Mew – No More Stories…

August 27, 2009

mewAdequately describing the music on Danish band Mew’s new album, No More Stories…, would seem to bear out the oft repeated quote that goes, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” (Elvis Costello went on to add that it was “a really stupid thing to want to do.”) That said, my impression of the general sound of the album is what music made by Sigur Ros, Animal Collective and Brian Wilson might sound like. It’s a beautifully made record, sometimes densely layered, other times not, imbued with a sense of wonder and a melancholia that often co-exist side by side inside a song. Though No More Stories… aims to push some boundaries, it’s also very accessible and highly listenable, reaching a sort of high point in the second half of the record with three tracks that constitutes a section unto themselves, “Hawaii,” “Vaccine” and “Tricks Of The Trade.” The songs are emblematic of the rest of the record in that they seamlessly blend pop with elements of folk, electronica, world music and rock into a soaring, heady, gorgeous mix. Fans of experimental and indie pop should definitely not miss this record, which is certainly one of the best releases of the summer. Standout cuts: “Beach,” “Silas The Magic Car,” “Cartoons And Macramé Wounds” and “Tricks Of The Trade.”

imgoingawayThough the new album from Brooklyn based band the Fiery Furnaces lacks a unifying conceptual theme, it’s tied together by a jazzy pop sound. There are also a number of nods to the past, starting with the title track, a newly arranged “traditional,” but continuing on tracks like “Charmaine Champagne” and its companion song “Cups & Punches.” Though there’s still a pretty strong art rock feeling to the whole proceedings, mostly I’m Going Away, despite it’s somewhat grim title, is a pretty lightweight, easygoing and fun affair. I liked the first half better than the second half, but that said, the times I’ve listened to it, I’ve ended up listening to it all the way through. Not sure this is a breakthrough album for the Fiery Furnaces, though it’s certainly enjoyable for the most part. Standout cuts: “Drive To Dallas,” “The End Is Near,” “Charmaine Champagne” and “Keep Me In The Dark.”

veckimestBrooklyn based band Grizzly Bear’s third album, Veckatimest, is a complex, often astonishing fusion of indie and psychedelic rock with folk and experimental pop, that starts out with an engaging beauty (“Southern Point” and “Two Weeks”) and climaxes in musical and emotional dissonance (“I Live With You”). Despite its esoteric nature, or perhaps, more accurately, because of that nature, Veckatimest is a highly listenable record, a self consciously arty album that also affords the simple pleasure of hearing music well played. It’s by no means difficult listening, at any rate, though it’s unlikely that single run through of Veckatimest will be enough to fully appreciate everything that’s been poured into it; the latter quality actually makes it a bit fun, though it’s a complicated sort of fun, to be sure. Not all of the album worked for me, i.e. the aforementioned “I Live With You,” which I found myself admiring more than liking, but in general, Veckatimest is an album indie rock and pop fans shouldn’t miss. Standout cuts: “Southern Point,” “Two Weeks,” “Cheerleader” and “While You Wait For The Others.”

Foals – Antidotes

April 12, 2008

If you combined The Bad Plus with Vampire Weekend and threw in some Haircut 100 and some Cure-like vocals, you might get something like Oxford, UK based band Foals, who find fresh and inventive ways to mix up art rock, jam band music, jazz, ska, and Afrobeat, among other influences, for their debut record Antidotes. The album starts out strong, but really the band really comes into their own on the second half, with tracks like “Balloons,” “Big Big Love (Fig. 2)” and “Hummer,” the latter being a bonus track on the U.S. release. Antidotes is an album that really grows on you with repeated listens, and I have to think that it’s going to be on a lot of “best of 2008” lists at the end of the year. Standout cuts: “Cassius,” “Electric Bloom,” “Big Big Love (Fig. 2)” and “Hummer.”