500 Word Review: Homeshake “Fresh Air”

homeshake fresh air

If one thing is evident on the new Homeshake LP, “Fresh Air”, it’s that the man-behind-the-music, Peter Sagar, has come a long way from standing in the shadows of his friend and former employer Mac DeMarco. While I enjoyed a few tracks from this project’s last album “Midnight Snack”, it was admittedly a little lacking in focus and felt somewhat low effort. While this circle has never been know for producing works that were definitely slaved over for months, all of Mac DeMarco’s albums have been cohesive and mostly free of egregious flaws. While that was not the case on “Midnight Snack”, Sagar had definitely put in a sufficient amount of effort into “Fresh Air”. This seems to have catapulted his music to being more enjoyable and interesting than his mentor’s.

The album’s opener “Hello Welcome” is a short, jazzy, chord loop with a guitar melody over it. Already, Sagar’s ear for unique-yet-enjoyable tones is evident, as he creates an interesting tonal landscape all across the album with jazz guitar tones, hip-hop and soul synths, and mixture of live and synthesized drums. On top of all of this is Pete’s whimpering voice, which often flows into falsetto more smoothly and accurately than ever before. All of this makes for a very enjoyable open songs, with the three following-up the opener being especially stand-outish. “Call Me Up”, “Not U”, and “Every Single Thing” are all superb tracks that perfectly flow into each other, making for one smooth listening experience. In addition to the lush trip-hop sound of these tracks, Sagar throws in some interesting vocal samples and musical effects to transition between tracks. These perfectly fit the mood of the album and really set the stage for the tracks succeeding them.

Towards the middle of the album, Sagar starts to slip back into old ways. While “Wrapping Up” and “Getting Down Pt II” aren’t anything spectacular, they’re solid tracks. But starting with “Timing” he starts to slip into old ways. From this point on, many of the tracks are fairly bare or don’t really go anywhere. And while I am a fan of “TV Volume” and the Prince-like “Serious”, they don’t really go anywhere and are kind of stand out points in a small sea of obscurity. Things end interestingly with the easy listening jazz fusion-esque “This Way”. I hear this song and immediately think of one person: Pat Metheny, because it essentially sounds like a Pat Metheny song without the super out guitar solo. It’s not necessarily a bad way to end the album, but just a little bit of a lackluster end to a lackluster second half. That being said, the highlights of that half mixed with the on point-ness of the first half makes for a pretty enjoyable record, especially if you’re looking for something different.

 

Score: 7.4/10

 

Album Review by Ethan Lally, March 2017

“Fresh Air”:

Advertisements

500 Word Review: Xiu Xiu “Forget”

PRC327-hires

Do you find some sort of sick, masochistic joy in being depressed? If so, Xiu Xiu’s new album “Forget” might be just for you. Never known for making accessible music, Xiu Xiu gained notoriety last year for their rework of “The Music of Twin Peaks”, a haunting musical retelling of the chilling TV Show’s equally eerie soundtrack. After getting their weird out on that album (and weird in this context is definitely comparative), they have decided to return to what may be the most pop-oriented sound they can make. Despite it’s title, “Forget” makes you remember that not all ‘pop’ music has to be clean-cut and straight forward. Frontman Jamie Stewart and collaborators Angela Seo and Shayna Dunkleman have seemed to craft their sound on this album into the perfect mixture of experimental and pop, calling back hints of Depeche Mode and The Cure and blending them with ‘out’ production choices and often harrowing lyrics.

Although it’s hard to really pin down what a Xiu Xiu record should sound like, it is safe to say that when “Forget” starts, you probably won’t think it’s a Xiu Xiu record. Opening with what seems to be samples from some sort of gangster rap verse, “The Call” is an energetic little opener that right off the bat hints at the record’s more pop-ness while still maintaining it’s eccentrics and aggressiveness. The second song “Queen of The Losers,” is some sort of fucked-up spaghetti western dance song. It also shows the first hint of Xiu Xiu’s blunt fucked-upness. Towards the end of the song, over treated western guitar clangs and tinny percussion, the narrator asks himself “What am I?” He then proceeds to respond, “I’m fuckin’ nothing.” This is the first moment on the album where you really sit back and ask yourself, “What have I gotten myself into?” The next couple of songs though give you hope that maybe this journey won’t be as bad as you think it could be.

“Wondering” may be the happiest sounding song Xiu Xiu has ever put on tape. It’s got a pumping dance beat, a catchy melody, and relatively normal lyrics. But the demented timbres of the instrumental give you that sense of “wait, isn’t this supposed to be fucked up,” therefore still giving every song on the album at list a little sense of the band’s well-known melancholy. The next song, “Get Up” takes the mold of it’s predecessor but manages to make it more horrific. I’ve never been so immediately taken in by a Xiu Xiu song, which is strange because it starts out with just a simple two-note guitar line over a bare drum machine. However, this time the masterfully creepy delivery of the vocals, and the content of the lyrics, make it still seem like there’s cracks in this safe wall.

The next set of tracks take a dark turn, starting with “Hay Choco Bananas.” This may be the most ill-fitting title for a song ever, because this song is highlighted by Jamie’s signature haunting vocals, bare and creepy synths, and a middle noise section that makes you feel like you’re trapped in a padded jail cell. It is then followed by “Jenny GoGo,” which has a techno dance beat and some of the creepiest lyrics on the album. These include ‘baby, I need a hubby inside me, don’t leave me baby.” Which is then followed by some yelling. In description this all sounds sort of campy and over-the-top, but Xiu Xiu’s strength has always been taking the over the top and making it fit. It’s not just experimentation for the sake of experimentation, it legitimately seems like experimentation for effect, and the effect works.

The next three songs, “At Last, At Last,” “Forget,” and “Petite” all follow a similar mold without making it sound like they’re just copy and pasting every song. Not standout tracks, but not bad tracks at all either. The album is wrapped up by “Faith, Torn Apart” which is a harrowing mix of noise and sung and spoken vocals that adds a fitting bookend to the album. Overall, this may be Xiu Xiu’s most accessible album to date, without losing of their experimental sensibility. It may even be one of the best records released this year so far.

 

Score: 8.8/10

 

Album Review by Ethan Lally, March 2017

“Forget”:

Track of the Day Tuesday: KILL SURF CITY Weird World

ksc-weird-world

Late last week Kill Surf City (aka Grey Gordon) released a surprise new single called “Weird World”.  The first new material from the lo-fi indie act since his phenomenal EP “Wreckage”, “Weird World” is a catchy new track with stellar lyricism.  Using an upbeat, cymbal riding drum beat with an instantly memorable guitar riff in each verse that is reminiscent of early 2000s and even late 90’s alternative punk, “Weird World” is the great evolution of Kill Surf City’s sound, and it is, without a doubt, the “Track of the Day Tuesday”.

Starting off with a hazy acoustic guitar strumming a constant chord and the iconic, reverb filled vocals of Gordon himself, the track can easily be determined as one of the best releases by KSC.  Listening through the short track I was pleasantly surprised to hear multiple solos with a dream pop, almost shoegaze-esque, guitar tone that was present in both the verse and the chorus.  This perfectly complimented, not only the choruses that sounded reminiscent of something you would hear on “Hyperview”, but also the song structure of modern KSC songs themselves, and I hope it is something that is mixed into more Kill Surf City songs in the future.  It’s hard to say if this is my favorite project from Kill Surf City, as I absolutely love “Wreckage” and really enjoy “Split Yr Head”, but I guarantee this new track makes a strong argument as to why it deserves to be considered one of the act’s best releases.  Overall, if I was to give this single a rating, I would give it a 9.7/10 and it is easily one of my favorite new releases of the year so far!

Like usual, you can stream the track below.  Don’t forget to check out the rest of KSC’s short discography, and while you’re at it, give “Wreckage a listen here.  Let us know what you think of “Weird World”, the track you absolutely need to give a listen to today, and send us any tracks you think should be on next week’s “Track of the Day Tuesday”

Track of the Day Tuesday: CIRCA SURVIVE In the Morning And Amazing

on-letting-go-larger-image

This year, Circa Survive’s historic and monumental sophomore full length album, “On Letting Go”, turns 10 years old.  To celebrate this decade of excellence, the band and Equal Vision Records have released 10 year anniversary editions of the classic record on CD, Digital, and vinyl formats and Circa Survive themselves are currently on tour playing this album in full.  So, in order to continue the celebration, the track of the day and the track you need to check out today is the phenomenal “In the Morning and Amazing”.

“In the Morning and Amazing” perfectly embodies the distinct sound Circa Survive has established in their successful career.  Sweet sounding, slightly distorted guitars create a melodic atmosphere filled with creative chord progressions and catchy lead sections.  To accompany this, Nick Beard’s soothing bass guitar riffs perfectly intertwine with and compliment the artfully crafted guitar and percussion sessions.  Finally, Anthony Green’s impressive high pitched vocal performance ties together the faster, more rock oriented sections with the more calm, almost ambient indie rock parts.  “In the Morning and Amazing” pretty much summarizes the definition of a Circa Survive song.  However, this song alone does not speak for the entire album, “On Letting Go”, and I highly suggest that you listen to the entire project today in order to truly enjoy the brilliance of Circa Survive.

Like usual, I’ve attached the link to “In the Morning and Amazing” below.  Also, I’ve added the link to purchase the 10 year anniversary editions of “On Letting Go” for those who would like to own a copy!  As I’ve mentioned before, we’re having a slow start to the year here at Erik’s Album Reviews, but I promise the momentum will start to shift into a more progressive state very soon as we still have multiple reviews and other posts in the works almost ready to share with you. Stay tuned!

Circa Survive CD and vinyl:

http://merchnow.com/catalogs/circa-survive/music

Classic Album Reviews: BEACH HOUSE Bloom

beach_house_-_bloom

Beach House has been making the same album over and over since 2006, and each time they get a bit better at it. “Bloom” is the third iteration of their self-titled record. Immediately recognizable from the first moments of “Myth” is the group’s signature melancholia. They do a fantastic job of creating an immersive atmosphere, one that is enjoyable and easy to get lost in. However, there isn’t a moment’s rest from the sleepy air, and suddenly the songs are audible molasses. This isn’t helped by the downhill trend in quality of the songs and Legrand’s mild vocal cadence. Frankly, the album is far too safe and familiar. The instruments are not so much deliberate as they are timid, and the vocals never attempt anything to seize attention. Not only is its depression overwhelming, but it is difficult to hold back the yawns. “Bloom” has the qualities of a lullaby.

While most of this record is slow, it is not without exceptional moments. “Myth” has stylish guitar flourishes and is an all-around quality song that stands out from the ones following it. “Wild” ends in a seamless fusion of the vocals and synth and “New Year” is plain catchy. The rest of “Bloom” is a different story. “The Hours” has choppy vocal delivery, “Wishes” is just a long and pointless buildup, and “Other People” is the kind of song that might as well end after the first chorus. Even after multiple listens, few of the tracks distinguish themselves in memory. Needless to say, these songs are all tedious listens and sound too similar. “Lazuli”, an equally dull song, goes nowhere for three minutes and then leaves us with a two-minute broken record of an outro. Over repetition makes another appearance in the final track, “Irene”. Halfway through a song with an excellent melody, everything cuts except a droning synth and guitar. Next, the layers are brought back at an excruciatingly slow pace that is enough to botch the song’s climax. Then, after minutes of silence, a hidden track meanders its way to the album’s close.

The Shoegaze genre faded from existence for a reason; people get bored easily. Beach House cannot expect to make the same songs and hold the twenty-first century listener’s attention. Unless they make some major changes to their sound, their following won’t be getting much larger.

 

Score: 6.8/10

 

Album Review by Zach Norton, January 2017

“Bloom”:

 

Track of the Day Tuesday: OFF LAND Inertia

off-land

This week the “Track of the Day Tuesday” features Massachusetts’ own Off Land and his track, “Inertia”.  “Inertia”, the second song on the project, “Slow Waves”, is an ambient electronic song released through the Chile based label, No Problema Tapes.  The track is a prominent example of ambient vaporwave as it incorporates an atmospheric sound accompanied by various soundscapes, soothing samples, and harmonizing pads and other soft leads that make this song, and this project, an instant classic.  However, even though this track is under the category of vaporwave, I believe a more better fitting description could easily be music that is simply relaxing and calming.

I personally found this project while browsing through random bandcamp based vaporwave labels.  By discovering No Problema Tapes, I was able to find amazing artists like Off Land, Sangam, Rhucle, and many others!  Today, you need to check out “Inertia”.  Off Land’s signature sound and style of music is something that any music fan can enjoy.  It literally does not matter who your favorite artist is, or what genre of music you listen to, if you are a fan of music, you will be a fan of Off Land.  Check out “Inertia” on the stream of “Slow Waves” below and don’t forget to visit next Tuesday when we discuss the next “Track of the Day Tuesday”!

The Thursday Ten: 11/15/16

IMG_3227.JPG

For those who visit Erik’s Album Reviews regularly, you will know that the staff has been very busy for the last two weeks.  Because of this we unfortunately missed the last two “The Thursday Ten” segments.  However, last week we announced that in order to make up for this lack of album ratings, we will give 20 album ratings for this week’s installment rather than the usual 10!  This week’s post features various releases over multiple genres covering everything from Black Metal to EDM.  Even though twice as many releases are feature in this installment, the rules to “The Thursday Ten” haven’t changed, and of course, we encourage you to check out every album listed on any of the major music streaming platforms.  Let us know what you think of the ratings, which albums you want us to rate next, and don’t forget to check out the previous installment to “The Thursday Ten”.  Here is this week’s post:

  1. Skeletonwitch – The Apothic Gloom EP: 8/10
  2. The Acacia Strain, Thy Art Is Murder, and Fit For An Autopsy – The Depression Sessions: 9/10
  3. Power Trip/Integrity Split EP: 7/10
  4. Dan Mason – Summer Love: 7/10
  5. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool: 7/10
  6. Aborted – Termination Redux EP: 8/10
  7. Lamb of God – The Duke EP: 7/10
  8. Jason Richardson – I: 8/10
  9. bl00dwave – Distance: 8/10
  10. Defeater – Abandoned: 8/10

 

  1. Mac Miller – The Divine Feminine: 8/10
  2. Blink-182 – California: 8/10
  3. Balance and Composure – Light We Made: 8/10
  4. Moose Blood – Blush: 8/10
  5. Wakrat – Wakrat: 4/10
  6. Tesseract – Polaris: 7/10
  7. A Day To Remember – Bad Vibrations: 6/10
  8. Adventure Club – Red // Blue: 5/10
  9. PZA – AMERICAN RITUALS: 9/10
  10. Vaerbitt – Tid: 9/10

The previous “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/the-thursday-ten-112416/