Pet Shop Boys – Elysium album review

The Pet Shop Boys sound has always been just a little too understated for me.  Neil Tennant’s warble and the polite keyboards rarely present the power that I’d prefer.   Despite my reservations they somehow seem to have done pretty well for themselves and are now back with their 11th album (not counting their numerous live albums, compilations and singles), Elysium.  And I’ll tell you what, it’s not half bad.  Like a third bad, maybe.  Or maybe not.  Sometimes with this album I am left wondering if the song I am listening to is as banal as it sounds, or if I am misunderestimating some piece of brilliant British wit.

It starts out with strong enough with, “Leaving” which sounds like my notion of an archetypal, solid, good-if-unspectacular PSB song.  Then we’re into “Invisible” which is a little slow but not to the point of tedium. Third, we have the first weird sidestep, “Winner”.  With its eighties computer bleep-bloop riff and pedestrian lyrics about being an, erm, winner, it sounds  like the ending montage song from a lost “Revenge of the Nerds” movie.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with “Revenge of the Nerds”.  It’s perfectly fine cinema and, besides, Poindexter played a mean electric violin.  But I’m not sure it should be where the Pet Shop Boys hang out.

Luckily, the album moves back into perfectly adequate dance pop for a while, until we are spit out at “Ego Music”.  It sounds like a song your precocious 12 year old cousin would write.  The kind of kid who may one day demonstrate talent but who is currently stuck with the rudiments.  Lordy, it’s bad.  Except for the spoken bits, voicing the simultaneous vapidity and self importance of pop stars, which are hilarious.  In a low key British way.  “Ego Music” goes straight into “Hold On” a seemingly serious ballad which is so awful that I wonder if it isn’t the previous song’s final punch line.  Like, really, I think it may be.  They couldn’t actually write something this bad, right?  It’s gotta be some smarty pants UK thing.  I think.  I am left scowling in confusion for the final four songs,  all of which are perfectly fine.

Pffft.  Englishmen.

The Presets – Pacifica album review

When first hearing the band name The Presets, and before listening to a single note of their music, one could be forgiven for immediately making certain assumptions. For example: perhaps they’re a forgotten, early 90’s, one-hit-wonder that toured with adult alternative stalwarts, The Rembrandts and The Proclaimers. A ridiculous leap maybe, however, after spinning any of The Presets’ records a few times, it turns out the guess on the time period was off by only a few years.

Although The Presets don’t play intellectual, college radio pop rock, they’re still a band out of time. Owing plenty to their predecessors – Duran Duran, Pet Shop Boys, and even Rick Astley – The Presets are one of the latest groups attempting to transport us back to the days of acid washed jeans and feathered back locks held in place by hairspray.

Sprinkling in modern electronica tricks similarly employed by the likes of Avicii and Deadmau5, the Australian duo, Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes, combine a sharp pop sensibility for what works on a dance track; this was evidenced on the ARIA winning 2008 effort, Apocalypso, which became the first dance album to win the honour.

On their return, Pacifica, the driving synths and club beats are still there, but they’re padded with some more intimate numbers that could almost be classified as love songs. One of the better, catchier, tracks on the album, “Promises,” manages to encompass both elements, finding a home on the dance floor yet warming the hearts of listeners in addition to just getting them thumping.

Then there are songs like the first single, “Youth In Trouble” that misrepresents the whole of Pacifica. It pumps for almost six and a half minutes sans vocals aside from intermittent shouts. It’s a more lighthearted version of Planet Funk’s “Static” building and taking off like a fighter jet, encouraging the crowd to do the same. On the other hand, their second single, “Ghosts,” is a heartfelt lamentation on days gone by and time wasted.

This back and forth game permeates Pacifica thankfully because, instead of creating unevenness as might be expected, this balances an album that lights the nocturne of both the disco and the soul.

Billy Talent – Dead Silence album review

Fans have waited so long for a Billy Talent comeback that they might have even forgotten that Ian D’Sa has been using the same Stratocaster sound for the last three albums.

However their new album Dead Silence opens up in the most unpredicted way. What you expect to be a full throttle of thrashing guitars turns out to be a smooth and sultry acoustic opening on the track “Lonely Road to Absolution”. However that mellow sound remnant of an indie rock band (and certainly not Billy Talent … esque?) quickly implodes into the distorted and oh so familiar sound of D’Sa’s trusty Strat. Immediately following their attempt at indie rock (and with perfect timing) comes the song “Viking Death March,” reintroducing us to the Billy Talent that was left behind several years ago.

They’ve certainly expanded their repertoire with this album by creating songs like “Stand Up and Run” that definitely isn’t as aggressive as most of their other songs. It’s essentially a love song, or rather a song about losing love and wanting it back. This isn’t exactly typical of Billy Talent, especially since the song isn’t hate ridden and vengeful; it’s soft and sweet and works very well in their favour, and might even attract a new crowd of headbangers.

If you peel back some of the layers and take away the distortion, you can almost hear some good old rock n’ roll, which is quite refreshing in this case since a lot of Billy Talent’s music can be quite repetitive (for those who aren’t hardcore fans of the band). However the guys have done a great job of integrating some new styles and techniques in order to curate something that their fans would automatically recognize, while keeping their sound fresh and interesting. Nevertheless, they’ve stayed true to the gritty alternative rock sound that has been trademarked as their own and held fast to the huge following that has remained loyal since their very first release back in 2003.

Turbo Fruits Confirm New US Tour Dates

Turbo Fruits have confirmed the second leg of their fall North American headlining tour in support of their just-released record, Butter (Serpents & Snakes Records), which debuted at #46 on the Billboard vinyl chart. The second leg of their tour kicks off in Durham, NC following appearances at CMJ, and takes the band through the Midwest and West Coast, with a final performance in Springfield, MO. The complete list of tour dates can be found below.

Critical reception to the Jim Eno-produced Butter has been stellar, with the Associated Press deeming the band “one of Nashville’s most exciting acts, regardless of genre.” In Uncut’s 8 out of 10 star review, they called the record a “a buzzy, beer-and-adrenaline set of (mostly) unabashed rock ‘n’ roll,” while VICE gave their stamp of approval, declaring “Their songs automatically get us pumped and wanna party. And we don’t feel bad about it, because it’s just plain good rock’n’roll.” Butter is “infectious and finely thrashed,” praised FILTER, while American Songwriter loved the “raucus and rowdy jangle-punk record that tows the line between full-on rawk intensity and pop accessibility…as raw and unpretentious of a guitar record as one could hope for.”

Watch Turbo Fruits Party with Nashville’s Best of Both Worlds Motorcycle Club in Video for “Harley Dollar Bill$

Tour Dates:

10-04 Lake Charles, LA- Luna Live

10-05 Austin, TX- Beerland ^

10-06 Dallas, TX- The Bryan Street Tavern %

10-14 Knoxville, TN- Pilot Light

10-15 Raleigh, NC- King’s Barcade +

10-16 Washington, DC- DC9

10-18 New York, NY – CMJ

10-19 Brooklyn, NY- Public Assembly ~

10-20 New York, NY – CMJ

10-21 Durham, NC- Duke University =

11-24 Chicago, IL- Hideout

11-25 Madison, WI- High Noon Saloon

11-26 St. Paul, MN- Turf Club (Late Show)

11-29 Seattle, WA- Chop Suey #

11-30 Vancouver, BC- Waldorf Hotel #

12-01 Portland, OR- Bunk Bar

12-07 San Francisco, CA- Bottom of the Hill #

12-08 Los Angeles, CA- Los Globos #

12-09 San Diego, CA- Casbah #

12-10 Phoenix, AZ- The Crescent Ballroom

12-12 El Paso, TX- Lowbrow Palace ##

12-15 Springfield, MO- Highlife

* Cheap Time

^ A Giant Dog

% Those Darlins, Royal Bangs, White Mystery, Fungi Girls, El Paso Hot Button

+ Petey, Lazy Janes

~ Panache CMJ Showcase- Twerps, Dent May, Mac DeMarco, The Paperhead, Violent Bullshit, Vockah Redu, XRay Eyeballs, Dignan Porch, Gap Dream, Levek

= Dignan Porch

# White Lung

## The Babies

Buke And Gase Announce General Dome, New Full-Length Out January 29th On Brassland

“On each of their releases to date, Buke & Gase have never been anything less than absolutely thrilling.” – Pitchfork

Change is good. Picasso had a “blue period” and then he said “f*&k that” and invented Cubism. Gauguin moved to Tahiti to shed European ideals and dive headlong into Primitivism. The Stones cozied up in a chateau on the French Riviera to escape the city, wives, and bad habits and write Exile on Main Street. We’re not saying Buke and Gase are the Stones or a dead painter, but when you live in the busiest city in the world, escape can be the mother of invention. It can be said three notable changes led to the new sounds that are encapsulated on General Dome, their new full-length record set to be released on January 29th on Brassland…

First Thing: In 2011, Aron Sanchez moved from New York City to his home in upstate Hudson, NY, and Arone Dyer thusly followed, therein marking a large geographical change. She then began riding a motorcycle, the obvious next step from racing and building bicycles, and has been exploring this new form of excitement vigorously and often. She claims it comes across in the new music.

Second Thing: They rented a cavernous empty room in between heavily used railroad tracks, warehouses and the Hudson River, and set up a temporary recording studio, a far cry from their previous digs, Aron’s tight little basement space. The recordings have hints of their surroundings, such as natural reverb, train horns, rumbling annoyances, and the size of the new space also led to a grander songwriting style. As per usual, they recorded and mixed it themselves. During this time, Aron purchased a myriad of new guitar pedals in his ever-enduring chase for the “perfect gase* sound” which, to this date, he has yet to find.

Third Thing: Out with the old and in with the new. A buke** creation by their friend now replaces the wooden-toy that formerly occupied Arone’s hands. This new “battle axe” is made of steel salvaged from an automobile, with a halved pipe acting as the neck.

And so, hot on the heels of their recent “Function Falls” EP, our favorite self-invented duo returns with General Dome. One track, “Hiccup,” has already been unleashed, which Pitchfork calls a “mobilising, bodily cry.”

Watch the video for “Misshaping Introduction”

GENERAL DOME TRACKLIST:

1. Houdini Crush

2. Hiccup

3. In the Company of Fish

4. General Dome

5. Hard Times

6. Sturtle

7. Twisting the Lasso of Truth

8. You Do Yours First

9. Split Like a Lip, No Blood on the Beard

10. Cyclopean

11. Contortion in Training

12. My Best Andre Shot

13. Metazoa

BUKE AND GASE TOUR DATES:

Mon. Oct. 1 – San Francisoc, CA @ Slim’s w/ Deerhoof

Tue. Oct. 2 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echoplex w/ Deerhoof

Wed. Oct. 3 – Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress

Fri. Oct. 5 – Austin, TX @ Red 7

Sat. Oct. 6 – Dallas, TX @ City Tavern

Mon. Oct. 8 – Atlanta, GA @ 529

Tue. Oct. 9 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506

Wed. Oct. 10 – Washington, DC @ DC9

Thu. Oct. 11 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie

Fri. Oct. 12 – New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge

Sun. Oct.14 – Hudson, NY @ Hangar 18

Fri. Dec. 7 – Sun. Dec. 9 – Minehead, UK @ All Tomorrow’s Parties

*gase = (pronounced “gace”) – a guitar-bass hybrid of Aron Sanchez’s own creation.

**buke = (pronounced “byook”) – a self-modified six-string former baritone ukulele.

BRAINSTORM Heat Waves Streaming At Impose; Download “Maybe A Memory” At Rolling Stone

Listen: BRAINSTORM Heat Waves

Download: “Maybe A Memory” via Rolling Stone

BRAINSTORM’s (all caps all the time) new album Heat Waves is out this week on Tender Loving Empire. Impose is running a full album stream and said, “There is never a dull moment on Heat Waves. From tuba blurts that will transplant you to Bourbon Street, to dancey rhythms that will have pushin’ up ya lightas, BRAINSTORM are the life of the party.” Additionally Rolling Stone has a free download of “Maybe A Memory” from Heat Waves. BRAINSTORM’s Adam Baz says, “”We just wanted to write something simple: a driving dance track with thick vocal harmonies and an explosive finale. Something irresistible and fun.” BRAINSTORM is currently on tour now and just announced a hometown CD release show schedule for December 1 at the Doug Fir. All shows are listed below.

Produced by the legendary Robby Moncrieff (engineer of the Dirty Projectors’ Bitte Orca, Youth Lagoon’s 7″, and Ganglians’ Still Living), Heat Waves shines with inescapable pop melodies, polyrhythmic singing, thunderous drumming, and shimmering guitar lines. With influences ranging from ecstatic African-highlife, to soulful AM-radio nostalgia, the result is a unique brand of art-pop that is energetic, eclectic, and undeniably engaging. There is something for everyone in this music, and something of everyone in it as well. BRAINSTORM was once described as “an eight-dollar smoothie of ecstatic art-rock, Sam Cooke, and African highlife.”

BRAINSTORM formed as a duo in the summer of 2008, when Adam Baz and Patrick Phillips met while playing with Ohioan & the Native Kin. Upon exchanging a series of mix tapes containing an array of their favorite music, the musical chemistry between the two became obvious, and the band was born. They have been sculpting and refining their sound as a duo for four years, and just recently added Tamara Barnes to the band, playing bass and singing. Now a trio, the band’s sound is full, fleshed-out, and ripe for the picking.

BRAINSTORM has been touring the country for three years, attracting attention from such tastemakers as NYLON Magazine, local publications Willamette Week, The Portland Mercury and online sites like Get Off the Coast. The band delivers a truly impressive live performance: guitar, drums, tuba, keyboard, and three-part harmonies are sewn masterfully together into a compelling brand of art-pop that BRAINSTORM can truly call its own.

Voted a Best New Band of 2011 by the Willamette Week, BRAINSTORM headlines some of Portland’s most raucous shows and tours nationally, sharing the stage with acts like Portugal The Man, Best Coast, Akron/Family, Tame Impala, The Thermals, Surfer Blood, Thee Oh Sees, and more. This past April, BRAINSTORM toured in France, and played in Paris along with fellow PDX accolades YACHT, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Nurses, AU, Miracles Club and Lovers.

Upcoming BRAINSTORM shows:

10.02 Chicago, IL @ The Burlington

10.03 Chattanooga, TN @ JJ’s Bohemia

10.05 Raleigh, NC @ King’s Barricade #

10.06 Greenville, NC @ Tipsy Teapot #

10.07 Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor ^

10.08 Roanoke, VA @ The Shelf House #

10.09 Charlottesville, VA @ Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar #

10.10 Washington, DC @ Black Cat #

10.11 Philadelphia, PA @ Goldilock’s Gallery #

10.12 Baltimore, MD @ Golden West Cafe #

10.13 Brooklyn, NY @ Shea Stadium #

10.14 Red Hook, NY @ Bard College

10.16 New York, NY @ CMJ

10.17 New York, NY @ CMJ

10.18 New York, NY @ Muchmores (CMJ Show)

10.19 New York, NY @ CMJ

10.20 Harrisburg, PA @ Little Amps

10.21 Bloomington, IN @ The Bishop w/ Sleeping Bag

10.22 Fayetteville, AR @ Nightbird Books

10.23 Denton, TX @ Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios

10.24 Austin, TX @ The Mohawk w/ Dignan Porch

10.25 Marfa, TX @ El Cosmico

10.26 Santa Fe, NM @ Betterday Coffee

10.27 Tucson, AZ @ Club Congress

10.28 San Diego CA @ Bar Eleven

10.29 Los Angeles, CA @ the Satellite

10.30 Santa Barbara, CA @ Muddy Waters

10.31 Fresno, CA @ Fulton 55

11.01 San Francisco, CA @ The Knockout

11.03 Sacramento, CA @ Bows and Arrows w/ Appetite

12.01 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir

# = with Dinosaur Feathers and Shark?

^ = with Dinosaur Feathers

Sky Ferreira premieres video + EP due 10/16 via Capitol Records

Today, Sky Ferreira shares the music video for “Everything is Embarassing”, which was co-wrote with Blood Orange and Ariel Rechtshaid. Previously, Pitchfork awarded “Everything is Embarassing” their “Best New Track” distinction. The track will appear on Sky’s much-anticipated Ghost EP, which is due October 16th via Capitol Records. For the EP, Sky has been working with a diverse group of producers and songwriters including Cass McCombs, Greg Kurstin (Santigold, The Shins, Foster The People), Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann), Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Charli XCX), and Blake Mills (Band of Horses).

Sky is also proud to announce a number of terrific CMJ performances, including a late-night set at our Life or Death showcase. We could not be more stoked to have her on the bill and we hope to see many of you there. Please check out all of the dates below.

CMJ Performances
October 17 (10pm) @ Union Hall
with Blondfire and Ghost Beach

October 18 (early, 8pm) @ Bowery Ballroom
with IO Echo, MS MR, MNDR, Deap Valley, and Gabriel Bruce

October 18 (late 11:30pm) @ the Neon Gold party at Santo’s Party House
with Icona Pop, Youngblood Hawke, Morning Parade, Pacific Air, Blondfire, Strange Talk and others

October 20 (daytime tbd) @ Bowery Presents party at Piano’s
with Foxygen, The Orwells, Savages, San Cisco, Born Ruffians, Blessed Feathers, and Little Green Cars

October 20 (12am) @ the Life or Death Party at 92Y Tribeca
with Poolside, Diiv, Merchandise, Twerps, Slug Guts, Maria Minerva, Kilo Kash, and Mac DeMarco

Sky Ferreira

Ghost

(Capitol Records)

October 16th, 2012

1. Sad Dream
2. Lost In My Bedroom
3. Ghost
4. Red Lips
5. Everything Is Embarrassing

Great Bloomers – Distant Fires album review

For better or worse, the (sometimes) inexplicable rise of performers like Drake, Justin Bieber and even Carly Rae Jepsen has thrust the Canadian music scene into the spotlight at last. And while these artists might be among the best-known Canucks in the business, I can’t help but feel that the tracks they put out have about as much Canadian essence as a bottle of Aunt Jemima’s syrup. When I think music of the Great White North, I think acts like Bryan Adams, Great Big Sea, The Tragically Hip — and, now, Toronto-based quintet Great Bloomers, whose sophomore release Distant Fires is pure maple sap through and through (at least, metaphorically).

Following in the tradition of their aforementioned predecessors, Great Bloomers makes excellent use of several tropes I have always associated with pure Canadiana. Things like boot-stomping energy, heavy guitars and a vibrant, full sound — reflecting definite influences of country and roots rock — are abound on Distant Fires. These elements are then tied together by lead singer Lowell Sostomi. His voice features that familiar quality that is reminiscent of colleagues like Alan Doyle and Gord Downie, and represents the newest in a long line of distinct voices that seems like they should always be singing about the wilderness above all else.

The album is not all high-energy fun, however. “In the Distance” is an unexpectedly mellow interlude in the first half of the album that really works — showcasing Sostomi’s voice at its finest and bringing the band to its roots. That being said, the complacent tone of the second half of the album soon gets old, and listeners will quickly find themselves yearning for the raucousness of the opening tracks. And for good reason, too — it is these tracks that keep them relevant. For while Sostomi’s voice is beautifully mature, there is still an element youthfulness (most evident in tracks like “I Wanna Die Young”) in their presentation that keeps them from being grouped prematurely with other Canadian bands as what you would expect your Dad to listen to. But if Great Bloomers plays their cards right, they definitely have the potential to land there happily in their own time.

MS MR – Candy Bar Creep Show EP review

If good things come in small packages, great songs come on short records. MS MR’s “Candy Bar Creep Show” EP delivers all the color, fullness and emotion that takes most bands twelve songs in just four effortlessly produced and executed tracks. From the first haunting intonations of an organ on “Bones” to the last echoes of the lead singer’s vocals on “Ash Tree Lane,” the EP shines as a gloriously fun, dramatic electropop record.

While their name suggests a duo, MS MR has a sound so full and complex they could be fifteen people for all I know. The band toes the line between creating beautifully layered music and a convoluted cacophony, thankfully straying to the former much of the time. The heavy organ, elegant violin and increasing number of overlapping vocals of “Bones” should muddy each other, but they surprisingly elevate each other into a piece that wouldn’t make sense without each separate contribution

But sometimes, MS MR just has too many ideas. “Dark Doo Wop” begins simply, with just resonant vocals and finger snapping. It quickly brings in thundering drums and keyboards, transitioning the song from light jazz to a booming ballad in the blink of an eye. While MS MR executes both genres beautifully, the disconnect between the two takes away from the overall impact of the song.

Thankfully for MS MR, their lead vocalist’s ethereal and versatile voice grounds each track, no matter the style, in a way that brings cohesion without seeming repetitive. “Dark Doo Wop” flows into the album’s closing track, “Ash Tree Lane,” a much more upbeat and folky tune, better than it should because of their common thread: the vocals. Good thing MS MR has a female singer whose raspy, powerful voice I could listen to all day.

The biggest problem with MS MR’s “Candy Bar Creep Show” EP? It’s way too short.

Dave Matthews Band – Away from the World album review

Dave Matthews Band has finally released another album, Away from the World, more importantly however they have finally released another album produced by Steve Lillywhite. The band collaborated with powerhouse producer Lillywhite on many of their albums throughout the 90s, which is quite a big deal for many diehard DMB fans. It’s a classic DMB album with plenty of violin and saxophone, basically just some great musical collaboration from the many contributors. Unfortunately I do have to say that while I am a fan and this is a great album, after giving the album some good play time none of the songs really jump out. If anything this album is great because it allows you to be nostalgic, while actually listening to some great new stuff. (Whether they admit it or not every university student from the late 90s to the early 2000s had a crush on this band.)

I often think it’s fun to imagine how history will look back on a bands career. I’m not sure we’ll ever really see another Beatles or Rolling Stones, but I do think that some bands will stand the test of time, be credited with carving out original music, and honoured for creating something truly special to which, I think Dave Matthews Band fits the bill. Unfortunately, history is also going to look back on the last 10-20 years of pop music and pronounce us all idiots for allowing such uncreative people/bands to exist in our midst, hopefully our invention/commercialization of the internet will help take some of the attention away from this. In the end there is not much to say other than that these guys are not done by a long shot. Sure this particular album may not be their best, but it does show promise, and it’s just fun to listen to.