6.03.2011

New Coldplay track - "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall"

Those Britpop wunderkinds are back with a track off their up-coming follow-up to the world-wide success of 2008's Viva La Vida. It's called "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall."

Yeah. If you didn't think the title was enough to make you do a double-check, just look at some of the lyrics:

I TURN THE MUSIC UP, I GOT MY RECORDS ON
FROM UNDERNEATH THE RUBBLE SING A REBEL SONG
DON'T WANT TO SEE ANOTHER GENERATION DROP
I'D RATHER BE A COMMA THAN A FULL STOP


Maybe you should actually listen to the song before assuming the worst, but then again, I can't say I'm digging that either. We're looking at one of the biggest bands on the planet, and we've had three years without a record, so check it out for yourself and tell us what you think.

6.02.2011

Album Review: Foster The People - Torches

Genre: Indie Rock/ Pop
Origin: Los Angeles, CA

I can remember the time and the place where I first heard “Pumped Up Kicks.” It was the middle of my last semester of college. I was sitting at my school’s pub debating whether I’d be more productive studying as I ate or eating, then studying. When I heard this song; my head started bobbing, feet tapping, and transporting me out of my surroundings into the fun summer just a few months away. Life’s mediocrities aside, hearing this song made me decide to put my book down, enjoy my food, and not to take life so seriously.

I’m not saying “Pumped Up Kicks” changed my life whatsoever. But it’s exactly what I needed during that stressful time between midterms and finals when you realize, soon you will be shoved out into the real world with years of schooling and you’re either going to sink or swim. With the full-length album release just a few days ago, called Torches, does LA-based Foster the People deliver the light to fiend off the mosquitoes this summer? Not completely, but it’s a start.

The album starts off with a carpe diem attitude, with one of its catchiest songs, “Helena Beat.” With the foremost lyrics: “Sometimes life it takes you by the hand / It puts you down before you know it / It's gone and you're dead again,” you know you’re in for a chilled-out yet upbeat ride to kick off your summer. My favorite track on the album really hits home with the lyrics: “You know those days when you wanted to choose / To not get out of bed and get lost in your head again.” It doesn’t say everything’s going to be alright, but it offers the possibility.

Most of the songs on this album are hit-or-miss, but there are some tracks that really stand out. “Call It What You Want” offers another dancey tune to shake off your burdens, while “Color on the Walls (Don’t Stop),” hints at the more annoying tendencies of pop with a repetitive cookie-cutter pattern we have already heard many times before. The reason why this album is not getting five stars would have to be the repetitive lyrics and patterning in its songs, as well as a lack of originality. Songs like “Waste,” while quite enjoyable, it is plain to see that this group is channeling what MGMT has already done before, that seemingly fresh, off-kilter pop aesthetic, for an alternative audience.

“Houdini,” the second single off this album, offers another well-crafted tune for the summer. It may not be killed on the radio through too much airplay like “Pumped Up Kicks” though. This track is more nuanced and complex than the previous single, with more variation in both the vocals and instrumentation. Though the groups channeling of MGMT is even more pronounced here, when have we dismissed a pop song for being slightly unoriginal?

Another track that stands out would have to be “Miss You.” With lyrics nearing poetry, once again touching upon the psyche of one who needs to ‘just let go’ for a little while, this song truly lets you get lost, or on the flip-side, immersed in the self-reflective present. With a characteristic push-pull drum beat, beautiful vocalization, vivid lyrics, and energetic instrumentation, this song, like many on the album are like the flames of torches. Like the transitory nature of fire, or summer, Torches, while not perfect, is fun while it lasts.

3.5/5

Foster the People - "Helena Beat"


Foster the People - "Houdini"


Torches is now available on Columbia Records.

-SS

6.01.2011

Joint Review: Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys


Genre: Indie/Alternative

For this particular album, both JB and DJ offer their opinions. Take from them what you will.

For those new to Death Cab, the prevailing energy on their previous albums has been one of 80% hopelessness, 20% hope. Lead singer Ben Gibbard pretty much set the mold for 21st Century indie heartbreak songwriting. Each song felt like the sentimental movie that plays in the head of a recent dumpee; but always with the hint that love wasn't dead, it had just taken a break for the time being. It was this child-like teaspoon of optimism that kept Death Cab relatable and heart-wrenching because at the end of the day we've all been there. However, with their 2008 effort, Narrow Stairs, Gibbard found himself in a very dark place. He recently came clean about his struggles during the writing and recording of the album; he was wrestling with alcoholism and felt totally defeated. The album lacked the taste of hope that is necessary for music to be poignant and the album suffered for it. In three years time, Gibbard has made a 180ยบ turn in both his personal life and, consequently, his creative efforts. He has kicked the bottle to the curb and made indie film sweetheart Zooey Deschanel his bride. For the first time in their 13-year careers, Death Cab have released a happy album about the joys of love, not the bitter pitfalls.

From start to finish, Codes and Keys, seems to tell a story. It is by no means a concept album but the order of the songs and their content are interesting and worthy of taking note. The album opener "Home is a Fire" suggests a longing for something different. The song ends with the line "Nothing's the same as yesterday," signaling the start of something new for our incurably longing and introspective protagonist. The next few songs seem to chronicle the disintegration of a past love (or life) and the cautious progress towards finding a new path. The album really hits its stride surprisingly on first single, "You Are a Tourist." As Gibbard has stated recently in interviews, the song is really a collection of affirmations; as the first verse states: "If there's a burning in your heart, don't be alarmed." This optimistic outlook is really the message of the album. At this point, Death Cab does something surprising. The following track "Unobstructed Views" begins very dark and slowly builds to an extremely positive lyrical exclamation of "just our love, just our love!" It drifts along with a haunting piano base that grows with beauty upon each successive listen. From this point on, Gibbard takes us on a 3-song flight of storytelling-as-lovesong, then a declaration of living completely in the moment on "St. Peter's Cathedral." Codes and Keys finally comes to a conclusion with "Stay Young, Go Dancing." Easily the most explicitly positive title in all of DCfC's music, this is a song that hammers in the final message of enjoying love and life because they are truly one in the same when done right.

Guitarist Chris Walla's arrangements and production are silky smooth in a manner befitting of a love letter album. Drummer Jason McGerr and bassist Nick Harmer provide a solid rhythm section perfectly complementing an album so lyrically-focused. The bottom line is this: on Codes and Keys, Death Cab for Cutie pushes their music into a new space both sonically and thematically. This is what a band looks like as it grows up. This is what a band looks like as its sound evolves beautifully. This is what a band looks like when it is in perfect sync with its songwriting. And to my fellow Death Cab fans, this is what Ben Gibbard sounds like when he's happy. I have to say I, for one, couldn't be happier for him.

4.5/5

-JB

Another Take:

"We are the same," says singer Ben Gibbard on the track "Underneath The Sycamore" on Death Cab for Cutie's seventh studio album, entitled Codes and Keys. It doesn't feel too far off as a generalization of the album, as it tries to sonically change things up without ever embracing it, giving tracks a sense of concept without the execution expected from a band that usually pulls it off. For many fans of the band, Codes and Keys may probably be considered as a slight step-up from the directly same-ole, same-ole musical approach of Narrow Stairs in 2008, but for occasional listeners like this reviewer, it may only somewhat satisfy their fill of Death Cab for the entirety of the record.

There's no doubt that Death Cab for Cutie sounds good here. Their sound is what has made them a homestead in the alternative rock world, utilizing intricate songwriting from singer Ben Gibbard and implementing cathartic atmospheres and sounds that can confound any average listener. Songs like "Transatlanticism" and "We Looked Like Giants" didn't pretend to show their colors, allowing the band to find inner-balance and seek a freedom from ordinary musical trends. It is these situations in which Death Cab breaks the mold and works best.

This is somewhat weaved throughout certain tracks on Codes and Keys, such as on the soothing album breaker "Unobstructed Views" and the aforementioned "Underneath The Sycamore," but for the most part, Death Cab seem to be undercooking their potential. Album opener "Home Is a Fire" starts off well enough, almost with the promise that this may be the album that finds Death Cab finding new sonic direction, but it never quite lives up to that promise. As catchy as "Some Boys" may be with its Depeche Mode-influenced hook, it doesn't really acquire a lead-up to anything transitional or revelatory like in some of the band's earlier work. There's no true sense of "change" that one might expect other than the possibility that the majority of songs can achieve greater potential. The only sense here is one of wanting more with each listen, and not in quantity.

Why they decided to not take the extra step to give these songs the breadth necessary to make them full and promising is somewhat disappointing, but it's still hard to complain that they don't have proper musicianship. There's nothing entirely wrong about Codes and Keys as far as what sounds they create and themes they discuss. Those qualities will remain with Death Cab until they really decide to shake things up, but in the meantime, Codes and Keys turns out to be a temporary blessing, with a few standouts here and there that stay true to Death Cab's earlier efforts on other albums, but that don't entirely change the game as one might've expected.

3/5

-DJ

Check out the tracks below and see what you can make of Codes and Keys, now available at all major music retailers from Atlantic Records.

Death Cab for Cutie - "Underneath The Sycamore"


Death Cab for Cutie - "Stay Young, Go Dancing"

Vid Break! The Grand Rapids LipDub

This video has been making the rounds ever since famous film critic Roger Ebert hailed it as "the greatest music video ever made." His point is a valid one - the video features what appears to be the entire town of Grand Rapids, MI in a 10-minute, one-take lip dub of Don McLean's "American Pie". The video is in response to Newsweek calling Grand Rapids a "dying city," but it's pretty apparent from this video that the city is filled with people who love and take care of one another. Appropriate, then, that this is the song that's chosen because the song is about death and dying, and the video is easily a call to life and living.

As for the video itself, this is no simple feat. The steadiness of the man behind the handheld camera throughout the entire one-take is impeccable, and it rides and moves with fluidity riding backwards down a street, turning to see a wedding and a concert and eventually landing on a scooter and into a helicopter. It feels like the build-up to something grand (hence Grand Rapids?) and then goes even further by the video's end. It's a fine moment in music for sure, but an even finer one in choreography and direction.


-DJ

5.31.2011

Album Review: My Morning Jacket - Circuital


Genre: Southern/Alternative Rock
Origin: Louisville, Kentucky

You've got yourself two album releases on this day, May 31st, that come from two big names in alt-rock: Death Cab for Cutie and My Morning Jacket. No, this write-up is not meant to compare the two, but it's worthy to note that they both inspire some of kind of musical transition. While one appears to be switching things up a bit by opting for a more electronic and upbeat tone, the other is channeling and reconfiguring their previous (and better) efforts with more variation. It sort of sounds like they're both headed in different directions, but that also appears to be their main similarity. Deciding which is the better album and which band better understates or embraces the change? That's entirely up to you.

But here we are with Circuital, the latest from My Morning Jacket, and they've done quite well with themselves. This is their sixth LP in twelve years, and overtime it has become quite obvious that they are ones to offer a variety of sounds and instrumentation with each forthcoming record. Even if those efforts were a little off-base on their most recent outing (2008's Evil Urges), My Morning Jacket have never once acted as if they've doubted their sound. And why would they? Their Southern influence in the alt-rock world has only made for more interesting textures in the realm, and Circuital doesn't stop in bringing that to us.

Then again, that also doesn't stop Circuital from feeling like a little more of the same. The whole "return to roots" approach that fans are clamoring to is a rather useless sentiment or intended pun because this is a band that tries out something new all the time. To expect anything less would be unorthodox, but to expect anything more would almost be overkill. In this regard, Circuital is another notch in MMJ's belt, providing some nice tunes but nothing out of the ordinary. It may try to be channeling Z moreso than Evil Urges, but the ballpark still has the same turf.

Band leader Jim James also seems to be having a little more "fun" this go-around. His songwriting talks about drugs and prison on "Outta My System" that are so on-the-nose it's somewhat laughable. It works because the sound is lively and reverberated, and that's mostly where Circuital finds the mold. "The Day is Coming," even if a little more "serious," plays off rather splendidly because his words blend within the confines of the music they provide. The first half, for the most part, is just generally pleasing.

"Holdin On To Black Metal," the album's splitting point, is where things go afloat. While sonically appealing, it doesn't mesh the same way that the album has already established for itself. It let's the air out of the balloon by taking whatever flowed before it and instead fumbling with it. More importantly, if James's lyrics talk about the darkness of the genre, why do we hear bellowing horns and harmonizing children? The song becomes more of a confused and conflicting effort than a realized one, and it's quite a turn off in the scheme of things.

The second half is just a neutral affair. Songs like "You Wanna Freak Out" or the sardonically titled "Slow Slow Tune" sort of straddle along in their influences. It's understandable that bands utilize a genre or artist's influence in their music - there's almost no way not to these days - but this half of the record almost teeters on self-mockery. They sound close to many other songs in their genre, right down to James vocal style. It's just plain, and that's somewhat of a cheated feeling, is it not?

Circuital isn't necessarily a "rebound" since their use of variety doesn't actually change anything this time around, but it generally defines and correctly titles their continued use of it and the balancing act that ensues. It's the kind of hit-or-miss record that MMJ usually releases, so nothing's different. It remains true to what they've done in the past, though sometimes it lacks lyrically and musically. It's not necessarily a case of laziness, but sometimes it doesn't take the opportunity to take some initiative.

3/5

My Morning Jacket - "The Day Is Coming"


My Morning Jacket - "Outta My System"


Circuital is now available on ATO Records.

-DJ

Take 2 Tuesday: "My Sound" by Squarepusher


Genre: Drum and Bass
Origin: Chelmsford, Essex, England

Here are a couple facts about Squarepusher:

1. He's only one guy, and
2. He's only one guy

But you would probably never guess that, considering the amount of work that sounds involved in each of his recordings. Just look at his early albums Feed Me Weird Things or Hard Normal Candy. They pretty much draw the line at what one can do in a genre that's more jazz-infused than anything. His newer stuff is a little bit heavier on his electronics, but we can't forget that he started out providing some of the chillest and downright experimental modern jazz.

So here's "My Sound" off of 1998's Music Is Rotted One Note. The majority of the album has a much more raw vibe to it, with a lot of the recordings performed "live." "My Sound" has this quality, but it doesn't toy around with semantics. It rightfully takes a hit with rocking chair music, stripping down drum and bass to their cores. It's in that way that the song feels raw rather than in the quality of the recording, with atmospheric keyboard for added measure. Perhaps the most accessible track from the album, "My Sound" revels in it.

Check out "My Sound" below and let us know what you think.

Squarepusher - "My Sound"

5.30.2011

New Track: "Rise Above" from Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark


For being the most expensive musical in Broadway history, Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark is a very troubling affair. With numerous changes to its crew, early critical reports about the songs and story, and injury after injury from malfunctioning stage and set pieces, it seems like this would be the time to put this musical in the dark itself. Yet the musical is now (finally) set to arrive on Broadway for the general public in mid-June, and the first song has been revealed via iTunes.

There had been reports that the music that U2 frontmen Bono and The Edge had composed for the show were lackluster and ultimately unrewarding. It was even reported that Bono had suggested the show "sucked," but it's interesting what people can accomplish with just a little more time acquired. After listening to the new track "Rise Above," it actually sounds kind of good.

The track doesn't have the typical sing-songy approach that most traditional musicals employ, but then again, this is not a typical musical. It does smell of modern U2-influence, but it doesn't really detract from Reeve Carney's vocals (who sounds suspiciously like Bono himself). "Rise Above" is purposefully pleasing and catchy, and if the rest of the Broadway musical provides this kind of poppy essence, we might have ourselves an intriguing listen.

You can take a look for yourself down below, and if you like what you hear, you can keep track of Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark, whose soundtrack debuts day-and-date with the opening of the show on June 14th (or so we hope).

Reeve Carney (feat. Bono and The Edge) - "Rise Above"

5.29.2011

Site Structure Revamp

Hey guys! A big thanks to those of you who've kept up reading our posts and giving us the encouragement to continue expressing ourselves through the music we listen to.

The past 2 months have been a bit stressful, but we are planning on having a lot more to talk about in the near future. Our current "Day" structure worked for the time in which we were feeling the stress, but now that we have better possibilities and unlimited amounts of time, we are going to restructure a few things. For starters, each day will have ANY post, from reviews to insights. Take 2 Tuesday will continue to have a home exclusively on Tuesdays, but the week will now consist of more without feeling limited.

Hope we can all work this out and turn Crashing Symbols into a great music destination. Thank you all once again and keep the record spinning.