Album Review: Crushed Beaks – Scatter

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London indie post-punk band Crushed Beaks’ debut album is one filled with almost tangible feelings of angst, vulnerability, and at times, pure fascination. Scatter serves as a medium in which the band can express multiple emotions and inspirations, and even though that may sound too ambitious for its own good, the album still flawlessly manages to sound cohesive, sharp, and addictive. Their sound is unique and different than other indie punk bands, and because of their specific quirks, they have slowly become one of my favorite discoveries of the year.

Opener “April” is pretty standard on the surface – an opening melody that builds and builds as the song progresses – but immediately the listener can recognize that frontman Matthew Polie’s vocals are a force in and of itself, and that realization continues with stunner (and my favorite) “Overgrown.” This track was the one that introduced me to the band in the first place, and everything from the grungy, Morrissey-esque vocals to that powerful, repeating guitar riff makes it a total winner. The energy provided by drummer Alex Morris really makes all the difference, as heard in “Overgrown” and in companion “Rising Sign.” This track was perhaps the most joyous and exuberant of them all, considering that it’s about becoming free of a sour relationship and realizing that your happiness is more important. “Choices” and “Feelers” serve more as filler tracks than anything else, and it’s here where I can recognize Scatter‘s main problem. It’s filler tracks – including the old tracks “Grim” and “Memory Loss” – take away from the feeling that the band was trying to cultivate. Since this genre of music is so fast and unapologetic, it creates this cloudy, indeterminate feeling that left me feeling a little neglected. However, the feeling of vulnerability that I see in this album makes up for it’s hiccups, and no track really showcases it more than “History.” The instrumentals are warm and inviting in the way it shimmers and envelops Polie’s vocals, which seem to be gorgeously pained and introspective.

Overall, Scatter is an album that definitely deserves to be listened to attentively and felt deeply. It’s feverish, excited nature will have you craving its own unique brand of euphoria, and make you fall in love with Crushed Beaks just like I did.

8.5/10

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photo by Eleonora C. Collini
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Plastic Flowers – “Lucy”

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Plastic Flowers released their newest EP last week, and I can tell already that it’s a breathtaking piece of ephemeral beauty. Their take on dream pop in Summer of 1992 is fresh and captivating, perhaps because it’s mostly inspired by their transition from Greece to London and coming to terms with a brand new way of living. “Lucy” is the stunner of the five tracks, simply because of it’s dazzling instrumentals. The guitar and synth, reminiscent of 80’s underground bands, hazily shimmer and elevate the vocals to a point of absolute excellence.

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photo courtesy of artist

YEEVS – “Cycle As The Deal Goes Down”

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Australian shoegaze/punk band YEEVS have announced that their debut EP, How To Harken Back, will be released on July 7th. I heard their first single off of the new album this morning, and it’s incredibly addictive. “Cycle As The Deal Goes Down” is messy, raw, and absolutely self-aware in the way the instrumentals and sharp vocals mash together. It’s a track that goes back and forth from being pissed off to being fun and carefree, and because of this, it begs to be played over and over again.

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photo by Jenni White

Summer Fiction – “Dirty Blonde”

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The tracks on Summer Fiction’s new album Himalaya all seem to have an almost tangible feeling of warmth, as well as a quirk that turns vocals into prolonged declarations of love. “Dirty Blonde,” my personal favorite off of the album, showcases Bill Ricchini’s whimsical, calm vocals surrounded by a cheerful piano melody and a light synth background. Summer pop should be an uplifting experience, and Summer Fiction definitely has it mastered.

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photo courtesy of artist / Sylwia Osiecka

Girls Names – “Reticence”

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Irish indie punk band Girls Names have announced that their third full length album Arms Around A Vision will be released on October 2nd. Their sound is fierce and chock full of raw, unapologetic fury, as well as perfectly lethargic vocals. “Reticence,” the first track off the new album, conveys an overall feeling of angst with the tortured intention of keeping it all to yourself. As a result, the track almost boils over with intense trepidation and gracefully lurches forward to some sort of resolve.

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photo by Sarah Doyle

Album Review: Son Lux – Bones

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Son Lux, also known as the experimental electronic project of Ryan Lott, has always experimented with sound and the force behind it. Lanterns, his 2013 release, seemed to be steeped in both minimalist and maximalist overtones, and, because of the brilliant way it was orchestrated, made it one of the year’s best albums. Since then, Lott has added guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang to the group with an attempt to make a more meaty, deep rooted sound with more technique and experimentation. However, when hearing the band’s fourth full length album Bones for the first time, all these sounds constantly fight for attention, and as a result, it feels a bit too ambitious for it’s own good.

One of the most redeeming qualities that Son Lux possesses is the unique timbre of Ryan Lott’s voice. It quivers and falters, all with a scratchy, yet vulnerable feeling that proves that whatever lyrics he’s singing he really feels. However, this is perhaps the only thing that ends up saving the album in certain ways. From opener “Breathe In” to closer “Breathe Out” (both instrumental tracks), its a cacophony of sound, all fighting to be recognized. Experimental electro-pop is a lofty genre to attack in the first place – so this struggle is expected – but, seeing as how successful Lanterns was, it was shocking to hear this sort of disconnect. “You Don’t Know Me” is harsh and dark, with an eerie, carnival music sort of sound, while “I Am The Others” incorporates industrial noise with deep vocals. Even more shocking is that this album was supposed to document some sort of positive, uplifting change, as mentioned in the album’s single “Change Is Everything” as well as “Your Day Will Come.” Rather than feel inspired, the listener feels under attack for the majority of the time spent listening, which is perhaps because of the lack of context or story.

However, positivism and sensitivity are present in this album after all, but it takes longer to find. “Flight” finally gives the listener some sort of meaningful emotion, and “Undone” possesses both a vulnerable and primal urge that is absolutely breathtaking, making it the best track the album has to offer. It’s a shame that an attempt at brightness so easily dissolved back into darkness, especially since Son Lux has already mastered the sullen, introspective sound on his last album. Even though the album fails at delivering the sort of feelings it intended, in the end, I can’t fault it too much for having such a humanistic desire to search for something new.

Bones will be released on June 23rd.

5.5/10

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photo courtesy of artist/npr

Foals – “What Went Down”

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Well, the big surprise I mentioned last week is finally here! Foals have announced that their fourth full length album, What Went Down, will be released on August 28th. It will be the follow up to 2013’s Holy Fire, an album I hold in extremely high regard due to it’s pure emotion and honesty. However, frontman Yannis Philippakis has mentioned that this particular album will probably be their most intense record yet, considering that it’s inspired by tortured themes like “cultural identity, generational anxiety, cynicism, pessimism and heartbreak.”:

"I wanted to tap into my inner madman and feel like I was channeling somesort of fevered creature. I wanted to relish the mania, and what ended up happening – looking back at certain passages in some songs –is pretty intense in a way that I wouldn't have ever been able to 
plan."

Earlier today Yannis stopped by Annie Mac’s BBC Radio 1 show and the title track was played for the first time. “What Went Down” sounds almost like the culmination of every emotion felt by the band over the past few years, and as a result, the instrumentals and vocals sound frighteningly manic and volatile; It’s perhaps the most primal song the band has ever done. Foals has mentioned that this album will be slightly different in tone than their past work, but knowing their particular style and attitudes, they always manage to pull it off flawlessly.

 

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photo by Nabil Elderkin

The Maccabees – “Something Like Happiness”

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British indie band The Maccabees are all set to release their fourth full length album, and have also released the title track “Marks To Prove it,” which is fast-paced and incredibly passionate in its instrumentals. Last week they released their second single “Something Like Happiness,” which is slower, smoother, and more refined in the vocals, but still follows that same unapologetic tone that The Maccabees are known for. Marks To Prove It will be released on July 31st.

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photo courtesy of DIY

Pompeya – “Pasadena”

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Russian indie band Pompeya released their debut album Real about a month ago, and already they’re starting to receive some much deserved attention. Even though Russian is his main language, lead singer Daniil Brod has said that he enjoys the safety and solace of English lyrics, and that freedom and confidence definitely shows in the upbeat tracks. “Pasadena,” like the other songs on Real, are influenced heavily by 80’s pop and as a result, it sounds bright, energetic, and a little nostalgic, which I always love.

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photo courtesy of artist

Album Review: Alpine – Yuck

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Australian indie pop band Alpine specialize in peppy songs meticulously worked and perfected until they are left with a whimsical, yet delicately eerie sound. Often times it’s hard to believe they’re a six-piece outfit, considering their past history in sparse beats and effortless techniques, but when listening to Yuck, the follow up to 2012’s A is for Alpine, it’s definitely more apparent, and those same beats expand and morph into absolutely addictive entities.

The first thing about Yuck is that it’s amazingly quirky, and it takes after the band in that sense. While Alpine is first and foremost a pop band, there are moments in Yuck that could be considered on the borderline of R&B and even electronica, and after slow opener “Come On,” the album turns into a rapid exhibition of these influences. “Crunches” begins with meticulous guitar melodies and slowly builds, while “Up for Air” break things down a little bit more and lets the song move forward on it’s own volition. “Jellyfish” and “Much More” are quirky and ethereal, both showing off the band’s skills in the genre. R&B inspired track “Damn Baby” is triumphant and upbeat, and brings back a lot of the techniques that make the album great. The techniques that the band uses, including heavy beats and jumpy synth, give each song it’s own specific personality, while also solidifying the band’s reputation. However, where the album loses points are how the band chooses to use these techniques. While it is of Alpine to try and pull off the “messy” effect of their songs, often times it sounds a bit too convoluted and all goes by in a haze – almost as if they wanted to include every learned technique all at once. I suppose it is something that comes from having a band with so many people and clashing opinions, but it is something that is definitely noticeable and somewhat takes away from the specific feeling that they were trying to achieve.

The songs, overall, are mostly about love and the lack thereof, and no track quite sums up frontwomen Lou James and Phoebe Baker’s feelings on the subject other than “Foolish.” The quick strums of the guitar in the opening are almost tangible, and it sets the tone for the rest of the song when it morphs into a full-bodied, bright orchestral track. The vocals are impassioned and the vocals themselves are almost childlike in a way, considering that it’s comparing a first kiss to a less than desirable experience. It’s a treat for the ears in how it jumps around so delicately, and it’s perhaps the best track on the album. The simultaneous desire and disgust for one’s own feelings towards a significant other runs rampant throughout Yuck, and as a result of that contradiction, it does sound triumphant, but with a vulnerable twist. While often times it can be a bit dizzying on the senses, the album is still a great example of Alpine’s abilities to be delicately meticulous and deeply self-aware.

6.0/10

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photo by Tracey Lee Hayes