“Finding the fluorescence in the junk” are the first words Bradford Cox emits on the opening track, “Neon Junkyard.” In short, it is a broad generalization of Deerhunter’s Monomania. Cox is (and has been) teetering on the edge of sanity, and lucky for us he has turned his latest inner turmoil public via verse chorus verse.
The fuzz-indie rock band from Atlanta is back in true 2013 form to deliver their latest record. After all, the band’s 2010 immaculate album Halcyon Digest is soooo three years ago.
“Back to the Middle” has a dreamy beat set over scruffy guitars. Cox sings, “you broke me and you left these little pieces,” as if on the brink of break down; only to calm himself down by going back to what soothes him…the past.
One moment he is giving us muffles and grunts masked behind sharp guitars and messy drum beats (“Leather Jacket II”), the next straight forward almost cheery garage-rock pop (“Pensacola”). It’s a great spectacle to hear as a complete album. The highs and lows mesh well without sounding contrived.
The title track, “Monomania” makes whatever that one thing that Cox has decided to preoccupy his world almost come to life. It’s chaos. The lyric, “Come on god hear my sick prayer,” is spewed in disheveled voice with an ounce of optimism. It crashes and burns to a beautiful sputter. Very rock and roll.
Phoenix’s 2009 album Wolfgang Amedeus Phoenix was major. It brought the French band to the spotlight. With a headlining spot on pretty much every major festival they rightly keep up the pace with Bankrupt! The title leads you to believe they have depleted their sound after ten years of putting out albums, but that is far from the truth. Sounds have changed from the pure daydream French pop rock to a mass marketed indie band groove that even hipsters still admit they dig. That is how cool these guys are.
If you are weary of their follow up, the opening track “Entertainment” has a kung fu keyboard type riff that will psych you up for the rest of album, even if you don’t want to instantly feel connected. “SOS in Bel Air” is what you expect from Phoenix; peppy, sun time fun vibes. The lyric “Put my name on your list/S.O.S. in Bel Air” is delivered in such a non-assertive whine it makes the song perfect for happy hour induced sing-alongs.
The deep synth hooks mixed with singer Thomas Mars’ low-key croon on “Trying To Be Cool” sounds like the soundtrack to that guy that is actually trying really hard to be cool . How they nailed that sound of suave desperation is beyond me. The album is a cohesive piece, sticking true to that “Phoenix sound”, playing it safe but at the same time delivering something that is genuinely refreshing.
Bonus points for having a track titled, “Drakkar Noir.”
I felt obligated to buy Comedown Machine. It is The Strokes after all. They gave us one of the best albums of the past decade, 2001’s Is This It. Twelve years have passed. Time has aged them from the twentysomethings of NY privilege to adults with wives and kids, but still hanging on to their cool kid status.
With their fifth studio album you do get the Julian Casablancas cool guy laid-back voice and the tight guitar riffs of Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. It’s all there; but it doesn’t sound like them. “Tap Out” is the exception, it opens the album and it’s got that Valensi guitar pick piled on top of the Casablancas nonchalant croon that is their signature sound.
Then things change with “One Way Trigger.” They almost wants to approach an indie dance vibe like Hot Chip or Phoenix, feeling almost inauthentic. They move on to “80s Comedown Machine” a slow paced synth ballad. Followed by the arena rock wannabe jam “50/50” the content is all over the place. Maybe it’s the modern sound approach that throws me off guard. I like it, but it’s not The Strokes. It’s a small let down but also I understand they can’t always sound like the foxy youths they once were. But, I’m still holding out for them to return the simple yet raw rock and roll that made them great.
Matthew Houck is the man behind Phosphorescent. His mix of folk, country and indie rock have been around for ten years but he manages to keep things fresh in his latest release, Muchacho. Houck’s songwriting is at his strongest and it shows.
The opening track of his sixth album is aptly titled “Sun, Arise! (An Invocation, An Introduction).” Choir-like hymn style vocals drift in and out in attempt to captivate your mind and prepare you for what is to come.
“Song for Zula” is a hypnotizing six-minute love song with hints of a sad country song mashed with synth filled heartbreak. Not getting bogged down in desolate love, tracks like “A Charm/ A Blade” brings upbeat hope to the gloomy overtones of the album. “The Quotidian Beasts” is a culmination of all the different emotions that are present on the album – an up and down jam comparable to a My Morning Jacket monster anthem, by the time it is over you are spent. “Sun’s Arising” ends the record the same hymn-like way it began, but with an awareness of closure instead of the welcoming energy that was present in the beginning. Accepting that every sunrise brings a sunset.
Ducktails – The Flower Lane
Is this where Real Estate left off? Is Matthew Mondanile just feeling the void (and killing the vibe)? In short, the answer is no. His latest release, The Flower Lane, has got his lo-fi approach to the sun-kissed indie rock sound that he dominates, but gives us a more chill method. This is his first solo release on Domino records and it definitely has a more grown up vibe than his previous bedroom style LPs. We all got to grow up sometime.
The jazz elements of “Under Cover” are reminiscent of a 70s jam pop, in a Boz Scaggs kind of way. Sneaking in saxophones and piano riffs perfect for a smoky yet slightly sketchy nightclub where hipsters sip cheap wine and puff on American Spirits.
“Timothy Shy” is a brit pop walk along piano romp that reminds of the days when brit pop was a thing. Mondanile reminds me of one of my all time crushes – Graham Coxon of blur…maybe that’s why I dig his jangled fervor of guitar and drums. “Assistant Director” is just a funked out indie jam that shows Mondanile isn’t afraid to let loose.
The female vocal on “Letter of Intent” doesn’t drown out the backing beat that is a foxy melody of drum machine and keyboard love. It’s the stand out track of the album. It is a cohesive attempt; more of a “band” than just a “solo” side project. The shy pop star qualities are still here as in previous albums but with a more confident swagger. I dig it for sure.
Foxygen - We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Sam France’s voice is male dominated, but there is a hint of femininity to it as he introduces us to, “In The Darkness”, the gateway track to rest of Foxygen’s second album, We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. I first thought, oh this is the new MGMT type duo of the year, it being two waif looking twenty-somethings but I think I take that thought back because I like this album more than Oracular Spectacular…
They could have gone the campy uber hipster route quickly but once the second track, ”No Destruction,” chimes in with hints of early ’70s folk rock, you know no silly costumes are needed. There is a feeling that each song was a clash of ideas that was somehow superbly mashed together by the pair. “On Blue Mountain” is a great example. It’s like two different songs put together…a sunny pop piece dissected to include bits of a blues-rock epic jam and it works.
And then there is “San Francisco.” It’s just pure sweet ‘60s mod pop…think early Stones..that just has enough melody to get stuck in your head without driving you crazy. What will get to you is “Shuggie,” not because it’s obnoxious, but because it has a way of stopping you dead in your tracks to attempt to figure out what vibe they were going for. I’m still trying to figure out if I should be happy or sad by the end of that track. The best thing is that they aren’t trying to be the next big thing, they are just two guys who are just having fun with music. Not appearing to take themselves too seriously… but they probably really are.
I like fall because it is cool enough to have two names. Autumn or fall, take your pick, this season changes my music mood to a touch of gloom mixed with optimistic hopes for the new year that is creeping closer with each day. It’s a good thing. Anyways, I tend to skip the sunshine indie pop and switch the pink wine for a hearty red or whiskey for the few months that make up fall. (Winter is just straight champagne and Purple Rain on repeat.) Here are a few tracks from my Autumn/Fall playlist that you should listen to while you pick apples, watch the leaves change colors or just while you sit on you couch in you snuggie watching the Food Network on mute.
Playground Love - Air
Autumn Sweater - Yo La Tengo
The Ballad of El Goodo - Big Star
Where Is My Mind? - Pixies
Say It Ain’t So - Weezer
The World At Large - Modest Mouse
Beetlebum - Blur
Green Aisles - Real Estate
Random Rules - Silver Jews
Montezuma - Fleet Foxes
Walk in The Park - Beach House
Out on The Weekend - Neil Young