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Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built

May 30, 2012

The Japandroids take classic pop and rock hooks and inject them with the maniacal energy of something much more hardcore. The result is a sound that is, at its core, defined by the recklessness of youth and the obligatory adoption of an I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. But “The House That Heaven Built” signifies an attitude shift of sorts for Brian King and David Prowse. It’s not that the content has changed all that much — we’re still in a territory similar to Post-Nothing — but there seems to be, somewhat unsurprisingly, a new found confidence behind it all. It’s as if, now that The Japandroids are getting the love they deserve, they finally are aiming high, unafraid of their own ambitions.


Download MP3 here or buy it on iTunes here

MS MR – Hurricane

May 23, 2012

As if worn down by the relentless nature of the American cultural machine but still unable to escape it, MS MR presents a lamenting form of what they’re calling “tumblr-glitch-pop” — a label that they must love and hate at the very same time. Hurricane is full of a dark but withdrawn sexuality, almost approaching desire and sex with the same attitude as The Weeknd, but, with that said, the easiest sonic comparison here is Poliça. The allure behind MS MR is somewhat of a creation of the blogosphere at the moment, but tracks like this serve as an indication that there is serious substance to back up the buzz.


Buy it on bandcamp here

Alabama Shakes – Hold On

April 11, 2012

The Alabama Shakes are a band that has risen from obscurity for one reason and one reason only: Brittany Howard’s pipes. That shouldn’t be taken as a knock on her supporting crew — they’re building the canvas that she’s painting on — but the meteoric buzz surrounding this band can best be explained by watching this clip from their Conan performance. It’s not that we’ve never heard anything like her before; she’s cut from the same generic cloth as Joplin but also peppers in some Amy Whinehousian soul. Rather, what makes Brittany Howard a rising star is the fact that, like, say Merill Garbus of Tune-Yards, the moment Howard opens her mouth, your brain can barely process what’s going on: “Can that sound really be coming out of her?!” In short, she’s a real talent, and while we can’t yet be sure whether there’s more to Alabama Shakes than that, we can certainly enjoy their new album Boys & Girls for the unabashed fun that it is.


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Jai Paul – Jasmine

April 2, 2012

There was something strangely disarming about Jai Paul’s “BTSTU,” his debut track that started floating around the internet in 2010 and 2011. It was the cocksureness–Paul opens his first ever song by singing “Don’t fuck with me/Don’t fuck with me” in a falsetto that is, somehow, simultaneously cherubic and sinister. “BTSTU” was catchy, fresh and, most importantly, bold, and now comes a follow-up, “Jasmine.” Generically, it has a totally different feel, trading in the seductive, dub-influenced R&B for some strange incarnation of 80’s soul, but the approach feels similar. The common denominator here is the sonic darkness inherent in each track, as if, they were written in dark rooms and meant to be listened to in even darker ones.


Beach House – Myth

March 9, 2012

What’s so stunning about Beach House is that they make dream-pop–a genre that lends itself to a certain light-hearted or nostalgic weightlessness–feel utterly weighty, epic and important. It’s Victoria Legrand’s vocal delivery, a deep croon that somehow simultaneously evokes feelings of intimacy and detachment. Bloom is due out May 15th, and if “Myth” is any indication, it seems as this is a release that may represent a band that finds itself smack in the middle of its creative prime.


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Chairlift – Guilty As Charged

February 16, 2012

The sophomore showing in music, sports, art or even your proverbial desk job is often the most telling when it comes to evaluating substance. That’s why Chairlift’s Something is worth recognizing as more than just a step forward for a young band, but a debutante album from a Brooklyn duo who has crafted something so focused and diverse that it may make some best of 2012 lists. On “Guilty As Charged” Caroline Polachek supplies all the intimacy that makes St. Vincent’s Annie Clark so enrapturing, but Patrick Wimberly balances that intimacy with a mix that feels dark and guttural. It’s the perfect closer for an LP that is clearly the result of deliberate and careful conceptualization.

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Rhye – Open

February 15, 2012

Not much is known about this L.A. duo, and in some ways that’s wildly refreshing because it allows “Open” to speak for itself. With a misleadingly orchestral opening, it is a sparse track that understands that its greatest asset is the vocal line–soft and warm, like fresh laundry. And the video captures the tone of sexual longing that is inextricable from the track. “Open” is the title track off of Rhye’s EP which is out now.


Poliça – Violent Games

February 8, 2012

If you locked Abele Tesfaye (the voice behind The Weeknd) in the Wisconsin cabin that Bon Iver recorded For Emma, Forever Ago in, he might come out six months later with an album that sounds something like Poliça’s Give You the Ghost. It has all the Weeknd’s dark, pent-up sexuality but also evokes the feelings of desperate isolation that Justin Vernon so elegantly captured on his breakout album. “Violent Games” is truly a wild, aggressive and anthemic track. It’s probably not the single on this album, but the absolutely relentless pace and the get-out-of-my-fucking-way vocals from Channy Leaneagh make it a defining track on Give You the Ghost.

Sharon Van Etten – Magic Chords

January 20, 2012

Never has intonation–the tiny, idiosyncratic creaks, cracks and whines that fill-out and shape an uttered word–been so important for an artist. Sharon Van Etten’s lyrics are certainly poetic, but on paper, they could be mistaken for soft-ball, stock, indie-folk fodder. But when delivered by Van Etten, the simplest of refrains like, “You’ve got to lose sometimes,” becomes so defined and perfectly evocative of Van Etten’s signature hopeful despair. “Magic Chords,” a track off of the soon to be released Tramp, is like a lot of Van Etten’s tracks in that its treasures need to be mined, and its rewards are only often realized on second, third and fourth listen. It’s not that SVE is a grower (the ugliest word in the arena of music review), it’s that her talents are understated and subtle in a way that doesn’t imply there is a dearth of substance behind her music, but rather that, as of now, we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg.


Felix and Volcano! – Son Of Sam

January 12, 2012

The trick of Felix and Volcano! is that they’re able to keep things light without ever feeling trivial. It’s a tough high-wire act that starts with a keyboard riff that sounds like something you might have written while messing around on the $100 Casio that’s collecting dust in your parents basement. And it gives “Son Of Sam” a juvenile (not in a bad way) air until, suddenly, Sydney Bilodeau chimes in with heartfelt vocals that ground the track and turn it into something more than a couple kids fooling around on Garageband. Felix and Volcano! is somehow defined by the exclamation mark they daringly throw in at the end of their name–they recognize that their youth and their playful sound might characterize them as a fun band, but fun is no joke and, like this up-and-coming band, should be taken seriously.


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