Half Awake and Almost Dead

In Rolling Waves

In the two years that followed the release of Passive Me Aggressive You, The Naked and Famous have been a standard in my routine. Unquestionably, this album helped us survive the move to Seattle, and the subsequent months here. There hasn’t been a week in which I didn’t listen to that album from beginning to end. If nothing else, I was glad that they released a new album to supplement my collection of their music.

In Rolling Waves features a steady pace, marked by grand swells and lush crescendos, fitting to its name. It lacks the bass-heavy rhythms of the prior album, which gave it a modern, new-wave ambiance. Instead, this release relishes more in the subtleties possible in electronic synth-pop. Stand out tracks include the first single, “Hearts like ours,” “I Kill Giants,” and “We are Leaving.” The album’s closing track, “A Small Reunion,” is a sentimental piece, incorporating strings and a somber motif. This track resorts to a number of archetypes, particularly as a final offering, but it does so in a deeply moving fashion, befitting the subject matter.

Admittedly, this album didn’t keep my attention on the first run through. It lacked the dance rhythms and vocal intensity of its predecessor, but it has a lot of heart, and it still has the amazing musical quality that made PMAY a fun listen – it has simply been redirected. The result is an album that is, perhaps, less fun, but more fulfilling. It functions less as an in-ear party, and more of an experience for your whole being. Don’t rush your enjoyment of the album, let it come to you, perhaps in waves of some sort.

Advertisements

Show me your Warface

Warpaint

I wrote previously about my anticipation for this, the second full-length album from shoegaze maidens Warpaint. NPR was able to provide a first listen through its website, linked, and the wait to be able to stream this album was killing me! In a fairly unrelated topic, my Windows Phone was unable to update to the most recent edition of Flash, which was necessary to access NPR’s First Listen App – just another in my litany against this particular mobile OS. Back to the goods – this album has not disappointed.

The eponymous release from the ladies of Warpaint is as enigmatic and airy as their previous effort, but with a better use of lead instruments, resulting in a tighter sound. Warpaint is a great band for Seattle, as their tone matches our winter temperament. Speaking of which, don’t visit Seattle in the winter, everyone is depressed and on lots of drugs. While this new album does nothing to raise us from Seasonal Affective Disorder, its haunting melodies, particularly in the case of “CC” help to remind us that there is something greater around the corner. This album, thus far, has embedded in me a bleak sense of optimism.

Head to NPR’s First Listen app to get hip to what’s in store from Warpaint, and look out for the album to drop on January 20. Preorder through ITunes or Amazon, or stop by your local shop and keep your cash circulating locally. I recommend Easy Street Records or Silver Platters.

A Giant Descends

Eponymous

I first heard Young the Giant on The World Cafe when their self-titled album was initially released. Since then, it’s been an integral part of roadtrips (to and from Washington and Idaho, on more occasions than I care for), and a major bonding point for my wife, Veronica, and I. The fun, poppy hooks and rolling synths are perfect for setting a positive tone and adding a bounce to your step, while the lyrics are engaging and substantial. Their new album, Mind Over Matter, is available for pre-order now, and you can preview a few songs through their website. The videos for “Crystallized” and the titular “Mind Over Matter” are quirky, with an artistic flair that is simultaneously clever and a little ridiculous.

Mind Over Matter

Their forthcoming album isn’t revolutionary, but it marks the band’s development. While the first tracks aren’t as bouncy as those found on the band’s eponymous album, they are consistent and cohesive. Young the Giant seems to be settling into a good rhythm with this next release, and I am excited for it. The “Sophmore Slump” hasn’t been kind to a lot of bands lately, I won’t name names, but I’m confident that YtG is up to the task of keeping the momentum they’ve established. If their performance on Conan is any indication, they’ve got enough energy to keep their party going.

You can pre-order Mind Over Matter through I-Tunes, Amazon, or through the band website. The available bundle set includes a marble-colored vinyl, which will look great alongside the rest of your collection, as well as a number of other goodies.

www.youngthegiant.com

https://www.facebook.com/youngthegiant

@youngthegiant

Obligatory 2014 Post

I’ve been racking my brain for these past couple weeks over what sort of post would best ring in 2014. “Best of” lists are everywhere, and I was hoping to do something unique, while still celebrating all that 2013 was. To this end, I am reflecting on some of the musical highlights from the year, in no particular order, and looking at some of the upcoming releases that I’m most excited for.

No Blues

Los Campesinos! released No Blues in October, and it hasn’t left my portable music collection since. A friend and I were discussing the band’s progression, and this album is undoubtedly their most mature yet. Their sound is more refined, and the content seems more focused. While this growth, marked by the departure of key members throughout the years, comes at the cost of the spastic quality characteristic of Hold on now, Youngster…, it is still a highlight for the band.

The Invisible Way

Low released the followup to 2011’s C’mon, which still gets playtime on my home system, in March of 2013. The Invisible Way is melancholy in a manner that prevents overall gloominess. The lyrics are sharp and witty, and the tone is often apocalyptic, particularly in the opening track, “Plastic Cup,” but the album seems surprisingly light. Low continues to impress with their tight playing and crafty wordplay. Make sure this album is in your collection, if it isn’t already.

Pure Heroine

Lorde‘s debut album was a media juggernaut, and she certainly doesn’t need the press from another blog to ensure her continued success, but any post that looks back on 2013 is legally obligated to feature at least a brief mention of Pure Heroine. Seriously, Universal is just that powerful. In all seriousness, this album was highly anticipated, and managed to live up to the hype. Snappy lyrics, minimalist production, and dedication have played heavily in her favor. I only hope that she is able to live up to the high standards she has set for herself. And I hope that she releases a followup soon.

Modern Vampires of the City

I would be remiss not to mention Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City provides the sort of consistency that is severely lacking in a great number of followup albums. I won’t mention names, but there are several major-label artists and bands that have simply not been able to recreate the magic of their first albums. Vampire Weekend not only continues to provide quality tracks, but they do so with a genuine sense of creativity that lacks the pretension so easily perpetuated by the genre.

2013 saw the release of several albums that fizzled out for me. Atop this list was Arcade Fire‘s Reflektor. This avant-garde production embraced a strong grasp on social media integration, and featured great substance, but simply lacked in musicality. Where The Suburbs excelled, their newest album fell short. I simply didn’t have enough drugs on-hand to enjoy Reflektor as much as possible.

Ra Ra Riot has always been an important band in my life. The Rhumb Line and The Orchard were integral parts of the soundtrack to my college experience. But since then, we’ve both grown – and lost. The band has a unique history when it comes to membership, to say the least, and Alexandra Lawn recent departure didn’t seem to provide the inspiration necessary to fuel the band’s growth within its niche. Beta Love comes across as just that: a beta effort, something that needed more time to process and develop. Changing form isn’t easy for any established band, and it’s something that is best attempted with great care.

After the Disco

Now that it is officially 2014, I look forward to contributing to the hype machine that will drive new music releases. Most notable for the coming year, for me, is Broken Bells‘ upcoming release, After Disco. I absolutely loved the initial effort from the ubiquitous Danger Mouse, apparently an eternal collaborator, and The Shins‘ James Mercer. While this follow up looks to embrace some different qualities, “Holding on for Life” has me hooked already.

Warpaint

Warpaint is slated to release the followup to The Fool this year, and I am stoked for it. Warpaint is already shaping up to be a solid effort from the band, as it features the shoe-gazing, ethereal sense that characterizes them, but with a marked musical progression. With vocals that explore a wider range and more pronounced, less lethargic rhythms, this eponymous effort will fuel a great deal of my daydreaming time.

Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Against Me! will release Transgender Dysphoria Blues this month, and as the first album following lead singer Laura Jane Grace’s recent gender transition, it promises to be a unique addition to the band’s library. With the success of the band’s previous White Crosses album, it will be interesting to see how they shift, and more importantly, how they continue to bond, as a group.

There will be a great deal more to come this year – of that I’m certain. But in the meantime, there is a lot to look forward to. On a more local note, Northwest musician Gallowbird will release his album The Driftless Adrift this week. I posted a review in December, and you can read it here. I was able to listen to this release early, and it was a refreshing experience. This album will be a great addition to any collection, and with a January 2nd release date, it’s a great way to start the year.