Afghan Whigs- Do to the Beast
Apr 10, 2014
Ten years after their debut EP was released, Danish indie rockers Figurines are showing no signs of slowing down with their most recent release. Their eponymous album is full of eccentric, quirky melodies laced with euphoria.
For the most part, Figurines remains upbeat and sublime throughout its 40-minute running time. However, beneath its glossy production and joyous jangle lie subtle undertones of angst and heartfelt earnestness. Vocalist Christian Hjelm’s warbling tenor draws the listener in past the surface of the music, and the use of keyboards, Beatles harmonies and certain chord progressions creates the underlying gloom beneath the glimmer and shine of the songs.
The angst that resides under the surface of Figurines is above all things full of optimism and a yearning for something better. In “Lucky to Love,” probably the song that most evidently reflects this dichotomy, Hjelm repeats the refrain “All I want to do is to wake up and make it / All I want to do is to wake up and break it” — and he makes you believe it when he sings it. “Call Your Name” could almost pass for a Sgt. Pepper’s-era Beatles ballad with its haunting harmonies and gently plucked guitar lines.
The lush and intricate melodic landscape of Figurines makes it a compelling and incredible listen from start to finish. It is the perfect soundtrack for either a laid-back summer drive or a rainy day. If anything, Figurines’ self-titled record proves that the band is at the cusp of breaking onto the radar of unforgettable modern bands in a big way.
Listen to "Lucky to Love":
If you’re the type of person who likes to listen to the same music that doesn’t deviate from the sounds and feelings that you’re familiar with, Gruff Rhys isn’t for you. If you are a little more adventurous, however, and like to throw yourself out there to find something different, then Gruff Rhys has made your job a lot easier on his third solo album, Hotel Shampoo.
No two songs sound similar to each other on Hotel Shampoo, and every song brings in different elements and sounds that the listener could not expect. Songs like “Take a Sentence” showcase a dramatic piano contribution, but on more upbeat songs like “Honey All Over” percussion takes center stage accompanied by melodies produced on an electric keyboard. These are sounds that we hear all the time though.
Rhys makes his biggest impact by bringing in sounds that we recognize but rarely hear on serious albums. “Sensations in the Dark”, a song about discovering new music, has a mariachi-flare to it. The vocals for “Christopher Columbus” dance over sci-fi inspired sound effects. When was the last time you heard Columbus’ oceanic trek sung over sounds that are similar to Star Trek.
Hotel Shampoo isn’t an album for idle listeners. All of the different sounds and styles present make it an album that you’ll want to devote your attention to from start to finish.
Listen to "Sensations in the Dark":
Gorillaz are back and once again on a virtual rampage through our headphones and MP3 players with a new album brought to you via the iPad.
The Fall is the newest album from Gorillaz. It‘s full of electro beats and relaxed vocals. The album, as a whole, meshes well from song to song and keeps the same tone throughout. But The Fall has sudden surprises that will keep you wondering if the rest of the album is going to change the sound or not.
The sound of this virtual band has changed over the course of the decade ever since they were first introduced in 2001. From their debut album Gorillaz to Demon Days, Gorillaz have kept their mysterious fashion in a unique way, almost as if they were adjusting to the current trends of music while keeping their characteristic sound.
This album is definitely worth a listen, their sound changes to suit any music lover‘s taste.
Listen to "Revolving Doors":
Bright arpeggio-blasting guitars, brilliant melodies and powerful chords make the North Carolina trio Hammer No More The Fingers worth the time. Hailing from Durham, these musicians play catchy and edgy songs with crisp, clear melodies, fulfilling harmonies and a beat that really punctuates every musical phrase.
In 2008, Hammer No More The Fingers debuted with a self-titled EP in that landed them on the top 25 bands to watch from both Steam magazine and CMJ. 2009 sparked the bands ever-growing career with the release of their first full length LP, Looking For Bruce. The band started gathering the well-deserved reputation of post-'90s alternative rockers with an expertise in creating fun, happy-go-lucky songs.
Black Shark demonstrates that Hammer No More The Fingers has great depth and don’t just write about the fun times but also the depressing times. Usually, the high movement in the guitar and drum lines makes for a fun listen. Some tracks, for example “The Visitor,” has slowed-down and sad motifs to them, making a much needed change of pace to the album.
If you’re looking for a band to look out for in the future you cannot be let down by Hammer No More The Fingers.
Listen to a live version of "Steam":
Maritime’s fourth full length album starts off strong and forces you to listen to the entire thing before it lets you go. Human Hearts is catchy, riffy indie rock that offers the unique combination of driving beats and relaxed melodies. The singing is dreamy and soothing, but the bass and drums keep you awake like an alarm clock, except Maritime’s instruments aren’t annoying at 10 a.m.
“Annihilation Eyes,” is a departure from the typical sound of the rest of the album. It wouldn’t be totally out of place on a Gin Blossoms album but doesn't stray too far from the members' past bands like the Promise Ring. The song begins on upbeat happy notes and that sound continues through the whole thing while the chorus will win over any skeptical listener. The song flows with peppy and anthem-like repeats of its namesake before the last 40 seconds take you off on a harmonious repeat of the chorus.
Human Hearts is a very strong fourth offering from Maritime and the band has taken no steps back in their ability to play music.
Listen to "Annihilation Eyes":
Noise-pop connoisseurs will fall in love with Crystal Stilts In Love With Oblivion. They show off with fuzzed-out, guitar-led hooks and age-old punk elements.
They pull elements from the '60s that you think are long gone before this point. You think they must have pulled their keyboard work from either The Doors or the Animals. With songs like “Through the Floor,” you can’t help but sway in your seat. The perfectly distorted track helps lead the album in the right direction.
A mere five tracks later, you’re introduced to “Shake the Shackles,” that rocks you out of the pleasant daze you must have drifted into during the first six songs.
You can hear the Brooklyn band's take on the psychedelic garage rock that you grow to think Crystal Stilts must have invented. When you realize that they’re only on their sophomore album, you can’t help but root for these guys for a long-standing career. In Love With Oblivion sets a distinct atmosphere and gives you a body high that starts with your ears and ends with a tingle in your toes.
Hear the warm echoes of "Through the Floor":
The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most important alternative music of the last few decades. Modest Mouse, Death Cab For Cutie and Fleet Foxes have all called the rainy, pine-laden land home, not to mention the entire grunge scene. Anacortes, Washington’s rocky quartet The Lonely Forest returns with their third album, Arrows, a slice of alternative nostalgia.
The album is the first produced by Trans Records, the venture of Death Cab’s Chris Walla. After forming in 2005, the band’s Regicide EP helped them win the Experience Music Project competition the following year. Now, three albums later, Arrows slides them back into kaleidoscopic view.
Slow-burning opener “Be Everything” recalls the articulate vocal delivery of Death Cab’s Ben Gibbard wrapped in an unfolding bouquet of acoustic plucks and violin whines. “Turn Off This Song And Go Outside” is a carpe-diem pop anthem to love and adventure, complete with catchy riffs tap-tapping drums.
Evoking the hum-along pop of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Arrows glides along through 12 tracks, each a piece of alternative pop that’s polished and dripping with alternative standbys—“I Don’t Want To Live Here” sounds like a forgotten Death Cab track from The Photo Album era, complete with a thick keyboard chord breakdown and choppy percussion.
Sure, it’s easy to say The Lonely Forest play it safe. But does that make their music any less enjoyable? The answer is a resounding no. Step into their wooded Washington glen and let their pop sounds keep you company.
Listen to "Turn Off This Song and Go Outside":
Julianna Barwicks's The Magic Place delivers sleek, sultry and siren-like choral melodies over light instrumental tracks. Her vocal tone is highly reminiscent of Enya and Clannad while establishing her own far-out, phased, unintelligible lyrics.
The Magic Place is Barwick's second album release following Sanguine, on the Asthmatic Kitty record label. Hailing from Brooklyn NY, Barwick has self-defined her genre of music as experimental and/or other.
Much remains the same on this album, as funky flowing rhythms lie underneath a well balanced bed of vocal harmonies. The disc doesn't offer much in terms of variety, yet isn't the least bit static. Each track placement has definite purpose in moving the album along thematically. Tracks like "Envelop" and "White Flag" truly embody the care in which Barwick layers her vocal arrangements. Other tracks, like "Flown" and "Prizewinning," use less but more elegant layering design.
Julianna Barwick's The Magic Place is a pleasant surprise and highly enjoyable listen for those looking for beautifully sophisticated vocal harmonies delivered in an transcendent, ambient waveform.
Listen to the ambient "Envelop":
Bibio is Stephen James Wilkinson: one man who performs as Bibio and creates all the sounds heard on Mind Bokeh. This album is hard to describe because it seems to change its own mood from one song to the next. The album itself is very polished. There are times where it appears chaotic, but Bibio always knows where he wants his song to go next and he knows how to get there.
There is a distinct chillness that comes from the sound of Mind Bokeh. Every song has a relaxing quality that shows through. It’s also reassuring that every song appears to be well thought out.
“Light Seep” is one of those songs that stands out against the rest of the album because it sounds completely different from the rest of the stuff Wilkinson recorded. It’s a funk influenced, electronic heavy, guitar driven number that just causes the listener to sit back and feel at peace with their world.
SJW accomplished his musical vision with Mind Bokeh. The beneficiary of Bibio’s vision is our ears. This music is worth keeping on play all day.
Listen to "Light Seep":
Brooklyn’s indie scene has all started to blend together—but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Lo-fi queens Vivian Girls carry their airy girl-pop with an air of confidence, despite its similarity to the Brooklyn norm.
The comparison to contemporaries Dum Dum Girls is easy but not quite truthful. Vivian Girls bring the vintage surf-pop of simpler times, while Dum Dum Girls pile on the distortion. Vivian Girls champion the beach like Best Coast, but with more guitar melodies.
“I Heard You Say” brings on the harmonies, making the chorus a sweet affair amidst verses of confusion. Opener “The Other Girls” is an epic 8-minute piece with much guitar exercise, but it’s perhaps just a bit too long for its own good.
Vivian Girls might be the overlooked ones in the bunch, but that doesn’t stop them from trying. Singer Cassie Ramone (also of The Babies) brings her best pipes to each tune, yelping out and even sing-telling heartbreak tales in “Take it As it Comes.”
In an age where a tattooed lovelorn chick with a guitar is fashionable, Vivian Girls fit right in, and their charm might not be as striking as others, but it’s still quite enjoyable.
Listen to "I Heard You Say":