Archive for the ‘new wave’ tag
A speeding, jagged riff, sharp angles, and warm, melodic rhythms characterize “No Lesson,” the latest single from post-punkers Soviet Soviet. It’s easy to assume these guys hail from England, or maybe New York by-way-of the year 2001; in fact, Soviet Soviet are from Italy, a country well known for its cold wave scene (note the singer’s accent). “No Lesson” is dancey and cool, which is good news for the band’s upcoming full-length, Fate, out November 11.
Weekend take their cues from Swans and from Joy Division and even from U2, a little bit. But their music seems to be distinctly a product of the new millennium, entrenched as it also is in the humorless gestures of post-rock guitar splintering. For Jinx, Weekend have beefed up their sound from the deliciously anxious wreck that was 2010’s Sports. Though Jinx is a measurable upgrade from Sports in terms of sound quality, its soul feels sold and absent is any of the fierce, funny noisiness that made Sports so likable.
I could imagine “July” being sung by someone like Morrissey, who could infuse it with an efficacious and witty spirit. Shaun Durkan is an exceptional vocalist, but he doesn’t offer anything particularly unique and with songs like these you need something to provide a little breakaway. Look at The National for example; take away Matt Berninger’s Whiskey-soaked baritone and you’re left with four old dudes pretending to be Franz Ferdinand. Weekend feel like they could be heading in that direction. Weekend have a lot in common – tone-wise – with label mates Pains of Being Pure at Heart, but don’t seem to be willing to take the extra steps towards unabashed Robert Smith worship, and they’re hurting a little for it.
“It’s Alright” provides for the album’s most insistent song, though I sort of with it sold itself a little harder on its semi-experimental opening bit. Durkan’s bass parts more than make up for the song’s soggy repeal, and there’s an exceptional crystaline guitar bit to boot. The background vocal wallops ring somewhere between Bono and Brooklyn rooftop show circa 2010; I like them, though. The song feels a little too embedded in the album – there isn’t enough of a dynamic shift from the last song to make it stand out in any noticeable way, and a weird lack of dynamics plagues Jinx. It is a well-produced album, but it seems to skew safe when what it really needs is a little bravery.
Jinx is a nice little release, but as douchey as it may sound I really just don’t see the point; why did we need another one of these albums? Yes, the composition and production of music can act as a personal catharsis, as I’m sure it does for the members of Weekend, but I feel like you have to at least try to inject something interesting or funny or new into the mix. The songs on Jinx sound like they’re basically in one key, vamping between two or three chords, and slung to The Bravery’s rhythm section. There are some exceptional moments on Jinx – for example the strangely modulated bass slugs on “Just Drive” – but whether you listen to the album or not I get the feeling it’ll make about the same lasting impression.
Last week PMR Records’ newest signee Dornik released his first single, “Something About You”, via his SoundCloud – and since then the single has rapidly been making its rounds through the interwebs. Over the last year or so, PMR seems to be on a hot streak with releases from Jessie Ware and Disclosure - though this is a new, different sound. The single has a heavy 80′s influence, as does Dornik’s Michael Jackson-esque vocal style. If Frank Ocean were to be featured on the soundtrack of Drive with Ryan Gosling, my guess would be that the track would sound something like this. Looking forward to what Dornik has in store for future releases. Listen to “Something About You” below.
Lust For Youth is the progeny of Soft Cell and of Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough,” torn across the bleak landscape of 1990s dance music and into the sampler-obsessed early aughts. Though Lust For Youth’s Hannes Norrvide is fiercely reverent of his new wave idols, he manages to report on their sound with a millennial bent, rather than offer up pure post-punk nostalgia. Lust For Youth’s is almost a post-modern take on synth music, and Perfect View often reads like a critique of its own place within the genre’s genealogy. Norrvide recognizes the bleak and apocalyptic aspects inherent to synthesizer music (think Heinlein novels and Blade Runner), and even celebrates them. At best we have a coherent album that is smartly out of step with other, more sample-heavy synth acts; but Perfect View is hardly the synthesizer renaissance we’ve been waiting for.
Early in the track “Breaking Silence” we are confronted with a series of three-note arpeggios that sound kind of like someone puckering their lips in front of a vocoder. Set over a slightly decaying keyboard line, and under belligerent, almost brogueing vocals that could have been ripped straight out of Dave Gahan’s mouth, this souffle becomes the album’s most deliberately new wave track. As with everything on Perfect View, “Breaking Silence” sounds not only distant and filtered, but also over the top and winking; jabbing us lightly in the ribs to make sure we’re in on the joke. “Another Day” is an even scummier, sparser take on mid-80s pencil jean machismo, and the song canot help but to evoke images of nearly empty dance halls in small European towns; cigarette smoke hanging just under the rafters and stage lights that are filtered through cheap cellophane.
There is hardly a human element to Perfect View, and some of the more exploratory tracks like “Barcelona” sound assembled rather than than performed. Centerpiece “Perfect View” feels like the most genuine emotional reconciliation of the once fresh synthesizer music Lust For Youth is in debt to and the ancient, clumsy machines – and virtual samplers – he actually has at his disposal. The song is essentially a seven minute digital kazoo vamp over a cheeky danced beat, but it’s the transitions between choked, guttural samples and “Heroes”-esque keyboard melodies that gives the track some legitimate momentum. As the beat fades into a distorted vocal sample that images nighttime in the woods, we are given a firm reminder of what year it actually is. At least until the next track, “Vibrant Brother,” kicks off with a synth line and fogged out drum beat that are cloaked comfortably in New Order.
Perfect View is a perfectly pieced together album, with a very agreeable momentum. It sometimes feels as though the trends Norrvide has advanced his synthpop into are the ones that we should really be leaving behind. Perfect View‘s shortcomings seem to really stem from an inability on Norrvide’s part to step entirely into the fore and take more aggressive control of what should be pop songs. He sounds inhibited, as though he is afraid to break his musical loops and do something exciting. Perfect View is mostly very lovely and very tightly composed, but the album’s most “pop” moments feel unfortunately indebted to the post-apocalypse.
I’ve been listening to the new self-titled record from New York’s Caveman for about half an hour and am, against all expectations, enjoying it quite a lot.
Caveman looks and sounds like a lot of hip bands right now: pictures of them joking around in the studio, one guy in a denim jacket and one guy in a vest and ascot, playing P-basses and hand percussion and generally doing all sorts of normal stuff that young hip guys in bands do in pictures. Leaning out of busses and stuff. “Oh great,” I thought, “another Magnetic-Fields-meets-the-Replacements-meets-Pop-Art knockoff boy band. They even played at Urban Outfitters. I feel sleepy already.”
But lo: I, a jaded and cynical Millennial with the attention span of one of Hannah Horvath’s non-Adam boyfriends, found myself intrigued by Caveman. The record opens quietly, with a sort of austere, folksy chorale sung almost entirely in Bon Iver falsetto. This is “Strange to Suffer,” and it is perhaps the best (and certainly the shortest) song on the record. The tone is set. Then drums and synthesizers enter on the second track, a sort of stock-footage midtempo bluesy number called “In the City” that is very much the response to “Strange.” By song number three, “Shut You Down,” Caveman has found its pace: personable, somewhat reserved, and melancholy. Kind of like my friend Andy after a couple of cocktails. The band’s sonic palette remains fairly static: atmospheric, full of vibrato-heavy string synths and slowly strummed guitars. Album standout “Over My Head” stands out when it slows the band down to molasses-speed, which lets the album’s actual sound (eerie, angelic, ambient) shine through.
Of course the central conflict of the record is its relationship to cliche, and to what has been done. There is a lot of creativity on Caveman, though there is little new: little threads of the Police, the Cure, and of course the Beatles shine through the fabric of Caveman. It’s not an exciting record, but it is pleasant and soothing and sincere and well-made and original. Give it a spin and relax.
4 / 5 bars
On their sophomore album, The New Life, Belfast indie rockers Girls Names have expanded from a trio to a quartet, and their sound has followed suit. The LP may represent a new, expansive style, as well as a new member, but The New Life is far more rooted in the past than in the future. Within the album’s ten tracks, Girls Names expertly maneuver through moody minimalism, familiar melodies, and dark, gorgeous riffs that sail across bleak backgrounds. The New Life is your one-way, express ticket back to Factory Records circa 1980s, gritty, gloomy dance floor included.
This particular era (which just so happens to be a personal favorite) has proven to be a popular one for bands to harken back to, and throughout the past three decades, has undoubtedly influenced nearly all types of music. Thankfully, The New Life breathes fresh air into the genre, even if it doesn’t completely blow its listener away. With Girls Names, expect the expected, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
On tracks like “Drawing Lines,” bare, minimal introductions sweep suddenly into epic waves of sound. Lush, zooming synths, and a playful drum beat, add much-appreciated depth to an otherwise simplistic style. Cathal Cully’s vocals are distant and dreamy, even on examples of more upbeat, new wave-influence like “Hypnotic Regression.” The soaring “Occultation” is as magical as its name suggests, while an excellent rhythm section drives “Pittura Infamante.” In Italian, “pittura infamante” translates to “defaming portrait,” and at one time the phrase represented a popular genre of art as punishment, sort of like hanging someone in effigy. Understandably, the song translates as moody and grandiose, but is an altogether addictive first single.
Fans of The Cure will have a field day with The New Life, but not just because Girls Names recall the band’s classic melodic, melancholic style. Girls Names draw upon these influences without copying from them, which helps their sound remain truly fresh and new.
Phoenix’s bold 2009 LP Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix was a bonafide sensation, but the guys have been pretty quiet since then. It’s hard to top “1901″ when it comes to sheer, pop genius, but Phoenix’s new track “Entertainment” comes pretty close. An shining example of fun, fresh, Japanese-favored new wave funk, “Entertainment” is pure pop gold no matter how you slice it.
After a critically acclaimed 2010 debut that went largely unnoticed, K-X-P are back with II, a noteworthy, if not totally bizarre, follow-up. For those unfamiliar, the Helsinki quartet are a motley pack of progressive, experimental lone wolves who, when together, refer to themselves as an “anti-band.”
Anti- or not, II is an album that makes no if’s, and’s, or but’s about K-X-P’s unique musical thumbprint. The band seem to shun most contemporary trends and influences in favor of brazen, unabashed sound– wherever that sound may take them. There’s no blueprint for what K-X-P do, other than the fact that they’re trying to get our attention. Luckily for them, it’s working like a charm.
The dynamic bass and steady beat of “Melody” set the stage for a display of sheer power. “K-X-P!” the band members chant at the beginning of the track, just in case you’ve forgotten, or lost your album cover art. It’s an exuberant, new-wave tinged track that builds layer upon layer of heavy, blanketing synth, shimmery fuzz, and steady, assertive percussion (in fact, KXP features not one, but two drummers).
Needless to say, II takes more than a few unexpected twists and turns– from the dreamy and cinematic to the hardcore– making each track an exciting new discovery. The super-quick “Magnetic North” harnesses a stream-lined, danceable quality thanks to zooming synths and bursting bubbles of noise. And no, that’s not The Knife’s Karin Dreijer-Andersson, though the the gender-ambiguous vocals sure do sound a lot like her. Those are courtesy of frontman Timo Kaukolampi, a man whose charisma zips through each of II’s twelve tracks like lightning.
No matter what, be sure to stick around for album standout “Easy (Infinity Waits).” The delightful, dramatic track teeters dangerously on the edge of reason, criss-crossing light and dark until there’s nothing left but pure, fantastic fun. II may be an ambitious undertaking for K-X-P, but in the end, the reward outweighs the risk.
3 / 5 bars