Tag Archives: review

Bloc Party – Four (2012)

23 Oct

[Album: Four]
[Label: Frenchkiss / 2012]
[Rating: 7.2]

Much like past Bloc Party efforts, Four polarizing in its ambition. It’s riddled by the split persona of rockstar and indie pop idol. Trying to satisfy both needs, the band often fall short of satisfying either.

Continually, Bloc Party aim for anthemic, stadium-ready rock songs that never seem to capture the pop-glossed buoyancy of Silent Alarm (re: Banquet and Helicopter). Instead, their efforts seem to suffer from a muddy dissonance, lacking in the shimmering pop appeal found on Silent Alarm. That said, where Bloc Party continually make it seem easy, and where they are subsequently most infectious, is when they embrace the melodic centerpiece that is Kele Okereke’s voice. This becomes exceedingly clear on Four.

Their first three records embraced this formula to an extent (re: This Modern Love, On, Signs) – but on Four the band finds particular infectious fulfillment. Which is why it’s so disappointing that the album’s highlights ‘The Healing, ‘VALIS’, and ‘Truth’ are surrounded by noise-rock-ear-shitters* like ‘Kettling’ and ‘We Are Not Good People’. (*not official English)

And yet, when you hear the four-four thumping break-in on ‘Truth’, you feel forgiveness for the noisy expression of surrounding filler – because they continue to doing something right. So take what you can, and enjoy the brilliance while it lasts. Just make sure to listen at a reasonable volume, because you’re never sure whether you’ll be hearing ear-filling bliss or stool-induced cacophony.

P.S. The vibe on The Healing reminded me of an old favorite ‘Dictionary’ by Belgian duo The Go Find. Get into it.

M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)

26 Oct

[Album: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming]
[Label: Mute US / 2011]
[Rating: 8.4]

The ticking of a clock, the tapping of a shoe, the dialogue of irrelevant conversations slowly blurring into a collective murmur. Staring into nothing, but thinking about everything. It’s a feeling of passive surrender. A feeling of equilibrium. And, more than ever before, it’s a feeling that M83 inspires on “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”.

Some like to label it shoegaze, others dreampop – whatever you want to call it, it’s good.

With 22 songs running 74 minutes, this thing is big (like Wayne explains). Which seems fitting considering its title.

To try and compare this album with past efforts by M83 would be pointless. It holds the grandeur, the scope and the lyrical absurdities of adolescent delusion we’ve come to expect – but never has it been done with such depth. Every song is filled with innumerable intricacies that work to immerse you within each moment. Think Sigur Ros’ “Festival” or Phoenix’s “Love Like a Sunset”. Again, it’s big.

“Intro” sets the bar for things to come. Pulsing synths, weightless pads, and contrasting declarations from Zola Jesus and Anthony Gonzalez. Drums become fireworks, ears become sponges. Welcome to “Hurry Up, Were Dreaming”.

If there’s one major thing to note from “Intro”, it’s that Gonzalez’s vocals have taken a front seat. Past presence of his voice was characterized by low, tender whispers. Now, we often hear Gonzalez with a sense of purpose, which warrants his theatrics on ballads like “Wait” and “My Tears Are Becoming A Sea” – songs that draw resemblance to Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and Death Cab’s “Different Names for the Same Thing”.

It’s songs like these these that make this album special. They’re not the ones you’re first drawn to; instead, they’re the ones you rediscover 6 months later. The ones where you stumble across a new riff or a new lyric. The ones that make you fall in love with this album all over again.

What keeps you coming back, however, are the singles. That constant craving for indie pop bliss, left on your tongue by bands like Phoenix and Passion Pit, is satisfied with songs like “Midnight City” and “Reunion”. They’re catchy, upbeat, and they’re the crux of the album. When the sax solo of “Midnight City” breaks in, M83 has never sounded so full.

Holding it all together are the interstitial tracks like “Where the Boats Go”, “Another Wave From You”, and “Fountains”. Being a double album, “Hurry Up” was bound to have fluff. Fluff that many would argue is simply wasted time. But this album is about being drawn in. We interpret just as much here from what is not being said. The lack of pop structure, the use of ambiance, and the fluidity of transition is what brings you to a state of stasis. It’s these songs that envelop you within the world of “Hurry Up.”

It’s not all so serious though. There is a song about a magic frog. “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” follows the narrative of a young girl and a “very special frog”. More than anything, it highlights Gonzalez’s obsession with youth. Listen, and try not smiling.

Admittedly, some songs quickly gain “skip” status. “Claudia Lewis” and “OK Pal” are pretty vintage 80’s pop, and the novelty fades fast. With 22 songs, there’s bound to be a few that don’t get your blood flowing.

That being said, it’s easy to pick and choose your favorites after a full listen through, which says something about the versatility of “Hurry Up” as a whole. Put it on shuffle and nothing seems out of place. Put “Midnight City” on a playlist, and constantly be reminded of how special it is. The opaque nature of the album allows for this.

And so, it’s hard not to be inspired by M83’s enthusiasm. There’s a reason for the interplay between the pop fueled singles and the idiosyncratic filler: Gonzalez wants us to focus on how the beauty of boundless imaginings are defined by the minute details of our lives. I think that’s really important. For an album that’s centered around dreams, Gonzalez invites interpretation. Take what you want. Or just listen to the song about the frog.

-Dave Hayes: October 26, 2011

M83 – Intro (ft Zola Jesus):

M83 – Midnight City:

Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History (2010)

27 Mar

[Album: Tourist History]
[Label: Kitsuné Music / 2010]
[Rating: 8.8]

Picture yourself driving faster than the speed of light through a desert with your head out the sun roof, dancing. The bass is the only thing you hear coming from the car, but the bass seems to be enough to force your body to flail wildly, trying to stay in sync. You duck your head back into the car, and hear high-pitched guitar riffs and you ask yourself “is this Bloc Party? Death Cab For Cutie? Maritime?” No. This is Two Door Cinema Club, and although their sound has obviously been influenced by bands such as Death Cab and Bloc Party, it is important to remember it has only been influenced – not copied.

The album should be looked at like you would look at Serena Williams: the front is beefed up and can still pack a punch, but the backside is where all the power comes from. “Cigarettes in the Theatre” is an opener; there is no question about that. It sets the scene for the rest of the album however, throwing heavy reverb, twangy high pitched guitars, and cowbell at you within the first 30 seconds. Then it breaks into a catchy intro that calls back to a Coldplay’s “Politik”. This is essentially the formula for TDCC: beatpacked, highpitched, punchy, and danceable tunes, that give you a few slow segments to catch your breath.

Only when you reach “Do You Want It All”, does the album really start rolling. Pushing towards the two purest gems on the album “Undercover Martyn” and “What You Know.” The journey to these two songs is not painful, however, and you certainly will not be skipping over “I Can Talk” or “Something Good Can Work” in order to get to them.

Criticism from the album has been focused around the structure of the album. Short, punchy, pop songs that all seem to follow a set structure. It seems fitting then that the band is touring with Phoenix, a band who took this formula, mastered it, and crafted it into something much deeper.

Maybe the boys in TDCC will take a few notes from Phoenix and follow suite on their next album, creating their own sound. For now I’ll enjoy this brilliant debut, because although the structure is poppy, jangly and short – it works.

-Dave, March 27, 2010

Something Good Can Work:

Undercover Martyn:

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