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

Julius

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

 11 Jan 2011 @ 6:30 PM 

After a brief hiatus, I’ve returned to cover a few records that came out at the end of last year and also to celebrate something very special. And it is because this occasion is so special that I’ve prepared a speech:

Our first year online [pause for applause] Thank you for reading last year, now and in the future. You are the stars [pause for applause] Yes, one year is a long time, but my love for you all will never die [pause for applause] Thank you. Its because of your readership and support that have made last year such a Violent Success [pause for applause] You’re too kind. But seriously, thanks to my dozens of subscribers and friends who have made writing about music such an awesome experience. Thank you [fade out applause]

And now, the music.

Wild Nothing: Golden Haze– With a sound that echoes of 80s brit-pop like The Mighty Lemon Drops mixed with electro minimalists, The Radio Dept., Wild Nothing continue to create modernized new wave. Golden Haze follows up their debut LP, Gemini, and despite both records coming out in the same year actually significantly improves in that time. From start to finish, Golden Haze sets a standard and maintains it to its brief, but beautiful end. Don’t miss this… 9.6/10

Quiet Hours

Medications: Completely Removed– As a fan of Faraquet, from the moment I heard that the core members of that band were breaking off to form this band, it was a no-brainer to automatically switch my loyalties. Unfortunately, Medications left most of what I loved behind with Faraquet. Their first 2 records, which subsequently improved over time, left me wanting of what had once been. Completely Removed is finally a happy medium in the ever-changing sound of Medications with a couple of new twists. The occasional use of horns express nods to bands like Supergrass while still maintaining a consistent math rock tone throughout. Overall, this remains upbeat math rock in the vein of their former selves as well as possible echoes to future records… 8.8/10

We Could Be Others

Tristeza: Paisajes– Ever since Tristeza began in 1999, they’ve established a distinct instrumental rock sound that remains one of the more interesting instrumental acts that have stood the test of time. Every 2 years or so, they’ve consistently released a record to limited fanfare and stunned on one level or another every time. Their most stunning record was to come in 2005 with the release of A Colores. Since that time, they’ve released 2 albums that haven’t lived up to their former greatness, let alone their 2005 masterpiece. When I found out that this was coming out, you could imagine my lack of elation. But sometimes a lack of enthusiasm can bring unexpected joy especially once I heard this record. Paisajes is not only Tristeza’s best record in 5 years, its quite possibly the best instrumental record of last year. It really sounds like they were writing instinctually this time around. The echoes of guitar arpeggios reminded me of Spine And Sensory while the occasional sprinkling of horns echoed of their Mania Phase EP. And while Paisajes is like going on a trip of Tristeza’s greatest hits, they’re still introducing new ideas even when playing off of old trademarks. Finally a record that lives up to the hype from their record label… 9.2/10

Raise Your Gaze

Depressed Buttons: Qwerty– Every once in a while, members of bands split off and form side projects. Its not always for the best. Take The Faint, for example. Joel Petersen broke away and formed Broken Spindles, a more techno driven project that started off really promising until his debut was followed by 2 awful, awful records. He should’ve stopped while he was ahead. Now lets take The Faint again. Depressed Buttons is yet another side project of similar electronic persuasion, but FAR less ambitious. I think they may have been striving for an upbeat version of Fuck Buttons, but the results are far less complicated. My biggest complaint about Qwerty is its lack of originality. I can hear something like this anytime by simply switching the radio on in the middle of the night. Ironically, the song I liked the best(see below) I could have sworn sounded like a remix of the Knight Rider theme. It wasn’t though… I’m still not sure how to feel about it. Taking Qwerty as a whole, its a mind-numbing electronic album that I’m sure most people who aren’t familiar with electronic music mistakenly think of when I tell them I’m into electro– Mindless techno with little to no imagination… 4.2/10

Mighty Putty

Victoire: Cathedral City– I’ve never reviewed anything remotely classical before, but I’m going to try it anyway. Victoire is a chamber-rock ensemble composed of 5 enormously talented women. Though there isn’t a lot of rock to be found in their music, the ‘rock’ thats implied by their description thankfully doesn’t imply rock opera either. Its more of an avant-garde classical quintet with dreamy post rock soundscapes. Keyboards, violin, clarinet and bass are the players that round out this moody instrumentalist band, but it isn’t always without percussion. Occasional drum programming is incorporated and only adds to the depth of ideas found on this record. Though mainly instrumental, Victoire lends their angelic voices at opportune times to further compliment their instrumentation. Not overly complicated, yet not entirely simplistic, Cathedral City is one of kind and intensely beautiful… 9.4/10

A Door In The Dark


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