MUSIC REVIEWS: Little Boots, Efterklang, Javelin, White Hills, Nova Social, Prairie Cartel, White Denim, Adam Lambert

Little Boots
(Elektra Records)

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Little Boots may seem like a trendier version of Lykke Li but don’t let yourself be fooled: this album is stellar and legitimate. While some albums may seem a bit of a letdown, every track on Hands is likely to be stuck in your head and sung in the elevator as a catharsis on the way to the five o clock whistle. “New In Town” is a seedy dance track that you could imagine walking down the street in the rain humming. Looking for something to relax to after a long day? “Tune Into My Heart” is the track for you then. The song is slow and might remind you of an Annie track. However, the echoing chorus and touching subject matter is enough to make you stop for a few. If nothing else, Little Boots has a way with crafting lyrical poems.

If you’re a fan of Little Boots, it is likely because of “Stuck on Repeat.” The track is driven and relenting. If you’re looking for a power anthem to get you through the day, don’t look any further. Put on your dancing shoes and enjoy. The strongest track on the album, however, is “Meddle.” I can assure you that hearing this song in your head will pick up the darkest of days. The song sounds like some of Rihanna’s early tracks and you will be yearning to dip it low before the song even gets to the chorus. Five stars, two thumbs up, or whatever ratings system you want to go by–this album skyrockets off of it!

Tania Katherine

Magic Chairs

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I think Efterklang might be too “nice” for its own good. This Danish group could just be a product of its environment – the Scandinavians seem to have a knack for being cutesy at just the right times.

But Magic Chairs, the group’s 4AD debut, plays it a little too nice for my tastes – somewhere between a quieter Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens. Of course, it’s very pretty, and tracks like opener “Modern Drift” (perhaps the album’s highlight) are a good example of how well it can work – the string arrangements and the hushed-shout vocal melodies, pristine piano and minimal, jagged drums make for a nice palette.

But the instrumentation, volume and aesthetic don’t change much at all over the course of the album, and after a while, it almost seems the songs are held back by their amiable arrangements; only occasionally does one of the many crescendos actually feel like it’s breaking free.

Sometimes things do work, as with the vocals and stuttering rhythms of “Raincoats;” the ghostly chants whirling around in “Full Moon;” and the fact that “Scandinavian Love” picks up the pace a little. Most of the songs at least have some very lovely touches (the vocals are quite nice throughout) – but there’s not enough to hold interest for the long haul, or even to let the songs distinguish themselves from each other.

John Mordecai

Javelin EP
(Thrill Jockey)

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This self-titled debut is artistry in motion, literally, a 12” limited-release of 500 records culled from dollar-bin crates to create broken dance tracks, instrumental pieces, obscure sampling and unusual packaging with Javelin silk-screened across the covers.

By way of Rhode Island, Javelin highlights the talented and original residents that now call Brooklyn their home. The two producing cousins–Tom Van Buskirk and George Langford are, shall we say, a throwback to 80s synth, video-gaming and youthful exuberance. Describing their music as tropical/crunk via myspace (not sure what the hell that means), I will say, it does have a synthetic tropical feel to it. The tracks are poppy, unusual yet original pieces if not re-mixed versions of gaming sounds and their iPods. Nevertheless, “Radio” does carry a bit of crunkness ala 80s hip hop.

ND McCray

White Hills
White Hills
(Thrill Jockey)

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There are some who say music is religion. The band writes the sermon and we all go to our Holy Concert Venue of Worship and pray to the Almighty Six-String. New York City’s White Hills is the type of band where that is exactly what should happen when going to see them live. A jam band, straight out of what made Pink Floyd great and continues to fuel the musical musings of The Mars Volta, White Hills gets into your soul via your ears. Psychedelic soundscapes swirl around you until you let go and absorb that feeling the band’s driving home.

Some listeners might simply think they’re a stoner band but I find this self-titled release more interesting and colorful than a typical stoner band offering. Sure, I imagine there is a rather large cloud of smoke hovering above the crowd at most of their shows, but the music is more than enough to get you in the, err… “zone.”

All the elements that make this type of music enjoyable are present. Lots of wah-pedal soloing? Check! Lots of frantic drumming and groovy low-end? Check! Dream-like vocals that could very well be your subconscious and NOT vocals at all? Check!

White Hills is a solid piece of experimental/psychedelic rock that will definitely expand your musical mind if you let it. This band is a nice reminder, in these days of mp3s and endless internet videos, that vinyl record collections will always be necessary as will the live music experience. I wouldn’t want to imagine a world without either of those elements. Luckily, inside the world of White Hills, all is good.

E. Grey

Nova Social
Nova Social
(Big Sleep Records)

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The most remarkable fixation besides the masterfully arranged undulating techno hop of metro-New York’s Nova Social’s new EP, Nova Social is its lowbrow, ultra-engaging lyrical aptitude. Main members, David Nagler and Thom Soriano, have created such a collection of songs like, “Now You’re a Nun” and “Turn to Crime” to name just a few that are both righteous in arrangement and lyrics as well. The machinated beat stylings are so crisp against shimmers of dramatic synth and strings that it is hard not to gasp at their creativity. A steady solid soulful rhythm groove, almost leaning back to yesteryear’s 80s dance music and r&b, is delicately layered against the futuristic sounds of spirally keys, chunky bass lines and stomp beats. “Now You’re a Nun,” is an up-tempo, hyper-accelerated riotous diss full of monotonous chest thumping low end flair. Wicked violins battle melodiously and tight against a low buzz of vicious vocals. The characteristically sly words give much free space for the music to breathe as well. Plunks of keys make up the intro to, “Turn to Crime.” Aside for being pure genius, mid-tempo ambient toe-tapping remorse techno-pop appeal bounces against choral vocals that show off the wonderful musicianship of Nova Social.

Chanda Jones

Prairie Cartel
Where Did All My People Go
(Long Nights Impossible Odds)

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Listening to this album is a lot like entering into a hot, steamy, sultry night club that while a bit seedy and underground, can turn into one the of funnest nights you may only vaguely remember.

The album opens with swirling synthesized electro beats, streaming vocals, and a thumping bass line. It brings back old feelings of being at an underground rave, listening to house music, complete with streaming strobe lights in the background. That is, until the guitar riffs come in and before you know it, you’re moving along to the dance beats of electro-rock. Hints and touches of the album remind me of Nine Inch Nails, Chemical Brothers and an 80s flashback in sound similar to a rockier and edgier Depeche Mode.

The album glides between mellow synth beats to harder, more deeper house and guitar-rich numbers. The lyrics at times are simplified and perhaps a little base, but mostly fun and rather to the point. The sound is distinctively clear with its electro beats and guitar-infused rock. The tracks have a danceable and party vibe, even if at times some of the songs do sound somewhat moody and melancholy. Much like a long night out, you also begin to wonder just when it all might end, with the album clocking in at 15 tracks and some 78 minutes. Yet surprisingly none of it becomes too boring or overdone. For some reason, once the album ends, you’re not too tired to do it again.

A few of my favorite tracks include “Beautiful Shadow,” “Jump Like Chemicals,” “Cobraskin Briefcase,” and “Magnetic South.” Whether you’re already a fan of electro-rock or not, this album certainly entertains in so many different ways, it’s definitely worth checking out and getting in on the party.

Trish Nguyen

White Denim
(Downtown Records)

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Is it punk? Is it blues? Is it psychedelic? Is it soul? To try and easily classify the music on Fits would only do the album an injustice. All of those styles and a few more pop up in one place or another but there’s no one way to describe it. All I can say is for all the twists and turns it’s thoroughly enjoyable. The first couple tracks are weird, noisy, avant-garde rock songs that kind of sound akin to Captain Beefheart and Man Man. Then things start to shift with “I Start To Run.” Though still having a frantic punk feel, “I Start To Run” is hooky and melodic and almost seems like it could be a very odd pop single. The album continues to morph from there and the majority of the second half is made up of earnest ballads. “I’d Have It Just The Way We Were” is stunning R&B in the style of Marvin Gaye. It’s a surprising song to find on an album with gonzo rock tunes like “El Heart Attack DCWYW” but both are pulled off marvelously. “Regina Holding Hands” even manages to get dangerously close to Michael McDonald territory without sucking. There may be people who only like side one of Fits and others who only like side two but listeners with diverse tastes will find the whole thing immensely rewarding. White Denim have the balls to do whatever they want and do it really well and that should be applauded. This is a band I’m definitely going to look out for in the future.

Jonathan Zuckerman

Adam Lambert
For Your Entertainment

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Adam Lambert stomps into the world with For Your Entertainment. The American Idol runner-up proves he should have won the competition with every spine-tingling high note he hits, and there are a lot. In the catchy song “Sure Fire Winners” he sings “I was born with glitter on my face / My baby clothes made of leather and lace.” To rapidly sum up the album, Lambert wants to get high, get laid, and look good all the while. Digging deeper, there is a lot of heartache and want in his words. The songs are deep and seemingly full of meaning.

“If I Had You” belongs in clubs around the world. It has a thick beat and is electric. Most of the songs on the album follow the same track with solid beats, boasting electric/rock backgrounds to Lambert’s high, grinding voice. Everything he was holding back on national TV looks like it is released here. The last four songs on the album take a tamer side. While he may be accompanied by piano or other softer orchestrations, his voice lowers as well. There is no question that Adam Lambert’s voice is the focus of every song. I highly recommend this album for any situation where the smallest inkling to dance is involved. Fun and festive, Lambert has a road paved in platinum ahead of him.

Miranda Dillworth

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