Archive for the 'Review' Category



20
Feb
12

Review: Sharon Van Etten’s Tramp

Artist: Sharon Van Etten

Album: Tramp

Sharon Van Etten is an artist that sits pretty comfortably in the current indie singer/songwriter scene; not really offering anything new, but instead offers a very polished version of the scene. Tramp stars off with its best song, “Warsaw,” a galloping romp through sparse reverbed guitars that puts forth a promise that the album cannot necessarily keep.  Second track “Give Out” does try, and offers the best lyrics found on the album: “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city/or why I’ll need to leave.”  Good stuff, that.  On a song like “Serpents” it’s difficult to avoid the comparisons to Cat Power, but it’s so good it barely mattes.  Tramp is a quiet, sad, sometimes angry album that mostly goes through the motions of a typical album of the genre.  What it does, it does well, but is ultimately unfulfilling.

3.5/5

15
Feb
12

Review: Fucked Up’s Year of the Tiger

Artist: Fucked Up

Album: Year of the Tiger

It would be a serious mistake to cast off Fucked Up because of the screaming, hardcore vocals.  And too many people have already, or will do, just that.  An experimental blend of hardcore, indie, punk and alternative, Fucked Up has worked hard to carve out a very specific place for themselves.  Year of the Tiger, the newest release in their Zodiac series of EP’s, is ferocious and triumphant.  At 37 minutes and only two songs, it’s a demanding listen that may be too intimidating for some.  The title track has more in common with The Hold Steady than it does with contemporary hardcore bands, which isn’t so much of a stretch when one considers The Hold Steady’s roots in 80’s hardcore and alternative bands like Hüsker Dü and The Replacements.  The second and final track, “Onno,” is a 22 minute pulsing and weaving instrumental that should absolutely not be ignored if you have the stamina for it.

3.5/5

 

09
Feb
12

Review: Atlas Sound’s Parallax

Artist: Atlas Sound

Album: Parallax

I imagine that one reason a band member might peruse a solo project would be to fully flesh out ideas that would otherwise not work within the confines of a band.  You know, to have more control.  Parallax, the new album from Atlas Sound – Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox – is not far removed from his work with Deerhunter, and that is it’s biggest problem.  Deerhunter have been constantly experimenting since their inception, and Parallax pretty much sound like a Deerhunter album.  Cox classifies this album as “sci-fi,” and songs like “Amplifiers” and “Modern Aquatic Nightsongs” certainly sound like they were crafted by, and perhaps for, extraterrestrial beings.  What Parallax achieves more than anything is ambience; electronic drones and soft acoustics set the spaced-out mood quite well.

Fans of Deerhunter will feel at home with Parallax, but Atlas Sound again fails to create much of an identity for itself.  I suppose Bradford Cox can be nothing but himself, but Parallax leaves a cold feeling that even the bubbly and wonderful final track, “Lightworks,” cannot fix.

3.5/5

31
Jan
12

Review: The Smiths’ Strangeways, Here We Come

Artist: The Smiths

Album: Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)

The Smiths never put out a bad album.  Maybe that’s because being together for only five years wasn’t enough time to do so.  It hardly matters.  Their last album, 1987’s Strangeways, Here We Come — a perfectly titled final album if there ever was one – is a culmination of everything that came before it.  “A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours” is another strong opener, following in the tradition set forth by “The Queen Is Dead” and “The Headmaster Ritual.”  Strangeways features one of The Smiths greatest songs, the dark and creeping “Death of a Disco Dancer,” but people are likely to be more familiar with “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish” and “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before,” but there’s nothing wrong with that; a good single is a good single.

If you’re not used to Morrissey’s biting critiques and cynicism, there is certainly no helping you now.  “Paint A Vulgar Picture” is a pop song about record companies endlessly trying to squeeze every penny from an artist’s work as they possible can: “oh, the plans they weave/oh, the sickening greed.”  The Smiths are no strangers to compilations, box sets and re-issues – particularly on vinyl – so there is some irony there.  And finally, perhaps for the first time in their discography, the album ends with a rather sweet song in “I Won’t Share You.”  The Smiths end their recording career on a high note, one of their highest, in fact.

4.5/5

27
Jan
12

Review: The Smiths’ the queen is dead

Artist: The Smiths

Album: The Queen Is Dead (1986)

The Smiths’ third album, The Queen Is Dead, is often thought of being their greatest achievement.  It ably combines all of the styles that they displayed on their first two albums, from the jangle-pop of “Frankly Mr Shankly” to the more hard-biting title track; the band is in excellent form.  Beloved songs like the aforementioned “Frankly Mr Shankly,” are not the strongest points; those instead come in the form of the brit-pop blues of “Never Had No One Ever” and the sinister tongue-in-cheek “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.”  Other classic songs can also be found in, “Bigmouth Strikes Again” and “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” which offer some of Morrissey’s best writing.

One of the biggest singles, “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side,” has been touted as being Morrissey’s favorite song.  It’s a nice pop song, but I fail to see the real attraction.  The Queen Is Dead is a great album for someone looking for a polished experience of what The Smiths discography has to offer.

4/5

26
Jan
12

Review: The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder

Artist: The Smiths

Album: Meat Is Murder (1985)

With Meat Is Murder, The Smiths achieved greatness.  Perhaps writing that as my lead-in sort of spoils my review, but there you have it.  Meat Is Murder improves upon the framework laid down in their self-titled debut in every possible way, and this can be immediately heard in opening song “The Headmaster Ritual,” which features a fantastically melodic bass-line from Andy Rourke.  Though we can’t discount Johnny Marr’s guitar playing, it’s Rourke’s bass that drives this album, and you check out “Barbarism Begins At Home” if you have any doubts.

Gone are Morrissey’s awkward falsettos and un-affected tone: here we have all the charisma, yelps, and full-bodied sound that their debut promised.  Morrissey coming into his own also has a downside, and that comes in the form of the title track, “Meat Is Murder.”  It’s a downright difficult listen that borders on miserable and the sounds of animals presumably being slaughtered certainly don’t help. Of course, being an outspoken vegetarian, miserable is how Morrissey wants you to feel.  Mission accomplished?

Meat Is Murder was originally my first foray into The Smiths, and for days afterward I could be heard singing “I want to go home/I don’t want to stay” from “The Headmaster Ritual.”  The original U.S version that I owned inserted one of their greatest singles, “How Soon Is Now,” smack-dab in the middle of the album.  Only now do I realize just how disruptive that was and I’m glad that the album has been restored. If you’re not familiar with The Smiths, feel free to start here.  I won’t tell.

4.5/5

25
Jan
12

Review: The Smiths’ self-titled

Artist: The Smiths

Album: The Smiths (1984)

The Smiths’ self-titled debut is the black sheep of their discography; it’s a mostly subdued and morose affair with Morrissey trying to find himself.  The mood is set by opening track “Reel Around The Fountain,” a standout slow-burner that begins The Smiths’ flawless track record of perfect album openers.  The somewhat bubbly sounding “You’ve Got Everything Now” is best appreciated for what it attempts to be; unfortunately Morrissey’s uneasiness with his own voice at this point hampers what could have been a great song.  A few gems are scattered about: “This Charming Man” and “Hand In Glove” are hits for a reason, more due to Johnny Marr’s guitar work than anything else.  And then there’s “Suffer Little Children,” which is based on actual events.   I’ll leave you to ascertain the details, but let’s just say it’s based on actual events.  The song is one of the strongest moments on the album, and I can say with all certainly that it is truly haunting.  A skin crawling sort of haunting, which is only aided by the addition of a woman’s laugh near the end.

The Smiths is a strong debut, but it only leaves hints of the true greatness that follows it.  Even though Morrissey doesn’t yet seem to be comfortable with himself, the strong song-writing helps to make up for it.

3.5/5

I will be filing all reviews of The Smiths under both “Retro” and regular reviews.




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