Monday, August 9, 2010

Arcade Fire, The Suburbs- 9.5

Arcade Fire's first album, Funeral, released in 2004 was a completely unexpected star-studded debut. Their second album Neon Bible was still strong, but sometimes didn't seem to have the charm of the first. Their third album The Suburbs seems like the band could have continued in a downward spiral of trying to catch the magic of Funeral. Instead, The Suburbs jumps leaps and bounds ahead of any expectations and could easily be considered a contender for one of the best albums of the year.

The Suburbs is focused precisely on the title. The husband and wife duo of Win Butler and Regine Chassagne both sing about childhood and express their dissatisfaction at an ever changing world. The album opens with, suprise, "The Suburbs", an endearing song recalling childhood, is probably the lightest song on the album, and boasts a cheery piano melody. From there, the piano seems to take a backseat, and the guitars get picked up. The first half of the album feels a bit more rock oriented, and makes for a few memorable songs including "Rococo" and "City with No Children".

The real magic happens in the second half of the album, beginning with "Half Light II(No Celebration)" one of the couple of two part songs on the large 16 track album. The bass beats kick in, and it's hard not to feel transported to another time. The sad melody of "Suburban War" tells a story of changing cliques as a kid (Now, the music divides us into tribes/ You grew your hair so I grew mine). "We Used To Wait" begs to relive the days where life moved slower. But the most moving part of the album happen in the last two true songs of the album. "Sprawl I(Flatland)" is slow and methodical, which only makes for a more dramatic finale on "Sprawl II(Mountains Beyond Mountains) where Chassagne takes lead and sings along to a synthesized background that's nothing short of marvelous.

The last song on the album "The Suburbs (Continued)" is simply a quick blurb and a tune reminiscent of the opening song except slower and sadder, where Butler seems to sum up a strong emotion on the album with the lines "If I could have it back/ All the time that we wasted/ I'd only waste it again."

The Suburbs really feels like a journey listening to it. Arcade Fire's always done a good job of tackling both strong lyrics and catchy music, but this time it feels like they've done something that's absolutely remarkable. And from this point, it only seems like they can improve from here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jellyfish Essentials: Grand Hallway, Yes Is The Answer - 8.0

Its always good when an artist or group has a unique sound. Its even better when its difficult to describe said sound with words. This description just about sums up Grand Hallway. With piano, electric guitar, violin, bells, bass, mandolin, accordion, and banjo, you never know what you're going to get with this incomparable local Seattle based group. Every Grand Hallway record is like a sampler box of exceptional music, but to me Yes Is The Answer undoubtedly stands out as their best work to date. This album is the first full length from this band, but has the feel of a fully developed, long experienced band, much older then their time. With luscious, deep melodies, and the elegant, soft, almost whispered lyrics of Japan native Tomo Nakayama, this album is remarkably unforgettable.

Yes Is The Answer begins with the unrivaled track of "Seward Park". This is actually in fact the albums greatest shortcoming. Its untoppable. Marvelous vocals laced with a charming piano background make you think of a dreary, yet elgant, rainy fall day, making it a pleasure to listen to. It's quickly followed by the quick paced, mysteriously, upbeat tune of "Napoleon's Right Shoe", which not unlike the album as a whole is a jumble of emotions which leave you puzzled as to what to feel. Other notable songs arrive at the close of the album, such as the delicate track "Philadelphia" or the sun coated "Brooklyn". "As A Tower" ends the tracklist with beauty with a smooth seven minute piece, closing the album, and leaving you with the feeling that you just witnessed something grand.

This album isn't completely without its faults. It does feel at times that the compilation is like a sandwhich with not enough meat - Its almost a masterpiece but there is just a little something lacking. It is also correct that you do need to be in the right mood to enjoy this, which means laying back, relaxing, and appreciating music. Nevertheless, I guarentee you will get some enjoyment out of this no matter what music you like. If your local record store carries this I urge you to buy it no matter who you are.


Purchase Album: Amazon, iTunes, Sonic Boom

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Yeasayer, Odd Blood - 8.0

Yeasayer, who burst onto the music scene in early 2007, was poised to take indie music by storm. Now three years removed from the triumph of their debut album All Hour Cymbals, they are at it again, but with a surprisingly psychedelic twist. Odd Blood the second full length album by this brooklyn band, self classified as "Experimental" seems to almost entirely desert the earthy, world pop tones of their original success, in favor of a clean, synthy pop sound. But why? Its clear that they are outside their comfort zone, but in the end I think it only just works out in their favor.

Odd Blood comes out of gate with a running start with the somewhat mysterious, but solid opening song of "The Children". It then quickly grabs your attention with the two radio friendly, ear pleasing, (and probably the most enjoyable) tracks of "Ambling Alp" and "Madder Red". Accompanied by the noises of cracking whips, indescribable drones, and water splashing, these songs possess the originality that is lacking from many generic 2000's pop bands. "I remember" is a light, dreamy, feel good track with an uplifting beat. Another notable song "O.N.E" follows a few songs later with pleasant vocals, and background synths that can't help but make you think of a sunny tropical island.

The difficulties begin around the halfway marker in this record. The songs start to become a little sloppy and lack the passion of the first half. The redeeming qualities of the last part of the record, are the songs backtrack to the unrefined sound that made Yeasayer great, yet they seem unexecuted and rather dry. These flaws do hurt the album but overall don't take away from the originality of the record as a whole.

There are many upsides to the somewhat new sound of Yeasayer. It definitely appeals to more people then their previous sound, and if they can find the perfect balance of world beat, and ear pleasing psychedelic pop, they will be a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. It is still an enjoyable album in its entirety, and I would encourage you to buy it, and await more to come from this exceptional quintet.

- A.W.

Purchase Album: Amazon, iTunes, Sonic Boom

Friday, July 30, 2010

Jaill, That's How We Burn - 8.5

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what Jaill sounds like. Although self described as psycho-pop, Jaill feels almost surfer, almost pop, almost alternative. The best description would probably be just four guys having a good time making music. Jaill strips indie music down to its basics: A vocalist, a drummer, a guitarist, and a bassist. There's no background vocals, no trumpets, no synthesizers, nothing groundbreaking or new. But in this way, Jaill's debut album That's How We Burn feels like a breath of fresh air.

The album starts off with "The Stroller". Just as you think this will be a slow introduction, the drums kick in the background, and the guitar lets out a riff that's hard to resist tapping your foot to. From here, we're introduced to Vincent Kircher's unique vocals that fit in quite nicely to the music. That's How We Burn's debut single "Everyone's Hip" really captures the energy of the band with it's catchy beat and fast paced vocals. At one point, Kircher even starts speaking in Spanish for no apparent reason. Other notable songs include "Snake Shakes" and "That's How We Burn".

Most of the album's songs don't last longer than three minutes, if even that. But it never feels like the songs are too short, but more like they aren't overstaying their welcome. Another excellent quality, although easy to miss, are the strong lyrics. No song ever seems to be a real repeat of what's been said before, and smart lyrics are a joy to listen to (Yes, I am running as fast as I can/ To a stunning and imperfect plan). Furthermore, the album strikes a rare balance between good lyrics and good music, with a lot of bands falling short in either category.

That's How We Burn is the definition of a strong introduction. Hopefully Jaill will be able to continue refining their sound and crafting even more gems in the future.

- J.W.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jellyfish Essentials: Dinosaur Jr , Farm - 9.5

Dinosaur Jr, relevant in todays music world? Who would have thought of such a notion? Well they have returned with a vengeance. Over 25 years in the music business is an achievment just by itself (granted they did suffer a break up of the band between 1997 and 2005). But to be still improving, is incredible. Even by itself, without even considering the lengthy history of the group that created it, Farm has the makings of a true classic. Jammed pack with all the guitar riffs you could ever want, blended with the rough melodious vocals of J. Mascis it is really a delight to listen to.

Farm begins with an exclamation point. "Pieces" is the same Dinosaur Jr that we all know and love. From the loud guitar solo that starts one second in, to fuzzy lyrics that bring on a sense of nostalgia, its a very solid starter, to say the least. Other excellent songs come in the middle, like "Plans", which build upon the already established quality of the record. Further songs such as "See you" and "Said the People" take a break from the loudness that is considered the musical norm for Dinosaur Jr , and provide a good break between guitar heavy songs.

Through the years the group has seen the comings, and goings of their three original members, but as this compilation shows, they are at their best when they are the authentic Dinosaur Jr. Their sound is a unique and exquisite. Their hard rocking is supplemented by a noise that sounds surprisingly very passive, without a need to attack your ears with unwanted and unnecessary pandemonium. In fact this signature sound of we-rock-but-we-don't-try-hard, really enhances the listening experience. This record has left me in wait of hopefully more to come from this unstoppable musical trio, and I think it will for you too.

- A.W.

Purchase Album: Amazon, iTunes, Sonic Boom

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Jellyfish Guest Writer: OneRepublic, Waking Up - 8.3

After hitting the scenes with their debut album, Dreaming Out Loud, OneRepublic's sophomore album, Waking Up, had a lot to live up to. Indeed, Dreaming Out Loud had gone gold and nearly reached Platinum. Needless to say, the band wasn't sure how Waking up would be received. Their worries were appropriate, for while the record never hit the same status as Dreaming, it ended up hitting as high as 21 on the Billboarad 200, and has sold of 200,00 copies in the U.S. As for me, I had never been a big OneRepublic fan before this album. Being introduced to a select few singles, such as the hit "Apologize" and the song "Stop and Stare", I hadn't heard a lot of their songs. Even as this album was being release I never thought about it, but luckily a friend came to the rescue, encouraging me to listen to "All the Right Moves" and "Everybody Loves Me". I was immediatly hooked. This band's self described title of "genreless" was true. Listening to the whole album I heard songs that could have been labeled as rock, pop, even classical.

This album does have its faults, but not many. I was overjoyed while listening to the end of the album, realizing it didn't suffer the fate that so many other records do. In too many promising albums I have seen a strong start, only to have the album fade fast and have the last songs seem lik no effort at all. Fortunately, while I saw traces of this over the whole collection of songs as a whole was solid.
This album starts strong with songs such as "Made For You" and "All The Right Moves". It continues fantastically with the song my personal favorite, "Good Life". The album then finishes strong with the inspirational "Marching On" and appropriate last song "Lullaby". For anyone wishing to buy a new album that isn't represented by strict genre lines, this all-over-the-place album might be for you. It certainly worked for me

-Vlad Harrison

Purchase Album: Amazon, iTunes, Sonic Boom

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Wolf Parade, Expo 86 - 8.5

They say that you should not judge a book by it's cover. Obviously these people have never heard of or listened to Wolf Parade. Thus I say you should judge this album by the photo that is their puzzling cover. Why is the kid holding a wooden handgun while his counterparts half painted faces stare menacingly at the camera? Truly mysterious is the word which embodies this album from cover photo to the guitar entwined tunes. With a dash of their usual elegance, Expo 86 is the third full length album by this four man Montreal based band.

From the dazzling first track "Cloud Shadow on the Mountain", with its first verse declaring "I was a dream-catcher hanging in the window of a minivan parked by the waters edge", to the synthy tune "Ghost Pressure" with its nonchalant, to-cool-for-school lyrics, this LP goes above and beyond my expectations of a band named after a woodland creature's procession. Another notable track, and my personal favorite, "Yulia" comes near the end of this compilation. This melodious, light, love song, is an excellent way of winding down the album while still keeping it jam packed with good music until the very last chord.

This album is thoroughly enjoyable, even with its flaws. Sure, not all the tracks are perfect, and the same guitar + synthesizer sound on every track may get a little old but you hardly notice it. For those of you that do appreciate this LP, I urge you to check out Mount Zoomer, the previous, but just as good, album from this Canadian Quartet.

- A.W.

Purchase Album: Amazon, iTunes, Sonic Boom