Posts tagged: noise rock

Yo La Tengo – Fade

By , January 17, 2013 12:00 pm


Yo La Tengo – Fade

Matador 2013

Rating: 8/10

There’s a great line in the tragically defunct Starz! comedy series Party Down, when the cast of catering irregulars is working the funeral for a well-respected businessman and receive some matronly advice about love from the man’s widow. In the best Aged-African-American-Fount-of-Wisdom tradition (cue Spike Lee howling), the lady warns: “Forget fireworks, you don’t want something that blows all bright then fades. You know what love is? It’s a crockpot—not flashy, not exciting—but cooks at a low heat—day in and day out, and won’t fade. I’m guessing your girlfriend has got herself a crockpot.” Unfortunately, this lesson is promptly turned on its head when it’s revealed that the marriage was an open one, but the point remains—one articulated ever so conveniently by Fade, Yo La Tengo’s thirteenth full-length album over a career (and marriage!) spanning over a quarter of a century and displaying an almost unfair sense of creative stability and consistency that has led to quasi-demeaning terms like “the quintessential critic’s band.” Also, Adam Scott probably listens to a lot of Yo La Tengo.

The Hoboken trio (husband/wife duo Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan and bass player James McNew) has long moved past reliable territory and is now well into the foundational, revealing an album simple and immediate in its concepts yet gorgeously honed by experience. Fade is content to settle in on a quiet, pop-inflected sound that the group has been moving towards ever since the early ‘90s, with the nearest musical landmark being 2003’s hushed, vastly underrated Summer Sun. Their more recent albums have seen the band opening up to a wider palette than longtime fans might be comfortable with—chamber pop strings and bluesy templates sprinkled here and there amidst the ten-minute-plus noise jams—but on Fade, the subtle dips into Motown or surf rock or ‘60s soul are natural outgrowths of a Yo La Tengo sound that already feels classic. Playing spot the influence is tempting, but at this point Yo La Tengo are the influence, mixing and matching Electr-O-Pura’s spindly guitar textures with Popular Songs’ crisp chamber-pop production and And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out’s meditative, crackling atmospherics. And that’s just on “Stupid Things.”

Despite being bookended by two six-minute-and-change pieces, Fade clocks in at just a shade over forty-five minutes, an unusually concise turn for the band and a testament to new producer John McEntire (Tortoise, The Sea and the Cake), who is only the second producer the band has worked with since 1993(!). He brings an affinity for additional orchestration—most notably the lovely, somber horn work on “Cornelia and Jane” and the increasingly complex layers of instrumentation, particularly the perfect saxophone, that runs through “Before We Run”—that provides a nice segue with the band’s work on 2009’s Popular Songs, providing embellishments that enhance rather than detract from the band’s fundamentally wistful, melodically rich aesthetic. Yet McEntire’s hand is a light one, more content to sharpen the edges of the band’s core sound than to hack away at anything wholesale. Take album lead-off “Ohm,” for example, a song so stereotypically Yo La Tengo—distortion pedals, buzz-saw, squealing guitars, fuzzy empty space and oddball percussion, Kaplan sounding almost preternaturally calm amidst the chaos, etc.—that it’s almost too easy to appreciate what the band is doing here, to wave it off as a band reveling in what makes them comfortable. What it actually is, of course, is a group making one of the best songs of their careers, nearly thirty years into said career, out of the same building blocks they’ve always done, drawing that chugging rhythm out almost hypnotically, propelling a pristine pop melody through a cyclone of wonderfully grimy noise, a groove with its feet firmly planted in Velvets-esque noise and sunwashed ‘60s pop. “Ohm” is the same old Yo La Tengo that has gotten the band and its fans this far, but tighter, settled, (and I’d never thought this was possible), more unerringly confident.

Fade is not an exciting record on its face, but finds itself in the emotional peaks that surface hazily here and there, through colorful production and exquisite songwriting: in the gradual uplifting and bubbly guitar tones of “Well You Better;” the sleepy romance of Hubley’s “Cornelia and Jane” washing out into the drowsy drum-machine driftwood of “Two Trains;” the softly triumphant horn arrangements of “Before We Run;” the pleasant feeling engendered by a soft collection of tracks coalescing together flawlessly, cohesively, into one languid, dazzling whole. The thrill is in those parts coming together so effortlessly and fluidly, bits and pieces of a brilliant past resurfacing in a present and future increasingly detailed and unique in its own voice, where the songs get better and the messages clearer the more time you spend with it. Kind of like a marriage, actually. Or, you know, a crockpot.

Fade is the most direct, personal and cohesive album of Yo La Tengo's career to date. Recorded with John McEntire at Soma Studios in Chicago, it recalls the sonic innovation and lush cohesion of career high points like 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One and 2000's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out. The album is a tapestry of fine melody and elegant noise, rhythmic shadowplay and shy-eyed orchestral beauty, songfulness and experimentation.
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Crocodiles – Endless Flowers

By , June 18, 2012 10:00 am

Crocodiles – Endless Flowers

Frenchkiss 2012

Rating: 7/10

Crocodiles have always seemed a band more intent on paying homage to the past than crafting anything lasting for the present. Their previous efforts, 2009’s Summer of Hate and 2010’s Sleep Forever, name-checked all the influences that you would expect a noise-pop band named after an Echo & The Bunnymen album to worship: there are your Jesus and Mary Chain melodies, covered in layers of fuzz, the free-floating psychedelia of Spacemen 3, and a heavy dose of My Bloody Valentine’s thick, druggy production. Endless Flowers doesn’t necessarily go away from these touchstones, yet one look at the title is all you need to know how things have shifted for Crocodiles. No longer are they the brooding, black-clothed purveyors of pop-scented sonic sludge, morosely indulging in multi-tracked layer upon multi-tracked layer of buzzing guitar. First single “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)” bursts out of the gate with a lurching melody that screams out summer anthem more than anything this band has ever laid down on record, all sunscreen and surfboards and blinding glare stretching out endlessly. It propels itself relentlessly forward, an unconscious amount of level-stretching noise nearly obliterating the vocals. It’s damn fun, the way everything sounds after a wave has turned you up and violently down, washing everything out with a thud. “If you were a daisy, thirsting for a fix / I’d gladly be the dew,” Brandon Welchez sings to his wife Dee Dee Penny (of similarly-minded noise pop group Dum Dum Girls) on “No Black Clouds for Dee Dee.” “No more dead birds raining on you / no more black clouds hanging around,” a fitting summation of the direction Crocodiles have confidently gone for with Endless Flowers.

After two albums of tinkering their sound, playing around with their influences and showing a fine grasp of where to set the storm of guitars and keys so they just barely fail to overwhelm Welchez’s laissez-faire vocals, Endless Flowers is the sound of a band in full control of their faculties and more confident than ever in their songwriting. The opening combo of the title track and “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9) is the purest distillation of their noise-pop/shoegaze ethos, pruned down to a respectable length and wasting not a note in lengthy buildups or outros. The melodies here are muscular, never overshadowed by the constant crackle and hum of the instruments but enhanced by it, built up on layers upon layers of reverb. The Jesus and Mary Chain is still the predominant musical precedent, but the band’s pop finesse land them more along sunnier contemporaries, a scummier, messier Best Coast on the enchanting “Bubblegum Trash” or a noisier Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on the go-to-hell riffage of “My Surfing Lucifer.”

Over the course of a full-length, Crocodiles’ pitiless sonic assault wears, with tracks bleeding into one another; “Electric Death Song” is a passing trifle after the superb trio that opens this album, while “You Are Forgiven” seems almost an afterthought. The group’s one attempt to change things up, the dreary, hazy “Hung Up On A Flower,” takes away the band’s strong melodies in an effort to add tension and atmosphere to a song that ends up more a soupy haze of a bad trip than any real, coherent sentiment. For a band that seemed to have struggled with finding out what they were, however, these missteps are almost necessary. They make the triumphs, like that soaring, nebulous beginning to “Bubblegum Trash” and the massive hook to “Welcome Trouble,” all the more rewarding, fine examples of what finding your own path can do for a band. That omnipresent wall of sound, washed out keyboards and thumping drums and oh, that glorious roar of a guitar and the tendrils of feedback; they all sound so much better when matched up with the best overall songwriting of the band’s career. Endless Flowers is an album of summer anthems for those who like their beach days mixed in with a good dose of torrential summer downpours.

San Diego, CA's Crocodiles have signed to Frenchkiss Records and will release their third full-length album, Endless Flowers, on June 5th, 2012. Recorded in Berlin last summer, Endless Flowers is the first album to feature Crocodiles' full five-piece line up, which has evolved from their 2008 genesis as the core duo of singer/guitarist Brandon welchez and guitarist Charles Rowell to now include keyboardist Robin Eisenberg, bassist Marco Gonzalez, and drummer Anna Schuite. Endless Flowers follows in the footsteps of the band's stellar two previous releases (2010's Sleep Forever and 2009's debut Summer of Hate), while adding a refined cohesion and unmistakable sunny-ness to their glorious noise- and echo-cloaked pop. The title track opener is four and a half minutes of soaring, alarm-ringing guitars, while ''Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)'' comes next with a resounding, punk-inflected charge. The 7-plus minute ''My Surfing Lucifer'' begins with two minutes of grimy, hissed spoken word before ascending to glammy, distorted heights; the bass-heavy and buzzing ''Dark Alleys'' is a motorik march; and the swirling ''Bubblegum Trash'' has a sweet, dirty charm. Nearly all are single-worthy, and are embellished with Welchez's newly forward-mixed croon. Crocodiles are: Brandon Welchez (vocals, guitar), Charles Rowell (guitar), Marco Gonzalez (bass), Anna Schulte (drums), and Robin Eisenburg (keyboards).
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Holy Esque – Rose

By , April 3, 2012 10:00 am

Having recently toured with Manchester hype darlings WU LYF, it’s natural to compare Scottish rockers Holy Esque with that combustible group of howling degenerates. There’s Pat Hynes’ vocals, first and foremost, which recall WU LYF’s hoarse, on-the-verge-of-breaking style but with more finesse, more control – those who liked WU LYF will probably argue that primal snarling is what made that group so great, but I like Hynes’ balancing act more. And then there’s Holy Esque’s penchant for cerebral, guitar-oriented indie, the emphasis on echoing guitars and a blood-pumping anthemic quality. Their debut EP drops April 23 – look out for big things from this Glasgow group in the near future.

Holy Esque – “Rose”

Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built

By , March 28, 2012 10:00 am

New Japandroids album comes out June 5th and is tentatively titled Celebration Rock. Did you like their debut, the stellar, balls-to-the-wall punk of Post-Nothing? Do you like youth? Lust? Guitars fuzzed out and turned up to a wonderfully screeching 11? Of course you do, and if you didn’t, this track just may change your mind.

Moonlight Bride – Drug Crimes

By , March 1, 2012 10:00 am

Chattanooga quartet Moonlight Bride just released a new EP this past Tuesday entitled Twin Lakes - the four song offering sounds like the logical progression for the band from their 2009 full-length Myths. It harnesses their noise-rock take on shoegaze with a carefully directed melodic aim. All those cacophonous guitar squalls and atmospheric effects coalesce into memorable melodies and a pleasing cathartic release; frankly, it’s a shame this EP is only five songs long. RIYL: noise-rock with a purpose; Women; Crocodiles; the Pains of Being Pure at Heart; fuzzy walls of sound.

Moonlight Bride – “Drug Crimes”

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Crocodiles – Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)

By , February 28, 2012 2:00 pm

San Diego noise-rock duo Crocodiles will be releasing their third album Endless Flowers on June 4th. First single “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)” would make it seem that Endless Flowers is aiming to be Crocodiles’ “summer” album – it’s loud and raucous with that wall of fuzz the band loves, but has a much more distinctive pop edge than usual. Hard not to be excited for a band that has been getting better with each release.

Crocodiles – “Sunday (Psychic Conversation #9)”

Cloud Nothings – Fall In

By , January 24, 2012 10:00 am

Along with the new (incredibly weird) of Montreal record, Cloud Nothings‘ surprising sophomore effort Attack on Memory has racked up the most listens in my iTunes in 2012. It’s an eight-song burst of noise rock, healthy layers of fuzz and Dylan Baldi’s ragged yelp masking some seriously strong pop hooks. Their debut, which dropped at the beginning of last year, didn’t really make an impression on me, but the band’s growth to songwriting of a substantial, lasting quality is quite noticeable here. Given Pitchfork’s recent Best-New-Music-ing of them and the goodwill buzz they’ve been building up since last year, it’s quite obvious this is the best thing Cleveland’s had to offer in years…

Cloud Nothings – “Fall In”

Bonus MP3: Nifty little garage-rock instrumental: Cloud Nothings – “Separation”

Women – Eyesore

By , December 27, 2010 8:00 am

Women’s new record may be a bit of a strain to sit through (sorry I had to), but if the last track doesn’t epitomize how I’m currently feeling about winter, I don’t know what else could.

Women – “Eyesore”

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