Blood Pressures

Posted in Music on September 30th, 2011 by Tom

A few weeks ago I was completely stoked by the opening track off of Blood Pressures, ‘Future Starts Slow‘ (listen on the previous post), and at that time I was skeptical that the rest of the album could live up to it.

It’s always a happy day when I’m proven wrong about something like that.

There ended up being quite a few other standout tracks on the rest of the record, most of which are best enjoyed with a good deal of volume behind them. Mosshart’s vocals continue to astound and impress, and that back-alley wail of the guitars carries you through the album.

The opening noise-feedback of ‘Satellite’ initially annoyed me, but I came to enjoy it on account of the creative chorus and vocal composition. ‘Heart Is a Beating Drum’ has a lot of spunk to it, with a melody that, even through headphones, hits you right square in the chest and demands your attention. ‘Nail In My Coffin‘ borders on manic, with buzzing guitars and swirling distortion, as well as the “oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” chorus that makes the track my sleeper hit of the album.

‘Nail In My Coffin’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

‘Wild Charms’ is a segue track, abruptly slowing the pace of the album, but to good effect. A dour, down-tempo, short number here let’s us catch our breath, and the strung-out bassline of the proceeding song ‘DNA’ comes off a hell of a lot cooler because of it. The latter has gotten some good traction thus far in the music blogosphere, and the acclaim is well-earned.

Following that is another favorite of mine, the emotional, somewhat sensual ‘Baby Says‘.

‘Baby Says’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The lyrics are coherent, but still vague enough as to elude any obvious narrative. This works to its advantage though, as most of what makes this song so captivating is in the phrasing and word choice. A sample of lyrics follows,

Baby says, she’s dying to meet you
Take you off and make your blood hum
And tremble like the fairground lights

Baby says, if ever you see skin as fair
Or eyes as deep and as black as mine
I know you’re lying

Baby says, a howl of romance I get
From all you sleeping dogs
You thugs of god
I’ll get one yet

The notion of “thugs of god” seemed a really cool, dark idea to play with, and the swinging, almost slow-dancey vibe of the song really, really impressed me. It has quite the cinematic feel to it, which I’ll admit I’m a complete sucker for.

‘The Last Goodbye’, perhaps the most exposed, vulnerable track on Blood Pressures grew on me in time. It seems out of place, and I guess it is, but the addition of strings give the track a different sound, which lends the album more texture than it would have claim to otherwise. The last three tracks are solid enough that I always listen to the end, though they’re perhaps not particularly notable in their own right.

Blood Pressures is an album that I likely would have hated a few years ago. On the first go, it seems flat and loud, with no clear ‘radio-friendly’ place to start. I’m glad I was able to get my foot in the door with ‘Future Starts Slow’, however, because The Kills have provided us with an incredibly rich album that also just outright kicks some ass. That’s the mental characterization I have of this music: a little dirty, even a bit violent, but all heart. That raw emotion channeled through Mosshart’s intoxicating voice makes for a force to be reckoned with.

And reckon you should. The album is worth your time, no questions asked.

The Kills – Blood Pressures



Posted in Music on September 28th, 2011 by Tom

I’m going to level with you, handful of internet readers: I was very busy for August, and then I’ve been kinda coasting for September. That ends today. I have a backlog of albums to at least mention that I’ve been grooving hard to since the middle of the summer, and if you take a peak at the music calendar, October has great new records coming out almost every single week.

A torrent of awesome music is about to hit us, and I want to be reasonably caught up when it does. Thus, the next few entries will be Tom’s Summer Recap. These albums came to characterize my summer, but maybe you’ll get some mileage out of them this fall! Up first in this series is the Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s Belong.

I’ll begin by saying that the cover art for this really creeped me out for a while. It’s a kid painted all impressionist-y on a canvas in weird High Contrast Filter colors. Weird, right? Not that I have a big problems with it in the end though, because I enjoyed the music on the album so much. It took me a straight-up week to figure out the correct characterization of this band, and I finally landed on a slightly edgier version of the Dream Academy’s cover of the Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’.

That gives you a rough idea of what to expect here, but let’s just dispense with the comparisons and drop a track:

‘The Body’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The Body‘ is a fantastic primer for what Belong has to offer. There’s certainly something distinctly airy about singer Kip Berman’s vocals in concert with the keyboard backing, but unlike songs by artists with a similar vibe which just sort of ‘float’, this song really builds and goes somewhere. The presence of the percussion as well as the tempo, in conjunction with the use of a fairly rockin’ guitar solo are what really cement this as a must-listen track on Belong.

Other tracks on the album don’t work quite as well on their own, in the sense that they’d be a little out of place on the radio. That’s probably on account of the fact that the album is uniform almost to a fault. Not to say it’s bland, but there is very clearly a stylistic aim for this record, and nearly every song hits that mark.

Title and opening track, ‘Belong’, is a fairly rousing outcast’s anthem that doesn’t skimp on the distortion, while additional stand-outs are ‘Even In Dreams’, ‘Too Tough’, and my personal favorite, ‘Heart In your Heartbreak‘.

‘Heart In Your Heartbreak’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I should make a public declaration that I love this song. I mean, not this song, but ‘this’ song. Wherever I am, whatever is going on in my life, doesn’t matter. You wrote a catchy pop song about your long-lost love? Done. I instantly love that song, almost without fail. The above is no exception. The killers guitar riffs at the mid-point and keyboards at the end don’t hurt at all either.

In the end, it really boils down to if you’re in the mood for music that sounds like this. If you are, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart have written you a great album chock-full of the stuff. A few tracks that transcend even that to become some of the best indie pop-rock this year.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart – Belong


Single Shot: Are You Devo?

Posted in Music on September 14th, 2011 by Tom

So this is a pretty impulsive post, given that I first heard this song two days ago, but whatever. It’s been a while, and we could use something new.

Well, new to me anyways. Selby Sifers released this track some time in 2008, as near as I can tell. A friend of mine saw her perform at a wedding, and sent the video to me just as a point of reference. It has been super stuck in my head over the last 48 hours, so I figured I’d share it.

‘Are You Devo’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The song itself is so stripped down that I was really surprised I liked it as much as I did. Normally, I’m a ‘more is more’ kindof guy, but the emotional gravitas is more than enough to carry this song.

While technically there’s not a lot of fancy footwork going on, it’s all executed very tightly, and serves as a wonderful vehicle for the vocals, both in terms of sound and content. To start with the latter, the story is typical enough- who’d think? Another song about falling in love!- but as is often the case, the way it’s told is what really sells it.

So be honest-
Are you a man?
Or are you Devo? Are you Devo? Are you Devo?
‘Cause I get that same strange feeling next to you,
as when I put my favorite record on.

Maybe it’s just because I’m so guilty of letting music shape my emotional state, but the metaphor here is so singularly perfect that I fell in love with the song.

The final part about being a wolf hears Sifers’s voice do something between a hoarse scream and a croon, yet it comes off as soft and not forced; it’s just a really unique thing to hear.

Shelby Sifers – Are You Devo?