Quick Review (LP): Belong by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Belong
Slumberland; 2011

My Rating: B (70/100)

Best Tracks: "Belong", "Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now", "Anne with an E", "Strange"

Classic indie rock, a bit overcooked.

NOTES

  • I like the chunkiness of their sound. Sort of reminds me of The Inbreds.
  • Very John Hughes-ish. Is Breakfast Club Indie its own genre of music yet?
  • A very throwback sound – shades of late 80’s alt rock a la Pixies and The Cure.
  • Arrrrggghhh!!! The vocals!!! Why can’t dream-pop bands get brassy singers these days?
  • "The Body" reminds me of Afghan Whigs – the singer is channelling Greg Dulli there.
  • The songs are good, but none of them really GRAB me the way I would hope. Needs GREAT songs.
  • It all starts to blend together after a while.
  • The vocals leave a little something to be desired. This dude sounds like the guy from Def Leppard whispering. It is perhaps the lingering negative influence of otherwise great acts like My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
  • Pitchfork is much nicer to it than I am. I think the band needs to lay off of the sweet sound so much, and try something with a little more cockiness, a little more swagger. I was hopeful that "Strange", with its driving opening rhythm, was going to launch into something like "Gouge Away", but it was really the same old thing. I hope Kip Berman can find his inner Black Francis next time around.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

Quick Review (LP): Tomboy by Panda Bear

Panda Bear
Tomboy
Paw Tracks; 2011

My Rating: B (68/100)

Best Tracks: "Slow Motion", "Surfer’s Hymn", "Last Night at the Jetty", "Friendship Bracelet", "Benfica", “Afterburner”

Is Noah Lennox hiding behind the wall of sound?

NOTES:
– One of my favorite recent trends in band names – BEARS!!!! Seriously, how does this kind of thing happen? You’ve got Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear, Bear in Heaven, Minus the Bear, etc. And then there are the beach/surfer bands: Beach House, Best Coast, Surfer Blood, Wavves, Beach Fossils, etc. Anyone want to start a band with me called Polar Bear Suntan? We are guaranteed to spark an indie revolution!
– What is with over-processing vocals? Especially when people have decent voices? It makes it so difficult to connect on a personal level. I have this problem going all the way back to My Bloody Valentine.
– I like "Slow Motion" quite a bit. Sort of a world music vibe there.
– The vocal harmonies are very interesting. I suppose that’s one reason this guy is such a critical darling? I like the Fleet Foxes harmonies better though. One guy harmonising with himself doesn’t have the same effect as three or four different voices, with all their subtle (and not so subtle) differences.
– There’s something intangible about these songs, as neat as they may be. Still, I have a feeling this record will grow on me over the next few months. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve re-evaluated my score come December.
– It seems to me that Panda Bear holds the same fascination for critics as My Bloody Valentine, which I honestly still don’t entirely understand. Yes, both acts make gorgeous music for audiophiles, but in my mind, they leave something to be desired in terms of narrative and connection. 
– Here’s the deal: I appreciate density and the use of heavy reverb at times, but Lennox, like many current indie bands, sounds like he’s hiding behind it all. I can tell there’s some serious Beach Boys influence going on, but on that group’s best work, there was an immediacy that was simply arresting. The songs here sound obscured and distant, and at times entirely void of emotion.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4/5)

Quick Review (LP): Fluorescence by Asobi Seksu

Asobi Seksu
Fluorescence
Polyvinyl; 2011

My Rating: D (31/100)

Best Tracks: "Trails", "Sighs", "Counterglow", "Pink Light"

There’s plenty of neat sounds on the dream rockers’ 4th LP, plenty of angular rhythms and an abundance of pretty persuasions, but in the end, the fluorescence here seems to be the electric, monotonous sort that emanates from the light fixtures in a million office buildings rather than the otherworldy glow of enchanting supernatural mysteries.

RANDOM NOTES:

– "Pink Light" slows things down some and works really well, almost like a hybrid of Cranberries and MBV.
– The vocals are a bit too airy and thin, making it hard to detect anything in the way of soul.
Fluoresence seems an excuse for a lot of pretty and gee-whiz sounds, but the substance is hard to detect.
– The thing is, I think I could see this being really good if they’d slow things down a bit and live in the moment a little more, but the pace just seems so darn frantic, that by the time the better moments show up the pleasure center of your brain has been pulled in so many directions that it just wants to lay down and die.
– The suite approach of "Leave the Drummer Out" is def. engaging. 
Jason Lymangrover of Allmusic.com says this:  "[Yuki Chikudate’s] voice previously sounded sweet and gentle when buried in guitar swirl — particularly on Citrus and the excellent self-titled debut. Up close and personal, it can be dodgy, especially when she aims at shrill high notes and skates around them." My sentiments exactly.

ATTRIBUTES:

Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (3/5)
– It’s obvious they are trying ("Leave the Drummer Out There"), but it feels like more of the same.
Concept (3.5/5) – need to dig a little more here
Consistency (3/5) – A few good moments can’t save the overall flow of the record.
Songs (2.5/5) – This is where it really suffers.

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