King Tuff - Black Moon Spell: BEWARE! The scuzziest motherfuzzer in LA has emerged from the hermit’s lair bearing warnings of mystic visions: “Magic Mirrors”, “Staircases of Diamond”, and further spooky delights await within the crystal ball of the Black Moon Spell! Kyle Thomas’ unmistakable Dylan-by-way-of-Jimmy Page songwriting maintains its pace, albeit with a lo-fi limp (which isn’t saying much— his previous, self-titled album was VERY polished for garage rock!). After hunkering down for some time with Burger super-producer Bobby Harlow (Cherry Glazzer, Growlers, etc), he has quickly discovered a middle ground that is both charmingly self-spun and certainly appropriate for mass-consumption (a territory that co-conspirator Ty Segall is just now arriving at). Point being- if you dig the vibe of straight-ahead rock n roll but are easily dissuaded by lackluster song structures and often laughable fidelity then you will certainly find solace in this album. Enter the fog, raise your lantern, and lace up your dancing shoes— King Tuff is here to enchant and boogie! NICK
Recommended Tracks: "Eyes of the Muse", "Black Moon Spell", "Eddie's Song"
Julian Casablancas + the Voidz - Tyranny: All I can say is WTF. Ok, I’ll elaborate. AAM downloads email told me this would sound like the Strokes- either they didn’t bother to listen to the album or they just lied. Tyranny is just about as far from the Strokes as Casablancas could possibly get. It’s weird, it’s experimental, and apart from the nasal vocal workings of the Strokes front man, Tyranny bears absolutely no resemblance to Is This It or even to his first solo effort. Either this is an identity crisis or Casablancas has finally let go of his inhibitions and begun making the music that he has always wanted to make. The music is disjointed to say the least, at times it even sounds as if Julian and his voidz are all trying to play different songs on the same take. Attempting to label this amalgamation of tunes with any one genre is quite impossible, but imagine a stew of dark psychedelia, synthy afrobeat, and baroque pop. It’s like a radioactive box of trinkets and oddities that has been soaked in a slick of grime and left in the gutter to decompose. "M.Utually A.Ssured D.Estruction" plays like the soundtrack to a video game that Budgie and the Misfits might have composed together. “Father Electricity” sounds like a synth-charged light saber fight to the death with a conga beat going in the background, all facilitated by Connan Mockasin. SAM
Recommended Tracks: “M.Utually A.Ssured D.Estruction”, “Where No Eagles Fly”, “Father Electricity”
Generationals - Alix: Just when I was starting to get tired of the indie synth pop craze, Generationals came along with Alix to suck me back in for a bit longer! Don’t get me wrong, I love the Passion Pits and the Grouploves of the world, it’s just that the influx bands selling their guitars for synths and drum machines has made it hard to find the really good stuff. Well folks, Alix is good. And Generationals haven’t pawned their guitars yet! So if you’re in the market for some reverb drenched, beach-friendly songs, go get your Hawaiian shirt, you’ve found the mother load. Listening to the opening song “Black Lemon”, I’m on an African safari, surfing on its nautical synth-line, and rabble-rousing with my childhood friends all at once. During the song “It Took A Minute” I’m 18 again, trying to cop tickets to Lollapalooza, as the savage crunch of guitar tears holes through the chorus. Though I wouldn’t call the album itself particularly memorable, it is fun, energetic, shamelessly cheerful, and above all else it makes me remember good times and brings me back to happy memories. Not to mention, Generationals executes Alix with unmistakable charm and youthful flair that any college student would be hard-pressed to defy. AROG
Recommended Tracks: "Black Lemon", "It Took a Minute", "Reading Signs", "Heart in Two"
Aphex Twin - Syro: I'd like to pull back the curtain and reveal our very special guest in this installment of the music blogpost. You know him, you love him. HI ZACH. Henry is here too. Hey begs ~~~~~
Let's talk Syro.
Ari: My branium cranium was swirling after first listen. I couldn't quite describe the experience of the album, but I knew I dug it. I can say that it's not something you should listen to in pieces.
Zach: For me, the most immediately striking thing about this album was how it operates on a purely subconscious level the first time around. Your mind can't possibly keep up with all of the zig-zagging rhythms, chords, and melodies that RDJ throws at you, so you basically have to let the enormity of the thing wash over you. It's only through repeated listens that you can really squint at the music and pick out individual parts and how they relate to the overall construction of these pieces.
Henry: Yeah I feel pretty much the same way, just listened to the whole thing for the first time and it's just so big and vast and ever-shifting that it's hard to pin down. I think it really continues what he was doing with Drukqs in that it's like a ride through all these weird sonic environments. I think sonically it's hugely impressive and I'm really looking forward to going back to it a bunch of times and being able to hear everything in more detail cause I feel like I only absorbed about a 10th of it. I honestly don't feel qualified to speak on it right now.
Didn't process many individual songs but "PAPAT4" is absolutely beautiful. Wasn't super impressed by the first few songs but the album really opened up around track 4 or 5 for me.
Also this album is sooooooo funky. Can really draw a line from Detroit techno to this shit.
Ari: I like that, Henry- sonic environments. It feels like the shifts are constructed to tap into every zone of the brain to heighten the listening experience. The shifts can be so stark and simultaneously organic, HOW DOES HE DO IT? I agree: need to keep listening and listening. Zach, are you on your, what, 15th run of hearing the album? What point are you at with the evolution of the listen? Also wooooooow, the ballad at the end. It's so different from the rest of the album, but really has its place and left me with an emotional pang. "It's over."
Zach: Every song is just immaculately constructed - to the point that I can't even believe a human being actually envisioned the ways these songs evolve. It feels like you're hearing the birth of a new organism or even a civilization that exists in another dimension, beyond our traditional conception of time and space. It's transporting, bizarre, heady stuff.
After listening to this album way too much over the past few days, I now have a basic understanding of how these tracks function. Instead of being completely overwhelmed, I can focus on smaller details and enjoy all the tiny harmonies, rhythms, and throwaway sounds that RDJ has tucked away in this music. It's also really fun to anticipate certain sections of songs and then have the satisfaction of hearing them played out (for example, the DIRTY synth line at 4:49 of "XMAS_EVET10").
Interesting that Henry is connecting more with the 2nd half so far - I'm much more partial to the first as of now, but maybe that's because my brain gets exhausted by the time we get to the crazier jungle-esque tracks near the end. The piano ballad at the end is indeed beautiful, and serves as a necessary decompression after this intense journey. I find it no less interesting than the rest of the pieces - you never know exactly where he is going to take that melody line with each repetition. And lovely bird sounds too!
Henry, maybe offer your thoughts on how your perspective changes from the first to second/third listens? I think those spins were most crucial in terms of piecing together how this record works.
(god that was too long sorry)
Ari: Okay I just listened to it for the first time on good headphones. Changes thangs. An album that can physically suspend you, hold you captive, bitchslap you, then nurture you, you relax and soak in its noise. I haven't listened to something that has grabbed me like that in a long time. Don't try to understand it, just surrender. I laid my head back, closed my eyes... chromesthesia~~~
Henry: One minor complaint: I get that he's trying to rewire people's brains and that but I do find myself wishing these songs had at least something to grab on to. He'll introduce something really cool sounding and then 4 bars later it'll be gone forever, which I'm sure is the goal but it makes it really hard to remember anything about the songs! Cool when you're swept away in them but I completely forget how most of them go. The pure sound experience is really neat but I think one of RDJ's best qualities is his gift for melody, which I'm not hearing very much on this record.
Still really feeling the jungle tracks, recognize a few classic samples hidden away in "s950tx16wasr10 (Earth Portal Mix)". We really need to find a better way to refer to these track titles haha.
Zach: The melodies are there, but you really have to wait for your mind to grab them! I didn't truly grasp the chord progression on "4bit" until my 4th or 5th listen, and now I salivate every time it comes on.
The true beauty of this record unfurls when you begin to race alongside these songs rather than trying to play catchup. The curlicue patterns of "CIRCLONT14" will get stuck in my head randomly during a day at work...it's the strangest thing to actually find myself humming something that I originally found so bizarrely atonal and un-catchy.
Your rewiring process has only begun, Henry! Keep digging deeper because there is much to grab onto here. And yes, headphones are indeed a different ballgame when it comes to this stuff. It's the only way to find yourself truly immersed in the Syro Dimension.
The one thing you can take away from this is that Zach Nivens has found his soulmate. There will be a wedding in the spring and errbody is invited!!!
Recommended Tracks: All
Alt J - This Is All Yours: Upon being assigned to review Alt-J’s new album This Is All Yours, I was initially hesitant to analyze a band I had a rather poor impression of. So, I began to listen to This Is All Yours with these negative expectations, that although sometimes the music would sound pretty, it wouldn’t necessarily strike me in any way. After reaching the third track “Nara”, which builds up and hits you like a snowball rolling down a mountain, I began to become way more interested in the band’s history, wondering if this really was the same band I initially thought it was. That statement became far more literal than I intended, as I finally made the critical discovery that Alt-J was not responsible for the radio dwelling song “Pompeii” by Bastille. Anytime I heard the opening of Pompeii start up on alt 98.7, I would get slightly disgusted and immediately switch channels as I muttered indignantly “eff Alt-J”. This was probably the most significant development made towards me liking Alt-J, as I stopped associating them with that corny male choir chorus and the animated movie Mr. Peabody & Sherman. And after giving the album a listen, I must say I am very sorry to Alt-J for such an insult.
With the release of their first studio album An Awesome Wave, Alt-J saw wide exposure on the radio and indie rock blogs. Many a times I would give their tracks a listen, be impressed with the musical composition, but remain unsatisfied with the singer’s airy, unchanging voice and the lack of drive that would keep me invested in their message or a certain feeling. Their second album seems to make some progress on enveloping the listener into minds of Alt-J, as much of the lyrical content surrounds experiences on tour and reflections on the ever changing landscape of the music industry in the an Internet-driven world. Although “Every Other Freckle” comes off as a very uncomfortable seduction attempt, with “Hey’s” on the upbeat that remind me of a rap beat produced by DJ Mustard. For the first ten minutes however, Alt-J falls into the same crutch they struggle with, which is saying absolutely nothing. That being said though, Alt-J’s lush layer of sounds, featuring everything from electric guitars to muffled horns, distorted bass lines, echoing acoustics, strings, to a Miley Cyrus sample on “Hunger Of The Pine”, all come together naturally and effortlessly. Although I am not encapsulated by the voice of the band, their emphasis on songs that are dynamic and moving helps Alt-J escape drawing out their songs far too long as they have before. I learned Alt-J is incredibly good at painting a beautiful picture that is a bit too smeared and unfocused to really understand the true message behind it. And thankfully I also learned of my ignorance of their discography, because it would make me seem very dumb if I were writing an album review or something. DYLAN
Recommended Tracks: “Nara”, “Choice Kingdom”, “Hunger Of The Pine”, “Bloodflood Pt II”