Tag Archives: St. Vincent

Album Reviews: Cloud Nothings, Real Estate, St. Vincent

CoverCloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere Else

Release Date: 04/01/2014

Grade: A

The last time that we heard from this Cleveland based noise-rock band they gave us one of the best albums of 2012 in Attack on Memory. That album captured the attention of many critics because of it’s consistent energy from song to song while shifting between pop-punk and garage, and a lot of the followup after this release said that future sounds from the band were going to lean more towards the garage-rock sound since they felt that was more of a strength and natural noise for frontman Dylan Baldi to sing in. This is what makes the accessibility of Here and Nowhere Else a bit of a shock. You knew that the energy was going to be there, but the band has made a point of not sacrificing their hooks in the process along with a pleasantly surprising amount of vocals being present. It’s a Cloud Nothings album which you could mosh to, the probable preferred method if you were to ask the band, but it’s also a fun and energetic album which the listener can enjoy passively. I highly recommend giving Here and Nowhere Else a listen as this is the album which I’d call my favorite album of 2014 to this point.

Favorite tracks: “No Hear In”, “I’m Not Part of Me”

Atlas_12Gatefold

Real Estate- Atlas

Release Date: 03/04/2014

Grade: B+

Real Estate is one of the premiere easy listening bands that you can turn to today, but there were some reasons to be cautious about what approach the band would take with it’s third studio album. As the band becomes more established they will continue to find themselves in situations where they could understandably flirt with the idea of changing their style for a more vocalized approach, but there hasn’t been much of an indication that this is something which the band is looking for. On the surface that seems disappointing because nobody wants to hear a band release the same album under a different name, but Atlas is better described as being an album with the same sound in new ways.

Real Estate stuck to their strengths here by making a soft-pop album which makes the room feel like a suburban escape, and they try out some new approaches to the sub-genre in the process to show that the band is still further exploring the style which they fit into so naturally. “Talking Backwards” is a surprisingly upbeat and pretty tune to prepare you for the upcoming spring, while “Crime” has an interesting duality to it with progression existing alongside passivity. “How Might I Live” is the most unique track on the album featuring guest vocalist Dean Wareham and sounding similar to one of the softer tracks by Noah and the Whale.

Track Picks: “Talking Backwards”, “April’s Song”

St VIncent

St. Vincent- St. Vincent

Release Date: 02/24/2014

Grade: B-

Annie Clark’s released a difficult product to review for her self-titled fourth album, as it can be a frustrating experience where the music is focused more upon variation of noise sources rather than creativity in rhythm. The music could improve in that aspect substantially, but there’s also a lot of techniques here which St. Vincent does impressively which deserve to be praised. For starters, Annie Clark has a terrific sense how to sing pop with her pitch and phrasing fitting seamlessly into her tracks, and she deserves a large amount of credit for releasing an album which is very detailed in how it’s layered and well-produced (An important accomplishment since a wide array of instruments and a full background choir are added to the final product cleanly). Annie Clark is a very confident musician who’s had the incredible fortune of being able to work with talented artists such as David Byrne and Sufjan Stevens among others up to this point in her career and she has taken advantage of these circumstances to become a well articulated songwriter in the process. St. Vincent isn’t a showing of the genius which her music seems to hint she has the potential of reaching though, instead it’s another tease to place some terrific musical qualities into an album which is good but never great.

Track Picks: “Prince Johnny”, “Regret”

Album Reviews: Destroyer, The Head & the Heart, Shearwater

Five Spanish Songs

Destroyer- Five Spanish Songs EP

Grade: B+
Release Date: 11/29/2013

Five Spanish Songs doesn’t contain any new Destroyer songs, rather it’s entirely composed of covers of a spanish artist named Sr. Chinarro. The purpose of the EP is to be a gesture of respect and market Sr. Chinarro’s music to an audience who otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to them in likelihood, and it proves to indeed be very fun and melodic. The opener “Maria de las Nieves” is a soft and paced track which showcases extremely calm, narrative vocals by Dan Bejar (a member of the New Pornographers, it often gets forgotten in the U.S. how successful these musicians are outside of the supergroup). “El Rito” is the most fun and danceable one on the EP and a personal favorite, and the closer “Bye Bye” is a slower, soft and thoughtful track. Of course all of this is solely based off of the sound of the music and the manner in which the lyrics are stated because by all accounts the spanish courses I attended during schooling were unsuccessful in creating a fluent speaker out of me, and the title of this EP isn’t just an homage to what was translated. That’s probably for the better as some songs can lose their beauty in the process of translation (and some can become hysterical, like “Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand“), but it’s still frustrating to listen to a line and only be able to recognize the words “Franz Kafka”. Still, this is a very good listen that I recommend listening to even if you don’t understand the lyrics, because good music can be universal.

Track Pick: “El Rito”

Let's Be Still

The Head and the Heart- Let’s Be Still

Grade: C+

Release Date: 10/15/2013

The main word that come to mind is generic. Folk rock seems like a plague in the modern music scene with artists like Mumford & Sons (now on hiatus) and Of Monsters & Men actually rising to national attention with it. I don’t intend to point to those two as examples of poor artists, but I’m a believer that they are artists who got over glorified for an enjoyable but unspectacular sound. The Head and the Heart struggle on this album struggle to bring up interesting topics and consistently seem to end up writing about clichés over basic rhythms. Simplicity can be beautiful in music when used correctly, but we’re at the point where it’s the last thing which there’s a need for within the genre, and it would be sad to see folk rock become redefined in the same unfortunate way that country music has grown to be.

Track Pick: “Homecoming Heroes”

Fellow Travelers
Shearwater- Fellow Travelers

Grade: B-
Release Date: 10/08/2013

The second release in this batch of reviews which is composed of covers, with Fellow Travelers it’s difficult to even tell though. The band set their eyes on songs by Xiu Xiu, Coldplay, St. Vincent and Wye Oak among others, but they don’t really bring the band to a place where they’re easy to relate to at any point. There’s a level of respect from me for the band’s continued attempt to be meaningful and write sadder, softer songs, but the songs have to differ more than they do. This seemed like a prime opportunity to do that with the range of artists they covered, but they all still ultimately blend into each other within the same Shearwater sound that’s been frustrating myself and other listeners on their recent releases. You can sense the talent of people in the project, but I would say they’d be better off separated from each other so that they could try to find other artists to work with, ones who would do a better job of highlighting their strengths and hiding their weaknesses.

Track Pick: “Tomorrow”

2011: The Year of Escapism

Conjuring up motifs and noises of the past, these ten artists have put their spin on nostalgia and have created a sound unique to each of them.  Music as always is a testament of the times, somehow it seems we’re being catapulted backwards. In some cases the artist deals head on with the current turmoil lyrically, but even when the content is irrelevant we’re sucked into a simpler time. Although it’s hard to remain hopeful when the skies look so dark and gloomy, there’s always “Watch The Thrown.”
Continue reading 2011: The Year of Escapism