Blonde Redhead: 23
This was recommended to me by the owner of Penguin Music as I was touring through the store one day. I’ve always liked BR, since I first heard them on Brave New Waves a decade ago, and I have had a live concert CBC recorded in ‘05 (?) on my iPod for some time, but I’d never bought an album. The title track, “23″, had come my way via music bloggers, and on the strength of that song alone I succumbed to the record store owner’s sales pitch. I have to say it’s a good album, but not as pulsating or driven as the opening track would have you suspect. I find Kazu Makino’s hushed, Swedish-popstar-style vocals to be overwhelmingly twee at times though, and that sensation only seems unfortunately to grow the more I listen to the album. The lyrics are always interesting, the epic rhythm and atmospheric guitars almost always generate something aurally interesting, but the sound doesn’t retain it’s initial mystery very well. The switchoff on vocals to one of the Pace bros. is welcomed and needed, but I still find it unusual the rarity of Pace and Makino performing vocally together.
Electronica wunderkind Rjyan Kidwell (now all grown up) has abandoned his curious (and not altogether unpleasant) fixation with rapping and turned his complete focus back onto his computers and sound collages. Sketchi is utterly downtempo, and even moreso in the skein of ambient rather that driven electronic music, looking yonder The Orb’s way, with eight tracks each clocking a minimum of six minutes. The standout is “Oregon Ridge”, highlighting a global fusion sound building into some crunchy, fuzzed-out electro. It’s not nearly as immediate as his previous electronic works, but is another flex of Cex’s composition muscles, playing with his sounds and adeptly fidgeting with as many different genres of computer-centric music. A great late-late night wind-down or atmospheric while-you-work record.
The Rapture: Pieces of the People We Love
Perhaps a sister band to !!!, the Rapture is intent on creating funky, danceable indie-rock tracks. Swirling 70’s synths, heavy bass grooves and, yes, more cowbell/hand claps/woodblocks, accompany a lot of hooked-in choruses and chants, screaming guitars and pounding kick drums, all of which combine to create a quite infectious listening, even if it’s actually a little forgettable. Although I’ve listened and enjoyed the album numerous times over, it’s rare that the funked-out tracks permeate my subconscious in any manner and I rarely find myself humming or repeating a refrain at any point, even though you’d think with the hooks of “Get Myself Into It” or “Whoo! Alright- Yeah…Uh Huh” would have me humming all day. There is some twinges of The Cure (”Calling Me”), Happy Mondays (”Down For So Long”) and even the Thrill Kill Kult (”First Gear”) throughout which, although appealing, I’ve yet to decide is really a positive thing or not. I can recommend the album, but for a good time only.
Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse: The Moon & Antarctica
A fortunate finding at the now lamented Sam The Record Man: all Modest Mouse albums for $9.99. Having quite fondly encountered the Mouse in 2004 with “Good News For People Who Love Bad News” (which still plays quite nicely 3 years later) I had been contemplating acquiring more of their back catalogue, but just never got around to it, and when the new album came out I was in a music acquisition lull. Too often I wind up buying and really enjoying an album from an artist only to find past material not nearly as entertaining or new material to be too far deviated from what I enjoyed about them. With Modest Mouse, however, I’m finding them to be incredibly consistent in both their ability to maintain an audio aesthetic but also sweeping broadly through different experimental styles, with their older album (”The Moon…”) as well as their latest (”We Were Dead…”). I’m a fan.
The Moon & Antarctica - 4/5
We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank” - 4.5/5
Sloan: Never Hear The End Of It
This is the album Sloan fans have been waiting for since Navy Blues nearly a decade before. For all their dips into era-centric concept records, no matter how focussed or meandering, they seemed like a lost entity for three albums. I can’t say this a return to form, because it’s a definite step forward rather than back for them, but what it is, actually, is their first capitalization on the expectation fans have from a Sloan record. In fact, they not only meet expectations, but exceed them. 30 songs on one CD pushed to its very limit, the tracks are generally about 2 minutes in length, sometimes less, sometimes more, but the flow I think is the key. What Sloan have done is provided us with an album, not a collection of singles, something I’m not sure they’ve ever really done before. While maybe two of the tracks stand out awkwardly, and another two or three stand out due to sheer energy, the bulk of the album falls in line, one song segueing itself into another, into another, into another. The songs all are quintessentially Sloan, with an assortment of love songs, party jams, and contemplation songs with great harmonies, catchy hooks and a good, upbeat feeling overall. Though few of these songs can hope to match the great Sloan tracks released over the past 15 years, this may very well be their tightest and best album yet.