The School - Loveless Unbeliever
There are times when you get can exactly what an album sounds like by the album cover. Just by looking at this cover, I could almost hear the 50s/60s inspired pop music radiating from its cover. When I hit play on this album, that is exactly what I heard. It opens with "Let it Slip", a 50s inspired pop tune if ever I've heard one, complete with "bop-bop-ba-lu" background vocals, reverb-laden drums, building strings in the background, handclaps, and, of course, "that" voice. Liz Hunt has a perfect voice for this kind of music. It's kind of cute, but not overly so. She recalls 50s pop music without sounding like she's ripping anything off. It's an homage...not an exact recreation. While it is definitely rooted in 50s pop music, there is also more than a hint of 80s pop. There are more than a couple of times on this album where I hear a melody and ask myself, "Did they take that from The Smiths?"
All-in-all, it's a terrific album, filled with songs that are short, sweet, and memorable. If you like pop music at all, you'll love this album.
Favorite Track: "I Want You Back"
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
My love for the Arcade Fire is well-known. I loved Funeral, and (I think) I loved Neon Bible even more. With this album, my expectations were high. I couldn't help it. I tried to lower them, so that I wouldn't have unreasonably high expectations for it, but I just couldn't do it. New Arcade Fire. That's reason to celebrate.
As it turns out, my expectations couldn't be too high. This album took those expectations and exceeded them. I was a bit nervous about the length of the album at first...looking at that track listing and seeing 16 tracks staring back at me was a bit daunting. But it didn't matter...every track is terrific. Okay...so maybe not every track. I'm not overly excited about "Sprawl I (Flatland)", but it works as a great intro to "Sprawl II "Mountains Beyond Mountains)". And that's the thing...this album works so well as an album. Before the album released, I heard a "Month of May" and "The Suburbs". They were good, but not great. But, in the context of this album, they both seem to make more sense. This is a great, cohesive album. And it is proof that, no matter how many people say otherwise, the format of "the album" is not dead...it just needs to be done correctly. That's something that the Arcade Fire understand.
When all is said and done, this may end up being my favorite Arcade Fire album...and that's really saying something.
Favorite Track: "Suburban War"
Margot & The Nuclear So And So's - Buzzard
Where the Arcade Fire exceeded my expectations for their new album, Margot let me down. Hard. I loved the sound of their first couple albums...they were folk songs at heart, but filled out with fantastic instrumentation. What drew me to their music were their arrangements. I loved the percussion, the horns, and the haunting keyboards. I loved how they could start out a song very soft, and end with the perfect combination of beauty and noise.
On this album, those arrangements are gone. The subtle instrumentation (and the explosion of that same instrumentation) has been replaced with loud electric guitars. Between Not Animal and Buzzard, Margot turned into a rock band...and no one even though to warn me about it. After one listen, I put down the album, extremely disappointed.
But then, of course, I picked it up again. With one listen under my belt, I knew what I was getting into. The second listen proved to be a much more enjoyable experience. Sure, I missed the old Margot...but I couldn't expect them to stay the same for their entire career. This album still had good songs. As good as some of the songs on their previous two albums? No...but some solid songs, all the same.
I sit here now, on my fifth listen. It has really grown on me. I'm not sure I'll ever love this album the same way I love The Dust of Retreat or Not Animal, but I do really like it, and it's getting better with each listen. It's a different Margot...but that doesn't have to be a bad thing.
Rating: 4/5 (this rating is sure to increase with more listening)
Favorite Track: "Lunatic, Lunatic, Lunatic"
Maximum Balloon - Maximum Balloon
Maximum Balloon is the side project for Dave Sitek of TV On the Radio fame. If you did not know this before listening to the album, it would become immediately apparent. The opening to "Groove Me" sounds like the funked-up brother of TV On the Radio's "DLZ" (off Dear Science). That song opens the album with a bang, and lets the listener know what they're in for. It's a funky, catchy, dance album, featuring dirty synths, slinking basslines, and a different singer on each track (notable vocals come from Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone, Karen O, Holly Miranda, David Byrne, Little Dragon, Theophilus London, and others). It's an album that has a hint of danger laced throughout...an album that would sound perfect at 2AM in a dark alley. It's a dance album for those of us who don't really like dance music.
While the album does get a little long by the end, it's still a good listen. This is an album that you may have to be in the right mood for...but, if you are, it can be glorious. I dare you to listen to this and not start dancing...it's darn near impossible.
Favorite Track: "Groove Me (feat. Theophilus London)"