Category Archives: Album Review

Too Bright- Perfume Genius

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10/10

Too Bright is beautiful and gay, and I love it. Perfume Genius balances dreamy and ethereal musical composition with poetic lyrics. The album works very well as a cohesive unit and many of the songs are also strong. Mike Hadreas is the artist behind Perfume Genius; he has released several singles and three albums. He released his first album Learning in 2010 and his second in 2012 with Put Your Back N 2 It. Too Bright was released in 2014.

Too Bright is both beautiful and honest. The album complexly explores male queerness, but I don’t think it exclusively applies to male queerness. The album is cohesive in a way few albums are. It doesn’t sound the same, some songs are closer to alternative rock and others are really dreamy but in most songs the tone of Hadreas voice stays consistent. Listening to the album in order is really enjoyable because there are great transitions and builds.

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There are quite a few songs that are worth mentioning, I can’t decide if my favorite is “Queen” or “Grid”. “Queen” starts the question “Don’t you know your Queen?” it is a double entendre because it sounds like “Don’t you know you’re Queer?”. In the verse Hedreas pairs beautiful imagery with ugly and revolting imagery. I really like how he connects identity to societies views. It is a rally cry because he is unapologetically being open about his identity. “Queen” is closer to rock than most of the album, it’s a little angry in the electric guitar part and drum beat. It could be one of my all time favorite songs. 

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“Grid” has more disorienting electronic sounds, a rhythmic bass beat gradually gets louder and syncopated as the song progresses and there are some pretty cool vocal compressions. The instrumentals and background vocals are harsher but Hadreas voice is sweet. Like Queen, Grid has multiple meanings, the title is a reference to one of the first acronyms for HIV, Gay-Related Immune Deficiency, but many of the lyrics are from “I Decline” which is about Hadreas struggle with addiction.

Several other songs are really exceptional: the bridge in “Fool” is phenomenal. It is ethereal and echoey, it builds and builds. “Fool” is about straight women use gay men as props so I really like how free the bridge is in contrasts with the exploitive lyrics. “Too Bright” is also ethereal; it sounds like a prayer. “I’m a Mother” is on the weirder dark side of ethereal, everything sounds really heavy and the words are difficult to understand but I’m a fan. “My Body” seems to be about living in a body that is not healthy. It really resonates with me because it does a really good job of describing the balance between taking care of yourself while also knowing that the extra effort probably won’t be worth it. The song has a lot of distortion but it balances it with quiet moments. 

Too Bright is self deprecating but it is also beautiful. It is so great that while a central theme of the album is queerness and homophobia each song is not trying to become the next formulaic gay anthem as written by straight pop singers. I actually really love how blunt and realistic it because, personally, it is more relatable. So listen to Too Bright if you are also sad and queer it’s a good time.

Every Open Eye – Chvrches review

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Man, do Chvrches love 80’s music or do they Love 80’s music? Their debut album (The Bones of What You Believe) was the best album O.M.D. never released, but their sophomore effort Every Open Eye takes that to the next logical step. This album feels like a Greatest Hits of Depeche Mode compilation. I can’t remember the last time an electronic group was this hook filled and obsessed with melody. The Scottish trio brings their A Game song after song after song, and the wild thing is that it almost always works. Sure, there’s a couple weak tunes, but in fairness, when your album has 9 killer tracks and 2 pretty decent songs, I would say you’re doing a good job.

Songs like Keep You On My Side, Clearest Blue, High Enough To Carry You Over, and Bury It go SO HARD. Ian Cook and Martin Doherty know how to layer these catchy keyboards and drumbeats and turn them into these tour de force bangers. Singer and primary lyricist Lauren Mayberry brings an emotional side and a “don’t screw me over” attitude that provides a beautiful compliment to the instrumentals. I genuinely think this album should include a sticker that says “Welcome to Synthpop Heaven- Population: Chvrches”. Because that’s essentially what you’re getting from Every Open Eye. If that’s not your scene, then you should probably avoid this record. But, if you’re into this genre then strap in! Chvrches are about to take you on a hell of a ride.

It’s nice to see an indie band unafraid of being accessible and contagious. Chvrches want to be heard. I’m the kind of person who loves watching hipsters squirm over indie bands getting famous, so I consider this to be a positive aspect. Frankly, they deserve any and all success that this album brings them. Chvrches are a hard-working group, having self produced Every Open Eye in their basement with a 6 hours a day/5 days a week schedule. Around 30 tracks were recorded for this album, and the band went through them to pick out the best ones. It shows.

While plenty of these tracks stand alone well enough, I would recommend listening to the album in full. It has this non stop momentum that few records are able to capture. Their debut record was a gem, but Every Open Eye blows it completely out of the water.  It’s a little less fun when they aren’t a smaller band, but when the songs are this good it’s hard to care about something so petty.

Hopsin “Pound Syndrome” review

 

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Hopsin is an insane artist who is known for performing songs such as Sag My Pants,

Ill Mind of Hopsin 5, and Rip Your Heart Out. In his 2013 album, Knock Madness,

Hopsin made his devout fans believe that he was leaving the music industry through

various lyrics that alluded to the notion. Two years later, everyone was surprised as

word started to spread that he had dropped a new album, Pound Syndrome, and

that it was available on Spotify. It was by no means a marketed release, and the

album still hasn’t gotten the recognition that it deserves. The second I heard about

the album’s release, I ran to my computer. The album contains 13 songs and one

skit, all of which are absolutely amazing. All of the songs are hype, bump, and have

wicked lyrical content. The songs are, without a doubt, extremely rad and are a

pleasure to the ears. In addition, his skit is impeccable. Most skits are easily skipped

over because they’re just…boring, but Hopsin’s mad disses makes the No Words skit

something that is worth listening to every single time; however, I do urge that

anyone who is a fan of Fetty Wap or that overly-autotuned-hardly-recognizable-

English-words fad to steer clear of the skit. This album is a 10/10 and makes me

wish that more people understood just how talented of a rapper Hopsin is.

Hopefully it’ll come with time.

-Mikaela Reinard

Savage Hills Ballroom by Youth Lagoon

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Homegrown artist Youth Lagoon, the stage name of Trevor Powers, started making electronic ambient music at the age of 17 in his basement. His debut album, The Year of Hibernation, was focused on minimalist ambient melodies combined with electronic elements. In his latest album, Savage Hills Ballroom, he explores new sounds that are much more influenced by pop tunes, which is especially clear in the first track, “Officer Telephone”. The death of his close friend influenced much of the album’s sound; most songs juxtapose highly controlled electronic elements with the passion and unpredictability of his voice. His music has always been rooted in themes about mental distress, but this new album approaches these topics in a different way. Previously, Powers produced more hypnotic music that was meant to help the listener avoid this distress, whereas Savage Hills Ballroom forces the listener to feel uncomfortable or more disturbed at times. To create this new sound, Powers recorded the album in Bristol, England, which out of his comfort zone and helped the album have a different sound. The lyrics also play a larger role in his new music, as his voice was hidden in his old tracks. Now, his voice is at the forefront of every song, especially in tracks like “No One Can Tell”, a slow melody that feels like his take on a ballad. Featuring his voice more prominently makes the songs seem much more personal compared to his earlier albums. The album has what many electronic artists struggle with: songs that feel vulnerable and emotional, but are also clean and well produced. 

Beach House – Depression Cherry

 

It’s been three years since Beach House released their 2012 album Bloom, and so when Depression Cherry was announced, it caused quite a stir. Time has passed, and it’s not hard to tell that there is an air of complexity to that familiar sound as you start the journey on the opening tracks, building off of the familiar, and quite successful, immersive ambiance that Beach House has been known to put out, time after time. That ambiance is still there, and the lyrical themes entrance you the listener, into that immediate trace that I know you’ve been dying for(, and maybe searched for in Washed Out or Grizzly Bear in recent years, but could never quite seem to find). The first line of Levitation is exactly that:

You and me with our long hair on the gold wall

After midnight we could feel it all

I’d go anywhere you want to

Binding together that immersive organ synth with Victoria Legrand’s hypnotizing voice, Depression Cherry at first listen seems to be exactly what Beach House fans have been waiting for, and could have been released just after Bloom. And yet, as you start to float through the album, (and trust me, you’ll find yourself drifting from one track to the next seamlessly and effortlessly) you’ll start to notice those cadences that the mid 2010’s has started to be known for. Sparks and Beyond Love are exactly this sort of updated Beach House that makes you look at your Casio wristwatch and say aloud to yourself, “huh, I guess it has been three years..”, and then immediately fall back into that autumn toes-in-the-sand reverie you just realised you were in.

Their track, 10:37, captures this lyrical development as an axiom of realisation, beginning with the lines:

Chances are like night disappeared

Caught in the atmosphere

Where you go, she casts no shadow

Still you know she’s near

Alex Scally and Legrand have been known in the past to write potentially perplexingly vague lyrics, and in a recent interview opened up about this, especially in the case of 10:37, commenting:

“How do you describe that in language without sounding completely abstract and out-of-your-mind?” Legrand asks. “That’s how most moments of creativity feel—you almost can’t not use far-out language.”

That being said, the entirety of the album is a wonderful conglomeration of the daydream induced by previous Beach House efforts and an updated and more developed lyrical and musical premise Scally and Legrand seem to be ever working towards. With the announcement of Thank Your Lucky Stars, set to drop next week, it seems ever clear that Depression Cherry has the potential to be the crossroads between a new and old sound. Through and through, Depression Cherry has that air of mysticism that we’ve all been missing in recent music, and like its predecessors, has the feeling of unlimited replay potential. Notable tracks include Sparks, 10:37, PPP, and Days of Candy, but honestly the entire album is worth your time to listen to, and with another album coming this month, Beach House has definitely made it clear that they are a dream that you want to be having in 2015.

 

8/10

 

Dan Deacon: Gliss Riffer

Dan Deacon’s newest record comes complete with an entire stripping down of his sound. Past albums like America included completely grandiose orchestral movements intertwined within his arrangements. Even with the return to completely solo pieces, Deacon still manages to encompass, direct, and influence emotions through his songs.

Opening with the album’s first released single, “Feel the Lightening”, Deacon allows himself to be unapologetically pop-y, with melodramatic lyrics and cliché, typical beats. Luckily, the album builds off of its first track and displays itself as a journey through Deacon’s mind.

Pure and whimsical excitement dances through each track, even in the arrhythmic and asynchronous seventh track “Take it to the Max” Deacon manages to convey unadulterated anticipation. While the arrangements might have a bit too much layered in them for everyone, some tracks, such as “When I’m Done Dying” and “Sheathed Wings” are impressively catchy, especially the latter with its provocative, looping vocals which layer into the music as if they were another inorganic instrument. Overall, Gliss Riffer is simplified version of Dan Deacon’s creative nature, and yet still manages to be intrinsically complex and pieced together.

By the time it closes with “Steely Blues”, Deacon’s anecdote has revealed itself. He drops the vocals and has completed the slow descent from pop-laden tracks at the opening of his album to self-aware, dreamy conclusion. He isn’t trying to be anything specific for anyone; he’s just trying to place himself in a place he can move forward from.

8/10