Albums I discovered (Mid Oct – Mid Nov)

Title really explains it, this is my second post I’ve made regarding purchases/ first listens/ re-discoveries that I’ve made over the past month, along with my feelings on them. I did promise you one of these a month, and so I feel I’ve planned things quite nicely. 14th of every month expect an update on my wild and wacky music taste (please note, for reasons of clarity, that my music taste is neither wild nor wacky).

LCD Soundsystem – LCD Soundsystem

An immediately addictive mixture of electronic pulses and guitar anger, LCD Soundsystem typifies what his sound is about with a constant barrage of tracks crafted to encourage you to lose your senses. The peak of the opening is at the start, in 5 minutes “Daft Punk Is Playing At My House” achieves more in the field of combining rock and dance than Hot Chip have managed in their entire career (bar “Over And Over”, of course). The album carries a frenetic sense of joy that is difficult not to fall for, but does not do so well at the other end of the emotional spectrum. It’s odd for me, having only heard “Sound Of Silver” beforehand, to think that James “All My Friends” Murphy would fail at portraying tenderness in his music, but those parts of the album that aim at wistful emotions are the ones that let it down, “Too Much Love” being a prime example. I would not want to hear a whole album of “Tribulations”-esque funk fun, but it has to be said that the weakest parts are when this formula is avoided. Overall though, a very good listen, and a great mood-enhancer.

The Antlers – In The Attic Of The Universe

Slow mood music is what drives The Antlers, and they are very skilled at creating sparse sounds and melodies. On this particular album, however, a sound is developed slightly, but never grows in the listener’s mind to be particularly enjoyable. Another album which I can appreciate the quality of without being able to say that the quality leaves a positive impact on me. The problem is that individual tracks fail at feeling like a piece of work in their own right. The opening and closing tracks, “In The Attic” and “Stairs To The Attic”, are very well written and atmospheric, but they bookend 17 minutes of what can be best described as a “lump” of music. It feels as if it just sits there, as a mass of sound without an actual purpose. Sure it is pleasant, but I couldn’t possibly assign it any purpose, not as a “lump”, nor as its constituent parts. And that is disappointing considering their skill and implies that potentially they can combine both long-period mood and individually interesting tracks.

Wolf Parade – Apologies To The Queen Mary

This is the sort of straightforward indie-rock album that starts off feeling ordinary and grows with each listen to become a very stirring record in its own right. If there is such a thing as a generic classic, this feels like it. The differences between Wolf Parade and the bands they will inevitably going to be compared with (Frog Eyes, The National), is wafer-thin, but with that wafer they manage to do enough to make their album feel special. “You Are A Runner And I Am My Father’s Son” is a stop-start introduction to the band, the harsh vocals recall Isaac Brock (well, the man himself did provide the production after all), coughing out eccentric gems such as “I’ll build a house inside of you, I’ll go in through the mouth, I’ll draw three figures on your heart” whilst a slapped piano and stop-start drumming jerk the landscape every which way. If the top two or three tracks were removed this album would be consistently decent, with a slack ending (“Dinner Bells” over-extends itself more than once during its 7 1/2 minute duration), so the placing of the key songs is of utmost importance, and it is pulled off well, with the eerily dramatic stand-out “I’ll Believe In Anything” seeming to pull up the quality of the surrounding tracks as opposed to making them seem worse. Nothing you won’t have heard before, but if you want more of the same, this will give you it better than most other similar albums.

Islands – Vapours

“Vapours” arrives with me desperately wishing for Islands to slip back into pop sensibilities, to cut out the flab that weighed down the second album and to hear some of the variety in styles and lyrics that made “Return To The Sea” so compelling. Well, I would call “Vapours” patchy, but it is certainly a head in the right direction in comparison to “Arm’s Way”. The opener “Switched On” is an instant reminder that Islands have some electronica-influence also, crashing cymbals and tribal drums dancing around staccato piano and filthily-toned guitar, breaking suddenly away into a vocal croon and retro-synth. This settles down into more of what is expected from Thorburn’s vocals soon enough, and for the opening few minutes of the album it seems to be that the template of “Return To The Sea” would be the direction this record would take. The title track is a strong point, its stop-start nature allowing the various instruments to show off, and with the lyrics sounding crisp and coming in at under three minutes to remind the listener that this will be the welcome lean affair after the bloated “Arm’s Way”. The skill at taking a physical plotline and mixing it into the cauldron of music is shown most openly on “Disarming The Car Bomb”, fairly standard indie instruments surround almost laughably surreal lyrics such as “I had my doubts about it, when I heard your henchmen shout it”. For the most part the album does not reach these highs. Unconventional often enough to be interesting, there isn’t too much that is fantastic, and they are extended periods where ideas fail to hit their target. It has plenty of hooks, and there is pop abound here, but the gall to mix up the styles without warning or reason that helped “Return To The Sea” along is missing, and the best songs are good, not great. Plenty to enjoy, a definite improvement on “Arm’s Way”, but unfortunately too mediocre in too many places.

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

I really did want this to be as good as the hype has it be. The tide of positive opinion did indeed have me believing that this was a rebirth of Beach Boys style psychedelia, and that AC formed the third point of a triangle with Grizzly Bear and Fleet Foxes. I was underwhelmed. Perhaps because of these high expectations, or perhaps because this album is somewhat deceiving. It wants you to think it is far more complex than it in fact is, because what it is, is simple pop songs wrapped in layers of electronic haze like a force field between the listener and the song’s core. No doubt this method adds to the mood, and is a fundamental part of the style within which Animal Collective exist, but all I think as I listen is, did this wall of sonic sound really need to be there all the time? Could they not have at least felt around outside of their comfort zone a little? I am in shock that some refer to this album as experimental, mainly for the reason that this album does not even have the guts to experiment within its own genre, let alone within music as a whole. I’ve focused too much on the negatives because I want to make the point that this should not be anywhere near Veckatimest on end-of-year polls, but there’s certainly positives too, the oft-discussed “My Girls” and “Lion In A Coma” most notably. But the incessant sound and unflinching refusal to change really does grate by the albums end.

Don’t expect me back with another one of these on December 14th, as I am assuming plans for that day. Day after, though, I will be happy to provide you with a new months’ worth of discovered listening.


About Alex Pavitt
I work in the field of emotion. My tools are instinctual feelings and my laptop is the medium between my brain and the outside world. I deconstruct and rebuild. I imagine. I steal other people's lyrics because somtimes, my own words aren't enough. I spend all of my time somewhere inside my head. I worship Douglas Adams, and in the back of my mind I am always painfully aware that I will never be as good as him or, for that matter, anybody else.

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