Afghan Whigs- Do to the Beast
Apr 10, 2014
With a name like Benjamin Francis Leftwich, you’d expect an indie-rock cookie cut-out, complete with pretentious “originality,” and a sound “I doubt you’ve heard before,” however, Pictures gives you quite the opposite.
Leftwich’s newest album is nowhere near short on talent, but he takes an alternate avenue, striking simplicity and softness instead of the usual aloof lo-fi. At first, the opening track “Pictures” sounds like any other acoustic riff, docile and wandering with and undertone of sentimentality, but it’s the vocals that truly make the album.
Similar to the unrefined vocals heard from Bon Iver and Silversun Pickups, Leftwhich uses his breathy rasp to compliment the slight twang of acoustics that he so casually pairs with, what seems like, the perfect percussion. “Sophie” is perhaps the most experimental, incorporating a mist of, what seems to be, tribal drums.
Pictures is definitely worth the listen.
Listen to "Pictures":
Crude, raw, politically incorrect, and they just don’t care. Cheeseburger is all of these things and much more. A hard rock band that plays loud sloppy, and refuses to believe that all the fun has disappeared from music. This is a throwback to the hard rock of the 80s that glorified partying and drugs. Cheeseburger’s sophomore full length Another Big Night Down the Drain revels in the highlife of sex, drugs, and rock and roll the way bands haven’t for thirty years.
If you’re looking for techniclly proficient rock then you’re in the wrong place. Cheeseburger plays loose on purpose which only intensifies the party attitude of the music. You’ll hear the guitar or drums go off beat, the singing is crude and hard to understand in parts, and the distortion is so jacked on the lead and rhythm guitars it’s a miracle you can even hear notes being playes, but it’s all worth it because Cheeseburger wrote one hell of a party album.
The leadoff track, “Party Song,” is what explains what this band is all about. Partying hard and living life the way you want to live it without a care in the world for the consequences. The best part about Cheeseburger is their lyrics which border the line between serious opinions and druken ramblings. Often throughout the course of a song you’ll find yourself listening to what’s being sung and you start laughing because of the ridiculousness of it all.
Another Big Night Down the Drain is the best hard-rock album you’ll hear all year. This is the kind of album that people would get sick of if more bands were like this, but Cheeseburger is so good at playing and partying you excuse everything for the fun. Cheeseburger sings that, “They don’t run until the house comes down,” so let Cheeseburger shake the foundations of your brain with Another Big Night Down the Drain.
Listen to "Winner":
If you could write music to be played in your sleep, what would it sound like? Would it relax all of your muscles to a point of bliss, or would it make you curl up tight in a ball while clenching your teeth because the sleep just won’t come. With the release of Cass McComb’s fifth studio album Wit’s End, you can’t help but feel the pull of sleep that the sound draws listeners into.
Cass McCombs pushes the envelope of scoring the perfect dream world. With gentle tabs on the piano through songs like “The Lonely Doll,” to something a little more earthy in “Buried Alive,” there are no real limits that the artist lets get in his way. Whether wide awake, or fighting your eye lids to stay open, you can’t go wrong with the soothing trance that Wit’s End puts you in.
The slight spat of depression that you may slip into shouldn’t deter you from the album. Its natural sound brings a full spectrum of earthy tones into the overall make-up. It seems to be one of the best-composed albums of the year, and should be listened to on repeat if you have the chance.
Listen to "The Lonely Doll":
This self-proclaimed “lo-fi indie rock band” from Columbus, Ohio works to win you over with their quasi-charming off-key vocals and distorted musicality in Dancer Equired.
“It’s A Culture,” the first song on the album, opens with a disjointed harmony and instruments that aren’t totally in sync with each other, and “Ever Falling In Love” follows with a zonked-out jumble of vocals replaying over a singular guitar and percussion riff. These two songs will set the tone for the rest of the album.
Though Times New Viking is more noise-rock than lo-fi, they still manage a somewhat unique sound. Female vocalist, Beth Murphy, alternates between an aloof style of moaning and a grungy, ground up whine. There’s no solid ground with the vocals, no real notes you can pick out, everything just bobs around, hoping to land on something solid.
“F*** Her Tears,” is probably the best song on the album, coordinating all the sound and vocal aspects to create a really put-together number.
Listen to "F*** Her Tears":
From the ghostly and serene opening chords of Glass Prayer, it is clear that Brooklyn’s Religious to Damn plan to stay with the listener long after the album’s last track has ended. With gossamer male-female vocals and lush orchestrations of sound, Religious to Damn makes a lasting impression.
The band’s sound is pure psychedelic indie experimentation that belongs somewhere between a gypsy caravan and a grungy underground club. Yet these unconventional sounds are fused into melodies that wouldn’t be unwelcome in an arena setting, either.
“Drifter,” a driving tune propelled by a relentless drum beat and haunting organ chords, is a highlight. But to choose just one song to encompass the entire record’s lush wonder would be unfair to both the album and those listening to it.
Listen to "Drifter":
As listeners, we are conditioned to believe music has a definite structure: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and so on. What happens when you as a listener when you are exposed to a different post-rock experience? Explosions In The Sky's sixth studio album is that experience.
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care exemplifies the quartet's strengths with steady beats that interchange between tracks. They have the ability to manipulate mood without the use of lyrical assistance. The songs range from the short three minutes to a daunting 10. Don’t let the length turn you away from listening though, because you will be surprised how quickly the tracks go when you’re relaxing to the sound.
Explosions In The Sky are a post-rock group that should no longer be overlooked. Throw them on for a day at the beach or simply when the sun shines. You will not be disappointed.
Listen to "Trembling Hands":
Three years ago, five beard- and flannel-loving Seattle musicians released two magical pieces of music, the Sun Giant EP and their self-titled debut. They became a sensation, their album peaking at 200,000 copies sold worldwide. Now, they’ve added another member and more talent to their already impressive band.
Helplessness Blues is the expansion we’d all hoped for from Fleet Foxes. They’ve risen from the rustic casket that threatened to confine them.
Fleet Foxes was a gorgeous slice of pastoral folk heaven. Songs about sunrises, mountains and children in their winter gear shined with golden harmonies swiped from Crosby, Stills & Nash and rumbling percussion straight out of Appalachia.
On Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes channel a darker beauty in the vein of Nick Drake, dabbling into lower guitar tunings and atypical time signatures. The slightly Mediterranean “Sim Sala Bim” is half folk tune, half gypsy jam, and it’s a lot more experimental than their self-titled debut had room for. “Bedouin Dress” dances with a frisky fiddle melody that would have felt out of fashion on their last release.
But Fleet Foxes have grown older, as band leader and chief beard Robin Pecknold makes clear on many the album’s dozen songs, especially the title track. “Helplessness Blues” is the grand, vulnerable centerpiece of the album, showcasing the themes of identity anxiety and aging in general. Hell, Pecknold’s very first words on the album are pretty heavy. “So now I am older than my mother and father when they had their daughter. Now what does that say about me?” he utters on quiet opener “Montezuma.”
Pecknold has made the songs more about him, in turn, making them more about us. The eight-plus-minute “The Shrine / An Argument” is more audacious than anything the band’s had the guts to try yet—and it succeeds. Starting slow with descriptions of copper pennies at a shrine, the song blooms into a breakup tale, with Pecknold’s angelic voice enriched by the band’s gorgeous harmonies.
Perhaps the most brightly colored track is the album’s closer, “Grown Ocean,” which was released with a companion video of the band’s extracurricular pursuits while in the studio and on the road. The song is a travelogue for a vivid dream, and Pecknold delivers each image with confidence and awe. “I’ll have so much to tell you about,” he sings about when he wakes from the dream.
His words are an accurate statement of what listeners are likely to say after completing the magnificent Helplessness Blues.
Listen to "Grown Ocean":
On the outside, Bill Callahan looks like a pretty quiet man. He’s the kind of person you would expect to see sitting under a tree, somewhere in the south, playing a guitar wearing a cowboy hat and flannel shirt. With a deep voice and acoustic guitar in hand, everything about this man says, “Stereotypical country music singer.”
Everything that is, except for his music.
On his new album, Apocalypse, Bill Callahan blends classic American folk rock with sounds typically heard in modern indie music. His baritone vocals ride on melodies created by one-part classical guitar, and one-part Wurlitzer electric piano. There are fiddles and flutes paired with electric guitar solos.
Callahan has been in the music industry since 1990 and he knows how to blend genres into one melody by using influences from the aforementioned American folk and indie rock with a little jazz, and some blues. This seemingly bizarre combination works out effortlessly on Apocalypse.
Throughout the songwriting process Bill Callahan proved again that he has an ear for sound and rhythm that helped create an album he can really be proud of.
Listen to "Baby's Breath":
Art rock, soul, electro-funk—such are the many masks worn by TV on the Radio. Formed in Brooklyn in 2001, this colorful crew of musical masterminds has released four critically acclaimed studio albums including their latest, Nine Types of Light.
The band’s premise is simple: soulful vocals and chimes of funky electronica permeate songs driven by nuanced instrumentation. The vocals are delivered by Tunde Adebimpe, the rhythm section is courtesy of Kyp Malone and the programming and special loops are swirled into perfection by Dave Sitek.
Lead single “Will Do” plays out over four minutes with a steady backbeat and rising/falling strings, in addition to rhythmic guitar riffs that don’t overtake the songs but add to their immensity. Opener “Second Song” starts slowly with Adebimpe’s croon and small percussive accompaniment but unfolds into a raucous dancer. Adebimpe jumps into a higher register to deliver the chorus’ powerful punch.
The band owes its current sound to funk forebears Earth, Wind and Fire, ambient master Brian Eno and even Prince’s monumental Purple Rain album. The sum of the parts is great, and TV on the Radio is a full enterprise of euphonious grooves.
Nine Types of Light are indeed found in these 11 songs. Kaleidoscopic light, that is.
Listen to "Second Song":
Imagine taking a drive with friends in the summertime. Windows down, wind-blown hair, sun beating in every window, and a certain carefree spontaneity and happiness envelops you, just like Eliza Doolittle's self-titled debut album.
Parlophone’s Eliza Doolittle has plenty of feel-good tunes, but it's not just your average bubblegum pop. Infused with her sweet-as-sugar voice are raspy kicks of jazz and smooth doses of soul. Whistling, clapping, glockenspiel (similar to a xylophone), kazoo and maracas are just a few of the unique instruments she uses in order to achieve her light-hearted sound. In addition she incorporates retro elements, like the sound of music playing through a phonograph on the song "Go Home.”
Songs like "Nobody," "Moneybox," "Skinny Genes" and "Mr. Medicine" all have similar, bouncy and very catchy choruses. Shifting once more to her deeper, more intimate side comes out through soulful picks like "A Smokey Room" and "So High."
Listen to "Skinny Genes":