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Flightful feathers.

Declaration of Dependence.Declaration of Dependence
Kings of Convenience
20 October 2009

It would have been quite unthinkable to have this band do some wrong. Would they have swapped their acoustic guitars for electric ones as weapons of choice? Had one half of the Norwegian duo, Erlend Øye, brought in influences from his side project The Whitest Boy Alive, how would this have turned out? What if they did not similarly name this album using a play of words, as is evident in their previous albums Quiet is the New Loud and Riot on an Empty Street?

Thankfully, however, as one of the most (quietly) anticipated albums of the year, the Kings of Convenience’s Declaration of Dependence delivers and meets all expectations required of them. Beautifully dark and hauntingly calming, it is indeed a lovingly crafted piece of work designed to capture even the hardest of hearts.

Still, it is back to basics as usual for Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe. With a recipe tried and tested (to immense success, no doubt), here they are again seemingly stripped to the barest of necessities, armed only with a pair of earnest, hushed vocals soaring in perfect harmony, and the accompaniment of the simplest of guitars for company.

After a long absence of almost five years, the boys’ return shows us that they have got it still: I enjoy very much the charming and heartfelt melancholy of album opener “24-25” and the bossa nova tinged, beach-like feel to “Freedom and Its Owner”. The expected inclusion of the breezy “Boat Behind” (which had been making its rounds regularly during their tour to promote their previous album) sounds just as good as ever here, as it is when played live.

I have always been in complete acquiescence with the Kings of Convenience. What they have built is definitely bigger than the sum of two, and bears justice that what we think is more – in size, power, volume and the like – need not necessarily be. The good guys win.

Black Swan.Black Swan
24 August 2009

It is indeed a sad state of affairs to see one of Athlete’s older albums going for a mere RM10 in a bargain bin, or never ever getting in the good books of online music critic Pitchfork. Or could it be an even sadder fact that I actually find this English rock band as likable as ever?

The band’s Black Swan does have a few radio-friendly tunes, such as the popular and instant favourite “The Getaway”, and the catchy, synthesizer-laden “Superhuman Touch” (which gives listeners a quick leap back into the 80’s), but they are few and far in between. There is nothing here which could be as deeply affecting as their hit “Wires” or as trippily fun as “El Salvador” from many years ago; instead, what we get is a steady string of rock tunes that you can sing along to, but sounds infinitely taxing when played in quick succession.

Overall, Athlete seems to inadvertently tread back to familiar territory. Credit must be given to the band, however, for their tireless attempts to offer something new to their fans in today’s fickle and challenging music industry.

In This Light and On This Evening.In This Light and On This Evening
12 October 2009

Birmingham-based band Editors’ In This Light and On This Evening is a study of aural energy in motion. That seems to be case with first single “Papillon”, a loud, thumping track quite unlike any of the band’s previous songs – it seems to be boldly different, refreshingly energetic and dramatically electrifying. (Or perhaps this is because hearing the song automatically conjures images of its “racy” music video in my head.)

The album clocks in at a little over forty minutes and has only nine tracks – all strong contenders for stadium rock and atmospheric in nature. They could be perfect candidates for grand sing-a-longs, these synthesizer-trigger-happy tunes – but the only standout is really just “Papillon”, for it definitely has the power to jolt one awake, painting itself in such stark contrast to the other songs. This is not saying that the album is weak; rather, its overall strength is so overwhelmed by the potency of that one track, it leaves the others pale in comparison, a wisp of smoke trailing in its wake.

Expecting a repeat of “Munich” or “Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors”? Nope. Editors have found a new sound, and they have aced it in this respect – but let us hope they put together a stronger album in the years to come.

The Temper Trap
13 October 2009

Oh, the falsettos.

It must be noted that The Temper Trap is an all-male rock fourpiece from Melbourne, Australia, so this is definitely not something you find every day – not especially when they make sounds reminiscent of Stars, Arcade Fire and Mates of State.

It was the inclusion of their most popular song to date, “Sweet Disposition”, in advertisments and a movie, that launched the band’s career. But for me, right from the start, it was the light, staccato beats to first track “Love Lost” that had me at hello. And then the lyrically dark “Resurrection” plays and I nod along to it. But it probably would not have changed anything had instrumental closer “Drum Song” been omitted from the album, which seems to have been added for no reason other than to showcase the band’s drumming abilities.

Conditions is poppy enough without being annoying, and sounds different without even trying (though I think it could be just lead Dougy Mandagi’s vocals that makes it so). This is a decent enough debut, so I will not stand in their way.

The XX.The XX
The XX
6 October 2009

It would undoubtedly be difficult to key in a search for a band such as The XX, but let us let the music in their self-titled album speak for itself.

The tunes sound so much more mature than their twenty-year-old band members. Soft, gentle vocals intertwine with pulsating beats in the sexy “Heart Skipped a Beat” and in “Basic Space”. “Shelter” is a lesson on unforgiving forlornness, while the album’s more uplifting moment comes in the form of “VCR”.

The album gets better with repeated listens – it is a grower, and the rewards are subtle – but know that this is not meant to be a “happy” album. It clocks in at under forty minutes, and takes its own sweet time – like it is meant to be listened on a long, cold winter night.

Upcoming releases for 2009:
See Metacritic’s release calendar here.

Details of this entry.Sunday, November 22, 2009, filed under Reviews.
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