Posts Tagged ‘Beach House’
Honorable Mention: KiD CuDi: Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager
#10 Vampire Weekend: Contra
While I’ve been a Vampire Weekend diehard since last January, George says “it makes me want to vomit cartoon rainbows.” Maybe there is something kitschy about Ezra singing about horchata, cheese steaks and toothpaste, but this is no reason to write off Contra. I’ve mentioned before that a good artist can take something simple, commonplace and present it in a completely novel way – in other words, make us pay attention to the clothes rubbing against our skin. This is what Vampire Weekend does. On one level, each song is completely unassuming, on another it’s mind blowing. Take “California English”, so fraught with auto-tune and syncopated rhythm you’re forced to ask “why?!” But the auto-tune is just a creative way to present “California English” or Spanish perhaps? Another way Vampire Weekend present simplicity is through perfectionism – the attention paid to minute detail. Although “White Sky” could be repetitive till dullness, it is instead subtly different through the use of changing percussion and inflections in Ezra’s voice. This is 2010’s version of XX – restraint, simplicity yet subtle complexity. The rarity of this combination is what makes such albums winners.
#9 Major Lazer: Lazers Never Die EP
Pure epinephrine runs through the veins of MAJOR LAZER. This causes him to create perfect dance music. This is what I imagine must be true for such unapologetically obscene dance music to exist. This EP is in part a recognition of all ML has done this year but also an appreciation of the EP itself. The remixes on this album do nothing less than improve upon the originals in the case of “Bruk Out” and in the case of “Jump Up” and “Can’t Stop Now” they remixes present the songs in a form that seems just as natural (or perhaps just as ridiculous?) as the originals.
#8 Arcade Fire: The Suburbs
Talk about album cohesion! Thematic, melting of one song into another, and even similar chord cadences in every song, Arcade Fire produced a soundtrack-like album. It even seems to have a beginning, middle, and end (it ends with “The Suburbs (continued)” that brings us right back to the first song on the album). On a smaller scale, within each song, the chord progressions are also circular. Where the cadence ends is also the beginning of the next cadence. Thus, every song is circular, and the effect is a continuous anticipation for a “real” ending. Maybe, that’s why this album is so catchy and debuted at #1 on the U.S. Billboard and received three nominations at the Grammys.
#7 Tame Impala: Innerspeaker
Listening to tracks like “Alter Ego” and “Solitude Is Bliss” really makes me want to put Tame Impala’s, Innerspeaker as number one on our list. But I honestly have to admit, the album as a whole just doesn’t make it that far. If you dig The Beatles, you might disagree with me, but as fresh as the whole classic rock, phased-out style, backed up by the “I don’t give a s**t” feels, may be, we have better justifications for our current higher rated picks. Innerspeaker succeeds in being nostalgic, without making the same mistake other indie bands make who just succeed in sounding stupid. Their 2008 EP sounds like it could have been made today by the band. That’s because Innerspeaker is Tame Impala’s genuine sound.
#6 Beach House: Teen Dream
Teen Dream is a very personable album. This may sound vague, but Teen Dream is vague. The entire album collectively makes a mess of your emotions. Obviously, from the song titles there is some theme of love, but honestly I can’t tell if the album is about falling in love or breaking up. Every song is introspective and absorbing. For example the song, “Lover Of Mine”, may begin like another kitschy song by MGMT, but after the bass and piano enter to accompany the guitar, the song becomes a pool of thought (perfect day-dream material). I personally found this album to be reflexive but I believe you can perceive this album in any way you wish. You can sympathize with it, embrace it, philosophize, etc. Every track on Teen Dream is unique to any listening aspiration. I don’t know how crazy I am about Alex Scally’s voice singing higher than his female counterpart, Victoria Legrand, but the duo together create a very luscious, yet translucent feel. The perfected and smooth production amplifies its imagery and tone. This album isn’t anything mind-blowing, but it pains me to pause my iPod midway through a song. You can claim that music is ear-candy, but Teen Dream is food for thought.
#5 Gorillaz: Plastic Beach
Damon Albarn clearly strives for grandeur with this album. Heavy beats, soaring orchestrations and collaborations out the wazoo do not mask Albarn’s intentions and in fact do quite well to propel this album most of the way towards what it seeks to accomplish. However, the album is plagued by just a few shortcomings that keep this album inches away from perfection. Unfortunate this was for Damon in a year like 2010 where these kinds of minor shortcomings keep a really incredible album at fifth place amidst some other really incredible releases. One or two really expendable songs (“Glitter Freeze” comes to mind) and a couple other hit or miss moments are the only real flaws and unlike in Demon Days, Damon proves that the Gorillaz project is more than just a vehicle for radio friendly pop singles.
# 4 Sufjan Stevens: The Age of Adz
“Letting loose” doesn’t exactly evoke ideas of frivolous brass and superfluous choir. We usually associate “letting loose” will sloppiness, incompletion and disorder. The wonderful, absolutely amazing, extraordinary thing about The Age of Adz is that it’s everything we wouldn’t expect from a free-form, sufjan-finally-let-loose album – it’s saturated with technical orchestration, complex ideas, story lines and masterful song writing. But even more impressively, the free form is still there – themes meander, noises pop out of nowhere, there seems to be little restraint. What makes this a top ten album is the effortlessness – orchestration that would sound contrived if written by anyone else, flows out of Sufjan like drunken ramblings; song structure that would normally either confuse us or put us to sleep, is instead enthralling and deeply emotional. Sufjan is naturally complex and often stabs at the air with odd “noises”. Every so often he stabs us in the heart and throughout his chaos he carries a beautiful melody and story – the combination of chaos, dissonance and harmony and peace is something only Sufjan could have crafted and something that may never be achieved on such a high level ever again.
#3 Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma
I initially wanted Cosmogramma to be album of the year. This was because from the moment I heard the leaked tracks in early 2010 and still to today, the album hit me on a supremely spiritual level. Its huge “cosmic” sound left me paralyzed. However, perhaps its scope was alienating; you’ve really got to get inside your own head to get into this music. Is this enough to push FlyLo off the top spot? Is it problematic at all? Perhaps, if you’re afraid of dementia or insomnia.
Aside from the psychological problems the album chaperones, FlyLo does some innovative things with his music. For instance, he seems so deliberate with his beat placement and ultimately you can tell because FlyLo’s seemingly sloppy, lazy beat (which in reality is probably incredibly delicately timed) really kills it, in a good way. I mean, if it was just a tad more sloppy in places, it straight up wouldn’t work and it is exactly that teetering on the threshold, that suspended dissolution that makes FlyLo’s music so kickass.
#2 Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
The reason this album is so perfectly effective is because Kanye created an album that is a self portrait of a megalomaniac: A cinematic self portrait that is never self-effacing and always opportunistic. The cinematic aspect of it comes from his ability to sculpt an album that shows his true self from several angles: his obsession with power and opulence, his monstrous ego, his inability to sustain a relationship, his devils and his tribulations. Perhaps the reason MBDTF touches so many people so deeply is because it has an protagonist with whom we can clearly relate: a protagonist who is his own antagonist. Kanye’s got a pretty twisted mind to create such a fantastical album, full of dark imagery yet beautifully brilliant music.
#1 LCD Soundsystem: This Is Happening
Exceptionally danceable. Stylistically nouveau. Tastefully self-deprecating. Often humorous. The facets of this album which, when working in tandem, make this our favorite album of the year are surprisingly actually not that hard to pin down.
In effect, this album just hit our pleasure centers from the very start and the music on this album hasn’t really stopped doing that even now. It’s not even a drip feed of pleasure, it’s like an endless waterfall of pleasure. However, it goes beyond that. The album goes the other way too. The absurdly ridiculous simplicity that this album exudes at first glance is a front for what is actually a crazy synthesis of several incongruous genres into one pseudo-dance-punk-who-cares-for-proper-labeling awesome piece of musical ass. I safely assert that this album contains the songs that James Murphy has been trying to make since “Losing My Touch”. This would be irrelevant if not for the fact that Murphy feels perfectly at ease in these songs. The production is tops, and in fact quite interesting, as Murphy finds way to play with your perception of the sounds he records. The sounds all sound framed in space yet still succulently clear. No sound is hidden or masked but there’s still an infinity of depth. In the end, This Is Happening just happens to be the most perfect album of the year.
Click on the player on the left to Listen
Tamaryn – The Waves
At first, you may feel outraged – how dare someone try to sing like Victoria Legrand? But then you realize just how wonderful it is that there isn’t only one of her. Someone else out there can sound innocent, yet so sultry.
Tamaryn sounds like Teen Dream’s evil twin. Just as dreamy but on the dark side of the moon.
The Naked and Famous – Passive me, Aggressive you
Ever since MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular, it seems everyone is trying to recreate “Kids”. The Naked and Famous may have succeeded. And although “Young Blood” is the anthem of this album, there is no reason to ignore more somber songs such as “The Sun”. These give depth to what would otherwise be your typical 80s revival album with a “Kids” remake.
Wintersleep – Welcome to the Night Sky
Not their most recent album, however, it manages to stay green. Acoustic and emotional, these guys are a weepier version of R.E.M. I’m also really partial to the piano in “Dead Letter and the Infinite Yes”.
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
The subject: glorifying hipsters still living at home in the suburbs. The substance: really good music composed of unfinished cadences, traditional big band instrumentation and story unfolding in the music not just the words.
Yesterday was Record Store Day and in honor of it I biked to Reckless Records, a cool record shop in the loop, to check out the scene. I was surprised to see a live metal band playing in the tiny store. It was great fun but I didn’t end up buying anything. Anyway, two new Record Store Day releases that stuck out to me as prominent were a 12″ from Beach House and a new new new new song from Blur! Wow, how many years has it been? Anyway, here’s what I have to say about the releases: the Blur song is excellent and it almost seems like a part of a bigger picture and I would die to get a Blur release this year. Graham Coxon’s guitar throughout, and especially at the end, reminds me of why I care.
The Beach House track, meh… It sounds like a Teen Dream outtake, which it probably is but if you haven’t had enough Beach House then go for it but I wouldn’t have spent money on the footlong (12″ release) if had been able to find it in any of the record stores I went to yesterday. I went to two by the way. The second one was this cute store closer to campus that I walked into on my way to dinner at Ribs n’ Bibs. Dinner at Ribs n’ Bibs was great though. I had a “Bronco Burger” with fries and slaw for three dollars. What a steal!
I was in a bad mood a couple nights ago and texted a few people to have them suggest a cure. My favorite response came from Paloma. Half of her texts made me feel worse; for example, she texted something about how every hour you spend in front of the television increases your risk of dying by something like 10 percent. Doubtful, maybe, but since I had just watched HP6 the night before, this assertion was really no help. But the effects of such texts were completely washed by others revealing her idiosyncrasies, ‘I also watched the Matrix every night it’s been on in the last 2 weeks. Now vying w Howl for my most-watched movie of all time.’ Only for Paloma and maybe my youngest brother, Alexander, would Howl’s Moving Castle, be their most-watched movie of all time. Somewhere between learning about polar bears being left-handed and reading Salinger’s alternate obituary in The Onion, I started to feel better.
Anyway, here is my stab at a cure for the winter blues. This is also a response to Paloma’s request for some ‘this-is-no-time-for-lethargy music.’ I am pretty sure I’m not the only one feeling this slump. The most recent episode of 30 Rock was titled ‘Winter Madness’; in other words, Tina Fey’s take on Seasonal Affective Disorder. Apparently February is the last month during which individuals in the Northern Hemisphere will usually experience symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder – so I learned when writing two papers on SAD last semester.
Here are some excellent tunes so cheer up. This is especially for the guy at work who said he’d gone through our playlist twice already and needed more. This is also for the girl who I sent one of these tracks to – you told me that you ’LOOVED!’ it. I promise, you’ll feel the same way about the rest of these.
‘The Sun’ Portugal. The Man
‘Dog Days are Over’ Florence + The Machine
‘Take Care’ Beach House
Aphera’s one-month anniversary fell on a good week; here in Baltimore we are celebrating restaurant week (mmm) and the release of Beach House’s new highly rated album, Teen Dream (represent!). The thing is, I do not say ‘highly rated’ lightly. Pitchfork gave Beach House a coveted 9 rating. Not that I think this album isn’t good, it’s just I can’t reconcile the discrepancy between Beach House = 9 while just a few days ago, my other band of the moment, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, was tanked at a 4.1
And worse yet, the description as to why the Magnetic Zeros deserved such a low score had something to do with the fact that they weren’t as good as the ‘real thing.’ I guess kind of like store brand cola is never as good as real Coca-Cola? Except the reviewer, Paul Thompson, used ‘Fruitopia’ as the object in the analogy. And since Fruitopia was introduced in 1994 when I was age 6 – I have no idea what it is. So when Thompson begins his article with ‘Remember Fruitopia?’ My answer is, no, actually I don’t. Therefore, I really can’t use your damn analogy to help me better understand why you tanked the Magnetic Zeros at 4.1 points.
So I scanned the rest of his article for some substance. Honest to god, the next best thing I found was, ‘But the admirably far-reaching results nevertheless come up short.’ Thompson, I’m genuinely interested in why the Magnetic Zeros come up short enough to be tanked at a 4.1 – your ridiculously long, adjective heavy, analogy reeking article was not even close to being sufficient enough to provide the answer and Beach House’s 9 rating did not help explain the situation either.
My personal opinion – Beach House’s Teen Dream is a smooth, coherent album. It begins beautifully with what sounds like a theme and expands elegantly in the middle to what resembles a development with songs like ‘Love of Mine’. I guess I would call it an album in sonata form (this is a stretch). But then at the end it comes to a nice recap just like the end of a classical piece. This natural inverted U shape indicating a climax in the middle and then a rest at the end makes the album a pleasant listen. Additionally, Victoria Legrand’s voice is award winning, sophisticated and ripe. Seriously, more little white people need to sound like big black women. Yet, even with all this, I feel like the 9 score should be reserved for something groundbreaking and this album, as concise as it is, is not groundbreaking. In fact, it kind of reminds me of the 80s and what doesn’t these days?!
Anyway – I feel like Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, in all honesty, may not have displayed as much quality as Beach House did. So I’m not implying that they deserve a high score – but a 4.1? Listen to a song like ’40 Day Dream’. It’s unique and well crafted. A lot of complaints came from reviewers who said that the Magnetic Zeros just didn’t match up to the hippie stuff that came out of the 60s. One reviewer said that a lot of bands are doing what the Zeros do better these days. But he failed to pinpoint which ones. So, since I haven’t been an avid listener of that hippie stuff from either back in the day or from today, the Magnetic Zeros sound fresh to me and, of course, kind of sarcastic at times with songs like ‘Home.’ Don’t make the mistake of confusing their sarcasm for artificiality. Because – I think if you don’t take these guys too seriously, (and why would you?) you realize they actually produced an enjoyable and quality album.