Saturday, March 01, 2008

Building Nothing Out of Something: Meeting the Music in 2008

We’re barely two months into the calendar year and I’m already playing the retrospective game. Go figure. I should note, however, that this is more of a “HEY! Look at these good albums that have already been released!” sort of thing as opposed to some weird look back at the great albums of these illustrious…two months.

I’ve heard a good handful of solid LPs already in 2008. They range from adequate to impressive to pretty damn good. I haven’t heard anything that has completely blown me away as of yet--but, like I said, it IS only March.

So, here are several albums that I feel should you should take note of while diving into the music of the year that is 2008. I’ve mentioned the great releases from Xiu Xiu as well as Blood on the Wall and The Acorn recently. Now, here’s some more!

Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend

I spoke on Vampire Weekend’s debut EP a while back and liked it fine. I’ve been kind of ducking the obligation of mentioning their debut full length here, mainly because that was all anybody could talk about for a few weeks there. Now, however, that the dust has settled; now that the backlash has been unleashed and has been…backlashed over itself again; now that all the weird in-fighting and general nonsense has mostly subsided, what are we left with? A pretty damn solid debut, if you ask me. Vampire Weekend is calculated to a fault and their sound is nowhere near as “organic” as they might have you believe. BUT, the album is so fluid and decidedly easy going that you can forget most of the pretense fairly early. I do wonder if once this legitimately catches on in the “mainstream” we could have a Strokes-like rise for these gentlemen, though. Time will tell, I suppose.

Beach House, Devotion

When I first heard Beach House’s self-titled album, I remember really wanting to like them. It just seemed like something that I would enjoy; droning guitars, shoegaze styling, ghost-like vocals, fuzz box atmosphere. Really, though, they never were able to hone all of these elements into anything enjoyable or even truly compelling. With their latest LP, Devotion, they oddly don’t really change their basic structure all that much. But this makes it all the more pleasantly surprising when you realize what a remarkable album Devotion is. Beach House have been able to carefully and gently refine their sound and return with an assured, focused, angelic voice which it is all too easy to get lost within.

Hot Chip, Made in the Dark

I was a fairly vocal supporter (like most others) of The Warning back in ’06. How could I not be? Hot Chip makes completely accessible electropop with a strong sense of humanity as well as wisdom laced throughout the double time pumps and crisply toned production. The Warning was special mostly because of its strong sense of progression from the bands previous album. The geeky, master craftsmen fashioned a damaged opus that was moving, poppy, and, above all else…relatable. Made in the Dark is somewhat disappointing mainly due to the fact that it is a bit of a mixed bag when all is said and done. There are portions of genuine beauty and progress, and moments of true ease and talent. However, those moments and portions become bogged down with some unfortunate attempts at deliberate showmanship as well as some surprising cockiness. When all of these components come together, Made in the Dark becomes a very odd experience--if not a rewarding one. This album is certainly good, but far from great.

Times New Viking, Rip It Off

One can’t really be a fan of Times New Viking without a certain amount of patience. In the case of Times New Viking’s Rip It Off, the patience would need to come from a place of understanding; a place of trust. Do you trust them to take you down this turbulent road with the belief that you will come out the other end with something worth while to hold on to? I've spoken on Times New Viking several times before, and if you've read any of those pieces you know already that they are a group that truly fascinates me. Not because they are so original or so brash--and not even because of the fact that I feel that they really are very talented. It is mostly because of their bravery. Times New Viking are not scenesters out to pay homage or steal any sound. True, what they are doing has been done before, but the vigor in which they deliver their message is like very few I've ever seen. The ironically titled Rip It Off (the bands Matador debut) is their best and boldest album to date--and that is saying something. All the tricks are the same. Loud as fuck, fast as fuck, short as fuck. They poke you, annoy you, and grind you down—the usual. But it is still such a fun dance. They might lose you along the way...if not for that trust. Rip It Off is a boisterous introduction to Times New Viking and stands as a brief, unfiltered testament of said trust, focus, and anger honed to sublimity.

I should be back later in the week with a few more albums that you should check out as well!

1 comment:

Kittle said...

Looks like i have some listening to do.