Tag Archives: indie music

Throwback Review: Foals’ Antidotes

26 Feb

(Why yes, this is a sample of my excitement for Ramfest next weekend.)

~

It’s always an interesting experience going back and listening to the very first album of a band you recently discovered listening to their latest. Sometimes it’s like finding pictures of your significant other back when they wore braces and whatever the heck their mom picked out for them at Woolworths.

You know, something like this.

You know, something like this, for instance.

Sometimes, though, it’s like: Wow. They were always this good. 

FoalsAntidotes is different, yes: less hip electronica, more British punk and a lot more “how the hell do they feed those two together and get it to sound so nuanced and intelligent?” Yet although its elements are (only mildly) more rudimentary and contrasting, it’s of a similar brilliance to Holy Fire: however potentially chaotic, it’s well-balanced and it’s tight as your university residence’s fist.  

AntidotesIn “The French Open” – picturesquely the first track of their first album – I feel I have found the perfect encapsulation of the band. Its ambient, bare brass opening twisting sharply into bass-heavy polyrhythmic dance beat, eventually topped with shouty (however not overloud) vocals perfectly represent the glory of Foals: the unbelievable simultaneity of the intricate and the wild; the refined and the raw that makes me yearn for a world in which such combinations were more commonplace.

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Tegan and Sara: Heartthrob

28 Dec

(Another review-out-of-curiosity. I really do live under a nice comfortable rock with the bands I already know and like.)

HeartthrobTegan and Sara‘s Heartthrob is a short collection of pleasant, upbeat indie pop songs, combining shiny synth and sweet vocal sounds. There’s nothing especially controversial or wildly interesting here, but neither is there anything irritating.

If anything, this album is a little uninteresting for its accessibility, but it’s also endearing enough for me not to completely dislike it for that.

Foals: Holy Fire

16 Dec

Another first experience (read: I am really bad at listening to music my friends recommend), and this time a good one.

In Holy Fire, Foals present a beautiful blend of instrumental and electronic; complex and intricately layered, yet underlined by infectious vocal melodies. Yannis Philappakis’ voice is hauntingly disconsolate; potently reminiscent of Bon Iver circa Blood Bank, especially in tracks like “Stepson”.

There are some beautiful tracks on this album: my favorites so far are “Bad Habit”, “Everytime” and “Moon”.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

15 Dec

Often the band that is famous for just one song is worth listening to for whole albums at a time, and this is definitely one of those cases.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros is a glorious resurrection of The Beatles circa White Album, but with twelve-odd instrumentalists, female vocalists frequently chiming in and what sounds like a gospel choir hanging around at Alex Ebert’s elbow.

If I was one to believe particular sounds belong frozen in certain periods of time, I might call this album an anachronism from the 60s that Doctor Who accidentally abandoned in the 21st Century – but I’m not.

I immediately loved this album because I feel that its combination of contemporary lyrical content and astute musical homage to the Hippie movement serves as a reminder that although the global political sphere has changed over the last fifty years, human society at large still lacks the superstructure to provide its fundamental needs of love and peace.

My favorite tracks off this album so far are “Let’s get High”, a song about getting high on love bearing a strong resemblance to songs like “Give Peace a Chance” and All You Need is Love”; and “They Were Wrong”, a mournful, Leonard Cohen-style critique of dog-eat-dog ideology.

Cold War Kids: Tuxedos EP

12 Dec

I feel like the release of this EP speaks to the fact that music is something living and breathing, and that a single version of a song within the limiting context of one collection of music (an album) is nowhere near the end of its meaning and circle of relevance.

In All the Rowboats (off her 2012 album, What We saw from the Cheap Seats), Regina Spektor laments the fossilization of art in its museumisation, and with this the ossification of music that the industry demands in the form of the recorded track, never to be revisited or released again because it can no longer be “new”; something to sell which the consumer has not bought at an earlier stage.

“They keep hanging in the gold frames
for forever, forever and a day
All the rowboats in the oil paintings
They keep trying to row away.”

Tuxedos is not a rough-cut underground band’s Being Too Broke To Record An Album, but an established band’s revelation of the sounds they have been playing with. The six-song EP features only two new songs by Cold War Kids, alongside a re-release of the “Tuxedos” track from Dear Miss Lonelyhearts; a barer, more intimate version of “Bottled Affection” from the same album, and covers of Antony and the Johnsons“Aeon” and The Band‘s “You Don’t Come Through”.

Whilst carrying strong elements of Cold War Kids’ newer, more polished sound, Tuxedos is a poetic and poignant fix for those still pining for the bare-boned rawness of their past.

 


(My favourite track off the album, and a beautifully-shot video, I thought.)

 

Cold War Kids: Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

12 Dec

The bigger, bolder, brighter sound Cold War Kids brought blaring through our car speakers on late-night highways and our earbuds on aching afternoon walks with Mine is Yours flows forth even bigger, even bolder, even brighter in Dear Miss Lonelyhearts

Deeper bass. Heavier drums. Starker yet somehow fuller-sounding, and armed to the teeth with lyrics raw and real enough only to spurt from the mouth of Nathan Willet, this is an album to lie on your back, close your eyes and just feel: the beats physically pulsing through you and the sentences slugging you in the stomach.

What I enjoy about listening to Cold War Kids’ newer music is that although their sound seems to constantly get smoother, tighter and more refined, the pictures they paint with Willet’s wild voice remain as gritty and untamed as they were at the start, and I’m reminded of a brilliant, irresponsible, hyperactive child who has grown to become disciplined and focused, yet retained their madcap creativity, now driven home more powerfully by the control they have grown into. This is a band coming of age: becoming more dextrous and immediately accessible; who your friends may finally start listening to now (much like your ingenious younger brother), but who you (I hope) have known were brilliant all along.

The lyrics this album are intimate. They stare you in the face like the friend you haven’t seen for months who somehow knows better than anyone else around you that you haven’t been having such a great time this year. The album title denoting letters to an advice column, Dear Miss Lonelyhearts bemoans the fears of any young creative in such a caged and caging society as this.

“I’m not the same kid. I grew up.
Didn’t I? Or did I get stuck?
You get older. It gets worse.
You be the good one that gives it up first.”

Listen to the whole album from start to finish, but play Miracle Mile and Bottled Affection the loudest.

Actually, just listen to the whole album as loudly as you can whist still actually hearing it.

Camera Obscura: Desire Lines

8 Dec

I feel like it’s a bad sign if listening to an album is an anticlimax after seeing its cover art. I wish I could say Camera Obscura‘s Desire Lines is as breathtakingly artful as its album cover, but it’s not.

In their fifth studio album, Camera Obscura continue the legacy of their unique sound in yet another collection of charmingly retro cynical indie love songs. The album presents a gratifying range of instrumental textures and is peppered with pleasantly unexpected little melodic twists. Tracyanne Campbell’s voice is ever lovely in its opaque, almost androgynous deadpan, which makes any emotion she reveals in its hairline cracks or lilts all the more genuine.

This is Love (Feels Alright) is a perfect example of this album’s kind of striking, swaying, crooning track, which you can see making a long car journey on a cold night feel warmer, brighter and less lonely; endearingly anachronistic enough to be listened to by the main character in a period film.

New Year’s Resolution has interesting, uncommon lyrics about the divide between romance and friendship, and Do It Again challenges the band’s usual sound with its sheer fastness of pace… but it doesn’t really challenge music in itself: just Camera Obscura, and this brings me to why I roll my eyes a bit at this album.

Whilst this is indeed a charming (exactly that: charming) collection of numbers, I got bored after about track 3. These songs are tiringly formulaic: the instrumental intro quickly drowned out by Campbell’s vocals, which after a few tracks sound blatantly bored; the sarcastic lyrics which quickly transform from witty and humorous to immature for their lack of balance; the grand, vintage instrumental ending.

It seems Camera Obscura have discovered for themselves a nice little niche, not having displayed much desire to explore with their music, structurally or conceptually, for almost a decade.

You might argue with me here that this album has an instrumental intro track (which, yes, is a wonderful composition on strings), but I feel like intro tracks are for albums which actually have something novel to introduce. This intro, whilst a 30-second piece of We Haven’t Done This Before, makes for an awkward moment when followed by eleven tracks of Much Of The Same.

Isolated from its context, Desire Lines is a lovely group of songs, but perhaps best enjoyed slotted here and there into a mixtape rather than all at once.