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.

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


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.

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.

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


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.

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)