Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New reviews posted

We've added some new reviews:

Swan Lake: Enemy Mine

Artist: Swan Lake
Album: Enemy Mine
Date Released: March 24, 2009
Genre: indie-rock
Rating: 7.8


Enemy Mine is the second album from the Canadian collective Swan Lake - a supergroup comprised of the artistic minds behind such bands as The New Pornographers, Wolf Parade and Frog Eyes.

This album follows the 2006 debut Beast Moans. Certain similarities can be identified between the two full-lengths but Enemy Mine features more material of daring distinction. The Swan Lake sound delivered on this record not only complements the caliber of their unique musical scene, but also their personal and individual importance within it.

The album opens like a door hanging off its hinges, a gripping scene is set as the scrapes and lashes of “Spanish Gold, 2044” stomp into play. The luscious texture of “Heartswarm” is complimented by its bold vocal performance. These soaring chant-like vocals attack with a degree of hesitation throughout the record, strengthening the presentation of its character.

“Settle on your skin” is an upbeat number, a driven composition smothered in glowing noise. Its bouncing piano melodies conjure up an extra dimension. The ironically titled sixth track, “Peace,” is a challenging listen with haunting tones that dive deep into the senses as its jagged narration is scattered throughout the piece. But these are the tracks that are the special ones; there is no sweet without the sour.

Towards the end of the album we are introduced to further ideas, “A Hand At Dusk” is sophisticated and beautiful, its chords travel with your emotions as you hang on to each strike of the teasing piano introduction. A great listen clocking in at just over six minutes.

Enemy Mine plays with your mind using whirlwinds and whispers. It is a colourful record that will embrace the listener with time. It will only reveal its personality once it knows yours.

Reviewed by Leigh Padley.

The Decemberists: The Hazards of Love

Artist: The Decemberists
Album: The Hazards of Love
Date Released: March 24, 2009
Genre: indie-rock, indie-pop
Rating: 7.7

Review: The Hazards of Love is The Decemberists fifth studio release, an ambitious concept album that centers around the heroine Margaret, her impregnation by a shape-shifting animal, the Forest Queen, and various other characters. With The Hazards of Love, the Decemberists have crafted an album that is best listened to from start to finish -- one that offers one of the most satisfying musical experiences to come along this year. This is not the kind of album where the tracks can get thrown into a random playlist; this is a case where the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Despite The Decemberists' seemingly strange concept and stage-show type approach, the otherworldly theme does not overpower or detract from the music. Instead, the lyrical content enriches both the music and the listening experience. The band is able to evoke a genuine emotional reaction from the listener and maintain interest despite some changes that seem to come right out of left field (as witnessed by the transition from harpsichord into chugga-chugga van rock on "The Queens Rebuke/The Crossing").

Indeed, The Hazards of Love feature songs that flow together with ease and lyrics that are begging to be sung. The storyline is not obscured beneath vagaries and metaphors; the lyrics still hold that trademark charm of previous Decemberists records. For example, from "The Hazards of Love 1":
She being full of charity a credit to her sex
Sought to right the fawn's hind legs
When here her plans were vexed
The Taiga shifted strange
The beast began to change
And like any good stage musical, The Hazards of Love even features a musical interlude that fits right in. But what I could have really done without is the eye-rolling children's choir.

The Hazards of Love ends in a rousing organ-drenched climax on "The Queen's Rebuke," a track that slowly brings the listener back down to the gorgeous “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”.

It's not easy creating a concept album, particularly one that deliberately tries to sound like a stage show. But The Hazards of Love succeeds where many bands fail. The Decemberists have created a concept album in which the lyrics act in tandem with the music to produce a dramatic story that is just as interesting and strong as the songs themselves. This album may lack the catchy choruses of The Crane Wife, but it accomplishes so much more.

Standout tracks: "The Queens Rebuke/The Crossing", "Isn't It A Lovely Night", "Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)", and "The Rake's Song."

Reviewed by Ryan Konop.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It's Blitz!

Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Album: It's Blitz!
Date Released: March 10, 2009
Genre: alt-rock, garage punk, indie-rock
Initial rating: 8.1

Review: Every great band goes through changes from album to album, but it's the best bands who can do so and still blaze a successful trail into the future. On the Yeah Yeah Yeah's new CD, they have broken new sonic ground, but they haven't lost what made them great. It's Blitz dives headfirst into the electronic-pop scene that's been coming out of Brooklyn lately; the album is dripping in string synths and machine beats -- and it does so in a way that's better than most.

It's Blitz may be different from their garage-rock albums of the past, but it marks a significant expansion of YYY's sound. It takes a lot of courage to set off in a new direction, risking the alienation of old die-hard fans. But the results are both fantastic and necessary. This is exactly where the band needed to go. Another "garage-rock" album would have likely typecast the band, sending them to the place of the soon-to-be-forgotten (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, anyone?).

It's Blitz
starts out with a quick 1-2-3 punch of “Zero”, the catchy as hell “Heads Will Roll” and “Soft Shock”. “Heads Will Roll” goes deep into dance-floor territory -- but Karen O's voice floats right over the beats with ease. Her voice shines bright on all the tracks and the new sound gives her room to showcase her vocal talents. Towards the end of the album, with songs like “Hysteric”, the band returns to more familiar territory, but the tone of this album is consistent. Karen O's voice is gorgeous on the slower tracks, a powerful instrument that works in tandem with the abundance of catchy hooks.

It's always refreshing when a band decides to push off in a new direction and at the same time hold onto what made them so great in the first place. It's Blitz is a great new sound for YYY's and it will be exciting to see where they go from here.

Reviewed by Ryan Konop.

Great Lake Swimmers: Lost Channels

Artist: Great Lake Swimmers
Album: Lost Channels
Date Released: March 31, 2009
Genre: indie-rock, folk-pop
Initial rating: 7.3


This March saw the release of the fourth full-length from Canadian outfit Great Lake Swimmers. Lost Channels is a welcoming record that paces effortlessly through its twelve songs like running water. The elegance of this record is highlighted in the beauty ridden tracks "Pulling on a line" and "Stealing tomorrow."

This Toronto based band is formed around songwriter Tony Dekker. With Lost Channels, his music is as inspiring and accomplished as ever. And with his ability get the best out of his work, he has created a highly satisfying listen glued together by a dominating lyrical presence and atmospheric instrumentation.

The roaming repetition of “Concrete heart” stands as one of the album's highlight tracks. It not only delivers Dekker’s trademark novel lyric writing abilities, but also matches his skill in weaving together pristine piano phrasings and stepping-stone chord changes.

Reminiscent of the soothing work of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s The Letting Go and at times the warmth of softer efforts from New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo, this record boasts a refined collection of loveable indie-folk gems. Dekker has compiled a sensual and serene listen. The craftsmanship involved is delicate yet firm; Lost Channels holds many songs expressing the charm in simplicity.

As "She comes to me in dreams" crashes into play, the uplifting rhythms seamlessly marry with the wondrous slide guitar. Its sensational melodic break-down sections recollect Pet Sounds era Beach Boys. The penultimate track “River’s edge” features dainty vocals that mask the soft hardship of the poetic lyrics. This deep method of song writing serves as another compelling colour to Dekker’s palette:
Got to live live live
And love love love
Whether you like it or not
I will love you
Lost Channels could be enjoyable curled up on a beanbag with headphones, or to ponder over as you gaze at the majestic landscapes of a picturesque countryside as you pass through on a train. This imagery is clear to conceive as you listen to the closing passages of final track "Unison falling into harmony."

This record doesn’t seem to hold a master plan, nor is it clear that it bares any type of grudge. This record is simply forty comforting minutes well spent. Though Lost Channels would be most appealing to fans of similar artists, I imagine its soft and ready personality would be attractive and accessible to all.

Reviewed by Leigh Padley

Saturday, April 25, 2009

DOOM: Born Like This

Artist: DOOM
Album: Born Like This
Date Released: March 24, 2009
Genre: rap, underground rap, hardcore rap, east coast rap
Rating: 8.1

My Dying Bride: The Lies I Sire

Artist: My Dying Bride
Album: The Lies I Sire
Date Released: March 24, 2009
Genre: metal, goth metal, doom metal
Rating: 7.2

Cymbals Eat Guitars: Why There Are Mountains

Artist: Cymbals Eat Guitars
Album: Why There Are Mountains
Date Released: January 25, 2009
Genre: indie-rock, alt-rock
Rating: 8.7

Art Brut: Art Brut Vs. Satan

Artist: Art Brut
Album: Art Brut Vs. Satan
Date Released: April 21, 2009
Genre: indie rock
Rating: 8.5

Review: Rather than review this album, I'll just post the lyrics to one of the best songs of the year, "Slap Dash for No Cash."

Slap dash for no cash
Those are the records I like
Slap dash for no cash
When something doesn't sound quite right

Why isn't everyone trying to sound like U2?
It's not a very cool thing to do
Why would you want to sound like U2?
Just press record and play it straight through
They call it lo-fi, if you say so
Cool your warm jets, Brian Eno

Slap dash for no cash
Those are the records I like
Slap dash for no cash
When something doesn't sound quite right

Slap dash for no cash
Those are the records I like
Slap dash for no cash
When something doesn't sound quite right

Slap dash for no cash

I love the sound of background noise
I wanna hear the crack in the singer's voice
Fingers moving on the fret board
Every time he plays a new chord
I hear his friends hanging around
I hear him play an instrument he just found
I hear a low buzzing sound
I hear his parents hanging around
I hear his parents saying "turn it down"
I hear his parents saying "turn it down"
I hear his parents saying "turn it down!"

Cool your warm jets, Brian Eno

Slap dash for no cash
Those are the records I like
Slap dash for no cash
When something doesn't sound quite right

Slap dash for no cash
Those are the records I like
Slap dash for no cash
When something doesn't sound quite right

Slap dash for no cash
Those are the records I buy

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Looking for contributors

I need some help writing up the reviews. Contact me if you're interested in helping out (volunteers only).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Doves: Kingdom of Rust

Artist: Doves
Album: Kingdom of Rust
Date Released: April 7, 2009
Genre: indie rock, Brit pop
Rating: 7.8

Review: Not their best work, but it's still Doves -- one of the best bands in the business.

Bat For Lashes: Two Suns

Artist: Bat for Lashes
Album: Two Suns
Date Released: April 7, 2009
Genre: indie rock, alternative singer/songwriter
Rating: 8.4

PJ Harvey and John Parish: A Woman a Man Walked By

Artist: PJ Harvey and John Parish
Album: A Woman a Man Walked By
Date Released: March 30, 2009
Genre: adult alt-rock, indie rock
Rating: 8.5

Review: Hey, anything with PJ Harvey is instantly interesting. But this album is particularly good -- and very underrated.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Recent metal releases

Some recent metal albums worth checking out:
More here.

Tombs: Winter Hours

Artist: Tombs
Album: Winterhours
Date Released: February 17, 2009
Genre: metal, post-metal
Rating: 8.1

Review: Brooklyn's Tombs intertwine traditional metal with hints of post-metal and even some black metal. Post-black metal, anyone?