Track Review: Antidote – Preoccupations (fka Viet Cong)

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‘’Antidote’’ is the second single from Canadian Post-punk band Preoccupations’ next record (aptly titled New Material). While still riffing on their usual gloomy and dark style, the single sees the band’s sound immersing itself in new wave. The song starts off with a drum loop (resembling the one on ‘’Pointless experience’’) that is quickly joined by a repeating two notes bass riff, courtesy of bassist/singer Matt Flegel. The drums’ tone felt very reminiscent of ‘’Packt like sardines in a crushed tin box’’ in that they feel very metallic and electronic (especially in the mini breakdown between the two main verses). The vocals here are typical of Flegel’s usual brand of nasal/gnarly delivery. However, he seems to explore a more melodious style rather than his usual monotone tone. The guitars here are very faint, the synths really expanding in their place.

Overall, I must express some disappointment towards the track. While the first single ‘’Espionnage’’ felt like a good sign of things to come, this one feels rather incomplete. In fact, I would go as far as saying its repetitive, pointless and lacks focus. The second half of the single feels like it came straight out of gloomy darkwave rave. It really resembles the first half of songs like ‘’Death’’ and ‘’Memory’’, in that it seems a bit repetitive and flat. However, contrary to those two songs, it doesn’t explode into a monumental crescendo in it’s second half but merely stops, leaving the listener wanting more, wanting some kind of closure. On it’s own, this song is lacking and feels unfinished.

 

Note: 4.5/10

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Album review: MGMT – Little Dark Age

Résultats de recherche d'images pour « little dark age » Following a 5 years long silence (and their critically panned self-titled LP), kings of late-aughts indie-pop/psychedelia MGMT are back this week with their new effort Little Dark Age. MGMT’s path since the release of the big breakout debut Oracular Spectacular is a peculiar one. For one, apart from the ”big three” (namely ”Electric Feel”, ”Kids” and ”Time to pretend”), MGMT seems to have actively dedicated themselves to avoiding the sound that made them famous. Indeed, their sophomore LP ”Congratulations” delves deeper in their psychedelic sound while ditching most of its pop pretensions. Then came their self-titled, which (as I said earlier) was badly received by music critics and fans alike. So, on their new record, did MGMT manage to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was their first record? The short answer is yes …and no.

Sporadically releasing singles for this LP since last October, MGMT successfully caught my attention. I’ve been looking forward to this release since I heard ”When You Die” (but more on that later). After a couple of listens, I can say that this record scratched my itch for gothy, synth-pop-tinged neo-psychedelia. The record opens on the energetic and bouncy ”She Works Out Too Much”. I could only describe the sound of this track as being a mix of Mac Demarco’s synths from ”Chamber of Reflections”  and Sonic the Hedgehog 3’s soundtrack. While its humorous tone did entertain me, it didn’t reach the heights of the few singles already released. The next few tracks are three of the four singles released. While I mentioned that ”When You Die” was the track that put this release on my radar, I must admit that ”Me and Micheal” really is a high point here as it combines icy synths straight out of the 80’s with an anthemic and instantly catchy chorus to form a sun-basked psych-pop cut.

The middle section of this record is where it started to disappoint me, as I found little to no interest in songs like the world music inspired ”Tslamp” (short for Time Spent Looking at my phone), the repetitive ”James” (which was written by VanWyngarden while tripping on acid) or the spacious and empty-sounding ”Days That Got Away”. Passed this stump in the road though, the record continues to amaze its listener, with the outstanding ”When You’re Small” (I’m a sucker for instrumental breakdowns) and the calm and Congratulation-era sounding ”Hand It Over”.

Lyrically, the duo touches on various subjects, most of them seeming pretty mundane (with some being very heavy -see ”When You Die”). However, the music here really outshines the lyrical content of this LP.

This record did not blow me over on first listen. Nevertheless, it met my slightly high expectations more than enough. I’m also deeply convinced that it will grow on me more and more as I listen to it. This record as a definite summer vibe to it (which is more than welcome in mid-February). I’ll be sure to revisit by then. In the mean time, please give it a chance and listen to it, as it is the best material MGMT has put out since their stellar debut.

Note: 8/10

As usual, I’ve updated the playlist with the tracks that I liked the most on this LP. It is out now via Columbia records.

Album Review: Shopping – The Official Body

the official bodyLondon’s hottest post-punk outfit Shopping released their new LP The Official Body last Friday. Since then, I’ve listened to it quite extensively and although I initially thought it was great, it quickly lost its charm. On their newest effort, Rachel Aggs, Billy Easter and Andrew Milk build what aims to be a classic post-punk record. However, it completely falls into a seemingly uninspired surf rock downward spiral.

On this album, Shopping expands on the sound they developed over the course of their last LPs. Although the music here is by no means bad, it generally felt uninspired and same-y.  The opening song ‘’The Hype’’ is also its strongest. The bouncy bass, staccato guitar riffs (part of Aggs signature style) and repetitive lyrics combine to form a song that could easily pass as coming from, say, Talking Heads’ Remain In Light. It also proudly displays its early Gang of Four influences. If you like these bands, you’ll like that song. However, this strong point passed, the LP devolves into what I described earlier. On later tracks like ‘’Wild Child’’, ‘’Discover’’ and ‘’New Values’’, Shopping introduces some electronic elements (mainly synths), to mixed success. On ‘’Wild Child’’, the synths played in the chorus help add a retro feel to the song. I would even go as far as saying that it reminds me of what Devo was putting out in the early 80’s (like their classic hit ‘’Whip It!’’). However, on ‘’Discover’’, the synth-bass feels cheap and dissonant at times.

Still, the band’s playing is airtight. Aggs fast, staccato riffs and Easter’s bouncing bass complement each other. Milk’s drumming, on the other hand, feels utterly repetitive, rendering half of the band’s rhythm section uninteresting. Lyrically, the LP touches on themes like dissatisfaction with society, alienation and they express their anger quite vocally. The lyrics are at times compelling (like Aggs’ unequivocal questioning of consumerism on ‘’Asking for a friend’’) but they can also come across as cringe-y on tracks like ‘’Discover’’ (a track filled with the angst of a lonely 14 years old).

This album is a mixed bag. As I’ve stated many times, Aggs playing make for an interesting, albeit very repetitive, sound. Its highs (‘’The Hype’’, ‘’Wild Child’’, ‘’Asking for a friend’’) are definitely counterbalanced by its lows (see ‘’Discover’’ and ‘’New Values’’), making the album feel flat, neither particularly good nor bad and, ultimately, forgettable. Excluding one or two songs, I don’t see myself revisiting it any time soon (which is a shame since I quite liked their previous LP).

Note: 5/10

  As always, I have added the tracks I deemed listen-worthy in the playlist on the right. The record is out now on Fat Cat records.

Album Review: Bahamas – Earthtones

Earthtones

As his previous album’s title suggests, Bahamas is Afie. More precisely, he’s Afie Jurvanen, a indie-folk artist from Toronto. After getting into a writer’s block, Jurvanen enlisted the help of musicians from D’Angelo’s backing band. After a rather lackluster LP, it does seem like Bahamas is on the right track again, putting out one of the best efforts of his career.

This LP takes the style you might’ve come to expect from any Bahamas record (backing vocals, catchy choruses and double-track guitar solos) but makes it feel more organic, smoother and more soulful. The record’s second track (‘’Opening Act (The Shooby Dooby Song)’’) packs more groove than I would’ve thought, sounding like something Vulfpeck could’ve put out (minus the crazy melodic parts). Jurvanen’s song writing skills really shine on tracks like ‘’No Wrong’’, a low key yet groovy ballad, or ‘’Bad Boys Need Love Too’’, where he sings/talks about his upbringing without a father. Closer song ”Any Place” follows in the path of ”No Wrong” in that it’s a quiet and calm song but Jurvanen’s vocals (which explore new depths in his range) make it a stand out track for me.

Strictly on the musical level, this album reminds me a lot of what a mellower Alabama Shakes might put out. Bahamas cleverly combines dub, doo-wop, rock, folk, indie pop and soul in his composing and the results are worth the while. In his lyrics, he touches themes which are common in his work, such as love’s hardships, his past and the pressures of social life. The standout tracks for me here are ‘’No Wrong’’, with its subdued and comforting guitar work, ‘’Show me Naomi’’, ”Any Place” and ‘’Everything to Everyone’’.

In short, on Earthtones, Bahamas manages to create an interesting amalgam of rock, soul and folk, to much success. The musical style of D’angelo’s backing band really complements his playing and helps create a strong addition to his discography. If someone would’ve told me it was recorded in the golden days of the Muscle Shoals sound, I’d believe them.

While it has been released in the middle of January, I can clearly see this LP being played on repeat this summer. It is a feel-good record and gives 2018 a strong start.

Note: 8.5/10

I’ve added some of the tracks I mentioned to the Spotify playlist on the right (or bottom if you’re on mobile). The album is out now on  Brushfire/Republic Records.

 

 

Track Review: Ought – Disgraced in America

I highly suggest you listen to the song beforehand or while reading this review. You can do so via the playlist in the sidebar or by clicking here for the song’s official video.

The Montreal Indie rock/Post-punk revival quartet Ought’s new single ‘’Disgraced in America’’ is a striking piece of music. Clocking in at just under 4 minutes and a half, the track is a good omen for things to come.Where the previous single for their forthcoming record ‘’These 3 things’’ borrowed heavily from synth-pop mannerism, Disgraced in America is Lo-fi and visceral.

Propelled by amazing percussions, courtesy of Multi-instumentalist Tim Keen the song blossoms into a very dynamic yet somewhat monotone piece.The slightly over-driven yet jangly guitars help provide some grit to the song while Ben Stidworthy’s bass line seems to drive the whole effort. Singer Tim Darcy’s vocal remain (for most of the verses) flat, in an early-The Strokes way. However, he goes deeper and lower into his vocal registry on the multiple bridges and choruses.

Lyrically, Darcy’s sardonic tone does not paint a pretty picture. The singer delivers lines touching on themes like economic malaise, religion, war and feeling like an outsider. This gives the song kind of a claustrophobic feeling.

The song’s high point seems to be the middle section just before the keyboard-driven break down, where Keen’s drums really start to shine. It ends with a section which is reminiscent of Ought’s usual style, particularly on tracks like ”Never Better” or ”On the Line” (both from their previous LP, Sun’s Coming Down). Overall, the song feels like a bridge between the new sounds introduced in the previous single and the one we’ve come to expect from Ought’s previous output.

Favorite lyric: Floated ’round Downtown, I Floated ’round Spain/ I was like a dentist rooting for pain

Note: 8/10

Ought’s newest record ”Room inside the world” is coming out 2/16 on Merge records.