Jun 6, 2011

2011: Arctic Monkeys - Suck It and See

Suck It and See is Arctic Monkeys' fourth studio album. Eight years since forming it seems they have come a long way in changing their style from hard-hitting indie-rock to a more alternative suit. Suck It and See seems like a more natural transition from Favourite Worst Nightmare than Humbug. Yet they are still oceans apart.

On Suck It and See the band mixes the darker sides of rock with glossily produced indie-pop ballads.
Here songs are either dark and grindy or rather sentimental and softly sung.
The songs are solid and highly enjoyable. However the production doesn't seem to suit the Monkeys very well and doesn't give the album enough lasting value. Some of the songs even border on getting slightly tedious with each listen.
It's a good album though, but just hope that next time around the Monkeys will pick one style and stick with it. This feels more like a disappointment that could have been something more, rather than a successful change in artistic direction.

Score:

Jun 3, 2011

2011: Battles - Gloss Drop

Gloss Drop, Battles' sophomore album, is a tough album. It has the drums kicked up to eleven and enough complex song structures to make even the most hardcore fans dizzy.

Starting the album is "Africastle", which is a very strong opener with delightful textures and bombastic drums that also fuel most of the album. But you'd almost wish more of the songs were like it;
A slow build-up, which reveals expertly placed ripples of guitar that unexpectedly and cleverly shifts the melody of the song. Moments like that are missed later in the album when the sometimes dizzying electronics take center stage. Thankfully, the rest of the songs on the album do make for a highly entertaining listen.

Gloss Drop
is a collaborative effort, with 4 of the songs featuring guest vocals. Most refreshing of these is "Ice Cream" featuring Matias Aguayo, who brings melodic joy into a the workings of the album.

A minor problem with the album is that some of the songs aren't engaging enough and it therefore sometimes feels more like a musical exercise than an effort in songwriting. But despite that, Gloss Drop is a skillfully crafted album, which doesn't leave you doubting the band's musical skills. Instead it rather leaves you pleased with the band's unique approach to alternative music.

Score:

May 30, 2011

2011: the pillows - Horn Again

Known for their extensive soundtracking of the Japanese mini-anime series Fooly Cooly, their distinct mix of Weezer, Oasis and Stray Cats rockabilly has made them relatively popular in the western part of the world, and deservedly so. Almost no other Japanese band has such an extensive discography.

Horn Again, their seventeenth album, basically continues where OOParts left off, with plenty of energetic and fun songs and an all-round solidness that one might say bests their previous studio albums.
Their sound is a little less daring this time around though; for example there's no mind-blowing distortion like on the opener of OOParts, which is slightly disappointing. The band also doesn't explore the different aspects of pop music as much here as on the aforementioned album. Production-wise, Horn Again is also way more polished, which is fine, but leaves a craving for their previous rawness.

Instead there are plenty of solid songs fitted with inspired guitar solos and enough new sounds to satisfy old and new fans of the band. And though this may be a (small) step down from OOParts it is no doubt one step further in the right direction.

Score:

May 13, 2011

2010: Shining - Blackjazz

It isn't every day the Norwegian music scene, or the international music scene for that matter, is graced by the likes of Shining's Blackjazz; an uncompromising, unconventional foray into the (black) metal genre:
A sound built up of grinding guitars, ferociously distorted vocals, menacing synthesizers and a set of bombarding drums. All leaving little breathing room for the listener - who as a result is constantly assaulted with an ear-shattering and heart-stopping record.

As off-putting as that might sound there are more than enough hooks to reel the listener in, and just enough experimentation to warrant a solid lasting value.
Perhaps the key aspect of Blackjazz' success is the tightly wound production, which is every bit as cutting edge and polished as the cover suggests.

Blackjazz may just as well lay the seeds of yet another subgenre of metal; elements of jazz, industrial and black metal are seamlessly put together in an utterly satisfying combination that is one of the best metal albums released in a long time.

Together with the well-known Kvelertak, they both might just prove that the more Norwegian musicians embrace their black metal roots, the more they stand to benefit from it, at least internationally.

Score:

Jan 31, 2011

2011: Cut Copy - Zonoscope

Cut Copy appears to be embracing their new-wave/synth-pop influences even more, to the point where their music frequently resemble that of Depeche Mode/New Order/Erasure. And perhaps that is the point of Zonoscope - the group's third studio album.

As a result, the album features several more subtle and strictly dance-oriented tracks than previously heard from the group, sometimes limiting their scope and appeal. From the emotionally imprinted opener "Need You Now" followed by "Take Me Over" (which is excellent despite a somewhat tacky chorus) to the ambitious, 15-minute long space-disco "Sun God", these tracks are sometimes excellent.
However, the real gems of the album lie with the psychedelic ventures of indie-rockers "Where I'm Going", "This Is All We've Got" and "Alisa".
This is also exemplified by how these trippy melodies elevate songs, such as the excellent dance track "Corner of The Sky"; the bridge of "Pharaohs & Pyramids"; and the relaxed "Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat". All futher proof that Cut Copy are at their best when fusing infectious dance rhythms and sometimes tastefully applied guitars with acidic and synth-heavy psychedelia.

Zonoscope is a very enjoyable album. Despite not running as smoothly as its predecessor, or having the same melodic immediacy; it holds enough lush melodies and inspired songcraft to be a worthy, and not to mention, a highly danceable follow-up.

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Jan 25, 2011

2011: Deerhoof - Deerhoof Vs. Evil

Deerhoof Vs. Evil is a messy, noisy and ultimately enjoyable album that has Deerhoof covering even more genre-twisting ground. Marked by Matsuzaki's haunting and slightly monotone, sometimes beautiful, but mostly cute vocals; the songs mix noise-pop with guitar-heavy indie-rock infused with elements of avant-garde.

For the most part, Vs. Evil focuses on the more poppy sides of indie-rock; utilizing synths, bells, acoustic strings and softly sung vocals to create a cold or warm atmosphere that is crushed the next minute by distorted guitars.

Songs like "Behold a Marvel in the Darkness", "No One Asked to Dance", "Super Duper Rescue Heads!" and several other tracks sound as if they could only have been written and performed by Deerhoof; merging the best parts of the band's sound with well-crafted melodies and sparkling instrumentation, which makes this such a thrilling and fun album. Vs. Evil is one of Deerhoof's most accessible and solid efforts.

Score:



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Jan 17, 2011

2011: Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will

Mogwai delivers yet another beautifully constructed post-rock album that doesn't derive much from previous albums.
Instead, the sentimentality has become more focused as Mogwai slowly build interesting soundscapes with pounding rhythms and textured guitars. The album builds itself on the foundation of the tight instrumentation of the band; which is fleshed out with strings, pianos, vocals through vocoders and synthesizers/keyboards.

The end result is an epic and sweeping album which doesn't drag out the songs but rather moves on to explore other muscial ideas. There are outstanding songs like 'White Noise', 'Rano Pano' and 'Too Raging To Cheers' that are marked by Mogwai's signature style of heart-melting composition. Not to mention the epic closer 'You're Lionel Richie' which slowly builds up to a satisfying climax. Then there are songs that utilize pounding, motorik rhythms that are skillfully applied to the post-rock style on tracks like 'Mexican Grand Prix', 'San Pedro' and 'How To Be A Werewolf'.
Although Mogwai has used vocals on previous albums, the track 'George Square Thatcher Death Party' might come as a suprise to some due to its less subtle use of vocoder vocals. This works suprisingly well, but the album would probably have been better off without it.

Hardcore
is a strong addition to the Mogwai catalogue, that is sure to entice fans of post-rock and alternative music in general.

Score:

Jan 7, 2011

2010: Gorillaz - The Fall

Recorded with an iPad and almost reducing the number of collaborators to zero, The Fall is a more stripped down version of previous Gorillaz albums, that has an apparent playfulness to it.

The result is a slightly more consistent album than Plastic Beach, that is mostly electronica/synth-pop, with several instrumental/'ambient' tracks. Damon Albarn does almost all of the vocals with the exception of Bobby Womack on the aptly named 'Bobby in Phoenix'.

However, the quality of the songs vary a bit at times; the tracks that come out the strongest are the vocal tracks with a large focus on melodic hooks. Several of the instrumental tracks are sometimes a bit too emotionless when put up against such melodically great tracks as 'Revolving Doors' , 'The Parish of Space Dust' and 'Amarillo'.
Overall, The Fall is an enjoyable album that hosts some very good songs and almost no bad ones, making it worthy of a listen. And since it's free there's really nothing to lose.

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Jan 5, 2011

2011: The Go! Team - Rolling Blackouts

Rolling Blackouts - the third studio album from the group, is as fun and exciting as you would expect from such an energetic act such as The Go! Team.

The album continues with their signature mix of rap, indie-rock, pop, noise and psychedelia. It doesn't stray too far away from their previous albums, but brings enough fresh-sounds to the table to make it an impressive album.

However, the production is less noisy and more fine-tuned compared to especially the thin production of Thunder, Lightning, Strike. This is more than welcome when after several listens the album reveals a set of richly textured and fun songs with plenty of clever melodic hooks and shifts to go along, namely 'Buy Nothing Day', 'Secretary Song' and 'Apollo Throwdown', all delivered with solid vocal and guitar work.

The second half of the album continues almost just as strong with great songs such as 'Back Like 8 Track'; featuring an excellently applied rap to a beat-heavy indie-rocker, and 'Rolling Blackouts'; a shoegaze-inspired track that could just as well have been a track from pre-Loveless My Bloody Valentine.
Rolling Blackouts is wonderful, bursting with colour, and without a single second wasted - In other words: a magnificent album to start off 2011 with.

Score:



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Jan 1, 2011

2011: 2010 Round-up

Before I finally review an album in 2011, here's a list of the albums that I have listened to the most in the last year, released in 2010 of course: