Here's a little disclaimer: I don't know jack shit about indie rock. I don't follow too many current music trends. I don't know who is hip or cool or "right now" and I generally don't care. I am not so much picky, but strange about the music I let into my ears.
That being said let me tell you about a little band from Orlando, Florida. The Pauses are an indierocktronica trio who's debut album A Cautionary Tale came out this month. Is it good? Well, while I am writing this I am on my third listen, if that says anything. But there is more to say.
The thing that stands out the most for me is the clever hooks, the range of varied sounds and how it all falls together into an intricate pattern of goodness. There is just enough of each element. The melodies are memorable, and I promise there is a little surprise in each song.
I'd love to tell you what my favorite track is, but I can't. I really love them all. I am really excited to be seeing them live on the 19th.
Do yourself a favor and pick up A Cautionary Tale. (also available on iTunes and at Amazon)
Chances are you've heard all these songs before, but you haven't heard them like this! Songs The Brothers Warner Taught Me is a rejuvenating look back at the good ol' days of the Warner Brothers cartoons with a pop that's undeniable. I got the chance to ask Megan Lynch a few questions about her album to give a bit of an insight into the whole process as well as to see what's in store for the future.
Interview after the jump!
Just came across this music video today through the various social webs and I would be lyin
g if I said I didn't bounce with glee. The cameos in this video are ridiculous and awesome and the video feels somewhat reminiscent of "Use It," which is perhaps my favorite music video of The New Pornographers.
I am disappointed. I am disappointed in myself for having unrealistic expectations. I am disappointed in myself for starting to write this review as "a critic" and not as what I am: a fan. I am no critic. I went off on a mini-rant earlier today on topic of critics not being very nice. I'm not always nice, but I cannot listen to music and remove myself from being a fan. I love music too much and too easily. So I've scrapped much of the first draft of this review and am starting over. So that said, as a fan, I like the new album, but I am disappointed.
Adele was one of those artists who blew me away when I first heard her. Her debut, 19, had not one weak track and deserved every bit its 2008 Mercury Prize nomination and the Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance Grammys it earned her in 2009. So, I have been particularly eager for the sophomore follow-up entitled 21. Today sees its release pretty much everywhere except the US and Canada, who must await 22 February. *note: I am a huge fan of the direct buy from artist or record company where possible which means being able to ignore such regional release idiocy most of the time. But that is another rant entirely.
The title of this review, when I was pretending to be a critic, was going to be "Adele - 21: Less Intimate, More Mature" That was after the three complete listens it had had, the themes sung about within, and the thought of how a critic would try to categorize her growth as a person and an artist. That's some bull pucky if I ever heard it. 19 was mature. 19 dealt with a variety of themes whilst managing to be simple yet diverse in the musical style. Adele's voice was never secondary and never overshadowed by the accompaniment. It was award winning and stands as one of my favourite albums ever. How is that not mature?
What I hoped from 21 was the unrealistic expectation that it would be more of the same. There are flashes of that, to be sure, but I cannot help but be disappointed in the more grand production style of the majority the album. For me, it does too often push her voice aside. The vocals on 19 saw much more freedom than those of 21. Here her voice seem more constrained and much less free to wow me it did on 19. That combination of unleashed vocals within simpler arrangements made me an instant fan of Adele. I can understand the branching out and the adding of more layered music, yet I find myself longing for less of it.
What really brought that home for me was watching the live webcast of Adele's concert from The Tabernacle at London today as seen on adele.tv It was a simple setup: a keyboard player and Adele, sometimes with her guitar. More than half of the songs were from 19. I believe that was the case as much because they better fit the intimate setting as it was because there were so many hits off of 19. This was a 21 release party of sorts, yet the songs of 19 seemed to take centre stage.
The tracks on 21 which were instant love for me are the prerelease single "Rolling In The Deep", the brilliant cover of The Cure's "Lovesong", and the soft laments, "Someone Like You" and "Hiding My Heart". Rolling in the Deep has more of that new style, but without overshadowing that voice and letting her do her thing. It was liked on first listen and loved soon after. Lovesong was loved immediately. Well, actually, I didn't know what to think for the first 10 seconds and then I saw it was amazing. I find I like it more with repeated listens. Someone Like You is an emotionally raw look at a love lost but not gone. The album ends with Hiding My Heart, the most intimate track on the album. In fact, the last bit of the album is the strongest to my ears, aside from Rolling In The Deep.
Again, I do like this album and I expect I will grow to eventually love every song with more listens. I think most people will enjoy it and it could be that 21 is more commercially viable than her debut. I do not believe it will ever reach me the way 19 has, however, and that disappoints me.
Here's some Mates of State goodness for you to earworm (or eyeworm for that matter). I was going to embed my favorite song from their mixtape album "True Love Will Find You In The End," but youtube has embedding disabled for that video. You can check it out HERE however, or you can watch the equally great "Love Letter" below! Cheers!
Let's get this out of the way immediately. I don't like MGMT. They're bland psychedelia with an extra helping of bland for good measure. Their initial charm for me was in their EP with "indie rokkers." I was able to get behind the workings of that song and the musical directions present therein. With Oracular Spectacular, they went in the direction of their song "Kids," and lost my interest completely. Did their new album Congratulations change anything for me?
Absolutely not. The new album is a bust, with every song bleeding into each other without anything to distinguish them apart from each other. The first track shows promise in much of the same way as "indie rokkers" did, but the interesting sound pretty much ceases after that and the whole affair becomes the familiar psychedelic whining that we were given in the first album. The band has stated that this was a "no singles" album, and it shows. Here's hoping they grow and mature some in their next outing. You can check out the "Oracular Spectacular B-Sides" over at NPR, where they have an advanced preview. The album goes on sale on April 13.
If you want something along these lines that has a more of a unique sound, you might consider the Islands' Vapours.
You may or may not have heard about a little musical pairing called She & Him. It's a folk band by M. Ward and my super-crush Zooey Deschanel. This is a band that's always maintained a place just under my radar. Volume 1 was a solid album, but I found it slow and dragging in more than a few parts. Even the album's single "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here" kind of moseyed its way into my heart with the speed of a teenager asked to wash dishes...by hand. That's not to say that I didn't like the album, because I did. It just didn't appeal to my more "pop" sensibilities.
Enter Volume 2, which dropped on the 23rd. Having seen the music video for "In the Sun" I was anxious to hear how the rest of the album played out. NPR once again had a play-through of the entire album, and I finally gave it a listen. From the get-go, I was drawn in thanks to the livelier tunes and the tighter songs. Instead of wondering when a song would end, I found myself wishing songs would go on just a little bit longer.
I realize that complaining about the pacing in a folk album is somewhat akin to bitching about Pizza Hut pizzas having too much grease, but for me it's truly the difference between a "good" album and a "REALLY GOOD" album. And folks, it IS a REALLY GOOD album. Even if you're not that big of a Deschanel fan, I suggest you give the band a second chance with this album. Who knows, you might even tap your toes a bit.
I'm going to admit off the bat that I don't have a lot of experience when it comes to Brian Burton, aka Danger Mouse. The closest I've come to anything with his mark on it would have to be Gnarls Barkley and the second Gorillaz album, which still holds up for me all these years later. Well, today is the release date for his collaboration with The Shins' James Mercer, titled Broken Bells. As with the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, NPR had a preview up all of last week for fans to sample. I gave this one a rather ridiculous amount of play since I'm a rabid fan of The Shins.
My thoughts? It's solid.
I read through a few early reviews and the general consensus on them is that the album is "meh" or just for the Zach Braff brand of hipster. Their problems with the album, however, are what I like about it. The album is simple, and Mercer proves that he can still work his vocal wonders while evolving his musical styling at the same time. There are moments here and there where the album gets a little slow, and that's really the only place where I agree with most of the reviewers out there.
If you like either of these two artists and what they do, you'll want to pick up this album. Like I said, it's solid and enjoyable.
Today marks the release of Plastic Beach, the third album by virtual band Gorillaz. If you're up to date on your music news, you'll know that NPR has had a preview of the entire album up on it's site to give fans an early listen. After about a dozen or so listens, I thought I would share some kind of review for you. Short version: It's good and you need to go buy it right away.
Slightly less short version: If you're expecting the same kind of album as Demon Days or their self-titled debut, you might be a little disappointed. There are less standalone singles here than in previous albums. The trade off, though, is that the album feels more connected and flows way better. From first to the last track, it's an entire experience. Granted, nothing quite to the extent of Girl Talk's Feed The Animals, but it gets close and you will find yourself going through the entire album more than once without realizing how many tracks have passed.
I have a little bias in this review as I've enjoyed Damon Albarn's band since the beginning and could tell I would enjoy this new album immediately after listening to Stylo when it was leaked awhile back. And the singles on this track are difficult to get out of your head, from the frenetic "Superfast Jellyfish" to the somber "On Melancholy Hill." It's a finely crafted album and I heartily recommend you get it at your earliest convenience.
Need more proof? Check out the music video for Stylo below!