Archive for the Record Reviews Category

Surfer Blood- Astrocoast Review

Posted in Record Reviews, Stupid Bands, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2010 by peteymenz

Swim is catchy.  OK.  It’s very catchy.  It kind of reminds me of a song that could play in a beer commercial, but it’s catchy.  Catchiness is a hallmark of beer commercials.  That’s why you never see this song in Bud Lite commercials, even though you can’t get much more direct.  But anyway- Surfer Blood have made an album.  This album is forty and a half minutes long.  Swim is three and a third minutes long.  Thus, you should unequivocally enjoy 8.2% of the album and have mixed reactions to the rest.

Part of me thinks the biggest problem on this album is timing.  It’s January.  It’s freezing.  It’s not time for surfing.  And make no mistake- this band is all about surfing.  Fifth track “Neighbor Riffs” is their attempt to write a surf instrumental as indelible as Miserlou.  Does it succeed?  Well, let’s just say that the Quentin Tarantinos of the future won’t be using this song for their soundtracks.  However, I’m quite certain that the teen movies of the near future will be able to use Swim.  After all, it’s quite catchy.

One final thought- the cover is, like, incredibly garish.  Seriously, what were they thinking?  The cheesy shark picture would be bad by itself, but the checkerboard pattern just takes it to new levels.  Not to mention the font that the band name is written in.

Another final thought- Lyrics- “I don’t want to spin my wheels/ I don’t got no wheels to spin”- are not Surfer Blood’s strength.  “Swim… to reach the end” is pretty stupid too now that I think about it.

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Record Review: Teen Dream by Beach House

Posted in Record Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on January 19, 2010 by peteymenz

Almost everything I have to say about  the new Beach House album can be deduced from a discussion of the cover.

It’s their best yet; nice and washed out.  Avoids the hippie séance vibe of Devotion.  Also, not as strange as the photo of buried treasure (?) they used for their debut.  Still, despite its not failing like their first two album covers did, the cover of Teen Dream still doesn’t add on to the music, like their cover for the “Used To Be” single did.  The cover of that single, a slightly washed out photo of a motel with a pool, seemed to get to the depressive heart of their music more than anything they’d ever done before.  Reminiscent of Hockey’s “A Bigger Splash.” Much more truthful than the white and tan lines that grace the cover of Teen Dream.

That’s really all I have to say about Teen Dream.  It’s better than their first two by far, but it doesn’t reach the heights I thought they could have with the Used To Be single.  They’ve redone that single’s titular a-side, adding actual rhythm and flourishes of color.  This is a severe misstep.  What was transcendent about Used To Be was the fact that it was so minimal and monochromatic, more than anything else they’d done prior to this.  Even earlier tracks like Saltwater had more rhythm than the absurdly stripped down throb that powered Used  To Be.  It felt hollow in a way that reflected the disaffected lyrics; it was a dream pop song stripped of all artifice- Suicide covering Cocteau Twins, perhaps.  With that song, Beach House  achieved a purity of sound and vision that they have sadly muddled on Teen Dream.  Lyrically, they’re the same as ever; sonically, they’ve added more and more and more.  Which is a shame, because the songs are fantastic- Norway and Walk In The Park rank among their very best.  With a less lush production, these songs might cut like a knife.  Instead, they pleasantly drift along.

Album of the Year: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Posted in Record Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2010 by peteymenz

Despite the return of Lightning Bolt (with the most anticlimactic release of the year), another Super Roots EP from Boredoms, the masterful drones of Sunn 0))), and the continued prolificacy of Merzbow, 2009 was all about accessibility, even in the so-called “indie” scene. That’s why Bitte Orca is considered to be the greatest album thus far by Dirty Projectors, even though it only slightly edges out 2007’s Rise Above, and why Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion is considered to be the Brooklyn band’s finest hour. Conversely, it’s the reason why Black Dice’s Repo and No Age’s Losing Feeling EP failed to attract any significant attention- both were fairly noisy efforts, with Black Dice failing to make the Animal Collective transition from epic free noise explorations to bouncy electronic pop, and No Age slightly backing off from the indelible melodies of 2008’s Nouns. And if 2009 was all about accessibility, then Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is without a doubt the album of the year. Despite the French band’s dedication to snappy and instantly catchy pop songs (the 2000 single “If I Ever Feel Better” still ranks among their best songs), their albums have always contained either embarrassingly 80’s pastiche tracks (On Fire from 2000’s United), anemic and hookless soft rock songs (roughly half of Alphabetical), or overlong instrumentals (“North” from It’s Never Been Like That). What this means is that while Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective made their most accessible albums to date by cutting back on their intriguingly experimental tendencies, Phoenix were able to make their most accessible album to date by simply cutting out the lesser tracks. The two aforementioned bands stepped down; Phoenix stepped up. Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix is short- less than 40 minutes long- and does not contain a single track that’s less than addictive. From the quick rip of “Lasso” to the extended jam of “Love Like A Sunset,” Phoenix cover a fair bit of ground, but keep it punchy enough to never sound desperate. All hail the French.

3 Out of 5 Ain’t Bad: Capsule Reviews

Posted in Record Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2009 by peteymenz

 

Sadly, Jim ORourkes influence is only felt on the bizarre cover art.

Sadly, Jim O'Rourke's influence is only felt on the bizarre cover art.

In the last month or so, there have been a flurry of releases that attract lots of attention, be it because the band is famous (Wilco, Sonic Youth), the band and/or record is really, really good (Phoenix, Dirty Projectors), or because the band is really good and Pitchfork gave one of its songs a 10 (Grizzly Bear).  With all of this stuff getting released at once, you may be forgiven for not knowing which ones to pick up/which one should be first in your downloads queue.  Thus, here’s a helpful consumer guide for the age where Robert Christgau gives everything an A-.  

 

 

Wilco: Wilco (The Album): Jeff Tweedy (The Increasingly Boring Frontman) and co. serve up another scoop of vanilla songwriting, complete with cutesy lyrics (I’d like to believe that “Wilco will love you baby” has some level of irony to it) and the lack of a production job by Jim O’Rourke (The Guy Who Saved Wilco AND Sonic Youth).  In addition, the death of Jay Bennett (The Foil) probably means Wilco (The Horrible Band) will only get worse.

 

Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca: The only reason it took Dirty Projectors this long to make an album this good is because their frontman Dave Longstreth insisted on doing things like covering Black Flag’s Damaged from memory and being diverse in an ADD kind of way.  Now he’s past all that, and guess what?  Bitte Orca’s great.  

 

Sonic Youth: The Eternal: Actually, there are several good things about this album.  

1) The length of the album is not in fact eternal, though sometimes it feels like it.  

2) If you’ve ever gotten depressed by listening to a Sonic Youth album because you think you and your band could never do something as great as this, this album should be a good pick me up.

3) If you’ve ever felt bad about thinking Kim Gordon is sexy, this album should be a good cure.

4) Like… cool album art, dude.

 

Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix: Finally, forty plus years after the Beatles and the Beach Boys, the world produced a pop band that it’s 100% cool for everyone, from hopelessly square teenage girls to tragically hip Pitchfork bitches to enjoy.  So, yeah; it’s a really fricking good album.  

 

Grizzly Bear: Veckatimest: Whenever I can’t decide whether or not I should do something, like tell you to buy Grizzly Bear’s latest album, I make a list of pros and cons.  And so…

Pros: Beautiful production, some great songs, New York band, guys in said band seem nice enough.   

Cons: Not quite as good as their last record, silly cover art.  

So the pros barely win out.  But, the cons are pretty slight.  Buy it.  

Record Review: Yesterday and Today by the Field

Posted in Record Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by peteymenz

Gee, dont you wish theyd take some inspiration from the Beatles?  http://cache.consumerist.com/assets/resources/2007/03/beatlesyesterday.jpg

I admit it; I trashed the Field when I reviewed their latest single, “The More That I Do”. Now that the album it was taken from, Yesterday and Today, has been released, I find that I dislike “The More That I Do” even more, as it stands as possibly the only blight on an album that’s nearly as good as the Field’s debut, 2007’s From Here We Go Sublime. Overall, what makes the album worse is the lack of novelty; it’s so similar to the debut that I half expected Axel Willner to call it Still Going Sublime. But like the music of the Field itself, the repetition doesn’t hurt, except in the zero-inspiration cover art, which kind of sucked the first time.  Aside from that and “The More That I Do”, Yesterday and Today is damn good. First track “You Have The Moon, I Have the Internet”, sounds a little bit like the first six or seven minutes of Lindstrøm’s magnificent space disco track “Where You Go I Go Too”, though to Willner’s credit, the song doesn’t come off like a Field remix of said Lindstrøm track, though it’s just as lush and enjoyable. The Norwegian disco producer is a major influence on this album, with the last track “Sequenced” being almost an Italo disco track. Second song “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” is notable for its use of a beat other than 4/4 time, a great step forward for Willner. But the best song on the album, hands down, is the title track and collaboration with Battles drummer John Stanier, which is, though not quite as insane as a minimal house version of Atlas would be, a brilliant track. Though Yesterday and Today contains no mindf**k Lionel Richie sample moments, as From Here We Go Sublime did (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcpoXD_TKY8), it’s an undeniably solid album. And there might be a Lionel Richie sample in there somewhere; perhaps  the annoying vocal samples from “The in More That I Do” aren’t from Cocteau Twins after all.

The Fiery Furnaces Have Made The Best Album Ever: A Mock Review

Posted in No Wave, Record Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2009 by peteymenz

Evidently, the Fiery Furnaces are bored with the way their new album, I’m Going Away, due to be released in July, is turning out.  Why else would they call for fans to write a mock review of the new album and then record a version of this album based on these reviews?  Yes, it’s true.  There will be two versions of I’m Going Away; the version they’ve been working on, and the version we think it’s going to sound like.  

I do not want this new album to be boring.  My review, submitted to thefieryfurnacesemail@gmail.com and reproduced here, should explain exactly how interesting I want this album to be.

I was more than surprised when I hear the new Fiery Furnaces album, I’m Going Away; the amazing songwriting and lyrics were almost as stunning as the band’s new style, a sophisticated yet raw combination of acid house, no wave skronk, and French Chanson. The title track, an absurdly different version of the traditional song, exemplifies this style; as the lush accordion begins to play over the harshly programmed 303 bassline, one may think a new height in emotional house anthems has been reached. That is, until the detuned guitars begin bashing out something rhythmic in a tribal kind of way. Strangely, these elements only complement each other and add to the emotional impact of the song; as the song gives way to an extended outro-cum-noise jam, the searing noise of the guitars becomes just as strikingly beautiful as the heartbreaking tones of the accordion. Other tracks venture into even more exotic musical territory, adding theremin and dialogue sampled from Jean-Luc Godard films to the mix; Jack Palance’s lines in Contempt are cryptic and unsettling when played over the soundscape of the opening track, which has the feel of an early Jacques Brel song played by the Contortions and produced by DJ Pierre. With I’m Going Away, the Fiery Furnaces have made a tremendous step in the field of popular music. Never have such disparate genres been combined in such a fabulously entertaining and profound way. In short, I’m Going Away is album of the year, hands down; next to it, Merriweather Post Pavillion looks like a new Jonas Brother album, Bromst might as well have been made by Kenny G, and The Crying Light is elevator music. Orgasmic.

Sound, No Fury: Huff This!

Posted in Record Reviews with tags , , , , on December 28, 2008 by peteymenz

 

huff-this-album-artFor rock and roll, and pop music in general, to be successful, it needs to have a modicum of volume and brutality that will stun the listener enough to forget the relative simplicity of the music.  In this case, brutality means the sheer force of the sound; the Jesus and Mary Chain, for example, are fun to listen to because of the brute force their feedback and distortion lends the pretty little bubblegum songs they write.  The menacing melody of “Venus and Furs” by the Velvet Underground is given more power by Cale’s electric viola meshing with Reed’s guitar Even half of ABBA’s success, for chrissakes, is because of the sound; the electronic disco atmosphere of “Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie!”, or the Nordic singing voices (you know that SOS is a great song partly because “understood” is pronounced to rhyme with “mood”).  The band Huff This! have no such successes.

Huff This! describe their sound as “eclectic collages of folk, punk, pop, blues, and country”, and indeed this is somewhat evident. The biggest problem with Huff This! is that too often, the songs are too unassuming in their sound.  The one uptempo track, Alexandra, stands out not because of an especially better melody, but because this is one of the few tracks that drives, unlike the drifting “Ode to Divorce”, featuring an acoustic guitar riff that sonically encapsulates a pencil doodle.  That particular song is kind of like Beat Happening minus the songwriting and plus actual recording equipment.  Guess which turns out to be more important.  

I’d like to say more, but these songs don’t inspire any sort of ire in me; they’re just boring, but would be pretty good as background music.  Seeing as my review here wasn’t too favorable, I doubt any other bands will spring to send me their albums, as Huff This! did, but I will listen to any album sent to me at “peteylovesramones@gmail.com”; I will give it a good review if it has the volume and brutality necessary.  Noise is welcome.