03 April 2009

Catching Up with Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Thenewno2

Mad thanks to Mirage for taking the time to review these two albums!

From two sides of the Atlantic, from New York upstarts to an English legacy, these two albums demonstrate excellent pop music that does not follow the hit parade, Billboard mentality of mindless music. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs released their long await third album, while the Harrison name continues to be a mainstay in the annals of world music in Thenewnow2.

Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs: “It’s Blitz!”

Releasing their third album “It’s Blitz!” (originally slated for 13 April 2009, but moved up to 9 March), Yeah Yeah Yeahs released an album that has been hailed by “Spin” as the alternative album of the decade. True to the bands New York City roots, it is uncompromising – almost as if discarding what has been the mainstay for the past few years. But then again, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always had their own sound, their own feel. Continuing the tradition of dream pop (introspective, ethereal music), Yeah Yeah Yeahs inject a healthy amount of dance punk.

“Zero,” the opening track of the album and the lead single, starts with a synthpop soundscape that invites you into the danceable beats and staccato arrangements. “Heads will roll on the dance floor” is the emphatic chours of the second track “Heads Will Roll,” which starts really slow with a dropping beat midway through the song that keeps you hooked. “Skeleton” is one of two songs that really has the Yeah Yeah Yeahs wearing their influences on their sleeves; very dream popish, the song produces a soundscape that is meant to accent the sound of Karen O’s voice. (The other song is “Runaway” – and in much the same way, the music is arranged around the vocals.) The pace is picked up again with “Dull Life” (boogie down in your chair at the computer). Typical of the album are songs that start with a slower tempo then pick it up.

What I love about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is that they draw their influences from various different sources; from punk to dance to art house, avant-garde may be a good word to describe them. I would not call this an experimental album, probably because I think they are always trying to find new and interesting ways to compose and record music, but I would definitely say that there is more conscious craftsmanship on this collection than most albums in the popish range. Solid – go groove to this album if you have not yet.

Track Listing:
1. Zero
2. Heads Will Roll
3. Soft Shock
4. Skeletons
5. Dual Life
6. Shame and Fortune
7. Runaway
8. Dragon Queen
9. Hysteric
10. Little Shadow
11. Soft Shock, acoustic – Deluxe Edition Bonus Track
12. Skeleton, acoustic – Deluxe Edition Bonus Track
13. Hysteric, acoustic – Deluxe Edition Bonus Track
14. Little Shadow, acoustic – Deluxe Edition Bonus Track
15. Faces – iTunes Exclusive
16. Clap Song – iTunes pre-order Exclusive

Keep up with Yeah Yeah Yeahs at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube Channel: YeahYeahYeahsMusic.

Here is the link for their video for “Zero” from the Polydor YouTube Channel.

Thenewno2: “You Are Here”

Digitally released on 1 August 2008, and on hardcopy 31 March 2009, “You Are Here” by Thenewno2 is an amazing debut. A duo originally formed in London, Dhani Harrison (lead vocals, guitars, sythns) and Oliver Hecks (drums, synths), the music is minimalist in the same way Zoot Woman is. Harrison, son of the late Beatle, has admitted to originally not wanting to be a musician; could the expectations and pressures of what the next generation accomplishes dissuade him from that career path? Probably not, but this is not the 60s and this is not the Beatles. What will catch your attention is how definitive the sound of Thenewno2 is, especially considering that this is a debut album.

The single “Another John Doe” reminds me of a lot of French electronic, ambient music. It is a great teaser for the album – broody and on the verge of being ethereal. “Crazy Tuesday,” featured on Rock Band 2 as a download, combines reverb, acoustic elements (piano, guitar), and catchy lyrics easy to relate to: “Another night, another day, waiting. You’re so far away girl. Another night, another day, waiting around. You’re so far away from me.” Most of us have been there before. Check out the monologue at the beginning “Back to You,” setting a heavy emotional tone that the music will carry through. The hypnotic “Bluesy” is trying to contain its own desires to breakout into a dance number. Dude, and I love the kazoo sounds in “Give You Love.”

Check out this album, not because the son of George Harrison is in the mix, but rather because it is ingenious in its minimalism. This is a duo that has crafted excellent music that should be judged on their merits and not on legacy. Hard to pin down in terms of genre, the album is a breath of fresh air in the mist of all the experimental pop and post-punk revival going on. Go to iTunes for this album, where there are two bonus tracks available.

Track Listing:
1. So Vain
2. Another John Doe
3. Back to You
4. Bluesy
5. Give You Love
6. Yomp
7. Hiding Out
8. Crazy Tuesday
9. Idle Lover
10. Shelter
11. Wind Up Dead
12. Jokes on You – Bonus Track
13. You Gotta Wait – Bonus Track

Keep up with Thenewno2 at their homepage, MySpace, and YouTube Channel: Thenewno2music.

Here is their video for “Another John Doe.”