The Rhumb Line
Ra Ra Riot
August 19, 2008
Listening to Ra Ra Riot’s The Rhumb Line brings to mind the anthemic tunes of The Arcade Fire and fun sounds of Broken Social Scene (as evident in tracks like “Each Year” and “St. Peter’s Day Festival”). Strangely enough, when complemented with a little knowledge of the band’s history, you will find subtle hints of doom and gloom in a handful of the tracks as well (as in “Dying is Fine”) – one wonders if the signs were meant to be a forecoming of sorts, or just mere coincidences.
Then again, perhaps the unique inclusion of violin and cello as regular appearances in the songs makes it so – these musical instruments, after all, are capable of tugging at your heartstrings one moment and then making you twirl in a dance the next – all in one same song (“Winter ’05”).
In any case, this album makes one of last year’s best debuts, chocking up full points and raving reviews for its efforts – a truly impressive achievement for a young band.
Only by the Night
Kings of Leon
September 23, 2008
Some years ago, I was listening to a certain Norwegian band almost everyday at work. A colleague told me then that he did not know of any Kings of Convenience. “I have heard of Kings of Leon though,” he said.
Well, the obvious similarity between those two bands stop just there. Fast forward to late 2008: I found myself intrigued by Kings of Leon’s Only by the Night, hitting the loop button despite initial misgivings like “I don’t quite fancy those bristly vocals all that much” to “Damn – the band members are of my age!”, and rapidly giving way to “I’m giving this album some love for now” and “YAY THEY WON A GRAMMY!”.
Some good things are meant to last longer; Only by the Night is one such example. The album, clocking in at about 40 minutes, has its highs in the form of the award-winning “Sex on Fire” and “Manhattan” – but as it draws to an end with the mournful “Cold Desert”, it makes me feel… shortchanged, somehow.
For Emma, Forever Ago
At first listen, this reminds me of: snow, Fleet Foxes, and the colour white.
Later, I read that Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon made For Emma, Forever Ago when he was nested in a remote cabin for a few wintry months, and that left me in awe. It seemed that his solitary winter experience had been effortlessly translated into the nine tracks in this album – standouts include “For Emma” and “Skinny Love” – beautiful but broken, and sleepy but in a I-am-awake-but-just-want-to-dig-deeper-into-my-blankets kind of way.
This works particularly well on a rainy day, when you have only Vernon’s gentle voice and the soft pitter patter of raindrops for company.
The Century of Self
… And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
February 17, 2009
It seems that there was only one fateful time in the band’s history, when people actually sat up and paid more attention to the album, rather than to the obvious mouthful of a band name, was when … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead released their major-label debut – this was almost seven years ago. There was a stunning opener (“It Was There That I Saw You”), an explosive hit single (“Another Morning Stoner”), and a few other gems littered throughout that album. The band’s later two efforts, though attention-grabbing with its grandiosity in noise, never quite managed to repeat the soaring achievement that was 2002’s Source Tags and Codes.
Trail of Dead’s The Century of Self seems to produce similar results – intense and epic as expected, but thankfully with a certain mark of improvement over the last two albums. Perhaps this is because there are rare, fleeting moments of the band that we once knew, present here. “Bells of Creation”, “Inland Sea” and “Luna Park” should easily please first-time listeners of the band.
Upcoming releases for 2009:
Doves! Wilco! And already I am content, for both bands are just about all that matters for this year, really. See Metacritic’s release calendar here.