The National/Baths/ Thundercat

Trouble Will Find Me

Matt Berninger is a rarity in indie rock and revival music today. Why? He’s one of the few indie singers in the industry who sees value in a lower register, and when I think of The National, I think of a melancholy baritone croon. The group has been critical darlings since their record Alligator, and for good reason; the lyrics are sharp, the instrumentals are haunting and intricate, and the groups sound is as unique as Berninger’s use of the term “white girls” in multiple tracks. Trouble Will Find Me is the follow-up to universally acclaimed High Violet, so I was eager to see if it continues the trend of greatness that hasn’t ceased yet.

The intimacy of this record is immediately recognizable. The band feels much closer to the listener than on previous releases, and the tracks are much slower moving and contemplative than previous releases. It still feels like The National, but there is definitely an audible change in direction, and that does not diminish the sound in the least. The tone of the record is incredibly broad, and often channels the signature sounds of special guests Sufjan Stevens, Annie Clark of St. Vincent, and Richard Reed Parry of Arcade Fire. Amidst all these other flavors, however, none of the groups unique tones of melancholy Americana-tinged writing are lost.

Overall, the record is as refreshing as the last National release, and the guest appearances sincerely improve the experience without overshadowing the real stars of the show. The band has shown that they know how to write quality indie rock time and time again, and this record is no exception. Here’s my pick, “I Need My Girl”.

Obsidian

Glitch/IDM musician Baths first record Cerulean was an excellent, grooving release that won universal praise for its dreamy soundscapes and grounded, often glitchy beats with fairly sparse but wonderful vocal accompaniment. Recent release Obsidian is a radical change in both production and overall feel from the light-hearted airiness of the debut.

Obsidian as a whole is, you guessed it, dark. Weisenfields singer-songwriting takes much more of a forefront than in Cerulean, in which it was barely existent. The arrangements, most of which have abandoned bright synths for a few brooding piano lines, remind me of a darker and more reserved Passion Pit. There are still elements of broad atmospheres and glitching beats, but they are by far more of an accompaniment for the vocal melodies, harmonies, and lyrics that are obviously the focus.

Luckily, The vocals are pleasant and the intertwining harmonies are expertly arranged. The lyrical content is sexual, dark, and gritty, drawing a huge juxtaposition to the still reasonably bright instrumentals and vocal melodies (the most prominent examples of this being the track “No Eyes”). Despite the lyrical content, the songwriting is filled with more pop sensibilities and structure, and this departure from a more scattered writing found in Cerulean is not without its charm.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the record. Baths has certainly stepped out of his comfort zone, and this new direction, though jarring, worked in his favor. Here’s my pick, Ironworks.

Apocalypse

I saw Thundercat and his label owner/close friend Flying Lotus fairly recently, where I witnessed the unveiling of a few of the tracks on this record.     All that was revealed was excellent, and I couldn’t help but wonder of the collected package would be as fulfilling. The good news is in.

As  follow up to his first record Golden Age of Apocalypse, the record continues to deliver what Thundercat has claimed as his sound; that is, dreamy jazz fusion with impressive vocals and virtuoso bass lines that could melt the face off of any metal-head. The last record was excellent as well, but Apocalypse is superior in overall song structure, production, and general flow. Producer Flying Lotus’ signature spacey, astral touches can be heard on every track, but the really impressive feat is the fact that these touches overshadow what can only be expert songwriting and arranging by Thundercat.

If you like electronica, an active bass line, and good R&B/Funk, Apocalypse by Thundercat is the new release for you. Check out my favorite track “Tron Song”, which is about a cat.

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DOUBLE REVIEW 3

I began this review yesterday, but the lack of decent wi-fi and my boneheaded choice to not save my draft resulted a blank slate. I hope you enjoy this review of the new xx record and the David Byrne/St.Vincent collaboration, because I’m writing it (a second time) through gritted teeth.

The xx- Coexist

The xx blew many people away with their debut record, hooking audiences with simple grooves, reverb-soaked riffs, and compelling male/female vocal interplay. This new release, to be completely honest, is simply the second cd if the group had decided to release the debut as a double album. It’s a side B. The songwriting is the same almost to a fault, and all of the elements from the first record are there without any major changes.

Some may see this as a lack of creativity; I simply see it as a young band putting out more music they know people will like. The lack of any major changes works, because, well, their original sound works. One change I did notice this time around was a more fluid transition between tracks. I recognized and consciously separated tracks in the first record, while I felt a constant current-like smoothness between tracks this time around, which I felt was refreshing.

Overall, the album feels like part 2 of the debut, with a slightly more fluid track list. I grudgingly enjoyed it, but the group is going to have to do something different to keep my attention for their next effort.

Best Tracks: Angel, Chained, Try

David Byrne/St.Vincent- Love This Giant

I haven’t been this excited for an album in a very long time, and I was more than pleasantly surprised with this release from singer/songwriter St. Vincent and former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne. The songwriting is eclectic, charming, and curiously horn driven. Each artist wrote their own lyrics, with one exception being the Forest Wakes, which Byrne wrote. The album is simply delightful, still carrying the weird eclecticism that both artists channel, but in a little funkier, “saxier” (dear lord) fashion.

Overall, I can’t recommend it enough. You’ll be hooked.

Best Tracks: Who, Dinner for Two, Ice Age, Outside of Space and Time…all of it.