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Efrim Manuel Menuck – Plays “High Gospel” review

If a picture tells us a thousand words, than a song must equal just as much, if not more. In Plays “High Gospel” Efrim Manuel Menuck, also known as the leader of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion, attempts to express the inexpressible, using sounds to convey the words, that convey the emotion, that convey life’s experience, that remains so very mysterious and miraculous to us.

The matter of the album takes on bleeds of dying guitars, lo-fi vibrations, droning vocals, and electronic synths. Altogether these mesh to form a largely instrumental album thats hardly pronounced, but rather muffled, mystifying, and ambiguous. The melodies sweep the listener with a certain kind of feeling, a sadness, a fear, a heartbreak; the memories that each title implies suggest the roots of these strong sounds of emotion.

The album ender for example is entitled “I am no longer a motherless child” suggesting a kind of hard-one epiphany, or a final rite of passage after a long emotion journey. Perhaps these titles represent for Efrim those experiences we often look back on that define us, the childhood dreams, life-or-death dilemmas, the role models, the relationships, or those inexplicable recalls – those random events tucked away, like that day you saw an orange on the table, or that night you looked up at the sky and realized for the first time how beautiful it was.

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Painted Palms – Canopy EP review

The summer is drawing to a close, but before it ends, draw out your towels and set up for those final summer tans and sand party raves. Painted Palms in their EP ‘Canopy’ provides the perfect play station for this last summer scene. Yet another electronic experiment put into motion, the band Painted Palms fills our ears with the sound of lush low-fi, with enough chillwaves too fill an ocean of thoughts.

The sound of surf crashing, the echos of distant sea birds, the pops of bathroom time bubbles, and a whimsical clapping punctuate the first three songs “All of Us”, “Canopy”, and “Falling Asleep”. Qualities that give the songs an electric-pop feel, perhaps for some light dancing around a sand castle. The last two songs progress further into a smoother listening zone, filled with softer tones, smoother drops, and dreamier vocals. As a whole the whole piece does a great job giving its impression of the last big breath of stress-free relaxation, our last luxurious kill-time at the beach, our moments gathered to remember this summer, to be recalled again and again so to keep us waiting for the next summers return, as the lines of the first track “All of Us” swell: “Back to the ocean, back to the ocean again…”

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How To Dress Well – Just Once EP review

The newly released EP from How To Dress Well, Just Once, begins with the whimsical cries and quiet drum beats in ‘Decisions’ as if a march was about to begin down the streets of some dream world in the clouds. ‘Suicide Dream’ follows close behind but dives into a whole new texture, not marching but floating. Picture a bittersweet symphony, the calm before the storm, emerging from the waters, a goddess doomed to gang, a forest in flames.

The songs are crafted with sweetly delicate swells of orchestral strings and reverberating coo’s, the vocals seem to echo with a mysterious grace over some unseen landscape. Sounding almost like a ghost who was brought back to sing its song between the craters of violins and cellos. An excellent EP.

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Biosphere – N-Plants album review

Geir Jenssen uses science fiction as a source of inspiration for his music behind the recording name Biosphere. But the lines separating fiction from non-fiction are being freakishly blended in his newest release N-Plants. Besides the fact that it sounds like it could be the soundtrack for the Twilight Zone, N-Plants comes close to predicting the future. Produced in early February it was inspired by Japanese nuclear power plants – architecture, design, and location. Questioning, at same time, the potential danger of them, seeing that they were so close to the shores that had been swept by tsunamis in the past.

About a month later at finding ourselves bombarded with news headlines about the epic toll of disaster Japan has taken on due to the tsunami along with its nuclear damage repercussions we can’t help but wonder if some otherworldly source lay behind the inspiration of this album.

N-Plants sounds like a doomsday journey, creating scenes of ambiance, conflict, and resolution. Adding and stripping layers between songs, each sounding like its own chapter in thriller/horror/science fiction novel. You can hear the gentle wails of a siren alarming a nuclear breach, so soft and soothing, yet behind them you get the sense of danger camouflaged. Like in “Shika” and “Ikata”, which both echo cooly with drum machine taps and feather light synths. “Joyo” on the other hand sounds like a boss battle anthem. In this way the songs jump with different characteristics like a dark collection of play acts, sometimes completely mellow, sometimes with a pinch of upbeat bounces, two songs contain an ominous voice recording of a man and woman speaking in Japanese.

Together everything blends to create a story of impending danger, a danger we’ve all come to realize.

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press releases reviews

Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital album review

This marital match-made in grunge rock heaven: Dan Boeckner and Alexei Perry together make up Handsome Furs. Their latest release, Sound Kapital, delivers a set of tracks that differs from whats been known by the fans – adoring the trade mark howls of the lead vocal, layered with grungy guitar strums. This album definitely demonstrates a new course in their talents. Replacing their set of strings with a full dose of synths and electronic keyboards and incorporating a much darker, industrial, electro-pop, more so thats been seen in their past works.

“Damage” ricks and rocks in a haunting chrous echo suggesting that things are breaking down further with time. The dark, destructive air continues to hang over the next track “Bury me standing” and holds till a slight shift in “Memories of the Future” where lyrics are about looking forward to whats to come, “I throw my hands to the sky/ I left my memories go…”.

The rest of the album follows with the message of whats gotten them so riled up – suppression, a bit political, the strip of our able-bodied first amendment, right to speech (See “Serve the people” and “What about us”).

Sound Kapital shows progress and distinction, helping to define the Handsome Furs with husband, Boeckner’s often comparable band, Wolf Parade. Handsome Fur fans may not be thrilled, but for those willing to give this rebellion riling, heavy-duty construction of pop a shot, these tracks are well worth the time, given their message and complexity.

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Ty Segall – Goodbye Bread album review

Ty Segall is another garage-rock California punk who just released his first full-length release Goodbye Bread. Once a member of The Traditional Fools, Epsilons, Party Fowl, Sic Alps, and The Perverts, he has taken his recording career solo and has displayed much potential in his stand out sphere.

Well, what more do I have to say other than ‘California garage punk’ in order to give an understanding of this guy’s sound? I’ve never been to the coast, but I can get a pretty clear picture of it now; grainy beaches, some lazy looking sky, bikinis, mexican ice cream men, and everyone’s hopped up on some new pop rock or slug acid – am I right? No?

Segall makes his case against stereotypes, however, by compiling tracks that don’t just stagnantly glaze over but charge forward – fully and back again. The track “The Floor” for example charges in with a rustic guitar string tune and backdrop drum bang blower, but it slows back down with Segalls voice, with his characteristic wash-out drool. The song uses this tide riding energy that holds the whole album. At once smooth and steady like in it’s opening “Goodbye Banger”, its also impassioned with a raw energy that can be as dark as a suicide note or as light as an afternoon jam-session.

Indeed one quality I love about this album is how approachable it can be at times. There is more understanding in his lyrics and melodies than in his past works, while his initial spirit of washy, wavy, slobbers of sounds are still intact, this album displays more clarity akin to classic rock and roll artists.

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Arrange – Plantation album review

Have you ever heard of those people who wake up one day to find out that they’ve lived their entire lives without living? It’s amazing how some people can go about their life without ever really feeling joy, sadness, or pain. In “Plantation” the tracks are so powerfully charged with the subtle graces of adolescent anxiety that I feel them too, so much so that a tear drop fell at the corner of my eye as I listened to the albums single “When’d You Find Me?” which brings be back to all those times of me feeling sorry for myself, wondering about life’s purpose and etc.

Arrange is the music project by South Floridia’s Malcom Lacey. Coming from several previous EP releases since last June, Arrange isn’t coming into the music scene loud or boastful, and while remaining powerful, his sound is subtle, breaking in along a chill-wave, piano feathered shore. Dark in some places but never pitch black, Lacey lets out a good cry instead of a bawl out as he lets out his feelings of pain and loss.

Ah, the battle that is our adolescent ego. By letting us in, Lacey takes the risk that comes with putting out your emotions, naked, for everyone too see, and likewise gain’s much growth and personal insight by letting those emotions ride through him. As the audience we are swept up into our own feelings as we hear our thoughts sung out by the delicate croons of Lacey’s voice.

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Hospital Ships- Lonely Twin album review

It’s summertime and the living is about to get easier with the quiet porch and soda pop sounds of Hospital Ship’s new album, Lonely Twin. Reminding me of a Death Cab For Cutie mixed with sugary sweetness and heavy electronic tinkering’s, the album is an easy listen for wash-out, indie-pop fans. Their sound is comfy and dream-like, as if you were watching old home-videos through an antique projector.

Lonely Twin begins catchy with “Love or Death” and “Honey Please” but quickly enters a more atmospherical smoothness with “Birds in Furs” and “Galaxies”, laced with the lovely coo’s of the lead vocal. But its not all smiles and sunshine with Hospital Ship. While sounding cheerful the album trends on darker lyrical themes, take one of the album’s best, “Galaxies” and hear references to black balloons, dark caves, and the bottom of the world – fun times.

Towards the end of the album tracks seem to flow on a slower pace and with an increase in low-fi quality sounds. In “Reprise” and “Little Dead Leaf” things are taken to a deeper experimental level with bigger washes and eerie robotic sound effects). The album returns to the soothing vocals that command the whole album in “New Life” that close it with lacy simplicity, a harmonizing piano chorus, and relaxing tech edits.

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The Reatards – Teenage Hate re-issue album review

I’ll be honest, before listening to the 1998 re-issue of The Reatard’s debut Teenage Hate, I had never heard of Jay Retard, who is front man and main rocker of the band, much less of his recent passing in 2010 (which was investigated as homicide case). In fact my ears are best kept away from the fury that boils in pimples of suburban teenagers. None the less, this Memphis punker had quite the career, signing at the tender age of fifteen and hitting his first tour abroad at eighteen. And from the very beginning his don’t-give-a-fuck mind combined with his highly aggressive attitude made itself clear in his first LP. The full-length release of Teenage Hate, which was previously only available on cassette, includes bonus tracks from Fuck Elvis Here’s the Reatard’s.

The album opens with “I’m So Gone” which Jay rages into the mike like a wild tribal chant of escape. I can barely make out anything that the guy says (and when I try googling lyrics to these tracks I’m comforted with the realization that barely anyone else can). Later into the album, I realize that what I’m hearing is real. These noisy blasts and fuzzy explosions cast me out into an angry haze of muffled understanding – lost in the noise of his emotions. All through the album the haze never lets up, in tracks like “C’mon Over”, “Fashion Victim”, and “I Can Live Without You” you wonder where the guy finds the chance to breathe.

Jay was infamous for his stubborn, uncontrollable temper and violent stage shows (See Youtube’s: ‘Jay Reatard kicks a dude in the face in Vegas, or ‘Jay Reatard throws girl off stage’). Indeed his songs (“When I Get Mad”) speak, or rather, scream for themselves. He was proud of the music he made and didn’t give a damn about what other people thought. Songs like “It Ain’t Me”, “Not Good Enough For You”, and “I Can Live Without You” hold the same tone of screw-you indifference when it came to his love life.

Each track sounds like someone took an analog recorder and forced it to re-live the psychological trauma of abusive parenting, 3rd world dictators, and high-school drama, in that order, then it went and let it graduate senior year only to corner it in a back alley and beat it with a baseball bat. What’s left over are pieces of washed out, raw-energy, with textures of guitars, vocals, and keyboards that work together to form a whole, mutilated beast. After listening through it I can’t say I’ve reached an understanding with The Reatard’s, nor can I see myself seeking out anything similar for my Recently Added playlist in iTunes, I guess I can say I have found a new appreciaton for this punk music for what it was, as being the flooding release to the life throbbing, so close to bursting, in the veins of these struggling, hot-bloodied artists.

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press releases reviews

Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr – It’s A Corporate World album review

Stripping out of logo embedded race-car suits, It’s A Corporate Worlddoesn’t necessarily mean ‘business’. In fact, much like a double alias the name Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. serves as measure against the music it stands for. Leaving behind the intensity of the NASCAR noise and gaudy label branding, a light gush of electro pop rides through on cruise control.

The album begins with the gentle eye-rubber “Morning Thought”which assumes the implied wake-up into a slow, happy-go-lucky kind of day. The rest of the album follows in the same light, moving through waves of on-beat sonic synths. It’s curves are smooth, the melodies are charming.

The catchiness of some tracks seems to waiver on songs like“When I open my eyes”, where a delicate piano rhythm is dosed with one too many off elements. Same goes for the track “Vocal Chords”with its plenty of harmonized vocal lines. The catchy hooks loose slack by the irks of extraneous production, like a compound of one too many sugary sounds that can’t be swallowed whole.

A cutesy nature runs through the whole album even while some dark ness in songs like “Skeleton” and “The Fisherman”, with lyrical references to the underworld, flutter despite. Colorful melodies are stacked to create a world where fears are lulled and dreams are cuddled instead.

What started out as a recording, sound writing project has turned the duo into yet another basement bred, indie-pop production. The complexity of the album may come off strong, perhaps too strong, but its intention are light. In similar contrast the album’s message against the rise of modern corporations and business chain society, albeit a bold topic, is approached with a tongue-in-cheek mildness. Their quirky character jabs coupled with their gentle sounds mix to form a debut that shows sweet potential.