Wednesday, June 18, 2014

NoNoNo Know We Are Only What We Feel

Mixing elements of chillwave, electro, and pure pop Swedish synth trio NoNoNo are as icily cool as their homeland and are able to capture various moods at a moment's notice and weave it into something captivatingly catchy. Sounding a bit like Bat For Lashes, Deer Tracks, and even Kate Bush NoNoNo fully embrace the quirk pop aesthetic while glossing it over with accessibility. Their album, We Are Only What We Feel is a sparse, textural stroke of chilled brilliance that has a pop stardom coursing through its veins.

Using minimal arrangements, atmospheric washes, driving beats and heavenly vocals to it's advantage We Are Only What We Feel is hypnotizingly enthralling. Vocalist Stina Wappling casts a spell and commands you to listen as she sighs, coos, and whispers songs into your ears. It's all very seductive and sensual but unafraid of finding it's inner pop star. One listen to the monster of a hit, "Pumpin Blood," proves that. I mean, you can't crack the Top 40 without knowing or wanting to some degree of knowing what makes a hit and NoNoNo seemingly have that knowledge inherently built into them. And while they may have pop leanings but they are not a pop band, they're just to quirky for that. In any case, We Are Only What We Feel is a fantastic album that's ethereally beautiful, texturally deep, and fascinatingly fun.

NoNoNo have come up with a fantastic first album. We Are Only What We Feel 's sound palette is rich and cool, the songs are otherworldly and good and it's got a certified hit planted in the middle of it. Thoroughly enjoyable and decidedly different, NoNoNo are well on their way to making us all say, YesYesYes.

Take The Scenic Route To Alaska

Canada's dominance in the indie rock market the last decade cannot be questioned. From Arcade Fire to the Balconies and everyone between Nova Scotia and Vancouver the list of ridiculously good bands coming from the Great White North is staggering. Among the bands on that list are Scene Route to Alaska. This Edmonton, Alberta quartet's album Warrington is a beautiful art pop record that mixes folk rock and indie influences to achieve a charmingly rustic and slightly off-kilter soundworld.

Sounding a bit like Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah mixed with maple syrup, Scenic Route To Alaska encapsulate all that's good about North American indie rock in the 21st century. With long drawn out croaky vocals that sound like they're about to die, guitars that meander until they find a groove, artful and angular songs that bring in a bit of everything Warrington makes for a very entertaining effort. Lilting folk ballads, uptempo stompers and enough creative uses of the human voice to leave you in awe Warrington is a pastoral symphony that's just enough back woods blended with the big city. It's a fun and gorgeous listen that's rootsy and provincial and finds a balance between rural and urban.

Say what you will, but whatever they're putting up in the water(or syrup) in Canada it's working from a musical perspective. Scenic Route To Alaska is proof of that and Warrington is an easy pill to swallow. It's melodious and skewed sound is as fun as it is unusual and the bands ability to mix the rustic with modern sounds is impressive. Oh, Canada!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Barrows Unleash A Red Giant

Imagine what your favorite death metal album would sound like if it were nothing but an instrumental record. Imagine the brutal guitars, the thrashing drums, the chaos, and insane melodies. If you can piece all that together in your mind and it doesn't kill you than you have an idea of where Barrows are coming from.

Their latest album, Red Giant, is as vast and as powerful as the galactic entity this album refers to. It's tension, noise, and power resides in this three piece band's ability to forge face ripping riffs and launch them with deadly precision at your ears. Red Giant is heavy, like really heavy. It's a punishing record that sounds like every Slayer record played at the same time in a cacophony of metallic mayhem. Red Giant is the sort of record the US military could use as a psychological warfare tool to root out deeply seeded and barricaded enemy units. Several hours of Barrows wailing away at maximum volume would bring anyone to their knees. Red Giant is brutal in all the best ways and it doesn't even have a single lyric.

The quartet that make up Barrows are ridiculously good musicians and they cram approximately 6,979,723 riffs into each song bringing music to it's technical breaking point. As with all the best metal, there's so much going on in every song you need a scorecard to keep track of it all. Red Giant is technical, it's heavy, expansive and it's very very good. Metallic chaos never sounded so epic.

Numero Finds Capital City Soul

While Numero have extended their reach at finding deserving unheard of classics from genre's far and wide, what the label does best is find soul records that are just as good as anything Motown or Stax released but never got their due. They find them, polish the things up, dress them up and take them to the big dance. Their track record is simply stunning and the latest of their Eccentric Soul series comes to us from Capital City Soul.

The story of Capital City Soul is that it emerged out of the remnants of Capsoul and are separated from them by no more than one degree. It was that close of a relationship and the puzzle that began with Capsoul was put together by Capital City; it's history was found on air checks, buried in closets and other locations and thanks to the relationship that Numero developed with the folks associated with their Eccentric Soul: Capsoul album this latest edition came to fruition. As always this twenty song collection is a labor of love restored to perfection. The research, the love, the meticulous attention to detail is all here. They do such a good job at restoration that it will leave you thinking that there's so much classic soul music out there that no one has ever heard. Records like this, remind us of the influence that not only Motown & Stax had but soul music in general no matter where you looked. This music was inspirational and moving and no matter where you went, there were/are labels like Capsoul and stuff on Capital City Soul that created this musical magic.

Capital City Soul is just about perfect. From lovelorn ballads to floor burning movers this compilation has it all. There's so much material that's amazing, it's like a Northern Soul slice of heaven. Really, Numero is so consistent at finding this stuff and restoring it to fantastic shape it's a crate diggers dream come true. Featuring otherwise unreleased songs from the Kool Blues, the Four Mints, Jupiter’s Release, and Love Maximum, alongside rare sides by Dean Francis & the Soul Rockers, the Chandlers, Associated Press, the Soul Partners, and the Vondors it's an endless collection of cool. You've probably never heard of any of the groups and that doesn't matter because Eccentric Soul: Capital City Soul is essential stuff for anyone who loved(loves) the sound of the 60's.

Gold-Bears Dalliance Dazzles

Whether or not Gold-Bears second album was named Dalliance specifically after the Wedding Present's single of the same name is unknown. But having listened to this record repeatedly all day I can't help but wonder. In fact, Gold-Bears are so seemingly influenced by The Weddoes (and Boyracer) you can almost check off the songs that they're referencing throughout Dalliance. It's the ultimate homage to two fantastic bands and it's bloody amazing.

Gold-Bears waste no time at all on this disc and quite literally explode out of the gate with riffs blazing at a 1,000 miles an hour. Dalliance is noisy, jangly, chaotic, and fuzzed out to the point of being overly fuzzed out. It is speedy and shambolic and sounds like it's going to be torn apart at the seams but somehow, someway makes it across the finish line after 30 minutes. Despite the quickness and chaotic nature of this record, melodies are abundant and choruses immediately repeatable. More importantly, Dalliance is a massive amount of fun; it's energetic, embraces it's inner Gedge and jangles with fervor.

I love this record. It's simple approach, overwhelming enthusiasm and blindingly brilliant songs make it difficult to take it off. I know that the Weddoes are still out there and Dave Gedge is still writing great songs, but if the torch had to be passed today Gold-Bears would be a fine inheritor. Dalliance is an awesome effort, it's songs are sharp and catchy and this is easily one of my favorite albums of 2014. Perfection never sounded so crazy!

The Close Lobsters Return

Wow! Just wow. I can't believe I'm sat here listening to Close Lobsters. New Close Lobsters. This is like a gift, an unexpected treat and stunning return to form. Easily one of my favorite late 80's indie pop it's nice to have these guys back and with such an excellent single to boot. Unlike so many other 80's indie pop bands who have come back and just been moany and old, Close Lobsters sound like they've never stopped making tunes.

The Kunstwerk In Spacetime EP is two songs of British jangle pop that shimmers and sparkles in the sunshine. It's classic c86 stuff that doesn't sound a day over 25 despite taking that long to make. Someone apparently forgot to tell Close Lobsters that it's 2014, and that's ok because this stuff is awesome. The record might be a bit of a spiritual tribute to their transplanted American homeland but sounds as British as PG tips and Jaffa Cakes. It's awesome stuff that's light, spangly, ridiculously catchy and easily one of the best singles of 2014.
This was a pleasant surprise and welcome one at that. Close Lobsters still have it and although a generation of time has passed by it's like nothing at all has changed. Some reunions aren't worth the time, this one is worth it's weight in gold!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tuneyards' Nikki Nak

If you were to summarize Tuneyards (sorry...I'm not typing it the "right" way) in one word, it would have to be experimentation. For no other band around today, so easily and randomly pastes sounds together so successfully. Nikki Nak, Tuneyards latest album is a sonic collage ratcheted together that comes off like the best definition of broken beat you've ever heard. It's a weird album that at times is hard to listen to, but when the glue is holding tight and the sounds blend well, Nikki Nak is a lot of fun.

Tuneyards kind of reminds me of 90's wonk pop masters Laika. A lot of what they do here reminds me of what Laika was doing in the mid-90's with off kilter rhythms, strange arrangements, and a general sense of tonality being chucked out the window. While Nikki Nak doesn't quite have that rhythmic quality that most of Laika's records did, it does share a carefree sense of experimentation. What I really like about Nikki Nak is just how bizarre and random it all sounds. It doesn't make sense at all and it really shouldn't work from a musical standpoint. It's the band's ability to create music in some sort of post-modern atonal way that makes this all so fascinating. Nikki Nak is a struggle between sanity and insanity while being torn apart at the musical seams.

Tuneyards are musical chemists throwing substances together to see what happens. Sometimes things explode in a musical frenzy of goodness and other times the experiments fizzle out. Nikki Nak is a good record because of it's reckless desire to try things out. It's worth a listen and it's enjoyable for what it is but it's not the feel good album of the summer nor is it the sort of thing you listen to back to back to back. I admire Tuneyards creativity but whether or not Tuneyards deserve the hype they've gotten because of their off kilter approach is debatable.