Archive by Author

Brand New: Daisy

9 Aug

Daisy twists in a new, experimental direction for Brand New.

The band ventures into new territory with audio samples (the album begins and ends with what sounds like a vintage recording of a woman singing to piano accompaniment in perhaps the 1920s), trippy editing (“Be Gone”), banjo (“In a Jar”) and textbook grunge (“Bed”).

It’s wonderful to listen to a band that has established such a distinctive style playing with sound in a way that broadens their conceptual reach.

Title track “Daisy” begins with an audio sample of a preacher announcing a hymn, proceeding with lyrics repurposing biblical imagery into a message of despair rather than hope.


Brand New: The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me

9 Aug

This is the album in which, under smoother instrumental blending, Brand New’s mourning, longing, reflection and rage come together into one potent, cohesive response to, as the album’s title suggests, the clashing coexistence of evil and mercy in and around us all.

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me is one of the rare masterpieces that is the “no-skip” album, in which every track could stand alone as a brilliant piece of work.

While “Degausser” cathartically rips at me with what sounds like a children’s choir screaming along, “Jesus Christ” is my standout favourite track.

Brand New: Deja Entendu

6 Aug

DejaEntenduFrom Your Favourite Weapon (2001), Deja Entendu marks a running start onto the well-worn path towards an ever more mature and refined sound.

In their second album, Brand New is not only more diverse and dynamic, but more frequently lulls in the raw, aching, quiet places they are most known for.

“Tautou” and “Me vs. Maradona vs. Elvis” are songs to pick out and hold close, and “I Will Play My Game Beneath the Spin Light” stands out for its seamless blend of urgent acoustic intimacy and surging layered intensity.

Quite typically, though, my favorite track off this album – until now and for the foreseeable future – is “The Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot.”

Brand New: Your Favorite Weapon

5 Aug

your-favorite-weaponOppikoppi starts in two days, bringing with it a band that is very close to my heart despite how little time I have taken over the years to pointedly sit down and listen to them.

Brand New is unique for its ability to pinpoint complex emotions in a single line and highlight unnoticed pains and triumphs in one-sentence vignettes, which will jump out and jerk you down from the daydream the song was backing and stay painted at the back of your mind forever.

Listening to Brand New’s Your Favorite Weapon feels like sifting through a box of teenhood memorabilia you find in a cold, damp cranny at your parents’ house, and this time not cringing at the person you used to be, but, with a melancholy that is difficult to place, finding slivers of the perceptive reflection then suppressed by school and more facile friends, and startling fragments of the person you ended up becoming.

Your Favorite Weapon at a cursory listen sounds like the thrashy alternative music we listened to in high school, but a keener ear and a softer heart will find more complex sentiments threaded through the lyrics than adolescent misery and rebellion: the surfacing self-respect in “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad” and the tired exasperation in “Sudden Death in Carolina”, for example.

Debut album thought it is, Your Favorite Weapon contains some standout gems untouched by the then-amateur status of the band, most notably “Mix Tape”.

Yet the song that does not need sharp attention to thrust you into existential crisis is “Soco Amaretto Lime”: the wretched elegy to the thought that within our society’s restrictive framework, our closest experience to true happiness may well be those short months between high school and whatever comes afterwards: when, itching with the hope-fuelled drive towards self-actualisation, we are just old enough to experience independence, and so briefly young enough to be allowed to enjoy it.

Modest Mouse: Strangers To Ourselves

3 May

Strangers To Ourselves is a landmark album for Modest Mouse, and the most recent pinnacle in what has so far been an all-up trajectory.

After 21 years (the band having formed in 1993), Modest Mouse’s sound continues to diversify, Strangers To Ourselves housing moments both softer (“Strangers To Ourselves”; “Coyotes”) and wilder (“Pistol”; “Sugar Boats”) than ever before.

While this is one of those rare albums on which every song is notable in and of itself, “Ansel” is a gut-twisting standout.

Housed in a calmly melancholic melody combined with upbeat, driving percussion, the song reflects on the death of lead singer Isaac Brock’s brother in a hiking accident, noting resignedly that

You can’t know
You can’t ever really know
Would you really want to know
How the hell would you know
The last time that you ever see another soul

“Ansel” encapsulates the album in its diversity: not angered, joyous or grieving, but defeated as it reflects on our surroundings.

Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

2 May

We were dead before the ship even sankWith We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse crafts a larger, grander sound with less complicated melodies and more prominent instrumental parts, like the brass in “Dashboard” and the accordion in “March Into The Sea”.

Although the band continues to more readily show off its poignant, vulnerable underbelly with songs like “Fire It Up”, “Missed The Boat” and “Little Motel”, songs like “March Into The Sea” and “Parting of the Sensory” make it clear that their original, complexly layered, cacophonous and shouty sound is here to stay.

Constantly reaching greater heights – Isaac Brock’s vocals in “Education” are worth mentioning – Modest Mouse is nonetheless unpretentious in staying true to who they were at the very beginning.

Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News

29 Apr

good-news-for-people-who-love-bad-news-5009b3d7d4757 (1)From Good News For People Who Love Bad News emerge some of Modest Mouse’s most-loved classics – such as “Float On” and “The Good Times Are Killing Me” – and it’s no question why: the 2004 album is a turning point for the band in terms of coherence and listenability.

Good News For People Who Love Bad News is less a tornado of fragments of relatable torment and more a diverse whole, cathartic and poignant.

The tracks are more well-rounded and cohesive and in many instances (particularly the transition between “The World At Large” and “Float On”), and the band weaves together their seemingly ever-increasing variety of instruments with a new mastery.

In tracks like “Float On”, “Bury Me with It”, “The View” and “Black Cadillac”, Modest Mouse becomes what many of us love them as today: the feel-good band you can cheer yourself up with without lying to yourself:

As life gets longer, awful feels softer.
Well, it feels pretty soft to me.
And if it takes shit to make bliss,
then I feel pretty blissfully.
– “The View”


Listing stand-out tracks would mean rattling off almost the entire album, so I’ll just close by saying “The World at Large” is currently my favourite song from the entire discography.