Arctic Monkeys – “AM”


It has been only two years since we saw the release of “Suck it and See,” which demonstrated that Arctic Monkeys are not just some band from Sheffield that can be replicated. Their sound was louder than the indie band from “Favourite Worst Nightmare,” and lacked that Josh Homme vibe from “Humbug” keeping true to themselves but still advancing their music. During last year’s Record Store Day, the band released “R U Mine,” on a purple 7” which showcased the direction that they would take on their next album, “AM.” This album was also recorded in the US which can be seen through the album, as was seen in “Suck it and See.”

Although we said that the Arctic Monkeys “Humbug” was the bands own downfall and it was something that was what made us more excited for “Suck It and See,” it did change the band and their sound allowing them to grow slowly and give us this album.

As unfortunate as it may be to some people there is no equivalency of their first two albums in “AM,” which although a travesty, is something that makes the band grow and not exploit their hits, allowing them to venture into new sounds and work with different bands and producers. With “Suck it and See” being their first album recorded in the US, it opened their style to a more American audience, which is once again reflected here.  This is to say that the band has lost the indie title it once so proudly held and moved on to be undefined, which allows the band to changes it sound as it grows without truly disappointing genre specific audiences.

DrummerTechnically “R U Mine,” was the first unofficial single from their latest album which gave us a louder more grown up version of the boys we knew from “Florescent Adolescent.” The song came out on YouTube February 2012 and was a sample of the new look and attitude of the band. After recording in Sage and Sound Recording Studios in Los Angeles the band entrusted James Ford once again with their fifth full length studio album adding to the list of variety in their sound.

It can be seen in “Arabella” which starts of a bit mystifying with soft vocal by Alex Turner and a calm vibe that builds perfectly with the perfect amount of guitar and rock in the chorus, not deviating from the atmosphere created by the verses with lines such as “And when she needs to shelter from reality she takes a dip in my daydreams.”  Although these lyrics are endearing and powerful, there is usually a track from the band that is psychedelic and surreal, which is fulfilled by every other line of this song.

This time the band added the simplistic rock elements and exploited them while adding Turner’s vocals to make a perfect rhythm track which was the first official single from the album “Do I Wanna Know?”  The simple drum beat and guitar creates the perfect emersion which is only complimented by lyrics that enhance the simplistic plucking of the bass through the verse, “Been wondering if your hearts still open and if so I want to know what time it shuts.” This track is sexual seduction, a gritty old school sound with the ambiguity of lust and frustration which is why the tempo is structured starting calm and ending intensely and suddenly.

Arctic MonkeysThere are still a few more traces of “Humbug,” in the album with more melancholy tracks such as “I Wanna Be Yours,” that is soothing, giving the right backup vocals matching the rhythm of Turner’s voice while still holding a bit of an old school rock with it being one of the more moderately calm tracks in the album as well as in the bands discography. The synth gives the track a great touch with the guitar still remaining true to the sounds of Arctic Monkeys. This can also be seen on the track, “One for the Road,” which is the perfect combination of a verse that sounds a bit dark and has the classic build up instrumentally to end the song suddenly claiming that, “The mixture hits you hard. Don’t get that sinking feeling, don’t fall apart”

After having toured with The Black Keys for a few months there are a few influences of the guitar Dan Auerbach offers in this album. “Knee Socks,” if heard only instrumentally is almost identical to the style of The Black Keys with the guitar and drums resembling a bit of the track, “Sister.” Although it does have that style, there are still element which make it an Arctic Monkeys track such as the backing vocals and reverb that makes the track a bit different, but only slightly as to avoid duplication of an already popular band.

Humbug“Mad Sounds,” also has The Black Keys synth in the background but still holding a west coast vibe to it and lyrically a track from “Humbug,” saying, “Love buckles under the strain of those wild nights.” Contrary to this, we have “No. 1 Party Anthem,” which is a memory of the soundtrack Alex Turner did for the film Submarine or and equivalence to “Love is a Lazerquest,” from “Suck it and See.”

“Why’d You Only Call Me When Your High?” is a track that sounds and has a different style than when they started, but lyrically it could have been on their first album giving explicit detail about certain events such as in, “Still Take You Home,” and “From the Ritz to the Rubble.”

Although they do not return to their original sound, the band does have a few English sounding tracks such as, “Snap Out Of It,” which is a reminder of Babyshambles (Pete Doherty), Beady Eye, or Miles Kane. “Fireside,” is a long lost brother of a track from The Last Shadow Puppets (Miles Kane, Alex Turner, and James Ford), which is a bit surprising to see it take this many years to see that project influence the band. It has an orchestral piece in it that was arranged perfectly with the band, reenacting the musical composition that Turner and Ford had before working with Arctic Monkeys.

Now that the band has taken its self from a specific genre and style, it is finally able to bring in influences from their experiences over the past years, finally giving the flexibility they needed to evolve.

“I don’t think we have any worries you know about people staying with us as we sort of evolve. I don’t think anyone wants us to continue or return to the approach we had seven years ago or whatever,” Alex Turner told NME and we cannot agree more.

 

Ice On The Dune – Empire of the Sun


Empire of the Sun - Ice on the Dune

Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune

Lux is the opening track from the album taking the listener to a place of enchantment. It sounds similar to the score of a modern fairy tale with our heroes, Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore (members of Empire of the Sun) venture off from a five year resting period to bring us this new album “Ice on the Dune.” This goes immediately to a synth pop danceable track entitled DNA which has the funky guitar that Daft Punk made popular earlier this year but also still keeping true to their original sound.  It is a bit of a reminder of how this music did not really exist upon the release of their first album, “Walking on a Dream” in 2008.

Empire of the Sun - Alive

Empire of the Sun – Alive

Since then many artist have come out with the majority of them boasting about the use of the sounds that Empire of the Sun helped make popular during the time of their appearance on the scene. They stayed relevant up until 2011 in which a wave of their music hit the American and UK shores causing a festival tour during that year. The evolution of their sound can be heard in Alive, the first single by the Australian Duo which has a backing choir and lyrics which contain the basic anthem for any club hit, “Loving every minute because you make me feel so alive.”

Concert Pitch is heavy 80’s based synth with the vocal resembling a new use of Steele’s voice, which is deeper and reminds people of Eurhythmics meets Bowie only to have a modern chorus that gives the audience a glimpse into the prom scene of any John Hughes movie.

Ice On The Dune adds a bit more of a personality to the album showcasing it again as one of the tracks to differ itself from Walking on a Dream. Although there are a few similarities, the vocals are perfectly in tuned to the track which itself represents the essence of the band, which is a fun addicting beat.

As the album progresses the songs slow down a bit as is in the case of Awakening and I’ll Be Around, with Awakening playing a bit with the synth giving once again that early Daft Punk feel. I’ll Be Around is simply another love song that you would expect to sound as it does coming from this group. The lyrics though are like the majority of the other tracks, lacking any true meaning that is lost in the essences of the track and just burst out during certain parts in the song.

The pacing picks up again with Old Favours, which starts off with a snare drum and a synth that then escalate like modern day dance tracks to the actual beat of the entire song. This time the track is a bit more disco oriented having hazy lyrics but keeping a danceable beat that although not that original is great and brings together many components such as a small interlude and another build in the middle.

Celebrate brings down the snare drum and gives more of a “Justice” feel to the album. Although there are many critiques about auto-tune in the industry, in this track it sounds perfect through the verses keeping in track with the futuristic voyage that the band is trying to portray in the album. Once again like in Alive, they lyrics are a bit abstract and the only ones which can be thoroughly made out are that saying, “We celebrate our love.”

Luke Steele

Luke Steele

Surround Sound is the only track that seems out of place in this album having vocals that range from deep to being too high in the same verse along with a chorus that is not that listener friendly in the sense that the vocals are hazy in a way which does not fit the song properly.

Disarm sounds like a track that has been heard before by artists like once again Daft Punk and Toro Y Moi, having a small twist in the vocals of course.

The album ends with the most melancholy track entitled Keep A Watch with is a reminder of once again an 80’s track which at first sounds like a standard love track but then loses it when the same phrase is repeated too many times, “I will keep on watching over you.” It is a bit of a reminder of Beach House and a bit of the new Cat Power.

Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun

Overall the album keeps true to the duo and is a great album in itself. Although they have been touring for a number of years, this album does not live up to what was expected after the number of years the band had not released any new material. There was a higher expectation perhaps because of the high anticipation built up by the teasers of this album, or just due to the new sounds at the time of “Walking on a Dream.” With that being said, the track offers more than just the dance pop that was expected, and is a must have to those who enjoy the synth based bands. It combines good times and also has that smooth vibe at times that cannot be replicated by any other band.

The xx – “Coexist”


The xx have returned from two years of having released anything to deliver to us another astounding and exhilarating album. There are many bands out there who have tried to call themselves multi-genre based but in the end fall short. This band has blurred the lines of genres and of lead vocals to the extent that their classification in the music world does not currently fit them. “Coexist,” was released this past Tuesday in the US, which is the follow up to the band’s debut album, “xx.”

The album was release days before the official US release and was given to a single fan. The stream was then recorded on the map of the world. The one fan held onto the album for a bit more than an hour before he streamed it to the rest of the world via Facebook. From then on the arrays and lights of cities across the world began to light up as the stream was followed. The reason why this album has exceeded the debut of The xx debut album is because of the virility of it as well as the imminent near perfection of the album.

“Angels,” is the opening track of the album, which was the first single released via YouTube a few weeks ago. It is an expression of love and very positive lyrically, which is a reminder of their first hit, ‘Stars.”

Although fans hear the band straying from their natural depressing and haunting sounds and reverbs with the opening track, they return to their element with “Chained,” as the lyrics says Did I hold you too tight? Did I not let enough light in?” This is the xx we remember and the one which plays through on this album.

“Tides,” is a track which embeds its self in a more alternative genre such as, “Massive Attack,” mixed with any indie bands guitar and vocals that show the perfect blend between male and female. It begins with Madley and Smith two voices fused together until a bass drops in and a guitar with a bass drum take the track to the dark corner of relationships saying, “You leave with the tide, and I can’t stop you leaving.”

They have steered clear from their more pop-based tracks which consist of the hook and catch chorus such as, “Crystalized” and created a surreal and haunting experience with tracks such as, “Missing.”  Although the instruments make the feeling more ghastly, the lyrics add more profoundness to the tracks making them excel in immersion of the listeners. In “Sunset,” the lyrics are a deep saying, “It felt like you really knew me, now it feels like you see through me.”

Even though we still hold the group up to grimy tales of heartbreak and sadness, there are track which are the perfect evolution of the band.  Jamie Smith told SPIN Magazine, “I think ‘Swept Away’ is the one that could be played out in a club.” The track its self-starts off sounding like any other track from the band, but then with a catchy guitar riff and an electronic drum kit, it turns into a house track. The synthesizer does not play a large part of the track in comparison to the piano, making this track technoish to an extent.  This is also heard in “Reunion,” in which the track starts off with vocals and a synthesizer that create an astounding build that pushes the listener to a house track after the echoing vocals switch between Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Smith.  “I think it’s the only track on the album where we recorded just the bass and guitar and a demo of the vocals first,” told Smith to SPIN Magazine.

The album is haunting, moving, depressing and joyful all at once. You could call it a happy depression which embeds its self to listener. Last year the album to have this response with its uncanny use of instruments was, “James Blake.” This year though, this bands mix of instruments and genres make this the most profound album thus far of the year. Although there is much more to the album than depth, it is the main drive to the sadness that engulfs the listener and at the same times makes the dance beats to move to the anxious human emotion of joy. “Coexists,” is a unique masterpiece which although is not perfect, its tiny flaws make it that much more of a real album, not just a studio and exemplarily produced album, but a symbol that there is real music left in the world.

 

Two Door Cinema Club – “Beacon”


You may remember Two Door Cinema Club for their catchy track which finally hit the airwaves across the UK with “Something Good Can Work,” from their first album, “Tourist History.” Now with “Beacon,” they have given the audience something stellar.

This band has grown from being a small indie band from Ireland with their first major American gig opening for Phoenix back in 2010 to now being in the bigger stages across European festivals from Glastonbury, Leeds, Reading, to Isle of Wright. Two Door Cinema Club has stopped by Houston already three times, each at a different venue: Opening for Phoenix at Bayou Music Center (Verizon Theatre), Studio at Warehouse Live, and most recently at this year’s Free Press Summer Fest where the band announced, “Here are a few songs from our new album.”  Now, with the songs available in their studio versions there is much to discuss about their album.

The majority of the album introduces new instruments to their tracks from string to air instruments to an emphasis on the synthesizer. This is a clear example in, “Next Year,” which opens with a synthesizer lyrically talking about the constant touring of the band.  In the following track, “Handshake,” the synthesizer not only opens the track but assists the rhythm guitar to have them work in unison as to add to the pulsating dance beat sounding similar to something by “Yeah Yeah Yeahs”. The album itself also incorporates a more disco styled synthesizer that is common now by “M83” and “Sigur Ros.”

Not all of the experimentation by the band worked for the better of the album such as in the case of the song, “Sun,” whose mundane and horrifically simplistic tone. The part which does make this track belong to this album is the stylish riffing which is a new feature done by the band on a number of tracks on the album, but falls short to a bare minimum in comparison to the remainder or “Beacon.”

Throughout the album the riffing of the guitar plays its role as in the case of the track, “Wake Up.” The song is already a catchy dance track which is only amplified towards the end with the rocking and foot-tapping guitar riffs. The shredding of the guitar at the end of the track makes it an astonishing ending which fits this new style of the band.

Although the band is growing and their sound is shifting and molding from their more “novice” tracks, there are still tracks on here which remind fans why they fell in love with the band such as the single of this album “Sleep Alone.” The snare and guitar are nearly fused together and cooperate to only bring out the vocals during the chorus and creating the sound we are accustomed to by the band and ending with a choir in the background. This track is the catchiest and holds a chorus which fans will most likely scream during a show from the band.

Also, “The World Is Watching,” could be considered this albums version of a more mature, “What You Know.” The scheme of the song is the same as their hit but only holds a more profound tone which gives off a vibe that is more tranquil. It also has a synthesizer in it which makes the track more dance-driven at times but still holds its eloquence. The style of the track is a reminder of other indie bands such as Young the Giant, Foals, and Givers but still the band holds their own and distinguishes its self by having a choir singing, “I want you with me,” being the love song of the album.

Although there are songs which are reminiscent of “Tourist History,” this is a completely different album which demonstrates that they are no longer just a bunch of kids making music. They have grown and their popularity has assisted them in making these tracks what they are now. This album is a must have for fans of the band and even for new listeners, not because of the difference between their earlier work, but because of the distinguished sound of the band. If you are unable to go see them at Austin City Limits on Sunday October 14th, then catch the band at House of Blues on October 12th.

 

It Sounds Better Live


Although some of you following already know this, I thought it best to promote the musical material I present in another medium. I do blogs and keep up to date with Facebook  but maybe I would get more attention and a following if I did a video. Here is the general idea of it and will add others as the days go on. Let me know what you think: