Hot Chip Just Makes Sense

Hot Chip! Oh how this British electronic group makes me so happy! Already onto their sixth album, Hot Chip continues to dazzle us with their unique style of dance music; though some of the quirky they are know for is not as apparent and they bask in 80s stylized beats, it’s still damn good dance music! And here’s their official video for my absolute favorite song from Why Make Sense?, “Need You Now!

For Blurt Magazine:

Album: Why Make Sense?
Label: Domino
Release Date: May 19, 2015

The UK quintet returns with their sixth album, and with each release Hot Chip seems to slightly warp their sound and tap into different influences while maintaining their quirky core. Joe Goddard and Alexis Taylor continue to share vocal duties with Taylor’s gentle falsetto guiding most of the songs, effortlessly adding a soulful layer to each track .

Why Make Sense is a cool and collected album that will easily induce dancing—such as with “Easy To Get;” an upbeat song that starts quietly with plucky bass, guitar and high synths before transitioning to a house mix for the last 40 seconds. It ends too soon. “Need You Now,” the second single from the album, is a happily sad song that includes a sample from ‘80s R&B group Sinnamon; the powerful voice of Barbara Fowler echoes “I need you now” as Taylor quietly begins, “tired of being myself.”

The weak moments on Why Make Sense are few: “Love Is The Future” is an atypical pop song, and “Cry For You” is a high octane song in which the slower bridge doesn’t quite flow with the chorus. Nevertheless, Why Make Sense revels in ‘80s dance, R&B, hip hop and pop throughout straddles between sheer musical delight and melancholy as the upbeat music balances earnest lyrics.

DOWNLOAD: “Huarache Lights,” “Dark Night,” “Need You Now”

Modest Mouse is Back!

For Blurt Magazine:

Modest Mouse is back! Over 20 years have passed since their inception and the creative, lo-fi, explosive rock band toured in support of their newly released Strangers to Ourselves. Though the original line up that was Modest Mouse—singer/guitarist Isaac Brock, bassist Eric Judy and drummer Jeremiah Green—has been altered, added to, individuals briefly leave and return, the consistent member has always been Brock. Indeed, as the bombastic music and Green’s complexly delicate drumming are important elements to Modest Mouse’s music, Brock’s unique, delicate, gruff, lispy vocals have come to encapsulate Modest Mouse.

Since 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, it’s been an eight year wait for new material and the fans gathered this night at Babeville’s Ashbury Hall were ready for the band’s return. With an extensive discography to cover, Modest Mouse played mostly older fan favorites and the audience sang along to every song, old and new. Modest Mouse also returned with what has now become their live setup mainstay to create the level of noise expected from the seasoned musicians: two drummers (Green and Davey Brozowski), two guitarists (Brock and Jim Fairchild), two keyboardists (Lisa Molinaro and Tom Peloso) and a bassist (Russell Higbee). Unfortunately, Babeville’s sound system could not quite handle the musically stacked band but the sold out audience did not seem to mind as Modest Mouse drowned Ashbury with their sounds for two hours.

The converted church is a picturesque concert venue but too small for Modest Mouse’s fans as the hall was packed to the door with only standing room in the aisles remaining. Quite some time passed before the lights finally dimmed and Modest Mouse slowly emerged and approached their instruments. The crowd cheered at the seven members, yet one person was still missing. Once Brock walked onto the stage the audience exploded, to which Brock raised his cup to the fans. The band started the show with a loud bang, starting with new track “The Tortoise and the Tourist.” The loud number was a great opener as Brock shrieks the melodic chorus “so let’s walk on.” To my surprise, the next song was a personal favorite from popular album Good News for People Who Like Bad News, “Bury Me With It.” Once the first few familiar guitar chords were struck people cheered loudly and again sang along with Brock.

Green and Brozowski’s synchronized drumming was a show in itself as the two balanced drums and percussion and made it all look effortless. Brock took a break between songs to speak with the audience but his words could not be heard too well. After a few more songs, Brock had his mic replaced but it did not improve the quality; nevertheless, the band continued to play and the ecstatic fans continued to dance, sing and cheer them on. At one point, a fan grew so happy that he hopped and skipped up and down the aisle, singing along (his actions could easily be deemed “annoying” in such a small, hot space but his excitement was infectious as some couldn’t help but smile).

And the good spirits continued throughout the night as more than once the crowd filled the hall with their voices, either singing in unison with Brock or creating an unexpected call-and-answer moment with “The World at Large.” At one point Brock accidentally detuned his guitar for “Parting of the Sensory,” and of course it was his guitar that introduced the track. He stopped the band and addressed the crowd as he retuned, “see, what I did there was I was in tune, and I messed it up.” He started the song again and the rest of the night went without a hitch. And after a long night the band treated the Buffalo audience to a five song encore which was a bombastic close with fast, hard hitting and fun songs as “Dashboard” and “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box.”

A live show that excels just listening to the albums, Modest Mouse still knows how to incite sonic chaos.

***

Setlist:
The Tortoise and the Tourist
Bury Me With It
Dark Center of the Universe
Lampshades On Fire
3rd Planet
This Devil’s Workday
King Rat
Pups to Dust
Doin’ the Cockroach
Wicked Campaign
Parting of the Sensory
Custom Concern
Float On
Of Course We Know
Tiny Cities Made of Ashes
The World at Large

Encore:
Dramamine
Broke
Dashboard
The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box
The Good Times Are Killing Me

Sadness Remains in their Twilight

The Twilight Sad show no signs of bringing the sunshine to their music and we wouldn’t want it any other way! The Scottish band, known for the broodingly fetching dark sounds,  continue down the same path for their fourth album and it’s a good one!

Photo by Nic Shonfeld

For Blurt Magazine:

Album: Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave
Label: Fat Cat
Release Date: October 28, 2014
The Scottish trio is back with their brand of melancholic and dark rock on Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave. For their fourth album lead singer James Graham, guitarist Andy MacFarlane and drummer Mark Devine have returned to their more post-punk sound in comparison to 2012’s No One Can Ever Know, which entered an electronic territory. However, with the loss of two band members, the wall of sound they created is no longer present; Nobody Wants To Leave may not be as formidable, but it’s still menacing.

As a whole the album is quite somber and possesses a mellow thread throughout, with few tracks leaping out of the pack. Instead it’s the subtlety and reserved, dark shifts in tone, or Graham’s unique, nearly inaudible vocals, that tugs at listeners’ ears. Opener “There’s A Girl In The Corner” begins in true Twilight fashion with a simple, slow paced echoed guitar, dark keys and a heavy bass drum. The track’s chorus peaks with a fuzzed out guitar and a loopy synth as Graham repeats “she’s not coming back” for a haunting close. “It Never Was The Same,” “Sometimes I Wished I Could” and the title track are notable songs.

“In Nowheres” and “Nobody” have the heavily distorted guitar of past Twilight efforts. The latter’s simple, repetitive guitar coasts beneath Graham’s vocals before, almost 3 minutes in, the song picks up with an accordion, quiet horn and lead guitar. The understated and well executed change comes just shortly before the track ends. Where the rest of the album resides in Twilight’s stylistic mellow drones, the halfway point introduces “Drown So I Can Watch,” which quite ironically—given the title—is the most fast paced and upbeat track on the album. And in “Sometimes” the rhythmic bass drum is joined by a plucky piano and guitar, Graham’s haunting wails carrying the song to for a calm closing track to the album.

Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave is a welcome return as the band continues to evolve. Though Nobody might not be the album for everyone, given its pervasive gloom, but ultimately Twilight Sad just may have perfected the soundtrack for rainy days.

DOWNLOAD: “There’s A Girl In The Corner,” “Drown So I Can Watch”

Cold War Kids’ Home

Cold War Kids have slowly evolved from the lo-fi, soulful, blues rock over the years with each release; leaning towards a Kids’ filtered pop. With Hold My Home the band returns to the bluesy rock  for which they are known!

For Blurt Magazine:

Label: Downtown
Release Date: October 21, 2014
Cold War Kids
downtownrecords.com

Cold War Kids have returned with the brand of bluesy soul punk from which they diverged with their 2011 LP, Mine is Yours and rediscovered with Dear Miss Lonelyhearts. For their fifth album, Hold My Home, the Kids have created some tracks that are reminiscent to their older sounds that garnered their fanbase. Lyrically the Kids continue to explore insecurities, relationships, and peoples’ conflicting personalities and as with every LP from Cold War Kids, the songs that stand out are those that balance the music with Nathan Willett’s strong vocals.

The moments on Home that work the best are when less layers of sound are used, allowing Willet’s voice to flow with the music rather than create a loud noise to outdo him. Unfortunately the latter is a pattern on Hold My Home with tracks like “Drive Desperate” or “Flower Drum Song;” the chorus doesn’t quite match the catchy, strong beginning or make a cohesive transition. The title track begins with a heavy, fast and punchy bass that gives way to a screeching organ and guitar. Loud can be good, however here it can prove jarring.

Yet the moments on Hold My Home that shine are songs “Go Quietly,” “Nights & Weekends” and the catchy “Hot Coals.” “Go Quietly” begins with a dirty guitar riff and Willets’ voice before opening up to a punchy bass, rolling drums and a falsetto chorus that makes the song. “Nights & Weekends” and the minimalist track “Harold Bloom,” which only includes a calm organ and cymbals, possess a welcoming, laid-back blues vibe. And the energetic “Hot Coals” includes a mid-pitched quickened guitar riff and rumbling bass that will sound familiar to Kids’ fans as Willet sings, “I suspect the reason I am loved is because of how tight I’m holding on.”

Half of Hold My Home includes tracks that may grow on you with time while the other tracks jump out and snare you with their instant appeal.

DOWNLOAD: “Go Quietly,” “Hot Coals”

Museum of Love: Instaclassic

That’s right! I am declaring Museum of Love’s debut  something worth listening to and the duo someone worth watching. Though this is their self title debut, Pat Mahoney and Dennis McNany are veteran musicians who know how to craft unique sounds.

I am just going to quote myself here to spell out what I mean, “Museum of Love is a nonformulaic, hard to pin down, quirky and danceable album.” The gents of Museum of Love also create a great visual juxtaposition; in the wrong hands these sounds would be too cool for us to touch yet Museum of Love invites us in with their unique stylings.  What do I mean by this precisely, check out this promo video…

don’t you want to join the debauchery followed by a chill coffee session with these two?!

Here’s a video for one of my favorite tracks on their debut, “Down South.”

For Blurt Magazine:

Label: DFA
Release Date: October 14, 2014
dfarecords.com

After LCD Soundsystem (aka James Murphy) bowed out, many of the musicians who collaborated with Murphy went on to create their own projects: enter former LCD drummer Pat Mahoney. With his friend Dennis McNany the two formed Museum of Love, and for their self titled debut they’ve forged a unique electronic soundscape.

Mahoney’s vocal stylings alter slightly with the feel of each track as his soft, wispy voice balances between singing and spoken word. His lyrical approach fits the underlying melancholy that quietly pervades the album; calmer tracks such as “FATHERS” or “Monotronic” illustrate their knack for creating still, somber tracks that possess a quirky lead synth that lightens the feel. Within the latter track, rolling effects and a simple bass drum lead listeners to the words “I wasn’t made for this much happiness.” As the laid back beat gives way to organ-like keyboards we wait for the song to peak and take off; instead it, remains at its steady pace…and it works.

Static drums and shakers pick up the mellow “Down South” for a sophisticated track as Mahoney croons, “I want to feel in love.” “In Infancy” and “The Who’s Who of Who Cares” are also stand out songs yet the best number on the album holds the most head scratcher of a title, “Learned Helplessness In Rats (Disco Drummer).” Opening with the sound of waves, a steel drum and synth voices, the sounds fade to a deep bass and upbeat drums; it’s utterly entrancing. The album closes with tracks that deviate from the rest of the album; while an edgier rock influenced sound takes over “The Large Glass”—the almost lyrics track features distorted guitars and punk drum beat—closing song “And All The Winners (Fuck You Buddy)” is a ‘70s/soul-inspired number in which Mahoney’s almost falsetto delicately sings “how many ships have sailed and sank for it…fuck you buddy.”

A fine debut that is quite cohesive and flows well from track to track, with the exception of anomaly “Large Glass,” Museum of Love is a nonformulaic, hard to pin down, quirky and danceable album.

DOWNLOAD: “Down South,” “The Who’s Who of Who Cares,” “Learned Helplessness in Rats”

Interpol Paints…

OK! I couldn’t go through with an El Pintor-Spanish for The Painter-metaphor as an opener. Just trust me when I say: Interpol is back and they sound amazing! The gents are in form with their latest, El Pintor, and–if I don’t say so myself–have out-shined their last release, 2010’s Interpol. Where I walked away pocketing a few favorite songs from Interpol (2010) I find myself enjoying this whole album, rarely skipping ahead to the next track, a rare feat in this mp3 age.

Press Photo: Matador Records

For Blurt Magazine:

Album: El Pintor
Label: Matador Records
Release Date: September 9, 2014

Four years have passed since 2010’s Interpol and the departure of bassist Carlos Dengler; for their fifth LP Interpol simultaneously maintain their charged, melancholic rock and tread new grounds. El Pintor is the first album without Dengler’s contribution and the first time lead singer Paul Banks plays both guitar and bass; despite the loss of a band member the post-punk sounds remain as beefy, loud and moody as ever.

El Pintor is not Antics or Turn on the Bright Lights, there are not as many immediate hooks and riffs that were present on these earlier releases; instead, the solid music on El Pintor unveils a nuanced mellowing that has taken over the last two releases from Interpol. Thankfully Banks, Daniel Kessler and Samuel Fogarino have perked up since their 2010 album and have created a louder, more upbeat soundscape for listeners…as upbeat as our melancholic trio will allow, this is Interpol after all.

Kessler continues to create a separate landscape with his piercing lead guitar that adds a detailed accent to each track, “Same Town, New Story,”“My Desire,”“Tidal Wave”and “Twice As Hard”are prime examples. Fogarino’s skilled drumming is best heard on “Anywhere”as he changes the fast pace of the song ever so slightly and leads us to a smoother chorus that booms with his drum rolls. The bass heavy “Everything Is Wrong”is one of the catchiest tracks on the album and the words “Everything is wrong, truly wrong”never sounded so appealing. The one downfall to the piercingly loud executed music, Banks’vocals are drowned out but the themes of love, longing, sadness and a sense of foreboding are not lost.

DOWNLOAD: “Everything is Wrong,” “Anywhere,” “My Desire”

Liars’ Amazing Mess

You cannot help but to get excited when listening to Liars’s newest album, Mess! A great, ever-evolving band, Liars has always maintained their dirty-punk sounds but have added more electronica over the years and have done a ridiculously amazing job on this album. Even when they slow things down with less layered songs, the result-entrancing! Be sure to follow what Liars is up to, you will not be disappointed!

Liars
Liars press image for Mess by Zen Sekizawa

For Blurt Mag:

Label: Mute, http://www.mute.com

The creative electronic, noise trio makes a triumphant return with their seventh full length, Mess. Liars continues to wade in the melancholic, electro-dance-punk waters as they amp up the noise even more. Lead singer, Angus Andrew vocals are nearly inaudible for the entire album as they are processed through sound effects but this factor adds to the multiple layers of each song and fits the dirty, gritty feel of the appropriately named Mess. From the eerie, echo-y sounds of “Perpetual Village” that conjure images of the guys recording in an anchored, rusty ship to the upbeat, charged and catchy single “Mess on a Mission,”

From the first note Liars proves fun and entertaining as the album opens to a maniacally deep, robotic voice commanding, “Take my pants off.” We already know a good time is about to begin. “Mask Maker” could prove disturbing as the voice continues with “take my face off/give me your face” but this possibly macabre translation is lost into the hypnotic effects and dance beats that build for nearly 2 minutes before Andrew begins singing. Andrew’s deep vocals complement the dark, noisy sounds he and Aaron Hemphill and Julian Gross produced together, “VOX Tuned D.E.D.,” “Can’t Hear Well,” and the menacing “Pro Anti-Anti.” In fact, all of Mess has an enjoyably menacing feel that will prove inviting to Liars fans and new listeners alike.

Simply put, Mess is a damn good album!

DOWNLOAD: “VOX Tuned D.E.D.,” “Mess On A Mission,” “Dress Walker”

Elbow’s Latest Triumph Lands

I am a biased fan and lover of all things Elbow! I think everyone on this blue and green planet should listen to their lovely music, instantly fall in love with the beautiful soundwaves they produce, and play their music at their wedding. So again, not impartial! But with good reason, Elbow continually makes quality music that stands the test of time.  My fine words about this fine band can be found at Blurt Magazine but here it is for quick access:

elbow-band

The British quartet continues their upward flight into the sublime with the emotive lyrics and beautiful music of their sixth release, The Take Off and Landing of Everything. Over the years Elbow have polished their unique, raw and solemn rock all the while channeling the same ethereal energy on their 2001 debut Asleep in the Back. Guy Garvey’s calm, semi-raspy vocals continue to sooth listeners as his airy harmonies complement the well orchestrated music (included are horns and strings) as crafted by Pete Turner’s bass, Richard Jupp’s drums, Mark Potter’s guitar and Craig Potter’s keyboards and effects—who doubled as producer on Take Off.

There are moments when these two elements, harmony and melody, are quite prominent and balance each other, as with “My Sad Captains” or the 7 minute title track. Meanwhile, “The Take Off” includes a sea of effects, piano, charging drums, plucky guitar and backing vocals that fill every lush minute. Yet there are quiet moments during which Garvey’s voice is at the forefront and wholly carries the song, as in closer “The Blanket of Night”; this genteel song only includes a rim shot, light acoustic strumming, unobtrusive bass lines and a soft keyboard that give way to lush, pulsing keys that suggest a dreamscape.

Of course beautiful music will only hold its weight when accompanied by quality lyrics and Elbow does not fall short here either. Known for their ability to poetically touch on everything from loss and love in profound simplicity, they can express the depth of love. In “Real Life (Angel),” for instance, Garvey sings: “You never need for a thing in this world/While I have a breath in me, blood in my veins.”

With every release Elbow sharpen their craft by polishing their sound.The Take Off and Landing of Everything is another fine release from a band that has yet to steer wrong.

DOWNLOAD: “Charge,” “Sad Captains,” “Colour Fields”

And if you find yourself on this side of the Atlantic, take advantage of the opportunity of seeing the UK group during their North American tour! Having seen them live before it will surely be a great show:

2014 North American Tour

05/11 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
05/12 – Boston, MA – Royale NightClub
05/13 – Philadelphia, PA – Electric Factory
05/16 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
05/17 – Toronto, ON – Danforth Music Hall
05/19 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
05/20 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
05/23 – Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
05/24 – Portland, OR – Wonder Ballroom
05/25 – Quincy, WA – Sasquatch Music Festival
05/27 – Oakland, CA – The Fox Theatre
05/28 Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern

Neneh Cherry Returns

For Blurt Magazine:

The eclectic singer’s last solo album was 1996’s Man but she has continued to make music and collaborate with other musicians sporadically throughout the years from Gorillaz to Kleerup to, most recently, fellow Swedes The Thing. (Read about that collaboration here.) Electronica runs through Blank Project and its creation involves several individuals who specialize in the genre: produced by Kieran Hebden, aka Four Tet, it features collaborations with Robyn and duo RocketNumberNine.

The raw, mellow, hip-hop, electronic, jazz infused solo return of Neneh Cherry is an enjoyable ride; some songs are immediately addictive while others slowly become more appealing after several listens and sonic osmosis. A duet with fellow Swedish pop singer Robyn sounds promising in theory but “Out of the Black” is not the most enthralling number yet title track “Blank Project” is easily the strongest number with a heavy drum and bass that pulls you in, escalates the pulsating beats and induces dancing. The remaining splendor of Project rest in its sparse simplicity; songs such as opener “Across the Water,” or “422” quietly demonstrates this with very few instruments, only the occasional hand drum, organ and plucky as Cherry’s semi-raspy vocals carries each song.

The lyricism isn’t always profound; the strongest component to Blank Projectis the far from ordinary music. But there are moments when Cherry’s down to earth style proves vastly entertaining. In “Everything” Cherry maps a day that starts perfectly but slowly crumbles and she casually sings “a crack smoking hussy getting in my way too.”

Blank Project is equally unique, familiar and proves inviting in its soulful solidarity.

DOWNLOAD: “Everything,” “Blank Project”