My first published article
My first published article
BE, Beady Eye’s second album, is a great collection of Lennon-influenced rock tunes.
After the break-up of Oasis, the brothers Gallagher split into two camps and released their own albums. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds surpassed his brother’s Beady Eye release Different Gear, Still Speeding. Regrouping with producer Dave Sitek who has worked with TV on the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Foals. The pairing might sound a little out of step, but it is a smart move. The problem with Different Gear, in my opinion, suffered from a rushed production. With BE, the band took it’s time in crafting great songs with interesting production.
Like any Oasis and related projects, the Beatles is close behind. Liam is turning into a great songwriter, but still has the Lennon fixation. The nods to Lennon are a little cheap and juvenile. Brother Noel has gotten past and developed his own writing style that’s extremely Beatles-influenced, but Liam uses it as a crutch to write songs. While I’m listening to Don’t Brother Me, Soon Come Tomorrow and Ballroom Figured I think Give Peace a Chance, or Norwegian Wood. At this point, Liam should be stretching beyond quasi-pastiches and onto something deeper. Flick of the Finger, Second Bite of the Apple, and I’m Just Saying are extremely good. Just Saying is like a bizarre, lost Morning Glory track, while Flick of the Finger and Second Bite are a great step in the right direction songwriting and sonically.
Overall, BE is a good listen and the start of a musical direction for the group. Beyond the Lennon goofs, Beady Eye is turning out to be a cool, little project.
Essential Tracks: Flick Of The Finger/ Soul Love/ Second Bite Of The Apple/ I’m Just Saying
With their second album, Lonerism, Tame Impala continues the spacey psychedelic sound from their first album and simultaneously expands their sound.
Tame Impala is one of the better psychedelic indie bands to come out in the 21st Century. Recorded nearly all by Kevin Parker, he approached the second album as if it wasn’t the second Tame Impala record. This freed up Parker to expand the sound without the threat and hang up of the sophomore slump. The end result is a pleasantly, psychedelic record that surpasses it’s predecessor. Lonerism features more keys and synths than Innerspeaker. It’s more reliant on the strong melodies and far out production. Tracks like Enders Toi, Apocalypse Dream, and Feels Like We Only Backwards, have melodic flourishes that are both pop and indie influences. The scope is widened with the use of keys. Much of what held back Innerspeaker from being a better album was the sonic dimension.
When one writes on the guitar or writes on a keyboard, each instrument dictates how the song travels. I believe that it’s superior to write on a keyboard rather than a guitar due to the blank-page quality that keys provides.
Where MGMT have failed to meet standards, Tame Impala has now become my new favorite modern psychedelic band. Marrying intense sound, pop influenced hooks and maddening chord structure, Tame Impala has quite possibly secured a place in Music that the Flaming Lips one inhabited.
Essential Tracks: Be Above It/ Endors Toi/ Apocalypse Dreams/ Mind Mischief/ Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
Kevin Barnes is one of the best songwriters of the 21st century. He is Indie’s equivalent of a Lennon or a Cobain. He can translate his emotions easily into music. All his demons, dreams, desires and afflictions are documented in his work as of Montreal. Eleven albums in, of Montreal have covered a lot of ground.
The main problem I have with bands reaching twenty albums, and there’s a sure-fire guaranteed that the band will reach twenty albums before his decade is over, that there is tons of material to digest and understand. Like U2 or R.E.M., the internet, and access to all these songs, it’s easy to divide the discography into phases. Of Montreal is one of the few bands to have transitional albums. What I mean is that there are ideas not fully formed or fleshed out towards the end of the album that are explored and then usually exhausted on the next two releases. This is the start of a strictly organic, rooted Americana sound that will get developed. It’s a wonderful change. The production value is perfect. What you want from Barnes and the band is there from track 1, Fugitive Air, and introduces new instruments not heard on a Montreal album. Like other releases, Barnes is completely self-indulgent, but that’s ok. The songs are melodic, easily to get distracted by. The chord structures are brilliantly constructed.
Raindrop in My Skull is the best track on the album, and if you’re only going to listen to one track that is the one. Sung by Rebecca Cash, it’s one of the few tracks not with Barnes on lead. It doesn’t matter, Cash delivers a emotional performance and sends us to a strange, non-existant west coast concert in the 60’s.
Recorded straight to an 8-track, and digitally mastered and tampered, this is how music should be treated. The utilization of modern and classic tech is what music should be doing, but we don’t see that happening do we? The vocal tracks are definitely tuned. There are digital movements, but it’s still organic and fresh.
The album is a welcomed addition to the discography. Check this one out.
Essential Tracks: Fugitive Air/ Obsidian Currents/ Belle Glade Missionaries/ She Ain’t Speakin’ Now/ Raindrop in My Skull
Lorde’s debut album, Pure Heroine, with it’s minimalist production, pop hooks is a clever, alternative look at what could be considered mainstream popular music.
Opening with the superb track, Tennis Court, Pure Heroine is a snapshot of popular music at this space and time. It gives the songs a lot of credit for how good most of them are. The lyrics are very dark and smart. Lorde, aka Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, writes well beyond her years. Upon multiple listens, I have grown skeptical about the lyrics. Is Lorde something of a lyrical genius or surrounded by someone who has his or her thumb on the pulse of the youth.
The fusion of hip hop beats and sparse production make the songs stand out compared to the everything-and-the-kitchen sink productions belonging to Katy Perry, Gaga and every other starlet. It’s refreshing to hear less. The minimalist beats start to sound like classic Depeche Mode or Yaz beats after a while. Traces of dub-step is sprinkled, but not enough to make the album dated and overworked. Mega-hit Royals, is a complete standout. Covered by nearly every artist, parodied by Weird Al as Foals, and most painfully by the Boss, is a return-to-form three-chord power pop song. There isn’t any production on Royals; it solely relies on it’s chorus and lyrics to propel the song.
I find this album, overall, a great listen and alternative to most overblown Top 40. It’s probably a good guess that much of this album is designed to setup the hit Royals and Lorde for a long career. How much of that is calculated? How much of is genuine? I can’t say I know.
Essential Tracks: Royals/ Tennis Court/ Glory and Gore
It’s awesome when you read a great summary of an album. A good writer can pinpoint the essence of the album and get the reader excited. With Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts’s fourth release, just the description alone was enough for me to check out the album.
This is one of my favorite records of 2014. The album can be summed up as if Johnathan Richman fronted 1995 Pavement with members of Wire and Television. Andrew Savage’s vocals are somewhere between Richman and a sluggish, stoned Scott Walker. On Raw Milk, I could easily trick someone into thinking it’s a lost Modern Lovers track.
Sunbathing Animal’s wonderful punk mess is a dead ringer for the CBGB’s crowd. The production is based on vocals, guitar, bass and drums, which is fine considering that many of the songs are strong enough to support the out-of-date setup. There isn’t reverb. It isn’t needed. Tracks like Bodies, Black and White, What Color is Blood are instant hipster romps.
Not as slick and contrived as the Strokes (yes, the Strokes are contrived), Parquet Courts is another fine example of a band outside of the popular music lexicon. It’s so out of place, as is album number two, Light Up Gold.
This album plays as it’s from two generations before me. It’s a wonderful listen that slides between art-punk and stoner punk. This is a band totally in control of their sound. Sunbathing Animals is worth skipping a meal and going to the shop to buy this record.
Essential tracks: Bodies/ Black & White/ What Color Is Blood/ Vienna II
Indie duo, Beach House, reach new heights on their fourth release, Bloom. Adding subtle new intrumentation, Bloom is a wonderful record, bursting with sonic ideas.
After signing to the major indie record label, Sub Pop, Teenage Dream, their third release stepped up their game. Produced Chris Coady, who also worked with TV on the Radio, Grizzly Bear, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Teenage Dream was an more adult and sophisticated album. On Bloom, the same returns to churn out another album of the same caliber or surpass Teenage Dream. Continuing many of the same themes and sounds, Bloom is a complete album from start to finish. Songs progress without stops, indeed making it an overall listen. Unlike their other albums, the songs don’t stick out much as if it’s a suite of sonic tunes. The instrumentation used on the album is broader.
On further albums, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea for the duo to enlist a full band a la My Bloody Valentine or Portishead. There are hints of hip-hop on tracks New Year and Wishes that could make the songs bigger. This is a band that, in two or three albums, will permeate the mainstream with their own, distinct sound. If not, us music fanatics will have some of the best indie dream pop since Joy Zipper.
Essential tracks: Myth/ The Hours/ New Year/ Wishes/ On the Sea/ Irene
The second, self-titled release by all-girl Warpaint is an undeniable masterpiece.
Following-up 2010’s The Fool, the band went into the studio without material written. Within the studio they created drug-enduced music that is moody, brooding, and beautiful. Opening with Keep It Healthy and the stand-out track Love is To Die, Warpaint plays like a soundtrack to a moody art fim. The album is hard to crack on first couple of listens. Once I got passed it and dived into the sound, I found each track amazing. Love is to Die is the only immediate track, other take a while to gestate for the listener. The way the album was simultaneously written and recorded gives it this live feel that most records that want that effect don’t achieve. The album brilliantly produced. The spacey vocals are mixed perfectly. They aren’t overpowering the instrumentation.
The album reminds me of Loveless by My Bloody Valentine and Joy Zipper’s work on American Whip. The emphasis is solely on the sound of the record, overall, much like Loveless. The tracks sound amazing. The thing that I find that brings the album down is the vocals aren’t tuned. I can understand the artistic decision not to use auto-tune, they’re an indie band! But I feel it could add a lot to the vocals. The album is a bit long, but that isn’t a bad thing, it requires multiple listens to get through and absorb all the information.
This is possibly the best album of 2014 so far. There are a handful of great releases this year, but to my ears this is pretty top notch indie. Go buy this record.
Essential Tracks: Keep It Healthy/ Love Is To Die/ Disco//very/ Go In/ Son
Returning after five years. La Roux, aka Elly Jackson, releases an album that’s full of pop hooks, infectious beats and memorable choruses that is sure to bypass the dreaded sophomore slump.
After touring for her eponymous debut record, Jackson was suffering from panic attacks and it resulted in her not being able to sing in her falsetto. She was diagnosed with residual muscle tension caused by the anxiety of performing. With the new style of singing and relying on difference influences, Trouble in Paradise is a wonderful listen. The classic disco/New Wave influences are quite apparent. Tracks like Uptight Downtown, and Kiss And Not Tell are perfect for the British dance floor scene. Jackson has employed more of an emotional presence on Trouble in Paradise. The emotional components of Paradise Is You and Let Me Down Gently are reflected in the shimmering string and pads.
The only grip I have with the album that is that the songs could be stronger and her voice could use a little tuning her and there. Five years between albums is a long time to work on songs. Given the medical problems that she’s had and loss of her collaborator Ben Langmaid, I could understand that she couldn’t devote all her time to create strong songs. With her voice, Jackson has a distinct timbre that would sound fantastic tuned and computerized. It would certainly up the overall product of La Roux and bring her into the running with megastars St. Vincent, Katy Perry, and Lady Gaga.
Trouble in Paradise is a great listen. With all the nods and flections of classic New Wave and disco, this is the perfect album for kids stuck on the 80’s looking for something new to check out.
Essential Tracks: Uptight Downtown/ Kiss And Not Tell/ Paradise Is You/ Let Me Down Gently