Ups and Downs, Shades of Grey

Meet me in Austin; it’s goin’ down! This weekend, the arguably hippest of all Texan cities will host the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. Showcasing over 100 bands over the three-day weekend, it is sure to be an orderly blur of peace, love and music. In honor of this momentous occasion, I’ve decided to review a sort-of-oldie-but-definitely-a-goodie, Glasgow’s Frightened Rabbit.
Their debut record, Sing the Greys, was first released across the pond way back in May 2006 on a local indie start-up label, Hits the Fan. In November of 2007, they re-released their album under the aegis of Fat Cat Records. And voila, mediocre stateside recognition.

Sexy and Sad

Maybe — just maybe — the title of Hot Chip’s latest album, Made in the Dark (Astralwerks/DFA) is meant to reflect their recording process, given that a good deal of the album sounds disorganized and inconsistent, similar to if it were recorded and mixed in the dark.
Then again, maybe not. Maybe the phrase “made in the dark” simply refers to the title track, a down-tempo old soul (falling out of) love ballad. A simple ¾ drumbeat begins the song, after which a bluesy piano and mournful guitar riff fill the silence. Then Alexis Taylor begins his heartbroken plaint: “Since we fell apart, I’ve been nothing but blue/ Longing for a nighttime to bring back my you/ Every night in motion, together apart.” Oh—I get it now. “Made in the Dark” was describing sex all the time!

To Rock (Band) or Not) (con)

Oy gevalt, Rock Band and Guitar Hero! Cut me a break, will ya? Your ubiquity makes me wild (but not in a good way). I can’t pinpoint the exact reason as to why these new games are causing such a hubbub, but I’ll tell you: I don’t go for them. Realizing that I may come off as too nostalgic or sentimental, I’ll now ask one question: what happened to starting real, honest-to-goodness bands? Frankly, is it such a big to-do to learn the damn instruments?

Winding Sheet EP

Tristero’s got an old soul with a young body. Comprised of college-age students (including Sun columnist, Maurice Chammah ’10), they form delicate arrangements and write nuanced lyrics that translate onto their music with a remarkable result. In short, their songs will strike you where your heart beats. Their newest album, The Winding Sheet EP, doesn’t signal a departure so much as an arrival; compared to their first EP, A Miracle is Another World’s Intrusion into This One, they sound more sonically cohesive and confident in their ability. Personal favorite is the song “Will They Break,” fronted by Chammah.

Record Review: Armageddon Monks

Ima be real: Speed metal is not my preferred genre when I’m on the hunt for new music. All the same, my personal aversion couldn’t overshadow the musical ability of Armageddon Monks.
Originally Cornell-bred and now an Ithaca staple, their self-titled EP exhibits their fluid style: although probably most comfortably labeled as “metal,” they shift easily from a hardcore 7/4 breakdown to an intricately layered Classic Rock riff (see the track “Waste” for an especially good example of this).
Armageddon Monks do a great job melding genres to an interesting sonic result. Even for a non-metalhead, attention-deficit listener like me, The Monks caught my ear and kept me entertained for the entirety of the record.

Record Review: Britney Spears

Do you think it’s just a coincidence that Britney Spears’ initials spell BS? Well, yeah, duh — but it’s an interesting observation, especially in light of her latest album, Blackout!
Here, Britney attempts to recognize and respond to recent public scrutiny by singing out her media blues. To her credit, she succeeds: she vents her spleen all over this record. At issue, though, is that Britney didn’t personally write any of the songs appearing on the album, giving Blackout! a decidedly false — and, in many ways, comical — veneer.

Record Review: Home Schooled

Kids say the darndest things … in soul tunes? Home Schooled: the ABCs of Kid Soul is one of the latest (and greatest) compilations from The Numero Group. This album boasts a quirky amalgamation of rarely-noted funk bands, like the “Manchild Singers” and “Jr. & His Soulettes.” Ever heard either of them?

“Zapped on Robitussin” … Sounds Like Fun!

Justin Farrar of the Miami New Times once called the Sic Alps “total amateurs zapped on Robitussin, bashing out a primal fusion of Sixties garage rock and deliriously distorted psychedelia (think early Spacemen 3/Sonic Youth).” Does this sound like fun to you? Well, you’re in luck, my friend, because Fanclub Collective is at it again! This Saturday, you can be one of the lucky few to see Sic Alps live, in person down at No Radio Records!
So, okay, maybe that was a shitty start. But all I’ve said so far is true. Sic Alps is coming. They will play on Saturday. And it will begin with Aaron Phillip Tate, who will play Halloween-inspired songs to get us in the mood for the weekend.

Record Review: Mum

Múm, how you gonna play me like this? You used to be one of my favorite bands. Yeah, I said it. Used to be. Past tense. I was originally drawn in by your otherworldly lullabies on Yesterday Was Dramatic, Today is Okay and Finally We Are No One. You were so soothing, so ambient, so like fellow Icelandic band Sigur Rós, yet so different. You maneuvered your songs through deft landscapes of mini-beats and created complex walls of percussion. You were charming. You were quaint. You were like the foreign exchange student everyone has a crush on, simply because you’re foreign. There wasn’t much to you not to like … Until three years ago.

Record Review: Animal Collective

In the Grimm fairy tale, The Town Musicians of Bremen, a gaggle of domesticated animals leave their masters in pursuit of freedom. Along the way, they are mistaken for monsters by strangers who cannot comprehend their music-playing ability. In the end, the pipers in the tale march confidently into the town of Bremen, triumphantly announcing their arrival.
Animal Collective has long been on the music scene, but we might as well treat their latest LP, Strawberry Jam, as their own ecstatic entrance. While their previous LPs (Feels and Sung Tongs) were inarguably impressive, they bear the mark of a band trying to define and understand its own sound.
Frankly, Sung Tongs plays like promising acoustic demos in comparison to Strawberry Jam.