Quick Review (LP): Sleep Forever by Crocodiles

crocodiles-sleep foreverCrocodiles
Sleep Forever
Fat Possum; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Stoned To Death”, “All My Hate and My Hexes Are For You”

There is an appeal here akin to the Stone Roses‘ debut. It’s big alt-pop, but fuzzed over, rocked out, and minus any semblance of gloss. This is a very listenable record, due in particular to some strong hooks and a very tangible sense of basement band joy. These guys don’t strike me as musical geniuses or anything, just inspired and creative cohorts looking to make some interesting, left-field rock and roll. While that’s nothing revolutionary, the result is all the good things about ensemble Brit-rock dressed down. I’m pleased to say that Sleep Forever is a very strong offering, one I’ll come back to frequently.

Band Myspace site
Pitchfork review
Metacritic review

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Quick Review (LP): Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens
Age of Adz
Asthmatic Kitty; 2010

My Rating: B

Best Tracks: “Too Much”, “I Walked”, “Impossible Soul”

Not so sure about this. All Delighted People was great, but Sufjan’s best quality, his tunefulness, is downplayed here. The “Adz” fella has an interesting backstory, a very eccentric artist and all, but for all of Sufjan’s love of obscure and obtuse hyper-weirdness, it’s always his ability to take that which is obscure and distill into emotional and musical greatness that keeps the kids coming back for more. That being said, I’m not ruling this one out. If KID A can grow on me and become one of my all time favorites, then I suspect that Age of Adz can too. Still, in some ways, this seems more like something Sufjan needed to get out of his system than something he should have unleashed upon the world. “Impossible Soul” is something to behold, but as far as epic goes, Sufjan has done far better in the past (“All Delighted People”, “Djohariah”, “Detroit”, “You Are The Blood”). I’m hoping Sufjan has more up his sleeve in the near future, and I’m hoping it sounds a little more like the All Delighted People EP.

Pitchfork review
Paste review
Metacritic reviews

Quick Review (LP): Lisbon by The Walkmen

The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Stranded”, “Torch Song”, “Lisbon”

Ah, lyrics! Clearly enunciated lyrics. Mumblecore bands, take note: here we have a singer who sings, full-on and up-front.  The human voice! Wow! I detect a myriad of influences at play on this record, from the anthemic minimalism of The Joshua Tree to traditional styles including old-world music and primitive gospel. As a newcomer to The Walkmen, I’m delightfully surprised by Lisbon. This is a great album in the grandest sense, a novel of a record and no mere collection of tracks. There’s texture, location, vision, unity, high emotion, and all of the other factors that go together to make great art. A gloriously high aural experience, this should be experienced with headphones. Walkmen, sirs, I am sold. Now where’s that back catalog?

Pitchfork review
NPR review
Metacritic reviews
Band website

Quick Review (LP): Infinite Arms by Band of Horses

infinite-arms-band-of-horses-300x300 Band of Horses
Infinite Arms
Fat Possum; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Factory”, “Infinite Arms”, “Dilly”, “Evening Kitchen”, “Older”

What’s amazing about this record is how completely tangible it is, from the chewy candy bars in the opening track to Bartles & James in the last. Ben Bridwell seems completely over his days of indie aristocracy, content to settle in and make a career out of his understated back porch power-pop. There’s hints of Pet Sounds, Summerteeth, and Iron & Wine mixed into the overall Allman joy of the record’s sound, yet it’s tracks like the opener “Factory” that characterize this as a sort of futuristic old school Country/Western record. Sounding bright and alive, Infinite Arms is probably the closest approximation of a great classic rock record this year.

Band’s official site
Band’s Myspace site
Pitchfork review
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Quick Review (LP): Gemini by Wild Nothing

wild-nothing Wild Nothing
Gemini
Captured Tracks; 2010

My Rating: B

Best Tracks: “Live In Dreams”, “Summer Holiday”, “O Lilac”, “Confirmation”

There’s a huge amount of potential here. The opener “Live In Dreams” is truly great, and the guitar work is frequently excellent. Aesthetically, it borrows heavily from older alterna-greats like The Cure, The Smiths, and My Bloody Valentine without ripping any of them off. So far so good. However, the biggest drawback is the vocal quality. It’s not that Jack Tatum’s voice is bad, it’s that he’s barely audible and not all that exciting. Perhaps that’s the sort of feel he’s going for, yet I can’t help but think that this band would benefit from a great singer. The music’s awful dreamy, and in need of a bridge to reality. Without that, these tracks come off a little bit too much like bedroom demos. I think Tatum needs a Morrissey for his Marr.

Band Myspace site
Pitchfork review

Quick Review (EP): My Neighbor/My Creator by Wye Oak

wye-oak-neighbor-creator-cover-art Wye Oak
My Neighbor/My Creator EP
Merge; 2010

My Rating: A-

Best Tracks: “I Hope You Die”, “My Neighbor”

Very nice. “I Hope You Die” was already one of my favorite tracks of the year, and the first three songs are all done really well. Jenn Wasner has a great voice, and the band comes off like a Beach House/Tiny Vipers hybrid, a good thing all around. Again, I’m impressed by the strength of these four songs. I will plan on exploring the rest of their releases after hearing this. My one complaint is that I could have done without the last track, “That I Do”, an indie-rap-folk hybrid of sorts. They just don’t make it work, and it comes off a little silly. Thankfully, it is situated at the end of the playlist, which means that it can be safely ignored. That being said, My Neighbor/My Creator is one of the best EP’s of the year. Highly recommended.

Band Myspace site
Pitchfork review

Quick Review (EP): Reality by Real Estate

Print Real Estate
Reality EP
Mexican Summer; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Younger Than Yesterday”, “Saturday”

Here’s what I like about Real Estate: vision. There’s a lot of bands out there trying to take part in the post-MBV hazy beach rock sound, but no one is doing it nearly as well as Real Estate. Opening track “Motorbikes” is our case in point. This band knows when to slow it down and take its time, when to throw in a little bit of ambient noise, and mostly, how to evoke the genuine nostalgia of a lazy summer day. Or take “Saturday Morning”, which I can entirely see one of these guys penning on a lazy Saturday morning. There’s an earthiness to what they are doing, the feel of genuine garage and/or basement rock. How appealling in an age when that sort of thing is manufactured on a mass scale.

Pitchfork review
Band Myspace page
My review of the Real Estate s/t LP

Quick Review (LP): Tempest by Young Scamels

Young Scamels
Tempest
File 13; 2010

My Rating: A-

Best Tracks: “Tempest”, “Full Fathom Five (Thy Father Lies)”, “I’ll Drown My Book”, “A Thousand-Thousand”, “A Contract of True Love”

The splicing of Shakespearean drama with post-rock was bound to happen sooner or later, and I’m just glad it was two-thirds of Rachel’s that made it happen. Furthermore, they probably couldn’t have picked a more appropriate play than The Tempest, a play wrought with mystery, melancholy, and magic of all sorts. Since this was composed for an actual dramatic production of the play, it is not exactly an album in the rock and roll sense. It is more like a soundtrack. Fortunately, the play features a number of “songs” that serve as inspiring aesthetic source material. The best tracks are those that feature vocals (“Full Fathom Five”, “A Contract of True Love”), and there are a handful of other strong instrumentals, especially the title track. Overall, it sounds most like an amalgamation of Rachel’s Selenography and Shipping News’ Save Everything. I suppose it’s doubtful that we’ll see more from this outfit, but given the strength of this little experiment, it would be a pleasure. Come on guys, how about “The Shakespeare’s Canon Project?” One down, thirty-eight to go, sonnets boxset to follow.

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Quick Review (LP): Swim by Caribou

Caribou_Swim_cover_art_hi-res_ Caribou
Swim
Merge; 2010

My Rating: C

Best Tracks: “Leave House”, “Jamelia”

I think this is roughly IDM, emphasis on the D in this case. Well, I’ve been hearing good things about this outfit, but I’m afraid I don’t see what all the fuss is about. I don’t even think I’d enjoy having this on in the background. As “neat-sound” music I’ve heard neater this year (see The Books, Ratatat, and Lydia Burrell). This is just a sort of drone, and I’m sorry to say that the fascination with it is lost on me. At the best, it’s an average, less melodic and far less interesting re-hash of what Justice pulled off a few years ago. “Leave House” has some life to it, but otherwise I found it a snore-fest. Anyone care to help me out on this one?

Pitchfork review
Metacritic reviews

Quick Review (LP): Are You My Mother? by Kathryn Calder

Kathryn Calder
Are You My Mother?
File Under: Music; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Slip Away”, “Arrow”, “If You Only Knew”, “Day Long Past It’s Prime”

I’ve already declared my love for this record elsewhere (see below). The songwriting’s great, the melodies are big, the instrumentation is lush, and everyone sounds like they are having a great old time. Quieter numbers like “Low” and “Arrow” are gorgeously reflective and dream-like, making optimal use of Calder’s girl-next-door vocals. At the same time, “Castor & Pollux” and “Day Long Past It’s Prime” demonstrate a penchant for National-esque post-anthem indie rock. But my favorite tracks are the ones that take the folk turns, especially “If You Only Knew.” The back-porch band approach makes for one of the best tracks of the year. The under-impressed accounts from the usual suspects be damned; our lady’s a musical force to be reckoned with. Any outtakes or b-sides there, KC?

Tracknotes: “If You Only Knew”
Albumnotes
Paste review
Pitchfork review
Her Myspace page