Infinite Shuffle

March 25, 2012

Update threeplay

Filed under: C, F — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When I started this blog, I had grand visions of posting about a bunch of new and newish bands, then posting updates whenever they released a new album. Obviously, that hasn’t happened yet.

But three bands that I wrote about in the past all happened to put out some solid releases at the start of 2012, and I had to make everyone aware of them. Coincidentally, all three were included in “threeplay” posts, so, it seems fitting that their updates would be part of another three-pack.

fun.

On their second album, fun. answer the question: “What would Queen have sounded like if they were an emo band?”

Nate Ruess’ signature Mika/Freddie Mercury vocals are still ever-present throughout Some Nights. But this time around, they’re complemented by some very strong, complex instrumentation.

The big single, “Tonight”, which features some backing vocals from Janelle Monae, is a great, slow-building anthemic pop-rock song that has the potential to make some end-of-the-year lists.

The title track includes some harmonizing that conjures memories of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Other strong songs include “One Foot”, “Carry On” and “Why Am I the One” and the bonus track, “Out On the Town”.

On a less-than-positive note, in case you were wondering how annoying Ruess’ voice would sound auto-tuned, just listen to “Stars” or “It Gets Better”. It certainly couldn’t get any worse.

First Aid Kit

Whatever made me originally think of Joanna Newsom is no longer present on First Aid Kit’s latest album, The Lion’s Roar.

The Sisters Soderberg have taken their folk roots and added several layers to create a richer, deeper sound. On several tracks, they channel their country-folk influences, especially on the big first single, “Emmylou”.

It’s pretty cool to hear a couple of Swedish girls in their late teens/early 20s name-checking Emmylou Harris, Graham Parsons and June Carter and Johnny Cash.

While that song will almost-definitely make my Best of 2012 mix CD, there are several other solid tracks on the album. They include the title track, “Blue”, “I Found a Way” and “King of the World”, which includes backing vocals by Conor Oberst.

Considering how much hype this album received — or at least on the indie scale of hype — I’m hopeful the band can parlay this into a bigger following.

Cloud Nothings

Plenty of bands change their sound from one album to the next. That’s just natural and to be expected. But the transformation that Cloud Nothings have gone through in less than a year is nothing short of amazing.

After two albums filled with lo-fi pop created on a computer in his parents’ basement, Dylan Baldi hastily assembled a band and hit the road. And after playing countless shows, he apparently realized that his songs didn’t lend themselves to very much improvisation in concert.

So he and his crew headed to Chicago and teamed with legendary producer Steve Albini to create an album full of songs that he could bend to his every whim whilst on stage.

The end result was Attack On Memory, an eight-song disc loaded with grungy, distortion-laced, shoegazing, heavy rock that harkens back to the early ’90s.

Or, as a friend of mine simply described the new sound — “it’s raunchy.”

Personally, this album isn’t exactly my cup of tea. It’s too much fuzz and not enough heart. That being said, there are a few songs I dug, such as “Stay Useless”, “Fall In” and “Our Plans”.

I’m certainly not going to push this band aside. Baldi’s output has been somewhat prolific thus far, and I’m eager to see in what direction he takes his band in the future.

March 18, 2012

107 – Craft Spells

Filed under: C, Stockton Calif. — assman41 @ 12:01 am

If you’re an avid reader of this blog, then I only need to use two words to adequately describe the music of Craft Spells — “trance mix.”

Alas, you probably don’t come here that often — or ever — and only happened upon the site while searching for SXSW torrents, or you were duped by one of my Facebook posts.

Nevertheless, “trance mix” simply means that Craft Spells would fit perfectly in my correlating iTunes playlist alongside the likes of Wild Nothing, Youth Lagoon, Beach Fossils, Lower Dens and The XX.

It would be very easy to get Craft Spells’ dreamy, shoegazey synth-pop confused with that of the aforementioned bands. In fact, it’ll probably take many more listens before I have any real chance of differentiating them.

From what I can tell from the debut release — 2011’s Idle Labor — this four-piece from Stockton, Calif., plays at a slightly faster pace than its brethren, has a very steady drum beat throughout and mixes in a surf-pop sound from time to time.

Besides the above two videos, other strong tracks on the album include “The Fog Rose High”, “For the Ages”, “Scandinavian Crush”, “From the Morning Heat” and “You Should Close the Door”.

Craft Spells will be hitting the road this Spring, including a stop in Chicago in late April when they’ll open for The Drums. Should be a great show.

March 11, 2012

106 – The Hundred In the Hands

Filed under: Brooklyn, H — assman41 @ 12:01 am

There’s always a sense of excitement when a band puts out a strong debut EP. You end up listening to the 5-7 songs so many times that you have them memorized, and, all the while, you’re eagerly awaiting the release of the first full-length album.

If you’re lucky, that first LP will meet or exceed your expectations. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Sometimes, bands can’t replicate whatever it was that made those first few songs so great. Then you’re left with nothing but disappointment.

Admittedly, that’s not quite the case with The Hundred In the Hands. But their self-titled LP that they put out last year struggles to reach the same levels as their initial EP from 2010.

The six tracks on This Desert only amount to about 23 minutes, but in that short span, the Brooklyn male-female duo managed to show off a great deal of potential.

Songs such as “Tom Tom”, “In To It” and “It’s Only Everything” capture everything that’s great about the recent indie-electro/shoegaze trend.

But much of that is lost on the long play. While This Desert has a full, rich and textured sound, the follow-up just falls flat. Somewhere in between the two releases, Eleanore Everdell’s vocals went from dreamy — and a touch haunting — to bland and, at times, talk-singing. Like a less-talented Suzanne Vega.

That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its positive notes. The electro guitar that plays throughout conjures memories of The Rapture and, to a degree, VHS or Beta. And there are a few catchy tracks, such as “Killing It”, “Commotion”, “Dressed in Dresden” and the big single, “Pigeons” (just try getting the line “Saturday comes, Sunday comes, we go” out of your head).

The Hundred in the Hands are not a lost cause. They’ve shown that they have the potential to be great;  but they have simply taken things in the wrong direction. Now it’s just a matter of whether they realize it and are willing to make a U-turn.

March 5, 2012

105 – Nurses

Filed under: N, Portland — assman41 @ 2:19 am

I’ll give this to Nurses, they’re a difficult band to pigeonhole. They’re a mix of several different genres, including pop, soul, folk, electronica and psychedelia.

The best description I found for the group was “psychedelic bubblegum pop.”

Their music is an acquired taste, and I’m not sure I’ve latched on to it just yet.

The above track comes from the Portland trio’s sophomore album — 2009’s Apple’s Acre. Those whiny vocals you hear come from Aaron Chapman and can be found throughout the band’s entire catalog. And they’re the fulcrum between loving and hating this group.

In Pitchfork’s review of the album, the writer describes Nurses’ sound as “the shaggy younger sibling of Animal Collective or Grizzly Bear on a tight budget.” That’s certainly better than anything I could’ve come up with.

The group’s most recent release — 2011’s Dracula — is definitely the most well-rounded thus far. While the songs on Apple’s Acre all kinda run together and sound the same, the tracks on Dracula stand out better and have more nuance.

As I alluded to earlier, I’m not so sure Nurses are my cup of tea. But their sound is not too far from my comfort zone, and I’m confident that at least one person reading this post will fall in love with the band.

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