MUSIC REVIEWS: Rodriguez, Papercuts, Manchester Orchestra, Super Furry Animals
We’re back with smokin’ Latin grooves, some love songs, and often protest territory with the fantabulous Rodriguez on Coming from Reality. Starting with the acoustic groove, kinda-like Santana, wailing electric of “Climb Up On My Music,” the sardonic talk-the-lyric slightly sloppy, ‘Dylan-y “A Most Disgusting Song,” the ridiculously pretty “I Think Of You” (complete with strings that will make you cry), and somebody called Heikki doin’ a better “Season Of The Witch/Magical Mystery Tour” on “Heikki’s Suburbia Bus Tour.” Coming from Reality is a collection of 13 tunes that just get better the deeper you get into it.
“To Whom It May Concern” has an almost Burt Bacharach feel with its piano and strings, the dated psychedelic lyric on “It Started Out So Nice” really doesn’t work for me but I so dig that electric piano on the very commercial “Halfway Up The Stairs” I wonder if this could have been a huge hit had the strings been not so prevalent.
There’s the timely statements that you’d expect from Rodriguez here. The pointed “Cause,” with this gem of a lyric: ‘Cause my heart has become a crooked hotel, full of rumors’ and what has to be Reality’s masterpiece “Sandrevan Lullaby-Lifestyles,” a tour de force of arrangement and lyric potency with startling mood changes. The bonus tracks “Can’t Get Away,” “Street Boy” (great congas and bass here) are back in that tough look-on- life that Rodriguez’s voice sings about so well.
The Papercuts second LP, You Can Have What You Want, makes me feel sleepy, in a good way. This is the second album from Jason Quever’s moniker/collective, and the reverie starts from the get-go and sustains the length of the album. As a whole, it has a languid tone that’s pleasant and allows for easy listening, but is relatively by-the-numbers.
The immediate standout of the ten-song effort is “Future Primitive;” with an infectious, bouncy baseline and easy melody, it begs to be danced to a la Mellancamp’s “Cherry Bomb.” Just feel it, man! Yeah, we’re just dancin’, and shit is cool. Aside from this prize, the album falls in grades with successively less interesting tracks. “Dictators Lament” is, ironically, one of the most upbeat songs and probably my second favorite. From there, it’s a mash-up of static.
Throughout, there’s nothing really new: dreamy, washed out organ-laden songs about mechanized distress, and it’s a step down from their previous album Can’t Go Back, which was packed with pop-tart gems. Alas, it’s a decent record that doesn’t require much effort on our part. It’ll get you through the day, or your gym routine—albeit, with a somber tone.
Manchester Orchestra’s Mean Everything To Nothing is a polarizing album. On the one hand, the album feels nothing like the bands previous album, Like A Virgin Loosing A Child. The album feels nowhere as heavy. Instead, Mean Everything To Nothing is light. “The Only One” is a spirited summer rock track. Repeating lyric patterns make the song perfect for long summer drives to nowhere. “Shake It Out” feels similarly. However, lead single “I’ve Got Friends” feels entirely different. More quiet and musically focused, the track balances both elements to create a solid track. The lyrics may not be the most relatable to most (there aren’t any simple love songs on the album) but there’s an element of empathy in every word. Perhaps, the slowest song on the album–“I Can Feel A Hot One”–proves this best. The track sounds most similar to the band’s prior album and listeners can feel the desperation in every word. The near-title track, “Everything To Nothing” is perhaps one of the highlights of the album as it combines old school rock elements with Manchester’s delicate touch on music. A must buy for any fan looking for music that breathes.
Welsh five-piece the Super Furry Animals have always intrigued me because of how consistently successful their past albums have been on the music charts in the U.K., and also because of how creatively different each of those albums sounds. This one, Dark Days/Light Years, is their ninth studio album, and it is quite groovy, differing from others by going heavy on vamps, riffs, and refrains. The album features Franz Ferdinand’s Nick McCarthy rapping in German on the song, “Inaugural Trams.”
Standout tracks for me include the first one, “Crazy Naked Girls,” which is raw and vibrant, “Moped Eyes,” which is catchy and groovy, and “Inaugural Trams,” which is cheerful and invigorating. “Cardiff in the Sun” is more of a laid-back tune, but it carries with it a shimmering beauty. “The Very Best of Neil Diamond” is another groovy pop tune, incorporating a Persian saz into the mix.
I am impressed by how distinctive all of these songs are and how each one still retains an element of what the Super Furry Animals are. It makes me smile to know that they’re still making good music in their own way.