September 21, 2011

Five Albums for Fall

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Homecoming weekend has come and passed, and with it our last few cherished glimpses of summer. The unbearable heat of O-week and its sweaty, lucid nights have faded from view, leaving leagues of Cornell students, sweaters and notebooks in hand, resigned to the many long, tedious library nights to come. Although prelim panic and its coffee chugging, XR hoarding, bleary-eyed effects may be an inevitable consequence of summer’s end, fear not, for the fall season is not without its very own splendid charms.

The music industry rolls out massive amounts of new releases during the autumn months, from much-anticipated blockbusters to DIY indie debuts and everything in between. If there ever was a time to let your musical freak flag fly, then this is it, as most everyone should be able to find something new and exciting to enliven them in the months to come. For the hesitant few unwilling to stray outside of their proverbial box (i.e. overplayed Pandora channel), the 20th anniversary album is king, and this fall season has some excellent choices for the most nostalgic among us. To celebrate the big 2-0, a remastered version of Nirvana’s magnum opus Nevermind will be released in late September, along with Pearl Jam’s Pearl Jam 20, the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s forthcoming documentary on the band’s 20th anniversary. Dedicated fans rejoice – you may never have to listen to anything new again.

And for the rest of you, rolling yours eye as your friends play songs that you like totally knew about three months ago, you are my bread and butter. Some might call us pretentious, but I deem us merely well informed, and oh, do we have a multitude of fresh and exhilarating new material to sort through. Take a break from your study session, for the love of god walk away from that five-hour energy, and have a listen to these five new albums for fall:

1. Beirut – Rip Tide

On Rip Tide, the commanding baroque influences and plush orchestral instrumentals so characteristics of Beirut’s sound lend themselves beautifully to the aesthetic of autumn – the soaring yet delicately subtle melodies of songs such as “Payne’s Bay” and “The Peacock” seem to paint with fat brushstrokes picturesque scenes of sienna and crimson hues. Lead singer Zach Condon has come into his own on this album, both as a songwriter and as a performer, building on the strong base laid in his earlier works. Although trumpets still blaze, Condon’s newfound sense of restraint melds his powerful, golden voice with the band’s penchant for old world sensibilities. Where before the employment of horn and ukulele riffs sometimes veered into over-instrumentation, on Rip Tide Beirut’s global influences add a bohemian edge without losing sight of a more broad appeal. At only 9 songs and just over 33 minutes in length, Rip Tide is the perfect album to serve as a brief interlude from the stressful monotony of exams.

2. Girls — Father, Son, Holy Ghost

Hailing from San Francisco, home to the infamous summer of love and its many creative, psychedelic and sexual offshoots, it is no surprise that rock band Girls embodies the brazen sentiment of 1969. With Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Girls have created a sound that seems as much familiar as it is joyfully new – a true classic rock album unlike any we have heard in years. Deemed a modern day Beach Boys by many after their debut album, lead singer Christopher Owen’s tortured, introspective crooning is more reminiscent of Pet Sounds and Brian Wilson’s later psychedelia then the band’s earlier pop-y fare. Owen makes no secret of his continued reliance on the past, but Father, Son, Holy Ghost is not merely an example of talented copycats. Each of the album’s 12 tracks demonstrates Owen’s masterfully eclectic range, his talent lends itself as much to the mad-cap surf rock of album opener “Honey Bunny” as to the sharply constructed and deeply intimate wailing of “Vomit.” With a song to satisfy almost every mood, from the emotionally exhausting to the innocent and pure, Father, Son, Holy Ghost proves therapeutic thanks to Owen’s willingness to share his own trials and tribulations.

3. Neon Indian — Era Extrana

While in the genre of chillwave it is often easy to get lost in the endless synthesizer loops and foggy static, Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo demonstrates that through the haze there is something more to be found.  With many of his songs anchored in new wave and ‘80s synth pop, Palomo adds depth with his intricate and inventive arrangements, often layering ordinary sounds, such as phone conversations and video-game samples, in between his swirling melodies. Where his excellent debut album, Psychic Chasms, was all bright colors and whimsical charm, Era Extrana demonstrates Palomo’s shift towards wide-reaching and slightly darker territory. Standouts include “Halogen (I Could Be a Shadow)”, which relies on the same sweet, uplifting optimism as his earlier works, and also “Fallout”, whose slow-building, expansive harmony hints at the lovesick solitude that was its inspiration.

4. The Weeknd —Thursday

Oh, The Weeknd, with your mysterious past, elusive frontman and the startling ability to make some seriously sexy slow jams. After releasing their newest mixtape, Thursday, just five months after their debut House of Balloons took the music world by storm, The Weeknd have the perfect blend of massive hype, addictive hooks and devilish vibes to be endlessly appealing. Thursday has the same, drug-addled R&B sound and disturbing subject matter as its predecessor, but is teamed with jarring background noise and a streak of violence to somehow present an even darker, more debauched world than House of Balloons. Tracks such as “Life of the Party” demonstrate lead singer Abel Tesfaye’s ability to be simultaneously seductive and disconcerting — foreboding guitar riffs hint at his sinister motives while his silky voice beckons for the listener to come closer. With another new release from The Weeknd due to arrive in the months to come, let Thursday be your favorite day of the week while it still can.

5. M83 — Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Set to be released October 18th, M83’s epic new double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is the accumulation of three years of dedicated work by M83’s Anthony Gonzalez. The album spans 1.2 hours and over twenty songs, and from the very first moments it is obvious that devoted thought and attention went into every single second. The superb first single, “Midnight City”, demonstrates the incredible, beautiful ride that Gonzalez has in store — a dreamy melodic soundscape teamed with pounding upbeat drums; the song has a grandiose sound that forces any listener to dance along. Gonzalez truly has created something spectacular — a series of diverse tracks that have the power to bring anyone out of the cold-weather funk and into the light.

Original Author: Sarah Angell