"The cheesiest songs all end with a smile," sings Devon Welsh near the end of 'Impersonator,' Majical Cloudz's first album for Matador Records. Though the listener has, by this time, had nine songs to get a sense that no smile is coming while Welsh and collaborator Matthew Otto are in charge, he still clarifies by tacking "This won't end with a smile" onto the previous line with the effect of a slamming door.
Whew. It’s hard not to feel like the last 18 months of activity related to the Italians Do It Better label has all been leading to this moment. So let’s recap. In late December of 2011, a two-hour, 36-track ambient and instrumental record called 'Themes For An Imaginary Film' and credited to Symmetry arrived semi-mysteriously on iTunes. There was b
Your overall impression of Japanther likely depends on how you first experienced the duo. If you saw them live, opening for Lightning Bolt or No Age or later headlining one of their tours through all-ages DIY spaces and pop-up galleries, it's their energy and fuzzed-out garage-punk charm that probably stuck with you.
Saturday Looks Good to Me's forte used to be upbeat ditties that belied their often heartrending lyrics. While the contrast usually worked in their favor, their latest effort, 'One Kiss Ends It All,' finds the band focusing on the latter half of that equation, with music and melodies to match.
On 2011’s 'Badlands,' Dirty Beaches frontman Alex Zhang Huntai was playing a character. He was acting the part of prototypical greaser on a dirt bike, spinning lone-wolf yarns over gritty abandoned-ashtray landscapes -- a mixture of tense Suicide-esque electronic repetition and cracked Lynch-ian dream molds. The results sounded like little else from the previous half-century, and even if Huntai didn't go far beyond that initial idea, the idea itself was so thoroughly realized -- as if existing in its own 1950s revisionist post-apocalypse -- that it hardly mattered.
Wrapped up in the overblown, ubiquitous promotional cycle (SNL teasers, behind-the-scenes interviews, etc.) behind Daft Punk's latest album, it's easy to forget these EDM-pioneering robots are human after all. Other than their largely passable 'Tron' soundtrack, the French duo have only released three albums -- and one of them, 2007's 'Human After All,' was almost unanimously panned.
The National pretty much summed up their aesthetic 10 years ago with the title of their second album, ‘Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers.’ No other blog-blessed indie band of the 21st century captures despair, melancholy and gloom in song quite like the Brooklyn-based quintet. Much of the gloom can be credited to singer Matt Berninger, whose grim baritone infuses the National’s songs with apocalyptic dread. Every heartbreak sounds like the literal end of the world when it comes from his lips.
The first words on 'Innocence Is Kinky' are “That night / I watched people f---ing on my computer / Nobody can see me looking anyway.” The Norwegian singer-songwriter Jenny Hval’s second full-length under her own name is full of sexual and bodily imagery, some lyrics more abstract than others. It’s paired with a kind of lacerated, bruised mixture of noise, ambient music, punk rock and folk, along with a fractured, inverted songwriting sensibility that’s just as eager to violently push and pull at the listener’s expectations as it is to offer warm and vulnerable emotion, often stark and overwhelming. Given Hval's blunt line readings and the ever-changing song structures, it’s easy to let the music bounce off you as it comes. At the same time, it’s hard not to wonder what Hval is actually up to.
The most prominent emotion on 'Crawling Up the Stairs' is frustration. On the record’s second track, 'Someone Else,' vocalist Nate Grace growls out the line “You know I earned it / So, c’mon, and give me all your / love” like an unhinged lover shouting self-loathing into the dark. It’s one of most devastating and immediate moments in rock music this year. Grace’s voice roils into a teeth-gritted mess as the words seem to roar out of him from somewhere deep. By contrast, the music is cloudy, calm and isolated, causing the words to sound like they're being yelled into an uncaring void.
With their tightly woven 2009 self-titled EP, Brooklyn’s Small Black rode in with a wave of hazy synth nostalgia-ists like Washed Out, Neon Indian and Memory Tapes. They followed it up a year later with a full-length called 'New Chain. The album made it clear that they were more leaders than followers in the then-booming field of bedroom-pop pioneers. There was an edge to their lyrics and a depth of emotion in their sound that made all those slinky hooks stick. Now, with even the echo of that initial boom behind us and the stigma surrounding the scene still lingering, where does Small Black go?