Quick Review (LP): Idle Labor by Craft Spells

Craft Spells
Idle Labor
Captured Tracks; 2011

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "For The Ages", "Scandinavian Crush", "Party Talk", "After the Moment", "The Fog Rose High". "Beauty Above All"

Mumbly, innocent love songs for bedroom dreamers…

NOTES
– I will say the vocals are a lot easier to understand on this release than on others of this ilk. Thanks for that.
– Pretty pleasant stuff. Sounds like a kid from a John Hughes movie composing a bedroom project soundtrack to an autobiographical film about his freshman year.
– Wild Nothing is musically better, but I wish this guy sang for Wild Nothing. 
– If Wild Nothing is essentially a bedroom version of The Cure, then this is a bedroom version of Simple Minds.
– So when’s he going to get to the cover of "Take On Me"?
– More New Order than Joy Division. It’s a fun little record.
– Overall, not bad. It’s very "sound" based instead of song-based, and for that reason after about the fourth track the music easily slips into the background. Nothing amazing here, but it ain’t bad either.
The Pitchfork reviewer gets this record: “Idle Labor exists in a time frame best described by the title of its ebullient centerpiece– "After the Moment". These are sketches of romantic problems and solutions with the wounds still fresh and the thoughts uncensored. Taken as a whole, it could be read as a narrative following Vallesteros from heartbreak to infatuation and back, a few months’ worth of romantic uncertainty boiled down to a taut and hooky album.”

ATTRIBUTES
Concept (4/5)
Cohesion (5/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4/5)

Quick Review (LP): Interpol by Interpol

Interpol
Interpol
Matador; 2010

My Rating: C

Best Tracks: “Summer Well”, “Lights”, “Barricade”

The thing is I’ve never really loved Interpol. Even their first album, generally considered one of the best debuts of the last decade, only managed to plant three tracks under my skin. They’ve always seemed way too cold and a little too pleased with themselves. That being said, I will admit that those three tracks showed a lot of promise, but at this point, Interpol is beyond becoming what they might have been. When it comes to urban indie rock noir, The National crept up on Interpol and overtook them long ago. The theme here is apparently “success,” and predictably they sound bored with it. Their sound has become tired as well. Track titles like “Always Malaise” don’t suggest the irony I assume they are intended to, and the production, though huge, sounds sterile. All in all, I think Interpol’s story will soon come to an end. When all is said and done though, I guess they’ll always have “NYC.”

Pitchfork review
Metacritic reviews

Quick Review (EP): The Years by Memoryhouse

Memoryhouse
The Years
Arcade Sound Ltd.; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Track: “Sleep Patterns”

Debut EP’s have a long and storied history. I count among my favorites REM’s Chronic Town, Voxtrot’s Raised By Wolves, and Fugazi’s self-titled debut. I think it’s perhaps the best way for a new band to introduce its sound to the world, because the EP length leaves us well-informed but thirsting for more. Additionally, most bands, in their first year or two, have not really achieved what can be called a fully-formed sound. Arcade Fire is a good example. Their first EP, while decent in its own right, comes nowhere near the epic glory of their debut LP. All of this is to say that I think Memoryhouse has released one of the best EP’s of the year with their debut, The Years. It’s short even for an EP, only 4 songs in all, but we have here a reasonable introduction to what can be expected from the band in the future. “Sleep Patterns” is the obvious standout, a lo-fi pop noir hybrid of Beach House and Joy Division, and “The Waves” is a quick interlude of New Age electronica. The other two tracks are solid as well, and given the fact that the EP is free, I expect the band to gain a significant following from it. I question whether they can pull off a really solid LP though. Bands with this sort of sleepy sound generally approach terminal attention around track 8 (witness: Boards of Canada), so I for one am hoping for a long career of lengthy EP’s. Still, if Tortoise can do LPs, why can’t Memoryhouse? We’ll see what they come up with.

Download it for FREE here
Pitchfork review
Band Myspace page
WeAreBandits.com

Follow the Train: A Breath of Sigh (2006)

Follow the Train
A Breath of Sigh
Darla Records
My Rating: 79/100
Akwardly enchanting lullabyes…
After one listen to Follow the Train’s A BREATH OF SIGH, there’s no denying their influences: Afghan Whigs, The Cure, Joy Division, The Replacements, and, in general I’d say, the overall aesthetic of John Hughes. They are not unique in this regard. Plenty of bands continue to tread the familiar ground of the early indie greats, but it’s in the angle and the execution that Follow the Train manages to stand out from the pack. You won’t find sheening, over-produced hipster-bait here. Follow the Train write endearingly simple, stumbling odes to the finer things in life. The lovely “Endless Summer” sets things off on a nostalgic breeze, while “Flower” blooms into a striking love song. Tracks like “I’m Not Sorry” and “Thin in the Skin” demonstrate an inherent starkness to the overall sound of the album, as if each song was inspired from a black-and-white photo. Sometimes, there seem to be ghosts herein, benevolent beings for sure, but spooks nonetheless. My only complaint would be that the album is front-loaded – the first three tracks are just fantastic, and then it trends ever so slight downhill. Otherwise, a great record, one that has me thirsting for their (unfortunately posthumous) follow-up.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks
1. Endless Summer (5/5)
2. Flower (5/5)
3. I’m Not Sorry (5/5)
4. Thin in the Skin (4/5)
5. Up in Flames (4/5)
6. Kentucky (4/5)
7. Original Disconnect (5/5)
8. Afraid (3.5/5)
9. An Akward Lullaby (4/5)
10. Remember (4.5/5)

followthetrainFollow the Train
A Breath of Sigh; 2006
Darla Records

My Rating: 79/100

A breath of fresh air…

After one listen to Follow the Train’s A BREATH OF SIGH, there’s no denying their influences: Afghan Whigs, The Cure, Joy Division, The Replacements, and, in general I’d say, the overall aesthetic of John Hughes. They are not unique in this regard. Plenty of bands continue to tread the familiar ground of the early indie greats, but it’s in the angle and the execution that Follow the Train manages to stand out from the pack. You won’t find sheening, over-produced hipster-bait here. Follow the Train write endearingly simple, stumbling odes to the finer things in life. The lovely “Endless Summer” sets things off on a nostalgic breeze, while “Flower” blooms into a striking love song. Tracks like “I’m Not Sorry” and “Thin in the Skin” demonstrate an inherent starkness to the overall sound of the album, as if each song was inspired from a black-and-white photo. Sometimes, there seem to be ghosts herein, benevolent beings for sure, but spooks nonetheless. My only complaint would be that the album is front-loaded – the first three tracks are just fantastic, and then it trends ever so slight downhill. Otherwise, a great record, one that has me thirsting for their (unfortunately posthumous) follow-up.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks

1. Endless Summer (5/5)
2. Flower (5/5)
3. I’m Not Sorry (5/5)
4. Thin in the Skin (4/5)
5. Up in Flames (4/5)
6. Kentucky (4/5)
7. Original Disconnect (5/5)
8. Afraid (3.5/5)
9. An Akward Lullaby (4/5)
10. Remember (4.5/5)

August 6, 2009

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