Artist: Album: Genre: Label: Release date: Rating: Pixies “Indie Cindy” Alternative Rock Pixiesmusic, PIAS April 19, 2014 3/5 stars What rhymes with Pixies? Fixies. Who rides fixies? Hipsters. What do hipsters generally listen to? Indie. What rhymes with indie? Cindy. And there you have the name of the first album from the Pixies in 15…
Author: Oliver Petraitis
Artist: Jackie Onassis Album: “Holiday EP” Genre: Hip-hop, rap Label: Sony Music Entertainment Release date: Nov. 17, 2012 Jackie Onassis is something else. And not the Jackie Onassis which might’ve come first to your mind, better known as Jackie Kennedy, wife of the 35th president of the United States. No, from Australia comes a group…
Beck – Morning Phase
It’s pretty clear from just the 41-second introduction to Beck’s new Morning Phase that novelty, boundary pushing, and plain weirdness — the real staples of Beck’s legacy — are not part of this record’s master plan. Something of a mellifluous musical Zen prayer, “Cycle” opens the records’ blinds to overwhelming So-Cal sunshine in the most relaxing way.
And it’s not just this track that has listeners gazing distantly, almost out of body, across a musical soundscape that is consistently sunny and golden: it’s all of them. “Morning” is exactly what it sounds like – a track to which you wake up and lumber around contentedly, almost unthinking. It’s an undeniably pretty piece full of warmth, but strangely lacking lyrical feeling. This dynamic of easy-listening feel good music coupled with nearly emotionless lyricism persists across the duration of the record, lending the strange effect of being simultaneously musically full, but also completely void of substance.
Completely absent on “Morning Phase” are Beck’s previous breakaway lyrical power-plays that seem to have worked their way into the idiomatic lexicon of pop culture. Nowhere on this album will you find anything akin to “I’m a loser, baby / so why don’t you kill me?” or anything bordering on Spanish pseudo-rap. Gone are the crunchy sounds of power chords rocketing out of a Telecaster. The lack there of may not necessarily be a bad thing, but whereas his previous work was striking for pushing of the envelope, “Morning Phase” feels completely content being within that envelope.
“Morning Phase” finds Beck in a curious position: while he has never sounded better, he has also never sounded so tame. To the record’s credit, it sounds immaculate. Beck’s vocals are angelic, the guitars sweet, the bass fuzzy and warm and the drums crisp. Produced by none other than Beck himself, it is masterfully crafted with incredible sound. Everything is in perfect balance. However, like a perfectly balanced cocktail, it’s almost too easy to drink. Drink too fast, or one too many, and suddenly party time has been replaced with bedtime. “Morning Phase” is that too-smooth cocktail that grows very sleepy very quickly. Lyrically the album is just as free of rough edges. In fact, it’s quite free of anything at all. Whatever Beck intends to approximate in his lyrics is incredibly vague. The only real take-away message from this batch of lyrics is one of a kind of complacent frustration and resignation, although about what is not clear. Perhaps the most direct lyric of the entire album is the opening line of “Blue Moon,” which indignantly states, “I’m so tired of being alone.” And that’s that.
On the whole, “Morning Phase”, perhaps as the name implies, does not feel like an all day every day type of record. It’s just too tame, too easy, too clean. Just once Beck could have cut loose and wailed like he’s very well capable of doing. While, what is there, sounds absolutely perfect, the musical absentees — namely, a degree of oomph and grit — really detract from the record’s overall memorability and its staying power.
Album: “After the Disco” Artist: Broken Bells Genre: Alternative rock, space rock, disco Label: Columbia 4/5 There are certain bad words in the music world, cliché adjectives that describe guitar tone, words like “garage.” And then there are the genre words. The obvious ones are “dubstep,” “trap” and of course “disco.” If even the mention…
Album: “Croz” Artist: David Crosby Genre: Rock Label: Blue Castle Records Release Date: Jan. 28, 2014 4 stars / 5 Those who have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame are probably doing something right. If one has been inducted twice, then there’s no doubt. He or she is definitely doing something…
And now, for your holiday pleasure, watch as I struggle with the intensely difficult task of hierarchically ordering five of the best 2013 albums of that have graced KRUA’s airwaves. With so many uniquely good records, this is going to be nearly impossi — no. Wait. They’re all so great. I don’t think I can say with certainty that one is better than the other. So I’m going to lay them out here in no particular order. You can decide.
It’s just sad. It’s sad to see someone with talent, especially very specific talents, take them in a direction that doesn’t coincide with their capabilities. And it happens for a variety of reasons, this kind of reaction formation. In the case of Miley Cyrus, she’s going through a musical reactionary period that harks back to the title of the debut album from the Arctic Monkeys, “Whatever You Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”: You say I’m a country star? I rap. You say I’m a Disney child? I party. You say I’m a role model for young girls everywhere? I twerk.
What “Rawnald Gregory Erickson The Second” did for STRFKR, “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On the Dancefloor)” has done for the eclectic indie-pop doppel-doppelganger that is Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. “If You Didn’t See Me” is both something of a love-lawsuit demanding an alibi and a subtle suggestion to the music world to take stock of this group. Maybe it’s just a long-song-name thing that works for breakout tunes.
“Down in the valley with whiskey rivers, these are the places you’ll find me hiding. These are the places I will always go.” These are the iconic lyrics from The Head and the Heart’s breakout tune “Down In The Valley,” a folk ballad that evokes a little piece of Jack Kerouac’s rambling mysticism in all of us. And they — these beautiful, quaint, and captivating folksters — certainly took listeners down there with them.
Ethan and Joel Cohen once asked, “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” and they got a cinematic answer. The music business phrased it a little differently: “O brothers Followill, where art thou?” And the biz, too, got an answer.
The Brothers Caleb, Nathan, Jared and Matthew Followill, the four members of Kings of Leon, are back with a new record, titled “Mechanical Bull.”
“Mechanical Bull,” KoL’s newest LP, marks a decade of professional (well, semi-professional — the members are privy to dirty humor) music-making. It is an impressive anniversary album that draws on influences from each of its five previous full-lengths.
Over the course of their career, KoL has evolved through various degrees of raucous Southern blues-punk, smoky folk and more recently, styles of high-fi arena rock, showcased on their breakout “Only By The Night.” In the void between the ubiquitous “Only By The Night” radio hits (“Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire”) and the newest album, KoL released “Come Around Sundown,” which failed to live up to expectations based on the previous record.
“Mechanical Bull” seems to have taken a different approach. KOL moved away from a militant political mode of songwriting and instead focused on what the members know how to do best: roots rock.
“Mechanical Bull” sounds more like a well-produced combination of “Aha Shake Heartbreak” and “Because of the Times,” less interested in anthemic radio hits and more interested in an honest style of homespun rock ‘n’ roll. While the album opener, “Supersoaker,” does provide something by way of a radio single, the rest of the album pleasantly lacks a radio feel, as if the band made the record for the music and not for the primetime slots in the 90 and 100 FM frequencies.
That said, “Mechanical Bull” still features catchy songwriting, but in an endearing, understated way. Because of this, the album doesn’t stand out until you listen a few times through.
Midway through the album, “Temple” throws listeners back into the ‘90s with an undeniably catchy four-chord indie jam. This ‘90s vibe is replicated on “Wait For Me,” but with the powerful staccato drumming that is the signature of Nathan Followill’s style.
“Beautiful War,” the fourth song on the album, sprawls out in a slow, warm waltz. “Family Tree” and “Don’t Matter” are both growling rock songs, dedicated to solid guitar riffing like their old material with a pleasant hint of Beck thrown in there.
And then there’s “Supersoaker,” which features some of the best bass playing in pop music — not that it’s technically difficult, but it is catchy as hell.
On the whole, “Mechanical Bull” succeeds in blending styles from each previous album into one, without making a hokey or gimmicky musical patchwork quilt. Rather, it’s more like an iconic, tattered leather jacket that has a patch from each of KoL’s previous lives. The album picks up and ends where it needs to, not dragging too long or departing too soon. With repeated listens, this is an album that will grow on listeners.
What has a bushy beard, a heartbreaking falsetto, collaborates with Kanye West and has yet to release a third Bon Iver album? It is, of course, Justin Vernon. The Bon Iver frontman has just been having too much fun working with ‘Ye on “Yeezus” and playing bluesy garage-rock with his duo The Shouting Matches to return to the studio to release a third Bon Iver album.
But that’s not all.
There’s his other, perhaps most impressive, side project, Volcano Choir. Unlike the simple warmth of The Shouting Matches or the backwoodsy cabin-music feel of Bon Iver, Volcano Choir is something of an electro-orchestra wunderkind.
Imagine Vernon’s characteristic falsetto in Bon Iver blended intriguingly with heavy drums and slightly glitchy synths and guitar riffs. The result is a beautiful torrent of varying influences that nonetheless retains Vernon’s ability to write poignantly about the trials of holding together as a band and within oneself.
However, the element of Volcano Choir that really brings its sound into its own is prominent electronic production tactics. Vernon’s vocals are tactfully Auto-Tuned in sections to add flare — much unlike T-Pain’s signature robo-squeal. Guitars are phased and glitched across the stereo plane, and percussion moves between marching-band snare drums and extremely low pounding rhythms in the style of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Opening the album with an organ so full of drawbars that the first thirty seconds feel like gospel in space, “Tiderays” quickly evolves into a steady march full of lush vocal harmonies that reminisce of “Holocene” on Bon Iver’s self-titled album.
By the time the second track “Acetate” cues up, if the melodies and harmonies haven’t been convincing enough, the word play steps in to steal the show. Not only is the music tonally beautiful and impressive, but the lyrics are also subtly and understatedly brilliant. Rather than a song about being busted in the aftermath of a love gone wrong, listeners get a little oratory in chemical medicine and things not fitting where they fall.
Following all this, the album’s single “Comrade” is the ballsy track that will cause those who doubted Vernon’s manly power (falsettos holding a certain softer connotation) to recant in full. The drums come crashing and the guitars incandescing as the chorus really rocks in a way that is both unexpected and delightful.
Not only is this a wholly good album worthy of buying on vinyl, but Volcano Choir has made a relevant statement with their music: They can coexist. Not just with themselves, as has been made evident by a successful album, but also in blending several deeply rifted styles of music.
Folk rock does not often blend with electronic music, probably due in part to stigmas that exist between folk and electronic purists — one is not “natural,” the other is not “exciting.” But Volcano Choir has made one of those artistic somethings that sounds both natural and exciting, which is indicative of a hopeful future of music.
While dubstep will likely continue for a while, and while folk singers will stick to their four chords and wordplay, there’s a beautiful middle ground in there, a beautiful middle ground that’s not exactly no-man’s-land. Rather, it’s more like “all-humans’-land,” since this is territory for all musicians and audiophiles to explore together. And this land might be in the bubbling center of a Volcano.
An Internet search for “Gold Panda” will spit out about as much as what sits in the search bar. A self-proclaimed social recluse, beat maker Gold Panda says fans should never expect him to perform this music. “The idea of performing for people terrifies me,” he said.
Citing music as a largely private activity, Gold Panda’s sophomore work “Half of Where You Live” has stripped him of any chance of remaining a bedroom beat production anomaly. The follow-up to debut album “Lucky Shiner” and a slew of EPs including this spring’s “Trust,” this album displays the growth of his gritty blend of sampled, asynchronous and static-y electronica.
Whereas many musicians refine their sound across records in favor of better production, smoother sounds and settling down as a reflection of life experience, Gold Panda’s new work is noticeably edgier. In comparison to “Lucky Shiner,” the quintessential Gold Panda hit “Quitter’s Raga” and “Trust, Half of Where You Live” drives more heavily on the beats, with more pent-up energy looking to be expended. The twitchy rhythms and flickering melodies which have long characterized Gold Panda’s work have only become twitchier, now flicker brighter and reflect on the intensity of Gold Panda’s ability to capture emotion in unique genre of music.
A curious characteristic of this album is that the techniques for creating his sound have not changed greatly — organic tones smashed with China cymbals, bell choirs, vocal samples and punchy bass drums — but the overall feel of his music has become more powerful. Tempos up, heads down toward the floor, this is an album for introspection. If anything, “Half of Where You Live” feels like an intensely personal album, but for that reason it is also highly relatable.
Bottom line, this is a subsequent impressive work from Gold Panda with no shortcomings.
[CE1]The original grammar in this sentence was a bit confusing, so I changed it a bit. Please double-check to make sure I didn’t change the meaning!
[CE2]Was this said in an interview? I can’t find any online source where this quote is attributed to him. Can you make it clear where the quote came from?
“Thunder from down under” — the cliche refers to any noteworthy invention of Australian origin. It may be a cliche, but it holds true when concerning Melbourne rapper Seth Sentry. His debut album, “This Was Tomorrow,” is an impressive 11-song work, the successor to his “Float Away” EP. With a sound that is comparable to Aesop Rock,…
There’s a phenomenon in the rap world called trap music. Trap is a contraction: terrible + rap = trap. At least the internet will attest. But what does this say about modern appreciation for rap and hip-hop? Since when is having Lil’ Jon belching
“HEY!” repeatedly in the background of a song the cool thing? Since when is hip-hop not focused on the rhymes, the intricate beats, and the soul of the music?
If real hip-hop ever died, then the Crunchy Kids walk like its doppelgänger. Mint, their debut album, showcases the musical abilities of these up-and-comers who sound like they’ve been doing hip-hop since the ’80s. And what’s more, they’re doing it live – this is a four piece band of talented musicians. With some biting rhymes, a drum kit, a funky bass, and old-school organs, Crunchy Kids have taken hip-hop back to its origins, rooted in jazz, blues, and a need to write about existence. Everything about this group is unorthodox in the modern schema of rap artists: they’re not rapping over samples; they’re not blinged out; they’re not heavily tattooed. Three of the four look like Seth Rogen and company from “Knocked Up.” But the sound is a knock out, a beefed up R&B cocktail of heavy new age jazz drums, ultra-low bass lines, and soulful Motown keys.
Lyrically the album also returns to the origins of rap – largely focused on social commentary and clever portrayal of this theme. The lyrics are sharp, completely thoughout, and just adult enough to flesh out fully the album’s color. On the whole, Mint is a very successful album, especially as a debut work. Worthy of purchase, or at least visiting their channel on Youtube, as they will likely be a sensation soon enough. 4/5.