Immigrant Union : Anyway

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With the inevitable clashing of electric guitars in the background, the sophomore album from Immigrant Union, led by The Dandy Warhol’s Brent de Boer, Anyway still manages to pass itself off as a neo hippie folk record. The dream pop-y lyrics melt right into the impeccable fusion of psych rock and country riffs. Instead of coming off as a band with varied ideas and cohesive potential, the album seemed to have a lack of direction within it as a whole. This doesn’t take away from the talent within each song, but there was no center idea.

Tracks “Alison” and “Trip Ain’t Over” are the only real standouts on the album, with the lyrics “Alison” giving a vibe reminiscent of the Nineties’ alternative scene without giving up the country infused sound present throughout the rest of the album. “Trip Ain’t Over”, which is easily the most upbeat and mainstream-friendly track on the record. Although most of the album’s tracks maintain its complete severance from de Boer’s previous project, “I Can’t Return”, the third track, could have come straight off of Dandy Warhol’s record; however it still manages to blend with the majority of the album. Overall, the album comes off as a success, albeit with some very non-memorable songs and a partially constructed concept.

6/10

Cool Ghouls – A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye

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Ever wonder what The Mamas and The Papas would sound like playing in a dirty basement show on a college campus? One would imagine it sounding something like this album. Garage rock takes on San Francisco summer of love psychedelia in Cool Ghouls’ “A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye”. Myself being a fan of the Haight Ashbury scene that Cool Ghouls draws from so heavily, I had high hopes for the album. “A Swirling Fire” however, did not deliver. The album desperately lacks variety with very little change in tone, dynamics, structure, or even tempo, and many tracks are nearly indistinguishable from one another. The last track however offers some respite from the noise. “Sweet Rain” is a slow burning groove that is the only really memorable moment on the album. It seems like Cool Ghouls had one good idea for this album, but couldn’t think of any more.

5/10

Concert Review: Run The Jewels

On November 2nd I was treated to the hardest hitting set of music I’ve ever seen as Run The Jewels delivered a blistering hour of dazzling rhymes and thumping beats. Walking out to the aptly chosen tune of “We Are the Champions”, Run The Jewels opened the set with their self-titled song, “Run the Jewels”. The crowd went berserk as El-P and Killer Mike exchanged lines at Tommy gun speed with surgical precision. Continuing their triumphant start, the duo continued with songs from their fantastic new LP, Run The Jewels 2, such as “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “All My Life” that fired up the crowd in astonishing fashion. The album had only been out for a week and a half and yet the crowd had already memorized every word, singing along with absolute tenacity, a feat I’ve seen few artists inspire in their fans.

 

Other songs like “Sea Legs” and “DDFH” displayed the perfect synchronicity between the two that, in turn, further incited rabid reactions from the audience. That’s the beautiful thing about Run The Jewels at the moment; they’re riding a wave of well-earned fanaticism from the music community without losing who they are. El-P is still the gruff, politically-paranoid New Yorker spitting bars dripping with vitriol and Killer Mike is still the delightful, eloquent southern-fried wonder that we’ve grown to love and watching them perform together was nothing short of hip hop paradise. Rather than dwelling in homogeneity and predictability that’s occurred in other super groups and collaborations the two built upon their strengths and quite simply enjoyed themselves. It may seem like an odd thing to highlight in a performance but it brought that extra touch to an already flawless performance that made it all the more special.

 

This wasn’t the first time I’d gone to see a concert in Charlottesville. I’d once traveled there to attend a Metallica concert in my early teens, enjoying prime nosebleed seats with my ever-patient father as we witnessed bombastic stage production and classics like “Enter Sandman”. It was an awe-inspiring performance that left me nothing short of entranced for its duration. For a while I’d considered that the best show I’d ever seen as Metallica was my absolute favorite band at that time (and even that’s probably an understatement). Unfortunately, years later, somewhat more musically cynical, and far less of an awkward Metallica geek I often find it harder and harder to experience that same sense of wonder when I see artists play live. However, on a smaller stage with none of the bells and whistles, Run The Jewels managed to do the impossible. They restored my inner 14 year old.

Johnny Marr Playland

Playland is the second solo album from iconic indie guitarist Johnny Marr. Marr is most famous for his work with the Smiths, Modest Mouse, Electronic, etc and Playland sounds like the culmination of everything has learned playing in these different bands. Marr blends the synths from Electronic with the rock and roll edge from his bands like the Cribs and the melodic sense of the Smiths. These elements come together to make for a collection of very well crafted songs that balance pop accessibility with rock n roll edge.

While the songs here are well written the production detracts from a lot of this album. The production doesn’t let anything stand out which is unfortunate because there is so much instrumentation on this album that it can become hard to pick out individual parts and instruments begin to blend into a shoegazy wall of sound that at times over powers Marr’s voice.The glossy production here works well at times on the more layered tracks but on rockers like “Playland” the glossy production takes much of the energy out of the song. Luckily for “Playland” there’s enough of energy that the album stays interesting despite this.

All in all this is a solid album, even the poor production can’t negate the fact that these are well written, catchy songs with a lot of energy. “Playland” shows that Johnny Marr has still got it.

Favorite tracks: “Back in the Box” “Easy Money” “the Trap”

Least Favorite track: “Playland”

4/5

by Charles Pfaff

Carry On The Grudge- Jamie T

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After disappearing for 5 years Jamie T has finally come back with his new album “Carry On the Grudge” and it was so worth the wait. Jamie Treays, who goes by his stage name Jamie T, is an English Singer Song writer from South London. He rose to popularity after releasing his first single “Shelia” in 2007 and continued to be very successful through 2009 when he released two albums- Sticks ’n’ Stones” and “Kings and Queens” and two EPs- “Chaka Demus”, and “The Man’s Machine”. He is backed by The Pacemakers.

In his earlier work Jamie T created a sound that screamed Anarchy at you while simultaneously setting a building on fire. It was angry and voiced fears about becoming an adult.  Now that sound is more likely to get drunk on the couch, though while still railing against capitalism, government, and how shitty life is with a bunch of friends. His new album carries the some of the same sentiments it seems that Jamie T and his music have grown up a bit. He hasn’t changed much, but the album approaches similar problems with different solutions and instrumentals. It feels cleaner. “Zombie” is clearly a hit and was released in August as a single. The lyrics are strong and thought provoking and the song is a great anthem which you find yourself singing along too. “Trouble” sounds similar to a previous song “Sticks and Stones”, which Jamie T released in 2009, is catchy and has a great guitar intro. “Mary Lee” is like any of his previous break up songs, but it is sweeter and tonally pleasing. Jamie T still has a great voice, “Turn On the Light” has lyrics that flow seamlessly from one word to the next. He also brought in more voices and the collaborative spirit added a lot more depth into the album.

Overall this album is pretty good. It is a little similar to his past work but not to the point that it feels like you are listening to the same thing over and over. The songs are strong enough that they are easy to listen too both in the album and individually. He does experiment with alternative rock sounds and there are also some folk sounds mixed in. It has less rap but it keeps the lyric ability that he has always had.

Review: Goat – Commune

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Commune, the second studio album for Swedish group Goat starts off slowly with long, sustained bell ringing, a tip-off to the meditative journey of the upcoming album. The calm of the bells anticipates the sudden onset of one of the best tracks on the album, “Talk to God”  where Goat’s upbeat and hypnotic blend of world music styles is showcased excellently. Droning, looping guitars draw the listener in while the driving collection of percussion propel the song forward. Distant vocals enter the mix between the looping guitar, occupying some middle ground between yelling and singing, the exact lyrics of which are hard to make out. The bonfire drum circle spirit ritual continues on for six minutes and 39 seconds, a time which may be discouraging to some listeners, but I found myself not wanting the trance to end.

The album continues with Goat’s upbeat world rhythms, psychedelic fuzzy guitar, and new wave yelling reminiscent of a tribal The B-52s. Songs like “Words” “To Travel the Path Unknown” and “Bondye” make extensive use of hypnotically looping flutter echoed guitar. The repetitive phrasing present throughout the album, when used tastefully can entrance a listener, something this band does well. There are however some times when the album does seem to drag on, and the spiritual spoken word interludes were not appealing to this listener. They fit the general “vibe” of the album, but they seem a little cheesy and don’t really add anything to the album. That said the album does have very strong moments in songs like the previously mentioned “Talk to God” the hard driving “Goat Slaves” and the indian flavored “Hide From the Sun.” With Commune Goat mixes various world traditions into a fuzzy trance-rock soup over crazed drums that may not blow every listener’s mind, but creates a wonderful atmosphere and groove.

7/10