Album Reviews: Broken Bells, Guided By Voices, Angel Olson

Broken Bells- After the Disco

Broken Bells- After the Disco
Grade: B
Release Date: 2/04/14

Broken Bells has been a success story so far, something which shouldn’t have surprised reviewers like myself because of the talent of James Mercer as a lyricist and Danger Mouse’s history of successful collaborations. Their self-titled debut back in 2010 was a refreshing medium for Mercer to be displayed within and one of the more enjoyable releases of that year, but After the Disco feels like it falls short of the achievements of it’s predecessor. There’s something to be said about the novelty of a sound, it’s what made tracks like “The High Road” and “The Mall and Misery” become so easily enjoyable and immediate, but the duo doesn’t seem to have enough variation in their repertoire to continue releasing albums which are unique from each other, and that’s an issue. Everything on After the Disco sounds a bit too familiar for my liking, and because of that the interest diverts away from the actual product and instead focuses upon how Mercer and Danger Mouse influence each other from track to track from an experimental perspective.

All of this being said, a lot of the positive qualities of the band have survived to this second album and it’s no surprise that it has already found commercial success. The pop qualities are still very present and Mercer is still a good frontman for the project, but the lasting impression from this one is that the group might have benefitted from taking an approach similar to what The Postal Service did when they released Give Up and then returned to other projects.

Top Tracks: “After the Disco”, “Leave It Alone”

Motivational Jumpsuit

Guided By Voices- Motivational Jumpsuit
Grade: B+
Release Date: 02/18/2014

Guided By Voices was in the news for some not so great reasons recently, as their ‘classic’ lineup ran into some tension once their drummer Kevin Fennel attempted to sell his drum-set from the Bee Thousand years in an auction to the chagrin of Robert Pollard. It caused a pretty ugly feud between the two which led to Fennel’s publicized dismissal from the band, but the entire altercation has once again proven that the music of Guided By Voices will stop for no man. Motivational Jumpsuit is the first of two albums which are scheduled for release in 2014 by the band, and it captures Guided By Voices’ energetic, interesting, and diverse musical style well. The single is the first track in the album titled “Littlest League Possible” and it leaves an impression for it’s immediacy before seamlessly transitioning into “Until Next Time” which offhand references Mario Andretti in the opening lines. Pollard knows what he’s doing when he creates an album by this point in his career, and Motivational Jumpsuit strikes me as an album which was created with more attention to the details then it’s predecessors in this new revival-esque era for the band, a good effort by them.

Top Tracks: “Until Next Time”, “Some Things Are Big and Some Are Small”

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Angel Olson- Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Grade: B
Release Date: 02/18/14

A more difficult listen than the other albums, Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a soft, intimate album about the longing for social independence after the break up. She does this in a similar style to what Sharon Van Etten did on Tramp in 2012 where social anxiety was discussed by stripping down the music and making the vocals sound narrative in nature. The honesty in the lyrics is the best quality of a well-produced album, creating an interesting listen which asks the listener to remain patient with the slower portions outside of tracks like “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “Hi-Five”. An area for improvement for future releases would be to find a way to reach a song’s peak more easily and consistently, something which can be achieved through improved lyricism or well-planned song form. Qualities like that are rarely present at the beginning of an artist’s career though, and we may see that progression become a natural occurrence for Angel Olson, for now she is a good artist with the potential to be very good.

Top Tracks: “Enemy”, “Stars”

Song-A-Day: February 21

Today’s Song-A-Day goes to one of the better Ra Ra Riot songs out there in “Winter ’05″, a song about longing for your partner so that winter wouldn’t pass so slow.

Orange lamps shine by willow bay
Ice covers from the lake to where I lay
In a state
In which I dream

If you were here
Winter wouldn’t pass quite so slow
And if you were here
Then i’d have a choice to live not be alone

But instead I sit atop the crest
Looking down on the valley where the dead rest
And every morning I wake beside myself

But I digress

If you were here
Winter wouldn’t pass quite so slow
And if you were here
Then i’d have a choice to live not be alone

If you were here
Winter wouldn’t pass quite so slow
And if you were here
Then i’d have a choice to live not be alone

If you were here
Winter wouldn’t pass quite so slow
And if you were here
Then i’d have a choice to live not be alone

Song-A-Day: February 20

We celebrated Give Up on the 19th, but that date is also the anniversary of one of my lesser-known favorite albums in All Hail West Texas by The Mountain Goats. This one captured Darnielle at one of his song writing peaks, and not much else in his discography compares to the one-two punch of “Best Ever Death Metal Band in Danton” and today’s Song-A-Day: “Fall of the Star Running Back”.

Sophomore year
You rushed for an average
Of 8 1/3 yards per carry
All eyes were on you

Junior year
You blew your knee out
At an out-of-town game
Nowhere to go but
Down, down, down
Nothing but the ground
for you to fall to

By July
You’d made a whole bunch of brand new friends
People you used to look down on
And you’d figured out
A way to make real money
Giving Ns to your friends
And it felt stupendous:
Chrome spokes on your Japanese bike
But selling acid was a bad idea
And selling it to a cop was a worse one
And new laws said that
17-year-olds could do federal time
You were the first one,
so I sing this song for you
William Standaforth Donahue
Your grandfather rode the boat
Over from Ireland, but
You made a bad decision or two.

Funky Corners Welcomes PJ Katz

Recently, Funky Corners caught up with musician/beat-maker extraordinaire PJ Katz to discuss his latest release “Ear Food: Vol. 2”.

He played us some of the records he flipped for the album as well talked about his creative process, upcoming projects and the very special place he goes to test his beats.

Listen to the interview here and/or download it here.

You can name your price for Ear Food Vol: 2. on the PJ Katz Bandcamp page.

Funky Corners plays old school hip hop, beats & soul every Friday from 10 to midnight.

Song-A-Day: February 19

Eleven years ago today was the release of album which recently caused a reunion tour, Give Up by the Postal Service. Gibbard and Tamborello created the album by continuously mailing the product between each other, hence the group name, and the final product is adored by many pop fans even if the performance is done with computers (apparently this was an issue at the initial shows). We’re going to celebrate Give Up’s 11th anniversary with the melodic and soft “Sleeping In” as an ode to our University students who have the weekend off already.

Last week I had the strangest dream
where everything was exactly how it seemed
where there was never any mystery
of who shot John F Kennedy
It was just a man with something to prove,
slightly bored and severely confused
He steadied his rifle with his target in the center
and became famous on that day in November

Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in
Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in
Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in
Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in

Again last night I had that strange dream
where everything was exactly how it seemed
concerns about the world getting warmer
people thought that they were just being rewarded
for treating others as they’d like to be treated
for obeying stop signs and curing diseases
for mailing letters with the address of the sender
Now we can swim any day in November

Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in (Now we can swim any day in November)

Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in
Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in

Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in
Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping