MUSIC REVIEWS: Flight of the Conchords, Mission of Burma, Tigercity, Caspian, Lily Storm, Junior Boys, Deerhunter
The follow up to their immensely successfully 2007 album, The Distant Future, the second offering from this Kiwi duo is a large departure. Each of the 13 tracks is different than the last, as if the Conchord boys made a point to stuff in as many genres as possible into the new album. I counted a few different slices of Rap from contemporary to old school Beastie Boys style, R&B, Reggae, 70’s arena rock, 60’s singer songwriter folk silliness, polka, dance pop synth, and Industrial Electro.
The comedic lyrics continue to be the order of the day, but they’ve left their acoustic guitars and most other conventional instruments behind. Pre-programmed synthesizer beats, electric blips, R&B grooves, and Hip-Hop beats have replaced the earlier ‘Folk Comedy’ sound. Still the inclusion of so many genres is both humorous though a bit distracting. I some times wished they’d just settle on one style, however broad, and create the album around that.
While many of the tracks are very humorous, the genre jumping got tiring after a bit, but on the flip side, for some listeners this might be a boon. Each track has a chance of being fresh and entertaining upon first listen and fans will no doubt gravitate towards those which they’re feeling the most.
For me, the first track “Hurt Feelings” was a stand out success as a rap song, especially when they dropped the idea of “Bullet Proof 24 Karat Gold Tears,” while the send up of 60’s folk, “Rambling Through,” seemed like a rejection of their original brand of music. “Too Many Dicks (On the Dance Floor)” is another outstanding track.
Still, as I listened to the album a few times, I realized that most every track is actually a clever rip-off/homage of songs that already exist, not just a certain genre. An album fans may find interesting and enjoyable on the whole, but non-fans may find distracting.
If there was ever a band that can claim they will never give up, Mission of Burma is it. After disbanding and remaining separated for many years, they reunited and The Sound The Speed The Light is now their third album since coming back together in 2002. Unfortunately, the album falls just slightly short of being all that it can be. There are some great moments, with the songs “So Fuck It,” and “1,2,3 Partyy!!” being completely fun. By no means is the album horrible, it just isn’t spectacular. I had a great time jumping around my room listening to it, and I will probably do it again. Would I recommend it to someone who’s never heard Mission of Burma before? Yeah, because you do find some great music on the album (“Possession” is another track that I started rocking out to). It might not be something that one would put on the Best of 2009 lists, but hell, most albums don’t make those lists, and the majority of those are quality too. This album is great for what it is, thoroughly enjoyable, and worth having in your collection.
If Brooklyn-based, dance/pop-rock band, Tigercity doesn’t make you want to break out your best ’80s dance moves, you should immediately seek medical attention. You could very well be in a coma and unconsciously just going through the motions of your day-to-day activities.
This is a fun band to listen to and their latest release, Ancient Lover, might be exactly what we need in these stressful times. The album starts off with the insanely catchy, “Fake Gold.” It’s dripping with ’80s pop goodness and even struck me as something Flight of the Conchords would wish they had come up with. From there on in, it’s a nice ride of tunes that accomplishes what they set out to do–get you to move your butt. They don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, which can often make a band more appealing. I always felt that you should take your music seriously, but it should be fun to play and, like I already pointed out, that sense of fun easily comes across here. It’s infectious.
Tigercity’s sound is nostalgic, bringing to mind David Bowie’s pop heyday and even the occasional Rod Stewart-like groove, but they manage to make it more of a progression for the type of music they play, as opposed to just mimicking MTV’s original playlist. They have their own style and would fit nicely in a record collection made up of Muse, South, Franz Ferdinand, Air and The Bravery.
Ancient Lover keeps a steady pace from start to finish, but tracks that also stood out more for me in addition to “Fake Gold” were “Mallory,” “Ancient Lover,” “Fall of Graz,” and “Quicksand.” If there’s anything that would make Bowie and Jagger take to the streets again with their dancing shoes, this is it. Just as long as they let Tigercity supply the music this time around.
Caspian are an instrumental rock band coming from Beverly, Massachusetts. Now, if you’re going to form a rock group and decide to go instrumental, you have a few hurdles ahead of you as far as I’m concerned. Unlike a symphony orchestra that has tens of instruments to work with, you’re pretty much working with guitars, drums, and keyboards. So if you’re going to sustain interest without vocals, you had better have some great riffs, interesting song structures, and above all excellent musicianship.
Unfortunately on Caspian’s latest release, Tertia, they have very little of that. It kicks off with “Mie,” which is typical intro fare: a slow fade-in with some random blips and bloops of a synthesizer. Nothing terribley offensive. It melds into the second track, “La Cerva” and it’s not terrible yet. It’s got some nice atmospheric guitar with some interesting echo work…and that’s the album. If you’ve heard “La Cerva” you’ve heard the album. It is dreadfully repetitive and dull. “La Cerva” is very similar to “Of Foam and Wave,” “Concrescence,” and “The Raven.” The only variety shows up in “Epochs in Dmaj,” which, I guess is going for dreamy but instead sounds like an Enya B-side. Tertia is basically what happens if elevator music made it with bad grunge and had a lovechild.
Lily Storm does not sing in English. However, once you get past this fact, If I had A Key To The Dawn becomes one of the most relaxing CD’s you will ever hear. For fans of the New Age revolution, Lily Storm sounds like something you may have heard in your phrana yoga class. Every song on the CD flows together into one peaceful melody. The CD would make a great fit for a bad day or for a stressful release. Songs like “A Bird Flew To My Darling’s Window” are more vocal than instrumental and Storm’s voice shines through. There is a passion in it that is calming. Her voice is most showcased on “The Swallow Is Flying,” a haunting song combining the sound of a church organ with Storm’s strong voice. “Green Leaf Of A Pear Tree” showcases the quickest musical pace on the album and is enveloping. Listening to the song captures ones American mind. As a listener, I find myself trying to predict what is going to happen next in the song. I am not following along, but am trying to catch up–and that’s okay. The CD is recommended if you are looking for something entirely new with an open mind and tired heart.
Whenever I walk through the design studio in my agency, undoubtedly I encounter the same sweet symphony every time: Like an electronic heartbeat, the studio will most often swell with sounds of electronic rock and pop- sometimes the old stuff- most often the new. It seems a steady electro beat is an unmatched, go-to selection to keep designers and art directors alike in a worker-bee, driven mentality throughout their 14-hour days. Without fail there is always one day of the week that is a straight-up Junior Boys marathon. And it’s like that from agency to agency- I’ve always worked in advertising. There’s something that’s just really motivating about the rhythm of this duo of Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus from Ontario, Canada, that seems to provide assembly line-like productivity and acts as a natural, creative energy serum.
In their most recent effort- the LP, Begone Dull Care– The Junior Boys match the vibe and pulsing head-bob appeal of their 2006 album So This is Goodbye. It’s actually a very consistent follow-up, so if you dug their sound before, you’re gonna bounce to this one too…but you know…quietly, at your desk. It’s still a mellow electro ride.
In my experience Junior Boys get it done right from their end and provide the perfect soundtrack for you getting yours. Their third full-length does not disappoint.
Deerhunter’s Rainwater Cassette Exchange opens with the albums aptly titled name. The dreamy feel of the music and the muted quality of the lyrics conjure images of the rainwater sheeting down a pane of glass. I can picture myself sitting in a bay window with a good book while listening to this track. Deerhunter carries a slower, rolling tempo that lulls you into a sense of comfort; even sitting here at my desk.
The rest of the album is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. At first listen, the album feels a bit disjointed, but upon further inspection they do a good job of stitching everything together. “Disappearing Ink” kicks the tempo up a bit yet still holds the hypnotic beat common throughout the album. “Famous Last Words” offers a more driving rhythm than the rest of the album. I got caught bobbing my head along.
To close the album Deerhunter continues with the dreamy feel. “Circulation” begins with a bit of a psychedelic feel and ends with that familiar dream-like feel fading out, letting you finally wake and grudgingly let go of the music.
Overall, not the best collection for a casual listen. This one is for those who like close listening and trying to pick things apart. Rainwater Cassette Exchange puts you in a dreamy state, but still commands your attention. It more hypnotizes you than puts you to sleep.