MUSIC REVIEWS: Great Northern, MarQ Spekt, Youth Group, Oreka Tx, The Presets
Great Northern’s second album Remind Me Where the Light Is feels more like a continuation from their previous album than anything remarkably new or different – maybe a little darker. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing –Trading Twilight for Daylight achieved commercial success by appearing in several TV ads and the movie, 21, and was a solid debut album. Solon Bixler and Rachel Stolte’s nearly constant boy-girl voice-over mix remains their trademark sound, with Rachel’s voice continuing to be the more dominant and dramatic. Solon, formerly of the band 30 Seconds to Mars, has known Rachel for seven years. Many of the songs feature Rachel’s talents on piano, and also commonly incorporate the use of stringed instruments. The album starts out with several pulsating tracks in “Story” and “Houses” – “Story” marching to a steady drumbeat. The new album is consistent and very much quality, with intelligently arranged tracks that get better with each listen, but the album might be lacking any stand out “pop” hits. Other notable tracks are “Snakes,” “Warning,” and “Numbers.”
MarQ Spekt and producer Lex Boogie From the Bronx’s latest collaboration has plenty of grit cultured rhymes poured over sonically chalky rhythm and blues samples. The musical landscape is full of noisy unevenness that matches perfectly to the consistent yet captivating style of Spekt’s vibrant delivery. An underground legend for over 10 years, MarQ Spekt is diamond tough lyrically. The tight-fisted bang of each song reaches back to the specialness of 90s style basement beats where each track drowns in storytelling and introspection. A few skits and interludes thread through the album allowing it to take on a lighter mood. “Jet Leg” shines as a streetfab affair of violins that lift high as skyscrapers and Spekt’s prose floats underneath to bring the eye level hustle of city life. The caramelized brag of Spekt’s tone is a thing of wonder. Guilty Party is that branch of underground hip-hop where soul heavy samples and sick diss lyrics battle for first place over songs of street life, women, pop culture, struggle and victory. Guilty Party brings hip-hop and music fans lyrical appeal coupled with musically grinding and organic samples much lost and longed for these days.
Forming more than a decade ago in the Sydney indie-rock scene, Youth Group quickly sparked a loyal local following, but didn’t actually release an album until the turn of the century. Not until 2005 and their second album was the group finally exported to the US scene. Supporting the US tours of bands such as Death Cab for Cutie and Coldplay quickly thereafter, the group’s indie-rock background flowered into a cross audience appeal with such exposure.
This new offering continues in the vein of their previous releases. Still, I felt a lot of Cold Play influences here, with slower tracks accompanied by dream like piano or keyboards set under the standard drums/bass/guitar combo. Luckily there is also a track where horns and accordions are added, giving the feel of a true to form indie-rock ballad.
Lead singer Toby Martin’s vocals stand out as in previous albums, acting as both an accessible conduit for new listeners to latch onto and an anchor for the band, regardless of if they’re rocking out or slowing the tempo down. The lyrical content is much the same as previous albums, speaking to a female presence and evoking bittersweet relationships beginning or ending. Dove tailing with the ephemeral aural sensibility of many of the tracks, many songs concern themselves with dreams or fantasies of said female presence, which is most likely how the album got its name.
Some stand out tracks are the pounding bass driven ‘One For Another’ about trading one addiction for another, romantic love for professional life. ‘Two Sides’ is a song that has an almost post-punk feeling with occasional synth inflections and very accessible lyrics, the chorus super catchy and fun, though the song seems to be about arguing. Finally, ‘Dying At Your Own Party’ is a slower track that evokes a cruise ship and a man lost overboard. The nautical theme is represented in the cover art along with the CD as well. All and all, an album made for long time fans, not making any radical changes to their sound, but still sounding good.
The world music project, Nomadak Tx captures the energy of life trekking in its richest musical form. Understanding the concept of this album and fully appreciating its beautiful organic harmonies is easy. Oreka Tx traveled to Mongolia, the Sahara, India, and the Arctic Circle. Their experience with other musicians helps to give a luxuriant rhythmic feel using a traditional instrument, the txalparta, as a centerpiece. Originating from Basque Spain, it consists of wooden slats or planks. When struck, air moves through the planks to give a unique percussive vibrating sound. Like the poetic union of various folk artists for this collaboration, the txalparta requires more than a single experience; it is played by two people. Richly structured and multi-layered in artistry and musicianship, this album has a natural ability to reflect travels so amazing that each listening experience despite the different genres between each track yields a deeper appreciation, a higher plane, and a more grand societal response to music and journeys that sounds like souls touching. Slide guitars, mandolin, banjo, clarinet, lute, strings and a whole host of many other different instruments swim against the vibrato of the txalparta along with double bass and drums. The journey in each song is captured at length in every second. Nomadak Tx seems to capture life experiences not only in palpable hopes but through a spiritually touching encounter.
The Presets are a nasty sexy music duo and their album Apocalypso in truth is as necessary as air and as sensual and exciting as a new love. The Presets are from Sydney, Australia and their first EP was released in 2003. The supreme glow is that they are electro thrash. Tightly wound tunes move up and down in a wounded temperamental space. Dance inducing, writhe heavy beats and redundant yet delicious bass runs fill the album. Apocalypso’s biggest features are lead singer Julian Hamilton’s vocals that are soulful throwbacks to an 80s pop front man allure. Kim Moye’s wizardry on keyboards and drums is perfection. Electrifying, entertaining, and futuristic synthesizers sing in crystallized robotic tongue in Moye’s artistic sound haven. “Aeons” unfolds like an ethereal world music piece where waterfalls and sun abound. The light but choppy keyboards paint a nice paradise in this mellow industrial tune where time slows only to enjoy its every drop. On “Anywhere” Julian’s subdued vocal builds beautifully over softened pulses of bass. “Yippiyo-Ay” is the ultimate pick-up affair where luscious lyrics make the song a perfect synth pop pearl. The thriving groove is fast and wickedly furious. It moves with a sweet club techno feel like a mix between Daft Punk and The Human League. A highly enjoyable dance album from a very genius duo where Apocalypso is a battle between wicked style and good fun.