azealia banks - fantasea
passion pit - gossamer
Passion Pit's sophomore album, GOSSAMER, won't let fans down. In fact, this album is in many ways, better than its predecessor, MANNERS. It's a more consistent record, and in GOSSAMER, Passion Pit isn't afraid to reach for pop-status or radio-friendly alternative. Even though the production of GOSSAMER has been shrouded with stories about Michael Angelakos' mental health issues (a link will be provided in the comments of this review to those that are interested), the album rarely seems troubled. Fans of the band will be excited to find that the band has expanded its songwriting craft: the emotions are more present here, the choruses bigger, and the production more streamlined. Passion Pit's second album is pretty accessible, but it only grows better with repeated listens.
The album begins with its propulsive lead single, "Take a Walk." It's a socially-conscious and introspective song, but what it carries in thematic heft (it's probably the only song I've ever heard on the radio to talk about foreclosures and pension funds), it also provides in enduring melody. The band's refrain during the chorus ("take a walk, take a walk.") aren't just echos of the lead vocals -- they're meant as instructions/reminders to the public at large. The album slows for "Constant Conversations," which serves as a pretty divisive track; the spacey R&B is complimented by the Swedish acapella group Erato. The song serves not only as a departure in terms of tone and rhythm, but also one of style. The next song, "Mirrored Sea" brings GOSSAMER back into Passion Pit's wheelhouse - it's a track with a soaring, atmospheric chorus that sticks with listeners long after it's over. Following up "Mirrored Sea" is "Cry Like a Ghost," another slower song, but its groove carries the song much better than "Constant Conversations." "Two Veils to Hide My Face" is an acapella arrangement that is pretty, but short (33 seconds) - it feels less like a song and more like an introduction to "Love is Greed." The closing "Where We Belong" begins drenched in fluttering synthesizers and ends in a cathartic refrain. It's a beautiful closer to the album.
Because many of these songs are layered with a glossy production, it takes repeated listens to pick up on all of the nuance that exist in each of these tracks. Fans of M83, Grouplove, or The Naked and Famous ought to love GOSSAMER. Fans of the band's MANNERS should definitely check on this release, but if you've never even heard of the band, this album is still a great place to start listening. Standout songs to sample/download: "Take A Walk," "Mirrored Sea," and "I'll Be Alright."
twin shadow - confess
_"Confess" is US Synth Pop artist Twin Shadow's sophomore disc, and it takes one right back to the eighties. If you liked Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Bowie, then this is for you. At 10 tracks clocking in under 40 minutes, the songs cut right to the chase.
Opening is the swirling atmospheric stomper "Golden Light", followed by the abrasive guitar-driven "You Call Me On" (with oddball time shifts), the galloping Bowie-meets-Cure "Five seconds", the moody slow-fast "Run My Heart" (with growling bass and the lines "You don't run my heart / So don't pretend you can / Can't you see I'm not in love?" ), while his whispery smooth vocals wrap around the Cure-channeling "The One".
The catchy "Beg For The Night" has a choppy echoey feel. The danceable "Patient" is a groovy R&B number with disjointed effects and lashings of squealing guitar. "When The Movie's Over" is an alluring mid tempo song that recalls Bowie. Closing the album are the closest approximation to ballads; "I don't Care" (set to a funereal beat and sprinklings of piano), and "Be Mine Tonight"
More than an exercise in nostalgia, this feels vital and original.
Recorded across one year and 40 demos, The Dirty Projector's SWING LO MAGELLAN has made its way out of the studio. Written, arranged, mixed, produced, by David Longstreth, this album was meant to be more personal and eclectic than previous releases. Strangely, this album feels more complete than others (even 2009's very good BITTE ORCA), while maintaining Longstreth's promise that these songs wouldn't be united by a single theme or style.
The Dirty Projectors is a band that is constantly experimenting with its own sound. This album is no different, but it feels much looser than past releases. Where other albums felt conscious about the experimentation that was taking place, SWING LO MAGELLAN feels much less thought out; instead, many of the vocal flares and instrumental flourishes sound improvised or instinctual. It feels less like Longstreth is trying to be interesting and more like he's having fun writing music. The second half of the album doesn't quite live up to the fantastic first half of SWING LO MAGELLAN; "The Socialites," doesn't have a good enough melody to support itself. "Unto Caesar" and its dragging strings slow the song down to a crawl. "Irresponsible Tune," while an interesting choice to finish the album, doesn't meet their rest of the album's emotional heights.
Stylistically, this album is all over the place. The ripping guitar riff that interrupts quiet intro track "Offspring Are Blank" could have come out of Fugazi. The go-for-broke vocals in "About to Die" and "Unto Caesar" are reminiscent of Animal Collective. The rhythmic meter and crooning of "See What You're Seeing" recalls a great Hot Chip track. The closing track "Irresponsible Tune" wouldn't sound too out of place in a collection of recent Neil Young acoustics. SWING LO MAGELLAN covers plenty of musical ground, and while I use other bands for stylistic references, the Dirty Projectors are uniquely their own.
For listeners that are new to the Dirty Projectors, this album is a great one to start with: it's consistent, and it feels like a good summation of everything the band has worked on until now. For those who are familiar with Longstreth and company, SWING LO MAGELLAN is a great addition to the band's already good discography, but some listeners might mourn to the absence of Angel Deradoorian. Fans of the Talking Heads, Animal Collective, Hot Chip, or the Shins will find material here to like. Standout songs to sample/download: "Gun Has No Trigger," "About to Die," and "Impregnable Question." These songs will give listeners an idea of what to expect for the band's musical style, but it's not representative of everything SWING LO MAGELLAN has to offer.
Overall, if you have been put off by the Dirty Projector's quirky sensibilities in the past, you can probably pass on this. If, however, you're looking for an interesting album that has plenty of nuance to pour over, SWING LO MAGELLAN is a great listen.
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