Album Review: Fakear – Animal

In his career as Fakear, French electronic producer Théo Le Vigoreux has explored and experimented with many different aesthetics over the past few years. The lush, ethereal Morning in Japan EP and the more complex, emotional Sauvage EP proved his worth in the vast world of textured, sampled electronic music, as well as highlighted his skill in evoking the same sort of passion found in world music with intricate, exotic sounding beats. In Animal, Fakear’s debut album, the inspiration is centered in the heat and tension of the jungle, where his signature flourishes are able to blossom and thrive.

As if attempting to make up for lost time, Animal houses a whopping seventeen tracks, each having its own particular flair while still managing to remain in its overall exotic, other-worldly aesthetic. Almost like stepping carefully into the unknown, blistering heat of the jungle, each layer of opener “Sheer-Khan” emerges in waves, then quivers and vibrates in place once you’re comfortable, soothing with its focused, sharp vocal sampling. The title track, while more minimal, packs in everything from deep, house beats to a bright, shimmering violin melody, and given the title, proves effective in capturing the simultaneous beauty and intrigue that one may ponder when viewing a majestic beast. In “Silver” – the first track featuring lyrics from Rae Morris – Fakear shows his talents in enveloping the human voice free of splicing and patchwork, resulting in a smooth, atmospheric sound. Unfortunately, there always tends to be a few filler tracks in between the stunners on electronic albums, and here, “Red Lines” and the spotty, moody “Le Chant Du Monde” take the blame. However, the meticulous work clearly done on the rest of the album overshadows them completely, picking up again on the bouncy “De La Luz” and slowing down on Rae Morris’s second track, “Leaving Tokyo.” In between lies the the stunning “Ankara,” which builds again in layers until it finally explodes in a mirage of beautifully orchestrated vocals. The only gripe with the album at this point is its slight issue with fluidity – considering the differing styles, there were moments where I felt a track could flow more effortlessly into the next, or even have tracks swapped around or deleted in order to perfectly encapsulate Fakear’s desires to create his own version of a lovesick album.

However, if there was only one aspect of Fakear that truly separates him from the hundreds of electronic artists in a fresh way, it would have to be his brilliant method of vocal sampling. Though these are still basically instrumental tracks, due to the manipulated and spliced vocals, each track has a mind and mood of its own, even isolated from the exotic instrumentals that give it its body. While “Lessons” follows this to a certain extent, “La Lune Rousse” – which also appeared on the Sauvage EP – is perhaps the finest example of this as well as showcasing Fakear’s passion and emotional influence. As if the absolutely breathtaking instrumentals aren’t enough to show it, the cries and sighs that emerge in the vocals really push it over the edge into brilliance. This is the track that I keep returning to after indulging in Fakear’s more primal tracks, mainly because it remains the most delicate despite the harshness of synths and drum beats. Walking the line between frenzy and beauty Animal, despite its slight hiccups, remains a complex work that spans many differing styles and aesthetics, and the perfect first step for Fakear as a more mature artist.

8.0/10

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photo courtesy of artist/Laurene Berchoteau
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Mild High Club – “Homage”

Alexander Brettin’s psychedelic project Mild High Club have announced the upcoming release of Skiptracing, the follow-up to last years’ debut album Timeline. “Homage,” the first taste of the new album, throws back to the same psychedelic, 70’s vibe that appeared on his debut. With atmospheric, swirling synth, a brooding bass line, and Brettin’s smooth, flinty vocals, its the perfect mix of accessible and evocative. Mild High Club’s sophomore release Skiptracing will be released on August 26th.

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photo by Francesca Beltran

Jaunt – “Hello”

Toronto-based dream-pop quintet Jaunt recently announced the release of their new EP Chat later this summer, and, along with the news, they have also released “Hello,” the follow-up to the smooth, velvety track “Gentle Reminder.” Though the new track is short, it’s definitely on the sweeter side, as it contains everything from lush, delicate sighs to bright, catchy melodies. The tension in the vocals and instrumentals build and explode towards the end like steam from a kettle, then dissolves with an ominous dial tone to leave you wanting more. It’s a great first taste of the upcoming EP, and sure to be a summer stunner.

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photo by Devon Little

Metronomy – “Night Owl”

British electronic-pop group Metronomy have recently announced the upcoming release of Summer 08, the follow-up to 2014’s Love Letters. Along with the news, the group also released the first single “Old Skool,” which revisited their signature funky aesthetic, as well as the jaunty, swirling track “Back Together.” This week, the group released the more moody “Night Owl,” which may the most indicative of frontman Joseph Mount’s ultimate desires to create a more mature dance album. After a somber, yet lush tonal opening, the track erupts into a catchy beat, making Mount’s vocals exposing the frustrations of the late-night club scene seem ironically euphoric. Summer 08 will be released July 1st.

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photo by Nicolas Coulomb

Album Review: Mitski – Puberty 2

During adolescence, the contradicting and painfully overbearing emotions of happiness and sadness appear more frequently, where they take turns oscillating between normality and unbearable, painful intensity. In most cases, we grow to understand these emotions to the point where we control them, and not the other way around. The area in between these two ideas is where the raw and honest music of Mitski Miyawaki finds both solace and frenzy. Puberty 2 – Mitski’s fourth and most impressive release to date – not only allows the emotions of sadness and happiness to coexist, but also highlights the way they find meaning within each other through eleven visceral, wonderfully genuine tracks.

In the lyrics for the short, stunning closer “A Burning Hill,” Mitski provides the listener with her own complex, internal struggle, as well as the thesis for the album, singing “I am a forest fire/ and I am the fire and I am the forest/ and I am a witness watching it.” It’s probably one of the most evocative descriptions of depression and insecurity that has ever been put into lyrical form, and its made even better considering the fact that it is presented atop a simple, haunting guitar melody. “Thursday Girl” has this same soft, haunting feeling, where her soft, elastic voice pleads for someone to take away all of the feelings she has been forced to face head on. There are moments of grunge, like the visceral, halfway mark “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” sandwiched between soft, ballads that swap out the rawness of passion with one more intimately evocative. The standout track “Fireworks” is perhaps the most representative of this, as Mitski simultaneously gives her most beautiful vocal performance while sharing the album’s most desolate, but somehow hopeful lyrics, singing that “one morning this sadness will fossilize/ and I will forget how to cry.”

Even though the album can be intimate and even uncomfortable to listen to at times, Mitski does try her best to make the album accessible to all, spending more time on crafting intelligent metaphors in order to highlight the emotion itself rather than her own personal relationship with it, even going as far as describing lovers as abstract concepts like “happy” and “silence.” She sings mostly of love as well as the absence of it, due to either the clash of cultures or just pure disappointment, seen in the albums two most stunning tracks “Happy” and “Your Best American Girl.” The latter begins soft and nurturing and ends in an eruption of energy, as the half-japanese artist struggles with her desire to become the pure, american version of herself in order to please a lover as well as the desire to remain true to her heritage, congratulating the way her mother raised her when his refuses to do so. Even though the track deals with the crippling feelings of rejection, it remains beautifully focused, which can also be said about “Happy,” ironically the most representative of the duplicitous nature of emotion. As mentioned before, “happy” is described as a man who comes over, has his fun, then leaves, leaving a trail of destruction behind him. The apathetic, pounding introduction and stoic instrumentals highlight the fact that she may be numb to this repeated occurrence, solidified with stoic trumpet blares like a deep epiphany.

Despite Mitski’s direct treatment of more sensitive ideas, Puberty 2 never really sounds morose. Instead, it remains incredibly self aware, and, though you have to search for it, there are even brief moments where happiness and sadness are able to exist in perfect harmony.

8.5/10

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photo by Ebru Yildiz

The Tallest Man on Earth – “Time of the Blue”

Kristian Matsson’s last full length release as The Tallest Man on Earth was last years bold, personal Dark Bird Is Home, which both showcased and solidified his talent and skill as an artist in ten beautifully lush and evocative songs. Now, the Swedish folk musician has released the intricate, stripped track “Time of the Blue,” which might just be his most gorgeous song to date. Matsson’s voice dances and lingers on top of meticulous guitar melodies, intensifying in sorrow and passion as he belts out the three magical words I love you as if it were an epiphany from an intense period of solitude and introspection.

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photo by Cameron Wittig

Twin River – “Settle Down”

Today, Vancouver’s Twin River released Passing Shade, the follow up to last years’ debut album Should the Light Go Out. Seeing as though the group is self-described as garage pop, many of the tracks that appear on the album are incredibly jangly, evocative, and even a bit raw at times, beginning and ending with the tough, shimmering star “Settle Down.” Courtney Ewan’s swift, brazen vocals highlight the direct nature of the track itself, with a sharp, bright guitar riff peppered throughout. Through it is one of the more jagged tracks Twin River has to offer, there are moments of beauty within the instrumentals that make it also one of the best on the album.

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photo courtesy of artist

Album Review: Still Parade – Concrete Vision

Niklas Kramer’s first official release as Still Parade was 2013’s Fields EP, which featured the indie folk inspired track “Actors” as well as three other light, airy tracks with simple, mainly acoustic instrumentation. Since then, the Berlin based singer, songwriter, and producer has dramatically changed his sound to something more dense and substantial, transitioning from the austerity of acoustic folk to something Kramer refers to as the amalgamation of dream funk and psych pop. In Still Parade’s debut album Concrete Vision, Kramer’s lush, summery persona is further fleshed out, while leaving just enough space for introspection.

While the entirety of Fields was recorded in a professional studio, and, as a result, appeared slightly overworked, Concrete Vision has a softer, more delicate sound, due to the fact that Kramer took to a more domestic recording space in order to fully embrace the diy, lo-fi aesthetic that found him over the past three years. The whole “bedroom/apartment as a recording studio” has increasingly increased in popularity over the past few years, and often times it can feel forced or even emotionally sterile, but for Still Parade’s particular sound, it is definitely required, and it especially pays off in Concrete Vision. Opening track “Seasons” purely embraces that dream funk mindset with two minutes of quivering synth and Kramer’s flinty, borderline falsetto voice, leaving the listener wanting more. “Seasons” drifts seamlessly in stunner “Walk in the Park,” which features a breathtaking piano riff in the midst of layered synth, which is then interrupted by calm, introspective vocals, as if Kramer is actively urging you to take a break from the frustrations of life and just breathe. More standout tracks include the slightly psychedelic slow jam “Chamber,” as well as the textured, evocative “7:41,” the most suggestive of Still Parade’s skill as an artist.

Ironically, these standout tracks are all dispersed equally throughout the album, and the tracks in between act as both literal and figurative filler. In tracks like “Let Go” and “Everything Is Going Down (Again)” Kramer happily remains within the folds of summery synth and plays it safe, forgoing the chance to take risks in instrumentation and overall feeling, and thus ends up flowing together. In fact, it seems like many of the core melodies are often repeated, taking the similarities in the jaunty piano riff in “Walk in the Park” and the bass lines in “7:41” and “Morning Light” as prime examples. Despite the hiccups, however, Kramer does honor his ’70’s and ’80’s influence and inspirations, solidified by the lush closer “True Love,” sounding like something straight out of a John Hughes film. The magnum opus of the album, however, must be the absolutely mesmerizing track “7:41,” beginning with the swells of wonderfully squawking synth, bright drops of piano, and pounding bass, and ending with Kramer’s gentle vocal reassurance that everything will be okay, that there’s absolutely no reason to cry or hide yourself away.

Again, despite the slight hiccups, this remains the quintessential debut album, as it simultaneously establishes Kramer’s current personality as well as actively lays down the foundation for something even more evocative the next time around. Kramer’s use of synth is still wonderful and Concrete Vision is light and joyful as a result, making it perfect for the summer months.

7.3/10

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photo by Tonje Thilesen

Local Natives – “Villainy”

A few days ago, Local Natives announced that Sunlit Youth, the follow up to 2013’s excellent album Hummingbird, would be released September 9th, this news following the April release of the outstanding track “Past Lives,” which provided a slight peek into their creative minds and how it has changed over the past few years, staying true to their bright indie sound while also toying with a few newer techniques. “Villainy” immediately sounds like an inspired, harmonious mixture of everything – crisp, swelling synth, pounding drums, and of course, the mellifluous, dulcet harmonies of Taylor Rice and Kelcey Ayer, which at this point, must be considered Local Natives’ signature. Teetering on the border of conviction and uncertainty, “Villainy” sounds absolutely euphoric – a perfect blend of remembering the past and the desire to embrace the future.

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photo by Renata Raksha

Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”

Earlier this year, Mitski Miyawaki announced the release of her fourth studio album Puberty 2, the follow up to the rough, gritty release Bury Me At Makeout Creek. Since then, the intelligent and highly emotional track “Happy” – where joy and elation is synonymous with a bounder who has his fun then ducks out in the morning – and the powerful anthem “Your Best American Girl” where the twenty-five year old half-japanese artist reflects on her roots and the slight desire – but mostly the resistance – to live up to expectations, whether that is to society or people you’ve known for years. Mitski’s voice is elastic, switching from a soft croon to a refined growl just as the instrumentals do, hinting at that angst towards these same themes. However, “Your Best American Girl” is, first and foremost, a love song, where the feeling of not being enough for the person you love is often times far too much to handle.

Puberty 2 will be released June 17th.

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photo by Ebru Yildiz