It's a jungle out there in the music world, so I try to be a good musical guinea pig for anyone that will listen. My tastes are varied. My thirst is unquenchable. Here's a few from the vault that I'd like to take the time to analyze.
Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record
It seems like an eternity since Broken Social Scene released "Windsurfing Nation" in 2005. Sure, we got the BSS Presents series. Both the Kevin Drew fronted BSS effort and Brendan Canning fronted BSS effort had their moments. After all, the core members have remained basically the same throughout. But, apparently, once every 5 years, the Canadian collective will gather all their soldiers, from the farthest reaches of the world, to get together to work on an album.
Since the BSS supergroup's inception, nearly all members have experienced some success. Feist might have been the first to blow up, landing some monstrously huge licensing deals. Metric reached a similar tier of success with their most recent album as well. Even Broken Social Scene itself has gathered an ever-increasing fan base.
So the stage is set for BSS for an epic release after 5 years of waiting. Do they deliver? Pretty much. The classic guitar-army sound is back, with the wall of guitars sounding sharp as ever. The band's solid foundation remains, and the album meanders along at just the right pace, showcasing the many faces of BSS. Nearly everyone has their moment. There's fantastic Kevin Drew songs ("World Sick") and Brendan Canning numbers ("Water in Hell"), of course, but they are accompanied by songs driven by the others as well. Apostle of Hustle get their presence in "Art House Director." Emily Haines (from Metric) gets her soft ballad, "Sentimental X's", per BSS protocol.
The band is back together again, and you can sense the joy and fun of old friends seeping from the record. Makes you feel good all over.
Circa Survive - Blue Sky Noise
Circa Survive is sitting in a pretty good spot right now. Their first album, Juturna, turned some heads and got them a pretty big cult following. Their second album, On Letting Go, got them indie famous and able to headline their own tours. Their music has inspired more than a few copy cat bands with soaring Anthony Green style vocals (Tides of Man, Broadway). Now, they have a captive audience ready for a new album.
So we have Blue Sky Noise. From the first song, "Strange Terrain," its clear that we're dealing with a new and distinct vibe. The sound seems focused with an ear for pop sensibilities. Anthony sounds immaculate of course. A new style of falsetto background vocals is layered behind the chorus. The production is smooth and glossy.
The second song, single "Get Out," finds the band reaching for a new type of pop... A head-bobbing, guitar-driven style with fierce vocals. Green seems to push his voice to new heights on this song, not afraid to cause some damage. The screams don't sound screamo. They are on a high register not many screamers dare enter. Dude's got pipes.
After that, Blue Sky Noise heads to familiar territory, semi-prog atmospheric (if at times boring) rock. Some of the songs (Frozen Creek) just don't have the immediacy of the band's former work, and wander along at a slow pace. Some of the vocal work seems like it is no longer catered towards Anthony himself, but more towards what he thinks his primary audience (teenage girls) wants to hear. Lines like "I fell apart in your arms for the last time and I felt free to do what I want because of the things you told me" sound forced to me. It sometimes feels like a string of generic lines pasted together, the sum of which don't seem to say anything of importance. Don't get me wrong, there's some nice moments ("Dyed in the Wool") mixed in. The guys still got chops, but they've traded in Juturna's razor-sharp edge for a happier, milder sound.
The band seems to have found their niche. Thousands of teenage girls at Warped Tour will sing along every word with tears streaming down their faces this summer. Even though Circa Survive isn't entirely my cup of tea these days, I can't help but respect the position they've gotten themselves into.
Miike Snow - Miike Snow
Miike Snow is riiding the hype wave.
As the world has had a year to play out Passion Pit, a void is starting to open up in summer playlists far and wide. Welcome, Miike Snow. I had heard opener and single "Animal" a bit earlier this year as it crept across the blogosphere. I dug it. Then I got to see Miike Snow at Coachella. They managed to keep their smooth electronic sound crisp in a live setting with 5 live band members (in white "Phantom of the Opera masks"). I was impressed.
Miike Snow's debut album, Miike Snow, is pretty darn good overall. Standouts like "Sylvia" showcase the dark and brooding styles the band can whip out at times. The production is spot on. Songs like "Black and Blue" and "Cult Logic" will make their mark on the Summer playlists, perfect successors to the Passion Pit falsetto space-disco sound. However, not every song is a winner ("A Horse is Not a Home"). But, hey. Not a bad debut at all. Kudos, Miike.
The Ruby Suns - Fight Softly
I was privileged enough to see The Ruby Suns a few years back at a tiny club in Phoenix called Modified Arts. The New Zealand 3-piece looked like they belonged around a beach campfire down under, donning bright colors and sunny smiles. Their songs sounded exactly how they looked... Breezy, tropical, fun. The electronics used only highlight the organic sounds used.
The band's new album, Fight Softly, takes the sunny tropical elements from the first release, Sea Lion, and strips them down to a dancier, electronic base. The drums seem to be exclusively electronic, although it sounds as though some live congas were used. The band's lead, Ryan McPhun, is now the only one singing.
All in all, I really enjoy the album. It makes me feel like I'm on a beach thousands of miles away with a Pina Colada in my hand. The album's standouts like "Cinco" and "Dusty Fruit" are formidable conga line worthy beach classics. Even the lesser tracks on the album that suffer from being too trancey and hypnotic "Two Humans," are still enjoyable. Pretty irresistable album.