Posted in Music on March 21st, 2011 by Tom

White Lies, the heir apparent to the Joy Division Throne of moody new wave music, had a fantastic debut. Just a little less than two years ago I myself wrote a glowing review of To Lose My Life.

You must understand my sadness then as I’m forced to report from the front lines that this January’s Ritual was a bit of a misstep…

In all fairness, it’s not a bad record. I listened to it 10+ times before I moved it out of regular rotation. Unfortunately, in comparison to its predecessor, it leaves something to be desired.

“What’s so bad about it?” you might ask. The best I can do by way of an analogy is that nearly every track is like its own little Frankenstein; all the right pieces are there, and it looks like a complete song, but the musical parts don’t match too well.

Let’s start with the radio single, ‘Bigger Than Us’. The opening versus are really cool, with a pumping bass line and matching gloomy lyrics, but the chorus is Too Big, not to mention a little whiny. This strange phenomena of one great component and one blah component within the same song, which I’ve seldom witnessed elsewhere, is basically my problem with Ritual.

That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots, though. ‘Holy Ghost‘ comes much closer to meeting my expectations for what White Lies is capable of achieving. It has an industrial texture to it (which is a flair that suits the style of the band), and correctly hits the mark in terms of the correct level of theatrics, with some interesting layers in the last minute.

‘Holy Ghost’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

It’s followed by ‘Turn The Bells’, which is the low point of the record, basically because it is a flat, boring rehash of To Lose My Life‘s, ‘Nothing To Give’. Fortunately, things immediately turn around with ‘The Power & The Glory‘, which is my favorite song:

‘The Power & The Glory’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

It’s a slow-builder with a real easy barebones synth backing that gradually increases in intensity, layering on sound in an iterative fashion that is anything but repetitive. If even half the songs measured up to this one, Ritual would be a solid success story.

‘Bad Love’ has a certain epic quality to it that I liked as well, but in this case it’s a little too little too late.

This blog is predicated on me reviewing stuff I like; I want to recommend good music to people. I decided to talk about Ritual because there are a handful of really strong tracks; I recommend the full album, however, with the caveat that it has some disappointing songs, and is perhaps only for die-hard White Lies fans.

The casual listener should snap up the aforementioned quality tunes in what ever ad hoc way they deem suitable (MP3 album is linked below, for this express purpose).

White Lies – Ritual


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
Passion Pit
The Sounds
We Were Promised Jetpacks
White Lies
Wild Light

but not necessarily in that order!

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To Lose My Life…

Posted in Music on July 20th, 2009 by Tom

white-lies-to-lose-my-life-2009I am having a hard time not completely loving this debut album by White Lies. There was a spot of destiny in it though: TWF put up a few tracks by these guys recently, and so I threw them into the rotation. They were growing pretty well on me, and I hadn’t gotten any noteworthy new music as of late (see: beginning of the summer), so I made a mental note to look for the album.

On my way to somewhere downtown with my family we cruised by a billboard for one of my favorite local DJs’ program. The advertisement incorporated an artist that had been getting a lot of airtime on the program, and low and behold, there was the cover for White Lies’ debut album:

So I caved and grabbed it from Target under the “Artists on the Verge” that I like so much. It is as hipster as you’re gonna get at the ol’ Target (colliq. ‘targhetto’ due to its location in the Ward Parkway mall…), so I try not to complain. The two tracks that I’d already heard, thankfully, were not the singles. TWF had posted ‘From the Stars’ and ‘The Price of Love’. The singles, as near as I can figure, are ‘Death’, ‘Unfinished Business’, ‘Fairwell to the Fairgrounds’, and the title track, ‘To Lose My Life’.

When I first got this record, I couldn’t stop listening to it. There’s something about the Interpol-esque deep, dark, throaty vocals that I love, but unlike Interpol, which tends to wallow endlessly, pulling you into a depression, White Lies put some drive behind their melodies. ‘Unfinished Business’ is a perfect example, with the the slow buildup, maintaining composure until the refrain, where they betray a little emotion:

So get up, get up! Let’s dance like we used to!

The percussion on that track is also fantastic, so fantastic, in fact, that you should listen to it yourself!

I could keep drawing the Interpol comparison, but once is enough, and past that I feel that this work is probably a notch or two above the New York band’s most recent effort. With the wrong approach, you might be tempted to accuse ‘To Lose My Life…’ as repetitive. That’s fair: there isn’t a great deal of variation in texture, tone, or subject from track to track, but it you pay attention, there are some fun details that make each song unique: for example, there’s a chime effect on ‘Fifty on Our Foreheads’ that is reminscent of Joy Division’s opening to ‘Atmosphere’, which I thought was kinda cool.

It’s an album to brood too, I won’t argue with that. ‘From the Stars’ follows the story of a man who makes advances on a the new widow of his former acquaintance, driving home the man’s strange philosphy with booming, resounding guitar chords. ‘The Price of Love’ is a hectic, even frantic, tale of a staged kidnapping by an unfaithful wife and her lover to extort money from her unknowing husband. The twist in that song, which took me a while to pick up, makes for an eerie closer to the entire album (Ian scores a point here, with me breaking my habit of hating the closing track of a given record).

Finally, I save my favorite song for last. ‘Farewell to the Fairgrounds’ is the best song on the record, hands down. Nestled deep in the track list, it starts the final stretch to the end. The tempo is quick, the guitars on chorus pulse, and then midway through, you get a second to catch your breath. They build it back up, and push it home with such energy! I love it.

It’s a great record! I can’t say it enough. If you like Interpol, the Editors, Depeche Mode, or Joy Division, then this album is worth your time to at least look at. If you enjoyed the tracks posted here, it’s a lock!

ALSO: People really like ‘Death’. I didn’t mention it, for some reason. I like it… but then I love pretty much every opening track ever created, so, take that with a grain of salt.

It occurs to me that I have no clue how to write a review of a record. I know what I like, and I know what it sounds like, but I have no criteria upon which to evaluate or grade it. Maybe that’s OK? I’ll think more on it. From a housekeeping perspective, I’m going to use the ‘tags’ feature to track artists, if that’s alright with everyone.