New Music Roundup: This Week In Musicland
I haven’t been around in weeks but here is a rundown of a shit-ton of records. Warning: this is pretty long, so if you get bored…you’re boring.
Album: Majesty Shredding
What the hell is it? Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years. The first Superchunk record in nine (!) years
Recommended? Talk about Majesty Shredding, Superchunk is one of the few bands fit for an album title like that. While Mac and Laura spent their nine-year hiatus running one of the best record labels in the game, Merge, they saw their bands do things that their own band will never do, and it is a shame. See, people who love Superchunk, LOVE Superchunk, like me. It is hard for me to write this review because I’ve been obsessed with this record for quite some time. Opener “Digging for Something” propels the band back into the forefront of indie rock, it makes me feel like the last nine years never happened. Then there is the highlight, “My Gap Feels Weird,” which recalls the Superchunk of the nineties while still sounding fresh and 2010. Early singles “Crossed Wires” and a re-recorded “Leaning to Surf” appear here along with the “fresh” tunes, and while it has been some time since their release they still sound welcome. Hopefully this isn’t the end but something grander.
Artist: The Walkmen
What the hell is it? Fifth record from the NYC band
Sounds like a combination of: The Walkmen
Recommended? Talk about aging gracefully, The Walkmen have managed to be just like The National, a band who can live on slow-burning rock songs, only tweaking their sound here and there, but releasing records that are generally fun to listen to at a steady pace. 2008’s You & Me was super slow, but it seems as if the band is past those days and are ready to “rock” again. “Angela Surf City” is the best song they have written since “The Rat,” and probably the loosest the band has ever sounded as well.
Artist: Boston Spaceships
Album: Our Cubehouse Still Rocks
What the hell is it? Latest rocker from the Robert Pollard side-project, featuring Chris Slusarenko (Guided by Voices) and John Moen (Decemberists)
Recommended? Surprise!—Cubehouse earns our grooviest rating: ten fist-pumps. Any longtime reader of the Weekly Round-Up knows just about every Pollard release is unabashedly recommended. The longtime reader might now be saying to himself, “Why should I run out and buy this one?” Three reasons: the equation of Pollardian inscrutability to sheer exuberance is near perfectly balanced in both lyrics and music, the sequencing is flawless, and album centerpiece “Come On Baby Grace” is the finest slice of power-pop Pollard has laid on the platter in years. Play the track for a skeptical longtime reader, and see if he goes to get Cubehouse. I’ll bet he runs.
Album: Business Casual
What the hell is it? Chromeo’s major label debut
Sounds like a combination of: The 80s, Hall and Oates’ Greatest Hits with more camp
Recommended? Chromeo’s albums thus far have been spotty affairs. They always have great tracks, but they never seem to flow properly. Well, the boys have really outdone themselves with this one. From start to finish, Business Casual pleases with tracks that sound like P-Thugg said—a more refined Fancy Footwork. “Hot Mess” is the only downer on the record, and too bad it starts the set off (personally. I would’ve put the Ezra Koenig track on the album). “I’m Contagious” makes up for the dud of “Hot Mess,” and knocks around with plenty to love. Elsewhere Solange does her best R&B posing on the sweet, “When the Night Falls.” The ending tracks, “The Right Type” and “Grown Ups,” are two of the best songs Chromeo has ever written. If you like 80s music rife with sax solos, talk boxes, and cheesey guitar solos—this is your record.
Artist: Restless People
Album: Restless People
What the hell is it? Ex-Professor Murder dudes hook up with Tanlines to take Vampire Weekend’s aesthetic to Ibiza
Sounds like a combination of: Taking ecstasy with the Harlem Shakes
Recommended? NPR had a story about how drug use was on the rise, especially ecstasy. Most would blame Delorean for this, but with the release of Restless People I don’t think people are going to stop raving and start behaving (Thanks Annie Mac). This record is high on the synths and airhorns and low on the duds. At only eight tracks, the band nails pretty much every one with the summer soundtrack we always wanted, but too bad it is being released right before fall. I already had two tracks as the song of the day last week, but the rest of the songs that fill out this record follow in the tropical/synthy vibe. “Little Sky” owes as much to Vampire Weekend as it does to Phil Collins’s solo 80s work. “Practical Magic” adds a bit of dub into the mix before turning into a booty-shaking head nodder. This new rave trend seems to be the next incarnation of the long dead dance-punk. I hope the Rapture are taking notice.
Artist: Super Wild Horses
What the hell is it? Australian female duo garage rocking debut
Sounds like a combination of: A little Vivian Girls, a little Dum Dum Girls and a whole lots of ass kicking rock
Recommended? Sometimes I get a record by a band with little to no hype and just fall in love. This is one of those records. Super Wild Horses are infectious. Every song on here is an earworm and when the short record finishes, the repeat button is sure to be hit. Highlights “Fifteen” and “Golden Town” are perfect indie-pop songs, performed expertly. Just try not to get these songs stuck in your head.
Artist: Twin Shadow
What the hell is it? Debut record from electro-pop band
Sounds like a combination of: The Cure, Depeche Mode, 80s darkwave pop
Recommended? “You’ll never let another black boy break your heart,” sings George Lewis, Jr. (Twin Shadow) on the opening cut Tyrant Destroyer but listening to Forget he might just break your heart. While Twin Shadow’s throwback style might be off-putting to some, Lewis is a master at keeping things sounding contemporary. The tracks here move from pensive to all-out dance numbers like “At My Heels,” but the true highlight is the Cure-like “Slow.” I really can see this dude blowing up, so get on the bandwagon while you can.
Artist: Lower Dens
Album: Twin-Hand Movement
What the hell is it? Jana Hunter’s new band
Sounds like a combination of: Indie rock done right
Recommended? Fuck yeah. Jana Hunter started as a freak-folk weirdo, so her new band Lower Dens is a pleasant surprise. Hunter’s deep voice is buried here, as the guitars are tuned up. “Tea Lights” is a slower number, but a knockout. The instrumental “Holy Water” shows off the band’s guitar chops, and highlight “Hospice Gates” has the band rocking out. ”Plastic and Powder” has a bit of Joy Division in it and is painfully slow—at six minutes it is their only misstep.
Artist: Summer Camp
What the hell is it? Debut EP from new real-life couple band
Sounds like a combination of: The high water mark for both Jenny and Johnny
Recommended? Talk about fun, Young is everything good about summer and younger days in six songs. “Round the Moon” is bedroom pop at its best. The woozy synth lines and guitars fit the dueling vocals, where “Was It Worth It” has the charm of an old Casio keyboard. Awash in 60s pop melodies, the band weave through expert choruses that make you fall in love every time. Summer Camp is the prom band that everyone wanted but no one had.
Artist: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Album: Let It Sway
What the hell is it? Third record from the always-consistent Missouri band
Sounds like a combination of: SSLYBY with polish
Recommended? No longer doing it themselves, the always consistent SSLYBY hired indie-pop master Chris Walla to aid in the production of this record. Where Perishing felt overworked—the band members were at each other’s throats—this feels loose. Opening duo “Back in the Saddle” and “Sink/Let it Sway” sounds like the band is having fun. When SSLYBY get a hit they hit it out of the park, but this record does have some filler. “In Pairs,” “All Hail Dracula” and “Animalkind” come off as filler when compared to “Evelyn” and the fuck you to critics, “Critical Drain.” The band are almost at the point where they could deliver perfect power pop, and hopefully the next time out they’ll do it all right.
Album: Surfing the Void
What the hell is it? Three years later, the inventors of nu-rave return and kick ass once again
Sounds like a combination of: Space rock
Recommended? Not only does Surfing the Void have the best album cover this year, but it marks a comeback for the troubled Klaxons. Who knows how many scrapped albums it took to make this, but it really isn’t different from the band’s previous work—just take the airhorns and alarms off. The Klaxons sound like a band now, and this feels like an album, something that many records released this year will attempt but fail to do. “Echoes” is a catchy-as-hell single, but things get good with the slam-dance ready “Surfing the Void,” and aggro-as-fuck “Flashover.” The Klaxons have seem to be eyeing the mosh pit more than the dance floor, and hell, I don’t blame them.
Artist: Magic Kids
What the hell is it? Sugary throwback record/debut of the Magic Kids
Sounds like a combination of: Pet Sounds, 60s pop, Van Dyke Parks
Recommended? This record is from 2010—whaaa? I feel like I should be listening to it on a Fisher-Price record player, not my iPhone. The Magic Kids make shiny, intricately orchestrated and assembled pop music. It almost feels overworked and fussy, but it is so damn fluffy you don’t have to listen too closely. “Superball,” “Hey Boy” and “”Candy” could’ve been hits back in the day, and should be hits now. Many people might find the Magic Kids overly precious, but fuck, it sure is better than most of the crap that has been released this year.
Artist: Teengirl Fantasy
Album: 7 AM
What the hell is it? Debut from electronic duo
Sounds like a combination of: Chillwave/ravewave
Recommended? After hearing preview track “Cheaters” I didn’t expect this record to be far less dancey than it is. The beats are more downtempo and after party, while I expected a dance floor smash. Some tracks like “In An Arena” are almost chillwave. “Cheaters” is the high point, but everyone needs cool-off music, and this might be the perfect cool-off record.
Album: Body Talk Pt 2
What the hell is it? Second record in the series of three from the Swedish songstress
Sounds like a combination of: Intelligent pop music and a fuck-ton of filler
Recommended? The opening three tracks on this new EP from Robyn are swell enough. “In My Eyes” is a jam—aside from that “little star” bullshit—and “Include Me Out” is a perfectly fine song. Things really get kicking with the way better cover “Hang With Me,” here in its electronic form. While it is no “Dancing on My Own,” it is still a mega-jam. Then you can pretty much dismiss the rest of the album. “Love Kills” is a fucking stupid song. Just saying, and don’t get me started on the abortion that is “We Dance to the Beat.” Robyn, you can do better. The real highlight here is the Snoop-Dogg-assisted “U Should Know Better” (despite Robyn’s somewhat awful/mind-boggling lyrics). All that said, Robyn is one of the best pop stars out there and yeah, she should be bigger here in the States but we know it is never going to happen, so we should cherish her because she is ours.
Artist: The Thermals
Album: Personal Life
What the hell is it? Fifth record from Portland threesome
Sounds like a combination of: The Thermals growing up
Recommended? Oh, Maturity—up yours. Let it be known The Thermals ruled my college years. Their “fuck you” anthems resonated with me, but after 2006’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine it seemed like the band was smoothing out the rough edges. Remaining the duo of Hutch and Kathy plus whoever they got to drum for them, the band painted by the numbers on Now We Can See, though it still had some great tunes. This all brings us to Personal Life, which doesn’t have any terrible cuts but isn’t the band I fell in love with, only a shell of their younger days. “I Don’t Believe You” is one of the catchiest tracks they’ve written in quite some time, but beyond that the tracks aren’t making waves. The songwriting is strong, but only “I Don’t Believe You” has energy, as mid-tempo seems to be the rage nowadays.
Artist: Jenny and Johnny
Album: I’m Having Fun Now
What the hell is it? Real life couple Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice team up She & Him style to create a fun to listen to surf/fol-rock record
Sounds like a combination of: The high water mark for both Jenny and Johnny
Recommended? Truth be told, I am not a huge Jenny Lewis fan. I never quite got why people loved her so much. Her songs are pretty meh, and it wasn’t super pleasant to listen to Under The Blacklight. This collaboration is actually fun, for the most part. The first four songs are so much fun, but there the album goes a little off the rails. By “Just Like Zeus,” you know they are out of material, as “Slavedriver” is a pretty blah song. But for every blah song it still trumps some of their past lows.
Artist: Blonde Redhead
Album: Penny Sparkle
What the hell is it? Blonde Redhead gone downtempo
Sounds like a combination of: Background music
Recommended? Blonde Redhead have been kicking in the scene for a long time now, tweaking their sound from Sonic-Youth-alikes to shoegazers to some weird hybrid. 2007’s 23 proved the band were a fierce act, but this record takes away the guitars from Blonde Redhead’s yesteryears and turns up the electronics. Opener “Here Sometimes” is a jam, but elsewhere the band veers off in directions only fit for background music. “My Plants Are Dead” skirts too closely to 90s downtempo electronica, “Love or Prision” is a snoozer, and “Penny Sparkle” becomes a track to just skip. The only time the band amps up, the results turn out all right. “Not Getting There” has the most guitars, and is a great song, but two jams don’t make a great record.
Artist: Les Savy Fav
Album: Root To Ruin
What the hell is it? A new Les Savy Fav record—what else would it be?
Sounds like a combination of: A continuation of Let’s Stay Friends
Recommended? Talk about opening tracks, “Appetites” starts out banging and even by the end quotes the Silver Jews. The band keeps rocking but the perils of old age seem to overtake this record. Like the Thermals, Les Savy Fav are no longer young dudes making spazzy music. They are adults with real problems. Some of them have families. This record has lots of slower numbers—like “Sleepless in Silverlake”—that Les Savy Fav aren’t super good at, but this time they seem to be pleasant enough. The highlights, like “Let’s Get Out Of Here,” make this record good, but everyone knows the best part of having a new LES record is that they’ll tour and destroy the shit out of a venue.
What the hell is it? Fourth record and “return to form/label” for the moody NYC band
Sounds like a combination of: SNOOZE and FEST
Recommended? What a fucking boring album. Paul Banks sounds bored. Carlos D was so bored he left the group when the record was done. Sure, “Barricade” is a fine song, but this record is all mood, with no attitude or bite. Just like last year’s ill-advised Julian Plenti record, this record just feels stale. It is weird to know that next year marks the 10-year anniversary of the brilliant Turn on the Bright Lights, especially since Interpol have just lost it.
What the hell is it? Another Weezer record—why?
Sounds like a combination of: “At least it isn’t as bad as…” and “What did you expect?”
Recommended? No. Sorry Rivers, I won’t be fooled again.
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