The Belle Jar- Union Station
Mar 5, 2014
Crystal Castles 2010 release, Crystal Castles, builds upon their also self-titled debut in every way possible. The Toronto duo, consisting of Ethan Kath and vocalist Alice Glass, has progressed in the same directions as their contemporaries Deerhunter and Fuck Buttons, but at the same, they have remained true to themselves in the process of crafting a satisfying and well produced followup.
On Crystal Castles' latest release, which spans out to about 53 minutes, you won't hear the archaic 8-bit loops that were present on their debut. Instead there's a more dynamic sound with each song generating a larger pop element which does not hurt in the least.
The dynamic tracks "Celestica", "Suffocation", and "Empathy" mold together the old primitive ways with the more pop/club oriented sound. Tracks like "Baptism" and "Intimate" have the potential to become college radio singles. While the album shows signs of clarity in Alice Glass' vocals the lack of distortion is a bit depressing, but this is Crystal Castles of 2010 not of 2008.
Check out "Celestica":
A guy and his guitar—yeah, it’s been done before, countless times. And done amazingly, too: Dylan, Young, Joe Pug; the list is longer than “Desolation Row.”
What makes a folk artist real is his (or her) dedication to making his sound real. The best folk singer-songwriters craft their songs as living, breathing entities with pulses and emotions of their own. These songs linger on the wind, breezing past your memory days later as beautiful ghosts.
Sweden’s Kristian Matsson (known professionally as The Tallest Man on Earth) scratches his songs into the sky with nothing more than his guitar capoed on the seventh, eighth and ninth frets and his pleasantly abrasive voice. There’s no cliché harmonica here—that would make the songs sound too contrived. Instead, The Tallest Man on Earth (who stands under six feet tall, ironically), carries his human tunes with major-key arpeggios behind swift strums of hopefulness.
On “King of Spain,” Matsson longs to be the titular monarch between travelogue verses and Hemingway-like references to bullfighting, but he does it majestically. “Love is All” grips warmly despite its subject matter of a lost love and lyrics like: “Here come the tears/But like always, I let them go/Just let them go.”
Closer “Kids on the Run” might as well be Springsteen, but Matsson doesn’t try to be. He keeps everything his own as he weeps over a mourning piano melody: “And the cold sky will write us a song/But will we ever confess what we’ve done?/Guess we’re still kids on the run.”
Sure, broad American folk has been done before, and done better. But has it ever been done this well by a Swede? Give The Tallest Man on Earth a chance and he’ll give you a reason to keep listening.
Check out "King of Spain":
We all have a soft spot for pop music, but we don’t need to keep it a secret anymore. Janelle Monae is the real deal – a bona fide pop star with genuine credibility.
She breezes her way through R&B, soul, funk, pop and dance, weaving between sharp horn sections, Hendrix-style guitar solos, dance beats and everything in between.
The ArchAndroid, her debut album, runs through a labyrinth of genres, telling the story of an android in the year 2719.
The futuristic epic also pays homage to the past. On “Tightrope,” Monae delivers lines like, “Whether I’m high or low, I’m gonna tip on the tightrope,” with all the diction of Otis Redding. She also uses semi-improvised, spoken-word segues like “Now put some voodoo on it,” mimicking soul legends.
She also tackles “Ziggy Stardust” psychedelic rock on “Mushrooms & Roses,” which according to the liner notes, was inspired by a stage dive at Bonnaroo and Jack White’s mustache. Monae’s melting pot also includes guests like Saul Williams, Big Boi and Of Montreal, who each brought their unique flavor.
The ArchAndroid fuses all sorts of styles but remains cohesive – like a science fiction Thriller.
Janelle Monae is taking the guilt out of pop music. We should all thank her.
Check out the video for "Tightrope":
Dirty blues – grimy, nasty, gritty blues – that’s what we’ve come to expect from The Black Keys, the Akron duo of guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney. After a series of experiments, including an Auerbach solo album and the Blakroc hip-hop collaboration with rappers such as Mos Def, ODB and Ludacris in 2009, The Black Keys returned with an ever-evolving sound. h="346" />
With incredibly catchy Danger Mouse production, “Tighten Up,” indicates a shift to soul elements. Auerbach howls his way through lines like, “Take my badge, but my heart remains loving you, baby child,” and makes you believe it.
They go so far with the soul flavor that they cover “Never Gonna Give You Up” on the penultimate track. No, they didn’t Rickroll us. This is a Jerry Butler-penned track also recorded by Isaac Hayes on the “Black Moses” album. These tracks alone give Brothers a looser sound than their tight blues-rock records, such as 2008’s Attack & Release.
“She’s Long Gone” may as well be Cream-era Clapton, and “Black Mud” could be Creedance Clearwater Revival.
This blend of classic soul and blues makes the 15-track Brothers a bendy hour of fun. From Auerbach’s faded, hauntingly soulful falsettos to the raw blues riffs, Brothers stays interesting throughout.
Check out "Tighten Up":
Fully clad in black leather like a 1970s punk outfit, The Dead Weather scream voodoo zombie blues more than “Anarchy in the U.K.” This quartet, Jack White’s third band, formed in Nashville last year and has already released two albums. Their latest, Sea of Cowards, is a strangely intriguing descent into madness and raw passion.
From the opening snaky-fuzzed riff of “Blue Blood Blues,” The Dead Weather reveal their motive: to assault listeners with an onslaught of psychedelic acid blues and apologize to no one. Splitting vocal duties, White (who mans the drums this time around) and Alison Mosshart (of The Kills) exchange growls and scratchy brays like two lovers amidst a violent, sex-crazed knife fight.
“I’m mad!” Mosshart screams in the track of the same name right before letting out a soft chuckle like a dancing demon. And Mosshart has plenty of noise to back her up: crunchy bass thumps courtesy of The Raconteurs’ Jack Lawrence and muddy, wailing guitar, keyboard and organ blasts from Queens of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita.
Working in some sort of frenzied harmony, The Dead Weather keep the songs short—the longest clocking in at 3:46—and they never lose steam. There aren’t any “low points” to be found here—only aggressive, pulsating riff-based rock ‘n roll reminiscent of Led Zeppelin at their dirtiest. Sea of Cowards bites like a rattlesnake, but the venom is actually quite pleasing. Give The Dead Weather a try and let their bluesy venom overtake you.
Check out "Die By The Drop":
Formed in 2001, in Victoria, British Columbia, Frog Eyes consists of only two permanent members: singer, songwriter and guitarist Carey Mercer and drummer Melanie Campbell, who is also Mercer’s wife. Previous members include Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade. Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph is Frog Eyes’ 9th album to date.
Check out "Lear in Love" from Paul's Tomb: A Triumph:
Check out "Bright Orange Air":
Check out "Another Year Again":
Cosmogramma could be a synonym for diversity, as this album touches and expands boundaries that seems impossible for one disc to manage. With some instrumental tracks and others with guest vocals from artists like Thom Yorke, the magnitude of this album is blinding, and that's definietly a good thing. Cosmogramma is dynamic, with tracks ranging in pace, feel and genre. Tracks flow seamlessly, making the album feel like a cohesive journey through the cosmos, instead of a stop-start ride into Manhattan.
Those who aren't familiar with his style may struggle through the first track or two. But after getting quickly acquainted, this album makes listening active, instead of passively entertaining.
Check out the song "Pickled!" from Cosmogramma: