13 March 2009

Catching up with Wake the President and Cursive

Identical Scottish twins (and not the Proclaimers) and post-hardcore from Omaha, Nebraska – here are two great albums that you should make the time and listen to.

Wake the President: “You Can’t Change That Boy”

The debut album by Scottish identical twins, Bjorn and Erik Sandberg, Wake the President is signed to Electric Honey of Belle and Sebastian and Snow Patrol fame. “You Can’t Change That Boy” (9 March 2009 in the UK, available as an import in the USA) is a groovy mixture of indie rock and folk. From intricate arpeggios to beautifully harmonized vocals, the power of this album comes from avoiding the current trend of rock musicians keeping a dance floor feel to their music. You may not get a hip-gyrating experience from this album, but you will get an amazing listening experience of witty lyrics and catchy straightforward arrangements. If an album can musically sound sincere (without lyrics), this is the album.

Opening with the sedate “Something to Turn Up,” you might be deceived into believing this album moves slower than granny with her walker, but then “Professor” smacks you with pure pop sensibility and hooky guitar playing. “Remember Fun?” is reminiscent of the best the Smiths had to offer: amazingly played music that adds to the power of the vocals. “Just Give Me Two Secs” is the final song with a pop-paced tempo with guitar playing bordering on elements of American country. Wittier and more blatantly honest than most artists, the song states, “She said, ‘He’s no man, he’s just a piece of merchandize.”” Then the album falls into the final track, which much like the opening track is slower than the rest of the album. “A & E” is the most distinct track on the album. Its arrangements are the most sophisticated on the album, and the emotional rawness of the band is most apparent here. The song is as if someone exposed a void in him or herself – this song is pure genius. Moreover, this final track points the future possibilities of where they may head sonically.

With the ability to narrate like the best of them (Bob Dylan included in the group), there is a level of maturity and meticulous craftsmanship in “You Can’t Change That Boy.” This is more than your average college radio station, run of the mill jangle pop band; Wake the President creates strong enjoyable songs that merge into an excellent listening experience as an album – there is not a single track you want to fast forward.

Track Listing:
1. Something to Turn Up
2. Professor
3. Mail, Alice
4. Miss Tierney
5. Wake
6. You Can’t Change That Boy
7. Remember Fun?
8. The Security Place
9. Just Give Me Two Secs
10. A & E

Keep up with the band on MySpace.

Check out the band’s live performance of “Miss Tierney” on the music video company DirtyTrainers YouTube Channel.

Cursive: “Mama, I’m Swollen”

Released 10 March 2009 (digitally 1 March 2009), “Mama, I’m Swollen” is Cursives sixth studio album. Twelve years into their career, this post-hardcore band continues to write some of the headiest albums on the market. Hitting the universal reality that we all want to escape, the album’s first track, “In the Now,” opens with electronic, urgent sounds before letting the beat drop to sheer anxiety, Tim Kasher sings, “Don’t wanna live in the now, don’t wanna know what I know…” It is that feeling we all feel from time to time when we wish we're someone else, something different, and not weighted down with own memories. Aptly, he sings in “Donkey”, “You don’t like the way you live, so you play pretend.”

The universality continues through the album, even in the inclusion of fresh musical elements in the Cursive repertoire, including the arabesque feel to the beginning of “I Couldn’t Love You.” Down to politics, Cursive does not steer away from making statements that are so obvious but very few musicians dare to make: “You’re flashing me that politicians grin, you got your image squeaky clean, you’ve such a fetching smile but a maw with sharp teeth” (“We’re Going to Hell”). But that is what makes Cursive, Cursive. They do not shy away from making lyrical or musical statements: “Let Me Up” demonstrates the ability to compose a single song, which can transverse texture and mood, from one extreme to another, in just one song. If punk rock is about turning the world and musical clichés on their heads, and spinning them really fast, until what you get is subversive, Cursive does this with more sublimity than any other indie rock band out there.

Perhaps what I am going to say may be considered blasphemy by many Cursive fans: forget “The Ugly Organ.” This is Cursive’s best effort yet! More intelligent than anything they have done before, more sophisticated and ingenious than any album to date, with a new injected urgency in their sound, “Mama, I’m Swollen” will hold a mirror glass to any listener’s face and force you to confront some of your own demons, while tapping your feet to a wonderful soundscape of the perfected Cursive sound.

Track Listing:
1. In the Now
2. From the Hips
3. I Couldn’t Love You
4. Donkeys
5. Caveman
6. We’re Going to Hell
7. Mama, I’m Satan
8. Let Me Up
9. Mama, I’m Swollen
10. What Have I Done?

Keep up with Cursive at their homepage or MySpace.