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October Music Reviews

The Rapture
Echoes
DFA/Strummer/Universal

Harbingers of another fashion magazine musical candy of the month or the purveyors of a new-found aesthetic that is slowly beginning to define the musical landscape of the twenty-first century? Either of these descriptions can easily be used to describe the Rapture but with the incredibly long awaited release of their first proper full length Echoes, the Rapture just may have avoided the pitfall of mere fashion and headed towards a bright horizon where bands transcend their genre and create music that is as widely accessible as it is artistically viable

Since the release of " House of Jealous Lovers" well over a year and a half ago, the world, or at the very least Europe and America, has been clamouring for more. DJ's and critics alike have been groping their musical taste buds in anticipation of another brilliant, and suddenly essential combination of angular guitars and booty shaking rhythms. Echoes delivers this in spades with tracks like "Killing" and the New Order-esque "Sister Saviour". Yet unlike many of their peers in the current post-punk movement who litter their albums with nothing but rhythmic guitars and high-hat heavy drum beats, the Rapture take a step back from the retro minded dance floor and deliver numerous Berlin area Lou Reed type ballads. "Open Up Your Heart" features the kind of heart felt emoting that is rarely seen among the Rapture's contemporaries. Unlike their musical predecessors in Gang of Four, who veered more towards a darker view of love with songs like "Anthrax", the Rapture offer up a surprisingly heart felt deceleration that the listener should "open up your heart to love". Revealing an optimism and celebration of life that is prevalent through out the album by carefully eschewing the abstract lyricism of other art rock bands while avoiding the cliché high school perspective of love that many a power pop band wraps around their four chord melodies.

The Rapture appear to have not only laid down a brilliant musical document that will surely be viewed as a bench mark album of the early half of this decade but they may also have introduced a new found optimism into the indie rock world that has long been absent. They declare on the latter half of the album, "Love is all I need" and in a century that has already been marked with violence and global instability, they may be right.

--Charles Ubaghs


Stop It!!
"Self Made Maps"

(Robotic Empire)

Stop It!! is a post-hardcore unit from Richmond, Virginia, a place where many crusty east-coast punks happily scrape by on the cheap. Perhaps feeding off of the town's often grim cultural outlook and depression-era facade, the group spreads thick layers of tension and anguish over every track on their nine-song debut.

"Self Made Maps" seems to be less of a political statement, and more of an existential tour de force. The band's dynamic shifts in mood and various vocal trade-offs effectively mirror the complexities of life that Stop It!! seek to confront.

Packaged in a lavishly designed, D.I.Y. digipak, "Self Made Maps" charts a course straight to the listener's heartstrings, only to tug at them this way and that. Musically speaking, Stop It!! seems to be less influenced by the metal side of the punk underground and tends to leans closer to the "emo" side of things, but in a dark, distorted, and epic fashion.

Gruff, Ian Mackaye-esque vocals propel the band forward, but a tuneful soul occasionally perks up throughout the proceedings to provide a good balance. That particular voice is actually quite stunning on "Remove Your Teeth."

Overtop angular, twisted guitar licks and crashing rhythms, the tuneful soul sings "some writers write all night/ ten thousands words of truth/ then they drink themselves to death upon finding it/ sometimes i write all night/ ten thousand critics come/ and if they're telling the truth/ then that has to mean i'm lying to myself/ but i'm not lying."

Stop It!! provides the soundtrack to your inner turmoil on their debut release. Do you dare confront your desires, feelings, and moral conflicts in such a way. What better way, I say.

-- SK

Black Box Recorder
PASSIONOIA
One Little

"I want to be the new Diana/lying on a yacht reading photo magazines..." BBR's third album startles and pleases with its witty, very English narratives, not only about the dead beloved Princess but also check out "British Racing Green" and "Andrew Ridgely," about the lesser known member of Wham! Each song tells a memorable story, such as "GSOH QED" which recites lonely singles' ads to a smattering of hip hop beats. "The School Song" is my favorite, irresistibly catchy and upbeat, with lyrics like "destroy your record collection/it's for your own protection" and a teacher instructing her pupils to swim in February because they're "weak and spoilt." Sarah Nixey's breathy, sultry vocals point up her answer to an interviewer asking her greatest talent -- she replied, "compassion, mixed with the ability to remain completely distant." Add to this Luke Haines' and John Moores' sparkling, electronic arrangements and the result is cheekily intelligent, danceable pop. This album is fey and fun, like a tipsy game of cricket, and sometimes the clouds pass over the sun.

-- Laura Markley

Goldfrapp
Black Cherry
(Mute)


Goldfrapp's second offering is an uneven departure from the cinematic sweep of 2000's well-received Felt Mountain. The ethereal string and brass sections on FM give way to a heavier electronic sound. Low, buzzing synths anchor many songs, creating a mood that is more urban dance floor (if somewhat slow and narcotic) than pastoral. I'm not grabbed until song three, the ballad, "Black Cherry" in which Alison's voice soars above the lazy synths with poignant yearning. Her languid vocals range from warm and conversational to aching, soprano musings. This voice is instrument number one but its nuances get a little obscured on the heavier songs. Her intriguing lyrics include nature imagery and questions of desire: "Sunrise/meadow/ocean/rainbow/starlight/all day long." Of the harder tunes, "Twist" works best since the pumping beats and synth hook are catchier, with sexually suggestive lyrics punctuated by Alison's moans and cries. The last track, "Slippage" sounds ominous and harder edged, making me curious to hear how Goldfrapp would sound pushing this further and perhaps taking more chances. But they should remember to highlight Alison's extraordinary voice, as heard to better effect on Felt Mountain.

-- Laura Markley

Lullatone
Computer Recital
(Audio Dregs)

Ever since the release of Brian Eno's "Discreet Music" in 1975, ambient music has become a widely accepted genre of music and mode of expression, and has since morphed into all kinds of subcategories. Thus, some 30 years later, ambient music has come to mean different things to different people, but typically the term refers to quiet, slowly shifting sounds that are best enjoyed as a kind of environmental backdrop.

The genre has become widely popular with electronic musicians, especially those with a penchant for minimalism, sound-art, and processed field recordings. However, many a powerbook is being flipped open to further expand upon the genre as a kind of pop music. This seems to be the direction that Shawn Seymour, a.k.a. Lullatone, is taking on his debut Audio Dregs full-length "Computer Recital."

Composed largely of warm, ringing tones and tinkly synth sounds, Lullatone's music has a child-like innocence about it that evokes blurred memories of baby toys and charm bracelets. "My Favorite Song In The World" begins with what sounds like the refrain from the alphabet song, and the simplistic, playful sequences of "Coloring" and "Tracing" sound like they were conjured up from an old wind-up music box or snowglobe.

While i might describe his music as ambience for infants, his understated repetitions and subtle, shifting melodies would lull most adult listeners into a state of tranquillity. Occasionally a soft high-hat will make itself barely known, but for the most part, "Computer Recital" is a soft, cuddly cloud of a recording readymade for mood enhancement.

--SK

Mates of State
Team Boo
Polyvinyl Records

Ahhh, this oppressively hot and sticky summer can make one want to run for the ever so distant hills. Lucky for me, I was handed an advanced copy of the Mates of State¹s cool and breezy third full length release- affectionately called Team Boo- and was promptly whisked away from any woes.

Recorded in the Texas hill countryside of Pedernales (at Willie Nelson¹s studio) just outside of Austin, Team Boo comes at you like a Xanax/Ecstasy cocktail-- part soother, part upper, and full-on happy (without any of those icky side effects). Harmonies and breakdowns abound, with songs ranging from the grooved out, danceable keyboard tunes of "Ha Ha," "Fluke" and "Sound it Off" to the more mid-tempo and balladish "The Kissaway," "An Experiment" and "Separate the People." All songs are sprinkled with the Mates¹ trademark whimsical yet witty lyrics.

The lush vocals and wall of sound are courtesy of the minimalist yet dynamic duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, who are assisted on this album by Jim Eno (Spoon) and producer John Croslin (who also produced the Mates¹ first album, My Solo Project). This couple has amassed quite an impressive and loyal following in recent years, thanks largely to their never-ending tour schedule. Having the privilege of seeing them twice this past year, I urge all who are into fun, rich and upbeat melodic indie-pop to catch them live next time they¹re in your area- if you haven¹t already. If doctors dispensed Mates of State CDs instead of Prozac, the world would be a better place.

--Andi Azarias

STARS
Heart
(Arts & Crafts)

This is the type of album you listen to while lying on your kitchen floor, staring up at the ceiling and playing with the on/off switch of your floor lamp, while thinking of how dramatically your life has changed since those high school years... That being said, these songs recall the more innocent and ethereal times while still holding firm ground in the present. Be warned, with titles such as "What the Snowman Learned about Love," the music goes down far easier if you're in love rather than going through any challenging times romantically. The track arrangement flows freely from beginning to end, and hi-lights include the sugary "Elevator Love Letter," hot-90s-track-for-the-2000s "Death to Death," and pretty melodies in "Time Can Never Kill a True Heart." Though Heart was out in the UK shortly before the new year, it was recently released stateside this summer. I highly recommend listening to this album while walking through the streets of Chelsea (trust me) or whichever other nice section of town you're motivated towards. The inspiration for this album is clear considering that Stars record up in Montreal, a beautiful and romantic city in its own right.

--Andi Azarias





 

 

 




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