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Darkside – Psychic review

When a musician decides to form a group or duo after an exciting career, or even start a side project, it’s practically impossible to not compare it to the works they’ve done. We all thought of it when you read this. Whether it’s Dave Grohl in Foo Fighters, or Thom Yorke in Atoms for Peace, the original work lingers with the artist. Nicolas Jaar was somebody I didn’t believe would survive in the destructive business of music. After a solid 2011 release with Space Is Only Noise, I did not believe it could be replicated, nor should be as it would feel too forced. Oddly enough, during this time frame Jaar was working on another project with fellow touring guitarist, Dave Herrington, and they formed the duo Darkside. Combining the electronic tension of Jaar’s studio work with the organic sounds found in the live performances, they eased their way through recording the finally released Psychic album.

I usually stay away from reading reviews until I have my own opinion, but I stumbled across a mixture of positive and negative. I feel as though this album has been misjudged by both sides. One critic said it resembled the unasked question of, “What does Nicolas Jaar and Eric Clapton sound like together?” To me, that’s a dumb comment. I can see the resemblance, but I would honestly be intrigued into what the combo would sound like. Psychic does branch off from the usual spectrum Jaar likes to take, but the eerie and tense atmosphere sticks with the listener. The monster opener, “Golden Arrow”, clocks in at just under 12 minutes. There’s more excitement in these 12 minutes than the 46 in Space Is Only Noise. While comparable, Psychic could appeal to a different audience that wasn’t content with the prior release by Jaar.

These eight tracks have their distinct moments that clearly separate one from another. The minute and a half lingerer “Sitra” is completely different from the following track, “Heart”. They fit together like a puzzle piece, but the following song reminds me of an abstract brit-pop tune. The addition to Herrington’s guitar allows for these odd, but compelling moments to flow smoothly. At the core, these are electronic dance tracks, but from the listeners perspective, they come across as very experimental at times. The structure to them, although quite simple, is hidden by Jaar’s need to keep the beat slower. Some songs, like the closer “Metatron”, fall into ambient territory. That’s the beauty of Jaar’s experimental side. He’s able to flip the listeners perspective of genres and how they fit together.

Going back to the Clapton comment, I hear it the more I listen, but still I wouldn’t consider it bad. Psychic does embrace Herrington’s bluesy guitar licks, but they don’t create a blues feel. I have more of a Jon Hopkin’s Immunity sound in mind. That’s probably due to the fact that both albums are released in 2013 and they have eight tracks. Besides that, there’s really nothing in common. What Psychic does carry that surprised me is Tom Wait vocals that aren’t sung by the man himself. At first, it was hard to swallow these raspy vocals, but the more I listen, the more I understand how it pieces together with the ‘blues’ combination.

What captures my attention with each listen is the other strange additions that Jaar included. I feel like there are many different versions of songs that were made over the two years it took to record. Should there be more guitar? Is the beat hidden enough? Do these vocals sound like noise enough? I bet none of these questions were asked, but I began to think about how these two completely different musicians came to a solid conclusion about their contributions to Psychic. Up front, it sounds like a Nicolas Jaar album. Behind the scenes it feels like Dave Herrington may have had more of an influence. There’s multiple ways to look at this album, whether you hear the blues or the electronics, they oddly fit together nicely to create an album that will be more enjoyable as time went on. Even I was hesitant with my first listen.

8.3/10

The National are to appear on “Catching Fire” Soundtrack

A movie about killing children in an apocalyptic world can’t fit any better to The National’s gloomy lyrics. Maybe I’m taking the band’s lyrical meaning differently than what they intended to have, but it could work out. They’ve announced that the group wrote a song for the new Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, which is set to hit theaters November 22nd. Titled “Lean”, lead vocalist Matt Berninger told NME that their original title was ‘too dark’ for the movie.

“The song almost didn’t make it because it was too dark for The Hunger Games soundtrack, which I thought was sort of funny because it’s about killing kids. I don’t know how a song can be darker than that. So we had to change the name of the song; I actually like the name ‘Lean.’… You know, I get it. It was a really fun project… It was a cool change from how we normally work on things, to write something for something else. It was kind of a pressure release thing, and it was fun.”

For the record, the original title was “Dying Is Easy”. Oddly enough, it doesn’t feel out of the ordinary for The National’s discography. Watch their video for “Graceless” below.

Typhoon – White Lighter

Many music enthusiasts have that one ‘personal’ band which they take pride in knowing. It’s the hipster culture of modern music, but the then again there’s always been pretentious music snobs. A band I’ve been following since their beginnings is a renown Portland indie rock, indie pop band named Typhoon. The monster 11 piece orchestra group has masked the airwaves with their unique flowing masterpieces. Their 2010 album, Hunger & Thirst, is an epic album that compares to Arcade Fire’s Funeral except without the reception from critics. White Lighter was released back on August 20th, but I’ve decided to take some time to really let this album sink in.

Before listening to this album, I was super skeptical. It’s only natural to assume that a follow-up album can’t match it’s predecessor, but I was completely false. To sum up this review, White Lighter is brilliant on so many levels. From the beginning, Typhoon gives listeners a glimpse of what to expect for the album with “Artificial Light”. The beautiful notes chime away until the signature voice of Kyle Morton, who should be watched for in years to become.

Typhoon has a quasi-post-rock sound going on, as their dynamic flows so smoothly from song to song. “Young Fathers” is a highlight to album, but it’s very noticeable that this song does have a single feel. No other song had that on Hunger & Thirst, but what makes this album better is how it stays to a steady theme. Kyle Morton suffered from a Lyme Disease as a child, which almost killed him and the concept of desperation and mortality surrounds White Lighter heavily. These tracks are like Mortan’s deathbed prayers, but luckily he’s made it through to put it into wonderful songs.

The sound of desperation is perfected on “Possible Deaths”. The steady kick drum and wonderful hook displays a vivid image that the listener can morph, but everyone will all have the similar theme. Just such great ideas are shaped into amazing manipulation of emotion in these 46 minutes of expression. “Dreams of Cannibalism” follows a standard Typhoon outline, but it’s on par with “Belly of the Cave” for best Typhoon track. Mortan lays down the best example of songwriting the album’s heard on the final two stanza’s with, “I fled the country
I thought I’d leave this behind / but I built the same damn house / on every acre I could find / And I tried to fake my own death just to shake the devils from my mind.” It’s simply magic what they put together.

What get’s me after every Typhoon release is the energy and strength of every song they put out. “One Hundred Years” starts with a blaring horn section over top intense drums. “Common Sentiments” feels more like a swaying rock track, but the originally they spin into it creates such a strong, beautiful aesthetic. What all these songs have in common is amazing instrumentation. Oh, how Typhoon perfects the crescendos! I cannot describe into words the true beauty of these dynamics. White Lighter is an album that blew me out of my chair. Although I should have expected to hear something amazing, I’m constantly amazed by Typhoon’s ability to create music. The melodies, the lyrics, the chemistry between members, the instrumentation, the songs! It’s all here packed into one album that sadly doesn’t stand out in record sales. Do yourself a favor and listen immediately. You won’t regret it.

 

9.4

What to expect from Arcade Fire on Reflektor

So as the dust has sort of settled with the release of the new single, “Reflektor”, I can honestly say I enjoyed it a lot. At first, I hated it. Then, I disliked it. Following that I accepted in myself that it’s a great track. The shift in sound is very different compared to the past Arcade Fire sound, but let’s face it, when a band wins a Grammy for album of the year, are they ever the same? The band has arguably become even more experimental with Reflektor as the rumors grow. Yet, as everyone knows, nothing is for sure until the album is released. Here’s what you should expect following the release of Reflektor on October 29th:

Double Album:

Lead vocalist, Win Butler, has announced that Reflektor will be a double album, marking longer tracks, and an overall gigantic collection of songs. He also noted that the two sides will present two distinct vibes. The question is, what will the sides sound like? Well for one, Arcade Fire has never been afraid to touch on themes like nostalgia, growing up, questioning life, so forth on the “meaning of life” metaphors. The way it will translate into music might be a tough call at this point, but never the less it’ll be interesting to see.

LCD Sound-alike:

This is a tough call right now, but as the first single dropped it seems like an appropriate gesture. The DFA records and LCD Soundsystem founder, James Murphy, is producing Reflektor, so don’t be surprised to hear his influence on these songs. I apologize in advance if anyone despises LCD Soundsystem, but I wonder then why anyone would hate such a great band. “Reflektor” was chock full of the signature groovy, steady beat that Murphy does perfectly, but on a double album will it be enough to hold up?

Featured Artists:

Bowie has already confirmed that, in fact, it was him on the band’s first single. Not surprising in the least as he’s already cited himself as a fan since Funeral‘s release way back in 2004. Now the question is who’s next? Many musicians today agree that Arcade Fire will be held as the original Indie bands of the 21st century, and that could open many doors to other musicians for appearances on songs. The band was spotted on LCD Soundsystem’s documentary, Shut Up and Play The Hits, along side The National and Sufjan Stevens. The potential for opportunities is enormous, but how amazing would that combination be? Add Owen Pallet into the mix, and that’s a guarantee for an award somewhere.

Rising High or Falling Fast:

The band has only grown since it’s debut, and although fans recite Funeral as the ultimate winner, it’s hard for the music industry to argue with the biggest Grammy award. They’ve influenced music forever, won every award imaginable by many publications, and have the album of the year award by the Grammy’s as an indie band under their belt, but is there room to grow? Arcade Fire has extremely high expectations to meet, considering their only three albums in, yet have been consistent since their beginnings. Reflektor so far is very promising, but with 8 minutes in, and possibly 70+ to go on the double album, should we lower our expectations?

Everything is up for debate until the release of Reflektor. The band’s influence on music only proves that this is one of the most anticipated releases of year, and decade following The Suburbs, which reserved them a spot in indie music history for breaking down barriers of independent music. Reflektor comes out October 29th, and you can watch the video for the single of the same name below.

Prepare yourself for Arcade Fire’s new single

The time has come. I can finally wear my Arcade Fire shirt with pride as they’re now relevant to everyone who’s listened to music past 2007. The Grammy award winners, and indie icons have announced a new single, along with a video that will be dropping on Monday (It fits the 9/9 9PM scheme). Even from the trailer, I’m very excited to see what they do, as the 40 seconds of sound they release is total kick-ass. Relfektor is supposed to drop Octobert 29th, and you can view the trailer below.

 

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

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There’s a strong sense of invincibility that surrounds Nine Inch Nails. The music transcends masses of the public and have inspired many future musicians to break new grounds. Trent Reznor, the mastermind behind the rotating lineup of industrial superstars, is often thought of as a god in modern music. He is the main man to bring industrial rock into the light of day, and then progressed the genre to it’s own macro of categories.

Hesitation Marks is the eighth studio album released by the band, and is remarkably different compared to the past releases of albums. Every album after The Fragile has yet to match the critics expectations of a ‘great album’, as most have received mixed reviews. You could argue that critics reviews are utter shit (including mine), and reason that everyone has their own opinion, but the fact is that no album has been able to make the same impact as The Downward Spiral. The only other album that touched on it’s greatness after was The Fragile, but even that assumption is a tad too far. Reznor feels genuinely convinced that he’s putting out a solid album, and has the same motivation he had in 1994 (the same year as The Downward Spiral).

What’s noticeably different from the get-go is that this album doesn’t have the same aggressiveness as past albums, but instead feels catchier and accessible. “Copy of A” is the first full-length track and is one of the weaker songs released. The instrumental is actually quite upbeat and groovy, but Reznor’s repeating vocals is what killed the track for me. It feels like a manufactured single for first-time Nine Inch Nail listeners, which severely disappointed me. “Came Back Haunted” is more what I expected from this album. The classic choppy and static drum machine blends with Reznor’s gripping vocals extremely well. Everything about this track is just as easy to listen to as “Copy of A”, but it’s plain better. The song just has that NIN sound that made them stand out in the 90′s.

There are a slew of tracks that feel pulled from older albums released by NIN. “Find My Way”, “I Would For You”, and “While I’m Still Here” all feel like they’re taken from The Fragile era. “Dissapointed”, “Running”, and “In Two” feel like they’re possible B-sides for The Downward Spiral, and the rest of the tracks just expand on latest sound of Nine Inch Nails. If I were to sum up the album in two sentences, that would be it. I mean, there’s other things to add in, but Hesitation Marks does feel like a comeback album that’s trying to pick up new fans along the way. Now I have to bring up the song, “Everything”. What the fuck is this? It’s got to be the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard from Nine Inch Nails. It vaguely reminds me of “Truth” by Bloc Party, which is amazing, but to hear this by an angry industrial rock band blows my mind. The song is pretty solid, but the glittery vocals and contrasting chorus just screams ‘pop-punk’. I still haven’t grasped the concept with this song. I probably never will.

The beauty of Nine Inch Nails is they always surprise. The honest truth behind my opinion is that I had very low expectations with Hesitation Marks. The band has been on a negative slope with past releases, but to hear something that doesn’t disappoint is success. Songs like “Various Methods of Escape”, “Running”, and “Came Back Haunted” kept this record afloat. It doesn’t break any new grounds at all (except maybe for a pop song), and doesn’t stand out among the slew of recent albums to be released. That being said, it’s not a bad album in the least. It’s a nice surprise to finally have some good, relevant material by a legendary band.

6.5

Hear the new Nine Inch Nails tracks “Everything” and “Find My Way”

In classic NIN fashion, Trent Reznor has shocked fans once again. As the new album, Hesitation Marks, is about to be released, the band released two more songs to BBC Radio One with a very mixed reception. “Everything”, which was released just about a week ago, resembles the popular rock hits of the 90′s, while “Find My Way” is comparable to Reznor’s side project, How To Destroy Angels. I honestly have no clue how these songs will fit together, even knowing the other two tracks released are extremely different as well. I can see this album being extremely polarizing, much like their double LP, The Fragile. Nonetheless, we won’t know until it’s out, but for now be sure to compare the tracks below and enjoy!

 

No Age – An Object

 

Lot’s happened in 2010. Vampire Weekend’s Contra debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, Jay Reatard died at 29, Pavement reunited for a tour, and Arcade Fire shocked the world with the Album Of The Year at the notorious Grammy’s. That was three years ago, and time has flown quickly. 2010 was also the last year No Age released an LP, titled Everything In Between. It’s still one of my favourites to this day, and has stood the test of time. I was absolutely ecstatic when I heard there would be a follow-up earlier this year, but a sudden spark of guilt took over. It seemed impossible for No Age to go for a hat trick with the amazing Nouns, followed by Everything In Between, and now leading up with An Object. The expectations are extremely high for this DIY-experimental punk duo, but they’ve been known for clutching up.

The entire lead up to this release was very promising. The duo wanted to get extremely close to the records heart, and did so by literally making every album by hand. The packaging, at least was made by the band itself, and the only separation between label and band was the actual pressing of the vinyl records. It shows on the music, as a lot of these tracks are stripped and toned down to represent the experimental side of the band. While always forward thinking on past albums, An Object shows a different side of the band. They use noise to lead tracks, like on the slow-cooker closer “Commerce, Comment, Commence”. The album as a whole is off in a way different direction than what I expected. Even the duration is shorter than Nouns, which clocks in at 30 minutes (An Object is 29 minutes).

From the get-go, “No Ground” doesn’t act much differently than any No Age album, and feels less abrasive until the sudden bass riff that rips apart the track in traditional fashion. It’s a very promising sign for the rest of the album. Following that is the album’s best track, “I Won’t Be Your Generator”, which resembles a Rockabilly riff that shifts into a post-punk influenced track. One of the best and most melodic tracks No Age has released to date. The only track that really sounds like older No Age is the next track, “C’mon Stimmung”, which as a whole is super solid. Lot’s of noise, lot’s of aggression, and would fit in nicely with Nouns. That being said, it doesn’t fit the sound scheme of An Object, and sticks out like a sore thumb against the stripped down and close to heart tracks that are found throughout the album. Oddly enough, it’s even the album’s only single. That just proves how out of the box the band is.

It’s difficult to figure out No Age’s intentions through their music, because of their cryptic sound. It’s not diverse, and even experimentation is hard to hear because they never stray away from their usual aggressive playing style. If I wasn’t told that this album would be different from their others, I wouldn’t have caught on in the first few listens. There’s still the smashing punk rock drum beats and mixture of noise and melody, but it’s more behind the scenes. “Running From A-Go Go” has a straightforward post-punk beat, but the melody and hooks are used in such an abstract way that it took intense listening to appreciate the song. Even the cello riff isn’t as catchy as I expected, but No Age are heading in a different direction. They’re expressing their anti-conformity view points through noise in protest. It’s the real reason behind the complexity of the tracks.

Now calling these songs ‘complex’ might dilute the term. What I intend behind to say is that this album isn’t as appealing as past albums, but still fills that No Age niche. I’ll be the first to admit that I was disappointed with what I heard at first. These tracks felt rushed and uninspired besides the first three, and No Age seemed to have hit a wall. As my listening and commitment to the band won me over and I listened more, the meaning behind An Object came to light. This album isn’t “An Object”, but a piece of art. To most, art means ‘self-expression’, and by that meaning, it is impossible to objectify art without knowing the true meaning. An Object is not like other No Age albums. It is a topic of discussion, a hidden gem in their discography in the future, an album that will be forgotten like many others. For now though, it’s filling the whole that No Age fans will appreciate the most, and I can live with that.

 

7.0

 

Jon Hopkins – Immunity Review

There’s always been a twist with progressive music. Whether metal, jazz, rock, or electronic, the term applies to any one of these genres. The word ‘progressive’ is defined by, “Happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.” I literally Googled the word and found the definition, and that’s what came up. It fits like a puzzle piece perfectly into the concept of music, describing the electronic musician, Jon Hopkins goal with his newest album Immunity.

The English producer has already created a name for himself with a Mercury Prize nomination with singer-songwriter King Creosote in 2011 for Diamond Mine. What’s so interesting about Jon Hopkins is his connections to extremely renown artists, but he’s been able to fly under the radar for the past few years. Already working with Brian Eno, Coldplay, and Imogen Heap, Hopkins has been hiding up until the release of Immunity. His mixture of progressive-electronic and dance music is an art form that blends pretentious listeners with douche-bags. With the opening of “We Disappear”, the semi-soft drum loop resembles a take on a Burial beat, but with more of a traditional dance melody. The synthetic atmosphere glides and takes afloat while the loops jolts along with a steady piano riff. In Jon Hopkins fashion, the track only begins to grow before it reaches a tipping point and spills the structure into a mixing pot of noise.

His handle of sound is like a professional athlete scoring a simple goal. It’s only until we try out shooting or catching for the first time do we give credit to those who make a living off of it. These eight tracks aren’t overly complicated, but creating and meshing the ideas together is the talent. Most all of them carry bass-heavy undertones with a diversity of changes that happen so subtly, it’s hard to pick up on one listen. Think post-rock, but add in electronic affects and a dance atmosphere. That’s not even close to what Immunity is, but it gets the idea across that this is a completely different electronic album compared to others released this year. It resembles The Haxan Cloak’s Excavation in terms of song to song growth. The only track that takes away from this comparison is the beautifully destructive, “Abandoned Window”.

If Hopkins’ time with Imogen Heap taught him anything, it’s that simple means subtle. This track contains strictly piano chords and a slight ambient atmosphere in the background. That’s all it takes to create water works, and it’s nailed here on “Abandoned Window”. The lead into “Form By Firelight” carries the same simplicity, but transforms into a chaotic mess of crashing sounds. Distortion, thumbing bass clicks, clean and crisp keys, all these intense and emotional sounds from different genres blend to create a monstrosity of emotion. It’s overwhelming, and a lot to take in. Hopkins’ pulls on your heart a little and it’s just enough to open up the gate to confronting your emotions. Sad, happy, angry, he will humble you and take you for a journey of outlook.

Maybe I’m looking too deeply past the sounds? Immunity could possibly just be a great progressive-dance album, but it’s the situation you’re in while listening. I also know that Hopkins’ has had a habit of creating lasting impressions. Diamond Mine slipped past a lot of listeners back in 2011, but made it’s way to the Mercury Prize the same year. Immunity proved yet again how the English producer can manipulate emotions with music, letting us use it as a separation from our mediocre and eventful lives, because at the end of the day we all deal with the same problems. Possibly different magnitudes of the problem, but the root behind the feelings is the emotion. Hopkins knows that better than anyone.

 

Stream the full album here: 

Vancouver Folk Music Festival: Sunday

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To close off the festival, we encountered the hottest of the three days. It was like a blast of constant heat over and over again for the daylight hours. Nonetheless, we were able to catch some great morning shows and watch the wonderful main stage performances as well.

We first watched a workshop with the likes of Del Barber, Black Prairie, Martha Dunn, and Jason Burnstick. They went through a round robin phrase of discussing their inspiration from the songs of the flat-lands in Canada. A variety of instruments were used, like Jason Burnstick’s tabletop guitar, and Del Barbers innovative guitar playing.

An artist that stood out and I discovered this weekend was the graceful Mo Kenny. She recently won the SOCAN songwriting award for the track, “Sucker”, and although the song came at a bad place at her life, it was hard to tell she’s ever had a sad moment with her performance. Besides the depressing themes behind her music, she only had smiles whenever a song came to a close. Closing on a cover of Bowie’s “Five Years” proved to me how hard she has worked to get to this position. It’s the brilliance and honesty she portrays that sets her ahead of other performers of the day. 890

After, I went to go to Aidan Knight’s full set performance. Although I’ve already seen him on multiple occasions during the festival, it was this one show that I was waiting to see. Playing with the full band, Aidan Knight (the band) absolutely rocked the short time slot they were given. After a long sound-check, the band rolled on with “Dream Team”, followed by “A Mirror”, and “Singer-Songwriter”. The length of these tracks extended way past their album times, and Aidan was only able to fit in five songs into his hour slot. He closed the set by getting the audience to sing for “Jasper”, which was an obvious favourite, and then got the audience to stand for a personal favourite, “Knitting Something Nice For You”. That track was extremely dynamic compared to the somber version off his debut, Versicolour.

During the main stage performances, two of the performances to me were worth mentioning. The first was from the Irish celtic-folk rock band, The Waterboys. Playing a huge influence on bands/musicians like U2, R.E.M., Eddie Vedder, and The Decemberists, the experience of watching these guys live was brilliant. They were the only group to receive such an applause that they were allowed an encore. “We’re not a folk band, but a rock band. We’re going to play you some rock tunes”, shouted the man behind the group, Mike Scott. It was a grand time of fiddling and rock all into one cohesive dance routine.

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Following the set filled with fusion and indie folk by DeVotchKa, the Dixie Chicks leader took to the stage. Natalie Maines was one of the centerpieces to this year’s folk festival, and she blew all expectations out of the water. It was brilliant to see her with a full band killing it on stage, supporting her new album Mother. She claims it’s rock, not country, but the throwbacks to the Dixie Chicks days with “Not Ready To Make Nice” proves the heart of her is with the band. It was a great way to close off the weekend, and the traditional ‘under the sea’ lanterns set the stage for closure. This weekend showed how a festival can come together and create a wonderful and peaceful atmosphere with great music. That’s the beauty of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

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Be sure to check up for full interviews with Aidan Knight, and Whitehorse

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