The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs Review

We can’t try to ascribe meaning or purpose to Win Butler’s mindset without becoming a target to his hostility. We shouldn’t try anyhow, but still we do. Nevertheless, we can navigate it with courteous ease—courteous, because his roots in melodramatic antagonism are so refreshingly honest. The only doubt to give us discomfort is the source, but even that can be hypothesized: he doesn’t much like us. But there’s tension there, allowing him to remain a fixture without pushing away his audience. Lucky for both parties, he has a band to surround and ably support him while they lend balance without contradiction. Notable, of course, is the tandem with Régine Chassagne, who could be a yin to the yang if she played a more vital (or at least visible) role. But unease is too valuable for them to offer equality, and who wants to hear these Montreal-based musicians pull their punches anyhow? They’re not even all that accusatory on The Suburbs, but at least they care

Aug
11
2010
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School of Seven Bells - Disconnect from Desire Review

Maybe SVIIB saw the crisis of clutter in the neo/post-shoegaze scene and decided it was time to jump ship. There has no doubt been a glut lately that inspires less rapture than rerun slumber, even for the good ones. Well, they still landed with a pristine splash into the same sea. The aptly named Disconnect from Desire is a disconnect, all right, one from their international flavor, their Kevin Shields blur, and, most critically, emotional reality (or hyper-reality, if you prefer melodrama). Where once they were sure-footed and managed to sound listless even in glaze, Disconnect finds them more relaxed and refined, losing some of their boldness while bolstering their lushness. They’re not yet in stasis, and they’re certainly more than capable of digging up some divine hook or two whenever they care to, but its leisurely drift, babbling beats and single speed sway betrays an awful lot of the exotic promise exhibited on Alpinisms, one of the best debut albums period of 2008.

Aug
04
2010
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Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty Review

When it was learned that OutKast’s follow-up LP to 2000’s Stankonia was going to be a double album split between the two personalities, interest tended to gravitate towards André 3000’s half over Big Boi’s, if for no better reason than the fact that André was recognized as the more experimental and creative of the duo, apparently dismissing the in-the-pocket MC skills and unexpected resonance of Big Boi’s persona. While waiting with baited breath for the next OutKast collabo, though, it’s become apparent that while the two still generate the most combustible energy in tandem, Antwan Patton is no second fiddle sidekick to André (Benjamin) the Conqueror. It could be argued that while both discs were hit-and-miss, Speakerboxxx actually overshadowed The Love Below—with fewer spaced-out slip-ups and more instant winners like “Ghetto Musick,” “Rooster,” “The Way You Move” and “Knowing,” it was certainly the less erratic.

Jul
26
2010
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Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Before Today Review

If we lived in a vacuum, we would have blessedly been spared the risible likes of “Girl You Know It’s True,” questions about the identity of someone releasing dogs, and L.A.’s the Black Eyed Peas, but then we might have missed out on various nuggets that astonished us with their (gasp) irresistibility. Whether diamond-in-the-rough one hit wonders, the rare gem or two in the otherwise suspect careers of pop stars, or entire stretches of worthy interest in a style that might have been barren before and after, there are some pop songs that reflect nothing of substance and still work. Ariel Pink’s fondness for that kind of AM clutter has informed numerous releases to this point (of which I am admittedly only familiar with a small handful), but what I’ve heard has led me to the conclusion that Pink wriggled through old vinyl collections and re-imagined them from the point of view of forced anti-commerciality: the subject of lo-fi as benefit as much as circumstance. There was a cheapness, a weirdness, a cunning slovenliness to it all, suggesting a withdrawal from polish as if to forcefully suggest that formula works in any medium so long as it’s sound. Now with Before Day, he’s finally created the slickly produced monument to the plastic pop, soul, disco and funk of the 70s and 80s. Imitation, sincerest form, flattery, you get what I mean.

Jul
19
2010
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The National - High Violet Review

Of all the aggressively dour indie rock bands around (and there are plenty), the National might be the least solitary. Which is not to say that they’re some copycat, because I don’t need to tell you that there are way too many Joy Division and Cure clones out there, but rather that their murky blend of substantive drama, atmospheric fills, prickly longing, and bursts of highlighter expression sort of lumps them into a kind of mission statement purgatory where they simply revel in being themselves—which is great, so long as you find falling short to be a virtue. If for nothing else, rarely will you hear a band so ruthlessly confident in their sheepish misery.

Jul
15
2010
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The Black Keys - Brothers Review

The cover of The Black Keys’ new album Brothers is a straight forward explanation of what you’re holding in your hand. The words “This is an album by The Black Keys. The name of this album is Brothers,” emblazons the front cover. The back cover and the inside fold out of the disc is filled with explanations on just what it is you’re looking at. Whether the band chose the artwork as a nod to blues godfather Howlin’ Wolf who released similar artwork for a 1969 album or whether it’s a satirical jab at the fact that people no longer buy compact discs and thus actually need to be told what it is they have just purchased - is up for debate. What is less debatable though is that if you haven’t purchased a CD in some time, Brothers may very well be the one album this year worth buying a physical copy of.

Jul
07
2010
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Kyle Bobby Dunn - A Young Person's Guide to Kyle Bobby Dunn Review

As Britain’s bad boys are wont to say, "And now for something completely different." Kyle Bobby Dunn doesn’t fit the mold of what I typically listen to, what we typically review on this site, or (presumably) what our average reader is drawn toward, but such is the fate of an album resting outside the popular music sphere towards which we gravitate and set in a niche like this—modern classical with an obvious affection for ambient drone. It’s a listen that detractors might snidely dismiss as a “two-hour dial tone in glaze” or fanatics might pretentiously deem to be “transportive, window-to-the-soul stuff,” so as an outsider willing to give it a chance, I’ll offer the equally unoriginal platitude of “difficult but rewarding,” one that inspires madness much quicker than fondness, yet still peculiar, hypnotic, and on blind side, occasionally even affecting. At least everyone can agree on the “niche” part, though.

Jul
06
2010
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Tristan Clopet - Purple EP Review

Saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery is a pretty tired cliché. It's a saying that can be used on any number of circumstances, but seems to find a perfect fit in the world of music. Especially when often times just a touch of originality can make a work of music stand out above the endless line of completely unoriginal works, saying that imitation is rampant in popular music is an understatement. For Florida funk artist Tristan Clopet, imitating artists that came before him is part of what makes his sound what it is, but unlike the endless amount of uninspired artists that litter the radio, Clopet brings the flattery part of the cliché to the forefront.

Jun
27
2010
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LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening Review

If, as James Murphy claims, This Is Happening turns out to be the last LCD Soundsystem album (or the last before an extended hiatus for the moniker), perhaps we should be grateful. For one, he is departing on a high note, leaving us begging for more. And for another (and more controversially), he is offering more of the same, with few modifications to the surface area, and difficult-to-grasp modifications to the deeper meaning (which was usually a lot of surface, anyway). If this suggests that I find LCD to be empty and repetitive, then allow me the opportunity to then insist that no one in the last decade has done his fusion with finer clarity, better chops, or greater impact—dubbed by some to be dance punk, but is really just wry, conflicted dance music that’s not always easy to dance to even when you really want to.

Jun
24
2010
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Kaiser Cartel - Secret Transit Review

When I’m truly moved by something special and wonderful, whether it be a passage read, a scene viewed, or a song heard, I am often brought to tears. This is something built deep inside my heart that makes me feel rescued by the beauty that I have witnessed. The honesty and beauty behind the music of Kaiser Cartel has had this effect on me since first hearing their music over a year ago. Their newest release, Secret Transit is no different and helps to amplify their pure talent and brilliance. Courtney Kaiser and Benjamin Cartel have again documented a collection of thoughtfully honest songs, which stand as a gift for any ear that craves beautiful vocals, songwriting, and soul in every played note. Personally, Courtney and Benjamin have left an indelible mark in my musical life. They are a breath of fresh air, which reminds the spirit that real music still exists in the world today.

Jun
16
2010
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