Echoing 80s Dark wave, Nancy Whang’s lyrics on The Juan Maclean’s third album In a Dream (following Less than Human and The Future Will Come) lay over the seamless disco-infused back beat in the album. Under all of these intricate toss-ins from various genres of course, is the expected house dance beats. But unlike most house bands, The Juan Maclean’s mix of backgrounds in the music world, from Whang’s LCD Soundsystem days to Maclean’s Six Finger Satellite post-hardcore past expands the sounds and influences prominent on the record to more than your everyday DFM album.
Tracks such as “You Were a Runaway” and “Charlotte” lay dark, exposing lyrics on top of fast paced dance tracks and lush guitar riffs still manage to be separate entities of their own while helping pull the album together as a whole. There’s also the main stays of the album, opener “A Place Called Space” and follow up single “A Simple Design”, and although “A Place Called Space” is a dazzling arrangement of musical talent, it doesn’t make the following songs on the album seem any less spectacular. Instead, it opens the door for the following tracks (as an opener should) and builds anticipation for the rest of the album. The most miraculous part of this album is its strong tracks all the way through. The few, if any, weak tracks on this album are covered so thoroughly by the rest of the music that the tracks seem to meld together in one beautiful hour-long set.
By Stephanie Whalen
“Bazaar” is a fitting title for this latest Wampire album. Each track has a distinctly different sound as if they were items being sold at market and Wampire are the merchants showing us different sounds, trying to get us to buy, and while compared to each other these songs sound different outside the context of this album these songs are relatively dull. The album’s first half is upbeat and spooky but only in the campy sense of the word with lead single, “Wizard Staff” being the highlight. The album transitions with “Too Stoned” slowing down the pace of the songs and losing many of the acoustic drums in favor of electronic ones. The vocals and instruments on this album are washed out and hazy, and while Wampire seems to be aiming for dreamy and psychedelic they come across as lifeless. Even though “Bazaar” has plenty of sonic shifts the album over all manages to sound uninteresting and stale and the constant changes come across as incohesive rather than dynamic. With the exception of the song “Millennials” nothing on this album is offensively bad but neither is it ear catching and as a result it could sit well as the inoffensive soundtrack at a Halloween party unfortunately it would likely sit on the shelf for the other 364 days a year.
by Charles Pfaff
Naive Thieves break out into the world with their official debut album, Vamanos. The four piece outfit hails from the East Coast, of Riverside California, and consists of front man and rhythm guitarist Cameron Thorne, lead guitarist Levi Audette, Kyle Garcia on bass and backing vocals, and Ian Maloney, drummer and backing vocalist. And while this may be their debut album, the band has self released several other works, including EPs Le Sheik Rat (2011) and the self titled Naive Thieves (2010).
The Vamanos album starts off with the doo wop influenced “Woe Is Me/Hawaii (I Don’t Want to Go),” a song filled with laid back guitar melodies and a pop-y chorus that hooks listeners with smooth vocal harmonies and guitar chords entwining around each other. Jumping to the very pop alt rock song of “Tragic and Magic,” it keeps the doo wop feel that encompasses the album but gives it a modern kick most teens like myself are fond of. And this song in particular, you feel a really similar vibe to early days of The Strokes, circa Is This It and Room on Fire. Cameron Thorne’s voice is strikingly similar to the sweet and smooth lows of Julian Casablancas, and the guitar riffs in the song have the same feeling of a few songs off the Is This It album. “Holy Smoke” provides the typical “surf’s up” rock that California usually produces, but does so in a way that it isn’t overdone or boring with the inclusion of a marimba sounding percussion instrument. “Dead Bones” is perhaps one of the more witty songs, providing a break-up kind of feel, and lyrics such as “Even though I brushed your hair behind your ears, I can tell you were wishing I would disappear” and an unusual harpsichord intro that provides a very indie feel to it. And the final piece, “I Fell” ties the album together in a smooth jazz bow, wrapping up a truly unique album. Thorne’s low notes pump mellow and loving vibes into your head, while the piano and saxophone put you in the mood to slow dance with your lover, the harmonies guiding your way across the hall, swaying back and forth to the gentle rhythm.
Thorne stated in an interview that Vamanos was supposed to be “… something like a ‘call to action’ for ourselves, or a mile marker for our progress” and after listening to their earlier EPs, it can be surely said that is band has found the sound they were looking for, and will carry them on for the years to come. Expect to hear them on your radio very soon.
By: Isaiah Howell
Kat Edmonson has come a long way since her debut LP Take to the Sky in 2009. The Big Picture is Edmonson’s third studio album and certainly the most well produced in this Texas born, alluring prohibition-era sounding artist’s career. Inspired by the Great American Songbook of the 1920’s – 1950’s, Edmonson’s first musical feat was landing a spot on American Idol in it’s second season in 2002, getting accepted to travel to Hollywood. This initial success prompted the young singer to move to Austin, TX, where she sung amongst artists as Lyle Lovett (and even scored a slot on Leno for their duet Baby, it’s Cold Outside).
The Big Picture pairs Edmonson tantalizingly timeless voice with a comprehensive backing band, ranging from a choir to slide guitar, string and percussion sections, with harmonic clarinets, castanets, xylophone and bells ( to be found amongst songs Crying or You Can’t Break My Heart). This sound distinction is a step up from her 2012 release Way Down Low, which relied more on snare, stand-up bass, and the charm of Edmonson’s unique cadence. The album However, you’ll still find that Texas country influence with duet of finger pattern picking guitars, almost akin to Brandi Carlile, in her songs All The Way, and For Two.
The album contains Edmonson-esque “charmingly innocent” style , possibly still testing out the waters after the success of the single Lucky off of Way Down Low, and a recurring theme throughout the album, yet The Big Picture is full of quirky confidence and kooky instruments (ahem – her song The Best), amongst heartfelt tracks of loss and love (her themes certainly do reflect the likes of Gershwin and Porter). The lows will have you gazing droopy eyed out the window of a new york drug store, while the highs will have you singing the words from your old man’s cCadillac If you share Edmonson’s view that she “just isn’t made for these times”, you’ll probably find something to like The Big Picture.
By: Spencer Graves
Tiny Moving parts is a emo-revival band from Fargo, North Dakota made up of brothers Matthew and Billy Chevalier on bass and drums and singer/guitarist Dylan Mattheisen. Pleasant Living is the band’s sophomore album and its by no means a sophomore slump. Pleasant Living is an album full of catchy songs about Mattheisen’s life back home backed by amazing musicianship. Songs such as “Sundress,” “Always Focused,” and “Movies” beg to be played while driving around. Pleasant Living remains engaging throughout, thanks to dynamic songs that are executed with technical prowess yet maintaining punk passion, a skill that makes Tiny Moving Parts stand out in the emo-revival crowd. For all that Tiny Moving Parts has going for it though Pleasant Living has one glaring flaw. Emo music is known for having whiney or screamed vocals with emotional lyrics, that’s part of what makes an emo band an emo band, however there’s a fine line between whining and catharsis. A line Tiny Moving Parts at times misses by miles and come off as embarrassingly melodramatic. Songs like “The Better Days” reads like bad teenage poetry. The lyrics, while cringe-worthy at album and shown progression from their debut, This Couch is Long and Full of Friendship, which is all you can ask for from a bands sophomore album.
By: Charles Pfaff
Fewer artists command the degree of prestige amongst critics and musicians that Richard David James, better known as Aphex Twin, does. His twistedly beautiful electronic works have been ludicrously influential in electronic music and in 21st century music as a whole. Despite this influence, Aphex Twin is far from a household name. However, in August of 2014, a series of cryptic images and hints were released in a dramatic fashion that one might expect from a more mainstream figure. Perhaps it was the blimp bearing the Aphex Twin logo or the symbol adorning the sidewalk outside of Radio City Music Hall but the return of Aphex Twin was dramatic to say the least.
Does the music justify the means? I’d certainly say so. Syro is many things, but none of them dull. The songs vary between ominous synths and off-kilter programmed drums that hypnotically weave in and out throughout the songs. Throughout the record there is an underlying sense of restraint and deliberateness, a sharp contrast to the bombastic, overloaded works of many of today’s contemporary electronic artists. The album’s flow is commendable as well. With track names like “PAPAT4 ” (pineal mix)” or “4 bit 9d api+e+6 [126.26]” it’s hard to pick out a favorite song yet it helps to strengthen the idea of listening to the album as a whole. The ending’s a nice change as well, a solemn four minute piano piece that adds an emotional, cinematic conclusion to the album.
All in all it’s a great return for Aphex Twin. Many artists struggle to return to their former glory when returning from an absence but Syro hits the ground running, returning back to form as good as ever. It may not be as groundbreaking as some of James’ earlier works but still sounds fresh and original thirteen years after his last album. Syro showcases James’ rhythmic command and deft ability to create soundscapes that never feels overindulgent. A fine effort, Richard David James has cemented his spot as a titan of electronic music.