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Review // Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan

July 20, 2012

Dirty Projectors have always come across as more of an experiment than a traditional band. Between their 2003 debut The Glad Fact and 2009’s landmark Bitte Orca, singer/songwriter David Longstreth and his collaborators treated each album as an opportunity to explore new, uncharted sonic territory. Like scientists of sound, they drew from such diverse palates as African drumming patterns and R&B  vocal runs to create their unique and intellectual compositions. Dirty Projectors seemed inventive, but their uniqueness also lent itself to an air of pretension.

After listening to Swing Lo Magellan (Domino; 2012), Dirty Projectors’ latest release, I was thrilled to discover that David Longstreth has finally relaxed. Both lyrically and sonically, this is the simplest record that the group has ever produced. The sparse arrangements, distinctive vocals and full harmonies are refreshing, yet they feel more comforting than Bitte Orca did three years ago. If that album was a wave, then Swing Lo is a breeze. Gentler, warmer and ultimately, more rewarding.

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Music Reviews

Review // "I Predict A Graceful Expulsion" by Cold Specks

May 17, 2012

London-based Canadian singer-songwriter Al Spx of Cold Specks would be profoundly dismayed to hear her music categorized alongside the late Amy Winehouse.  And she’d be right to feel slighted, because that would be the clear result of a fleeting, surface listen of her forthcoming debut album, I Predict A Graceful Expulsion (Mute; 2012), which is scheduled to release on May 22.  I suggest you listen to it … several times.

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Music, Music Commentary, Music Reviews

Review // Beach House: Bloom

May 14, 2012

Review | Beach House: Bloom

In a recent interview with Pitchfork‘s Jenn Pelly, Beach House multi-instrumentalist Alex Scally revealed his frustration with the changing ways in which we listen to music:

“A lot of people listening to music now don’t listen to the songs or lyrics at all. They just go, “Good tones…” and that’s it. But we’re obsessed with songs. Sometimes, I feel like people aren’t listening to our songs, they’re just listening to the sound. “

Scally’s chagrin can be viewed as a gripe with twenty-first century music as a whole. In an age where music is both easily accessible and easily dismissed, the dual arts of album structure and song writing have been lost amongst many artists.  Taking this into consideration, Beach House, a Baltimore-based dream pop duo, can be seen as traditionalists in the world of modern indie music. Over the course of four albums, including 2010’s sonic opus Teen Dream, the Beach House sound has remained steady, slowly improving with thoughtful refinements.

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Music Reviews

Review // Small Black: New Chain

January 1, 2012

Small Black, you had me at “Despicable Dogs.”  The star single of your self-titled debut EP (Jagjaguwar; 2010).

Late to the chillwave party, I recently stumbled upon the fourtet’s 2010 LP, New Chain (Jagjaguwar; 2010), and it put me in a reflectronic, romantic mood (if you’ll excuse the portmanteau).  Small Black have managed to draw from the indiesphere’s upsurge of ’80s anamnesis by wisely recording in their hometown locale, Delaware, and getting away from the echo chamber of revival trends that presently crowd their New York borough.  While these Brooklyn-based chillwavers seem to fall in line with their ’80s revivalist colleagues — Twin Shadow, Neon Indian, Wild Nothing, Com Truise, M83, Washed Out — they do manage to conjure the painful, new wave nostalgia of a decade’s worth of eyeliner melancholy.  As an unabashed romanticist in my own right, it made for an ideal trip. Continue Reading…

Music Reviews

Review // Atlas Sound: Parallax

December 19, 2011

Bradford Cox is, unmistakably, a profuse creator.  His raging appetite for permuting the various DNA strands of his leading post-punk outfit, Deerhunter, proves an insatiable creature.  Speaking in absolutes, the lifeblood of his very being is music.  When he’s not reintroducing bygone subgenres of punk and psychedelia through Deerhunter (his devoted wife) or Atlas Sound (his downtown hotel-room mistress), he’s practically reinventing them.  He’s also got a penchant for reinventing himself.  Hell, minus the ubiquity, he’s feasibly this generation’s David Bowie — above all in the context of the various, androgynous personae he’s experimented with over the years. 

As such, it bemoans me to come out on the other side of Parallax (4AD) feeling listless and rather … crestfallen.  Continue Reading…

Music Reviews

Review // The New Pornographers: Together

December 2, 2011

Matador – 2010

The New Pornographers, a Vancouver-based alt-pop septet, debuted in 2000 with their first full-length, Mass Romantic, and have since iterated permutations of their sound through four other LPs:  Electric Version (2003); Twin Cinema (2005); Challengers (2007); and last year’s Together.  During the past decade, the group’s presence has expanded to occupy featured spots on various late night TV talk shows and automotive commercials. Continue Reading…

Music Reviews

Review // Twin Shadow: Forget

November 12, 2010

4 AD / Terrible – 2010

There’s a vigorous culture of nostalgia experimenters out there in the wilds of hipsterdom.  From H&M and American Apparel’s cigarette pants, to the neo Boho and Blitz accoutrements Soho natives wear on the isle of Manhattan, to the practically encyclopedic knowledge DC hipsters have of David Bowie’s discography (from Low to Scary Monsters).  To lovers of the late John Hughes’ Brat Pack filmography.  To the oft-imitated, cabaret-coy vocal tones Morrissey, Bowie, Brian Eno and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis practically invented; not to mention the evergreen life that British new wave bands like Depeche Mode and Echo and the Bunnymen have on jukeboxes and digital playlists. Continue Reading…

Music Reviews

Review // Arcade Fire: The Suburbs

August 4, 2010

Merge – 2010

When I think of Arcade Fire I usually think of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, husband-and-wife and two of the most influential collaborators in contemporary rock today.  Still, the superband as a whole is roughly made up of seven very talented individuals, quite a cadre of the likes of the New Pornographers.  As such, I am often astounded by the level of cogency and cohesiveness in their albums (even in their “weakest” state, the Springsteen-laden Neon Bible), one that seems to defy the too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen clause.  With The Suburbs, Arcade Fire receives a crisper, more upfront studio treatment that serves to bolster their most catching strengths, which have been slightly muddled before (either for better or worse).  The upped ante in production (Merge Records) also jostles out some of the glaring histrionics of their previous album, where governmental politicos induce war-struck paranoia and corrupt, Fire-and-Brimstone church leaders impose their ulterior agendas on lobotomized sheep. Continue Reading…