What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?

Posted in Music on June 29th, 2011 by Tom

I didn’t know what to expect from this record, delving in after being intrigued by the video for ‘All In White’. It’s a really odd video, but the track is for sure catchy.

What I happened upon is an endearing little breakup record that is equal parts forlorn and carefree. The introductory ‘Wreckin’ Bar’ is oddly evocative of old-timey Clash, but saddly not really noteworthy beyond that.

The album really gets going with ‘If You Wanna Come Back’, which sets up the thematic center of the record. The narrator obviously misses the person, but is also clearly, after some time, moving beyond that initial point of being bummed about their situation.

One of my favorites is ‘Wetsuit‘. The chorus gets stuck in my head all the time, but it’s really the bridge of the song that is the stand-out section:

[ mp3 ♫ ]

‘Nørgaard’ is a tour-de-force that is surprisingly good for clocking in at 1:39. ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ is the would-be single, propelled from good-to-great by another fantastic little bridge with a simple but elegant guitar solo over it.

‘Under Your Thumb’ has a good chorus riff, but ultimately is there as a setup to the magnum opus of the record, ‘All In White‘.

‘All In White’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Where do I start? The ethereal opening into the bass is slick as hell, not to mention I love that the drums are mixed a little louder than most tracks so you notice them and the galloping feel they give the song. This is also the Vaccines’ guitarist Freddie Cowan at his best, if I may be permitted to say so.

Furthermore, I don’t really even know what the song is about, but something about the way the words sound is just really pleasing to the ear.

Much as it pains me to say it, this is the song White Lies should have written. This is their sound, but in 2011 we have the Vaccines putting them to shame, doing it better and making it sound easy.

‘Wolf Pack’ and ‘Family Friend’ offer a strong finish, with the latter being a mellow slow-burner that builds momentum like a snowball.

There’s also a really emotive little hidden track at the end that is not really in keeping with the rest of the tone, but works surprisingly well. It was nice to know the band has that range, should they choose to use it in the future.

What Did I Expect From The Vaccines? I not sure my expectations were especially well-formed, but in the future the answer will be “quite a lot.”

The Vaccines – What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?



Posted in Music on June 27th, 2011 by Tom

Every once in a while you trust your gut and it pans out. Having reading only a few sentences about Cults’ eponymous debut album, not hearing a single song, I decided to give it a shot.

My lucky guess landed me with a fantastic summer record that I listened to multiple times a day for a week straight.

Cults has a healthy blend of hazy guitar filters and crystal clear vocal melodies that make for an airy composition. This light framework allows the group a lot of sonic flexibility, allowing them to get away with the 50s-esque echoing finger-snaps on ‘You Know What I Mean’ as well as the edge and attitude of tracks like ‘Never Saw The Point’ which have decidedly more bite to them.

One of my favorite lyrical moments comes in ‘Never Heal Myself‘, which starts out as a depressing little tale of insecurity and self-loathing, and turns around at the 11th hour as a statement of defiance.

‘Never Heal Myself’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

One of the band’s principle strengths is in their ability to juxtapose innocent, plinky, xylophone-type sounds with groovy baselines and dirty guitar riffs and have it really jive. Anyone could put those sounds on top of each other, but under a less-trained hand, it would only be noise.

The album itself is really well balanced with the higher energy tracks (‘Abducted’, ‘Walk At Night’ (which has an epic timpani roll), ‘Never Heal Myself’, ‘Never Saw the Point’) perfectly littered throughout the rest of the tracks which are a bit less heavy in tone. Which brings me to ‘Abducted‘.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

At first, the song sounds like you’re listening to it on headphones that have slipped around your neck. It sounds far away and distant. After the first verse though we are thrown into the song, which doesn’t hold back.

The percussion ties the song together nicely, maintaining a surprisingly brisk pace entirely throughout. It’s the masterpiece of this album, and a great opener at that.

Cults is worth it for that track alone, but the fact that it’s got the perfect combination of pop and grit to back it up makes this album a great summer soundtrack, not to mention something we’ll still be talking about when it comes time to talk lists in December.

Cults – Cults


Summer 2010 Flashback

Posted in Music on June 18th, 2011 by Tom

Last summer I was really getting into a few awesome bands who put out records that set a fantastic tone for my summer. It seems like another age, looking back, and while I don’t have nearly as much idle time, there’s still plenty of great music!

At the time, in very heavy rotation was Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Wolf Parade’s Expo 86, and Tokyo Police Club’s Champ. I realized today that I have something ‘new’ to share from each of those artists, and I thought it would be fun to do an omnibus post!

Arcade Fire-
So I’m sure everyone is essentially sick of me talking about how much I liked The Suburbs, which is fair, but nonetheless: I’ve been jamming to a decent live recording of that album’s title track, and recently the AF crew did a rearrangement of the emotive centerpiece of that album, ‘We Used To Wait

‘We Used To Wait’ [Rearrangement for WBEZ]
[ mp3 ♫ ]

It’s definitely a softer, less aggressive cut of the song, and while I miss the piano, this version is still very full in terms of instrumentation, even as an acoustic track.

Wolf Parade-
Sadly, nothing legitimately new from Wolf Parade. You can hop over to NPR and listen to their Sasquatch set, which is really good. I think there’s a live stream of their last set too, which I heard did not disappoint. Instead, from these guys I instead offer a track from their previous effort, At Mount Zoomer.

I bought the record last summer, but never really sunk much time into it. Feeling nostalgic, I fired it up, and found a lot to like.

‘California Dreamer’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Above is an example, ‘California Dreamer‘ of the epic soundscapes that Wolf Parade so excels at. (9 tracks, only 1 of which is less than three minutes, 4 of which are longer than five!)

Tokyo Police Club-
This isn’t purely TPC, but instead by proxy of their keyboard player, Graham Wright. He has a solo album coming out soon (June 28) titled Shirts vs. Skins which has a lot of TPC’s signature sound to it, and I really warmed up to this track.

‘Soviet Race’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I can’t tell to what extent I’m supposed to associate it with October Sky, but it’s a lot of fun regardless.

So that’s it for the summer 2010 flashback. Believe it or not, I have some legit album reviews in the works. Kinda had a mini-crisis where I decided I hated everything I was listening to, and had to start fresh with some new material that’s worked out much better.

Featuring: , ,

Mailbag: Volume 4, Amanda Mair

Posted in Mailbag, Music on June 14th, 2011 by Tom

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From time to time, I get e-mails from artists suggesting that I might be interested in their music. The “mailbag” is my attempt to give back by showcasing the talent of those emerging artists whose work I genuinely enjoyed.

This one will be short and to the point: a few weeks ago, at the start of May, Swedish label Labrador sent me a copy of a single by their newest (and at 16 years old, likely their youngest) artist, Amanda Mair.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

House‘ is a forlorn little tune that packs a hell of a punch. The lyrics are simple, direct, and accessible, all without being trite. With soft, emotive verses to bolster a strong, driving chorus, the song is quite balanced.

Besides that, I’d be remiss if I didn’t compliment the artist’s voice. ‘House’ actually is an exercise in restraint, but I’m excited to see what Mair does on a track where she can really cut loose.

I e-mailed Labrador for more tracks, but to no avail. Rest assured, dear reader, that I’ll keep my ear to the ground and let you know about the next exciting piece of music headed our way from this talented young artist.

Amanda Mair – ‘House’ Single


Brand New Coldplay Single

Posted in Music on June 3rd, 2011 by Tom

Today, around midday, Coldplay dropped their new single, ‘Every Teardrop is a Waterfall‘, on BBC Radio 1:

‘Every Teardrop is a Waterfall’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Did my best to get it up here quick; haven’t had time to ruminate too much on it.

What do you think?