Genre: Indie Rock/Lo-Fi Rock
Origin: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Kurt Vile is rightly suited to be signed with a label like Matador Records. The label also has Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth, Belle and Sebastian, and Thurston Moore, all artists whom really have a specific focus on lyricism and guitar work but whom also apply thematic elements to their style. The fact that Kurt's last record was a lo-fi wonder of indie rock makes it hard to imagine this guy appearing on any other label, considering his emphasis for the ideas mentioned above. Yet he returns with Smoke Ring For My Halo, working with a sound that's a little more "grander" this time around, in the sense that the production quality is a bit of an improvement. It works for the most part, even if the songs themselves are still very well wound up in previous territory.
As such, most of the songs do not respond with exploratory notions or fresh ideas, but they rather relieve themselves by remaining consistent. A lot of Halo is made up of nice little numbers like "Baby's Arms" and "Peeping Tomboy," whose guitar picking is stunning and singing style helps to match the lyrical content. Perhaps the album really hits its stride when songs open up to bolder arrangements. "In My Time" allows Kurt to expand on simple guitar and effects and offer a lot more acoustic variation and instrument implementation. "Jesus Fever" almost hearkens back to swell times when one would just pick up a guitar and jam with friends, without any obtrusiveness.
As I mentioned above, the sound quality has improved to bring out the timbre of his instruments, but the nature of his songwriting places him squarely in a lo-fi zone. "I wanna write my whole life down / Burn it there to the ground / I wanna sing at the top of my lungs / For fun, screaming annoyingly" he softly sings on "On Tour", but the cleaner sounds in the recording almost make the lyrics rather stilted. You can tell Kurt is providing the album with his lyricism, a key component that's just as good as any guitarist would want or expect from others like Lou Reed, but the better production and guitar playing, as good as they are, do not often give him the support his lyrics are searching for.
There's no doubt that Kurt does a commendable job on his second record. He gets plenty of credit for his songwriting and guitar playing abilities, even if it doesn't entirely live up to the full potential. If you're looking for some nice guitar playing that doesn't look to much to impress but heads along the safe route, Smoke Ring For My Halo has plenty to offer. Then again, a lot of artists on Matador have plenty to offer.
Kurt Vile - "In My Time"
Kurt Vile - "Jesus Fever"
Smoke Ring For My Halo is now available on Matador Records.
Animal Collective have been around for most of the 2000's, but it wasn't until Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009 that they broke the independent mold and brought about their most accessible album to date. That doesn't necessarily mean that they dropped their experimental tendencies for this one album, especially considering the recent release of the visual nightmare ODDSAC. They've still got it in them to produce intriguing, wonderful sounds amidst a Beach Boys-esque atmosphere. Such is the case with "Bluish," a song that sounds like the title itself and an accompanying video even James Cameron has to be awed with. It's one of the more relaxed songs on the album, yet the video edits intensify with the beats and the dreamy visuals with what appears to be floating belly dancers and jellyfish transport you into a land of wonder. Let this video take you places you didn't think you'd go.
Never heard of him? You might have if you've seen Cartoon Network's Adult Swim during recent televised commercials. Still not? Well, the name might not strike you as immediately as James Murphy or Justice, but English musician Chris Clark, otherwise simply known as Clark, is very much a great asset to electronic music. Though probably more progressive in nature than the two artists listed above, Clark takes whatever it is that's nice about the genre and completely breaks it down into mathematical equations and paradigms, almost as if listening to the motherboard of a calculator over speakerphone. All the synths and drum machines and bleeps and bloops of his recordings can make one's head fry from overloading, though there's a distinct beauty in the trials and tribulations that he somehow molds together. "Future Daniel" from the overtly-named LP Totems Flare is in this kind of category, providing some tightly-knit beats and enough electronics that it barely survives the eruption that follows. Again, it's all constructed in a way that seems beautiful and awesome, even if it does seem too electronic for its own good. Check this out.
Clark - "Future Daniel"
If you thought Hard Rock was making a quick and fateful exit from the mainstream, just take a look at Mesia, an up-and-coming San Fernando Valley outfit that takes an ode to the accelerated speed of Josh Homme and his crew in Queens of the Stone Age and the brushstroke-like musicality and vocal range of Soundgarden. Vocalist and guitarist Mike Lerman shoots toward the sky as far as Chris Cornell is concerned, adding the rest of the band's talents into a sum that's both immediately pleasure-seeking and confidently binding. "Point of No Return" comes off of their self-titled EP set for release on May 27th, and it's the right start for a band looking to excel in this often fringed category of rock and hoping to make it more accessible. It blares from the get-go and doesn't stop across its run time, and it's the perfect rush of blood to the head that you need to begin your week. Be on the lookout for upcoming shows and their self-titled EP, and you can find out more information on their ReverbNation page.
Mesia - "Point of No Return"