Sunday, March 23, 2014

Weekend Music Roundup

Finally a week with some new music from this year! After a slow period it seems that new releases are starting to pick up again, just in time for Spring. Or maybe I should say that new releases that have any interest to me are on the increase. There has been an endless supply of new albums over the past few months, but a quick preview of many of them had left me uninterested. With the rise of easy distribution, there seems to be a massive amount of disposable albums washing through the world and I simply lack the time or patience to sift through them. So needless to say I was glad to see some things lately that spoke to me. There are also some older albums on here that I'm just getting around to reviewing, making for a nice mix of genres and tastes. Enjoy.

The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream: Though it only came out last week, I've been reading great things about the new album from the Philadelphia indie rock band. I enjoyed their debut album back in 2008, but never got around to listening to their next two, so I figured it was about time to jump in for their fourth. While their earlier work felt a little too close Bruce Springsteen for my taste, this one takes on more of a alt country vibe and echoes the easy groove of Kurt Vile's last album.  "Suffering," "An Ocean Between the Waves," and "Eyes to the Wind" are standout tracks.

The Horrors - Luminous: Due out in May, this is the London indie band's fourth album, and first since 2011. Long gone are the garage punk days of their debut, having since been replaced with a neo-psychedelic shoegaze sound which continues to permeate through this record. Much like their last one, this is a lush album that soars through a beautiful soundscape. Though it keeps a pretty mellow vibe throughout, it has enough deviations to keep it interesting and prevent it from ever feeling boring. "So Now You Know," "Jealous Sun," and "I See You" are my personal favorites on a record that consistently delivers.

Papercuts - Life Among the Savages: It's been three years since the San Fran indie rock band last released an album, but this new record will drop in May, and it's quite good. I loved their 2009 album You Can Have What You Want, but felt letdown by 2011's Fading Parade. Here they return to a wonderful dream pop sound that falls somewhere between shoegaze and indie pop. It's catchy, but also a little fuzzy, and always beautiful. "Still Knocking at the Door," and the title track are among my favorites.

The Legendary Pink Dots - Live '89 Volume 2: Over the past several years the adored London experimental psychedelic band has been releasing live albums from the past. This is the latest addition, and it's brilliant. Though highly recommended to me by friends whose opinions I value, I never invested much time in the Pink Dots, but that is going to change. Their music is almost impossible to pin down into a genre, spanning prog, post punk, and psychedelic rock to create something entirely different and extraordinarily interesting. There's a darkness that hovers over this record, making it feel like a nightmare version of early Pink Floyd albums or a weirder version of Television Personalities. Either way, it's wonderful. It's rare that I hear things that feel completely new to me, so I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

Motorpsycho - Behind the Sun: The Norwegian psychedelic prog rock band released their 18th album a few weeks ago. Musically, the band hits all the right notes, balancing heavy stoner riffs with more symphonic wanderings. But vocally the album varies from song to song. On the heavier stuff, they are pretty top-notch, but when they try to go softer, the vocals are far weaker than the music and sometimes drag the songs down with them. This is definitely one of those "pick-and-choose" albums where only a handful of songs are worth keeping in rotation, among them "On a Plate" and "Ghost." A solid okay, but not a must-have.

Elvis - Hot August Night: Recently re-released, this is the Midnight show from Elvis's Las Vegas return in 1969. It was previously released as As Shook Up. These concerts are considered legendary by fans, mostly because of Elvis' stage energy and playful banter. But that very same quality is what makes this album less than stellar. Between every song, Elvis is panting to catch his breath and talks insistently, which normally I enjoy, but on this record I find his banter to be rather annoying. That said, there are moments of pure genius on here, especially on "Runaway," "All Shook Up" and "Suspicious Minds."

Janove Ottesen - Francis' Lonely Nights: Released back in 2004, just as his band Kaizers Orchestra was making waves in their native Norway, this is the lead singer's only solo record. One place where most solo albums go wrong is that they end up being a lesser version of the band's output. Janove wisely avoids this pitfall by not attempting to sound like the band. Perhaps the most obvious difference is that he sings in English on this album, but beyond that, it's completely void of the Dark Cabaret influences of Kaizers Orchestra.  With the exception of the first three tracks which feel like a stab at BritPop, the album takes on a more subdued singer songwriter mood, comparable to other Scandinavian acts like Sivert Hoyem and Johnossi. It's not without its flaws, but once it gets going, it's a pretty damn fine record. "Forget About Me," "Go Tell Her," and "Down to the Vertigans" are standout tracks, but "Neighbour Boy" is the really remarkable song on here. 

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