Posted in: Music Reviews

Dirty Beaches – Badlands (2011 Zoo Music)

Badlands cover

When I first heard True Blue from Dirty Beaches’ Sweet 16 EP, I have to say I was impressed. The romantic tone and undulating guitars made me want to sit by a fire on a beach at dusk, wrapped in a musty blanket with my best-girl, listening to the waves crash. It was just this over-romanticized vision of 1950s sound that got me hooked. As a sound, it was fresh and really got me interested.

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The Badlands album, however, suffers from too much of a good thing. While an EP of fuzzed out rockabilly guitars is fun, a full albums worth of difficult to decipher eclectic low-fi is a little hard on the ears. Sure there are some interesting moments on Badlands, but after about 4 songs — you get it. You get the whole thing. You think, I hope this changes a little from the predictability of the “dadada-dada-dadada-dada” and it doesn’t. It holds tight — to a fault.

Even wonderful songs like Lord Knows Best begin to grate on your nerves after the repetition of the 5 songs before it. I want to like this album, because I really have been looking forward to it, but as an album it doesn’t hold up. It stubbornly marches to the end without the love or joy you might have expected from the standouts like True Blue or Lord Know Best. By the end, Black Nylon and Hotel gave me distinct impression I was being asked to leave the beach I had so enjoyed hearing snapshots of before.

Rating: 40/100
Released: March 28, 2011

The King of Limbs – Radiohead

Radiohead surprised everyone today and released their new album The King of Limbs. Fans in the states cheered to have the album a full day early, from scheduled release, to celebrate an unusual warm snap. Spring had come early, complete with it’s own soundtrack. Somehow it felt right.

However not all people were as happy as the fans. Reviewers, surprised by the sudden release, scrambled to have some sort of reviews online. Some snarky reviews even pointed a finger at the band.

“Radiohead’s release schedule is not, you imagine, geared towards helping music critics. Minimal warnings, last-minute changes of plan and confusing announcements posted on Twitter in Japanese – does Thom Yorke not realise we have tight deadlines? The end result is a mad-rush by critics, bloggers and Tweet-freaks to be first to post their opinion on The King of Limbs’ eight tracks. Trouble is, Radiohead don’t make music designed for a hurried listen. A couple more plays down the line and the opinions you read here may be subject to change.” – Radiohead – The King of Limbs: First review

The truth is, while Radiohead may not have shattered every soundscape ever conceived with The King of Limbs they did do one thing which is an innovation in the music industry, not one solitary copy of The King of Limbs was leaked to file-sharing services. Not one review came out ahead of time. This album came out at the same time for everyone – you, me, reviewers, and the thieves. I have never heard of in the past 15 years any major album, by a major band no less, not get ratted out by some unscrupulous reviewer’s copy finding it’s way on the net.

This was a media blackout in the best way possible, and I for one was glad not to have reviewers barking their opinions at me. When did we as music listeners stop making our own decisions about what music we like or dislike by how it effected us upon our first unfettered listen. Why must EVERYTHING we consume need to be put in context by some know-it all who tells us why and how we should appreciate it. Art is about making your own mind up about what you are experiencing and no professional who spent years at journalism school is going to change that.

Today was an amazing day not just because of what I heard, but mostly because of what I didn’t.

All Delighted People EP – Sufjan Stevens

Everybody’s favorite musical noodler is back at it with what can be considered a rocker… for him. Sure it’s whispery and filled with all the over-lavish overlapping lutes you’d expect from Sufjan Stevens, it also is the most direct album Stevens has made in a while. All Delighted People while full of the polite Simon & Garfunkle plucking guitars has a finger pointed out – at you, rather than toward you.

Unfortunately, there is a little too much signature musical and vocal noodling, which leaves the album feeling more like an idea rather than a statement. Nothing exemplifies this more than the unconvincing electronic passages, which sound more like Sufjan expressing his amateurish appreciation of the form, rather than its mastery. While All Delighted People is gorgeously produced, as we have come to expect, it left me feeling that Stevens is dealing with a real identity crisis between being an singer-songwriter and his newfound place as a classical composer. Songs such as “All Delighted People (Classic Rock Version)” promise a focus back on Sufjan’s roots, but the 8 minute track is a meandering composition and neither classic or rock.

While there are beautiful moments to All Delighted People which will make a listen enjoyable, the album follows Sufjan farther down the avante-guard hole he fell into after Illinoise. More strings, more production, less structure.

Rating: 60/100

Gnarls Barkley – Run (Single)

Gnarls Barkley Run Run
Gnarls Barkley
:5 Stars:
2008

If you kids haven’t already — beg, steal, and borrow the new Gnarls Barkey single “Run” off their next full length “The Odd Couple”. If this is any indication of their vision let me be the first to drink the punch. Gnarls Barley are making an early move for song of the year.

Oh and the single is available from a few sources including iTunes (bleh! not going to even include a link) or our preferred Amazon with no DRM! Or you can search the internets like ninjas for illegal copies because we all know we’re buying the album when it hits.

The Eraser – Thom Yorke

The Eraser The Eraser
Thom Yorke
:4 Stars:
2006

As a band Radiohead is one of those groups which, while my father had bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, innovated and never did the same thing twice. Radiohead has never served the same meal under a different name. Each and every album Radiohead has put out since Pablo Honey has asked the listeners to trust their vision and to accept that you have never heard anything like this before and it sounds nothing like the last album.

The Eraser, however, is a bit of a step back towards the computer-y blips of Kid A. While it may not be a complete departure from the past, this also isn’t completely Radiohead.

The album is dark, as you would expect from Thom, but also seems more personal. It sounds like one guy singing into a computer, which is trying desperately to comfort him. There aren’t too many surprises here for Radiohead fans, the album is lovely to listen to, but isn’t something you will find yourself humming on the supermarket line.

Oddly the I feel this album would do much better if it would have been release a little later in the year, closer to the fall. It’s not a great pool party, anthem driven, fist pump-fest, but then again that’s not really Thom Yorkes M.O. And you probably have Gnarls Barkley for that slot this year.

Long and the Short, pick it up. You’ll be glad you did later on.

Loney, Dear – Sologne (2006)

Sologne - Loney, Dear Sologne
Loney, Dear
:4 Stars:
2006

Scandinavians have more fun. They live longer and they eat fish in shit you really shouldn’t. No wonder that they create more pop than a milk flood at the Rice Crispies factory. Sure they have that strange pronunciation thing going on, but there is something addictive to a culture singing in a second language… shit there are some rappers who were born here and can’t even sing in English.

So in rolls in Loney, Dear a band with a name that has punctuation in the middle of it! I mean a comma?! Now those are some scandinavian balls.

The music on Sologne is quirky, but not because of the second language thing. It’s very intentional. It’s dreamy soft landscape of layered vocals that seems to work, even if a bit clunkily. The feeling of the album is very like Adem’s Homesongs. Sure there’s a bit of a vocab block with the lyrics where your not sure the singer is being simplistic or just out of words to use, but that is kind of the charm. The album is a bit of a scandinavian haiku where poetry is created in simple metaphor. The songs are dense and have a non-traditional feel to them, often containing little surprises in songs that add to the the delight of the record.

Now I’m not sure this album will make it to my years’ top 10, but it’s definitely a nice little discovery which might make mix-tape to that girl at the flowershop a bit more magical… not that I am making a mix-tape for her, I’m just saying hypothetically… you know…

The City, The Airport

Field Music – Field Music

Field Music - Field Music Field Music
:4 Stars:
2005

Now I’m not sure how you feel about Steely Dan. Some hate them because of their 70’s stylings, but if you can keep in mind how rocking their tunes are, you can quickly fall in love with each of their enchanting little songs. My dad used to listen to Steely Dan and I used to chastise him for his choice in music, but now I see that maybe I was a little young to truly appreciate their true rockitude.

Field Music is a band which comes off as a very influenced by the open and seemingly seamless blending of off-beat melodies that made Steely Dan so great, but with the edginess of Futureheads. A quick listen to the album reveals that none of their songs follow any traditional pop-rock formulas, but their melodies are infectious. from the opening track “If Only The Moon Were Up” the driving baseline mixed with spare guitar and piano creates a sound which is unfamiliar, but instantly likable.

Where this album succeeds is not doing the expected and keeping each song carefully balanced. “Tell Me Keep Me” starts off with an unattractive start that by the 8th bar has grown melodic and it’s mid song freak-out lasts only as long as it has to. This is the work of artists who know what they are doing.

This is a great little album which I would definitely recommend to anyone with a few bucks to spend. -They are also available through emusic which makes them a steal!

h4. Favorite Songs: 6, 5, 2, 12

Laura Veirs – Year of Meteors

Laura Viers - Year of Meteors Year of Meteors
:4 Stars:
Nonesuch 2005

There are just some artist that can break into your head through your ears and churn up deeply hidden memories with a well placed lyric. Jeff Tweedy, Sufjan Stevens, Nina Nastasia have this ability for me. Each of them delivers an unaffected honesty to their music which breaks through my tempered walls to my soft gooey middle.

On Laura Viers’ latest album Year of Meteors she manages to construct a dizzying barrage of heartfelt down-tempo melody. Although, I am new to Ms. Viers and have only recently started listening to her back catalog, this album seems to be the fruition of her past exploits. The sound is exceptionally mature with a solo breathy soulful tone.

Year of Meteors is a fantastic record with some incredible songs that paint an unforgettable picture of a melancholy landscape.

Editors – Back Room

Editors Editors
The Back Room
:2 Stars:
Kitchenware 2005

Eh? Who the hell are the Editors you might be asking. Well if moody rock were wheat production in the midwest, these guys would be connecticut. They are not particularly memorable and I kind of get the feeling this band is England’s attempt to show ownership of the sound Interpol stole away. Their lyrics are trite and poppy without much substance and seem to land fairly flatly against the Killers influenced pop rock beats.

Unfortunately, the band just doesn’t do anything for me. I tried, but nothing connected with me; not the beats, not the vocals, not the lyrics, not the personality, not the tone, not even the production.

I liked this band better when it was called Interpol.

(GONG!)

but you don’t Have to take my word for it.

Voxtrot – Raised By Wolves EP

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Voxtrot

:4 Stars:

2005 on Cult Hero Records

Packing in the polish you might expect from veteran musicians, Austin Texas’ Voxtrot sparkle on their debut effort Raised By Wolves EP available for order at voxtrot.net. The 5 track EP shines from it’s opening track Raised by Wolves, it’s well manicured playing and confident vocals avoids easy formula for a complex arrangement of British pop inspired layered guitar and drum and the theme continues through the rest of the album. The 60s pop inspired Start of Something with the lead singer Ramesh’s Morresy like crooning also stands out as a uniquely catchy track while not being derivative. Each track on the EP is a truly impressive.

Voxtrot

However, the real treat is for those that attend their live shows which are truly impressive. The band is tight and has an honesty which is intoxicating. The band comes off much more like siblings than band mates. The lead singer Ramesh Srivastava has a presence which is deceptively innocent as his voice carries sweet sophisticated melodies while bunny hopping from note to note.

Check their website for tour dates.

But Don’t Just Take My Word For It:

Three Imaginary Girls

Mundane Sounds

Austin Chronicle