Syd Arthur are dudes who care about instrumentation. This is apparent from the first five seconds of “First Difference”, the first track off of their debut album, On An On. A string section shares headspace with guitars, synths float around in the background, the drumming sounds like something a guy trying to impress his friends at Guitar Center would play. All of which are trademarks of pure, unadulterated prog rock. However, unlike prog influenced contemporaries like Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, whose sound is greater than the sum of its time signatures, Syd Arthur often fail to write songs that cohesively hold their many musical ideas.
Please do not be alarmed by the new Shearwater album cover, which seems to contain two anthropomorphic pieces of gum separating from one another on an unspecified planet. Their songs have a relatively common indie-rock vibe, with light instrumentals at the beginnings that ease their way into dramatic rock crescendos. The simple melodies and Meiburg's handsome voice are calming for the listener, and are not as experimental as the album cover may lead you to believe.
Los Campesinos! fans, fear not, the hooks are alive and well, and maybe even better than ever on the Welsh indie-pop's fifth studio album, No Blues. I was a big fan of the band's 2011 release, Hello Sadness, a typically twee and supremely catchy bunch of songs for L.C., but an album that seemed a little more subdued than the anthemic Hold On Now Youngster…, the band's 2008 debut, and I was curious to see where L.C would head next, and how their sound might change. After listening to No Blues, it's safe to say the L.C apple doesn't ever fall far from the tree. L.C.'s six-person sound is simultaneously epic and saccharine, and as danceable as ever.
"I had a lot of fun making this album", says DevHynes on his blog, "so I hope you have a lot of fun listening". Cupid Deluxe, Hynes' latest offering under the Blood Orange, comes after a year of production for SkyFerriera and Solange, among others. One definitely gets the feeling that Hynes enjoyed making this album: the fluttering, slinky production and R&B influenced vocals are energetic and passionate, and there are plenty of duets and features.
While listening to Son Lux's Lanterns, I had a lot of fun imagining a physical orchestra playing his compositions. The idea of the impossibly fast interplay between instruments, the comically bombastic horn breaks, or the effects-laden choir that populate Lanterns existing in a real-time performance is an absurd notion. Son Lux writes big music. Much of it is Phillip Glass-like in its execution, particularly one album highlight "Lost It To Trying", where dizzying horn lines slash across the piece in alternating rhythms. However, the songs on Lanterns are more often aspire to be anthems than experiments. They are imbued with a sense of forward motion and bombast, and sound best when they are at their most frantic.
Anysome is the debut full-length album from German trio Aloa Input. Before even listening to the album, the title, even the band's name, should give some clues as to what you're in for. The idea of an 'anysome', seems to point fingers in every which way to the myriad of influences present on this album, ranging from The Postal Service, to Animal Collective, to Boards of Canada to Stereolab, etc, etc. Aloa Input has certainly crafted a unique sound for themselves, however, they control their tastes, and blend them into a surprisingly lush album.
I've seen WALK THE MOON twice now. The first time I booked them through the Mac's Place position on Activities Commission with two other Special Event Coordinators for Spring Fest two years ago. Out of the thirty-something bands I've had the pleasure of seeing come through Geneseo, WALK THE MOON is definitely in my top three.
Given their relatively short time in the spotlight, the Avett Brothers have been around a surprisingly long time. Originally formed in 2000 as something of a non-traditional bluegrass band, the group released 5 studio albums and 4 eps before striking it big in 2009 with the ballad “I and Love and You,” off the album of the same name. Since that breakthrough, the brothers Scott and Seth Avett, as well as stand-up bassist Bob Crawford and cellist Joe Kwoon, have moved towards a rootsy sound firmly planted in pop form, and on their new album The Carpenter, they seem intent on consolidating their place in popular music.
Jens Lekman had a really cool thing going on for a while. He’d sing about asthma and break ups over four chords, pretty much consistently for the last eight or nine years. It was great. 2007’s Night Falls Over Kortedala was easily one of the best records of the last decades. He was, however, pretty well known also for doing the same thing over and over again. Luckily, his newest LP I Know What Love Isn’t, is (while still clearly maintaining a Lekman aesthetic) a whole different animal.
On March 13, Say Anything released their fifth studio album on Equal Visions Records. Titled Anarchy, My Dear, the album was promised as a return to Say Anything’s Is A Real Boy style. Front man Max Bemis hailed it as a “true punk record” and assured the die-hard fans of Say Anything’s early records they would see this album as a return to form. Anarchy, My Dear, however, is anything but reminiscent of Is A Real Boy-style Say Anything.
I really wanted to love this album. Voice of Ages, by the Chieftains, is a collection of collaborations between the Chieftains – one of the most prominent Irish folk bands of the last half-century – and various folk luminaries, including the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the Decemberists. I was ready for it to be one of the best folk albums of the year. While there are some fantastic tracks on the record, there are too many disappointing ones for me to recommend this album to anybody who doesn’t have a vested interest in folk music.
Sharon Van Etten is a pretty good lady singer. The Internet tells me she writes folk songs about breaking up with people and then being sad about it; rather like a whole other bunch of pretty good lady singers. It’s a good shtick I hear, but it seems to insinuate lack of breadth (narrative, instrumental, whatever). And some of those criticisms have been levied at her previous works, and some of those criticisms were valid. So let me begin the review proper with this: Tramp is a great record.
Let me try to tell you why.