Broken Bells- After the Disco
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”
Guided By Voices- Motivational Jumpsuit
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”
Angel Olson- Burn Your Fire For No Witness
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”