MUSIC REVIEWS: Yonlu, Buraka Som Sistema, Bon Iver, New Found Glory, Late of the Pier, The Decemberists
Yonlu, born Vinicius Gageiro Marques is from the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre. At a very young age, his affinity for music manifested itself in his ability to play many different instruments. He also taught himself English by watching television. It would seem that his future would be vibrant and alive. Of the hundreds of songs he recorded and despite his vitality and markedly superb stylings of softened yet characteristically somber tunes over a beautiful rise and fall of pleasant emotional bossa nova leanings, sadly, Yonlu ended his life shortly before his seventeenth birthday in July of 2006.
A Society in Which No Tear is Shed is Inconceivably Mediocre is a mostly wispy yet, at times, upbeat collection of songs that stem outwardly. The opening single, “I Know What It’s Like” is reminiscent of Elliott Smith yet pivots off a nice groovy run of guitar and indie pop rock. More eerie, “A Boy and His Tiger” moves more like Nick Cave, beginning with haunting vocals that soon reincarnate into a high pitch, almost circus like fodder. “Deskjet Remix With Sabupulse” is a lo-fi industrial jam and is immediately catchy. The bright melody and minimalist beat however lasts just over a minute. Most tracks toward the end of the disc show off the full run of Yonlu’s artistry. He reveals his despondency on tracks like “Suicide” and “Phrygian.” Yonlu’s album is bittersweet. When one appreciates the sound, it adds remorse that his brightness was cut so short.
Having formed in 2006, Buraka Som Sistema creates a style of ghettotech music that constantly explodes. Featuring artists like M.I.A, MC Petty, Znobia and Kano, each song on Black Diamond is a frenzied, wildly amped rhythm fiasco of grime style consisting of drum machines, synthesizers, samplers, sequencers and keyboards. Heavy, deliriously beat driven and boastful, hardcore bass twists, breakbeats and soul shaking low-end percussion battle for one’s already hyped up attention. In 2008, Buraka Som Sistema won an MTV European Award for best Portuguese act after having been nominated in two different categories in 2007. Their kuduro music style originated in Angola. It began as a mix of calypso and soca. Electronic music was then fused with it to create the sound that dominates Black Diamond. Not just a dancehall scorcher, the album also expresses the injustices of African life regarding diamonds and oil. As a title song may, the tune “Black Diamond” defines the experience of the album to the listener, addressing the sensuality and fast-paced thrust as well as the ability of the sound to entrance many different walks of life. “General” jingles and jumps pounding its way into a tight chime of upbeat vocals with a thrashing of techno rhythm and guitar. “Kalemba,” featuring Pongolove, bounces through rowdily like Brazilian carnival melodies. The music wraps itself around a quick delivery of rapid lyrics inducing a hard-hitting agitation of a more pop, hip-hop nature. It is not hard to feel the enthusiastic and creative genius of Buraka Som Sistema’s founders, Lil’ John, Riot and Conductor who have created a world music project that is political, charismatic and unifying.
Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago was my favorite album of 2008 though it was technically self-released in 2007. So when I heard about their EP, Blood Bank, I was amped to take a listen to the four short songs. It’s a great addition to their arsenal of songs, especially “Woods” a stunning a cappella where the melody is belted by Justin Vernon.
But the song, which stood out the most for me, was the title track, “Blood Bank,” telling the story of a couple who finds love at a blood bank. While the lyrics may be unconventional, the arrangement and vocals seemingly ease into the haunting melancholy the band is loved for. Blood Bank offers scenes of warmth amidst the chill, and even glimpses of summer as the four tracks add even more to Bon Iver’s repertoire.
There is nothing more unfortunate than a poorly done punk album. Some music can get by with a lesser quality, but punk is just not one of those. Good news though! New Found Glory has managed to escape any sort of scathing injury with their newest album Not Without a Fight, which brings home the glory days of when punk was raw, unsweetened, and “I hate you so I’m going to write about it,” great music. After being in the business for more than 10 years, this is truly a tour de force venture and NFG claims their place as one punk’s leading authorities. They have grown into themselves, with brilliant lyrics that insist upon clinging to your memory and guitar riffs that can only be described as a tumultuous ride on the crowd surf of a lifetime.
The first single from the album, “Listen to Your Friends,” is a catchy story of regret that makes you want to jump on your bed, and scream at old pictures of ex-lovers. Also look out for “Such a Mess” and “47;” both have the immediate feel of punk-anthem status. As a whole, the album is extremely cohesive and each song yanks you right in to the next, with a flow that only seasoned veterans know how to do. The overall feel of heartbreak and depressed anger aimed towards an unnamed source makes this a perfect album for the spring fever season.
This album will definitely make the punk fans happy, and it just might convert some of those who thought they could never enjoy punk. There is nothing like punk done well, and New Found Glory conceived, attempted and achieved success.
While there are many electro-synth infused outfits out there, not many of them have been compared to Brian Eno as much as Late of the Pier has been. The foursome make an electro-synth infused debut on their album, Fantasy Black Channel, released on Astralwerks. The album is certainly a wild ride from the Gary-Numan-esque “Space and The Woods” to classical rock-like homage, “Broken.” The group has a penchant for pop like synth and they never leave you hanging.
Though the album may sounds like a mess to the run of the mill hipster it is a conventional mess with synthetic hooks and jarring construction. Late Of The Pier is unconventionally conventional and is a band to watch out for in the not too distant future.
Once upon a time, there was a group of storytellers and they would regale the world with their tall tales of love, loss, cruelty, and jealousy. Well, this isn’t really once upon a time, it’s happening in the present. The group is the Decemberists, and they have not only put out one of the best albums of 2009 (I will stand by that, even though it’s only in the year), but they have created a phenomenon within the music world.
The Hazards of Love tells the story of Margaret, her lover William, an evil forest queen, and an even more evil knave. The album is meant to be listened from beginning to end, with Margaret being ravished by a shape-shifting woodland creature, then captured by the knave, William trying to convince the evil queen (who has raised him from infancy) to allow him freedom and the knave recounting his murderous, wicked past.
The entire album is spectacularly unified, with the different stories woven together in an intricate, unfortunate existence. There are specific bright points along the way, such as the chillingly sweet, “Won’t Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga),” the horrifyingly sadistic “Rake’s Song,” and the vaudevillian choir of children singing from beyond the grave in “The Hazards of Love 3 (Revenge!).” These are only a few examples, for in truth, the entire album is full of lyrical sophistication and brilliant fusions of metal, rock, showtunes and more.
There is no musical outlet left untapped. As their first album in three years, this is an amazing achievement, and one can only wonder what the next album must be like if they are to top this. The Decemberists have re-interpreted old folk-tales, giving them relevance in the present, in a medley of glorious song.