Initial Reactions (2011): Battles, Twin Sister

It’s hard to review all of the new releases I’d like to, especially as you really need 5-10 listens to form something approaching a conclusive opinion about a typical LP. Initial Reactions is my solution to that problem. This will be my way of keeping up with the latest and greatest. I’ll give each of these records at least two full listens, and I’ll apply a blanket qualification to what I write here by saying it’s more of an intuitive reaction than a fully formed opinion. Plus, I can cover more than one band per post this way.

If I’m going to go much past two listens with a record, you’ll probably see a longer review at some point in the not too distant future.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget to check out the rating key down below. Letter grades don’t seem appropriate for initial reactions, so I’m going with something a bit more basic.

Battles – Gloss Drop – [ind]: This was a record I was expecting to like quite a bit, essentially based on descriptions of the band. I like post-rock, as uncool as that apparently is now, and to be sure, Battles comes off as the perfect post-rock act, cross-pollinating the sounds of Tortoise and Don Caballero. However, as cool as some of these tunes are, the record as a whole left me unimpressed after multiple attempts. A little too hyper-active and noisy, you know? Give me some space, give me some soul. ("Ice Cream")

Twin Sister – In Heaven – [****]: Great stuff! I really didn’t know what to expect with this one, but the most obvious comparison seems to be the perfect mix of Puro Instinct and Stars. There’s also a Euro-pop-ish element, reminiscent of Saint Etienne. It’s really something all their own though. There’s fantastic, versatile songwriting throughout. "Kimmi in a Rice Field" is beautiful and pure (think "Take My Breath Away"), and the rest of the album goes from funky groove rock to indie soul pop. Possibly one of the best records this year. ("Kimmi In A Rice Field", "Stop",  "Saturday Sunday")


[****]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. Rare. This has to be a real screw-up.

Quick Review (LP): Headbangers In Ecstasy by Puro Instinct

Puro Instinct
Headbangers in Ecstasy
Mexican Summer; 2011

My Rating: C+ (60/100)

Best Tracks: "Lost At Sea", "Stilyagi", "Luv Goon"

– Sadly short on new material, and the KDOD thing comes off like a record stretcher rather than a clever theme.
– "Lost at Sea" is pretty glorious.
– The vocals are maddeningly over-dense and mumbly, in the vein of Wild Nothing. 
– A nice 80’s sound in places
– "Stilyagi" is a real treat.
– A bit reminiscent of The Smith’s debut, esp. on the front end.
– I can see Puro Instinct being a really great singles band, but for some reason I feel like they will always struggle with the album format.
– "Luv Goon" was better in its EP form, but it still sounds good here.
– "Escape Forever" is the sort of drivel they must avoid if they are going to keep making coolish pop music.
– My message to Puro Instinct: focus on writing dreamy, hyper-melodic pop songs. Retain the playful sense of humor.
Ian Cohen of Pitchfork says: "You can tell by the intentional garishness of that airbrushed cover that Puro Instinct have both the youth and self-awareness for more promising things, but right now Headbangers in Ecstasy is the image’s sonic embodiment: pretty, vacant." I think that’s right. These girls have the potential to pack a lot of punch into 3 minute pop songs, but for the time being, we just need to remember that Skylar, the guitarist, is only 16.

Cohesion (4.5/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Consequence (3/5)
Concept (4/5)
Songs (3.5/5)

My review of Something About The Chapparals EP
My review of Puro Instinct EP

Quick Review (LP): Crazy for You by Best Coast

Best Coast
Crazy for You LP
Mexican Summer; 2010

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “Boyfriend”, “Crazy for You”

I know that everyone likes this record, so first things first. The singer has a very strong rock and roll voice, and Best Coast makes use of it to maximum effect. That fact alone is enough to set this record apart from the pack. However, I’m not so fond of the guitar sound. Once you get beyond the outstanding opener “Boyfriend,” there are only a handful of tracks solid enough to get beyond the a-melodic drone of the guitar. I predict this will make many best of lists this year, and be forgotten in years to come. FFO: Beach House, Real Estate, Puro Instinct, Wavves.

Pitchfork review
Myspace site

Quick Review (EP): Something About the Chaparrals by Pearl Harbour (now Puro Instinct)

Something About the ChaparralsPearl Harbor (aka Puro Instinct)
Something About the Chaparrals EP
Mexican Summer; 2009

My Rating: B

I like these gals; they’ve got a great sense of humor and a funny blog. They use incredibly awesome hyper-slang like “Wuz gawn,” and say that they have things “4 U.” This was their first EP-length release, and it’s halfway superlative. “Sunburn” and “Luv Goon” are phenomenal, but the last two drown in a sunny monsoon of sound. The guitar player is like 14 years old and comes up with great licks now, which means that she has plenty of radical ahead of her. Hope they do something magical on their first full-length still to come. For now, stick with the first half of this record. RiYL: Best Coast, Beach House, Asobi Seksu, leotards and sweatbands.

Listen to “Luv Goon” and buy here
Sample all tracks here
Blog here
Myspace here

Quick Review: Puro Instinct 12″EP by Puro Instinct

s/t Cover ArtPuro Instinct was known as Pearl Harbor until only a few months ago, and under that name they released an excellent 4-songer, Something About The Chaparrals, in 2009. After hearing that release, I was pretty excited for further output from these gals, but this offering misses the mark. It sounds a lot like the current flavor of the day in indie – hazy vocals, echoing lazy day guitars, and mechanical drums – and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever. The big problem is that the songs just aren’t up to par; the tracks sound like the toss-offs from the Chaparrals session. Hopefully this is an attempt to clear the decks for a new set of songs and a full-length, but sadly there isn’t much to be recommended here.

Rating: C.

FFO: Real Estate, Best Coast, Still Corners.

Pitchfork track review
Hear the EP
Band’s Myspace site