Infinite Shuffle

October 2, 2012

Updates — All good, none great

Filed under: B, G, H, T, X — assman41 @ 2:16 pm

Many well-known bands released highly anticipated albums in the past month or so, and the theme seemed to be about toning things down.

Now, depending upon the band, that could mean veering toward a calmer sound (Band of Horses, The Gaslight Anthem), softening an electro vibe (The Helio Sequence, Two Door Cinema Club), or nothing at all, since you can’t really get any more toned down than The XX already were.

Band of Horses

I might as well start with the album I had been anticipating the most. After a substantial ascension on their first two albums, Band of Horses took a bit of a dip on 2010’s Infinite Arms.

As it turns out, that was just a sign of things to come. Their latest, Mirage Rock, is aptly titled as it’s less an indie-rock album and something closer to alt-country.

That’s not entirely true, but on several tracks you can hear the band’s slow progression toward a more folk/country sound.

The Gaslight Anthem

Possibly the best album among the five here is the latest from The Gaslight Anthem. Maybe it’s just because I had seen them in person recently, but there’s really no filler on Handwritten.

Continuing the shift away from their punkier roots, these Jersey boys churn out more solid indie-rock, highlighted by such songs as “Keepsake” and “’45′”.

One noticeable difference here is that they throw in a few change-ups along the way with some slower, softer songs. So much so, that you almost think you’re listening to a different band.

The Helio Sequence

I wasn’t sure if I’d ever hear a new Helio Sequence album again. Not because I thought they were breaking up. It had been awhile since their last release and I’d mostly stopped caring about them. But when I saw that Negotiations was out, I figured I’d add it to the rotation.

The band, which is known for having an evolving sound, continued that trend since its last full-length album dropped in 2008.

The last time we saw The Helio Sequence, they were churning out indie electro-pop that was incredibly catchy. Now, they’ve slowed things down considerably and added some more complex layers.

They’re starting to sound like a retro version of Band of Horses. Actually, they’ve kinda leapfrogged peak-era BoH and are heading toward the contemporary version.

Two Door Cinema Club

I’ll always have an interesting story of how I first discovered Two Door Cinema Club. And their first album will always be a favorite. But I don’t know if they’ll ever be able to recapture that lightning in a bottle.

Their latest, Beacon, definitely has some good stuff on it — including “Sleep Alone”, “Next Year” and “Handshake” — but it’s not the same start-to-finish gem.

On this one, you won’t find the catchy electro beats on every track like the previous offering. But they’re there in spurts.

The XX

I was not an early adopter of The XX. I avoided them for the first several months of their highly buzzed infancy. But I eventually came around and fell in love with their debut album. So much so, that I was both eager and nervous about the eventual follow-up.

Thankfully, like all of the above albums, Coexist, is in no ways a bad recording. But it’s admittedly not as good as the original.

There aren’t any obvious hits, but there is still plenty of good music to relax to.

April 4, 2010

22 – The xx

Filed under: England, X — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I first started hearing about The xx in the fall of 2009. NPR was hyping the London-based trio as it was preparing to make its Stateside debut during the CMJ Music Marathon in New York.

Naturally, as more and more critics began singing their praises, the more and more I didn’t want to give them a listen. I had heard one or two of their songs here and there and wasn’t sure what I thought. They just didn’t seem like a band that deserved so much hype so early in their career.

But I finally gave a listen to their debut album, XX, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The first song, aptly titled “Intro”, is a pretty solid instrumental track that sets the mood nicely.

From there, the rest of the album is chock full of great ambience and nice vocal interplay between singers Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim. It reminds me of the Moldy Peaches’ stuff from the Juno soundtrack — but way more soothing and in a non-annoying tone. (That description really doesn’t do The xx justice, but it’s the best I’ve got.)

“Vcr”, one of my favorite tracks on the album, gives the listener a pretty good idea of what you can expect from the band. In it, Croft and Sim do something of a sing-speak back-and-forth with each other. It’s a theme that pops up often on the album.

You can hear the recently released single on their MySpace page, where they’ve got seven songs posted, including a couple bonus tracks.

One song not found on the site is “Shelter”, my personal favorite. The great, eerie guitar that flows throughout the album complements Croft’s vocals really well on this track.

Hear it for yourself …

The xx – Shelter

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