A few hits and a couple of misses round out today’s reviews. Any questions? Good. Have a seat and we’ll get started.
Millionyoung: Replicants– Out of all the chill wave artists around right now, Millionyoung have a slight edge. The psychedelic guitar work that Mike Diaz does on nearly every song sets him apart from others who merely depend on synthesizers to work out their songs. Unfortunately, the differences don’t end there. I talked a bit before in my review of their So True EP of the difficulty I found to listen to his off-key wails at times. Needless to say, those kinks have not only not been worked out, they’ve been magnified. Though thankfully mostly an instrumental work, its like they stopped paying attention after a while. Its as if they were in the studio recording the vocals and the producer said,’Alright, that was one take. Do we wanna try that again,’ and Diaz’s response was,’No, they were perfect! Lets go with it’. The result is a hit and horrendously miss effort of potentially great songs completely fucked by awful, tuneless vocals. The shitty thing is, you never know when its going to happen because musically, this album is solid. And again, many of the songs here are instrumental or have minimal vocals that are just fine. Its those random little pieces of crap scattered here and there that really doom this. I’d enthusiastically recommend the instrumentals, but really, its far too much of a headache to wade through the trash to find them…4.6/10
Starfucker/STRFKR: Reptilians– Starfucker is a synth-pop band from Portland, OR that have written a brilliantly composed and upbeat record for their debut. From nearly start to finish, the swirling synthesizers and vocal melodies blend in a nearly perfect arrangement of pop goodness. The worst thing is, I may have never known that if I had stopped at the opening track, which I nearly did. Contrary to the rest of the album, the opening track was a slightly ear-splitting mess that nearly made me skip this altogether. Fortunately, I remembered that the track I had sampled earlier, Bury Us Alive, was exceptionally good and I knew they were capable of getting beyond it. Once you get over that massive speed bump, its clear sailing to a brilliant, beautiful and catchy record. Highly recommended…9.3/10
Joan Of Arc: Life Like– Joan Of Arc have always been the gold-standard for experimental indie rock since they came on the scene 14yrs ago. No one has been able to really replicate anything close to them. Whether its their mysterious use of sound effects, Tim Kinsella’s off-tune and ridiculous vocals or even the fact that all together they’ve managed to sound brilliant at one level or another nearly every time, Joan Of Arc will never be predictable. I personally have had problems with elements of their songs and records over the years, but their creativity have always kept me coming back to see what they’ll do next. Life Like most notably adds one of the most interesting guitarists Kinsella has worked with: Victor Villareal. Villareal played in Owls and Ghosts and Vodka and his amazingly upbeat, innovative and intricate guitar work is certainly evident on Life Like. Unfortunately, the problems I’ve had with Joan Of Arc in the past crop up here as well. Though quite unpredictable in JOA fashion, I think Villareal’s unique style is wasted a lot of times on minimalized songs that really just put him in a box. I think in a lot of ways they really missed an opportunity to use the new line-up to their advantage. I knew they weren’t going to duplicate the Owls or Ghosts and Vodka records, but again, it didn’t have to be this minimalized at times. Overall, this is a better than average JOA record with some really upbeat and interesting songs…7.1/10
Toro Y Moi: Underneath The Pine– Toro Y Moi are a chill wave band from Columbia, South Carolina. Channeling their love for late 70s and early 80s synth, Underneath The Pine is definitely a departure from last year’s Causers Of This. Whether it was clear influences of Stereolab from the late 90s from time to time or even acoustic guitar and harmonies reminiscent of Simon And Garfunkel, this record definitely stands apart from its predecessor. That all being said, this is a very smooth and relaxing record thats very smartly written. I’m not sure if Simon and Garfunkel would sound like this if they were to come out today or anything, but mix in a little Stereolab and other chill wave elements and who knows? What I do know is that this is nothing if not a complete pleasure to listen to at every turn and you’d be completely stupid to blow this off without trying it first. There, I said it…9.2/10
Explosions In The Sky: Take Care, Take Care, Take Care– Instrumental rock has had its ups and downs over the years. For me, when I approach anything instrumental, I’m looking for whats going to set it apart from everything they’ve done before as well as compare it to other bands in the genre. This is where Explosions In The Sky lose me most of the time. I think most of their songs are really great, though somewhat difficult to get through when it comes to their length. When I saw that this record had 6 songs that averaged 8mins or more each, the dread set in immediately. I have to confess: I’m a 3 and 1/2 minute song guy for the most part. If you’re going to keep me longer than that, it better be for a good reason. Most of the time I have mountains of music staring me in the face and if you’re going to keep me from it, you’d better be interesting. This is exactly where this album repeats what every other record of their’s does. I know people like the build up to their choruses, but does it have to take so long every time? I don’t think that by their 6th record that it should. In short, its tremendously predictable. For fans, this is exactly what you’d expect. For everyone else, try Mogwai, Del Rey or Tristeza if you wanna hear a band that grows progressively with every new release…5.0/10
Just wanted to pop in and mention a couple of things happening next month…
First of all, Alela Diane will be releasing an album with her husband’s band appropriately titled, Alela Diane & Wild Divine. Being that Alela Diane has one of the best voices in the folk/americana genre, anytime she releases something is an event. Alela Diane & Wild Divine will be officially released April 5th.
Errors – Magna Encarta
They will also be properly releasing last year’s Come Down With Me in this country next month as well. If you haven’t checked it out yet, now is the time.
Errors 2011 Tour Dates:
Mar. 16 – Austin, TX /SXSW – Annies (Sea Shepherd Conservation Society / popantipop Party – 6pm)
Mar. 16 – Austin, TX / SXSW – Maggie Maes (Scottish Showcase – 10pm)
Mar. 17 – Austin, TX / SXSW – Latitude 30 (Clash Magazine/UK Trade & Industry/BPI – 1am)
Apr. 19 – Washington, DC – 9.30 Club*
Apr. 20 – Philadelphia, PA – Starlight Ballroom*
Apr. 21 – New York, NY – Webster Hall*
Apr. 22 – New York, NY – Webster Hall*
Apr. 23 – Boston, MA – Paradise Rock Club*
Apr. 25 – Montreal, QC – Olympia Theatre*
Apr. 26 – Toronto, ON – Phoenix Concert Theatre*
Apr. 27 – Pittsburgh, PA – Mr. Smalls Theatre*
Apr. 28 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall*
Apr. 29 – Chicago, IL – Metro*
Apr. 30 – Omaha, NE – Slowdown*
May 02 – Denver, CO – Bluebird Theater*
May 03 – Salt Lake City, UT – In The Venue*
May 05 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom*
May 06 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom*
May 07 – Seattle, WA – Showbox at the Market*
May 09 – San Francisco, CA – Regency Ballroom*
May 10 – Los Angeles, CA – Mayan Theater*
May 11 – Solana Beach, CA – Belly Up Tavern*
May 13 – Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theatre*
May 15 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theatre*
May 16 – Austin, TX – Stubbs Waller Creek*
May 17 – Houston, TX – Warehouse Live*
May 19 – Birmingham, AL – Workplay Theater*
May 20 – Atlanta, GA – Center Stage*
* w/ Mogwai
When I’m not looking around for new bands to pique my interest, I occasionally come across singles from bands I know and love. So today I’m highlighting 4 exceptional tracks from that group and if they’re new to you, all the better. Thats what I’m here for.
Not only is Explosions In The Sky one of the most popular post-rock bands ever, they’re also releasing another LP next month. April 26th, to be exact. Every one of their records has either met or surpassed expectation, so Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, though redundantly titled, should be no different.
Remix Artist Collective(RAC) is a band that likes to remix songs from other bands and makes those tracks available for download. Thats it. Not terribly creative, you say? Not quite. At least, not once you’ve heard the final product, that is. Case in point, take Washed Out‘s New Theory. If there was any doubt of how good a remix could be after hearing this, I haven’t found one.
Before TOBACCO released Maniac Meat last year, he was selling a little DVD called Fucked Up Friends 2 on his tour. This DVD/Blu-Ray had many of his new songs synced to some of his freaked-out videos that he likes so much. There was one, however, that stood out among the rest. I’m of course talking about the infamous German E.T. sex video which he synced with his song, Super Gum. Despite being the weirdest video I’ve ever seen, the song was actually really good and made me excited for the new record. Then to my dismay, it wasn’t included on the album. Thanks to him whenever I hear this, I still can’t get that video out of my head. Other than that, great song.
Okkervil River hasn’t put out a proper release in nearly 3 years until now… sorta. Mermaid is just a single to whet our appetite for their May 10th release of I Am Very Far. Though merely a B-side, Mermaid is a beautiful reminder of how much I’ve missed their work and the potential it has to be the best album of 2011. If Mermaid is any indication, this ought to be interesting…
Solar Bears have not only been mixing and remixing their own songs, they’ve also seen fit to remix a few of their friends’ songs as well. From FUR to Keep Shelly In Athens, they’ve been busy over the last few months and these are the fruits of their labor. All 4 tracks demonstrate the moodiness we best associated them with on She Was Coloured In as well as keeping the original songs in full mind. And soon after, Keep Shelly In Athens decided to return the favor and remix Cub because after all– what are friends for?
And some unreleased remixes…
Reviews. Webster’s dictionary defines review as: To make like new or restore to freshness, vigor or perfection. This is the result of those inquiries.
Cut Copy: Zonoscope — After anticipating this as much as I was, it was admittedly pretty difficult to let it speak for itself over my own expectations. I guess I was hoping for them to revert back to what they did on Bright Like Neon Lights. Did they? Of course not, they’ve already done that. Cut Copy have never been ones to repeat themselves much, unless you’re talking about one of their catchy loops. No, Zonoscope evolves out of In Ghost Colours(colours with a ‘U’ because they’re New Zealanders) into something less dance-y without losing that aspect of their sound. More rock n’ roll? Not exactly. If anything, this record is a beautiful coupling of new wave and their own style. If you doubt this, just listen to Take Me Over. They’ve updated new wave in a way that no one has quite yet. And with everyone seeming to try to revive the 80s in music and fashion lately, this album could very well be the perfect anthem for that style. Overall, the flow of the album is just as smooth as In Ghost Colours with airy transitions throughout that blend each song perfectly. Well-executed, well-mixed and very fun to listen-to…9.1/10
The Get Up Kids: There Are Rules — After 7 years, The Get Up Kids are finally back. After trading in their post-punk style in 2002 for a more easy going indie style, I pretty much thought they’re best days were behind them. After hearing what they did on Guilt Show in 2004, those fears were absolutely realized. Regrettably(?), they broke up after their tour in support of Guilt Show. Then something happened a couple of years ago– they began rehearsing again and even writing songs. This album is the culmination of those ideas. I have to say my favorite thing about this record is that it sounds nothing like their last 2 records. Did I hate On A Wire? I didn’t hate it, but I don’t know if I’ve ever tried as hard to like an album before or since then. Did I hate Guilt Show? Absolutely– It was the worst thing they could have done. So now that they’ve left all of that behind them, the question is what direction have they gone on this record. The answer is a little complicated. They’ve definitely hearkened back to their post-punk roots to write a lot of these tracks… but not all of them. They’ve played with synth a little more and even sounded like they were trying to mimic a version of themselves covering something The Killers would write(When It Dies). It was weird. There really wasn’t a consistent flow to this record. It was all over the place. It sounded like everyone had some ideas for some songs and they played with the guy who wrote the song. The result is an album that sounds like it was written by a band thrown together in the last couple of months and this is what happened when they were finished. It lacks the passion that I hear when I pick up their early material and thats why I’ll continue to dust that band off and listen to them for years to come and I doubt that I’ll revisit this one much at all…6.5/10
Mogwai: Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will — Mogwai have been around for awhile now. I’ve come to expect a few things over the years when I pick up a new Mogwai record. Namely, excellence in all aspects of everything they do. Its easy to screw up instrumental rock and let me tell you, I’ve heard some epically shitty instrumental rock. But when you find a band that can not only do it well but do it consistently well, they’ll have you forever. That being said, in my opinion, this is their best work yet. Yes, they’ve had some pretty spectacular records in the past, but this one edges them out. Not only have they evolved yet again, but in typical Mogwai fashion, they’ve done it in a way that remains completely true to themselves. They don’t mimic anyone and you know Mogwai when you hear them. Its difficult to criticize an album that quite honestly screams awesome in so many ways in so many instances. If you’re a fan of Mogwai, this record reminds you why you always will be and if you’re not a fan, this album tells you why you should be…9.9/10
Solar Bears: She Was Coloured In — This largely instrumental electronica band from Dublin caught me by surprise last month. I’m usually looking to find out things about bands that I’m already familiar with. Every once in a while I encounter someone like Solar Bears. In this case, we have some electronic/indie minimalists that don’t really sound like anyone. At times I heard influences like Black Moth Super Rainbow, Deastro, Cut Copy… but making an accurate comparison still eludes me. Though you might hear a brief loop that one of those aforementioned bands would write, it never completely resembles anyone on an entire song. They were entirely unique compositions. And when you hear someone in this genre that can do that for the length of an album, you know you’ve found someone special. This is a very smooth and steady electro record thats reversible as ambient or foreground music, which can sometimes be a tricky thing to find. Very impressive…9.2/10