The Radio Dept. are an electro/dream pop band from Stockholm, Sweden.
Not to be confused with their upcoming full-length Clinging To A Scheme, Heaven’s On Fire is the single from that record that includes the title track, a Sade cover and a brief instrumental entitled, In America. Heaven’s On Fire is a brilliantly composed and executed track and is a definite standout from Clinging To A Scheme as well as here. Their cover of Sade’s All About Our Love is a slightly catchy rendition of a song that quite honestly I didn’t know I wanted to hear covered by anyone, let alone The Radio Dept.. In America is a brief instrumental song, but more than that its a statement about America; namely that we overuse rock and roll to a fault. A British chap says, ‘You see England doesn’t have that much of an obsession with rock and roll. In America, everything is rock and roll. You know? You can’t even be anywhere without it being a rock and roll event, can you?’ As an American, yeah, he’s right. Its organizers and advertisers catering to what they think the youth of this country want to hear so they can ultimately get their money… which coincides with what the guy in the beginning of Heaven’s On Fire says about rock n’ roll and youth culture that you hear at the beginning of the song. So even though this is merely a 7 and 1/2 minute long EP, they’re sending a clear message: Support independent music and artists. A noble cause, in my humble opinion.
A brief glimpse of Clinging To A Scheme that only heightens the anticipation…8.0/10
MP3: Heaven’s On Fire
An award-winning multi-instrumentalist, Owen Pallett is best known for recording under the moniker Final Fantasy, under which he has released two well-received albums since 2005. The name stemmed from exactly what you would first think it would – his obsession with the widely popular video game series. Upon looking at his personal discography it would be easy to assume that he is nowhere near what one would consider prolific, but when looking at the endless amount of contributions to other key releases throughout most of the last decade that he’s been a part of, it’s hard to imagine how he finds the time for it all. Among just some of the artists to which he has lent his extraordinarily unique talents to are Arcade Fire, Beirut, Grizzly Bear, The Mountain Goats, and Patrick Wolf.
This new album, Heartland, finds Pallett ending the Final Fantasy era and opting to use his given name for the first time under a release. Perhaps it is because the songs seem to be more deeply personal than before that he has decided to change the name. It’s certainly evident upon first listen to this record that he has reached a artistic stride and nearly mastered the craft of string arrangements. The highlight of Heartland, and there are many that contend, comes toward the end of the album on a song that is as delicate and beautiful in its musical construction as its lyrics are dark and lonely. I’m speaking of track 10, titled “E Is For Estranged”. It’s defnitely one of the better singles I’ve heard in the first quarter of 2010, and the rest of the album comes together quite gorgeously along with it. I find myself loving it more with each listen. If you’re new to the world of Owen Pallett, I’d say this is a good place to start. For those who are familiar with his Final Fantasy, whether they liked or disliked it, I think this deserves a listen either way. It just might brighten your opinion.
The end of last year and the beginning of this year has been fairly busy with artists frequently releasing albums… presumably so they could have something new to bring to SXSW in Austin, TX. Mostly I’ve had plenty to get excited about and as a result, I’ve written at a pretty even pace. Its also pretty obvious that when you scroll down this page, you see me writing glowing review after glowing review. But where are the records that I didn’t think much of? This post covers those disappointments.
Tristeza – Fate Unfolds: I’ve been following Tristeza for about 10 years and every time they release something new, there seems to be less and less fanfare involved– By the time I found out that this even existed, it had already been out a month. Tristeza have gradually shifted on every album in a slightly different direction so its always hard to predict what they’d come up with. Fate Unfolds, though it retains much of what I’ve come to love from Tristeza, ultimately bored me. There was a decent flow to the record and their experimental elements caught my attention from time to time, but what really set it back was that they couldn’t keep my attention. Other than the opening song and 1 or 2 tracks in the middle, nothing stood out. No matter how much I listen to this, I don’t wanna keep listening. Interesting, but nothing compared to the rest of their work… 6.2/10
The Album Leaf – A Chorus Of Storytellers: The Album Leaf is the solo project of Jimmy LaValle from Tristeza. I have to admit that I’ve never completely signed on to what he’s done in his solo career mostly because Tristeza is so much of a leap beyond it. A Chorus Of Storytellers is why I stopped paying attention to Album Leaf projects in the first place. First of all, he sings which is something he doesn’t do with Tristeza. And let me be clear: He absolutely shouldn’t. He’s a very talented songwriter, but he can’t sing. I had hoped that he’d give it up altogether and focus primarily on songwriting but apparently that was not to be. He doesn’t sing on every track and thats the only thing keeping me from totally throwing this under the bus. Overall, its not terrible but its definitely not remarkable either. If you can get over or like(?)the vocals, this would be nice to fall asleep to…4.9/10
MP3: Falling From The Sun
MOONFACE – Dreamland EP: MOONFACE is the solo project of Spencer Krug from Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown and Swan Lake. Spencer Krug always seems to be writing songs. It seems like he dedicates himself to one of his bands exclusively to write-for and tour-with for a particular year. Now with MOONFACE, Krug has written a single, 20-minute song entitled ‘Marimba and Shit-Drums’ and released it through Jagjaguwar. The name pretty much says it all. Its marimba, drums(shitty? not exactly), keyboards and vocals… though I have to admit that I’m not completely familiar with what a marimba sounds like offhand. I believe he used a keyboard-synthesized marimba… no matter. The point is, its a better concept than a song. Its basically just a drawn-out symphonic piece that really could’ve been taken apart and used in a Sunset Rubdown song. But no, we instead have a very long song that goes nowhere. Hmph…5.6/10
Download: Dreamland EP
The Seven Fields of Aphelion – Periphery: The Seven Fields of Aphelion is the solo project of Maureen Boyle from Black Moth Super Rainbow. Playing keyboards behind BMSR for the last few years, Boyle set out on her own in this debut album. However, if you were maybe expecting something along the lines of her main project or even her other bandmate, TOBACCO, you’ll be quite surprised at what you hear next. Periphery mostly consists of reverbed keyboards and airy effects. Beyond that, there isn’t much more to it. I somewhat expected it to be a purely ambient record, but I was a little let down by how simplistic these songs really were. I have a lot of ambient music, but since she’s done so much more with BMSR, I really expected more…6.0/10
MP3: Mountain Mary
Aloha – Home Acres: Aloha is an experimental band from mulitple cities from around the U.S.. Home Acres is the 7th album in their 11yr history and since then they’ve pretty much put out records every 2 years and seem to change ever so slightly every album to make things interesting. Unfortunately, the problem with them being around as long as they have is that they’ve established a predictable sound to the point that it doesn’t sound like they’ve really grown this time. To me, it sounds exactly like their previous album. I hate to say that they’ve peaked, but I don’t know how else to say it. That being said, for the first time I’m not impressed with them. Its a very predictable record and though they definitely deserve another chance in the future, I’ll be more skeptical the next time…6.4/10
Snowden are indie rock band from Atlanta, GA.
Snowden‘s sound hovers somewhere between experimental rock bands like Film School and I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness with ethereal guitar-driven melodies capped off with echo-ey vocals. But what really sets them apart is using that combination of reverb-heavy distortion and breathy vocals to hypnotize the listener with an uncanny ability that surpasses most within the genre.
Their 2006 debut, Anti-Anti was easily one of the best records of that year and introduced us to their unique brand of indie rock with all of the elements I mentioned previously. It was welcomed shift from their Licorice EP which preceded Anti-Anti and featured 4 Christmas songs that were simply, well, awful.
Slow Soft Syrup picks up where Anti-Anti left off and blends all of their trademark qualities into this nearly flawless work. Each track seamlessly drifts into the next and Snowden doesn’t leave anything on the table. Its everything I hoped their follow-up would sound like even though it was 4 years in the making. And the best part? They’re giving it away for free and I included a link to it on the bottom of the page. So whats not to love?
Snowden hasn’t missed a step in 4 years and Slow Soft Syrup is the proof… 9.6/10
MP3: Don’t Really Know Me
Album: Slow Soft Syrup EP
Sambassadeur are an indie pop band from Gothenburg, Sweden.
Taking cues from bands like The Postmarks and The Clientele, Sambassadeur’s sound is mainly driven by 60’s era orchestration, bold bass lines and a wall of sound that come together to form blissful indie pop. Add Anna Persson’s uniquely delicate vocals and there you have it.
This particular record, their 6th, is also their most consistent. While previous LPs played with all of the orchestral elements you hear on this album, European does a better job as a complete work making each song flow into the next flawlessly. All of this might be enough to make you want to listen over and over, but frontwoman Anna Persson’s full voice and compelling lyrics are what really put this album over the top. Whether its Albatross’, ‘I was happier alone/Cut my hair just like a boy‘ or ‘Framed like stories of a long time ago/You sit inside it watching all the days go by‘ from Forward Is All, European‘s lyrics are sentimental and beautiful without becoming melodramatic. Compliment each track with atmospheric and dreamy instrumentation and European keeps you coming back for more.
While earlier releases hinted at greatness, European solidifies Sambassadeur as one of Sweden’s finest imports and one of this year’s biggest surprises…9.8/10