie
3. Little by Little
4. Feral
5. Lotus Flower
6. Codex
7. Give Up the Ghost
8. Separator


February 18, 2011

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is the debut film by director Derek Cianfrance and was the darling of last years Sundance festival. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are a couple of about 5 years in suburban New York. The film constantly cuts between their current life with their young daughter and their failing marriage and their budding romance in Brooklyn. Michelle Williams's Cindy starts the film as a quiet girl in med-school who is caught in a relationship with a unsensitive jock until Ryan Gosling, the perfect mold of a mid ninties hipster, comes along and sweeps her off her feet. I don't want to spoil the movie, but their relationship goes through some rough patches before they settle down and make a family. The directors choice to show the beauty of budding love and the complete despare of dying love brings the audience right into their relationship and brings you on an emotional rollercoaster and breaks your heart in the end. This story affected me so much because it was unlike any recent romance films in the way that their relationship was so believeable and the acting on both of the lead's parts makes their chemistry and their complete hatred between each other scary realistic. Williams is nominate for the Oscar for her preformance, but Gosling not getting a nomination is one of the biggest snubs of the year. I would reccomend this movie to anyone, as long that they are braced to the fact that this is the farthest thing from a happy ending rom-com to hit theaters. This movie will not only wow you, but it will stay with you for a very long time and make you consider the relationships in your life.
My Review: A

February 17, 2011

Yuck - Yuck

Yuck is a London-based band that's slowly been picking up speed within the blogosphere over the past few months. Almost everyone is drawing comparisons to bands like Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr., and it's hard to argue with that. Basically, 'Yuck' embodies everything that I love about 90s indie rock, with layers of pop that are thick, but not too thick.

The melodies may be familiar and a little too forgettable, but the songs are crafted so well that it's hard to complain. Songs like Get Away, The Wall, Holing Out, Operation, and the 7-minute, slow-burning last track Rubber show that Yuck mean no bullshit, while Shook Down, Suicide Police, Suck, Sunday, and Rose Gives A Lily take a step back and explore a more poppy territory.

I can't find any tracks that I particularly dislike here. Even though the songs might not pack a powerful enough punch to satisfy to the fullest, Yuck's nostalgic melodies and youthful-sounding guitar lines have made this one of the most listenable albums of the year so far.

1. Get Away
2. The Wall
3. Shook Down
4. Holing Out
5. Suicide Policeman
6. Georgia
7. Suck
8. Stutter
9. Operation
10. Sunday
11. Rose Gives a Lilly
12. Rubber


Kingdom of Heaven: Hollywood vs. Reality

The Kingdom of Heaven: Hollywood vs. Reality
By Brendan Zinser

As it is with many Hollywood movies based on true stories, The Kingdom of Heaven was greatly embellished for the sake of making an interesting film. It was directed by notorious action film director Ridley Scott, director of such huge-budget time pieces like this one that were based on true stories such as “Gladiator” and “American Gangster”. However, Kingdom of Heaven was by far the most historically inaccurate film and definitely does not do the remarkable true story justice. It is obvious that Scott did not think about huge historical inaccuracies in the film such as the main character Balian and the leader of the defense against the attacks on Jerusalem, was in fact, in real life, just a very good warrior in the battle and served a very small part in the actual story. The film depicts Balian as a black smith commoner who was thrown into the world of royalty and kings when his illegitimate father dies and makes him continue his work as a lord. However, in real life, Balian knew his father well, was not a commoner, but was raised with the royalty and the elite and not a commoner or a blacksmith. This was obviously left out because making Balian a regular average guy who was forced to carry on his fathers legacy, but an elitist that was trained from a young age to be a warrior. Moreover, there were also great directorial mistakes that Scott made that are bafflingly inaccurate, like the fact that Jerusalem in the film was completely flat, making it perfect for attacking armies, when Jerusalem is actually one of the most mountainous areas of the world. Also, the depiction of the relationship of the Christians and the Muslims was greatly offensive, depicting the Christians as great bullies trying to get Muslim land, when in real life, the Christians and Muslims mostly stayed out of each others ways. In Conclusion, it is clear to see that Ridley Scott put half of the effort into the accuracy of the story as he did spending millions of dollars and lots of time on making the epic battle scenes. In my opinion, I did not like the movie at all because I thought it made a film that was way too long, out of a main character that served little purpose in the real story, and although the battle scenes and sets of medieval times were great at depicting at what it looked like, the script and acting gave the viewer very little in what it actually felt like to be in Medieval times.

February 10, 2011

Cloud Nothings - Cloud Nothings

First off, I am just going to tell you that this album is amazing and I love it. Okay, now that that is out of the way, we can talk about some of its finer points.Cloud Nothings, or basically nineteen-year-old Dylan Baldi and a couple friends, are a something more than just a great noise pop band.

They are, like they should be, young and loud. They have that fantastic upbeat feeling of Matt and Kim combined with the musical capabilities of a much more experienced group. However, this cleverness isn’t shoved in your face; Cloud Nothings aren’t snotty Ivy preps, but they aren’t bumming gigs in dumpy LA clubs either. They’re just amazing, and their humility makes them that much more fun to listen to. They’re so good that they don’t have to rub it in your face. The high-powered fuzzed-out guitars and raw lyrics fit together perfectly to give Cloud Nothings an amazing sound. Every track makes its own contribution to the album.

However, Cloud Nothings are something more than just a great noise pop band. What sets them apart is more of an intangible attribute. It’s in the middle of Not Important where Baldi's voice crack transitions to perfect harmony in under ten seconds. It’s that comical anger on You’re No Good at Anything that can only make you chuckle. It’s the simple 1:10 seconds of joy that makes up Heartbeat. Whatever it is, Baldi has it. And it’s amazing.


February 3, 2011

Kyle Bobby Dunn - A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn

I'll admit, this kind of music has never really been my cup of tea. Call it what you want; ambient, minimalist, drone, most suiting would be a mix of all three.

A Young Person's Guide is brooklyn-based (originally from Canada) composer Kyle Bobby Dunn's fourth LP, and a fine addition to his previous works. The songs here tackle many ideas while flowing effortlessly between each drone. Though some tracks might seem to stretch out for longer than they need, the lines are never blurred between each idea. Most prominent are Butel, The Tributary (For Voices Lost), Promenade, Bonaventure's Finest Hour, and Sets of Four, in which the drones actually cut out and a pleasant piano melody repeats throughout the song.

If you're the kind of person who digs minimalistic music, this album is 90 minutes of drone heaven. I've really never heard ambient music done better, but unfortunately for me, I don't see a future for it in my music library. The album tends to lose me through its ever expanding atmosphere. But again, if this type of music is your thing, definitely check it out.