Posts tagged: Florence and the Machine

The Jezabels – Trycolour

By , April 23, 2012 10:00 am

Rough sledding the next couple weeks with finals (saying goodbye to my first year of law school can’t come soon enough), and a couple more reviews in the pipeline (and, hopefully, a Coachella overview). Australian buzz band the Jezabels have been on the verge of breaking through for the past year or so, with their debut LP Prisoner having been released on those shores this past September (and becoming one of my favorite albums of 2011), but it just got an American release at the beginning of April. It’s sweeping, anthemic indie rock, with shimmering guitars and stadium-worthy acoustics the order of the day (think Arcade Fire). But the standout is Hayley Mary, whose throaty vocals are the engine that keeps everything moving forward (think Florence Welch or Kate Bush).

The Jezabels – “Trycolour”

List Price: $12.98 USD
New From: $8.07 In Stock
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Release date April 3, 2012.

Best of 2011

By , December 28, 2011 10:00 am

25. Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

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Trevor Powers’ music makes me feel a lot of things I just can’t put my finger on. When I first heard it, the walls of reverb and slow burning melodies seemed tailor-made to lull me to sleep. Like the best dream-pop records, though, it kept bringing me back, searching for the power in these seemingly nonchalant, mumbled lyrics and those chords that surge upwards, eternally hopeful. It’s more of a feeling than anything I can write down, though, the kind of satisfaction you get from waking up from a really good dream that you just can’t remember the details of. Dream music, that sounds about right.

24. White Denim – D

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If this is what jam bands do nowadays, I need to start growing my mustache out and cultivate a stash of patchouli, because this is the kind of 21st-century music that you air-guitar along to. I don’t know what front man James Petralli is mumbling on about half the time, but that’s hardly the point – when they’re infusing psychedelic rock with prog and jazz and a healthy dose of innovative looping techniques, you’ll be plenty focused on just trying to keep up.

23. Bibio – Mind Bokeh

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A “bokeh” is literally the photographic image of a blur, or any out-of-focus area on an image. For much of Mind Bokeh, Stephen Wilkinson refuses to clarify things. It’s typical of Wilkinson’s career that he can never really seem to stay in one place, yet Mind Bokeh never suffers from a lack of focus. It’s loose and relaxed in an after party sort of way, content to drift along in a haze of summer sounds and washed out sonic photographs that coalesce wonderfully into closer “Saint Christopher.” It’s the track that most symbolizes the aesthetic of the record, continually diverging loops and cracked samples weaving back and forth, seemingly disparate, until Wilkinson ties it all together near the end. Yes, he really does know what he’s doing.

22. Feist – Metals

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Oftentimes when artists feel commercial success is threatening their artistic credibility, they may record a follow-up that often has the simultaneous goal of “getting back to my roots” and “alienating all the posers who liked me because of that iPod commercial.” I’m not entirely convinced that this wasn’t Leslie Feist’s whole goal with Metals, an album that has a bleak, unwelcoming landscape as its cover and no candidates to conveniently slide in next to “1234” at the Starbucks rack. Yet by refusing to kowtow to the single-oriented modern market and soaking all of Metals in a morose sheen of understated production, Feist has turned the spotlight back on what always made her a great artist to begin with: her songwriting.

21. Bright Eyes – The People’s Key

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I may be one of the few people who hasn’t correlated Conor Oberst’s continued growth in the studio with his decline as a songwriter. Just because he prefers an array of electric guitars and an army of multi-tracked studio tricks at his back to an acoustic guitar has never lessened the impact of his words for me, and the hooks –  “Shell Games” might be the best single he’s ever penned. “Ladder Song,” meanwhile, quickly dispelled any fear I might have had of Oberst losing his intimacy.

20. The Kills – Blood Pressures

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The Kills put on one of the most distinctive performances I’d seen all year at Coachella this past April. Stark black-and-white stage lighting, and then Jamie Hince strolls onstage strumming that wicked, chugging riff to “No Wow,” and then Alison Mosshart’s voice, practically dripping with sex, enters stage left. The drums kick in, that riff turns threatening, and Mosshart’s voice leaps out across yards of grass with shit-kicking authority. These two make a hell of a lot of noise, and there’s no subtlety here – “you can fuck like a broken sail,” Mosshart sings with an edge, and that’s all you really need to know about the Kills. It’s primal, red-blooded rock ‘n roll, and it makes you want to sleep with Mosshart except for the fact that now you’re afraid she’s going to rip something necessary off of you.

19. Cults – Cults

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I’m a sucker for twee, and this checks all the boxes off nicely: summer love lyrics, boy-girl harmonies, hooks that don’t quit and don’t overextend their welcome, either. Cults is short and to the point – when I saw the band live, they closed by saying: “This is our last song. We don’t do that encore bullshit. Good night.” It’s debatable whether this occurred due to a genuine dislike of encores or a dearth of material, but regardless it won me over. Encores suck; two-minute pop songs rule.

18. Beirut – The Rip Tide

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The best word I can come up with to describe The Rip Tide is “stately,” which is odd because I’ve always thought as Beirut as sort of a spontaneous project. Yet “A Candle’s Fire” sets out The Rip Tide’s style quite well – horns and martial drums surrounding Zach Condon’s deliberate vocals, with a clear progression and narrative arc. The Rip Tide may be Beirut’s most structured record, but that’s all to its benefit. Giving himself only nine songs to work was a calculated move on Condon’s part, and it works because all nine are tight, focused and arguably the most relatable of any in his career. This is a record that doesn’t need a fancy backstory or foreign tones – just Condon and his ability to weave an interesting tale.

17. The Horrors – Skying

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Ditching the monochromatic cover of Primary Colours for the hazy water landscape on the front of Skying was the best thing the Horrors ever did. I was never a huge fan of their Bauhaus image and My-Bloody-Valentine-meets-Ian-Curtis shtick, but Skying takes all that and adds in a healthy dose of watercolors. The guitar tone on this album is something Kevin Shields would be proud of, but it’s their focus on thick, drug-friendly grooves and a heavy dose of trippy atmospherics that make this a new shoegaze classic.

16. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital

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Music for the Soviet factory worker in all of us. Dan Boeckner has made some stellar music in Wolf Parade, but Sound Kapital is his most fully realized statement, and the fact that he does it not with his trademark guitar wizardry but with vintage keyboards makes it all the more surprising. The entire record reeks of an Eastern European industrial club scene and the heavy, analog atmosphere of the Communist bloc weighs down on every populist lyric and old school synth tone. It’s a rewarding turn for the punk-minded Boeckner and one that lessens the blow of Wolf Parade’s indefinite hiatus ever so slightly.

15. Mister Heavenly – Out of Love

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Making up a genre and having Michael Cera go on tour with you as a bassist is a surefire way to get people to dismiss your new band, yet I was shocked to find that Mister Heavenly wasn’t just another Nick Thorburn vanity project. Out of Love succeeds because it’s not just Thorburn (who will have released three albums in a year once Islands’ new record drops) and some schmoes. It’s Ryan Kattner’s (Man Man) hoarse howl contrasting perfectly with Thorburn’s nasal whine on back-and-forth exchanges like “I Am A Hologram.” It’s Joe Plummer’s (Modest Mouse, the Shins) rock-solid rhythm work charging out of the gate like a pissed off Spoon on “Bronx Sniper.” Thorburn’s surf riffs and Kattner’s barroom piano chords call to mind music of a different era, but it’s decidedly ambiguous: when Thorburn wails, “so, you think I could ever hurt you, how? / Now, I’m gonna hold you close” on “Harm You,” it’s more Ted Bundy than Brill Building happiness. But the best part about Out of Love is that we might have the makings of an actual band on our hands than a one-off Pitchfork article.

14. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

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It’s been said before, but it bears repeating: Christopher Owens, a genuinely fucked up individual by all accounts, writes some truly terrific pop music. People who dismiss Father, Son, Holy Ghost as a mere pastiche are doing themselves a disservice – Owens is the best young pop classicist in the business right now. What really sets him apart from his peers, though, is his totally guileless enthusiasm. He’s the type of front man who can give out a little yelp as the guitar buzzes back in on “Honey Bunny” and make it sound totally authentic, totally right. Which, incidentally, is how the rest of the record sounds. Combine that sincerity with the kind of ambitious song structures Owens has flawlessly constructed here, and maybe those Brian Wilson comparisons aren’t so far off now.

13. Eisley – The Valley

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Eisley’s third album paints in broad, brash strokes, leaving subtlety weeping somewhere in a Christian coffee house. If the album title didn’t tip you off, stormy first single “Smarter” certainly will. Look at these song titles, ranging from the vindictive to the obvious – “Watch It Die,” “Better Love,” “Ambulance,” “Sad.” So things are a bit dark for the DuPree family, but as it so often works out for artists in the doldrums, it’s we the audience who wins. Eminently accessible and ripe with a melodic confidence that can only come with experience, The Valley tackles real world angst with a hook-centric precision and a weariness that Eisley never could have pulled off on their cutesy earlier work.

12. Swarms – Old Raves End

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Or, how I learned to stop worrying and listen to dubstep that didn’t predicate itself on the filthiest womps. I like that title – those mixed feelings in the hours after a rave, still buzzed and hopelessly content but also on edge after hours of partying, the mind skittering around nervously, and Old Raves End is just the kind of music to ease one after such a night. It’s after party music for those that don’t want the party to end, and in its minimal, bass-heavy tones and slithery electronic gurgling it showed me a new world of dubstep I had previously dismissed. I haven’t properly raved in a while, but Old Raves End still has a place in my heart, that consolation when I get to the end of my rope and just need something to immerse myself in. And unlike those old raves, which became increasingly more repetitive and fake, Swarms only continued to get better, every single time.

11. Manchester Orchestra – Simple Math

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I think Manchester Orchestra made a mistake when they made “Simple Math” the first single. It was too big, too epic, and most importantly, too damn good to overcome. I still slot it behind “I Can Feel A Hot One” as their best, but making “Simple Math” the first taste of Simple Math could only cause the rest of the record to pale in comparison. Releasing “Virgin,” a song that, frankly, tried too hard, as the third single only made the disparity more glaring. Yet Simple Math is still the band’s most focused collection, tightening the screws on their fine tuned mastery of pop hooks and featuring a more fearless, adroit songwriter and vocalist in Andy Hull. He might occasionally get carried away with the group’s growing faculty in the recording studio, but it’s that kind of bold attitude that makes Manchester Orchestra one of the more exciting acts in recent years, not to mention one that would be a welcome boon to dusty rock radio.

10. Givers – In Light

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It’s rare for a band to sound so fully formed on their debut as Givers do on In Light. Keyboards, flutes, saxophones, even ukuleles abound in an indie pop stew defined by the dueling vocals of Taylor Guarisco and Tiffany Lamson. It would be disingenuous to call this world music – Givers is firmly rooted in the pop tradition of contemporaries Vampire Weekend and Local Natives, with the saccharine boy-girl motif of Mates of State thrown in for good measure. But like those bands, there’s a liberal dose of world music sprinkled in; members of the band were active members in Louisiana’s Cajun and zydeco music communities, and listening to In Light is like playing a very entertaining game of Where’s Waldo, Genre Edition. There’s the afro-pop beat on “Meantime” and the island vibe of “Ceiling of Plankton” amidst many other creative pastiches, yet the band still maintain their own identity throughout it all, largely thanks to Lamson’s velvety croon and Guarisco’s more easily agitated yelp. Even if Givers fails to live up to the promise inherent here, I will be perfectly content with just listening to In Light over and over again.

9. The Dear Hunter – The Color Spectrum

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The Color Spectrum is such a ridiculously outsized (and probably unnecessary) achievement, that it’s difficult to analyze it as an album or anything that cohesive, although the gimmick of matching up colors with styles should be applauded, even if some of them don’t always work out. I was never really partial to Black, and Red comes off as a Manchester Orchestra imitation EP, but when Casey Crescenzo really branches out it’s eye opening. The sequence from Yellow to Green to Blue and finally to Indigo, that rollercoaster through indie pop and alt country and folk and the wide open spaces of Blue and Indigo, is an actual aural adventure. I love how Violet sounds like old Dear Hunter except, inexplicably, ten times better, and how White effortlessly summarizes everything with a theatrical flourish. The biggest accomplishment, though, is the final result itself – for a project that seemed doomed to collapse under the weight of its own ambition, that The Color Spectrum is a viable album of the year candidate is nothing short of astonishing.

8. Destroyer – Kaputt

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At a New Pornographers show last year I distinctly remember being taken aback my Dan Bejar. Dude just did not give a fuck. He read his lyrics from a torn notebook page, played with his back to the audience, and generally mumbled about like a drunkard. At one point he laid on his back facing the back of the stage while singing “If You Can’t See My Mirrors.” It’s always been that kind of attitude that’s attracted me to Bejar’s songs – often nonsensical, always interesting – and Kaputt is no different. “Just set the loop and go wild,” Bejar intones at the end of “Savage Night at the Opera,” and that’s what Kaputt is, really. The loop, of course, being a strangely sensuous, definitely deviant version of ‘80s pop and acid jazz with a healthy dose of Kenny G saxophone and a strong undertone of lonely, meaningless sex. The music, for all its flourishes, combines to create a strikingly meditative atmosphere, and that allows one to focus on the feelings Kaputt engenders upon repeated listens, feelings of marginalization and defeat that are as good a touchstone for Bejar and his faithful listeners in the 21st century as any. “New York City just wants to see you naked / and they will,” Bejar sings, and this is his message in a bottle, a warm and welcoming array of vintage sounds hiding a very bitter and desperate soul on the inside.

7. The Jezabels – Prisoner

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The Jezabels came to me out of nowhere, fully formed and ripping my speakers a new one with the gothic organs of “Prisoner” and the resulting cascade of drums. I had never heard their previous EPs and only knew them as “that Australian band with a chick singer,” a description that, while apt, was not particularly informative. It’s so easy to tag on a lazy analogy with the help of the Internet nowadays – “the Jezabels’ adventurous song structures and innovative drumming call to mind the similarly hyped Parades,” or “vocalist Hayley Mary’s powerful pipes and dramatic style resemble a Florence Welch or a Kate Bush with a more tenebrous tone.” Really, though, Prisoner creates its own vibrant universe distinct from genre tags and simple comparisons, and the one-two combo of the dark title track and the more buoyant “Endless Summer” pushes you in and leaves you there enraptured. The Jezabels are an Epic Rock Band, one content to explore melodies for well over five minutes on a regular basis, an attitude consistent with their defiantly DIY ethos. For a self-released record, Prisoner sounds practically flawless, all cavernous reverb, stadium ready drums, fuzzy guitar lines and, of course, Hayley Mary, who oscillates between a pissed-off Tori Amos to a more versatile Dolores O’Riordan and everything in between with the ease of a veteran. There are no gimmicks here, and Prisoner stands on its own as a complete, full-bodied album, a welcome surprise in an era where so many bands can get by on the strength of one unusually brilliant song. Prisoner is not a singular event – this kind of dynamic, consistent effort speaks to meticulous preparation and a painstaking diligence that will get this band far. “Watch it grow,” Mary sings at the close of the album, and damn, that’s going to be such a pleasure in the years to come.

6. The Antlers – Burst Apart

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At this point, everyone knows the story behind Antlers, who finally made it (indie) big in 2009 on the strength of a crushingly intimate record about an emotionally destructive relationship. It’s a narrative that has colored everything they’ve done since then, and nothing has been overshadowed by it more than Burst Apart. Peter Silberman stated in an interview, “you can put [Burst Apart] on and not feel like it had to be a severe emotional experience.” For many, this directly defeated everything that appealed to them about the Antlers. Those people missed out on one of the great records of 2011, a record that finally showcases the talents of the band the Antlers and not just the lyrical prowess (still quite strong, I might add) of Peter Silberman fronting some other guys playing instruments. Where it was Silberman’s wispy falsetto that carried all the emotional weight on Hospice, here it’s the group, exploring a variety of textures and celebrating singledom with major-key chords on opener “I Don’t Want Love.” Maybe Silberman needed to get all of that poison out of him on Hospice to make the best record of his career, because make no mistake – Burst Apart is that record, and a strong harbinger of what’s to come if the Antlers can keep evolving like this.

5. The Dodos – No Color

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No Color is so obviously a reaction to the tepid response to Time To Die that it’s easy to dismiss this record as simply the Dodos remaking Visiter and hoping nobody notices. They got rid of that extraneous third member and the superstar producer and got back to the basics, namely Meric Long’s slithery folk and Logan Kroeber’s walloping drums. But this isn’t Visiter, Redux. The songwriting is noticeably tighter, the pop lessons they learned from Phil Ek having been comfortably merged with the pair’s inherently messy folk style resulting in the most fluid songwriting of the band’s career. When there’s a flourish, like Neko Case’s guest spot on album centerpiece “Don’t Try and Hide It,” it’s seamless and natural, not calling attention to itself but instead highlighting the muscular melody at the heart of the song. Whereas Visiter seemed more like a scattershot compilation, No Color works as a coherent album, one where it would be impossible to sever any one song from another without helplessly ruining the entire concept. It’s difficult for a band to extricate itself from a style as distinct and successful as the one they trademarked on Visiter, and the Dodos don’t even try – instead, they merely set about to perfect their craft.

4. The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

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“I’ve been ramblin’, I’m just driftin’,” Adam Granduciel sings on “Come To The City,” and that’s just what Slave Ambient invites us to do – sink in and drift along. That cover is more telling than I initially thought, an ECG of color against a cloudy background, a nice little visual of just how the War on Drugs see themselves, an image hazy through all the feedback. 2010’s Future Weather EP was okay, but meandered rather than surged forward, lost in Adam Granduciel’s smoky tenor and half-baked songs. Slave Ambient has no such qualms. “Best Night” roars out of the gate drenched in waves of reverb and the classiest of classic rock riffs, Granduciel doing his best Bob Dylan (surprise! He sounds like Bob Dylan) impression, and from there it’s an unvarnished look back through rock’s heyday as seen through a psychedelic soup. Old tracks like “Brothers” have had a fresh coat of treble fuzz applied and sound better than ever, while new ones like “Your Love Is Calling My Name” rip through the foggy production with Tom Petty-sized riffs and a rock tradition indebted to the American heartland. The guitars here don’t so much punch and kick as they do claw and scratch through the finely crafted layers of noise that drift from track to track. The overriding sensation is of being carried along, with the occasional signpost (Springsteen and Spiritualized come to mind), but mostly just you and the Ginsburg-esque mumblings of Granduciel escorting you through an abstract, stoned treatise of Americana. It’s wonderful to let go.

3. Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials

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The underrated part of Florence Welch’s success is not her set of pipes or her carefully crafted romantic image but rather her unique take on the pop arrangement. “What The Water Gave Me” is unlike any other pop song on the radio today, and frankly I doubt any other artist could pull it off. It’s the perfect mix between the progressive and the mainstream that characterizes the best of Welch’s work, that delicate interplay between oppressive goth and stadium-ready popular vocals, all coalescing into the quintessential Florence and the Machine song. It’s weird yet strangely accessible, name checking Greek mythology and playing up some heavy imagery into a pop single that appeals to the same people who buy Adele tickets and get in line for the latest Twilight movie. In essence, it’s the perfect example of just what makes Florence and the Machine such a unique success. It was so easy to dismiss Lungs as a one-off phenomenon, the perfect storm of that one-of-a-kind voice and that retro Kate Bush/prog feel, all buffeted by the mainstream press generated from “Dog Days Are Over.” Ceremonials, with its thrilling sense of continuity and the remarkable growth of Ms. Welch as a songwriter, forces us to change our perceptions: Florence Welch is the phenomenon, and we should all settle in for the long haul.

2. Wilco – The Whole Love

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Finally, the definitive proof that Jeff Tweedy has just been fucking with us for the past several years. There seemed to be a malaise on post-A Ghost is Born material, one where Nels Cline seemed awkwardly out of place and Tweedy preferred to record easy listening duets with Feist than write anything of substance. That’s thankfully not the case here. Cline feels more a part of the band than ever before, and it’s hard to imagine a song like “Art of Almost” being quite so good without the ragged noise freakout he slices in at the outro. This is a band that isn’t afraid to travel the stylistic map, something that has been largely absent since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, and it’s part of what makes this a genuine Wilco album and not a dad-rock imitation that has been the band’s ball and chain the past few years. A trippy Beatles-esque ballad coexists nicely with a full-fledged rocker like “Dawned On Me,” which slides in right before the dusty, vaguely threatening folk of “Black Moon.” Wilco haven’t felt this alive in years – even an ostensible throwaway like the vaudevillian “Capitol City” has a heart and soul to it that’s been absent from a Wilco record in recent years. All this isn’t even mentioning a song that would have made this the best Wilco album in years if every other track had been utter tripe. “One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)” is the kind of song that most Americana bands will never write over the course of their entire careers – by my count, this is the fourth or fifth masterpiece Wilco have penned, and it might be the best when all is said and done. With just “One Sunday Morning,” Wilco would have had a firm place back in my heart. With The Whole Love, they’ve recaptured their spot at the top of the American rock heap.

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

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I think I will look back at 2011 and its defining sound will be that instantly recognizable opening synth riff to “Midnight City.” The way it keeps declaring in bright neon lights that the ‘80s never left, they just percolated in the mind of one Anthony Gonzalez before he unleashed a whole storm of nostalgia and good vibes on us. “Waiting in the car / waiting for the right time,” Gonzalez wails, and obviously that right time is when that sexy saxophone solo lets itself go, without mercy and without any sense of proper decorum. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming has never heard of the word irony – this is Gonzalez’s love letter to the music of his youth, and its sincerity and colossal scope are something to be admired. Gonzalez isn’t interested in creating or following a scene, or catering his music to the tastemakers – he’s interested in appealing to your most basic emotions, and not just talking about it – shouting them from the tallest buildings, preferably with a choir of angels and a billion sonic rainbows. Like Dan Bejar this year, he uses the oft-disparaged palette of the ‘80s to do so. Unlike Bejar, who makes me feel like I’ve done too much cocaine in a Miami strip club, Gonzalez is all wide-eyed optimism and spotless nostalgia, the world seen through the eyes of the Breakfast Club. Could any other artist write a song like “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” and sound so damn earnest about it, like he honestly believes that the power of love and an army of sparkling synths will create “the biggest group of friends the world has ever seen / jumping and laughing forever?” That’s why he has a child saying it, of course – even Gonzalez knows that’s pure wishful thinking in 2011. But that’s why I love Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming so much – Gonzalez has made a record where that ideal is a possibility, if only for twenty-two cinematic, immersive tracks. Gonzalez might be a dreamer, but he’s made one out of all of us.

Florence and the Machine – Breaking Down

By , November 23, 2011 10:00 am

Still one of my favorite records of the year, Florence and the Machine’s Ceremonials still bites a month after its release. I currently have it at #3 on the year (behind M83 and Wilco), and each song continues to jump out at and surprise me. “Breaking Down” is another highlight, making liberal use of strings and a lovely chord progression in the chorus that sticks in your head. Can’t wait to see the tour for this.

Florence and the Machine – “Breaking Down”

Florence and the Machine – Lover To Lover

By , October 27, 2011 10:00 am

Florence and the Machine’s long awaited followup to 2009′s superb debut Lungs leaked online last week, and early reviews have been stellar. I haven’t had time to really get down and dirty with Ms. Welch yet, but from my cursory time with it Celebrations is just what I want from a Florence and the Machine sophomore record. The focus is still on Ms. Welch’s lovely, ethereal vocals, but the group’s penchant for complicated arrangements and truly epic sounding songs hasn’t weakened one bit. “Lover To Lover” is a bluesier number, with a prominent piano part and the kind of singalong chorus Florence has been making in her sleep.

Florence and the Machine – “Lover To Lover”

Florence and the Machine – What the Water Gave Me

By , August 30, 2011 10:00 am

Nice to see that fame hasn’t gotten to Florence Welch’s head  - teaser single “What the Water Gave Me” would have stood out nicely on superb debut Lungs, meaning I’m more than just a little excited at the prospect of her second album. The as-yet-unnamed sophomore record is due out November 7. Can’t wait to hear The Voice again in concert

Programming note: law school is probably going to have some effect on my daily postings, but I’ll try to be as regular as my commitments can make me. It also gives me less time to keep up to date on everything new and improved out there, so as always I welcome e-mails and submissions. Thanks for sticking with us!

Florence and the Machine – “What the Water Gave Me”

Morning Parade – A&E

By , February 9, 2011 12:00 pm

It’s next to impossible to sift through the constant wave of British bands being heralded as the “next big thing,” particularly with hype-mags like NME and loads of other newspapers relentlessly pushing “Artists to Watch” lists around the turning point of each year. Morning Parade, however, have been rising ever so slightly from the pack these past few months, garnering praise from the likes of Florence and the Machine and Ash and currently on tour in the U.K. in support of their upcoming album. Single “A&E” officially drops Feb. 28th, and it’s an enticing mix of Britpop and stadium-sized hooks with a hint of electronic groove underneath. I first thought of Snow Patrol after a listen, and if they can achieve even a modicum of that band’s success they’ll have a very profitable career indeed.

Florence and the Machine – Drumming Song

By , November 9, 2010 8:00 am

Just saw the lovely Ms. Welch and her band on the final night of a three-night stand in Los Angeles at the Wiltern. Great show, amazing stage performance, and if you’re one of those who think her massive voice won’t translate to the stage…you need to see her live. Spittin’ hot fire.

Florence and the Machine – “Drumming Song”

Best of 2009

By , January 1, 2010 12:00 pm

Better late than never! The top twenty albums of 2009 as chosen by Klap4music after countless hours of careful statistical analysis and scientific formulas to determine the best music of the year.


Kiss Kiss – The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left

Eyeball Records

Released: July 7

Kiss Kiss don’t really have any idea what they’re going to be doing from one minute to the next, so it should come as no surprise that The Meek Shall Inherit What’s Left is a delightfully scrambled mess of an album, one that jumps from bouncy indie pop to quirky gypsy folk to outsized 16-minute concept tunes. But somehow everything holds together, making it a wonderfully effective blender of rock music.


M. Ward – Hold Time

Merge Records

Released: February 17

It’s become typical to expect excellence from M. Ward at this stage in career, but even so, Hold Time was a startling consistent example of beautifully refined Americana. His best since Transistor Radio, it’s an album that flows smoothly from one song to the next, a river of songs photographing classic American music as it rolls along.


Noah and the Whale – The First Days of Spring

Cherrytree Records

Released: October 6

Few bands could do such an abrupt about-face as Noah and the Whale do with their sophomore effort, but the London quintet pull it off in style. The First Days of Spring is the break-up record of the year, but it would be crushingly depressing if not for the vivid, pastoral soundscapes the band have masterfully crafted.


Manic Street Preachers – Journal for Plague Lovers


Released: May 18

It always seemed like the Preachers were searching for an identity to call their own after the disappearance of their heart and soul, frontman Richey Edwards. But Journal for Plague Lovers confidently stands tall among great Preacher records of the past, exorcizing Edwards’ ghost with his own lyrics and creating a modern rock record that blows away most of the newer competition, including many of their own previous works.


The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away

Thrill Jockey

Released: July 21

Ever since Blueberry Boat, the Fiery Furnaces seemed to lose their way on latter albums, unable to reconcile the experimental brilliance of that album with the pop charm of Gallowsbird’s Bark, resulting in albums that were wildly uneven and even more challenging. But with their latest, the brother-sister duo has regained that middle ground wonderfully. I’m Going Away is their most accessible album in years, without losing that distinctive oddball charm and slice-of-life lyrics that has defined them.


Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing

Favorite Gentlemen

Released: April 21

Manchester Orchestra’s second album shows them maturing into something every fan of the band was desperately hoping for, the newest poet laureates of emotive indie rock. Singer and lyricist Andy Hull has sharpened his roiling tide of emotions into impassioned pleas and finely tuned angst, resulting in one of the year’s best songs (“I Can Feel A Hot One”) and a record that bodes so, so well for the future.


Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion


Released: January 6

It’s no surprise that Merriweather Post Pavilion became so wildly popular in indie circles – without losing any of the weirdness or experimental angles that have defined the band over the past decade, they successfully broadened their pop horizons, resulting in an extremely accessible record that appealed as much to the diehard fan as it did to the wannabe hipster. Perhaps the strangest success story of the year – after all, would anyone listening to Animal Collective in 2000 have predicted this level of success ten years later?


Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist

Equal Vision

Released: July 21

An alt-rock record that never seems to struggle and definitely never wants for a tasty melody or grabbing hook, The Satanic Satanist is Portugal. The Man at their best, a melding of all their previous sounds into a record that could not sound more tossed-off or carefree if it tried. It’s a brilliant trick, one that results in an album that is as light and relaxing as it is refreshing and remarkably accomplished.


Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You


Released: February 9

While not as unique and defining as her debut, It’s Not Me, It’s You is the perfect pop album, mixing Lily Allen’s sizable amounts of sass and razor-sharp wit with superbly diverse production by Mark Ronson and songs that absolutely kill. Track after track is a potential hit single, perhaps derailed from commercial success only by Allen’s often-blunt lyrics. Then again, that’s what makes Lily such a treat in the whitewashed world of mainstream pop.


Mos Def – The Ecstatic


Released: June 9

This could very well be the comeback record of the year, and would easily have been the rap record of the year if it were any other year. Alas, 2009 was a special year in music, and The Ecstatic is no exception. Mos Def sounds rejuvenated, more centered in than he has in years, and the record’s confident tone and relentlessly ingenious beats and rhymes follow in turn.


The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

Capitol Records

Released: March 24

There’s been better Decemberists records, and there’s certainly been better concept records over the course of history, but The Hazards of Love is perfect at what it sets out to do: embody the Decemberists’ literary and musical ambitions in one giant song cycle. It’s the ultimate progression of the band’s sound, taking their penchant for wordy songs and long-winded stories and expanding it over the course of an entire album. It’s what the Decemberists were destined for, and in that respect it’s a fine piece of work. And while the story is a little half-baked, the songs are as epic and well done as ever, driving the story and resulting in some of the best instrumental work the band has ever put down.


Taken By Trees – East of Eden

Rough Trade

Released: September 8

Journeying to the East to find oneself has become as much of a cliché as any over the past few decades, as has recording one’s experiences there. Luckily for former Concretes’ frontwoman Victoria Bergsman, she seems to have sublimated all those Eastern influences into her own sound rather than just throwing in a few foreign instruments and styles onto her shiny brand of Swedish indie-pop. It’s a record that is almost impossible to place, the convergence of sounds and Bergsman’s own haunting vocals resulting in a mystical, almost timeless album, one just at home in the foothills of Pakistan as it is in the indie blogosphere.


Neko Case – Middle Cyclone


Released: March 3

While Middle Cyclone doesn’t quite approach the classic status of Case’s last record, the transcendent Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, it takes only three-and-a-half minutes to foresee it possibly attaining that stature. While the musicianship is top-notch and runs the gamut from smoky folk to woodsy Americana and straight-ahead rock, the focus remains, as always, on Case’s inimitable vocals. Opener “This Tornado Loves You” is proof of this and more, Case’s distinctive pipes highlighting a stormy mess of a song, one that revels in the passion of destruction as much as it does in love and longing.


Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!


Released: March 9

It’s Blitz! is perhaps the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most complete record yet, one that runs the gamut of emotions and moods from the exhilarating opener “Zero” to the frighteningly effective, lullaby-esque closer “Little Shadow.” No longer can the Yeah Yeah Yeahs be accused of being just another one-dimensional New York garage rock band – from synth-filled new wave to mellow alt-rock to haunting ballads, It’s Blitz! is a multifaceted album that reveals more and more upon each successive listen. It shows a startling amount of growth for a band long relegated to one-hit wonder status, and gives hope that, yes, there is life after “Maps.”


Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk

Shangri-La Music

Released: September 22

It didn’t come as a surprise that a collaboration between Conor Oberst, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, M. Ward, and uber-producer Mike Mogis would be entertaining; what was a surprise, however, was just how good and refined Monsters of Folk ended up being, more the product of a long-time band than a supergroup thrown together for shits and gigs. It’s a minor miracle that the foursome are able to integrate all their own influences and ideas so seamlessly into the final product, a time capsule of classic Americana that manages to stand on its own, rather than the hodgepodge of styles one would expect. Best of all, that final product is the best example of pure, unadulterated American rock ‘n roll to come out all year.


Japandroids – Post-Nothing


Released: August 4

Post-Nothing is best taken straight, no chaser, with zero preconceptions or any hint of in-depth critical analysis upon first listen. All fuzzed-out guitars, straight-out-of-the-garage drums and vocals that, frankly, don’t give a damn, it’s the sound of youth and youth’s emotions at their most free, uncaged from any hint of adult restraint. It’s a record full of anthems and undeniably vital, practically bursting with life, energy, lust, you name it: and not ashamed of any of it.


Miike Snow – Miike Snow


Released: June 9

It’s a far cry from “Toxic,” but Bloodshy & Avant’s new side project (with singer Andrew Wyatt) is deliciously unfettered pop in its own way. Perhaps the best-produced album of the year, it flits from Vampire Weekend-esque indie (“Animal”) to gorgeous atmospherics (“Silvia”) to fantastically filthy electro-pop (“Black & Blue”) to haunting ballads (“Faker”), with the ease of a musical chameleon with a liking for keyboards. It’s an instant party starter, but at its heart it’s something more, an album built on a pop foundation but with multiple layers, a heart that values superior songwriting and grade-A production to shallow sentiments and mindless hooks.


Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt. II


Released: September 8

Raekwon’s latest is a shining reaffirmation of Wu-Tang dominance over the rap game; RZA’s production is his best work in years, the various guest spots all seem placed to perfection, speaking more to their lyrical abilities and personalities than any “oh, hey, look who we got to guest on this track” bullshit. Every spot here means something, and, more than that, every spot here frames and support the leader, the rapper whose flow and style defines this album and makes it a new rap classic. Raekwon is clearly at the top of his game here, delivering a conceptual story that wallows in the dirt and grime of New York and comes out reinvigorated in the end. The Wu are far from dead – indeed, this might be the strongest they’ve been all decade.


Florence and the Machine – Lungs


Released: July 6

The Voice is a major reason for this album’s success, but it’s not the only one. Just as importantly, the talented backing band does an excellent job transcribing Florence Welch’s uniquely powerful voice and haunting tone into the music. Lungs is an album as versatile as its namesake, from the thumping bombast of “Drumming Song” to the bluesy “Kiss With A Fist” to the ethereal buildup to “Between Two Lungs.” But that Voice! – from fierce to grieving to lusty, Welch is the driving force behind Lungs, one that at times seems to be like a force of nature, whirling from high to low with equal passion and equal ease. The debut of the year, and a very exciting one for the future.


Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

V2 Records

Released: May 26

When I first heard this record it certainly didn’t stand out to me as a potential Album of the Year candidate. And it still didn’t stand out after the second, third, or a dozen listens, but over the course of the summer the little things began to strike me as special, revealing a record full of layers I had previously dismissed in the guise of “just another dance-rock record.” It is a dance-rock record, and an exceptional one at that, but it’s the painstaking attention to detail, the relentlessly innovative beats and polished drumming, the appealingly earnest way these Frenchmen take English rock ‘n roll and make it their own, all these things and more that catapult Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix into a realm of its own. It’s the way the band breaks it down and then the multi-tracked harmonic guitar flies in over the end of “Lisztomania;” it’s the way “1901’s” chorus zooms in and out on the bass like a pneumatic hammer of pop as the synths take skyward; it’s the way the “Love Like A Sunset” suite resolves itself so beautifully in a haze of major-key watercolors; it’s the way singer Thomas Mars’ bares all in the heartbreaking shimmer of “Rome.” More than anything else, it’s a dance record that isn’t afraid to celebrate its own flaws, rejoicing in its ability to take a shallow genre and make something lasting, one that speaks as much to a person’s emotions as it does their feet. Here’s to my record of the year.

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