Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Blueflowers, Theophilus London & Washed Out

The Blueflowers – In Line With the Broken Hearted
It kind of sounds like they took the pop sounds of the 50s, 80s, and 90s, then just kind of took turns with the sound of each decade.  Also, there are moments where they mix in some spaghetti western-sounding stuff.  I kind of like it.  They don’t jump out to me as an amazing band, but I like their overall sound pretty well.  There are times when the lead singers voice starts to sound a little squeaky, but it doesn’t happen often.  At times, it sounds like their going for the whole Mazzy Star thing, especially in her vocals; there’s definitely more than a hint of Hope Sandoval there.

Favorite track: "When it Started"
Rating: 3/5

Theophilus London – Timez are Weird These Days
I’m normally not a big fan of British hip-hop (that is to say, I don’t really like Dizzee Rascal or The Streets), but there’s something different about this guy.  The music really tends more towards electro than hip-hop the majority of the time.  But, unlike the two artists I just mentioned, London actually has a good feel for the music…a good flow.  I never really got that feeling from Dizzee Rascal or The Streets.  I don’t love the whole album, but there were enough good moments to keep me interested in it throughout.

Favorite track: "Last Name London"
Rating: 3/5

Washed Out – Within and Without
I guess this is what the kids are calling “chillwave”.  I can see that.  It’s airy music and vocals layered over electronic beats.  There wasn’t much here that jumped out at me, but it seemed like a nice album to kind of put on in the background on a lazy day.

Favorite track: "A Dedication"
Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Even More Quick Hits

Apparently my goal was to post so seldom that people would stop checking the blog, then throw an insane amount of reviews at you.

The Cool Kids - When Fish Ride Bicycles

I loved their first album (The Bake Sale), so I was looking forward to this one.  They do a very good job of paying homage to their old school heroes (especially Run DMC), while not making it cheesy.  They continue that trend on this album.  Actually, I think they did an even better job on this album.  Those influences are still there, but they seem to be trying to craft their own sound on this one.  It's an infectious album.

Favorite track: "Rush Hour Traffic"
Rating: 4/5

The Bony King of Nowhere - Eleonore

It's a folksy little album.  There's not much to it.  It's not bad, but there's nothing that separates him from the legions of others that sound exactly like him.  Basically, it's a less-good version of the first Fionn Regan album.

Favorite track: "Eleonore"
Rating: 2/5

Des Ark - Don't Rock the Boat, Sink the F***er

I don't really know what to make of her.  I think I like it.  There are songs that are stripped down and pretty, and others that are basically emo tracks.  It all seems to work.  The music seems serious enough...but then there's a track called "FTW Y'all!!!!", and I just can't take her seriously...even though it seems like she may not be taking herself seriously.

Favorite track: "My Saddle is Waitin' (C'Mon Jump on It)"
Rating: 3/5

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

Kind of feels like an older R.E.M. album...back when they were consistently making good music.  Even if it doesn't rank up there with their best work, it's still a good album.  Listen loud.

Favorite track: "Uberlin"
Rating: 3.5/5

Tyler, The Creator - Goblin

At times, it's a horrorcore album (which he talks about on the album).  At other times, it's an incredibly interesting look into the mind of a young kid who shot up to fame in a hurry.  In those moments, it's a fascinating listen.  Overall, it's a bit long, and, by the end, all of the songs start to sound the same.  It's a dark album, but there are a number of amazing tracks on this album.  It's well worth a listen.

Favorite track: "Yonkers"

Rating: 3.5/5

Action Bronson - Dr. Lecter

This guy borrows his sound from Ghostface Killah...fantastic verses over soul samples and the occasional electric guitar.  He never quite reaches the transcendent levels that Ghostface does, but he's still really good.  The entire album is fantastic, with a handful of stand-out tracks.  Right now, this is my hip-hop album of the year.

Favorite track: "Chuck Pearson"
Rating: 4.5/5

Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra

Like Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean is a park of the Odd Future crew.  But Ocean is the R&B crooner in the group, which sets him apart from the rest of them.  I'm a little undecided on this album.  I think I like it - there are even a couple tracks I love - but I feel like I should like it a little more than I do.  Maybe it'll grow on me with future listens.  As it stands now, I like it pretty well.

Favorite track: "Lovecrimes"
Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, July 11, 2011

Quick Hits

James Vincent McMorrowEarly in the Morning
Dubbed “the Irish Bon Iver”, and I can really see it.  He has that same ghostly falsetto.  And, while this album is a bit more fleshed out with instruments than Bon Iver’s first album, it still has that same stripped-down feel at points.  I wouldn’t put him on the level of Bon Iver, but there are some really amazing moments on this album.

Favorite track: "We Don't Eat"
Rating: 4/5

It’s Beyonce.  Some of the tracks were amazing.  Some of the tracks didn’t do much for me.  When it hits, it’s fantastic.  When it doesn’t, it’s kind of boring (and, at times, a little annoying).  It’s uneven, but I enjoyed it.

Favorite track: "Best Thing I Never Had"
Rating: 2.5/5

I feel like I should’ve liked this more than I did.  Lots of reverb and distortion.  Seems like it should be a great summer album, but it just didn’t click for me.  I didn’t dislike it…but it just seemed to be the same song over and over again.  This seems like one that I’ll like more with repeated listens.

Favorite track: "Strange"
Rating: 3/5

Buck 6520 Odd Years
This is something a little different for him.  He’s always been a little strange, but this one seemed almost like a collage of musical styles, all trying to fit into hip-hop.  A little bit of pop.  A little bit of rock.  And a handful of moments that I can’t even quite describe.  I enjoyed it, but it doesn’t really rank up there with his Bike for Three album, or Situation.

Favorite track: "Superstars Don't Love"
Rating: 3/5

Asobi SeksuFluorescence
I heard about these guys a while ago, and this is my first time to actually sit down and listen to them.  Much like the Pains of Being Pure at Heart album, this is one that I feel like I should like (and in the same category, too…kind of fuzzy, summery music), but I didn’t really like it.  Nothing really jumped out.  I think I’ll end up liking the Pains of Being Pure at Heart album more than I’ll like this one.  In fact, I’m not sure I have much of a desire to listen to this album again.  It just felt kind of blah.

Favorite track: "Pink Light"
Rating: 1.5/5

Family PortraitFamily Portrait
Seemed like a lo-fi summer album.  But, once again, it didn’t really hold my interest.  There were some good moments, but most of the album just felt like one big underproduced faux-tribute to the Beach Boys.  I don’t get it.

Favorite track: "Come Back to Me"
Rating: 2/5

Thursday, July 07, 2011

More Quick Hits

Judging from the amount of new music I've been listening to lately, it looks like this will keep going for a while.  hope you like a barrage of short music reviews.

Wild BeastsSmother
Reminded me of the most boring parts of Shearwater.  Not bad, really…but just not much to it.  It seemed like they were going for a very calm, atmospheric-laden album.  Which they got…but it never really seemed to go anywhere. 

Favorite track: "Deeper"
Rating: 2/5

Paul SimonSo Beautiful or So What
I really like this album.  Kind of a throwback for him.  Lots of acoustic guitars.  A good overall feel to it.  It feels like a summer album.

Favorite track: "Love is Eternal Sacred Light"
Rating: 4/5

EMAPast Life Modern Saints
It’s a little different…she kind of reminds me of some of Kim Gordon’s tracks on the Sonic Youth albums, but with better vocals.  The music was a mix of ethereal soundscapes and random clanging.  She is equal parts beauty and violence.  I feel like I shouldn't like it, but there's something that keeps drawing me back in.  She creates wonderful of terrifying worlds in her music.

Favorite track: "California"
Rating: 4.5/5

La SeraLa Sera
Quiet, well-crafted, 60s-influencd, reverb-laden summer pop.  There’s nothing spectacular about it, but it’s a really good listen on a lazy summer day.

Favorite track: "Beating Heart"
Rating: 3.5/5

I’ve read a lot of great reviews for this album.  I don’t get it.  It just sounds like typical dance music to me.  Everything kind of sounds the same after a while, and it got a little boring.  Plus, the guy’s voice kind of grated on my nerves after a while.

Favorite track: "Helpless"
Rating: 2/5

The Civil WarsBarton Hollow
Nice male/female folk music.  There were a couple of songs that really jumped out at me, and the rest of it was pretty solid.  I like the way their voices sound together.

Favorite track: "Poison & Wine"
Rating: 4/5

Kendrick LamarSection.80
I’d heard good things about this album, some calling it the best hip-hop album of the year so far.  I guess that may be true, but only because I haven’t heard a whole lot of really good hip-hop this year.  I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  Seemed like a standard hip-hop album to me: a couple of great moments, some pretty good moments, and a couple that I just didn’t care for at all.  Sometimes his voice got on my nerves, but not overly so.  I liked the production pretty well.

Favorite track: "Ronald Reagan Era"
Rating: 3/5

SolanderPassing Mt. Satu
I liked their last album, so I was excited about this one.  More of the same…dark, Swedish pop music with hints of folk.  Not too many songs jumped out at me, but this seems like one that will get better with repeated listens.

Favorite track: "Follow"
Rating: 3.5/5

Holly BrookLike Blood, Like Honey
She is now known by another name (Skyler Gray, known for her hook on Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” and Lupe’s “Words I Never Said”), but this was her first foray into music.  Different than I expected…it basically sounds like a Sarah McLachlan album or something.  I liked it pretty well, but there’s not much to it.  She has a terrific voice, though.

Favorite track: "Wanted"
Rating: 2.5/5

Modern SkirtsGramahawk
Sunny pop music.  I like it, but there’s not much to differentiate this from their previous two albums.  Also, his voice kind of gets on my nerves at times.  Not bad, but not great.

Favorite track: "Happy 81"
Rating: 2.5/5

Peter Bjorn & JohnGimme Some
Swedish pop.  They got really big a few years ago with their single “Young Folks”.  I didn’t get it then, and I don’t get it now.  They’re not bad, but it’s pretty standard pop.  I enjoyed it, though…seems like good summer music.

Favorite track: "Down Like Me"
Rating: 2.5/5

Death Cab for Cutie Codes & Keys
I’m not sure I’ll ever love this band as much as I used to.  I like this album.  It’s pretty good throughout, with a couple songs that I really liked.  But it just feels like something is missing. 

Favorite track: "Codes & Keys"
Rating: 3/5

DawesNothing is Wrong
Just a good country(ish) album.  They have the whole Crosby, Stills & Nash sound down…but not quite on the level of those guys.  Maybe a band like The Thorns would be a more accurate comparison.  It’s solid throughout, with a few tracks that I absolutely love.

Favorite track: "Million Dollar Bill"
Rating: 4/5

Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues
I kind of liked their first album, but I really feel like they took a major step forward on this album, without making too many changes to their formula from their first album.  It’s mountain folk, and they highlight their tremendous harmonies.  It seems to get a bit bogged down by the end, but the first half is incredibly strong.

Favorite track: "Helplessness Blues"
Rating: 4/5

The MummersMink Hollow Road
A pretty good, low-key summer pop album.  Not quite as good as the La Sera album, but it’s not bad.

Favorite track: "Stuck in the Middle"
Rating: 2.5/5

Ben SolleeInclusions
He is throwing a bit more experimentation in on this album, and it all seems to work.  There’s nothing as immediately good as “To See the Sunrise” on this album, but there’s a lot of really good stuff on here.  He still has that soul-music-with-a-cello thing going (with more than a hint of Paul Simon), but with an added dimension.  This guy truly is amazing.

Favorite track: "Captivity"
Rating: 4.5/5

Emmylou HarrisHard Bargain
I love Emmylou, but this album left me without much to think about.  It’s along the same lines as Red Dirt Girl (my favorite album of hers), but it really feels more like Stumble Into Grace.  It’s good, but not as good as it could be.

Favorite track: "Goodnight Old World"
Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Quick Hits From Recent Albums

I've been listening to a ton of music at work recently, so I thought I'd post my thoughts about them here.  For the most part, it's only a sentence or two, as they're my quick, initial thoughts on the album.  At some point, I'll plan on writing more about some of these albums.  But, seeing as how I don't post too much, I wouldn't bet on it.

Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Amazing.  Simply outstanding.  A little 80s at times, but an amazing (and amazingly textured) album.  Were it not for Lykke Li, this would be the runaway frontrunner for Album of the Year.

Favorite track: "Holocene"
Rating: 5/5

Seeker Lover Keeper - Seeker Lover Keeper
This is the new band from Australians Sally Seltmann, Sarah Blasko, and Holly Throsby.  I love Sally Seltmann, so I thought I'd check out this album.  I like it.  It's nice, pleasant folk music, with fantastic harmonies.  I don't love it, but it's a nice little album.

Favorite track: "Even Though I'm a Woman"
Rating: 3.5/5

The Violet Burning - The Story of Our Lives
Three discs worth of new music.  It's quite a lot of music to get through, but there isn't a bad song on the album, and there's something to be said for that.  It reminded me of what I love about them.  Well worth the $25 (for the record, that $25 gets you the mp3 download, and a pdf scan of the artwork).

Favorite track: "Lights Out"
Rating: 3.5/5

Kerosene Halo - Kerosene Halo
An acoustic album from two artists I used to be in absolute love with: Derri Daugherty (from The Choir) and Mike Roe (from the 77’s).  It’s a collection of some new songs and some covers (including a Tom Waits cover).  I like it.  Pleasant.  But I feel like they could’ve made it more interesting.

Favorite track: "Bad Sense of Direction" 
Rating: 3/5

Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital
Good, upbeat, synth-based rock.  Not too much different from their previous album, but a good way to inject some energy into a Monday morning.

Favorite track: "Serve the People"
Rating: 3.5/5

William Fitzsimmons - Gold in the Shadow
I like it, but I don't love it.  It's a little more produced than his previous albums.  I love his more stripped-down stuff, so I was happy to have purchased the deluxe version (with acoustic demos) of this album.  It's not his best album, but I still really like it.  It's a good, heartfelt folk album.  But do yourself a favor and buy the deluxe version to get the's well worth it.

Favorite track: "Fade and Then Return"
Rating: 3.5/5

Gemma Hayes - Let it Break
I've never listened to her before.  I really like her.  Her voice reminds me quite a bit of Abra Moore...and I love Abra Moore.  It's a good, solid album, with a couple tracks that really jumped out to me as amazing.

Favorite track: "All I Need" 
Rating: 4/5

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Tell Me
I listened to this album because it was produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.  I expected somethign in that same vein.  I was mistaken.  She tends to lean more towards country than blues.  She has a unique (if a little old-fashioned) sound.  I really dig it.

Favorite track: "Sometimes at Night"
Rating: 4/5

Over the Rhine - The Long Surrender
I used to love this band.  They started to get a little predictable, and their last album (The Trumpet Child) was awful, and had one of the worst songs I’ve ever heard (“If a Song Could Be President”).  They turned it around a little on this new album.  Nothing special, though.  It’s pleasant enough, but there’s not much to it.   Still, it's a nice little folk-pop album.

Favorite track: "Rave On"
Rating: 2.5/5

Nicole Scherzinger - Killer Love
As far as radio-dance-pop goes, it's pretty forgettable.  It's not bad, but there's not much to separate her from the legions of other stuff along these lines.  She's nowhere close to being in the same league as Katy Perry.

Favorite track: Nothing really jumped out at me
Rating: 2/5

Matt Valentine - What I Became
I started listening to this, and lost interest about three tracks in.  If I remember correctly, it sounded like some sort of experimental folk.  Some extremely uninteresting experimental folk.  I may give this another shot, but, from what I heard, I'm not a big fan.

Favorite track: Don't have one
Rating: .5/5

The Bear Coat - Adding Mass
This is the band of Jason Parks from Up & In: The Baseball Prospectus Podcast.  It's an interesting listen.  At it's heart, it's a folk album, dressed up with some pretty impressive atmospherics.  An enjoyable listen.

Favorite track: "Harry"
Rating: 3/5

Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest
About time.  Finally, after 8 albums, Gillian released a new album.  It's more of the same...old-style, stripped-down folk music.  And I love it.  It's not her best album, but it's still fantastic, and there are a number of amazing songs on it.

Favorite track: "Hard Times"
Rating: 4.5/5

Viva Voce - The Future Will Destroy You
They've really settled into a nice niche of making good pop/rock.  This feels like a really great summer album.

Favorite track: "Plastic Radio"
Rating: 3/5

The Rosebuds - Loud Planes Fly Low
A good pop album.  I liked it throughout the entire album, and there were a handful of moments that made me think, "What was really amazing."

Favorite track: "Waiting For You"
Rating: 4/5

Various Artists - Rave On Buddy Holly
A tribute album to Buddy Holly, featuring an impressive list of artists.  Some were fantastic (She & Him, Jenny O, The Black Keys, My Morning Jacket, Florence + The Machine, Modest, Mouse), and a couple were downright confusing...and probably pretty terrible (sadly, these included Lou Reed & Paul McCartney).  Overall, it was an enjoyable listen, if a little uneven.

Favorite track: "I'm Gonna Love You Too" - Jenny O.
Rating: 3/5

Miles Kane - The Colour of the Trap
He was a member of The Last Shadow Puppets, so I thought I would like this one.  Meh.  It was decent.  It all kind of sounded the same to me.  I was pretty disappointed by it.

Favorite Track: "The Colour of the Trap"
Rating: 2/5

Toro Y Moi - Underneath the Pine
Kinda cool.  Electronic poppy stuff, with odd traces of funk from time to time.  Not sure I love it, but I liked it pretty well.  A good morning album.

Favorite track: "New Beat"
Rating: 3/5

Haroula Rose - These Open Roads
A nice little folk album.  I loved the first track, but nothing else really jumped out at me.  It seemed nice enough, but it wasn't really anything special.

Favorite track: "Brand New Start"
Rating: 2.5/5

Matt Bauer - The Jessamine County Book of the Living
I loved his last album, so I was looking forward to this one (plus, I lived a good chunk of my life in Jessamine County, so that's pretty cool).  More of the same, really...darkish, haunting folk with bluegrass leanings.  Good songwriting, too.  

Favorite track: "Blacklight Horses"
Rating: 4/5

Woods - Sun & Shade
I don't get it.  They make fairly innocuous summery/dreamy pop, with nods to The Beach Boys (which is usually something I love), but it's not quite grabbing me.  I feel like they're doing the same thing as Beach House, but not nearly as well.  Maybe it will get better with repeated listens, but, after one listen, I wasn't impressed.

Favorite track: "Who Do I Think I Am"
Rating: 1.5/5

Sondre Lerche - Sondre Lerche
I'm normally a fan of his sugary-sweet pop, but nothing jumped out at me from this album.  It sounded nice, but not particularly interesting.

Favorite track: Nothing jumped out at me
Rating: 2/5