18 Mar 2011 @ 1:52 PM 

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

Easy Now

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

Love Life

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

Before I’m Done

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

Trembling Hands

 04 Nov 2010 @ 10:59 PM 

I know I don’t write actual reviews much, but when I do I try and make them interesting. This time I’m focusing primarily on a couple of ‘Chill Wave’ artists as well as a new solo act and some instrumentalists. Its going to get interesting, so lets get started…

Small Black: New Chain– Small Black’s first EP was a little mucky but showed a lot of promise in the early going. Once they showed a little more of themselves on their split with Washed Out, I started to get a bit more excited. Now that they’ve released an appropriate full-length, we’re able to see what they’re really made of and the result is quite interesting. Chill Wave(though mostly a weak term) is easy to spot once you’ve heard it and Small Black fits it perfectly. One part beats, one part reverb and 3 parts synthesizer is the formula that this record lives by and artfully walks the fence on. Compared to their first EP, this release is much more ambitious and gives a clearer view… clearer in the sense that its easier to distinguish their ideas from each other. The problem with their EP was an overuse of reverb to a point of serious excess. I loved their ideas, as difficult as they were to make out, but I knew there was a chance that they’d clear it up more and stop drowning out their good ideas, basically. And thats precisely what they’ve done on New Chain and the results are still very Small Black but in an easier-to-understand package…8.7/10


Laetitia Sadier: The Trip– New Stereolab! Well, not really. If you know anything about Stereolab at all, you’ll know that Laetitia Sadier was once their angelic-voiced lead singer for their storied music career. Now that Stereolab is no more, shes striking out on her own with her newest project: Herself. If you were anticipating this deviating somewhat from Stereolab, you’d be entirely mistaken. In fact, this almost sounds like a Stereolab ‘greatest hits’ record at almost every turn. I’m not sure if some of the players were from her former project, but everything from the guitar hooks to the subtle-yet-visible organs to her unmistakable vocal style are very much akin to early Stereolab… we’re talking Sound-Dust minus the horns. So, Sadier’s new project is somewhat of a stripped-down version of her aforementioned band, but not by much. And again, the fact that I casually mentioned that this was like a ‘greatest hits’ album wasn’t a coincidence. Every single track on this record is really remarkable. Nearly any song would be a worthy single. In closing, Stereolab who? 9.4/10

Natural Child

Gold Panda: Lucky Shiner– One of Ghostly International’s newest additions is UK producer, Gold Panda. Filled with plenty of beat-driven electronic melodies, Gold Panda’s full-length debut is an easy record to walk into. I don’t know how often I use this, but as far as electronic music goes, this is really accessible. Its a very smooth LP with plenty of easy transitions and highlighted with bouncy beats. An absence of vocals never really was an issue at any point for me because Mr. Panda always keeps things moving. And movement is key on this record as it is with most instrumental electronic music because too much or too little movement or an inconsistent balance of faster-paced to slower-paced songs is a very fine line that is easy to stray from. This record has peaks and valleys in all the right places and thats always a great thing to come across. Also, its actually very appropriate that this type of record came out at this time of year because this is typically what I like to listen-to during the colder months of the year. So good timing mixed with excellent beats and interesting melodies makes this one of my favorites as of late… 8.8/10


MillionYoung: Be So True EPMillionYoung is yet another ‘Chill Wave’ artist thats come on the scene in the last year, but there are a couple of things that make them a bit more distinct than your average run-of-the-mill genre artist. Yes, they are very much entrenched in their respective genre, but their frequent and creative use of guitar and their vocals make them stand-outs. This is also what sort of ruined this EP for me in some instances. Their first EP, Sunndreamm, was absolutely wonderful from start to finish. Be So True‘s vocals tend to go flat from time to time and they ruined otherwise perfectly great songs… which is really too bad because the music itself could be something really special if they could just figure out how to polish them with better vocal tracks. Don’t get me wrong, the whole record isn’t a big flat mess. It only happens occasionally, but it still happens. So while I’m definitely reluctant to score this nearly perfectly, it still deserves a high-ranking with deductions for lack of polish…8.0/10


Del Rey: Immemorial– Not many people know who Del Rey is and thats partly because of their genre: Post-Rock Instrumentalism… I know, it sounds like a class you sleepwalked through in grad school. While it may not be popular, Del Rey do it better than almost anyone. I’ve been following these guys for a few years now, and they’ve definitely had their highs and lows. Their most notable high being their 2003 release, Darkness and Distance, and their most notable low being the follow up to that, A Pyramid For The Living in 2006. While Darkness and Distance really demonstrated an innovative approach to instrumental rock incorporating synthesizers and even double-drummers at times, A Pyramid For The Living fell flat by turning good ideas into long, droning monstrosities that became less compelling the longer they went on and then replicating that 5 more times to finish out the album. So when I saw that 3 or 4 of the songs lasted around the 10-minute mark on Immemorial, you could imagine my skepticism. However, this is where they surprised me. Not only did they incorporate all of the things that made them an interesting band to begin with, the long times on those tracks were barely noticeable because they weren’t loud droning and repetitive. Its almost like a symphony at times with plenty of tempo changes and dramatic crescendos that really keep your attention. I’m not entirely sure if it was written to tell a story, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to write one to accompany it. Overall, this is their best record in 6 years, which if you’re counting is a hell of a long time… 9.5/10


Posted By: thelittlefield
Last Edit: 05 Nov 2010 @ 07:04 PM

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