Grizzly BearIt says it all. I recently got to see them live in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago and it has become my favorite concert that I have been to, ever. They use reverb like it’s going out of fashion and more people sing in the band than CSNY, well they’re tied. Anyway they have a very unique sound and I am very excited to see where they will be going in the future.

I highly recommend them, and I would start with songs like “Two Weeks” and “Knife.” If you like, then try some deeper cuts like “Little Brother” (Yellow House or Friend EP are both wonderful) and “Colorado.” I don’t care how you listen to them, just do it!

For all you Twilight fans, they will be appearing on the New Moon soundtrack with a new song “Slow Life” with a guest appearance by Beach House singer Victoria Legrand (Who also appeared on “Two Weeks”). I have heard a little sampling from the Amazon.com page and I already lie a lot

Pitchfork.com had them play two songs from their most recent effort: Vectatimest. Both of the songs are quite beautiful, Now Listen! http://pitchfork.com/tv/#/episode/2043-grizzly-bear/1

aaaaaaaArtist: Kid Cudi (ft. Ratatat)

Album: Man on the Moon: The End of Day

Released: September 15, 2009

Label: Universal Motown Records

I have been following Ratatat for some years now and they are one of the most under appreciated entities in rock, hip hop, and electronic circles.  Kid Cudi is an up and coming rapper who has a knack for melody as well as some really lyrically intriguing material.  A rare combination in the rap industry.  Ratatat’s two mixtapes have created a lot of commotion in the online community and their production skills are unquestionable.  They also produced Kid Cudi’s hit “Pursuit of Happiness,” which will no doubt achieve an “overplayed” status soon enough.

This track does not include MGMT, who are almost more of a distraction than they are a worthy addition to “Pursuit of Happiness.”  “Alive” is less catchy vocally than the aforementioned hit, but it is bass heavy, melodic though dark, and practically hypnotic.  It is everything I would expect from producer/musicians like Ratatat and increases my interest in Kid Cudi.  His will be an exciting career to follow.  Now listen.

FolgateArtist: Madness

Album: The Liberty of Norton Folgate

Released: August 18, 2009

Label: Yep Roc

Madness was responsible for filling much of Britain’s billboard charts during the early 1970s to mid 80s.  In fact, they hold the record – along with UB40 – for most weeks spent by a group in the 1980s UK singles charts: 214 weeks.  Arguably one of the greatest ska bands ever, this goofy ensemble was also the author of the international hit “Our House,” which was so popular it inspired a musical by the same name.  The group broke up while recording a new album in 1988 citing artistic differences, but continued to reunite for their Madstock festivals and several other events.  In 1999 they released Johnny the Horse to moderate success.  Then in 2007 Madness announced a new tour and the result of their last two years together is a masterpiece.

The Liberty of Norton Folgate is an intimidating 2-disc testament to the evolution of Madness.  Although still arguably within their 2 Tone style, the album is breaks largely from their old sound and defies easy genre identification.  The Liberty of Norton Folgate begins with an overture almost reminiscent of Mussorgsky, but transitions smoothly into “We Are London.”  That second track pulses with heavy bass and keyboards, punctuated by the horns’ flashing melody.  “We Are London” makes it clear that the band found a new sound, but retained their skill and arguably improved on it.  “Forever young” provides a whisper of the old Madness and moves into “Dust Devil,” which sounds the most like their older work.  Guess what?  It’s their single for the album.  But since being radio friendly is no crime and the group’s former niche, it is carried out with a grace befitting their experience from bludgeoning the radio industry with hits during the 70s and 80s.  However, “Dust Devil” still fits snugly into The Liberty of Norton Folgate along with stranger songs like the title track.

“The Liberty of Norton Folgate” finishes the first disc with an astonishing 10 plus minutes of ska.  Topping the glorious vocals of “On the town” with its sweeping piano, and “Clerkenwell Polka” with it’s insane beat and shouting, the title track of the album is probably the most epic piece of ska ever written.  This is not a word that is generally applied to ska music either, but this track earns it.  Pictures of London streets are painting in Madness’ dark and haunting music.  This is not the madness of youth, but the madness of a wild age and a city of split personality.  Breaking into whistling and a piano having a romp through the song, Madness sings of the freeing effect of the “Technicolor world” most people live in.  The track picks up momentum and carries on its opus into a confrontation of immigration in Britain and the fears of its inhabitants.  Strings and a chorus back up the singer’s description of the conditions immigrants fight through and their need to belong and seek freedom.

As bands grow and mature, especially the more popular ones, the pattern seems to be to write increasingly more contemporary music.  Once that plateau is reached, the group continues to write skillfully, but they succumb to the influence of experience and the almost homogenous synthesis of the vast amounts of music they have come to know and play.  After years of residing within nostalgia and even cover concerts under the band name The Dangermen, Madness have reinvented themselves and produced an album of true craft.

empireofthesun

Artist: Empire of the Sun

Album: Walking on a Dream

Released: October 4, 2008

Label: EMI

 

I have listened to this song so many times it became funny again after it wasn’t even funny. Empire of the Sun is a collaboration between two guys I have never heard of (Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore) from a country I have never heard of (Australia). Their album “Walking on a Dream” captured my attention due to the album cover’s awesomeness, horribleness, what have you, either way the cover got my attention. On many occasions the cover means nothing to me; many album covers are covers that only mothers could love, this one comes to mind. But that doesn’t mean the music is horrible.

To make a long story shorter, I looked up Empire of the Sun and liked what I heard. There are some great tracks on the album; most notable being “We Are the People” and “Half Mast” but the song that got my booty shakin’ and quakin’ was the title track, “Walking on a Dream.” It is catchier than an addicting substance sipped through a crazy straw.

I don’t want to compare the duo to MGMT but it is easy to do so even if their music is not necessarily that similar. Empire of the Sun’s songs are electronic but have too much guitar to be electronic, you know what I mean? You don’t? Well than just listen to the song.

Actor Review

April 21, 2009

st-vincent-actor-album-art2Artist: St. Vincent

Album: Actor

Released: May 5, 2009

Label: 4AD

 

First of all, I would just like to ask: why hadn’t I heard of this woman until now?!

Apparently her 2007 debut “Marry Me” generated a lot of hype; however, clearly not enough.  I obtained that album in order to hear it in its entirety before listening through her impending release: “Actor.”  The most arresting thing throughout the album by far is Annie Clark’s voice.  I have a feeling she could sing “Over the Rainbow” and put Judy Garland to shame.  At times I began thinking I was listening to one of the incredible singers of the 50s like Ella Fitzgerald, but before I could slip completely into that notion I’d be bowled over by a discordant guitar and/or a sporadic drum break.

Annie Clark’s arrangements are hard to describe mostly because of their strangeness. The oddity of her writing is somewhat inherent, as she combines guitar, strings, various percussion, brass, piano, and the list goes on.  Upon investigation, I found that Clark was a guitarist for Polyphonic Spree, and then in Sufjan Stevens’ touring band.  This is some serious indie cred, but then she played drums, bass, and guitar on “Marry Me,” proving she is a skilled multi-instrumentalist to boot.

Her upcoming record “Actor” has been posted on NPR Music as separate tracks, and all of them are there and free to listeners.  Most of the instruments heard on “Actor” are still played by Clark, but her collaborators include musicians who have played for Sufjan Stevens, Bjork, and Phillip Glass, while her producer has done work for Modest Mouse and Polyphonic Spree.

“Actor” is less dreamy than her debut, although it does contain that wonderful essence on songs like “The Party” and “Just the Same but Brand New.”  “Marrow” is exemplary of the raucous irregular bursts that are especially powerful on “Actor.”  I can imagine that track becoming one of her supreme live songs.  The songs are even more complex and still feature a wealth of different instruments, but are arranged into increasingly byzantine layers.  Her guitar seems to have gained quite the attitude since 2007, so the quieter melodic portions tend to be dominated by piano instead.  All in all, there is just a lot more going on in “Actor.”  The sounds range from raging guitar and walls of noise, to pure heavenly vocals, which are often both present in a single song, as heard in “The Strangers.”

The only real drawback I see for listeners of “Actor” is that it may be too much for some people to take in at first.  If you have that feeling, then I urge you to listen through the whole album before you make any final judgments.  Any suspended criticism will pay off, and you’ll realize what a gem it is.

3

wolfgang-amadeus2

Artist: Phoenix

Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Released: May 25, 2009

Label: Glassnote

 

 

I, like many viewers watching Saturday Night Live on April 4th, was unaware of a French rock group by the name of Phoenix. Apparently these dudes have been playing music for over a decade and most of it is very listenable, much of it being categorized as alternative, electronic and dance. Anyway, that fateful Saturday night has now given me a song that has been stuck in my head for a few days now. “1901″ is the hit single off Phoenix’s latest effort, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix,” which will be hitting stores in the colonies May 26. The song is upbeat, toe-tappin’ and overall very lighthearted, which is a mood that I am always on the hunt to find new songs to satisfy. If you are in an economically stimulating mind frame, then head on over iTunes where there is a four song EP for sale which also includes “Lisztomania,” the second song Phoenix played on Saturday Night Live, which is also very good. If not, here is the video of the performance, or the album version.

Fantasies Review

April 20, 2009

fantasies-metric-reduced1  Artist: Metric

  Album: Fantasies

  Released: April 14, 2009

  Label: Metric/Last Gang

 

              

For those of you unfamiliar with Metric, the band hails from Canada and plays energetic pop-rock written by the dazzling Emily Haines.  Haines is also the main vocalist and gained a great deal of fame as a member of Broken Social Scene, especially for her song “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl” off the album “You Forgot It in People.”

Metric has been touring mostly in Canada since their last truly new material came out four years ago as Live It Out.  Grow Up and Blow Away was released in 2007, but was comprised of old material that would chronologically have been their first album; situating it between their “Static Anonymity EP” and “Old World Underground Where Are You Now?”  During the past four years Emily Haines has released two solo albums under the name Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton.  Metric’s latest album is evidence that if Haines didn’t come into her own as a writer while solo, then she certainly found a new center before “Fantasies.”

The album kicks off with “Help I’m Alive,” an almost mesmerizing song that teeters between brazen pop and well, even more brazen pop.  The song uses the driving energy of their more punk rock albums and explodes it with echoing synth and hissing ambience.  “Satellite Mind” is the quintessence of classic Metric rock, with pounding bass and exhilarating vocals.  “Twilight Galaxy” lets the energy level drop and showcases the more chill side of the band, maintaining that aspect demonstrated before in songs like “Calculation Theme.”  The first few times I listened through the album “Gold Guns Girls” always took me by surprise  The guitar intro is jarring and throws the listener back into a vigorous rhythm and sharp riff, which is a minor shock coming straight out of the previous track.

“Gimme Sympathy” is incredibly catchy, indeed it was deemed “dangerously catchy” by N. Smith the first time he heard it.  It is catchy on the level where you find yourself humming it the following day.  “Collect Call,” “Front Row,” and “Blindness” is the only part of the album that might be considered a lull.  Those three tracks are well written, but lack the distinction that most of the songs on “Fantasies” exude.  The album closes with the roaring synth and raucous drumming of “Stadium Love.”

The lyrics of “Fantasies” contain a great deal of uncertainty, but the music is assured and even grand.  It is a sort of confidence in uncertainty, which is probably a result of Emily Haines’ soul-searching time spent in Buenos Aires prior to writing “Fantasies.”  The lyrical material is broad, and focuses on human interaction on a personal level more than previous albums.  Personal doubt is ubiquitous at times as in “Help I’m Alive,” and rebellion in the face of relationship confines seems to be the topic of “Sick Muse.”

Metric also revisits political/social criticism with “Gold Guns Girls,” where they censure material greed as well as objectification of women.  However, this song does not target a population directly, but is addressed to a particular person – another example of the personal level of “Fantasies.”  In what is absolutely the catchiest song on the album, “Gimme Sympathy” pleads with you to stick with unknowns and real feeling – and why wouldn’t you?  The finale of “Fantasies” is “Stadium Love,” and Haines displays the confidence that has always been there as she assures the listeners that “No one’s getting out, Without stadium love.”

 

You can hear the whole album here:

http://www.ilovemetric.com/