Beck broke into the mainstream in 1993. Looking at the résumé he’s assembled since then, you’d think he’d done it all. But after 11 studio albums, touring the world and producing a slew of other artists’ records, he decided to tackle a different kind of project. Continue reading
Posted in Album Reviews, Music Reviews
Tagged Beck, Devendra Banhart, Feist, INXS, Jamie Lidell, Leonard Cohen, Liars, Little Joy, MGMT, Nico, Os Mutantes, Skip Spence, Sonic Youth, St. Vincent, Thurston Moore, Tortoise, Velvet Underground, Wilco, Wolfmother, Yanni
Warm surf-guitar tones crash and swell like waves as distant horns echo in the moonlight. “I’m stranded and I’m starry-eyed,” howls lead singer Hamilton Leithauser, narrating “Stranded”.
It’s easy to get lost in The Walkmen’s sixth album, Lisbon. Their unique spin on surf rock evokes vivid imagery both lyrically and musically. The songs transport the listener through vast landscapes of summer beaches and blankets of snow. Songs like “Juveniles” peacefully float, while others like “Angela Surf City” whirr with tempo and distortion.
Lisbon shows muscle, but The Walkmen use infinite control. Even the rawest songs sound effortless. The brilliantly orchestrated ode to the Portuguese city will easily whisk you away.
We all have a soft spot for pop music, but we don’t need to keep it a secret anymore. Janelle Monae is the real deal – a bona fide pop star with genuine credibility.
She breezes her way through R&B, soul, funk, pop and dance, weaving between sharp horn sections, Hendrix-style guitar solos, dance beats and everything in between.
The ArchAndroid, her debut album, runs through a labyrinth of genres, telling the story of an android in the year 2719.
The futuristic epic also pays homage to the past. On “Tightrope,” Monae delivers lines like, “Whether I’m high or low, I’m gonna tip on the tightrope,” with all the diction of Otis Redding. She also uses semi-improvised, spoken-word segues like “Now put some voodoo on it,” mimicking soul legends.
She also tackles “Ziggy Stardust” psychedelic rock on “Mushrooms & Roses,” which according to the liner notes, was inspired by a stage dive at Bonnaroo and Jack White’s mustache. Monae’s melting pot also includes guests like Saul Williams, Big Boi and Of Montreal, who each brought their unique flavor.
The ArchAndroid fuses all sorts of styles but remains cohesive – like a science fiction Thriller. Janelle Monae is taking the guilt out of pop music. We should all thank her.
Heaven Is Whenever, The Hold Steady’s fifth album, features a bit of restructuring. The Springsteen-soaked melodies of their last few albums take a step back – making a darker, raw album, reminiscent of their earlier work.
The opening track, “The Sweet Part of the City,” is the biggest oddball – the dobro and acoustic guitar sound more like Monsters of Folk. The album is far from a departure, though. Heaven Is Whenever is full of anthemic choruses and heavy guitar solos. “Hurricane J” is as catchy as anything they’ve ever played. Craig Finn’s unmistakable character-based, hyper-literate lyrics are still the driving force behind the songs – most of which revolve around his usual themes of youth, parties, religion and addictions.
The piano takes a backseat to thick guitar riffs, though. The influence of bands like Jawbreaker and Hüsker Dü shines on tracks like “The Weekenders” and “The Smidge.” But as a whole, the album shows the band fusing their influences, instead of mimicking them. Heaven Is Whenever is progressive, and The Hold Steady’s still on the right track.