Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Father, Son, Holy Ghost sees Girls reaching toward new styles

Father, Son, Holy Ghost

When Girls released Album two years ago, most reactions were incredibly supportive of their debut effort. It was a stunning indie rock album that avoided the complications flooding the genre at the time — it wasn’t soaked in reverb, the band seemed to understand when it was okay to let things quiet down for a few minutes, there was obvious passion involved — and as a result, it was named one of the top albums of 2009.

In November, Girls charged out with Broken Dreams Club, a six-song EP that saw the band moving in a forward direction, trying out a new feel while retaining the unique value of Christopher Owen’s vocal outlet and the relaxed mode that made Album a sonic joy.

Shift forward to 2011: In 8 days, the band’s second full-length effort, Father, Son, Holy Ghost hits shelves. It’s again the band moving in a forward direction, taking what they did with Broken Dreams Club, picking up the successes and weeding out the failures (or half-failures — it’s a very good EP) and adding a boost of excitement.

Now, that’s not to imply that it’s all fleet-footed and stunning — for example, the delicately named “Vomit” shows the band slowing things down more than they have before. But when it comes time to kick things into that higher gear, there’s no fear to be found. Where Album was at times daunting in its consistency, Father, Son, Holy Ghost takes a more varied approach.

Check out the video for Vomit

Where instrumentation is concerned, there’s a clear inclination toward a strange country music melded with the San Francisco band’s indie rock sound. They’ve managed to combine that laid-back big-city feel with something a bit more rural, and while the sound is a little lacking in the refined quality you’d expect from others practicing an indie with country music aesthetic, it’s exactly what you’d expect from Girls.

Father, Son, Holy Ghost is what the band needed to do for their sophomore release. They’ve avoided staying dreadfully the same (though I’m not sure it would have provoked huge complaints) while treading some new ground as a band. It’s neither as raw nor as exciting as Album, but at the same time, it’s more musically engaging and interesting, and it’s proof that there’s more to Girls than a great album and an EP.

Brief: David Bazan’s latest showcases efficiency, secularism

Strange Negotiations

When an artist “goes solo,” does the sophomore album rule of thumb still apply? No matter, David Bazan’s avoided that particular pitfall with the solid Strange Negotiations with — not grace, but something like it. He’s never been a particularly graceful artist, and it’s one of his enviable strengths.

When he was fronting Pedro the Lion, Bazan was clumsy, awkward even, but he was ruthlessly efficient. That’s continued into his solo career: Bazan doesn’t just throw ideas into a song; he molds and crafts them to a point that the music almost seems secondary — not an ignored secondary aspect, and one that’s not given short shrift. by David Bazan

…This is an album that’s more lyrically subtle than Curse Your Branches, and in that same way, it’s sounds a deal less angry. Of course, we still have lines like, “Wake up in the morning / Check your revelation / Make sure you know it as well as you can,” in Level With Yourself. It’s clear that Strange Negotiations is not a wholly secular piece, but Bazan is clearly moving in that direction.

Read the entirety of this review written by Matthew Montgomery at No Ripcord.

(from No Ripcord)

Album Review: The Seldon Plan – Coalizione del Volere

The Seldon Plan

In the world of music criticism, there are a few on rules that are supposed to be followed, but are routinely dismissed.  One is using the first person reference in a review.  Thankfully, blogging as completely destroyed this concept, so we, actually I, can say whatever the hell I want.  Amongst the probably hundreds of other ridiculous rules is to never make assumptions about a record/artists/burlesque show if the standards are too high for a band that can’t live up to the expectations you have set.  It’s also not a good idea to use foul language.  So, on that note:  The Seldon Plan’s Coalizione del Volere is an album that I believe is absolutely fucking fantastic, and you will absolutely adore it.  Rules are meant to be broken.  And with an album like this, it is perfectly acceptable to raise the bar all the way to the heavens.  They have the means to back themselves up on product alone.

The Seldon Plan — “Fractionation”
[audio:|titles=The Seldon Plan – Fractionation]


January shapes up exciting 2011 music scene

Here's where I destroy the mystery of what I've pegged as number one for January.

January brought with it some stunners. I won’t bore you with exposition; let’s just get to the music.

5. Braids — Native Speaker
Native Speaker is mysterious and draws a bit long. It’s even kind of clumsy. Somehow, though, Native Speaker is satisfying — invigorating, even.

Braids — “Lemonade”
[audio:|titles=Braids – Lemonade]

Read my review at No Ripcord.

4. Robert Pollard — Space City Kicks
I worry sometimes when I talk about music from Robert Pollard. He’s sort of a demigod in the indie rock world, having been in the driving seat for many years with the inimitable GBV. Thankfully, Space City Kicks sees him to return to parsimonious songwriting again, and there are some really memorable tracks here.

Read my review at No Ripcord.

3. Ensemble — Excerpts
This is future chamber pop. Really, I think some French-speaking space aliens swooped down in a time travelling spaceship, dropped this indie pop at the band’s door, and it’s hit the world.

Ensemble – “Things I Forget”
[audio:|titles=Ensemble – “Things I Forget”]

Read my review at No Ripcord.

2. Smith Westerns — Dye it Blonde
Smith Westerns have taken their fragmented, noisy approach and spiffed it up. Dye it Blonde is fuzzy, exciting power pop. It ventures into euphoria sometimes. Yum.

Read my review at No Ripcord.

1. Destroyer — Kaputt
Destroyer, that brilliant man. Or Dan Bejar, that brilliant man. Something like that. He can hardly do wrong. Kaputt is everything done correctly. As a result, this is an early contender for album of the year — when the end comes, don’t forget about this January masterpiece.

Destroyer – “Chinatown”
[audio:|titles=Destroyer – “Chinatown”]

Read my review at No Ripcord.

And if you’re looking for more to check out:
• The Decemberists — The King is Dead. Good stuff, that. It’s the same band doing something different again. Keep it at, Meloy.
The Beets — Stay Home. Fuzzy, lo-fi, but some fine songwriting beneath it all.
Minks — By the Hedge. Hazy, noisy pop, but it’s got some good moments.
Oh No Oh My — People Problems. Refined, not brilliant. Not so sugary. I don’t mind.

And just wait for February:
• Esben and the Witch — Violet Cries. This is great stuff — brooding, mysterious, engaging wrapped in a very strange package. First listen was not great, but now I can’t get enough.
• Bright Eyes — The People’s Key. Conor Oberst as Bright Eyes: He’s back!
• Mogwai — Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Post-rock goodness from part of the ruling class.
• James Blake — James Blake. Interesting Brit dubstep. Not my favorite of February so far, but I’ve set it as my alarm album a couple times to good effect. A little too dreamy to wake up to, but it’s fun.
• Asobi Seksu — Flourescence. I’ve not listened to this yet, but I have some high expectations. Not too high, but high.

Damn, I love Dreamend

Ryan Graveface, the man behind Dreamend, has had my ear for a number of years now. He first landed on my radar when I, on a bit of a whim, bought As If By Ghosts. I was, I think, duly impressed, and I’ve since paid some attention to Graveface, his label. Some of what’s released by the man is brilliant.

Maybe We’re Making God Sad and Lonely is no exception. This is a delectable mix of post-rock and pop; the swells, the drops, the hesitant approach and the glorious return: It’s all here, and it’s all masterfully done. This LP is among my favorite in my collection.

Listen to “New Zealand” below.

Recession Proof Music: Top Ten EPs of 2010

I’m not sure if the recession really had much to do with it, but short track lists didn’t seem to be in short supply this year.  In my tenure as an indie music blogger and investigator, I’ve usually been able to pick out a couple EPs throughout a year that acted as more than just a promotional tool for a forthcoming LP or simply as a demo of a band’s talent.  But in 2010, it seemed as though many artists decided they would stuff 12 tracks worth of brilliant material into just a few songs (in some case, just two tracks.) Were they in a rush?  Were they just broke?  Or did they simply realize that they can express everything they wanted to in a much quicker fashion?

In the end, it doesn’t matter. Some wonderful tunes were made, and that is all that really matters.  So, here is a list of ten of my favorite EPs from the year:

10)  The Flying Change – Singer/Songwriter.  Sam Jacobs went an entirely different route than he did on his 2009 album, Pain Is A Reliable Signal, that appeared on many “best of” lists, including mine.  He traded in the acoustic guitar for some dancable beats.  Although it is only two tracks, it is very exciting.  I wouldn’t expect to hear an experiment like this from Jacobs again, as he is constantly looking to create something new.  Just be thankful he did this at all.


REVIEW: Kathryn Williams’ personal journey contemplative, intimate

Kathryn Williams’ latest release ‘The Quickening’ is a highly agreeable personal journey shared by the artist that fits like a favorite shirt and leaves the listener with a feeling of having spent a season contemplating some of her most intimate thoughts and experiences.  And being a better person for it.

Williams embarks on her current musical trip with “50 White Lines”, a rhythmic sing-along about tooling down the highway with the wind in her hair and troubles at her back while her travel partner carefully counts off the painted white dividing stripes to pass the time, offering possibly the album’s most obvious choice for a single.  That rhythm-of-the-road theme carries over to “Just a Feeling”, which leaves you with just that thanks to a cool, easy tempo and what sounds like possibly a 12-string guitar (I’m working off a demo copy with few liner notes) being deftly picked atop the casual cadence.


The Mighty Mighty Bosstones bring back their signature sound with Pinpoints and Gin Joints

The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Pinpoints and Gin Joints

The album starts with a sound familiar to any fan of ska music. It’s an instant reminder that The Mighty Mighty Bosstones haven’t lost it, even after all these years. The band started in back in 1983 playing something completely new: a mixture of punk rock, hardcore and British 2 Tone ska. They were together until 2003 with few line-up changes. From 1989 to 2002, the seminal ska band released 7 albums and reached legendary status in the scene.

After a 4 year hiatus from 2003 to 2007 the band reunited and performed a few small tours. In 2008 they announced they would be recording a new album, and on December 8th, 2009, the band released the first new album since 2002’s A Jackknife to a Swan. This new album, Pinpoints and Gin Joints, really shows that ska is still alive and skanking.