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