KSUA plays four square with Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories”


Four reviews, four opinons, four perspectives. One Album. 





Reviewer: Alan Fearns
Artist: Daft Punk
Album: Random Access Memories
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 4, 6, 12, 13
Comments: In Daft Punk’s latest release, the duo takes a moment to appreciate musical influences and the ability to advance ideas of genre by musicianship. From the welcome opener, “Random Access Memories” demonstrates the duo’s drive to take on production obstacles to obtain the specific disco vibe of the late ’70s. It was unexpected that a band so futuristic would lean towards the late-career revivalist and collaboration tactics, but there is a worthwhile listen here.

“Game of Love” sounds like it could have been from a moody crime show. The recordings here are crystal clear, and the microphonic nuances talked of by Giorgio Mororder in The Collaborators shine through. A monologue by Moroder is sampled on the next track, “Freedom”. Turns out the word-on-the-web that Daft Punk wouldn’t sample till the last track is false. “Freedom” is the longest running track on the album—just breaking 9 minutes—which consists of climatic synth sequencing. The instrumental revolves around the monologue, dramatizing it like an audio documentary.

Chilly Gonzales is brought in to play piano on the key-changing ballad, “Within”. The sound of the vocoder’s hard tuning becomes more apparent here, as the group sings in one of their wider ranges. The auto-tunage is taken up a notch with the hard pop, “Instant Crush”, a fitting title for a something so horridly catchy. “Lose Yourself to Dance” is what this album is all about.

The first couple minutes of “Touch” is galactic ambience, before the slow electric piano chords steam under Paul Williams elegant voice of the past. Hi-hat triplets and quacky guitars are then back, and keyboard notes glissando around curiously. The song adds in a honky-tonk and brass section before settling into a Beatlesque rise. The rest of this track drags out to a distant transition for “Get Lucky.”

If you haven’t heard this track by now, you wouldn’t be reading this review. Its got Pharrell, it gives you danceallnightis.

Daft incorporates the Tron strings and swells in “Beyond” and “Motherboard,” but the subtle acoustic guitar is what stood out most to me. “Beyond” has a similar feel to “Within” and “Game of Love,” but more Eiffel 65. “Fragments of Time” was a tad too ordinary that late in the album. “Doin it Right” has an addictive sparse rhythm. Very chill, but dancey and would please a crowd. The final track is the most Daft Punk classic, with some excellent live drums that suddenly all distorts to take the album away.

The group covers many different genres and smooths them all together on Random Access Memories. There is a lot of paying homage to the classics, but has enough bounce and flair to sound fresh in today’s music. It’s a celebration of music in itself.


Reviewer: Phil Hokenson
Artist: Daft Punk
Album: Random Access Memories
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12
Comments: The distant future. The year 2000. Franco electronic-disco androids rule American airwaves with an iron fist (or perhaps titanium or adamantium). The shocking dystopia envisioned by mid-90s ravers madly waving glow sticks and seizuring through mountains of foam has almost become a reality. Although outside of “Get Lucky” and “Lose Yourself to Dance,” Daft Punk’s latest clearly isn’t pandering for Top 40 plays, we will likely feel the tremors in the output of our all-consuming pop music machine.

At their best, DP and friends (Pharrell, Panda Bear, and Julian Casablancas of the Strokes) offer tracks that make you want to boogie down till your knees blow out, but they also include some oddly satisfying idiosyncratic jams. “Giorgio by Moroder” sounds like the Terminator describing his life’s passion of making krautrock on the side (y’know, after saving John Connor, becoming the robotic overlord of California, and what not).

The inexplicable midpoint of the album, “Touch,” sounds like Andrew Lloyd Webber joined the band for a track, and the closer, “Contact,” is their best argument to date for a Daft Punk-scored remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey. When they stray too far from their cyborg Saturday Night Fever wheelhouse, they lose the plot a bit (even these guys can’t convince me that auto-tuned slow jams and Hall & Oates homages are good ideas).

As a firm believer in rock ‘n’ roll salvation and the evangelical power of real drums, I’m not quite ready for the Punks to beam me up, but since the album meets me half way with a healthy helping of humanity, I’ll admit I had a helluva good time. Finally, robotic beings rule the earth. The humans are dead.


Reviewer: Brady Gross
Artist: Daft Punk
Album: Random Access Memories
Rec’d Tracks: 5, 7, 8, 12, 13
Comments: So, it’s been eight years and everyone has been freaking out. The album is here, and now what do we do? This isn’t “Discovery” or “Homework” and you can tell Daft Punk didn’t want “RAM” to mimic those previous album ideals AT ALL.

Instead, this is a reverence of sorts – a distinct reset to what Daft Punk had curated as their ‘sound’ over the last 10 years. That’s great, sure. Does it work? Is “RAM” an album that properly portrays the influences of yesteryear and inject them into our current day understanding of what EDM, disco and electronic music is, was and will be? All these questions are tough to answer. With the amount of coverage and attention “RAM” has received over the last two months, it would be hard to argue that the public isn’t clued in to what Daft Punk is going for. But that still doesn’t answer what does the present and future hold for listeners that really don’t ‘care’ what ideal Daft Punk is going for.

What happens when you are a fan who just wants a good record and could give two shits less about the two guys behind the robot costumes and where they draw influence from. A majority of people don’t know who Giorgio Moroder is, or Paul Williams, or even Chilly Gonzales. I didn’t to a certain extent. And so looking at the tracklist of “RAM” and listening to these songs, what connection or ‘awe’ feeling am I going to have here to properly ‘feel’ like I ‘get’ it.

There are songs here that are classic Daft Punk and no one will second-guess their composition. (“Game of Love” and “Contact” especially) But the girth of the album isn’t typical. There are whole orchestras of sound here, spoken word inserts, and a very conscious show-tune-influenced epic centerpiece track (“Touch”). This is where I can’t decide if I truly love or just ‘like’ this album. It places me in a weird middle spot, where after twenty plus listens, I still can’t decide how the fuck I feel. “Lose Yourself To Dance” is probably the best example of a track that truly fails in my mind. It is a legit ten seconds shy of six minutes and the song could/should have been cut off at three.

But even saying that out loud, throws my mind for a loop. It’s hard to convince myself I believe that’s what the song ‘should’ be because maybe I’m just not getting it. Disco has historically been cheesy as fuck and the duration of songs long as fuck also.

Take Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” from 1977 – a 6+ min song where she croons the same lyric over and over – over the same beat, over and over. The song was a wild success. That was what defined disco. No one ever gave a shit about 8-10 min songs because people were DANCING AND FUCKED UP.

So back to “Lose Yourself” for a second. Taking into context what Daft Punk is after – trying to conceptualize that late ‘70s disco sound into 2013 – I get it, but just because I get it, doesn’t make it necessarily work. Because when it comes down to it, people AREN’T dancing and getting fucked up in the same way anymore.

While I don’t want that perspective to diminish the potential of “RAM” – it throws a riff in the experience I hold with it – at this exact moment in time. There are bangers, “Get Lucky” and especially “Doin’ it Right” – but for the most part, this is a two-way record.
You either go into a comatose with headphones on and further slide into a robotic haze, or you are experiencing it live. I’m not sure there is a place where I will feel ok just ‘throwing’ this record on while doing dishes or during a road trip. I tried it this last weekend driving to Anchorage with a few friends – everyone fell asleep.


Reviewer: Bobby Pendleton
Artist: Daft Punk
Album: Random Access Memories
Rec’d Tracks: The entire album.
Comments: I’ve never had such a changing view point on an album. I’ve written three reviews on the new Daft Punk album “Random Access Memories,” listened to the record again, read some reviews on it, read up on Daft Punk and rewritten again. My thoughts on the album needed time I suppose, and so now I think I’m ready.

This is a complete album! It shouldn’t be looked at based upon specific tracks because when it’s looked back upon it may be as influential as their 2001 album “Discovery.” I was torn on certain tracks like “Touch” and “Fragments of Time” based on the singers they chose or how cheesy the music sounded, but then I realized Daft Punk doesn’t mind being cheesy. They have lots of influences from other eras that may seem cheesy or cheap today – like the Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, and Jackson Browne.

What they are doing is showing what music with soul sounded like, cheesy or not, and they are doing this with the best engineers and session musicians in the industry. They put everything they had in themselves into this album over the past three years, recording orchestras for every track ( but not actually using most of the orchestra recordings), recording on analog for the quality, working in the best studios in the world and using live instruments almost exclusively.

This makes for an album that bases its merits in sound quality and how it flows together. Yes maybe there are a few tracks that aren’t “Get Lucky”-good and the constant hype over the past few months has been annoying to some, but that shouldn’t matter. What will matter is that this maybe is the last time we see an album that is perfect as a whole body of work and will influence others to strive to do the same in the future.

The one issue I do find is that Daft Punk has been successful enough to have the resources they needed to make such a high-quality piece of work, but not everyone has that and maybe not everyone should.

As Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (gold helmet from Daft Punk) states, “Technology has made music accessible in a philosophically interesting way, which is great, but on the other hand, when everybody has the ability to make magic, it’s like there’s no more magic—if the audience can just do it themselves, why are they going to bother?”

Maybe perfection has to be for the best of the best, I don’t know that answer. All I know is this is an album that will make musicians look back to their influences that didn’t have the technology we do now and strive for the quality of sound they did have. So when you listen to this album listen to it as a body of work and for its perfection – then you might see what Daft Punk is trying to do. Bring life back to music.

Album Reviews: May 7th, 2013

Artist: Still CornersStrangePleasures_CD_Final
Album: Strange Pleasures
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12
Comments: I’m pretty sure voices like Tessa Murray’s are one of the distinct reasons humans fall in love with music. While ethereal soundscapes maintain a certain feel throughout, the instruments are really just a backdrop to Murray’s overwhelming focused vocals. Murray paints pictures of ornate indescribable beauty in your mind over and over. Track titles like “The Trip” and “The Midnight Drive” indicate a purposeful mood that successfully never falls into any musical potholes. Soothing and quite consuming, “Strange Pleasures” is probably best listened to in full, on a long drive and with a mind altered by drugs.
Genre: Ethereal vocaling

Artist: Yeah Yeah Yeahsyeah_yeah_yeahs_mosquito
Album: Mosquito
Rec’d Tracks: 1! 2, 4, 6!, 8, 10, 11
Comments: The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s are all over the place. Sometimes in an absolute great way. But multiple times on “Mosquito,” I have no fucking clue what they are doing. They have transcended the sphere of having to explain anything, and legit do whatever they want. Here, I think that is their downfall. You have songs like “Sacrilege,” “Subway,” and “These Paths” that just shred literally and emotionally. Classic “Fever to Tell” –era raw drive. Then there are duds like “Mosquito” and “Area 52” that completely exemplify a slap to the forehead. Understanding the line between ridiculous and genuine novelty is a tough one to tight walk. Everyone has missteps but seeing Karen O masterfully curate ‘her’ sound over the last decade, makes me feel more critical in hoping these bloopers are very very short lived.
Genre: Commanding Indie Rock

Album: Bankrupt!
Rec’d Tracks: 1!, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9!
Comments: I have been putting off reviewing this damn record for what seems like months. It has been only two weeks though and I feel like I should have thrown a damn party. Phoenix pretty much encapsulates everything I love about indie pop. So this leaves me still – to actually discuss this new album. I’ll say this, there is no way a “1901” exists here on “Bankrupt!” but that makes sense logically. Phoenix sounds like they are struggling here at times. An uncomfortable aura stands fast over a lot of these songs. Lead singer Thomas Mars has never sounded better but you can tell he’s trying to push himself and fine tune a sound Phoenix already mastered. Show and tell was two years ago and there just isn’t any way to top that adventure. So where does this leave “Bankrupt!” and the future of Phoenix? Exactly right here. They HAVE to move on, and there are no complaints here. These songs are still poppy, fun and technically magical. If this was any other band, it would be a five star success.
Genre: Indie Pop

Artist: Major Lazermajor-lazer-freetheuniverse
Album: Free the Universe
Rec’d Tracks: 1! 2, 3, 4! 5, 6, 8, 9, 12! 13! 14
Comments: IT’S ALL DIPLO ALL THE TIME. Major Lazer has returned with more featured artists, DJs and overall shenanigans. Looking over the track list a few weeks ago, I practically shit a brick. The guys who brought horse neighs, telephone calls, and ridiculous twerking into my life a few years back, have a song with Bruno Mars called “Bubble Butt.” What the shit? I mean really. I know I am a fucking hater sometimes towards pop music, judging it left and right but I can admit pop music is awesome at times. I just couldn’t imagine how Mr. Mars was going to groove his way into a Jamaican dancehall track. Well he did.. and now I’m hooked. That is the discussion of ONE track on here. “Free the Universe” continually breaks the mold of whatever the hell EDM could/should be and infuses legit Jamaican culture into a music scene that desperately needs some weird, fantastic fun.
Genre: Electronic Dancehall

Artist: Snowdensnowden_final
Album: No One In Control
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2!, 3, 4! 6, 8, 9! 10, 11!
Comments: Distortion and murky reverb lives and breathes through each track in subtle variations on “No One In Control.” At times peaking, other times, just lulling in the background, the shoegaze influence infiltrates the listener’s focus time and time again. “So Red” proclaims “It’s not that simple..” over and over as layers of echoing “ahhs” hint at the fact that, well duh, of course it isn’t that simple. “The Beat Comes” stands out as the one track where you don’t feel like the night is just ending. “We’ll catch your tongue if you go too far,” points towards a night just getting underway. “Grab your head till, the beat comes,” encapsulates the lithium induced euphoria and makes sense as the only real upbeat track on the whole disc. “This Year” closes out “No One In Control” with a commanding performance that not even he can believe, echoing “I’m a sucker” over and over as the music fades,
Genre: Shoegaze rock

Artist: Pretty & NicePretty & Nice "Golden Rules for Golden People"
Album: Golden Rules for Golden People
Rec’d Tracks: 2! 3, 5, 7, 8, 10!
Comments: “Mummy Jets” shifts and pulls in so many musical directions, it can be truly head spinning. The rest of “Golden Rules” plays with this idea of not being boxed within any particular genre. Immediately it reminds of a mash-up between Maps and Atlases and ‘90s pop darlings Smash Mouth. It is refreshing and invokes a smile that usually comes when you are cringing about how much you ‘shouldn’t’ be enjoying yourself. P.s. Let’s just acknowledge “Golden Rules,” track 10 for a second too. You’ll get there. It doesn’t work, but it SO works.
Genre: Upbeat genre confusion

Artist: Pure XPureXCrawlingUpTheStairsMidRes
Album: Crawling Up The Stairs
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 4! 5, 7, 9, 10! 12
Comments: Pure X’s music sounds anything but perfect. Fucking up the immediacy is all very much the point here. Songs twist and transform into sore sights of amateurish bedroom sounds. It’s great. “I Fear What I Feel” is a song, that if made to sound ‘pristine’ there would be a lot more questions. But instead, Pure X purposely fucks it all up. Hiccupping and distorting his voice through a meat grinder, things start to blur and cleanse the listener all at once. Many times I found myself confused why the music was so enjoyable even though it sounded so damn dirty and like utter crap. With a digital world full of effects, post-production magic tricks and the return of synths, Pure X has taken its bag of tricks while still letting his raw emotion and talented voice shine through.
Genre: Distorted falsetto magic tricks

Album Reviews: April 24th, 2013

Reviewer: Aurora BorealisSallie-Ford-untamed-beast
Artist: Sallie Ford
Album: Untamed Beast
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 5
Restricted: 3, 4, 9,
Comments: Sallie Ford has created an album that takes its influence from multiple genres while maintaining the sass that Ford exudes from her voice. Ford growls away as the guitar varies from blues to punk to rockabilly. If you had picked up this album and pushed play without a thought of who it was, it would harken ‘50s and ‘60s rockabilly and blues feel that hasn’t been updated or harmed (in some peoples opinion) by bands like the Black Keys and White Stripes of the world. Now this may make you think that Ford is just copying the past, but what really updates this album is her voice. Throughout the album you feel the showcase is that vicious voice Ford expels at you, which makes this album a pleasure to listen to.
Genre: Rockabilly

Reviewer: Aurora Borealisfoxygen
Artist: Foxygen
Album: 21st Century
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 4, 6, 7
Comments: Foxygen has its roots firmly planted in ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelic – a band taking its inspiration from artists like Pink Floyd, The Kinks and The Beatles. This is apparent in their EP they released last year “Take The Kids Off Broadway.” Reviewed by our own Brady Gross, he gave it a glowing review. They have come along when bands like Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra are taking that mid ‘60s rock feel and running with it to critical acclaim. Here comes their debut album “21st Century” and the excitement you heard from them in their EP seems to have dissipated. Almost like they discovered some sort of downer to bring them back to earth. The chilled out vibe hasn’t brought down the album but relaxed it in a way that allows you to just groove while on a couch or in a car. With the lack of excitement this album still remains solid with songs like “San Francisco” and “Shuggie” to hold it together.
Genre: Rock

Reviewer: Aurora Borealispalma_180
Artist: Palma Violets
Album: 180
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 9
Comments: Palma Violets have a swagger that set them apart from most bands. With that cocky howl from their lead singer, they come out punching. They’re members of the new crop of hyped U.K. bands this year including Savages and Peace, but unlike these bands they need more time to develop. The new album ‘180’ has three solid songs, ‘Best of Friends’ ‘Step Up For the Cool Cats’ and ‘We Found Love’ that helped (prior to the release) hype the band to be the best thing coming out of the U.K. since, dare I say, The Artic Monkeys. But you can hear the inexperience in the album. Songs like ‘Rattle Snake Highway’ and ‘Tom The Drum’ are sadly underwhelming. It shows that this band needs another album to develop, which is the exact opposite of what I think of their live act, but let’s hope the songs are more on par with them live because they do have true potential.
Genre: Rock

Reviewer: Aurora BorealisLAURA
Artist: Laura Mvula
Album: Sing To The Moon
Rec’d Tracks: 3, 7, 8, 10
Comments: I know the word beauty gets thrown around nonchalantly; I use it in my reviews all the time, but true breath taking beauty is a rarity, especially in music. The kind of music that makes you want to sit in a meadow and just watch nature happen all around you. The U.K. artist Laura Mvula has released a breathtakingly beautiful debut album with “Sing To The Moon.” Using a plethora of booming percussions, orchestras, backing choirs, and even harps to back her beautifully strong voice. Songs like ‘Sing To The Moon’ ‘Green Garden’ and ‘She’ are pieces of art that showcase Mvula’s confident voice. As a whole this album is nearly immaculate and catapults Mvula into super-stardom with the likes of U.K. artists Alt-J and Emeli Sande. Without a doubt she will be in competition for the Mercury Prize for best British artist and I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins.
Genre: Pop

Reviewer: Aurora Borealispeace in love
Artist: Peace
Album: In Love
Rec’d Tracks: All of them!! 12!!
Comments: When I search for new good music I attempt to search the world but the one place I always come back to is the U.K. There are so many good artists coming from across the pond that I always have an ear out for what’s the next band and I think we’ve got a winner. Peace came in with a lot of hype this year, being called by NME the U.K.’s best live band. And with their debut album ‘In Love’ they have surpassed all expectations. Peace, fronted by two singers, have created an album of amazing music and include songs that are very much filled with teenage angst. This young U.K. band can write a heck of a song, just listen to ‘California Daze,’ which I think is one of the best songs of the past few years. But the rest of the album maintains this songwriting skill, amazing guitar work, and nearly perfect vocal work to create one hell of a debut album!!
Genre: Pop Rock

Reviewer: Aurora Borealisjakebugg
Artist: Jake Bugg
Album: Jake Bugg
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
Comments: Humans enjoy nostalgia; that feeling of something comfortable that they used to know. Jake Bugg gives me a nostalgic feeling every time I listen to the 19-year-old U.K. artist. He reminds of a mix between the Kinks and a young Bob Dylan. Playing that acoustic guitar while his band bangs away behind him. Songs like ‘I’ve Seen It All’ ‘Country Song’ and ‘Lightning Bolt’ show how well of a songwriter this youngster truly is. Self-titled debut album has been out since last year, but is starting to make its break over in the U.S., but it probably hasn’t been the first time you have heard Mr. Bugg. Last summer at the London Olympics ‘Lightning Bolt’ was Usain Bolt’s theme song during the games, which set up Bugg for his takeover of the U.K. With the release of his record in America it won’t be too long until we have a star on our hands.
Genre: Alternative

Reviewer: Aurora Borealisjessica pratt
Artist: Jessica Pratt
Album: Jessica Pratt
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 9, 10
Comments: Jessica Pratt came out of nowhere in 2012 with ‘Night Faces.’ The track harkened back to the wonderful 60’s and 70’s folk from the likes of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. On the self-titled debut album from Pratt last year you get a record that returns to folk’s golden years and I certainly can’t believe Joni Mitchell didn’t write the album. With Pratt’s wonderfully mellow Stevie-Nicks-like-voice and lone acoustic guitar, this Californian has made a solid folk album. We’ll have to see where she goes from here. I can only hope she sticks with her folk roots.
Genre: 70’s Folk

Albums Reviews: April 10th, 2013

Artist: The Black Angelstheblackangels
Album: Indigo Meadow
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 4, 10, 13
Comments: There are some great explosive beginnings here. There are also some immediately catching riffs and melodies that sit just right in their context. When it comes to straight rock, that shit is essential. It’s weird to say, ‘straight rock’ is a genre that has lasted through the years but somehow is just ‘blah’ these days. But that’s kind of the truth. With so much variation and technology to do literally whatever the fuck you want, and still define it as music, ‘rock’ better impress more than it ever has before. The Black Angels, hit and miss on that here. A little White Stripes flavor, mixed with Black Keys swagger, is a nice start, but eventually they better learn how to garner no comparisons.
Genre: Straight Rock

Artist: Thee Oh Seestheeohsees
Album: Floating Coffin
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10
Comments: Alright wait just a second – let’s just sit here and analyze how many damn albums Thee Oh Sees can put out time and time again – and still sound fresh and invoking AND still keeping a sound that is clearly ‘them’ and no one else. I would say I’m about tired of these uh, amazing records plopping into my inbox, but no, I can’t. Every time I hear about a new album from these folks, I almost dread listening to it because I expect at some point to be disappointed. I keep convincing myself this band is just going to burn out and suck and I don’t want that to happen. Well, that time hasn’t come yet..  I’ve probably got six more albums in the next year to expect, and want to hate, but will love love love.
Genre: Garage Rock

Artist: The Besnard Lakesumojacketv1
Album: Until In Excess, Imperceptible Ufo
Rec’d Tracks: 1-7
Comments: This is an album. I just wanted to clarify that with you. Not a collection of songs, but a real body of work that functions better as a whole then as any singular song. These songs are expansive and mesmerizing – floating in and crashing through senses as if you’ve been watching a volcano get ‘ready’ to erupt for 200 years. No singular instrument spotlighted over the other allows a progressive monotony to form – letting the vocalists’ interjections and choral arrangements excel at all the right times.
Genre: Progressive land-scopic

Artist: James Blakejamesblake
Album: Overgrown
Rec’d Tracks: 1-10 3!! 4!! 5!!
Comments: James Blake has taken jazz and gospel influences and successfully blended them with modern electronic RnB. His vocal pitch varies from one syllable to another and drives an emotional response that is completely enthralling. “Overgrown” should be more aptly named “Perfectlygrown.” There isn’t one track on this sophomore release that doesn’t challenge but also reminds of Blake’s previous work. He has appropriately progressed to another level in a genre that he’s curated all on his own. Repetitious melodies and varying textures excite songs that make you forget where you started and where you’re going.
Genre: Experimental Electronic Jazz/Soul

Artist: White Fence12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}
Album: Cyclops Reap
Rec’d Tracks: 3, 4, 5, 9, 11
Comments: After doing a split album last year with freak-out enthusiast Ty Segall, White Fence is here to show what he learned. There is no shortage of screaming guitar solos – reverbed and sloppy as ever. Pedal effected vocals and “Revolver”-era Beatles influence shine through on these short but succinct tracks that try to tackle a lot of ground. While most spend a whole album trying to curate a distinct direction or vibe, White Fence enjoys throwing you around like a rag doll being torn to shreds. What seems careless at times musically to the average listener, is most likely just how White Fence wakes up in the morning and makes his eggs ‘over-easy.’
Genre: Freak-out garage rock

Artist: Devendra Banhartdevendra-banhart-mala
Album: Mala
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 3!, 4!, 5, 6!, 9, 13, 14!
Comments: Sometimes I forget that what may seem like a pretty ‘known’ artist in certain ways, can still always be a first time listen for others. So here, we’ve got Banhart, who spent most of his years raised between Venezuela and California. He has spent the later half of ten years releasing albums under (he actually may be the original reason this genre was coined actually) the genre, ‘freak-folk.’ Banhart has always strayed from anything conventional concerning, lyrical subject matter, compositional standards, and overall musical objectivity. He directs his music under his own misplaced compass and sometimes it falls short, but usually, he succeeds unexpectedly well. That all said, here on “Mala,” Banhart does just that; he succeeds extremely well keeping his musically personality in check. He also has ‘calmed’ down a little, opening the avenues to certain audiences even wider than the usual tunnels allow. Prop up a lounge chair, get a drink with a little umbrella in it, and soak in these sun-drenched melodies.
Genre: Island Folk

Album Reviews: April 6th, 2013

Reviewer: Philatlas-genius
Artist: Atlas Genius
Album: When It Was Now
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2
Comments: (Adelaide, Australia) Slick electropop-rock that bounces like Bloc Party and swoons like Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. They sport big tasty hooks that are already generating Top 40 play; it’s crazy to think that a little over a year ago they were just Aussie college dudes playing covers for beer money and making original music as a hobby. Also, their name is super badass… oh what’s that you say? There’s a KSUA show that has a similar name and also kicks ass? How bout that.
Genre: Electropop

Reviewer: Philyouth lagoon
Artist: Youth Lagoon
Album: Wondrous Bughouse
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 3, 6, 8
Comments: (Boise, ID) Listening to Youth Lagoon is like listening to the inner monologue of a 5th grader on a Wes Anderson-directed underwater adventure, which gives one-man band Trevor Powers the most aptly chosen pseudonym in indie rock. He literally sounds (and looks) like a youth lost in some mystical lagoon. Like the Flaming Lips at their most avant garde, call it psychadelic shoegaze.
Genre: Lyrical Shoegaze

Reviewer: Philthao
Artist: Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
Album: We Are Common
Rec’d Tracks: 1-6,11,12
Comments: (San Francisco/Falls Church, VA) A great record that combines Feist’s coy sweetness with Karen O’s vintage punk wrapped up in a dancing plethora of indie rock looks. From jangly folk to dance-rock to baroque pop with flourishes of horns and keys, the Vietnamese-American Thao and her supporting band, the GDSD, bring a lot to the table. She even pulls harp-wielding indie enchantress Joanna Newsom on board for “Kindness be Conceived” (Track 6). There’s something for everyone here.
Genre: dance rock

Reviewer: Philfrightrabbit
Artist: Frightened Rabbit
Album: Pedestrian Verse
Rec’d Tracks: 1-5,8,12
Restricted: 6, 9
Comments: (Scotland) Frightened Rabbit is a lot like Modest Mouse in a way–they’re a band named after a meek furry critter with a sound that has developed into something much bigger than their diminutive name implies. With lyrics so punchy they’d leave Mike Tyson dazed over expansive indie rock that nuzzles up to post-punk, the high anticipation for this record is well warranted. It’s easy to make the Snow Patrol comparison here, especially with a slick sound that could propel them into the upper crust of the rock world, but there’s a lot more more sauce out of these Scots.
Genre: Scot Rock

Reviewer: Philveronicafalls
Artist: Veronica Falls
Album: Waiting for Something to Happen
Rec’d Tracks: 1,3,4,6,7,8
Comments: (London) Gothic power-pop that deftly mixes elements of the Cure and Sleater-Kinney and comes out sounding a lot like a mid-90s chick rock band like Belly or Letters to Cleo. It’s weird to hear hooks this catchy in such a low key style, but they pair happy-sad vocals with punk propulsion for a spot in the home run derby. If the band doesn’t turn out to be a profitable enterprise, I think they should cash in and churn out solid gold hooks for the likes of Pink and Britney.
Genre: power-pop

Reviewer: Philjenny o
Artist: Jenny O
Album: Automechanic
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 5, 10
Comments: (LA) While her name and album cover conjure three indie rock superstars (Jenny Lewis, Karen O, and Neko Case), she sounds more like a pixie-voiced Sheryl Crow or the softer side of alt-rock band Eisley. There’s a lot of promise here – she has a compelling voice and she demonstrates flexibility through varied stylistic terrain, but something about this batch of tracks feels a little underdeveloped…like she could have teased the hooks out a little bit more or tightened the nuts and bolts on her songwriting. She’s on tour with Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour and my money’s on her emerging as a force not to folk with.
Genre: Indie Female Singer. Vague right?

Reviewer: Phillocalnatives
Artist: Local Natives
Album: Hummingbird
Rec’d Tracks: 1-3, 5, 7-10
Comments: (LA) When I first heard the Local Natives’ new album, I thought that this band is to indie rock what Warren Harding is to U.S. Presidents. They’ve got the look, the sound, and the LA hipster pedigree, but their dreamy brand of indie seemed marginal at best. That opinion, however, came before I let this lush set of tunes sink into my synapses. It’s not the rousing rock’n’roll with the snare on the ‘2’ and the ‘4’ that hits you like smelling salts, but after it slowly burns like a gourmet stick of incense in your ear’s nostrils for a while, it’s hard to disagree with. When singer Taylor Rice sings “Every night I ask myself/Am I giving enough?” I felt compelled to answer in the negative, but really it’s a question listeners have to ask themselves. For old two thumbs, the answer was no.
Genre: Rock

Album Reviews: March 27th, 2013

justin-timberlakeArtist: Justin Timberlake
Album: The 20/20 Experience
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 5, 8, 10
Restricted: 2
Comments: It has been seven years since JT last released an album. In between he’s dabbled in comedy/improve through SNL and figured out his love life marrying the delightful Jessica Biel. His proper return, with “The 20/20 Experience” showcases his time off and growth as a human and musician alike. I read a review recently that pointed out that, JT is viewed in two distinct ways among the public. Anyone older than say, 24, can always connect the current JT with an image of Mickey Mouse Club and N’SYNC JT, and that protects him in way that we always will view him as a suave dancing, ‘kid’, and that protects him in our eyes. Anyone 18 years old or younger, views JT as a sexy ladies man, and rightfully so. While those two viewpoints cross realms everyday depending on what side JT decides to showcase, it demonstrates one singular trait that resonates with all of us: we pay attention to whatever he does. “The 20/20 Experience is a sleeper. The songs are longer and more relaxed than “Futuresex/Lovesounds”. JT is comfortable and wants to let the world know. In music critism, musicians always garner backlash for ‘changing’ either too much or not enough. Here, JT evolves in an expected but expected way that maybe not all critics or fans will realize at first, but I feel “20/20” is just as current and affecting as his past albums were at the time they were released.
Genre: Sexy Pop


Ex-Cops-coverartArtist: Ex Cops
Album: True Hallucinations
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 5, 10
Comments: Boyish vocals and minimalist melodies drive these airy guitar-riffed tunes that take cues from older indie favorites The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Ex Cops have some growing to do and that includes speaking up. Not only vocally, but volume wise. Washes of instrumentation can be wonderful, but I think their lead vocalist could benefit from a little confidence.
Genre: Washed out rock


pascalArtist: Pascal Pinon
Album: Twosomeness
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 10
RIYL: Lykke Li, Sigur Ros
Comments: Breathy and floaty as ever, Icelandic music continues to flourish in a way that America just doesn’t get. These twin sisters are just happy, like most Icelanders, and that translates to an album of Sigur Ros-esque soundscapes with tuned in melodies between the two vocalists. Mixing a lot more English language into this album, there is a nice balance of mystery and discovery.
Genre: Icelandic Lulling


darkstarArtist: Darkstar
Album: News From Nowhere
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, 10
Comments: Darkstar continues to shapeshift sonically, effectively twisting and turning their fanbase on its head. This time around, they turn towards hazy mainstream song structures and turn-knob electronics. Colorful grooves paint “News From Nowhere” into a delightful journey that somewhere meets Kavinsky and Sigur Ros along the way. An album that projects midnight kisses and backseat affairs, Darkstar curate sprawling unformulated arrangements that beg the listener to turn up the volume and tune out.
Genre: Ethereal


Clipping-Midcity-Back-01Reviewer: Alan Fearns
Artist: Clipping
Album: Midcity
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 3!, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11!, 12!, 13!, 14!
Restricted: all but 7 and 14
Comments: Clipping is comprised of electronic soundscapists, Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, with rapper Daveed Diggs fronting the band.
Other noise rap acts such as Death Grips and B L A C K I E have a yelled vocal delivery that co-exists with harsh instrumentation, but the vocals and instrumentation on “Midcity” can come off feeling very separate at times. The instrumentation is sparse and abstract, while the rapping is delivered in a constant, head-bob, sort of way. At times “Midcity” sounds as if a noise-artist remixed another rapper’s track.
In “intro”, Clipping provides a blueprint of what to expect in this album with sudden noises, and
Diggs quick spoken-word poetry. The skirting feedback and thunder crashes in “loud” makes for an interestingly crafted rap instrumental.
“bullshit” brings in Jalene Goodwin for a RnB style chorus, but the Diggs’ responses aren’t just repeats of Goodwin. Diggs discusses living a life of luxury saying, “Sunroof open, wind in the face, money in the mouth strange metal taste.” It’s somewhat a realization moment in the album where Diggs begins to speak to a different light.
The rest of the album just gets better from here on out. “Guns up” has unique sound, using loud white noise and subtle chiptune melodies with a heavy limiter. From the bipolar “mobb2it” to the violent trade offs in “killer,” the ground is set for the album’s finishing tracks.
Diggs tells a grim “story” of someone named Randy and brutal car accident and his past. The change of energy in the flow is really smooth.
“real” is a calm hauntingly honest track, and the most powerful song in terms of getting a message across. The ten minutes “outro” may seem like a waste of time to listen to, but after “real” I just don’t feel inclined to change it. The song pretty much just says, “getmoneygetmoney…” and more of these words are layered onto each other, along with road noise and car braking sounds. The point of this I think is the words are meant to be hypnotic. You can begin hearing other things in the words as they blur. From “get money” to “get dead,” “get contaminated,” or “guiltguiltguilt.” Diggs is on the prowl for money but he’s starting to feel differently about himself.
The themes rapped about in Midcity aren’t completely uncommon among pre-existing rap, but this album definitely has its own feel. It may seem part interesting and part gimmicky in the beginning, but when it comes together, it really works. Each listen, this album grows on me to where I’d give this a high rating if KSUA ranked album reviews.
Genre: Noise Hop, Minimalism, Spoken Word


strokesArtist: The Strokes
Album: Comedown Machine
Rec’d Tracks: 2
Comments: This was coming and absolutely inevitable;  “Comedown Machine,” the last effort of a five-album deal with RCA – is a mess. I saw it coming and wasn’t looking forward to writing about it. News that the Strokes had no plans to tour this album, announced weeks before the album ever hit stores, was the big clue. Then the promo copy hit my desk, and I tried, I really tried. I’ve listened to “Comedown Machine” at least 20 times over the last week, and I can’t do it. There is no concentrated effort to make “Comedown” seem careless like Julian Casablancas can make anything seem. The Strokes brought cool back to rock in 2001 and truly didn’t give a shit about it. They sounded happily lethargic, and we all wanted to smell as bad as the beer stains that coated Casablancas hair, shirt, and ripped-up Chucks. Here though, I just don’t know whom I’m listening to. Casablancas doesn’t even sound truly himself until “Chances,” track nine. In all seriousness, the songs are boring and all the wrong lengths for the wrong ambitions. Now granted, that is a tough sell – saying the Strokes sound boring, can seem, well, like flabbergast. That’s what the Stokes do, sound bored. But here it’s just different. “Comedown” is essentially the scraps left on the studio floor at RCA. The more you listen, the more it becomes apparent Julian and the Strokes crew are happy to move on with their lives away from RCA and a 12-year deal that forced a lot of musicianship that probably wasn’t fully wanting or ready to be showcased.
Genre: Uninspired obligation


grouperReviewer: Alan Fearns
Artist: Grouper
Album: The Man Who Died in His Boat
Rec’d Tracks: 3, 5!, 6, 7, 8, 10!, 11!
Comments: Grouper’s newest LP, “The Man Who Died in His Boat,” doesn’t require as much digging past a wall of drones as some of her past releases. The lo-fi production is still here, but guitars and vocals are clear enough to listen to at lower volumes and still retain the core melody of each song. However, I still recommend you listen to at louder volumes that way the little nuances come through the mix and curate that calm ‘Grouper’ setting. This listening environment is set up by the album’s drowsy, blue repeats.
In a way there are three types of songs on the album. The somber tracks like “Vital” and the self-titled track have gently strummed guitars in the vein of Mazzy Star. Brighter songs like “Cloud In Places” and “Cover the Long Way.” Lastly, are the ambient tracks like “Being her Shadow” and “Differences (voices).” “6” and “Vanishing Point, are ambient/transition sort of tracks generated by murky tape delays.
Songs in each type can sometimes be hard to tell apart. The lyrics are too buried to really use that as a way to remember them. Because really, the mindset the music puts you in simply makes you think of other things. That’s not bad, it just makes it hard to only concentrate on the music.
My favorite moments include the cascading falsetto vocals on “Cover the Long Way” that mesh together for neat dizzying effect.
The Man Who Died in His Boat replicates the feeling you get when routinely walking from lack of alternative transportation. When being late isn’t a problem anymore, and neither is not having a car. Everything going on around you becomes irrelevant, and you soak inside of reflection.
Genre: Dream Folk, Lofi, Ambient


pvtArtist: PVT
Album: Homosapien
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3! 4, 6, 10, 11
Restricted: 10
Comments: This trio at times, sounds like Wolf Parade and Moonface waffled together with little blueberries of snyths. “Electric” sees that sort of love affair between blooming electronics and vintage UK prog really excel. Articulated drumming and transitional momentum leaves “Homosapien” in a constant state of flux. PVT’s fourth full album hints towards progression all the way through and then leaves us to figure out what why.
Genre: Progressive


Phosphorescent-MuchachoArtist: Phosphorescent
Album: Muchacho
Rec’d Tracks: 2!, 3, 4, 5, 9
Restricted: 6                   RIYL: Neil Young. Woods
Comments: Matthew Houck manipulates his voice like he does his relationships. His reedy throat gulps up Americana with ease and finds a balance between strained love revelations and celebratory silver linings. You never really know where his voice is going to strain or hiccup next, but that tempts an appeal that makes Houck’s music that much more inviting, more human. A back porch storytelling element exists here and any muchacho could sit and wise up to the experiences Houck showcases here.
Genre: Folk Americana

Album Reviews: Rhye and The Men





Artist: Rhye
Album: Woman
Rec’d Tracks: 1!, 2! 3, 4, 5, 6!, 7! 8, 9, 10!
RIYL: The XX, Sade
Comments: Subtle production arrangements drive this album of deeply intimate music. Rhye, two men who until recently have been mistaken for one singular woman, approach the opposite sex with profound reverence. “Woman” feels like an ode to the lust-filled spiraling that motivated the romance of these songs, but also showcases the struggle and yearn for making an actual relationship last. Floating from themes of first contact, to a damaged honeymoon stage, to an all out homage to the anatomical body he’s fallen for, Rhye sings with an urgency that renews the idea of love being fun again.
Genre: Soft RnB Pop



new_moonArtist: The Men
Album: New Moon
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 3! 4! 5! 6, 9, 10! 12
RIYL: Warren Zevon, Neil Young
Comments: The Men return, (yet again) with a third LP in a little under two years. The kind of transformations we are seeing the band undertake, explains the need to release their splattered brain matter whatever chance they get. Not too long ago, The Men released “Leave Home,” an all out punk/post-hardcore homage to everything that was right about the late ‘80s. Fast-forward, and we have alcohol drenched cowboy fuzz. Sounds standard but when I look back at my musical-appreciation progression over the years, I took the same path. They sounded great doing punk, but it can be wearing. The Men luckily are great musicians and sound just as genuine and skilled as country ramblers.
Genre: Rambling psych-country

February 8th Album Reviews

kendrickReviewer: DJ Aurora Borealis
Artist: Kendrick Lamar
Album: Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Comments: With the current state of mainstream hip-hop, it’s refreshing to see an artist that is getting back to what hip-hop was about: the streets and the struggle on them. Now I know that this subject matter by no means has disappeared from hip-hop (and certainly not from the underground), but since the mid ‘90s, talking about money, cars and women has been the primary past time for most mainstream hip-hop artists and it came to near perfection with Kanye’s Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. But here comes the direct yang of that monster of an album equaling it in scope and genius with Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City.
It’s been a few months now since Kendrick Lamar released Good Kid M.A.A.D. City and the reception has been like the second coming of West Coast legendary rappers Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. (who has handed the West Coast Rap crown down to the young man Kendrick) Pretty big shoes to fill right? Astonishingly he actually does it!! With an album that could have been made into an Oscar-winning movie. Kendrick Lamar paints a beautifully harsh picture of his home of Compton, Cali. and growing up there.
The album keeps a very dark and sinister tone, never letting up. It forces you down into the world Lamar was raised in. A place of gangs, drugs and shootings, and nowhere does this strike harder than the song ‘Sing About Me.’ Lamar raps about people who have impacted his music and in-turn builds the most emotional track on the album. This and a handful of other songs on the album are what truly hold this album together and create a masterpiece. It’s not the catchy raps of ‘Swimming Pools,’ the smooth beats of ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ or the cockiness of Lamar on ‘Backstreet Freestyle.’ These songs are immaculate tracks but it’s the songs like ‘Money Trees’ ‘M.A.A.D. City’ and ‘Sherane A.K.A. Master Splinters Daughter’ that create a truly seamless album. Maintaining the darkness that is the Compton streets. Showing you the darkness Kendrick carries makes you ask, what you would do in his situation?
As a whole this is one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, creating a legend out of Lamar almost immediately. The catchiness, seamlessness, social commentary and insanely perfect rhymes have made sure of this. If Kendrick never writes another album (let’s hope not) it doesn’t matter because he has already established himself as the artist that hip-hop has been waiting for since Tupac. Yes I just said that…let’s just hope the man who is Lamar sticks to speaking about the problems he has faced and social issues and not the material things that drives a majority of this generations hip-hop scene.
Genre: Old School West Coast hip hop

jim jamesReviewer: DJ Aurora Borealis
Artist: Jim James
Album: Regions of Light and Sound of God
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 4!! 6, 7
Comments: If ever there was an artist that embodies the spirit of George Harrison, it has to be Jim James on ‘Region of Light and Sound Of God. The front man of My Morning Jacket has created an album that speaks of love, spirituality and social issues (i.e. rise of technology). Similar to MMJ, it’s quite difficult to pigeonhole James musically when he is mixing electro with strings and folk to create such beautiful soundscapes. In the song ‘I Want A New Life,’ he starts with a single acoustic guitar and slowly builds to an orchestral juggernaut that sounds similar to a Roy Orbison or Springsteen track from the ‘70s. This utterly beautiful track will most definitely be on my best songs of the year list as well as others. Jim James has created an album that is beautifully enthralling and sadly too short. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next MMJ album then.
Genre: Alternative Folk/Rock/Electronic

macReviewer: DJ Aurora Borealis
Artist: Mac Demarco
Album: 2
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5!!, 7, 9,
Comments: In ‘2,’ Mac Demarco has created a very chilled out feel to his album in the way he sings, strums and plucks his guitar; to the point that it lulls you into a satisfaction with whatever you’re doing at that moment. The lyrics, on the other hand, are anything but relaxing. While the album mainly focuses on living in middle class suburbia, Demarco is able to create whole worlds in his songs. The leading track is a perfect example of this, beginning with “Mommy’s in the kitchen, cooking up something good/ And daddy’s on the sofa, pride of the neighborhood.” That’s simple enough. But it transforms into the father making drugs in the basement, exposing you to how much of a genius songwriter Demarco is. Sustaining this “laid back” feel and excellent lyrical execution throughout the album, Demarco has created a memorable piece of work.
Genre: Indie Rock

adam greeneReviewer: Phil
Artist: Adam Green and Binki Shapiro
Album: S/T
Rec’d Tracks: 1-7
Comments: (NYC/LA) Moldy Peach Adam Green has a new gal pal (Binki Shapiro of Little Joy) and has traded in his anti-folk credentials and horrifyingly inappropriate sense of humor for twee 60s folk-pop a la the Carpenters and Sonny & Cher with a sprinkle of oldies radio doo-wop. Rather than pondering who’s got the crack or who he’s going to stick his dick in, the self-titled album finds Green trading Valentine’s Day card sentiments with Shapiro in a delicate and lovely chocolate box of songs. They grow up so fast, don’t they?
Genre: Folk pop


Mountains - Centralia Cover Art - 323Artist: Mountains
Album: Centralia
Rec’d Tracks: 1 – 7
Comments: Ambient experimentalists, Mountains, have formed an hour’s worth of compositional foreplay. Swaths of cello, guitar and piano swarm your senses in the most distinct moments while still allowing major swallowing synths in to wash away your concentration. ‘Propeller’ the centerpiece of Centralia engulfs you with overlapping tremolos that makes the track ‘feel’ four minutes long instead of the actual 20 that just mentally restrained you. Centralia ultimately succeeds as a tangible force because it so meticulously handles space and cohesion as if the composers are performing melodic alchemy before your eyes. Centralia is an expansive and massive overture to consume, but this duo from Brooklyn also distinctly borders songs with smooth instrumental segues and drawn lines between transitions not realized until it’s already happening. Mountains feel stronger and more collected as they handle ambition and limitlessness within one construct that justly mirrors the landform they’re named after.
Genre: Ambient Experimental

the bronxReviewer: Phil
Artist: The Bronx
Album: IV
Rec’d Tracks: 1-6,8,9,10
Restricted: 3
Comments: (LA) The Bronx don’t waste time trying to melt your face off… they’d prefer to tear it off like a rabid chimpanzee and then devour it like a Miami bath salt junkie. America’s most dangerous rock ‘n’ roll band/Mariachi enthusiasts (check out the most confrontational lyric of 2006 in “History’s Stranglers” and anything by Mariachi el Bronx) return with a blistering set of hardcore punk ragers that recall the ferocity of Minor Threat and Black Flag and the arena-ready production of Rise Against or My Chemical Romance. This is a perfect soundtrack for slinging iron at the SRC, but a word to the wise: despite the superhero machismo pulsing through your veins, refrain from lifting the cars in the parking lot- that Subaru owner won’t be amused to find you spinning his wagon on your finger like a Globetrotter’s basketball.
Genre: Punk

Free-Energy-Love-Sign1Reviewer: Phil
Artist: Free Energy
Album: Love Sign
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 7-10
Comments: (Minneapolis, MN) The good people of California want you to believe that the happiest shit comes from SoCal–namely dairy products and power pop–but set your gaze upon the east! I’ve always thought that Wisconsin cheese was superior and Midwest pop-rock is tough to beat. In the tradition of heartland rockers like Ultimate Fakebook, Matthew Sweet, and Semisonic, Free Energy cook up tantalizing melodies that stick to the roof of your mouth for days. While the hooks don’t set as easy 2010’s power pop masterpiece, “Stuck on You”, this one boasts campy 80s anthem guitars, Spin Doctored songwriting, and a fresh radio-friendly indie feel. So suck it Cali.
Genre: Pop-Rock

January 30th Album Reviews

ra ra riotArtist: Ra Ra Riot
Album: Beta Love
Rec’d Tracks: 3, 9
Comments: Ra Ra Riot really didn’t make any musical advances on last years release The Orchard and Beta Love is the same story, but with a different type of misstep. Here we see two potentially great singles, and nine other tracks that just scream blah. We all would love to see another Discovery side-project venture, but just like the Postal Service, it’s probably better it doesn’t happen. With that said, Ra Ra Riot shouldn’t half-ass their way into a sound that truly isn’t theirs. Sliming the band, adding weird hip hop bass beats (track 7 AND 8. Come on really?..), and Police-esque infatuation is not the answer y’all.
Genre: Pop



toroArtist: Toro Y Moi
Album: Anything In Return
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 5, 9, 12
Comments: Increasingly more poppy, Toro Y Moi attempts to shape shift his electronic chillwave into actual radio worthy hits. While “Anything In Return” does sound more upbeat and accessible, a lot of the tracks will be easily mistaken for another. Not so bad if he breaks Top 40 (unlikely) because no one will actually listen to his whole album. But this can cause a probably for independent artists who strive to curate an entire album worth listening to.
Genre: Electronic pop



villagersArtist: Villagers
Album: {Awayland}
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 4, 5
Comments: “Naked on the toilet with a toothbrush in his mouth” is the jarring detail Irish frontman Conor O’Brien heeds as the listener acutely realizes that folk music doesn’t have to be all banjo and ‘Ho Heys.’ Villagers, here on their third effort succeed at intertwining intelligent but also witty lyrics. The right amount of piano experimentation and grandeur guitar symphonics make for an album that echoes long after the silence has settled. O’Brien finds confidence in the musical fringe he uses to dress up song after song. And while a folk release these days can easily get lost in the shuffle, hearing that smile truly shine makes the album feel uniquely warm and special.
Genre: Folk


owensArtist: Christopher Owens
Album: Lysandre
Rec’d Tracks: 3, 6
Comments: Ex-frontman of the band Girls, Owens ventures out on his own to essentially confirm what all of society has known about ambitious solo ventures: they blow. I mean they get a hit or two, mostly due to sounding exactly like work such solo artist did in their previous band, but overall.. usually a bust. The two standouts here are due to his venture into spazzed out sax arrangements.
Genre: No band, no way




unknownArtist: Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Album: II
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9
Comments: Mixing elements of ‘60s fuzz and pop sensibilities, Unknown Mortal Orchestra is shining brightly on this sophomore effort. Between Orchestra and Tame Impala’s album late last year, I am beginning to believe in true and tried stoner rock again. Orchestra excels at sounding like the choruses are made up on the spot and the guitar work is easily just a by-product of whatever drugs they just consumed. That’s why ‘II’ is such an attractive listen; polished production is mixed well with real emotional strands unraveling in the background.
Genre: Stoner/Psychedelic Rock



angle olsenArtist: Angel Olsen
Album: Half Way Home
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10
Comments: Angel Olsen croons with a passion and intensity that only scorned love could emblaze. Olsen collapses through her headspace lyrically; revealing past heartbreaks but also naïve schoolgirl optimism that resonates with anyone that has wanted a companion in any capacity. Lust, longing and passion are themes that cling to every whelp that paints Olsen’s half-finished portrait of life. Not one song here feels motionless, and just like the title, I feel Olsen is only half way ready to divulge exactly what relationship has caused so much strife. At times, Half Way Home can be a stressful journey for the listener, but in the end garners a respect unmatched among the sea of mindless ‘art’ that plaques our airwaves.
Genre: Experimental Folk


fidlarArtist: FIDLAR
Album: S/T
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 3, 4, 5!, 6, 8, 10, 12!
Comments: “Fuck it Dog, Life’s a Risk” is what band title FIDLAR stands for. That fact along with knowing that this is fast, fun, punk music should lay out the basics for knowing if you are going to dig this album. Coke, piss, alcoholic binges, and shifty behavior overall is all fair game when it comes to the unadulterated lyrics that grace FIDLAR’s self-titled release.
Genre: Punk




i come to shangaiArtist: I Come to Shanghai
Album: Eternal Life Vol. 1 & 2
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 5, 6, 7, 9! 13
Comments: An intricate 18-song ambition that is titled and plays out like a opera destined for revered praise. This duo has cultivated some catchy and affecting tracks, but the overall arc is vaguely absent. I’m not sure what these songs mean in regards any sort of Eternal Life or the questions that poses, but thanks for trying? If the album hadn’t been marketed as a conceptual opus then I probably wouldn’t have been so distracted by trying to figure out what I was supposed to have figured out.. There are some key singles here, but the rest of the interlude/instrumentals are just compositional fluff.
Genre: Indie Rock



alberta crossArtist: Alberta Cross
Album: Songs of Patience
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 4, 5, 9
Comments: Reassured choruses and pop melodies drive this LP from Swedish ‘folk-roots’ Alberta Cross. They have decided it’s time to try and make some useless commercial successes instead of reviving the odd and weird folk their press-kit claims as their ambitions. That’s well and good.. if they had some chance at actually crossing over like the piss-poor lovely Mumford & Sons or truly lovely My Morning Jacket. These ten songs have some strength within their guitar freak-outs and boot strapping charismatic tendencies, but more so, this album barely stands out among a sea of talented indie artists who you know didn’t nearly have to try so hard. So in summary, they will be great for Top 40 one day!
Genre: Rock


the bad plusArtist: The Bad Plus
Album: Made Possible
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 3, 4, 6
Comments: The Bad Plus make contemporary Jazz-esque music that fucks with brain processes in turn skewing reality. On ‘Made Possible’, that reality is compounding, compelling, and repetitiously mesmerizing. Piano compositions interjected with ornate snyth and guitar work come and go at inconvenient intervals. Intervals that work in such a way that it throws off the balance of usual musical expectations. It’s great, and rewarding proving to be a record full of new discoveries on each repeated listen.
Genre: Contemporary Jazz




oakislandoption22.11183Artist: Nightlands
Album: Oak Island
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 10
Comments: Layer after layer of vocal manipulation is the key to an everlasting sci-fi robotic venture. Nightlands is trying to be that scientist that breathes life into analytics, and technical experimentation. Pop songs that cringe at the sight of real tears, but are still hanging on by the edge of human interaction. Now more than ever, experimenting through digital production and music creation is a common temptation and here, Nightlands plans to take full advantage of our ever evolving present musical landscape.
Genre: Electronic Pop



dayjoyArtist: Day Joy
Album: Go To Sleep, Mess
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10
Comments: Lulling vocals and intermittent banjo/guitar solos craft ambitious tracks that always seem to almost make a lasting impression. All the right parts are here to make a great first effort, but for some reason, they all just seem lost in the wrong places. A sonic puzzle that some how still sounds great to the outer ear, even though all the pieces are in the wrong spots. The result being a misguided band with identity issues. It’s ok; most bands start out this way. What they do with this effort to curate the next is really the pressing test.
Genre: Identity crisis rock



solidgoldArtist: Solid Gold
Album: Eat Your Young
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 10
Comments: Interpreting hazy jazz influences without any actual jazz and woozy guitar effects drive this album of mostly hits on this LP. The aesthetic curated by the Minneapolis scene of independent artists these last few years is incredibly telling. You can see the immediate influences of bands like Polica, Volcano Choir and Gayngs. The ‘sound’ coming out of the Twin Cities has increasingly become more distinct and enjoyable through the years, but Solid Gold is probably the last to fully stand out on their own, making ‘Eat Your Young’ an enjoyable listen, but consistently reminding you of other bands along the way.
Genre: Twin Cities Hazy Rock


land observationsArtist: Land Observations
Album: Roman Roads IV-XI
Rec’d Tracks: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8
Comments: Each track here is themed around the psychogeography of historical roads in England. This album is not only an interesting themed masterpiece, but it changes the whole way you listen from track to track. Knowing the composer honestly, truly tried to mimic the roads’ details and composition into a musical landscape is entirely engrossing and overwhelming. An album like this, without the backstory, is inherently lost. But feeling the drive each track takes you on, hypnotizes you fully right up until it’s time to take that next turn.
Genre: Post Rock



parquet-courtsArtist: Parquet Courts
Album: Light Up Gold
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 12
Restricted: 1
Comments: D.I.Y punk and it’s simplistic themes of debauchery and lo-fi life styles is clearly accentuated here on ‘Light Up Gold’. Reminiscent of early Bloc Party at times, and a more fleshed out Chinese Stars, Parquet Courts does an excellent job of leaving the fluff behind and purely rocking out.
Genre: Punk




asapArtist: A$AP Rocky
Album: Long Live A$AP
Rec’d Tracks: 2, 3, 4! 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12
Restricted: 1
Comments: A$AP’s major label debut sees an expected rise in production value and collaborative effort from track to track. Everyone from Clams Casino, Santigold, Skrillex, Action Bronson, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q Joey Badass etc etc is featured here. Luckily that is the nature of A$AP’s swagger and style so it complements here nicely. A$AP his held onto his hazy beats and while some songs, are clearly about the standard ‘pussy, bitches, and weed’, it works because lyrical sensationalism isn’t really a must for A$AP to sound fresh and fun.
Genre: Hip-Hop