MUSIC REVIEWS: Peaches, The Horrors, Kaskade, Micachu & The Shapes, Pontiak
Merril Nisker, aka Peaches, is infamous for flaunting her gender bending music on her previous albums, i.e. Impeach My Bush, but on her newest album, I Feel Cream, released by XL Recordings, the gender queer artist strikes it rich. With contributions from bands like Digitalism and Soulwax, Peaches strikes a chord into the current electro-indie fueled genre.
The first track which stands out is, “Talk To Me.” On the track, Peaches brings the usual electro beats with lyrics that play on repeat during the chorus. On the more sinister, “Serpentine,” Peaches is uncompromising, bringing the track to the forefront and by far the most unapologetically pop-sounding song to date. Peaches remains as harsh and unbending as ever though her new album brings her into the realm of pop, opening her music up to a new audience.
My feelings about The Horrors’ new album are, well, complicated. If you are a fan of dark 80’s New Wave then there is plenty to like here. The problem is that this bears very little resemblance to The Horrors last album Strange House. They’ve always been some kind of goth but they went from playing kooky garage-punk songs to playing songs inspired by Bauhaus and Joy Division which take themselves far more seriously.
Maybe they thought they couldn’t go any further playing songs that sound like they were inspired by The Munsters. If this is the case then I don’t know if they necessarily made the right move. While bands like Interpol and The National turn their post-punk worshipping into something kind of current, Primary Colours sounds like something straight out of the early 80’s. If this is the music they feel they were born to play, then I say more power to them. I just can’t help but question their motives a little bit.
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy this album. Faris Badwan’s dark croon suits this new direction very well. Joshua Third’s guitar cacophony is still alive and well. His ability to conjure eerie effects is almost unmatched. The vintage organs of Strange House have been replaced with icy synths and the results are fantastic, particularly on “Scarlet Fields.” Goth-pop doesn’t get much better than “Who Can Say” but at the same time, the song has a bridge which can only be referred to as “The Jesus and Mary Chain part.” As great as these songs are I can’t see them fitting nicely next to “Count in Fives” and “Gloves” at live shows.
Many people will like this album however fans of Strange House may take this as a hostile move. The Horrors have inadvertently relegated that first album to novelty status. Sure, the songs on it were silly and made little sense but they were loads of fun. They brought back a sound that no one else was doing and then quickly turned away from it only to revive something else. The product of this move is pretty good if somewhat confusing. Just don’t be too surprised if their next album sounds like Ministry.
If the world is indeed evolving; if there is this shove for a higher state of living and awareness; if the current world political agenda is becoming more energized, more engaging for all walks of life; if accessibility to what were seemingly distant dreams and possibilities is more leveled, the music of Kaskade could possibly have foreseen this new wave. Using the staples of most techno albums, synthesizers, vocal declarations and reverberating bass lines; Kaskade always takes those basics and transforms them into wickedly engaging party beats and bass heavy anthems. The Grand is no different. The first track featuring UK electro singer Tamra is immediately a dance floor bonfire. The synthesizers fly about the ceilings while pulsating keyboards and thudding bumps of bass echo. Each track is a party mix “must-have” but each also has crazy crossover attraction. From being the soundtrack to a house pool party on a hot Miami night or a solitude mood lifter on a quiet ride home, this album in its simplicity is easy on the ears yet beat-infused to uplift as well as having the frenzied likeableness of genre-crossing pop music. The rhythms are wicked slick the length of the album and even in its deviation from the up-tempo, the songs that move at a slower bpm still sweep like ocean waves. Kaskade has the ability to make music that transcends atmosphere and its own genre and if radio stations were more fluid, Kaskade’s album would soon be certified a classic.
Twenty one & so much fun. That’s Micachu (born Mica Levi), leader of the freshest band of the season, Micachu & the Shapes. The group’s first studio album Jewellery features 12 tracks so catchy that you might want to call it ‘pop music’ –but watch your step: Micachu’s music veers away from the mores of pop, which require noticeable choruses, universally accessible lyrics, and identifiable instrumentation. Known to maximize the musical potential of broken glass, vacuum cleaners, and assorted hardware, this UK-born-and-bred musician successfully layers sound bites to create the fertile field necessary to sprout the quips of Micachu’s lyrical whips in notable songs such as “Just In Case” and “Turn Me Well.” Raisa Khan and Marc Pell add to the wall of sound on keyboards and drums, respectively. M&tS’ affinity for whoops, wallops, and other coquettish electronic yelps afford each song sufficient microtonal complexity to create dimension needed to keep soothing vocals alive, highlighted in the dance-worthy “Curly Teeth.” Throughout Jewellery, the disparate elements and unique composition of Micachu’s style demonstrate how electronic noise-pop can be a successful audible pastiche.
Coming off a vacation in deep frying, yield-for-deers, North Carolina, I needed to get back into the dark and sexy mentality that helps me conquer my cynical clients and prowling nights in the hidden dives of NYC. Ironic, isn’t it, that I sought refuge and revitalization in the work of 3 brothers from the Blue Ridge farm country of Virginia.
I can go on forever about Van Carney’s perfect slide and lead guitar expanding out ceaselessly into space, with Lain keeping a gentle yet complicated pace and Jennings navigating on bass and organ. Suffice it to say, their album Maker, recorded in a Virginian log cabin, is sharp and despite the mountainous reverb, individual steps to each build can be discerned and relished. The vocals are reminiscent of Beck and Josh Homme, if you infused the latter with a soul. Maybe you’re into a bluesy-swirl with an intensity mounting toward interstellar collision. Maybe Maker is a great opportunity to look up from your shoes and soar.
If you like slow, dark, sexy and pedals… the album is out now, so buy it. Then see them on tour this June throughout the Northeast, Canada and into the Midwest.