Category Archives: Album Review

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

East India Youth – Culture of Volume

 

Do you think you’re prepared for a musical flume ride? Sit in that hollowed out log and buckle down, because I don’t think you’re prepared. You’re going down the flume, when you realize that no, you don’t have a seatbelt, and you’re not in a flume at all. It’s not night, it’s not day. You’re falling through an otherworldly plain, where abhorrent winged beasts roam freely, on their way to a cosmic combat creation myth. You’re falling through space in this log, and that sounds, that torrential euphony of water still ringing in your ears isn’t water at all, it wouldn’t be nearly that easy, no it’s the universe about you, filling your waking moment with every past and present experience of man. You look out into this infinite chasm, every foible of the nature world is absent. You don’t perceive this deception with the eyes of a mortal man, not in black and white, not in colour but in the infinite option. There is not light, eye tricks or magnetism, you see everything in the parallel, in every option and iteration of color that has ever existed. Your infinite descent comes to a conclusion, and you find yourself in a room. A simple cabin, filled with quaint possessions that must have once certainly belonged to a sage. In that perpetual room, you find yourself seated with a man, dressed decadently in a navy gabardine suit, crimson straight tight and golden tie clip. This man, is William Martin Doyle.

 

For the next ineffably timeless hour, you will be serenaded with the transient tales and simple soliloquies of man versed in his own experience. Words won’t be necessary sometimes, and you’ll understand what is being said. You will perceive all being presented in the most complete and translucent understanding of insurmountably arduous concepts. You will be seeping with the empathized emotions and relayed experiences, emotions and experiences if manifested would be up to the insurmountable rafters of Sheol. Can you convince yourself that there exists a method of hypnotic wisdom inducing meditation that is capable of awakening and blinding one to the wonders and terrors of the world? You need not convince yourself, for William Martin Doyle, now under the moniker East India Youth, has done it for you.

 

You need not worry, because this journey will not last eternity, as you had initially projected. No, it’s coming to an over, and a tear may fall from your eye as the world of that ineffable chasm and seeming sage fade from your senses, and the mortal world you are accustomed to becomes more and more concrete. Were you left with something new? Were you told something you had never heard before? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter to you, and the thought fades just as swiftly as the memory it alluded to. You are left with an impression, exempt from expression. You needn’t not critique that analytical aspects of this piece, because it succeeded in the one thing it intended to perform; to be experienced. You may find yourself coming back to that room, hypothesizing what sort of event may befall you should you try it again. You wonder if it was all real, if there really was a man named William Martin Doyle who in actuality filled your head with words and thoughts of the utmost importance. And yet no matter how many times you come back to this man and quaint orifice of a structure, you will still recall that first time, that fateful moment when you truly thought you were in a flume, floating down the river.

Culture of Volume is a successful work by East India Youth, a real expression of talent.

 

10/10

 

We Slept At Last – Marika Hackman

 

The brooding melodies of Marika Hackman’s We Slept At Last carry one through 45 minutes of trance inducing ballads. It sounds at times like a mystic court musician, telling wary tales of faraway lands, or the creed of an artist already versed in the complications of what musicianship means. The album through and through sounds outside of it’s era, and could easily have come out any time between the 1990’s and 2020’s.

There exists a constant clash of folk melodies with light guitar and interspersed drums, and yet the addition of panpipes and collision of major and minor keys with Hackman’s dark and haunting lyrical subject matter. Take the lyrics from Ophelia, in reference to the Hamlet character who committed suicide at the rejection of marriage, also the theme of the song.

“She who walks alone in life is she of sound mind?

I am only as old as I’ve been told”

Or such again in a lullaby inspired by Debussy’s “The Girl With Flaxen Hair” in her song Claude’s Girl.

“Turn off my mind, I beg you

It’s buzzing like the Devil’s bow”

The simplicity of Hackman’s melodies layered with the complexity of her lyrical illusions create a greater sense of construction of the album that might be passed over upon the first listen. Her addition of flutes and cello on such songs as Monday Afternoon provides harmonious unity with the folk melodies aforementioned. They also provide a stirring contrast and pleasant uplifting tune that differs from the more hopeless lyrical themes on the majority of the album. A love song taking place in a forest, akin to the aesthetic Hackman maintains throughout the album, seemingly to break away, and yet, the haunting events unfold with death, and still the bittersweet ending that makes it characteristic of the album, ending in the lines

“I feel no pain

The blood is frozen in my veins

And although you were here in the morning

My skin was cold before you came”

We Slept at Last is a brooding tonal folk album worthy of praise, and a must listen for fans of Imogen Heap, Frou Frou, Cat Power, and J Tillman.

 

8/10

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Screaming Females – Rose Mountain

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Rose Mountain has Screaming Females bearing their fangs while simultaneously bearing their heart. The album opens with “Empty Head” an infectious catchy track that has the pop swagger and sensibility of the Ramones but the heaviness and grimy fuzz of Melancholy era Smashing Pumpkins. Screaming Females ability to meld sugary pop with aggressive rock is most apparent on the anthemic and catchy “Wishing Well.”

 

The theme of brokenness and loss runs through the album. The album sounds like a break up and often times these themes of emotional pain are likened to physical pain on songs such as “Ripe” which has Paternoster repeating “Peel the skin raw” or on the title track which repeatedly has the singer asking to be buried on “Rose Mountain.” Hopeless is the most vulnerable and most personal song on the album, with Paternoster admitting she is hopelessly in love with her significant other but she won’t ask them to stay and there’s nothing that can be done to resurrect their failed love. The album picks back up with the upbeat, catchy and aptly titled “Triumph.” “Triumph” along with “It’s Not Fair” deal with the aftermath of this failed love and have Paternoster out on the open road driving toward something new. “Criminal Image” ends the album and it shows the band having fun and jamming as Paternoster metaphorically gets back on her feet.

 

Rose Mountain is a great sounding, catchy, grimy rock album well worth the listen. Screaming Females successfully balance rock and pop in a way that is raw but not abrasive, sweet but not bubblegum, a balance that is often hard to come by.

by Charles Pfaff

 

8/10

Review: Uptown Special – Mark Ronson

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New comers know him for the wildly popular song “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars…Yes featuring because that is not Bruno Mars’ song, which is what my own mother thought. I quickly educated her, and said this is Mark Ronson’s song!!!. I mostly know of Mark Ronson from great songs, and videos like Valerie featuring Amy Winehouse and “Oh My God” featuring “Lily Allen”. Mark Ronson has produced great songs starring/featuring fantastic artist, and his sound is never redundant, which is quite unique in the pop ruled world we live in.

Mark’s new album Uptown Special was recently released and let me just say If you’re looking for replicas of Uptown Funk you won’t get it completely. You’ll get the old school feel but also different aspects of old school. At first listen I just pressed play and didn’t bother looking at the features, but that was immediately put to an end. As soon as I heard the sound of a harmonica in the first song I said “That must be Stevie Wonder”. To my delightful surprise it was THE Stevie Wonder. I like the album but Stevie’s two track appearances made me like it even more. Yet I still am not in love with Uptown Special. The rest of the track list features the likes of Andrew Wyatt, Kevin Parker, Jeff Bhasker, Keyone Starr, and Mystical. The only name that I somewhat recognized from before was Mystical. As soon as I heard the song “Feel right” featuring him I immediately remembered who this guy was. We all know that song “Shake ya A**, watch ya-self, Shake ya A**, show me what you working wit”. Yes that’s the one. Anyhow on this album Mystical cracks me up with his lyrics. He still kept it somewhat soulful which is a theme on this album. “Feel Right” will make you feel energized; like instant caffeine. Beware of the profanity though. When you listen to Uptown Special it may sound reminiscent to 70 & 80’s Rock/Pop/Soul. It’s like a stew, and when I listen to this album for some reason I think of Rick James.

Uptown Special is in a lane of its own an unlike any other pop record out there, while still incorporating a refreshing old school feel. Top five songs I recommend are “Uptown Funk” of course, “Feel Right”, “Uptown’s First Finale”, “Crack in the Pearl, Pt. II”, and “I Can’t Lose”.

7/10

Review: In Bardo – White Arrows

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What can be said about something you feel has been done a million times before? That was my initial impression when it came to White Arrow’s sophomore album “In Bardo.” I didn’t know what to make of it, how to feel about it and what angle I should approach this album, the follow-up to their 2012 debut album “Dry Land Is Not A Myth.” It was then that I discovered the secret formula to music reviews: listen to the album more than once.

At first glance, “Bardo” seems to be nothing but another indie-popified eleven-track album. I mean, all of the necessary requirements can be found here. From lead singer Mickey Schiff’s high-pitched singing to a certain fuzziness from Andrew Naeve’s lead guitar and John Paul Cabellero’s bass that lead me to the assumption this was just another band trying to ride the “Fitz and the Tantrums” b-list train to obscure popularity. You know, the place where people only recognize your one song after being commercialized to hell? (I’m looking at you, “The Walker”). But upon further investigating, White Arrows proves to be on their own path to something original.

The album opens with “I Want A Taste,” slowly enveloping you in a trance that doesn’t let go until the two-parted “God Alert.” Songs worth noting on this album (whistling not included), other than the trance-inducing “Taste,” are “Leave It Alone” and “Nobody Cares.” The former has the beach-inspired guitar riffs that backs up the psychedelic vibes and a chorus that takes over every sense you have in the best way imaginable. Credit must go to drummer Jake Nielsen’s percussions throughout the album.

“Nobody Cares” offers a bleak, isolationist look at life wrapped in lucid and trippy sound effects. Oh yeah, and the chorus is nothing but “Nobody cares” on a loop. The song, while bleak, has a message that’s worth diving into and exploring. That much can be said about this album.

That’s not to say this album is without its faults. More times than not, I found myself forgetting about the upbeat youthful pop anthem “Can’t Stop Now” and the slowed-down smoothness of  “Scream” and hovering towards the gems of the record. I wished the double-parted “God Alert,” the final two tracks of the record, were moved up another slot. Why you might ask? There’s only one song from “Bardo” can I can consider the climax to this trip.

“Chill Winston” is the diamond in the rough, the unsung hero of this magical ride and your eternal reward for discovering it. Everything about this song is what pushes “Bardo” over the top and into the forefront of albums that deserve more recognition. Everything works. And that which doesn’t work only makes the song better. Nielson hammers down the perfect beat for Naeve’s powerful chorus riffs while Schiff’s lyrics bring the sad reality of a hardened drug addict to life with only “Suffering, suffering brings me truth.” This gem is staying with me for as long as it can and it will for anyone who gives it a listen.

This album isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction for a band looking to make its way in this unforgiving business. But with two albums launched and underrated songs abound, White Arrows will be a band with enough of a following to get their own “Fitz” train ride to popularity, no obscurity needed.

8/10