Showing posts with label new wave. Show all posts
Showing posts with label new wave. Show all posts

Monday, September 24, 2018

video review: 'art of doubt' by metric

Yeah, it's the haircut, I know. Certainly not the sling - but hey, it's hard in those streets for a critic. :p

Anyway, I'm still working on polishing up that Vallendusk review and then Billboard BREAKDOWN - stay tuned!

album review: 'art of doubt' by metric

It's a common thing for critics like me who aren't constantly plugged into the hype cycle to say that we don't know what to expect for certain albums. And while in some cases it's just verbiage in the review to heighten anticipation, most of the time for me it's pretty genuine - if I think I know what's coming from a certain act, I'll tell you, for sure!

But with Metric... I just don't know at this point. The last time I covered the group was their understandably underappreciated 2015 album Pagans In Vegas, a pretty damn sharp satire of the mainstream pop music industry that kind of missed the mark when it came to writing that totally stuck the landing with their concept - a good record for sure, but not a great one and certainly one that didn't quite hold up to their releases in 2009 and 2012. But from there... I just wasn't sure what was coming. Emily Haines rejoined Broken Social Scene for a comeback record in 2017 as well as reforming her solo act Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton for an indie pop album that wound up on my year end list and was better than it had any right to be... also probably better than any individual Metric album, but that's a different conversation. So when you have that, and then she's returning to Metric for their longest album to date and the buzz was inconclusive surrounding what sound the band was taking up this time, I wasn't sure what Art Of Doubt was going to deliver, only with my hope that Haines would bring over her considerable writing heft and hooks from that solo album. So, what did we get on Art Of Doubt?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

video review: 'room inside the world' by ought

So yeah, I was expecting this to be better... and the fact that it's not was kind of painful, but eh, it happens.

Next up... hmm, how about some Courtney Patton and then something off my backlog, so stay tuned!

album review: 'room inside the world' by ought

I'm not going to lie, as much as I was looking forward to this release, some of the buzz leading up to it had me, well, more concerned than I wanted to be. 

Because look, I like Ought for their smart, amazingly well-textured and nervy post-punk that especially with their record Sun Coming Down in 2015 saw greater refinement in its melodic grooves and complex transitions. And for as much as Tim Darcy could sound like he was splitting his David Byrne impression with that of Elias Bender Ronnenfelt of Iceage, this sort of artistic but deeply felt indie rock is an easy sell for me. And that's before you consider how well they can translate the anxious tension at their core into the sort of unstable core where you literally cannot predict its shifts. 

But in the rollout for Room Inside The World, I starting hearing buzz that the band had changed labels and this record was embracing more new wave and synths and streamlining things even further - and I was really conflicted on this, mostly as the critical reception seem a little more reticent. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate Ought looking to intensify their internal sense of logic and composition within the songs - the improvisation is a nice touch but it can lead to mixed rewards - but there is such a thing as over-polish when you look at a band like Ought where you can lose some of the wild spirit that makes them distinct. And considering the mixed reception to Tim Darcy's solo project a year or so back, I wasn't sure how that would translate onto this project, but what the hell: what did we get on Room Inside The World?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

video review: 'always ascending' by franz ferdinand

So this... it took a while to really click, but I'm thrilled it did - definitely enjoyed it!

And on the topic of stuff I'm anticipating, we've got MGMT up next, so stay tuned!

album review: 'always ascending' by franz ferdinand

So okay, maybe it wasn't a good idea for The Wombats to release their newest groove-heavy, sleek indie rock record the very same day as Franz Ferdinand doing a very similar sound... 

Or at least that's what I was expecting. The truth is that while I was looking forward to this record even more than The Wombats, I also knew my expectations would have to be even further qualified - it's been five years since the last solo Franz Ferdinand project, and while their collaboration with Sparks in 2015 was certainly entertaining, it wasn't quite as tight or fun as Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action. And more even than that, Franz Ferdinand were fighting off the loss of their lead guitarist Nick McCarthy who was choosing to spend more time with his family, and a lot of bands really can't come back from that. Granted, calling back old 90s member Dino Bardot for guitar and recruiting remix artist Julian Corrie could have potential, and recruiting electronic musician Phillipe Zdar could have some potential, but all of it was reflecting a band focusing less on straightforward indie rock and more electronic tones. And while my concerns were not huge - they had Todd Terje work on their last record, it's clear they've got solid taste in electronic music - I will say I was a little skeptical, as my favourite Franz Ferdinand record remains You Could Have It So Much Better, and further pivots from rock could dampen some of that electric energy. Not quite the same as what happened to The Wombats, but similar in principle.

But again, these guys are veterans with a canny eye towards great songwriting, and this was one of my most hotly anticipated records of 2018 - did they stick the landing with Always Ascending?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

album review: 'wonderful wonderful' by the killers (ft. anthony fantano)

And finally we have a review that I shot earlier this week and I'm really happy that it's doing well over on Anthony's channel. Props to him for bringing me on board here, this was a lot of fun!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

video review: 'last young renegade' by all time low

About time I got this off my plate - and to think it took Billboard being stupid to get this out! 

So yeah, probably Billboard BREAKDOWN next, but who can tell... stay tuned!

album review: 'last young renegade' by all time low

So maybe I'm not seeing the arguments anymore, but I remember back in the early-to-mid 2000s - hell, probably earlier than that - the debate surrounding pop punk. And make no mistake, as the genre ebbed and flowed in popularity, the split became pronounced: the old guard who preferred the rougher, more aggressive punk side, and the more mainstream-accessible crowd who didn't care. And while I don't really see this debate much anymore, from what I can see... look, on average I'm going to gravitate to where the rougher, the better, but I'm also the first to admit that it's not the best fit for all bands. There's a spectrum when it comes to pop punk, and for every punk band that 'sold out' when they went pop, there are a few more pop-friendly acts that courted rougher audiences and didn't always stick the landing.

So take a band like All Time Low, and right from the very beginning I knew these guys would likely wind up closer to radio-friendly pop rock than anything super aggressive or political. And that was fine: they wrote fun, catchy hooks and when they got signed with Interscope, it seemed like a logical step. But maybe it was just poor timing - Dirty Work came out in the middle of the club boom in 2011, where if you weren't in Canada pop rock wasn't getting airplay - but it wasn't long before All Time Low was back on their indie label Hopeless and churning out more reasonably well-received pop punk records records. And to be completely honest, more often than not there wasn't much of a difference in their production or writing - I've listened to every All Time Low album and I found a lot of their material really runs together - but I knew it wasn't long before they'd be back on a major label, and so I wasn't surprised when they signed back with Fueled By Ramen. And since it's almost an unspoken law that Fueled By Ramen records tend to share musical tropes year after year, when buzz was suggesting All Time Low was featuring more 80s-inspired synthpop and new wave elements - hell, they brought in Tegan And Sara - I felt like I knew exactly what to expect from Last Young Renegade. Did I get it?

Monday, July 31, 2017

video review: 'everything now' by arcade fire

Well, this wasn't good. I could have called that going in, but hey, I was there in 2013 and predicted this trajectory and so many weren't listening and who's laughing now-

Okay, I'll stop. In any case, it'll probably be Billboard BREAKDOWN next, but I might have something else to finally get off my schedule first, so we'll see. Stay tuned!

album review: 'everything now' by arcade fire

Okay, in the modern internet age, especially on YouTube, it's not exactly a good look for critics to appear smug or condescending towards an audience. We rely on you guys, and I would lying if I didn't say I was grateful every single day for the growth of this community, be it through you guys who watch everything to those who support me on Patreon. You're helping enable something for me that's really exciting, and I'm looking forward to seeing where this channel could go.

That said, when I started seeing the reviews for Arcade Fire's newest record, with the sort of mixed critical reception the band has never really received, especially for the lyrics and songwriting, there was a tremendous sense of vindication that rushed through me - I'm not going to say that 'I told you so', but I am going to claim at least some credit for calling it. Because I was hard on Reflektor, partially for its sloppily realized song structures and lack of balance between its vocalists, but most of all for the undercooked themes surrounding an artist's relationship with fame and the smug, self-obsessed writing trying to explore and deconstruct it - and for a critic just starting out, that's the sort of controversial opinion that can cripple an upstart channel - even if eventually I wound up putting 'Joan Of Arc' on my list of my favourite songs of 2013! And while I will admit to never being a huge Arcade Fire fan, their first three records and especially The Suburbs do hold a special place for me in harnessing real wit and insight to temper the earnestness, most of which curdled in an off-putting way on Reflektor that reflected a band that has more ambition than the control or self-awareness to execute it well.

And while some of this critical backlash has been long-in-coming - for some critics thirsty for cred the knives have been out for Arcade Fire's pompous pretentiousness for some time - the reviews of Everything Now showed not just those critics getting an easy target, but also an audience who had been willing to excuse so much from this band finally hitting their breaking point - in many places seemingly for lyrical patterns that continued from Reflektor. So you can bet I wanted to get in on this, so how is Everything Now?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

video review: 'sacred hearts club' by foster the people

I honestly don't see there being much of a backlash to this review. Mostly because it's a bit later and even Foster The People fans don't seem wild about this... eh, we'll see.

No, to get the true backlash... well, stay tuned!

album review: 'sacred hearts club' by foster the people

I feel like I should like Foster The People more than I do.

And this is a feeling I've had for a long time now, probably ever since I first heard Torches and found myself severely underwhelmed. Part of it involves Mark Foster's falsetto and I don't see that factor changing much any time soon - it just grated on my nerves - or that much of the instrumentation and production felt painfully flimsy and derivative - but normally what could redeem that was the content, which was reportedly intended as a partial satire of hipster culture. And while I'm entirely for taking the piss out of an overused and increasingly gentrified stereotype, it wasn't like Foster The People convincingly held the high ground, as the satire wasn't all that sharp and the delivery felt about as smug, none of which helped the thin framing and insight. And sure, at the end of the day 'Helena Beat' is a good tune, but that doesn't save an album that's aged pretty badly.

So it was hopeful that Supermodel would be an improvement in 2014... and yeah, it was, but like with a lot of Torches it was also one of those records that built its appeal off the backs and sounds of better bands, the most obvious being Vampire Weekend and the Flaming Lips. And sure, overall there were more good songs, with 'Fire Escape' being the obvious standout, but at the same time the vocals still grated and the broader satire intended at commercial culture couldn't help but ring hollow. Again, it was an issue with the framing: Foster The People loved to present themselves as sly, winking outsiders to a broken system - immediately losing any real populism for having their own skin in the game... which has always struck me as false considering how derivative their sound is and that they've always been on a major label! 

But that review was back in 2014 and I'm assuming Patrons requesting this record didn't see it and wanted to see me take a crack at the group - now minus their bassist and promoting two touring members to the main lineup for more of a psychedelic synthpop direction on the new record. And I'm not going to say I wasn't intrigued - both The Wombats and Temples managed the pop pivot remarkably well, and maybe it might help the melodies stand out a little better or at least temper that falsetto, even if the influx of producers and songwriters didn't exactly seem promising. But hey, maybe third time's the charm, so what did we get from Sacred Hearts Club?

Monday, July 10, 2017

video review: 'whiteout conditions' by the new pornographers

And there's the last one - whew, about damn time I got to this, and it was mostly worth the wait!

Next up, Billboard BREAKDOWN and something more recent, so enjoy!

album review: 'whiteout conditions' by the new pornographers

So I've talked a little about supergroups before, the music fan's dream collaborations that more often than not never quite live up to expectations... but of course, it's not always like that, and considering how much I tend to champion Canadian music, it's a damn tragedy it has taken me so long to get to this group.

So, The New Pornographers. Born out the Vancouver indie rock scene around the turn of the millennium, many of the members had prominent roles in their own groups before coming together for this, and looking back now it's almost a little astounding how well it turned out. Carl Newman was widely held as the primary songwriter and band 'leader', but when you surround him with acts that would become songwriting powerhouses in their own right like Neko Case and Dan Bejar of Destroyer and a host of other 90s Canadian indie veterans, the lineup was almost too good to fail.

And sure enough, for the first half of the 2000s The New Pornographers made some of the catchiest and most infectious power pop and indie rock you'd hear, getting a ton of well-deserved critical acclaim. Yes, things did slip with Challengers and Together, but they were able to yank things back in line with Brill Bruisers in 2014, a record I really wish I could have covered three years ago, cranking up the synthesizer lines and creating a project that didn't quite feel as backwards looking or indulgent as earlier record could occasionally feel. And while I was excited to hear they were going to push further down that new wave path on Whiteout Conditions, I'm not going to deny I was concerned to hear that Dan Bejar didn't contribute to it. Apparently he's been hard at work on the next Destroyer project, but in terms of songwriting - and this is no disrespect to Newman - but Bejar is in a class of his own, and I was concerned what his absence could mean for the new album. But hey, it was bound to be energetic and fun, right, even if I am months late to the punch, so what did we get with Whiteout Conditions?

Monday, May 15, 2017

video review: 'after laughter' by paramore

Look, maybe the group just isn't for me at this point... but still, I had hopes for this and am a little dispirited they didn't materialize.

But on the topic of failed hopes... well, after Billboard BREAKDOWN, stay tuned!

album review: 'after laughter' by paramore

I think somebody needs to explain to me what is the hype behind Paramore - because the more I listen to their material, the less I'm seeing it.

That's not saying they're bad - their first three records are a respectable slice of emo-leaning pop rock, with Riot! probably being the best of them, but even then I was never really wowed by the writing or the performances or the production - good music, sure, but nothing I'd actively seek out or that I thought stood out against the rest of the pop rock boom. Then there was the self-titled album in 2013 that I actually reviewed for a year-end anniversary, an album released after the lead guitarist and drummer quit... and again, for mid-2010s pop rock released on Fueled by Ramen, it certainly checked off the boxes, but I did not understand all the critical acclaim that was piled on that record. There were a few catchy singles, sure, and Hayley Williams' brand of colorful theatrics had its moments - helped by self-aware songwriting that was getting better - but at the end of the day I was lukewarm on the project at best, and I have not had any inclination to revisit that album since.

So I wasn't remotely surprised when they decided to pivot towards retro-new wave for their newest record - sure, their bassist was now gone, but producer Justin Mendel-Johnsen was filling in and they actually got their old drummer Zac Farro back. Hell, I wasn't even surprised by the change in direction - punk acts have gone new wave to stay relevant since the late 70s, this is not new. What did catch my attention was the emphasis on how trying this recording session apparently was, and how much that struggle had translated into the rather dark themes contrasting with the brighter instrumentation - again, this isn't new, but as a more polished spin on their emo-leaning lyrics in the past it could make for an interesting listen, so how does After Laughter turn out?

Monday, March 27, 2017

video review: 'hot thoughts' by spoon

Well, this happened. Not a lot to say, only that it's great indie rock and I really like it.

Sadly, what's coming next... wish I liked it as much, but stay tuned!

album review: 'hot thoughts' by spoon

So here's the frustrating thing about some acts, and I'm talking about a rare few indeed. The groups that right from the start are so consistently strong, so focused, so uniformly consistent with quality... that for some inexplicable reason they fall out of the critical conversation. And while I'll place a considerable amount of blame on fans and critics taking certain bands for granted, on some level I get it - after all, people often seem to remember the tremendous standouts and are more willing to forgive the missteps, they don't really value consistent greatness in the same way. And in a sad bit of irony, a lot of these consistent albums are only given greater significance beyond the devoted cult fanbase - because you can guarantee acts like this have a cult following more than most - when the band slips up, or changes sound dramatically and splits the fanbase, or breaks up entirely.

And I think you can make the argument that Spoon fits in this category. A quick sidebar: I've long accumulated enough music that I could fill up my iPod twice over, so I've made an effort to only include great albums or better... and with the exception of Transference, I've got every Spoon album on there! And that's telling: for over a decade since the late 90s, Spoon has cranked out album after album of quality... but I can definitely see a casual observer not being able to tell the difference from record to record. So at some level I knew it was only a matter of time before Spoon decided to switch things up - and on some level, if you go back through 2014's They Want My Soul, you could see this coming. Part of this probably could be linked back to producer Dave Fridmann coming on board and bringing his characteristic heavier, blockier sound, but probably even more linked to the quiet departure of longtime member Eric Harvey, who had been with the band since Kill The Moonlight. In other words, I wasn't entirely surprised to hear they had shifted their sound in a more indie pop direction, pulling in more guest vocalists in order to pump up their sound and add a little more diverse instrumentation, this could turn out to be something interesting - so did Hot Thoughts stick the landing?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

video review: 'nothing's real' by shura

Wow, this record caught me off-guard by how much I dug it. So tight, so distinctly memorable... great record, bound to be underrated, definitely check this out!

Next up... think I might get that indie record out the door along with Fates Warning, and after that... not sure, really, so stay tuned!