Maximilian Hecker | Poking Fun At I Am Nothing But Emotion, No Human Being, No Son, Never Again Son

I Am Nothing But Emotion... (Bonustrack Version)The German musician Maximilian Hecker has been making sad sappy music for a number of years now. The songs are so introspective, charged with the melancholic energy of a thousand lonely hearts and his new album, I Am Nothing But Emotion, has fifty two minutes worth of it. To say Hecker doesn’t do justice to his arid piano pop would be wrong. He puts any of the current sad balladeers at notice, look out Damien Rice and Ryan Adams! But in all seriousness, there is a place for such music in the world and Hecker is a fine example of it. On this album you will find gently plucked and strummed guitar portions accompanied by whimsical piano portions I Am Nothing But Emotion... Wait! Let’s just say something about that album title for a moment; has there ever been a more apropos title to an album? Hecker is nothing but emotion on this album, so much so that it boarders on embarrassing when listening to it. Look out for key phrases like, I’m lonely, I need you, I’m crying, Wake me up if I’m crying... and so on.

Getting back to it, the performance delivered on the album is quite lively especially when taking into consideration the subject matter. This album belongs in your sad album stash right next to the Damien Rice’s O album and The Antlers’ Hospice album. For those times when the world seems so uninviting and the only thing you can find satisfying is the knowledge that someone has it worse than you and decided to put it to song.


Dr. Dog | A Review of Shame, Shame

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Dog then you have been missing out on some of the best music being made today. Over the past nine years the psychedelic band has released five albums, some were good some were great and some were just amazing. On Shame, Shame the band distances itself from its other albums by delivering a more literal lyrical foundation for its songs. And you can hear this in tracks off of the album such as “Jackie Wants a Black Eye” and “Station,” two songs that truly feel like they come from a place of grounded honesty and pain. Another welcome return to form on Shame, Shame are the shared vocals between Toby Leaman and Scott McMicken, who also play lead guitar and bass. As with The Beatles before them Dr. Dog ascribes to the philosophy of sharing the lead vocals in order to create diverse sounding music and have the practical benefit of not having all of the vocal weight of performances on one set of vocal cords. The result of swapping lead singer duties from track to track is an impressive one, since Leaman and McMicken have such different voices, one has a very explosive gruff and gravelly feel to it, while the other is more piercing and boyish in tone.

With their new album Dr. Dog continues to impress, the melodies and harmonies of this album stand up to anything they have done in the past. The towering anthems are still there and so is the 1960s pop rock psychedelic influence. And as a band that came to be known (at least at first) for their use of lo-fi, have continued to refine their studio albums to the point where they reflect accurately the energy and feel of their live performances. Dr. Dog has quietly been writing some of the best music of the 00s and has become an important contributor to what defines the musical scenery of the age we live in.


MGMT | A Review of Congratulations

MGMT will be releasing their third album on April 13th 2010 entitled Congratulations. After the massive success of their last album Oracular Spectacular with its indie funk fusion goodness, those who pick up the new album will be in for a bit of a surprise. It appears that the men who make up MGMT, Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden have chosen to approach Congratulations from a different angle. Don’t expect to find any of the new songs on this album populating a club’s musical backdrop. Also, (to the hardcore fans) don’t lose your shit! This may be a different side of Brooklyn’s MGMT but that doesn’t mean Congratulations isn’t good, because it is. MGMT has always had a bit of neo-psychedelica at the heart of all their songs, that abstract dream like imagery delivered in tracks such as Kids, Time To Pretend and others are only amplified when put to a more St. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band-centric style of music.

You get the feeling that when this album was been penned and produced those involved were listening to a lot of Dr. Dog, Sunset Rubdown and anything with Jim James in it. Congratulations with its sitar filled melodies resonating with spot on harmonies, deserves just what the album’s title exclaims… congratulations. This is their first wholly original album since their first, under the band’s original name, The Management. If anyone was paying attention last year, a whole host of bands came out with very good, very welcome variations on the diverging subgenres of psychedelic rock. So, it is not that far of a stretch to think MGMT would come out with an interpretation of their own, as this is not that far of a departure for the band, in terms of lyrical content. You are not going to hear the twelve minute plus track off of the new one, Siberian Breaks at any clubs. Congratulations is an engaging album filled with tracks to be explored and listened to multiple times. Though it may not be the energy filled playground that Oracular Spectacular was Congratulations still stands up when compared to its predecessor.


We Were Promised Jetpacks | The Last Place You’ll Look EP Review

A band hailing from Edinburgh, Scotland has recently come out with an EP of note. There are more than enough EPs floating around, but every once and a while one comes along that makes you excited to hear and learn more about a band. And that is what The Last Place You’ll Look EP has done for We Were Promised Jetpacks. The lead singer, Adam Thompson has enough sadness inhis voice to make even some of the weaker lyrics ring out with forceful melancholy. Their First Album entitled These Four Walls garnered some critical prays from Rolling Stone back in the summer of 2009. As a freshman effort for a young band it was above average, though take away the Scottish brogue and you were left with something that sounds like My Chemical Romance or AFI (as in too many grandstanding finishes to choruses). Their EP, The Last Place You’ll Look
is much more subtle and delivers on many levels, such as its ability to comfortably shift from extended instrumental portions right back into provocative sung. Not to mention the use of more classical stringed instruments on this EP, which is done to great effect providing a resonating back drop for the rest of the softly performed instruments to play away. An Element not heard on their first album.
What this EP does, and what any decent EP should do really, is it gets you excited about what the band’s next LP will bring. But more than that, this EP stands out as a well executed musical work in and of itself with every track worth multiple listens.


Harlem | Taking a Look At Hippies

HippiesHarlem is set to release their second full length album entitled Hippies on April 6th. If you haven’t heard of them yet, they hail from Austin Taxes and are apart of the lo-fi revival. That seems to be the way things are going this year in terms of indie pop rock. The Fieros, another impressive lo-fi band are set to release their full length album sometime this year as well and made an impressive show in their self-titled EP early in the year. And with the return of lo-fi on the horizon we might as well get it out of the way and just say it sounds really good. But there are pros and cons to taking hold of this 50s-60s-centirc sound and running with it, as a modern day roots rock band. Take Japandroid for instance, a garage band more of the punk side of things if comparing them to Harlem, but who also love the lo-fi rattle and hum sound. They had a great album last year with Post-Nothing but not everyone loved it for the same reasons and some people didn’t like it at all. So, here are the pros and cons of Harlem’s new one Hippies when put into the lo-fi bubble and looked at with a bit of objectivity.

Why you might like this band: If you like the lo-fi styling’s reminiscent of early The Beatles or The Ramones vinyl then this is right up your ally. The charm factor, Harlem has a warm, familiar feel to it, making it very pleasant to listen to. The energy captured in Hippies is undeniable, its auditory fun on a bun.

Why you might not like this band: The variety of this album is non existent, Harlem has a style and they stick with it throughout Hippies with little deviation. If you are not fond of reboot bands in general and are more of a progressive music listener this album could be a very small blip on your musical radar.

Note: With all biases or objectiveness aside we love Hippies here at Indie Blog Shot… the social group and this album.


The Atlantic Manor | The World Beneath This World Is Brightening A Review

The Atlantic Manor is a Florida based band with a singular purpose, to be your auditory backdrop for your bad days. With there 11th album The World Beneath This World Is Brightening you get the immediate impression that almost every track on this album is an exercise in the art of ambient drone. But don’t worry this is not one of the purely instrumental albums that seem to constantly be popping up from so many indie bands. This album dips into the extended instrumental portions but eventually leads into a somber set of lyrics that can best be compared to a subdued version of Neil Young in style if Young had a lower voice.

The dark nature of this album would attract anyone, in the mood for an evening of solitary reflection. The World Beneath This World Is Brightening should probably come with a warning label though, stating that it should not be mixed with alcohol or other medications and doing so might be a danger to the listeners health. But that is the thing about this album it’s an emotional piece of work and should be given credit for its ability to keep from being tedious, given all of the extended ambient instrumental portions. Right when you think you can’t take anymore of an extended psychedelic progression, Rick Sell the band’s lead singer delivers a strong vocal performance, which brings the listener right back into the fold. The key tracks on this album are Failing By The Second, Death Crown and The World Beneath This Word.

Note: Other bands that have had impressively dark and emotionally charged albums that come to mind are The Antlers with their 2009 effort Hospice and the band Timbre Timbre’s last self titled album. The former revolves around the pains of losing someone to an illness while the latter about the internal darkness of the soul made manifest through Brothers Grimm-esc lyrictry. You can count The Atlantic Manor among these dreadnoughts of the subdued sounds.


Beck | Remaking Skip Spence’s Album Oar

Beck the king of the improvised instrument has come out with an album which covers some of Skip Spence’s best songs with the album Oar. This album is apart of Beck’s “Record Club” series in which he and a group of musicians attempt to cover the album of a particular band or artist in one day. This is the third album to be released in this series. The first was The Velvent Underground and Nico. The Second was Songs of Leonard Cohen. Beck is accompanied on this cover album by a number of talented musicians and musical acts, namely, Wilco, Jamie Lidell, and Feist. Skip Spence who was a member of both Jefferson Airplane and Mody Grape is the subject of this album of reenvisioned covers.


Clem Snide | The Meat of Life Review

The Meat of LifeClem Snide is a seasoned band based out of New York with a style of music that can best be described as a mix of folk rock, and yes country (ignore the shivers going down your spine for a moment, at the mention of the ‘c’ word). They are more folksy than anything. In fact this album, The Meat of Life, is reminiscent of Matt Ward’s 2009 effort Hold Time. Though, The Meat of Life is on the more whimsical side of things and has a more straightforward range of musical style it still hits the right notes where it counts. The Meat of Life delivers on several fronts, it manages to charm the listener with whimsical lyrics and imagery while at the same time maintaining an evenly toned musical backdrop. The album begins with the track Walmart Parking Lot which dances between breezy guitars and tightening piano portions wetting the apatite of the listener immediately.

But this is not Clem Snide’s first time around and you can tell, as their seventh album The Meat of Life highlights the band’s ability to produce ballads with a level quality that can stand up to anyone making similar music today. You can find an example of this teary balladry on the cut Denver, slow and methodical, it tells a sad love story, universal in its meaning and relatability.


Gorillaz | Plastic Beach Album Review

Plastic BeachAs a conceptual band the Gorillaz consist of animated characters drawn together by Jamie Hewett (one of the creators of the Tank Girl comic) as for the music though that is Damon Albarn’s focus. This, as their third studio album, has the lofty task of living up to its predecessors in terms of content and level of musical collaboration. Unlike most albums Plastic Beach has no singular style that it holds to through its track list. It is for lack of a better term, a briarpatch of musical styles and artists. But what an interesting briarpatch it is.

The album begins with an orchestral intro as if it is the overture for The Magic Flute. The musical styles littering Plastic Beach must lean heavily on the Hip-Hop/Rap side of things, but that is to be expected, this is a Gorillaz album after all. Not really. The album moves through its tracks like a finger on a radio seek button passing through different styles at a whim. It’s the goal of the creative force behind the project Damon Albarn to make a more pop oriented and expansive album, something with a pace to match its talent. After the intro, Snoop Dog delivers one of his signature raps accompanied by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from then on Plastic Beach goes from 80s synth with tracks like Rhinestone Eyes, to ambient-drown with the track Empire Ants and Some Kind of Nature. Sweepstakes as with Snoop Dog’s track is a rap accompanied with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble but performed by Mos Def.

GorillazThere are over fifteen musicians featured on this album (not to mention the entire Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music). No track on this album has the singular force of such tracks as Sound Check (Gravity) off of the debut album. But when you take all of the tracks of Plastic Beach and listen to them based on their singular merit then as the album as a whole… you are still confused… but oddly satisfied.