New Music Reviews: of Montreal and Midwest Hype.

of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks
Released February 7, 2012
Polyvinyl

I never know what to expect with Of Montreal (They are a part of the Animal 6 Collective which includes the Circulatory System, The Olivia Tremor Control, Neutral Milk Hotel, Elf Power, and Apples in Stereo), which is very good thing. They do not disappoint on Paralytic Stalks. This indie pop, rock, funk, psychedelic, and R&B, have got so much going on. I got the genre list from wikipedia by the way. Every track is a pleasant surprise. If I was to best describe Of Montreal’s, it would be a sexier Beatles whom also happened to be stuck in a permanent acid trip. They have that perfect pop sound, not that annoying pop crap that is shoveled down societies throats on the lamestream radio, but that beautiful 60′s pop sound. The music is so catchy without being repetitive in nature. I cannot even describe some of the sounds this band puts out. All I know is if you want your mind blown, give this record a listen.

EM.


Midwest Hype – DayGlow
Released January 5, 2012

Before I popped in the disk to listen to DayGlow by Midwest Hype I was extremely intrigued by the album cover. The most note worthy entity about the disk was the inside cover. It displayed each member of the band and I was in awe of how eclectic the group really was. The seven or so gentlemen each had their own unique style and presence to them both in fashion and posture. Each member had their particular contribution listed below their name and the amount of different instruments incorporated into the collection was astonishing. I was eager to listen to the first track and the sound right off the bat correlated very well to how diverse they appeared. When thinking of how to describe the sound Midwest Hype, I posed to myself the question of “what do they bring to the table?” After some pondering, I came to the conclusion that Midwest Hype is sort of like an aunt of mine that every Thanksgiving brings the same platter, but adds a new twist to it each time. This idea came to fruition even more greatly when I listened to the song entitled “Runaway.” The dynamics of the song greatly resembled an iconic pop tune that I could nostalgically recite in my head over and over, but at the same time was as unique as an ensemble that I had to keep listening. The entire album was well synchronized and truly lived up to its name. Each song has a certain mellowness to it, but is hyped by high pitched instruments and a strong cadence. The combination is very strong and although I do not know exactly what they are bringing to the table I am still for sure looking out for seconds.

KR.

New Music Review: Lights – Siberia

Lights – Siberia
Lights Music/Last Gang Records
Released October 4th, 2011

With the release of Siberia, Lights Valerie Poxleitner known simply by her professional name, Lights, has a second album under her belt. The Canadian musician known for her blend of sugary synthpop and electronica with soft melodic undertones offers this time around a sound that packs more of a punch than her previous album The Listening. Dubstep is a strong influence as heard in her use of heavier beats, yet she manages to not let them overpower and instead (for the most part) seamlessly stitches them along with the backbone of the songs, creating a groove that’s mighty contagious. “Everybody Break a Glass” almost demands for a limb or two to start moving the moment the verses kick in. “Timing is Everything” follows suit and goes down the same infectious route.

“Flux and Flow”, possibly the best track on the whole record, however takes a hairpin turn and boldly dives into a realm that’s gutsier than the artist is recognized for, revealing a more intriguing angle unexpected of the 24 year old. With a youthful girly voice that almost hints toward child-like innocence, hearing a hefty amount of depth than usual behind her vocals makes it clear that Lights has more potential than some might initially think. There are also moments of rhythmic heaviness that creates almost a heady sway, apparent in the 12th track “Fourth Dimension”. Its melody is reminiscent of a lullaby, albeit one with a steady boom of synthesizers in the background. With a musical style that runs the danger of sounding boisterous, it instead becomes channeled into something harmoniously intense, surprisingly enough.

While Lights might consider her simpler approach to writing songs her forte, tracks like “Siberia” and “Peace Sign” fall flat and seem bland in comparison to the songs where she pushes herself both vocally and creatively. It seems that the moments in Siberia that truly shine are the ones where she chooses to step beyond her comfort zone and acknowledges a daring, more innovative side of herself.

-JG.

New Music Review: Bjork – Biophilia

Bjork – Biophilia
Nonesuch Records
Released October 10, 2011

No matter how you look at it, Biophilia is simply a bizarre album, or rather “multi-media project,” if you want to acknowledge it as such. While by Bjork standards a bizarre approach is expected and even welcomed, for a project with such strong conviction to a grandiose concept it seems to be weakest where it matters most; the music. Bjork’s all-important solipsistic nature seems to have diminished and taken with it her distinguished ear and ability to filter her myriad ideas.

The album is centered on scientific concepts and how they can translate into music. While this sounds like a promising focus fertile with potential for out-there sounds, no single track seems to achieve the sense of bio-musical synthesis that Bjork has promised. Rather, they seem to be vehicles for an educational iPad suite teaching things you might find in a high-school physics textbook.

I have to wonder if the four years spent making the record were focused more on the creation of imaginary instruments and the iPad app suite than on actual songwriting. Most of the songs are packed with disparate sounds that never seem to congeal or form a driving rhythm or make a point. Worst of all, the sounds are all damn-near-silent most of the time, leaving only Bjork’s lonely vocals. Loudness isn’t by any means necessary and space can be a great tool for making a musical point, but usually as a means of accentuating the parts where the arrangement is full and moving. The sounds on this record are simply disinterested and lost. Even the few sounds which manage to stick out for brief moments faultily pander to movements already far back in most people’s rear-view mirror, namely dubstep and ‘90s-era-IDM.

Everything seems to be minimal right down to Bjork’s vocals, arguably the most crucial element of her songs. She doesn’t seem engaged or interested in the works, and the playful attitude she brings to her best pieces is altogether absent from the entire record. If she can’t hold our attention, I doubt an instrumental Tesla-coil will, especially if you remove the visual element from the mix.

In short, many of the concepts present in the project as a whole would have been best transcribed into a musical form. It’s a shame the record was envisioned as being ensconced in this multi-media scaffolding from its inception, as this approach seems to have constricted what it can achieve on its own, and at the end of the day I’d wager most people will only know the music exists and wonder what happened upon hearing it.

-RK.