Tuesday, June 28, 2011

3 Reviews: Strokes, Shannon & The Clams, Tune-Yards

The Strokes - Angles
With “Is This It?” the Strokes made one of the best records of the new century. Following albums were good but got gradually worse. After a long hiatus “Angles” came out and unfortunately it fits neatly into that line.
Opener ‘Machu Picchu’ can only endear in the chorus, but the empty 80’s pop sound is annoying. This hollow sound is continued in ‘Two Kinds of Happiness’ and basically throughout the album

It’s not all bad. The single ‘Under Cover of Darkness’ makes up a lot. It’s a vintage Strokes song with both strong verses and chorus and where every instrument sounds great. ‘Taken for a Fool’ has a great chorus as well but these are sparse highlight on a disappointing album.

Shannon and the Clams – Sleep Talk
Unknown Shannon and the Clams caught my ears with their 2009 album “I Wanna Go Home”. Their music is 60’s garage rock powered by the singer’s powerful voice. Their raw sound must sound great live. The energy is again at a very high level, sometimes distorting the amps. A more raw version of the Ramones, sometimes even nearing The Stooges. With just 36 minutes of playing time it is also the right length before become too monotone.

Tune-Yards - w h o k i l l
Go see her (them) if you have a chance because of their originality. Overlapping vocals and exotic beats give you an interesting musical experience. “w h o k i l l” is a breakthrough album. The vocals are varied, though at times varied, but they color the songs like no other instrument, like in the jumpy/jazzy ‘Gangsta’ or the single ‘Bizness’. 10 songs that are guaranteed to make your ears perk up.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It Has Melodies! : Battles - Gloss Drop

Battles’ musical style is such that losing a member means losing all the songs he played on, which was shown at their show in the Melkweg not too long ago. No Atlas or Tonto were played, but it was still easily one of the best concerts of the year so far. The departure of Tyondai Braxton left some, including me, wondering what would become of the Battles sound. “Gloss Drop” provides the answer, and a surprising one. Some elements are still intact; John Stanier’s drumming is still some of the best in the alternative music scene. It takes about a minute in opener ‘Africastle’ but the pounding is relentless and tight, like it was on “Mirrored” but it does not dominate the album.

What has changed is the overall mood. “Mirrored” could be dark and brooding at times, “Gloss Drop” is at times almost upbeat. This is in part because of the high pitched keyboards, which Ian Williams has more space for now. It even has melodies! The drumming and beats are almost more towards hiphop where the funky beats have replaced the really weird solid beats on “Mirrored”.

Dave Konopko still provides the rumbling background sound with bass and lowtuned guitar.
Braxton was the singer but has been replaced with a score of guest vocalists. How do they do this live you ask? Well, two screens show images of the singer singing the vocals, and this can be manipulated. The brilliant ‘Ice Cream’ vocals are provided by Chilean/German Matias Aguayo, and even Gary Numan shows up in the drum-heavy ‘My Machines’.

It is unfair to compare “Mirrored” with “Gloss Drop”. The moods of the album are different, mostly because of the changing musical dynamics. “Gloss Drop” is stronger overall. While lacking some of the top tracks like the monumental Atlas (maybe the best piece of alternative music recorded in the first decade of this century) it is easier to access and a more pleasant listening experience. One thing is still certain, Battles is still as unique as ever and is as 21st century as music can get.