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Arcade Fire – Reflektor review

It felt like only yesterday I was watching my very own indie band grow into a mainstream giant with winning the album of the year award at the Grammy’s. Little did I know that they were already selling hugely even before their ultimate award. It didn’t bother me that they became huge, but my only worry lied within the single question, will this change their musical chemistry? I kept reminding myself that the most successful indie band of the current century knew their roots better than any music marketer and I wouldn’t have to fear. Fast forward to the present, and here we are. Presented with the idea that has slowly drifted my mind, Reflektor is born.

This is Arcade Fire’s fourth album, following a conjunction of extremely successful and great albums, the monster band hopes to continue this trend. The most noticeable difference lies not only within the sound, but the length of the album. Reflektor isn’t at the same length of The Knife’s new album, but it clocks in at 85 minutes and it sure feels like that length. These 13 songs can drag on and on, and that has to do with producer, James Murphy, who has a noticeable impact in the new sound of Arcade Fire.

Before I go any further, let me note that many previous fans will be pissed. And when I mean pissed, I mean ‘throwing their iPods/laptops/cd players/cars/trucks/phonographs/people’ against a wall because it isn’t the “Arcade Fire I fell in love with”. This is true. The secret to the success of the band lies within the thematic connection found in their music. On Reflektor, it’s not as apparent. These tracks aren’t as lyrically driven, With the only song that has that signature sound being “We Exist”. It might get some hopes up to fans, but don’t expect that same feeling from the rest of the tracks.

Now let’s bring up the important facts to this album. It’s 85 minutes, so it’s categorized as a double length LP. Does it feel long? Yes. Is that a good thing? Maybe. My first listen was exciting, but it was a grind when I finished the first side of it. Getting myself to listen to the second side was a challenge, but that’s where I really enjoyed myself. While I liked the first half, 5 of the 6 songs have a repetitive drum track that just tore me to shreds by the end of it.

When “Joan of Arc” came in I felt almost saved by the overproduction of James Murphy. It’s noticeably different, and reminds me of a ‘Berlin Trilogy’ Bowie track. The second side is longer, but I found it much more bearable. I don’t think that’s the right word I want to use, because it sounds like I don’t enjoy it, but the first few listens to this album didn’t bring the best out of me. I finally sat in my room with the lights off and tried to really listen to it, but even then it was hard to separate the thought of Funeral. I would say this is Arcade Fire’s The King Of Limbs. It’ll be it’s misunderstood masterpiece that will be picked up in years to come. I found tracks like “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” to be amazing. It’s Beatles influenced melody was super enjoyable. Following that was the post-punk “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)”. That was my favourite song on my first listen, primarily because of the distorted opening riff which took the heat off the heavy dance tracks.

The single “Reflektor” was misplaced hugely as the opening track. I felt the need to say it, because I truly feel like it could create an amazing climax to the album, but instead many listeners will wonder where the rest of the magic went. “It went to the second half,” I’d tell them. If the average music listener can sit through until “Afterlife”, they’ll think the three years was worth the wait. Now I’ve given this album some heavy flack, but I did end up enjoying most of the album. The 11 minute closer of ambiance was super pretentious, and the opening riff on “Porno” really does sound like a B-grade porno (What are you trying to tell us Win?), but Arcade Fire hits most of the marks on this album. To be honest, I need more time with this album, but I’m unable to write a review in 2 months and explain how I feel about this. Reflektor is the ultimate “Grower Of The Year”, but right now, It’s a hard-to-digest double album full of potential magic.

 

 

 

7.5/10

 

Arcade Fire release yet another trailer

As the date draws nearer to the ultimate release for Reflektor, Arcade Fire seamlessly excite fans again with another trailer. Since appearing at performances like the YouTube’s Music Awards, and the Bridge School Benefit Show, they’ll perform on “The Colbert Report” October 21st. Expect (or hope) to hear some new tracks. The band continues to hold us on a string.

Nonethless, view the cryptic and beautiful trailer below:

 

Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven

For the past three weeks, I’ve attempted to write this review about five times with the same events happening. First, I create a strong opening line that describes my feeling about the album, followed by a point that talks about the artist, but by the time I get around to actually describing why I feel that way about the music, I cannot discover the words I want to use. Claustrophobic? Spacey? Droning? Jagged? It just goes to show how professional and experienced I am at this. When I think I have it all together, I’m thrown a curve ball in the shape of R Plus Seven and my confidence is shot completely. Not to worry! This time I’ll finish my thought before I’m stolen the words.

Daniel Lopatin is a Brooklyn-based experimental musician, who goes by the name Oneohtrix Point Never when recording his.. music. Now Lopatin is renown in the music world for really pushing the boundaries, not by appropriateness, or by outrageous stunts, but by releasing just plain odd music that sells quite well for an indie artist. I can recall my first review ever being the 2011 album, Replica, and I wasn’t quite sure if I enjoyed it or not. I mean, I gave it a good review, but for a long time I wasn’t convinced that what I was listening was music. Now Lopatin isn’t the most experimental musician out there, but he definitely creates amazing patchworks with odd layouts.

R Plus Seven is Lopatin’s fourth record, and it utilizes a lot of plunderphonics from Replica, but with the unexpectedness of Returnal. What’s so interesting about R Plus Seven is how its Lopatin’s oddest album yet, but also the catchiest. Now catchy doesn’t go hand in hand with OPN, but hear me out. On the opening, “Boring Angel”, a rumbling organ note is held until, yes you read correctly, a steady click from the snare head. Another is how the climax of “Still Life” actually follows hook with synth-based riff of chords. “Zebra” also opens with a staccato of high pitched notes that continue to build and layer. I can run these examples for ages, but that’s the excitement behind this album. It catches you off guard even if you think you know what’s about to happen. Think Walter White’s mind in music.

I would say R Plus Seven is the perfect soundtrack for Breaking Bad’s final season. It has the eeriness of the dark and dreary moments, as well as the flourishing, somewhat happy(er?) scenes. I would never describe Lopatin’s music as happy, but it’s content, much like Vince Gilligan’s intention with his epic show. The way his music on this album shifts from quietly chugging along on a long, droning note and immediately jumps into a whole new sound is frightening. At points (“Along”), it can be hard to handle. I get so attached to the one repeating sound that I feel taken advantage of when Lopatin just dumps a great idea and moves on. It took many listens to realize that R Plus Seven has many dynamics and layers to it.

Now I completely understand when I get a comment that says, “This is hipster shit”. I get it. I don’t think I fully grasp what Lopatin’s intentions are with R Plus Seven. It’s uneasy, awkward, aggravated, at points pure noise, but what draws me back time and time again is the unique feeling of home and warmth from his nostalgic sounds. Lopatin understands himself better than we do, and we just have to deal with it. I feel that he doesn’t expect us, nor does he want us to think ‘I like your music because I know what its like’ because we don’t. We all have different experiences, and Lopatin is providing us the soundtrack to assist with them.

 

 

7.8

Touché Amoré – Is Survived By

There’s a psychological effect associated with heavier genres of music. Hearing aggressive, violent, and even disturbing noises isn’t as appealing as associating other senses with the same handful of adjectives. While listening to Touché Amoré’s new album, Is Survived By, my computer crashed on three separate occasions as soon as I began the album. Now many would tell me just to buy a new computer, and I do agree, mine is shit, but a lot of listeners do this with hardcore or post-hardcore music. We don’t give it a chance, resulting in missing out in many great albums.

Touché Amoré is an LA post-hardcore band that is part of the self-proclaimed “The Wave”, which is a grouping  of 21st century bands in the genre. Along with La Dispute and Defeater, to name the popular few, they’ve been noted as a band that has brought back screamo and hardcore to large audience. Is Survived By is their third album, and it’s also their longest, which is something to note because their past releases don’t even hit 20 minutes. Is Surived By reaches an astonishing 29 minutes *GASP*, and the ride of melodic, post-hardcore doesn’t stop through the entire listen.

What caught my attention with the band early on is how on every release, they seem to experiment with many ideas throughout an album. Short blips of songs will smash through seconds of sound, and then that’s that. On this release, the band has taken a different approach. Although songs never exactly reach La Dispute lengths, they make an effort to add traditional song structure to a few tracks. “Social Caterpillar”, “Non Fiction”, and “Is Survived By” are the only three tracks to reach three minutes (how fitting). These serve as climaxes to the albums closer, but many of these blasts of tracks are actually many ideas separated into different tracks for the sake of packaging.

What makes Is Survived By so different compared to past releases is how the band jolts from song to song, but the flow of the album never strays. These tracks will pass, but only until the album hits stop do I realize that it’s finished. Jeremy Bolm’s screams are stronger than ever. The tension between every chord progression and drum hit is thick and heavy. The band creates such a claustrophobic atmosphere that it’s difficult to not try and break your way out. These songs aren’t just melodic, they stick with you. I found myself hitting repeat almost immediately as the album ended. After my many listens in one sitting, I would sit and digest what I just experienced. It’s the sound of a band at the top of their game.

Few bands can create exciting albums that slip under the radar to the public. Touché Amoré release solid albums time and time again, but they’ve yet to reach the pinnacle of potential. Is Survived By is another prime example of an amazing hardcore release that should be honored by every music buff on their blogs and websites. That’s exactly why I love writing these reviews.

 

8.8/10

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.

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

NIN-Hesitation-Marks

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!

 

Arcade Fire announce date for new album

The rumours are true, Arcade Fire have announced their new album with a release date. The title is unofficial so far, but we know the date will be October 29th. They causally responded to a fan on twitter, then out of the blue announced the date,

“Thanks. Our new album will be out October 29th”

This is exciting news because of how critically-acclaimed their three previous albums were, and the whole usage of the abandoned church for recording has finally came into play. Stay tuned for more details.

 

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Official Video) from City Slang on Vimeo.

M.I.A. releases new song, set to release new album

On the brink of a new album, M.I.A. has released the single, “Bring The Noize”. The new release, titled MATANGI, is a follow-up to the 2010 album, Maya. The album failed to reach the success of the great Kala, which was released another three years earlier in 2007 (“Paper Planes” anyone?). The multi-talented British artist seems to have dabbed her toes in every genre surrounding a drum machine, and she kills it for the most part.

The song is aggressive from the get-go, and it blends traditional Middle-Eastern singing with a few drones. That’s before the song breaks into a chopped and jumpy combination of vocal splices. She uses her voice are a drum beat that oddly reminds me the “Otis” off of Watch The Throne last year. The difference is that this song is way closer to a trap song than “Otis”.

Her rapping is quite typical, but in M.I.A. fashion. She touches on telling people off, her heritage, and how far she has come. Most of the time I have to laugh at musicians when they mention this, but she has my fullest respect when she talks about her success. Kala and Maya are chart toppers, and a British Female with Tamil decent who has broken into the American music market is remarkable. I’ll give you an idea to how difficult that is, and the only other successful person of Tamil decent in American entertainment is Aziz Ansari. Huge respect for M.I.A.

Her videos as well is semi-controversial. She makes light of a few topics like religion, and life in India, but in a way that’s respectable. Her contrast between the outside of the venue with it’s dusty and bleak roads compared to the indoor club is quite creative. I’ve always enjoyed the cultural aspect behind M.I.A. videos, and even if in the end they’re for pure entertainment, I like to think there’s a deeper meaning behind them.

M.I.A. always has a few tricks up her sleeve, with a great closer that separates itself from the rest of the track. It’s slower, but still retains the energy found in the hard hitting chorus and verses. The gold background of the music video gives me full reason to believe that it’s a section that will lead into another track. Not to mention it’s one of the best parts of the song. It’s cut time beat of the drum is so minimal, but it adds the effect of the song growing even if it’s not. The native Indian influence that is found on so many M.I.A. tracks shines again on the closing section of the song.

It’s reasons like this that makes 2013 such a great year so far. Knowing that new M.I.A. is coming gets me fired up for the summer, and fall, and winter. Make that the whole year. Make that all of 2013, and the albums released before today. So much music has come out this year that stands out to me, it’s a shame knowing that 2014 is around the corner. Who knows, maybe a new Avalanches album could be in the works? Nonetheless, check out “Bring The Noize” below.

 

Kanye West – Yeezus Review

There’s a lot to mention leading up to the sixth album released by the American rapper, Kanye West. The SNL performance, the birth of his first child, the world wide projections, the album artwork. West’s mind is all over the place. I’d also like to remind the public the importance of the album title itself; Yeezus. As a play on words with ‘Jesus’, he’s referring to himself as the holiest, the highest, the greatest, and the meaning to life. It seems his messiah effect has gotten hugely out of hand, but that also plays a large role in his musical success as well. This album is the formal follow-up to the amazing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which I’d argue is one the greatest contemporary releases ever.

How do you start a review to an album that is rumored to not even be finished? That’s the difficulty with West’s music because there’s always a trick up his sleeve. The album opens with the hard-hitting “On Sight”, which sounds oddly enough like “Come Up and Get Me” by Death Grips. There’s an experimental side to Kanye’s music, and it’s showed here. The distorted bass lines and minimalist structure is signature Rick Rubin style, who stepped up last minute to give these songs that boost of sound. The renown style of minimalism can be found on the amazing track, “Black Skinhead”, and the unique “New Slaves”.

Both of these tracks were in the polarizing SNL performance, and the sound is remarkably different. “New Slaves” sounds the same, but the atmosphere is completely different. The SNL was quite darker and had more tension, while the album version is more prominent with the bass, and there is more of a dynamic shift when the chorus kicks in. “Black Skinhead” definitely feels toned down on the album, which disappointed me hugely. Nonetheless, both songs are highlights on the album thanks to the production by Daft Punk. Even the features by artists like Justin Vernon, Hudson Mohawke, Frank Ocean, and Chief Keef bring a new dynamic to these songs.

Tracks like “Hold My Liquor” and ‘Blood On The Leaves” feel like aggressive versions of songs on his 2008 album, 808′s & Heartbreak. These songs are remarkably better than 808′s, but compared to MBDTF, I feel cheated with them. They don’t have the same creativeness and watchful eye that was on the previous album. There isn’t amount of carefulness put into this album. It almost feels rushed, with a lot of the tracks jumping into one another without any sort of connections.

The song that I enjoyed the most out of any other’s off Yeezus was “Bound 2″. The sample is grade-A typical Kanye, and he kills it lyrically, unlike a lot of songs off this album. What this song does is sum up the entire album up into 3 minutes and 49 seconds. It’s disjointed, melodic, odd, minimal, feels unfinished, and has the most abrupt ending to any album I’ve heard this year. Like the album cover, maybe that’s the point. All there is to the cover is a red rectangular sticker that keeps the album closed. Once broken to listen to the CD, there’s nothing but a blank cover. Kanye leaves it up to us to decide what we think of the music, but more importantly, it shows that he doesn’t care about any outsiders opinion on him. In an interview with The New York Times, he calls himself an outsider as well. I truly get that aspect on Yeezus.

At 40 minutes and 10 tracks, there is no filler found on this album. Before I knew it started, the album was already over. That’s what Kanye West was going for on Yeezus. He’s a man I’ll never understand, but I respect for his ability to stay on top of an industry that eats artists alive. Yeezus is no My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but it’s an album that will definitely garner a large number of new listeners because of the change in sound compared to older releases. It’s darker, more aggressive, and it’s extremely minimal sound perfected by Rick Rubin is very enjoyable throughout the album. Sadly, tracks like “Hold My Liquor”, “Blood On The Leaves”, and “Guilt Trip” don’t hold up to the bar set by the early songs on the album. The unconventional structure can’t compete against the inconsistency of Yeezus. The highest amount of respect goes out to Kanye for pushing the boundaries, but sadly, the album falls short of the expectations I had. That being said, this is a follow up to the amazing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. If another artist released this album, it be highly praised, but that means there must be another Kanye West, and we all know there’s only one in the world.

 

Here’s a link to the SNL performance of ‘Black Skinhead”: 

Same for “New Slaves”: 

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