22 April 2011

Four for April

I am finally back from a much needed holiday and escape from reality. When I finally sat down to start writing again, what I became seriously conscious about was that there were albums I never got to. I have tried to avoid doing reviews with multiple artists, but for the sake of expediency, that is what I’m going to do now. This is not a reflection on any of these artists or their work – it is simply a reflection of my lack of time. (I’m also learning to shut my mouth about upcoming releases I am excited about, as I have been disappointed quite a few times over the past few months.) Though I do not plan to make these brief “four” reviews a regular feature, I think there will be at least one later this year down the road. For now, welcome to the worlds of Brothertiger, The Chapman Family, IAMX, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Enjoy!

Brothertiger: “Point of View EP” (14 February 2011 in the USA)

One listen to “Point of View,” it is more than obvious that Brothertiger is more sophisticated than most electro/synthpop bands. The brainchild and moniker of John Jagos, Brothertiger weaves traditionally 80s influence electronic music with a bit of downtempo and chillwave. Where the music may not be dance ready in a non-remixed form, it is seductively loungey and trippy. I still cannot get over the opening track, “Real Life”: it is somewhere lost between swanky lounge and Art of Noise, and this is an incredible space to be lost in. With an Erasure-esque bassline, Jagos’ vocals, like Bell’s of Erasure, adds to the soundscape, and not simply sung above the musical arrangements – and this is something rare in electronic music! “Back To Us” slips into an electro new romantic style ballad, while “Even Glow” moves closer to dance with the bassline and melody sections, but continues to chill with its electro-beats. In “A House of Many Ghosts,” various ostinati, vocal samples and effects, and ambient key arrangements conspire to create a truly updated, contemporary take on sythnpop. Four tracks and only one thought/question at the end of listening: when is the full-length album coming out?

Track Listing: 1. Real Life 2. Back To Us 3. Evening Glow 4. A House of Many Ghosts. 5. Lovers (Casa del Mirto Remix)

Keep up with Brothertiger at their MySpace and Facebook. Also, check out John Jagos’ blog presence. Go over to the band’s Bandcamp page where you can preview and purchase past releases. Head to iTunes (USA link) where you can preview and purchase “Point of View EP.”

IAMX: “Volatile Times” (18 March 2011 in the UK, 22 March 2011 in the USA)

Considering that I am one of those that really loved 2009’s “Kingdom of Welcome Addiction,” I was anxious to finally hear IAMX’s fourth album, “Volatile Times.” In photographic terms, prior to “Kingdom,” emotions were always expressed in over-exposures; with “Kingdom,” there was a sense of preciseness and perfect focus and exposure to the emotional anxieties and urgencies. I had no reason to believe that “Volatile Times” would be any different.

“Volatile Times” continues to be more precise in terms of the visceral, but musically Chris Corner (the man behind the moniker) has returned to a broader and more eclectic collection of soundscapes. However, this genderfucker has set the expectations really high with “Kingdom of Welcome Addiction,” and I can see people saying that “Volatile Times” does not meet their expectations. Well, I agree; if you are looking for another “Kingdom,” this is not going to float your boat. But, if you take this album at face value … just for a moment, imagine it is a debut album by a new band … it is one of the strongest albums released this year. Contradiction? No.

The music in not only more introspective, such as “Fire and Whispers” that combines gritty and crisp electronic sounds, the volatility that sometimes follows failed contemplation is so perfectly captured, especially in “Music People” – as the song slowly seeps towards a close, it becomes cacophonous, as it speeds up and the drums/percussion take over the arrangements. Furthermore, as seen in the lead single, “Ghosts of Utopia,” Corner is stepping away from the traditional synthpop / new wave revival and moving towards darkwave, sans all that etherealness that darkwave revivalists are so found of lately. The album closes with the epic “Oh Beautiful Town” – “In the floorboards under insolent feet, I left the hopscotch to my parents retreat with words of goodnight in the back of my head, words of desperation on my tongue: good night father, goodnight mother. I used to awake.” Lyrically, cynically twisted as the best of them (Gore, Murphy, Reznor, Sioux, Smith), musically beautifully, anxiously sad and sensual. No, this is not “Kingdom of Welcome Addiction”; “Volatile Times” is more sophisticated, more intricate, and more artistic. Think a bit outside of the box (even if you are a fan already) and take a serious listen to this album.

Track Listing: 1. I Salute You Christopher 2. Music People 3. Volatile Times 4. Fire and Whisper 5. Dance with Me 6. Bernadette 7. Ghosts of Utopia 8. Commanded by Voices 9. Into Asylum 10. Cold Red Light 11. Oh Beautiful Town [12. Avalanche (deluxe edition) 13. Ghost of Utopia video (deluxe edition)]

Keep up with IAMX at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the video “Ghosts Of Utopia” from their YouTube Channel: iamx.

The Chapman Family: “Burn Your Town” (22 March 2011 in the USA as import)

I have friends who have been waiting for the release of Chapman Family’s debut, “Burn Your Town,” for a few years now; straightforward, thriving indie rock, this album was definitely worth the wait. It is obvious that the music on this album is meant to be experienced live and that static recording can only hint at the power of the music. The lead single, “Anxiety,” lives up to its name: anxiously guitar driven music, with fretful lyrics: “And they say our best isn’t good enough.” This may very well be the perfect mantra for anyone living in these economically and socially repressive times.

To give credit to my friends, they noted a certain post-punk influence on the band. This is most obvious in tracks like “1,000 Lies,” which may have been influenced by listening to a bit too much Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees (which of course is a good thing). But this brings to the forefront something that was sadly missing in the 1990s: the bridge between the alterative rock/grunge world with that of the post-punk, dream pop/shoegaze world. This kind of mergence is most apparent in “Something I Can’t Get Out.” But this, of course, brings something else to mind. The Chapman Family not only has a large range of musical references that may not always be compatible, they also have a wide range of styles at their commands. I only have one question: what else do they have up their sleeves? (By the way, the band should release the punkish “Kids” as their next single!)

Track Listing: 1. A Certain Degree 2. All Fall 3. Anxiety 4. The Sound of the Radio 5. 1,000 Lies 6. She Didn’t Know 7. Something I Can Get Out 8. Kids 9. Million Dollars 10. Virgins

Keep up with The Chapman Family at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their videos for “All Fall” and “Anxiety” from their YouTube Channel: thechapmanfamilytv.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: “Belong” (29 March 2011 in the USA)

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart was one of the first bands that I reviewed on the blog (link), and I remembered making an offhand comment that their eponymous debut album would be something more welcomed in Europe than America. Noise pop, traditionally, has been more successful overseas, not to mention twee pop and the current shoegaze revival (no, I will not call it nu-gaze; when you consider the vast majority of these bands, there is nothing new here!). “Belong,” the sophomore album, is another story altogether. This time around, the band concentrates on their pop sensibility – their catchiness and hooks. Bands have one of two trajectories. In general terms, like Radiohead, they can go from highly accessible to esoteric, or, like The Cure, go for esoteric to accessible; The Pains of Being Young At Heart have obvious gone the latter route.

Flood’s sophisticated production style is all over this album, but most apparent in “The Body.” To Flood’s credit, he can polish and refine any song while keeping its primal urgency intact. Though we continue to hear the influence of The Jesus and Mary Chain (“Anne With An E”) and slight echoes of My Bloody Valentine (“Girl of 1,000 Dreams”), the references are broader: a bit of dream and synth pop in “My Terrible Friend” (my favorite track on the album) and alternative rock of bands such as Smashing Pumpkins (“Heart In Your Heartbreak”).

Was this album an obvious shift to garnish more American attention? I can’t answer that, but I can say that it is no sophomore slump. In many ways “Belong” is superior to the debut album (a blasphemous comment to some, I know!). What the album has going for it is to take all of their quirky references and distill them into something new, fresh, and accessible.

Track Listing: 1. Belong 2. Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now 3. Heart In Your Heart Break 4. The Body 5. Anne with an E 6. Even in Dreams 7. My Terrible Friend 8. Girl of 1,000 Dreams 9. Too Tough 10. Strange

Keep up with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Heart in Your Heartbreak” from their YouTube Channel: thepainsofbeing.

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