White Lies | Ritual is Good Gloomy Fun

The U.K.’s White Lies have released their second full length album called Ritual. As with their first offering, White Lies latest album is just as steeped in overly dramatic ballads that are filled with never ending exclamations of love and pain. It’s just what 2011 needed a bit of throwback 80s themed goodness in the same vain as The Cure. White Lies may be the kind of music you are embraced to play with acquaintances or even friends present, for fear they may judge you harshly for your overly dramatic taste in music, but who cares. While Lies is gloomy pulp rock, their songs revolve around tales of sorrow and heartache the likes of which haven’t been seen since John Cusack raised his “Boombox” above his head in that movie Say Anything. The lyrics have an entertainment value beyond that which was obviously intended by those who penned them.

Ritual might not be the height of musical creativity but it is enjoyable in its own way.        


Disappears | A Review of Guider

Chicago’s own Disappears have released their second full length album entitled Guider. The album may lack in melodic diversity, with each track awash in drums and only a hand full of guitar chords, but that is where Guider finds its strength. Each track seems to have its own mesmerizing quality. One of the better cuts off of this album, Halo is one of those fine examples of lo-fi drone, its pace is such that you wouldn’t fall asleep while listening to it but if you weren’t carful just might slip into a daze. That is the how you could describe the entire Guider album, it takes you up to a certain musical height then leaves you dazed but not confused.         


Cake | A Review of Showroom of Compassion

The band that brought us one of the most over played songs on the radio, Short Skirt/Long Jacket, have released their sixth studio album entitled Showroom of Compassion.  In this latest offering Cake, front man John McCrea delivers both on vocals and lyrics. The first song off of the record called Federal Funding boasts a classic rock vibe while still maintaining a modern edge. The lyrics of this track are rather entertaining in that they paint a distinctly unflattering portrait of those who don a suite and get their rocks off by attaining a certain business status which can be held over others.  Another track on the new album just has that instant classic personality to it; we are talking Mustache Man (Wasted). Mustache Man (Wasted) with its funk beat and generous helping of horn (let’s not forget the healthy dose of cow bell) is truly made great by the lyrics which create a vivid and eccentric of a mustache sporting dude. Most people are under the correct impression that anyone who only grows facial hair above their lip should be avoided at all cost and this Cake track lends weight to that belief. You see, “With the mustache man and carpet of his van, you can feel you fatty tissues giving way to sweaty hands.”  If that’s not an indictment of mustached men, what is?   
There are some lesser cuts off of Showroom of Compassion but as a whole this album is sure to have a long and happy life in the music library of those who buy it.     


The Decemberists | The King Is Dead Album Review

The Decemberists are set to release their sixth studio album in 2011. The release date for the new album is January 18th 2011 and you might just want to mark it on your calendar.  You can tell that some of the tracks on The King Is Dead album find some inspiration in R.E.M. They sort of resonate with that kind of Orange Crush energy. The beginning of The King Is Dead may have a more commercial sound to it but it also harkens back to the good old days, bringing on recollections of bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, with its slight country twang matched with a curious set of cautionary tails woven into the lyrics. The lyrics to Calamity Song and June Hymn are standouts and will no doubt find their way into the hearts of fans that flock to this band.  


The Matrimonials | A Review of Their Self-Titled Album

All of the bad in this up and coming band is out weighed by the good. The Baltimore based band, The Matrimonials have a self-titled album out and it’s not exactly classy, but that just might be the point of the 15 plus tracks that populate this upbeat rock album.  The Matrimonails are responsible for this Facebook Quote of the Day: “I got 13 guns hiding under this tee. I got a sword for a dick, so don't fuck with me.” – Who doesn’t like a good sword for a dick reference here and there?

Why you might like them: If you are one of those people who says, God I miss Blink 182 but can’t stand the pop punk from the late 90s and early 00s, then this is right up your ally.  The boys from The Matrimonials have a childish sense of humor and a great musical talent. Just listen to the track Taylor Swiff, a not so veiled reference to the boney child singer Taylor Swift, who according to The Matrimonials would not mind a good round of naked twister. Another treat that stands out from this self-titled work is 666. Happy Birthday Jesus!, a carbon copy of Lisa It’s Your Birthday from the very memorable The Simpsons episode where Michael Jackson voices one of the characters.

The whole album is enjoyable and indulges the inner smart talking, vulgarity spewing bastard in all of us. 


Top Indie Albums of 2010

There have been a number of great albums to come out in 2010, but these are by far the best indie albums to come this year. In no particular order:

Adam Green - Minor Love
Crooning, garage band, roots rock is what Adam Green delivers with Minor Love. Formerly of The Moldy Peaches, Green has created a more mature album in comparison this time around despite some mentions of flatulence in a song or two. Minor Love could be cast aside as a Lou Reed imitation, though the style may be similar the bones of the music are distinct and notably individual, with a relaxed indie folk tone at times the likes you would hear on M. Ward’s last album.

Lyrics for the ages may be lingering on Minor Love. Green delivers with the lyrics on this one, making the instrumental parts fade into the background like so much white noise in comparison. Perhaps inspired by the troubles the musician is going through, a divorce is never a pleasant experience but makes for an excellent set of bitter ballads. Lyrics that stand out are “Join the living obnoxious lullabies…” in Give Them A Token and “To all those special friends, slated to meet you, I’d new I’d never stay. I don’t believe you.” on Bathing Birds manage to capture the tone of this misanthropic album.

Dr. Dog - 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 gravely 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 know (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.

Evelyn Evelyn – Self-Titled
Evelyn Evelyn is a duo consisting of conjoined twins Evelyn and Evelyn Neville. Through their self-titled debut album the two tell the story of their live as orphans and oddities, and then as the misfits freaks of the Dillard and Fullerton’s Traveling Circus. Their musical style is playful and dark, most numbers a duet the likes of which has been heard since The Andrew Sisters era. The album plays out like a Timothy Burton film, with spoken word interludes giving the history of the strange pair. Every track off of their album is a playful retelling of events in the lives of the sisters. Nothing too special there, but when put into context very funny and very odd. The tales range from the events surrounding their birth to being raised as chickens until the age of six on a poultry farm. The minds behind this fictional duo are Amada Palmer and Jason Webley who also provide the vocals for this high concept band. You can’t say this album will be getting much air play on the radio but you have to appreciate the execution of this project. If you take a look at the band’s website you should take a look at the fans drawings of the sisters then you will know how this quirky concept has captured the attention and imagination of some.

A Theory About Evelyn Evelyn’s Formation: The artists involved in the conceptualization of the twins are great fans of old timey music and circus freaks. But are far removed from the like, so they created this alter ego – would it be egos since they are conjoined twins but at the same time they have one big body … I don’t know. They do this in order to satisfy this unhealthy urge to be a character from one of Timothy Burton’s films. Or they just have an obsession with the twins from the shining and wondered one night if they would have been scarier if they were living conjoined twins rather than just regular, yet dead, twins. Perhaps, or maybe explaining the motivations for making such personas are better left to those who created them and the imaginations of the fans who follow them.

Frog Eyes - Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph
Frog Eyes an indie rock band that call Victoria, B.C. home. And as with their previous albums the frenzy of distorted guitars and explosive vocals are still there in spades. Admittedly out of their previous album only a few songs out of their whole catalogue really stood out as more than experimental indie rock. Maybe it was the rate of fire that vocalist Carey Mercer delivered the lyrics or the near impenetrability his songs, but Frog Eyes just never really did it for some. That is until Paul’s Tomb A Triumph. This album is less of a scatter shot and more of a surgical hit, much more focused than the previous albums and more accessible to boot. Frog Eyes has always had a gritty chattering sound to it, riddled with distortion and generous helpings of keyboard induced synth. But that is in part to the structure of most of their songs, which are not the traditional verse, chorus and repeat. Instead they are more sprawling epics with sung parts which meld very naturalistically into diverging instrumentals that at some points feel completely random but some how manage to work. The lyrics off of Paul’s Tomb A Triumph are to true Frog Eyes form, nearly incomprehensible, but that too is part of this albums charm, it’s mystery mixed with iridescent energy and this time around it has never looked better.

The National - High Violet
Over the years New York’s The National has released several albums, the last of which came in 2007 with Boxer, an album that lacked much of the luster its predecessor captured. The 2005 Alligator was for most the height of The National’s musical offerings. Cuts like Baby, We’ll Be Fine and Karen are some of the best out of The National’s song catalogue and they both can be found on Alligator. What The National has always been up against are those who say that lead singer’s Matt Berninger voice is overpowering and consumes the majority of every song the band has released, the baritone’s voice rarely seem to break from a monotone position. The first half of High Violet the latest release of the band is a different story; Berninger pulls back on the vocal side of things and allows the other parts of this band to shine.

As a band The National has slowly been breaking into a more public view. Once an indie darling, the band known among the more snooty indie band aficionados as the New York band with deep voiced lead singer, with influences that seemingly stemmed from a more British style. As the years wore on since the band made their first album back in the late 90s, The National and their music has become more recognizable to the average music listeners ear. And with the impressive release of High Violet the band obviously still has gas left in the tank.

The new album quietly draws you in as a listener, partly to prepare you for some somber lyrical narratives, but also to stylishly introduce you to one of The National’s best albums to date. If High Violet were to come on to strong at first you might brush it wouldn’t be High Violet. The album is an anthem for post rainy day blues. Unlike previous albums provide by this band, High Violet though dark in tone and content is notably more lighthearted than say Boxer or Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers. Key Tracks on High Violet, Anyone’s Ghost, Little Faith and Lemonword.

Foals - Total Life Forever
A five man band from Oxford England, Foals are set to release their second album entitled Total Life Forever. Their debut album of 2008, Antidotes was regarded by most as a successful introduction to the public. The fast paced and playful disposition of that album set to an electronically induced backdrop captured a distinctively more upbeat musical variant coming out of Britain. Other bands such as The XX, White Lies, The Big Pink and others stand among the artistic/regional peers of Foals, but all those mentioned have a more darkened tone to their music, making Foals not sunny by any stretch but on the brighter side of the musical scale.

As a band Foals seem to take their influences from the electronic styles populating the music of the late 70s and 80s and you can hear it in almost every track with the synth background rhythms. Foals music is not just to be confined to the synth basket at the local record shop. It is a fusion of rock, techno and dance with a healthy dose of vocal harmonies that insights a sense of resonance.
The album starts off by lulling you into believing that you have by accident put in a Fleet Foxes album as the track Blue Blood begins in that style only to evolve into a more Foals like creation. The album moves in waves, receding only to later burst in a poppy barrage guitars and synth rhythms. Total Life Forever hands down has one of the best songs to come out in 2010, namely Spanish Sahara. If this album has any weaknesses it’s that Spanish Sahara makes the rest of it look like shit in comparison, its amazing track and still a fantastic album.

Wolf Parade - Expo 86
The Canadian indie band Wolf Parade released their third album in late June under the titled Expo 86. As a band that has been around since the mid 00s, Wolf Parade has made little headway in terms of mass popularity. But that is kind of what makes them so great, they are like this little indie secret, and don’t say it isn’t so. Ask a passerby on the street if they know what a Wolf Parade is, and they will look at you with a certain degree of confusion and fear. It is safe to say that Wolf Parade is among other innovative bands that work to bring out quality music. Sadly not many people are willing to pay much attention to this band steeped electro-rock.

Expo 86 is impressive as a whole but there are standouts on this album, the dizzying synth interlude of Palm Road comes at just the right moment in the song and is up there with some of their best tracks like Shine A Light and Modern World. The more surreal has crept into the lyrics of this album, more so than with the previous ones, no doubt in part due to Krug’s recent success with his neo-psychedelic band Sunset Rubdown. Disagree? Just listen to the first track on the album, Cloud Shadow on the Mountain then ask yourself what you would do if you were “a dream catcher hanging from a minivan, parked along the waters edge”. Little Golden Age melody is particularly interesting, the non-harmony (they don’t exactly blend) of the dual lead singers, the contrast between their voices, as always, articulates what makes this band distinct and an acquired taste, and with most things that take time to acclimate to Wolf Parade grows more interesting after multiple run-throughs. This album is much different in musical coherence and chemistry in comparison to the band’s 08’ release of At Mount Zoomer. At Mount Zoomer, at its worst though, was its lethargic addition to the Wolf Parade catalogue, though the album was not without its charm, it pails in comparison to Expo 86. This album is an example of the band being back in top form. They (Krug and Boeckner especially) seem to have taken the positive developments from their solo projects and reinvented Wolf Parade as a heartier beast of a musical group. You can feel the best parts of Handsome Furs in the Boeckner heavy tracks and the same is true for the tracks with Krug taking center stage (very Dragonslayer).

The title of the new album Expo 86 refers to the world Expo of 1986 in Vancouver B.C. Canada where the majority of the band’s members are from. This title is likely a symbolic gesture since many members of the band attended that World Expo as children, pointing out to those who thought the band was over due to the success of side projects that it wasn’t. The side projects we are taking about here are Boeckner’s Handsome Furs (Plague Park and Face Control) and Krug’s Sunset Rubdown which brought us the critically acclaimed album Dragonslayer. But judging by the music of the new album all signs indicate that the band has rediscovered common ground and has rallied back for their third album. If you are only going to listen to a hand full of albums this year make Expo 86 one of them.

Wavves - King of The Beach
The San Diego based band Wavves released their latest album King of the Beach on August 3rd 2010. This being their third studio album, Wavves has managed to smooth out some of the ruff edges to their sound and seems to have found their grove. Known for their distortion heavy contributions to the music world Wavves has painted a hazy humming picture of the California landscape curtsey of song writer Nathan Williams. This band may be based out of San Diego but you could swear the songs off of this album were written with L.A. in mind. Any sheen this album could have is dimmed, coated by the same mixture of fine desert dust and smog that collects on the body as you wander around the city of angels. It’s not so much in the lyrics that this scene of irreversible jadedness is revealed but in the music. The drone aspect of Wavves’ music creates a kind of California Grunge, every fiber of the lyrics screams good times in the sun whereas the melodic backdrop acts as a stark contrast, dulling anything to shiny or sweet.
If you are feeling slightly nostalgic for The Caesars, Wavves may do it for you as well. They sound very similar to The Caesars.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
The Montreal, Quebec, Canada based band Arcade Fire third full length album is called The Suburbs and it might very well be their best album to date. Arcade Fire was one of those bands that came out of Montreal during the middle of the 00s but unlike most of their geographical contemporaries, Arcade Fire managed to tap into a wider fan base. Their sound can only be classified in vulgar generalization like baroque pop, new wave (or my personal favorite alterative rock… what sort of rock music does fall under the alterative category in one way or another?).  Arcade Fire style is quite eclectic and in The Suburbs seems to be growing ever more so.  The first two albums of Arcade Fire, Funeral (2004) and Neon Bible (2007) were both met with critical praise and were adored by fans, spawning a whole movement of Deadhead like followers.  Though the two albums have very different tones they do have one thing in common which is they are expressed with a level of intensity and emotional energy that other bands only hope to achieve.  In fact the energy require to pull off a live performance of the band’s firs two album may have come into play when penning their new album The Suburbs.

The Suburbs has a much more mature tone than the previous two albums, taking on some characteristics more akin to Bruce Springsteen at some points (Modern Man) while at others experiments with synth rhythm backed numbers (Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)) that boarder on nostalgic which cause piercing brightly coloured flashes of The Human League music videos. The most distinctive aspect of The Suburbs in contrast with Funeral and Neon Bible is the lyrical perspective, it seems to have shifted away from a more youthful ideology to more practical concerns, the road, the growing generational divide, seeing friends begin to take on “adult” role and trying to look the part. The underlined idea that seems to permeate The Suburbs is the worries that come with the post university/pre-suburban life realization that you’re going to become just another suite that will live and die splitting time between the city and the suburbs. This idea is driven home with the track Suburban War that has the lyrics “My old friends, I can’t remember when. You cut your hair, never saw you again. Now the cities we live in could be distant stars, and I search for you in every passing car…”, a realization that almost everyone can related to in one way or another. It’s inevitable that people grow up and fade away. That’s what is at the hart of The Suburbs, the desire for something more, something better.         

Matt Costa - Mobile Chateau
Matt Costa is a folk artist from the sunny state of California and has released his third album entitled Mobile Chateau. Costa is not exactly an unknown, his critically acclaimed 2008 album Unfamiliar Faces made many peoples ‘best of’ lists for that year, and with his lasted LP, Mobile Chateau he may have a repeat performance. There have been a number of acts to come out with folk albums of note this year and now we have to chalk Costa’s up there along with others like Deer Tick and Jason Boesel. One thing kept coming to mind the whole time while listen to Costa’s new work: why wasn’t Costa included in the 2009 folk supergroup Monsters of Folk? He’s a folk ‘Monster’ and in the same league as say Matt Ward or Jim James, maybe there was room for only one Matt in the Monsters of Folk or a fifth man would have screwed up the symmetry of the album cover (which was one of the best out of the 2009 and collection of album covers).  C’est la vie. Costa’s album title is also having a negative affect ‘people’ when it comes to the use of French word usage in English writing. Mobile Chateau has a charm and consistency that reminds you of the Fleet Foxes last album but with out all of their signature harmonies.   The playful guitar portions create an atmosphere that resounds throughout the album and keeps the whole thing grounded firmly in a place that feels vaguely like post Beatles Americana of the 60s. The nostalgic incantations of this album are most noticeable on the tracks, Can You Tell Me, Witchcraft and Stings of Change.    

Mini Mansions - Self-Titled
Mini Mansions an L.A. based band and side project of Queens of the Stone Age bassist Michael Shuman released a full length self-titled LP. The band was formed last year after Queens of the Stone Age took a break and most members spread out into new waters, up until now the most notable of which was Queens of the Stone Age front man Josh Homme’s and the Them Crooked Vultures project. But things have changed, Mini Mansions is one of those band’s that if you were to tell people that, the guy who plays bass in Queens of the Stone Age is in this band too. They would say; “fuck off!”Mini Mansions has a style similar to the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, ear of The Beatles. It’s is reboot rock the likes of which we were seeing by the discography full in 2009 but became less popular in 2010. Though, you can forget any moderate language you would hear from The Beatles, Mini Mansions have a way of throwing in a few “fucks” here and there to keep the distinction alive. This is not your parent’s music but it sure does sound like it.     In all Mini Mansions has a lot to offer as a great throw back to a simpler time in music without obviously manufactured pop stars *cough*(Lady Ga Ga) and not every cut off an album was sentenced to a shitty club’s music playlist.