Blog

New Adds: Monophonics, Fort Romeau, Sufjan Stevens, Nils Frahm, Death Grips, and Lower Dens,

Monophonics - Sound of Sinning: When Ari started playing the title track off Sound of Sinning at the music department meeting, I think she described it the best as “something out of Quentin Tarintino movie” and “Western.”  Since then these images have stuck to my mind as I began to listen to the album, and I think it fits perfectly.  As I listened to the funky bass lines, layered with vintage synths, and guitar hits, I pictured a Tarintino female lead character walking away slowly in a desert after doing something badass and violent.  Monophonics is a band from San Francisco releasing their second album in 2015, but it sounds like they time traveled from the 60s and 70s to bring their brand of psychedelic funk.  As if the Temptations and James Brown met the psychedelic Beatles and the Beach Boys to sing about love and heartbreak in a super soulful fashion.  They sound like the Black Keys, but more emotional and sentimental.  There is also traces of doo-wop, in the way that a female leader singer repeats whatever the singer says and the piano lines.  Although Monophonics bring an old school sound, they don’t lose sight on the future. Loved this record. One of my favorites I have reviewed so far. DYLAN

RIYL: James Brown, The Black Keys, The Temptations, 
 

Recommended Tracks: "Sound of Sinning," "La la la Love Me," "Falling Apart," "Strange Love," "Find My Way Back"

Fort Romeau - Insides: I think I have finally identified and can articulate specifically why I had such difficulty getting into electronic music: a lot of it just does not sound “real” to me. (Stop rolling your eyes at me, Henry and Carrie.) This is especially the case for me with a lot of house music – the repetitiveness of the distinctly digital, exact drumbeats of songs that merge uniformly into one another belong in retro arcade game or sci-fi movie soundtracks (or, apparently, in SpongeBob episodes), not in my variable, organic, imprecise, analog world. However, this is not one of these albums. Filled with songs that coherently blend while avoiding monotony, songs that not only feature intriguing build-ups but also satisfying dénouements, Insides is incredibly human, an aural journey from bass-heavy dance beats to ethereal sonic textures that is both captivating and visceral. This album more than “speaks” to me, it enraptures me, it transports me because it is undeniably otherworldly but in an inviting rather than intangible or isolating way. I mean think about it, if Ashley “I don’t like Radiohead or electronic music” Hawkins likes this album, it must be pretty fucking sick. ALH

RIYL: Caribou, Lapalux

Recommended Tracks: “Folle” (2), “Lately” (7), “All I Want” (3)

Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell: Carrie & Lowell is an album that feels timeless in its format, just a person singing songs about their life. The sound is very similar to previous Sufjan albums, Seven Swans and the States project albums, in that it is stripped down, lacking the electronic experimentation of The Age of Adz. The song-writing style is closest to Perfume Genius or Sun Kil Moon, artists that have felt to me as though they are singing their experiences so you can understand why they are the way they are.  I feel Carrie & Lowell is that kind of album for Sufjan. He is looking at his history, analyzing it and reflecting on it over the course of 45 minutes. Surprisingly, every song is memorable in its own way, which is an achievement on an album that has such a high level of continuity. I am very impressed that an artist that has released so many top-notch albums over the last 15 years, Sufjan still has more left in him that is worth hearing. K-JAR

RIYL: Bon Iver, Sun Kil Moon, Perfume Genius, Andrew Bird 

Recommended Tracks: “Should Have Known Better” (2), “Fourth of July” (6), “John My Beloved”(9), “Blue Bucket of Gold” (11), “The Only Thing” (8)

Nils Frahm - solo: This is an album for headphones, late nights, and a journal. Played entirely on a prototype of a new make/model of piano, it introduces a new set of more obvious harmonics that haven’t been heard before; and the way the chords hit has a very unique attack, which makes for a lovely listening experience. The first four tracks are rather typical Nils Frahm, beautiful, sleepy, slow-moving ballads, with each chord being placed just so, for maximum emotional impact. It’s the second half that stands out as his most adventurous, dark work to date. In “walls,” a rhythmic motif carries the chord progression for the entire track, and ends up being simultaneously something you can zone out from, something you can intricately analyze, and something that makes you feel the deepest feelings. “immerse,” at a staggering 10 minutes, is a journey with more jazz chords than one is used to hearing, and the dissonance he introduces here is magnificent. It leads quite well into the gorgeously haunting “Four Hands,” an epic closer for an album like this. Thus, the second half of solo is a wonderful display of the new directions Nils Frahm is pushing himself in, both in terms of his musicianship but also his overall willingness to try radically different palettes for his songs. CHRIS #1

RIYL: Ólafur Arnalds, Sigur Rós, beautiful solo piano. 

Recommended Tracks: "merry" (4), "immerse" (7), & "four hands" (8)

Death Grips - The Powers That B: Death Grips makes music that I am hesitant to categorize as anything more specific than experimental and intense, and The Powers That B is definitely both. Some of you may already be familiar with Death Grips' two-part album since part 1, Niggas on the Moon, has been available to stream since this past summer and part 2, Jenny Death, leaked about a week ago. But now (finally) after much anticipation and emotional stress for anyone who is a fan of these guys, The Powers That B, along with a North American tour, has been delivered to us in full, packaged and pretty. Part 1 is the more experimental half of the album. It can be very percussive, somewhat minimalistic, and features vocal samples provided by none other than Björk on a majority of its 8 tracks. Vocal, rhythmic, and melodic fluctuation abounds on Niggas on the Moon and really creates a sense of discord that runs throughout it. This can make for some AWESOME and super innovative moments, like opener "Up My Sleeves," which sounds like a wild descent into the abyss of Hades - dark and disorienting as fuck in the best way. The Björk vocal samples are put to very good, very scary use on this track. However, their frequent appearance on so many songs felt a bit repetitive at times and kind of made me feel like that whole descent into Hades thing I was talking about just kept going and going - although, I guess that's kind of what I want out of a Death Grips album. Niggas On The Moon is a demanding but worthwhile listen. At its end, though, I wasn't fully satisfied. This is where Jenny Death comes in and just punches you in the face like "Here bitch is this what you wanted?" It was. Whereas Niggas On The Moon felt almost completely void of the rock influence on the band's earlier albums, Jenny Death has got it coming in hard, with tracks like "Turned Off" and "On GP" that are heavy on guitar and non-looped/machine produced drums. Further, what its counterpart lacks in catchy-ness due to frequent and sudden beat changes, Jenny Death possesses with tracks like "Pss Pss," which is a pretty danceable song that's also cheeky as hell and features Ride showcasing his signature screaming rap style as well as some prime creepy whispering. For me, Jenny Death is the stronger part of The Powers That B, although I think these two discs compliment one another nicely and show off a wide range of the band's abilities and strengths. As a big fan of Death Grips who has been waiting to hear this thing in its entirety, I would definitely say The Powers That B is a fulfilling listen and one that goes hard like these guys always do. CAROLINE

RIYL: ho99o9, Tobacco, Odd Future, Guerilla Toss, Björk 

Recommended tracks: From Niggas On The Moon - 1, 2, 4, 7; From Jenny Death - 1, 3, 4, 5, 8

Lower Dens - Escape From Evil: Don't let their button downs and ties, obnoxious facial hair, and inability to smile fool you - Lower Dens is not a cookie cutter indie band! I was pleasantly surprised by the versatility of the Baltimore-based indie rock group's third studio album, Escape From Evil. In addition to being undeniably “indie rock,” the album strongly features everything from groovy 80s basslines and synths to dreamy surf rock guitar, and actually manages to pull it all together quite smoothly. On certain tracks, most notably “Electric Current,” the 80s vibe becomes delightfully overpowering and I feel like I could be listening to Bowie or Stacey Q. On other tracks, especially “Sucker’s Shangri-La,” a slower, more emotional instrumental combines with epic ambient vocals to form a sound strongly reminiscent of M83. Drummer Nate Nelson’s quick and danceable beats effectively bridge the gap between rock and 80s dance pop, while frontwoman Jana Hunter’s androgynous vocals maintain an indie vibe through the album. My only criticism of Escape From Evil is in the same versatility that I love about it. In their exploration of different styles, I can’t help but feel like the cohesiveness of the album was lost. I would rather listen to each of these songs by themselves, on different occasions, than listen through the album as a whole. CHRIS NUMERO DOS

RIYL: Beach Fossils, Florence and the Machine, M83, Muse

Recommended Tracks: “Sucker’s Shangri-La,” “Electric Current,” “To Die in L.A.”