Fresh off their stirring debut single “Wings,” multi-cultural New York band Haerts– whose members hail from America, England, and Germany– make a bold impression with their latest, “All the Days.” Hopefully, Haerts’ debut full-length isn’t too far away, because I could definitely get used to soaring, melodic anthems like these.
Surf City’s “It’s A Common Life” lives up to the quartet’s moniker without sounding too common. There’s a glistening, buzzing shimmer to the guitars, which soar around like seagulls over a surfer’s paradise. This is summery bluster that’s still appropriate for an overlong winter – bright and friendly but just dark enough to surprise.
This has got indie crush mixtape fodder all over it. A little bit of twee, a little bit of surf rock, tons of hand claps. The hook, “I wanna have a good time” has a bit of double meaning. It’s the kind of music you’d listen to cranked up with friends on a road trip with the windows down or alone in your room because you’re the only one who wasn’t invited on the road trip. ”Sunglasses” is the second to last track off of Saturday Looks Good to Me’s first album in 6 years, One Kiss Ends It All.
OMG NEW BOARDS! And they haven’t lost their edge one bit. Seamlessly shifting between ambient, post-rock, and glitch electronica, “Reach For The Dead” is an amazing herald of Tomorrow’s Harvest. So excited.
For a song with such morbid lyrics as, “satan, wake me in the morning”, “kill me whenever you want to” this song sure sounds bouncy and uplifting. ”Burn A Church” is a lively psych pop tune with warbly vocals that mention satan (more than once) and sing about digging dead ex-girlfriends. It is a startling but strangely effective juxtaposition, the music makes you want to dance but the lyrics call for serious soul-searching. What else would one expect from a song off an album with a slightly disturbing yet cheeky title: Posthumous Release, which is to be released June 11th.
Their (slightly cheesy) name may evoke feelings of sunshine, fresh-cut daisies, and rainbows, but Majical Cloudz are anything but. Maybe that’s the genius behind the Montreal duo of Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto; utilizing images of supposed happiness, turning them upside down, and churning out something else entirely. Whether that’s the band’s intention or not, Majical Cloudz’s latest release, Impersonator, is a dizzying achievement. Throughout ten stark, quiet tracks, the listener is transported up, down, around and sideways; an astonishing feat considering the delicate, impeccable stillness of these sounds.
If you’ve been charting Majical Cloudz’s rise from buzz band to unlikely blogosphere heroes, then you pretty much know their story; Welsh sings, Otto creates the beats, both are good pals with Grimes, etcetera, etcetera. However, none of these facts really explain Majical Cloudz, or how they create their soft, startling music. On Impersonator, each track is a slow burn, a candle flame gently flickering in the darkness until it’s extinguished with one fell swoop. There are no effects, no tricks. Just a soft, stunning power.
While Majical Cloudz are a duo– and this isn’t to take anything away from the sublime, simple backgrounds that Otto so carefully crafts– listening to Impersonator feels like we’re holding a magnifying lens to the innermost corners of Devon Welsh’s soul. The deeply personal vibe that permeates the album can be perfectly symbolized by the repetitive, hypnotic “I” loop of single “Turns Turns Turns.” Welsh is never not singing directly to you, emptying the entire contents of his guts through his weary words. Warm and rich, Welsh’s voice is sort of like Jeff Mangum’s in the way that we’re not exactly sure if he can actually sing, but it’s haunting and beautiful either way.
Each track on Impersonator is intoxicating in its own distinct way, although nothing ever strays from Welsh and Otto’s minimal style; Majical Cloudz give you all you need, and nothing more. Not one beat, one word, one syllable is gratuitous, from lonely, cavernous lines like “I wanna feel like somebody’s darlin’” on the opening title track to the subtle background buzz of closer “Notebook.” Though we’ve heard it prior to the album’s release, “Childhood’s End” is no less breathtaking than before. Clearly, no one but Welsh and Otto can capture the fleeting innocence of being a child– and also those terrifying moments when you realize it’s evaporating before you– quite so elegantly or brilliantly.
Whether you want it to or not, Impersonator crawls into your soul and stays there. When you listen to the album from start to finish and go to sleep, it plays over and over in your head, like a cloudy, billowing dream. Slow and slightly tiresome at times, Impersonator is no less sharp and evocative, without a doubt a dream worth repeating.
4 / 5 bars
Random Access Memories, Daft Punk’s first proper album (and not Disney movie soundtrack) in eight years, might be the biggest album of the year. It’s padded with absurd collaborations, not to mention humongous musical moments, and it clocks in at over an hour; four of the album’s thirteen tracks are over six minutes long. This is an album that sounds like it broke the bank, but Daft Punk members Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo are also sincere enough in their devotion to retrofitting dance music that it feels like the intimate work of dedicated craftsmen. Random Access Memories is not Daft Punk’s strongest songwriting effort (that honor will probably always belong to Discovery), nor does it represent a progressive leap forward from what the duo were doing over a decade ago – in many instances it even seems to be working backwards. But Random Access Memories is focused, structured, and surprisingly consistent for such a long album; rather than kick the pot over and start from scratch, Daft Punk have opted to work new flavor into a stock that’s been simmering for decades.
Some of the collaborations on Random Access Memories would not have been any more obvious ten or twenty years ago than they are today: a synthpop producer who is older than Paul McCartney, the funk guitarist behind CHIC, the composer who wrote “Fill Your Heart” for David Bowie, and the creatively pigeonholed frontman of The Strokes. Only Animal Collective’s Noah Lenox and The Neptunes’ Pharrell seem anywhere near contemporaneous of Daft Punk, and even that’s quite the stretch. And yet the Random Access‘ diverse contributors (especially the older ones) absolutely define its incredibly focused sound: if not through their direct involvement with the project then certainly through Daft Punk’s reverence of their work. With people like Giorgio Moroder and Paul Williams, Daft Punk not only put humanoid faces and voices to their music but also a distinctly 20th century smear to their introverted futurism – you’re not meant to recognize these names, necessarily, but you should recognize the sound as something that once defined a musical era.
A perfect example of this is Giorgio Moroder’s monologue at the beginning of “Giorgio by Moroder” – an origin story about a young German disco singer – which lends some chronology to the album’s sound: a fusion between European funk and the kind of synthesizer music made popular by groups like Yellow Magic Orchestra and videogame soundtracks. Though some songs, like Moroder’s composition and “Motherboard,” exist firmly in the tradition of Vangelis’ electronic scores, they sound perfectly compatible with funkier fare like “Give Life Back to Music” and early single “Get Lucky.” Random Access balances these two inclinations perfectly – never letting them get overly combative, but always making sure that each leans hard into the other; “Give Life Back to Music” is resplendent with Daft Punk’s digital slurps, and “Giorgio by Moroder” was clearly birthed from the same roomy discothèques as Random Acess‘ Euro-funk pieces.
That’s not to say that Random Access is a one (or two) trick pony, or that the vast album has no surprises in store for more jaded listeners. “Touch” is a bold take on exactly the kind of lovable schlock you could reasonably expect from Paul Williams, and even though its cocaine-age balladry is in perfect simpatico with a song like “Doin’ it Right,” there is still something very strange and exciting about “Touch” and its status as a piece of 21st century music. “Doin’ it Right,” on the other hand, is a very modern exercise in self-reference for Daft Punk and collaborator Noah Lenox. At 34, Lenox is the youngest artist working on Random Access Memories and maybe the only one for whom Daft Punk served as musical rite of passage, as well as a defining influence (Lenox has been an outspoken Daft Punk fanatic). On “Doin’ it Right” Lenox is giving us his take on Daft Punk (which they seem happy to oblige), and its a performance informed by over a decade of idolization, as well as one of the album’s strongest tracks. Otherwise, this is an album of contributors who are content to lend their particular sonic idiosyncrasies to Daft Punk’s send ups of said contributors’ work.
What’s so cool about Random Access Memories is its nonchalant reverence of music you would associate with 8-track players, videogames, and soft techno. The orchestral intro to “Beyond” could have come straight from Final Fantasy Tactics but it slides into the song’s Phoenix-like funk pop with almost offputting ease. Random Access Memories is funny and thrilling; it may not be the songwriting achievement of an album like Discovery - nothing on here will ever be as quintessential as “One More Time” or “Digital Love” – but Random Access Memories is still a force to be reckoned with. If this is to be the reclusive duo’s swan song then so be it – I don’t suspect it can be easily topped.
Though I also assume we’ll be hearing more from Daft Punk.
Daft Punk – “Within”
Daft Punk – “Beyond”
Another new track from Phedre’s incrementally released album Eterna. It’s short and reminiscent of Portishead variety trip hop – so in other words it owns. Definitely rocking a cool new cinema (e.g. Godard) vibe.