Album Review: Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!

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Artist: Parquet Courts

Album: Wide Awake!

Genre: Indie Rock/Post-Punk/Art Rock/Dub

Rating: 8/10

 Finding a catharsis is a common goal with musicians. While many pander to the lowest common denominator of public musical taste to make a quick buck, there are countless artists using music to unpack and express any repressed emotions or overwhelming ideologies they deem important for the listener’s ear. New York based band “Parquet Courts” definitely had a lot to unpack and express on their new album Wide Awake! Following their incredible 2016 album Human Performance, an album that was melody driven and featured a diverse collection of the most impactful styles of “Rock” music, the band incorporates new styles from territories the band have not explored before on this stellar follow-up, and there’s a reason why this album is titled Wide Awake! Lyrically this features relevant topics. Topics like normalization and the desensitization of this country when reacting to the tragic and violent events that have become commonplace, but instead of diving into nihilism like most of their contemporaries are doing, the band offers a refreshing optimistic outlook. The album opens with the track “Total Football,” which may sound like an odd song title considering that the band isn’t exactly known for making songs that can get you amped at a sporting event, but the term actually comes from a tactical theory in soccer in which all players on a team can rotate positions, which can be the most successful display of collectivity if done right. The raucous delivery from the band on this track offers an upbeat and uproarious opening to the band’s most interesting album to date, and lead singer Andrew Savage tops this all off with the idea that collectivity is more effective than individualism, even though many of our infatuations lean towards the lone wolf aspect. More often than not in sports or really any form of entertainment individualistic qualities are coveted, that’s why many of us idolize celebrities, but things can be changed for the greater good if we unify and rid of selfishness. A. Savage realizes this, and he even shouts a big “Fuck you!” to Tom Brady. Musically the band continues to explore different territories throughout the album, but they never abandon what makes them “Parquet Courts.” The band flirts with various “Dub” aspects like on the tracks “Before the Water Gets Too High,” and “Back to Earth,” which feature infectious bass grooves and even some melodica. “Afrobeat,” “Funk” and “Disco” are cleverly combined on the album’s title track, and “Violence” even features some “G-Funk” synth lines, and what would a “Parquet Courts” album be without their signature explorations in “Post-Punk?” Oh yeah there’s plenty of that on tracks like “Almost Had to Start a Fight / In and Out of Patience,” and “Normalization,” and the fact that the highly regarded Danger Mouse produced this album is often forgotten while he allows the band to do their thing. The eclecticism of this album is often delivered in an upbeat manner, which makes it easy to move and dance to, but the lyrical content is a lot more serious in tone. It deals with the unfortunate reality that things like mass shootings and violence have become commonplace, and that at this point it’s difficult to know how to react to these situations since we’ve become numb to them. Instead of having a defeatist attitude, Savage’s vocal delivery and lyrics offer an optimistic attitude. “Well I can’t count how many times I’ve been outdone by nihilism,” Savage sings on the closing track “Tenderness,” and after the roller coaster ride of emotions and styles that take place on this record, including a touching expression of member Austin Brown’s view on death and how the passing of a close family member at a very young age changed his view on life forever on the track “Death Will Bring Change,” It’s nice to hear the band close on an upbeat and positive note. This is without a doubt the most insightful album “Parquet Courts” have released, and in these dire times we’re facing in this country, it’s nice to hear music of encouragement.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 05/20/18

Protomartyr Announce New E.P. “Consolation”

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Protomartyr have announced that they will release a brand new E.P. on June 15th titled Consolation. The band have also released a new track from the E.P. titled “Wheel of Fortune,” and it features Kelley Deal of “The Breeders.” There’s also a bonkers music video to accompany it. You can watch the music video below:

 

Consolation Tracklist:

  1. Wait
  2. Same Face in a Different Mirror
  3. Wheel of Fortune (feat. Kelley Deal)
  4. You Always Win (feat. Kelley Deal)

 

E.P. Pre-order:

https://protomartyr.dominomart.com/

 

 

 

Album Review: Ganser – Odd Talk

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Artist: Ganser

Album: Odd Talk

Genre: Post-Punk/Noise Rock/Indie Rock

Rating: 7/10

 Chicago’s own four-piece Post-Punk/Noise Rock band “Ganser” have been making music as far back as 2015, releasing a myriad of singles and one stellar EP. Now with the aid of indie label “No Trend Records” the band have finally released their debut album Odd Talk. “No Trend Records” is fitting considering that the band doesn’t exactly make the kind of music that’s hip with most millennials, (you’re not going to hear any Trap hi-hats on this thing) but the band creates bone-crushing “Indie Rock” that will definitely resonate with those who still enjoy cutting edge Rock music, dismissing the ridiculous claim that “rock is dead.” Odd Talk is a short but hard-hitting crash course in the endless possibilities of Rock music. The band incorporates elements of “Post-Punk,” “Grunge,” and “Noise” and they do this while sounding accessible enough to keep casual music listeners from straying away. The vocals provided by both members Nadia Garofalo and Alicia Gaines ground the otherworldly wall of noise the instrumentation contains, and instead of burying the vocals into the mix like most artists in the realm of “Noise Rock” tend to do, the vocals are very noticeable and quite polished, and at the same time they are humble, not putting more importance on the vocals, which shows the listener that everyone in the band is equal. There is no star member, and they all work together as a unit. This is a pretty solid release, however the fact that this is the band’s debut is noticeable. Some tracks are a little rocky here and there and there’s much room for improvement, but I think the band have the chops to truly utilize their talent as a whole to perfect their songwriting abilities.

Written By: Steven Sandoval 

Date: 04/25/18

Album Roundup

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With so much music being released constantly, it’s hard sometimes for an aspiring music critic with a day job to cover every single new album with a full length and in depth review (Trust me i’m trying!) Especially since this year has already been an incredible year for new music, so here is a roundup of new releases that I enjoyed but didn’t have a chance to review.

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Artist: The Voidz

Album: Virtue

Genre: Experimental Rock/Lo-Fi/Indie Rock/Post-Punk/Synth-Pop

Rating: 9/10

Julian Casablancas is mostly known for being the lead singer of “The Strokes,” the band that was often regarded as the leading force in the “Garage Rock Revival” movement in the early 2000’s, but in recent years Casablancas’ eccentricity and wide array of musical influences have transcended the “Pop Rock” category “The Strokes” have fallen into. This is all thanks to his new band “The Voidz (F.K.A. Julian Casablancas + The Voidz.)” Following the band’s 2014 debut Tyranny, their new album Virtue features even more diversity and unpredictability as the band charges through various genres with oddball antics, lyrical content rich in existentialism and politics, and beautiful melodies, and even though it’s easy to spot which genres the band pulls from on each track, the band by no means emulates anyone, instead this vast mixture of genres results in “The Voidz” fully developing their own hybrid of sound. It’s the sound of “The Voidz,” and it is glorious.

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Artist: Halfway Good

Song: Letter To A Friend

Genre: Alternative Rock/Indie Rock

Visalia, CA based “Halfway Good” have been working hard on new music and on their unpredictable and often hilarious podcast. Our first taste of new music following the band’s debut full-length album Arts and Crafts is the acoustic driven “Letter To A Friend,” and it’s an uplifting number with a catchy as Hell and sing-a-long-able chorus. It’s a reminder that no matter how much of a struggle you’re going through with whatever roadblocks or curveballs that are obstructing your progress, it’s important to remain optimistic, because that optimism can drive you to better the situation. Whether or not this track is about a specific person is unknown, but this song is delivered in a way that sounds like the band is talking to all of us, and in a world now where even some of the best music delves into melancholia or cynicism, it’s nice to hear something truly uplifting.

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Artist: Jack White

Album: Boarding House Reach

Genre: Blues Rock/Garage Rock/Funk/Spoken Word/Hip Hop

Rating: 8/10

Despite the ramblings of Jack White in recent interviews that can make anyone who despises pretentiousness cringe, Mr. White’s immense talent and genius still shows greatly in his music. His new album Boarding House Reach features the most interesting and innovative music in his solo catalog. This album finally reflects the eccentric persona White projects to the public with it’s experiments with genres one would normally deem unlikely when it comes to White’s music, and following his “Dad Rock” dominated music he’s been creating for years and years, it’s about damn time he lets his bizarre side shine.

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Artist: Johanna Warren

Album: Gemini II

Genre: Folk/Indie Folk/Acoustic

Rating: 7/10

Johanna Warren definitely does not write the kind of “Jimmy Crack Corn” Folk music you can sit around the campfire and sing along to, but the beautifully melodic and heartfelt music she has created on her new album Gemini II with it’s infectious guitar picking and atmospheric sound textures offers a gorgeous backdrop to the angsty and at times dark lyrical content. It is evident that singing her sorrows is very therapeutic for her, and hearing her sing with such sincerity and passion is a great experience.

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Artist: Car Seat Headrest

Album: Twin Fantasy (Face to Face)

Genre: Indie Rock/Alternative Rock

Rating: 7.5/10

Following an incredible debut record for a major label like “Matador” and much critical acclaim, going back and re-recording an older “Bandcamp” album may seem like a bold move. Especially since the older version with it’s Lo-Fi sound and DIY aesthetic is what garnered much of the band’s fans and attention in the first place, but now that lead songwriter Will Toledo is backed by a full band, and now that he revealed that he finally knew how to finish the record 7 years after it’s release, it was clear that Toledo knew what he was doing, and the result of this re-recorded version of the beloved “Twin Fantasy” is proof that re-recording it was very necessary. This new version is cleaner, it’s tighter, it’s punchier, and improves on the many interesting ideas the original version had, and somehow Toledo sounds even more passionate when singing these songs 7 years later. Many of us are dying for new material, but this re-recorded version of “Twin Fantasy” is a real treat for old and new fans alike.

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Artist: Preoccupations 

Album: New Material

Genre: Post-Punk/Indie Rock/Gothic Rock

Rating: 8/10

“Preoccupations” don’t really break new ground with their new album New Material, but the band’s ambition to create uncompromising “Post-Punk” with a gloomy flavor that reflects some of the best “Gothic Rock” of the 80’s drives this record to success. With it’s minimal but hard hitting instrumentation, reverbed walls of sound, and poetically nihilistic lyrics, this album contains all of the best elements of “Post-Punk,” and it solidifies this new scene of “Post-Punk” bands keeping that spirit alive.

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Artist: Harm’s Way

Album: Posthuman

Genre: Metalcore/Hardcore

Rating: 7/10

With a band like “Code Orange” changing the landscape of “Metal” with their incorporation of outsider genres into the very one-dimensional genre of “Metalcore,” it’s nice to go back to the sound that inspired the band in the first place, and Chicago’s own “Harm’s Way” definitely know how to deliver that sound. The band is fine with what many people label a “corner,” and they run with it creating the most aggressive and violent sounding “Metal” today.

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Artist: Yamantaka // Sonic Titan

Album: Dirt

Genre: Experimental Rock/Progressive Rock

Rating: 7/10

Canadian collective “Yamantaka // Sonic Titan” are known for their theatrical and almost cult-like live shows, and their studio albums carry that same weight. Their new album Dirt is back to business as usual with their rollercoaster of emotions jumping from atmospheric and dreamy to heavy and sinister, and it’s an artistic experience that has no limits.

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Artist: Anna von Hausswolff

Album: Dead Magic

Genre: Experimental/Drone/Post-Metal

Rating: 7/10

Swedish musician Anna von Hausswolff has never had an interest in writing traditionally structured and straight-forward music, but her new album Dead Magic is easily her most accessible release, but don’t let that fool you, this is still a drony and highly experimental album, but it’s a lot brighter this time around, and when those unexpected sinister moments appear with her screeching vocals and almost “Doom” like guitars, it adds a lot to the intensity as opposed to some of her previous material which features a consistent dark tone all throughout.

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Artist: A.A.L (Against All Logic)

Album: 2012 – 2017

Genre: Deep House/IDM

Rating: 7.5/10

Producer Nicolas Jaar never fails to express the artistic and innovative merit “Electronic” music has with his compositions that are more headier than they are danceable, and with his new album under the moniker “A.A.L (Against All Logic)” he also proves that danceable four to the floor music can be experimental. He does this by providing music with numerous samples, clever production techniques, and soulful and at times Jazzy backdrops. This is an “Electronic” album for a thinker.

 

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 04/03/18

 

Album Review: Moaning – Moaning

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Artist: Moaning

Album: Moaning

Genre: Post-Punk/Noise Rock/Indie Rock

Rating: 6/10

L.A. trio “Moaning” have garnered much attention in recent months. The Sub Pop” signees have turned heads with their string of singles that offer a mixture of Post-Punk with doom flavored Goth undertones and walls of volume cranked sound containing distortion and pedal effects. This sound evokes the spirit of revered “Shoegaze” acts such as “My Bloody Valentine” or “Slowdive.” In the midst of the anticipation of the release of their self-titled debut, it was easy to believe that all the signs pointed to success, and their debut album hits it’s target quite effortlessly, but that effortlessness is the problem. There’s no doubt that the band are scholars in the realm of “Post-Punk” or “Noise Rock,” but their vast knowledge in said genres puts the band in cruise control. The band cranks out every common attribute it takes to make music like this without doing anything innovative enough to advance this style. This results in an album that is just okay, and only okay. They have the chops to create run-of-the-mill “Post-Punk,” but they’re not showing any innovation, whereas other bands such as “Protomartyr” or “HMLTD” are incorporating outsider elements to this genre to push it forward. Maybe “Moaning” can take notes from these bands. After all, they are still very young, but their sound requires much growth, and whether or not they are versatile enough to break the one-dimensional curse remains to be seen.

Written By: Steven Sandoval

Date: 02/26/18