October Music Reviews
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
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.
"Self Made Maps"
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.
Black Box Recorder
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
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
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
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.
Mates of State
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.
(Arts & Crafts)
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.