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Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends album review

Multi-hued is the adjective that best describe Portugal the Man’s Evil Fiends, the Portland based band’s ninth offering.

Produced by Danger Mouse, Evil Friends travels down many roads musically. Percussive bombast, flowery sing-song-y melodies, psychedelic guitar squalor and electronic keyboard elements all meld into one groovy whole.

While all of these elements do meld into a singular sound, it does not result in cohesiveness. While Evil is the band’s most accessible release yet (one can imagine tracks like “Creep in a T-Shirt” and the acidic “Hip Hop Kids” blaring during an especially dramatic scene of a VH1 reality show or in a hipper-than-thou jeans commercial), it may not be their most consistent.

Danger Mouse’s rhythmic nature—best known for the Grammy-winning, critic-loving, multiplatinum magic bestowed upon the likes of Gnarls Barkley, Beck and the Black Keys—aids a new kick to Portugal The Man’s sound, for sure. Yet, the almost R&B sheen added on the aforementioned “Creep” or the nearly funky swing added to the day glo groove of “Purple Yellow Red and Blue” almost clash with the band’s lyrical ambition. At times, Evil comes across as a Danger Mouse project featuring Portugal. The Man than the opposite.

Evil Friends is not a bad album, by any means. Danger Mouse adds a new layer of rhythm and production pizazz to P.TM’s sound while the band aims for accessibility while retaining their musical essence. It’s just too bad that both of these two new pluses don’t equal a cohesive album.

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Paper Pistols – Deliver Us From Chemicals album review

Paper Pistols, the Sacramento, CA based duo of self-proclaimed “sound wizard” and drummer Ira Skinner and vocalist/songwriter Juliana Lydell, deliver a sound that perfectly befits their name on their debut, Deliver Us From Chemicals. It is a sound that is as light as a piece of a paper but often hits hard like a bullet from a pistol. In fact, the duo brands their sound as “filthy”.

Vocally, Lydell’s perfectly acrobatic vocals anchor the hard percussion on the disc’s tracks in a way that evokes a more earthbound Bjork. Musically, the sound on Chemicals settles into a downtempo beat-driven style that similarly recalls the trip-hop soundscapes that characterized the most famous work of Iceland’s finest. Yet, the barb-wired guitar accents and crunchy synths add a slightly more sinister, rock-ish edge. This juxtaposition makes for an appealingly genre-bending sound.

Lyrically, Chemicals brims with a pointed yet poetic sense of angst, disillusionment and self-realization. This is best exemplified by standout “Applied Silence”, when Lydell pleads “Before you get it down on a page/step right out of the story book, please” over Skinner’s backdrop of double time drums, pitched down industrial squeals and moody guitar and bass changes.

Deliver Us From Chemicals is a promising beginning chapter for a band that aims to create a sound that’ll lift you up from the ground–like a piece of paper blowing in the air—only to hit you hard while you’re stuck in your tracks—like a pistol.

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Lullatone – Summer Songs EP review

When one envisions summer, images of sunny skies, humid air, sandy beaches, and blue skies usually enter their mind. Lullatone’s Summer Songs, presents an aural representation of these well-worn images. With their latest EP, the Japanese duo of American expatriate Shawn James Seymour and native Yoshimi Tomida (who call their music “pajama pop”) helm a whimsical release that beams with the fun, carelessness, and sense of reckless abandon that summer brings.

Summer Songs features an intricate but laid-back and global assortment of musical influences—rockabilly ease, surf guitars, bossa nova grace, Francophone element, Japanese sing-song, lo-fi found sound—that gels into a cohesive and singular sound. The sound of ukulele, gentle hand claps, melodic recorders, sweetly strummed guitar chords and even toy instruments color the EP’s eight, brief tracks. While Summer is mostly an instrumental affair, Tomida’s girlish vocals and Seymour’s almost-deadpan speak-croon contrast nicely on the doo-wop harmonies of the gently swirling “Splitting a Banana Split”, the lone vocal number. “Split’s” lyrics which dreamily rhapsodize the prefer of a cool banana split over a rocket-shaped popsicle as an ice-laden treat while pondering it’s nutritional content may sum up Lullatone’s vibe best. They aim to make music that not only cheek-pinching-ly cute but be cute with finesse.

While Summer Songs isn’t revelatory –nor should it be—it’s the perfect little soundtrack to various small-detailed vignettes of the season like enjoying the wind blowing on your face while riding in the passenger seat during a road trip or carelessly skipping down the road. This isn’t music to crank out loud and thrash your head to. Summer Songs is music designed to be played so that it can radiate down on you like the sun in the sky.