Review: You’re Dead! – Flying Lotus

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Ambition is an odd force in music. Sometimes it seems an artist has none, churning out albums hardly any different from each other, content to stay within a style. Others experiment, failing or succeeding to various extents. It’s a thin line to walk, risk and reward intertwining on both sides. With You’re Dead! Flying Lotus walks the line of ambition, veering from his previous albums into a mixing bowl of death and jazz.

The album’s songs are short, most around a minute and a half in length, flowing into each other, beginning where the last left off. Unfortunately this limits the accessibility of the album, as it’s not particularly interesting to listen to unless done sequentially in one sitting. Setting up the songs like this can make an album more interesting in some cases, Between the Buried and Me’s Colors for example, but here it just makes a large amount of the songs incredibly boring when listened to individually. While this album does seem to be ambitious in a storytelling sense it lacks substance or memorable songs.

The album’s first single, “Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar”, was released a few weeks in advance of the album and actually sounded quite promising, blending jazz, rap, and electronic deftly to great effect. In fact, it’s probably the album’s best song. However, that song is the only instance of such flash on the album.  It’s not the only collaboration with hip hop on the album either, “Dead Man’s Tetris” features Snoop Dogg but plods on dully and without purpose. A few tracks, such as “Moment of Hesitation”, “Obligatory Cadence” and “The Protest”, show hints of promise that just aren’t capitalized on. Unfortunately that seems to be representative of the album as a whole, a few ambitious ideas that aren’t executed nearly as well as they could be.

4/10

I’ll Be The Tornado – Dads

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Dads, the duo hailing from New Jersey strikes again with their newest and second full length album, I’ll Be The Tornado. “A two piece punk duo?” you might ask, but let me tell you, between the guitar, drums, and lyrics, where the band lacks in members it makes up for in a strikingly simple yet idyllic “punk” sound.

I’ll Be The Tornado comes almost a year after their 2013 EP Pretty Good and almost two years after their first full length album in 2012, American Radass , and the improvements of both musicians is apparent. The album’s themes are more modern, and yet the tempo changes and chord progressions still have that Dads sound we’ve all come to expect, and it shows that there is still much to come from Dads.

The album features aggressive and jovially punk songs as Sunburnt Jet Wings, somehow simultaneously tragic yet uplifting tales as Take Back Today, and still more melodic songs, such as Fake Knees, and Grand Edge, MI . The punk aspects do shine through in certain lyrics, “We could be drunk together, we could be punk together” and even still more possibly romantically punk, such as singing the line “waiting there for me “ and proceeding to shout “with your coffee breath” for a few bars.

The addition of harmonious accompanying vocals from the drummer gives the bands sound a certainly more complete product, and while songs have become more emotional, Dads has trading their previous whiny emotions for emotions that sound genuine and experienced. Despite all I’ve written about the changing sound, the familiar Dads touch still comes through with progressive and melodic tunes that’ll have you reliving those days where you feel like you simply can’t be understood.

Overall, I’ll Be The Tornado is a solid product, and better yet, is all the proof that Dads needs to show that they’re a serious band with room to move up.

7/10

By: Spencer Graves

 

The Juan Maclean : In A Dream

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.

9/10

By Stephanie Whalen

Bazaar: Wampire

“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

4/10

Vamanos – Naive Thieves

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.

9/10

By: Isaiah Howell

 

The Big Picture – Kat Edmonson

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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.

7/10

By: Spencer Graves