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Alt-J – This Is All Yours

September 25th, 2014
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Just the Right Amount of Weird

Alt-J have been described with a wide range of adjectives and attitudes: brilliant, pompous, edgy, posturing and so on. The Leeds-based band (also known as ∆, the mathematical symbol for delta or change, or alt+J for you Windows users), won the British Mercury Prize for their debut full-length An Awesome Wave in 2012. Alt-J offer listeners a sound that isn’t easily categorized or dismissed. The songs on An Awesome Wave were weird and quirky; how many bands can turn a mathematical term like “tessellate” into a strangely erotic come-on, or sing, “Please don’t go, / I’ll eat you whole, / I’ll eat your soul, / I love you so, I love you so” without seeming utterly creepy and off-putting? How many bands embrace vocals like those of guitarist and lead vocalist Joe Newman’s, which swing constantly from a squawking croak to a falsetto croon? Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in High Fidelity, Reviews

Interpol – El Pintor

September 9th, 2014
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Great Expectations

Don’t let your expectations get the best of you when you sit down with Interpol’s fifth album, El Pintor. Expectations have been a problem for Interpol for years—starting with the success of the band’s 2002 debut, Turn On the Bright Lights, which made them the darlings of the early-oughts New York rock scene. From there, the world began to expect Interpol to maintain the same kind of energy and sound, resulting in the status quo-aesthetics of 2004’s Antics and 2007’s Our Love to Admire. But the band’s fourth, self-titled album released in 2010 was largely viewed as lackluster at best, a disappointment and complete failure at worst. Following the album’s flop and the departure of longtime bassist Carlos Denger, Interpol announced they’d be taking a hiatus to work on their own projects, other bands and solo ventures, and even a seafood restaurant, in the case of guitarist Daniel Kessler. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in Reviews

Blonde Redhead – Barragán

September 4th, 2014
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Master Architects

It’s not entirely clear whether Barragán, the ninth album from New York’s longtime staple three-piece Blonde Redhead, is named after the famous Mexican modernist architect Luis Barragán, but there’s a fitting allusion there; Barragán is constructed with a subtle fluidity, sprawling across its ten tracks like a particularly well designed cityscape, each track built with a unique structure. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in High Fidelity, Reviews , , ,

The Rentals – Lost in Alphaville

August 28th, 2014
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In Limbo

The Rentals have always been an amalgamation: a band cobbled together from members of other bands, with a lineup that changed with each album, centered around frontman Matt Sharp, formerly the bassist of Weezer in their earlier days. Sharp left Weezer after Pinkerton (1996), and focused on the Rentals, releasing first Return of the Rentals (1995), and then 1999’s Seven More Minutes, which was about time he spent in Spain with a significant other. But the Rentals dissipated for several years after that album, coming back together in 2005 to release some smaller projects, like the multimedia Songs About Time (2009). Lost in Alphaville is the band’s third album and the first full-length since 1999, and it’s got a shiny new lineup to match: Patrick Carney of the Black Keys, Ryen Slegr of Ozma, Lauren Chipman of Section Quartet, and Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe of Lucius on vocals. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in Reviews , , , , , , , , , ,

Jenny Hval and Susanna – Meshes of Voice

August 23rd, 2014
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A Journey into the Surreal

The very appropriately titled Meshes of Voice brings together two rather different Norwegian artists, Jenny Hval and Susanna Wallumrød, on an album ensnared in the influences of surrealism and mythology, like the neo-gothic modernist architecture of Antoni Gaudí and Maya Deren’s 1943 film Meshes of the Afternoon. Written for 2009’s Ladyfest, a global music and arts festival for women and feminist artists, Meshes of Voice expertly combines Hval and Wallumrød’s talents in an uncanny, phantasmagorical journey into the psyche. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in High Fidelity, Reviews , ,

Spoon – They Want My Soul

August 6th, 2014
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A Musical Crossroads

Though it may sound like the title of a low-budget horror movie, They Want My Soul, the eighth album from Austin’s Spoon, steers clear of anything remotely terrifying in the traditional sense of the word, though frontman Britt Daniel does urge listeners to “run run run run run” on “Rainy Taxi,” whose minor-tinged melodies give it a slightly ominous feel, and the creepy, shivering synths that end “Do You” are also surprisingly hair-raising, especially after such a radio-ready, bland track. On this, their first release since 2010’s Transference and their first release on their own label Loma Vista Recordings (and their first release with keyboardist Alex Fischel), Spoon seem to be indulging at times in a bit of an existential crisis. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in Reviews

The Muffs – Whoop Dee Doo

July 30th, 2014
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Back with a Vengeance

The title of the Muffs’ first album in a decade, Whoop Dee Doo, implies a certain kind of carefree, dismissive, easygoing, throw-your-hands-up attitude, maybe with a hint of sarcasm and derision. And that’s exactly what the album provides. This is the band’s first release since 2004’s Really Really Happy, and despite the time that has passed since then, the Muffs still sound like they’re back in the ‘90s or early 2000s, jamming youthfully away in a garage with their amps turned up loud. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in Reviews ,

Got A Girl – I Love You But I Must Drive Off This Cliff Now

July 24th, 2014
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A Dramatic Duet

Enter an unlikely duo: first, Dan the Automator (Daniel Nakamura), who has produced hip-hop and alternative albums by Kool Keith, DJ Shadow, Head Automatica, Kasabian and the first Gorillaz record, among others. Then enter actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead, the brunette who stole Michael Cera’s heart in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, who’s appeared in a smattering of big-name films like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Live Free or Die Hard, and Final Destination 3. The two met on the set of Scott Pilgrim, where Dan was working on the score and Winstead was the leading lady, and apparently hit it off enough to want to write a record together under the name Got A Girl. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in High Fidelity, Reviews , ,

Woman’s Hour – Conversations

July 16th, 2014
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The Art of Subtlety

Don’t confuse Woman’s Hour, a four-piece group of Cumbria natives based in London, with the BBC radio program of the same name. While the band might have lifted their moniker from the radio show, the similarities stop there. Though frontwoman and vocalist Fiona Burgess has a background in drama studies, with Woman’s Hour she channels her acting expertise into the band’s music, crafting swooning, often dreamy electropop with hints of New Wave that has earned comparisons to the likes of The xx and Beach House. On Conversations, the band’s debut album out this week on Secretly Canadian, Woman’s Hour invite listeners to sit and stay a while, and listen. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in Reviews

How To Dress Well – “What Is This Heart?”

June 24th, 2014
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Stylish and Suave

How To Dress Well (AKA the sensitive songwriter and philosopher-in-training Tom Krell) poses a question on his third album—he explores a new, tentative reach toward something that sounds suspiciously like happiness, like pop. Leaving behind the ambient, atmospheric electronica of his critically acclaimed sophomore album Total Loss (2012), Krell ventures softly in a different direction. Read more…

By Charlee Redman Posted in High Fidelity, Reviews ,