St.-Vincent-21

“St. Vincent” St. Vincent

St. Vincent

St. Vincent Album Review

Loma Vista/Republic Records

Released February 25, 2014

Genre: Art Rock, Indie Pop, Noise Pop

Self titled albums speak volumes in terms of content, resemblance and expectations, many bands opting for their debut with ephemeral hopes of it being their signature stamp on history whilst others sit on it, waiting for their brand to progress and their artistry to cultivate into something more substantial and grounded. Annie Clark has proven herself album after album that she is a pioneer of fluctuation in stylistic terms, technical ability and the progression as an artist she illustrates through her music. As not to say that St.Vincent has no core sound or refined fundamentals to pin down, this record is as close as we’ll get to an accumulative synopsis of her accomplishments so far.

Charming and clunky “Birth at Reverse” was the first single to drop and flipped our presuppositions on their heads. The mundane mixed with the mad, it showcased some of the most confident and liberally personal music Clark has extended our way. Shielded to the unsupposing through eccentric instrumental breakdowns and asphyxiating rhythms, St.Vincent is a clear pop record; negative connotations are unfairly associated with such a claim. In a recent interview with Q, Annie was quoted in expounding her music as “absolutely pop music. It has form, groove” and then goes on to list her appreciation for Talking Heads, David Bowie and New Order who were in fact, brace yourselves, pop artists. Pop sensibility imbues this record in the most natural way manifesting itself within the elevated squeaking and propelling plod of “Rattlesnake”, the Lana Del Rey crooning of “Prince Johnny” and even the buoyant brass stabs in “Digital Witness”.

Equal parts chaos and beauty with reference to sexuality, social networking and experiences beyond our reality, St.Vincent really intwines herself, her essence, into every note of this record. Siren comparisons are and have been rife within all manner of literature concerning Ms.Clark and rightly so, she has both the menace and captivation to draw in those who are lost among the mediocre and impersonal.
Riddled with neurosis and quirky introspection, St.Vincent is a true extension of Annie Clark, the person –
Strikingly beautiful and mysterious.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

FAV TRACKS: DIGITAL WITNESS/ RATTLESNAKE / PRINCE JOHNNY / BRING ME YOUR LOVES

LEAST FAV TRACK: SEVERED CROSSED FINGERS

SCORE:( 8.3/10)

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“The Greater Mind EP” Old Ivy

Old Ivy

The Greater Mind EP Review

Giant MKT

Released November 14, 2013

Genre: Melodic Hardcore

Emotions are curious things. They are complex; no two people respond the same way to a given situation. One thing is for sure, however. They are a deep insight into the dark enigmatic depths of the heart. Belgian band Old Ivy explores emotional ups and downs on their debut Extended Play record titled, “The Greater Mind.”

Old Ivy plays a style of hardcore that is an interesting mix: very uplifting and convictive melodies with introspective and melancholic lyrics. These guys are definitely one of those bands that are relentless when it comes to the emotional output of each guitar chord, drum beat, bass line, and lyric. However, they don’t sacrifice compositional skills for emotional focus. The track “Flawless” exemplifies the emotional rollercoaster that each song is. It begins with looming guitar melodies, swirling around each other slowly. Then, the harsh vocals come in from the distance. The mood is very dour at first; the narrator “just can’t get a hold of [him]self,” but the song morphs into an uplifting anthem, with each musician pouring his heart out with each note.

However, the band doesn’t do anything that hasn’t been done before. It is done very well, but I’m left wanting more. One track, “The Northern Wind”, leaves much to be desired. It’s just as emotionally impacting as the other two tracks, but other than an interesting tempo change in the middle of the song, there’s not much in terms of innovation on this song. Compositionally speaking, I was a little underwhelmed. There weren’t any extremely catchy melodies or drum breaks. It was sub-par for what I think this band can do.

I see great potential in this band: they are tight performers that don’t rely on the producer to make their performances sound tight, because they are adept enough to do so themselves. I just think that different types of playing would benefit this debut. It is a debut however, and it is a positive foreshadowing of the future of Old Ivy.



FAV TRACKS: Flawless

LEAST FAV TRACK: The Northern Wind

Score: (6.8/10)

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“Coming of Age” Foster The People

Foster The People

Coming Of Age Track Review

Columbia Records

Released January 14, 2014

Genre: Alternative Rock, Indie Pop

With pop spectacle Torches illuminating their path, Foster the People have returned since their fading at the back end of 2011 and not a lot has changed. A track off of the sophomore LP Supermodel, “Coming of Age” is as cliche and rehashed as tracks get when concerning a departure from adolescence.

Wincingly ironic how a song about maturity and growth can demonstrate such a lack of progression for this band. Relying on powerhouse choruses rather ambitious structure or a change in direction. “Coming of Age” feels like a total dress up party of a track that could quite easily have featured on their debut. To their credit Foster the People have made good on the formula that they concocted back in 2011 with biting chords and unrelenting hooks but it seems that “Coming of Age” falls short of the groundbreaking quality and memorability that “Pumped Up Kicks” had as it stormed the world throughout it’s time circulating the airwaves.

Score: 5.8/10

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“Blue Moon” Beck

Beck

Blue Moon Track Review

Capital Records

Released January 20, 2014

Genre: Folk Rock, Alternative Folk, Anti-Folk

Anti-folk hero Beck isn’t a kid anymore. Since scraping his feet onto the scene with all manner of indignation in the early 90s, our floppy hatted protege has navigated through all spans of genre and styles, collaborating, writing and producing for some of the most widely admired projects of the past 10 years. “Blue Moon” is the first single to surface off of Beck’s newest album Morning Phase and the first for six years. But for an artist who has contributed such a vast chronicle of material through such turbulent, upheaving and inconstant trends within the industry, the wait is most probably justified as Beck has returned sounding as revitalised and spritely as his new LP’s title suggests.

Dainty strings and steady percussion palpitate under Beck’s refreshing and rich vocals with the intimacy of a close and honest encounter. Gorgeous melodies have a certain ebb and flow throughout, something I feel that Beck’s most recent releases have lacked – we often forget what a competent pop writer he is. “Blue Moon” might not be the most ambitious single but it surely sets a tone, one of harmony and stability – as Beck croons “cut me down to size” a sense of thriving modesty justifies the simplicity of the track.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC

Score: 8.5/10

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“In Parentheses” Running Red Lights

Running Red Lights

In Parentheses Track Review

Self Released

Released January 14, 2014

Genre: Indie Folk, Indie Pop, Rock

Canadian indie-rock outfit, Running Red Lights, have released a new single, “In Parentheses,” in anticipation of their new record, There’s a Bluebird in my Heart, dropping February 14th (ironically on Valentine’s Day).

The song starts with some bouncy acoustic guitars and snare pattens, and then a very reverb-drenched vocal melody is introduced to the mix. The singing complements the saccharine instrumentation going on in the background, but the reverb is overwhelming at first. However, the build-ups before each chorus shows how the reverb helps the song immensely, giving the tune a very spacious feel. It sounds as if you’re being engulfed by the melancholy. Melancholy is a motif in the song, with lyrics that establish bittersweetness. As the song progresses, the lyrics delve deeper into a past love, a love “In Parentheses,” that the narrator misses so much. However, the narrator’s girl will always be his “favorite apostrophe.” It’s a cool concept, exploring love through punctuation, and it shines a new light on love. While the lyrics are solid, the instrumentation is slightly unadventurous. I felt like the instruments weren’t being played to their full potential, like something was missing in a few guitar melodies; it’s just that more could have been done The song is structured well, so this doesn’t detract too much from the overall sonic experience.

If you’re looking for a molasses-sweet love song, this one is for you. Running Red Lights’ new album, There’s a Bluebird In My Heart, is out now. Stream the album here.

Score:(7.1/10)

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“Trouble” Hospitality

Hospitality

Trouble Album Review

Merge Records

Released January 28, 2014

Genre: Indie Pop, Indie Rock

By Guest Writer Enrique Berrios

When Brooklyn based indie-pop band Hospitality released their self-titled album in 2011, the band enjoyed moderate success. Hospitality’s unique rhythm, warm acoustic guitar, bright electric guitar, and friendly tone made the band’s first LP 2011’s Hidden Gem and cemented the underrated group as one of my favorite indie bands. Now, after having matured and learned from their past, the band offers bold new flavors in their second full length album Trouble, released on January 28 by Merge Records.

Hospitality has changed over these past three years, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise since the band has been hinting at their transformation for quite some time now. The arrival of Hospitality’s 2012 single “The Drift/ Monkey” (A side and B side) signaled a drastic rhythmic and lyrical shift, and on October 31, 2013, Merge Records released a fantastic and artistic trailer for Trouble, which seemed to boldly declare, “We are the new Hospitality.” This trailer, although bold and new, managed to escape the trap of being pretentious and caught my eyes and ears within the first seconds. With this in mind, I listened to the new album, and from the very first track that seeped into my ears, I began forming my thoughts on Hospitality’s latest efforts.

The album’s opener “Nightingale” succeeds in setting the new tone. The slow, heavy drums and twangy guitar make it clear you’re in for something new and exciting. Then, the synthesizer and locals kick in, and it’s clear that hospitality hasn’t abandoned their sophisticated sound for heavy guitar sounds. The song unfolds and introduces some cello work. By the end, all of these instruments combine to produce something truly special.

Although, the first song truly succeeds in delivering some memorably music, the body of the album suffers from some inconsistency. The second song “Going Out” uses most of the same instruments from the first track to create more rhythm. It’s very good. Next up is “I Miss Your Bones”, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s a loud, catchy, and fun song, and it’s vocals recapture the charm from the first album. The album’s fourth track “Inauguration” isn’t as loud as the previous track, but it’s still solid.

The fifth song “Rockets and Jets” transports the listener into the 1980’s with synthesizers, a drum machine, and some nice bass. This track marks the end of first segment of the album. The next track “Sullivan” doesn’t match the tone the others songs successfully established. This song simply doesn’t fit in with the other tracks. This doesn’t mean the song is bad. It’s actually quite good, but placing it right behind a louder and faster song doesn’t do it justice.

Next, Hospitality takes you back in time to the 70’s with a warm piano and lyrics that focus on ending a relationship with an unfaithful boyfriend. I really enjoyed this song. It helps to send the listener through the album’s progression. It changes the ideas and sounds. Next, Hospitality sunrises with another 80’s inspired song with “Last Words”. The synthesizers, piano, darker lyrics, and simple electric guitar make this Hospitality’s best song yet. The group reaches its lyrical peak in this song with biblical allusion and ideas not typically found in indie-pop music. This peak precedes two more songs that, like “Sullivan,” just don’t fit.

The last two tracks “Sunship” and “Call Me After” are both good tracks, but they don’t bookend the album effectively. Hospitality abandoned the electric guitars and synths, and instead uses an acoustic guitar to deliver the song. The addition of a trumpet in “Sunship” changes the sound, and places “Sunship” at the top of my favorite song list for Hospitality, but this shift makes the listener feel as though the album has fallen off a cliff. It drains the energy and leaves the listener with an incomplete album, but wait! There’s hope.

The closing track “Bet” comes in the form of the bonus track, which is only available on the digital version. This song finds itself in a good middle ground between the louder, faster songs and the calmer, slower ones. It definitely completes the album, and leaves the listener satisfied. It reminded me that this is still the band I fell in love with in the album.

Trouble offers a new look into Hospitality, and it largely succeeds. It’s easy to dismiss the band’s new louder sound, but it’s truly something special.Hospitality can never lose its indie-pop roots. Trouble would reach into the realm of incredible albums, but I still love every song on this LP. The problem was in the placement of these songs. Once Hospitality learns to produce an album that smoothly transitions through its different acts, the band will be able to produce a masterpiece. In the mean time, we’re left with a great offering from a great band.

 

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC
FAV TRACKS: Nightingale, I Miss Your Bones, Rockets and Jets, and Last Words

LEAST FAV TRACKS: Sullivan, Call Me After

Score: (8.2/10)

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“Each Tick A Tock” Termite UK

Termite UK

Each Tick a Tock Track Review

Self Released

Released January 20, 2014

Genre: Psychedelic Rock, Progressive Rock

The 70s. A great time for progressive rock. A great time for psychedelic rock as well. Many consider it to be the best time Period for music. Well the 70s indubitably produced some of musics most important releases, termite has decided to be the modern torchbearer of proggy psych-rock.Taking things off with a cool reverse guitar effect, these guys get right down to business. There’s a very watery guitar melody, some bright symbol patterns, and an infectious vocal melody. The vocals are usually high throughout this track, only dropping in register for the chorus. Everything up until the course mixes very well together, definitely encapsulating that classic psychedelic feeling. However the chorus, while not bad, is not as infectious as the beginning of the song. My brain wanted to be expanded more before it was ready for the next musical idea. The chorus is too basic for my taste, only because it is juxtaposed with such a great intro.
While there are some good ideas being put into the mix, the way they are stringed together is slightly underwhelming. However, this is still catchy at parts, and it’s a good modern-day take on a classic style.

Score:(7.0/10)

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Interview with Albert Hammond Jr.!

On January 28, 2014, Co-Founder Jon Birondo and two friends went to the Jake Bugg show at the House of Blues in Dallas. Touring with Bugg was The Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. and indie rock band The Skins! As we crept up to the green room, I inquired to Mr Hammond about an interview, to which he happily obliged.  We had the lucky chance to interview him during Bugg’s set! Enjoy!

Interview by Jon Birondo

Transcribed By Bruno Brenes

PNG: Your guitar tone and style within and outside of The Strokes is instantly recognizable and that’s what makes your work such a fundamental influence for many new bands. What guitarists and guitar styles influenced you the most or drew you towards guitar as an instrument to learn in the first place?

AHJ: Um…Funny enough guitar players that influenced me don’t so much influence me now on tone, but uh… I guess when I was growing up: Buddy Holly, and John Lennon, and Lou Reed. I was never into like crazy lead guitar players. Um, I don’t know, then. You kind of just get the instrument and fool around. I think the best way to learn is kind of you have to… You have to know what you don’t like just as much as what you do like, and that kinda makes your sound.

PNG: How does releasing an EP on a friend’s record label differ to your releases on Rough Trade and what inclined you to make to switch to Cult?

AHJ: it wasn’t so much a switch. Everything I did on Rough Trade was little one-offs, and then when Julian started the label it just seemed cool. I was excited to either put out a single or do something. We’d been talking about it for so long… Working together, I mean since we were kids… So the fact that when it happened it was just kind of like, “cool lets just do this!” It just seemed like the obvious, you know, reason to go. Why was it an EP? I mean, it just happened to be an EP. No real… It wasn’t like thought out before. It was gonna be a song and then it turned into two, then three, and four, and five, and then we just stopped at five, cause it was like let’s just put it out sooner then later.

JON: This one’s a personal question from me. I’m a HUGE fan of The Strokes. When should we expect a tour from The Strokes?

AHJ: Ah, I don’t know.

JON: darn! Also another personal question, Fabrizio (drummer for The Strokes) is one of my favorite drummers of all time. Can you say ‘Hi’ to him for me?

AHJ: (Laughing) I’ll tell you him you said “Hi”!

PNG: Thanks for that! Next question: Was there any new territory explored on “AHJ” that you never did with The Strokes?

AHJ: Um I think there is new territory to explore in every time you step in a studio, or you begin writing, or you work with different people. That’s just the process of human evolution, really in anything you do. You know, you try not to do the same thing twice and something new excites you in the moment that you do it. It’s not like… It’s not so much like, “ugh I’m being held back in this thing” and then you go and do that thing. It’s just… You just get excited about… I try to focus on the positive things, You know, like what I’m getting excited about. Not like… It’d be kinda hard to create with… I guess you can, but I don’t want to create with a negative intention.

Bruno: How long did it take and how did you get the tone that you… Ummm… That distinctive Albert Hammond junior tone?

AHJ: I think it’s a mixture of tone and also the playing… I don’t know that’s what you… I mean, put it this way: I mean, why not try to find you own? It’s the only thing you got going…. For you is to do that so you just do everything you can to do it. I don’t know, honestly, I don’t. I don’t know why or how… I’m happy it exists and people know… “oh that’s sounds like Albert!” Or like it sound something like a riff I would write. But I don’t know, I mean I work at it, I work out really really hard.

Bruno: it paid off!

AHJ: haha yeah.. I mean it’s paid off more to myself or more than even in the sense of success or that way. I fell like that’s all just the cherry on top.

Bruno: like a sense of accomplishment?

AHJ: yeah! I mean, that’s… if you just got it without any of that… or if you didn’t keep on growing, you would just start to build insecurities. You would start to wonder why is it like that? I mean you build insecurities anyways, when you look at success, it’s just the nature of… You know, You get confused how or why something might affect someone! But then you start to believe in yourself and then you have to find a balance to get better.

PNG: We like to ask this, just cause we’re curious teenagers: What are you listening to right now? Any playlist or favorites?

AHJ: uhhh… I don’t know I… There’s so many… Nothing like… I remember the last thing I, playlist, the last thing I was listening to…

The last thing I had was:

I don’t know this was a playlist I was listening to when I was working out this morning. Haha

PNG: That’s a pretty neat collection of songs there! One last thing: What did you think of the Grammy’s. Any snubs?

AHJ: Oh I don’t know, I didn’t watch it.

PNG: Oh well, Random Access Memories won Album of the Year and Julian was a guest singer on there too.

AHJ: Oh yeah I heard that. That was obviously very cool… It was very, very cool that he won.

PNG: Well, that’s all that we have thanks for your time! Good luck on the rest of your tour!

AHJ: Thanks guys! Good Luck with the site!

For more on Albert Hammond Jr., visit his website.

WATCH ALBERT HAMMOND JR. LIVE WITH THE STROKES:(HE HAS AN AFRO AND GUITAR)

WATCH ALBERT HAMMOND JR. PLAY “ST. JUSTICE” OFF OF HIS LATEST EP AHJ:

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“After The Disco” Broken Bells

Broken Bells

After The Disco Album Review

Columbia Records

Released February 4, 2014

Genre: Alternative Rock, Disco, Space Rock

Harmony is the brick and mortar for any successful music duo and Broken Bells’ winning combination of Indie-Rock sweetheart James Mercer and production sorcerer Danger Mouse unite once again with unsupposing vigour and ambition. Since their 2010 debut, James Mercer has churned out a generally well favoured Shins album (Port of Morrow) which steered back onto the melodic and punchy grooves that we ached for in the contemplatively lacklustre Wincing the Night Away back in 2007. Paired with the reputable juggernaut Brian Burton whose work has embedded all manner of projects and bands from Gorillaz, to Gnarls Barkley and even the role as unlicensed and symbiotic producer for Jay Z with his ‘introduction to classics 101’, The Grey Album, these artists has individually proved themselves as mavericks of their trade but are Broken Bells a primary exhibit that you can have two much of a good thing? An emphatic “No”.

Dealing with two artists so well versed in their own fields they need not be bogged down or be obscured by a naive haze, they obviously have a massive respect for one another showcased by the quality of tracks produced and the throwbacks to each halves’ respective works. It does seem, however, that Mercer has taken the chairman position in the songwriter department this time round, his introspective soliloquies lace After the Disco like a welcome but melancholy scent, but this is relatively inconsequential; I believe the sentiments elicited from Mercer as a vocalist come more from his emotive melodies than the lyrics whether he be griping over youth, loss, sorrow or love; platonic or otherwise.

This is where After the Disco shines or falls short depending on your disposition. It’s chorusly dense, if there even is such a thing; melodies smear into your conscious and remain cemented there for the foreseeable future after a few listens. Though often speculated as sickly and cheap I think anyone disappointed by the occasionally mawkish ‘ooh’ or ‘yeah’ should have thought twice before purchasing an album titled After the DISCO. The pop sensibilities don’t end there, since first single “Holding on for Life” dropped a while backbaiting scrutiny from Bee-gees obsessives and internet trolls alike. Mercer and Burton have tapped into the main vein of disco influence on this record, something I feel too many bands categorized in ‘nu-disco’ are too timid or meek to commit to.

Broken Bells fear nothing and have no need to. Their music hasn’t digressed much from the foundations they laid earlier in the decade but their blend of engrossing synth-pop like on “Perfect World” or the influence of Mercer’s South-Central infancy on “Leave it Alone” makes for a varying and confident album. Under Producer Danger Mouse’s wing, or the anatomical rodent equivalent, After the Disco paints an altering landscape of energies and influences which often spark beauty and introversion while balancing the less subtle and far rarer nods to rehashed ideas from their debut like on tracks “Medicine” or “Lazy Wonderland” for instance. Satisfying but choppy chord strums at the finale of closing track, “The Remains of Rock’n’Roll”, recapitulate the exact sentiments of Broken Bells, not flawless but truly organic.

PRETTY NEAT MUSIC


FAV TRACKS: HOLDING ON FOR LIFE / LEAVE IT ALONE / NO MATTER WHAT YOU’RE TOLD

LEAST FAV TRACKS: MEDICINE / LAZY WONDERLAND

SCORE: (7.7/10)