Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Most Serene Republic: ...And the Ever Expanding Universe

Artist: The Most Serene Republic
Album: ...And the Ever Expanding Universe
Date Released: July 14, 2009
Genre: indie-rock, alt-rock, post-rock, experimental
Rating: 7.5

: The Canadian music scene is alive and well -- it's arguably never been stronger. Now if only the rest of Canada would wake up to this fact. Case in point is The Most Serene Republic -- an outstanding and innovative 7-piece act from Toronto that's largely unknown in its home country. That being said, with ...And the Ever Expanding Universe, TMSR have released their most accessible album to date. There's no longer any excuse for ignoring this band.

The 2009 version of TMSR are a little less post-rock and bit more alt-rock, if not alt-pop. The tracks on ...And the Ever Expanding Universe are tighter and more constrained than before (take the Philip Glass inspired "Patternicity," a track that could have easily gone out of control), but they're no less daring and enjoyable. And as always, the band is high-energy and all about the fun factor (check out "Heavens to Purgatory" for a taste).

An excellent release from a very talented band.

The Veils: Sun Gangs

Artist: The Veils
Album: Sun Gangs
Date Released: April 7, 2009
Genre: indie-rock, alt-rock
Rating: 8.6

: Sun Gangs is the third album from The Veils, a band with members from New Zealand, Germany and Britain. This time around it's a break-up album that find Finn Andrews ruminating about relationships and all the associated angst and frustration that go along with them.

With that as the backdrop, Sun Gangs provides a platform for The Veils to showcase their immense songwriting and arranging talents -- and as an opportunity for Andrews to display his tremendous vocal abilities; the Veils is what Rufus Wainwright would sound like if he formed an indie-band with Jeff Buckley.

Track highlights include "The Letter," "It Hits Deep," and "Sit Down by the Fire."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Soap&Skin: Lovetune for Vacuum

Artist: Soap&Skin
Album: Lovetune for Vacuum
Date Released: March 16, 2009
Genre: sadcore, singer/songwriter, alternative
Rating: 7.6

Review: Soap&Skin, the Austrian wunderkind also known as Anja Plaschg, intertwines multi-generational influences like Nico and Kate Bush along with more contemporary arists like Bjork, Cat Power, Sigur Ros, Aphex Twin and Autechre. The music is nearly impossible to describe -- suffice to say that it's powerful, bold and highly original.

On "Thanatos," Plaschg rhythmically pounds the piano while her richly layered vocals drive the piece forward. And then on the following track, "Extinguish Me," the violence of the piano is replaced by gentle string arrangements and a buzzing accordian. Each track stands out on its own, seemingly unrelated to the other, but ultimately they comprise a coherent and rewarding whole.

Soap&Skin is definitely an artist to watch.

Sian Alice Group: Troubled, Shaken Etc.

Artist: Sian Alice Group
Album: Troubled, Shaken Etc.
Date Released: July 31, 2009
Genre: post-rock, experimental, indie-rock
Rating: 7.3

: The sophomore release from Sian Alice Group finds them mellow and feeling a bit retro. With the occasional hints of Stereolab and Radiohead, the music is ultimately given its strength by the tender and often delicate vocals of Sian Ahern. A moody and atmospheric album, Troubled, Shaken Etc. will appeal to those looking to satiate their post-rock sensibilities. "Close to the Ground" is an album highlight.

The Fiery Furnaces: I'm Going Away

Artist: The Fiery Furnaces
Album: I'm Going Away
Date Released: July 21, 2009
Genre: indie-rock, alt-rock
Rating: 7.4

: After a string of messy and (supposedly) experimental albums, The Fiery Furnaces return with a surprisingly solid and coherent effort in I'm Going Away. Fans of Gallowsbird's Bark and Blueberry Boat will be very pleased. Eleanor Friedberger 's immense vocal talents are finally given the tracks they deserve. "Even in the Rain" is a stand-out among 11 other solid tracks.

Passion Pit: Manners

Artist: Passion Pit
Album: Manners
Date Released: May 19, 2009
Genre: indie-electronic, indie-pop
Rating: 7.4

: Following on the heels of the Chunk of Change EP, Manners is the highly anticipated debut album from Massachusetts outfit Passion Pit. For those looking for a continuation of their brilliant synth-infused pop this album will not disappoint. Manners features two highlights in particular, namely the opening track, "Make Light" and their latest single "The Reeling".

Of possible concern, however, is the realization that the album's strongest track, "Sleepyhead," is also featured on the EP; does this suggest that we’ve already seen the best from Michael Angelakos and company?

But with a strong live show and a knack for catchy riffs who am I to argue. Indeed, the band is steadily gathering support in America and in Europe. And anyone who knows their indie-electronic will be dancing along to Manners this summer.

Reviewed by Alex Diffley

Friday, August 14, 2009

Japandroids: Post-Nothing

Artist: Japandroids
Album: Post-Nothing
Date Released: August 4, 2009
Genre: indie-rock, noise-rock
Rating: 9.0

Review: Post-Nothing, the debut from Vancouver duo Japandroids, is one of those albums that could be easily overlooked and passed over as another effort in the suddenly over-crowded noise-rock scene. But closer inspection reveals catchy riffs, shockingly good performances and no shortage of excellent melodies and grooves. And with lyrics like, "We used to dream, now we worry about dying," along with song titles like "I Quit Girls," it's a no-brainer: Post-Nothing is truly one of the best albums of 2009.