I’ve told at least one person that this is a music blog, so it’s about time I get back to writing about music. Especially when September has two albums I’m looking forward to, and October currently has three. Before I get too caught up in reviewing those mystery albums that will go unnamed until released (unless of course they come to me early like The 1975’s second album), I’d like to talk about 12 albums I recently rented from the library. These all came from the local library here at the Great Treee in Boggly Woods, not the one in Poshley Heights (though that library rents out game consoles and boy do I wish ours had the funds to do so as well). So, let’s get on with it.
Celebration Rock – Japandroids
The best thing ever written about Japandroids’ critically-acclaimed second album is the first quote from Skylark on this page: https://www.somethingawful.com/comedy-goldmine/dumbest-music-journalism2012/4/. Celebration Rock is an album to listen to when you feel like celebrating by screaming. There’s only guitars, drums, and the weak but fitting vocals of the lead singer and songwriter to listen to between the album bookends of fireworks. It’s a fun album to listen to… but not much substance. I can imagine why people would like it since it has fun, raw energy and is a “pure” sound in a time when every modern single has 20 different layers, but that’s all it is. The House That Heaven Built is the best track on the album and very fun to scream along with. Just make sure to put this album at the end of every playlist to celebrate listening to the playlist, as Skylark said.
Always Ascending – Franz Ferdinand
I only ever seem to rent Franz Ferdinand albums and never buy them. I’m sure there’s some symbolism there about me and my interest in history if anyone wants to dig. I’ll be ascending to the sound of the title track of this album, which is also a fun rock song. But unlike the fun rock of Japandroids, the songs Franz Ferdinand makes have more than 2 instruments and the lead singer can actually hit every note he tries to sing. The tracks Glimpse of Love and Feel the Love Go are both standout tracks in FF’s latest album. Just goes to show that, even if the lyrics are meaningless, love can still inspire some dang good songs. Truly, 2018 is the year of “love” in lyrics. Anyway, if you’ve heard any Franz Ferdinand song, you already know what this album sounds like, so you don’t need this review. Sorry for writing it!
Distraction – Bear Hands
Most songs on Bear Hands’ sophomore album are about weird guys and their weird ways. From the agoraphobic in Agora, to the extremely lazy man in Sleeping on the Floor, to the violent hypocrite in Peacekeeper, to the lovesick schoolboy in The Bug, to the literal grave digger in Grave Digger, the images of people that Bear Hands paint are both (fittingly) distracting and haunting. What makes it all the stranger is that these portraits are set to rather unremarkable alt rock melodies and sounds. But the distinct sound of the lead singer’s vocals fits with the exact images he’s trying to paint, so… it all works out to a sound that is more than the sum of its parts. Agora and Grave Digger also have really solid hooks which is why I rented this album in the first place. Probably my favorite of the first trilogy of albums I rented.
Ritual in Repeat – Tennis
This is the only album by Tennis that actually exists, in my mind. The Cool TV introduced me to them when they played the album’s lead single, I’m Callin’, on (in?) repeat. Only because of a memory of The Cool TV from 5+ years ago did I rent this album. Honestly, it’s probably the weakest of all the albums I rented. It’s summer indie pop. Which means that it’s easy listening, kinda earwormy, but weak-sounding. I actually like the remorse code sounding hook of I’m Callin’ and Never Work for Free has a fun chorus, but the rest of Tennis’ album fails to hold serve. I’d call it a let and have them try again, but through no fault of mine does the library have any other albums by them. Change court!
Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett
As much as I love New Zealand singer-songwriters, I’ve never gotten into Australian musicians. Courtney Barnett is/was/might again be indie rock’s darling when she came out with this album a few years back. Her songs are simple in melody and style but rich in complex lyricism. As my colleague pointed out, she’s closer to a rapper than a singer. Which feels like an insane thing to write until you hear her rattle off bon mots on Dead Fox or on Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party or on Pedestrian at Best. For some songs, though, she switches to a more traditional, slower singing style that provides an interesting change of pace. Kim’s Caravan, Boxing Day Blues, Small Poppies, and Depreston all feel like half of a different, much sadder album that Barnett could’ve come out with. Instead, she mixed fun sounding songs about self-doubt with very sad songs about self-doubt, making her the Australian female guitarist equivalent of twenty one pilots. I hope that’s the first and last time that comparison ever gets made.
Glow – Royal Teeth
Gonna be honest, didn’t realize Royal Teeth’s name was a play on the word “royalty” until having to repeat the name out loud to a colleague 3 times. The band had a small breakout hit with the song “Wild” which I heard at a Mexican restaurant last year, and that reminded me that the band even existed. Then I randomly saw their only album at the library and decided I might as well see why any Mexican restaurant would even think about playing them. However, the band from Louisiana has some Creole influence, but no Spanish in them. The bright, poppy melodies of their tracks matches what I presume to be the energy of Mardi Gras, but my god the lead man’s vocals are weak. I actually like the woman’s voice way more though she’s usually the backup singer. Not much to say about them other than they are pretty good and shouldn’t have completely disappeared. Mais La, Monster, Vagabonds, and Wild are all pretty good tracks, and I don’t think that’s a wild opinion. Haha, just some Royal Teeth humor.
Trouble Will Find Me – The National
Heh, get this. Heh, heh, heh. You’re never gonna believe this one, heh heh. Heh. So, heh, I was in the library, heh, and, get this, heh, I was looking for another CD when I saw this. And, heh, wouldn’t you know it, I took one look at the title, and, heh, said to myself “trouble is my middle name, and I”-heh-“have found you”. Heh heh heh heh. No one has ever made that joke before, heh.
The National are one of the few modern bands led by a low-pitched vocalist. Matt Bellamy’s band gets a lot of airplay on college radio stations because most of those DJs can relate heavily to his calm, articulate singing style. I’m unsure if these DJs relate better or worse to the depressing subject matter of The National’s music, I’ll let the comments decide. I can relate to the nonsensical lyrics intermixed with all the sadness, that’s for sure. Trouble Will Find Me is a very solid record full of a lot of slow-paced, sad-sounding songs and two standout fast-paced, happy-sounding but depressing songs. Graceless and Don’t Swallow the Cap will have you sing along to choruses about being alone and depressed. But my favorite track is the straightforward “love” song I Need My Girl that has a really awesome guitar riff looping. Great song on a great album.
What Went Down – Foals
Foals’ most recent album opens with two absolute stunners of tracks in What Went Down and Mountain at My Gates, and then follows with 8 straight songs that I simply don’t remember. It’s kind of a shame that they made the album so top-heavy since the tracks like London Thunder or Night Swimmers or Give it All are pretty good rock songs, but just don’t compare to the anger found in What Went Down or the hypnotic melodies in Mountain at My Gates. It’s a very good album with some very good songs that isn’t sequenced right.
How Does it Feel – MS MR
MS MR had one of the most boring breakout hits I can remember when Hurricane got lots of airtime on my radio. Fortunately, their sophomore album does not have that song, and instead has a bunch of interchangeable indie pop. What differentiates them from any other indie pop is their choice of synthesizers, which heavily sample horn sections rather than more higher-pitched vibrations, and the rather good vocals of the lead singer/songwriter. How Does it Feel opens with the frantic and fun track Painted that brings energy never again found in the album, which is a shame since it’s a great song. That said, other tracks like Tunnels or Criminals are well-written and competent indie pop, but do little in further endearing me to the pop duo. Best of luck to them.
Inanimate Objects – Atlas Genius
I used to run a radio show called The Cautiously Optimistic Variety Show, and I think Atlas Genius’ song titled Molecules is the most cautiously optimistic song I’ve heard. The chorus is “maybe now’s the time to be alive”, for goodness’ sake. That’s also the best song on the album which is full of Killer-esque indie rock. Lots of guitars and synths to be found on this pretty good album. I think the album is a weird sci-fi/dystopian future concept album considering all the strange lyrics like “we are all just friendly apes”. I guess they had to pick something to help them stand out since most of the tracks are written to a tee in how they progress and sound. Which is fine! I like any kind of well-executed ideas, even if they’re old ideas. It’s a good album.
Dope Machines – The Airborne Toxic Event
TATE is often compared to Arcade Fire, and I guess the main guy behind it was sick of it, so he switched to a very machine-esque sound. Lead track and lead single Wrong is an awesome electro-anthem about… being wrong, and it wouldn’t be out of place on a CHVRCHES album. The first half of the album has a lot of bombastic choruses bolstered by synths with songs like Time to Be a Man or Dope Machines, and the second half falls into a more melancholy, dream-like sound with tracks like My Childish Bride and The Thing About Dreams. But the album does end with the spiritual, electronic sequel to Sometime Around Midnight in the awesome track called Chains. All in all, this is one of the best albums on this list in my perspective. It just does everything well and has a great sound throughout.
How to Be a Human Being – Glass Animals
Glass Animals are a weird electro-pop band that spent an entire album writing songs about weird people. Turns out that it’s a pretty good formula. The lyrics are super memorable, and the odd choices for content make for an odd array of sounds. I don’t think the band would’ve written a song that sounds quite like Life Itself or Take a Slice without the very strange images inspiring them. Speaking of, Life Itself is a super fun track that single-handedly got me to like Glass Animals after not liking anything off their debut album. Some songs are a bit too far into being weird and get kind of uncomfortable in both sound and lyrics, like Season 2 Episode 3’s portrait of a very lazy and depressed woman being set to endless samples of video games. But all the weirdness comes to a head with the closing song, Agnes. It’s a more emotional and more articulate version of the Bastille track Good Grief since both songs are about dead people on the singer’s mind. While Good Grief is a joy to listen to, Agnes puts the listener through a wringer, and I love it. With the album being bookended by Life Itself and Agnes, it doesn’t matter what the middle songs are since the album leaves a great first and last impression.
We’ll end this all with the special reveal that I completed my 11th mix CD about a month ago thanks to these CDs and just never got around to getting Q&A to write about it. So look forward to that happening sometime, someday. Maybe. It’s been in the draft folder for about a month with no progress on it. But I’ll try to get them to write!