choirThis Is For The White In Your Eyes, the new album from Denmark based band Choir Of Young Believers, is one of those ambitious, grandly scaled albums of indie pop that might’ve ended up silly and overwrought in lesser hands, but instead turned out to be a moody, serious minded, sometimes even sublime collection of music The band has earned some Radiohead comparisons, though I imagine mostly for the lead vocals, which do recall Thom Yorke at times. Musically, however, they have more of a folk foundation, upon which they layer orchestral pop, soul and rock. Their musical influences certainly shine through, but it’s the execution of the music that’s the real draw here. It’s consistently, almost hypnotically good, with many of the tracks flowing into each other. Certainly recommended for indie pop fans, but for everyone, really. Standout cuts: “Hollow Tree,” “Next Summer,” “Action/Reaction” and “Claustrophobia.”

brianbonzFor their debut LP, Brooklyn based band Brian Bonz and the Dot Hongs have made a set of music that’s part pop by way of bands like Split Enz and Death Cab For Cutie, one part ornate chamber and psychedelic pop by way of Aimee Mann and Jon Brion, and one part 80’s synthpop. Throw in some strings, the occasional banjo and some other esoteric instrumentation and you have a good sense of the music on From Sumi To Japan. There’s some undercooked, underdeveloped material here, and it tapers off a bit towards the end, but it’s a solid first record, filled with appealing, inventive, and intelligently made indie pop. Standout cuts: “Judy & The Alpha Queen,” “Kid Shit,” “Dee The Dinosaur” and “Seafence.”

Lord Cut-Glass

July 1, 2009

lordcutglassIf the voice of Lord Cut-Glass seems strangely familiar to fans of the late, great Delgados, it’s because Lord Cut-Glass is the solo project of Glasgow based singer/songwriter, and former Delgado, Alun Woodward. His music here is a lot more pop and a lot less rock than it was with the Delgados, but it shares the same often cynical and sardonic worldview, coupled with some of the most lacerating and funny lyrics in recent indie pop history, as on the opener, “Even Jesus Couldn’t Love You” and the current single “Look After Your Wife.” Woodward mixes folk with pop with varied influences, Baroque, chamber and orchestral among them, resulting in music that’s as eclectic as it is entertaining. Woodward even throws in a couple of lovely, if most unsentimental, ballads, “Holy Fuck!” and “A Pulse.” Lord Cut-Glass is a pop pleasure, a thorny one to be sure, but a pleasure just the same. Standout cuts: “Even Jesus Couldn’t Love You,” “Look After Your Wife,” “Picasso” and “A Pulse.”

hazardsofloveThe term “concept album” has always given me more than a little pause, since it could anything from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band to Styx’s Kilroy Was Here. According to its press, The Hazards Of Love, the new album from Portland based band the Decemberists, “tells the tale of Margaret (voiced by Becky Stark), a woman from a city near the forest, and her lover William (voiced by Colin Meloy, lead singer and songwriter), a shape-shifting forest dweller. Margaret discovers she is pregnant, and sets off into the forest to find William. Their love is threatened by the jealous forest queen (voiced by Shara Worden), and a murdering knave.” I am happy to report that The Hazards Of Love is much closer to Sgt. Pepper’s than Kilroy. Though I found the story hard to follow at times, having listened to it the first couple of times without the benefit of a lyric sheet, and though I was somewhat exhausted by the album as a whole by the time it was finished, I found the album to be richly entertaining, and, thankfully, more fun than pretentious. What makes the album really work is the music, which is an often dazzling and headspinning mix of chamber pop, country, folk, and Americana, with some heavy metal guitars thrown in as well. The Hazards Of Love is by no means a perfect record, and at times it’s a bit goofy and silly, but I admire the band for taking on such an ambitious, risky and potentially disastrous project and turning it into something that’s generally a lot of fun to listen to. Standout cuts: “The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone),” “Won’t Want for Love (Margaret In the Taiga),” “Isn’t It a Lovely Night?” and “The Rake’s Song.”

DM Stith – Heavy Ghost

March 12, 2009

dmstith“like the birds we spoke with fire…”

On my first couple of listens to DM Stitch’s full length debut, Heavy Ghost, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I could appreciate the obvious skill and passion that went into making the record, but I also felt very removed from it at times, the way one can feel removed from a work of art that’s intensely personal in nature. After a few listens, however, I started to like it quite a bit more, and while I still find some of it arcane, I can say now that I think it’s quite an impressive first record. Stith wrote and also performed for the most part the music on Heavy Ghost, which started, according to press for the record, as “folk songs with epic electronic gestures.” Throw some chamber pop, classical, gospel and world music influences in there as well, and you have a better idea of the broad, epic scope Stith’s music has here. Lyrically, it’s concerned with Stith’s struggles with spirituality. It’s a powerful theme, and the attendant confusion, despair and joy are rendered in powerful ways. Stith’s voice is also something of a marvel, and his singing matched with the music sometimes seems like a collaboration between Animal Collective and Antony and the Johnsons. Heavy Ghost is complex and often difficult, but it’s definitely recommended for people who can appreciate music that doesn’t lack for ambition or courage. Standout cuts: “Pity Dance,” “Creekmouth,” “Fire Of Birds” and “Braid Of Voices.”