By Jess Linde, May 18, 2013
I remember when I first ever heard Arcade Fire, and I listened and I listened and became a fan to the point of waking up from a nap and walking to Newbury Comics 15 minutes before it closed to buy The Suburbs. I remember when I first ever heard Funeral, and Neon Bible, and I thought “everything is different now.” And it was. I got more into independent music because of Arcade Fire, I became more eclectic in my taste as a result, and I finally had songs that challenged the way I listened and made me see what/who was “real” music for me. Like so many other bands and yet unlike anyone else, Arcade Fire made me think about how I wanted to hear music and what I wanted to hear, and that still carries today.
And until now, until Savages and Silence Yourself, I have not said that about any other band. There have been bands that I love and bands that changed the game for my music taste, but I have not been delivered an experience like I have here in several years. Silence Yourself is one of the most furious, raw, and yet restrained debuts that I have heard since Fever to Tell. Like Pallbearer’s Sorrow & Extinction from last year, Silence yourself is not an album made by a band that is testing the waters of its genre or trying to rip off its influences. This is an experience; an album made by a band that has something to say, and you should definitely pay attention.
Now, you may be asking yourself exactly what Savages is trying to say. Well I don’t exactly know, but I don’t need to. All I, or anyone for that matter, needs to do is to recognize how great songs like “Shut Up” and “I Am Here” are. After that, you can think about how cool their live shows must be (http://go.spin.com/YRXvQP). You can think about the significance of an all-female post-punk revival band, but I would do that after being blown away by “City’s Full,” “Strife,” and “Waiting For a Sign.” Listen to the brilliance of Jehnny Beth’s voice and lyrics before labeling the band; be amazed by Gemma Thompson’s guitar and Ayse Hassan’s bass as they work together perfectly, and let yourself become mesmerized by Fay Milton’s incredible drum work.
Ok, I realize that I am ranting a wee bit, and that may be because I fell kind of hard for the band after reading Beth’s quote about self-made success. Still, I think it is important to see that Savages aren’t just contrarian hipsters; they’re the real deal, and in that way are more “punk” than almost anyone else in music today. Whatever the “real deal” is that means is different for everyone, but for me it means that Savages wants to be heard to challenge their audience and not just to be outrageous (I’m lookin’ at you Bradford Cox), and that these four incredibly talented and remarkably unpretentious women have done that.
“Dead Nature,” which starts off the second half of the record, is a beautiful goddamn song, and “She Will” was stuck in my head days after I first heard it. “No Face,” “Hit Me,” and “Husbands” are all brilliant, and the closing track “Marshal Dear” is also quite, quite good. There’s just no other way for me to talk about this album: I am putting Silence Yourself down early for my number one of 2013, and if you buy it and listen, like really listen to it, I think you’ll see where I’m coming from.
Select Tracks: all of them.
Song of the Week: “Good Ass Intro” by Chance the Rapper
By Laura Kutchen, May 10, 2013
I was always on the fence about Iggy Pop because I could never get into but I appreciated his musical contributions in the same way that I don’t really watch the Superbowl but I appreciate it’s existence. Iggy brought us punk the way the Superbowl brings us fried chicken and drunken family members…or maybe that’s Thanksgiving. On a side note he also this really cool pair of pants made out of duct tape at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland WHICH AGAINST POPULAR OPINION is indeed shittier than Detroit. This album is actually really cool and angsty. Like the perfect album when you’re deep into all your teenage feels, and just want to chug whiskey on a Monday night because high school sucks sergeant status dick.
“Burn” is as garage rocky as it gets. It sounds like Iggy just a group of kids playing in some basement wearing dirty baseball jersey t-shirts and told them to play as hard as they could. It doesn’t end up sounding unprofessional because even though the instruments echo with fuzziness, the recording of his voice is very polished and mixes well. Ah, how this brings me back to my days as a go-go dancer…oh, wait… “Sex and Money” is laughable because every time Iggy sings “Sex and Money” there’s a little high pitched voice saying “I want it,” and you’re just like “honey pie, you ain’t getting’ any ass with that voice.” But it’s still catchy, and there’s this fun little clap accompaniment going on in the background. It’s a little stagnant, but it’s punk so deal with it or get the fuck out. Just be happy you were invited.
“Job” should be the anthem of every young rocker whose day job is grilling burgers. It’s a guaranteed fun time when a song is catchy and curses because let’s be honest, everyone loves yelling SHIT while having it be socially acceptable. “Gun” branches away from just the repetitive bar chords of the previous songs, and there’s actually a guitar solo! It’s basically a song about Americans kinda being violent douche schnozzles, but hey, if you can do that weird punk dance where you kind of just jump and shake your head, then who really cares about the lyrics.
“Unfriendly Love,” is awesome. It’s so rare to find songs that are chill and not hipster bullshit “the drugs I’m on make this song sound way better than it is” or sad. Sometimes I just want to relax with some acoustic tunes, but I don’t want to hear about someone becoming an alcoholic, rain reminding some chick of a forgotten love, or our poverty stricken world. Now my desires can be satisfied! Thank you Iggy and your duct tape pants. “Ready to Die,” jumps back into that traditional punk sound of the other songs and succeeds the same way they do. It doesn’t really stick out, but I’m sure if you blasted it, it would kick some serious ass. It just kind of randomly ends so…I guess he died. DD’s has some cool saxophone tunage and it’s a song about boobs. Ladies, you now know how much tissue paper to stuff in your bra to get back stage at a stooges concert. “Doesn’t matter if they’re real or fake.”
“Dirty Deal” has a weird guitar part. It sounds like the basement kids forgot how to use their hands while recording, but in true punk spirit, Iggy just kept it to authenticate his punk. “It’s dirty.” “Beat That Guy,” is back to that cool acousticness of “Unfriendly Love,” but even happier. It’s really Wayne’s World. They could’ve played this when Wayne sees Cassandra with the record producer guy, and Wayne is all “no way that’s my babe.”
“The Departed” is a FANTASTISCH (little German for ya courtesy von mich) song. Once again it’s acoustic, but not sad bastard. There’s a bad ass drum beat that sounds Civil War drummer boy (here’s your philosophy question of the day! What is the purpose of a drummer boy during war time. Is it motivational to have a little ‘rata tat tat’ going on in the background right before you die?) This is a really good album, but if you don’t like Iggy and Stooges anyway, this album isn’t going to change that. Anyways I’m a little skeptical of someone who doesn’t like Iggy and the Stooges because it’s the perfect outlet for angst, which we all have. If you say you don’t have angst then YOU TELL LIES! You can just make up some bull shit to be angry about, like the fact the black plague happened, or the shamu doesn’t have enough room in his tank. It’s easy to be angry! GET ALL HULK SMASH ANGRY…and then listen to this album. Ok good now break!
Select Tracks: The Departed, Unfriendly Love, Beat That Guy
By Tom Chorney, May 8th, 2013.
It can be said that, in general, I don’t like pop music. Even though, as a listener (and for this job), I try to keep my ears as open as possible, I can’t help but feel my intelligence is insulted whenever pop radio comes on. I’m not saying I don’t understand pop music today or why it exists (I have gleeful memories of listening to Radio Disney in the car as a child - thanks for soldiering on, Dad), but as old-school pretentious as it sounds, I feel my time is wasted listening to pop music when I know there are near-infinitely more songs I can listen to that I can actually get something out of, especially considering that pop nowadays is boiled down to the science of what sticks in the human ear. I’m certainly not claiming to be the first person to express this, but I feel it’s important for the sake of providing context for this review. So, here we have Charli XCX: a young English woman who, based on first (and, from I can gather, correct) impressions, wants to make modern pop music with some quality and meaning, which I see as a noble enough goal. How does she stack up? Well…
True Romance begins with “Nuclear Seasons”, containing a delightfully icy intro with the lyrics “Kids die together/No one lives forever” repeated, before giving way to the actual song, a slick pop number about enduring love. Most of her lyrics throughout have a degree of viscerality to them, something that serves the album by giving it more feeling and separates it considerably from its weak-as-water ilk. “You (Ha Ha Ha)” is a slower, punchier ode to a lost relationship, while “Take My Hand” is a lite-party-anthem delivered with real verve and well-placed and spaced electronics.
“Set Me Free (Feel My Pain)”, my pick as True Romance’s most single-capable song, is also my favorite from it; the slow-burn dub bass underpinning Charli’s lightly autotuned and harmonized vocals works wonderfully for the chorus, and her delivery is equally up to par. “I can feel my blood/Crawling through my veins”, from the chorus, is my probably favorite lyric on the album simply because of how much the feeling is conveyed through that impassioned delivery. The tracks following it, “Grins” and “So Far Away”, are pop pieces than demonstrate her ability as a songwriter more so than everything that came before and, unfortunately, comes after. Though her songs are clearly from a very personal place, they’re undercut by production that’s honestly too slick, cliché, and radio-friendly to feel the full depth of what she has to say. That said, the album concludes on a well-enough note with the sweetly sincere “Lock You Up”, and an album that begins and ends well is worth something, in my opinion.
True Romance has a lot of things I find very annoying about pop music: the suffocating compressed sound, icy synths punching in melodies I’ve heard dozens of times before, and how everything sounds just too similar to itself, to name a few. But calling Charli XCX untalented would be an egregious error, as she clearly has a vision and the means to accomplish it. Even though I expect more, the songs do their jobs and are catchy enough on their own. Hopefully, on her future material, she’ll find a way to express herself in a more original, satisfying way.
Selected Tracks: “Nuclear Seasons”, “Take My Hand”, “Set Me Free (Feel My Pain)”
Follow Tom: twitter.com/WhyShouldICare
By Jess Linde, May 1st, 2013
This was another album that, like Bowie’s The Next Day, I just kind of wanted to assume Mosquito was going to be wonderful and just write a few sentences in all caps while I awaited the arrival of my ultra-deluxe platinum vinyl edition. After all, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the first “cool” music I ever listened to (after I played “Maps” a billion times in the first Guitar Hero, an unending love was born), and I love their music and their real-life personas. Even though my heart was temporarily broken when Karen O got married back in 2011, I got over it and remained the superfan that I am today. Plus, YYY nerds like me waited for Mosquito for almost five years, and there was no reason for me to believe that the result wasn’t going to be everything I’d ever dreamed of. The totally bonkers album cover only confirmed this for me, and I got my hopes up maybe a little too high.
Mosquito gets on to a great start with “Sacrilege,” a song featuring fantastic vocals by O, creative guitar layering by Nick Zinner, and a great-as-usual drum track by Brian Chase. “Subway” and “Mosquito” are also very good, with Karen O sounding more seasoned and mature than she ever has. The production definitely stands out as well; the layers of reverb, weird sounds, and keyboards create a crazy atmosphere that I’ve never heard on a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song before. And I dig it. Nick Zinner even shreds a little on “Mosquito,” which sounds like something that would play in David Lynch’s rave club. Despite the fact that “Under the Earth” isn’t too great, “Slave” is, and honestly I can’t really complain about the former either.
But as much as I’d like to give Mosquito a perfect review, I do have to address the issue it has with consistency. Unlike the band’s last three album, there really isn’t a pattern that the songs follow. And while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, the dancey songs are pretty few and far between and come out of nowhere. Some of the longer, slower songs like “These Paths” and “Always” don’t click immediately and kind of drag. They aren’t bad songs per se, but my favorite YYY’s songs are the ones where everyone goes nuts, like “Date With the Night” and “Kiss Kiss.” Simply put, some of the slow romantic songs on the album sound like they belong in an indie movie trailer, rather than a triumphant return.
“Wedding Song” is a brilliant closer, and the lyrics here are the strongest ones on the entirety of Mosquito, as are the instruments and the production. The song is moving, memorable, and it makes me want to drive with all my windows down and the song pumped up loud. It probably kicks ass live, too. Honestly, Mosquito sounds to me like a Chromatics album, rather than the crazy hyperactivity of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ earlier career, what with the techno beats and all the reverb. And I like that. It would’ve been unreasonable to expect the band to stay the same forever, and I feel lucky that they came back in the first place.The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have become a bit like Radiohead in that when they go into the studio, they’re only going to make the music that they feel like making naturally. Works for me.
Select Tracks: “Sacrilege,” “Mosquito,” “Slave,” “Wedding Song”
By Tom Chorney, May 6th, 2013.
I’ve never been familiar with The Knife, so I can’t say how true this album is to their style, but Shaking the Habitual lives up to its name in that it certainly shakes up the notion what an album can be in 2013. I would describe its sound as “Industrial Bjork”, given that the band is Swedish siblings Karin and Olaf Dreijer. It’s not exactly easy listening, but Shaking the Habitual demands a totally-absorbed-album experience, though certain songs provide journeys all their own.
Album opener “A Tooth For An Eye” feels like a pleading, almost tribal chant with ever-shifting drum patterns guiding the way; it’s an eclectic beginning that sets up an interesting counterpoint for the songs ahead. Indeed, second track “Full of Fire”, a nine-minute menacingly funky exercise in popping beats and tension, is made all the more interesting because of its contrast with the previous song. From here, the album settles into more ambient territory with the starkly ominous “A Cherry On Top”, and then back to beat-driven material with “My Life Would Be Boring Without You” and “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” (don’t be fooled by the seemingly pleasant titles here). Clocking in at nineteen minutes and two seconds, “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized” marks the album’s midsection with a dark yet meditative calm that grows throughout the song. The rest of the album is stimulating but doesn’t stray much further from established territory.
Shaking the Habitual is a dark, asymmetrical album that incorporates sounds both familiar and odd to achieve sheer unpredictability. It may not work 100% of the time, but The Knife deserve credit for its detailed craft and stirring emotion. In spite of its overtly off-putting tone and its unconventional test of the listener’s patience, Shaking the Habitual makes a case for itself as sonic art, and The Knife sure seem intent on giving you more than your money’s worth for it (and, refreshingly, equal worth for your time).
Selected Tracks: “Full of Fire”, “Wrap Your Arms Around Me”, “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized”
Follow Tom: twitter.com/WhyShouldICare
By Nicole-Juliet Friedman, May 5, 2013
Before I even listened to Phoenix’s most recent album Bankrupt!, the album cover caught my eye— A peach and a peach blossom with a grey background—simple, but appealing and perhaps inspired by the Allman Bros album cover for Eat A Peach ? Regardless, it catches your eye and makes you wonder what the inspiration behind it was. Having always been a fan of Phoenix, I was super pumped for this album to come out. I would not call Bankrupt! overtly conceptual, but the theme of falseness based on materialism and essentially the necessity of money to well… not go Bankrupt!, definitely resonates throughout the tunes. The tracks incorporate Phoenix’s guitar synthy, fun, dancey sound, but the album has an even more 80s sound than their previous albums. Bankrupt! has less guitar based songs, but the guitar sound still has a strong presence on songs like “Bourgeois” and “Trying to Be Cool.” Again, the tracks are just synthier. Thomas Mars’ vocals are perfect as usual: adenoidal, singsong-y, appropriately soft and expressive.
What I found to be rather interesting was that the title track “Bankrupt!” was placed in the middle of the album, six minutes long and was largely instrumental with strange modulated sounds on top of a simple guitar strum, then an electro fuzz sound with bells, and then finally at the end, breathy sixty-esque vocals with arpeggio guitar strums. I liked it. It was very spacey and chill. “Drakkar Noir” was another sick track that resembled the sound of Phoenix’s last album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The song, which is about materialism and superficial impressions, titled after a well-known cologne, successfully hides the underlying message in the upbeat, fun nature of the sound. The drums on this track are powerful, pulsing and give the synth a strong backbone. Mars cries out with impassioned vocals. Another track I really liked was “Don’t” because of its upbeat drums, synth sounds, and Mars’ soft echo-y vocals. It sounds like a song that would be fun to hear live. Also I totally could envision “Trying to Be Cool” as a popular dance song at a 80s prom and perfect for an indie film soundtrack.
The thing about this album is that there are no bad songs, but there also aren’t songs that really stand out, at least not to the level that “1901,” “Lisztomania,” and “Fences” did on Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The album is just overall good and easy to listen to. I would definitely recommend this album to any current Phoenix fans as well as to new listeners because it is a fun album with a smooth flowing track order. After a listen you will be in a better mood and at the perfect mix of mellow yet hyped up.
Select tracks: “Trying to Be Cool” “Drakkar Noir” and “Don’t”
By Soraya Sebghati, April 30, 2013
The Flaming Lips are one of my favorite live bands, ever. I had the pleasure of watching them perform their interpretation of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon twice, once at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, and the second time at the Hangout Festival in Alabama. They have giant confetti blasters, laser-beam hands, a giant orb, and lots of silver pants. Musically, their stuff is very hit-or-miss. Their two strongest albums, in my opinion, are The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. I was definitely a little apprehensive about their latest album, The Terror, ever since I had first heard about it. I love these guys, but this is really not one of their best works.
The Terror really embraces the electro genre and welcomes its repetitive nature. The album opens with “Look…The Sun Is Rising,” and frankly it’s a little cacophonous. The bare riff itself is actually quite cool, and at first the album feels like it’s going to be a rocker. The drums are upbeat and awesome. Then the sounds of feedback come in to form another beat as well. I don’t usually mind this, but the song really never changes and it’s a full-length song that’s all verse. Wayne Coyne’s vocals really take a backseat on this track as well. It kind of feels like a spaceship taking off, so I guess the concept is still alive and well beneath the mess that makes up the music. The third track, “Try To Explain,” is really just a five minute long electronic oscillation with a vocal melody over it that happens to be very low in the mix. Interestingly enough, the album’s coolest song is the 13 minute track, called “You Lust.” It sounds like a Jesus and Mary Chain/Twin Shadow hybrid. It’s a fair amount of electronic instrumentation and a small amount of vocals.
I would write about the rest of the album in detail, if it were necessary. And yes, I do feel as though I should. But I really can’t. After listening to this album in its entirety, I’ve decided that I really just shouldn’t listen to it anymore. Not sober, at least. In theory, the album is really cool. In practice, it’s not. Every song flows into the next, so this could really be one very long song that’s been broken into segments. I’m pretty sure this album was meant to be listened to while on a hallucinogen of some sort. And being a wise, 19-year-old girl in the midst of finals, I’m not going to commit to that experience. If somebody else tries it, I’d really like to know about his or her experience. As much as I wanted to really like this album, I couldn’t do it. Maybe the next album will be better. I’ll hold on hope, and I’ll keep on liking everything Wayne Coyne posts on Instagram, so do not fret.
Select Tracks: “Look…The Sun Is Rising,” “Be Free, A Way,” “You Lust”
By Aaron Lorick, April 25, 2013
Former G.O.O.D. Music rapper and songwriter, Kid Cudi, returns to the hip hop and rap world with his 3rd solo album, Indicud: a self-produced 18 track music phenomenon of artistic independence.
With features like Kendrick Lamar, The RZA, Haim, Too $hort, A$AP Rocky, and Michael Bolton all positively add to Cudi’s eclectic style of making music and Indicud itself. Every guest feature served their purpose and exceled in what Cudi provided for them; everyone except King Chip. The first you hear of Chip is on “Just What I Am” which has been the lead single of Indicud since October 2012. He occurred quite often for this being a Kid Cudi album and wasn’t as impressionable as The RZA or Too $hort were. Haim appeared on the boom-clap electronic jam “Red Eye” where they pretty much sang the song entirely.
Cudi maximizes what seems to be every synth, drum, and snare on Indicud which often compromises certain aspects of the album as opposed to enhancing the overall listening experience. “Afterwards” which features the likes of Chip (again!) and notable rock legend Michael Bolton, is tuneless, boring, and long. “Mad Solar” and “Unfuckwittable” are very moody and sloppy—which if you’re into, you’ll enjoy. The production efforts aren’t that impressive on this album. “Burn Baby Burn” and “Lord Of The Sad And Lonely” are definitely the best songs of the latter half of Indicud. The repetitive sounds found in both songs work to their advantage. The unique part of “Burn Baby Burn” is the lack of a traditional chorus, until the end:
“Niggas think I’m living life paranoid/Muthafuck that mayne!/Oh they got me twisted, they don’t know that boy/Muthafuck that mayne/I’m just getting busy, killin’ it, I’m getting busy/Muthafuck them mayne!/Now it’s time to watch ‘em/Burn baby burn” “Lord Of The Sad And Lonely” is a journey of psychedelic synth formations that makes you feel like you’re on acid. His verses are perfect for this song.
He’s at this point in his career where’s he’s over-compensating for something. Fans, such as myself, will justify the style and sound of Indicud as “classic Kid Cudi” when it’s really an ego trip. Like his mentor Kanye West, Cudi doesn’t give a fuck; and that’s the theme behind this album. Indicud is an ambitious and artistic triumph for Kid Cudi and an appeasing musical effort for fans, but isn’t something to debut for new fans. Had he reached out to certain producers and kept his camp small, Cudi could’ve done something really special with Indicud. Instead we got an overly hyped return-to-rap album. If you’re already a Cudi fan, you’ll enjoy it.
Select tracks: “Lord Of The Sad And Lonely”, “Immortal”, “Beez”, “King Wizard” “Solo Dolo Part II”
By Jess Linde, April 24, 2013
I’m not gonna lie, I don’t remember how I first heard of the metal band known as Ghost (now Ghost B.C. for legal reasons), but for the sake of getting this review going I’m going to say I was contacted by the Satanic spirit of frontman Papa Emeritus. The Padre and his clergy of Nameless Ghouls spoke to my constant need for new stuff through their crazy aesthetics, seventies sound, and surprisingly smooth vocals. Yes, Ghost (B.C.) is not one for the grinding guitar or the terrifying screams, but that didn’t prevent their 2011 debut Opus Eponymous from being one of the best metal albums of that year. In a world where most metal is pushing the boundaries of “extreme,” these guys did their own thing and I welcomed it.
Now it’s 2013. We survived the Mayan apocalypse, Papa Emeritus evolved into his second, black-clad incarnation, and Ghost added the B.C. to release Infestissumam. To be brutally honest, it was kinda anticlimactic. You see, I remember Opus Eponymous. I have the CD, I’ve recommended it to a bunch of people, and songs like “Con Clavi Con Dio” and “Ritual” are mainstays of my metal playlist on iTunes. That isn’t to say that Infestissumam is bad, but I read that the band decided to become a little more accessible and Kiss-esque in their music, and that is definitely apparent. The Satan stuff is a little more cartoonish and melodramatic, and the seventies sound has drifted away from Black Sabbath towards more classic hard rock.
And like I said, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just that the songs on Infestissumam are not memorable. Sure, “Secular Haze” is fun occult-metal-lite and “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” is seven minutes of rock opera awesomeness, but the album as a whole is lackluster. The riffs are very simplistic, and the choruses aren’t that fun, and for some reason the keyboard is louder than the guitar throughout the whole thing. As a result the record becomes kinda samey, and I felt the songs blur together several times. It feels like a concept album that has no concept.
So overall, Ghost B.C.’s long-awaited return isn’t much to get excited about, but I don’t think it’s much to get mad about either. Infestissumam is a definite stumble on the part of the band, but they haven’t gone full Metallica quite yet. Hell I still bought the CD after listening to it on spotify several times, so that says something. Ghost B.C. is a band that blew up quick and still needs to find themselves. They have a major label behind them now so they do need to think about selling records, but I hope they don’t let that rule them. The metal world needs more interesting stuff like Opus Eponymous, and less stuff like Songs From the Elder.
Select Tracks: “Secular Haze,” “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” “Monstrance Clock”