The Belle Jar- Union Station
Mar 5, 2014
Ray LaMontagne, America's favorite smoky-voiced soul stallion, returned at summer’s end with his latest collection of gospel-folk sweeps. God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise is a flavorful slice of LaMontagne's patented foot-stomp soul, though the album takes a quiet dive after the initial rumbling tracks.
A more low-key album than 2008’s loose Gossip in the Grain, God Willin’ pounds and rolls along with percussive strums and LaMontagne’s signature rusty howl (especially on "Repo Man," the album's lead-off riot track). On the third or fourth song, LaMontagne slows down, making heartfelt observations like the charmingly honest "New York City's Killin' Me."
The bearded LaMontagne teamed up with gritty backers The Pariah Dogs in rural Massachusetts to make the album, a 10-track diary of a bearded guy who calls ‘em like he sees ‘em. Part country-folk, part swinging soul, God Willin’ is all heart.
Check out "New York City's Killin' Me":
Warm surf-guitar tones crash and swell like waves as distant horns echo in the moonlight. “I’m stranded and I’m starry-eyed,” howls lead singer Hamilton Leithauser, narrating “Stranded”.
It’s easy to get lost in The Walkmen’s sixth album, Lisbon. Their unique spin on surf rock evokes vivid imagery both lyrically and musically. The songs transport the listener through vast landscapes of summer beaches and blankets of snow. Songs like “Juveniles” peacefully float, while others like “Angela Surf City” whirr with tempo and distortion.
Lisbon shows muscle, but The Walkmen use infinite control. Even the rawest songs sound effortless. The brilliantly orchestrated ode to the Portuguese city will easily whisk you away.
Check out "Stranded":
Nathan Williams (lead singer, guitar player, and mastermind behind Wavves) has this California punk, no care air about him, but he let’s his guard down for about 40 minutes in his third album King of The Beach.
Last year Wavves was full of dramatic twists and turns from having an onstage meltdown in Spain, to canceling his tour, then his drummer quitting the band. It seemed like Wavves was just one of those groups that got too crazy before they even reached their peak. This time he did things differently. He got the late Jay Reatard’s rhythm section to be a part of his band and actually recorded his songs in a studio for the first time. Dennis Herring (producer for Modest Mouse) produced the album and exposed Williams voice a bit more than usual to hear what is really going on in his brain.
In the album he sings about love, misery, self-loathing, loneliness, being lazy, no one liking him, and smoking; the regular California lifestyle. It’ll be hard for his haters of past albums to feel the same this time around. It's thrashy, beach punk that does not hold back.
Right from the beginning of the album you can hear the Beach Boys influenced fuzzy poppy tracks combined with Nirvana -like grunge punk. All of his songs are full of grit and this pent up anger and energy that just explodes through the speakers. “When Will You Come”, “Baseball Cards”, and “Mickey Mouse” are a bit more different. They're more soothing and make you feel like your in a drug induced coma that gives you a break from the madness.
Songs such as “Take On The World” and “Green Eyes” he completely bashes himself. In “Take On The World” he says how much he hates himself and his writing, but still dreams of one day taking over the world. In “Green Eyes” he completely has no belief in himself saying that “my own friends hate my guts”, but in the end he doesn’t care enough to change anything. The single “Post Acid” he cries for someone to listen to him “Misery, will you comfort me in my time of need would you understand? Understand won’t you understand in my time of need would you understand?” But he later reminds you that he doesn’t want anything serious, he’s just looking to have fun.
This is not a serious album, all Williams is trying to show is that he does not give a damn what others think or say. He just wants to do his thing and rock out. That being said, angst-ridden youth will flock to this album and rejoice at finding an outlet to pour their frustrations into.
Check out "Post Acid":
Check out "Boyfriend":
Check out "Ghost Pressure":
If The Drums possess one impressive trick, it's the ability to craft smooth, unashamed pop music.
The band's back story reads somewhat like a screenplay. In essence: pseudo-electro band gains a little buzz in post-Killers music scene, band signs to major label, band dissolves, time passes, lead singer retreats to Florida and restarts creatively with old friend, forms new project, accumulates blog buzz, moves back to Brooklyn, releases EP, et cetera.
That first band (the 'pseudo-electro' one), Elkland, may not have explored too much unfamiliar sonic territory, but the music was harmless enough: a synth-soaked, beat-heavy trip to the eighties.
Now, take that synth, replace it with sun, reverb, and slight goth undertones.
The Drums plays like a photo album, a montage of sorts. The cliche "blast from the past" fits, albeit with a surprisingly crisp flavor. The typical hand claps work when they shouldn't; the ever-obvious melodies feel strangely well-crafted. The album might just blindside even the most seasoned ear with tones so familiar they're fresh.
Each song's lyrics require no dictionary, no thesaurus, no encyclopedia. The words are plain. Yet somehow their superficial meanings cut deep.
It's that line between cliche and original, simple and complex, relevant and overdone, plain and rich, that The Drums so finely toes.
The band's minor thought process undercuts its decidedly major tonalities; "Best Friend" smilingly chronicles the story of a chum that apparently dropped dead. Lead singer Jonathon Pierce coyly sings about one particular acquaintance's actions of trying to both kill and kiss him on "Skippin' Town."
Discussions amount every year over "best winter albums" and "best late-night albums." The Drums rightly stands firm-footed as 2010's best sunglasses-on-with-the-car-windows-cracked-on-back-roads album.
Check out "Forever and Ever Amen":
Somewhere between the ‘80s jangly pop of John Hughes movie soundtracks and the ‘90s twinkling fuzz of Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream falls Virginia’s Wild Nothing. On record, Wild Nothing is singer/songwriter Jack Tatum alone, but he’s in great company with himself as he performs lead and backing vocals in addition to all guitar, bass and drum parts. The band’s full-length, Gemini, was released on June 3.
“Do you remember the lightning storm?” Tatum asks in “Live in Dreams,” the album’s star-speckled opener. “It was the first time I really felt you.” References to dreams are only appropriate on this album—it captures a certain foggy mood, like a faint haze after an early evening nap. Equal parts multicolored, cloudy sunset and milky meteor shower, Gemini soars above your head, just slightly out of reach.
But don’t be disheartened.
Tatum’s a grounded guy, capturing the simple, observant joys of daily life—fond, fun memories of romance, high hopes and expectations—in his lyrics, littered around like crispy leaves on a front lawn during a cool October night.
Delivered in a distant swirl, Tatum’s words are carried by occasional warm synth bursts and alternately chirping and pounding percussion. The ingredients are all here—sunny riffs, dreamy melodies, layered, humming vocals—to replicate that floating feeling when you first drove your parents’ car alone with the windows down in summer.
Check out "Summer Holiday":
They were originally called In, but when a venue thought their name was a typo, they decided it was time for a change. So this three-piece band from Brooklyn settled on Keepaway, and for listeners, it’s hard to stay away.
Keepaway has been on the scene for a while now, but they are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Their first EP Baby Style has hit the music scene, and since they have gained comparisons to Yeasayer, Animal Collective and Surfer Blood.
Their sound is trancy, loopy, tropical and experimental with howling vocals; it sends you into a tailspin. What makes Keepaway so interesting is that all three members sing all of their songs. Each one is layered with background vocals that compliment one another in harmonies.
The first track (also considered the single), “Yellow Wings," is filled with repetitive billowy charm that comes together in the chorus. The line that is repeated frequently throughout is, “I think I finally know what I want/I wanna be two places at once.” This immediately sticks inside your head, because who can’t relate to a state of constant yearning and indecision in a world that sometimes moves faster than we would like?
In “5 Rings,” the sound is very dreamy with constant “ooo-wee-oos,” which relaxes you into a somber state while keeping your attention throughout.
In their last track, “Evil Lady,” you hear a very surfy vibe that brings the EP to a close beautifully with sun drenched riffs, echoing the sounds of summer.
The only negative thing about Baby Style is that it’s too short! You won't want it to end!
Baby Style is perfect for this season. Listen to it while driving around in the car, at the beach, or anywhere for that matter; just play it loud. Spread the word, because from the sound of it, Keepaway is here to stay!
Check out "5 Rings":
Kate Nash has traded in her closet of vintage dresses for black pants and a leather jacket.
Listening to a few minutes into My Best Friend Is You, the transformation can’t be heard. The songs are girly but tough, keeping fans of 2008’s “Foundations” happy.
But when the fourth track (“I Just Love You More”) rolls around, you can tell that Nash wants to push past the image that earned her fame. She lets her vocals loose by screaming, shouting and moaning the title words over and over. The 22-year-old songwriter leaves the interpretation up to the listener – Is the song angry or passionate?
Nash aims beyond the pissy attitude that brought her debut album Made of Bricks to the top of the charts.
She carries on the women's empowerment ideal, calling out homophobes, attacking sex-driven men, all while keeping her music feminine. The love song, “I Hate Seagulls,” at the end of the album, starts off cynical like other songs but ends sweet and sentimental.
It doesn’t matter if My Best Friend Is You gets the same success her first album did. She’s having fun, and you can tell.
“I took the attitude that no one was ever going to hear (the songs). They could be rubbish, they could be the worst songs in the world,” Nash said in an interview with Idolator.com. “As long as I was being creative and enjoying it and writing things I cared about.”
Check out the video for "Do-Wah-Doo":