Category Archives: General

We Haven’t Updated In A Year

Hope it was a good one for your ears…

Advertisements

Review: How to destroy angels_, “Welcome Oblivion”

On March 5, 2013, Trent Reznor released new music with his new band, How to destroy angels_ (yes that underscore is supposed to be there don’t ask me why I don’t know either).  Therefore one can conclude that no matter how middling or meh this output happens to be, it is still Trent and Trent still rules the roost in Neiltown.  That being said, htda’s debut LP — Welcome Oblivion — is not awful.

 

 

On one hand, you’ve got the good stuff, the shit that sounds like a conventional song, which, Trent being Trent, sometimes is not so easily attained.  Lead single “How long?” is the closest you’re going to come to convention.  There’s a chorus (I think?), some lyrics, it’s catchy.  This might be played on a really cool radio station that nobody listens to.  On these so-called “good” songs, it just sounds like a NIN song where Trent is replaced by his wife, Mariqueen (seriously, even her delivery sounds exactly like Trent).  I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

On the other hand, you get a whole shitload of stuff that sounds like Ghosts or Year Zero, my two least-favorite NIN projects.  While I appreciate the thought put into both albums, man cannot live on concept alone.  Ghosts tries my patience, even if there are some gorgeous tidbits floating around those 4 volumes of tedium.  Year Zero has its moments as well, but God help me, half the songs sound the same.  SNORE.

That’s how I listened to this album.  The songs either fall on the “songs” side, or on the “Oh GAWD Trent, no more Ghosts/Year Zero/David Fincher movie score castaways!” (or somewhere in between).  Here they are, presented alongside convenient “File This Under” acronyms (i.e. “YZ” = Year Zero, “G” = Ghosts, etc.):

 

“Songs” (a.k.a. download/listen to these if your attention span is as small as mine)

1.  “Ice Age” – cute folksy little track that strums on and on and on.  It’s catchy enough and sticks in your head. (Ghosts/Fragile)
2. “On the wing” – more sleepy harmonies from Trent and Mariqueen, yet this sounds a lot like a Goldfrapp song that snuck onto Year Zero.  Which is awesome.  Hence the placement in “Songs” rather than below in the “Not So Bad.”  (YZ/The Slip)
3.  “How long?” – THE standout track of this album and a good enough reason for the creation of this entire LP.  It is a grower, but oh boy, what an earworm.  I played the shit out of this track and I’m not even sick of it.  It finally sounds like Mariqueen’s gig, not a cheap cover version of a NIN song.  I love, love, love this song. (sounds like htda.)
4.  “Strings and attractors” – more masturbatory Ghosts shit.  I’m so done with these blips and bloops and bleeps.  Mariqueen sounds nice and angelic on this track, but as with “Too late, all gone,” it tries my patience.  Not sure why, but I just want to press the “next” button… and then, THEN it becomes something else.  Something Fragile-y.  And I’m back onboard. (G/F)

 

“Not So Bad” (a.k.a. I’ll take what I can get…)

1.  “The Wake-up” – a good intro.  Short and sweet. (YZ/G)
2.  “Keep It Together” – droning and monotonous, but hey, there are vocals!  VOCALS! (YZ)
3.  “And the sky began to scream” – the blips and bleeps get a bit more aggressive and Mariqueen drops the vox (barely) again… this is like begging for crumbs.  (YZ)
4.  “Welcome oblivion” – vox TOTALLY sound like Trent… starts off Year Zero-y, ends with some surprisingly awesome Fragile-sounding twangs and drums. (YZ/F)
5.  “The loop closes” – this is a strange one.  You’ve got the Year Zero production, but also some flourishes of Fragile and even Downward Spiral (!!!!!!) instrumentation.  It’s another mainly-instrumental wank-fest, but it’s surprisingly gratifying.  This track also has the most Trent vocal presence, if you care.  (DS/F/YZ)
6.  “Hallowed ground” – the delicate closer of the album is a mixed bag.  You’ve got your icy piano tinkling, which reminds me of Still, and your ominous Year Zero electro-beats.  It’s peaceful and relaxing and if you’ve made it this far, just enjoy it and be glad the album is finished.  (S/YZ)

 

“Jesus Christ, Trent Reznor… enough of this shit!”

1. “Too late, all gone” – this sounds EXACTLY like a Year Zero castaway that replaced Trent’s vocals with Mariqueen.  I don’t know why it bugs me so much…  maybe because it feels lazy?  I don’t want to hear any more Year Zero shit, let alone a track that’s supposed to be for another group.  And it’s not even a bad song (technically, for whoever you are reading this, it’s worth a download.  Honestly.), I just have lost patience at this point.
2. “We fade away” – Ghosts with vocals.  Again.  Sigh.  It’s not terrible by any means, but an album full of b-side worthy songs is not an album.  (G)
3. “Recursive self-improvement” – oh, these fucking song titles.  We’re on track 11 and you can tell I’m clearly getting frustrated.  Even Radiohead are not this self-indulgent (fightin’ words!).  Should I have bought Amok instead?  I’m not even sure.  Let me go get another beer while this song blips its way to the end… This sounds like the soundtrack to a video they play in the computer exhibits at science museums.  (Social Network castoff?)

The problem with NewTrent (i.e. post-drugs, clean-living buff TR) is the quality of the output.  It used to be that we had to wait fucking YEARS between NIN projects.  As a kid, this felt like an eternity.  OldTrent would drop off the face of the earth and, being the time before Facebook and Twitter, we had to rely on news websites and rock mags for any news of his whereabouts.  Then he’d magically reappear, drop a new single, and heads would explode.  This is why I’d wait in line for a midnight release of a new NIN album.

Then, starting in 2005, NIN came roaring back with With Teeth (in my opinion, their last good album) and it’s been a steady outpouring of project after project of whatever NewTR feels like tossing to his fans.  Year Zero.  Niggy Tardust.  Ghosts.  The Slip.  Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Social Network.  This.  It’s too much.  I’d rather he release something mindblowing twice a decade instead of the same old bloopy-blippy shit, stretched out over ten volumes with various scores and soundtracks in the mix.  May God help me, but I’m sick of wading through this muck and mire just to find one or two songs that connect.

Their self-titled debut EP is still their best output, by far.  Because SONGS.  Four of six tracks from the Omen EP appear on Welcome Oblivion, making that EP a waste of time.  Yet I still buy them all.  And I’m still going to the concert in April.  I trust Trent’s vision and will at least appreciate this as an artistic statement.  But this is yet another project where I’d be just as satisfied downloading a couple songs and getting on with my life.  I’m happy Trent is keeping the creative juices flowing, but I really need the new NIN album to be a banger.

Tagged , , , , ,

2012 Albums of the Year

photo (8)

  1. The Killers – Battle Born

    Like my #1 album of 2010 — Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs — The Killers landed in my top spot by way of pure heart and foolish emotions.  This is an album for where I am right now, at this moment, in my life.  Gorillaz made the “best” album of 2010, but they didn’t reach into my soul, my being.  Here, The Killers — and by “The Killers” I mean Brandon Flowers, another 31-year old — have made one of their best records.  Gone is the sleaze and youthful energy of Hot Fuss.  This is the perfection of what they have been aiming for since Sam’s Town: a collection of great American songs about love, loss, change and the Wild West.  Whereas Sam’s Town sounded like a bunch of boys trying to capture a sound, Battle Born sounds confident, mature and entirely authentic.  Each song is stadium ready (“Runaways,” “Flesh And Bone,” “Miss Atomic Bomb,” “Battle Born”).  Each song has a hook and melody as catchy as any gem off Hot Fuss (“The Way It Was,” “A Matter of Time,” “From Here On Out”).  It’s not as drama-club goofy as Sam’s Town, but it is as earnest (“Be Still”).  They’re still biting The Boss, but instead of sounding like a cheap rip-off, now it sounds like a respectful nod.  There is not a single song I skip; in fact, I relish the arrival of each successive song.  I haven’t felt this way about an album at all this year.  The standout track for me — and again, we’re sensing a trend here — is the absolute heartbreaker, “Here With Me.”  Upon first listen, the first time I heard the chorus, I just started crying.  It was so unexpected and surprising that I had to laugh.  But it hit me so hard and uncovered a couple emotions that I haven’t quite got under control yet.  And isn’t that what the best music can do?  Elicit an emotional response, some memory, some scene, a glimpse to a time you either forgot or tried to bury.  This entire album does that for me (though not as powerfully and intensely as “Here With Me”).  In some silly way, I wonder if it’s just life’s path and growing up.  Even though Brandon Flowers is a rich, married Mormon with kids, he’s writing songs that somehow hit his fellow 31 Clubber square in the soul (incidentally, just like Win Butler of Arcade Fire).  And he’s been doing it since 2004.  If their output continues to be this good, I look forward to aging with this band.

  2. Frank Ocean – channel orange

    This was supposed to be my #1 album of 2012.  Then The Killers came along and reminded me why I love them so much.  Sorry Frank.  Overall, this may be a better “album” —  by which I mean a better overall narrative and listening experience.  But it didn’t hit me as hard in the right spots as The Killers.  On that note, the spots: my heart and soul.  This impossibly smooth album is pained, heartfelt, earnest and real.  A little too real.  Exactly what I want in my music.  It’s not cold, distant and drugged out like The Weeknd, or overproduced and drugs/pussy/party dancefloor bait like Miguel.  This shit is real.  Frank injects such a deep, soulful and human element to these tracks that it’s almost emo-R&B.  Surely his coming out didn’t hurt him; it only endeared him more to me.  What a brave move, calculated or not.  “Thinkin’ Bout You,”  “Forrest Gump,” and the landmark “Bad Religion” provide enough lyrical content to back up his famous letter to his first love.  Funked up numbers like “Monks” and “Sweet Life” have earworms so catchy that I unexpectedly burst into humming at random times throughout the day.  Even a forty-second throwaway interlude “Fertilizer” is awesome.  But it’s that mega, gigantor, EPIC AS A MUFUKKAH 10-minute “Pyramids” that cements his genius.

  3. Muse – The 2nd Law

    In all honesty, this almost didn’t make it into the top 5.  Why?  Well, I think it was a case of premature ejaculation, if you will.  When I first heard it, I went bonkers.  Each song was so shockingly unique and catchy, it was like they had figured out all the right formulas and wrote an album of perfect prog-pop-rock.  The ideal rock album for the iTunes playlist world we live in.  Then I got kind of bored.  Each song is so good it could potentially be a single, but the danger is that the experience of listening to the entire album suffers for that.  Why listen to all 12 songs when I can skip around the narrative to the gems that get me off right away?  Whereas we went on a journey on the previous albums, The 2nd Law is chock-full of heavy hitters.  So it sat unloved for a while.  Then I dusted it off and gave it another go.  And it still blows me away.  Slamming dubstep bursts on “Follow Me,” “Unsustainable,” and blissful love tune, “Madness” are infectious.  That Olympic song isn’t as terrible when presented in this narrative; its ridiculousness simply bookended by songs that are equally, if not more, outlandish.  Perfect example: “Panic Station.”  What the fuck is this?!  Prince?  MJ?  Stevie Wonder?  Queen?  All of these and more.  It’s quite possibly their stupidest song ever, but it kicks so much ass I don’t even care.  We hated “Supermassive Black Hole” when that came out (“Waaaaah, it doesn’t sound like Muse!!!!!!!!”  D:), yet now it’s classic.  This is still one of my least-favorite Muse albums (tie between this and their debut), but it’s still Muse.  And their worst output is still better than most other bands’ bests.

  4. Metric – Synthetica

    Fast paced alt-pop sung by one of my favorite female vocalists around today.  It’s sleek, stylish and sexy, with just the amount of heavy to keep it from being too-precious indie alternative.  This is not as stadium-anthem-heavy as their prior album, Fantasies, but manages to be so tight and focused you want to sing along as if you were in a giant arena.  Lead single “Youth Without Youth” reminds me of a nice blend of Muse’s “Uprising” and Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People”… it’s got “that beat,” if you know what I’m talking about.  “Speed the Collapse” and “Synthetica” are driving guitar-blasts perfect for high speeds in your car.  “Clone” and “Lost Kitten” will please those aforementioned precious indie fans.  Lou Reed even pops his grizzled head in for a few lines on “The Wanderlust.”  This is a darker endeavor, more innocence lost since the years of Fantasies.  I think I like it better.

  5. Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

    Boy, my first-listen of this album was at the wrong time.  I hated it at first, but oh Natasha Khan, you know how to get me.  I should never have doubted you.  Yes, it is not as exciting and visceral as Two Suns.  Yes, it most certainly is not as mystical, dark and spooky as Fur and Gold.  This is a sparse, introspective affair.  I’ll liken it to her Vespertine, as opposed to the Post and Homogenic of her previous two releases.  It took awhile, but it’s a grower.  “All Your Gold,” “Horses of the Sun,” and “Oh Yeah” will sate old fans of her beat-heavy bangers.  While the rest of you introspective sad-sacks will revel in everything else.  The clear standout for me is the title track, which starts simple, tosses in a scary men’s choir, and then absolutely erupts into the most glorious low-end rumble-bass of all time.  And then the horns kick in.  Pass me a cigarette, please!  Seriously: I sit in my car and queue this song *just* to FEEL that sensation.  It’s like my molecules are being liberated into the heavens.  Utter bliss.

  6. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die

    You know the buzz.  You know the backlash.  You read my defense.  You have your own opinion.  She’s polarizing, that is certain.  But forget for a second the plastic-surgery barbie doll and all the headlines.  Listen to the songs.  They are catchy. as. fuck.  With her mix of glamorous diva majesty and modern hip-hop sampling, LDR and her team of writers crafted a collection of such lush, sensual, beat-heavy tracks.  Some songs are sweeping; some are perfect for head nodding (“Carmen,” “Born To Die,” “Video Games,” “Dark Paradise”).  “Blue Jeans” is the clear standout.  Others are more upbeat.  “National Anthem,” “Off To The Races,” “Summertime Sadness” and “Diet Mountain Dew” remind me of Poe: danceable, poppy and playful.  Haters gon’ hate, but I still love this sexy little Frankenstein.

  7. Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal

    Forget all this “Mumford-from-Iceland” bullshit.  You know who they remind me of?  Arcade Fire, circa 2005.  Gigantic singalongs.  Kitchen-sink instrumentation.  Overearnest folksiness.  Lots of “hey”s and “ho”s.  This album is quite perfect, even if some songs might sound kind of similar.  I’ll take this over Mumford or the Lumineers ANY DAY.  Maybe it’s the female vocalist.  Maybe it’s the harmonies.  Or maybe it’s because they just sound so natural, happy and together.  This is some feel good shit right here.  “Little Talks” will be the song they’re going to be known for for eternity, but “King and Lionheart,” “Dirty Paws,” and “Six Weeks” are so much better.  If you’re on the fence, go see them live.  It’ll be one of the happiest nights of your life.  There’s just such a joy to this group.  It’s infectious.

  8. The Black Keys – El Camino

    “This was released in 2011!  How can it be best of 2012?!?!”  Well, the Grammys can do it, so fuck you.  This album was, in fact, released almost exactly one year ago: December 6, 2011.  How can I get to know an album in less than a month to include it on a best of list?  Exactly.  This album blew the fuck up in 2012, mainly on the backs of perfect booty-jam “Lonely Boy”( and its amazing video) and ubiquitous movie-trailer soundtrack, “Gold On The Ceiling.”  Thank Christ for Danger Mouse, who transformed their too-gritty-for-my-tastes garage sound into a tighter, more polished animal.  And boy does that help.  The riffs here are delicious.  And yet, it’s the quiet kid in the corner, “Little Black Submarines,” that packs the biggest punch.  After some contemplative acoustic yearning, the track explodes with the biggest riffage this side of Zeppelin.  Whoo-doggy did I get a lot of exercise with my kitchen-guitar (see: broom) and Guitar Hero miming.  On a record chock-full of huge rock and roll songs, it’s this sleeper epic that kicked my ass hardest.

  9. Silversun Pickups – Neck of the Woods

    Opening with the jarring “Skin Graph,” which sounds like something the teen son of the Engineers from Prometheus would have listened to, Silversun return with an album that’s not as good as Swoon but still much better than the sloppy Carnavas.  Things get digital here (the dance-y “The Pit”), more sinister (“Simmer”), more introspective (“Here We Are”).  The orchestra from Swoon has since been fired.  Things aren’t as grand and sweeping anymore.  It its place is a computer.  Now they seem to be bunkering down, focusing (“Gun-Shy Sunshine,” a fantastic title).  The crappy fixer-upper house on the cover of the CD is a good clue to their current state.  It’s not a bad set, but there’s nothing that swept me off my feet quite like on Swoon.  It’s colder on this album.  More uncomfortable.  They still rock the fuck out (my favorites “Mean Spirits,” “Dots and Dashes (Enough Already)” and “Out of Breath”), and for that I’m grateful.  Full album here.

  10. No Doubt – Push And Shove

    I know, I know: I’m surprised this is on the list too.  Not because I’m a lying snob who is too good for our friends in No Doubt.  No.  I LOVE No Doubt.  I’m surprised because this album is not that great. It’s good.  But it’s not what you’d expect after a decade of silence.  Here’s the deal: half of the songs are fucking awesome.  These are the “No Doubt” songs like “Settle Down,” “Looking Hot,” “Sparkle” and “Heaven.”  They have the classic ND sound.  They are upbeat and quirky.  Then you have the other half, which to me sound like Gwen’s solo shit…  the saccharine ballads, the boring straightforward adult pop sons.  Snoooooooooze.  They are perfectly OK songs, but for a decade-in-the-making No Doubt comeback record?  LAZY.  The centerpiece of the album is the title track, which the band called their “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  I didn’t get it at first.  Did they think they were that good?  No, I think they meant it in terms of stylistic tone shifts.  You got the bouncy reggae-ska verses…and then all of a sudden, you’re hit with a churning back-and-forth wave on the chorus.  The so called “push and shove.”  It’s one of my favorite songs of the year.  For that reason alone, the album deserves to be here.  But since the rest of the songs range from “pretty awesome” to “okay” I consider it justifiable to include one of the most iconic American bands, and one of my all-time favorites, on this pithy meaningless list.

  11. Stars – The North

    Indie synth-pop.  My cup of tea.  They’ve been around, but this is my first real experience with Stars.  And I loved it.  The melodies are catchy.  The beats are catchy.  The boy-girl intervox are catchy.  Why didn’t I get into them sooner?!  If you close your eyes and think really hard, you could transport yourself back to the 80s.  If the 80s had better production…  It’s dream-pop of the most enjoyable order.  “The Theory of Relativity” and “A Song is a Weapon” are my clear standouts.  This album is not going to change my life anytime soon, but you may catch me swaying my head with a serene smile on my face, enjoying the simplicity of a perfectly fine pop album.

  12. The Shins – Port Of Morrow

    Of all the albums to fall down my chart this year, The Shins took the biggest tumble.  If you asked me back in March, I’d have told you they’d be in the top 5 by year-end.  I guess things changed.  Overall, the album is good.  But the standouts stood out and the rest fell to the wayside.  Still, on the strength of one of their best tracks (“Simple Song”) and a handful of other new iPod staples (“Rifle’s Spiral,”It’s Only Life,” “40 Mark Strasse”).  It’s a surprisingly sad and emotional album, the darkness hidden behind their brand of playful indie.  But it’s those emotional tracks that stayed with me and for that I really like this album.

  13. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Here

    Happy happy, joy joy.  Albums like this make me want to move to California.  Find a beach, a tanned honey in a bikini with long tangled hair, and just live life in the sun.  It’s a short set, just 9 songs long.  But these little ditties put a good ol’ fire under my feet.    Get up and dance like a hippie.  “Man On Fire” has smooth and lush harmonies that erupt into a barnburner.  “That’s What’s Up” is a glorious ode to love.  My standout is “Dear Believer,” a mid-tempo finger-snapper that swells up into rich harmonic chorus that gives me such tingles I get emotional.  Something about this song.  Ah, such warm feelings.  Everything here warms you up and makes you smile.  It’s just so refreshing and simple.

  14. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon

    If you’d have told me that the girl who wrote Lights (the album) would go on to write this album in a year’s time, I would have scoffed.  She made a light-year jump from the cute, sometimes folksy, sometimes playful little scamp on her debut to this fierce beast on her sophomore effort, much like Florence’s jump from Lungs to Ceremonials.  The dubstep is in full swing here, but so are other electronic soundscapes and atmospheres.  It’s a gorgeous affair that I’m still trying to comprehend.  Pop gem radio single “Anything Could Happen” took a while to get me, but I love it now.  However it’s the gigantic bomb-drop duo of “Figure 8” and “Holding On” that really get me.  These songs are massive (say it with an English accent… yes, like that.  THAT kind of mas-sive…).  It’s like she’s put me into a giant inflatable ball and dropped me out of space.  The drop alone on “Holding On” is worth the price of admission.  I have a feeling this album will end up with me far after 2012 and half the other albums on this list.  We’re just not there yet.  Full album here.

  15. alt-J – An Awesome Wave

    Man, these freaks make some beautiful music.  Radiohead x Battles x Hot Chip.  I was hooked with “Fitzpleasure,” the wackiest shit I heard in 2012.  One iTunes user commented that it sounded like Adam Sandler, and by gum, it kinda does.  But once you get past that initial gigglefest, the sheer creativity of the instrumentation and the poetry of the gobbledygook lyrics engulf you.  It’s cerebral and nerdy, but funky and fucking awesome too.  Of the friends I introduced to the CD, most are in love with it.  And yet we still can’t really explain why.  It’s so different.  So unlike anything we’ve heard.  If you want a new challenge, make it this.  Try “Tessellate,” “Dissolve Me,” “Matilda,” “Breezeblocks” or “Bloodflood.”  If you like it, enjoy that feeling of discovery.

    Honorable Mentionables:

    1. Gary Clark Jr – Blak and Blu

    God save me for putting this guitar god in the same company as the two younguns below.  It’s just that I was not completely grabbed by his stunning debut.  Not yet.  Maybe I will be later.  Lazy excuse?  Maybe.  But it’s just too dense, too awesome.  Opening track “Ain’t Messin’ Around” is one of my favorite songs of the year.  Guitar-wank monstrosity “Numb” gets deep into my bones.  “Travis County” is such pure old school rock and roll it makes my balls hurt.  Seriously, this album kicks ass and it should, by all accounts, be up there in the Top 15.  I just don’t feel it completely yet.  And that’s really important.  But if you want the BEST rock and roll album of the year — and by that, I mean to include real rhythm and blues, real riffs, rockabilly, whateverthefuck, pure awesomeness — then you better pick this album up.  I need more time to fully appreciate it.  Maybe it’s too much awesome for me to comprehend… puny mortal that I am.

    2. Justin Bieber – Believe

    Oh yeah, you better believe it.  Hate all you want, mufukkahs, but Justin Bieber (and his producers…) is a talented little shit.  Based on the strength of his three singles alone (“Boyfriend,” “As Long As You Love Me,” and “Beauty and a Beat”), the kid deserves a lot of credit.  The Grammy’s unfairly snubbed him, which I don’t really get.  These songs are great.  People said it was his bid at maturity, like when Timberlake went from ‘N Sync to his solo career.  However, I think it’s more like the jump from ‘N Sync’s No Strings Attached — youthful and immature pop —  to ‘N Sync’s Pop — their first real bid at maturity, that still didn’t feel as mature as they wanted it to be.  Does that make sense?  Whatever.  Maybe his next album will be that “real” jump to JT’s solo level of artistic credibility.  Remember, people laughed at ‘N Sync and Justin too.  “Pop suck!  Limp Bizkit forever!!!!”  We’ll see if Biebs can prove all the haters wrong.

    3. Taylor Swift – Red

    This girl is unstoppable.  I don’t even own the album yet and somehow I already know half of it.  She’s a juggernaut.  Just accept it.  I have.  I may not have put her up there with the rest of the cool kids, but she wins in the end: I’ll be humming her damn songs for the next couple decades.

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man

ImageIt’s time for another installment of Jumping the Gun, wherein I give my snap judgment of a new album whilst listening to it for the first time.  Today we pay a visit to my favorite loopy chanteuse, Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes.  In a post-Tori, post-Bjork world — where artists are no longer influenced by Kate Bush, but rather by her own aforementioned musical offspring — Bat for Lashes is my #1 candidate for throne-succession in the empty void left by Tori Amos, who I’m sad to say has really just fallen off in recent years, and Bjork, who now values ingenuity over actual melody and songwriting.

Aesthetically, Bat for Lashes has always reminded me of Bjork and Tori, plus a lot of Eurythmics-era Annie Lennox.  Quirky lyrics, a gift for beat craft and a whole lot of soul.  Her first album, Fur & Gold, was an immediate ear-catching addiction for me.  I seldom get goosebumps upon first listen to any song, but “Horse and I” blew me away.  The rest of the album is a grand spookshow, the work of some dark woodland shamaness.  Her musical M.O. is apparent: half of the album consists of delicate balladry that suffocates in its beauty; the other half pops with tribal electro-pop beats.  The perfect compliment to kindred freak-spirit, Florence Welch, Bat for Lashes delivered a flawless debut.

Her follow-up, Two Suns, blew the roof off.  Majestic and sweeping, with louder beats, deeper layers and catchier melodies, it was a Super Sized version of Fur & Gold.  Pop gems like “Daniel,” “Pearl’s Dream,” and “Sleep Alone” provide ample dance-party grooves, while the crushing “The Big Sleep” and “Moon and Moon” highlight her gorgeous vocals.  Things were full of promise.  So full of promise.

On cover of her third LP, The Haunted Man, Khan stands naked with a scrawny hipster (also naked) strategically wrapped around her like a shawl (or the Monopoly Man in Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls).  It makes a NSFW moment just kinda-sorta-still-pretty NSFW.  You even get some pube action.  Stirring stuff, surely.  But what I can gather from this display is that we’re in for an album where she lays herself bare, shedding all the crazy, witchy electro-prog for some serious soul-searching introversion.  Maybe the Vespertine/Homogenic part of her overall oeuvre?  Let’s find out…

1. Lillies – starts off slow…sparse… and then a phat beat.  A repetitive phat beat.  That continues…until we get some strings (that woke me up a bit).  It’s not bad…but it’s not grabbing me either.  Oh wait, horns!  Harps!  Swelling orchestration!  End.

2. All Your Gold – bass strum vaguely reminiscent of Gotye, but let’s try to was that from our mind grapes.  Can’t ruin this song before it starts, can we?  This is a LOT more Bat for Lashes-y than that opening snoozer.  Once the heavy beat kicks in, you’ll be dancing in your car (or at your computer… or walking down the street… wherever you kids listen to your music these days).

3. Horses of the Sun – combining two familiar theme-words from her previous works, we have another tune of signature Bat for Lashes tribal beats and foreboding dread.  I appreciate this.  Very much.  Dark and sensual, just how I like it.  But self, do you just like this song because it’s better than the two songs that preceded it, or because it’s actually “good”?  Jury’s out.

4. Oh Yeah – a fitting title.  This song is pretty fucking great.  I’d put it on a playlist.  Or skip the previous three songs just to hear it again.  My Eurythmics vibe is in full swing here.

5. Laura – joining the ranks of previous songfolk Prescilla, Sarah and Daniel, we have Laura, a swelling ballad bolstered by horns and drama.  This would fit perfectly on Two Suns.

6. Winter Fields – what. an. opening.  Sweeping strings and big banging drums.  But then the song really doesn’t go anywhere…

7. The Haunted Man – honestly I thought this was still “Winter Fields”…  seven songs in and I’m still not feeling this album.  Nothing grabbed me. Nothing gave me goosebumps.  Nothing really begs me to go back and re-listen.  Hark!  There’s some weird man-chanting in the middle.  Could be ancient Druids…could be ancient natives.  I think I don’t even care anymore.  *sad face* 

8. Marilyn – she’s joining the party that I describe up in #5…  is this party fun?  Are we having a good time?  Prescilla, Sarah and Daniel are having a grand old time, but Laura and Marilyn are being boring wallflowers.  We get some nice 8-bit NES melody and skittering beats that remind fans of her older, better songs… but this is too little too late.  Still, I think it’s gorgeous, fitting right into Two Suns (again!).  Maybe these were castoffs from that era?  Who knows.  I’m talking to myself.

9. A Wall – Lol, how fitting.  Yes, we’ve certainly hit one.  The album is almost done and I’m almost bored to death.  The problem is that these songs aren’t terrible, they just aren’t great.  They can’t compare to her previous efforts.  And I just can’t help skipping ahead to the next track.

10. Rest Your Head – I’m just frustrated as hell.  I give up.

11. Deep Sea Diver – oh hey, the album is done.  Now I can resume life.

 

Verdict: Yes, you’ve never seen me this harsh before.  Yes, I seem to really hate this album.  Yes, you’re partially right.  I’m harsh because I expect more.  Unfair perhaps, but with two near-flawless albums under her belt, Bat for Lashes really gets those hopes high.  This isn’t a terrible record; it’s just boring as fuck.  If she was aiming for introspective simplicity, she certainly attained something along those lines.  I’ll give it more chances — maybe more than it deserves — but for now, I find myself revisiting Fur & Gold and Two Suns, wishing The Haunted Man was something more.  Maybe that guy on the cover died of boredom and she’s just disposing of his cold, flaccid corpse.

Tagged , , , ,

Oh To Be Single (shot) Again…

It’s quite odd to try and find “music” videos on an actual television channel these days, and if you really want to see a video you must use either YouTube or VEVO.  But since we’re living in a material world and I’m a material boy — if I had the money — this is the best way to watch music that has been put to the visual test.

Trends come and go in the video realm.  You have your old school hip hop videos with lovely ladies dancing around Coup de villes and hot tubs with massive poolside parties.  Then you had the grunge videos where most of the bands of the ’90s boycotted making visual versions of their songs in the first place.  Recently, I’ve noticed numerous artists shooting single shot videos, such as OK Go, pioneers of the medium, and their newest version rambling around in a Chevy Sonic.

While single shot has in fact been around and may not be “cool” any longer, here are some other single shot videos — some good, some interesting, but all the same.  Since this author feels this is where videos are going to these days, these are some other talented artists that are out there with no budgets to their names, making the raw music video fresh and interesting.

Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers – “I Can’t Go For That”

This is one of many from their “Van Sessions”, where Nicki and the crew cover many great tunes in the front seats of a Ford tour van.  This one by far is the best.  Just wait until you get to the kazoo solo, it will rock yer socks off!

Nyle – “Let The Beat Build”

I love hip hop.  I do.  I love the lyrical genius that hip hopster’s create, especially off the cuff.  This is an amazing single shot video by a very talented artist with numerous talented musicians and singers as a supporting cast to this creative single shot video.

Walk off the Earth – “Someone I Used To Know (Gotye cover)”

They’ve nailed originality in the sense that their stares off into the distance are original.  But nonetheless this is a unique take on a great song that is gaining more and more popularity.

Tagged , , , ,

I like the sound of it

Welcome to I Like The Sound Of It, a music blog for varying tastes.

Soon you’ll meet our contributors, who will keep your music life full, healthy and up-to-date.

Song reviews.  Album reviews.  Concert reviews.  Music news.  Breaking alerts.  Musings.  Lists aplenty.

Your eyes will enjoy it as much as your ears.

Thanks for reading.