Take care, take care, take care by Explosions in the sky
Am I the only one that finds it difficult to sit down and listen to an hour of instrumental guitar music in one sitting? And thats not to bash this album or Explosions in the Sky in general. As far as lengthy instrumental guitar music goes, this is pretty damn good. I just always feel like I’m waiting for something that never arrives. Anyways, this album is basically the same thing Explosions in the Sky has done throughout their career. It’s well composed ‘post-rock’ that does a really great job of conveying intense emotions. It’s the type of music that is easy to make up a story for. Probably the most ‘cinematic’ album that I’ve listened to this year. Not surprising considering how stellar the band’s work was on the “Friday Night Lights” soundtrack years ago. In short though, unless I’m making a movie or feeling really emotionally scattered I’m not sure when I’m gonna listen to this again.
A collection of music this ‘sweet’ and ‘kewt’ just shouldn’t have the right to be any good, but for some reason I completely diggin’ this one. Maybe it’s just because it’s spring and the weather is warming up and I’m in a particularly good and unsnarky mood these days. Maybe, it’s because Acid House Kings harvest a nice collection of retro influences to keep it classy. Maybe though, it’s just that these guys know how to effing play pop music. The whole thing is really a clinic in all things sugary sweet. “Would You Say Stop?” is the type of track that will have just about anyone boppin around innocently in no time. Then there is “(I’m in) a Chorus Line” which is an absurdly catchy song that has the instrumental feel of a particularly bouncy Jens Lekman tune. Overall you might get the musical equivelant to a cavity, but it’s probably really worth it.
The cave singers, more so than almost any other band, have a way of making me feel comfortable and at ease. Maybe it’s lead singer Pete Quirk’s way of crawling through the lyrics with his trademark grainy voice. Maybe it’s the relative simplicity of the key elements of their songs. Whatever it is, it gets me. “No Witch” has a rustic, but not at all antiquated quality that is hard to pin point. It’s the type of music that the band seems to feel so at ease making that at times it feels like Quirk is just improvising the verses. In general, The Cave Singers keep things pretty low key, but their are enough exuberant and rowdy numbers to avoid any sort of monotony. Every once in a while a record comes along that just ‘fits’ with me. This is one of those records.
This is another one of those semi-dubstep / hipster pseudo-R&B type deals. And I can’t say that I’m a big fan. It is however significantly better than that James Blake album in my eyes because it does actually sound like music as opposed to a broken 80’s cassette player. Also, Woon can really sing (even without the help of autotune). In general though I just found this record undeniably boring. It doesn’t even have the raw sex appeal of that album by ‘The Weeknd’. The only track worth mentioning was “Night Air”, a quiet to loud gem that’s carried by Woon’s smooth vocals and is just way cooler than anything else on the album.
Here come some rapid-fire opinions from a not entirely reputable source.
VISIONS by Airlines
This is a really pleasant surprise of a release. It’s a quick 4 song electronic ep, that’s shockingly diverse in sound. The lead single “Burial Grounds” is a sprawling, tropically retro sounding track that would easily have been the best song on the last ‘Cut Copy’ album IMO. While “Colors” is a spastic and funky ‘Yeasayeresque’ trip to the land of semi-psychedelia. A lot of electronic groups have songs that feel like they are 1 or 2 minutes too long. But not these guys. This one holds your interest from start to finish.
McComb’s 09 release ‘Catacombs’ was a stunning multi-dimensional folk album that balanced big emotions with playful lyricism. Unfortunately, I never really got into his latest work ‘Wit’s End’. While, “The Lonely Doll” is a painfully pretty metaphor of a song. The rest of the album simply seems to maintain this drawn out overly delicate, ‘music box’ type feel throughout. Leaving in it’s wake a very sleepy amateur music listener.
Wit’s End: 2 out of 5 Hit after Hit by Sonny and the Sunsets
Outside of Calvin Johnson, I’m not sure anyone has as keen a knack for creating massive quantities of jangly, innocent and at times goofy rock songs as Sonny Smith. The major difference being that Sonny’s songs are probably a bit more ‘California’ and care free. ‘Hit After Hit’ is an aptly named album that keeps the 2 minute long, retro garage-pop gems coming one after the other. Major summer album alert y’all.
This album strikes me as some sort of middle ground between ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Free Energy’. Only not as precisely played / unique as the former and not as energetic / sincere as the latter. It’s a straightforward effort that tries to hit you with as many ‘hooky’ power pop jams as possible. The problem lies in the fact that only 1, maybe 2 of these tracks are memorable.
To say “W h o k i l l” is out there, is a major understatement. I imagine this is what it would be like to do ecstasy and speed at the same time. At times it’s off the wall fun. At other times it’s schizophrenic. In general though, the hyper dance party portions outweigh the borderline creepy portions. There is a lot going on here but when it all comes together on tracks like “Gangsta” the end result is something along the lines of a ‘freak-folk’/free form jazz version of Vampire Weekend that is surprisingly kickin’.
Beach Fossils always kind of feel like the nostalgic suburban summers of one’s adolescence. On “What a Pleasure” the band basically continues with the same dreamy shoegaze style they created on their debut. The sound of the two releases is shockingly similar, with the only major difference being that now the lead vocals seem a little less hazy and more seperated from the rest of the track. The relaxing and immaculately played guitars are still the undeniable star of the Ep however. As much as I kind of want to dismiss this as ‘nothing new’ for the Brooklyn based outfit, I can’t help but find myself continually drawn in to the hypnotic ‘summer vacation’ that Dustin Payseur develops.
Jonny is a collaborition between Euros Childs and Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake. Most of the album tries to focus on a toned down version of the psychedelic pop that ‘Woods’ has revitalized. Most of the time though it hovers around a substandard immitation of that. Or worse, a really wimpy version of ‘The Kills’. I think Jonny is actually at it’s best on tracks like “Circling The Sun” when the project harvess the same brand of charming pop that Teenage Fanclub made a living off of.
There are some bands out there that you hope never grow up. The scrappy punk-pop trio “Let’s Wrestle” is one of those bands and luckily they show very little signs of maturation with their second record on Merge, “Nursing Home”. As it turns out these guys seem to actually detest anything or anyone ‘mature’, as noted on their hilarious “Song For Old People” on their last record: “Going to the seaside when it’s way too cold. / Life ain’t worth living once you get old”. The bashing of those who are more experienced in life continues on their latest release with songs like “Bad Mammaries” which is sort of an ‘anti-milf’ anthem: “Aren’t you a bit wrinkled to a be a nymphomaniac? / Aren’t you a bit insignificant to be so arrogant. / Please just give up! Join a nunnery! “. Remind me not to invite them to my “Real Housewives” viewing party.
The rest of the album focuses on some pretty heavy topics like being ‘too lazy to sleep’, sleeping a lot, dreams about Pokemon, being chronically late etc. But my favorite song is 2.5 minute, “If I Keep On Lovin’ You”. It’s got a heavy/playful bass that really defines the song. The clueless slacker love song is a nice change of pace because it’s the only time on the album that the band isn’t full of brash confidence. Having no clue about the opposite sex doesn’t keep them from creating a song that makes you want to flail around in poppy punky glee though.
“The Suburbs” is a song about feeling safe in your comfort zone. It’s really similar to the Weezer classic “In the Garage”, and also pretty solid in it’s own right. Hopefully the band continues to stay within it’s musical comfort zone for the foreseeable future. Because “Nursing Home” is pretty great and “In The Court Of Wrestling Let’s” (which I admittedly only first listened to last week) is absolutely terrific.
Tristen (aka my latest indie crush) brings us a really enjoyable ‘pleasant-core’ album with “Charlatans”. Her sound is an appealing and cohesive mix of diverse influences. Some of the songs have a mild old-world / Fleet Fox(y) feel, such as “Battle Of The Gods” and “Eager for Your Love”. With more ornate vocals and hints of very old school instrumentation these songs often feel like the type of thing that has been passed down for generations. Yet at other times Tristen flaunts a twangy laid back confidence like in “Matchstick Murder” and “Special Kind of Fear”. Songs like this give the album just the right amount of feel good sing-alongability. Yet I think the most effective song is “Baby Drugs” which has more of a vague alt-country sensibility. The song features a sunny guitar strum, cool vocal arrangements with the back up singers and quaint lyrics. The only time the album struggles is when it verges on that mainstream country radio sound briefly in songs like “heart hope & die”. I’m not sure Tristen will ever truly find her niche in anyone of Charlatans’ many genres but even if she doesnt she still makes a really swell jack of all trades, even if she is a master of none.
After a stunning debut that topped nearly everyone’s ‘end of the year’ list, an encore was no easy task for the Fleet Foxes. I’m glad they took three years off to fully work “Helplessness Blues” out, because once again it’s a masterpiece. There always seems to be a lot of weight placed on bands evolving, growing, changing etc, but really if you just continue to produce quality songs, that’s all that seems to matter.
Fleet Foxes, seem to deal with a lot of contradictions in their music. They manage to simultaneously sound both quaint and grand, and they strike a perfect balance between powerful and ornate. It’s music that takes you somewhere, possibly somewhere distant, possibly somewhere long ago. It’s hard to really put a finger on exactly where and when, but that ambiguity is part of the beauty of Fleet Foxes. Their second album is a warm one. The vocals in particular almost glow and radiate with sincerity. “Helplessness Blues” is an album you can genuinely feel.
“Montezuma”, the opening track is a solid encapsulation of the sound that we have become familiar with in a slow gentle format. “Bedouin Dress” is a pretty interesting track that has a sound and easiness to it that’s not that far from that of a Simon & Garfunkel track. Probably the most simplistic song on the album it feels like a lazy Sunday afternoon.
“Battery Kinzie” is an upbeat number with triumphant sounding drums. It’s also probably the ‘steadiest’ song on the album. It’s pretty unusual for a Fleet Foxes song to be as repetitive in construction as this one. But it works. The lead single “Helplessness Blues” is really Fleet Foxes at their best. It’s a quiet (almost acapella) to loud type song. The guitars as well as the vocals are invigorating. It’s really a great song for the spring, as it kind of captures that feeling of going outside and enjoying the weather for the first time after being trapped indoors for months. Finally, “Lorelai” is a pretty and delicate track that sort of flutters back and forth gently. The type of thing that makes for really good day dreaming music. Really, the whole album could fit under that category. Weather permitting, I highly recommend just taking your IPod outside, closing your eyes and fully taking in “Helplessness Blues”.
Everyone is pretty and fun.
Everyone is lovely and young.
Everyone is gentle and gone.
But everyone’s just everyone.
The world would be a better place of these guys changed their name. Usually though, they are able to provide some tasteful and delicate throwback shoegaze type indie pop. “Belong” though is a different creature entirely. Their second album is more of a straightforward wimpy brand of alternative rock. I don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way either. A lot of “Belong” sounds like an updated take on ‘Teenage Fan Club’, which certainly isn’t a bad thing in my book.
Apparently the band teamed up with some big time producers who formerly had worked with The Smashing Pumpkins. On the opening (and title) track, “Belong”, this influence is never more apparent. The static(ky) lulls right before a punch of guitar seems like a page right out of the Pumpkins playbook. When you throw in the soft spoken falsetto verses the resemblence is uncanny, at least right untill the chorus hits, because unlike with the Pumpkins, PoBPaH remains fairly subtle gentle throughout. You could even say it’s lacking a bit in the testosterone department.
The boppy and bass heavy “Heart in You Heartbreak” is a relatively pleasant take on lost love. The song’s predictable pre-chorus dips and border line sappy hook all still maintain a certain grace. I think that PoBPaH’s new found accessibility has largely to do with the fact that the lead vocals are no longer buried under layers of fuzz. Fuzzyness was an effect that never really did much for the Brooklyn based band. It was almost like they were never really edgy enough to hold up to it. Now it seems as if they have a better idea of their strengths and weaknesses.
While I think that “Belong” was Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s most appealing album, I also feel like it kind of lost some steam about halfway through. With the exception of the sparkly “My Terrible Friend” , most of the second half of the record seemed to be less unique than the first. Most of the songs were just missing a certain unknown factor that they needed to be memorable. Even so, “Belong” was a more than satisfactory listening experience that saw a band grow in what I believe to be the right direction.