Tag Archives: robert pollard

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”

Artists Who Are Due For Their Next Release in 2014

I hope that everybody had an excellent holiday season and received gifts which caused them joy, and I would like to remind you that these gifts don’t stop coming once the holidays are over. We receive gifts in the form of hope for the future constantly, and these less tangible items help us to make it through our daily lives because something beautiful may be on the horizon. Being as this is a music blog and I am a man who love speculating on future music releases, here are some artists who are probably due to release their new album at some point in 2014.
 
Avi Buffalo
Avi Buffalo
 
I wasn’t a fan of his when I saw him play live at our Birthday show back in 2011, but Avi Zahner-Isenberg’s ability to put together a terrific studio album shouldn’t be doubted. His self-titled debut album from 2010 holds some fantastic songs on it, such as “Summer Cum” and “What’s In It For?“. I can’t find an official page on the promise of an album from him in 2014, but his wikipedia article does suggest that the sophomore album was being constructed in 2013 and therefore can be hoped for in the upcoming year.
The Antlers
 
Purely speculation on my part, but the band has last released an album in 2011 and have only released the EP Undersea since then in 2012. For a band that’s still actively touring and writing music, I have to speculate that 2014 could reveal the fifth studio album for this talented band to display their version of soft and experimental folk-rock.
Beck
Consistently interesting and well established to the point that he’ll be able to do basically whatever he’d like, Beck is at an ideal place for a musician to be. His last studio album was done back in 2008 and was widely praised in Modern Guilt but that won’t be true for much longer as we are about to hear Beck’s twelfth studio album in February of upcoming year named Morning Phase, supposedly with a ‘Sea Change’ vibe to it.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Bombay Bicycle Club
 
A much anticipated album by me because A Different Kind of Fix was such a stellar release by the group. How will they follow it up and how much will the sound change? I guess we’ll find out on February 3rd
Brand New
 
Honestly I  don’t care to much about the release of the next Brand New album because I think I’m out of the age range where they should be relevant to me. I would agree that they are a legitimate band though, and they’re loved by a lot of my friends who know their stuff about music so it’s worth covering here that they’ve been touring a lot recently and supposedly said at a show that they have been recording new material.
Cloud Nothings
 
Attack on Memory was one of the finest releases out there in 2012, but it seems promising that they’re hinted 2014 release will be a different sound from the Cleveland noise-rockers. They’ve promised a sound which is more true to their playing style and thus the upcoming album should be expected to be more similar to the track “Wasted Days” and not-so-much like “Fall In“. Either way I’m interested in seeing how quality of a release it is and how close they come to crossing over to punk or grunge in the process.

Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
 
We’re definitely out of the golden-age for this band, but I’m hard pressed to say that I won’t give a listen to anything that Gibbard releases out of respect for his voice and past writing experience. The group posted a photo on Instagram three months ago to announce the beginning the band’s work on their eighth studio album.
Death From Above 1979
 
It’s hard to not imagine the ‘what if’ for this band and their potential re-emergence into the music scene, filled with energy packed guitar rock hopefully. The album could be coming out in 2014 and I’m hopeful for it being awesome as this could make Canada the place to be for modern noise-rock as it could claim Japandroids and Death From Above 1979 (and Metz too if you want to throw them in that category).
The Drums
 
The fact that this album is coming three years after Portamento is actually a blessing because it will say a lot about how good the band actually is. Their music is incredibly fun to listen to, catchy and funny, but I’m of the opinion that a lot of artists can write about their failed past relationships in a pop song. I’m interested in hearing the band’s third studio album because I believe it will be a defining point for what kind of band The Drums will be in the future.
 
Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes
 
I really hope that Jonathan Tillman’s departure from the band is as insignificant as the phrase ‘The Drummer from Fleet Foxes left the band’ suggests, but I don’t think that’s a fair viewpoint because Tillman went on to release a fine solo album in Fear Fun under the moniker of Father John Misty. Still, you should be excited for the future of this band because the last time they released an album it was 2011 and they out-shined Bon Iver’s Bon Iver ,Bon Iver that year in my eyes with Helplessness Blues. The band has indicated via photos on their Facebook page that they are currently working on album number three.
Guided By Voices
 
A safe bet in any year to release an album or two so long as they’re active, Robert Pollard must be writing constantly.
The Hold Steady
 
I love Craig Finn as a lead singer, and I’m very much so anticipating hearing what lines he gets on the upcoming album (can it be much better than “She said the theme of this party’s the Industrial Age/ And you came in dressed like a train-wreck”?). Hopefully they do a national tour in support of the release because this is a band who I would absolutely love to see play live.

M83

M83
 
Haven’t seen any news that this one’s being worked on but the band has never taken more than three years to release an album, even for their most recent double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming back in 2011. Their next release will say a lot about how much of a premiere alternative electronic artist the band is because their last two albums have been spectacular in the aforementioned Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming as well as Saturdays=Youth in 2008.
Metronomy
 
I don’t know to much about the band, but I do know that their last album release in 2011 was The English Riviera and that one is viewed as a classic by WCDB DJ Luuk. The follow-up to that album is going to be named Love Letters and is scheduled to come out on March 10 according to their website.
Modest Mouse
 
Isaac Brock did decide to name his label Glacial Pace for a reason, though even with that in mind it’s difficult to imagine 2014 passing without hearing the new Modest Mouse album. They’ve been testing out new songs at their live shows for about the past year now, including songs being played at major festival shows, and it was well reported that they went into the studio with Big Boi of all people back in 2011 to work on new songs. I’m excited obviously as this is my favorite band, but it’s also going to be really interesting to see what a Modest Mouse album sounds like when Brock takes five years to actually put the thing together. It’s hard to imagine a potential product that has a lot of holes in it.

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The Mountain Goats
 
‘Due’ is a funny word to use hear because we just heard from this album in 2012 with Transcendental Youth, but John Darnielle’s history shows that this band has never had a three year gap between albums. They’re one of those bands who excel by working and writing constantly, and because of this we may very well be treated to their next album in the upcoming year.
The New Pornographers
 
This Canadian super-group is the most consistent modern pop group out there in my opinion, and they’ve been in the studio to record new material in the middle of last year. That article seems to suggest that the album may already be done, and I’m not sure about the validity of that statement, but I would place a monetary bet on the fact that there will be a new New Pornographers LP out  within the next year.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
 
It’s not speculation to say that they plan on releasing an album in 2014, but it is speculation to say that I think it will end up being one of the defining albums of the year. The band has had an absolutely stellar first two albums in S/T and Belong, and the timing seems right for this band to step into the spotlight.

the Raveonettes

The Raveonettes
 
No news on a new album by this group, but ‘an album every two years’ seems to be a relevant statement with this band’s discography, and their last release was in 2012 with Observator.
Real Estate
 
The band announced via Youtube videos (#1 and #2) that their third studio album will be released in 2014. I’m excited for it because I enjoyed Days a lot in 2011 and find their music to be relaxing, but this album should mean something significant about how legitimate of an artist the group is. Third releases mean a lot, and we’ll see if the band has progressed the sound for their third release or not rather soon it appears.
Robert Pollard
 
See: Guided By Voices
Ryan Adams
Ryan Adams
 
His Wikipedia page states that he did a live show in 2013 where the venue stated he was playing new songs from his forthcoming album, so that’s what we have to work with here. It makes sense since his last album release came out in 2011, and it’s the better alternative to just drifting out of music which it seemed like he may have been heading towards before I heard this news, so this is a good thing.
Spoon
 
You talk about ‘cool’ bands in the music scene, I will contend that Britt Daniel is the coolest man in the music scene, and I can not freaking wait to hear the next album by this band which will supposedly get released in 2014. The band has been very consistent with their quality so I’m liking the chances of Spoon putting out one of the better albums of the year once it does actually get released.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
 
Wig Out at Jagbags is set to be released on January 7 2014, thus making it the earliest release to be excited about that I’m aware of. Malkmus is a terrific front-man, and if they consistently give hysterical social commentary like they did on “Senator” off of Mirror Traffic in 2011 then I will be one happy man.
Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens
 
The time seems right to start hoping for a new release from Sufjan. He did release his second Christmas Songs box set in 2012 with Silver & Gold: Vols. 6-10 but the last true album which we’ve received from him was the widely experimental and interesting Age of Adz back in 2010. It should be very interesting to hear what direction Stevens chooses to take for his next album as the last one was so unprecedented that it’s difficult to know if it is a permanent sound shift or an artistic experiment in the same way that Arcade Fire’s Reflektor is making me ask the same question about that band. Guess we’ll just have to wait to find out in both cases.
Tame Impala
 
The band’s got a lot of attention on it after the success of Lonerism in 2012, so if 2014 does hold the follow-up to that album then there will be a lot of coverage on Tame Impala in the upcoming year. For most band’s that rise to national recognition is a wonderful thing and justification for the effort, but I’ve got to speculate on how well they would handle the actual role considering the recurring song themes, and even the actual album name of their last release. A band that has the talent to be a premiere group, but a band who likely don’t feel comfortable with the modern social demand that fans give to their favorite artists, and the truth is that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that if that’s how they prefer to work.
Titus Andronicus
 
A motivated Patrick Stickles is a wonderful thing to hear as The Monitor has shown us, and the upcoming release is getting billed as a 30-track modern rock opera with the theme of Manic Depression. In other words, this release is probably going to be mind-blowingly good while also being completely different from anything else that they’ve released before. There’s a lot of reason for excitement about this release.

Wilco

Wilco
 
No announcement of studio work for the group, but that doesn’t seem all that strange since Tweedy does all of that stuff internally now anyways. The last time we got a Wilco album was the solid The Whole Love back in 2011 so it would make sense to hope that 2014 will be the landing point for studio album number nine from the group.
Anybody else? Likely. Realize that while it’s incredibly fun to speculate on what albums are going to define the upcoming year, it’s a difficult thing to be completely accurate on because years will often get best represented by albums which nobody saw coming. Still, these are all releases which are going to demand a listen from me and carry the hope that 2014 could be an excellent year for music where many talented artists are due for their latest release.

Kyle’s Best of 2013

2013 wasn’t an amazing year for music, but a lot of cool things did happen. There were artists who re-emerged on the scene in Daft Punk, My Bloody Valentine, Boards of Canada, and The Pixies, and then there was a movement headed by Daft Punk and Arcade Fire to try and revive disco in a modernized way. The reason for my semi-disappointment is that a lot of the artist’s efforts this year to set a new standard for their peers failed in my eyes to create something overly significant and lasting (with one exception). Motives aside, and favoritism thrown out the window, here are my top 25 albums to get released in 2013

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25. Of Montreal- Lousy With Sylvianbriar

Release Date: October 08, 2013

Grade: B

I’m really interested to know if this album’s stripped down and more accessible approach was a choice made by Barnes or his management. A part of me hates it because I view him as one of the most fascinating artists out there and really enjoy hearing what he creates when he tries to make electronic masterpieces, but Lousy With Sylvianbriar serves as a reminder to earlier Of Montreal days when he made his living off making pretty pop songs and displayed his thoughts in a less bizarre way.

Track Pick: “Triumph of Disintegration

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24. Thee Oh Sees- Floating Coffin

Release Date: April 16, 2013

Grade: B

One of the better noisy rock albums that came out this year, Thee Oh Sees is a band that must be an absolute blast to see live and tries to capture that energy on the album. When that does happen it’s an awesome thing to hear, but it happens inconsistently as interest tends to fade during the second half of the album, but there are some gems on it like the one suggested below in “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster”.

Track Pick: “Toe Cutter – Thumb Buster

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Afraid of Heights

23. Wavves- Afraid of Heights

Release Date: March 16, 2013

Grade: B

I like listening to Wavves because their music is fun, and that’s why Afraid of Heights gets mentioned here despite it’s struggle to be substantial. They can do much better than this and have shown potential to write interesting songs, but they haven’t quite gotten to their peak yet in my opinion and I’m hopeful that they do soon.

Track Pick: “Cop

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22. The National- Trouble Will Find Me

Release Date: May 17, 2013
Grade: B

The product was still good on Trouble Will Find Me, but it’s a difficult one to get inspired by because it sounds uninspired in comparison to the previous three releases. I do enjoy Berninger’s delivery and cadence in their music a lot though, and it appears that even a sub-par record by The National is a quality album when you compare it to it’s peers.

Track Pick: “Don’t Swallow the Cap

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peace-in-love-album-leak21. Peace- In Love

Release Date: March 25, 2013

Grade: B+

This was the debut album for the group and it was a great success by a lot of standards. Their sound has evolved already from their first EP, and In Love is a more consistent album than most bands will achieve in their entire discography, let alone on their debut. This group has a ton of potential but I still have some questions about which genre they ultimately gravitate towards, because they’re stuck in between pop and rock right now and that’s not a good place for them to be because they’re completely different approaches.

Track Pick: “California Daze

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Continue reading Kyle’s Best of 2013

Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 10-1

Here’s the finale: songs ten through one on my 100 favorite songs countdown.

10. Bob Dylan- Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind/ You coulda done better, but, I don’t mind/ You just kinda wasted my precious time/ But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

I adore Dylan as an influence, how could you not when so many of your favorite artists view him as an inspiration, but there’s only one song of his which actually stops me in my tracks. “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright” captures Dylan telling his girl that he’s leaving, and that he is doing it because of her. It’s the chance of getting hurt in the relationship that scares everyone, and Dylan goes through a bad one here where the girl “Just wasted [his] precious time”, and Dylan blames her for it because she didn’t do enough to try and make it work. Still, he makes sure to let her know that she doesn’t need to worry about what she’s done to him, because this is a risk that he knew about going in. He’s going to be able to get over this. There’s no desire to see her again, and he knows that she never really had the intention of hurting him in the first place, it just didn’t work out, and that’s alright.

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9. The Velvet Underground- Heroin

“Oh, and I guess that I just don’t know.

This list was made before the death of Lou Reed, but it’s difficult to not take that route while writing about it now. When Reed passed I had to learn about it through social media posts which took an overly symbolic approach to the subject, and as people re-explored his catalog they searched for the lyrics which suddenly looked more meaningful than previously thought. It’s cool that people found these connections, but I hated it because that overly-symbolic look wasn’t what Reed was about at all in my eyes. This wasn’t the man who tried to hide anything in his music, he was the guy who’d actually done it and wanted to let you how what it was. On “Heroin” we get a look at the the hope in the music alongside the gradual buildup and rush of the instruments which ultimately leads to the song’s ‘high’, but it never fails to fall back with what is in my opinion the best lyric that Reed ever wrote: “And I guess, that I just don’t know”.

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8. Animal Collective- Fireworks

“They’ve got two flashing eyes and they’re colored why/ They make me, feel, that I’m only all I see sometimes.”

There’s so much joy in “Fireworks” once you learn what to appreciate in it. The narrator is an observant and self-aware man who dreams one day of having a family he can take to the beach, to watch the fireworks. In his current life though he’s dealing with the same monotony as the rest of us and  he’s learned the routine of how to ignore the repeated questions and tasks he encounters every day. Instead he gets lost in thought about what he hopes for, he thinks about what his kid will think the first time that he sees the fireworks, and all the wonder that will be in his eyes at that point. But what if the child was color blind and just wasn’t able to comprehend what he witnessed? This view on experiential learning reminds him that what he views in the world is completely shaped by how he happened to view it when he was growing up, and leads him to think that “I’m only all I see sometimes”.

Continue reading Kyle’s Favorite 100 Songs: 10-1

Album Reviews: Robert Pollard, Cass McCombs, and We Are Scientists

Blazing Gentlemen

Robert Pollard- Blazing Gentlemen

Grade: B

Release Date: 12/09/2013

Robert Pollard has always put forth an incredible amount of effort to contribute to the music scene. He’s most well-known as being the singer-songwriter for Guided By Voices, but Pollard has also branched out to have that same role in numerous side projects (Circus Devils, Mars Classroom and The Lifeguards to name just three) and he’s released an impressive twelve solo albums since 2008. One of the really nice things about Pollard is that even though he releases his music at such a frantic rate the quality of his music never seems to suffer because of it. We’re past the era where we’ll hear Bee Thousand or Alien Lanes-esque tracks from the man, but some of the classic qualities of Guided By Voices’ sound live on today thanks to Pollard’s efforts. There’s still incredibly urgent songs (16 songs take up a total of 33 minutes here) and the choruses still come early and often, and he rarely stops the music to re-set itself. That has to be appreciated as a fan when there are so many artists taking the misguided approach of stopping to introduce each song individually, destroying any hopes of a coherent set. If you like Pollard/Guided By Voices then you should check out Blazing Gentlemen, but if you’re unfamiliar with him than there are probably better starting points for you than this.

Track Pick: “Extra Fool’s Day”, “Tonight’s The Rodeo”

Cass McCombs
Cass McCombs- Big Wheel And Others

Grade: C+

Release Date: 10/15/2013

Cass McCombs shares a quality with Brendan Benson on this album, where both are talented artists who sing about easily enjoyable topics but aren’t overly interesting when they do it. Everything that is present on Big Wheel and Others tends to blend into itself as time progresses,  and it’s a bit perplexing why McCombs chose to keep so many of the songs present to release it as a double album rather than trying to be more selective. Big Wheel and Others contains some genuinely good tracks like “There Can Be Only One”, “Brighter! (Featuring Karen Black)”, and the title track “Big Wheel”, but these seem to get overtaken by the plethora of songs which aren’t noteworthy. There are many instances on this album where points get stated in a disappointingly usual way, and the spoken samples featuring four-year-old Sean are an uncomfortable listen. Sean is a four year old kid whose youth was covered in a 1970 documentary named after him, and McCombs sampled segments of it where Sean tells stories about drug use, lack of belief in god, and how he would attack a policeman. It leaves me unsure about whether an awful person gave this kid a script to exploit him or if his parents really were messing with their kid’s life as much as it seems, but I’m not convinced that it was a necessary addition to the album as none of the songs seemed to run parallel to Sean’s storyline.

Track Pick: “Brighter! (Featuring Karen Black)”

We Are Scientists
We Are Scientists- Business Casual

Grade: B-
Release Date: 10/15/2013

We Are Scientists is a very fun pop group, and if you ever get a chance to see them play live I’d highly suggest seeing them for the banter between Chris Cain and Keith Murray. Whether on stage or in interviews these two prove to be very fun personalities with great senses of humor, but it’s tough to view We Are Scientists as a legitimate artist when their best quality is making jokes. There are good, high-energy pop songs which can get stuck in your head scattered around their discography (and even surprisingly genuine tracks like “Courage” on this newest release) but it’s tough to envision them releasing an album which would say something new and not be limited to it’s time period. They’re the band who makes you laugh because of the obviously incorrect subtitles they inserted into the music video for “Nice Guys”, and they’re the band that decided to end this EP with a cover of “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin, but I don’t think they’re the band to turn to for recorded music.

Track Pick: “Courage”

Essential Albums: Guided By Voices- Bee Thousand

Quick Band Bio: Guided By Voices is a band that originated in Ohio and released their first album Devil Between My Toes back in 1987. The band is mainly known for their signature album style, which includes packing around 20 songs into 40 minutes, and also for the rapid release of new material (there were 3 GBV albums in 2012!). These features are true because of their vocalist Robert Pollard who writes music at a frantic pace, so much so that he can claim responsibility for 19 Guided By Voices albums, 18 solo albums, and numerous other side projects. The band did a farewell tour in 2004, during which it became a common occurrence for the city of the show to dub that date Guided By Voices day from that point forward(December 5th in NYC), but returned in 2010 with the exciting announcement of returning to the “classic lineup”.

What made the band notable enough to get a day dedicated to them and what symbolized the classic GBV lineup? For the sake of simplification in an extensive discography, it was two albums: Alien Lanes which got released in 1995, and the subject of this post in Bee Thousand which got released in 1994.

Continue reading Essential Albums: Guided By Voices- Bee Thousand