Posts Tagged ‘have you heard the new…?’

Have You Heard The New…Arcade Fire Album?

November 18th, 2013 | Features | 0 Comments

I don’t want to make this too long.

This is Arcade Fire‘s best album. It’s big, sprawling, epic, ambitious, but focused, and in every conceivable way it just works. It returns the band to the darkness they first visited on Neon Bible, but James Murphy and the dancefloor influence brought to this album make it sound different – and more propulsive – than anything the band has done up until this point. Admittedly, the emotion and honesty of Funeral do not make a return; the lyrics may be the most lacking aspect of the album, though they’re still solid for the most part. But that was then, this is now. And on its own terms, this album knocks it out of the park big time.

The precedent for this album – despite what Owen Pallett says – is London Calling and Sandanista! No other album in memory features a super-white band trying their hand at musical styles as distant as Carribean music with anywhere close to the success that Arcade Fire achieve here. There’s also rock songs, pop songs, dance songs, krautrock, other stuff. And it all just works. The songs are all like six minutes long – but they also just work, because the band and/or Murphy apparently never run out of ideas of ways to keep things interesting and exciting.

I like the first half of the album better. It starts with some long intro thing that’s all arty – I’ve listened to it but I skip it when I re-listen to the album. Most of the heavy hitters are on this side – “Reflektor”, “We Exist”, “Normal Person”, and “Joan Of Ark” stand out in particular. Most of these songs could serve as centerpieces for lesser albums, but here they’re each just another track. “Normal Person” I find especially interesting because it’s got great lyrics but the very thing that makes me enjoy it less might be the most brilliant aspect of it. I’m sure I’m wrong about this but the song features a big, loud, blunt guitar sound blaring out the songs main four chords during the chorus, and every time I hear it I think 1) this is one of the most boring aesthetics they could’ve used for this song 2) maybe the use of the big guitar is kind of a snarky joke on the part of the band, as in this is the sound a “normal person” wants to hear in radio rock song – just big, blaring guitar.

The second half, as Pitchfork wrote, is more ‘airy’. The songs are not as sonically ‘grounded’ or memorable for the most – part – they’re still very good. Here “Afterlife” does seem to serve as a centerpiece of sorts, providing the big, beautiful flagship track for the side before allowing “Supersymmetry” to close things in neat, logical, shimmering fashion.

Is there much to the whole Orpheus referencing the album makes? I don’t know if it’s as deep as we’d like it to be – you sojourn into the underworld to bring your love out of it. I suppose it could serve as a metaphor for the album itself in that it’s a wealth of beauty that resides sonically and moodily in the underworld. I wouldn’t make a big deal out of it. A big deal doesn’t need to made out of it. Arcade Fire brought their A-game to this one. As in the A-game brought their A-game. They sound excited. All the hype-work they did around the album seems to confirm that impression, though it doesn’t need to. The sounds on this album are made by a band that’s not sounded this alive in almost a decade, when they sounded more alive than any other band on Earth. Maybe they needed to go to the underworld to pull it off again. But man, they totally did.

Have You Heard The New…Yamantaka//Sonic Titan Album?

October 28th, 2013 | Features | 0 Comments

I will state the obvious: as Gold Soundz is “co-presenting” the Yamantaka//Sonic Titan show at the Garrison in Toronto on November 6th, I have a bit of an incentive to write that their new album is awesome. However, did you ever stop and think, “How the hell is Gold Soundz – currently based in Tel Aviv, Israel where its main man is serving in the IDF without much spare time – co-presenting a show in Toronto, Canada?” Perhaps you did. The answer is that even from the other side of the Earth, I’ve been maintaining my relationship with Embrace and I’ve been working with them (largely by bugging them) to put on a show with Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, who put on one of the most original stage shows I’ve ever seen and are just are super badass and have awesome taste in manga and classic Japanese rock. And I’ve been doing that for a long time because I’ve been pretty freakin’ psyched on this band for a long time.

But still, maybe the new album sucks? Maybe everything they did before rocked but now they dropped the ball Spider Man 3 style and put out the musical equivalent of emo Peter Parker?

They could’ve. But they didn’t. The new album, UZU rocks very hard. And those are the best words I could use to describe it. True, early single “One” has a kind of Canadian First Nations deal and the band is most personified by their Noh opera influence, but these things add a strong flavour to their purely “awesome” prog-ish hard rock edge – they’re not the whole story. UZU is really first and foremost a very operatic (lots of piano), very classic hard rock album – no world music of the week shtick here.

That being said, it is weird. It’s not weird in a “what’s going on here” way but weird as in it gives off an otherworldly and inhuman vibe. Lead singer Ruby Kato Atwood personifies this well, sounding like a remote ice goddess singing from the top of a snow covered mountain during a blizzard of metallic guitars. It’s also an album that feels dark and incredibly momentous. In that sense – though only that sense – it’s kind of like Pink Floyd‘s The Wall. Sure, the guitars and synths also have a strong 70’s vibe to them, but the band’s ethnic influences (and punk attitude – see “Hall Of Mirrors”) prevent them from ever sounding like revivalists.

I have no idea what the album’s about. I listened to this on Pitchfork without a lyric sheet (but with a lot of awesome animations and drawings). The end of the world seems like a fair guess. It doesn’t matter though. Every songs kicks ass, though this is, as in the old prog tradition, very AOR. And from start to finish, very, very badass.

Have You Heard The New…The Strokes Album?

March 22nd, 2013 | Features | 1 Comment

The Strokes were one of the bands that made me fall in love with music, so whenever they release a new album, it’s a big deal. Are people talking about this back in North America? Hasn’t been the stuff of much discussion in the IDF, believe it or not. Maybe it’s because it’s coming so soon after the underwhelming Angles. In any case, let’s get into this.

So, it looks like we’re gonna have to get used to The Strokes 2.0. Comedown Machine is clearly the new The Strokes that we got on Angles – less NYC cool, more simple, old-school pop-rock band with great guitar-arrangements and a frontman that keep things interesting. But they’re more confident and comfortable in their new skin this time, and they sound good…most of the time. The songs are by and large better and more consistent than those on Angles, and the band feels more engaged in them. The first half of the album particularly impresses – as with Angles, that’s where they stuff most of the straight-on killer tracks, saving the more experimental but less-actually-good for the bottom half.

At this point I feel like I can live with and even enjoy these middle-period Strokes – I even half to give them credit for still sounding relevant while their old-school peers The Hives and even Jack White sound out of place in 2013’s bandiverse. Most of the credit, however, goes to Julian Casablancas, who sounds rejuvenated here – he continues to stretch he vocal abilities and expand his signiture singing territory with a lot more falsetto than we’re used to from the famously baritone-voiced frontman. The production – though similar in feel to Angles – is also a bit better, credit owed to producer Gus Oberg.

Like everyone who remembers 2001, I miss the Strokes of Is This It and Room On Fire and would prefer them – even solo Julian at his best – to the new Strokes. But I can still enjoy the band for their numerous strengths that remain on Comedown Machine.

Have You Heard The New…Beach Fossils?

December 8th, 2012 | Features | 1 Comment

When stuff gets tough in the army here, I dream of how afterwards I’m going to move to Beach Fossils‘ home turph of Brooklyn for a couple years. Oh Brooklyn, Brooklyn…where the women are indie, the music is beautiful, people read books, and the menu is vegan-friendly. Oh to be in Brooklyn…

In any case, the aforementioned band – Beach Fossils, that is – have a new album dropping Feb 19th via their excellent label, Captured Tracks. First track “Careless” shows the band trading in its traditional stock of gorgeous, simplistic dream-pop, but the whole package has been tightened up and the compositional and arrangement of the song is a bit more complex than what’s come before, but I really mean just a little bit, they haven’t suddenly become And The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway-era Genesis or anything. As for what we can expect from the album, I’d say more of the same, it would seem these guys are pretty dependable; not expecting much departure from what’s come before, but that’s cool, this is a good bit of growth.

Have You Heard The New…A.C. Newman?

November 15th, 2012 | Features | 0 Comments

I know I’m seriously late on this one, but I really wanted to write about it because Shut Down The Streets, the latest album by New Pornographers frontman A.C. Newman, is pretttty awesome, and I know that Pitchfork gave it a 6.8 and I want to debate that and try and get as many peeps to hear it as possible.

Ok – let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way.

-The album continues Newman’s move towards more mature songwriting and it is indeed his most ‘mature-sounding’ album yet.

– It may be mature, but it’s still pretty hooky – more so than (the very underrated) New Pornos album Challengers, perhaps Newman’s second most ‘mature-sounding’ album now.

Beyond that, the album is consistent in terms of sound, themes, and quality. Yes – sometimes the tempo is a little slower than power-pop usually is, but that doesn’t mean that when the song is slow it’s not good. It’s just a bit slower, that’s all (though admittedly, the slower tracks are not the highlights).

I think the main thing about the album that Steven Hyden had a problem with in his Pitchfork review was Newman’s inability to tackles mature subjects in his lyrics well enough – they’re too abstract and really, seriously, don’t seem to say much about the subjects that you can tell he’s dealing with moreso musically. This complaint is perfectly legitimate – but the problem with it is that the album is still incredibly enjoyable, and Newman’s lyrics always work well, even if they maybe aren’t Dylanesquely Earth-shattering or anything. Newman’s lyrics have always been pretty abstract (usually meaningless and chosen for sound alone) but they’ve worked beautifully and the man’s mastery of hooks – in my opinion – should really absolve him of all minor lyrical faults.