Archive for the ‘Album Reviews’ Category

Album Review: White Orange – White Orange

White Orange - White Orange

Loud.  Insane.  Tritely comprehensive.  A shit ton of fun.  This could pretty much sum up Portland Oregon’s newly founded thrash rock sensations White Orange.  They are a loud brand of pyschedlic madness, the likes of which have rarely been noticed until now.  With their self titled debut album in hand, this is a group that is approachable for metal, punk, and good old rock and roll fans alike.

While a track with a title such as “Kill The Kids” might disrupt the average not-so-hard rock listener, it is actually a track that holds a 90’s alternative to everything sound that was so highly acclaimed when Sonic Youth did it a decade before, while being accepted in the grunge era as well.  Sure, White Orange is prone to a bit of screaming, but they are without a doubt a much finer portayl of thrash core than their previous successors of this age.  They take sort of classical element when composing tracks like “Save Me” and “Color Me Black”, the latter of which is very reminiscent of the highly underrated Stabbing Westward.

While we have become prone to only loving simplistic indie rock and understandable heavy metal, there should always remain a soft spot for the hard edged, exterminators of reality sound that a group like White Orange has blessed us with in this strangely distant day and age.  Sometimes we just need to rock.  But how can we do this without losing our artistic integrity?  Just throw in White Orange’s self titled beauty and begin to relive the glory years when “alternative” was not a brand name for bullshit radio stations playing “Spoon Man” on repeat while advertising mattress outlets.  Rather the period where you could be loud, proud, and purposely deprived of adhering to the social norms.  You know, the way rock and roll was suppose to be!

Released This Week: Veronica Falls, Twin Sister, Youth Lagoon

Another week, another chunk of albums released. Here are three that may have flown under your radar more than, say, new Bjork or Wilco. I’m sure, however, there’s plenty I’ve missed, so send it along!


Twin Sister — In Heaven

I first saw Twin Sister open for Beirut in Salt Lake City. Until I heard In Heaven in its entirety, my knowledge was limited to basically that. That this is their debut LP might be a little hard to believe — it’s mature, inviting and a nice electronic indie pop record.



Veronica Falls — Veronica Falls

Everybody needs some noisy C86-style indie pop once in a while. When you can’t be arsed to get out your tapes, try this debut LP from Veronica Falls. It’s two years in the making and well worth the wait. Need a track to start with? Try “Stephen.”



Youth Lagoon — The Year of Hibernation

No week would be quite right without a reverby pop mess of an album — especially when that album is actually pretty good despite it all. Youth Lagoon is more in that synthesized-but-lush vein and it’s well worth a listen.


Released This Week: Sept. 20

Right, here are three albums released this week that I thought were worth touching on. If I’ve missed something you really enjoyed, please, let me know. Preferably not by yelling, but do what you must.

Ivy — All Hours

Full album stream (Soundcloud)


Here’s some interesting indie pop that delves into the electronic side of things. If you like what you hear from a few tracks, you’ll probably like the whole thing, though personally the strict rhythmic nature gets a bit overbearing at times. If you listen to the full album stream, you can catch some interesting thoughts from French-born Dominique Durand on the album — and that might make the whole thing worth a listen. It disrupts the flow of the album, sure, but it’s fun. Why not?


Clap Your Hands Say Yeah — Hysterical

Full album stream (NPR)


To be completely honest, I never really cared about Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. Just one of those band names, you know? Something about that name doesn’t sit right with me. Who knows why. Anyway, I don’t hate the music, though if you only read the first line of that, you’d think I did, and that’s only my fault. Hysterical’s more of that energetic pop music you may or may not love (hopefully for better reasons than I.) Who knows, maybe this album will finally change my unjustified opinion. Hell, if it holds up after this good first listen, I’ll change opinion immediately. At any rate, my rambling says nothing about the album.

Jens Lekman — An Argument With Myself (EP)

Full album stream (Soundcloud)


We all love things that remind us of a surprisingly effective but sadly imaginary collaboration between The Smiths and Stephin Merritt, and An Argument With Myself (especially that title track!) fits that mold surprisingly precisely. If this is a precursor to a third full-length, count me among those who are now sold on it. You see, this EP is really, really good.

Strange Finds: Sesame Disco! (1979)

Yeah, that's the cover.

Sometimes, during that ever-so-regular search for something rare and interesting in the bargain bins of thrift stores and consignment shops, you run across a record that gives you pause for thought — something so bizarre that you can’t much pass it up. Sometimes, it’s Peter and Wolf with David Bowie doing narration. Other times, it’s a spoken word record with presidential speeches. Few can top, though, the strange 1979 recording of Sesame Disco.

It’s an album that includes such, uh, hits as “I Lost Me Cookie in the Disco” (“…and me got careless, me don’t know how, and me have something me can’t find now…”) and the inimitable “Bein’ Green” in a strange disco mode.


Imagine, if you will, the sounds of singing Muppets, female backups, and that predictably bouncy disco sound. Bizarre, right? It won’t come close to how absolutely weird this is. Hell, the album art alone is worth the inevitably low cost of this album. The sight of Grover thrusting forward as he does the hustle, or Ernie with a gold chain around his neck and a white turtleneck, or Cookie Monster with his shirt open wide? Why, that’s all I needed! The addition of Oscar, The Count, Big Bird, Herry Monster, and a young muppet girl with pigtails (Prairie Dawn, is that you?) — why, it’s icing on the cake. Oh, and you mustn’t forget that there’s a sandwich board advertising the special guest star: Kermit the Frog! The gatefold also shows some of the Muppets with children. That’s sort of weird. And if you couldn’t get enough of the front, why, it’s repeated on the back, only, you know, smaller. It’s a weird one.

Sure, this was a novelty record for kids, but there’s plenty here to enjoy. If you’re looking for something strange and exciting to listen to repeatedly, though? Well, don’t look here. Those backing female vocalists just keep going and going and going: It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. And those bouncy beats? If you’re feeling particularly down, listen to this. If it doesn’t help immediately, turn it off. This is somehow lots of fun, but it’s also enough to drive one to madness. “Disco Frog” is particularly egregious. It included a moment where I thought the record was skipping — I found out after 10 or 15 seconds that the repeated bass line and the “ribbit ribbit” was quite intentional. Oh, boy.

I will say this much: The disco rendition of “Bein’ Green” is actually kind of interesting. Who’da thought?

Is it fair to criticize a kid’s album from 1979? Well, probably not. But this is Sesame Disco! — it’s in a world all its own. If there’s one thing we can certainly agree on, it’s that this is definitely one strange find.

Released This Week: AA Bondy, Girls, Mates of State, Wild Flag

AA Bondy — Believers


Well, he’s done it. He’s gone and changed his signature style. You know the one: stripped-down recordings, acoustic guitars, that voice of his. Thankfully, the change really is quite good: Believers is lush, evocative, and most importantly, an enjoyable 40 minutes of great songwriting.

Girls — Father, Son, Holy Ghost


I reviewed this album last week because I’ve been consistently impressed by the band and thought the new album would probably be worth a go. I think that may be the understatement of the year (though perhaps that’s an overstatement). Anyway, the album’s quite good. I’d parrot a bit of my review, but why don’t you just read it? Girls — Father, Son, Holy Ghost review []

Mates of State — Mountaintops


If more husband-and-wife indie pop, male and female harmonies leading the way, is what you want, Mates of State have predictably done it again. By their seventh album, they’ve got a very clear idea about how to do this sort of thing, and they aren’t straying too far from the ground they helped to establish in the genre.

Wild Flag — Wild Flag


Wild Flag are sort of this indie rock female supergroup featuring some names you’ll probably recognize — and one you’ll most definitely recognize (apologies if you don’t recognize her name!): Carrie Brownstein, best known for her work in Sleater-Kinney — though her sketch comedy show Portlandia is certainly growing in name recognition as well. Anyway, this album’s really, really good. Listen to it.

A. A. Bondy drifts from roots toward lush sound on Believers

A. A. Bondy — Believers

You probably know A. A. Bondy for his evocative songwriting and stripped-down style — a reasonable expectation, as his first two albums were in that very style, and it’s what he made his solo name on. Through those first two albums, he made his name as an effective songwriter in the folk style, and his songs were really very good. But with Believers being his third album, it was perhaps time for a minor shift in style to, you know, freshen things up.

Why, then, am I surprised that Believers departs from his stripped-down instrumentation, a lush aural environment taking its place? Because, well, this is good. And I don’t just mean passable — that was sort of a foregone conclusion. This is really quite good even though the lyrical sensibilities he brought to the fore of his style previously are perhaps buried a bit. There’s something regrettable about that, though not in a big way, because the additional layers are viscerally enjoyable: The steel pedal, the fullness of the guitar, the wholly flowing feel to some of these tracks — it all makes for quite an experience.


A. A. Bondy has made himself out be a songwriter worth his weight in, well, something — salt, probably, but how much does he weigh? I can get 100 lbs. of fine rock salt for $130, so I’d say he’s worth somewhat more than about $200 (a rough estimate, mind.) Back to the point, right? Believers is good, and it builds on the work he’s done without tearing it down. The stylistic shift he engages in is both effective and approachable, but most importantly, the album just … works. Everything comes together in a beautiful collision of sound, and the sound of the impact is more ocean-waves-soothing than it is jolting. And when you make a shift like this, that really is something you’ve got to look out for.

How’s it Holding Up? Destroyer — Kaputt

Early on every year, there are those records that you’re certain will make the top of your year-end charts, that you’re sure is going to be among the very best the year has to offer. Perhaps it’s in part due to our particular demarcation of years as periods for music, when clearly the shifts and swings are more organic than that.


Perhaps it’s just out of a desire to start with a clean slate: The music really piles up when you’re making those year-end lists, then there’s nothing of note for two, three, maybe four weeks. That break is a bit like those coffee beans they give you to cleanse your palate at a wine tasting, and after a full year of listening, a cleansing is certainly beneficial.

This year, my early pick was the consummate Destroyer album Kaputt — easily my top pick of January and somehow still in the running for my year-end list. It’s full of little things that are easy to ignore but brilliant to take in: Every listening produces something a bit different. And those melodies — oh, those melodies — are impossible to ignore. It’s the lack of jumpiness, both in construction and in presentation, that really define Dan Bejar’s outpouring. The melodies are evocative in the smooth, definitive quality that permeates the album.

It’s even better on vinyl, too! The third side of the album is a bit of a suite that’s not found in other releases, and it adds a nice quality to the flow of the album. Sure, it pushes the runtime to a lengthy 70 minutes, but it completes the album. The thing is, I’m not even sure it needed completion, and it was dangerous to mess with what was already very strong — but here it is nonetheless, and it’s one of the best parts of the double LP. See what a little risk-taking gets you?

Standout tracks include “Suicide Demo For Kara Walker,” “Song for America,” and “Kaputt,” though it’s a bit odd that tracks can stand out when the whole of the album is at a high level. To be fair, any of the songs could have reasonably been picked as standouts, and any decision has a degree of arbitrariness to it.

Has it held up well? Certainly so. It’s one of the few albums released this winter that have held my attention raptly through the spring and summer, and I don’t think I’d be lying if I said that I expect it to last a good deal longer than that with consistent listening. Is it Destroyer’s Rubies? No, but it certainly holds up favorably next to it. Thankfully, I’m not in the business of ranking Dan Bejar’s work on some mysterious scale.

At this point, it would take a downpour of brilliant releases to seal this one out of the top ten. It is, I think, one of the few surefire bets of the year.

“… this is an early contender for album of the year — when the end comes, don’t forget about this January masterpiece.” — Me, in January.

Yeah, I’d say it’s held up just fine.

Released this Week: Regina, The Rapture, The Horrible Crowes, Roberts & Lord

Every week, we’ll take a look at some new releases (not all of them, unfortunately!) and talk a little about them and give you a chance to listen. God bless Tuesdays!

Regina — Soita Mulle

While people in the U.S. are busy sleeping, Regina are busy making beautiful indie pop in Helsinki. Unless they record at night. That’s possible. Check out “Unessa” and “Haluan Sinut” from Soita Mulle, due out September 20 on Friendly Fire. They’ll be releasing the album in Finland tomorrow.


The Rapture — In the Grace Of Your Love

In The Grace Of Your Love: More dance rock from the band that helped kick off the post-punk revival in the early 2000s. Stream it right here and give it a listen while you make some food. Or, you know, something. Dance, maybe.


The Horrible Crowes — Elsie

The Horrible Crowes, Brian Fallon’s new project, ranges from moody to energetic, but it usually falls on the side of the former. The instrumentation’s solid if not stunning, and that’s probably enough motive to give it a listen. If you’re only up for one track, try “Sugar,” but the whole thing’s available on SoundCloud.


Roberts & Lord — Eponymous

Rafter Roberts & Simon Lord have produced an endearing debut on Asthmatic Kitty: Eponymous promises some vaguely unconventional instrumentation and a wonderful sense of timing. Listen to “Oblique” and “Windmill” below and try not to get sucked into the sound. Check out more from Roberts in his project Rafters and more from Lord in Simian.