Archive for the ‘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.

Track Review: Lotte Kestner – “Halo”

Lotte Kestner

Even the meekest and most pretentious hipster on earth should clearly admit Beyonce Knowles has a voice that can call upon the angels of the midnight hour tstare the world down until all of their children are safe.  We also know, based upon the words of the one of the finest artists of the modern world, that she made “THE GREATEST VIDEO OF ALL TIME!!!”.  But, what happens when the king of modern R&B is unintentionally outdone?  Is it possibly that a goddess from the independent music world could legitimize a pop princess?  The answer is yes.  Yes, because the great Anna-Lynne Williams decided she would strive for such a feat.

Lotte Kestner — “Halo” | download

Lotte Kestner’s (Anna-Lynne William’s solo project) latest album, a collection of somewhat obscure covers, is obviously beautiful.  Her interpretations of Trash Can Sinatras and Interpol are obviously commendable as she spews her beautiful vocal chords upon the world.  But, somewhere on the bonus disc of the aptly titled Stolen, we find the wife of the hip hop legend Sean Carter.  We find Williams creating something so sensual and captivating, it is extremely hard to believe these words did not come straight from her heart, but from any given songwriter who will probably always remain nameless.

Beyonce can sing.  This is obvious.  But, anyone who hears Lotte Kestner spill out her heart to the same words the lady of R&B once did, should instantly realize that an improvement was made.  Should Mrs. Carter ever come across this track, I can feel that even she would agree that she was trumped.  Hopefully she can understand.  And if she doesn’t, we can still be entirely thankful that we have beautiful voices all over the world.  From Knowles to Williams, we can be happy for these tones of beauty that plague even our darkest moments.  Within these folk’s talents, we can find peace.  We can find love.
Lotte Kestner’s latest album “Stolen”, and the 5 song bonus EP, featuring “Halo”, can be found at  The critically acclaimed debut of Lotte Kestner, “China Mountain”, can also be purchased from the site as well.

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)

Artist Spotlight: Soul Distraction

Soul Distraction

If you’ve ever dug through your parent’s vinyl collection and felt a slight sense of apathy you can’t really explain, trust in me that you are not alone.  Most of us in our 20’s and early 30’s know that there was a period of time, in which some of us were actually alive, that you could turn on the radio and hear a song that was absolutely to die for.  Although most of us can’t really remember such a time.

Soul Distraction — “Talk About It Later”
[audio:|titles=Talk About It Later]

Now, we all know such ideals are pretty much dead and gone (save for the resurrection of Cee Lo Green), and we are more app’ed (get it?) to digging around on our iPhones and finding the next underground sensation from a city we may have never heard of, and will probably be disbanded within a year after a SXSW appearance and a west and/or east coast tour.  We love the music for the music.  But, we seem to have lost the Cheap Tricks and the Deep Purples that once were ruling the airwaves, as well as our hearts.  And if you long for that classic rock vibe that has seemed to disappeared into the depths of the indie rock sea, fear not, because the sound has been recaptured in a way you probably never imagined.  And the high definition lens showing us the future, as well as the past, is seen through the eyes of Portland’s Soul Distraction.


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]


Artist Spotlight: Andy B

Andy Botterill

The danger with lo-fi pop is pretty obvious.  It draws the same sort of sometimes warranted typecasting of non-creativity that punk music received in the late 1970’s to the mid 80’s:  it all sounds the same!  Now, those who actually listen to the music know that this is not entirely true at all.  But, give one good reason why The Ramones are world renowned, and The New York Dolls, although critically and cult acclaimed, are just a quick blip in history.  Both were sensational in their own way, but someone always has to stand out.

Andy B – “Talk About it Later Baby” from Days Pass Me By
[audio:|titles=Andy B – “Talk About it Later Baby” from Days Pass Me By]


Released This Week: Esben and the Witch – Violet Cries

Esben and the Witch - Violet Cries

Violet Cries is the full-length debut from Esben and the Witch, and it’s been launched on the ever-effervescent Matador Records. It’s a brooding, self-reflective release and it’s hard to catch the vision sometimes. Those difficulties are quelled throughout, but lingering doubts harm the effectiveness of this record.

Esben and the Witch – “Warpath” (download)
[audio:|titles=Esben and the Witch – “Warpath”]

Throughout Violet Cries, I’m never sure whether something more exciting is going to come into play — and that’s after several listens. When the pace gets frenzied, I almost expect something bombastic and vibrant, but instead, Esben and the Witch stay the course.

It’s hard not to be impressed by this debut, but it’s also hard to fully enjoy it during the first few listens. I can’t complain about the result, and while it was a hard one to dig into, but I’ve since gained a real appreciation of it.

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.