Dec 28, 2009

2009: Weezer - Raditude

Although some might get turned off by Weezer's still growing interest in mainstream pop-music, the production pretty much remains the same as on previous albums, and it's clear that even though the themes of the songs are quite different, Cuomo's songwriting is as consistent as ever.

The theme of the album is set by the first song "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To", describing the awkward love of teenage relationships. The melodic hooks are riveting, and the first song is a prime example of Cuomo's knack for melody. The songs are not merely about the simplicity of teenage life, though it might seem like that at first; they for example tackle the unspoken unhappiness of someone obsessed with partying, ("Can't Stop Partying"), a song which also suprisingly features Lil Wayne rapping to a dance-pop track - drawing away from Weezer's usual sound. Several of the songs are sometimes similar to Pinkerton, namely "Put Me Back Together", in terms of their emotional nakedness and sentimentality. And though the songs are mostly about teenage life, Cuomo does an excellent job of portaying the youths' minds, and all the songs are written in such a way that they can only be first-hand experiences.
Weezer also seem to be widening their horizons not only to dance-pop but also to Bollywood-infused rock on "Love Is The Answer". This is a successfull and satisfying combination, although it might seem infinitely cheesy to some listeners. The album ends with "I Don't Want To Let You Go"; a painful song about a break-up. Even though it may sound old, Weezer does it in such a way that it is nothing less than plausible and touching.

The album certainly suceeds in what it tries to do, which is to deliver Weezer to a younger audience as well as portraying them, while still appealing to anyone with a heart. Raditude is Weezer in top form and probably one of the most underrated albums released in 2009. One that is so easy to listen to, and yet so easy to dismiss as simple pop/rock aimed at Mountain Dew-drinking teens.


Listen at Spotify or Grooveshark

Nov 18, 2009

Things not reviewed part II

More records released in 2009 that you should definitely check out.

Jarvis Cocker - Further Complications
Raw Britpop from the frontman of Pulp, suprisingly awesome

Madness - The liberty of Norton Folgate
More british than ever, returning from playing nostalgic summer festivals etc. Now releasing an hours worth of new material. Praised as the return of the kings of ska, and perhaps their finest album yet.

Telefon Tel-Aviv - Immolate Yourself
Indie-electronica, ambient, very DEEP and at the same time not very unaccessible

John Zorn - Alhambra Love Songs
Borrowing heavily from jewish folk-music and hard-bop, another solid record from one of the best contemporary jazz composers

Dinosaur Jr. - Farm
Another album from the band who reunited and released one of the best rock album of the decade in 2007, though not as good as the previous this is still a decent album.

Sonic Youth - The Eternal
Masters of 80s post-punk still rock as hard as ever, even if you can't stand Kim's vocals the album is still pretty good.

PS: Top lists as per decade/year of albums are always a big heap of shit, unless you agree with the list of course.

Nov 17, 2009

Things not reviewed

There's a lot of records being released all the time, and I hardly bother or don't "have the time" to review them all. So here are some highlights which I haven't reviewed, in other words summarizing 2009. More will be added.
Most of the links are to Spotify

Dan Deacon - Bromst
Some great electronica/glitchy stuff

Japandroids - Post-Nothing
'Simple' garage rock-influenced indie-rock, incredibly textured sound

Kings of Convenience - Declaration of Dependence
Great chamber pop, simple and powerful

Mew - No More Stories...
Dream pop, shoegaze-inspired, 'indie-rock'

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz
Some more 'garage rock'

MewithoutYou - It's all crazy!...
Christian group with a knack for great poetry and songwriting, now moving towards the whole 'indie' sound with trumpets and all that

M. Ward - Hold Time
Still one of the best singer/songwriters out there

Mastodon - Crack The Skye
Awesome prog. metal as technical as can be

Death - ...For The Whole World To See (Grooveshark)
Incredible compilation of the band's singles which were never released, garage rock

Beatles - Everyday Chemistry (official website)
Not an official release, but an incredibly well-put-together mashup of the Beatles' solo material

Nov 5, 2009

2009: Julian Casablancas - Phrazes For The Young

Known as the lead singer from The Strokes, Julian Casablancas crafted the much recognized album Is This It mostly by himself. But in recent years his songwriting wasn't as 'dominating' as it used to be, and some might credit the inferiority of the last two albums to this. And After the other bandmembers showing that they could release competent solo albums it was time for Casablancas to release his. The album was much discussed on the interwebs, mostly questions of if it had leaked or not. It was finally released last week and isn't as similar to The Strokes' sound as one might expect, Casablancas going solo was probably trying to achieve just that. The biggest difference between this and The Strokes catalogue is perhaps Casablancas use of electronics and his soft voice to create a 'different' pop album.

The album starts with 'Out of The Blue', a brilliant opener which instantly starts with electric beats and guitars, and Casablancas' cool voice easily making it the most accessible song on the album. The chorus has some cool syntesizers, making the sound even more textured, and even more 'playful' than the Strokes' usual melodies. Clearly, Casablancas is giving a nod towards the new-wave revival seen in recent years with this album. The second song starts with some relatively cheesy synths but the verse has some brilliant guitar riffs. Casablancas' use of electric sound effects and synths is heard throughout the entire album, and drums are replaced with drum machines. Which isn't bad taken in consideration with the 'sound' Casablancas is trying to achieve here. And even though the album only has eight songs, all of them are 4-5 minutes in length making the album 40 minutes in length.
The use of synths and electronics becomes even more apparent with the cheery single '4th Dimension' which is drowned with it. It's a good song though, and the chorus sounds alot like Muse when it comes to Casablancas' epic sounding vocals and synths. There are also slow ballads like '4 Chords of The Apocalypse' which is okay, but also hampers the record by it's inclusion.
'Ludlow Street' is a reminiscing, country-inspired song featuring banjos. But on the last part of the album is where Casablancas' shows his skill in songwriting, constructing a bit 'darker' set of songs, sounding a bit more despairing than the more lighthearted than the songs starting the album. 'River of Brakelights' shows Casablancas' more gritty melodies, sounding a bit like Radiohead pre-chorus with it's hypnotic lines, but the chorus shows Casablancas' at his most gripping.
'Glass' is also pretty intense, and has Casablancas singing at the top of his lungs about bulletproof glass, but the melody does sound a bit familiar, the solo is also seems to be very inspired by Mozart, one of many to have influenced this record. Casablancas also displays some interesting lyrical imagery with his closing song 'Tourist' with lines such as 'But I am only a drop from the storm' and 'Feel like a teardrop streaming off your chin' showing themes such as helplessness. This album is definitely going to please fans of The Strokes who were disappointed by First Impressions of Earth, this is no doubt as good as Room On Fire, but keep in mind that this is a bit different, though not a paradigm shift.

Score: 7.5/10

Listen at Grooveshark or Spotify

Oct 10, 2009

2009: Sondre Lerche - Heartbeat Radio

After the slightly disappointing Noble Beast by singer/songwriter Andrew Bird, you don't have to look further than Sondre Lerche's Heartbeat Radio to find those brilliantly unpredictable chamber pop melodies. Since Two Way Monologue Lerche has been shifting back and forth between different genres, though still with his signature vocal style; from jazz to rock and even to film soudtracks. But with Heartbeat Radio he returns with another brilliant delicate singer/songwriter album.

Like Andrew Bird, a big part of the music fitted with elegant string arrangements, but at the heart of the music lies Sondre Lerche's gentle voice and his (mostly) undistorted semi-acoustic guitar. His lyrics are earnest, slightly cynical and poignant, illustrating everyday life with clever allegory.
The instrumentation is solid as always, with plenty of skilled musicians contributing to the nuanced sound of the record. This might even be his finest record yet, as the soundscapes are wider and his lyrical imagery more vivid. None of the tracks are particularly weak although "If Only" sounds slightly tacky at first, but carries on with an excellent chorus. There are classic takes on love songs like "Words & Music", bittersweet tales like "Almighty Moon" and the heartfelt "Goodnight" which creates a nice balance between the songs. But above everything else Heartbeat Radio is an incredibly accessible and listenable record regardless of if you get the lyrics or not, because there are dozens of melodic hooks enhanced by Lerche's beautiful voice to drag you in.

If you're not already familiar with the talent of Sondre Lerche , this is a good place to start.

Score: 8.5/10

Listen at spotify or grooveshark

Sep 1, 2009

2009: The Antlers - Hospice

Starting as the solo project of Peter Silberman, The Antlers have released several albums unrecognized. Mostly only with guitars and vocals. That is until now, Hospice - the album that has been hyped for almost a year took two years in recording, and adding new and permanent members to the band. With the help of drummer Michael Lerner and multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci, Silberman has finally achieved in making an amazing record. The Antlers use their instrumentation to fuel the emotional story of a man losing a loved one to cancer and having to witness her death first-hand. The album starts with Prologue which is an interesting peice of ambient music, which is made more apparent in the other songs. Silbermans voice does sound a bit like that of Bon Iver, but the production on this album is a bit more polished and better even. Kettering starts very lo-fi with a repeating piano pattern and Silberman's soft and quite beautiful voice enhancing it, actually every song on the album starts like this. When we get to the line "and they told me there was no saving you" the track builds up to it's emotional climax and we are given a pretty good idea of what the main narrator would be feeling - emotionally drained. Other tracks offer plenty of reverbed guitars that makes them sound dreamy and layered with emotion. The Antlers seem to make good use of it, with haunting vocals at the top of dissonant guitars and ambient keyboard stuff. Several of the songs end on noisy, epic highs that can send shivers down your spine, most notably Bear which is perhaps the best song on the album.

Score: 7.8/10

Listen at spotify or grooveshark.

Aug 26, 2009

2009: Isis - Wavering Radiant

Isis is the band that seams to please both metal and non-metal fans because of their use of spacey ambience and obvious post-rock influences, as their followers Pelican seem to fully embrace. Isis is perhaps more melodic than most metal bands, but most of their instrumentation is in the style of typical metal bands. The vocals are shouted, screamed but also sung. I always prefer the latter though. The guitars are heavy with distortion, but sometimes quite spacey with an ambient feel, and always hidden behind chorus effects, while the drums are tight and skillfully adds to the music. Isis also uses some keyboards, that often lingers at the end of songs. But the songs aren't slow in building to a finalizing climax, like most post-rock. Though they do feature some of the experimentation that lies with post-rock. The album has plenty of dark melodies that creates a haunting atmosphere, although previous albums like "In The Absence of Truth" pulled that off somewhat better, and I don't think they would be so successful in doing so without the screamed out vocals. The band does however use some of the screeching and shimmering (feedbacking) guitar effects that make "Stone To Wake A Serpent" and "Threshold of Transformation" sound amazing. Wavering radiant really feels like a concept album where the songs flow into eachother as if they're only meant to be played in one sitting. With songs lasting up to and over ten minutes (except for the title track) there is way too much here to digest of first listen. But you might want to check up on their previous albums before listening to this one.

Score: 7.5/10

Listen at spotify or grooveshark

Aug 9, 2009

2009: Wilco - Wilco (the album)

As some people waited in anticipation for the release of the new Wilco album, thousands of internet users had already acquired it from the internet. Wilco then retaliated by streaming it from their website. And so Wilco finally released their self-titled album with a somewhat ironic title. The album starts with Wilco (the song), which plays in a cool shuffle much like Can't Stand It from Summerteeth, with a moisy keyboard/guitar sort of thing, like they used in YHF. But this album isn't exactly going to suprise fans by going into a totally different direction, this is more of a continuation of all the work that Wilco has been doing throughout their career, although they don't sound like the country-rock band they were once labeled as, they still have some instrumentation that could remind you of it. This like previous Wilco albums is a pop/rock-album, with enchanting melodies (like the ones on "Deeper Down") accompanied by Tweedys soothing vocals. This album is also a small step away from Sky Blue Sky, where the solos were more jazz-influenced they now are sonically great especially the guitar work on "One Wing". "You And I" sounds very much like one of those acoustic songs from Summerteeth, but this album doesn't re-capture their lyrical cleverness mixed with incredible twee-pop melodies. But there's plenty of good pop songs to be had on this album such as "You Never Know", which instantly reminds me of some of George Harrison's early work. But the best song on this album has to be "I'll Fight" which immediately hooks you with it's emotionally charged verse, that Tweedy has no problem singing with such a passion that gives us no choice but to believe him. Tweedys lyrics on this album aren't that great on their own but with the instrumentation of the band they can create some amazing songs, although you won't find a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Summerteeth here, this is a worthy addition to Wilco's already great discography.

Score: 7/10

Listen at Grooveshark or Spotify

Jun 28, 2009

2009: Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

Andrew Birds seventh studio LP is a worthy addition to a brilliant discography to one of the finest songwriters this generation. Ever since the Swimming Hour back in 2001 Bird has made his name known to everybody who listens to Adult/Alternative music with his adventurous whistled melodies and interesting songwriting. His lyrics are some of the most mysterious, undecipherable, and beautifully poetic words you'll ever hear. The only thing that matches his gift with lyrics is his talent for creating original, catchy, melodies. Andrew Bird plays the guitar, the violin, writes all the songs himself and sometimes even whistles a fine tune. This record is no different from the last three albums, but one of the things lacking from this record compared to Armchair Apocrypha is the emotional impact of songs like Cataracts, but it still has the lyrical cleverness and melodic genious that is Andrew Bird. There is still traces of his retro-swing days with the Bowl of Fire on songs like Masterswarm and Fitz & Dizzyspells. Whether he silently plucks a string on his violin, whistles a heartfelt melody, or fills the air with his delightful voice he never ceases to amaze. Looking forward to his live show at Øyafestivalen in Norway this year as well.

Score: 7/10

Listen at Grooveshark or Spotify

2009: Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Like it's predecessor Strawberry Jam it features the same tripping psychedelic feel as seen on the cover. Only the difference here is that it leans more towards lo-fi bands like Fleet Foxes, they still pack the same beats and repeated choruses that some might find to be headache-inducing and repetitious. Perhaps not the same extent as its predecessor though. This record is far more accessible and consistent, and by far their best effort yet. Animal Collective are still the same, only here you can find more enchanting and harmonic pop-melodies than before. In the Flowers start off the album with an otherworldly feel, that immediately lifts you off the ground. While My Girls is a quite dancable tune, about buying a house for your kids etc. that will definitely have you singing along with the chorus. Summertime Clothes is perhaps the best song on the album with bubbly vocals sometimes drowing as if the singers lips are barely touching the water. The chorus is eerie and catchy as shit. Alot of the songs are powered with lush vocals that are quite so similar to The Shins. The last track Brothersport is a testament to that Animal Collective can create songs upon songs, and still keep the melodies interesting by the end of it. What separates Animal Collective from other indie, 'neo-psychedelic' bands is their use of electronics and sampled instruments, that sounds like a sorted mess, built up from a pulsating bass, harmonic high-pitched vocals and lots of keyboards and dissonant guitars. The album is simply dreamy, and the atmosphere is simply enchanting. While the choruses of nearly all the songs are infectious and will most definitely stay in your head for the rest of the day. I got the same excitement from this record as when I first heard Boces by Mercury Rev, because it has that same dreamy psychedelic pop feel to it. This is perhaps the most beautiful album released in 2009.

Score: 8.5/10

Listen at Grooveshark or Spotify

Jun 27, 2009

2009: Art Brut - Art Brut vs. Satan

This was one of the first records of 2009 that i actually listened to in one sitting, opposed all the indie kids these days with their sleepy lo-fi records and shit. Art Brut's third album is as refreshing as their debut back in 2005, as their songs have gotten less intimate their sound is about the same as before. This record is very fun and is easy listening, although the songs get a bit dull by the last three songs. Art Brut bears obvious an influences from post-punk- and early indie bands like Pixies and The Fall and became part of the indie rock scene together with Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party (also note that Frank Black of the Pixies produced this record). Art Brut is somewhat similar to Franz Ferdinand in style, perhaps a bit more upbeat and punk-oriented though, only Art Brut's songs are mostly about everyday teenage life, finding a job, discovering your parents old records written with bitter irony. The singer goes on and on about the (re)discovery of old bands like The Replacements and The Stones, and about how he obsessively likes to listen to old records.
Some people (hipsters) might listen to Art Brut and say that "Art Brut suck, retarded indie OH SO DEEP tryhards.",w hich is true in a sense that Art Brut might come on a bit too strong with their ironic songwriting, but songs about DC comics and Chocolate milkshakes can hardly be considered deep. None of the songs sounds as cool as the first one, but what they lack in coolness they make up for with witty songwriting and playful melodies. Some people might find the vocalist to be unbearable for his british accent, irrelevant and ironic songwriting or douchey attitude, but if you can find a way to put all preassumptions aside you might be in for an enjoyable record, but not much more than that, but with what it lacks in creating original instrumental parts it makes up for in wittyness.

Score: 7.5/10

Listen at Grooveshark or try their brilliant debut album on Spotify

May 14, 2009

2007: Alcest - Souvernirs D'un Autre Monde

The first thing that strikes you when you turn on this record is the blazing layers of distortion, loose and minimalistic drumming and otherworldly vocals. I guess this is the sort of feel multi-instrumentalist Neige wanted to achieve with his debut solo project, the title meaning "Memories of Another World" and all. But one can't help but recognize that the droning riffs and the fast drum beats has some overtones from the previous black metal music Neige has been doing, but that is only a part of the music which is heavily influenced by the walls of guitar distortion of My Bloody Valentine.
The music falls under the label which surfaced in the 90' called 'Shoegaze' where the music heavily relied on spacey and noisy guitar effects, while at the same time creating hooky pop melodies with lush vocals as Neige demonstrates here. The dark ambient feel of the album can be compared to Justin Broadrick's Jesu, though on the more industrial side employs large waves of distortion and similar vocals. And like My Bloody Valentine the songs are heavily based on the guitar work, with several guitar tracks and melodic hooks (without the pop-influence).
Theres also acoustic guitars to be found within the songs, Alcest certainly delivers one of the better new shoegaze records of the 00's, but it also stands as a remarkable record on it's own, without the help of a single guitar solo.

Score: 8/10

Listen at Grooveshark or Spotify