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.


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.


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