Cloud Nothings - Attack On Memory
The much-hyped follow up to the self titled album of last year. Cloud Nothings continues to baffle me. They ended up on quite a few 'Best Of' lists last year, but it didn't really move me all that much. It was a fun, reckless pop rock release with some lo-fi bedroom charm and a punk aesthetic. But it didn't change my world, and I could name 30 more interesting releases from 2011 off the top of my head. So why the sudden explosion of popularity? That was my state of mind before hearing the new release, and even though I wasn't thrilled by them previously, I'm actually disappointed by Attack on Memory. It abandons the crowd-hopping pop anthems, the youthfulness and the soft/noisy dichotomy, but doesn't add anything new to the formula.
First of all, this guy CANNOT SING LOUDLY for the life of him. What was supposed to be a raw, naked roar is nothing more than a grating, strangled yelp pushed out of his throat like vomit, and as such only reveals how little real vocal power this guy has. If this was predominantly a noise rock record and that somehow fit with something of that caliber, fine, whatever, but it isn't. Not most of the time, anyway. That might be a minor thing for some people but it appears to be a focus for the majority of the songs - it's an inseparable part of any Cloud Nothings conversation, and cannot be written off. The melodies and chords are simple enough, which is expected from a band like this and can't really be held against them, but in the end that just translates to nothing really exciting. 'Cut You' is the best song on the album by far - you can hear him singing (actually singing!) softer and much more in tune, the chords are rendering yet maintain that rough quality, percussion is on point and it sounds more complex than most other songs. Compared with the yawning, plodding drawl of tracks like 'No Future/No Past' and 'Wasted Days', not every other song is a groaner - 'Separation' is a pulse-raising thrasher (conspicuously devoid of vocals), and 'Stay Useless' sounds like it could be the breakout pop hit of the winter. Taken as a whole, though, Attack on Memory is a few gems and a disappointing amount of off-base tracks.
Here's the album. (V0)
Lindstrøm - Six Cups of Rebel
I don't have a ton to say about this album, actually. It's an electronic/disco thing, heavy on the synths, with a constant pulsing bass that ALMOST makes me want to get up and dance, but unfortunately this constantly seems to undershoot its potential. The production is top-notch while every other aspect of these songs are average at best. He introduces me to nothing remotely new or revolutionary, which would be fine if this was just a collection of solid tracks, but sadly there's just way too much that bores me.
The album seems to start off strong until I realize that every song is pretty much the same tempo with the same kick drum. The synths sound stock and cheap, like he lazily cherry picked them from Fruity Loops. Sometimes (especially on 'Call Me Anytime', where the first couple minutes seem to be synth-noodling that goes nowhere) he sounds downright amateur. The small bit of vocals that are present are scattered and random, and I know that vocals aren't the focal point in something like this, but when they're as mumbly and out-of-tune and non-committal as these, what's the point of having them at all? 'All I want is a quiet place to live' in an annoying falsetto with the same old beat for six minutes straight? He could have replaced that vocal with literally anything else and it would have made it ten times as interesting and listenable. Back to 'Call me Anytime', a large portion at the end is incoherent stop-and-start muttering that doesn't follow the beat and adds nothing, while the title track just has pointless laughing near the end. As for the tunes themselves, they're simply too repetitive while not having any real meat to them. It's not extremely interesting, nor is it properly dancey, or hypnotizing, or evocative, or anything. It just is. Bottom line, I'm obviously just not feeling this record. For me, at best it's bland background noise to drone out to.
Here's the album. (320)
The Maccabees - Given To The Wild
I'm going to admit right now that I missed the boat on The Maccabees, as this is the first album I've heard of theirs. Based on my very small amount of research it appears these guys have been popular for some time - I don't know why I haven't heard of them before now, really. It seems they originate from Britain, so that's a good excuse. I generally don't enjoy hopping into a band's discography at random but I guess it's not a big deal.
Anyway, Given To The Wild. It's a sweet and delicate indie rock record, a smart mix of upbeat toe-tappers and soaring heart-renderers. This band feels like an experienced and seasoned oufit unconcerned with gimmicks or scenes, out to simply make some engaging songs. They feature twinkling on-point guitar work, a singer intensely familiar with his range and output, savage drums that get your heart racing, and tactful inclusion of varied instrumentation like horns and light synths that never feel dominating or overdone, or, well, tacky. They don't seem to be breaking new ground - they know what they do and they do it well. There's a tiny bit of filler here but nothing that ruins the album experience, most songs stand out enough from the others that they don't all sound the same. This is probably going to be a favorite for awhile. It's definitely widely accessible but that doesn't come close to tarnishing its overall quality.
Here's the album. (256, to be replaced) (DOWN)
Anthony Green - Beautiful Things
Veteran frontman Anthony Green's second solo release, Beautiful Things, is a triumphant announcement of his fully realized sound. After singing for a few bands, most notably Circa Survive, he released his solo debut Avalon, which is my main focus for comparison simply because the only thing you can put side by side (in terms of his bands) is his vocal quality. That's only one part of the equation here, however I realize the importance so I'll get it out of the way first: the decay of his range with age and strain is conspicuous. He simply cannot reach the signature highs that he exhibited in Circa Survive to great effect - compare a current track like 'Get Yours While You Can' to something like 'The Glorious Nosebleed' 6 years prior. The piercing, crystal clear power yell has been replaced by a throaty, sandpaper rasp that becomes most apparent when he attempts to reach his past heights. That might be a bigger problem if Anthony was constantly striving for that, but he appears comfortable in a strong median that suits him.
That aside, Beautiful Things is a massive improvement on Avalon in just about every way. Avalon sounded disjointed and half-formed. Between the decent indie pop, there were sappy ballads like 'She Loves Me So', a bizarre electronic interlude, and the plain awfulness of 'Califone'. It was all over the place. Beautiful Things is fine-tuned to hell and looking straight ahead. The instrumentation is precise and professional, and instead of diving into random experiments, he's dipping his toes into things like folk and country and assimilating that into his personal style to bring refreshing glimpses into his potential. For something that could've easily been another 'Oh, that guy. He's still making records, huh?' from a seasoned figurehead, This record is a pleasant surprise that makes me excited for what else he's got up his sleeves.
Here's the album. (v0) (iTunes Deluxe edition with demos and bonuses) (replaced)
Decide for yourself.