Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Song of the Day 11/24: "Tonight the Streets Are Ours"

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and I’m making lists of all the things I am thankful for, as well as the people to whom I am thankful. I am thankful the street artist Banksy for so many things, but among them is this song, which was featured in his recent ‘street art disaster film’ Exit Through the Gift Shop
. In many ways, it is perfect song for the documentary, which a tale of mischief, art, opposition to authority, all in good and playful fun, but never failing to recognize the gravity of its message. The song is perhaps a bit childish in its polarized view, presenting a black and white picture of ‘us vs. them,’ ‘we who feel and love vs. they, with nothing in their souls, who seek only to blind us of our vision;’ but this affirmation of youth and fun perfectly represents the power that lies also at the heart of street art, one that reclaims spaces, feelings, and lives once controlled by established authority. We youth shall rise in the night and rejoice in the truth and feeling that we experience and express. The brilliance of this message shines ever brighter as Hawley sings it in an art-pop context, reminiscent of artists like Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello. The heavy use of chorus and soaring strings strikes the listener as dated, even fogey-ish; this juxtaposition further emphasizes the urge to take back the night from those who wish to control and suppress its radical energy.

-Will Darwall, Staff Writer

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Song of the Day 11/18: "Confession of a Time Traveler"

In our remix-heavy culture, it's tough to tell what's an original, or what's a remix of a remix. "Confessions" could easily be mistaken for a remix of some acoustic song, but that'd be missing the dark electronic sound at the core of Home Video. Check it out now, before someone remixes it.

—Joe Pinsker

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Song of the Day 11/17: "Palmistry"

Whether you’re a sucker for albums with a good recording story or just a fan of good folk music, the Great Lake Swimmers are among the most consistently interesting acts out there. Their fourth album Lost Channels was recorded in a variety of locations around the Thousand Islands, on the border between Canada and the U.S. There are rather obvious appearances of the geography in their music, with the Singer Castle bells chiming their way through an interlude, for example. But there is also a more subtle undercurrent carrying through the album, like a salty Atlantic breeze fills its lungs. “Palmistry,” the album opener, is reminiscent of some of R.E.M’s more mandolin-laden songs, and showcases the spirit of what remains one of my favorite albums from 2009.
-Melany Barr

Friday, November 12, 2010

Song of the Day 11/12: "Guarantees"

Many musicians use their music to express the hardships of life below the poverty line. Rap duo Atmosphere take that idea and turn their albums into stories. Slug doesn't just rap about his life; he creates archetypal characters—drug addicts, single mothers, the homeless, etc.—and waxes about their trials and tribulations. On When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint that Shit Gold, Slug's characters have a resigned view of the world. "Guarantees" places the listener in the mind of a warehouse worker struggling to cope with his problems. He reflects on his life: how did he get here? As he sits at a happy hour, he describes his problems at work, home, and in the neighborhood. As the guitar line—the only source of melody—adds to the sorrow, and the chorus questions the worth of life, you begin to wonder just how simple life really is.
—Prasanna Swaminathan

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Song of the Day 11/11: "Atlas Hands"

There's no shortage of moody, introspective singer-songwriters out there, but there is a shortage of really friggin' good ones. Benjamin Francis Leftwich is one such standout. His recent "Atlas Hands" is poignant, heartfelt, and un-cliche. While you're waiting for Bon Iver and Iron and Wine to release new albums, check out his recent EP, "A Million Miles Out."
— Joe Pinsker

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Song of the Day 11/10: "Pure Country Gold"

Last Night, I went to a show at a bar called PJ’s Lager House in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, just a block from the former site of Tiger Stadium, now Ernie Harwell Park, which is just an enormous empty lot with a baseball diamond in the middle of it. This morning, my ears are still ringing, but lord am I glad, as they ring with memories of a two-man outfit that like to call themselves Pure Country Gold and hail from that great Northwestern utopia of Portland, Oregon. If the genre ‘punkabilly’ didn’t yet exist, they’ve created it. Perfectly simple, hard driving, high-energy rock music with a healthy dose of country-blues twang. To quote the band's website, they like to play "fast fun loud rock music for the people." And to quote Petey, the terrific twosome's frontman, they're called "Pure Country Gold, and this is a song called Pure Country Gold, off the album Pure Country Gold; it's about being us: Pure Country Gold. We hope you enjoy it."

Listen here:
Pure Country Gold by Pure Country Gold

-Will Darwall, Senior Foreign Correspondent

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Song of the Day 11/09: "Drops in the River"

It’s no secret: Fleet Foxes are currently making some of the best music out there. Drawing inspiration from Bob Dylan’s guitar work, and Crosby, Stills & Nash’s harmonies, the Seattle-based quintet created a sound that is intrinsically their own. Their Sun Giant EP was released in a rush, in order to have something to sell on tour; and despite the band’s admission that the EP did not live up to their ambitions, Sun Giant has been considered among the strongest releases of 2008. “Drops in the River,” the second track on the album, is a great display of the band’s aesthetic: natural, organic imagery, and a harmony-laden form freed of the constraints of usual verse-chorus-verse progressions. It’s the perfect soundtrack to such a crisp, sunny fall day.
—Melany Barr

Monday, November 8, 2010

Song of the Day 11/08: "Hey Scenesters!"

It's hard not to like the Cribs, even if you're not into punk music. They straddle a particular boundary between indie rock and classic punk that makes them endearing to almost everyone who's ever given them a listen. This song is no exception. In fact, it's probably the one that established the rule. From their 2005 sophomore album, The New Fellas, "Mirror Kissers" features their trademark start-stop dynamic, along with one of the catchiest choruses and breakdowns this side of 2000. Though the band has now abandoned the majority of their DIY aesthetic and sonic quality with the addition of Johnny Marr (a terrible move in almost everyone's opinion), it's always great to look back on great tunes like this one. An instant classic, "Mirror Kissers" is sure to please even the most discerning indie fan.

—Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Song of the Day 11/06: "Honey Honey"

There are some songs that will be remembered for corresponding soundtrack moments; others, that will forever be associated to some commercial or another. Among the latter, Feist’s “1234” is most likely fated to conjure up the memory of an iPod nano, more so than its colorful music video. Hopefully, Leslie Feist will be remembered for more than this pervasive advertising moment. 2007’s The Reminder was an unforgettable album, its quirky indie pop varying from exuberant to melancholic with equal success. “Honey Honey” is among the more contemplative tracks on the album, with a sparse arrangement showcasing Feist’s wonderful, warm, soulful voice as well as her impressive ability to create atmospheric sound.
— Melany Barr

Friday, November 5, 2010

Song of the Day 11/05: "Bleak"

Upon first listen to Swedish band Opeth, you'd probably group them with the myriad death/black metal bands littering the scene. In fact, the first three minutes of "Bleak" sound pretty much like what good death metal should sound like, no more, no less. The first indication that this might be something unique comes around 2:40, when an acoustic guitar begins to take prominence in the mix, if even just for a bar or two. Further into the song, through dynamic shifts, Arabian-influenced guitar melodies, and the blues-rock breakdown, it becomes clear why Opeth is a pretty celebrated band. Blackwater Park is not just great metal; it's a great album that showcases the band's immense creativity and virtuosity. —Prasanna Swaminathan

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Song of the Day 11/04: "Ready For the World"

Some have said that How to Dress Well sounds like Bon Iver with some, well, different influences. It really just sounds like Bon Iver was tripping acid or something. "Ready for the World" is certainly poignant, but it's also airy and atmospheric. It's somehow both chill and chilling.

— Joe Pinsker

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Song of the Day 11/2: "Extraordinary Machine" - Fiona Apple

The release of Fiona Apple’s third album, Extraordinary Machine, was surrounded by controversy. A first version, produced by Jon Brion, was shoved aside by Epic Records, apparently due to its lack of commercial appeal. As fans launched a campaign supporting Apple, she went to work re-recording the album with a new set of producers, finally releasing the album in 2005, a full six years after When the Pawn… The comparison between the bootleg version of the original album and the official Epic Records release has a lot to say about record labels’ interference in artists’ work. Among the songs that were not tampered with during the re-recording sessions, the title track reveals the strength and progressiveness of the original recordings. “Extraordinary Machine” is a great song, with strong lyrics and vocals emphasized by a quirky, baroque yet uncluttered sound that is lost in the re-recorded set. It will leave you wondering why it is that commerciality so often comes at the expense of originality – and thanking the internet for undermining that tradeoff.

-Melany Barr

Monday, November 1, 2010

Album of the Week - It's Blitz

It's Blitz - The Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2009)

Though generally praised as the cream of the ‘punk revivalist’ crop, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs didn’t exactly exude versatility before 2009. But, seemingly against all odds, Karen O and company switched from tried and true alt punk to electro dance pop – and it worked. It’s Blitz manages to bridge the gap between serious rock sensibilities and utterly infectious enthusiasm, all while maintaining the emotional honesty that made them cool in the first place. Friendly pulsing beats and “Soft Shock”s will have you laughing, dancing, crying, and headbanging before album’s end – and if you don’t feel an uncontrollable urge to rock out during “Zero”, you might want to have your blood pressure checked. Who could have predicted that the authors of such lively pop rock once relished in punk minimalism? It goes to show that, thankfully, you shouldn’t count anyone out these days.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Song of the Day 10/28: "El Cuarto de Tula"

Who doesn't love soothing Spanish guitars? On the off-chance of an Indian summer (which seems to be a reality right now), it's nice to transport yourself back into the summer mindset, even if it's just for a day. Buena Vista Social Club and their smooth grooves are here to help you out with that.

— Joe Pinsker

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Song of the Day 10/26: "Flume" - Bon Iver

You don’t need to know its background to love For Emma, Forever Ago, Justin Vernon’s first release as Bon Iver. The rushing, rhythmic acoustic guitar work, swelling choruses and natural, imagistic lyrics will surely be enough to convince you. In fact, you can probably guess at that background by listening to what it produced – the sparseness, restraint, and beauty of the music beckoning to the four secluded months Vernon spent recording in a cabin tucked away in the frozen Wisconsin wood. The album takes a contemplative, ruminating course through experience, with stark emotional truths shining through the enigmatic lyrics. “Flume,” the opening track, sets the stage for the rest of the album in that regard: with lyrics such as the chorus’ “only love is all maroon, lapping lakes like leering loons,” the song won’t give itself away through written word – you’ve got to listen if you want to know.

-Melany Barr

Friday, October 22, 2010

Song of the Day 10/22: "A Paw in My Face"

From Here We Go Sublime is Axel Willner's debut full-length album. The producer, on German electronic music label Kompakt, makes trance music that is more fit for the living room than for a giant dance club. Willner definitely draws elements from glitch, creating a style that has a surprisingly wide dynamic range owed to the combination of the fluidity of trance and the choppiness of glitch. The album also has a minimalist feel to it, which makes it feel at home on Kompakt. This may sound contradictory, but Willner makes it work. "A Paw in My Face" illustrates this concept beautifully. Willner starts with a chopped-up guitar sample (sampled from Lionel Ritchie's "Hello") looped until he brings in a simple drum track. He gradually makes this more complex, introducing new melodic and percussive tracks until he dives into a new hook. He builds on this for the next few minutes, introducing phased sounds—almost like a Leslie rotary speaker—before breaking down the tempo of the song right before the end. The only thing one can wish for at this breakdown is that he keeps going. This becomes the theme of the entire album. His formula may be a bit repetitive, but he manages to keep the sound fresh enough that you'll always want more of it.

— Prasanna Swaminathan

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Song of the Day 10/21: "Down the Line"

Jose Gonzalez is a musician who you probably haven't heard of, but you may have heard -- he has partaken in a wide range of collaborations. His solo work, however, may be his most impressive. He has one of the most mellifluous voices in the industry, so you probably won't even need that much initiation into his soundscapes. "Down the Line" is a good place to start, though.

— Joe Pinsker

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Song of the Day 10/20: "You Make My Dreams Come True"

Whether she’s a Rich Girl, a Maneater, or just that someone about whom you’ll never have to say ‘She’s Gone,’ Philadelphia favorite sons tell a story about a girl we all know. Highlighting the sustaining, focusing power of love, the singer is made a unified whole, pulled together by the imaginative energy of his loving baby. But is it a story about long-term, mutually sustaining, monogamous relationship, or merely an intense, and perhaps fleeting, infatuation? Clearly this is a relationship that will leave a lasting mark, as he says ‘I ain’t the way you found me / and I’ll never be the same,’ but it bears few marks of stability. It’s ‘hard to handle / but like the flame that burns the candle / the candle feeds the flame.’ I’m not a physics major, but I’m pretty sure that most candles burn out eventually. Also, make sure you watch the music video. You’ll be a better person for it.

-Will Darwall

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Song of the Day 10/19: "Last to Swim"

The singer-songwriter, folk-inspired scene can get a little old, what with the countless beards and equivalent sounds. Philly local Timothy Showalter alias Strand of Oaks may be bearded, but his sound is carefully crafted and clearly his own. His newest release Pope Killdragon is incredible, replete with textural and emotional variations that lend his music a depth many would envy. He is a master of patterns of restraint and release, gradually amplifying the song’s elements until they burst into something you’ll want blasting in your ears. “Last to Swim” is just one of the many fantastic songs on the album, and serves as a good introduction to this most interesting of indie folksters.

-Melany Barr

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird

For anyone who has ever been left wordless while trying to answer the painfully general question, “What type of music do you listen to?”, you may appreciate the challenge I face in trying to describe The Tallest Man on Earth, moniker of Swedish singer/songwriter Kristian Matasson. The artists that hold my attention don't do so because their music correspond to a specific "type" or genre; rather, they captivate me because they're just plain good. Hand me an album that’s solid gold from the first verse to final fade-out, and you have my full listening attention. Matasson is that type of musician – an artist in every sense of the word: captivating, universally relatable, and an innovator in a listening community that craves both newness and familiarity. I would recommend his LPs The Wild Hunt and Shallow Graves, and for those of us who have chewed through those, his most recent EP, Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird.

Due to the raw quality of his vocals and the deftness of his trademark acoustic picking, Tallest Man’s music is often likened to that of Bob Dylan, at times being called a “revival artist”. What makes his work successful in the face of this constant comparison would hold true for any musician: he is a master of development, growth, and reinvention. Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird preserves the most endearing qualities of TMOE’s work, while exploring new (and intriguing) stylistic choices.

“Tangle In This Trampled Wheat” opens the album with TMOE’s quintessential acoustic picking style, while the vocals build up to the raw cracks of the chorus, and the poignant cry: “I’m not leaving alone”. “Like The Wheel” takes a softer, subtler turn, developing into a lullaby-like musing: “Please let the kindness of forgetting set me free”. “The Dreamer” demonstrates a mix-up: opting for electric instead of traditional acoustic, the relaxed chords sit back on their heels, instead of pouring out in a rushed stream like his individually plucked notes.

Ultimately, these small choices show us a glimpse of the possibility of even better developments to come. For longtime fans, this EP will tide us over until we see or hear from Kristian next. For those who have never listened to his work before, these songs are a relaxed, accessible introduction to his work. Try them on for size. You may find that musical listening void you never knew you had, has suddenly been filled.

Details about EP release:

A selection of his earlier works, Secret Garden Series:

-Shana Rusonis, Class of 2012, Guest Contributor

Monday, September 27, 2010

Introducing...Indian Rebound

It's hard to separate a band from their creative predecessors these days. Only after working hard at a unique sound for years, touring for ages, and going through a good period of drudgery will the constant comparisons fall to the wayside. Which is why so many young bands start off sounding old and tired beyond their years... But when you find a set of young musicians that manage to wear their influences on their sleeves and still make it sound new and fresh, it's a rare find, and one that is worth noting.

Indian Rebound is one such band. Equal parts Apples in Stereo and Girls, this (very) young group successfully manages to blend early-90s indie riffage with late-00s nostalgically sunny reverb to make something that perhaps isn't new when broken down, but when synthesized sounds like something utterly original and surprisingly well-articulated.

With their new single "Sitges", Indian Rebound manages to rein in their lackadaisically summery vibe and temper it with a stop-start staccato melody line that would have been equally at home on a post-punk revival record from the likes of the Strokes or Franz Ferdinand. It’s a simply structured song that still manages to easily and naturally engage with something so aurally pleasing that it seems, on the band’s part, to have come from some instinctive source.

They pull off a similar feat on “Sunshine”, which draws on the most basic rock structures to create a song that drives its way into your head as easily as any of the numbers from the Ramones’ catalog. There’s no denying that they just have a natural knack for crafting melodies that just work.

The fact that this group is showcasing such a strong songwriting sensibility so early on bodes well for their future. At only 15 and 18 respectively, guitarist Ethan Levenson and drummer John Kallen manage to create music on par with many of the well-known rock duos of the past few years. Let’s hope they can capitalize on that potential and put out an EP or LP by the end of next year.

Check out Indian Rebound at

Juan Carlos

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Slightly Delayed Farewell to Summer...

... And worse, a farewell to weekly concerts in Rittenhouse Square.

For those who stayed in Philadelphia this summer, I sincerely hope you took advantage of the free entertainment across the city. My favorite concert at Rittenhouse this summer had to have been The Homophones. I wasn't familiar with their music at all—I had only heard of them once or twice. But 30 seconds into their first song,"Holiday in Your Head", I was a goner. (How could I not have been? Their stage props include massive amounts of balloons.)

Singer Jason Ferraro's voice echoes The National's Matt Berniger's baritone, but the Homophones manage to create music that's more whimsical than anything I've heard by The National. Ferraro's lyrics are clever, quotable and catchy all at once; his words deserve serious listen.

For those of you who missed out, I have great news. The Homophones are reportedly playing at Pi Lam on October 22 with Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Uh, yeah. You have no excuse to NOT check them out.

I'm linking you to their myspace and I urge you to listen to "Polish Thugz" and "Ona Judge".

Here's the site where you can purchase their LP.

Oh, and if strange music starts playing that doesn't sound at all like what I'm talking about... Scroll down through their comments and turn off the music that's linked to their page.

-Madi Mornhinweg

Monday, September 13, 2010

Large Hadron Collider and Sound

The scientists running the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have started a project to allow them to "listen" to their data. For those who don't know, the Large Hadron Collider is a giant particle accelerator in Geneva. Its goal is to find unknown subatomic particles by smashing together beams of protons and observing how they decay. Particles decay into different particles at different energy levels. The particular particle that the scientists are trying to find is called the Higgs boson. This particle is so important because it is the only elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics that scientists have not been able to isolate so far. If we can isolate the Higgs boson, we can study its properties and learn about the universe in its very early form.

So how does sound play into this? LHC Sound is a collaboration of particle physicists, musicians, and artists that have come up with a new way of analyzing the collider's data. A calorimeter—device for measuring heat—in the ATLAS detector measures the energy of each collision. That energy, then, is converted into a pitch.

Dr Lily Asquith, a member of the team, explains the reasoning for this sonification in the LHC Sound Blog:
"Sound seems the perfect tool with which to represent the complexity of the data; our ears are superb at locating the source and location of sounds relative to one another, we can hear a vast range of frequencies and distinguish timbres (different instruments) before they have even played a full cycle. We also have an incredible ability to notice slight changes is pitch or tempo over time and to recognise patterns in sound after hearing them just once."
So while the project may very well prove to be helpful to the physicists themselves, it is more for the general public. While I made the enviable unfortunate choice to pursue a physics degree [Digression: Dear LHC Sound, can I please be a part of this?], the group makes the point that even those without years of physics study can understand a confusing experiment by making the data more accessible. This can go a long way toward making the experiment less of a mystery. Will it stop the paranoid crazies from thinking that the Large Hadron Collider will produce a black hole that will swallow all of us? Probably not. But it's a start.

If you're more interested, you can download simulations and the actual sounds at the LHC Sound Page.

-Prasanna Swaminathan

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Katy Perry: Multi-Hit Wonder

Katy Perry has done pretty well for herself. She’s had five top ten singles in the past three years. Just this summer, she’s had two hit songs, one of which joins the remarkably long list of musical tributes to California. In short, she’s a pop music force to be reckoned with. It’s a familiar story, this rise to pop stardom. But back in 2008, it seemed to me that Katy Perry was destined to follow another all-too-familiar path, that of the one hit wonder.

One hit wonders come in a few different types. There are the indie bands and singer/songwriters that break into the mainstream for a song before falling back under the radar, often carrying with them a couple hundred new fans. Then there are the “buzzworthy” new artists that turn out to be not-so-worthy of buzz: their first single charts, their second single flops, and no one cares when they release their sophomore album a decade later. Then there are the people who never had any business being musicians to begin with, people with money or connections who can pay a producer to let them lay down a cheesy pop song and have their voices auto-tuned — you know the type, socialites who want to be famous for something other than being famous and young television actresses who want it all.

But the most conspicuous one-hit-wonder personality is the artist who comes out with some silly, outrageously literal song that is so catchy and ridiculous that the world has no choice but to love it — and play it over and over again for all eternity. I hardly went to a bat mitzvah in middle school where they didn’t play Sir Mix-a-lot’s “Baby Got Back” even though the song came out a cool decade before my tween years. When I heard Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” for the first time, I thought, this is the new “Baby Got Back,” this is the new “Because I Got High,” this is the new “I’m Too Sexy,” this is the new “The Thong Song” or the new “Stacy’s Mom.” What made these songs hits was the cultural poignancy they achieved from comically and candidly dealing with socially taboo (or at least musically taboo) issues. And what made the artists behind them one hit wonders was the impossibility of matching the iconic status achieved by their original hits.

But I was wrong about Katy Perry. I thought, how could she possibly follow a song that forever changed the way people think of cherry chapstick? But she did. Her second single “Hot n’ Cold” was still silly and catchy and ridiculous, inspiring covers like this one, and it could have left its own legacy had it belonged to a different artist. (After all, not all the one-hits are socially monumental — they also include your “Who Let The Dogs Out,” your “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” and your “Ice Ice Baby.”) This summer’s “California Gurls” was equally fun and ridiculous and inescapable. In fact, Katy Perry has turned the traits that one usually associates with one hit wonders into a consistent style that permeates all her music. She embodies the silliness and ridiculousness and candidness that all those other artists could achieve in one moment of clarity and honesty but could never repeat. She’s a new brand of musician, a “multi-hit wonder.” That doesn’t mean she’ll ever escape the interview questions about kissing girls, but that's not so bad, is it?

—Mary Ibrahim

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In a Similar Vein

You may or may not have heard of a band called The Young Veins. They’re very well-backed by the media and have garnered attention because they have two emo expats on their side: Ryan Ross and Jon Walker, formerly of Panic! at the Disco fame. The Young Veins push a reasonably psychedelic brand of shoegaze. Nothing to complain about but also nothing revolutionary. A recent press picture released by Spin Magazine supports this aura nicely.

Contrast that, then, with this: a stock photo of Panic! at the Disco. You may not be able to spot the similarity between these two pictures, but I assure you that somewhere hiding behind all that guyliner and sadness are two of the men from the first picture.

Whereas any self-respecting Spin reader would obediently vomit upon hearing or reading any suggestion that Panic! at the Disco had even the most remote amount of talent, the Young Veins were releasing what Spin considered one of the Top 25 Albums of the summer. Personally, I’m a bit irked by the idea that you can garner musical respect simply by shedding mascara, creepy 1890s garb, and morose facial expressions and then wrapping yourself up in offbeat fabrics and a more uplifting worldview. (That being said, it is completely reasonable for a man to gain respect just by abandoning mascara.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: The Suburbs

Arcade Fire took a different approach to recording their third album compared to their first two. While Funeral and Neon Bible were fairly contiguous works—particularly Neon Bible, which was conceived in a church that the band converted to a recording studio—The Suburbs was recorded in Montreal, Quebec (their church-to-studio), and New York City. This gives the album a sprawling sound that is not present on their previous works, and it shows just how far the band has come in the six years since Funeral.

The first thing I noticed about The Suburbs was its length. While Funeral and Neon Bible were not especially short records—10 and 11 songs, respectively, both around 47 minutes—they pale in comparison to the grand length of The Suburbs. With 16 tracks, clocking in at over an hour, it appears, before even listening, to be their most ambitious work yet.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Why Does Travie McCoy Want to Be a Billionaire?

In a nationally publicized affair earlier in the summer, Elena Kagan called the Supreme Court confirmation hearings “a vapid and hollow charade”; unknown to the newest member of the Supreme Court, however, was that fact that her words offered an excellent critique of contemporary rap music, a genre too reliant on two things—you guessed them: sex and money—and too afraid to explore new themes, for fear of tinkering with its tried, tested—but trite—formula.

So, after hearing the title of Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire”—a single from his new album Lazarus, which debuts June 8—a sigh or two would not be out of order.

Indeed, at first, the lyrics don’t seem to deviate from the norm. McCoy, like his fellow rappers, only wants fame and fortune:

I wanna be a billionaire so fuckin’ bad

Buy all of the things I never had

I wanna be on the cover of Forbes Magazine

Smiling next to Oprah and the Queen

But “Billionaire,” surprisingly, isn’t merely another glossily superficial litany of wealth or women (ahem, Lil Wayne); rather, it eschews the money-women-sex banalities in an unlikely meditation on munificence. What? Generosity? But that’s anathema to rappers!

It’s true. McCoy himself tells MTV that the song, which has a laid-back slowness reminiscent of anything by Jack Johnson, endeavors to “open up the question: if you were in a position to do something with a decent chunk of money, what would you do?"

As for the singer himself?

I’d probably pull an Angelina and Brad Pitt

and adopt a bunch of babies that ain’t never had shit

Give away a few Mercedes like here lady have this

And last but not least grant somebody their last wish

And get this:

I’d probably visit where Katrina hit

And damn sure do a lot more than FEMA did

A philanthropist and humanitarian? Have we met the Nick Kristof of the rap industry?

Well, kind of. The whole song is a proposition—notice that “I would…” and “I probably” qualify each of his brazenly idealistic dreams. And, sure, it’s also a self-serving magnanimity—a wave of satisfaction comes over him as he says, You can call me Travie Claus minus the ho-ho—but McCoy’s message is still a massive improvement over Lil Wayne’s lame sexual innuendos.

The song’s music video, according to McCoy, comprises “vignettes where unfortunate things happen to people and I happen to have the anecdotes for their particular misfortune. If you listen to the lyrics…a lot of it has to do with helping people out, a lot of selfless things. Overall the vibe is real summertime, but there’s also a positive message.”

On the track, McCoy is joined by Bruno Mars, who departs from the traditional rap fare exemplified on his recent hit “Nothing on You” to provide an sonorous melody for this uplifting beach ballad. It’s a song with a simple guitar chord and drum beat—which favorably compares to the auto-tuned-to-death nature of an increasing number of pop and rap songs. It’s a perky song of human imperfection, even in the best of us—he avariciously wants to “buy everything” despite his philanthropic motivation. And, set in an economy barely dragging itself out a recession, it’s a song of creating dreams, outlandish dreams we will never realize, dreams to keep us going, the Aston Martin picture on my teacher’s wall.

Mars delivers the last lines, I wanna be a billionaire/so fuckin' bad, with a delightful resignation, ones suffused with a lush languor and an uncanny genuineness—so much so that the clean version (sans f-word) seems bowdlerized, seems false. Even budding rap stars will never have billions, but McCoy and Mars know this. As the song ends, the singers smile wide in acknowledgment of the blissful impossibility of their supposed goal—but every time I close my eyes…

-Shaj Mathew, Guest Contributor, incoming freshman at Penn

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Perfume Genius on Learning

With each technological innovation, there seems to be a downside to match every advantage. This trend may be especially true when it comes to the music industry: though new methods of production and distribution give a greater number of people access to a greater number of artists, there is real concern that with more quantity comes less quality. But while the path has been paved for the mediocre artist, it has also been made easier for the unassuming yet wonderfully talented craftsman, the kind of musician who answers to an internal compulsion to create, rather than any desire to make it big. Seattle-bred Mike Hadreas, alias Perfume Genius, is definitely among the latter.

His debut album, Learning, released this past June, is exquisite and intimate, with sparse, spectral piano arrangements and echo-laden vocals that prove to be hauntingly compelling. Hadreas' delicate handle of piano keys is reminiscent of Sam Beam's loving hold on his guitar; and the softness of his voice shares some of Sufjan Stevens' magic. And just like these two accomplished musicians, Perfume Genius crafts incantatory, poetic lyrics that are sure to stay with you long after the speakers have fallen silent.

The record is deeply melancholic, and lingers on moments of great sadness or solitude. "Mr. Petersen" artfully draws listeners in on the details of a teacher-student relationship before unexpectedly veering toward the tragic: "He made me a tape of Joy Division/ he told me there was a part of him missing / When I was sixteen / He jumped off a building." The suddenness of the eruption of tragedy is brutal, granted. But it is honest, and it is true.

That taste for content that is real and raw finds its formal reflection in Mike Hadreas' choice of recording locales - his mother's house, on her piano. According to him, you can hear her dogs running around on some of the songs. It is this earnestness, this lo-fi intimacy, that makes Learning so captivating. Of the set of songs, Hadreas writes: "I truly intended to show them to my friends and leave it at that. But I didn't - and left all the music the same even though it's sort of a tricky feeling. I am just a hippie, that's all. I have faith that I really fucking meant it, that if I go back and mess with them I'll lose that."

So here's to Perfume Genius and his willingness to let us in on an album that is somewhat naked, despite any "tricky feelings" he might have had. Learning is marked with a sense of open-heartedness that is truly exceptional. This genuineness, coupled with the acute beauty present in every crevice of every song, transcends the melancholy, ultimately offering a cathartic, uplifting musical experience. Learning makes for an extraordinary listen, shimmering with authenticity and hinting to the enduring good health of the music industry.

Melany's grade: A

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Remember the Underground? Last Tracks

It's no secret that mainstream hip hop has taken a new direction during the past decade, drifting so far into the realm of catchy club music that it may no longer even fit under the name "hip hop." Many of the veterans of hip hop's golden age in the 90s have decried this development. As we all know, Nas, whose 1996 debut album Illmatic marked the height of that age and has since become the definitive hip hop album, declared with his album title in 2006 what many had already been saying: "Hip Hop is Dead." Putting aside the longer debate about the validity of this statement, which requires a careful definition of terms and a thorough comparison of the hip hop of the 90s to that of the 2000s, it is worth noting the impact this statement has had on the underground hip hop community.

During the past decade, underground hip hop artists have been among the best that hip hop has to offer. While many of the celebrated artists wallow in their wealth, the underground artists have continued to rap about their struggles, both in their efforts to be successful and in facing the challenges to live a safe, happy life. They have been the ones speaking the truth, rhyming about things that matter and carrying on the torch of hip hop. It is the fault of the mainstream audiences and artists that they have not been more commercially successful. Or so many of them would have you believe.

While there is definitely plenty of truth to these ideas, too many underground hip hop artists have taken full advantage of the "hip hop is dead" buzz to blame others for their own subpar music. I cannot remember how many songs included at least a verse or two along these lines: "Yeah Hip Hop is Dead/ Like Nasty Nas Said/ My Music is Real Hip Hop/ Not Wack Radio Pop/ I'm the Greatest/ Because I Never Made It....Byah!!"

For someone who loves good underground hip hop and cannot stand most of the mainstream "hip hop", I cringe whenever I hear this repetitive, misplaced self-righteousness that comes across as truly pathetic. Many of these artists are far too good to fall to the self-aggrandizing depths of their counterparts.

So, to remind us all why hip hop and underground hip hop in particular is worth listening to, I have created a playlist of classic tracks that evaded the generic, contrived, superficial lyrics of those posing as hip hop artists. The playlist is themed: all of the songs are last tracks on albums. As it happens, MCs are often inclined to be most intimate, most honest and most truthful in their last track, when they describe the struggles they are facing. Hope you enjoy and feel free to add your own favorites. (Also, a couple words of note: it is really pretty difficult to make a playlist of last tracks because each one feels like, well, a last track and if you only listen to one song, listen to the last one).

1. No Rest for the Weary - Blue Scholars, Blue Scholars (2004)

2. Nothing Less (feat. Slug) - Living Legends, Almost Famous (2001)

3. Walk the Walk - Gatsby the Great, Falling Up (2007)

4. Clear Blue Skies - Juggaknots, Clear Blue Skies (1996)

5. "B.I.B.L.E" - GZA, Liquid Swords (1995)

6-7. "You Never Know (feat. Jean Grae)"/ "One (Remix) feat. Akir" - Immortal Technique, Revolutionary Vol. 2 (2003)

8. "Revelations" - Masta Ace, A Long Hot Summer (2004)

9. "Epilogue" - J-Live, The Best Part (2001)



Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Top 10 Soundtrack Moments Since 1989

There are some songs, whenever or wherever I hear them, which always bring me back to a particular movie scene. It doesn’t even matter whether I liked the movie or not, and I'm not sure why certain pairings stick more than others (ideas, anyone?), but so it is. And after it happens, the song no longer exists without the scene, nor the scene without the song. Enjoy this mini mental archive, which I’ve limited to movies that came out when I was alive, and feel free to share your own as well.

1. Teen Witch - Top That by The Michael Terry Rappers; Polly flirts with Rhet in a freestyle battle

2. Empire Records - Snakeface by Throwing Muses; Corey seduces Rex Manning

3. Dangerous Minds - Gangsta's Paradise by Coolio; Ms. Johnson pays a home visit to two former students

4. Good Will Hunting - Miss Misery by Elliott Smith; Will finally leaves town

5. Can't Hardly Wait - Paradise City by Guns N' Roses; William rocks the house party and then crowd-surfs

6. Cruel Intentions - Colorblind by Counting Crows; Annette finds Sebastian waiting at the top of the escalator

7. 40 Days and 40 Nights - The One You Have Not Seen by Sophie B. Hawkins; Matt blows flower petals across Erica's body

8. The Girl Next Door - This Year's Love by David Gray; Matthew runs back into the party and kisses Danielle

9. Once - If You Want Me by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová; busker and flower seller sing an intimate duet

10. Armaggedon - Leaving (On A Jetplane) by the cast; A.J. says goodbye to Grace before his big expedition

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

"Without music, life would be a mistake”: Nietzsche’s particular formula for a generally accepted truth—music occupies an important place in our lives. We are constantly exposed to it, whether the melodies are of our own choosing, or selected by others. We listen to it while shopping, riding elevators, driving our cars. We hum it to ourselves, we tap our feet to its beat. So the importance of music is plainly observable; the nature of that importance, however, remains a mystery. Why is it that we are so keen to fill our lives with melodies and rhythms? What part of us responds to music in such a way as to create some sort of dependence on it? These kinds of questions can seem a little daunting, as they beg for a whole host of different approaches, from the biological to the philosophical. There are a few evolutionary theories that form a good place to begin such a discussion. So I have a few hypotheses as to the emergence of music to offer you, gleaned from various readings over the years.

Many such hypotheses involve the idea that music evolved for a functional reason, that is, to suit a specific need within human evolution. What that need might be is of course the object of much debate. But one fairly widely accepted theory is the Darwin’s idea that musical ability is like a peacock’s tail, a distinctive feature of a good mate. This idea does offer an explanation for the groupie mentality, and the ruthlessness of fans clawing at each other for a guitar pick tossed into a crowd. Advocates of the Darwinian theory support their claim by pointing to the close ties between music and romantic interest; after all, most lyrics circle around love, lost or found, requited, unrequited, and any other qualifiers you can come up with. But if love is a recurring theme in lyrics across all genres, isn’t it simply because it’s a recurring theme in our lives? Just because music turns to love for inspiration, does not necessarily mean it evolved to enable it. So this first theory can seem a little shaky.

A second hypothesis is that music evolved as a means to bind groups of early humans together, to give them an advantage over those less musical, and therefore less cohesive. This theory offers a strong explanation for our attachment to national anthems, as well as for bonds existing between people with similar musical interests. The counterculture movement of the 1960’s, for example, was largely unified by folk music; so much so, that Bob Dylan’s movement from traditional acoustics to decidedly non-folksy electrics was perceived by some as a complete betrayal of their cause. So there’s definitely something to be said for this theory, which emphasizes the relational, social aspect of music; and can serve to remind us that music is more thoroughly enjoyed when shared.

While both these hypotheses can be compelling, there is something unsatisfactory about the idea that music surfaced simply to as a functional response to an evolutionary need, like a knee-jerk reflex. So this brings me to one last, nonfunctional theory: that music emerged as an accident, and was then taken up and transformed by our creative abilities. According to this theory, as I understand it, music came about as a consequence of auditory capabilities developed for language and communication, the spoken word leading to the song. Metaphorically speaking, if all these things were a house, then language proper would be the roof over your head, the walls put up to provide shelter from the elements—the functional reason for the house’s existence. But music and literature, the means of expression rather than strict communication, are what we fill the walls with; the accidental consequence of blank space created just to keep out wind and rain.

I like this last idea because it emphasizes the close ties between music and literature, as well as the role of human creativity in the emergence of both forms. It stipulates that we used what we accidentally inherited to invent something wonderful and elevating. But that’s all that can be said for any of these theories, really—that one is more liked than the others. What we are left with is what we can gather from the common ground between the conjectures: the simple (and satisfactory) truth that music is buried deeply within us and those who came before us, and that it is something that enriches and enlivens, soothes and inspires. So though the cause may remain a mystery, the effects are coming in loud and clear.

(And for those wondering about the post title—a great album by the Low Anthem. Give it a listen)


Monday, August 2, 2010

Sparkly Night Of The Soul

Like a typical suburban family’s home, Dark Night of the Soul is a collaboration on multiple levels. First off, (the late) indie ubermensch Mark Linkous lays down track after track of expertly chiseled musicianship for pro producer Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame) to nail home with his ultra-sensitive microphones. Then, a star-studded cast of frontmen and -women that makes indie palms worldwide palpitate provides vocals and some degree of artistic vision. Like Mexican food, the result is that each variation of the above has its own flavor even though the fundamental ingredients are eerily similar.

Despite cameos from stars ranging from the Strokes’ Julian Casablancas to Iggy Pop, the album’s focal point remains the canvas laid down and smoothed out by Linkous and Mouse. Fashioning a standalone instrument out of the art of production, Mouse is at his finest. And Linkous’s expert craftsmanship is brilliant – that is to say, nothing short of his status quo.

A complete dissection of this album and its creation process may seem dated to fans, however, seeing as the album was unofficially released more than a year ago – unofficially, that is, because of copyright violation. In an eff-the-system act in the name of free artistry, Linkous and Mouse marketed and sold an intricate, David Lynch-illustrated book along with a blank CD-R, coyly and not-so-subtly suggesting that listeners torrent it themselves. Problem solved. Well, now that the copywrongs have been righted, the album can see the Official Light of Day (even though anyone interested in this album has already heard it).

Linkous was best known for his band Sparklehorse. His band’s discography is defined by the delicate boundary between (and sometimes blurring of) gloom and beauty. Linkous’s music had a fragile magnificence that was unparalleled. In light of his suicide in March, the fragility has become all too apparent. But Dark Night of the Soul remains a beautiful piece of artwork that elicits all the right emotions at all the right times.

-Joe Pinsker

Joe's Grade: A-

Saturday, July 31, 2010

(500) Days of Weezy

My Sick Uncle - (500) Days of Weezy

Almost a year after the critically-acclaimed, oh-so-cute movie (500) Days of Summer, producer My Sick Uncle has released a mash-up album called 500 Days of Weezy. This album is an odd project, taking samples from the soundtrack of the aforementioned movie, some simple beats, rhymes from Lil' Wayne (Weezy) tracks, and snippets of interviews to create a strangely enjoyable album.

At the outset, My Sick Uncle claims, "This is not a mash-up album, this is an album about Wayne." On the other hand, he also says, "Apologies to Morrissey and Simon & Garfunkel for fucking with your songs." So...take from that range of values what you will. To further this claim, though, he uses interview samples to provide insight into some aspects of Weezy's life. These bits are used as interludes to change the flow in between tracks. The interlude is best-placed on "Let's Get High (With Katie Couric)," where he discusses drugs and life as a gangster with everyone's favorite evening news anchor.

The album, overall, is not fantastic. It's no surprise that many of Lil' Wayne's songs are not, shall we say, happy and light. So I was not entirely surprised when songs like "Lollipop Dreams"—in which "Lollipop" gets mixed with "You Make My Dreams Come True"—didn't sound quite right. I'm not sure Hall & Oates could have conceived anything like it, or, for that matter, would have wanted to. The song sounds like a good idea at first, but the tone of Weezy's rhyming doesn't hold up when sped up to match the melody.

Nonetheless, the album is good fun. The tracks are not too long, the sounds created are pretty interesting, and there are some gems on here—check out "Us (Me and Mrs. Officer)," which trades the original's guitars for Regina Spektor's piano and strings. More often than not, the longer songs work well; my picks for the album are "Us (Me and Mrs. Officer)," "Please, Hustler, Please," "Let's Get High (With Katie Couric)," and the closer "Quequ'un M'a Dit: We Outta Here Baby."

Prasanna's Grade: B, Download it here.

-Prasanna Swaminathan

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview: ShitSleeper

I recently spoke with Philadelphia-area artist ShitSleeper (formerly Every Bunny Welcome, known outside of music as Alec Gabin) about his self-recorded new album, Sky & A Flag, released 7/23/10. Based in the label/collective Tamur Records, he has been part of numerous projects over the past years, but has largely recorded alone for his past few releases. To hear (and buy!) Sky & A Flag, you can gohere. All the tracks from the Every Bunny Welcome days are also available free on Tamur Records’ online catalog.

God Save the Beat: Could you give some background as to how you initially got started in music? Back in high school and immediately after?

Alec Gabin: Well let’s see. I played the trumpet in elementary school, even though I wanted to play drums. By high school I was taking music theory. Then I met 2 kids on my baseball team who liked music. They were a year older. I spent the entire summer after freshman year of high school in my friend’s garage writing and recording music with him. Duct taping mics to the ceiling. Screaming bloody murder angsty Interpol wannabes at all hours, all summer.

We started a band and I ended up being the singer, which was odd because I had never considered myself much of a singer. I still don’t. We had a band called the Pidgeons. I played Rhodes piano and sang. I bought a cheap drum set. I started screwing around on acoustic guitar. After high school I decided I wanted to not go to college and instead play music. So I moved in with current bandmates in North Jersey and played in New York City with a head full of dreams.

Since I was 15 I have been recording solo music. I started out using free software and one of those white computer mics that comes with most PCs. Until this last project (I am now 21) I have gone by "Every Bunny Welcome". Most Every Bunny Welcome songs were recorded in one night alone and only compiled into albums later. My latest record, Sky & A Flag, was not done this way. (And now I go by ShitSleeper.) This record was done over the period of a month, working on all songs at once.

Anyway, I'm rambling.

GSTB: Who are your greatest musical influences?

AG: Hmmmm. I could take this a lot of ways. A lot. Caustic Resin. Godspeed You Black Emperor. Chopin. Joanna Newsom. The Walkmen. Black Moth Super Rainbow's first album. Lots of soundtracks. Terminator, the Snowman movie. Hardcore techno. The Fall, Joy Division. I am also influenced by bands I don’t like. Bands I try NOT to be like. But I try to try not to be like anyone. I just try to let it all come through me.

Also the Subhumans. Slowdive. Broken Social Scene's first album. Hmm.

GSTB: What does this album mean for you in terms of your evolution as an artist? How was this album different from what you've done in the past? Is there a story behind how it came to be?

AG: This is the first album I've gone about recording as a whole, instead of a song at a time. It’s the first solo album I’ve ever had printed up, and mastered. It took a solid month of 8 or so hours a day. Sometimes more than 24 hours in a row. You get obsessed. I recorded it in my parents’ basement.

GSTB: Why the name change from Every Bunny Welcome to ShitSleeper?

AG: I just feel it’s time for a change. Every Bunny Welcome implies a certain innocence to the whole process that I just don’t feel anymore. I wish I did, I wish I could record without thinking like I did when I was 15, but I can't. I know too much, even though all I know is I know nothing.

GSTB: What inspired the shift in sound? I noticed in particular there's a heavier overall sound here, but there's even some strings as well. Was it a conscious change, or something that came naturally?

AG: I have always wanted strings in my music. I write music on piano, almost as classical music. I like to compose with notes, not set chords I did not make up myself. I have composed some choral and classical music in the past, but to me it's all the same. Music is music. I just got tired of my classical music not having a sweet trip-hop groove. I would have been using violin forever, but I only recently found a violinist for this album.

And as for the heaviness thing, it’s always been heavy. At least in my head. I also figured out in the past year how to make the Rhodes sound like a fucking Stegasaurus eating Catholic school children. That took a while. I figured out eating children fast, but Catholic children took longer.

GSTB: What are you most proud of in terms of your artistic output?

AG: I really like the album I did on GarageBand a while back. Sometimes it’s nice to be limited. I don’t know. This is a tough question. If I was really proud of anything I'd done, I might stop doing it. I've been trying to write the same goddamn song for years. Been trying to paint the same picture for years too. I'm proud more of the fact I got the album done than of the album's content itself. There's a big difference between garage band and logic pro with an interface etc...

GSTB: What's the next step from here? Do you see yourself recording another album as ShitSleeper on Tamur Records? What is your connection/status with Tamur?

AG: As always, I’ve been writing more and more music, absentmindedly on Monday morning pianos while my parents are at work. I’m thinking of doing a more acoustic/folky album. I was on a roadtrip recently and wrote a few acoustic guitar country-esque numbers I wanna do real basic. My next release will certainly sound smaller, if that makes sense. Less overdriven, less process, less cut up. I’m not ready for another one of these yet.

Tamur is a home for me. I really don’t consider myself having a label. But it’s my home. It’s the only sense of musical community I have anymore. Which is my own fault. But yeah.

GSTB: Anything else you'd like to say about the album, the creative process behind it, or you as an artist?

AG: What I really want is to find some musicians that I can click with.People that listen louder than they play. People that realize a member of a band is a part of a whole. The funny thing is... I really don't much like playing music alone, and I especially hate recording music. It’s a painful process. Takes forever, especially alone. I hate click tracks. I just want to have the group be able to play the song live at any time, all at once. Stick a mic in the middle and call it a recording. Recording alone so much begins to feel like literally "playing with yourself" in a basement. I’d like to get the music out of myself. And for this I need other people.

-Juan Carlos

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dark Is What They Aim For: Tired Pony's Moody Debut

Band names fall into hundreds of different categories, from pop culture references (Au Revoir Simone) to names created just to please the ear (Mates of State). In the case of indie super-group Tired Pony, the name stems from the sound, which in this case is the dominating mood of the music. The image conjured by the name is one of an overworked, overburdened animal, sides bruised by the scores of impatient children it has balanced on its back. And the set of songs it refers to is one marked by a comparable weariness, a kind of premature ageing, a sudden and insisting exhaustion.

Anyone who has heard Gary Lightbody live knows that he has got some serious pipes. So, the prospect of the Irishmen's voice placed in a new context is something to get excited about, especially because that new context includes members of Belle & Sebastian and R.E.M. But Tired Pony doesn't deliver any dramatic changes, with melodies and rhythmic patterns often reminiscent of Lightbody's work as Snow Patrol's lead singer. Their innovation is the addition of bluegrass instrumentation - mandolins and dobros, banjos and fiddles. The movement from Snow Patrol to Tired Pony is still a lateral one for Lightbody, particularly when it comes to his songwriting. Fans of his work will recognize the "lovers in a storm" imagery in album opener "Northwestern Skies" from A Hundred Million Suns' "Lightning Strike," explored in fairly similar ways.

The Place We Ran From, released this month, disappoints in that it seems to satisfy an emotional impulse more so than a creative one. Weariness is not uncommon in the musical world; the constant traveling and pressure of being under observation tend to foster that kind of exhaustion. But ideally, the music should transcend that restlessness, that unhappiness, by operating on a creative level. It could offer some sort of redemption, an exit strategy. This is not the case for Tired Pony, who often seem to let the emotions drive (rather than simply inspire) their music. Though the songs do arrive to some sort of cathartic height every so often, the builds are too slow and we may find ourselves waiting through the first three minutes of "Get On The Road" to get to the last minute and a half. The Place We Ran From can feel somewhat like it's indulging the weariness, like it glamorizes the gloom.

Of course, there are some high points to the album that make it worthwhile, and worth the wait for those of you who are stateside (US release is set for September 28th). When the album does swell to the aforementioned, much anticipated cathartic heights, it really is quite good. All in all though, it is time for Lightbody to move out of his comfort zone of moody musicality.

Melany's grade: C+