It can be a really lonely world out there…
16 February 2010 (US)
If Grizzly Bear’s kind of music conjures images of a quaint little cottage nestled comfortably amid tall, swaying pine trees next to a peaceful lake with crystal clear waters, then this band may have completed the picture by including a radiant morning sun, boldly peeking out from behind a pair of ice-capped mountains.
With their ubiquitous soaring chorus of voices and intricately arranged harmonies, the LA quintet Local Natives may inevitably draw comparisons to the earlier mentioned Brooklyn-based band, but in a good way of course. Judging by the positive reviews their debut album Gorilla Manor has received so far, it looks like the Local Natives may have worked them to the best of their advantage.
The tunes are undeniably accessible, with the first few tracks already acting as some of the album’s highlights: we are first treated to the sunny arrangements of album opener “Wide Eyes”; which then gives way to the march-like beats of “Airplanes” and brilliant lead single “Sun Hands”. Then there is the affecting slow-mo brokenness of the heartwrenching “Who Knows Who Cares” and the moving sincerity in “Cubism Dream”, where they declared that they “did it for you”.
Local Natives heartily welcomes you to the Gorilla Manor, and to turn down this invitation would mean missing out on one of the best debuts of the (past) year.
28 September 2010
The black and white cover of Deerhunter’s latest album raises a number of questions, but none more important than this: does Halcyon Digest fit like another piece of the band’s exciting puzzle of past album releases?
Sure, here we may find the laborious starts and stops in first track “Earthquake” a tad bit exhausting, and the long guitar jam that takes up half of “Desire Lines” looped seemingly to endless perfection – but I find it a relief that Halcyon Digest is not as ambient-heavy as their musically-divided Cryptograms (2007), which saw only the more pop-ish second half of that album getting regular play from me.
However, all my praises are reserved for the swirly acoustic wonder that is “Helicopter” – arguably this album’s version of “Agoraphobia” (from Microcastle (2008)). Thanks to frontman Bradford Cox’s dreamy vocals, “Helicopter” becomes a delicate yet powerful tune that turns your insides into instant mush, as your blatant needs and wants change into that of passionate desire (“No one cares for me / I keep no company / … Now they are through with me”). Other highlights come in the form of the short but trippy “Revival”, the sounds of which would likely suit a bumbling Charlie Chaplin movie; and the Beatles-que “Memory Boy”.
Halcyon Digest is indeed another worthy addition to the Deerhunter arsenal – so start your musical education now, as this band will just keep getting better and better.
Jimmy Eat World
28 September 2010
My introduction to Jimmy Eat World was hardly intentional: I had won a copy of Bleed American (2001) from a now long defunct magazine – it had been a wonderful musical discovery for me back then, and to this day I still count the album as a firm favourite of mine.
Invented sees the band going back to its roots and attempting what it does best. The results are decidedly mixed, however, for despite the name of the album, it does not seem to offer anything groundbreaking for the fans. The band fares better here with the contemplative, slower-in-tempo songs: “Cut” begins with simple strums of the guitar as frontman Jim Adkins later tiredly sings about not being “cut for this no more”, while “Stop” is the typical Jimmy Eat World ballad that will easily have you singing along to its chorus.
The band seems to have a knack for churning out memorable album closers: here, “Mixtape” does the job well enough, although it somehow sounds like a hasty rehash of the much more brilliant “23” from Futures (2004). In any case, it makes a sweet aftertaste to an otherwise decent album from a band that was an essential part of the emo movement in the past decade.
The Age of Adz
12 October 2010
One of his songs acts as my mobile phone’s ringtone, but trying to describe Sufjan Stevens’ music has proven to be rather difficult. It simply is in a class of its own, and attempts to pigeonhole it into a particular genre is a hopeless task.
And so it is with his latest album, The Age of Adz – a complicated piece of art overladen with hundreds of different instruments possible: here, Stevens makes the leap from his usual banjos and guitars to bouts of heavy electronic beats and quirky robotics, with each track lightly layered with his own distinct vocals. The new direction at times brings to mind sounds reminiscent of that to the Flaming Lips and Radiohead.
Perhaps a track that borders on safer territories is the relatively harmless opener “Futile Devices”, which is the shortest song on the album and, unfortunately, comes with an ending too soon. The other tracks clock in at an average of six to seven minutes long. “Too Much” is also a much welcome addition here, for the sounds then take a turn for the expansive from thereon, with the thundering and fluttering intro to the title track proudly leading the way.
Any talk of the album would be incomplete without the mention of the 25-minute closer “Impossible Soul”, a five parter that totally befuddles the mind and comes with a chorus of voices screaming “No, I don’t want to feel pain!” amidst a series of blaring horns and spaceship-fly-by laser sound effects. As intriguing as this track may be, I think I would feel less pain, too, if it were 20 minutes shorter.
Stevens’ Fifty States Project may have been put on hold (he once claimed in an interview that the project was just a promotional gimmick), but I am not going to hold my breath for it. I do miss the banjos, though.
Upcoming releases for 2010:
Sigh, it has been a really exciting year for music so far. See Metacritic’s release calendar here.