Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Album Review: The Raveonettes – Lust Lust Lust

There is one guy and one girl in the Raveonettes. As luck would have it, there is one guy and one girl here at Les Enfants Terribles. In honor of the new Raveonettes album, Lust Lust Lust, we're gonna try something new: a track-by-track, he-said, she-said style review. We have no idea if this is a good idea, but we are rather fond of taking risks. Please indulge us.

Megan: In the past, I considered myself a casual Raveonettes fan at best. Sure, I thought their Whip It On EP was really great, especially the frantic, fuzzy bum rush of "My Tornado." But after that my affections went a bit south, and I never regained my footing on the bandwagon of pro-Danish love. The times could be a-changing, however, because I think Lust Lust Lust is simply luscious, and I’m rather gobsmacked by how much I love it. It's delicious boy-girl, Jesus & Mary Chain-worshipping bliss.


Chris: Well, you've already got a leg-up on me. I recall checking out Pretty in Black at Tower Records, not even listening to its entirety. I kind of liked what I heard, but not enough so to buy the thing.


"Aly, Walk with Me"

C: OK, I can tell this is going to turn into a gushy love fest. I first heard this track a few months back when the band's PR folks started dropping it around the blogospheres. The heavy distortion and pseudo-surf sound instantly captivated me. A kick ass way to kick things off--it's dark, dangerous and damn captivating. Starting things off with one of the CD's top three tracks always is a winner to me.


M: Hot damn, this is good. Sharp guitars, a little foray into some beats…and the best part is, it only gets better from here. And it’s not even in my top three tracks off the album.

"Hallucinations"
M: These two really harmonize wonderfully together. Sune and Sharin have such sweet voices I can't stand it. To me, this is the epitome of the Raveonettes; those intensely saccharine vocals offset by blistering guitars and lots and lots of noise. Beautiful.

C: I really dig how they slowed down the pace a bit and reigned in the fuzz ever so slightly. Sure, they kick it back up towards the mid-way point, but I like the softer intro.


"Lust"

M: The lines "I fell out of heaven/to be with you in Hell/My sins not quite seven/nothing much to tell," do nothing short of rock my world. Add the haunting coos in the background and that saucy sound and you've got a dynamite track.


C: Funny, not my favorite track here. While I appreciate the almost spaghetti Western feel to it, the slower tempo seems almost out of place to me. This is an album best appreciated at high decibels and I don't feel the desire to do that here.


M: Actually, it sounds great the louder you listen. Promise.


"Dead Sound"

M: The jauntiness of this one comes as a complete kick in the ass after the honeyed hypnosis of "Lust." I'm kind of in shock at this point as to just how deeply I am in smit with this album.

C: Definitely one of my other favorite tunes on the CD. It builds out of nowhere and then kicks into an up-tempo pop rocker of confectionary goodness. If I were going to try to get someone into the Raveonettes sound, I might well use this one as my hook. I had forgotten they put out a slightly different version on the Warm and Scratchy compilation from Adult Swim last year. I like this one even better.


M: This is now the ringtone on my phone.

"Black Satin"

M: This definitely makes me think of the Jesus & Mary Chain. It's got the background of "Just Like Honey," but with a slightly sunnier overtone. Nice guitar solo, too. I'm a sucker for things that sound like they'd split my eardrums apart at a live show.


C: Have I mentioned that your descriptions scare me sometimes? That being said, whereas "Lust" felt somewhat out of place to me, for reasons I can't explain, the slower tempo works much better for me on this track.


"Blush"

C: I like the vocal change-up here. My only problem with the CD is the danger of it sounding repetitious towards the end. While maintaining the overall sound and feel, switching the vocals is a good call.


M: More of the same, please.


"Expelled From Love"

M: Ah, moroseness! Other people's heartache can sound so good, as is the case with several songs on Lust Lust Lust. Slow and moody, it's a lovely song.


C: Well, I guess we're not going to do quite as much agreeing as I originally thought we would. Sure, it's a lovely song, but I don't listen to these cats for "lovely." More jangly, pumped-up fuzz for me, please.


"You Want the Candy"

M: This is utter poptasticness. It is inescapably catchy. Heaven help me, but I want to put on some boots made for walkin' and hit the dance floor right about now. While pouting at some boy across the room, of course.


C: Yeah, definitely one of the other top three winners on this outing. And have you seen the video for this? Good Lord and Butter, I'm seeing these cats when they come to the Black Cat on March 29.


M: See? We do agree. This is in my top three, too.


"Blitzed"

M: I feel like a broken record, but this one is great, too. I guess I'm back on the Raveonettes Kool-Aid.

C: Agreed, though it is at this point I'm beginning to think this album could wrap itself up.


"Sad Transmission"

M: Something makes me think of "Duke of Earl" here, but even without this the song is very 60s to me. Oh, and it's also really fucking good. "Let me hold you for one last time" gives a hint of the overall tone, and once again it's deceptively cheerful.


C: The clip-clop drum opening the track is a nice touch. Everything the Raveonettes do has a very 60s feel to me, but I dig what you're putting down.


"With My Eyes Closed"

M: Ok, I think this one would be, if I was forced to choose, my favorite. It's got that certain something, every piece of the puzzle fits just right. It's mopey enough, it's sweet enough, it's tighter than tight. And the line "it was never meant to be/for me" appeals to the little black cloud in my heart. Close to perfect.


C: See my thoughts on "Expelled From Love."


M: I bet it grows on you. So there.


"The Beat Dies"

M: Distortion, distortion, how I love thee. And so too do the Raveonettes. Sharin's voice sounds particularly girl group-esque here, all she needs are some doo-wops. And yet, once more, it's darker than it sounds, kids.


C: A good closer, if for no other reason that it sounds slightly different from the rest of things.


Closing Remarks


M: I can't believe how good this album is. I was not prepared, I was not expecting this at all from the Raveonettes. I feel ambushed. How dare they make an album this amazing? But really, kudos to them. This is truly the best album I've heard so far this year, with all due respect to Radiohead. I have fallen in love with this black-clad, Scottish and Spector-influenced album, that like most matters of the heart, caught me completely off guard. And I wouldn't have had it any other way.


C: While I'm not quite as blown away as my lovely partner, I will agree it's already got a shot at Top 10 Best of 08 in my book. As I mentioned above, I might have whittled it down a track or two, but only because the sound is a tad redundant. That being said, I reiterate my thumbs up status and can't wait to see these cats live.

Album Review: Goldfrapp - Seventh Tree

I'll admit it: Allison Goldfrapp is one of a handful of girls that could turn me into a lipstick lesbian for a few hours. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Goldfrapp live in DC, and the effect Ms. Goldfrapp had on the crowd was impressive. Never before had I seen so many lovesick boys in one place before. And who could blame them? She was decked out in all black, including short shorts, with knee high stiletto boots, striding around the stage like a caged tiger. Coupled with the brand of sexploitative electrorock Goldfrapp was touting at the time (they were touring the heartily sexy Black Cherry album), Allison Goldfrapp was arguably the sexiest thing in music that night. Years later, she's still got her appeal, but like her band, in a totally different way.

Seventh Tree is not like anything else Goldfrapp has ever released. It's closest to debut album Felt Mountain, but really just because they're both more down-tempo than either the romping Black Cherry or the glittery stomp of Supernature. Though I should have known better, when first hearing this latest manifestation of the Goldfrapp sound, I was completely taken aback. They got me, once again. It's as if Seventh Tree is the inevitable comedown after the hedonism of disco-fuelled excesses celebrated on Supernature. The almost soothing swirl is a tonic to the soul. "Clowns," the album opener, confused me a little initially. At times it sounds like Ms. Goldfrapp is about to indulge in some good old yodelling, which happily doesn't occur. "Eat Yourself" is an entrancing song, as is the next track "Some People." At this point in the album, you realize that the best thing about Goldfrapp has always been that voice, with her range and bag of tricks. The lady can sing just about anyone under the table. "A&E" sounds very much like the single that it is, very solid, and it's a little more romantical than the usual outright, blatant sex of the Goldfrapp I've come to know and love. My favorite is "Cologne Cerrone Houdini," which, go figure, is probably the sauciest track, sonically speaking, on the album.

It isn't my favorite Goldfrapp album, but it's still pretty fantastic. And I have the utmost respect for bands that can keep reinventing themselves time after time. It sure does keep things interesting.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Album Review: Scary Mansion – Every Joke is Half the Truth

I’ve been a member of eMusic for two years now, and one of my favorite things to do on the site is use some of my monthly downloads to try things I haven’t ever heard of before. Sometimes this practice doesn’t work out so well, but in the recent case of Brooklyn’s Scary Mansion, it worked a treat. Every Joke is Half the Truth is a great record, full of well-orchestrated tracks full of emotion and a more than slight sense of déjà vu. You see, Scary Mansion’s Leah Hayes is not Cat Power, but she sure as hell can sound like her. Hayes’ voice is all the best bits of Cat Power (crackling, breathy fragility fraught with all sorts of yearning and emoting), but with something edgier bubbling just beneath the surface. A roughness emanates in her voice, and this raw, exposed quality adds honesty and bruised believability to the already fantastic songs.

Album intro, and one of my favorites, “Captan,” drones its way to life, and drapes its churning, feedback-filled blanket over your willing consciousness. Both the guitar and Hayes’ voice are particularly biting, making for a special introduction indeed. An abrupt ending immediately segues into a song that couldn’t be more different, the magnificently melancholic “Go to Hell.” “Sorry We Took All Yr Money” is a knockout, an upbeat yet warbling track, showing off Hayes’ tightrope vocals and the band’s deftness at constantly shifting tempos. “New Hampshire” is a stripped bare, country-tinged song drenched in Hayes’ somber best. She shines in particular on this track, and the bitter “Shame,” which features the refrain “you give shame/a very bad name,” along with other such negative lines. Cheekily, the “Intro” isn’t until song 7 on the album order, which you can take as you will. I like to look at it as a play upon not needing an introduction, or perhaps it’s a backhanded, near-omission. Either way, it’s one more really good song on an album full of them.

Though Scary Mansion sounds nothing like the Smiths, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of the song “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore” when listening to Every Joke is Half the Truth. The sentiment contained in the lines “it’s too close to home/and it’s too near the bone” is echoed over the Scary Mansion album, and the bands have in common their ability to make beautiful noise out of pain and sadness (though, of course, Morrissey is one of the masters at this particular art).

The moral to this particular tale? With music, as in life, sometimes it pays to close your eyes and take a chance.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Album Review: British Sea Power – Do You Like Rock Music?

Why yes, my dearest foliage-loving British Sea Power, I do indeed like rock music. Thanks for asking. And more importantly, thanks for making such a fucking awesome record full of scathingly savvy, intellectually organic rock for me to enjoy while I wait for the weather to warm up so I can blast your album whilst tooling around Richmond with the windows down to share your joyful noise with my fellow man.

To set the scene, I’ve been a British Sea Power aficionado for nearly six years, ever since I heard their chilly yet massively appealing song “The Lonely” on a Q Magazine mix CD. Their debut LP, The Decline of British Sea Power, was unlike anything else I was listening to at that time, and thankfully, three years later, British Sea Power is still a horse of a different color. I mean, how many other bands do you know of that don 19th century peasant garb and take to stages sprinkled with twigs and watched over by the occasional stuffed owl?

Do You Like Rock Music? is BSP’s third LP, and much to my relief it sounds a lot more like their debut than sophomore album Open Season. It’s not that Open Season wasn’t enjoyable, but you know what they say about second albums. These thirteen tracks showcase British Sea Power’s deftness at sounding somehow otherworldly yet deeply rooted in the English soil. Their music is steeped in the vast history of Britain, and for those of us who are more than a little into history this is a major turn-on. From the drum-driven, swirling, repetitively chant-like opener “All in It” to the lengthy, pulsating finale “Elizabeth and Mary Meet the Pelican,” the band is at their esoteric, wry best. But what’s most endearing about British Sea Power is that they show off their love of obscurity while they rock your pants off. “Lights Out for Darker Skies,” “No Lucifer,” and “A Trip Out” are the finest such examples on Do You Like Rock Music?.

Bottom line? British Sea Power made another fantastic album, and I am thankful once again that they deign to share their talents with the rest of us. Looks like one more spot on my best of 2008 list is taken.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Album Review: Mobius Band – Heaven

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. What better way to celebrate the Day of Love than with an album I adore?

One of my favorite things about being such a fool for music is seeing how bands I’m fond of grow as artists. It’s always a treat when a band I already like a lot wows me live or puts out an album that’s even better than I was hoping for. Take the Mobius Band, for instance. Sure, I was already a fan of their fuzzy bleep poprock as exhibited on their debut album, The Loving Sounds of Static, which I liked bunches and bunches, but what a difference a year and change can make. Heaven is more mature, more tuneful, and way more awesome. The ten songs on Heaven danced around my head and my heart in ways I never expected.

We begin with “Hallie,” an effort in trying to catch up with someone who’s “always changing.” The song offers you everything you need to know to stay with the album for the duration: super fuzzy vocals, pounding beats, and a musical cohesiveness that still stuns me. “Secret Language” is one of the best tracks on Heaven, no mean feat since the album is rather stunning as a whole. Maybe it’s the handclaps. I do love me some handclaps. Or the insanely taut drumming. Or the line “I had one of those dreams that’ll take your breath away.” Or it’s just the overall awesomeness of the song. I heard “A Hint of Blood” months before the album was released, and was intrigued by its aggressive sound backed by a bounty of pulsating blips and bleeps. The first half of the album wraps up with “Leave the Keys in the Door,” a sinfully loud track with synapse-splitting guitar riffs and more delicious lyrics (“Darling I can’t get the stain out of my head”). The Mobius Band isn’t fucking around here, as you’ll figure out when listening to the somewhat vitriolic yet transcendent “Friends Like These.” The firecracker known as “Control” is next, and it’s smooth sailing with “Tie a Tie” (“I see people change/I see people stay the same”), “Under Sand” (“when I open the box/there’s nothing inside”), “Black Spot” (“always just a little behind”), and closer “I Am Always Waiting” (“lights go out and the day is done”).

Heaven is a ridiculously good album. It shows an impressive amount of growth and improvement from a band that was already pretty promising to begin with. I chide myself for not listening to it more than I did when it came out towards the end of last year, because if I had, it would have made my top 10 of 2007. Regardless, it’s an album in fine fettle, a treat, a delight, an oasis in the desert, and you probably need it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Singles Club: Cazals

Felipe Cazals is a Mexican director, screenwriter, and producer. Cazals, the five-piece tropical/black metal/Italian pop artists (don't look at me, it's on their Myspace page), may or may not have named themselves in his honor.

In any event, Cazals are a (primarily) London band with a rather interesting sound aesthetic. In latest single "To Cut a Long Story Short" you'll hear the taut, tight drumming that has been a hallmark of many British bands over the past few years (think the Libertines and the Rakes, to name a couple). But you'll also find a bassline that is less pop and more rawk, as well as Phil's vocals, which are somewhat tenderly treading metal and sound a little unexpected given the rest of the ingredients. Don't ask me how, but Cazals take their disparate parts and make them work. The choppy, more traditionally Brit elements that you might expect from a hip assemblage of London boys work nicely with the heavy, startling bits more akin to harder rock bands to create a rather fine little single. "To Cut a Long Story Short" will appease both your need for a short, sweet Britpop fix with the need to rock out with your cock out. And really, how can you not love a song with the lyric, "To cut a long story short/ I lost my mind"?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Album Review: Calvin Harris – I Created Disco

A wise woman once surmised that “girls just wanna have fun.” This is true, but it seems that sometimes the boys want to get in on this here fun. Case in point: Calvin Harris. So much does Mister Harris want to have a good time that he made his own fun, otherwise known as the modestly-titled I Created Disco. Lest that frighten you, don’t worry, there’s nothing discoball-spandexy-hustle-beplatformed about this album, perhaps it’s just a clever title laughing in the face of the lack of disco on the cd. You’re a lot more likely to have images of hi-top Nikes, excessive gold chains, and brightly-colored track jackets dancing in your head while listening to this than anything at all related to disco. Or, as Calvin’s official bio states, it’s an album all about how he reinvented disco. Because if this is disco, it ain’t your parents’ disco. And while the question of whether a rebirth of disco is a good idea is still up in the air, for now it’s a party at Calvin’s house, and we’re all invited.

There are 14 ways to fall in love with Calvin’s cheeky brand of bombast on I Created Disco; 14 tongue-in-cheek, delightfully faux conceits that are made for nothing if not having, dare I say, fun. As the man himself says, “My tunes aren't supposed to invoke deep thought within people; they're just to get you dancing. But musically it is for the brain - it's not music for stupid people.” And dance you shall. But thanks to the oft-silly lyrics you’ll also giggle while you shake, and marvel at the complexities of the sampling and production while undulating around the room. Despite being a nonstop party of an album, it’s also a very intelligently put together record.

Most girls will tell you that a sense of humor is kinda foxy, and Harris has humor in spades. “Colours,” dedicated to the wardrobe choices of potential mates, features lines like “it’s all very well stepping out in black and white/but you’re no girlfriend of mine if you’re doing that, right.” Unavoidably, ridiculously, impossibly catchy “The Girls,” which I’ve loved up on previously, states in a variety of ways that Harris kinda digs the ladies (and the feeling is mutual). “Acceptable in the 80’s” is Calvin’s funky little shoutout to the twentysomethings born during the Reagan years of Iran Contra and trickle-down economics. And “Love Souvenir” is the album’s slow jam, a track that is begging for Al Green or Isaac Hayes to lay down some super smooth vocals.

He’s a little bit Hot Chip, a little bit LCD Soundsystem, and a whole lot of a good time. If you’re looking for an album to put on for shits and giggles, drinking copious amounts of alcohol before going out to drink even more, or just whenever you need a little aural lift, you couldn’t do much better than I Created Disco.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Album Review: Hot Chip – Made in the Dark

It fell into my lap, the cover robin’s egg blue with a raised, bronze-colored design reminiscent of some kind of relic from the Mayans, Aztecs, or Incas. Holding it, I felt my breath quicken and my hands gripped tightly in anticipation. For what I was holding in my hands, friends, was a copy of the new Hot Chip album, Made in the Dark, follow-up to their breakout album The Warning, and it doesn’t get much more exciting than that. I’ve pretty much been waiting for this for ages. And oh, it was worth the wait.

Hot Chip is a band that doesn’t mess around. They like to get down to the business at hand, which in this instance is the creation and implementation of a killer dance album. My first impression is that the boys of Hot Chip spent their summer vacation buying every obscure, electro record from the early 1980s they could get their hands on, because Made in the Dark sounds straight outta 1983. And yet, it also sounds fresher than most releases you’re likely to hear all year. The manipulations of the retrotastic beats and bleeps combined with the textbook Hot Chip dual-vocal attack reconciles the old and new quite nicely, showing a further evolution of the sounds found on The Warning.

Somehow, Hot Chip managed to take everything good from their 80s inspiration without being bogged down by sounding too much like throwbacks. I kept listening for the throwaway songs, the filler, and they never showed up. From the opening intensity of “Out at the Pictures” to the end of the unexpectedly romantical slow jam “In the Privacy of Our Love,” it’s one great track after the next. How can you not love a song featuring the line “I’m only going to Heaven/if it feels like Hell,” as does “Hold On”? “Bendable Poseable” was a part of their set list during last year’s tour, and it will soon wriggle its way into your brain’s synapses, so catchy is this song. “Whistle for Will” is dedicated to Ezra Jack Keats and Will, and I find it impossible not to love a song inspired by one of my favorite authors from my childhood. Thirteen songs, thirteen little bits of superfragilisticelectrobeattacularness to enjoy over and over and over. Thank you, Hot Chip.

Take from it what you will; Hot Chip wants to party all the time, Hot Chip gets down tonight, Hot Chip loves to party like it’s 1999. But the general idea you should take away from this album is that Hot Chip can still break your legs and snap off your head, not to mention the whole making you dance your ass off thing. It might only be February, but I don’t think it’s too early to predict that Made in the Dark is going to end up on plenty of year-end lists when December rolls around. It’ll be on mine, that’s for damn sure.

Make sure your Tuesday includes a stop at your local record store, for all your Hot Chip needs.

Video Vixens: Nada Surf

Ok, so technically this isn't a music video. It's just a (very good) band, playing live. And it's not extremely funny or innovative or thought-provoking (at least not visually speaking). But if there is one thing I love, it's Nada Surf playing "Blonde on Blonde." It's one of those songs that never ceases to give me chills, both live and on record. Mind you, that could be said about much of the Nada Surf back catalogue. So, in honor of their new release Lucky, which comes out this Tuesday, I present to you the Borderline 2008 version of "Blonde on Blonde," from my forever favorite (and one of my top ten all time desert island discs) Nada Surf album Let Go.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Decision 2008: An Update

After much thought and debate, I have decided to throw my hat into the ring and attend Coachella, along with probably another hundred thousand or so people. Already I have learned a lot, such as the hotels in the immediate area enjoy ripping off the concert-goers, and had certain things re-enforced (hi, Ticketbastard, you're still evil). But all in all, the good outweighs the bad, and I am very much looking forward to Coachella 2008. I'll be bringing my computer out to the Left Coast with me, so expect lots of updates. Unless I drink too much and am otherwise engaged.