Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Arctic Monkeys release the cover art for "Suck It and See"

Well, this was unexpected. I don't even know what they are going to throw at us next. This moderately random and confusing album is due out on June 6th, so mark your calendars.

Monday, April 18, 2011

ANGLES-The Strokes

The Strokes
Label: RCA
4th Studio Album
Status: Out as of 2011
Rating: 3 Feathers

So, remember The Strokes? The ones who long ago came out with those albums with “Last Nite” and “Reptilia” on them and then released that moderately tedious album…what was it…First Impressions of Earth? Oh yeah, that band. After five years of empty-promises for new material, inter-band relationship problems, and several (some questionable) trials with solo work, The Strokes have finally released their arguably-more-anticipated-than-Is-This-It? 4th album, Angles. The band is actually happy to be a band again, with the many different musical angles being brought in to give us a very easy flowing and different album. This is The Strokes of the modern age.

“Machu Picchu” is instantly catchy with its grooving disco beat, but it sounds absolutely nothing like what you’d expect. The incorporation of harmonies and reggae rhythms shows that they are, at this point, courageous enough to innovate their sound on the very first song. “Under Cover of Darkness” completely takes a step backward, comparatively, but it’s still so different. It’s like power-Strokes. Casablancas almost ironically notes that “everybody's been singing the same song ten years” because it combines all the standard elements of their sound into four minutes, but I must admit, it delivers with every successive listen. “Two Kinds of Happiness” is pleasantly mellow, with light new-wave overtones, but it’s not overtly remarkable. If it wasn’t underpinned by twangy guitar, I can easily say I would never guess this was The Strokes, assuming it was a typical 80s “indie” band. “You’re So Right” is actually utterly horrific. For some disgusting reason they decided to bypass drummer Fab Moretti’s talent and go right for sickening drum machines, along with static guitar that makes it sound like a carbon copy of Julian Casablancas’ “River of Brakelights”. Even “Metabolism” three gigantic steps back by taking the worse half of First Impressions of Earth and reconfiguring it to make a distraught and confused mess. After developing a tremendous migraine, the natural drums and immense bouncing catchiness comes back for “Taken For a Fool”. It’s so outrageously likable and mind-ingraining that you will listen to it multiple times before moving onto the next song. “Call Me Back” is kind of creepy. It’s easily the most experimental Strokes song ever made, with no outright melody or sing-along qualities. If you only like lively guitar solos and passionate singing, this song will destroy your listening experience, but I like it’s eeriness and out-of-placeness. A song like “Gratisfaction” is so overwhelmingly easily comparable to Billy Joel, with an arena epic chorus and instrumentation that work to get a certain type of emotional power from you that only a coliseum-rock song can. “Life is Simple in the Moonlight” is a beautiful closer. The verses have delicate intertwining guitar with light vocals that create a nice bed for the slightly heavier, more desperate chorus to fall upon. It sums up all the changes, trials, triumphs, desperation, catchiness, and twangyness of Angles into a well orchestrated closer.

It might be the out of control high expectations that come with a band like this, but I can’t say I was that impressed. At so many different points, I got feelings of “I heard this before” or “this sounds just like…”, and it was fairly apparent that some songs just lacked any direction. With that said, this album is not bad. It was significantly more welcomed on the first listen than First Impressions was and certain songs (“Under Cover”, “Taken For a Fool”) really pack the typical Strokes punch. I give them boatloads of credit for trying new things, incorporating new genres, and attempting to expand their sound, but I’m going to view this album as a transition. I fear it lacks the lasting quality their first two releases had, and I really do hope that in a year we don't ask ourselves is this it?

"Everyone was here except Julian. I can describe one day where you'd wonder how the record got made and a day where you would think it's the greatest thing that ever happened."-Albert Hammond Jr.

Video for Under Cover of Darkness

Recommendations: Machu Picchu, Under Cover of Darkness, Taken for a Fool, Life is Simple in the Moonlight
NOTE: I will have my review of Panda Bear's Tomboy out very shortly. Thanks a ton for reading this :)