Signle Shot: Let’s Go

Posted in Music on July 20th, 2012 by Tom

Pandora introduced me to the massively fun Matt & Kim last week, via their older hit ‘Daylight’. This week, I was parsing through a few news items, and I found the two Brooklynites have recently released a single ahead of their new LP Lighting due this October.

The song is top-notch, and seems characteristic of the limited exposure I’ve had to the duo’s body of work. What caught my eye, rather than my ear, was the fantastically simple and yet nonetheless impressive video that accompanies it:

It’s mesmerizing watch whoever that guy is perform a menagerie of hybridized basketball-dance-moves! The single perfectly soundtracks it; see if you can spot some of the more notable points of synchronization throughout.


‘Let’s Go’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

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Port Of Morrow

Posted in Music on July 16th, 2012 by Tom

I had really, really high expectations of this album based on the strength of its harbinger, ‘Simple Song‘, not to mention the unequivocal (musical) success that was Wincing the Night Away. I submit as evidence:

The triumphant guitar riff, elemental piano backing, and Mercer’s iconic vocals make this song the complete package, and leaves you wanting more.


‘Simple Song’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Mercer’s time away on the Broken Bells project, highly thought of around here, was seemingly time well spent, right?

I’m not sure. Ten listens in, and I’m still not quite set what I think of the album. Working backwards, there’s the eery and out-of-place title track, some AM sounding songs with numbers in them (40 Mark Strasse, Fall of ’82), and a real slow jam that is mostly just slow (Taken For a Fool).

Things aren’t all bad, though. ‘No Way Down’ has a fun bass line as well as the lyric “lost in an oscillating phase,” which is pretty cool even at face value, and a catchy chorus.

‘September’ is the best slow track on the album, hands down. Subdued and acoustic, it still demands your attention, and in the grander scheme, makes a lot of sense as a pacing element among songs like ‘No Way Down’ or ‘Simple Song’.

‘Bait and Switch’ is another upbeat jaunt with some clever guitar runs and the classic Mercer lyric, “I’m just a simple man / cursed with an honest heart.” It’s preceded by ‘It’s Only Life’ which I maintain is a bit trite and not that interesting of a tune.

So now we find ourselves back at the beginning of the record. The purpose of this ass-backwards review structure is to save the absolute best for last, and that’s the opening track, ‘The Rifle’s Spiral‘.


‘The Rifle’s Spiral’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I suppose I like this song the best because it bears the strongest resemblance to my favorite material on Wincing The Night Away and Broken Bells. Solid beats and space-age melodies structured into a three-and-a-half-minute mini epic of a song. And also, for the love of god, if you haven’t seen the video, by all means:

The evocative, Burton-esque short film is a match for ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’ every bit as unlikely as it is perfect.

So, where does that leave us? The album starts of with two flawless tracks, and slowly deviates from there. If you like your LPs with a wide range of more experimental tracks, then by all means, Port of Morrow is what you seek.

I prefer a more focused collection of tracks, and I really only got half of what I wanted. Even still, the high points are on par with any previous output of Mercer’s, so I remain content with the work, if not as blown away as I’d hoped to be.

The Shins – Port Of Morrow

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The Amazing Spider-Man

Posted in Music on July 11th, 2012 by Tom

This past weekend I saw The Amazing Spider-Man, which was a lot of fun to watch. Most reviews harped pretty hard on the ‘too soon!’ aspect of this film dancing on the grave of the Sam Raimi – Tobey Maguire – Kirsten Dunst trilogy that kicked off the wall-crawler’s film presence in 2002.

And I guess that’s fair. As much as Spider-Man 3 deserved the bad reviews it got the first two films were really fantastic, and Spider-Man 2 stands as one of the defining films of my adolescence (for good or ill). So is it too soon? I suppose, but nonetheless I enjoyed the new film.

It had a lot more humor than I recall from the past series, and Andrew Garfield is a bit more wiry, making him more visually akin to a spider, compared with Maguire’s more muscular frame. Plus, as much as I liked the web-shooting as an biological mechanism, I did enjoy a return to the mechanical explanation (which I remembered from the animated Spider-Man!).

I bring all of this up because I heard two familiar songs in the film. It actually opens with one of the better tracks off of the brand-new Shins recrod Port Of Morrow.


‘No Way Down’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I don’t know that the song has any real bearing on the story other than serving as an upbeat backing to the introductory high school scenes, but it fit well.

The other was a far more surprising inclusion. Fading in just as Peter and Gwen starting making a little headway on getting together, we hear the opening strums of Coldplay’s ‘Kingdom Come‘.


‘Kingdom Come’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I thought it was weird that this segued into the obligatory “Peter Parker learns to use his powers scene,” because the song is much more a touchy-feely tune about being in love with somebody. It was unconventional, but I was so happy to hear the song at all that I found myself on board with it.

‘Kingdom Come’ was the hidden track at the end of 2005’s X&Y, Coldplay’s most underrated effort that laid the groundwork for the epic success of Viva La Lida. In my mind it’s one of the cleanest, most earnest coda’s to a album I’ve ever heard, not to mention just a really touching track in its own right.

I was glad to hear it in The Amazing Spider-Man, and to know that it wasn’t just me who really dug it!

At the end of the day though, if we’re going to put together a ‘greatest songs in the Spider-Man movies’, it’s really no contest. At the end of the day,

…how can any song ever compete with that? Huh?!

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NME’s Top 20 Songs

Posted in Music on July 10th, 2012 by Tom

The timeframe is over NME’s lifespan, so that’d be the last 60 years!

I don’t know how exactly this is going to end up, but as of about 9 PM EST, the readership of NME has assembled a singularly fantastic playlist:



(Click to enlarge)

The only band on their twice? The Smiths, because The Smiths were a great band.

I kindof just want to make this playlist, additionally.

You can vote over at NME.

Synthetica

Posted in Music on July 9th, 2012 by Tom

I don’t know what it’s been lately, but I’ve been having a bad run of trying out new albums and completely hating them. Hence the lull in posts here. It’s all the more refreshing when a tried-and-true standby like Metric come out with a top-notch album to get me excited about records again.

My love of Metric stems from the fact that they so perfectly embody what I want from my (non-mopey) music: catchy melody, fast percussion, punchy vocals. You’ve got this in spades on the first three tracks of Synthetica, ‘Artificial Nocturne’, the lead single ‘Youth Without Youth’ (which has really grown on me), and finally ‘Speed The Collapse‘.


‘Speed The Collapse’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The song is remotely industrial, to my ears, and does a good job capturing the sinister aspect of the central theme of the album, with its “oceans boiled, and rivers bled.” As to what the hell a “comedown of revolving doors” is, I have no clue, but “fate, don’t fail me now” is a kickass chorus, as well as a not-so-subtle callback to the opening track that features an identical lyric.

Despite being immanently listenable, (and even at its fluffiest, with ‘Breathing Underwater’) Synthetica is a record with an edge as well as an agenda. A cleverly woven tapestry set against the backdrop of a Blade Runner-esque future, Haines describes having…

…first envisioned the word “Synthetica” as the name for a particularly resilient skin-job from Blade Runner, a female replicant who voices an inner monologue of all your human imperfections. “If you imagine a nightmarishly fake version of me as a pop star, that’s her,” she says. “And this record was about me saying, I’m going to give more to the music than ever, but there’s no way I’m going to turn into someone like that.”

The corresponding imagery to such a character is highlighted on ‘Dreams So Real’, a slow processional set to the chorus of

I’ll shut up and carry on
A scream becomes a yawn

The synthesizers drone in the background while a slow marching drum beat pulls you through the track. For how slowly paced and simply constructed the song is, I’m blown away by how functional it is at this point in the album.

The back end is impressively strong too: ‘Lost Kitten’ is a curiously warm-sounding track for how dark the subject matter seems to be, with Haines falsetto perfectly executed. ‘The Void’ and ‘Synthetica’ make up a closing power-pair, with the latter in particular being a boon as well as a namesake for the album, before ‘Clone‘ begins the dénouement.


‘Clone’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

We haven’t heard this side of Metric (a slower tune that isn’t forlorn/depressed) since Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?‘s ‘Love Is A Place’. Sure, nobody’s going to be screaming the lyrics to this one at shows, but it offers a rare moment where Haines’ voice is just allowed to be beautiful, untinged with any biting edge or bitter sorrow.

Everyone tends to have an opinion about the Lou Reed aided track, ‘Wanderlust’. Mine? Would have been better as a B-side. The abrupt change in tone from ‘Clone’ to ‘Nothing But Time’ makes the album tighter, and leaves the listener ever so slightly unnerved, which given the topic of the record seems appropriate.

Synthetica is right up their with Fantasies in terms of quality of material while still being a clear and deliberate evolution in sound. Metric is an outfit that essentially does everything right, and I could hardly ask for a better album from these fine folks.

Metric – Synthetica

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