Akron/Family S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT Album Cover Akron/Family – S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT


While the title may not have much to do with the album’s content, the album and its name do have something in common; they both synthesize a series of disparate, weird concepts into something that sounds awesome.

Because they are an experimental folk band, comparisons between Akron/Family and Animal Collective are almost inevitable. Though the two bands do share certain musical sensibilities, (among other things, they both have vocalists with delivery styles heavy on pitch bending) Akron/Family adds enough pure rock elements to their sound to distinguish themselves from the competition.

On this album, Akron/Family is better described  as experimental rock since they rely quite a bit more on multilayer guitar riffs and solos, expertly mixed with pounding, tribal drum beats and occasional churning, distorted noises.

Each track (even the slower, relatively sparse ones) is a collage of hundreds of little musical threads. By itself, one thread might seem overly familiar, but the way one plays off the others makes the sound incredibly unique while still retaining listener accessibility.

A good example of this comes near the end of the second song, “Island,” in which lead singer Seth Olinsky begins to croon the line “The girl from Mexico” a number of times. It’s a riff that doesn’t break any new ground and by itself would easily fit in with most modern pop-rock love songs but the way it plays off the choir of voices in the background makes it one of the album’s most memorable points.

Another technique that Akron/Family employs is the use of dramatic dynamic shifts. Several times throughout the album, most notably for the chorus of “Another Sky,” the band slowly deconstructs their sound.

Thread by thread, they take apart each song until only one instrument (usually vocals or guitar) remains. They hold onto that for a very brief, very quiet respite, and then explode into a cacophony of sounds. They make sure to use this technique sparingly for fear of losing its impact, but when they pull it out, it remains surprisingly powerful.

Unfortunately, the album does begin to drag a little near the end. Beginning with “Fuji II (Single Pane),” the last three songs are a lot slower and a lot less developed. At first, it seems a welcome intermission from the constant, almost overwhelming sounds the rest of the album proudly flaunts, but it stays around for too long, and doesn’t build to anything greater. It is important that a band be able to include a variety of songs into an album (and it was important that they give the album this denouement), but they would’ve been better off spreading the slow songs out  or perhaps trimming one or two of them from the end. That being said, this is the album’s only real disappointment.

Akron/Family’s newest release, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, may be clunkily named, but the music it contains is smooth and satisfying.

Akron/Family S/T  II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT Tracklisting:

  1. “Silly Bears”
  2. “Island”
  3. “A Aaa O a Way”
  4. “So It Goes”
  5. “Another Sky”
  6. “Light Emerges”
  7. “Cast a Net”
  8. “Tatsuya  Neon Purple Walkby”
  9. “Fuji I (Global Dub)”
  10. “Say What You Want To”
  11. “Fuji II (Single Pane”
  12. “Canopy”
  13. “Creator”
Radiohead - The King of Limbs album cover Radiohead – The King of Limbs


Reception of a new Radiohead album at this point is a foregone conclusion. Everyone is prepared to herald it another ground-breaking masterpiece before hearing a single note. But it isn’t that outrageous, considering what this band has done.

Radiohead’s string of seven albums from The Bends to In Rainbows has been unparalleled in innovation and quality.

After a three-and-a-half year wait, Radiohead graced the world with another album. A surprisingly light load, The King of Limbs bears eight tracks at about 37 minutes long. As promised, the album has a noticeable Krautrock influence of steady, complex rhythmic  patterns.

Opening track “Bloom” is relatively sparse, beginning with a haunting piano line, fitting for a psychological thriller soundtrack. The final notes of the piano are looped, and Phil Selway adds complex drum beats with Colin Greenwood’s bass following, which is reminiscent of  Can in the age of dubstep. Meanwhile, Thom Yorke sings “Open your mouth wide,” for now he will be feeding starving fans what they’ve been craving for so long.

“Morning Mr. Magpie” is a logical follow-up. Increasing the tempo, Selway rocks another complex beat with a lot of off-time high hat work. This is where the first sign of guitars appears. A quick and muted lead guitar riff compliments the drum work while the other holds down the low end. At this point it’s clear that the focus is on rhythms, as each instrument’s role is grounded in developing one.

With this new approach Radiohead has generated interesting and organic beats that take numerous listens to dissect.

After “Little by Little,” an early favorite for many, “Feral” nods to the work of Burial, chopping up  Yorke’s voice like the famed dubstep producer’s samples. Though it’s enjoyable, in its mere three minutes it doesn’t evolve any further.

This is where it become painfully obvious that there is little stylistic or sonic difference among the songs, which for the majority lack a strong melody. While tracks on The Bends are instantly recognizable, tracks on The King of Limbs can blur together. And while songs on Kid A featured meticulously selected tones and instrumentation, The King of Limbs is content to share them.

“Lotus Flower” changes the game, though. This infectious track trims the complex drum work and layered guitars in favor of a simple beat and some light synths, delivering the closest thing to a single on the album. However, as the video companion implies, this is basically the Thom Yorke show. Nothing on this track indicates collaboration, which is worrisome. Though the band’s role is mitigated in the second half, they still have plenty to say on closing track “Separator” with its iridescent guitars and funky bass work.

In the same way The King of Limbs is more rhythmic than it is melodic in the first half, it is more atmospheric than it is dynamic in its second. Songs set a steady vibe with a simple or nonexistent rhythm and stick with it for their entire duration. This is only a problem because previously Radiohead was able to be all of these things simultaneously.

Here, layers are added and removed and there are small crescendos, but nothing really pops.

Consider the moment the guitar enters on “15 Step” and the song’s three distinct melodies or the steady climb and glorious climax of “All I Need” from In Rainbows. While the developments are rich and intricate, at the core of all of these songs are simple, fundamental components: melody, chord changes and structure. Some tracks on The King of Limbs are missing one of these. If a song can’t be great unplugged, it won’t be great plugged.

Make no mistake, The King of Limbs is good, very good even. The production is masterful and the performances are tasteful. It borrows a little from today’s best music and mixes it into the band’s own. But for Radiohead, this is a bit under-baked. And albums are not chocolate chip cookies. For what feels like the first time, fans will have to learn to cope with the fact that Radiohead have simply made a good album.

Radiohead – The King of Limbs tracklist

  1. “Bloom”
  2. “Morning Mr Magie”
  3. “Little by Little”
  4. “Feral”
  5. “Lotus Flower”
  6. “Codex”
  7. “Give Up the Ghost”
  8. “Separator”
PJ Harvey Let England Shake Album Cover PJ Harvey – Let England Shake


PJ Harvey does not do trends. This is why she’s singing about war in 2011 instead of 2004. And while a new crop of artists remain focused on the summer sun of youth, she’s got her mind on the storm ahead, whether in the form of World War IV, the apocalypse or a perfect pairing of the two.

She does do detours, however, and while Let England Shake is a bona fide PJ Harvey album, it’s got a distinct side-project feel: collaborative, sure, but also distant and detached, like Mother Nature letting the wind tell a story. It is not the pissy, feverish diary Uh–Huh Her was, nor even welcome to sit next to its closest relative, the personal theater of Is This Desire?

While she’s entering her third decade as a singer, Polly Jean Harvey actually appears to be aging in reverse.

She sounded positively feral on Rid of Me and hot vinegar one-offs like “One Time Too Many,” would have you think a war-themed album would be her frothiest yet, but the reality is she has never sounded more childlike. There’s not a single angry moment here, likely because she doesn’t sound like she is here – she’s somewhere else entirely. It is typical for Harvey to buck expectations: who among fans experienced enough to hear Dry upon release would imagine her gently cooing her words (as on the cradle-will-rock title cut)?

Two songs include “England” in the title, but that’s just the beginning. Let England Shake is a very British album in terms of the images it evokes:  ominous rain, steel black gates guarding a widow’s home, perpetual late winter cloudiness with everything in white and gray. It’s not so much an album about war as it is about the aftermath; a shell-shocked Harvey sounds rattled and, yes, shaken, but somehow not confused. She is stronger for what she’s discovered.

She doesn’t go for shock value (hence no lines about “chicken liver balls”), but that doesn’t mean the vivid imagery is AWOL. Witness the spooky flashback “The Words That Maketh Murder,” where she laconically recalls “I seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat/Blown and shot out beyond belief/Arms and legs were in the trees.” If Harvey was trying to resurrect merry old England through merry old soldier songs, she succeeded. The album’s couplets are simple, perhaps too much so: “Death was everywhere/In the air, and in the sounds”, “Death was in the staring sun/fixing its eyes on everyone.”

This isn’t what we’ve come to expect from the queenie who wrote “Rid of Me” and “Down by the Water,” which excelled because of suggestion, not plain-spoken observation.

Musically, England isn’t so solid, either. It opens with falling-snow cymbals, but the pretty, ethereal quality wears off quickly, and Harvey seems to have made an unusual effort to curb it. She’s picked up a taste for throwing out-of-place, “found” sounds into calm musical settings (the offbeat call to arms trumpet puncturing the dream pop haze of “The Glorious Land” being the most irritating example, sounding like some dick’s phone going off in a movie theater). “The Words That Maketh Murder” is a tepid jaunt in the form of an Indian campfire dance, and that’s before she quotes “Summertime Blues.”

There are bright spots: “The Last Living Rose” has a loping, ’60s melody that Stevie Nicks might have heard through her AM radio as a schoolgirl, and the band occasionally comes down to earthier ground (“On Battleship Hill,” “The Colour of the Earth,” the latter led by non-relative and Nick Cave pal Mick Harvey). Mostly though, Let England Shake sounds like a sheltered, bookish teen’s version of a pop album (and not in the good Belle & Sebastian way). It’s all so formal and scholarly, with sing-alongs like church hymns or chants from old movies standing in for choruses and bizarre little bursts that fill the places the kid thinks need a pickup.

If one wants to get a message across, they can’t argue with John Lennon, who said the best way is to sugarcoat it. However, Let England Shake comes glazed with other things as well: gun powder, yellowed paper, blood and charred shrapnel. Consider this one, then, the cure for the desensitized; if Let England Shake can annoy, at least it breaks the skin.

PJ Harvey – Let England Shake tracklist

  1. “Let England Shake”
  2. “The Last Living Rose”
  3. “The Glorious Land”
  4. “The Words That Maketh Murder”
  5. “All and Everyone”
  6. “On Battleship Hill”
  7. “England”
  8. “In the Dark Places”
  9. “Bitter Branches”
  10. “Hanging in the Wire”
  11. “Written on the Forehead”
  12. “The Colour of the Earth”
The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh


The Low Anthem make albums that play like the soundtrack to those quirky coming-of-age indie flicks that capture its moments perfectly. Having self- released albums until now, the band already has a comfortable sense of self. They didn’t even need a label to get noticed in the first place, and now, having been signed with Nonesuch, The Low Anthem is poised to continue its rise. The result has given The Low Anthem’s riskiest album yet, and with some help from Mike Mogis and that new label, Smart Flesh is its strongest too.

The music found on Smart Flesh is not meant to depress, but inspire.

At face value the album is a slow burner carefully working through its jazz and folk inspirations, while mostly singing about loss and death. The album is full of sad songs and warm songs, all with an old school country aesthetic. Those folk and jazz elements work in just the right ways. Right there is what sets the band apart in the first place, and now a sound worth sticking to is revealed further.

It’s undoubtedly stunning, as the album runs the gamut of emotion. This is the follow-up of The Low Anthem’s breakthrough album, so the pressure is on to impress. As the band’s first record on Nonesuch, the two are certainly a match. By bringing in Mogis, he’s able to help tighten things up from the band’s jammier past. This tightening of the screws means The Low Anthem was able to expand on the indie folk sound from the usual, to the unexpected. This takes the band beyond the trend into its own niche, the album, becoming spectacular force by itself.

The styles found vary without getting too out there. The big rock track, “Boeing 737,” is subtly political as a post 9/11 tribute that reaches toward being an anthem with horns and big driving rhythms. But, that’s about as modern rock as things get. Remember, this is still The Low Anthem. From there, Bob Dylan-like storytelling comes out on “Apothecary Love” without overtly sounding like Dylan to make the point. More big references can be heard on “Burn,” a Leonard Cohen inspired open letter. The vocals taking on a strong Cohen like tone, rolling it into the melody, and in the storytelling. The organ and singing saw, while standing out as an oddly soothing pair, follow that same pace and keep it creative.

Those soothing elements take over the album, whether it is a clarinet or a muffled lost trumpet, as found on album opener “Ghost Woman Blues.” Later, the instrumental “Wire” uses clarinets and oboes for a soundtrack-esque jazz piece that’s absolutely breathtaking. Singing saws find there way in as well adding an eerie presence to the most depressing of the tracks. All these little details show how focused the record is at keeping the listener absorbed, and it works all too well.

What’s most refreshing is that the production is clean, but not overdone, so the tracks can be heard and savored. Details like the harmonies on “Love and Altar” that fall between somber guitar lines, or the weepy harmonicas on “Matter of Time” give that step forward for the band. Coupled with stronger over all writing, this album leaves listeners wanting more.

The Low Anthem Smart Flesh Tracklisting:

  1. “Ghost Woman Blues”
  2. “Apothecary Love”
  3. “Boeing 737”
  4. “Love and Altar”
  5. “Matter of Time”
  6. “Wire”
  7. “Burn”
  8. “Hey, All You Hippies!”
  9. “I’ll Take out Your Ashes”
  10. “Golden Cattle”
  11. “Smart Flesh”
Toro y Moi - Underneath the Pine album cover Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine


What’s more annoying: The coining of the term “chillwave” or bands vehemently denying that they are? Chazwick Brundick doesn’t appreciate the title and yet he came on the scene at the same time Neon Indian and every other “waver” did, bearing similar aesthetic and sound. Some say that Underneath the Pine is a departure from Toro y Moi’s previous categorization, but it’s still chill as hell.

The album rarely transcends pastiche, whether it’s ’60s psychedelia (roto-organs and harpsichords) or retro-funk and is only ever slightly more moveable than Causers of This, his first studio album. Who knew that when Brundick made the switch from digital to entirely acoustic, it would sound so dated? It’s too chill for its own good; one might call it terminally chill.

It could have just as well been lounge instrumentals with lyrics plastered over them as an afterthought.

While Causers was the album that your “friend made in his bedroom,” no matter what you thought of it, the great defense was, “It’s low-budget, self-made and was released too soon.” None of those excuses remain firm for Toro y Moi, who’s had a year since, plenty of touring and time to conceptualize. In fairness, Underneath the Pine sounds like it was made in a bigger bedroom.

Brundick collaborated with Urban Outfitters to shoot the music video for “New Beat.” The result of that pairing is kind of like the album: Smoky, obscure, shot on vintage film and selling hipsters their own lifestyle back to them. Granted, “New Beat” is irrevocably funky, the one genuine hip shaker that permeates an otherwise uneventful release.

It’s not exactly clear why Brundick sings. The words are falsetto and distant enough to convince listeners they’re just atmospheric, and then there’s such a density of them on songs like “How I Know,” itself a bubblegum effort, one can’t help but think he wants listeners to heed them.

It’s hard to think of an appropriate occasion for listening to this album. Just about everything but “New Beat” and maybe “Still Sound,” is blurry ambience. There’s no doubt that the album is impressive, even a step forward. Rather than abandon his original sound altogether or go bitterly into the cosmos, the end result is a slightly catchier, more sensible sophomore effort, but there’s no question it could be more refined.

Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine tracklist:

  1. “Intro/Chi-Chi”
  2. “New Beat”
  3. “Go With You”
  4. “Divina”
  5. “Before I’m Done”
  6. “Got Blinded”
  7. “How I Know”
  8. “Light Black”
  9. “Still Sound”
  10. “Good Hold”
  11. “Elise”
Hercules and Love Affair – Blue Songs


Andy Butler’s dance rock ensemble Hercules and Love Affair have returned with its second release, and though uninitiated listeners might expect a platter of straightforward Erasure-inspired dance-electronica (and there is some of that), there are a few wrinkles that set Blue Songs apart from the rest of the pack.

“Painted Eyes” begins things with an ’80s inspired synthpop pulsating rhythm exercise a la Yaz via New Order, but the elegant disco strings and jazzy flute intro make it the best dancepop since Bronski Beat.

The band introduces some glitch pop static amongst the pops and smacks on the next cut, but there’s little doubt they are still Upstairs at Eric’s on “My House,” and the same can be said of “Answers Come In Dreams.” However, it is refreshing again how organic acoustic sounds are intermixed so integrally with the synthesized electronic flourishes, like the piano and horn sounds on the latter and on the Tom Tom Club redux “Leonora,” although it dissolves into electrospaciness at the end.

The pacing does vary here and there, especially on the meditative and acoustic guitar propelled “Boy Blue” (it’s like The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” meets “Baba O’Riley”) and specifically on the end of the night piano bar slow closer “It’s Alright” (a Sterling Void cover via The Pet Shop Boys) with sirens echoing in the background.

Listeners may have heard critics—sorry, crickets—and birds before, but when have they heard cows, along with clarinets and a marimba? It’s a shame they have to wait until the sixth track to hear all of those elements on the contemplative “Blue Song,” given this record starts with four similar sounding songs.

“Step Up” further cements Hercules and Love Affair’s love affair with the ’80s—this could be a cut from a Chromeo record, as could the spacey “Visitor,” although a more apt analogy might be Gary Numan performing the Miami Vice theme through a filter of electrofunk. “I Can’t Wait” sounds like ’70s disco-funk interpreted by War Games’ computer WOPR. All that’s missing is a sampled contrapuntal “Shall we play a game?” to vocalist Kim Ann Foxman’s lyric “This Ain’t No Game.” (Yo, 8-Bit—pitch these cats a NES remix, pronto.) And yes, that may be a Pac-Man sample in the background.

After having listened to Blue Songs a few times tabula rasa, it comes as no surprise that it was recorded by “techno legend” Patrick Pulsinger (in Vienna), but what is surprising is the other members of Butler’s ensemble (aside from himself and Foxman): Venezuelan singer Aerea Negrot, walk-on fan Shaun Wright, Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke and veteran engineer and programmer Mark Pistel of Meat Beat Manifesto and Consolidated fame.

In some ways, though, it’s a shame their contributions aren’t more apparent, because this feels like Butler’s show throughout, and the individual appearances get lost in the mix.

Then again, perhaps that’s the point: Hercules and Love Affair seems designed to be a collective unit, as opposed to just Butler, or just Butler featuring so-and-so on each track. Perhaps he’s taking a lesson from Consolidated’s legendary Myth Of Rock:  “This Is A Collective,” after all.

Blue Songs are not entirely blue, for sure, and there are some easily rectified sequencing issues, but overall it’s an entertaining listen.

Hercules and Love Affair – Blue Songs Tracklisting:

  1. “Painted Eyes”
  2. “My House”
  3. “Answers Come in Dreams”
  4. “Leonora”
  5. “Boy Blue”
  6. “Blue Song”
  7. “Falling”
  8. “I Can’t Wait”
  9. “Step Up”
  10. “Visitor”
  11. “It’s Alright”
Asobi Seksu - Fluorescence album cover Asobi Seksu – Fluorescence


While their earlier releases brimmed over with breathless, break-neck passion and relentlessly pulsating rhythms, New York quartet Asobi Seksu (“playful sex” in colloquial Japanese) have adopted a more leisurely pace and a more somber palette for their fourth full-length assemblage of sonic brushwork. It’s almost as if singer/keyboardist Yuki Chikudate, guitarist/vocalist James Hanna and company have decided to paint with a richer but darker blend of colors on Fluorescence, title and packaging notwithstanding.

Presentation-wise, after the black and white and grey all over art of their previous release Hush, it’s a return to the day-glow album art of their Citrus record, this time designed by legendary 4AD artist-in-residence Vaughn Oliver.

Despite the cover, the record deviates more than any of their others from their shimmering, warm and bright shoegaze roots, but it’s hard to imagine fans will be disappointed.

Listeners can still hear the beautiful soaring soprano vocals and a wall of sound built upon sprawling, tremolo-ified electric guitar, lush keyboards and rollicking rhythms.

Chikudate’s vocals have never been stronger, and she makes greater use of her lower range on this release where there was mainly bird-like chirps and hiccups. Here she belts out some sustained swoops and concrete lyrics to great effect, although helium intake is still occasionally suspected. First single “Trails” shows off her range to best effect, making a convincing argument that she stands head and shoulders above vocalists for Cocteau Twins and Bel Canto and should be crowned the Kate Bush of dream pop.

Their debt to shoegaze forefathers like My Bloody Valentine and Lush is still clear, and their place alongside the sonic miasma crafted by the likes of contemporaries Blonde Redhead and A Sunny Day In Glasgow is apparent.

But, Asobi Seksu provide a unique bridge from those artists to the Phil Spector-crafted pop confections of the 1960s like The Ronettes and The Crystals (the sound of which has recently experienced a renaissance itself with the likes of Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, Hollows and The Maybenauts). That natural bridge is clear on “My Baby,” (“My baby doesn’t love me anymore), but it’s a recurrent vein throughout Fluorescence and all their recorded works.

“Leave the Drummer Out There” reveals Asobi Seksu to have a sonic allegiance to Baltimore dream pop duo Beach House, but they differentiate themselves by picking up their pace to a gallop toward the end, and the vocals are in a much higher range (Chikudate is a soprano, Beach House’s Victoria Legrand a tenor).

After the brief instrumental “Weird Sleep,” Hanna takes a rare lead vocal on “Counterglow” and his echoey, dream-like tenor performs admirably, although it’s not as distinctive as his band mate, and the track vamps for a bit rather than be compelled by a strong hook.

“Trance,” which begins with a Japanese scat and machine gun tambourine, turns into the most straight-ahead rocker on Fluorescence, and its most linear fully fleshed out song, clocking in at just over two-and-a-half minutes, and it’s a welcome change of pace between the meditative and sprawling “Ocean” and slow building closer “Pink Light.”

There’s no question the spacey, dreamy pop of Asobi Seksu owes a debt to the shoegazery of the early ’90s, but they are not looking down or behind, they are looking up and ahead, at jet trails set on fire by the sunrise, and their vision has coalesced wonderfully on this lovely record, hopefully destined for many top ten of 2011 lists.

Asobi Seksu – Fluorescence Tracklisting:

  1. “Coming Up”
  2. “Trails”
  3. “My Baby”
  4. “Perfectly Crystal”
  5. “In My Head”
  6. “Leave the Drummer Out There”
  7. “Sighs”
  8. “Deep Weird Sleep”
  9. “Counterglow”
  10. “Ocean”
  11. “Trance Out”
  12. “Pink Light”
The Cave Singers – No Witch


A few years back, iTunes ran a series of ads with silhouettes dancing virtually unknown pop bands. They featured songs like “C’mon C’mon” by The Von Bondies, “Jerk It Out” by The Caesars, “Flathead” by The Fratellis and “Shut Up and Let Me Go” by The Ting Tings.

Forgettable vocals with basic yet catchy guitar riffs are iTunes’ bread and butter. Half of the new album by The Cave Singers sounds like it could be in one of those commercials. The album, No Witch, was nothing special to begin with, but that select group of songs managed tProxy-Connection: keep-alive
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corrupt the entire album.

When the album doesn’t sound like a Best of iTunes soundtrack, it gets bipolar. There are traces of several artists on No Witch, but the band’s desperation to be the next great indie group reveals their effort to be a façade.

The group wants its cake and to eat it too, but credit is due for being so willing to test out the several genres they did. “Falls,” the fourth track, is gritty, stripped down and not overwhelmingly bluesy. However, the song still maintains a connection to the genre’s roots with its gospel chorus line and use of the organ.

Even more distracting than the group’s willingness to whore themselves out for attention is singer Peter Quirk’s voice, which is freakishly similar to Neil Diamond’s—it’s almost comical how the two are nearly identical. It’s not a bad thing, but when a band is trying to win over the indie community, it might be smart to make some musical adjustments before people start referring to the group as “The one with the guy who sounds like Neil Diamond.”

It sounds like The Cave Singers listened to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” a lot when they were writing this album. Several of the songs—at least among the ones iTunes wouldn’t want to put in a commercial—have the same structure and sound as “I’m On Fire.” The soft guitars and brush drumsticks are a nice ode, but one can’t shake the feeling the band is trying to rip off The Boss.

“Outer Realms,” the fifth track, is the kind of song you’d expect to hear at a Velvet Underground cover band’s show. The forced sense of psychedelia permeates throughout the song. The weak intro is filled with generic tribal drumbeats—which are, in themselves, horribly cliché. The drumbeats strengthen the argument that this band wants both mainstream acceptance and to be recognized.

There is no part of No Witch that sounds like an original idea. Every lyric and guitar riff sound like the band trying to replicate a group or artist that has inspired them in one way or another.

A group knowing its idols and showing their influence in their work are signs of a great band, but shamelessly copying their sound and passing it off as something original begs a question. At this album’s core, it’s no different from a karaoke contest at a dive bar.

The Cave Singers – No Witch Tracklisting:

  1. Gifts and the Raft
  2. Swim Club
  3. Black Leaf
  4. Falls
  5. Outer Realms
  6. Haller Lake
  7. All Land Crabs and Divinity
  8. Ghosts
  9. Clever Creatures
  10. Haystacks
  11. Distant Sures
  12. Faze Wave
  13. No Prosecution If We Bail
Trail of Dead - Tao of the Dead album cover …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead


Austin alt-rock masters …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead come to the table with a trimmed line-up and a rather hurried recording timeline, but blast a gaping crater in the ear hole of America with a distorted, larger-than-life album made to treat the senses.

The band’s recent record Tao of the Dead was put together in just ten days last summer with a line-up of only four guys as opposed to the usual seven. The brutal sound produced on this newest collection touts a mastered year in the studio.

All shortcomings from the trim line-up and short timeline considered, the latest full-length is an epic voyage through time and space that is cool, collected and fitting for late night pot parties or just some much needed private reflection time.

The band combines subtle electronic undertones with good old-fashioned alternative flair likened to the Pixies and heralds a sound straight out of the mid ‘90s.

The band members pound out eccentric sounds that are unparalleled by recent musical standards and give a throwback to a time when music was centered around distorted guitar riffs and flowing, melodic vocals.

There is an uninterrupted transference of sound from start to finish on the album and each song flows perfectly into one another. It feels like sitting on a cold beach in the fall watching gray and white waves combine just short of the shoreline. Conrad Keely’s voice embraces this feeling and encapsulates it as if he were the warm sun breaking through the silver-lined clouds behind the breakers.

Each song runs consistently together and the first single “Summer of All Dead Souls” sets the tone for the collection by getting the energy level up and keeping it there.

Even though there are a few dips into obscurity through the album, there is a lucid vein that is relentless and doesn’t give time for a fresh breath of air until the very end.

“The Wasteland” precedes the album’s single and it helps provide a preemptive glimpse into the soul of the assortment. Hard guitars and monster lyrics are the order of the day and everyone pulls together to produce a full sound made from sheer genius.

The album slows here and there and “Ebb Away” is a great example of what it feels like to slow down at a high-energy show and feel the sweat form and the muffled stink of 400 moshing fanatics filling the air.

The album’s near hour-long trip is accented by a 16-and-a-half-minute jam across murkiness called “Strange News From Another Planet.” The song soars from end to end in a tidal wave of fury and fantasy and though it may be long holds more attention than the original record-length “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly.

At any given time, there is an epic record waiting to be grabbed by some unsuspecting new fan. When it comes to Tao of the Dead, go out and grab a copy, see “your guy” about “some stuff” and make an evening of it.

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – Tao of the Dead tracklist

  1. “Introduction: Let’s Experiment”
  2. “Pure Radio Cosplay”
  3. “Summer of All Dead Souls”
  4. “Cover the Days Like a Tidal Wave”
  5. “Fall of the Empire”
  6. “The Wasteland”
  7. “The Spiral Jetty”
  8. “Weight of the Sun (or the Post-Modern Prometheus)”
  9. “Pure Radio Cosplay (Reprise)”
  10. “Ebb Away”
  11. “The Fairlight Pendant”
  12. “Strange News from Another Planet”
Telekinesis - 12 Desperate Straight Lines album cover Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines


Just when the typical definition of indie music seemed to give way to chillwave, aqua crunk  and whatever other genres were invented to accompany the electronic overthrow that was 2010, Seattle-based Telekinesis steps in with a healthy dose of sinfully catchy power pop.

The band’s sophomore release 12 Desperate Straight Lines is relentless with hooks as Michael Benjamin Lerner ventures out for round two after a bout with vertigo, a broken down van and with an entirely new backing band. Despite setbacks that may have sent him packing toward a self-depreciating solitude, Lerner’s songwriting prevailed. In classic indie form, 12 Desperate Straight Lines chronicles a seemingly tragic love life backed by joyful, buzzing guitars – the modern answer to the Get Up Kids.

By taking things back to the basics of indie, Telekinesis presents a can’t-get-out-of-your-head experience that reminds music fans not to take everything so seriously.

12 Desperate Straight Lines is delivered with lightning speed, giving listeners no time to rest between the short tracks. The infectious nature of the album is owed in large part to the tracks’ brevity, which gives just enough time to show grit, but avoids the point of self-indulgence. Even when Telekinesis turns to its darker side, a sense of urgency remains that keeps the album moving along where so many others linger.

Telekinesis recognizes it is not necessarily a band that can epically jam along and play to the member’s strengths by keeping it short and sweet.

“You Turn Clear in the Sun” begins the album with an impossibly bright tone that carries through the rest of the record, particularly in unapologetic pop nuggets like “I Cannot Love You” and “Car Crash.” Lerner takes brooding guitar undertones from The Cure on songs like “Please Ask for Help” and “Fever Chill,” which offer a new level of indie recall. The borrowed tones work well to refine the super shiny exterior Lerner is working with and is a successful homage to the kings of heartbreak.

Admittedly, Telekinesis suffers a bit when the guitars turn weepy as things go from bouncy commiseration to melodramatic, or uncharacteristically  electronic in the vein of Death Cab For Cutie. Yet, there is nothing wrong with music’s electronic tendencies – it is a trend for a reason! But the more audiences invest in that idea, the further music pulls away from a simple guitar/bass/drums set up.

Telekinesis keeps with traditional indie roots. Faced with today’s technology obsession, it is rare to be able to say that a band managed to keep electronics out of the equation. But 12 Desperate Straight Lines is a three-cheer return to the origins of indie music that gives hope for a stronger reliance on simpler ingredients.

Telekinesis – 12 Desperate Straight Lines tracklist

  1. “You Turn Clear in the Sun”
  2. “Please Ask for Help”
  3. “50 Ways”
  4. “I Cannot Love You”
  5. “Dirty Thing”
  6. “Car Crash”
  7. “Palm of Your Hand”
  8. “I Got You”
  9. “Fever Chill”
  10. “Country Lane”
  11. “Patterns”
  12. “Gotta Get It Right Now”
yuck_yuck_album cover Yuck – Yuck


Oh, to be young and beautiful with a penchant for early ’90s college rock. Yuck, having just released its self-titled debut, is living the dream. The boy-girl, feel-good group has been scooping up critical praise like a lint roller and is fast conquering the ears and hearts of listeners on both sides of the pond. Few bands in memory have used four guitars so deftly.

Among certain circles in Britannia Yuck is hailed simply as “the saviours.”

Frontman Daniel Blumberg founded Yuck with former bandmate Max Bloom in the wake of Cajun Dance Party’s breakup. The latter was signed to XL records when Blumberg was 16. Now, at the ripe old age of 20, Fat Possum’s young guns, Blumberg and Yuck look to disgust and shock you. Or at least get their name on your lips.

The choice to channel the ’90s was apparently a deliberate one, and Blumberg is unashamed to confess his undying love for Dinosaur Jr. and Neutral Milk Hotel. It sounds like Pavement. It sounds like Yo La Tengo, but let us not make comparisons.

Give Yuck some air to breathe, free of its two-decade old context. It’s an influence that has informed Yuck’s sound, not killed it in advance. At least the duo acknowledges it.

“Georgia” was the band’s first, DIY-released single—Blumberg’s 15-year-old sister providing the vocals. The pretty little ditty about a bitter breakup immediately drives along with the clamorous drone of riffing and doesn’t let up until it’s done. The Londoners frequently rely on energy-fueled rockers, rife with fuzz guitar and distorted vocals, but they’re also capable of carrying a ballad. Look at “Suicide Policeman,” with its barebones acoustic and heart-throbby vocals (and elevator music breakdown!), all eventually accompanied by trumpets. But it’s not the only proof they can slow down and arpeggiate, in “Shook Down,” a shimmering song of affection, Blumberg sings, “You can be my destiny.”

For the most part, Yuck is upbeat, toe-tapping catchiness—check the bounce flash bassline on “Get Away.” Audiences are singing along already. The slow drag of “Suck,” seems to stem from the band’s (particularly Bloom and Blumberg’s) frustration at being thrust into rock and roll so young, “Wait for me/ I’ve had enough of being young and free.” Problems one wants to have.

Despite the duos relative experience, Yuck is a group still brewing its potential, still discovering its chemistry and evolving into a sound all its own. There is no one track on Yuck that stands heads and shoulders above the others, nor do any lag behind.

The result, is a fairly flat structure. Still, the album is full of well arranged, solid performances. The lyricism is neither adroit nor sloppy, but it’s there and definitely more muscular than most 20-year-old efforts. What Yuck showcases is a prodigious young band whose only direction from here is up. Already, Yuck is achieving and getting the hype.

The music scene is practically waiting for them. Even though the band only released an EP and a handful of songs in 2010, critics are already talking them up to be shakers of this year’s “Best of.” With an American tour in progress, opening for Smith Westerns, all Yuck has to do is deliver. With Yuck, there’s no danger of that.

Yuck – Yuck tracklist

  1. “Get Away”
  2. “The Wall”
  3. “Shook Down”
  4. “Holing Out”
  5. “Suicide Policeman”
  6. “Georgia”
  7. “Suck”
  8. “Stutter”
  9. “Operation”
  10. “Sunday”
  11. “Rose Gives a Lily”
  12. “Rubber”
Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy


From a Western perspective, it is easy to dismiss most Japanese music as novelty. While Shugo Tokumaru’s latest release, Port Entropy, could easily be described as quirky, his evident enthusiasm and meticulous interweaving of musical styles propel the album from being just another gimmicky Japanese record to one entirely worthy of praise.

Those familiar with Tokumaru’s breakout album, Exit, will find Port Entropy is not a radical change from his previous work, but rather one that works to refine the concepts he had experimented with earlier.

This album is slightly more streamlined than Exit, with fewer layers of sound and more straightforward songwriting. While this makes the album more accessible to mainstream listeners, unfortunately, it also means the music is a little less daring; we don’t get any tracks as unique and offbeat as Exit’s “Future Umbrella.”

For those unfamiliar with his previous work, Tokumaru could be described as a “clockwork pop” musician. He uses found sounds (mostly strange percussive clangs) like spoons and bells and weaves them together to create the riffs that form the backbone of each song. Then, he overlays that with acoustic guitar, some strings and the occasional horn and tops it all off with his poppy, spacey vocals.

Though he sings in Japanese, it’s immediately clear that Port Entropy is a collection of very happy songs. It is the sort of music one can find themselves grinning to .

In fact, Tokumaru’s exuberance is what holds this album together.  The joy that comes through in his music pulls the songs together and allows them to resonate with listeners, despite the language barrier.

Standout tracks include “Lahaha,” which begins with a sea shanty-esque bit played by a flute and bells combo that builds to Tokumaru actually laughing while singing the chorus, and “Drive-Thru,” which ricochets back and forth between a slow vocal-driven section and a segment that sounds like a funky train powered by baritone sax and steel drums.

Surprisingly, the one truly disappointing song on the album, entitled “Linne,” fails only because it lacks the exuberance that his other songs ooze. You can’t fault him for attempting to write a slow ballad, but the piano-driven track doesn’t fit with the enthusiasm that drives the rest of the album.

Luckily, one bad song doesn’t weigh the whole album down. Port Entropy’s 11 other tracks hold up very well. Each one could not only stand on its own, with unique samples and interesting progressions, but also as parts of the album as a whole.

While Tokumaru’s quirky take on pop music might not appeal to everyone, Port Entropy is far more accessible and consistent than his last album, and is definitely worth a listen for a collection of unabashedly feel-good songs.

Shugo Tokumaru – Port Entropy tracklist

  1. “Platform”
  2. “Tracking Elevator”
  3. “Linne”
  4. “Lahaha”
  5. “Rum Hee”
  6. “Laminate”
  7. “River Low”
  8. “Straw”
  9. “Drive-Thru”
  10. “Suisha”
  11. “Orange”
  12. “Malerina”