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High Violet.High Violet
The National
11 May 2010

(Really, The National’s High Violet needs no introduction here. I have been raving about it in the previous few entries, and I now officially declare High Violet as my new Sky Blue Sky.)

The National can do completely no wrong – their latest album, High Violet, is a strong testament to that.

This latest outing by the band, coming at the heels of the success that was Boxer and Alligator, would have been hard to ignore. During the first few weeks of May, it was almost impossible to avoid coming across mentions of High Violet. The National was everywhere and everywhere at once, being featured prominently on various online promotions, showcases, websites and reviews in the leadup to this highly anticipated album.

And rightly so, too.

High Violet is a very solid package – of powerful tunes with mesmerising guitar riffs and energetic drum beats that stick to your mind, and cryptically dark and deceptively simple lyrics that hint at the vulnerability of our lives and loves. All this, when complemented with the gorgeously charming baritone of frontman Matt Berninger, result in a massive aural explosion unlike no other – the sounds take a turn for the epic and anthemic, making your emotions churn inside you so intensely, you would have to have a heart of stone to not feel anything at all.

The album may be a grower – it would first teasingly throw you a line, then slowly reel you in, so that you can spend your time leisurely relishing each and every track in the album. Potent first single “Bloodbuzz Ohio” is already making regular rounds in the music circuit, but there are plenty of other musical highlights to cater to each and every one of us, such as the quaintly yearning “Terrible Love” (which, for me, is fast becoming another strong album opener in the veins of “Secret Meeting” and “Fake Empire”), the bitingly honest declaration of “Afraid of Everyone”, the strangely delicate “Little Faith”, and the stirring closer that is “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”.

Overall, High Violet is simply brilliant – a meticulously-crafted work of absolute perfection, destined to be another of The National’s masterpieces.

Forgiveness Rock Record.Forgiveness Rock Record
Broken Social Scene
4 May 2010

Forgiveness Rock Record – just the name of the album from Broken Social Scene is enough to summon endless anticipation and intrigue. The wait is now over, for the super music collective has returned to again please the masses with their unique brand of music.

The album once again showcases the involvement of the various creative personnel behind the band: the sounds are much tighter, the members more confident. The immediacy of opening track “World Sick” draws you in, and you find that the band is still as familiar as ever, albeit somewhat more expansive and generous in employing the use of louder and richer instrumentation.

Forgiveness Rock Record clocks in at a little over 60 minutes: a lot would have been achieved by the listener, for by the end of the exhilarating musical journey, one would have sung along to lead single “Forced to Love”; been bewildered to find the Flaming Lips-tinged “Art House Director”; instantly fallen in love with the sexy “Sweetest Kill”; and pondered at the unassuming closer “Me and My Hand”.

The tracks in the album, like the members of the band, are as diverse as they come – but together they become one seamlessly, the end result pleasing to the ears.

Note: Broken Social Scene plays at the Esplanade, Singapore, on 27 July 2010. (I will be giving this one a miss, having already seen them live in 2008 at the same venue.)

Infinite Arms.Infinite Arms
Band of Horses
18 May 2010

Band of Horses makes a return after a three-year absence with not just a new album, but also a new line-up to boot. Infinite Arms will be the tool to tests the waters – does the band still sound like, well, the band, despite the inclusion of the new members? The answer: both yes and no. Obviously.

Frontman Ben Bridwell is the only surviving member of the band since its formation – and so his vocals in the album may well qualify as the only constant that makes the band still instantly recognisable, and thankfully so.

Infinite Arms is a much lighter and mellower affair than its predecessors, breezing past at a leisurely pace – but it has its ups and downs. One of the album’s highlights comes in the form of the title track: made up of sounds at once ethereal and natural, “Infinite Arms”, when gently combined with the melancholy of Bridwell’s vocals, exudes a sort of tenderness that simply tugs at your heart. Further, there is the jolly “Laredo”, which is more reminiscent of the sounds of the older band, and the lighthearted “Dilly”; both are easily singled out due to its easy singalong potential.

The first few tracks are decent enough to make you sit up and take notice, but the later part of the album (besides the decidedly energetic “NW Apt”) is so lethargic, it almost slows to a snooze. There is nothing here that will draw you in as immediate as “The First Song” (from first album Everything All the Time), but Infinite Arms is still a good show from the band, and so the new line-up succeeds in this respect.

Teen Dream.Teen Dream
Beach House
26 January 2010

Listening to the dream pop duo of Beach House renders results both strange and hypnotic. The name of the band immediately conjures images of crashing blue waves and clean white sand; however, the music in Beach House’s third album is anything but.

Teen Dream is a one-way ticket to a dreamy, shoegazing event. Tinged with the beats of 80s soft rock, the tracks in the album may sound somewhat similar, yet subtly different in some ways that still make them all stand out from each other. There is the breathless “Norway” with its distinctive “ah-ah-ah”s; the tiredness that lingers in that of “Silver Soul”; and the piano-heavy “Real Love” with such a rousing crescendo that I suspect it would have made a grand finish had it been placed as the final track on the album.

It certainly would not do to play the album on your iPod as you bask in the sun by the beach, watching stray frisbees flying by and annoying seagulls pecking at your bare feet. A better place, it seems, would be on your bed, with curtains drawn to close, as you lay staring at the cheap glow-in-the-dark stars stuck on the ceiling. Alone.

Upcoming releases for 2010:
Belle and Sebastian. Coldplay. Fleet Foxes. Franz Ferdinand. Hot Hot Heat. Jack Johnson. Sia. Stars. The Strokes. Wolf Parade. See Metacritic’s release calendar here.

Details of this entry.Sunday, May 23, 2010, filed under Reviews.
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