The Needle Drop


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In this Y U NO REVIEW, Anthony talks a bit about the latest album releases from Common, Crosses, Enter Shikari, Kayo Dot, and Asher Roth. Here are some short opinions on other albums that were missed this past month as well: 1. Machinedrum- SXLND (LuckyMe)

Release track: Machinedrum- "SXLND"

I think people tend to assume that every album that gets incorporated into this segment must not be that enjoyable to me or something. That's not completely the truth since there are even decent releases that I can't necessarily get to. On his latest EP, Machinedrum remedies some of the issues I had with the project's last album, Room(s).

A lot of songs on that album were just too hectic for their own good, in my opinion. On SXLND, Machinedrum is more interested in picking the right sounds, and his grooves evolve much more subtly now, too--especially on the track "No Respect."

It's a nice set of tracks, so if you're into house, future garage, and footwork, you've gotta check it out!

2. Leila- U&I (Warp)

Release track: Leila- "Welcome to Your Life"

On her latest album, Iran-born electronic music producer, Leila, creates a series of tracks that are bewildering, but stop short of being completely rewarding.

A great deal of U&I features vocal contributions from the Knife collaborator Mt. Sims. Personally, Sims' moaning vocal delivery doesn't exactly do it for me, but it can be pluse since it makes a lot of songs here come off like a post-punk'd perversion of IDM--especially in the case of "Welcome to Your Life."

If the album stuck more consistently around these ideas, I might have liked it more, because some of the shorter and more uneventful tracks just feel like detours that don't leave me with much to think about. For example, the harsh, rumbling waves of noise on "Interlace" are extreme, but don't really do much for the flow of the album. The track "Boudica" isn't bad, and showcases a nice dance groove for about six minutes; however, it sticks out like a sore thumb among all of these more experimental songs.

Overall, I can't help but feel like this album is simply an assembly of tracks that are only strung together by varying levels of oddness. And being odd is a great thing, but there's more than one road to that destination. U&I tries to take as many roads as possible, and it makes for a somewhat inconsistent journey.

3. Lambchop- Mr. M (Merge)

Release track: Lambchop- "If Not I'll Just Die"

I wanted to like this album. I really did, seriously. Some of the songs Lambchop puts together on Mr. M--the eleventh studio album from this group--are beautiful pieces of chamber pop, no doubt. The opener, "If Not I'll Just Die," is one string arrangement after another that just melts my heart.

I've seen a word or two online calling this album out as being uneventful or mundane, which I don't agree with. This album is certainly soft and quiet, but there are lots of musical ideas flowing throughout these tracks. They're just not presented loudly, that's all.

Where this album loses me is with the vocals. I'm sure I'm committing some kind of indie blasphemy here, but frontman Kurt Wagner's voice just doesn't speak to me. He doesn't sing on pitch as much as he just sounds like he's choking on a lump in his throat. It's a characteristic that's definitely unique--hell, maybe it'll grow on me in the future--but it sorta wears on me after a while.

Vocals aside, Lambchop does put together some beautiful acoustic tunes on this album, and the way they arrange other instrumentation around them is always tasteful. Definitely a worthwhile listen for those who enjoy string-kissed alternative country and folk.

4. Trust- TRST (Arts & Crafts)

Release track: Trust- "Bulbform"

One thing is for sure: This Canadian synth pop outfit, Trust, has created an album that sounds exactly like how its cover looks. The atmosphere surrounding this album does feel somewhat dark, and it might be a decent listen for those who are die-hard fans of goth-tinged new wave tunes.

But then again, there's something about these tracks that just feels ridiculous. Maybe it's the somewhat goofy vocals, or maybe it's the eagerness to become the soundtrack to goth night at the local dance club. I'm not completely sure what rubbing me the wrong way with this album. I guess I feel like TRST reinforces just about every stereotype that comes with this kind of music. And yet, when you consider the fat, long-haired, and lipstick-wearing tortured soul pictured on the front cover, it's pretty clear Trust is completely aware of these stereotypes.

So does this album border on parody at all? It's possible, but merely hanging around the border causes a lot of ambiguity. I guess that's what's killing me.

5. Porcelain Raft- Strange Weekend (Secretly Canadian)

Release track: Porcelain Raft- "Unless You Speak From Your Heart"

There's not much I can say about this sophomore LP from Porcelain Raft, honestly. Sure, it's got some pretty dreamy sounds, but it ends up sounding kinda nondescript to me. When the songs aren't completely drowned out in effects, they're just underwhelming me. I wish I had a stronger reaction, but I'm just not finding much to react to here, I suppose. Accessible, but not incredibly memorable.

6. Errors- Have Some Faith In Magic (Rock Action)

Release track: Errors- "Earthscore"

Have Some Faith In Magic is the third full-length LP to come from the Glasgow instrumental rock band Errors. I was pretty smitten with the smooth dance rock grooves all over the band's full-length debut, and I thought their blend of electronic and rock sounds was stellar. This album let me down a little bit, though.

Have Some Faith shows a change in direction for Errors. They seem to be indulging into some of the synth sounds and slow-building song structures that inform progressive synth revivalists like Zombi. It's nothing new, but still great when considering Errors have been able to maintain their dancable appeal in the process.

However, what kinda makes me slip out of this album's grasp is its lack of tension. Consider the band that runs the label Errors is signed to: Mogwai. Sure, they're not playing the same style of music, but the idea of tension--especially in the progressive synth style influencing this album--is important. Mogwai values tension, and makes it a corner stone of its music. I feel like Errors shoots for it, but misses for a good part of this album.

When it comes to building a song up, Errors doesn't wow me as much as they used to. Sadly, I think many tracks on here plod along through one section after another, which really keeps me from being excited about what's coming next.

7. Crippled Black Phoenix- (Mankind) The Crafty Ape (Provogue Records)

Release track: Crippled Black Phoenix- "A Letter Concerning Dogheads"

Despite the fact this new Crippled Black Phoenix is well over an hour, and features three different "chapters," it just doesn't feel as bold as the band's previous work. The progressive rock stylings that have informed previous work from this group have been toned down in order to incorporate some blues rock sounds. The end result is much less menacing than the group's previous album, I, Vigilante, and some tracks on actually sound like they could have been on a Black Mountain album or something.

There's not much else I can say beyond that, sadly. This just feels like a prog rock album that lacks that power to thrill as much as the albums and artists that influence it. This isn't going down as one of my favorites in this group's catalog, sadly.

8. The Big Pink- Future This (4AD)

Release track: The Big Pink- "Hit the Ground (Superman)"

A lot like the Porcelain Raft album I mentioned earlier in this post, this new Big Pink LP just felt nondescript to me, unfortunately. This is my first exposure to the London indie electronic duo, and it sounds as if they're trying to push as little boundaries as possible; relying mostly on big, dramatic choruses to get by.

Oh, wait, no. This isn't my first exposure to the band. Of course, hits like "Dominos" caught my ears a few years ago, but tracks like that are catchy as they are repetitive and unimaginative. New, creative sounds are ultimately what get remembered. I can't believe I forgot about these guys, but I guess part of me isn't surprised.

The Big Pink had the opportunity to move past its one-hit wonder status with this new record, but it just feels like they're trying to recreate the unpredictable magic that pushed their songs into the limelight in the first place. I could see this album going over well with big fans, but even that's a tough call since it seems the Big Pink is staunchly against progressing its sound.

9. Foxy Shazam- The Church of Rock and Roll (Capitol)

Release track: Foxy Shazam- "Welcome to the Church of Rock and Roll"

With bands like Queen and Led Zeppelin a primary musical foundation, Foxy Shazam brings back the golden age of glam and hard rock. However, they use twice the kitsch Sha Na Na did when they were reliving the days of doo wop.

While it is well-produced, the Church just feels like an album that is going to appeal to people who grew up with this kind of music--thinking Foxy Shazam is keeping the torch lit for something that shouldn't have died--or people who are looking for a new, fresh way to connect with a style of rock they were too young to grow up with.

That's not to say this album won't have leagues of fans behind it, though. There's no question that Foxy will gain fans and keep them as long as they toy with this style. However, I personally don't thirst for the kind of nostalgia this album is selling.

To me, this LP is just glorified Queen worship. I love Queen, and I'd much rather just listen to Queen, that's all.

10. Anthony Green- Beautiful Things (Photo Finish)

Release track: Anthony Green- "Right Outside" ft. Chino Moreno

Beautiful Things is a little singer-songwriter record from Pennsylvania musician Anthony Green. In my opinion, it's not very ambitious or daring. Kinda humdrum, actually.

However, I think it's intentional. Considering Green has fronted quite a few progressive and experimental rock acts in the past--Saosin, Circa Survive, and the Sound of Animals Fighting--I figure the dude knows when he's trying something new and when he's not.

Still, that hasn't made Beautiful Things all that interesting to me. In the end, this album just feels like something for the fans. It doesn't really expose me to any new sounds or ideas. I don't even feel like the tunes are all that catchy or passionate. I guess I'm just at a loss on this one.

Other releases I didn't get to: Matthew Dear- Headcage EP Nada Surf- The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy Shigeto- Lineage Sunn O))) Meets Nurse With Wound- The Iron Soul of Nothing