Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lykke Li, Radiohead, Englishman

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

I thoroughly enjoyed Lykke Li's first album, Youth Novels.  It was an off-kilter pop album with some extremely catchy songs ("Dance. Dance. Dance." was my favorite).  If her voice bordered on cutesy from time to time, it was forgivable, because the songs were still really good.
For as much I liked Youth Novels, Wounded Rhymes blows it out of the water.  The cutesy vocals are gone.  The music, once fairly light and happy, has been replaced by a darker, denser mix.  The minimalism of "Dance. Dance. Dance." has been scrapped, in favor of the tribal, threatening "Get Some", the 50s reverb-drenched (and organ-laden) "Sadness is a Blessing", and the positively Bat for Lashes "Jerome". Her voice, while a little odd, mixes with all the music extremely well, to the point where I can't imagine anyone else singing these least, not singing them as well as she does.
This is a fantastic album, and an early candidate for album of the year.

Rating: 5/5
Favorite Track: "Sadness is a Blessing"

You can listen to the entire album here.

Radiohead - The King of Limbs

This album came out of nowhere.  On a Monday, we found out it would be coming out the following Saturday.  We all knew that Radiohead did things a little differently, but no one expected this.
On the first listen, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this album.  Only 8 tracks, and very heavy on the skittering beats that were found in Thom Yorke's The Eraser.  But they seemed to be more prevalent than on that album...the instrumentation seemed to take on some kind of modernist experimental jazz feel.  "Looks like they've been listening to Flying Lotus a little too much," was my first thought.  And, even after 8 listens, that's still my thought.  It's not a bad thing (I'm quite fond of Flying Lotus, myself), but it seems to be a very strong influence on this album.
I wasn't a huge fan of this on my first listen.  It was different, but nothing really jumped out at me.  But, after multiple listens, I started picking up on the depth of the songs.  There's so much going on in each song, but I didn't really hear it at first.  While the lyrics often leave something to be desired, the music truly is amazing.  The louder I listen to this album, the more I hear, and the more it wraps around.  The instrumentation is so dense that it seems to fill whatever space I'm in.
If you've never listened to Radiohead, this isn't the place to start.  But, if you already like them, you're sure to love it.

Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Track: "Little By Little"

Englishman - Englishman

I heard about this album from a friend.  I didn't know much, just that it was supposed to be a nice little folk album in the vein of Iron & Wine.
While that could be a way to describe it, it seems a bit simplistic.  Yes, it could be described as a folk album - definitely in the singer-songwriter family.  But there's more going on here.  This is not a stripped-down, man-and-his-guitar type of album.  Sure, those moments are on here, but there are also moments with more instrumentation.  The songs center around his guitar and vocals, but that is not all there is.  "Pet Cactus" features pulsing drums, some electric guitar, and random bits of percussion.  Even simpler songs ("Planted", "Classically Trained") are perfectly accompanied by a piano.
I can see the Iron & Wine comparison, but only in regards to the stripped-down nature of some of his songs, and the lyrical nature of the songs.  Past that, I don't see it.  Iron & Wine's stripped-down moments were more stripped down than this, and his voice doesn't sound a bit like Sam Beam's.
If you're into the singer-songwriter genre at all, you're sure to love this album.

Rating: 4.5/5
Favorite Track: "Classically Trained"

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