Album Reviews, 2013

A few reviews, as appears on Rhapsody

Phoenix, Bankrupt!
imageFollowing breakout Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the Frenchmen turn Japanese (at least on lead track “Entertainment,” which slightly recalls The Vapors’ ’80s hit) and then remind us how French they really are with a song about a men’s fragrance (“Drakkar Noir”). On Bankrupt!, Phoenix maintain that signature mix of fizzy and dreamy electro-pop that titillates as innocuously as a cold soda on a hot day. But this time they sound more on par with brethren Daft Punk: synths packed in tight and injected with caffeine, like on the early-Madonna-esque “Trying to Be Cool” and the sprawling title track.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito
imageOn the YYYs’ fourth album, Karen O sucks your blood, imagines she’s an alien, dreams of being buried alive, and gets caught without her MetroCard. And like a lonely night in the NYC she sings of on the train-track-thumping “Subway,” Mosquito feels dark, menacing and claustrophobic, but never lacking in around-the-corner suspense. The guitar squall of “Sacrilege” swoops up a gospel choir, “Under the Earth” floats on a dub groove, and “Buried Alive” gets Gorillaz-esque with help from Dr. Octagon and producer James Murphy. But dawn nears towards album’s end with a trio of sweet, sizzling ballads.

Youth Lagoon, Wondrous Bughouse
imageYouth Lagoon’s Trevor Powers is becoming a true prince of oddball solipsistic pop. Building much upon the minimalist sounds of 2011’s The Year of Hibernation, his second album dives into a chaotic world that we can only guess reflects an anxious, possibly tripping-out brain (“The devil tries to take my mind,” he coolly notes on “Mute”). Wondrous Bughouse wobbles in reverb as synths spiral around dizzyingly like a carousel flying off its axle. Every sound feels weightless, yet the overall texture is impenetrable, creating a hypnotic effect like My Bloody Valentine, at a carnival, under the sea.

Wavves, Afraid of Heights
image Wavves’ fourth album sounds like the ultimate alt-rock triad of 1994: Weezer, Green Day, Nirvana. Nathan Williams even works a gravelly Cobain snarl on “Dog” and “Demon to Lean On,” where the guitar apes “Lithium” and Williams talks of holding a gun to his head. Other statements: “We’ll all die alone, just the way we live/ In a grave”; “None of you will ever understand me.” Williams has a great sense of melody, sprinkling in surf touches too (those Beach Boy woos), but his music stays mostly loose and loud to mirror whatever’s going on in that tortured brain. Maybe he should lay off the weed?

Blue Hawaii, Untogether
imageThe Aloha State really should give this Montreal duo a cut: After taking in Blue Hawaii’s serene tropical pop, you’ll want to book a flight there stat, if only to have Untogether, their debut album, as your accompanying soundtrack. Lounge-y drum machine beats plop throughout, like droplets of water hitting sizzling skin; acoustic guitar gently punctuates gorgeous tracks like “Try to Be”; and synths flutter in and out like the sun playing peek-a-boo through the palm trees. Vocalist Raph Standell-Preston (also of Braids) guides it all along with hypnotic purrs as pure and sweet as sugar cane.

Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic
imageLike retro psych-pop bands Tame Impala, Ariel Pink and MGMT, the music of Foxygen feels as cozily familiar as a pen pal from an exotic land you’ll never visit. The duo’s second album opens like Sgt. Pepper in a pub and ends like Abbey Road in a windstorm; “No Destruction” hints of The Velvet Underground; “Shuggie” emulates Bowie; and, generally, singer Sam France has Mick Jagger’s snarl down. To fit the vintage palette, there’s talk of pot, doors of consciousness and San Francisco, but perhaps the best, most timeless line is, “There’s no need to be an *sshole/ You’re not in Brooklyn anymore.”

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2 thoughts on “Album Reviews, 2013

  1. Do you realize that music is personal and subjective to the individual. Not only that but their are way more tone deaf and non-musically inclined people then not. The reviews you give remind me if movie critics. If we all listened to your reviews as a root for our own subjectivity people would lose out on missing so many albums and movies. Your so call ear for music seems to jaded in mysterious ways that I can’t put my finger on except possibly your privileged life style. The charts are rigged by money and what gets played on the radio and the worst generation in history – Generation Y ( Millennials) fall into it like the tone deaf sheer they are. sythn crap I could personally do on say fruityloops and less then 72 hours. You seem to have a mind that focusses a lot on lyrics ( about 75 % lyrics , 25 % music) with songs and that doesn’t help people at all with a musical mind that has those numbers in reverse. You really set me of on this tangent with your really crappy review of Lana Del Ray’s ) new album which put almost everything on the current charts to shame. Your review sounds like you personally knew this women and she got something you wanted but never got. Talent. First of all their is no way you can relate in any way to the life of this musician by your snark remarks in the lyrics. Musically speaking this album is one of best produced I’ve heard in a few years and your bitchy on the rag focus on lyrics you can’t even relate too is way off. You will never understand the tortured soul of a musician many of whom have a bipolar disorder which is part of why they are so creative to begin with. The two are often linked in so many creative people . Google it. How you got a job doing music reviews is beyond me but it’s not your talent– ( not just this review) so try something else like rating wines while traveling because that’s about as far as your so called ear for music goes.

    • The amount of contradictions and false assumptions in your statement is rather silly. The fact that you begin your harangue with the statement that music is personal and subjective pretty much strikes out any argument you have here. Yes, indeed it is, so attacking someone else whose tastes and opinions may not mesh with your own is a lost cause, no? And anyone who reads reviews and uses that as a “root for [their] own subjectivity” clearly doesn’t listen to music for their own enjoyment. And thank you for assuming that I, a girl who grew up in a humble middle-class Midwestern town, am “privileged” because I choose to spend my (personally earned!) money on travel, not on other “luxuries” like a mortgage or a car loan. I have not reviewed Lana Del Rey’s new album, so I can only assume you’ve got the wrong person here or you’re talking about my Rhapsody review of Born to Die, which is fairly positive. I’m actually a big LDR fan — just saw her a few months ago and was very impressed, and Ultraviolence is the one album I’m truly looking forward to this summer — so you seem to assume because I’m a female talking about another female artist I must be “bitchy” and jealous of her. And you really think I could possibly write about music without understanding the idea of the tortured artist? Really?! That’s what drew me and many of my fellow writers to music in the first place. And it’s a bit ridiculous that in your rant you choose to defend an artist who herself comes from a privileged family and who is all over those rigged charts you go off about. Furthermore, last I checked LDR is a very lyrically minded artist and one among the “millenials,” a generation you just completely, narrow-mindedly wrote off. Thank you for reading and I look forward to listening to that song you whip up in 72 hours.

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