Laura Marling – A Creature I Don’t Know review

If you’re a female with a guitar who’s trying to write a couple songs and verses, then take note of Laura Marling’s latest, the interesting and intricate A Creature I Don’t Know.

First of all, before I can even get into the music, the vivified album art stands out with bold lines and erotic, captivating forms twisted up in an inky dance.

The Lilith-like lady at an impressive twenty years of age, is already two albums in, and this chaotically beautiful one is her third. The depth and experience that weaves through the convicted lyrics is completely inspiring and should be the fire beneath the feet of anyone who’s on the musical path.

Finally there’s that voice, pure and old with soul. This is not the voice of some conditioned pop-tart; this is a poet in her prime, charging with a style and a uniqueness that is solely her own.

What else can I say here…just put this album on. That’s it.

Yob – Atma review

Brace yourself for this one.

I don’t know if my little hippie brain can take this on. So I guess that’s a compliment for doom-metal band hailing from Eugene, Oregon, called Yob.

This is far from their first EP. Yob have been around for over a decade actually, making five albums before Atma and touring like fiends all over the States.

Let’s see here…Atma. This EP five song EP, well, it’s nothing I would personally seek out. I’m not much of a metal-head myself, but this isn’t about my own personal tastes, this is about some tight music, and I would say that Yob brings that pretty decently.

The first track on Atma goes into this hellishly long drawn out red and black guitar noise before Mike Scheidt brings in these vocals that start out with surprising subtlety before busting out the signature metal growls, long streams of gruff held notes. You gotta give the man credit. I sure as hell can’t sing like that. There are also some really cool percussion breakdowns in here that add a bit of interest and changes in the time signatures that at least make it alright.

But I have to say here, that while I am not well versed in every doom-metal, death-metal, thrash-core, hardcore, death-core, whatever the fuck, post-partum trash metal, I have heard enough that I know when shit’s just wallpaper.

On Atma, you can really pick out some respectable talent. These guys aren’t amateur players. The title track is pretty epic, but in all honesty, it does kind of sound like background music. It’s not holding my interest with anything so amazingly new and never-been-done-before wildness that suddenly I’m going, “Holy shit, I should have been listening to doom-music this whole time!”

The title track is pretty cool though, and Scheidt shows off some impressive vocal range and these songs musically fit together well.

It’s just that the whole thing reminds me of getting my first tattoo; I went into this seedy little shop and the guy, Mark, had the typical metal-head pube beard and he was blaring Motorhead and then started feeding mice to his snake.

There’s nothing here that’s really fascinating enough to convert me .

Tripper – Hella review

Blissed out hippies beware. Tripper isn’t for you if you’re into lying in the tie-dyed grass, closing your eyes and listening to quiet, breath-like atmospheric shit. But, you know, you could very well like lying in the silent grass and still dig this if you’re a musically diverse person who appreciates many different ways of approaching style and sound and so in that case, MDMA dancers, ditzy junkies, shallow flamers and hard addicts of Peter Paul and Mary, all are welcome here in this noise.

Headless is the first track from this Sacramento band made up primarily of Spencer Seim on strings and Zach Hill on drums. The song sounds like an orchestra trying to tune up in the middle of an airplane crash while burning cats on surfboards ride into telephone poles. Or something. To give a less retarded description, it’s just a hugely mathy blend of mad guitar throw-downs and insane, bashing percussive explosions; the whole thing rises and falls like manic, electric waves.

Yubacore is one track that has these satisfying pockets and sweet spots of great little guitar licks and bass hooks.

Interestingly enough (and after listening to Tripper, not surprising either) Seim and Hill are right in the thick of things with Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, being members of El Groupo Omar Rogriguez-Lopez. You can hear why Lopez would wanna jam with these guys; through the intensity of Hella’s multi-layered noise bristling with lunacy, there are layers of fine-tuned beauty and a wild, virtuosic feel to their plunging. Netgear showcases this brilliantly.

Kid Life Crisis is a fucking blast to listen to; it’s absolutely fun as hell and the guitar takes you all over the place, brightly, in this grinding, child-like thrashing way. Listening to this as I type this. This is fucking great, god there are some sweet parts in here.

And now I at least have to write about Further, because it’s definitely my favorite on here. Somehow these fools manage to mangle this 60’s style acoustic weirdness into something so aflame and crazy, that it’s a total experience to listen to, which is personally my favorite kind of music, the stuff of experiences.

Okay, so anyway, this is their fifth studio album and while unquiet stuff like this could come across as an unruly headache, you can tell that Hella has put the work in here; it’s structured with an intricate attentiveness to detail that is kind of daunting to the 3-chord-Gord’s of this world.

If you’re looking for an album that holds the same essence of sound that musical mad scientists Mars Volta has shown, then Hella brings it hard, and in their own real way.

Blood Orange – Coastal Grooves review

Okay, let’s see how many descriptions we can list here for Blood Orange’s LP, Coastal Grooves:

Faye Coulman of Sandman says they’re a “Goth-tinged melodic rock act.”

Joshua Love of Pitchfork (god bless those hip, slick sheep of trend-creating) says vocalist Dev Hynes “remains appealingly florid throughout.” (Whatever the fuck that means.)

Me, I say smoke a joint and put on the music and let it speak for itself.

But since I actually have to review this album and describe it myself, I’ll say this:

First track, Forget It, is a great way to open an LP of this style. There’s some really dope guitar in there, crunchy and sprawling with a wailing skinny way about it, but the breezy touches keep it light-spirited.

There’s nothing fucking gothic in here at all Coulman; it’s melodic and poignant and reminiscent of a wistful, child-like Spacemen 3. However, she does rightly say that they’re pleasing to the ear, and Blood Orange is definitely that.

Sutphin Boulevard has these drowsy Asian instrumental bits and pieces mixed in amongst velvet lucid jams and a solid bass line.

Can We Go Outside has manic fluttering keys and hyper vocals; his voice calls to mind Empire of the Sun and follows the track up with Can we go inside now, which is creating this story vibe, parts and narratives woven in and out of this sandy desert guitar and an eerie futuristic fairy-tale feel.

And then Coastal Grooves just continues on with more intriguing grooves; it has a relaxed movability to it and brings complete ear-pleasure to hear, especially on tracks like Scooled.

LP’s like this are fun to review because they actually make you want to try and describe something like this. Check out Complete Failure for further proof of that.

I’ll let you get pulled in from here and then you can go onto describe this with whatever creative adjectives come into your head; in the end, you just have an LP that’s a refreshing new offering in the music world.

Library Voices – Summer of Lust review 

Being described as “cute and catchy”  (as described by alternative weekly, Now) might be insulting to mature, multi-faceted, virtuoso musicians with transcendent, beautifully fractaled, mind-fuck stylings.

Enter Library Voices. With their new album, Summer Lust we have something very cute and catchy.

Me, I don’t really enjoy cute.

But you, if you like really obvious, teenage lyrics layered over boppy, eighties-synthed out little pop ditties that sound sort of like George Michael doing recreational Ritalin, then have a gander at the track called, “If Raymond Carver were born in the ‘90’s.” This sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or some shit.

Now, when they say this is “indie rock,” do they mean Independent music, like the Smiths or Gwar, or do they mean “indie” like in that grandfather-sweater, fake glasses sort of way? Probably the latter.

Generation Handclap is kind of fun, musically, in this Beach Boys-without-balls sort of way. And if the Beach Boys have balls, well, that’ll give you an idea of what you’re getting into here.

But the track Reluctant Readers Make Reluctant Lovers is kind of cool, with this drumbeat that sounds like the one they used in The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkle. There’s some nice melodic harmonies on the chorus, if they could just ditch that synth in the background. It sounds like a child-sized Keytar or a recorder.

It’s so precious, but all these terrible 80’s synths…it’s just annoying. Some people eat this shit for breakfast, lunch and dinner though, so if you can’t get enough of those shooting-star synths misting over Ringo-Star perky drums and little-man vocals with tragic, self-pitying lyrics about his small-city college-time dalliances, then you’ll wet yourself.

Traveler’s Digest is the cream of the crop; they even throw in some real 1986 saxophone and someone is seriously blowing a load on a Casio keyboard here.

The Prime Minister’s Daughter is kind of funny; does Stephen Harper even have a daughter though? Oh, Canada. At least MY home city doesn’t rhyme with Vagina. Poor Library Voices. I would have said I was from somewhere else.

Surgeon – Breaking the Frame review

It’s impressive and respectable to see artists putting out albums under their own record labels and doing so successfully. That artists can have that kind of musical independence is hopeful. (Counterbalance and Dynamic Tension are the labels that belong to Surgeon, and he’s released nine EP’s under the former and ten under the latter).

Anyway, so this full-length LP, called Breaking the Frame was released under Dynamic Tension. Online magazine FACT wondered if not releasing anything but 2 EP’s in the last five years would have “damaged his flow.” Not being too familiar with Surgeon’s “flow” myself, I’ll just review this album and then you can all think for yourselves.

The first track, Dark Matter, is less than a minute of eerie soundscapes, like an urban city asleep. Then it breaks into the “techno”. I’m not a big fan of European techno, (I guess because I’m a chilled-back pot smoker from Canada) but nevertheless you have to appreciate artists who do new things; Surgeon (Anthony Child) was one of the very first DJ’s to start using Ableton Live and Final Scratch during his sets. And this doesn’t sound like some E-Tard techno dance party, either.

All personal preference aside, Breaking the Frame has a lot of groove to it. Sometimes album art describes the music accurately; this is the case here. Dig the album art; it’s an insane mash-up of intricate pieces but smoothed softly together with mellow, warm colors. Songs like Transparent Radiation are solid; there’s techno traces filtering down through these ethereal sound particles and mad beats.

This is atmospheric, enveloping and there’s a softness here. No sharp edges or ugly headaches of points and jerks. It sounds like stars and space, and Surgeon sounds confident and sure in his music. There’s no faltering, only a solid LP of good sounds. (That makes perfect sense; he has the experience.)

Viva Brother – Famous First Words review

Well, well, well. Look who is back with a full length LP. It’s Brother! (Only now they’ve changed their name to Viva Brother.) I had the absolute privilege to interview these geniuses before, when they dropped a couple of songs on us earlier this year and now they’re showing us all how it’s done with this ten-song album.

It’s early morning and I have a fucking migraine. This loud, obnoxious pop album is like an ice-pick to the eyeball. It reminds me of all those pop outfits from the mid to late 90’s that were emerging from the UK and have thankfully perished.

They’ve called their album Famous First Words and it dropped in Canada on August 2nd. Well, I remember some famous first words they told NME back in April, that they were the future of music. Bold words. Too bad their music doesn’t pack the powerful punch that their prophecies did.

The first track, New Years Day, starts off with this enigmatic honkey-tonk guitar and then breaks into probably one of the most irritating vocal choruses I’ve ever heard since Chumba Wumba. Yeah, remember them? Oh god, this song is painful.

The highlight of this album is probably High Street Low Lives. The lyrics say, “Life’s too short, I’m too high, and nobody’s getting out alive.” I’m pretty sure I’ve heard that somewhere before… At least the guitar licks in there are kind of cool, a touch of old-school rock, catchy, doesn’t sound as Oasis-pop-nightmare are their other shit.

But Jesus Christ…NME says that this is “the return of the great British guitar band.” What the fuck! Why has our mainstream rock critics seemed to have reduced their musical intelligence to the level of tasteless, deaf, sea-cucumbers? You know who was a GREAT British Guitar band? The fucking Beatles. And BROTHER has in no fucking way brought back the great British guitar band. That’s so appallingly implausible; all you have to do is put on this album and hear it for yourself. But honestly, I would just recommend listening to something else.

Oh, and it looks like they’re still not headlining Glastonbury yet.

(Just because you put the word viva in front of your name doesn’t mean that you’re incurring any more life into the band. You’d have to make better music to that. Sorry boys.)

They Might Be Giants – Join Us EP review

They Might Be Giants. Or they might be the unwanted bastard of the Barenaked Ladies, Flaming Lips and the Moldy Peaches. Brooklyn-based members John Linnell and John Flansburgh dropped this little 4 song EP (entitled Join Us) on July 19th.

To hear that a band like this has found success in children’s music is completely non-shocking. As I turned on the last track of the EP, entitled Cloisonné, my boyfriend in the other room shouted, “Sounds like a pedophile.”

The fact that the intro sounds fairly similar to the Flaming Lips’ Do You Realize, is probably the only part I liked about this one. All I did was quickly turn on the Flaming Lips to purge the sound of that skin-crawling vocalist out of my earholes.

They Might be Giant’s biggest claim to fame was probably the Malcolm in the Middle theme song, although somehow the band has managed to sell over 4 million records and their kids’ album Here Comes The ABC’s actually went gold. (Probably because they sold 4 million copies).

Apparently their next project, announced in November, is going to be an album done by their sock puppets that they use during their shows and call “The Avatars of They.”

Hopefully I’m dead before they make me review that one.

The Asteroids – The Golden Age EP review

Alright! Now this (‘this’ being The Golden Age, an EP from Copenhagen band, Asteroids) is pretty fresh. You know you’ve made it as a pop band in 2011 when your music is being used by Ipod and that TV show, Gossip Girl (which seems to be one huge glutton for gathering up as many blitzy current pop jams as can fit into their teenage-televised hands).

The first song, same name as the EP, is a tight, poppy rock-out with blistering horns and this syrupy European female vocalist. (Mette Lindburg)

The second, Fantasy Friend, reminds me of that one song (does anyone remember “Stop” by the Spicegirls?) with a mixture of some uppers-riddled disco fever madness thrown into a concrete wall of sharp, in-your-fucking-face pop.

Of course, Asteroids makes the typical 2011 claim of being a “psychedelic pop” band but they also say they’re acid jazz, and on tracks like Runner, that wild true jazz bleeds through, as well as busy, yes, maybe even psychedelic, piano tricklings running rampant in the background.

Ironically enough, it was the recently deceased Amy Winehouse who asked Asteroids to open for her when she was playing in Copenhagen, which lead to their recognition. (Asteroids have also unfortunately opened for Katy Perry.)

The Golden Age EP is their 5th; Fruit was their only LP, released in 2009. Maybe it’s for the best they keep it short and sweet. Their vocalist kind of reminds me of a cat in pain and is either compelling or just plain irritating. (The proof is in One giant freak for mankind.) Ouch.

hue – Starting Fires review

You ever notice how all this “modern melodic pop” has the same sound these days? The overly-chipper layered vocals, the paint-by-numbers chorus and verse…That’s precisely what’s going on here in hue’s eleven track LP, Starting Fires, produced by Mike Tompkins, who apparently garners his fame from Youtube. So he has something in common with Justin Beiber.

In the first song, entitled You will be, it’s all trite lyrics about trying to fly and broken wings…

Hue , (sorry, “hue”) is a Canadian band, Ontario specifically, and there’s a couple of siblings in there, Danny Paton Jr. and his sister Jessica, (he’s the singer/songwriter and his sis is on voice and keys), Darcy Finck on the guitar, Andrew Jones has the bass and Andy Schmidt’s on drums.

2nd track starts out pretty with a nice keys intro; I’m assuming Jessica’s responsible for that; she also throws down some good harmonies throughout the album. Tracks like Follow and Try stand out harmonically.

But blandness and monotony are the monster personalities on this product here. There’s no raging fearlessness or untread ground.

Yet it’s the instrumentals that really are the strongest focal point here; Changes to my Mind, has a bright upbeat rhythmic guitar running solidly throughout and some nice vocal melodies. This track is nice. And The New Beat describes them as “5 of the nicest individuals we’ve ever met.” Well isn’t that nice.

Is there any more room for lukewarm, unthreatening, unchallenging pop music though?

The title track itself is surprisingly disappointing. ( If you like that cute, country yee-haw pop bar stuff, then you’ll eat this shit up, however.) It sounds almost like modern Death Cab, and they’ve kind of lost their touch at this point…

Maybe it’s the generic lyrics… It’s something I can’t really put my finger on here. They may be nice individuals coming from a place of musical integrity, but if you’re looking for something fresh, invigorating and throught-provoking, you will not find it here, unfortunately.

This reviewer would certainly give hue a second chance if they come out with anything else, but Starting Fires is definitely not anything that makes me burn with excitement or new inspirations.