October 7, 2017No Comments

Sleep Well Beast – The National

The National change things up a bit for their 7th album. Don't worry it's still sad, just in a new way. Matt gives us an inside look at  the struggles of marriage and how to endure life's painful moments. 

First let me say that The National is one of my all time favorite bands, so I am a little biased. This is not their best album to date. But it is a refreshing take on their usual formula of sad songs to listen to on rainy days.

You can hear this difference on the first single they released, The System only Dreams in Total Darkness. The usually restrained Dessner bros go hard and even lay down a sick solo. There is a feeling of chaos and disorder that is not usually found on National albums.

Matt's lyrics and singing style are also different here. He is more open and vulnerable than ever before. His wife Carin helped him write on this album, as she has done in the past. It feels like that collaboration has reached a peak here. “I only take up a little of the collapsing space/I better cut this off, don’t want to fuck it up,” Matt sings on Walk it back.

The mid album track Turtleneck is nothing like we've ever heard form the National. At first I didn't like it, but it has grown on me with time. Matt basically screams the whole time over some of the hardest sounding music they have ever written. Not what you expect, but it somehow works on this album.

The National have delivered another solid album to a catalogue that is hard to beat. They somehow manage to keep things interesting after all of these years. Hopefully they can keep it up for a couple more, for some reason I know they will.

June 24, 2017No Comments

Life After Youth – Land of Talk

With Life After Youth, Land of Talk have delivered one of the most easy listening and pleasant albums of the year. A soundtrack to a never ending summer.

I had never listened to Land of Talk before this album. I only found them because I follow Saddle Creek records on Facebook (Saddle Creek has one of the most underrated band lineups in indie music). Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised.

The album is heartfelt and sincere with every ensuing track. Elizabeth Powell's voice bursts out of the gates on opening track "Yes You Were," and never looks back. Their is a sense of purpose and emotion behind every word and the music follows that example.

"I don't want to waste it this time, I don't want to waste it my life," Powell sings on "This Time." And you can tell she truly means it. Life after youth sounds like a band that is making the most of their time together, living in the moment and not being held back by their fleeting youth.

Best Tracks:

"Yes You Were", "Loving", and "Heartscore"

June 24, 2017No Comments

Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

On their self titled debut Cigarettes After Sex offer a take on modern love songs with a dark dream pop backdrop.

Cigarettes After Sex, that name alone might turn you off and make you avoid this album. I know I had some apprehension when first hearing about them. The album and its themes are a clear reflection of the title. Littered with love ballads about sexual encounters and modern love letters via sexy snapchats. “You open your dress and show me your tits on the swing set at the playground,” sings lead singer Greg Gonzalez on track "Sunsetz."

The lyrics are cheesy and annoying at times. But that is almost unavoidable when singing about modern dating and romance. Everything is cliche and grossly shallow nowadays. Gonzalez's voice and the bands great musical skills are enough to mask these cheesy moments. Gonzalez is so nonchalant with his delivery that he paints a strangely believable and dreamy scene.

Over all this is a solid album for rainy days and lonely sleepless nights, if you are into that sort of thing.

June 24, 2017No Comments

Rocket – (Sandy) Alex G

Alex G has one of the most unique sounds in indie rock. It's Elliot Smith meets the Beastie Boys. On Rocket he elevates these sounds to new heights. 

Alex explained his new album to Stereogum like this,“The reason you enjoy music is because of its unlimited potential, the inability to really understand it.” It seems like many artists today feel the need to explain their every move via whatever social media channel or media outlet they are communicating through. That's why Alex G is so refreshing, he lets his music do all of the talking and leaves it up to the listener to find meaning.

Rocket is his most ambitious work to date. The album jumps from style to style and doesn't appear to have a linear flow. At the halfway point the track "Brick" sounds like an Ill communication era Beastie Boys B-side. But it is oddly enjoyable and seems to fit the album perfectly.

The album has an inescapable feeling of paranoia and anxiety. Illustrated with accounts of past failures and loves gone awry. “Are you guilty?/ Are you waiting to be found?/ Do you think that you’d be happier with no one else around?” he sings on the final track "Guilty." Alex G stays true to himself and his feelings throughout the album, never fully explaining his meaning yet providing the listener with an intimate emotional connection.

Best Tracks:

“Powerful Man”, “Bobby”, and “Sportstar”

June 24, 2017No Comments

Capacity – Big Thief

On their second full-length effort Big Thief successfully avoid the sophomore slump. Adrianne Lenker's storytelling reaches new emotional depths and achieves a level of lyrical beauty that one could call a Masterpiece

How do you follow up an album entitled "Masterpiece?" This is a question Big Thief had to address when working on their second LP. With only a seven-month break after releasing Masterpiece, they didn't give themselves much time to contemplate the answer.

I have nothing negative to say about this album. When I listen to Capacity I get a feeling of enjoyment and emotional connection to something larger than myself that is rare in music. Lenker's storytelling skill has evolved to a point that nearly matches the beauty of her vocals. On the track Mythological Beauty she illustrates the vast responsibility and love a mother has for her child screaming, “You held me in the backseat with a dishrag/Soaking up blood with your eye/I was just 5 and you were 27 praying don't let my baby die.” This song is the emotional peak of the album, showing the delicacy of life and the love and beauty of our closest relationships.

Capacity is my favorite record of the year so far. I get chills listening to it and discover something new and beautiful with every listen. “There is a child inside you who is trying/To raise the child in me.” Listening to this album brings me closer to this child like state and reminds me of the beauty and frailty of life. I don't know what more you could want from listening to a piece of music.

June 19, 2017No Comments

Planetarium – Sufjan Stevens, Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner & James McAlister

Planetarium originated a few years ago as a live performance and has now found its way to becoming an LP. This album definitely has some high points but it gets old pretty quickly.

With its 75 minute running time Planetarium overstays its welcome a little bit. The album is beautiful and skillfully crafted but I was pretty bored with it after about thirty minutes.

This might have been better suited being an actual score to a planetarium feature. I usually love most everything Sufjan does but this album just seems pretty pointless to me. If you are tripping on acid or hosting a space-themed sleepover this album is great but it doesn't offer much in the realm of actual music enjoyment.

There are some great songs on the album but overall it is pretty underwhelming.

Best Tracks: “Venus”, “Saturn”, and “Mercury”

June 19, 2017No Comments

Crack Up – Fleet Foxes

It's been six years since the last Fleet Foxes album and a lot has changed. Josh Tillman has become the Father and lead singer Robin Pecknold enrolled at Columbia University.

I was never a huge fan of these guys back in the day. I enjoyed their self-titled debut but didn't really listen to Helplessness Blues all that much. This is still definitely a Fleet Foxes folk album but the tone is much darker and the music more complex.

It starts off with Pecknold singing "I’m all that I need and I’ll be till I’m through," a dark sentiment and a continuing theme throughout the record. There are ancient roman and Civil War references throughout the album as well, perhaps the result of being in a college atmosphere.

The music is grand and beautiful. The skill needed to produce this level of music is immense. The album won't appeal as much to the mainstream as some of their past work, there isn't really a single on the record besides maybe "Third of May / Odaigahara."

In the end the album comes full circle. Pecknold describes it like this: “If the record is about any one thing, I’d say it’s just—no one can go it alone,” Pecknold finally says. “No one is an island. That’s the main take away from my experience of the last few years.”

The six year wait was definitely worth it. This album is brilliant from start to finish.

Best Tracks:
“Third of May/Odaigahara”, “If You Need To, Keep Time On Me”, and “On Another Ocean (January/June)”