Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Searching For A Pulse/The Worth Of The World Review

When it comes to spastic, raw, and emotionally drenched hardcore music, you'd be hard pressed to find two bands that do it better than La Dispute and Touche Amore. With their new split, they show just how well they can hone their skills and craft themselves another bleak and suffocatingly intense musical experience. Throughout the four short songs, the vocalists lend themselves to each other in small snippets to form an impressive and enjoyable contrast between the two. However it is unfortunate that the EP is rather lacking in its length, with TA only holding three minutes of it. This is of course nothing new for the band since they are known for having extremely short songs, though it works to great effect with their expertise in brevity. La Dispute, on the other hand, holds the majority of the time on the record, contributing two very solid songs. The release in whole is a fantastic addition to both of the group's slowly expanding discographies and is a nice listen to hold us over until we get some new material from each of them.

Touche Amore starts off unsurprisingly energetic with I'll Get My Just Deserve. As per usual with the group, each line is delivered with a swift punch and the music pulses angrily in the foreground. Jeremy Bolm's shouts bounce between barely decipherable and pleasantly furious throughout his two main tracks. His flawless desperation continually builds the angrily pounding atmosphere that remains strong throughout the EP. Helping with this is Jordan Dreyer who appears in small doses on both songs. They bounce seamlessly together on TA's second track, I'll Deserve Just That, which moves smoothly up and down from softly pounded drums, up to explosive guitar. The production value is spot on with what is needed for this type of release and helps accentuate each aspect of the bands, both their shrieking vocals and extremely strong musicianship.

Following that trend is La Dispute, bringing the fury immediately on How I Feel. Jordan drops the whiny vocalism he has become known for here and sticks to his fantastic shouting that gives the song the perfect injection of emotion that he has done so well in the past. Along with that he brings his poetic songwriting to Why It Scares Me, perhaps one of the group's best. The shout of "Sometimes I think they're all acting/Times I'm scared that I'm acting too" is a perfect example of everything this band has offer. It's the raw, intense, and emotional fury that has embraced their fans since the beginning. He is of course joined by Jeremy on both tracks, adding exactly what Jordan did to TA's songs. The way these bands flow so easily together is impressive to hear and makes the EP perfectly balanced for each of them.

Perhaps the only gripe to find here is how short it is, but for the eight minutes it runs, it captures your attention and doesn't let go until Jordan sends you off with his final shout. It leaves you wanting more, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Both La Dispute and Touche Amore are at top form here and it's clear that they have no intention of stopping. For fans of both bands, Searching For A Pulse/The World Of The World, is an extremely satisfying release and leaves you hopeful for what they have cooking for us next, knowing full well that they have the potential to do something brilliant.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Serotonin Review

Cheesy love pop: Mystery Jet's latest release, Serotonin, has more than enough to power a Grease soundtrack. Throughout the record you're given a healthy dose of that 80's power-pop, synth driven, "Never Gonna Give You Up," type of feel. With their extremely campy approach to this record, it becomes increasingly difficult to take them seriously with each plead for their forlorn love aspirations. And if upon first listen of Serotonin, you think it may grow, unfortunately it really loses any luster after the initial play through. After several listens, it seems to melt together into one overly-long mash up of over the top songwriting and forgettable rhythms. That is where the album stops being toe-tapping pop, and becomes the formulaic, monotonous mess that unfortunately plagues many pop records.

The group utilizes that spacey, distant singing effect that has been done several times, and to a better effect by several other groups in the genre (Arcade Fire for example). Among that there's the less than extraordinary rhythms that fill the atmosphere (Or lack thereof) on tracks like The Girl Is Gone and the title track which all follow the familiar pattern of catchy drum beat, synth pattern, guitar, repeat. There's obvious influences floating through each song, but they never pin one down and do something unique with it, they simply mash them all together for an incoherent, repetitive experience. And the repetition doesn't stop there. The choruses throughout the record rarely vary in their respective songs, and do little to make the track more interesting. The formula of verse-chorus-verse that is abused so often is apparent in several songs and only accentuates the many flaws of the record.

Though it may seem that there is nothing to redeem Serotonin, I'll admit that there are a few catchy rhythms sprinkled throughout. The feel of Flash a Hungry Smile, is a very nostalgic sort of Beatles number. However cliché it may be, some may enjoy this campy approach, though in most of other cases, it will just be put away as unoriginal and overdone, which is no doubt true as well.

The album bounces between sounds more than it should and simply can't decide what it's trying to be which leaves a giant void where substance should exist. It plays off of old formulas and tired rhythms as it stretches each song out as long as it can. Though it has its rare fun moments, for the most part it can't keep up with other power-pop groups who are simply doing it better. The Mystery Jets do, however, have quite a bit of talent as illustrated by their last record, but it simply doesn't work here. It seems that they've become too pop for their own good and wind up being the tired band trying to resurrect old formulas to manipulate the audience. Some will undoubtedly enjoy this for its little camp value, but it simply doesn't stand the test of several listens.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

We Have Cause To Be Uneasy Review

The subtle art of creating atmosphere has become an all too rare tool in music lately. An album can be as catchy as possible, but when it lacks a certain atmosphere -- a definite feeling -- it tends to feel fruitless and bare. However for the Alabama quartet Wild Sweet Orange and their first full length LP, We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, there's that definite feel of emotional integrity and a genuine, fully charged atmosphere. It flows from dark and haunting, to bright and uplifting like a creek flowing through a bleak forest with cracks of sunlight breaking through the canopy. Each vivid imagery of death and utter despair are nothing above the norm for groups of the genre, but it all depends on how well it is executed, and for Wild Sweet Orange, they near the pinnacle of emotional depth.

The group is lead by Preston Lovinggood whose daunting vocals begin the album with a chilling performance. He carries this breathy, distance singing throughout the album, until of course he breaks out into total shouting, keeping you engaged throughout the slippery slope that the emotions take. He hits some impressive, inspiring highs on the few crescendos sprinkled throughout the record. The swift uppercut of a shout on Tilt, hits you with a sudden rush of emotional strength and really takes you into what he's saying. He ebbs and flows like this throughout the album, never overusing a tone past its welcome, and it's certainly appreciated.

While there isn't an apparent variation among the sounds of the album, what is lacking in variance is made up for in excellent lyricism and engaging emotional charge. The music does its duty to set up the moody backdrop for the sometimes fantastic lyricism. The smooth acoustic licks and simple drum patterns among the slick bass lines and electric guitar never really differ, only merely adjust to fit the next songs lyrics. However there are some really excellent, however rare moments where the music really shines. When the guitars cut out and you're only left with the soft keyboard and Lovinggood backed by Kate Taylor on House Of Regret, it really hits you and remains one of the most memorable parts of the album. The song soon builds back up to hit you hard once again with another of Lovinggood's shouting matches. It's these raw moments that stick out as easily some of the best on the album, and really brings out the beauty in some of the lyrics. Another excellent moment occurs on the chorus of Aretha's Gold, where it's shown that Lovinggood is best with his acoustic guitar.

Because you
You're as tameless as an ocean
I want to love you but commotion
Oh, it ravages me whole
Oh, and me
I'm as dramatic as the thunder
My lightning scares her, she rolls over
Oh yeah, she needs to get some sleep

And as previously mentioned, Lovinggood does a stellar job of portraying each and every dark undertone, but he's not alone. There's quite a few guest singers to help provoke that feeling that Lovinggood is striving for, and they work to great effect. From the simple Ooh's from Rebekah Fox on Atlas To Follow, to a vocal underlay from Katie Crutchfield on Seeing And Believing, it's the small additions that accentuate Lovinggood's atmospheric, moody tones. While the other members pitch in their vocals here and there, it's really Lovinggood that steals the show in every regard. His vocals and his acoustic guitar could easily be used as a one man act, and that slightly takes away from the band's overall merit.

I could be cynical and say it's all been done before, that album's with gloomy atmospheres and images of death has been done better, but I won't. We Have Cause To Be Uneasy, is a refreshing taste of the smooth emotion that is unfortunately absent in most music I've heard lately. It's a lengthy release, and probably not for most casual radio listeners, but for those that can indulge in the sounds and feelings of Wild Sweet Orange, it's a fun, memorable ride. While the band is currently on hiatus, one can only hope that they hone in on their skills and make another excellent LP in the future. For now, I'll just keep Ten Dead Dogs on repeat.