Menomena’s Ode To Family

Menomena is back and still kicking! The creative trio lost a member but the Portland band’s unique angle on music remains…in fact it might be slightly more askew…in the best possible way! Read the Blurt Magazine review below:

(Barsuk Records)

Always brutally honest with their words and creative with their music, Portland trio Menomena has returned anew after Brent Knopf left the band after their 2010 release, #mines#.  This Menomena fan was saddened to learn of the dismantling of the trio and mourned the loss of future music. Luckily my mourning dress can be torched as Justin Harris and Danny Seim regrouped and released #Moms#.
A sonic evaluation of the impact their family had—and continues to have—on their lives, Harris and Seim continue their unique crafting of music with their fifth album. Though as lyrically pensive and jarring as 2010s #Mines,# #Moms# manages to dance the waves of the normative melancholic sea that is Menomena and not drown in it. “Plummage,” “Capsule” and even “Pique” commences the album on a musical upbeat and lighter note. Even with the latter’s lyrics: “Now you made me/With no clue as how to raise me…You’re in my bones and you’re in my teeth/Imperfect form from imperfect seeds” you can’t help but sway to the beat and heavy bass.

Mid-way through the album, #Moms# slows in it’s pace but is just as hypnotic; “Tantalas’” mesmerizing melody and rhythms and while “Latexas” evokes images of the Old West with its horns, galloping drums and the rattle of a guiro. A great return for this reinvented band, Menomena continues to sonically astound.

DOWNLOAD: “Tantalas,” “Don’t Mess With Latexas” APRIL S. ENGRAM

Be sure to keep Menomena on your radar at all times, you will not be disappointed!

Alt-J: An Awesome Fuss

This year’s Mercury Prize winners enter into the gray land of love ’em or hate ’em. Some absolutely love Joe Newman’s warbly voice and the spastic beats others…not as impressed. Me, I’m on the fence.  I definitely enjoyed a few songs on the band’s debut, An Awesome Wave but grew weary of the entire package…

Alt-J (∆)

An Awesome Wave

(Infectious Music)

The debut album that is quickly building a fan base for this UK quartet, #An Awesome Wave# is a quirky, genre blending album that pulls the majority of its inspiration from world music. The merging of Gus Unger-Hamilton’s keyboards, Gwil Sainsbury’s driving bass, Thom Green’s sporadic drums and Joe Newman’s vexing vocals proves at times well orchestrated and at times ostentatious in their attempt to create an atypical record.altj_album

Once #An Awesome Wave# makes its way to the track it maintains a steady jog and never quite sprints into action. Songs like “Estocada” on the US release, otherwise known as “Something Good,” “Tessellate,” “Taro,” and “Breezeblocks” all magically balance the disjointed, hypnotic beats the band creates with Newman’s flat vocals. Yet, outside these notable numbers, the equation grows wearisome and old, leaving some desiring certain parts of a song; wishing the band didn’t include the an a cappella intro on “Fitzpleasure” or quickened the pace of “Ms” as the slow tempo and inflectionless vocals grew predictable.

Nevertheless a creative effort from this new band, Alt-J shows promise and proves they can create hauntingly catchy melodies from irregular rhythms.

DOWNLOAD: “Tessellate,” “Estocada (Something Good)” APRIL S. ENGRAM

Metric Continues to Charm

Oh Metric, how I continue to heart thee. Though the quartet is straying from their dance-punk roots one cannot help but bop their heads and bounce to the upbeat music Metric creates. The music is fun, light and danceable, what more could you ask for? Blurt review below:
(Mom + Pop Records)

Metric again utilizes their formula for infectious, pop-rock on their fifth album #Synthetica.# The slightly more subdued cousin to 2009s #Fantasies,# Emily Haines’ sugar coated vocals tenderly delivers lyrics that range from self debasing to tongue-in-cheek wit. Opener “Artificial Nocturne” greets listeners to grinding keyboard and Haines piercing words, “I’m just as fucked up as they say;” thus commences an album that is far from synthetic.

Photo by Brantley Gutierrez
Photo by Brantley Gutierrez

Single “Youth Without Youth” is the forerunner of the album with its rolling drums and catchy, loopy guitar and bass. That high point of “loud rock” found in “Youth” does not return with the same force. In its stead #Synthetica# is full of either calm, pensive intros that grow louder from a buildup of musical layers or tracks that remain at a level plateau.  And when #Synthetica# almost nears its end a familiar, weathered vocal appears on upbeat “The Wanderlust” full of trickling keys, it’s only Lou Reed of course.

Nonetheless, with nearly each track including a mesmerizing hook or chorus that slowly permeates your subconscious—“Clone” and “Breathing Underwater” leap out from the pack in this regard—#Synthetica# is a solid album.

DOWNLOAD: “Youth Without Youth,” “Lost Kitten” APRIL S. ENGRAM

If you are not already, follow Metric and listen to Clone, a quieter number from Synthetica but just as alluring as the louder tracks!

The Horrors Take to the Sky

The Horrors continue to grow as a band and are slowly shifting their sounds from the entrancing, menacing, organ laden, “Addams Family-esque” punk to the great album reviewed below!

Blurt review below:

The once aptly named Horrors has returned with Skying, their third full length release. The UK quartet’s 2007 debut was an eerie, garage rock affair and we were introduced to their goth looks and macabre pseudonyms – Faris Rotter, Coffin Joe, and Spider Webb, to name a few. However, with each album the band has impressively transitioned from the dirty, punk-rock sounds of Strange House to more lush arrangements. This fact may sound like a death wish for early Horrors fans but you need not fear, as Skying merely rests on a different gauge on the same post-punk spectrum.

Opener “Changing The Rain” introduces us to the mellow sounds to come but next track “You Said” is where the album truly takes off. The bass laden, catchy “Still Life” is most reminiscent to previous release Primary Colors. Yet trickery is the pace of Skying as it is not till the end of a track when the Horrors truly explore their sonic terrain. “Endless Blue” greets us with a slow intro before exploding with heavy guitars while the cool choppy keyboard and drums of “Wild Eyed” decrescendo before resurfacing and accompanied by sound effects and horns.

Skying proves a maturing for the band and unveils a new realm of sonic possibilities.

DOWNLOAD: “Still Life,” “You Said”

Check out The Horrors, you won’t be disappointed! No, really!

Milagres is to Miracles…

as Glowing Mouth is to sonic gem. All right, ignoring that terrible, doesn’t-quite-work, SAT-esque sentence, Milagres’ latest album is simply beautiful. Their sophomore release, Glowing Mouth, illustrates a maturing for the Brooklyn band. They underwent a few changes before reaching this (dare I say it) pivotal point in their journey; in fact, these modifications are ones several bands make within their musical career.

Change the name. Check.

Alter their sound a bit. Check.

Have an accident in the woods that forces the lead singer to convalesce at home with nothing but his thoughts and a pad of paper to begin writing anew. Triple check.

Blurt review below:

New York quartet Milagres, Portuguese for miracles, underwent a metamorphosis. After two EPs the gents changed their name from The Secret Life of Sophia. It was during this transition they released 2008 debut Seven Summits; the LP slightly foreshadowed what would be the staple sound in Glowing Mouth.

An impressively eclectic album that defies a set genre, Glowing Mouth delicately balances its organic, ambient music with an electronic undertone. The album’s sound influenced by a hiking trip away from the big city, Wilson began cultivating Glowing Mouth. Calm numbers such as “Fright of Thee,” For Disposal,” and “Moon On The Sea’s Gate” maintain a stillness throughout that gives way to a chorus overwrought apprehension. And it is not only the music that takes us on this emotional ride; Wilson’s voice is an impressive instrument as well. Otherwise resting in the alto range, we are introduced to Wilson’s falsetto in “Halfway,” which is fully explored in the title track.

Swimming in catchy melodies and tantalizing music (along with Wilson’s vocal abilities), it may be difficult to select a favorite track within Glowing Mouth – but it’s quite easy to enjoy.

DOWNLOAD: “Glowing Mouth,” “To Be Imagined”

Be sure to visit Milagres’ site to discover more about this evolving band.

All Rise for Augustines!

Brooklyn band Pela went through many obstacles before deciding to call it quits in 2009.  As they wrote on their site:

“Over the past 2 years we’ve faced tremendous obstacles.  We recorded an album twice, had a falling out/legal battle with our old label, fired 2 managers, had a big record deal fall through, and Billy had a hand injury followed by a foot injury.”

Yet, we Pela fans can be thankful that Billy McCarthy and Eric Sanderson persevered, joined forces, and released debut Rise Ye Sunken Ships. Well, read about it in the Blurt review below:


Promising Brooklyn band Pela disbanded in 2009 yet the talented musicians are returning. Former lead guitarist Nate Martinez went on to form Thieving Irons, while former lead singer, Billy McCarthy, and bassist, Eric Sanderson, have resurfaced-with Rob Allen on drums-as We Are Augustines. Debut ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships is a welcomed arrival. One of the best equations of Pela was McCarthy’s entrancing, raspy voice and once again Pela fans can swoon to his enthralling vocals.

‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships is sonically similar to Pela, and also falls into the classic, American rock genre, yet proves more muted and introspective. And equally impressive to the contemplative scope of the lyrics are their sources of inspiration as explained by McCarthy. The catchy single “Chapel Song” contemplates the emotions of watching a former love marrying another. “Augustine,” the rocky relationship between brothers; and “Patton State Hospital,” the heavy burden of placing a loved one, formerly institutionalized, in the state hospital of the same name.

A fine return for McCarthy and Sanderson, ‘Rise Ye Sunken Ships will hopefully prove the catalyst of a lengthy career for the talented trio.

DOWNLOAD: “Chapel Song,” “Patton State Hospital”

Check out We Are Augustines‘ site to learn more about the lads and enjoy the uber catchy, “Chapel Song” right here.

Damned Constant Future…

Parts & Labor returns with their fourth LP, Constant Future. And sure, our future may be ever looming and bleak but at least it sounds good. Parts & Labor’s lead singer, Dan Freil, injects a dose of morose with his lyrics as he scrutinizes life’s follies. And though the band has downsized from a quartet, you’d never know an instrument was subtracted from their “musical equation” as the three gents still manage to produce massive, harmonious commotion.

Blurt review below:

Photo by Brock Fetch
Photo by Brock Fetch

Nine years and counting, Brooklyn trio Parts & Labor continues to astound with the amount of layered, sonic commotion they can create with just drums, bass, a keyboard and a guitar. Constant Future, their fourth full length, bursts through 12 songs in a mere 39 minutes.

Perhaps this fast playback attributes to some songs blurring into one, but luckily there are a few tracks that rises above the amalgam and hook you with their catchy melodies and riffs. “Fake Names,” “Outnumbered” and “Neverchanger” are the definite forerunners; and though the dynamic music is entrancing, equally impressive are the existentially, poetic lyrics and Dan Freil’s fast delivery. How often does one utilize words such as “beleaguered” and “unencumbered” in one song (“Outnumbered”)? Constant Future is an adrenaline charged album that proves Parts & Labor still know how to rock.

DOWNLOAD: “Outnumbered,” “Skin and Bones”

Be sure to visit Parts & Labor’s site to discover more about this kinetic, noise band.

Drum roll for my favorite track, “Skin and Bones!”

AgesandAges Is Restless

Alright You Restless proves to be a strong debut from a blossoming band. What else can you suspect from a seven piece, alt-folk band from Portland whose producer was Viva Voce‘s Kevin Robinson? (And if you are not familiar with the Viva’s click on that link back there.)

Some words I used to describe Restless…”organic, emotive, upbeat, positive, charming…” Sounds good so far? Then read the full Blurt review below:

Photo By: Alicia J. Rose

Portland seven-piece folk outfit, AgesandAges, releases an upbeat, positive debut that clandestinely lifts your spirits. Damn them. With their memorable harmonies and melodies Alright You Restless proves charmingly simple yet intricate. Though Tim Perry is the band’s lead vocalist, all members lend their voices and AgesandAges manages to beautifully balance everyone’s instruments (strings, drums and the occasional piano or accordion) to orchestrate heartfelt music that channels Americana.

“No Nostalgia,” “Alright, You Restless,” and “So So Freely” are all quality tracks where the music and Perry’s vocal stylings permeate your mind after several listens. Yet the songs that prove the most outstanding are those where the other members of AgesandAges join Perry. The two closing tracks, “When I Was Idle” and “Souvenir,” best illustrate this element and are the most pulsating numbers. Alright You Restless is an organic, emotive album that will remind music aficionados that good music thrives.

DOWNLOAD: “When I Was Idle,” “Souvenir”

And, of course, be sure to visit AgesandAges’ site find out more about this new, promising band.

Cold War Kids’ Return

I have been a fan of the Californian quartet for some time now and had the luxury of catching them live in ’09 and interviewing lead singer Nathan Willet last year. So I had to round off “my three” with an album review of their latest release, Mine is Yours.


Indeed, a slight departure from their CWK “staple sound,” something Willet addressed in that marvelous interview I have linked up there, Mine is Yours still possess that Kid soul fans have grown to love…just not enough of it in my opinion. BUT! You be the judge…check out my Blurt review and be sure to visit Cold War Kids’ site.

Also, here is my favorite track on Mine is Yours, the extra soulified track “Sensitive Kid!”