Double Review: The Comeback Kids/Comedown Machine

This week, I listened to two artists that have returned to this place we call the music industry after at least a five year absence: David Bowie and Justin Timberlake. I thought it’d be fun to offer my thoughts on these wildly different artists whose only similarity is the proximity in which they released long overdue new material. Also, The Strokes! Here We Go!

The Next Day

David Bowie has been around the block a few times. Throughout the years, he’s been an actor even when there weren’t any cameras in front of him (there usually were); his various personas always reflected the musical styles he flawlessly captured in his records. In The Next Day, it feels like all these personas were blended into one Bowie to Rule Them All (please humor me). Elements of glam guitar and stadium rock and roll permeate the album, but he still retains some of  the sentimentality and piano-driven songwriting found in records like Heroes.

Bowie takes full advantage of the recording effects of the digital age that were previously unavailable to him  to more effectively implicate his smaller idiosyncrasies in arranging and orchestration, and the record sounds beautiful production-wise. His vocal stylings and memorable lyrics are as present as ever, and the records overall theme of feeling left behind as the world continues to turn is especially heard in tracks like “Where Are We Now?”. A gorgeous and mounting ballad, the instrumental tracks sound as reflective and hauntingly beautiful as the lyrics and delicate vocals. On the other side of the coin is a quirky, fast-paced, almost progressive rock sound on tracks like “If You Can See Me”, which at first made me check to make sure a Yes track hadn’t snuck its way into my playlist. Tracks like these, I realized, were necessary to prevent the monotony that would have ensued, considering the mid-tempo nature of the majority of the record.

Overall, David Bowie’s unbeatable song-crafting abilities have benefited from the new technology available to him; his various music styles and lyrical strengths, unlike many of his contemporaries, have proved resilient to the test of time .   Here’s my favorite track (also the first single) “Where are We Now?”


The 20/20 Experience

After a five year sabbatical from the world of music –despite some SNL shorts– Justin Timberlake is back to doing pop music the right way. Much of the crisp, flowing, and utterly refined sound of both this release and Futuresex/Lovesounds is thanks to the brilliance of producer Timbaland, but to give him all the credit would be a diservice to J-Tim’s catchy and often clever lyrics, along with a wonderful set of pipes and all the right sensibilities.

The record starts off with an orchestrated hurricane of strings that descends into a delightfully infectious groove in “Pusher Love Girl”. The otherworldly production and catchiness continues in first single “Suit & Tie” before descending into some deeper cuts. Similar to his last release, Justin seems to craft each song with a formula of intro,verse, interlude, then back to the verse, all seamlessly compacted into 7-8 minute packages. Each section is unique (feeling more like movements of a classical piece than parts of a pop song) but still holds pieces of the greater whole; this lengthy formula is unheard of coming from any other pop artist.

20/20 surpasses the already stellar Futuresex/Lovesounds in the pure variety of the record. While “Suit & Tie” and and “Don’t Hold The Wall” incorporate danceable beats and spacey instrumentation, tracks like “Pusher Love Girl” and “That Girl” bring bright guitar riffs and soaring vocal harmonies to a slightly more halting tempo. Beyond that, tracks like like “Spaceship Coupe” and the introspective “Blue Ocean Floor” offer something more in terms of brooding reverb and swelling synths. The two constants through all this variety is the exceptional vocals and production that sets Timberlake’s records apart.

All in all, Justin Timberlakes 20/20 experience is one of the most refreshing records I’ve heard this year and has, in my opinion, surpassed his previous works. If you want to hear a modern R&B/pop masterpiece, give this record a spin; you won’t regret it.

Here’s my favorite track (this was painful to choose), “That Girl”.

The Comedown Machine

They’re back. Before I continue, I just want to let you know, valued reader, that I love all of their material. Yes, that includes the less well-received First Impressions of Earth and their most recent album before this Angles. I am a huge fan with a huge bias, so take this review with a grain of salt.

The most prominent thought I had throughout my listen-through of the album was this;”these guys have come a long way.” Each track, like Bowie’s record, seems to embody different periods in the groups career. 50/50 felt like Angles vocals collided with some of the slower tracks from First Impressions like “Ask Me Anything”, and “80’s Comedown Machine” feels almost like a Room on Fire B-side. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like these tracks live up to the entities they emulate, but the important thing is that every track is easily branded with a Strokes insignia.

That being said, unlike the majority of previous releases, the record grooves. A lot. Some of the funky electronic qualities that first manifested in Angles are even more effectively incorporated in tracks like “50/50″, “Slow Animal”, and “Partners in Crime”. Some may see this as a departure from what makes The Strokes great, but I see these advancements and occasional delving into something closer to Julian’s solo material as a welcome freshness.

This record is similar to Angles in that I feel like there is a track on here for everyone. Whatever you may feel for the Strokes, Comedown Machine has at least one track that will appeal to you. Even a poor misguided soul who was looking for a breezy jazz ballad in a Strokes record will find one in the final track “Call it Fate Call It Karma” (No, I’m not kidding). I enjoyed all of it thoroughly, and maintain that Julian, Albert and the boys still have something to offer to the world of music. Here’s my pick (and an excellent first track), “Tap Out”.

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A Brief Post: Delta Spirit

I feel a little late to the party after realizing this album from San Diego-based Delta Spirit came out in March. An animated tribal beat and reverb-soaked guitars are only complimented by an animated tongue roll in this energized track off the bands self-titled. I strongly recommend checking these guys out.

It’s Been A While..

After a busy weekend, I have a lot to share.

First of all, if you enjoy good music, and you live on the East Coast of the USA, you’re probably crying inside over the fact that you weren’t at Coachella. I had to soothe my case of the blues with the full Radiohead set recorded and uploaded to Youtube. Check it out!

On Saturday, I went into New York to see an upcoming act by the name of Mitchell Grey. A four piece including guitarist Joe Diaz (who I know personally), singer Ryan Bandong, bassist Napon Pintong, and drummer Matt Pana the band has been playing together for about 2 years. They had so much energy, this being their first performance since their album dropped last week. Their summery, bright-but-sophisticated sound is a breath of fresh air. You can listen to the whole album below, But I recommend supporting them through Itunes or Amazon. You can get more information from their Facebook page here.

I simply can’t finish this post before mentioning the amazing Tori Kelly, who opened for Mitchell Grey. If the name sounds familiar, she made it past auditions in Season 9 of American Idol, and for good reason; Her voice is breath-taking. I got the chills several times over the course of one song. Check out her single ‘Confetti’ and eagerly await the album release with me.

Sigur Ros Announce Tour Dates

Icelandic Post-Rock group Sigur Rós have announced a North America tour to go along with their new album Valtari, which will be released on May 30th. For those of you who have never experienced Sigur Rós, you are missing out on an amazing group. The lead singer, who goes by the name of Jonsí, has an incredible powerful falsetto, and the instrumentation on many of their tracks is absolutely breathtaking. Their music has been featured on several different commercials, and this one is probably the most recognizable. Do yourself a favor and listen to Takk… all the way through.

For those of you familiar with the band, check out the new single.

My Old Blog

My Old Blog

I used to use Tumblr for this sort of thing, but I’ve moved on to a more professional environment. Though some of the posts are outdated, those of you unfamiliar with my tastes or style can still get a feel for me, in a manner of speaking. I’ll still be posting there to cover all my bases, but it will probably be identical to what I post here.