New Music Roundup: This Week In Musicland
What the hell is it? Second record from Grammy Award British singer
Sounds like a combination of: Dusty Springfield, maturity, folk, RNB
Recommended? True story, Adele’s debut 19 had only three really amazing songs. Everything else didn’t match the high level of “Chasing Pavements,” “Cold Shoulder” or “Hometown Glory.” It was unfair, because Adele has a voice, it just got lost in the coffee shop. Thank god she has Rick Rubin, Paul Epworth and Ryan Tedder (yuck) to flesh her out. Like 19, 21 is a break-up album, but it is far superior to its predecessor. The talent was always there, but now it shines. “Rolling in the Deep” has a sultry gospel vibe that gives Adele’s smoky voice enough room to sound both sweet and menacing. The bouncy “Rumour Has It” is catchy and takes so many twists and turns it is just perfect. The ballads here are epic in their own right. The pain felt on the closer, “Someone like You,” is immense. The only song that doesn’t work is her bossanova cover of The Cure’s “Lovesong.” The track has been done to death, but her misstep is forgivable because the album is superb.
Artist: Chapel Club
What the hell is it? Debut from this overhyped Brit Band
Sounds like a combination of: Reaching to the back of the stadium with a bit of the Twilight Sad’s emotion and fury, but lyrics reminiscent of teenage poetry plus Paul Epworth’s gloss
Recommended? I wanted to hate this record. Hype does bad things to me. If a band is overhyped by NME it is intrinsically bad. But I can’t hate this band. The main reason isn’t that the songs are really great, it is Paul Epworth’s flawless touch. Name doesn’t ring a bell? He produced the first/best records from The Rakes, The Futureheads, Bloc Party, and Maximo Park. He singlehandedly created the sound of 2005 Britain. Chapel Club is faceless. Like White Lies, they can be anyone. But something about a few of these songs stick, unlike anything on that White Lies record (I won’t even bother to review it). “Surfacing” is catchy as hell and as good a first single as the band is gonna get. “Oh Maybe I” is another fun ditty that is removed of the overwrought emotion of lots on here. If I sound torn, I am still on the fence but I am coming around to liking this.
Artist: Cloud Nothings
Album: Cloud Nothings
What the hell is it? Debut from the Cleveland band
Sounds like a combination of: Youth in revolt, power punk
Recommended? Dylan Baldi has made a record out of pure energy. At 29 short minutes the Cloud Nothings amp up the fidelity (they never wanted to be lo-fi in the first place) making their power-punk intentions known. “Understand It All” is an immense jam, “Rock” does what the song’s title suggests, and “Been Through” is a fist-pumper all the way through. If you want to feel happy about your life, just throw this on.
Artist: Cut Copy
What the hell is it? Third record from the Melbourne Dance/Psych Rockers
Sounds like a combination of: Tame Impala, ghosts of Cut Copy’s past
Recommended? With Tim Goldsworthy, Cut Copy had it all. They made tight dance tunes and an album that flowed. It seems like, from listening to this record and interviews, they weren’t fully pleased with In Ghost Colours. Past the first three songs (all singles) this record is hard to take. I’m actually glad I didn’t review this the week it came out, because I would’ve slapped it with a terrible review and called it a day. But while I think their previous records are better, Zonoscope deserves a listen. “Pharaohs & Pyramids” starts really corny, but then becomes an expansive song worthy of the Cut Copy discography. “Blink and You’ll Miss a Revolution” is a slinky dance number before it launches one of the biggest choruses on the record. “Alisa” works as this record’s “Far Away.” It is a straight pop hit with less synth and more guitars. “Sun God” is a track everyone is raving about, but I don’t buy it. At 15 minutes it is a waste of space. I know that after the beginning the track expands on the loop but it is pretty generic. Overall, I wasn’t blown away at first but I am coming around.
What the hell is it? The ninth Detroyer record
Sounds like a combination of: Destroyer gone Yacht Rock, portraits of dreams, smooth jazz sax
Recommended? Truth be told, I’ve lived with this record for a long time. When I put it on for the first time it was the biggest shock I’ve heard in a while. Bejar has been known to switch up his shit from 70s Bowie inspirations, to straightforward indie rock, to folk leanings, or an all-midi orchestra, but smooth jazz and yacht rock—WTF, dude?! Well, everything pays off. Kaputt is easily one of my favorite Destroyer records. By adding vocalist Sibel Thrasher, Bejar expands his sonic palate, getting closer to RNB. The inflected “oooh baby” that leads in “Blue Eyes” is a perfect example. It can sound corny, but it fits perfectly. “Chinatown,” “Downtown” and “Kaputt” are three of the best songs Bejar has written, period. All still have his obtuse lyrics that sound like free association, but they are some of the most warm and inviting tracks he’s ever written. Kaputt is easily my favorite record so far this year (Sorry Tennis, I bumped you to number two).
Artist: Dream Diary
Album: You Are the Beat
What the hell is it? Debut from the Philadelphia fuzz-rockers
Sounds like a combination of: Pains of Being Pure at Heart with a nasally voice
Recommended? Though it doesn’t live up to anything Pains have done, if you miss POBPAH take a listen. It is brief and inoffensive.
Artist: Dum Dum Girls
Album: He Gets Me High EP
What the hell is it? A new EP from the Dum Dum Girls
Sounds like a combination of: Upping the “fi” on the Dum Dum Girls
Recommended? What you have here are three great songs and an awesome cover by a band that is getting better every record. Dee Dee knows her shit and it shows. “He Gets Me High” is a classic track, as is the sad “Take Care of My Baby.” While this won’t win over any new fans, it will show followers that the band is getting better. Their cover of The Smith’s “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out,” while not holding a candle to the original, is the work of craftsmen that honor the source material and build on it.
Artist: Esben and the Witch
Album: Violet Cries
What the hell is it? Moody debut from the latest Matador signing
Sounds like a combination of: Pitch black goth and brooding
Recommended? With all of the lo-fi beach vibes and witch house around it makes it hard for a band like Esben and the Witch to fit in. They have the darkness of the xx, but none of the sex appeal. Instead you have bleakness and noise and a hell of a well-constructed record that will surely be overlooked by most listeners. Rachel Davies’s disarming voice propels the tracks while her band mates create foreboding soundscapes underneath. Take one listen to “Marching Song,” and you know what this band is about. “Marine Fields Glow” sounds like a higher-fi Grouper might sound like, quiet in its assault. Other tracks aren’t so quiet but they are equally disarming.
Artist: The Go! Team
Album: Rolling Blackouts
What the hell is it? The third Go! Team record
Sounds like a combination of: Rappers vs. Cheerleaders vs. 70s television themes vs.—this is the fucking Go! Team we are talking about—you know, Thunder, Lightning, Strike?
Recommended? I really disliked Proof of Youth and I don’t know what really bothered me about it. The tracks were all trying to be Thunder, Lightning, Strike, but never really measured up. I know lots of people liked that record, but it could just be high expectations. Rolling Blackouts is the record I wish they made instead of Proof of Youth. It does not feel overstuffed with guests (though they are present), it doesn’t feel overthought and best of all it doesn’t feel overworked. Ian Parton will never be able to capture lighting in a bottle again, but he comes close. Ninja is in high form from the minute the roaring horns start blaring on the call to arms, “T.O.R.N.A.D.O.” Satomi from Deefhoof sounds great on the bouncy “Secretary Song,” and Dominique Young Unique balances out Ninja on “Voice Yr Choice” and “Apollo Throwdown.” The real gem here is something that Parton probably could’ve predicted but didn’t—Bethany of Best Coast sings on “Buy Nothing Day,” a track recorded before Bethany became the indie star she is now (and if you are keeping score, we were on her shit during that time too).
Artist: Hercules & Love Affair
Album: Blue Songs
What the hell is it? Second record from Andy Butler’s dance crew
Sounds like a combination of: House music, not disco
Recommended? What is missing here? Antony and any DFA support. What isn’t missing? Andy Butler’s immense talent. Unfortunately this record isn’t up to snuff. None of the vocalists hit highs, and like the title of the album I’ll make the bad pun, everything leaves you feeling a little blue. The record starts well and dandy, and for an album to be an homage to house music it does a good job, but then there are two songs that derail the record. “Blue Boy” and “Blue Song” are the worst songs I’ve heard this year, and I’ve listened to a lot of records. “I Can’t Wait” saves the second half of the record, but all of the joy from that track fades when you get to the really fucking dumb political statement, “It’s Alright.” Message to Andy Butler, if you can’t get Antony, just wait. Put out DJ mixes and stuff, and then when he is ready, do an entire record with just him and no one else.
Artist: Iron and Wine
Album: Kiss Each Other Clean
What the hell is it? The progression of Sam Beam continues
Sounds like a combination of: The Shepard’s Dog gone electronic
Recommended? Sure, why not?
Artist: James Blake
Album: James Blake
What the hell is it? Hot shit dub-step producer pulls a Jamie Lidell and sings like soul artist
Sounds like a combination of: Dubstep to a point, Thom Yorke’s The Eraser, D’Angelo, the voice you will not stop hearing about all this year
Recommended? 2010 was the warning. After three everchanging EPs, Blake released the first single from his record, a soulful and restrained take on Feist’s “Limit To Your Love,” which, after hearing his electronic productions and vocal sample mash-ups, was a curveball. Blake had become comfortable with his voice and though he uses manipulation his naked voice backed by piano at the start of the song was a revelation. Blake has some pipes on him. I am in love with this record, but I am not going to cum all over it—because shit, everyone else has. For fans of the xx, take that worn disc out and get into some “Wilhelms Scream” when you are fucking. Though the “O Superman”-aping “Lindesfarne I” might mess up your groove, Blake picks it back up with part II. At a scant 39 minutes Blake has made a praiseworthy record that, though released in February, will sure to be at the top of lots of best-of-2011 lists.
What the hell is it? The duo of Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub and Euros Childs of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci
Sounds like a combination of: Children’s music from the 60s.
Recommended? I like both of the member’s other bands but I find this record unlistenable. Maybe it is a little too precious; maybe it is because it is cloying. From the song titles you know what the songs are about. They repeat the titles over and over. Ugh. “Which Witch,” the opener is just an example. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but this slop is coming from two of the most brilliant minds in music? Please go back to your other bands.
Artist: Julianna Barwick
Album: The Magic Place
What the hell is it? Vocalist (also my pal Paul Haney’s old roommate) Julianna Barwick’s second full-length and first for Asthmatic Kitty.
Sounds like a combination of: The Ethereal Woman, New Age
Recommended? After listening to The Magic Place there are many words to describe it, stunning, pretty, dreamy. Using her voice and minimal instrumentation, Barwick has created something truly magical. You know those clocks that have ocean sounds and things that put you to sleep? Barwick’s record should be added to those. Though it could relax you and lull you to sleep, it can also entertain. A close listen reveals the amount of talent and work it takes to manipulate the voice to sound like a keyboard line. While most of the vocals seem wordless, there are some there. An artist akin to Barwick is Grouper. Tracks like “Keep Up The Good Work” and “The Magic Place” resemble tracks from Grouper’s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. Don’t miss out on this.
Artist: La Sera
Album: La Sera
What the hell is it? Debut from Kickball Katy of Vivian Girls fame
Sounds like a combination of: A more restrained Vivian Girls
Recommended? There are some awesome songs on here, and then there are tracks that just don’t work out so well. Side projects are always tricky, but in the case of the Vivian Girls, you know what you are getting. La Sera blends the same garage/girl-group influences but it only has one voice. “Never Come Around” is the centerpiece of the record. It is in many ways a perfect single. But stopping there would be a crime. “Left This World” is a fun, jangly stomper, and “Been Here Before” reaches the heights of some of the best Vivian Girls songs. While you wait for the new VG record, Share the Joy, give this a spin.
Album: Talk About Body
What the hell is it? Debut record from ex-Le Tigre JD Samson
Sounds like a combination of: 2003–2004 dance punk, club beats
Recommended? In all honesty this record is not very good, and MEN have never been good. Just because I’m gay and this is made for me does not mean I am going to like it. I know lots of people LOVE JD and all the shit she does, but this record is just one big snore. I mean, the Moving Units made a better dance-punk record and they were totally shite. The lyrics are so painfully dumb or trying too hard that this really doesn’t work. Worse, JD can’t hold her own like Kathleen Hannah. Let’s not forget, Le Tigre have one really fucking good record and, oh yeah, JD was not on it.
Album: Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
What the hell is it? The innovators of post-rock return to business as usual
Sounds like a combination of: The last few Mogwai records, but that isn’t a bad thing
Recommended? Will we ever get another Young Team? No—but who cares? Mogwai records are pretty predictable, a few tracks with vocals but mostly tracks that are loud screaming epics. Opener “White Noise” is restrained for a Mogwai record, but it also feels loose and not as restricting as tracks on The Hawk Is Howling. Mogwai have reteamed with Young Team’s producer but get different results. The tracks have muscle, like the riff on “Rano Pano” or the end of “How to Be a Werewolf.” The closer, “You’re Lionel Richer,” is a devastating assult in its second half, and a perfect way to close the record.
Artist: PJ Harvey
Album: Let England Shake
What the hell is it? A New PJ Harvey record—DUH
Sounds like a combination of: English Folk, Songs about WWI
Recommended? This record will make you feel bad for not getting into Polly Jean until now. She has never made the same record twice and this is her best record in a decade. Where White Chalk was all doom and gloom and auto-harp, this is a more diverse listen. Harvey sings in many voices but mostly her upper register which is just as sweet as her darker, earlier records. Her imagery is perfect and she proves there really isn’t another artist like her.
Artist: Robert Pollard
Album: Space City Kicks
What the hell is it? Latest juggernaut from the rock & roll monolith
Sounds like a combination of: Robert E. Pollard, Jr., and all his varied side-projects
Recommended? From the opening blast of “Mr. Fantastic Must Die!”, Pollard’s latest excursion into the prairies, flood regions, and flying fields of his fertile imagination will have you doing your most shambolic bwanadance. Sounds like all those side-projects that got kicked out of the Snakepit to make a go of it on their own are home for Thanksgiving Break, so expect to hear spooky strains of cereballistic whafuck from the Circus Devils in the guest room, driving power pop from the Boston Spaceships touching down in the attic, and heartbreakingly beautiful, guitar-and-boombox acoustic ballads that’ll have you pining in your boudoir for a new Psycho & the Birds release. With Space City Kicks, Pollard achieves a synthesis recent releases only hinted at, and he brings it all back home while pushing it in new directions. Get your kicks in Space City, kids—it’s a trip! [GBV Matt]
Artist: Puro Instinct
Album: Headbangers in Ecstasy
What the hell is it? The sisters formerly of Pearl Harbor make their debut record
Sounds like a combination of: Dreamgaze, lo-fi, Fleetwood Mac, Ariel Pink
Recommended? I don’t do drugs anymore, but this is the perfect drug record. The melodies just wrap around you. It is funny because they reference headbanging in the title but there isn’t anything to headbang to on this album. Instead, the tracks just make you want to cuddle up. Highlight “Stilyagi” is the perfect place to start. The chorus is catchy and Ariel Pink’s brief appearance makes it all sweeter.
Artist: Patrick Stump
Album: Truant Wave
What the hell is it? First EP from the post-Fall-Out-Boy singer
Sounds like a combination of: Soul, Electro, Awesomeness
Recommended? I fucking LOVE Fall Out Boy. Not going to lie, I’m indie rock as shit, but something about Patrick Stump’s voice turns me on. This first EP is tracks that supposedly do not fit on Stump’s full-length due this summer. Aside from rapping by some unknown rappers, this is an amazing EP. The tracks have so much soul and are really danceable, something that FOB never had. Stump even has a (maybe) FOB hate song in “As Long As I Know I’m Getting Paid” which riffs on the fact that he didn’t really enjoy singing Pete Wentz’s lyrics. Stump has the talent to rise above his old band and I hope that the public enjoys his shit as much as I do.
Artist: Sic Alps
Album: Napa Asylum
What the hell is it? Lo-fi as fuck San Fran band follow-up their 2008 record with a double record
Sounds like a combination of: Lo-fi awesomeness
Recommended? If Sic Alps gave a fuck, they aren’t letting it show. Their songs are short, almost sketches that are angular and rough but still so pleasing. This record is not for everyone, but it is certainly for me.
Album: 12 Desperate Straight Lines
What the hell is it? Michael Benjamin Lerner’s second record
Sounds like a combination of: Power-pop / pure pleasure
Recommended? The first Telekinesis record (Telekinesis!) was pretty good, but this one blows it out of the park. From start to finish, it is perfect. While influences haven’t changed there are some differences, like the Cure-inspired “Please Ask For Help” and the glammy “Gotta Get It Right Now,” and Lerner is expanding his palate and perfecting his craft. I listen to this record on repeat because it is so swell.
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