500 Word Review: Xiu Xiu “Forget”

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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”:

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Track of the Day Tuesday: KILL SURF CITY Weird World

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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

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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

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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”:

 

The Thursday Ten: 12/29/16

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Even though we are a little late with posting this, here is this week’s “The Thursday Ten”!  This segment has been very rewarding to write this year and we’re glad to see that our viewers enjoyed reading these installments as much as we did with writing them!  This post is actually the last “The Thursday Ten” for all of 2016.  It’s amazing to see how many albums we gave ratings to this year and the staff here at Erik’s Album Reviews can’t wait to see what albums will make it onto “The Thursday Ten” next year!  Once again thank you for support and we will be back with more installments to “The Thursday Ten” next year!

  1. Deftones – Gore: 6/10
  2. Shokran – Exodus: 8/10
  3. Abbath – Abbath: 7/10
  4. Phantogram – Three: 6/10
  5. Zao – The Well-Intentioned Virus: 9/10
  6. Solange – A Seat At The Table: 8/10
  7. Norma Jean – Polar Similar: 8/10
  8. Emarosa – 131: 9/10
  9. Angelmaker/A Night In Texas – Split EP: 8/10
  10. Hodgy – Fireplace – TheNotTheOtherSide: 8/10

The previous “The Thursday Ten”:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/the-thursday-ten-111516/

The Thursday Ten: 11/15/16

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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/

500 Word Review: Dwellings “Foreverest” – Single

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On November 25th, Modesto, California based post hardcore band, Dwellings, released the follow up to their debut single “Lemonade” with the release of their latest single, “Foreverest”.  For those of you who have been following the page you will know how excited I am to hear new material from this group.  Their debut single was nothing short of phenomenal, and based off that performance alone, I honestly believe that this group is the future of the post hardcore sub genre.  That being said, I was extremely excited to hear new material from this group because I’m still curious to see how their sound will develop throughout this debut EP.  This new single, “Foreverest”, definitely varies significantly from their debut release, “Lemonade”, however there are still consistent themes heard on both tracks that give listeners and fans of the group a sense of what this up and coming band will sound like!

As stated earlier, there are multiple clear differences that you can hear between the tracks “Lemonade” and “Foreverest”.  For starters, “Foreverest” is somehow even more melodic than the anthemic track, “Lemonade”.  To be clear, this is not a negative quality, but it is still a surprising feature, especially when considering how harmonious multiple sections and choruses were on “Lemonade”.  The guitar work is simply graceful and does a great job with complimenting the superb songwriting and vocal performance heard on “Foreverest”. However, the most significant and enjoyable difference between the two tracks is how the overall sound of the track ,”Foreverest”, is more unique to Dwellings.  As much as I love “Lemonade”, there were multiple instances where the track sounded a lot like previous Dance Gavin Dance releases.  “Foreverest”, on the other hand, sounds more unique to Dwellings and their specific style of songwriting, and in the process, shows off their own personal take on post hardcore.  The influences from DGD and other well known post hardcore bands can still be heard, but Dwellings’ personal and recognizable sound is without a doubt the most prominent aspect heard, and in return gives their fans a better idea to how their sound will develop and become even more unique with future releases.  “Foreverest” will probably be the most melodic and slowest song heard on the upcoming EP and it gives the project a good range from higher energy,  in your face songs to slower and even more emotional tracks.

However Dwellings, like most other major California based post hardcore acts, still show some examples of similarities to Dance Gavin Dance in this new track.  These similarities are not a bad thing, or show lack of creativity, but demonstrate how they are able to take this modern style of post hardcore and transform and mold it into their own unique sound.  The first similarity a listener familiar with DGD will hear when listening to “Foreverest” is that this song is heavily influenced by Dance Gavin Dance’s third full length studio album, “Happiness”.  “Lemonade” featured elements from both “Happiness” and “Acceptance Speech” (the fifth studio album by the Sacramento based band), but “Foreverest” appears to just draw influence from “Happiness” alone. This is not a surprise to me since they have already shown signs of writing in a similar style to “Happiness”, and Dwellings’ bassist, Anthony Pacheco, has even stated that this DGD record is his favorite to date.  That being said, it now seems obvious why “Happiness” and “Foreverest” might sound somewhat similar.  “Happiness” is one of, it not my absolute favorite, DGD record as well, so Dwellings’ use of mixing in elements from this legendary record is something that I definitely approve of.  These elements, which include everything from the sincere, emotion filled lyrics to to the slow, yet melodic song structure can be directly compared and sound similar to songs like “Happiness” off the album of the same name, but can also strengthen their own songwriting by combing their favorite moments from “Happiness” and their own personal songwriting sound.  However, it is important to note that all of Dwellings’ material has been recorded by Josh Benton, who used to play guitar for Dance Gavin Dance and now records some of their releases like “Tree City Sessions”, and has been mastered by Kris Crummett, who recorded most of DGD’s full length records and other releases by notable California based post hardcore groups.  Because of this, some of aspects of Dwellings’ material might be similar to DGD solely because their production process is almost identical to Dance Gavin Dance’s.  Regardless of where they take influence from, Dwellings is making some serious progress at becoming the next legendary post hardcore group.

In conclusion, this is another solid track from soon-to-be household name, post hardcore group, Dwellings.  My anticipation for this debut EP continues to grow with every single released and I simply cannot wait to see what they put out next.  I give their second single, “Foreverest”, and 8.9/10.  The release date for the EP, “Lavender Town”, hasn’t been posted yet by the band, but when it does the staff at Erik’s Album Reviews will be the first ones to share it with you!  Check out the review for their debut single, “Lemonade”, below and give the latest single, “Foreverest”, a listen and let us know what you think!

“Lemonade” Review:

https://eriksalbumreviews.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/album-reivew-dwellings-lemonade-single/

“Foreverest”: