Archive for the ‘new wave’ tag
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
We’re approaching year 15 of Metric, and in that time Emily Haines and company have matured from Canadian soft-rockers with a taste for synthesizers to stadium-calibre headliners. 2009′s Fantasies provided the acme of their rise, with a non-stop barrage of radio-ready jams that were capped off by the too-apt “Stadium Love.” And now we have Synthetica, the first taste of ‘made it’ Metric.
The singles here (“Youth Without Youth” and “Speed the Collapse”) follow the model laid out on Fantasies: big, bombastic pop tracks mastered for speaker stacks. But something seems a bit off elsewhere on Synthetica. The first line Haines sings on the album is ‘I’m just as fucked up as they say,’ a play at emotional distress that could be put-on or could be genuine, but either way colors the churning guitars of “Artificial Nocturne” with a sense of an impending fall.
“Breathing Underwater” carries that shadow with it, even as Metric do their best U2 to create a predictable and bubbly canvas for Haines’ vocals. The lyrics here are more telling: ‘they were right when they said we should never meet our heroes’ Haines sings, before continuing to the chorus, ‘is this my life? Am I breathing underwater?’ It’s one of those ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m famous now!’ songs that can’t help but irritate, but for Metric, the humble-braggy form comes evenly tempered with discomfort.
Perhaps nowhere is that feeling more clear than on “The Void,” where Haines repeats over and over again, ‘What can I say, I stayed up all night to prove I can keep up with you.’ It’s a circular song, seeming to eat its own tail and giving us an aural equivalent of the marathon tour lifestyle Haines bemoans. But the message is clear: It’s not so easy for me anymore, I’m getting old. By the end of “The Void.” her voice grows somewhat ragged, and as the rhythm peters out, the title’s relevance to Metric at this stage in their career becomes obvious.
Retro rock never sounded as sweet as it does on the latest from Wild Nothing, “Paradise.” To say that the track is aptly titled is an understatement. Think lush, elegant vocals, soft cushions of synth, plucky guitars; a dense, virtual jungle of sounds. Also worth checking out is the accompanying music video, starring Oscar nominee Michelle Williams on an elegant, dizzying journey through time and space.
To list all records that have been influenced by the emotion of desire would take a lifetime, if the task is possible at all. Who was it that first said, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable?” Does it matter? Because it could have been me, or you, or any musician that ever put a pen to paper, or a hand to a guitar. It could have been Merchandise, a young Tampa, Florida three-piece who have just recently been climbing their way out from the underground and onto everyone’s radar. Children of Desire, the band’s short but all-too-sweet sophomore LP, reflects both all of the darkness and light suggestive of its title. An ambitious and decidedly grown up album, Children of Desire captures a promising, rising band in all its early glory.
The influences of Merchandise songwriter Carson Cox are as unexpected as they are diverse, ranging from Miles Davis to John Cale to classic musicals of American cinema; and, on Children of Desire, it shows. The band were once known as darlings of the Tampa DIY/hardcore scene, known for their riotous shows in abandoned industrial spaces. But Cox and Co. have shed that label as of late, and their second release is far more than any one genre or subculture could ascribe. The vibe on Children of Desire is most reminiscent of classic new wave and proto-goth bands such as Joy Division or the Smiths, but really, those are just starting points. Layers of atmospheric shoegaze , gigantic pop-friendly melody, and piano ballad-style heartbreak are woven together so seamlessly that it’s hard to notice where one influence ends and the next one begins.
At just under two minutes, gentle and spell-binding opener “Thin Air” is the shortest song on Children of Desire; it’s a temporary moment of quiet, the calm before the storm. The album’s first single is the mega-sized “Time,” which features a hook so giant you could catch tonight’s dinner on it. “We’re still young, baby, but we’re getting old,” Cox sings, drawing from his own experiences with failed relationships. It’s a song inspired by heartache that evokes feelings just as grand and consuming as the phenomenon itself.
But Merchandise are just warming up. The epic, crater-shaped center of Children of Desire is “Become What You Are,” which clocks in at just under eleven minutes long. Beginning as a hypnotic story of melodrama and ending in a time warp of experimental sounds, it’s sure to leave your head spinning. Vocals here (and throughout) are sure to remind listeners of Paul Banks and Ian Curtis, and while the comparisons are definitely valid, they almost feel like cheating. Carson Cox’s voice drips with a bright sadness that– at least for now– can only be his own.
Manchester rockers the 1975 are back with a new EP, and this time, it’s a lot sexier. It was just a few months ago that the Facetime EP first introduced us to the atmospheric buzz band’s dark yet dreamy vibe. The promising, four-track debut marked The 1975 as a band to watch, but left us wanting more. Thankfully, its follow up, Sex, certainly fills that void, an overall enchanting (but still small) collection of songs that find the 1975 sexier, yes– but also bigger, bolder, and better than before.
At just four tracks, Sex may not be long, but it definitely gets the job done (sorry, I had to). The undeniable center of the EP is first single and title track “Sex,” a brazen alt-rock power ballad that manages to both raise and answer a very important question: does an alt-rock power ballad by the 1975 work? It’s a style that’s hard for a lot of bands to pull off, but it works far better for the 1975 than it does for, say, Kings of Leon. Rooted in Britpop, the song touches on such relatable topics as desire, longing, and eventually, heartache, because “she’s got a boyfriend, anyway.” Suffice it to say, “Sex” is a single that definitely grows on you. (I know, I know! I can’t help myself! These puns are just falling right into my lap).
Anchored by “Sex” are introductory track “Intro/Set 3,” the electro influenced “Undo,” and melodic closer “You.” Unlike their contemporaries the XX, the 1975 prove with Sex that it’s definitely possible to maintain the same winning atmospheric feeling, all while allowing it to reach new heights. “Intro/Set 3″ and “Undo” are both reminiscent of James Blake and the Postal Service, and where “Sex” is epic and grand, they are far more quiet and intimate. Standout track “Intro/Set 3″ sets things off right with intermittent jolts of sound that course through the song like electrical currents; but unfortunately for “You,” it makes the closing track feel weak in comparison. The EP ends on a sour note of, “That’s it?”
The 1975 are still a buzz band worth watching, but with two EPs already under their belt, our patience is running thin. Where’s the full length? In the meantime, Sex is a definite step in the right direction.
3.5 / 5 stars