It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are two reactions, two impressions, Two Takes on Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter.
We have watched both sides of Bradford Cox grow over the last few years. Under the Deerhunter moniker, his lush, shimmering dream pop has made for some of the most enthralling musical soundscapes in pop music. His more mellow work with Atlas Sound is always amongst the most intimate, soul baring work of any indie singer/songwriter and still features the outsider edge he always works in so well. On his latest record, Halcyon Digest, he works under the Deerhunter nom de plume but it is his most concise and fully realized record yet. He is sweet and clear eyed on songs like “Don’t Cry,” “Memory Lanes” “Basement Space” and “Helicopter.” Tracks like “Earthquake,” “Revival” and “Fountain Stairs” find the group sounding more like traditional “Deerhunter” sound. No matter which style Cox chooses, Halcyon Digest is Cox at his very best and when a songwriting genius like Cox is firing on all cylinders, it generally means that he is creating one of the very best records of that year. Halcyon Digest is no different, and even in a year flush with great new music, this is an album that stands out for it creativity and overall excellence.
Halcyon Digest is exactly what its title proclaims – an abridged collection of the “happy, joyful, carefree and youthful” – except it’s also about loneliness, suffering, and death. With every new Deerhunter release, from Cryptograms, to Microcastle, to Weird Era Cont., Bradford Cox has continued to elevate his game, and in Halcyon Digest, he has crafted a masterpiece. Cox abandons much of Deerhunter’s traditional noise rock element in favor of the pure pop insouciance that, to date, has been more the hallmark of his side-project, Atlas Sound. Yet Cox manages an uncanny combination of light and dark that gives the album real depth and prevents it from ever becoming treacly or cloying. No one since Brian Wilson has been able to so seamlessly fuse melancholy and mirth into one sound. Whether songs like “Sailing,” “Memory Boy” or “Basement Scene” sound joyful or mournful may depend more on your own mood than anything. And like Wilson, Cox also has a tendency to pair his brightest melodies with his darkest lyrics, as on “He Would Have Laughed” (a tribute to the recently-deceased Jay Reatard), where he laments, “I get bored as I get older / Can you help me figure this out? . . Where did my friends go? Where did my friends go?” or on the infectious “Helicopter,” singing in falsetto, “Take my hand and pray with me / My final days in company / The devil now has come for me.”
The album never falters. Exactly where you’d expect it to start falling off and filling up with fluff, it just gets better, with some of the most brilliant tracks – “Helicopter,” “Fountain Stairs,” and “Coronado” buried deep in the 8-10 slots. Halcyon Digest marks Deerhunter’s best work to date, and it will surely be atop many “Best of 2010” lists.
Certain songs affect certain people in certain ways. A song that makes me laugh might be a song that makes you cry, and vice versa. While it may be impossible to find songs that consistently appeal in one way or another to absolutely everyone, we asked five people to name the top five saddest songs that are unique to them.
I might be cheating with these two, but they’re both pretty brilliant songs about the same unconventional subject: fidelity in the face of what could be love for someone else; doing “the right thing” when the wrong thing might be just as good or better.
More cheating, but these are both such sublimely sad songs and they’re on the same album. Woody Guthrie’s lyrics convey such a hopeless, tireless yearning in both of these tracks, and the various musicians and vocalists involved bring it to life perfectly.
A lot of people tend to think of relationship songs when they think of sad songs, but I think the best sad songs work outside of that context—this cover isn’t just about heartbreak; it’s about the passage of time itself, our helplessness in the face of oblivion and that final acceptance that never really feels right.
This is a sad song on its own, but when you consider the fact that it was released in 1943, the lyrics take on a lot more meaning. “…if only in my dreams” might be one of the most heart-wrenching lyrics ever written.
This one is just absurdly depressing. Some might think it’s too simple lyrically to be deep, but it cuts so viciously for that very reason. The transition over the song from “some things last a long time:” to “some things last a lifetime”? Millions have tried to make love lyrics hit so hard, but they’re trying to win the Tour de France on a stationary exercise bike. Being able to convey sadness like Daniel Johnston can at his most depressing is something you’re cursed with, not something you work towards.
Will Oldham might be jovial and folksy and approachable now. Don’t buy into it. In the 90′s, he was a seriously sadistic son of a bitch. Not so much lyrically, he just knew his way around a knife if he wanted to stab you dozens of times and possibly mutilate your body. But, dear Lord, he did it beautifully. And only on occasion, usually when he decided to record a 7″. In this case, it was three songs for a CD single. This is a special kind of sadness that 70′s rock bands spent ten years trying to capture, but couldn’t quite harness. Yes, it’s cheating to name three songs. But three songs aren’t usually so inseperable as they are on the “Mountain” CD single. This may have been the single best thing Best Buy sold during the 90′s. They chose to ignore it in their advertising, but that isn’t Will’s fault. And you can’t blame them either. This is an absolute direct ticket to drug treatment.
Pavement was never great at conveying outright sadness, but when they did it, they hit it hard. “Here” comes to mind, but it doesn’t quite reach the level that this “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” b-side did. That’s mostly because “Strings Of Nashville” in no way relies on mopey lyrics to get its point across. It’s straight esoteric soul. The lyrics just set the appropriate mood.
It would be easy to look to Leonard Cohen, or maybe Bob Dylan’s “Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll,” to round out a list like this. But Mogwai deserve special recognition for making me think of this song that has no words. They made a career out of this song’s aesthetic, but nothing else they ever did quite measures up to this track. It’s colossally beautiful, affecting and pretty close to perfect.
I wouldn’t be so out of line incorporating the entire Elliott Smith catalog into this list, but there really isn’t a single song in Smith’s sprawling gallery of misery that rivals this operatic masterpiece.
Yeah, we all know all too well that Thom Yorke is a sad English bastard. But in “True Love Waits” Yorke sets aside all pretension, descending into complete and utter catatonic despair. It’s a track that will forever be ingrained into my mind as the definitive “break-up song.” Thanks high school relationships, thanks a lot.
The last song on Weezer’s last great album is a kick-in-the-gut. Could the closing I’m sorrys possibly be pre-emptive apologies for River’s latter-day musical sins? One can only wish since the answer is a definite no.
Summerteeth’s halfway mark undoubtedly takes the cake for darkest opening line in indie rock history. It’s a cryptic love song that epitomizes Tweedy’s melodrama and erupts into something that sounds as noisy as it does lonely.
The last moments of Johnny’s life, probably the most somber and sad of goodbyes in a way. Yeah, its a Nine Inch Nails cover, but as Trent Reznor would tell you, after this rendition, the song isn’t really his anymore.
You hear the strings he strums, and the way he sings the lyrics. It pretty much makes you feel like a peasant, almost sorry for yourself. Definitely one of Harper’s best songs, but its very depressing.
De La tried to break themselves from the “hip-hop hippie” label. And this was the moment that did it; Prince Paul’s somber breaks help narrate the tale of Millie and her molestation, and ends with its violent aftermath.
Mary was going through some trials during this song, while she talks about the turmoil her relationship underwent. But this is Mary in her most depressing, and in turn, her most triumphant. The way she sings this will make you cry for forgiveness.
Most of Cat Stevens’ music I find pretty bland, but this one somehow hits me with the force of an emotional shotgun. Its gut wrenching and bittersweet. “Now won’t you leave me in my misery” indeed. Has also notably been covered by the lovely Marissa Nadler.
Thought about including this one in our upcoming Best Love Songs Four Takes, but for me this tune has always been more sad than romantic. It’s about being lonely and loving from afar, and it is ancient and spooky.
What is the Minnesota Music scene? Is it today’s local bands? Is it the memory of yesterday’s greats? Is it the most popular acts or the niche dwellers? If you could create a playlist that would be “Definitively Minnesotan” what songs would you choose? That’s the question we put to our Four Takes contributors for this unique, locally inpsired feature. Every day this week we will be offering a new perspective on the same feature, starting with Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre’s take which you can find below.
Maybe this is cheating, but my brain couldn’t handle the idea of picking ten tracks to define the entire Twin Cities—so I’m taking a very specific angle. These are ten songs that define the Twin Cities hip hop scene for me. I tried to stay away from the obvious ones, like Atmosphere’s “Always Coming Back Home to You” and Brother Ali’s “Rainwater,” and I tried not to just mention everyone I like. If you didn’t know, there’s a lot of good hip hop in the Twin Cities.
Toki is one of the best emcees in the country, hands down, and my pick as our hip hop ambassador. This song does more to prove that than any other, I think. A devastating look back at the history of racism in the U.S.A. and more.
I think that this band’s approach to hip hop ties together a lot of TC hip hop threads—live band arrangement, impressionistic song-writing, dark and brooding subject matter. And this song just BANGS too.
Sure, this track is spoken-word and singing, but it’s also very much hip hop, especially if you know Truth’s role as a key figure in Twin Cities hip hop history. A darker, more powerful take on the traditional “rep your city” song, this one is a show-stopper.
Kristoff has been making great rap music for a while now, but I feel like he’s really hit his stride this past year, fully realizing his unique blend of folk and hip hop. This track is very busy, but there’s a structure and dynamism to it that really makes it stand out.
I’m very biased, but to me, Doomtree is at their best when their songwriting is focused and specific—not just a bunch of puns and references and cool-sounding gibberish. When they’re just telling stories—especially when those stories hit on some deeper universal themes—they deserve all their hype. There are more examples, but these are my favorites.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Pattern + Grid EP by Flying Lotus.
Flying Lotus continues to dazzle and amaze with his latest EP effort, Pattern + Grid World, which expands, if nothing else, his already amazing work on Cosmogramma, with welcome hints from his previous two efforts; Los Angeles and 1983. As ambient as it is ambitious, there are slow creeps of synths and plodding drums making a comeback to his production, and this is welcomed in the form of “Clay,” the EP’s opening track. Elsewhere, you have spacious, yet alien-like sounds of “Pieface,” and the adventurous 2-part work “Jurassic Notion/M Theory”, possibly the longest cut at a very head-nodding three plus minutes. But that’s not to discount FlyLo as he’s know, this 19-plus minute working of 7 tracks continues to show his production some breadth and dexterity, all the while not separating itself from the body of his previous works in general. Pattern + Grid World shows that not much needs to be added, nor does it need to sound annoying either, and the world that FlyLo gives us here is a world worth exploring.
I was a little surprised when I received a promo for Pattern + Grid from LA producer extraordinaire Flying Lotus, a few short months after the release of his latest epic full length Cosogramma. I assumed the new EP (a short but sweet collection spanning only 7 songs and just under 20 minutes) was outtakes or B-Sides, but it is nothing of the sort. The collection, ranging from the space soul of “Clay” to the tripped out lounge jazz of “Kill Your Co-Workers” to ambient noise pop of album closer “Physics for Everyone,” is slightly more accessible than Cosogramma but no less wild. While this may be an easier entrance point for people not familiar with Flying Lotus, Pattern + Grid is still an amazing arti0stic statement from a DJ/producer who has been pushing the envelope, with great success, for the last few years in ways that most other electronic artists simply are not. The fact that Pattern + Grid isn’t the best release bearing the name Flying Lotus speaks to how great Cosmogramma was and shows that even when it is his second best release of the year, it still is really great stuff.
The entire time listening to this I could not stop thinking about Mega Man 4, the original NES version. Like most of the Mega Man series this one had particularily great music, and in the same way that it set the scene for some outer space conquests new flying lotus EP sets the scene for many headphone sidewalk adventures or subway rides.
Although short Pattern+Grid World is a nice follow up to Cosmogramma with many blending and tweaked sounds that flow in and out of each other well. I enjoy the fact that it is a shorter set of music, it makes it seem more intentional as an EP, and stylistically can live in its own 18 or so minute world. My favorite track is Kill Your Co-Workers, to me the most Mega-MAn esque, it has an upbeat tonal range that we dont often find in most of the other works. All in all, not the strongest of the FLying lotus work, but well worth the 18 or so minute journey.
Experimental electronica’s new “it boy” Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, is coming off his incredible 2010 long player Cosmogramma, which left critics drooling, as well as an opening slot on tour with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke solidifying his new status. On his new ep Patterns + Grid World, Flying Lotus keeps it underground in a post J-Dilla, DJ Shadow atmosphere, where abstract hip-hop based production spirals and weaves its way through drum n’ bass, dub step, jazz, hip-hop with a jazz students approach to layers and improvisation.
There are no vocals, yet Flying Lotus still expands on the neo- funk, with psychedelic soul synths and intricate beat patterns on the film score like “Clay”. The 8-bit workout of “Kill Your Co-Workers” with its ambitious title, goes into a lightweight drum and bass vibe. The jittery, playful melody of “Pieface” would be more in place on the next Grand Thief Auto video game. On the galloping “Time Vampires” he brings together the high-pitched strain of flutes buried in water over slower, non committal beats for a quick dreamy track. The beautifully bombastic “Jurassic Notion/M Theory”showcases improvisation, blending rugged beats and tribal drums into a stop and go action flick.
The track that works best is soulful flourishes of “Camera Day” which recycles the beat from “Swimming”, an earlier Killer Mike collaboration track for Adult Swim. The ep closes with the familiar frenzied urgency Flying Lotus is known for on the buzzed out “Physics For Everyone!”. At only seven tracks Patterns + Grid World works sometimes, with standout tracks like “Clay”, “Jurassic Notion/M Theory” and “Camera Day” serving as an appetizer between Cosmogramma and whatever Flying Lotus moves onto.
While Patterns + Grid World won’t win over many new fans as much as prove to those that followed after excellent Los Angeles and the flawless Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus keeps changing gears proving that he’s one of his generations finest exploratory producers keeping his headphones to the streets.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on A Swedish Love Story EP by Owen Pallet.
Matt Linden (Reviler)
For all the sounds, elements and musical influences bursting out of A Swedish Love Story, it’s really staggering, and a testament to Owen Pallett, that his albums are a one-man show. Like all of his previous releases, Pallett meticulously throws everything on the table when creating his richly arranged songs. The biggest difference on this short, four-song EP is that there isn’t much meandering byway of orchestration and solely instrumental pieces – instead, aided by his airy voice, these four songs are really ‘smart’-pop if anything. It’s no surprise that his violin takes precedence over much of the other sounds on the record, but Pallet is able to play the line between classically trained and effortlessly pop like no one else. Which brings my to my next point about Pallett: How do you categorize the guy’s music. Really, all I could think of when listening to A Swedish Love Story was how much this kind of music, whatever you want to call it, is just plain pleasurable to listen to. It’s the kind of music that you can throw on and zone out or you can throw on your music geek glasses and try and breakdown and transcribe everything – though I’m sure it would be nearly impossible. Coming off of this year’s Heartland LP, A Swedish Love Story is another great release from the man with many talents – a release that solidifies 2010 as Pallet’s most fruitful musical year-to-date.
Jeremy Hovda (Reviler)
Boosted to the upper-echelons of indie stardom by the release of the much-lauded Heartland earlier this year, Owen Pallett (having finally dropped the “Final Fantasy” moniker after surrendering his legal battle with the Japanese video game manufacturer of the same name) has been spending the year touring with several of the hottest acts out there – the National, Dirty Projectors and his sometimes collaborators, Arcade Fire. Nevertheless, Pallett has somehow found the time to release two EPs this year: March’s Lewis Takes off His Shirt and now A Swedish Love Story. The latest is a continuation of the experimental, yet melodic sound found on Heartland. Fans of that album will find much to love on this one. It employs the same basic tools – violin (both pizzicato and non), keys, and guitar looped and layered behind Pallett’s sad, susurrus voice. The danceable opener “Don’t Stop (On My Account)” gives way to the lugubrious synth-pop of “Honour the Dead, or Else,” the more groovy “A Man with No Ankles,” and then closes with the rapid, baroque beauty of “Scandal at the Parkade.” The songs work perfectly together and give the album what so many EPs lack – a feeling of coherence and completeness.
Jon Behm (Reviler)
While I know it was generally received positively across the board, I never really warmed to Owen Pallett’s recent LP Heartland. To me that record always evokes the cornier aspects of Stephen Sondheim style theatrical compositions – the grandiosity, the swelling instrumentations, the irritatingly cloying pop hooks. Listening to it makes me feel like I am stuck watching a Broadway show with Pallet playing the all the lead parts like an exceedingly insufferable showman (I don’t generally care for musicals). And listening to Pallet’s follow up EP, A Swedish Love Story, isn’t a great deal different.
While I find the EP’s first two tracks incredibly irritating, the backhalf does in fact get a little better. “Honor the Dead, or Else” does have some beauty to its muted synths and Pallett’s melancholy restraint. The song could do without the ridiculous drum pounding though. “Don’t Stop (On My Account)” isn’t terrible either – Pallet’s haunting violin work making him sound a bit like a daintier Andrew Bird. Overall though the sound is just a tad too precious for my taste. I won’t begrudge Pallet fans their contrary opinion, but I am fairly certain that Owen Pallett’s music just isn’t for me.
Oh, Owen Pallett. This guy will always make some of the best arranged tunes in music today. Who says a classical background can’t be beneficial? It blows my mind how he has made a full transition from the moody baroque-pop of his Final Fantasy days to something as hopeful, bright, and yet still complex like we find him on his newest A Swedish Love Story EP.
Domino Records struck gold with signing this guy. His music has impacted a lot of people despite how hindered he has been by the forced name change. When he played the Varsity in Minneapolis, hardly a soul was there. I think Mr. Pallett has realized he is essentially starting his musical career over, and having to build up a new fanbase after being around for almost a decade is a difficult thing to do. Fortunately, everything he puts out is critically acclaimed, so I’d be dumbfounded if people didn’t start taking some notice.
The new EP finds its highlight early on with “A Man With No Ankles.” This is one of his most solid tracks, and it’s surprising to hear how well produced it is considering he recorded these four songs in just one week- just himself (as he does best) with no back up. The looping is less pronounced here than how much more it dominated on Heartland, but it’s almost refreshing that we are getting fuller compositions.
He’s played with Arcade Fire, The Dirty Projectors, The National… basically every massive music powerhouse today. Out of the hundreds of thousands who have inadvertently seen him, someone has surely got to take notice.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Sleep Forever by Crocodiles.
Crocodiles’ 2nd album continues with the Jesus and Mary Chain worship that defines this band’s recorded output. They’ve added some electronics and wall of sound production techniques, and have taken a few more liberties with the songwriting, but ultimately the atmosphere and aesthetics alone can’t carry this album’s weight. Sleep Forever is too burdened with its own self-consciousness that it (like the band’s last album) can’t rise above the single band that it emulates. True, there are elements of the originality of its creators and of other musical influences, but when you have Psychocandy and Darklands why would you want to listen to this? My only explanation is that they appeal to a cross-section of the music buying/downloading public that is too young to haveappreciated the original thing. This naivety allows fans to accept (without question) a cheap, second-hand replica updated to fit current musical trends. The greatest thing about JAMC was that they embraced an era of pop music’s past with an idiosyncratic attitude and vision. The same can’t be said of Crocodiles, because while they too embrace an era of pop music’s past, they don’t have the purpose or imagination that made that past so compelling.
Crocodiles wore sunglasses inside last year at their Seventh Street Entry show. As anyone who has been there knows, it’s an extremely black room. But this is how they roll. And it comes across in their recorded material. They’re trying to create an aesthetic of dark cool, and they succeed. Unfortunately, like their choice of nightime eye wear, it feels very self-conscious. They go back and forth between too nice or too down and scary, and either way it comes across as a business decision. Not that they’re looking for the limelight, but it does seem like they could’ve sat around a table and made a plan for what emotions they wanted to bring to the album, possibly using charts and spreadsheets. In the two minute introduction to the opening track “Mirrors,” there’s a lot of intrigue and potential for some brutally interesting pop. But instead of taking off into the air, the plane immediately crashes into a candy shop when the verse kicks in, and the album never truly regains that potential. That’s because they’re obsessed with one idea, and they don’t havethe artistic chops to pull it off. Behind those sunglasses are the eyes of a cartoon deer. They don’t seem familiar with the necessary danger and desperation to make the album they’d like to.
I love worshiping Jesus and Mary Chain as they are my all time favorite. Crocodiles love it too, last year’s “summer of hate” was practically a tribute to Psychocandy, thatsall you could think of when listening to it. This time around on “sleep forever” they sound more original and way more polished without being too slick for their own good. Last I checked this was a two piece band and a youtube video I saw showed them fiddling with an ipod for backing tracks andthe liveshow was pretty much two guys trying to pull of the great songs on the debut with so-so results. I think this time around they might have a few more bodies on stage to pull these songs off. Like someone handed them Pet Sounds and some Suicide tapes. They sound more like the Raveonettes this time with a little more guts and even smarter lyrics. Sleep forever is a great record. Dirty, tasteful, hip and smarmy all in the best ways possible.
I know I probably shouldn’t like Crocodiles. Their sound, both on their debut record and their sophomore release, Sleep Forever, are thinly veiled Jesus and Mary Chain rip-offs. Their live show at the Entry last year featured two pompousassholes who looked like they were desperately trying to look like Lou Reed but played songs backed by an ipodthat sounded like shit. They wore leather jackets and sunglasses when they are inside. At night. Yet despite doing nearly everything that they can to be the stereotypical band that I hate, I can’t get enough of them. With songs like the demented “Hollow Hollow Eyes,” the hazy, fuzzed out “Mirrors” and the rambunctious pop of “Billy Speed,” I can’t help but be enamored. Maybe it is because the sound they so blatantly rip off is one I love, but I findtheir second release as consistentlyrewarding as their first. While I understand how, and why, people won’t like this band, Sleep Forever will be joining Summer of Hate as an album that I think I will find myself listening to over and over again both in the near and distant future, even if the guys do seem a little bit like jack-offs and aren’t particularly inventive or cutting edge. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on the new live album The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens.
Matt Linden (Reviler)
The past could prove to be a tricky little bastard when longtime fans of Sufjan Stevens begin the wrap their heads around the singer’s sixth proper album, The Age of Adz.But it’s not because this is a whole new Sufjan – because, indeed, this is the same man that brought us so beautifully to Illinoise and back. It’s just that The Age of Adz, sonically, is just a completely different beast that listeners are used to Sufjan taming. It is, as you may have guessed, just as grandiose and equally filled with richly orchestrated arrangements as its predecessor – but Adz adds to what the singer was teasing at with his most recent release All Delighted People: the man knows and is exuberantly comfortable in laying his brand of folk onto electronically-laden soundscapes. And he does it so, so well. People have recently said that this shift somehow shows Sufjan taking a page from Radiohead in opting for electronics after their breakout album. But that cop out only degrades this soon-to-be masterpiece in Sufjan’s catalog. Adz is as big and bright and filled with wonder as Illinoise. And if this is the reason we had to wait 5 years to hear anything new then more power to you, Sufjan.
The Age of Adzshould be everything any Sufjan fan would have hoped it would be. People might pine at the fact that Sufjan has jumped on the proverbial post-Merriweather Post Pavilion wagon – but those people would be missing the point. Mostly for the fact that on his 2001 album Enjoy Your Rabbit, Sufjan proved that he previously had electronic chops to pull off Adz without the help of others. I could write a full essay decoding and breaking down specific songs, so instead I’ll try and sum it up quick with some of my favorites and highlights: Opener, “Futile Devices,” starts the album with a gloomy Simon and Garfunkel-type croon. The one-two punch of “Too Much” and into the tail end of “Age of Adz” shows the new/old Sufjan in full-orchestrated force. While the slow-moving, bass-heavy “Get Right Get Real” kicks and crawls through as many time changes as it does instruments. At a lengthy 25 minutes, “Impossible Soul” plays out like an epic, tragic opus – and, surprisingly, it’s not difficult to get through the entire song on repeated listens. After listening to the album numerous times on speakers I began asking myself is this was meant to be a headphones record.
I don’t think I could put any other album on par with Adz as the year and decade come to a close. And although it’s yet to be seen if Adz will become a more poignant musical statement than the monstrous Illinoise, there are times on the album when Sufjan himself is assured that Adz is bound for glory:Halfway through the dizzying “I Want to Be Well” the singer repeatedly proclaims, “I’m not fucking around.” Yeah, Sufjan, we know and don’t worry, we’re listening.
Sufjan Stevens is nothing if he isn’t adventurous. After building critical (and mild commercial) success as a gentle folky, he now is branching out with music that pumps energy into his usual somber, pretty tracks. While his new album, Age of Adz,starts out with the classic “Sufjan” sounding track “Futile Devices,” the rest of the album will sound foreign to fans who haven’t kept tabs on Stevens since Illinoise. I was lucky enough to get into his show at the 400 bar last year that sold out in minutes, so I saw a little of his prog influenced, multi part songs, but it is still jarring to hear on a full length record. From the twitchy, bubbling electronics of “Too Much” to the spaceship pop of “I Walked” to the epic album closer “Impossible Soul,” Stevens seems invigorated by the new tools at his disposal. While I am sure this album is not going to sit well with fans of “Jacksonville” or “Seven Swans,” it seems to me like a cool step for an artist that refuses to be pinned down. If you can get past the wild electronics and widely long songs, you will find an album just as engrossing and mesmerizing as anything Stevens has done in the past.
If there’s one thing you can say about Sufjan, it’s that to keep us waiting 5 years with the jewels in his creative arsenal seemed to asked a lot of us. 2010 is the year he’s being spontaneous and surprising; after dropping the unexpected yet pleasant All Delighted People EP, he returns with his first full length player, The Age of Adz. Adz still sticks to its alt-folk roots, while straying away from it with more electronic instrumentation, you can hear it in the dizzying spins of the title track, however, there are spurts of moments when the instrumentation gets a little more personal, such as the chorus howls on “Now That I’m Older,” while punched-up kicks and menacing flutes invade “Get Real, Get Right” which is one of the many highlights. However it all comes to a head with the ambient and soft-spoken “Vesuvius”, while “I Want To Be Well” is almost like a packed metropolis, floating by with instruments and vocals abound. Make no mistake about it, Sufjan and his creativity haven’t lost a step, and The Age of Adz proves it. Maybe its a tad lengthy at 74 minutes, but can you blame the guy? It has been awhile.
Jon Behm (Reviler)
Paradigm shift! Folk/pop troubadour Sufjan Stevens has gotten all electric on us. Anyone who became concerned after hearing “I Walked” on Stevens’ recent EP All Delighted People can break out the full on panic: that tune was a signifier of things to come (and appears again here). On Stevens’ new record The Age of Adz, Sufjan and his Soul Sonic Force has definitely found a new muse in the synthesizer.
And my feeling is that the fan response to the new sound will be judged, not on how well Stevens adapts the new method, but rather on whether or not people are comfortable with hearing something new from a trusted old friend. For my part, based on only a few listens so far, I think Steven does a terrific job of co-opting his newfound sound by keeping strong elements of his old self around – the grand orchestral sweep, the whispery lyrical intimacy, as well as the occasional flute and horn. It will doubtlessly take awhile to let everything sink in to form a solid opinion but thus far I think Age of Adz is mostly a winner. I particularly love the angelic choruses that punctuate several tracks and add warmth to what may have otherwise become an electronic coldness. What I am not so sure about is the singer’s cluttered stab at funkiness, “Too Much,” his weird self-referencing in “Vesusvius,” and the occasional preachiness (am I wrong or is he singing “get real, get right with the lord” on “Get Real, Get Right”?). Many of the songs are also on the long side but it generally doesn’t bother me, except in “I Want to Be Well,” which gives epic scope to a song that just isn’t particularly good.
Still, this is just a first impression so I look forward to delving in for many more listens. Stevens definitely has me intrigued, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the more time I spend with Age of Adz, the more I will like it.
Age of Adz is out Nov 9th on Asthmatic Kitty. Sufjan will be in Minneapolis on Oct 16th at the Orpheum Theater.
Overstock.com Acquires Naming Rights to Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
Marketing Weekly News May 14, 2011 Overstock.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: OSTK, short cut: O.co) and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority announced that Overstock.com has acquired the naming rights to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. Effective immediately, the Coliseum will be known as Overstock.com Coliseum. The facility will host its first game under the Overstock name Friday, April 29, when the A’s host defending American League champion Texas at 7:05 p.m.
The six-year deal covers the stadium facility that is home to both the NFL Oakland Raiders and the MLB Oakland Athletics. Overstock.com Coliseum is one of only two U.S. stadiums hosting two major league teams. To learn more go to www.overstock.com/oakland.
“Overstock.com is thrilled to become a part of Oakland and Alameda County, and to be associated with the Raiders and the A’s–two globally-recognized championship teams,” said Overstock.com Chairman and CEO Patrick Byrne. “The Overstock.com brand is a great fit with these teams and with the excitement and culture of the area. We look forward to enjoying events with the community and doing our part to give back. Residents of the Bay Area can look forward to many great events taking place in the Overstock.com Coliseum.” “The Authority is excited to have Overstock.com as a naming rights partner for the Coliseum,” said Authority Chair and Oakland City council member Ignacio De La Fuente. “The additional revenue and prestige this agreement brings the City and County are important to the viability of the Coliseum Complex.” “The Authority has been working for some time to find the appropriate naming rights partner for the Coliseum,” said Scott Haggerty, Vice-Chair of the Authority and Alameda County Supervisor. “We believe Overstock.com is that partner and we look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship.” As part of the new alliance Overstock.com receives branding opportunities through stadium signage, internet, television, radio and print promotion.Overstock.com Coliseum plays host to more than 100 events annually, including 10 Raiders games, 81 A’s games, MLS and international soccer matches, concerts and corporate events. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority manages the Overstock.com Coliseum and Oracle Arena and is comprised of representatives from the City of Oakland, Alameda County and SMG, a facilities management company. overstockcouponcodenow.org overstock coupon codein our site overstock coupon code
Founded in 1999, Overstock.com employs more than 1500 people. The company’s annual revenue has grown from $1.8 million in 1999 to $1.1 billion in 2010. For the past five years, Overstock.com ranked among the top five retailers in the U.S. for customer service, according to rankings published in the 2011 NRF Foundation/American Express Customer Service Survey, and recently Forbes reported that Overstock ranked first in employee satisfaction among all U.S. retailers and ninth among the best U.S. corporations to work for.
Premier Partnerships, a nationally-recognized leader in sports and entertainment sales and marketing, was contracted to secure a naming rights partner and brought Overstock.com together with the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, the NFL Oakland Raiders, MLB Oakland A’s, the city of Oakland and Alameda County.
“Putting this deal together was a smooth process because all the parties understood the value proposition of creating this globally-recognized naming rights partnership. Through our Naming Rights analytical tool, the Revenue Maximizer™, Premier matched the Coliseum’s assets with a brand whose business will grow from the exposure of the Coliseum and the teams who call it home,” said Jeff Marks, Premier Partnerships Managing Director, who co-led the deal with Jesse Ryback. “Ryback first identified Overstock.com, with its international standing and innovative approach, as a perfect fit. Everybody is a winner here.”
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Play it Strange by Fresh and Onlys.
The Fresh & Onlys are a band that have for the past year or so existed in what I tend to call “the indie ether.” They’ve kind of effortlessly floated in a hazy space occupied largely by bands that pop up out of nowhere with a large amount of record reviews and blog posts not because they’re particularly notable or unique, but because they’re on a label that is equal parts prolific and reliable. Woodsist was the label for their 2009 breakthrough release (and I’m using the term “breakthrough” in literal terms here, as it was the record that got them into the indie crowd’s wheelhouse) and In The Red is the label for the new release. The former also gave us mildly enjoyable but largely forgettable (though this never precluded them from critical acclaim) bands like Real Estate and Crystal Stilts. Add The Fresh & Onlys to the bunch and you have a bunch of songs with curious textures but that’s about it. It’s straight line retro music that is inoffensive and bland. Joining the In The Red team is a step up because it places The Fresh & Onlys amongst some talent that is still predominantly straight line retro (this time more narrowly focused on the garage scene) but at least it’s brash and attention-seeking, such as The Dirtbombs and The Strange Boys. All this reductive labeling (pun intended) aside, the new Fresh & Onlys record is still nothing that makes them a must-listen unless you’re a dedicated In The Red enthusiast, but at least it sounds like they’re trying more on a few specific tracks. The main melody of “Fascinated” is downright inspired in its infectiousness and “Be My Hooker”, despite it blending in with the other tracks, is a wonderful name for a song. It’s more music that doesn’t stand out and just kind of wafts amongst the indie ether because of the label it’s on, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s also not really anything to write an overly long paragraph about. Woops.
For the people who know me well, it is common knowledge that The Fresh & Onlys are just about my favorite band ever, a group I only came to know after I was given the album to review at Radio K when I was a new volunteer two years ago. Then I managed to see them at the Woodsist showcase in Austin this past year for SXSW, and as my suspicions were confirmed, their live show is just as solid as anything they have ever put out.
These guys are pretty prolific. Is this the third album in just 1 ½ years? It’s insane how many ideas they have brewing in their heads and how they manage to transgress any genre boundaries they might be accused of. Their self-titled debut was grunge pop, Grey-Eyed Girls moved straight into the realm of pure, brooding garage rock, and this new effort Play It Strange is total up-tempo nostalgia. The album starts with arguably the best two songs they’ve ever done and ends with two of the next best songs they have ever done. Lead single “Waterfall” in particular is one of the purest hooks you will ever hear and closer “Red Light Green Light” is made special with some almost indistinguishable features, whether it be the women chanting in the background during the chorus, or that southern siren sound exploding out of the reverb. The middle of the album is slightly muddled- it might be the almost 8-minute “Tropical Island Suite” which comes early on, a true “gotcha” moment to fans who thought they could never make a song longer than 3 ½ minutes. That being said, their material is more succinct in the shorter format.
As always, this band never fails to make an album full of gorgeously executed rock songs, and if you don’t start moving or dancing at their show with Clinic in November, I don’t know what will.
Adam Bubolz (Reviler)
The Fresh & Onlys come from the fertile garage rock scene of San Francisco, alongside of bands like Thee Oh Sees, Sic Alps, Sonny & the Sunsets and many more. After a handful of Eps and one full length, Play It Strange is their first full length for legendary label In The Red.
The opener “Summer of Love” starts out kind of dull, leading into the next tracks which kind of pick up the pace. The album really gets to the point it wants with the pounding “Tropical Island Suite” which drives itself into a noisy crescendo before it’s hazy coda. Other standouts include the almost spaghetti western sounding riff opening “Plague of Frogs”. The album closes on it’s slowest number “I’m A Thief” which sort of steals its bassline and melody from Little Peggy March’s “I Will Follow Him”.
Once in a while, the band hits the mark, but overall Play It Strange fails to be memorable. The vocals seem to follow the same pattern most of the time and the band never really seems to open up like they do at times. After at least 3 Eps so far this year, the Fresh & Onlys could benefit from a little bit of self editing.
Coming from a vibrant west coast garage rock scene (Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Sonny and the Sunsets, etc), the Fresh and Onlys have consistently put out great records over the last few years while still riding under the radar. The group hopes to break that cycle (at least the under the radar part) with their latest LP, Play it Strange.
The funny thing about the title of this record is that I would actually use it as a statement if the band asked me what they could have done better. While the album is still really good, from the poppy 1-2 punch of “Summer of Love” and “Waterfall” to the demented surf rock of “Until the End of Time,” the sound on Play it Strange is the most polished and straightforward from the band yet. Highlights included the nearly 8 minute jam “Tropical Island Suite” and the nostalgic “Fascinated.”
The whole album is solid (as everything they have done so far has been), but I can’t help but feel the extra layer of shine actually takes away from the groups usual garage rock swagger. While it isn’t my favorite output by the band, it still is really solid and I really do hope it exposes them to a bigger audience.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Marnie Stern by Marnie Stern.
The dust was barely settled on me writing my less than positive review of the new Screaming Females record when I got my first listen to the songs from Marnie Stern’s new, self titled album. It would be easy to think that I would come to the same conclusion on Stern as I did for Screaming Females. Both are rock bands fronted by female guitar shredders, but to me, that is where they stop being equal. Where all of the solos on Castle Talk seemed masturbatory and too closely linked to 80′s hair metal, Stern uses her prodigious guitar playing ability to integrate her deft playing into her songwriting structure. Songs like the previously lauded “For Ash,” the pummeling “Transparency is the new Mystery,” “Female Guitar Players are the new Black” and “Cinco De Mayo” show an aritst able to use their exceptional talent without feeling like you are listening to someone in complete awe of their talent. Instead of seeming like a talent show showoff, Stern mixes in her massive guitar riffs with syncopated drumming and her plaintive, yearning vocals. The final result is an album that is confident without being cocky, emotive without being cheesy and talented while still showing heart. Marnie Stern is an album I would be wildly impressed with, even if I wasn’t comparing it directly to an album that I really didn’t like.
Jon Behm (Reviler)
As a “music dork” I am supposed to really be into Marnie Stern, right? Because she’s a super great guitarist, the second coming of Sleater Kinney, a total babe, etc. Right? Right? I have heard these arguments from music critics time and time again but it still doesn’t change the fact that Stern’s music, in the end, does very little for me. While I think that Stern is an uber-talented guitar virtuosic, and her drummer Zach Hill (Hella) is probably one of the better percussionists of our time – overall I find their music cluttered and uninspiring. It’s as if in their desire to cram as many shrieking guitar chords and time signature shifts into each song, they forget that music is meant to be enjoyed on more than just a purely technical level. I find that while I admire the prowess involved in the band’s self-titled third album, the impeccable fretwork and meticulous drumming are precise to the point of being clinically sterile. It sort of reminds me of listening to a Van Halen album on fast forward (I would say on speed except that drugs might imply some sort of imprecision on the band’s part). Yeah, musical talent is terrific – but it certainly doesn’t necessarily equate great songs (see also: Peter Frampton). To my ear, at least, these songs lack the “soul” that I think makes music great. I don’t, however, expect many people to agree with me and certainly wouldn’t fault anyone for digging Stern, as far as musicianship goes, she’s about as talented as they come.
You should never read an interview with a musician you are unfamiliar with, before reviewing their album. It muddies the organic experience, and this new knowledge creeps into your mind and skews your own personal, honest first impression of the music itself. It changes your perception. I will admit that I unfortunately made that mistake, and so now instead, to be fair, I am not going to so much “review” Marnie Stern’s third, full length, self titled release, as I am going to point out some interesting things about it.
1. The swelling, epic, love-ache sound in the first track, “For Ash” is quite beautiful.
2.The overall feel of this record is fast and driving, with shredding guitars, and drums like an overactive heartbeat.
3. Stern’s vocals fade in and out of range, sliding from pretty and melodic, to art-punk sass. Her vocal style, in my opinion is comparable to Pretty Girls Make Graves’ Andrea Zollo.
4. “Risky Biz,” and “Female Guitar Players are the New Black,” are song titles on this album.
5.While thoughtful lyrics poke through here and there, Stern relies heavily on both technically proficient and creative instrumentation to get her emotions across.
6. Stern would be well advised to practice her professional interviewee skills. No publicly trash talking other bands, especially bands in your scene, and no talking about how you will sell out to anyone, for the right price. Even if it’s true.
7. I want to love this record because it’s quite good. I wont make this mistake again, I promise.
Marnie Stern loves contrast. She contrasts distorted, fuzzy guitars with clean, snappy drums. Fast building intros with plodding finishes. She contrasts her beautiful vocals with a high pitched croon. Her latest batch of songs are full of clashing themes and that can be good and bad.
When her dual approach works, as with the opener “For Ash,” it makes the song feel fresh and surprising. The rapid buildup of guitar, drums and Marnie’s high-octave vocals are suddenly slowed down as she switches to a more subdued singing style. Marnie’s voice is a beacon amid the foggy guitars and clashing drums as she sings “I cannot fail” forcefully enough that you have no choice but to believe her.
When it falls flat, it devolves into just a lot of noise aimed at your general direction, as with “Female Guitar Players Are The New Black” where her wail overtakes her singing a little too frequently and the guitars feel like background noise instead of music.
Luckily for us (and Marnie), with her third full length Marnie Stern she makes two contrasting sounds work more often than not. This album has a lot of originality and new ideas and they shine much brighter than the occasional misstep. On this album, Marnie Stern shows that she has the creativity and musicianship to go beyond any one genre. She understands experimenting is half the fun of being an artist.