Album Review: By the Horns

By the Horns by Julia Stone (Nettwerk Records, 2012. 38 minutes) Julia Stone (b. 1984) is an Australian singer and songwriter. She is most known for the work with her brother in the band Angus & Julia Stone, which began in 2006. By The Horns marks her second solo record. Airy and Light = Good or Bad? Julia Stone’s voice airily permeates her newest solo album By the Horns, with a light and easy quality which is hard to ignore. But, I wish I could ignore it. Her voice grates on me, I think. It’s frankly hard for me to tell, as I love the music, the melodies, the mixing, and everything else on the album. The question has become… Read More →

Album Review: Strangeland

Strangeland by Keane (Island Records, 2012. 45 minutes) Keane is a piano-driven pop band lead by front man Tom Chaplin. Formed in 1997 in East Sussex, England, the band has achieved wide acclaim. Their most successful album is Under the Iron Sea, which topped charts and peaked at number four in the Billboard 200 in 2006. Melody Is Dead Melody is dead. Extinct. No more. It’s pushing up daisies. Melody takes up residence in the great musical beyond. The culprit? You. That’s right, you are solely responsible for grossly mangling melodic content to the point where it simply gave up and breathed its last. It’s sad really—mostly because you had no idea you were doing it. The current shift in… Read More →

Album Review: Valtari

Valtari by Sigur Rós (Parlophone, 2012. 54 minutes) Sigur Rós is an Icelandic band, originally formed in 1994. The band is known for ethereal sounds, and falsetto singing by lead singer, Jónsi. The band was named after Jónsi’s sister, Sigurrós.  Art and Song Most bands have to find a natural compromise between the art of the song and the ability to make money. Some bands fall into the full on “pop” world, while others try to fight the mainstream and do something completely original. Sigur Rós falls into the latter category. The band has created an art-form which is completely unique, and a song style which I would argue cannot be replicated. The band, and lead singer Jónsi have formed… Read More →

Album Review: Bloom

Bloom by Beach House (Sub Pop Records, 2012. 50 minutes) Beach House consists of French-born Victoria Legrand (vocals and organ) and American Alex Scally (guitars and keyboards). The band is often labeled as “dream pop” due to the slow, atmospheric progressions within its songs. Bloom marks the band’s fourth studio album. What’s in a Name? In hearing the name of the band, Beach House undoubtedly causes images of beaches, summertime, or perhaps sangria-filled afternoons. However, despite the name, Beach House’s music is stereotypically dark, monotonous (in a good way), and hypnotic. In a musical world that tries to remain under the same standard, Beach House has attempted to create a unique and artistic sound. On first glance, the newest album, Bloom,… Read More →

Album Review: Fear Fun

Fear Fun by Father John Misty (Sub Pop Records, 2012. 41 minutes) Father John Misty is the moniker of singer-songwriter and former Fleet Foxes drummer, Joshua Tillman. After dropping out of college, Tillman moved to Seattle and began recording demos. Damien Jurado, a Seattle-based singer-songwriter, discovered Tillman and took the budding songwriter on tour. Tillman has released 7 full-length albums under the name, J. Tillman. After four years of drumming with Fleet Foxes, Tillman has returned to solo work with Fear Fun. The Marketing Narrative  Sometimes, the marketing campaign surrounding a new album dives into the backstory behind said record. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver locked himself in a secluded cabin during a dark, Wisconsin winter to forge For Emma,… Read More →

Album Review: Beware and Be Grateful

Beware & Be Grateful by Maps & Atlases (Barsuk Records, 2012. 43 minutes) Maps & Atlases is Shiraz Dada, David Davison, Erin Elders, and Chris Hainey. The Chicago-based band blends pop and technical musicianship into a unique flavor of indie rock. In Praise of Songwriting  A good song requires an interesting rhythm and melodically rich instrumentation. Even more, a song requires a catchy melody, which soars over the well-crafted music. Perhaps most importantly, the song needs to say something. “Doo be doo be doo” lyrics might have a catchy melody but they do not provide a modicum of lasting depth. If, by chance, an artist succeeds in all three categories, an impeccable song is born. Good luck writing 9 more… Read More →

Album Review: Neck of the Woods

Neck of the Woods by Silversun Pickups (Dangerbird, 2012. 59 minutes) Silversun Pickups is an alternative rock band based out of Los Angeles. Formed in 2002, the band is comprised of Brian Aubert, Nikki Monniger, Christopher Guianloa, and Joe Lester. Neck of the Woods marks their third studio album. Horror! I’ve always loved when albums are albums, not single tracks put into a last-ditch mélange of sound. With Neck of the Woods, Silversun Pickups makes a whole album, in the classical sense, by playing on the listener’s sense of fear. When listening to the album, images of horror movie scenes overwhelm and attack, causing the listener to reminisce the adrenaline-pumping scenes of past. After a listen, it’s understandable why Brian Aubert,… Read More →

Album Review: The Lion’s Roar

The Lion’s Roar by First Aid Kit (Wichita Recordings, 2012. 43 minutes) Formed in 2007, First Aid Kit is Johanna and Klara Söderberg from Enskede, Sweden. A 2008 viral YouTube cover of the band, Fleet Foxes, gained the duo wide notoriety. First Aid Kit signed to Wichita Records in 2008 and released their debut record, The Big Black & the Blue, in 2010. A Starbucks on Every Corner of the Globe The world is shrinking. 100 years ago, an inter-continental trip was tedious and dangerous. Today, a jetliner connects us anywhere in the world within a day. This ease of travel, while presenting the modern world with the ability to engage in a myriad of culture, offers a melting pot… Read More →

Album Review: Little Broken Hearts

Little Broken Hearts by Norah Jones (Blue Note, 2012. 45 minutes) Norah Jones (b. 1979) is the daughter of famous sitarist, Ravi Shankar. She launched her career in 2002 with the release of Come Away With Me, which won her five Grammy Awards, and sold over twenty million copies. She is listed as Billboard magazine’s 60th best selling artist and the top jazz artist of the 2000 decade. Evolution A lack of evolution is my main complaint of most musical artists. Take famed smooth jazz saxophonist, Kenny G., as an example. He has found a formula and exploited it for thousands of middle-aged housewives all around the country. His music has plagued elevators for at least a decade, and why?… Read More →

Album Review: Ashes & Fire

Ashes & Fire by Ryan Adams (Capitol Records/Pax Americana Record Company, 2011. 43 minutes) Ryan Adams is a singer-songwriter renowned for his contributions to the alt-country genre. Originally a member of the band Whiskeytown, Adams began his solo career with Heartbreaker in 2000. A prolific songwriter with 13 albums released since 2000, Adams garnered the most commercial success with Gold. In addition to music, Adams has published Infinity Blues and Hello Sunshine, books of poetry. Adams married Mandy Moore in 2009 and took an extended hiatus—for him, at least—from music. In 2010, Adams founded a record label, PAX AM and has released has latest two releases on the label. The Rubric of Great Art There are times when music pauses… Read More →