Archive for the ‘Record Reviews’ Category
Posted November 13, 2012on:
In addition to being one of the most talented pop musicians of his or any generation, Andrew Bird is a damn hard worker. As a solo artist, he has completed at least 10 releases since 2003’s Weather Systems, including instrumental albums, live compilations and EPs on top of five full-lengths. His loop-based compositions are a sight and sound to behold, and Birdman has built an impressive reputation as one of the most imaginative and original performers of the genre formerly known as indie rock. Not content to rest on his laurels, Birdman is wrapping up a most successful, prolific and affecting 2012 with his second full-length in seven months, Hands of Glory.
Billed as a companion piece to March’s superb Break It Yourself, Hands of Glory is Bird at his most reserved yet exploratory. Allowing himself the freedom of live recording and stripped down arrangements, Bird’s mastery and passion to rise to the top. From Hands of Glory’s opening track “Three White Horses”, it’s clear Bird has taken the saying “less is more” to heart. Maybe it was that tasty tomato bread we served him last summer at Celebrate Brooklyn.
Seriously, three cheers for the old guys. In an era where hype machine blog year-end top ten lists are often chock-full of buzz band debut albums, let us not forget that Rolling Stone is sometimes right. 2012 has seen great albums from the likes of baby boomer mainstays Dr. John, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, and Jimmy Cliff. Despite their age, these artists have somehow managed to adapt their style to the contemporary music world while still creating a product that is very much their own.
“Okay, I think by now we’ve established that everything is inherently worthless, and there is nothing in the universe with any kind of objective purpose.” Thus opens Local Business, the newest record from New Jersey punk band Titus Andronicus, out today on XL Recordings. The record picks up where The Monitor—their flawless Ken Burns-esque Civil War concept record—left off: a nation/central character ravaged by the polarized nature of the contemporary world finally comes to terms with its elemental duality, only to be faced with the next daunting phase of adulthood. Local Business explores the personal reconstruction after a monumental crisis, and how to define responsibility in a world more interested in gross sales than personal integrity. Oh yeah, and guitar solos.
If The Monitor is the punk rock soundtrack of the Civil War—as it most obviously is—Local Business is the Industrial Revolution. As industry continued to spread from the northeast throughout the country and the world, the Western doctrine of capitalism came into its own, finally giving our nation an identity separate from Great Britain ’s little brother. Similarly, after a tumultuous young adulthood, Patrick Stickles and band have found tangible success and buzz, and they now realize they have work to do in order to grow (or just sustain) their presence and reputation. Opting for a more classic pub rock sound and a significantly less overblown recording process, Local Business finds Titus Andronicus establishing their identity within the scene.
Ty Segall knows how to save the best for last. Twins—out this week on Chicago’s Drag City Records—is the third Segall-related release of the year, and his solo follow-up to last year’s breakout Goodbye Bread. The most enigmatic and schizophrenic rocker this side of Jack White, Segall has delivered a piece that flawlessly combines his stoner heavy blues jams with his British Invasion psych-pop gems with his punk ragers. A contender for Artist of the Year, Segall takes a serious step towards stardom on Twins.
Far more concise yet diverse than his previous two records of 2012, Twins is a pop behemoth, with moments as terrifying as they are sweet. While “polished” isn’t quite the right word, the production value is purposefully raised here, adding a commanding bottom with both clean and highly distorted guitars. The result is Segall’s most accessible album to date without sacrificing any of his edge.
Posted October 5, 2012on:
In an age fixated on data and on a quest to outsource human capabilities to computers—from painting to music criticism to consciousness itself—Animal Collective’s musical intelligence and inspired, whimsical wackiness stakes a claim for human creativity’s greater power. Even as they fully embrace technology’s expanded sound palette and power to execute ideas, the best songs on Centipede HZ, the new release, embrace traditional ideas of musicianship that value skilful attention to meter, form, and tone. And, though music has increasingly become a commodity, the success of Animal Collective – who are playing Williamsburg tonight (10/5)— seems to be more a product of their desire to convincingly express, delight, challenge, and entertain, rather than to sell product.
With six films and five Oscar nominations under his belt, PT Anderson‘s excellence is undeniable. His interest in unbalanced individuals has led him to tell some of the finest and most engaging stories in recent film. His newest–The Master— is an exploration of self and sanity as told through an unlikely friendship in a time of peace. Under layers of cordiality, substances and hypnosis, a darkness grows in the two men until one can no longer endure. The subtle and barebones script is dictated by Jonny Greenwood’s score, which takes on a soothsaying role as the characters fall into confusion, contradiction and repetition.
The music of The Master is tranquil yet distressing, illuminating the questions that exist at the heart of the film. Chamber strings slip in and out of focus like a detuned radio, juxtaposing traditional fare with the much more experimental and shrill. Alongside are warm, disorienting clarinets, each just a half-step apart at all times that rarely reach resolution. Always with a minimalist edge, Greenwood’s score exposes the noises inside a disheveled, war addled brain.
Grizzly Bear has a knack for making straight up gorgeous songs. Fortunately, the acclaimed foursome aspires to more than penning emotional ballads to play over indie rom-com closing credits and Volkswagen commercials. After a year of relentless touring on 2009’s much-loved Veckatimest, followed by a period of intense soul-searching and a novel experience in the studio, the stellar new album Shields, released on September 18, shows that Grizzly Bear has opted in to being a band for the long haul.
On Shields, the band members share more song-writing responsibilities than in the past, with encouraging results. Lead singers Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen split the crooning almost evenly. Rossen’s tinny, more anguished wail is well-matched to the assault of opener “Sleeping Ute,” which vacillates between syncopated gasps of self-discovery and yawning acceptance. Sung by Droste, “Speak in Rounds” feels like the direct descendant of Veckatimest’s “Southern Point” with hazy, big-bottomed bass notes coercing the track to an uncertain precipice. But the view from the top of the ascent offers little in the way of closure, as the spinning chorus considers “What makes each step/worth the time and regret.”