1. Album Review :: Glasser // Interiors

    I was surprised to read that Cameron Mesirow recorded her second full-length as Glasser in a windowless Manhattan studio, rather than in the isolated Swedish lakeside home made entirely of windows that I’d imagined while listening. Perhaps my preconceptions of the artist’s creative context undervalued the title she came to adorn the album with, Interiors, but there is absolutely nothing that feels contained or walled in about this record.

    There is a remarkable precision and articulate clarity to every tone crafted to be a part of Mesirow’s bizarre networks of texture and melody – perhaps in an attempt to hem in and direct her debut’s display of rawer power. Unconventional rhythmic angles are sliced with the sharpest of knives and planned with the most delicate of deliberations. Interiors is as sleek and metallic as modernist interior design, conjuring images of busy urban landscapes and the emptiness they can inspire.

    Despite its polished mazes that teem with unfamiliar noise, the freedom of motion and sense of spacious comfort that this music evokes is startling – akin to my imagination of the echoing, evergreen hills north of Stockholm. This paradox is what Interiors is all about.

    Mesirow is openly agoraphobic, so the claustrophobia that some may associate with the indoors was a welcome companion in her recent relocation to New York City. However, the cultural capital of the Eastern seaboard seems to have engendered in her, as it does in many, a hollowness amongst the mass of fast-paced individualism, “I miss the idle moments that define who we are.” 

    Ironically, producing music that is crowded shoulder-to-shoulder with ideas seems to provide solace. How then do we reconcile the sensation of space, of weightlessness, that these songs make us feel? Glasser has succeeded in a much sought after goal of art; to express personal conflict in hopes that this performance will serve as inspiration to the observer. The freedom that the listener relishes in the found space on Interiors is exactly what she wants us to feel, and exactly what she wants to feel herself.

    Glasser has addressed paradox in the modern condition by confronting it head-on. How can tones so sparkling and clean seem like they belong bouncing off of lush hillsides? How can a sound so utterly urban and contemporary simultaneously seem primitive, as it does on “Landscape?” How can a style so otherworldly, melodies so foreign, take “New Year,” feel right at home in our xenophobic, insulated ears?

    All these things are possible because Mesirow embraces the contradiction of being an experimental pop artist, of being born into a life of critical recognition and furthering her renown by showcasing her human insecurities, of using fear to overcome fear. “My home has no shape; nothing to sustain me, but it keeps me safe from imagined pain.”

    If another goal of art could be said to remove humanity, if only for a moment, from the physical world by using the tools of the very same physical world, Interiors has followed all the rules of architecture to make a building that floats.

    “In the dim light of the truth, all I can do is bow.” 


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 10.8.2013


  2. Album Review :: Sigur Rós // Kveikur

    When I heard there was yet again a new Sigur Rós record on its way—only a year after Valtari’s post-hiatus return to form—I looked forward to the listening opportunity as I have been accustomed to over the band’s fifteen year history: anxious to be ushered into a cozy dream world by nuanced, pastoral tranquility. The Icelandic trio’s seventh studio record, Kveikur, translates to “candlewick,” an object whose destiny is to combust into hot plasma in order to shine light on nocturnal pastimes. It is with this spirit that fans and newbs alike must approach Kveikur; not as a chance to get lost in the subtle tides of an ethereal daylight as in the past, but to bear witness to a fire forged by fallible humans, a direct assault on darkness fueled by the energy and aggression of the night.

    The June sun never fully sets in Iceland—the summer solstice in Reykjavík is this Friday in fact—bringing 24-hour sunlight, during which it is not difficult to imagine your naked bum galloping across amber expanses with a buzz in your ear playing endlessly. By the same forces of nature, winter on the island comes with a thick blanket of impenetrable night through which humanity must persist. Kveikur is this fight for brumal survival; it is what we in more forgiving climates might refer to as a bout with seasonal depression, and what those epically inclined might see as Beowulf’s trial with the shadow monster Grendel. For Sigur Rós, Kveikur is their most gloves-off release to date and they land the punch.

    Those devoted to Jonsi Birgisson’s angelic pipes or bowed six-string fear not, little has changed in the band’s means of production, it has only been placed in a new context. Kveikur offers a departure from ambient pacing, strange time signatures, and the more experimental side of their breed of post-rock, but does not abandon the soaring cinematic force that defines Sigur Rós’ songwriting or the raw emotional response that it affects.

    Kveikur is the darkest the band has gotten, making use of several minor chords throughout; curiously, it is at the same time the group’s most accessible. A straightforward approach to rhythm and verse-chorus structure is relatively new for Sigur Rós, and it transcends the different feels on the record. The head-nod pop quarter note piano chimes on “Stormur” [Storm] could not be more sonically distinct from the title track’s swirling campfire séance drum pounding, yet they both are more tangible to the casual ear than even Ágætis Byrjun’s hook-sticky “Svefn-G-Englar.” The trio produced the album themselves, eliminating an unnecessary filter on their expression and no doubt contributing to its fluidity.

    This sense of being within reach of the songs on Kveikur in a way that their previous recordings do not possess might be due to the fact that this release is the band’s most strongly rhythmic. The off-kilter dirge on “Brennistein” [Brimstone] tips off this adaptation of style. Georg Holm’s bass tones surface from the rollicking ocean storm like bursts of air from a whale’s blowhole. Voicing gritty steering pulses instead of simply providing structure, the bass rises from deep ocean currents to the surface—so turn your subwoofer up. Likewise, Orri Dyrason provides drums that are more full in sound and present throughout songs than we’re used to. Beats are more dance-oriented than before without breaking stride—“Yfirbord’s” [Surface] utterly club boom-bap somehow doesn’t feel out of place.

    It’s rewarding to see talented musicians push their comfort zones, especially when they’re going on 40. Bands in it for the long haul will commonly release a darker or more direct record, but it’s rare that those directions are combined in the sort of visceral expression on Kveikur. This bold move is especially impressive considering Sigur Rós’ steady climb in commercial success post-Ágætis Byrjun,distinguishing them from fellow second-wave post-rockers Explosions in the Sky and Mogwai, who each released a ho-hum record in 2011.

    Hearing Jonsi’s voice transform from angel to demon is a spectacle and listening to orchestral horns and strings change hands from cherubs to ghouls is refreshing, if not a sign of the times. As always, I wish I could understand the lyrics, but that’s never been and still isn’t really the point—it’s enough to know that “Isjaki,” the song off the album you’ll probably be hearing in coffee shops and restaurants the rest of the summer, means “Iceberg.”

    There’s something anachronistic about Sigur Rós’ music, maybe due to the use of such an old world language as Icelandic, or maybe because it moves beyond ideas of modernity to dish out something simultaneously raw, traditional, and pop. That’s why Kveikur’s directness works so well; it falls in the line with the unabridged emotional delivery that was always present in their body of work. That, partnered with the space for imagination that darkness provides makes for a record that’s not difficult—in fact, “easy listening” might be appropriate—but invites you to challenge yourself if you so choose.


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 6.18.13 


    Instead of casually ignoring the house music in between Youth Lagoon and Majical Cloudz’ sets at Metro on Wednesday (5/15), I found it difficult to deflect my attention away from the baroque opera interlude wafting over the speakers during YL’s sound-check. This transition was eclectic and odd, echoing the mood of the show itself. 

    By the time operatic wails morphed into the hauntingly epic intro to  Wondrous Bughouse, “Through Mind and Back,” and the huge cloth stalagmites behind the band illuminated in Technicolor, the atmosphere felt like an arena concert shoved into a basement practice space on a weird weekday night. A hodge-podge of instruments and decorations was unveiled from the black shrouds that hid them during Majical Cloudz’ set. Youth Lagoon’s live band included a bassist with fiery red braids and an Aztec-patterned blanket draped over his cabinet, a drummer with old school looks resembling Craig Finn and a C&C kit snuggled onto a rug with cubist shapes on it, a greasy guitarist with a cream-colored Strat, and of course Trevor in his wiry-haired, loose sweater, chunky necklace glory. There was no consistency in aesthetic and no direct message other than be yourself. 

    The performance itself fit comfortably within great expectations: Wondrous Bughouse’s playground of sounds was compelling when fleshed out with live instrumentation and massive speakers; familiar synth tones were reproduced spot-on; and the band engaged in some welcome improvisation—notably, extending the 1-2-3-4 head-banging drop in “Sleep Paralysis” by only hitting on 1 the first few times through, and providing an outro to “Posters” that featured what seemed to be the wailing tones of an injured alley cat. They played both singles off the new record, though saving “Dropla” for the encore, and gave us “17,” while holding out on “Afternoon.” The show was quite professional for a young-20s bedroom artist—you could see that he’s really grown into the shoes he inherited with 2010’s The Year of Hibernation.

    As one would expect from his lyrics and interviews, Trevor was quite meek and lovable throughout. Stopping only really once to chat, he related that, “I had a hot dog across the street and I feel like it’s got my brain moving really fast” and “This is one of my favorite venues in the world…How do the Cubs sound live?” Despite humble, silly speech, Trevor certainly got into it, punching an electronic piano with the butt of his hand repeatedly during “Raspberry Cane” and throwing his mic during the closing encore, “Montana,” with as much force as he could muster while being conscious not to really break anything.  

    This was indeed a concert of admittedly awkward artists bearing their souls to strangers. Devon Welsh—lead singer of Majical Cloudz—broke down any intimidation wrought by his somewhat skinhead appearance with neat, gracious bows and quick headshakes to ward off clapping. At one point in their set, he scurried over to the gap between the stage and the crowd-controlling barricade, peered down into the dark chasm, flicking his head up and down in what felt like a mix of fear and disbelief and said simply, “We’ve never played with one of these things before. It’s weird.” Welsh and his compatriot Matthew Duffy—who DJ’ed atop what looked like an ironing board—were nestled into a small pocket of the stage lit by a single yellow floodlight, but commanded the attention of the room; no doubt thanks to Welsh’s emphatic and arresting vocals. The simplicity and subtlety of their music is powerful, and their stage presence is endearing. Welsh declined a mic stand, opting instead for sitting cross-legged on stage during “Turn Turn Turn” and delivering “Silver Rings’” bitter ultimatum, “I don’t think about dying alone, silver rings stay with me,” from a crouched position, rocking back-and-forth with vicious force. After knocking back another swill of the honey bear that he drained during their set, Welsh announced, “sorry, that’s the best we can do.” Which they followed with their last song and new single, “Bugs Don’t Buzz,” off their upcoming record, Impersonator, releasing May 21st on Matador.

    Majical Cloudz has been on tour with Youth Lagoon for the past month. They have yet to announce a tour in support of Impersonator, but are doing a record release show at Glasslands in Brooklyn on the 20th. Youth Lagoon soldiers on into Europe for the month of July.


  4. Album Review :: Wampire // Curiosity


    Creeping out from the quiet warbles and crinkles of the needle drop that begin Wampire’s debut, an archetypal pipe organ leaks notes of familiar darkness. A shadowed, Draculesque figure hunches in front of the haunted keys as metallic, baroque horror echoes off the walls. Buckling to an irresistible curiosity, we approach the figure, a pool of sweat collecting on our brow in the cool humidity of his dungeon hall. We reach the bench where the embodiment of our fears sits, just as he whisks around to greet us with a smooth bass lick, an assortment of ghoulish fellows, and a contemporary “Monster Mash” in Curiosity’s opener, “The Hearse.”

    It’s hard to not have images of ballroom blitzes or Scooby-Doo chase scenes dance through your mind while listening to Wampire’s first release, Curiosity. The Portland, Oregon duo of Rocky Tinder and Eric Phipps—trio, if you include Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s bassist and the album’s producer Jacob Portrait—have crafted a record with a precise and distinct tone that is this silly, frantic nightmare. It is sinister at the same time that it is playful, fun and danceable at the same time that it is deeply confessional and at moments, depraved—as “Orchards” admits, “inside the old folks home, I can’t stop my laughter.” An absolute expertise in tonality is what was necessary to hollow out such a niche, and is what makes the LP so singular.

    Clocking in at just over half an hour, Curiosity is fast-paced and concise, moving through its nine tracks without dwelling on any one hook long enough for the listener to recognize it as such—the one exception being “Outta Money’s” take on the Arcade Fire 2-chord epic. The opening track and the group’s exposé of style, “The Hearse” tromps through its gothy, new wave pop-rock with a guilty smirk, “nobody knows what I have done…if you were in my shoes, you’d do it too.” A pleasant surprise arrives with the ambient break halfway through the song—a faux pas for the first track on a pop LP maybe—but also a candid plug: hey, we have guts, from Portland’s latest in psychedelic.

    Each song is stuffed with sound — there is, simply put, a lot going on and a lot to pay attention to in a short amount of time — despite catchy hooks and appropriated pop forms (i.e. the chord progression on “Trains,” that even Rolling Stone couldn’t keep its hands off of). What’s impressive is that every layer of noise is so articulate and finely honed that wherever your ear chooses to roam is a worthwhile endeavor. The lonesome, desert whistle on “Orchards” seems to better encapsulate the Western movie genre than John Wayne does. The tin flute effect that responds to the call of the offbeat guitar strums during the verses of “Spirit Forest” is as out-of-this-world as it is oddly organic. And the synth tones during the second half of “I Can’t See Why” conjure an image of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” on the moon. Even the smallest nuance like the güiro scrape that enters the percussion on “Trains” at 1:20 has been altered to sound like a croaking frog to match the mood of cinematic horror. The most remarkable moment of this recording fluidity is the subtle implosion on “Giants” at the 2:30 mark. Rarely is a half-time break pulled off so well, not to mention a 180-degree reversal in feel, from a driving, tension-filled beat to a spacious jazz groove.

    Flawless transitions are endemic to the record, and necessary in order to cram this many ideas into an attention-deficit 32 minutes. It is as if Curiosity has taken a postmortem body, with krautrock blood and a heart of rhythm and blues, and resurrected it by stapling and gluing on pieces of our postmodern musical Diaspora. Wampire’s Frankenstein Rock has defibrillated Dick Dale surf rock on “Giants” and the “Hotel California” voiced chords on “Orchards” with the production savvy of post-dubstep (for example, the downtempo intro of “Magic Light”) and the tonality and spirit of Oregon psychedelic dance bedfellows Unknown Mortal Orchestra and STRFKR (the second half of “Magic Light”).

    Whether by coincidence or some pulling of strings that surely resulted in a large amount of ribbing among the higher-ups, Vampire Weekend’s new record also came out this week. Though Wampire certainly has a lot left to prove, Curiosity busts down doors in the messy free-for-all that is indie rock on a similarly self-aware and intellectual plane to the way VW’s self-titled did five years ago. With a name like Wampire, an adaptation of Phipps’ nickname coined by goth friends in Germany, these guys obviously don’t take themselves too seriously — see their new video for “Orchards” for more; it features a character that resembles a splicing of the two main Scarers in Monsters, Inc. This light-hearted nature is ironic and refreshing when paired with dark music and rather serious nocturnal confession, “I give to you, you give to me, but I never seem to get what I need,” or “you could be the nighttime sky and see me lose my mind.” It is these oppositions of goofy, yet quite unsettling; sunny tunes, but lit by an amber moon; Kraftwerk cover B-sides released next to music with Motown flair, that makes the fact that “we can’t figure out which way to turn” work. Making and experiencing music is all about exploration and curiosity because “life is but a playground with kids running around.” Wampire makes that feeling accessible through a new avenue on Curiosity


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 5.13.2013


  5. Album Review :: Deerhunter // Monomania


    Bradford Cox, a high school dropout from suburban Atlanta who scoffs at sexual orientation and has been shadowed since childhood by Marfan syndrome, has become a hipster household name and his psychedelic avant-garde pop band Deerhunter is influencing future generations of musicians. This is the state of American music and I for one couldn’t be happier.

    Deerhunter released Halcyon Digest in 2010 and for all intents and purposes nailed the sound they had been refining since recording 2001’s debut, Turn It Up Faggot. Dream and ambience, impermanence and renewal were all captured in this strangely palatable nugget of pure music gold. The alchemist is never satisfied however with just one successful transformation, and as prolific as Cox has been in and outside of Deerhunter in the past ten years (he put out a record each year from 2008-2011 as Atlas Sound), our collective consciousness knew Midas would test his touch elsewhere.

    Fleeting as musical taste has become in the digital age—rarely offering unique and promising sounds more than a sophomore slump to prove themselves—Cox and Deerhunter knew they had to carve out a new niche in our cultural fabric or face fading into a blur of reverb behind The Deer Tracks, Deerhoof, and Deerpeople, or god forbid receive a flat review from Ian Cohen.

    Monomania’s press release sent its buzzing shrapnel into the media army on Monday March 22nd, advertising the band’s sixth record (counting Microcastle’s addendum, Weird Era Con’t.) as “nocturnal garage” and “avant-garde(?) but only in context not form (original intent of avant garde (1912-59)) / before logic: FOG MACHINE / LEATHER / NEON.” Wow, right? It’s actually a pretty apt description.

    The album is certainly otherworldly in its context, as in, it sounds different than other stuff coming out right now. But that’s second nature at this point for these guys. The all caps list of nouns at the end of the release articulates the live aesthetic the band’s shooting for. Judging by a performance of the title track “Monomania” on Fallon, Cox is fully embracing a glam androgyny, which plays to his strengths quite wonderfully. He doesn’t even play guitar on stage anymore; rather, he lets a black wig cover his eyes, leather pants and boots show off his slender figure, and a sheer dress shirt drape his shoulders as he croons. The late-night affair felt very rock-star, fit with a microphone slammed to the floor, an apathetic walk off stage, and a thirty second shot of said star ambling to the studio’s elevator; which brings me to the defining characteristic of Monomania: rock n’ roll.

    Bradford Cox, needless to say, has always been pretty with-it, and given the past five years’ history of lo-fi pop music—in a collective attempt to rediscover the organic nature of 20th Century American roots music where DIY was the status quo not the exception—Cox has embraced the garage sound and his Georgia roots with a raw, rockin’ Deerhunter album—words that look pretty strange together. That’s the point.

    The record’s opening track, “Neon Junkyard,” laments the modern condition, “everything is the same as it was, but now there’s nothing left to change,” but if all Deerhunter is trying to do is make a statement in its context, not its form, the splintered, sinister riff that Cox rips out of his guitar to open “Leather Jacket II” certainly changes something, if only our expectations for the rest of the album. Deerhunter uses psychedelic noise as an instrument instead of as texture on this track, and employs the ever-fashionable vocal delay, proving that they did indeed belong at Austin Psych Fest. With the title, “Leather Jacket II” to boot, they are clearly alluding to genre and heritage. “Dream Captain” is an excellent southern garage rock tune that sounds more like Jay Reatard or Ty Segall than what was Deerhunter and touts lyrics steeped in blues tradition, “I’m a poor boy from a poor family, I got nobody who can take care of me, I’m a poor boy I’m so dirty, but look into my eyes.” The track ends on a tension-filled suspended chord that I’m fairly certain is lifted straight from “Agoraphobia” off Microcastle, as if to remind the listener where they’ve been. Cox’s most extreme exploration of this Americana revivalism is “Pensacola,” an alt-country banger featuring a somber Memphis slide guitar and Tom Petty style vocals that relate the story of how “the woman that I love took another man, nothin’ ever ends up quite like you had planned.”

    Interspersed among this old-school rock n’  roll grit are slicker rock tracks reminiscent of the early 2000s a la The Strokes, The Vines, The Hives, and The White Stripes—when mainstream pop music rediscovered rock. Frankly, when “The Missing” surfaces clean and bright out of the distorted cacophony of “Leather Jacket II,” it feels like a lost track off of Is This It, or as if the young Julian Casablancas took more drugs. “Sleepwalking’s” dream pop is just as sunny and bouncy, especially when rhythm guitar upbeat strums enter to motivate the pre-chorus. What feels like it’s better half, “Back to the Middle,” is pop-rock gem with a familiar staccato solo that hops up and down the major scale with killer simplicity. Cox never shies away from spilling his guts lyrically, despite cheery accompaniment, “this is where love has left me, it’s an endless cycle, please don’t take it away from me, look at me, my hair is falling out, you left me doubting.”

    Deerhunter oscillates between disparate rock feels with professional ease, no doubt aided in its flow by producer Nicolas Vernhes at Brooklyn’s Rare Book Room Studio, where Microcastle and Parallax were recorded. Monomania climaxes with the title track, Cox’s nod to punk, channeling the frustration-turned-acceptance he described in a 2011 interview with Rolling Stone, “I have no personal life…I’m obsessive about one thing, that there’s one thing that’s going to make me happy and it’s making music.” The final two songs on the record recede to calm acoustic confessions, “For a month I was punk…for a week I was weak, I was humbled on my knees…for a year I was queer, I had conquered all my fears, not alone anymore, but I found it such a bore.” This was Cox’s vie antérieure however, and he has since accepted his love lost, his loneliness, and his life-long dedication to making music. Monomania is an example of focus and self-exploration; a treatise to the possibility of uncovering newness and value in what appears to be a bleak, postmodern junkyard where there’s nothing left to change. It is not a return to form, because how could we expect or want it to be? It is a return to the contextually avant-garde, and for Deerhunter in 2013 that means rock n’ roll.


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 5.6.2013


    Marnie Stern hopped up to the mic on Wednesday night (4/17) with hot pink pants on and a Jazzmaster in hand to inform a packed, soggy floorat the Empty Bottle that, “Joe Wong [Stern’s touring drummer, also of Parts & Labor] drank a beer, had a coffee, and smoked some weed before this set. I’m excited. We might get to see his penis. I never have.” Wong indeed proved an invaluable asset to the set, matching the frantic nature of Stern’s guitar style with impressive fills and wild beats; not to mention providing the shirtless body to inspire Stern’s consistent encouragement that everyone take their clothes off.

    In this sort of environment, it was hard not to have fun. It may be true that Chicago never dances, but surveying the crowd brought sightings of numerous analytical faces deep in thought about Stern’s influences and several drunks nodding their heads ferociously to finger tapped loops. The point being that Stern owned the room, earning the crowd’s respect with her guitar neck prowess, and their affection with her comedy. Stern related such anecdotes as, “I don’t want to be made fun of when I’m taking a poop,” and “No penises have gotten into my vagina for so long, I feel like there’s nothing left.”

    The band played a pleasantly short set of songs off Stern’s fantastic new album, The Chronicles of Marnia, and reproduced them quite precisely. They had a full and powerful sound to match Stern’s eccentric anthems, despite being a three-piece - Marnie plays both rhythm and lead guitar parts. Though Stern’s voice isn’t the most traditionally pretty, in a live setting, her experimental vocals play to her strengths - and her impersonation of Rodney Dangerfield was spot on.

    Baltimore’s Roomrunner is on tour with Stern this April and played some tracks off their upcoming debut full-length, Ideal Cities, which is due out on May 14th via Fan Death. They made up for technical difficulties and a late start by making humble jokes like “we buy all our equipment off eBay” and playing the perfect set length for an opener. Their angular, dissonant rock is punk as hell, even though their lead singer’s failed attempt to break his guitar during the last-song-noise-freak-out was not.


    Published on Brooklyn Vegan Chicago on 4.19.2013 


  7. Album Review :: Yeah Yeah Yeahs // Mosquito


    In 2001, Yeah Yeah Yeahs released a 13-minute self-titled EP with a punk song on it called “Art Star.” In between choruses of guttural howls and cutesy doo doo doo’s, a 22-year-old Karen Orzolek talk-sang in a voice that is now as recognizable as her outfits, “I’ve been working on a piece that speaks of sex and desperation…I got a dealer in Tokyo, I got a rep in Paris, I got an agent in Rome; Shit, I got a gallery in New York!” Though at the time this was in all likelihood a facetious mockery of her peers at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Yeah Yeah Yeahs now have business connections across the globe and it’d be hard to find two nouns to better describe Orzolek’s singing voice. Hell, she’s been asked to be the cover model for Playboy—not that she took it. The band has released three critically, and publically, acclaimed albums in the past decade and have recorded songs like “Maps,” that most sentient fans of 21st century rock would at the very least recognize at its opening guitar tremolo. Despite what adds up to be enormous pressure to ‘sell-out,’ for lack of a better word, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have chosen to maintain the freedom of expression that they owe themselves. Mosquito, the band’s fourth full-length is no exception. The last track on the turn-of-the-century EP is a delightfully messy garage interpolation of “Crimson and Clover,” which features Karen crooning, “It’s the year to be hated.” For the trio that remains in tact twelve years later, 2013 is the year to be loved.

    If you’re reading this review, odds are you’ve heard Mosquito’s first single and opening track, “Sacrilege.” With the inclusion of a full gospel choir, YYYs obviously haven’t grown to fear experimentation. The patient, funk crescendo of a song abandons none of the dance foundation or gritty vocals that we have come to expect from the band, yet incorporates a moody voodoo and an R&B tone that is new for them and a fitting introduction to the record. In an interview with Noisey, Karen O described Mosquito as, “a Yeah Yeah Yeahs soul record.” Needless to say, YYYs are not a rock band anymore. Without losing the raw power of Fever to Tell, the band has smelted the darkness of Show Your Bones, the atmospheric pop of It’s Blitz!, and a myriad of influences from dub reggae to minimalist psychedelic to alchemize an album that transcends easy gentrification.

    YYYs playful and open-minded approach to making music enables Mosquito’s lovely eccentricity, but what birthed it was the band’s treatment of their producers as equal members in the songwriting process. The rich sonic textures and unique percussive feels that make this music fresh and innovative are heavily owed to the role of Dave Sitek (of TV on the Radio and the band’s long-time producer). This collaboration takes the It’s Blitz!-style danceablity of songs like “Zero” and “Heads Will Roll” to enchanted extraterrestrial lands. Take, for example, the dub jungle of “Slave” or the exotic groove of “These Paths,” that drummer Brian Chase described as, “…Dave communing with the desert; it sounds like pecans bouncing off cacti.” Karen noted medical marijuana and the recording environment of the west Texas desert as additional factors in the sound of that track. The quality of production on Mosquito and the layers of atmosphere that provide one of its defining characteristics speak to a contemporary intersection of rock and electronic music that YYYs are helping to pioneer in a way that while not as extreme as bands like Sleigh Bells or as weird and arty as The Soft Moon or Black Moth Super Rainbow, is arguably more lasting.

    Most striking for any fan of Fever To Tell or Show Your Bones, Nick Zinner’s sharp guitar riffs play a supporting role instead of the lead on this album, introducing a style that is driven by rhythm and sonic environment. The ambient found sounds of New York’s MTA steer “Subway,” while “Under The Earth’s” roots shuffle chugs through layers of dubby echoes, showcasing a catchy Eastern melody articulated not by a 6-string, but by choral vocals and orchestral strings. “Always” is drenched in dreamy synths that are lead like a dancing partner with crisp clave salsa beat. Toying with a world of dance genres has lead to heavy use of bass; take the sweet piano ballad of “Wedding Song,” whose guitar hook is quite reminiscent of Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden,” but is grounded surprisingly by a pulsing bass tone. “Slave” flaunts a more obvious reggae walk that ushers in the brilliantly distorted whine of Zinner’s guitar. YYYs experimentation bites off more than it can chew very rarely. Despite the buzz surrounding a track produced by James Murphy and a cameo by Kool Keith, aka Dr. Octagon, “Buried Alive’s” rap verse that frankly feels out of place.

    Karen O’s vocals fit seamlessly into Mosquito’s strengths. With the album’s focus on production, O is able to explore new textures and effects to push the limits of her voice. The end of “These Paths” features a melodic ping-pong game the word ‘paths’ to match the off-kilter beat in the background. She recorded a gravely, super low vocal track below her unaffected voice for the intro of “Slave” as she sings, “It eats your soul, like tears you fall, my slave, you steal, you heed the call, my slave, the keys are gone, my slave, you keep me beating on.” The mystic darkness of these lyrics is a staple of the record. It is safe to say Karen has assumed the role of a demon on Mosquito, whether she is practicing sacrilege by “falling for a guy who fell down from the sky” or using her “12 tongues [to] put a hex on you” on “Under The Earth.” Karen uses this satanic tone to flirt with the sexy nature of her vocals in a fantastic way. The best example of this is the sinister title track, “Mosquito,” which is a showcase for Karen. Her mosquito buzzes are spot on and her repetitions of “suck your, suck your, suck your blood” make the listener hungry. The song has a lovely bridge/ build with haunting, tension-filed guitar during which Karen slips through gritted teeth, “they can see you but you can’t see them, so are you gonna let them in, hiding beneath your bed, crawling between your legs, sticking it in your veins, were you itching when they called your name?” The influence of girl-group punk is tangible here, owing something to their Mexican cohorts Le Butcherettes. As always, she gets pretty freaky. On the goofy, “Area 52,” what Nick called “the ultimate B-side” and the only traditional rock song on the album, Karen begs, “take me as your passenger, take me as your prisoner, I wanna be an alien, take me.” Despite sex and desperation, her soft side shows at the close of the album, “Wedding Song” flatters with, “you’re the breath that I breath.” Karen is more savvy and controlled with her vocal style than ever before, bouncing between soft and sass in the intro of “Sacrilege” and sweetly lulling her audience on “Subway.”

    Yeah Yeah Yeahs have pushed themselves to new heights on Mosquito. They have crafted a sound that is new for them and unique in its context, but that falls neatly into what we have come to expect from a trio whose power and creativity runs consistently unchecked. 


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 4.16.2013 


  9. (Source: partisanrecords)

  10. greenpointtattooco:

    Round 2.
    Adam is back to Fl. He sat like a rock which make a huge difference.

  11. bassdrumofdeath:

    Bass Drum of Death LP // June 25th

    *Official Artwork*


  12. Album Review :: Wavves // Afraid of Heights


    From a casual first listen Afraid of Heights revises little in Nathan Williams’ recipe for the noisy, apathetic surf rock of Wavves’ August 2010 release King of the Beach — a record that cornered a spot for the band on many album of the year lists and as a mainstay of summer festivals for the past two years. Williams’ knack for making hooky power-chord punk songs fronted by his repetitive, intoxicating nasal drone is alive and well. What has changed is the depth of his lyrical apathy and hopelessness, trading lines like “I’m just having fun with you” and “You’re never gonna stop me” for “first we gotta get high and sail to the sun / chances are none, we’ll all die alone just the way we live / in a grave.”

    While King of the Beach was drenched in the carefree invulnerability of summer surf and smoke, Wavves has developed an aging adolescent sense of helpless and reckless abandon that overflows from every depressed line on Afraid of Heights. “Do what you’re brain says, take what you like / soon it’s over, you’ll regret your whole life / it’s not as easy as I thought it would be, that’s on me.” Williams asserts this painfully unrealized search for meaning, but finds comfort in the constraints of contemporary life by writing them off with a whatever, dude. This is the plague of the offspring of baby boomers; an extended adolescence that has too much to really want anything, viewing itself and this dilemma as unique and impossible to relate to. Williams channels this lonely egoism on the album’s title track, “I’ll always be on my own, fucked and alone.” He reminds this listener again on “Lounge Forward” with a lazy howl Billie Jo Armstrong would be proud of, “none of you will ever understand me.” Wavves’ obsession with drugs, death, and self-deprecation boils over into suicidal thoughts voiced through a warbling vibrato reminiscent of Conor Oberst on “Demon to Lean On;” “holding a gun to my head, so send me an angel / or bury me deeply instead, with demons to lean on.”

    Afraid of Heights confronts its crippling anxiety and Williams’ apparent fear of fame with stoned acceptance, “There’s nothing to prove, nothing to do / there’s nowhere to go, nothing to lose.” In a way, this self-imposed creative limit protects the album from criticism, because if he doesn’t care then why should we? The 90s slacker rock sound of the album matches its lyrical tone; take the Cobain-heavy sludge of “That’s on Me” or the “Blister in the Sun” acoustic intro on “Demon to Lean On.” With better production quality than we’ve heard from Wavves before — this might not even qualify as “lo-fi” anymore — Williams is able to explore psychedelic sonic textures akin to his earlier work on Wavves from a new angle. The third track, “Mystic,” is an example of this experimentation and a sleeper on the record; the swirling, syncopated bass riff in the chorus is the closest thing the album has to a killer riff.

    The nonchalant attitude Wavves approaches music-making with provides a cap to the height it can reach in terms of producing something truly excellent or groundbreaking. However, that’s kind of the whole point. I doubt Nathan Williams cares how much of a whiny brat he acts like, because we’re just jealous he turns the adolescent feelings we try to squelch into a fame that he apparently doesn’t even enjoy. The cheeky irony it takes to make a playful jangle-pop song about a friend killing a cop or to make a track called “I Can’t Dream,” the dreamiest track on the record, lets us know not to take it all too seriously either.


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 3.25.2013

  13. +~~~ bike-by.lol.bye ~~~+


  14. Album Review :: Youth Lagoon // Wondrous Bughouse


    After a decade marked by social digitization, political alienation, and the monetization of indie, Youth Lagoon, the musical persona of Boise, Idaho’s 22-year-old Trevor Powers, has emerged with a knack for channeling the insecurities and frustrations of existing in this cultural context. His own bittersweet introspection is made relatable by its childlike sincerity and innocence. Wondrous Bughouse is a study on daydreams, inspiration, and silver linings.

    Youth Lagoon’s sophomore record stands tall and sure-footed. Powers has taken the dreamy, minimalist lo-fi pop of his 2011 debut, The Year of Hibernation, from the bedroom to the full studio, and walks out with an album of dense, experimental arrangements and delicate sonic playgrounds of melody and ambience. Psychedelic textures and noises provide a rich backdrop to booming, melodic choruses, immediately accessible from the second track, “Mute.” Live-recorded percussion has enabled more diversity in beats than was seen on his previous album and cleaner production has allowed for more audible lyrics and better effects control. Powers has not abandoned the style fans are familiar with however; Youth Lagoon still writes quirky collections of subdued, yet powerful pop, but his new record is freshly nuanced and patiently fleshed out.

    Bughouse’s greatest strength is its ability to step out of time. Its songs are as rooted in the songwriting of 20th century pop-rock ballads (see: “Pelican Man”), as they are in the sonic experimentation of psych-pop contemporaries like Animal Collective or Yeasayer. Powers’ approach to making music is like a childhood memoir, the indiscriminate sincerity unleashed by writing a diary makes for seamless weaving of influence, modern and antique. Toy-like, carnival melodies on tracks like “Attic Doctor” glisten with hazy summer memory, while “Dropla” deals with watching a loved one pass away on a hospital bed by wailing, “You’ll never die.” The contrast between the maturity of song-craft and production on the album and Powers’ continuing embrace of the fearless creativity of youth make for a sound that directly confronts notions of coming of age without ignoring what came before.

    Wondrous Bughouse is Powers’ anxious memoir from the past and present, delivered high-register and dripping with tremolo: “as I hear the horses drawing close, over all the corpses we have left, I’ve never seen them, I’ve never seen them.” This is Youth Lagoon, a hopeful dystopia where we face the horrors and banalities of the world with innocence, curiosity, and bravery. 


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 3.9.2013


  15. Track Review :: Yeah Yeah Yeahs » “Sacrilege”

    In an interview with SPIN, Karen O described Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ 4th record, Mosquito – due out April 16 cased in its bold and wacky cover – as, “moodier and tripped-out…you might catch some roots reggae and minimalist psychedelia influences in there.” Guitarist Nick Zinner attributed this sound to, “the New Orleans vibe [where the band started writing Mosquito]. Just the juju in the air.”

    “Sacrilege,” the first single released from Mosquito and its opening track, drips with this doomy juju, swirling around a minor blues skeleton until it boils over in gospel catharsis. The song is founded on a fat, descending bass line that, when joined by Karen’s soulful, witchy howl evokes dreams of spiritual resurrection or séance. A laid-back funk beat enriched with hand percussion fills out the slick groove, inviting Zinner’s twirling guitar licks to dance around vocals that at this point are immediately recognizable.

    Karen O embraces her devilish mystique on “Sacrilege,” detailing how she is, “fallin’ for a guy, who fell down from the sky,” and how, considering their respective origins, the fact they have a bed that can be referred to as “our,” is “sacrilege, you say.” Despite strained assertions that, “I plead and I pray,” a choir seems to burst from the heavens to deliver the track’s climatic reprise. This moment of divine intervention is punctuated by a clever inversion of the formerly descending bass line at 2:37 to carry us powerfully into the song’s A cappella close.

    “Sacrilege” is a promising first listen for Mosquito, ushering their audience into a new sound forYeah Yeah Yeahs that maintains the gritty dance rock we’re familiar with – Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio produces, as with past YYY’s albums – while incorporating some darker, hazier tones and moods. There is a harkening back to the punker mentality of the band’s debut, Fever To Tell, with a psychedelic freedom achieved by getting 2009’s pop-loaded It’s Blitz! out of their system. Lord willing, we’ll get to see “Sacrilege” fleshed out by Questlove and a full gospel choir on Fallon in the coming weeks. __


    Published on Pretty Much Amazing on 3.9.13