January 2012 Music Capsule Reviews

22 Feb

Spirit Night One Man Houses


This is the first edition of what I’m intending to be a monthly series of capsule reviews of new music from the past month. But to catch up I’ll probably do my February edition in just a few weeks.

But without furthermore to do, the reviews:

Cloud Nothings: Attack on Memory
Grade: A-

This is a short record (and it should be), it’s uncomplicated (but it’s powerful) and it’s not what you’d expect if you’d heard them previously (it’s much better).
Formerly a lo-fi buzz band with decent hooks Cloud Nothings have transformed themselves into a classic first wave emo band and that suits them very well. And no, ’emo’ in this sense doesn’t mean sensitive strummed guitars – it means loud, emotional catharsis in the mold of something like Sunny Day Real Estate.

It’s been suggested that the titular attack is on whatever you may have remembered the band as being and if that was the idea, well, the attack has very much destroyed any memories of fuzzy lo-fi pop and personally this is a record that speaks to me as a disseffected not quite as youthful as I’d like to be type.

Songs like ‘Wasted Days’, a 9 minute wail that ends with a long screaming chant of ‘I Thought. I Would. Be More. Than This.’ plays as a mission statement of sorts and several more of the highlights here have that same agenda and feeling behind them. But they didn’t entirely leave behind hooks – ‘Fall In’ sounds like a rough around the edges Green Day in the best way possible and ‘Stay Useless’ is misenthropic as anything on the record but it’s damned catchy as well.

Chairlift: Something
Grade: C+

I had somewhat high expectations for this record, turned even higher when I heard the pre-release MP3s but this turns out to be only a minor step up from the band’s debut LP ‘Does You Inspire You?’, an album that itself was somewhat of a disappointment.

There is something, in the best parts of the record that sparkles with some deft production but as a full meal it’s just a bit overproduced and it goes down poorly. It’s worth downloading the best tracks (‘Sidewalk Safari’, ‘Amanaemonesia’ and ‘Take It Out on Me’), which are mix tape worthy pop nuggets but as a whole it falls just a little flat.

First Aid Kit: The Lion’s Roar
Grade: B+

A damned solid folk/alt-country record bolstered by several terrific songs and never falling below the level of good. It’s by turns rolicking and entertaining as well as having a solid emotional core.

The title track starts it strong and ‘Emmylou’ follows it up by delivering one of the best songs so far this year, referencing Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons and pulsating with a fun, flirtatious energy that shows the band, a pair of Norwegian sisters, doing something resembling Americana better than most any American in some time. It nearly hits peaks that high again with ‘Blue’ and the closer ‘King of the World’ which borrows a line or two from some old Bright Eyes tunes, before borrowing Bright Eyes himself, Conor Oberst for a verse.

One of the best records so far this year and it shows a band with a lot of potential.

Guided By Voices: Lets Go Eat the Factory
Grade: B-

In the first album that the ‘core line-up’ of Guided by Voices have released since 1993 we see them, well, doing a lot of the same tricks they were up to when they were cult favorites to the Buzz Bin set. Short, catchy and a bit silly songs show that the band is still good but something does feel missing. It’s solid, though lack the certain something that propelled the band in it’s prime.

of Montreal: Paralytic Stalks
Grade: C+
The latest from the Athens, GA band sees them continuing their weird vaguely Bowie-esque ways and continuing to make challenging records that seem to have peaked somewhere around the criminally under-rated by most ‘Skeletal Lamping’ in 2008.

There are a few gems to hold on to here, one imagines that Kevin Barnes could make something like ‘Dour Percentage’ in his sleep but it’s a fine, funky and fun little pop song. The rest of the output here, though, is, well… ambitious without ever reaching it’s goal.

Whereas ‘Skeletal Lamping’ was a pure id minefield of crazy hooks, seemingly like 4 songs at once oftentimes, this record sometimes leaves songs far too much time to grow and they start losing their weird and start growing stale at a certain point.

I would categorize this as ‘the sort of mediocre record that I can easily and happily accept’ but it’d be nice if sometime soon we might get another true masterpiece out of an artist whom has enough talent, flair and ambition to something special and often settles from something weird.

Spirit Night: One Man Houses
Grade: A-
Catchy and fun, Spirit Night’s second LP is a real treat. It’s a fun, messy bunch and what it lacks in polish it makes up for in satisfying hooks and catchy choruses.

When we last saw them Spirit Night was a little more stripped down and while that looked just fine on them as well, it seems like they’ve changed into something more muscular and that’s for the better because songs like ‘Better Off’ manage to be as big an earworm as anything I’ve heard this year.

Another standout is ‘Kerouac’ wherein dreams of running away are foiled by a certain strain of ennui. It’s an ode to being jealous of people breaking away when you’re, say, ‘too busy reading Kerouac’ to drive across the country. A tremendous little record. There is something to be said for it being a bit slight but I think it satisfies.

It’s worth noting that it’s available at the band’s bandcamp page for any price you wish to pay (including free) and it’s worth it to give it a listen. http://spiritnight.bandcamp.com/

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