Posts tagged: post-punk

The Helio Sequence – Negotiations

By , September 11, 2012 10:00 am

The Helio Sequence – Negotiations

Sub Pop 2012

Rating: 6/10

The Helio Sequence would no doubt say creativity makes for a fine crucible; few bands have had such bad (yet strangely fortuitous) luck in the course of their career since they debuted with 2000’s dreamy, ambient Com Plex. Yet it’s just that difficult road that led to the Portland two piece’s artistic high water mark, 2008’s lovely, deceptively anguished Keep Your Eyes Ahead. It was recorded mere months after vocalist Brandon Summers tore up his vocal cords and had to re-learn how to sing, leading the band onto the more organic folk route Negotiations now broadens into a wide open expanse. Negotiations comes with a bit of an expected delay: the duo’s practice area/studio was lost to a flood while they were on tour, forcing the band to relocate to a vacant industrial warehouse to record. The unfamiliar surroundings pop up in the minor chord anxiety and haunting atmospherics that permeate every corner of Negotiations, a record that drowns in its own reverb as often as it coasts along top of it, bubbling here and there with Benjamin Weikel’s pounding drumset.

Keep Your Eyes Ahead found solace in the black-and-blue rasp of Summers’ sympathetic voice and those wonderfully ambivalent guitar lines, meandering among layers of fuzz and effects but wounding so tightly through each song’s melodies. Negotiations spreads itself out a bit more, a likely result of the band’s reported decision to write each song as a sketch and then build around it. First single “October” wraps itself up around a hypnotically repetitive chorus and a crashing drum pattern, Summers’ rumpled voice warning “so you go where you wanna be / they say it will set you free / you know it’s never so.” “The Downward Spiral” takes things in the opposite direction, spinning along a descending scale and a disquieting pallor hanging over everything, making a song that sounds so open feel so claustrophobic. Space is a major component to everything here; for just two guys, the Helio Sequence make a serious amount of navel-gazing noise, simultaneously spilling over the speakers while sounding hushed, fragile. A lot of this has to do with Summers’ plaintive, wistful emoting contrasting so nicely with Weikel’s titanic drumming, which makes every tom sound like a thudding heartbeat, every crash a crystalline warning (see: the wonderful tension in album centerpiece “Open Letter”). Liberal synths and swells of bass fill up the edges nicely, turning every song here into something to get lost in, a mid-tempo paean to studio layering.

That is, unfortunately, the album’s curse as well as it’s gift. Those few tracks where Summers and Weikel take a step out of their comfort zone are just where you realize how numbing everything else becomes over the course of eleven songs. The mostly improvised “Harvester of Souls” is a heartbreaking folk exercise, the rumor of an acoustic finding its way through a morose fog of effects hanging loosely over Summers’ ghostly, broken vocals. It’s a wonderful callback to the more solemn parts of Keep Your Eyes Ahead, and while Negotiations does a wonderful job maintaining that record’s overarching feel, it too often gets lost in its own rote role, the waves and mounds of reverb blurring melodies together into one big cloud bank. When a spot of sunlight does filters through, as on the triumphant “When The Shadows Fall” or the quickened pace of “Hall of Mirrors,” it’s a revelation, seemingly the work of an entirely different band. The synth work on “Silence on Silence” is nice, the gradually soaring climax in “The Measure” is appropriately bombastic, but as a whole Negotiations does little to distinguish the individual songs from the album’s greater artistic statement. This, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it would be nice to see the Helio Sequence be a little less ethereal and a little more intimate the next time around. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another biblical calamity to get there.

List Price: $13.98 USD
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Release date September 11, 2012.

The Helio Sequence – Open Letter

By , August 29, 2012 10:00 am

It’s been a long four years since the Helio Sequence last showed up on the indie radar with 2008′s superb Keep Your Eyes Ahead, an album that was just as much about persevering and finding greater heights (singer/guitarist Brandon Summers damaged his vocal cords and had to learn how to sing again) as it was a startlingly affecting, emotional indie rock record. Negotations follows in much that same vein, with influences from Built to Spill to Spiritualized to Death Cab for Cutie clearly evident (and drummer Benjamin Weikel’s expansive playing a constant highlight). ”Open Letter” is my early favorite, a slow-moving, melancholy bit of post-punk that calls to mind Keep Your Eyes Ahead opener “Lately.” Negotations arrives on Sub Pop on September 11.

The Helio Sequence – “Open Letter”

Divine Fits – What Gets You Alone

By , August 23, 2012 10:00 am

Although my long-anticipated new Spoon record is nowhere to be found, Britt Daniels is still having no trouble putting out new material. Divine Fits is sort of an indie supergroup, aligning Daniels with Dan Boeckner (Handsome Furs/Wolf Parade) and Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks. It also sounds about how you’d expect a meeting of those minds to sound – angular post-punk with some nice electronic influences and some fantastically crunchy guitar work. Delicious. A Thing Called Divine Fits will be out next Tuesday (8/28) on Merge Records.

Divine Fits – “What Gets You Alone”

List Price: $14.98 USD
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Release date August 28, 2012.

Two Door Cinema Club – Next Year

By , August 14, 2012 10:00 am

Irish heroes Two Door Cinema Club blew up in a big way with 2010′s Tourist History, a charmingly lightweight collection of up tempo indie rock and post-punk chops, high in energy and infectious hooks. Despite the enormous singles, it was a bit of a one-note trick for me, something that blended together by the end of its runtime. Their second album, Beacon, makes a good attempt at changing up the formula without reducing the impact of their admirable melodies. Opener “Next Year” is my early favorite, an emotive hook cresting a more fluid, less in-your-face rhythm than I’m used to from them. Beacon arrives September 4 on Glassnote Records.

Two Door Cinema Club – “Next Year”

Bloc Party – Octopus

By , July 18, 2012 10:00 am

With the long break since 2008′s hit-or-miss effort Intimacy and lead singer Kele Okereke’s burgeoning solo career, it seemed doubtful that Bloc Party’s fourth album (titled Four, of course) would ever see the light of day. First single “Octopus” dispels any question of that, and now we’re left to wonder if it will be any good. That buzzsaw guitar riff repeated ad nauseum is textbook Bloc Party, as is Okereke’s distinctive bit of spitted venom – fans of the band seem to have little to be displeased with here, particularly when that spacey, totally awesome guitar solo kicks in.

Bloc Party – “Octopus”

The Drums – What You Were

By , October 19, 2011 10:00 am

Few bands have surprised me more this year than Brooklyn post-punkers the Drums and their sophomore record Portamento. Their 2010 debut was fun, if a little derivative, and the quick follow-up reeked a bit of milking the bandwagon for all they could before it left the station. Portamento, however, is leaps and bounds above the self-titled debut, with stronger lyrics, more full-bodied arrangements and melodies that put much of their (quite catchy) first album to shame. Check it out if you like poppy, new wave inspired bands (think Surfer Blood).

The Drums – “What You Were”

Cut Off Your Hands – You Should Do Better

By , August 22, 2011 10:00 am

New Zealand outfit Cut Off Your Hands was one of those bands that briefly held my attention in the summer 0f 2009, the same summer I discovered Cut Copy and promptly forgot about them. Debut album You & I was some great indie pop, but it never really dug into me all that much (although opener “Happy As Can Be” always makes me smile). New album Hollow, however, definitely does. Darker than its predecessor but still maintaining the wonderful talent with melody and pop hooks that their debut showed, it’s everything a sophomore effort should be: better and promising bigger things for a band I had previously dismissed. Get it now if you like opener “You Should Do Better.”

Cut Off Your Hands – “You Should Do Better”

The Rapture – How Deep Is Your Love

By , June 15, 2011 11:00 am

About a month late, but the Rapture is finally here: with a new track, “How Deep Is Your Love” off their upcoming new album In The Grace of Your Love (love, obviously, being a theme). Vocalist Luke Jenner and his howling falsettos are still the centerpieces, but “How Deep Is Your Love” throws shades of funk, disco, saxophones, and some good old-fashioned vocal harmonies in this extra long track.

The Rapture – “How Deep Is Your Love”

White Lies – Ritual

By , January 19, 2011 8:00 am

White Lies – Ritual

Fiction 2011

Rating: 4/10

White Lies isn’t the name of this band. There’s nothing white about it: if McVeigh tells a lie, it’s about how he murdered his best friend. If he tells a story, it’s about how someone stabbed him with a pair of scissors and left him for dead. He hasn’t got an anecdote suitable for parties, and he hasn’t got an excuse to miss one that doesn’t end with his heart being torn into five hundred lonely pieces. That’s why he’s doing this music thing: no one would congratulate him on say, a good monologue about murder, unless there were the church organs and Interpol guitar riffs to complement it. That’s pretty much how To Lose My Life worked: McVeigh sang so many blockbuster lines it was hard to know where one lie stopped and the next began, and where “be a good girl and do what you’re told” was gloomy, “you’ve got blood on your hands / and I know it’s mine” was downright morbid. The hyperbole was justified by solid post-punk melodies, and, of course, that vintage baritone. To Lose My Life, named in tribute to its obsession with death and sadness, wasn’t a white lie, it was the biggest lie I’ve ever heard.

For all the efforts of these lying bastards, though, it was nothing more than a solid slice of British post-punk revival, wearing its influences heart-on-sleeve, sure, but not having the stones to go as deep as Joy Division or Nick Cave would’ve. And for that, To Lose My Life is now White Lies’ biggest problem: it didn’t have the substance to be their classic (nor the lyrics), but its bombastic nature, its hugeness, has caged them. Ritual, two years on, feels easily eclipsed.

And it shouldn’t be, in some ways. With enough inspection, Ritual is the work of a changed band. “Bigger Than Us” is an unexpected enough single, bubbling with the kind of guitar and synth back-and-forth of a new “Personal Jesus.” “Turn The Bells” has a tribal percussive feel that again detracts from the band’s post-punk glamour, even if for only a moment. Then there’s the symphonic “Strangers,” which feels emotionally lighter, if momentarily. And here lies the problem: these new devices are used fleetingly and McVeigh has no intention of taking them centre stage. In the song-writing department, the only thing that seems to matter for him and his band is the climax. He loves the moment where everything goes haywire on the previously spare “Bad Love,” and he enjoys knocking us out on “Bigger Than Us.” For everything else- the drenching electronics, the attempt at restraint on “Come Down”- it’s as if someone’s messed up McVeigh’s state of mind (which could easily be the case: Alan Moulder takes the helm as producer here, a man famed for his work with Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode). White Lies, for two albums now, have shown their interest in telling a certain type of story, one which begins, if musically different, with the same structural means (“In Love” is used as album’s “Death”) and uses the same technique throughout. And that’s the real issue with Ritual: for every new idea, there’s that old White Lies style, there’s that moment where “The Power & The Glory” sets itself aflame with punchy guitar. There’s the moment we’ve come to expect. White Lies will make you hate the climax as much as they will have you wait for it.

Overall, Ritual is too much of the same: “Streetlights” and “Holy Ghost,” the angular, disparate tracks that sit central to the album, are identical in structure and seem to ignore the fact. It’s all too hard for White Lies to make something mind-blowing when every song lives through that same moment, and even harder when we already lived through all this fuss on To Lose My Life. When we get Ritual at its best, it’s when the bass isn’t thumping in our face, it’s when White Lies aren’t rocking out to some grand idea that’s supposed to roll us off our feet (“the only thing I’ve ever found / that’s greater than it always sounds / is love”). And those are the tracks that don’t remind us of the old White Lies: namely, “Come Home,” the perfect release from all the thunder and lightning, where the band essentially write post-punk by Phil Collins. It’s sweet and soothing, as much as Ritual can be, and best of all, it recognises the band’s new trinkets for a whole song, rather than as half-baked ideas. At the album’s last gasp, it disrupts that old White Lies formula. It kills the lie the band have built up for so long about everything being huge and fiery. That’s kind of nice: it’s nice to see that the band can do something else, it’s nice that I can wait two years with a little hope. Other than this, Ritual thinks it’s making big strides when its focus should be on the small shading. If only they told the truth earlier.

White Lies – “Come Down”

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