Same old, same old. Atmosphere, The Thermals, Of Montreal

Sometimes I have a hard time deciding if I like to hear bands continue to make the same type of music that they always made or if I like to hear them change and evolve as an artist. You don’t want to be predictable but you don’t want to abandon/betray your original fans. It’s like there is a Green Day to MGMT spectrum. Probably best to be in the middle.

Last three albums I listened to all seemed to lean towards creating the same sound and not screwing it up. Still trying to process how I feel about this.

“To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy” by Atmosphere

Atmosphere's Best Album Art to date? Probably.

This album pretty much represents exactly what Atmosphere has stood for over the almost 20 year span of the duos career. The proud Minnesotans bring us 12 more narrative driven, anti-synth, anti-autotune style tracks. As a rapper Slug has always been less about clever word play and more about conveying an emotion and telling a story with his lyrics. Maybe since this isn’t the norm in today’s rap scene, every new Atmosphere record is like a breath of fresh air, despite the fact that it is old habit for the group. While “To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy” is what you have come to expect from Atmosphere there are subtle differences in the tone of all their albums. This one is particularly gritty and is consistently darker than a lot of other stuff by Atmos. Even the seemingly innocent tale of young love, “The Number None”, lacks a happy ending and is surprisingly explicit. Basically though, if you like hip-hop then you have to love Slug, and if you love Slug then you should definitely pick this one up.

To All My Friends, Blood Makes the Blade Holy: 4 out of 5

Personal Life by The Thermals

The Thermals seem to be polarizing. People either love their fun energetic little rock jams or they complain that they just keep writing the same fucking songs over and over again. Both sides probably make reasonable points. If you listen to “Personal Life” on its own, it might not be all that innovative or deep but it’s really enjoyable. When looked at as part of their career as a whole you might start to move the band towards the Green Day end of the aforementioned spectrum. With its “oo oooh oohs”, predictable guitar riffs and four word chorus, “I Don’t Believe You” could very well be the lead single on any of The Thermals previous albums. It’s a carbon copy. A fun infectious carbon copy. If you only heard this song it’d be easy to write this album and the band off. But I think that’s unfair as there are a few quiet attempts at change on this one, even while working within the same foundation that the Portland based trio has created over the years. “Never Listen to Me” might be my favorite track on the album, it’s a lot more subdued and bass heavy than most stuff by The Thermals. The vocals even verge on being smoky, at least as smoky as the thermals can be. The song just goes to show you that the band can write a quality song even when they aren’t making you scream the lyrics at the top of your lungs in your car while with some friends. “Personal Life” is fun, it does sound somewhat adolescent, it is somewhat predictable, but it is not stagnant.

Never Listen to Me

I Don\'t Believe You

Personal Life: 3 out of 5

False Priest by Of Montreal

Most fitting album cover of the year?

No band crams more shit into a single song than Of Montreal. Nearly every track is filled nearly in excess with falsettos, funky guitar riffs, gongs, faux choral arrangements, and exuberance. Sometimes it feels like there is more than one song in a song. ‘False Priest’ takes this style to the next level. It’s the proverbial ‘Mary Poppins bag’ of albums, because you just wonder how anyone could get all of those influences and ideas and noise in one place. When it works it’s playful and shockingly well orchestrated, but when it doesn’t it’s filled with so much clutter that it kind of sounds like a musical version of A&E’s hoarders, and you end up with a song that is so filled with different elements that it is almost unlistenable.

“Our riotous defects” might be the first song since “Park Life” by Blur to effectively use spoken (not sung) verses. It’s surprisingly hilarious and relateable, while still sounding very ‘Of Montreal’ : “I did everything I could to make you happy. I participated in all your protests. Supported your stupid little blog. Got a bowflex….Sill we fought, like Ike and Tina but in reverse”. I personally like Of Montreal the best when they are more funky and less scattered. For this reason I think “A Girl Named Hello” is my favorite track. It’s a borderline 70’s porno/Pam Greer style jam that might actually be the most focused track on “False Priest”. Good stuff. Solid album.

False Priest: 3 out of 5


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