Reigning Blog

No longer, it seems, can Broken Bells be referred to as merely as side-project. Quite surely, the success of their eponymous debut, which shifted a whopping 400,000 units in the US, has bolstered the creative partnership of the band’s prolific duo. Brian Burton – aka much-lauded producer and musical chameleon Danger Mouse – once again provides James Mercer of indie stalwarts The Shins with his much-desired production genius that has led to job offers from such behemoth popular music mainstays as U2. After somehow managing to carve out windows in their satisfyingly busy schedules, Broken Bells reconvene with a tangible sense of boldness about their song-writing that cements Burton and Mercer as a bona fide song-writing partnership, capable not only of ludicrous pop hooks but of more sprawling and subtle compositions. After The Disco is emphatically more refined than its predecessor and confident enough to declare itself to the world in a manner more aurally gregarious than their debut, for two tracks at least.

With an insatiable appetite for catchy sounds abounding through both lead single “After The Disco” and teaser track “Holding On For Life”, Mercer and Burton evidently have an ear for a gorgeous hook or two. Yet, After The Disco is far from a record of populist celebratory gesticulation or a repertoire of quick-fix sun-baked pop. Underneath the sleek synthesizers, brightly emphatic falsetto vocal harmonies and hip shaking rhythm section lays an undercurrent of shadowy melancholia that continues to lurk around even amongst the pure glossy pop of the album’s title track. Themes of loss perpetuate the record much as they did their debut, with Mercer obviously unable to rid himself of these emotional shackles despite the potential solutions he offered on their first musical outing.

Placing at numbers two and three on the track listing, Mercer and Burton deliver the most overt pop workouts in quick succession. The eponymous lead single is an emblazoned nugget of pop brilliance, dispensing hooks in systematic fashion. It’s easily the most sleek and effortlessly danceable track on the LP, comprising of superbly executed key shifts and synth lines that etch themselves onto the brain; the desire to hit the repeat button will be overwhelming. It’s this very commercial polish that makes it somewhat of an inevitable scenario, that a request by an enamoured advertising executive to use the track as aural accompaniment to his shiny new automobile, a more than likely situation given Mercer’s previous licensing of Shins tracks to soundtrack McDonalds commercials. “Holding On For Life” sees Mercer’s vocal harmonies reaching the upper echelons of impossibly tight-trouser pitch, his chorus refrain coming across like a Bee Gees doppelgänger in the grand-scale chorus.

The sci-fi influence they hinted at on their Meyrin Fields EP abounds throughout, embodied in synthesizer quirks such as the Theremin sound that opens “Holding On For Life”, appearing like samples torn from the soundtracks of fondly remembered 1950s science fiction b-movies. The pace drops to more laconic levels for “Leave It Alone” whilst the aural sound scape opens into more expansive pastures. Still, the emotional expressivity within Mercer’s vocal abounds, his newly adopted lower octave position crooning amongst sombre violins as he trades off with a choir’s more gospel-orientated inclinations. From here, the album bops along in a pleasant fashion with tracks such as “Angel and the Fool” offering a more cinematic and sprawling aural landscape. Throughout the album Burton utilizes the same minimalist muted bass plod that he secured to his successful Gnarls Barkley project. It’s now somewhat of a trademark although it seems doubtful whether Adam Clayton can conjure a similar groovy swing on the next U2 record.

After The Disco is a certified fan-pleaser that’s riddled with enough hooks to satisfy the most voracious of pop-inclined appetites, additionally boasting a sufficient sound bite quota to soundtrack Apple’s advertising campaigns for the next five years. It exists as a somewhat logical culmination of the pair’s previous work, although the sci-fi concept provides a scope for expanses of possibility that the duo never fully explore. Aside from its existence in a strange psych-pop netherworld, After The Disco contains practically no unorthodox or potential to confuse an avid fan of their 2010 debut. It’s a rather safe and inoffensive outing, but to its credit, it brags much irresistible pop sensibility to reel in a fresh horde of followers.

Originally posted on TheAltReview

Feb 15
Broken Bells - After The Disco

Embodying the notions and aesthetics of ‘punk’ to a fuller degree than most in their field, Self Defense Family are a prime example of the unorthodoxy that the punk ideology should produce. Try Me is their first full length under their current moniker after tiring of their previous namesake End Of A Year. It arrives, not only as the most intriguing work of their short yet incredibly prolific existence, but surely as one of the most strangely brilliant records of the year. Through their fast expanding array of seven-inches, EP’s and albums, Self Defense Family have carved themselves a truly unique aural space commonly referred to as ‘post-hardcore’ and it seems that increasingly, it is only in attitude are they can be deemed to sit within the confines of the punk underground as they wilfully stray from the rulebook.

A comprehensive analysis could be written on Patrick Kindlon’s lyrics alone; his unique, often tongue-in-cheek lyricism dealing unflinchingly in a range of themes including sex, religion and the very underground punk scene that the band supposedly reside within. Anyone who has read any interviews with the expressively uncompromising and polarizing frontman will be well aware that Kindlon is ever a reliable quote generator, his opinion rarely falling short of potential controversy. OnTry Me, his views are often condensed into a single sentence whilst employing the technique of repetition, sometimes to such an extent as to almost devoid the words of all meaning. On “Apport Birds” Kindlon addresses religion and spirituality through another use of extended lyrical repetition. “I understand the pull of religion/ When there’s loss that won’t stop itching” is delivered in his familiar gruff manner, the strain and emotional expressivity in his vocal instantly palpable. In a recurring theme, repetition is not only reserved for Kindlon’s tongue-in-cheek witticisms. Songs such as “Turn The Fan On” and “Apport Birds” are characterized by infinitely repeated guitar riffs. One guitar aims to hypnotize by remaining stuck in perpetual loop whilst the second embellishes with dose of atmospheric reverb. Yet, thanks to Kindlon’s gruff turns of phrase, the listener is denied the inclination to fall into a languid trance.

At times, the band’s inimitable output conjures distinct visions of Fugazi letting loose in an echo chamber, with frontman Kindlon very much a continuation of the emo lineage started by Ian MacKaye, although the former’s humour remains indefinitely blacker than MacKaye’s politicized lyrics. “Dingo Fence” opens with an amusing exchange between Kindlon and producer which sees the two engaged in debate over which potentially offensive four letter word beginning with ‘c’ should form the crux of the song’s infinitely repeated mantra. Reluctantly, Kindlon eschews the most overtly offensive of his options, settling upon “All the dumb cocks they get what they want”, eventually switching “cocks” for “cunts” and finally “cops”. Caroline Corrigan, who formerly lent her vocal stylings to the band’s more directly punk E.P You Are Beneath Her, here makes an appearance on the sublime “Mistress Appears At A Funeral”. With instrumentation taking a more straightforward approach, Corrigan’s unpretentious vocals detail a beguiling tale of infidelity in keeping with the album’s mostly sordid themes.

By far the most off-kilter moment on the record is the inclusion of two extended monologues, each clocking in around twenty minutes, detailing the explicit, debauched and certainly fascinating life story of porn star Angelique Gauthier, whom Kindlon revealed was a subject of his earlier masturbatory excursions. Recounting the personal tribulations as a rebellious teen and bi-sexual woman, her anecdotes range from shocking accounts of domestic-violence from a former drug-dealing lover to encounters with Liberace, exiled Chinese monks and a whole manner of absurdist and often hilarious situations. On initial listens, her recollections are as enthralling as any of the band’s art-punk forays, yet the impact will surely weaken on repeated listens and their placement in the track listing an annoyance for owners of the vinyl.

Try Me is an album of unassuming depth and of a disposition that’s initially bewildering, despite the relative simplicity of the compositions themselves. Consequently, it’s the record’s bizarre turns that offer such a rewarding listening experience. As a band, they boast a much wider heterogeneity than any of the acts they’re so often tour with. From the extended grooves of “Dingo Fence” to the shape-shifting “Aletta” it’s evident the band are probing a wide array of musical avenues.Try Me has certainly expanded the band’s horizons and yet it remains truly punk in its ignorance to what should constitute a conventional “punk” record.

Originally posted on TheAltReview

Feb 15
Self Defense Family - Try Me

Over the course of seven full-length albums, Stephen Wilkinson, better known under the guise of Bibio, has cut a spellbinding path through a myriad of musical styles, upholding a constant sense of individuality and mystifying intrigue amongst numerous stylistic transformations. His dizzying finger-picking skills are matched by a propensity for sampled beats that often come across like J Dilla if the late DJ was raised in the midst of whimsical folk playing Pagans on the Norfolk Broads rather than the decimation that is post-industrial Detroit. A true artist in every sense of the word, Bibio continues his prolific output with the low-key yet sumptuous The Green EP, following on from last year’s deeply melancholic LP Silver Wilkinson. The album saw perhaps the most affecting coalescence of Bibio’s folk and electronic stylings. From the exultation of poppy acoustics on “A tout a l’heure” to the sampler workout of “You” and the progressive electronica of “Look at Orion!” were equally resplendent. Containing tracks chosen to compliment the song “Dye The Water Green” from Silver Wilkinson, the EP sees a return to the weathered and warbled lo-fi folk sound that characterised his first releases before his new-found fondness for sampled beats courted the attention of prestigious electronic label Warp. Comprising solely of archive music from Bibio’s assumedly extensive unreleased catalogue, the EP is a reverb-laden exploration of exquisite acoustic guitar lines and haunting melodies that is almost completely devoid of electronic intrusion and ingrains the EP with a distinctly organic and earthy feel.

Citing “Dye The Water Green” as the favourite song from his latest album, Bibo’s curated tracklisting upholds the downcast, morose mood and innate sense of longing implied by the track’s delicate delivery and matching lyrical fare. “Somebody waits for you/ Somebody longs for you” he croons in a melody line mimicked by what sounds like a distant and ghostly saxophone. “Dinghy”, the result of a 2006 collaboration with Letherette’s Richard Robert, is the fruit of a series of jam sessions enacted after the pair’s shift as barmen in a pub. Fittingly recorded in the pub garden, the instrumental consists of a spritely interwoven pair of fingerpicked guitars. “Carbon Wulf” is an improvised alternate take of Silver Wilkinson’s “Wolf”, recorded on baritone guitar and afforded an ethereal quality by oceanic reverb of cathedral-sized depth in a manner concurrent with those effect-pedal fetishizing shoegazers.

Both “Down To The Sound” and “A Thousand Syllables” exude a dusty and wistful folk that harks back to Bibio’s first recorded forays that characterised his 2005 Mush Records debut Fi. Based on deftly picked arpeggiated chords both songs are awash with scintillating atmospherics and pastoral guitar lines that operate like a Boards Of Canada acoustic session. “The Spinney View Of Hinkley Point”, the first Bibio track to use live drums, sees Wilkinson part of a power trio in a lengthy and atmospheric jam recorded in the confines of a friend’s shed.

Despite existing far from a motley collection of outtakes they may be perceived as being, The Green EP has an appeal that stretches no further than those already converted to Stephen Wilkinson’s idiosyncratic arrangements. The relatively low-key tracks, absent of any bombast or the gregariousness he discovered on 2009’sAmbivalence Avenue, simmer along at such a lethargic pace that they are in danger of passing-by the casual listener, with song transitions going unnoticed such is their nuance.

Yet, for a more intent listener, the EP provides the ideal sonic plain in which one can easily find themselves lost within; willingly enveloped by a shroud of melancholy haze. It offers nothing that hasn’t already been explored in past releases, nor does it offer inclinations as to where Bibio’s experimentations will be headed next. For the longstanding Bibio fan, especially the enthusiasts of his more folk-inclined material,The Green EP provides a delectable stop-gap to quench much of the thirst for a future full length.

Originally posted on TheAltReview

Feb 15
Bibio - The Green E.P

 

Returning to the same infamous Brixton ex-nightclub a month after they last graced the stage, London Grammar seem poised to ascend to the heady heights of past collaborators Disclosure, who coincidentally hold court to a sell-out Academy crowd at the other end of the high street.  The Electric though is where bands explode, a make-or-break venue where acts rocket into the mainstream conscience or alternately return to the murky backwaters of the toilet circuit. It seems the three piece, described by the Guardian as “a PG-rated XX”, have made a concerted effort to avoid the lukewarm reviews that greeted their last performance here. Of course, the band will never be one to exert flamboyant histrionics as their musical disposition remains rooted to a quintessentially English reserve. Having adopted a refreshingly anti-image stance that, in increasing rarity throughout a depressingly image-obsessed music industry, sees the band’s burgeoning success resting solely on the merits of their music rather than showy gimmicks. Tonight however, there’s a whiff of a previously absent self-assurance that means between song banter never amounts to incoherent mumbling. Moments of potential awkwardness, such as a shirtless punter proposing to a bemused Hannah Reid, extorts laughter from both crowd and band as she instead offers the services of multi-instrumentalist Dot Major to the semi-naked fan.

Fortunate enough to receive the most flowery of journalistic adjectives in the guise of the label “ethereal”, a term originally presented to Scottish pioneers Cocteau Twins. These allusions to the dream-pop trio manifest most explicitly in London Grammar’s live set-up. The three figures, exuding minimal movement, alternately enveloped in rays of heavenly light or obscured in a dark blue glow, the band’s two male members employed in the creation of a dark ambience whilst Hannah’s extraordinary voice commands unwavering attention through a flawless projection that belies the nerves she later purports to have suffered.  

Taking to the stage under darkness and no fanfare, they launch into the delicate intro of ‘Hey Now’, slowly building until the interjection of Hannah’s vocal, so stunning it its clarity that it halts just about every conversation in the room. Throughout the span of eleven tracks her powerful voice never falters as it negotiates a commendable range, sparse instrumentation allowing a wide territory for her vocals to explore, effortlessly switching between potent mid-range and a spine-tingling soprano. Yet, in the band’s few moments of aural rambunctiousness, such as the propulsive beats that erupt at the climax of ‘Metal & Dust’, Hannah’s vocal remains an authoritative focal point that more than holds its own amidst the maelstrom. A clever and endearingly simple cityscape backdrop mirrors the band’s aural minimalism with digitalised fireworks erupting at the pinnacle of their set, adding to the celebratory feel that encompasses their performance. ‘Wasting My Young Years’, the track that initiated the band’s online hype, is awash with a forlorn melancholy and earnest truth in the contemporary uncertainty of youth that sums up the band’s allure to tonight’s crowd and indeed, the hundred thousand or so buyers of their sublime debut album.

Despite the bare bones instrumentation and low-key approach, the crowd remain enthralled throughout the show with their deftly subtler and incredibly affecting take on Kavisnky’s ‘Nichtcall’ drawing particular ovation from a crowd in tune with a style of post-XX starkness that leans heavily on restraint. The set highlight however, is undoubtedly the tantalising slow build of ‘Metal & Dust’, a track clearly awaited eagerly as its driving drums illicit crowd movement for the only time. Responding to voracious demand for an encore, London Grammar apply their fragility to Chris Isaak’s sultry classic ‘Wicked Game’, upping the atmospherics from the original with Dan Rothman’s delay-ridden staccato guitar lines acting like the forlorn ghost of the original iconic riff.

Perfectly paced and executed, London Grammar’s set holds the audience within their aural psyche of troubled ambience in a performance that, in keeping with their gimmick-free stance, places the emphasis squarely on their musical attributes. By all means, a year from now, London Grammar will be joining Disclosure in the exclusive list of bands to have headlined the Brixton Academy, rather than the old nightclub down the road.   

Originally posted on Alt Review     

Dec 30
London Grammar – Brixton Electric 28/11/13

From the shadow of imposing snow-capped Alpine mountains emerges Elizabeth; kicking and screaming in a tumultuous flurry of grating hardcore. The Geneva band have only been in existence since 2009 but have already built an impressive reputation as stringent road warriors, hitting clubs across a wide diaspora- from the frozen steppes of St Petersburg to the Marxist tropical time warp of Havana. On their spanking new E.P Insomnia, such unwavering dedication to touring is matched by some exceedingly tight musicianship not to mention an almost unfathomable amount of focussed aggression. Insomnia is four tracks of relentless aural barbarity, thundering drums and guitar work that’s alternately abrasive and crushing. It’s an unforgiving sound that finds natural allies in fellow Euro bands in the vein of Rise & Fall, those that are able to grasp ideas from outside of the usual banal hardcore repertoire, twisting their sound into untapped forms of musical savagery.

There’s an instant vocal resemblance to the un-human guttural bark of Converge’s Jacob Bannon, who in turn form another tangible influence on these angry boys from Geneva. ‘Cemetery Feeling’ bristles which unorthodox guitar noise. After the intro riff of muddied bass, guitarist Charly scrapes and scratches across the strings with barely comprehensible speed as the rest of the band steam along at the outer limits of their beats-per-minute capabilities. ‘Created Enemies’ is equally relentless in its propulsive drive, vocalist Javier smattering the maelstrom with specks of lung as he proceeds to shred his vocal chords into tatters. ‘Danger’ continues the destruction, upping the intensity levels with a blizzard of almost melodic guitar but the best is saved for the E.P’s death throws on the sublime dynamism of ‘Ravens’. Here, clean guitar lines dance along in a way unseen since the idiosyncratic yet underachieving weird-core of the sadly defunct Crocus. A round of barbed blast-beats brings the record to a premature conclusion after a breath-taking eight minutes of precision brutality.

Elizabeth’s brand of chaotic hardcore, delivered with an inch-thick crust, may be derivative in many respects. The band however, deserve the upmost credit for their impeccable musicianship and the sheer ferocity of the unrelenting terror conjured with such finesse. Elizabeth can sit proudly amongst the ever brilliant roster of bands on Throatruiner, for Insomnia is an exemplary artefact of twisted hardcore.

Originally posted on Two Beats Off                

Nov 27
Elizabeth - Insomnia

The Flag/Black Flag debacle: what a ridiculous farce. Here’s two sets of middle aged men squabbling over who’s most entitled to carry on milking the old cow’s withered teets. Each party claims their right to being the ‘true’ Black Flag whilst simultaneously jettisoning an enduring integrity and carelessly befouling their once remarkable legacy.

Either way you look at it, both bands comprise of balding middle-aged men playing a style of music that imploded in 1986. Sure, Black Flag have seen it all; they’ve lived on dog food, been placed under surveillance by the FBI, survived the wrath of corrupt LAPD truncheons and managed to escape the mind-set that led them to experimental freeform jazz. Original guitarist Gregg Ginn (who plays bass on the record under the pseudonym Dale Nixon) is joined by shouty man Ron Reyes whose Black Flag credits comprise of a single E.P before the destitute punk lifestyle took its toll.

Once you get over the Reyes’-designed and outright terrible Microsoft Paint-constructed cover art, a cover so dismal that even Blink 182 would deem it too crude, we’re instantly transported to Hermosa Beach circa 1980. “My Heart’s Pumping” and “Down In The Dirt” are summations of classic Flag and are easily the most listenable tracks on an otherwise irksome album. Atonal guitar, abrupt tempo shifts and spittle projecting sing-alongs with a sleazy Jesus Lizard grind suggest an instant familiarity. There’s no aimless jazz on What The… although you’ll soon be wishing there was. In fact, Ginn & co offer no musical advancement in 30 years, the only marker of new ideas being the purchase of a Theremin.

Of further detriment is Reyes’ uninspired delivery. Devoid of Henry Rollins’ acerbic wit or Keith Morris’ cutting snarl, his limited lyrical repertoire seems fundamentally trapped in hardcore’s halcyon day chip-on-shoulder mentality.

As What The… progresses and Black Flag once again go over the motions, passing through several stages of self-parody in tracks as juvenilely entitled as ‘Shut Up’, ‘Go Away’ and ‘Get Out Of My Way’, an overwhelming monotony takes hold. Its twenty-two tracks of one dimensionality and recycled ideas that’s about as ‘punk’ as donning aRamones t-shirt from Topman.

‘What The…’ is a record that benefits no-one.

Originally From AudioAddict

Nov 12
Black Flag - What The…

Apart from boneheaded ice-hockey fans who have just witnessed their team lose the final of the Stanley Cup, there has never been an angrier troupe of Canadians than KEN Mode. Yet whilst the average disgruntled hockey fan will express their disgust through the act of the good old fashioned riot, KEN Mode channel their vitriol into a terrifying aural beast. 

 ‘Venerable’ essentially comprises of the jazz-based atonality of Jesus Lizard, beefed up with a dose of abrasive contemporary metal in the mould of Mastodon before they tried to be Pink Floyd. It’s an initially befuddling miasma of bludgeoning riffs that dart hither and thither in an almost ubiquitous dissonance that marks conventional melodicism as some kind of immoral practice. Sure melody exists if you dig hard enough, but only in the most twisted and mutated form, repeatedly spat out in a wretched and unrecognisable heap.    

So it begins with ‘Book Of Muscle’, cemented to a brutal chug that sounds like the guitar’s strings are actually being punched such is their pulverising sound, the track forming an perfect summation of the fury yet to come. Vocals are doused with distortion, eliminating any chance of clarity in the midst of grating turmoil. Not that any distortion is required, given the vocalist’s tortured delivery, spilling contempt and acerbic anger in every furious snarl.

Tracks such as ‘Batholith’ advance at blistering pace, their goal to lay waste to eardrums whilst claiming no allegiance to any one time signature and frantically hurtling through space in a flurry of atonal and jagged riffs. ‘The Irate Lumberjack’ is the first of two extended tracks, rooted in an uncharacteristic simplicity and advancing at a measured march rather than the paranoid hyperactivity that characterises most of Venerable’s shorter tracks. It sees KEN Mode at their most expansive and least direct, proving that for all their outward aggression they’re capable of much subtler arrangements.        

The eight minute ‘Never Was’ is a particularly furious and uncompromising assault, a storm of guttural chug bookended by blankets of pure white noise whilst a particularly venomous vocal repeatedly declares that “Religion is a cancer”. Like acid on the ears, the coruscating noise seems potent enough to burn flesh. ‘Flight Of The Echo Hawk’ is perhaps the anomaly of the record, a lone bastion of relative clarity free from the throat destroying screams- offering brief shelter in the form of standard melodicism amidst the chaos.   

KEN Mode may be a raging mass of bile but they are so only because they are aware of the truth of our failings. They choose to holler and scream and actively address the inconvenient truths and malfunctions within our societal systems as others react by burying their heads in the sand. The almost unfathomable vitriol is tied to some pretty impressive musicianship and a commendably high count of notes per second. Unfortunately, records like Venerable hold a limited appeal, but to those enamoured by aural violence, KEN Mode’s latest work is a required listen. It manages to be technical without alienating the non-instrument playing listener, socially aware without coming across preachy. In short it’s a blast of pure terror, a visceral storm that is strangely enticing. 

Originally from TwoBeatsOff

Nov 8
KEN Mode - Venerable

Having swooned a mass of awkward teenage hearts with 2011’s Parting The Sea Between The Brightness And Me,Touché Amoré make their eagerly awaited return with the outstanding Is Survived By. Arriving after a strangely low key build-up which thankfully abstained from the irksome and trite contemporary industry promotional exponents such lyric videos and the like, Is Survived By is the sound of a great hardcore band blossoming into a fully rounded prospect.

Decidedly less frantic than its predecessor, the fraught emotional outpourings of Tumblr’s favourite quote machine Jeremy Bolm take centre stage. His inner frailties are expressed through that familiar rough bark, which at times exists as the only signifier of the band’s hardcore credentials. Snippets of psychological distress are spewed forth-those innermost anxieties most people would naturally repress and keep firmly under lock and key. It is these troubled thoughts that fuel Jeremy’s and subsequently his band’s vitriol, twisting these anxieties into tumult. Concerns over his band’s predicament abound, Jeremy firmly embracing the old head perched on young shoulders archetype to directly address the collective pressure to craft an album superseded by such huge expectation.

Once a band defined by the brevity of their furious hardcore fare, tracks now extend to such dizzy lengths as three whole minutes. The full frontal assaults, underpinned by Elliott Babin’s exceptionally creative drum work, give way to moments of measured calm and instrumental introspection to match that of Bolm’s lyrics. An instance of melodic bliss at the heart of ‘To Write Content’ is bookended by aggressive flurries whilst ‘Harbor’ sees guitars free to explore as the pace is slackened.

Despite the aforementioned anxiety that surrounded the album’s creation, any such worry can be safely eradicated because Is Survived By can probably guarantee Touché Amoré the longevity they crave. It’s a stunningly well-formed record, as resplendent in its beauty as much its anger- the juxtaposition that formed the bedrock of emo and post-hardcore, here utilised with an affecting disposition and very near flawlessness.

Originally from Audio Addict

Oct 1
Touché Amoré - Is Survived By (Deathwish)

For those hoping that Congratulations would be the sole contributor towards MGMT’s ‘weird experimental phase’, donate your headbands to your nearest charity shop because the hook-laden psych-pop songs of Oracular Spectacular lay in a distant dimension to the often baffling tracks that make up their warped new record the superbly entitled MGMT.

Continuing on their defiantly non-linear path through the psychedelic maelstrom, the mischievous due smother themselves in a bleary-eyed miasma-delving ever deeper into blissed-out synths and sumptuous texture. Having already flaunted oddball digressions on Congratulations to polarizing effect, the path chosen by these American dead-heads will provide an enriching and aurally pleasurable experience for those who are partial to extended psych jams.

There seems little to immediately latch on to in terms of outward hooks and it takes a good few listens before MGMT’sattributes begin to reveal themselves. The music arrives as a result of improvisational sessions and it certainly feels that way. At time, tracks meander without purpose, ignoring and challenging the standard concept of what a “pop song” should achieve through their scattered structure. ‘Alien Days’ introduces the album with a subdued pleasantry of shimmering synths that belies much of the record’s abstract and fantastical nature which seems encapsulated perfectly within the peculiarities of ‘Astro-Nancy’. Jittering percussion workouts juxtaposing the lethargy of the deeply reverberated vocals amidst a host of strange sound effects.

The expansive synths of ‘Mystery Disease’ and the pulsating atmospherics of ‘A Good Sadness’ could easily provide the soundtrack to the 80’s version of Flash Gordon, that is if Flash dropped a tab and just flew around in his spaceship gazing at stuff and drooling everywhere rather than saving the universe. The cosmic sea shanty ‘Plenty of Girls In The Sea’ is the most straightforward track although that is comparable to declaring Jermaine as the most normal of the Jacksons.

Undoubtedly, MGMT will provide the last straw for a vast swathe of fans intent on hearing the next ‘Kids’. But for those enamoured by the surreal quirks of CongratulationsMGMT is pure unspoilt paradise.

Originally from Audio Addict

Sep 24
MGMT - MGMT (Columbia)

Huzzah! Tyler Daniel Bean returns with a two track 7” of his tender and introspective emo stylings.  Hot on the heels of 2012’s stunning LP Longing, a record that no doubt swooned so many fragile hearts, Everything You Do Scares Me continues Tyler’s commentary on his inner turmoil, where sorrow is clearly engrained in every trembling vocal line and overtly minor key chord progression. 

Subject matter of death and the shockwaves it sends through the psyches of loves ones may seem foreboding and somewhat morbid, but Tyler’s sublimely striking musicianship and narratives endowed with plain-speaking humility proves alluring to the ear.  His incredibly personal lyrics, detailing his inability to cry after the death of a friend, suggest shame- his incapacity to react and convey his grief through means deemed as customary obviously tearing at his soul.  He turns to self-deprecation- mocking himself as an “asshole” for his apparent emotional shortcomings. Such world-weary maturity fits the ‘old head on young shoulders’ archetype down to a tee, Tyler’s sensitive and acute observations on the process of grief and sadness belying his relative youth.

Side A- ‘Year Of The Snake’, is held together by sulkily strummed minor chords and a chiming lead guitar reminiscent of American Football’s melancholic and mellow emo digressions. Allusions to Brand New are cemented through a sublime dynamism, Tyler masterfully taking the song to an exultant crescendo where he frees himself of much of the measured restraint, his vocal delivery growing in intensity until it begins to break and fragment. A painfully simple four-note riff brings the track to a dignified and sullen conclusion.  

‘I Was Wrong’ employs a more driving rhythmic urgency yet sacrifices none of the subtly invoked gloom that lurks over both of these tracks, inflicting every melody and vocal nuance with a forlorn bleakness and the feeling of omnipresent grey skies . The weaker of the two songs, the track is no less affecting in its conveyance of emotion but remains less aurally intriguing than the A-side.   

Everything You Do Scares Me is a beautiful continuation of Tyler’s growing body of work, his playing branching out and becoming more refined. Anyone with a love for American Football’s seminal self-titled album or indeed the sombre emo of the 90’s will surely fall for Tyler’s inviting croon and sumptuous musicality.  A perfect soundtrack to accentuate bouts of melancholy.      

Originally from Two Beats Off

Sep 13
Tyler Daniel Bean - Everything You Do Scares Me E.P