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Burning paper heart.

It probably will not be as groundbreaking as the last, but this is still shaping up to be a relatively exciting year for music. For now.

15 February 2011

Forget about the supposedly negative connotations a band name such as Yuck may bring; you will soon find that it takes much less time to get right into the groove of Yuck’s brand of catchy indie pop rock, than it does to worry over what others would think should they find this band on heavy rotation in your current playlist.

First impressions do matter, and this eponymous debut from Yuck starts with a bid for you to “Get Away” – a strong opener that pretty much sums up the type of loud and energetic music Yuck does, and does oh so well. It continues the charge, never letting up the momentum with the wailing “The Wall”, as the distorted vocals, fuzzy guitars and repetitive lyrics display the simple and youthful abandon the band possesses in their music arsenal.

On the other side of the spectrum, this London-based band demonstrates that they too can do delicate, as evident in the ballad-y “Suicide Policeman” and sleepy “Stutter”, which see them lounging out at their lo-fi best – all stripped down with mellow guitars, muted drumbeats and a chilled drink in hand.

Bad band names (and er, somewhat distasteful album art) tend to ring warning bells and, in other more unfortunate cases, perhaps even result in an immediate dismissal and lack of interest from the general masses – but we now know that the music of Yuck is really anything but.

Helplessness Blues.Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes
3 May 2011

I did not think I would be this impressed. While I found Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut decent enough (mainly because it had “White Winter Hymnal” and “Quiet Houses”), it failed to warm my heart thoroughly. So I thought it surprising that Helplessness Blues had, in the meantime, did well enough to fill up that tiny void left behind by other similar folk rock bands like Bon Iver and Grizzly Bear, and perhaps even more.

The signature vocal harmonies, sweeping melodies and intricate instrumentation are back, though somewhat laced with a hint of futility; the mood is darker, the lyrics gloomier (“I don’t know who to believe”). Seemingly mirroring the tumultous times experienced during the production of the album are the angry and aggressive horns in the eight-minute-long “The Shrine / An Argument”, which speaks of looming threats of a painful breakup, and of love almost lost and gone.

Other highlights include the wandering “Montezuma” and the title track, which is possibly the blues-iest track on the album. However, the winner that sealed it for me comes in the form of the triumphant closer “Grown Ocean”; we are happy that it ends on such a celebratory note, as frontman Robin Pecknold promises to hang on to his dreams, sounding more optimistic here than on any other track.

So make no mistake, this sophomore effort is indeed a promising addition to the Fleet Foxes catalogue; the band may be no more sunnier, but it is definitely wiser.

Burst Apart.Burst Apart
The Antlers
10 May 2011

2011 seems to be the year that most bands do it better.

It is a pleasant surprise to find The Antlers’ Burst Apart such a great departure from their previous breakout album; here, the band expands their territory to create soaring atmospheric tunes and more ambient electronics to layer their music with. And the fact that they can do it so effortlessly is just simply awe-inspiring – heck, can this really be the same band that did the bleak Hospice back in 2009?

Then there is also the matter of Peter Silberman’s voice, which effortlessly injects other-worldly impressions into tracks such as the heavily-falsettoed “Parentheses” and the hypnotic two-liner of “Rolled Together” (“Rolled together with a burning paper heart / Pulled together but about to burst apart”). The tunes are decidedly lighter and more varied, scoring more highs than lows as it breezes along easily like a well-oiled convertible amid technicolour landscapes. The brilliant inclusion of the groovy bundle of nerves that is “Every Night My Teeth are Falling Out” is a song that pretty much each and every one of us can relate to – especially if you had had dreams that make you jolt awake at 3am in the morning, anxiously expecting to find out if your pearly whites are still safely intact.

But truth, indeed, can be stranger than fiction. The Antlers have truly delivered more than just a worthy follow-up; Burst Apart is a beautiful reinvention of sounds that redefines the band’s brand of music, and certainly deserves to be at the top of my list of best albums for the year.

Upcoming releases for 2011:
Bon Iver, Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand, Incubus, Wilco. See Metacritic’s release calendar here.

Details of this entry.Sunday, June 05, 2011, filed under Reviews.
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