Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tune in to FM Belfast's debut

FM Belfast - "How to Make Friends
- out Feb. 2
3.5 / 5

This pastel-colored debut from Icelandic FM Belfast launches with an electronica/ dance vibe. While most of us assume it is simply too cold to dance in Iceland (fooled again: you were thinking of misnamed Greenland), the foreign (mostly) four-piece swagger as if they owned the genre; "Frequency" struts a la Travolta, and "I Can Feel Love" makes even the cowbell hip. To compare to other recent albums in the genre, Yeah Yeah Yeah's "It's Blitz" and TV on the Radio's "Dear Science" both upstage Belfast here especially on the post-production layering. But while "Friends" can use just a bit more layering and general craziness, it still gets one thing right: unique, singable, hip-swaying hooks. And here they excel, as hardly a single song lacks the basic quintessence of joy in the chorus, which is definitely a good sign. A solid core, it just needs a little more experience. (We're looking forward to the next release and the one after.) Recommended.

Listen to "Lotus":

Monday, January 25, 2010

"Causers of This" causes little commotion

Toro y Moi - "Causers of This"
Carpack Records
-out Feb 2
2.5 / 5

The debut full-length album from Columbia, SC based Toro y Moi takes a more pop-oriented, Animal Collective flavor on electronica. The first few opening tracks, up to and including "Imprint After," are interesting pastiches of electronic work, falsetto, and upbeat rhythms; while they don't exactly make you want to get up and groove them hard, they still satisfy in a laid-back sort of way. At "Lissoms" and "False Shadow," however, is where the spell seems to break: constant reverse and stop effects drown out the natural music that should flow from these songs. These effects don't seem to complement, but rather detract from what is going on; to compare to the masters of multiple layered effects, Animal Collective, what is lacking here is a solid cohesion and a purpose to these effects, and the result is similar to New England stop-and-go traffic. While props should be given for the attempt from the critical point of view, a careful buyer may find these latter tracks to be a collective of somewhat frustrating studio effects. A good start, but a lackluster finish; pass.

Listen to "Talamak":

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Take good care of Silent League's "Caretaker"

The Silent League - "But You've Always Been the Caretaker"
Something in Construction Records
-out Jan 26
4 / 5

The Brooklyn septet's third album is a grand, loosely conceptual affair. The opening, "WHEN STARS ATTACK!!" is the kind of intro that would put a smile on Wayne Coyne's face (circa 1999); it is gorgeous and glorious, perhaps a bit overstated, but definitely in a good, operatic way. Why, then, do they devolve into "Yours Truly, 2095," the following track? It seems all the great intentions should build into something better than mainstream pop chock with superfluous effects and annoying auto-tuned vocals. This is the biggest gripe on an album that otherwise delivers in a Flaming Lips 90s fashion; "There is a Caretaker in the Woods" and "Here's a Star" help to round out the aforementioned stumble, and if you find time to sit down, then it's probably a good time to take in the Silent League. For fans of calm, slightly introspective indie rock ("Yours Truly" excepted); recommended.

Listen to "When Stars Attack!!":

Monday, January 18, 2010

"In this Light" just doesn't shine

The Editors - "In This Light and on This Evening"
Plus One Records
-out today (US)
3 / 5

With the help of Depeche Mode producer Mark "Flood" Ellis comes post-punk outfit the Editors on their third full-length release. There is heavy synth here and melodramatic vocals, not unlike the 'Mode, and a strong 80s flavor to it. "Papillon's" strong dance beat makes it a quick favorite on this album, but the rest of the material here, while decent, doesn't tend to stick out. Perhaps it's the constant heavy synth, or the similar structure to the songs. Ultimately, an album should jut out more, should have more personality, and we think you deserve better. Not bad, but it can be a bit droning and repetitive for our tastes. Pass. (Original release: Europe, 10-17-09)

Friday, January 15, 2010

What's with these numbers...?

So you're right. You spotted them right away; good for you. It's an exercise in your ability to count to five. But seriously, we hope the new system this year will give you a better idea of what's your money's worth.

Another change we want to bring to you: another writer. What...?! Wouldn't that person have to be mad as well? Well... perhaps, but mostly, they just need the following:
-A brief introductory email
-2-3 samples, either interviews or CD reviews in the same style
-The ability to subdue a small, rabid mongoose

So shoot it to that email address up above in the webpage heading. Keep in mind: it's not for pay, but you'll get music and a byline. If you're not in the business, a 'byline' means you'll get credit for what you write. Yeah. Credit.
Let the wild application process start!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

These Mountains Are too Safe

Shapes Stars Make - "These Mountains Are Safe"
-out Jan 19
3 / 5

Dallas-based Shapes Stars Make approach the music-listening world with their first full-length, "These Mountains Are Safe." This music is spacious, paced, gradual, and in some ways, slow. But hear us out: for the more ambient-minded, this may be the right pace of rock for you. Nonetheless, it feels restrained, and not always in a good way; the music presented here is perfect for that penultimate track to that conceptual album where you need to space out just a bit before the ending. But as is, "Mountains" doesn't supply much of an arc or variety enough for many repeated listens, though it has enough merit for the occasional in-the-mood spin. Good for the fan of the slow-build, but otherwise a bit simple and ponderous. Pleasant, but take a pass.

Listen to "Le Dodici":

Monday, January 11, 2010

"Blue Colour" far more than OK

OK Go - "Of the Blue Colour of the Sky"
Capitol Records
- out tomorrow
4.5 / 5

With five years since their pop-oriented "Oh No," Chicago's OK Go takes a heavier turn on their third full-length, "Of the Blue Colour of the Sky." If we were to characterize the colo(u)r of this album, it would be dark, distortion blue; and if we were to characterize how good it is, it'd be more than OK. While it should be noted there are explicit lyrics, and this album starts right away a touch darker ("the kinda thrill that could just kill you," from opener "WTF?") it is ultimately uplifting (to an extent) and deeply rewarding. We like to think of it in terms of early TV on the Radio (distorted and somewhat angry), and Wilco's "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" (angular and poppy); both mix together like harsh paints on a palette. Take the pop-centric "All Is Not Lost," the brightest track of the bunch, is guitar-heavy and refreshingly sober and gorgeous. "White Knuckles" receives high commendations from us as well, and while the album takes a little getting used to, it is deep as the dark hue of a still lake; fantastic and breath-capturing. Recommended.

Listen to "All Is Not Lost":

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Spend a weekend (or two) with Vampires

Vampire Weekend - "Contra"
XL Recordings
- out Jan 12
3.5 / 5

With a pastiche of Animal Collective electronica comes the second full-length from Vampire Weekend, the ambitious and playful "Contra." Right now, it's that opener "Horchata" that's got us grooving: pure, blissful beeps and boops; light lyrics a la Fun. (the band). It's light and poppy, and pretty easy to get into "Contra," but it lands somewhat closer to Fun. than AC when it comes to musical complexity; that's to say that it's not as deep as we'd like it to be. Nonetheless, you get quality singles such as the one above and "Run," which hails back to our Pacman days texturally speaking (in a good way). It's not all smooth sailing here, with the somewhat insubstantial "Holiday" and the cluttered "California English" included being easy enough to skip; nonetheless, the average listener could spin this for a couple weeks easily. In short, not as deep as we'd like, but fluffy and fun enough to merit your time and your Hamilton (that's approx. $10). Recommended.

Listen to: "Horchata":