CD Review – Majical Cloudz, Impersonator, Matador, 2013

Majical Cloudz, Impersonator
Majical Cloudz, Impersonator, Matador, 2013

Library Classification: Electronic
File Under: M

Artist: Majical Cloudz
Title: Impersonator
Label: Matador

Date(s) Recorded: 2013
Date Released: 2013-05-22
Date Received: 2013-05-15

Clean: All
Indecent: None

RIYL: Active Child, Perfume Genius, Youth Lagoon, Bedroom Pop
Play: 1-Impersonator, 3-Childhood’s End, 5-Mister, 8-Illusion, 9-Bugs Don’t Buzz


This album is not in a hurry. Devon Welsch (vox) and Matthew Otto (synths) have made a record of intense emotion that asks you to accept it on its own terms and at its own pace. The album comes off like a series of Raymond Carver stories set to a sparse electronic score. The characters struggle with heavy themes: self doubt, “I’m a liar. I say I make music” (1-Impersonator), “Someone died, gunshot right outside, your father, he is dead” (3-Childhood’s End), and “Hey man, sooner or later you’ll be dead” (10-Notebook).

As bleak or as simple or existential as the lyrics seem, there’s a real sweetness to the music — like an old Irish tune, or a Smiths song. That’s where the album really succeeds, in that contrast, that synthesis of catharsis and synths.


CD Review – Tricky, False Idols, False Idols, 2013

Tricky, False Idols, 2013 [False Idols]
Tricky, False Idols, 2013 [False Idols]
Library Classification: Hip-Hop / Trip-Hop

File Under: T

Artist: Tricky
Title: False Idols
Label: False Idols / Self-Released

Date(s) Recorded: 2013
Date Released: 2013-05-28
Date Received: 2013-05-20

Clean: All
Indecent: None

RIYL: Massive Attack, Burial, Hyperdub
Play: 5-Parenthesis, 6-Nothing’s Changed, 1-Somebody’s Sins, 4-Bonnie & Clyde, 12-Does It, 15-Passion Of The Christ

Comments: Stellar guest vocals from Francesca Belmonte & Fifi Rong. Tricky is at his best when he has a female foil to play off. 4-Bonnie & Clyde is a perfect example of male/female call & response, harmonies and dissonance. Nods to his (arguably) last great album, Pre-Millenium Tension (1996) on 6-Nothing’s Changed, which picks up where “Makes Me Wanna Die” (from PMT) left off.

In a nutshell: Some will call it a return to form, but it’s hard to dispute that this is the most cohesive album that he’s put out in a decade.


CD Review – Diamond Rings, Free Dimensional, Astralwerks, 2013

Diamond Rings, Free Dimensional
Diamond Rings, Free Dimensional

Library Classification: Electronic / Pop
File Under: D

Artist: Diamond Rings
Title: Free Dimensional
Label: Astralwerks

Date(s) Recorded: 2012
Date Released: 2012
Date Received: 2013

Clean: All
Indecent: None

RIYL: Cold Cave, Night Moves, Cut Copy
In a nutshell: Second LP by Toronto musician John O’Regan as Diamond Rings
Play: 3-Runaway Love, 5-I’m Just Me, 7-(I Know) What I’m Made Of, 4-Put Me On, 10-Day & Night

Comments: Basic synthpop with some really strong moments. SThere’s some navel-gazing, as happens with one-man bands (looking at you Prince, Trent Reznor/early NIN, etc.) Definitely a step up in terms of scope and production value from his debut LP, Special Affections (Secret City Records, 2010). I’ll admit I’m pretty obsessed with 3-Runaway Love, which has pretty much everything that I want in a synthpop song.


CD Review – Various Artists, The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver, ATO, 2013


Library Classification: V for Various
File Under: Country / Indie-Folk

Artist: Various (John Denver, if you must)
Title: The Music Is You: A Tribute To John Denver
Label: ATO Records

Date(s) Recorded: 2013
Date Released: 04/02/2013
Date Received: 04/08/2013

Clean: All
Indecent: None
Play: 3-All Of My Memories (holy crap), 1-Leaving On A Jet Plane (also holy crap), 4-Prisoners (\m/), 12-Take Me Home Country Road, 13-The Eagle And The Hawk, 16-Wooden Indian (weirdness from Edward Sharpe, etc.)

RIYL: John Denver (duh), Indie Folk / Alt-Country, Soundtracks to your childhood and/or trips you never took to Colorado.
In a nutshell: Modern takes on a country legend. If you’re too young to remember, here’s your gateway. Listen up, young folks.

Comments: I really feel for kids these days. They didn’t get to grow up with the Clinton years, though some would argue the Obama years are better in some ways. But if you remember Reagan or Carter, then you might have a soft spot for John Denver. My folks were fans, so it reminds me of my childhood.

As with all tributes / soundtracks / collections, some tracks are stronger than others. The album is definitely front loaded. John Denver’s starry-eyed optimism can shine even through simplest of instrumentation and starkest of vocals. Case in point, the album’s opener, Jim James/MMJ singing “Leaving On A Jet Plane” or Kathleen Edwards with “All Of My Memories” (3). Holy crap, them’s some pipes.

On the other hand, you have radical re-interpretations like J.Masics & Sharon Van Etton handling “Prisoners” (4). I don’t think J.D. ever shredded quite like J. Or, even weirder, is the album’s closing track, “Wooden Indian” (16). Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes take a song that was once country, drag it though a futuristic wasteland, and make it into something very much their own. This is the other thing that cover albums do, give artists a chance to re-interpret their influences, transforming classic songs into something either very current, or very timeless.


CD Review – Kurt Vile, Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze, Matador, 2013


Library Classification: Rock
File Under: V for Vile

Artist: Kurt Vile
Title: Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze
Label: Matador

Date(s) Recorded:
Date Released: 04/09/2013
Date Received: 04/08/2013

Clean: All
Indecent: None
Play: 5-Never Run Away (3:25), 2-KV Crimes (3:57), 3-Was All Talk (7:42), 1-Wakin On A Pretty Day

RIYL: Pavement, Dinosaur Jr, Chunky Guitar Solos
In a nutshell: Lazy, hazy rock from Kurt Vile who continues to build his own rock legend.

Comments: Kurt Vile is so fucking cool. In “Was All Talk” (3), Vile says, “Making music is easy: watch me.” And he delivers. Eleven tracks of hazy guitar rock, none of which is hurried. Kurt is the opposite of punk here, content to noodle around on his guitar for a while, circle back to some Lebowski-esque lyrics, and then back to guitar. It’s a hypnotic record, and it just feels like the dog days of summer. Several of the tracks clock in at 7-10 minutes, so DJs can cue one up, go out for a sandwich or hit the head. Whatever. Kurt won’t mind.


CD Review – Charles Bradley, Victim Of Love, Daptone, 2013

Charles Bradley, Victim Of Love, Daptone
Charles Bradley, Victim Of Love, Daptone

Library Classification: Rock/Soul
File Under:  B

Artist:  Charles Bradley
Title:  Victim Of Love
Label:  Daptone

Date(s) Recorded:  2012/2013
Date Released: 04/02/13
Date Received: 02/28/13

Clean:  All
Indecent:  None

RIYL:  Lee Fields, Otis Redding, James Brown, Daptone, Motown, Stax
Comments:  Charles Bradley has had a rough life. He ran away from home at a young age, worked as a cook while wishing he could sing, worked as a James Brown impersonator, and only has been discovered late in life (64). That being said, we’re lucky to have him. This is his second album for Daptone and the Screaming Eagle Of Soul is stretching his wings, and his voice to new places. He (and the band) mess around for a bit on Confusion (7). It’s a bit experimental for him, but it’s nothing too far from his formula. Plenty of slow jams: Victim Of Love (4), Where Do We Go From Here (8), Through The Storm (11). But I prefer the bigger, brassier numbers: Strictly Reserved For You (1), You Put A Flame On It (2), Let Love Stand A Chance (3), and Love Bug Blues (5). If you like soul, you should try to see him live. But if you can’t at least you can give this record a spin.

Play:  5-Love Bug Blues, 1-Strictly Reserved For You, 3-Let Love Stand A Chance, 2-You Put A Flame On It

CD Review – Django Django, Django Django, Ribbon Music, 2012

Django Django, Django Django, Ribbon/Domino, 2012

Library Classification: Rock / Electronic
File Under:  D

Artist:  Django Django
Title:  Django Django
Label:  Ribbon Music

Date(s) Recorded:  2012
Date Released: 09/25/12
Date Received: 09/07/12

Clean:  All
Indecent:  None

RIYL: Bear In Heaven, Yeasayer, Clinic, Grizzly Bear, Alt-J, Primal Scream
In a nutshell: British Art-School Psychedelia
Play: 3-Default, 4-Firewater, 2-Hail Bop, 10-Storm

Comments: The band formed in Edinburgh in 2009. This album came out in the UK in 2011, and in the US in 2012. NPR has featured them on First Listen, and the album is heaps of fun. Touring with Hot Chip (duh) in the UK. Fun fact: they have nothing to do with Jazz Guitarist Django Rheinhart, but get asked about him all the time. Cool harmonies over sometimes glitchy beats. Good guitar work. Nods to 90s & 70s UK Pysch, but in a decidedly electronic way. Solid debut.


CD Review – Animal Collective, Centipede Hz, Domino, 2012


Library Classification: Experimental
File Under:  A

Artist:  Animal Collective
Title:  Centipede Hz
Label:  Domino

Date(s) Recorded:  2012
Date Released:  09/04/2012
Date Received:  08/30/2012

Clean:  All
Indecent:  None

RIYL: Black Moth Super Rainbow, Menomena, of Montreal
In a nutshell: Beach Boys harmonies over choppy beats & radio static. Way more experimental than Radiohead and also more manic than depressive.
Play: 2-Today’s Supernatural, 8-Monkey Riches, 4-Applesauce, 1-Moon Jock, 11-Amanita

Comments:  Centipede Hz (Hertz) is the ninth studio album by Baltimore-based Animal Collective. It’s a departure from their last album, Merriweather Post-Pavillion (which enjoyed critical & commercial success). By contrast, Centipede Hz is a darker, weirder, and generally more experimental album. This album also sees the return of band member Deakin (Joshua Dibb), who sat out MPP.

This album was supposed to have more of a live feel to it, and borrows a lot of use of radio spots, static, and twisted frequencies. 2-Today’s Supernatural is the first single, and the easiest way in. The “Le-Le-Le-Let It Go” hook is both super-catchy, and super-glitchy, It’s probably an easy trick by now, but it works, and damn if you don’t want to go along with Avey Tare on the weird ride through the desert with a floating pair of arms and a Chinese Dragon in a dune buggy. (Oh wait, that’s the video.) 1-Moonjock is the obvious other entry point, starting the album off with a bang.

Plenty of diversions here.  4-Applesauce is a love song to mangos, star fruit, cherries, and obviously apples. However, it’s really about transcendence. “Ripe and whole, we can move outside us.” In some ways, this album is a response to the success of their last. On 8-Monkey Riches he asks “Why Am I Still Looking For A Golden Age?” which is a fair enough question when your critics and fans love you. So, what do you do? You look back to your weird roots, and find other ways to get weirder.

Album closer, 11-Amanita, looks back to imagery from older stories: vikings, bogs, sea sirens. “What are you gonna do? Go in to the forest until I can’t remember my name. I’m gonna come back and things will be different. I’m gonna bring back some stories and games.” So, the album is really about reinvention, about mining the past, and other sources to find something new, something that sounds if not futuristic, at least like the overstimulated now. -DJWB

Review – Menomena, Moms, Barsuk Records, 2012

Menomena, Moms, Barsuk, 2012

Classification: Rock
File Under: M

Artist: Menomena
Title: Moms
Label: Barsuk

Recorded: 2012
Date Released: 09/18/2012
Date Received: 09/10/2012

Clean: All
Indecent: None
Play: 1-Plumage, 8-Tantalus, 3-Pique, 4-Boton, 5-Heavy Is As Heavy Does, 9-Don’t Mess With Latexas

RIYL–Morphine (sax solos), of Montreal (art school rock), Neutral Milk Hotel (bodily imagery-bones & teeth)

Their fifth album and first without Brent Knopf, who really balanced out the band with a kindness. Sure, there are still plenty of airy piano lines, but the whole album is waaay more sexual, almost uncomfortably so. Album opener “Plumage” begins “Animal. I’m just an animal. Looking for another animal.” It continues on like an episode of Nature on the mating habits of the Pacific Northwestern Male Hipster.

Boton (4) is a somewhere between a twisted Hail Mary prayer and an airing of grievances. “I Wish I didn’t have to rob a grave to hold you near…. I wish that codependence could sustain us thru the years. I wish that wrecking fantasies could pass for a career.” It’s sad, funny, dark, but kind of sweet all at the same time.

To be sure, this is an album of longing. On Heavy Is As Heavy Does (5), “Among six billion people, I want the ones who never wanted me.” But maybe the standout track is Tantalus (8) a retelling of the Greek myth. Tantalus was cursed to stand in a pool of water under a fruit tree for all eternity. Whenever he bent to drink, the water would recede. Whenever he reached to grab the fruit, it would extend away from him.

In a nutshell: still plenty of drum loops, ripping saxophone, disfunctional relationships, existentialism, dark humor, and clever wordplay.

Review – Pet Shop Boys, Elysium, EMI/Astralwerks, 2012

Pet Shop Boys, Elysium, EMI/Astralwerks
Pet Shop Boys, Elysium, EMI/Astralwerks

Classification: Electronic
File Under: P

Artist: Pet Shop Boys
Title: Elysium
Label: EMI/Astralwerks

Recorded: 2012
Date Released: 09/05/2012
Date Received: 09/07/2012

Clean: All
Indecent: None
Play: 3-Winner, 1-Leaving, 4-Your Early Stuff, 7-Ego Music
RIYL: Junior Boys

Comments: I’m honestly trying to remember the last Pet Shop Boys album that I thought was essential, or that I really loved. Maybe it was Alternative, their B-Sides from the 90s. Maybe it was Bilingual. But it was sometime in the mid-90s that my love affair with their discography broke off. I still respected them as artists, but I just didn’t want to listen anymore. Kind of like U2 about the time Atomic Bomb came out.

So, giant step back. The Pet Shop Boys have been doing this for 31 years. They’ve sold 100 million albums. They played the freaking Olympics. Their 80s catalogue is pretty amazing, and probably earns them the right to put out whatever they want, or at least enough royalties to put out whatever they want.

Plenty of reflection on getting older: 12-Requiem in denim and leopardskin, 11-Everything means something, 10-Memory of the future. They look back on early success in 4-Your early stuff, maybe directly back to “Left to my own devices.” 7-Ego music, genuinely confuses me. I can’t decide if Neil is completely earnest here, laughing at us, or trying to make a parody of Flight Of The Conchords’ version of them (Inner City Pressure). A parody of a parody wouldn’t be beyond him. It’s probably all three, and more.

At the end of the day, PSB will probably leave the club bangers to a younger set, but this is music for the morning after, as you nurse your Monaco hangover and ask yourself if it was worth it.