Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Atoms for Peace - Amok (XL, 2013)

Atoms for Peace

Rating: 5 drug addled candles out of 10

I'm attempting to give a shit about this record by Atoms for Peace, and I'm not succeeding.  It's not bad it's just...there.  For those not aware this band features Thom Yorke and Flea and some other randoms and basically sounds like Radiohead outtakes.  Yeah, you could do worse but that isn't saying much is it?  Just listen to a Radiohead record.  If you need more than that, just pretend Thom Yorke is wearing those stuffed animal pants Flea wears in Young MC's "Bust a Move" video.  That sounds a lot more fun.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hayden - Us Alone (Arts & Crafts, 2013)

Us Alone
Arts & Crafts

Rating: 7.5 corn chip nail tips out of 10

I'm not sure I've paid any attention to Hayden since 2001's "Skyscraper National Park," and to be honest the only album of his I listened to a lot was his debut from 1996, "Everything I Long For."  I always enjoyed his sound, but then I'd forget about him as soon as I stopped listening.  I'd make a joke about this being because he is Canadian, but my love of Barzin and Neil Young and the Constantines prevents me from making Canadian jokes with a straight face.  

This new record of his, "Us Alone," makes me realize I probably never should have stopped paying attention.  Honestly, it doesn't sound that much different from that first record of his I heard over 15 years ago, but there is a warmth and honesty to his music that always makes it feel fresh to me.  This record could have come out at any time in his career, but I'm really happy to be hearing it right now.   Like always the instrumentation is very sparse (for some reason I thnk of him as the Canadian country-folk version of Low, but it's highly likely I'm the only person on the planet who thinks that), the tempos slow, and Hayden's deep voice feels very comforting.  I'm especially fond of the album opener "Motel," and my favorite track is "Old Dreams," which has a melody that worms it's way into your head for days after you hear it.  

I probably need to start digging into his back catalog, to see what I've missed this past decade...

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Mary Onettes - Hit the Waves (Labrador, 2013)

The Mary Onettes
Hit the Waves

Rating: 7.5 vinyl johnsons out of 10

It's been a few years now and I still can't get over the fact that The Mary Onettes are not a garage pop band with a female singer.  The name is just goddamn confusing when compared to the music.  And the music, like the band, feels very very Swedish.  

I had the most random thought while listening to this record - if this band were thirty years older, they'd probably be performing with Midnight Oil.  Why Midnight Oil?  I have no idea.  I think I heard their hit song "Beds are Burning" recently and they've been stuck in my head since.  Their fucking singer is just as creepy to me now as he was when I was a kid and once convinced myself he was in the woods with me on one dark night.  Anyways, the Mary Onettes don't sound anything like Midnight Oil, instead more like a very poppy version of the Cure.  They have a very cool, keyboard and synth driven sound - and by cool I don't mean hip, though that probably also applies.  It sounds like music for a breezy fall afternoon.  

I actually quite like this, and provided I can get over the name I could see this getting a lot of spins over the next few months. 

Radar Bros. - Eight (Merge, 2013)

Radar Bros.

Rating: 6 strong backs out of 10

You'd never know it from the title of the album, but that is the eighth record the Radar Bros. have released.  Is it possible for a band to sound like an area?  Because all I've ever been able to think of when I hear these guys is the central valley of California.  Maybe it's because they remind me of a slightly countrified version of Grandaddy with a tinge of Pink Floyd; maybe it's because I actually saw them once in a neat old theater in some run down central valley town, opening for Grandaddy; or maybe I'm just full of shit.  All valid reasons.  

I've only given this a few listens, but it isn't punching me in the ears like many of their past releases have.  I highly doubt they ever top the outstanding "The Singing Hatchet" from 1999, an all-time favorite of mine, but fairly or unfairly I always have that benchmark in the back of my head.  That's not to say this is a bad record by any measure, but when I listen to "Eight" it makes me want to put on "Hatchet." 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Maston - Shadows (Trouble in Mind, 2013)

Trouble in Mind

Rating: 7 tangled cords out of 10

Trouble in Mind have been on a real roll putting out quality psychedelic pop records lately - the stunning Jacco Gardner release is my favorite of the year so far, and this record "Shadows" by Maston is a damn nice release itself.  Maston is apparently Frank Maston, a kid from LA who is looking backwards to make his forward and enjoyable music.  The music almost has a "space age lounge" vibe to it ala Combustible Edison, though much more pop and not as jazzy as those cats were.  Do the kids even have any idea who Combustible Edison are anymore?  Maybe if I make a reference to later-era Beach Boys minus the harmonizing vocals, that will get better response.  Hell, you could almost even throw a Burt Bacharach comparison in there if you wanted to.  The only real difference is the vocals - Maston has a fine voice, and he pairs it with quite a bit of effects, but he's obviously no Bacharach or Brian Wilson - but few people are.  It's gotten to the point that I will listen to anything Trouble in Mind releases, because they never let me down anymore.  Great label. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Shout Out Louds - Optica (Merge, 2013)

Shout Out Louds

Rating: 6.5 proper goodbyes out of 10

I'm at a loss as how to classify Shout Out Louds - there is no easily identifiable genre name for their music, despite there being plenty of bands that fit in this niche.  Adult-oriented, mature pop with a heavy gloss to it but still not sounding overly commercial or, well, cheeseball.  The Swedes seem particularly adept at this sound, the Shout Out Louds probably being the very best.  Or maybe Acid House Kings.  Let's just call it a tie.  Anyways, good record...loved their first two, not sure I even listened to their third; this one is a step below those first two, but I'm not talking about any huge drop off.  I don't really have anything more fruitful to say here - good, mature pop.

Mount Moriah - Miracle Temple (Merge, 2013)

Mount Moriah
Miracle Temple

Rating: 7 wifi passwords out of 10

Being a local band here to the Triangle, I've followed Mount Moriah from very early in their inception.  It makes me both happy and sad to see them signed to Merge and getting greater recognition around the country.  Selfishly, the shows are not only less frequent locally, but much less intimate; but I'm incredibly happy for the band, as they definitely deserve it.  

I'm not in love with "Miracle Temple" the way I was with their self-titled record from 2011.  And I would have been highly surprised and impressed if I was, as that record is one of my favorite things of the last few years.  Nothing stands out on this one the way "Lament" did on the first album, but it's a very strong record from start to finish.  My favorite song is actually the last one, "Telling the Hour," an interesting inclusion as a live version of this track was released as far back as their "The Letting Go" EP - the first thing they ever released as a band as far as I know.  

This is still likely to be one of my favorite records of the year, but it;s definitely a grower compared to past albums.  And let it be said if you were to give bonus points to a record review based on a band's live performances, this one would be ranked beyond perfect.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bleached - Ride Your Heart (Dead Oceans, 2013)

Ride Your Heart
Dead Oceans

Rating: 7 banana runts out of 10

Bleached set a pretty damn high bar with the release of the seven inch "Carter" in 2011, specifically because of the song "Think of You."  One of the catchiest tracks of the last few years by any band for my money.  I'm not entirely sure their first full-length "Ride Your Heart" quite measures up, but it comes a lot damn closer than I ever expected.  Their sound has matured and gotten a lot "cleaner" - not sure if this was intentional, the natural progression of a young band growing, or just the by-product of recording on better equipment.  There is nothing on this record quite at the earworm level of "Think of You," but "Dead in Your Head," "Waiting by the Telephone," and "Love Spells" all put in a good effort.  I'm fully on the fence over this release right now - is this a quick sugary fix or will I still be listening six months from now?  Only time will answer that.  One thing is for sure - if you're looking for sunshiney California alterna-pop with a small nod towards sixties girl group harmonies, you could do a hell of a lot worse.