Best of 2011

Posted in Music on January 1st, 2012 by Tom

My best of 2011 is all done, though a tad bit late. Apologies.

It was a good year for the blog though, with some 40-odd posts, nearly all music related, making this the year to beat in terms of content production. It’s still a little unevenly paced still, but we made it through the year without any huge gaps in updates, which I’m quite proud of!

Without further ado, I have linked to the big list of the top albums of 2011. Below, for purposes of aggregation, is my Hype Zeitgeist widget.

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Something To Die For

Posted in Music on July 4th, 2011 by Tom

I’ve had this record since around the time it came out; I was actually really anticipating its release. Maybe it was because that happened to be when my school semester got especially hectic and the weather particularly awful, but for whatever reason after 2-3 listens I was of the opinion I didn’t like it at all.

Sometimes I can be so fickle about stuff, and I’m really glad I spent the past week giving this record a second chance. There a lot of fantastic songs here for fans of the Sounds and their genre of revivalist New Wave and synthpop.

The record opens with ‘It’s So Easy’, a little half-song that slow-builds, ramping the synth ever thicker. It’s nice exposition, and I always appreciate a little thought going into a creative album opener. ‘Dance With the Devil’ is a good example of the main problem with this record, which is that it was tailor-made for whatever dance-scene this music sustains. On headphones, it’s really underwhelming, to be honest. Unplug them, though, and pump it through any halfway decent speakers and suddenly the tune comes alive!

That said, there are far more impressive individual tracks, greatest of which is the title track, ‘Something To Die For‘, which we talked about back in March. The album features a slightly different mix of the track with a melancholy lead-in that really suits the song in the greater context of the record.


‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The first half of the record is a steady climb in song quality, with the other single ‘Better Off Dead’ being another bright spot. ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah‘ is perhaps the artistic limit of how much artificial sound can fit in a song and still have it sound good. The shouting chorus and the bouncing bassline are again at their best when blasted through the air, complete with Ivarsson’s patent nonsensical lyrics. If they meant anything… well, we’ll get there in a second.

‘Won’t Let Them Tear Us Apart’ was a huge, huge disappoint to me, mostly because it’s so good. With one exception: the backing vocals on this song are just stupid. The rest of the band’s collective falsetto ‘Listen! Hear it!’ are the most distracting, obnoxious thing on this record. If you could somehow surgically remove them from this song, it very well could be the best four minutes on the entire damn album. Frustrating, but still enjoyable on average.

The last two songs take us in a different direction for the album, but not necessarily uncharted territory for the band. ‘The Best of Me‘ is a heartfelt song about growing up that, maybe because I’m a disillusioned 20-something, I really related to:


‘The Best Of Me’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The vocals cut like a knife and actually have a coherent message/story for once. This was the type of material that was just barely hinted at in 2009’s Crossing the Rubicon, and is advanced another small step here. Pairing the bounce of synthpop with the boilerplate melodrama of a normal indie rock song plays out with delightfully surprising efficacy.

I’ll state here that this track is my metric for future Sounds records. They need to find the groove of this type of song and run with it. Will they ever be ‘music that matters’? I hope not, because that would mean all the fun had been drained from it. They certainly have the opportunity for more depth of emotion, however, and I’d like to see that in subsequent efforts.

The Sounds – Something to Die For

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New Single From The Sounds; Album Forthcoming

Posted in Music on March 17th, 2011 by Tom

Through the magic of XM Radio I caught the tail end of the most recent pre-release track from Swedish New Wavers The Sounds, and a little research revealed that the corresponding album is coming in just a few weeks! (March 29 as per most sources, though the official site says it’ll ship March 22; weird…)

It’s worth mentioning that 2009’s Crossing the Rubicon snagged this group the No. 10 slot on 2009’s best albums, so the follow up should certainly be something worth looking into. Then again, I am a sucker for almost anything remotely New Wave, and few outfits do it better than The Sounds, so I should be upfront about my bias.

Choosing between the two pre-release tracks was damn-near impossible, so I just went with the one I heard in the car:


‘Something To Die For’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Something to Die For‘ is a driving track with no shortage of bombast and exhilarating riffs. There are a select few moments of complete silence, which is a cool technique that makes what breaks said silence pack that much more punch. It’s also worth hunting down the other single floating around, ‘Better Off Dead’, which is an equally exciting track.

Something to Die For is shaping up to be a lot of fun, in spite of the apparent death-fixation baggage it’s carrying around.

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Best of 2009

Posted in Music on December 31st, 2009 by Tom

The page for my Top 10 Albums of 2009 is up. Artists include:

Florence + The Machine
Franz Ferdinand
Metric
Passion Pit
Phoenix
The Sounds
Stellastarr*
We Were Promised Jetpacks
White Lies
Wild Light

but not necessarily in that order!

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Crossing the Rubicon

Posted in Music on September 18th, 2009 by Tom

rubiconI’m not a HUGE fan of the Sounds at the time of writing, but the band has a lot going for them. In general, I think Sweden produces some of the highest quality indie music on the face of the planet (please refer to my love affair with the Shout Out Louds, my favorite band at the moment, who was in the recording studio this August!), and the Sounds are no exception. If I had to be critical, you could say that they’re a tad bit gaudy; their lead singer Maja Ivarsson being noted for her over-the-top stage performances, and so on. That all comes with the territory of a New Wave revival band, though, so I can’t be too hard on them.

That said, I’ve enjoyed their most recent effort from just the beginning of June, Crossing the Rubicon, a lot more than I anticipated. ‘My Lover’ was OK as a single, but past that there are some other real gems on the album. I never get through one of these things without talking about the ‘balance’ of the album; this one is pretty strange! The bulk of the good tracks fall mostly in the middle. Sure, the opening ‘No Sleeps When I’m Awake’ is OK, but I kinda get distracted by what those lyrics could possibly be mean to really be into it. The previously mentioned ‘My Lover’ and the dance-y ‘Dorchester Hotel’ work as a nice pair, but then we finally get to ‘Beatbox‘.


[ mp3 ♫ ]

This is the Sounds at their best, flirting with hip hop influences through the medium of the electronic New Wave sound in which they are so at home. This is in sharp contrast to the last 3 songs at the end of the record where they turn off most of the synth and slow everything down. Man, it does not work at all. I can understand wanting to do something different, but you gotta know your forte, and it is always a little uncomfortable when a band pretends to be something they’re not. That’s just the end of the album though; I’ve got to reiterate the most of the first two thirds are the Sounds at their best.

My favorite track on the record, ‘Underground‘, is a happy medium between the synth-heavy pop-beat tracks that are ‘signature’ for the group and their attempt to extend their range as a musical ensemble. The vocals are less urgent, and more empathetic, leaving one with not only the inclination but also the opportunity to ponder their meaning. ‘Midnight Sun’ is similar in this fashion, but represents the extent to which the Sounds should have pursued this musical line of thought. It would have made a fantastic conclusion, or even penultimate track.


[ mp3 ♫ ]

Crossing the Rubicon – The Sounds
(Sorry I’ve been getting lazy about the purchase links; you should look into buying this album!)

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