New Pornographers Pull No Punches with “Brill Bruisers”

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 8.02.16 PM

New Pornographers frontman A.C. Newman said before the release of the band’s sixth album, Brill Bruisers, that he  “feel[s] more confident about this record than [he’s] ever felt about anything before.” He’s also called it a “celebration record,” and has explained how he’s got nothing in his life dragging him down and that his art reflects this. The thing is that all of the albums AC Newman’s indie supergroup have released are pretty much fantastic, from Mass Romantic to Challengers, on up to the similarly solid Together. But there’s a palpable sense of something extra this time around, considering how alive and glittery Brill Bruisers is. Even the tracks guided by the more meditative and poetic Dan Bejar — also of Destroyer — leap from the speaker at a jackrabbit pace. It’s just a shame that summer is almost over — this album, much like the Pornos’ best, is custom fit for a beachgoing blowout. {Read More}

JJ Changes Their Name Slightly, But Not How Good They Are

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 7.53.53 PM

V is full of the polished sounds that have made JJ’s previous albums stunning opuses built on catchy instrumental loops and layered vocals. Tracks like “All White Everything,” “Full,” and “I” are so heavy they threaten to collapse inward, creating a musical singularity. They’re beautiful. Perhaps too beautiful. That contrasts starkly with the production decision to not tune Kastlander’s vocals. There are moments when she falters at the cusp of the proper note, and there’s something ironically angelic about it, because why does an artist decide to show their imperfections over the easy conceal? It’s baffling and attractive to hear this human vulnerability within the context of Benon’s and Kastlander’s slick production. The messy vocals—they’re right at home in the unkempt wilderness of the guitar/vocal track like  2‘s “Me & Dean.” That makes sense. This puzzling production decision on V is strangely alluring and respectable. Somehow it casts them as even more compelling artists. {Read More}

Recent Spins August 18th

arcade fire

Arcade Fire  “Wait” “Oh Orpheus”



jj n2

JJ “Inner Light” “Hold Me” “Be Here Now” “Still” “Things Will Never Be the Same Again” “Golden Virginia”




Strand of Oaks “Plymouth” “Heal” “Shut In”


The New Pornographers “Breakin’ the Law”



Tycho “Awake” “Montana” “L”


Efterklang “The Soft Beating” “Modern Drift”



Autumnal Notes on Newest Bear in Heaven



Bear in Heaven slip into Time Is Over One Day Old this August with the timely track “Autumn” as though in anticipation of that twilit, in-between season. Forget sun-soaked summer records — the group’s most recent offering is all over that ethereal, half-light slow descent into winter. It fits. The kind of music they make — sweeping, epic numbers whose proper fit would seem to be over the opening montage of a Hollywood film — is introspective and loaded with the sorts of instrumental and vocal combinations that tear down the walls that separate reality from fantasy. {read more}

Alvvays Rock Some Sweet Summer Sounds


Summer is more than half over, but that doesn’t mean there’s no time to discover a fitting summer soundtrack. For next year maybe. Or to round off this one before autumn and winter set in. Either way, Canadian indie rock band Alvvays will still sound good, even in winter. They hail from colder climes — Prince Edward Island and Cape Breton — and somehow have ended up producing music that feels as bright and garish as an afternoon being blinded by the sand and crusted in salt-water like a boiled shrimp. There’s something strangely pleasant about that, no? {read more}

Wye Oak: Album of the Week on Treblezine

Wye Oak Shriek

The new Wye Oak is perfect! Here’s a teaser from my review over at Treblezine:

“Tracks like ‘Before,’ ‘Shriek,’ and ‘Sick Talk’ effervesce in pleasant waves of synths and drum loops. Wasner’s vocals carry sunlight and hope as she muses about being reborn and emerging from a dream brand new. Shriek is the brighter side, the payoff. It’s the antithesis of Civilian, where the themes and tones were shadowy and dark, constructed of half-light and driving guitars and drums, all of it designed around the concept of suppressed emotion, blunted desire and regret.” [Read More…]

Brilliant Musical Landscapes: S. Carey — Range of Light

S. Carey Range of Light


One spin from S. Carey’s new offering, Range of Light, and a complex, layered, work of art unfolds that meanders somewhere between shadow and sun. Christened after John Muir’s name for the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Carey’s second album pulls off “sophomore album” like a professional student repeating a grade.

It begins on the highest possible note, holding nothing back, stripping bare Carey’s most personal thoughts with “Glass/Film.” There’s something confessional and private about the track, yet confident in delivery, which prevents any unease we might have as listeners: “In the glass / see your face / I know this place / I’ve called the case / I was made for this / I was tamed by this.” Though it’s most likely named after composer Philip Glass, it’s hard not to speculate as to whether the moment Carey has captured is related to his becoming a father over the course of the composition of Range of Light. Careful percussion creates a satisfying, complex echo-like chamber as sounds seem to bounce off of each other. Layered instruments and vocals combine as though to signify an awakening.  [Read More]

Future Islands: Singles, Album of the Week at Treblezine

Future Islands 'Singles'

I admit it, reviewing Future Islands was incredibly hard merely because I’ve been into them for a few years now. So, am I objective? Probably not. Check out a teaser from my review at Treblezine:

Vocalist Sam Herring says that calling Future Islands’ newest album Singles is an act of bravado. Every track is so good that each one could be a single. He’s not that far off, really, but there are key differences between this 2014 release and their others that fans won’t recognize as typical of their sound. Once billed as the constant underdog, Herring has come hard onstage this year, punches flying, or in his case, churning out inimitable dance moves — pure Herring — so good that the only appropriate response is to love him for his raw, uncensored expression. He’s the alpha dog now, prepared to take his prize at the front of a band with the power to win over David Letterman and land a plum spot at this year’s Coachella. [Read More]

Cuckoo Chaos Goes Darker as Deadphones


Back in 1997, a Los Angeles band called Kara’s Flowers made their debut with The Fourth World, an album with a sound reminiscent of contemporary alt-rock fare like Weezer and Green Day. Yet, despite their loyal following, massive hooks and the backing of a big-time producer (Rob Cavallo), their only album had little success and their label, Reprise, dropped them. Not that this was the end, necessarily. Four years later, they re-emerged with a new sound, a little more experience and a completely new identity. The punchline? They changed their name to Maroon 5.

Kara’s Flowers is just a recent example in a long line of rock band identity shifts, and it certainly worked out for their bank accounts. But even rarer is the band that starts anew for the sake of hitting reset on their art. In their time together, San Diego based Cuckoo Chaos released some upbeat, groove-heavy tracks, got some positive exposure, left their impact at CMJ and garnered some positive press in the process. Now they’ve dropped the Cuckoo Chaos moniker and reformed as Deadphones with their first album out on Waaga Records.  {Read More}

Blue Film Explodes as Lo-Fang’s Freshman Album

Lo-Fang Blue Film


Blue Film is the kind of freshman album that excites the nerves with the thrill of discovery, like The xx’s first album or Pure Heroine, the debut album by New Zealand success story Lorde — with whom Lo-Fang is currently on tour. But Blue Film is a thing apart—and while comparisons are inevitable, the album rides its own heights, suspended deliciously over staccato strings and choppy keys that conjure images of exotic locales. Lo-Fang crafted the heart of Blue Film across several years, traveling in the United States and abroad, with a National Geographic photographer and friend, to places like Cambodia and Iceland, where musical influences surfaced, however subtly, in tracks like “#88” and “Confusing Happiness.”

Despite making an important connection in Lorde, Lo-Fang is the farthest thing from a name-dropping, talentless Gladstone Gander, riding the coattails of others toward success. He’s classically trained as a violinist, for starters. This string-centered specialty is evident on all of Blue Film’s tracks. Though their iridescence comes from the supporting electronica loops and themes, their effervescence explodes from those hints of his classical training. Staccato strings rise from empty spaces that turn the tracks into something complex and folded over, like a kind of theoretical physics model. {Read More}