Monthly Archives: August 2014

Album Review: Ty Segall – Manipulator

ty segallTy Segall has been cranking out albums full of blistering garage rock for years, and while I’ve been a casual listener and always enjoyed what I heard, his latest LP, Manipulator, takes Segall to heights that I haven’t heard from him before.

This album holds the ideal ratio of hooks to theatricality; for every string-backed swoop of falsetto that Manipulator offers, Segall also peppers a bit of accompanying melodic mega-wattage. Segall’s voice is perfectly suited to ‘70s rock opera flare – dare I invoke The Darkness here? – but also to the throat-shredding yowls of punk-influenced lo-fi. This LP is certainly an interesting melding of the two styles.

It’s fun to hear Segall show off his dramatic side on surprisingly lush tracks like “The Singer”. His falsetto is in fine form here throughout the LP, and it certainly adds to the dynamism of the Manipulator. Same goes for the flamenco guitars and violins that propel “The Singer” along pleasantly. But Segall’s true strength comes out in the album’s more abrasive tracks, such as in the blistering riffage of “Tall Man, Skinny Lady” and the chiming guitar rock of “The Faker”.

That said, the album never gets too shaggy, which might actually be to its detriment. Part of this can likely be attributed to the Manipulator’s decidedly glam-y bent, but the slightly lighter touch does little to enhance Segall’s songwriting. The guitar solos feel restrained and there’s a polish to the production that feels a little at odds with the sneer in Segall’s voice. This dissonance comes through especially strongly in songs like “The Hand”, a decent but surprisingly middle-of-the-road track from Segall.

There’s a lot of killer stuff to be found here, but at 55 minutes long, the album feels a little overstuffed and sadly threatens to overstay its welcome. The sonic experimentation is interesting, and much of it works, but if Segall had shaved off a few tracks and kept the runtime under 40 minutes, I think this album could have been near perfect. But while Segall’s varied influences seem to be at odds with each other, the album’s swooping, guitar-driven tracks like “The Feels” work so well that Manipulator’s modest amount of filler can be forgiven but not entirely overlooked.

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Album Review: Spoon – They Want My Soul

spoonHas there ever been a cooler uncool band than Spoon? It’s open to debate, sure, but Brit Daniel and company are so clean-cut and their sound is so precise that the music has no business rocking as hard as it does. But here we are – 20 years and 8 LPs in – and Spoon sounds just as vibrant as ever.

They Want My Soul offers much of the same jaunty indie rock that we’ve come to expect from the Austin natives, but they also show growth as a band. It’s their first album since 2010’s Transference, and after that strong but slightly stilted collection of songs, it seems like Spoon is back to their looser, quietly rabble-rousing selves.

The album opens with “Rent I Pay”, which is the sort of visceral garage rock that always feels a bit unexpected from Spoon. But they do it well, giving Daniel ample opportunity to show off his snarl. It’s easy to see why they would pick the propulsive track as the first song to show off from the album, but it’s really just a hint of what’s to come from the rest of They Want My Soul.

One of the strengths of They Want My Soul is that it offers many different faces of Spoon while still feeling cohesive. “Rainy Taxi” is urgent with its pleading lyrics and unrelenting percussion. As the chorus builds to something both aggressive and aggressively tuneful, it’s hard not to feel like Spoon is at the top of their game. The same goes for “Do You”, the album’s perfectly jangling lead single. It’s poppy and upbeat but Daniel’s rasp hints at something darker; Spoon is a band that’s great at presenting something pretty and buttoned-up on the surface but that reveals something much more sinister with a little prodding.

They Want My Soul is full of indelible hooks and songs like “Let Me Be Mine” offer the bouncy, driving catchiness that Spoon is at least partially known for. However, the album veers off track a little bit when the band reaches for something a little more unconventional. “Inside Out”, for example, has a more instrumentally stripped-down sound that Spoon has found success with in the past, but it’s never been my favourite mode for the band. The electronic loops and string flourishes just aren’t all that interesting, and the vocal melody is far less compelling than most of the album’s other tracks. Sure, it’s a meditative and sort of chilled-out song, but to me, Spoon isn’t a band that can really get away with playing it cool.

On the whole, though, They Want My Soul is a strong effort from the band, and it comes close to matching the pop bliss of their superb 2007 LP, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. They don’t really reinvent their sound here, but as They Want My Soul’s best tracks prove, Spoon is so good at what they do that it doesn’t really matter.

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July 2014 Quick Takes

alvvays

“Quick Takes” is a monthly feature on Faint Uproar where we play catch-up with a few albums that slipped through the cracks and didn’t get a full review on the blog.

Jenny Lewis – The Voyager

I have to admit that I’ve never been wholeheartedly enamoured with Rilo Kiley in the way that a certain portion of the population seems to be. But while I wasn’t a Jenny Lewis worshipper before, I might be after hearing The Voyager. Simply put, Lewis has pulled together a collection of impeccably written tunes. From the lilting “Head Underwater” to the yearning balladry of “The Voyager”, Lewis is in top form. Ryan Adams takes on production duties here, and he sprinkles some gloriously ‘80s-inspired sonic flourishes that enhance the songwriting without overwhelming it.

4.5

 


Braid – No Coast

This month, Illinois emo veterans Braid released their first LP of new material since disbanding in 1999. And, unfortunately, despite a strong start, it ends up feeling like a half-hearted grab at former glory. Opening track “Bang” is a pleading and propulsive bit of pop-punk perfection, but the album soon flatlines and never really finds its groove. Instead, the illusion of youthful energy begins to dissipate, and the band seems to be reaching to fill their track quota.

2.5

 


Alvvays – Alvvays

Toronto rockers Alvvays have been building a steady bit of buzz online lately, and this past month, they released their surf-y self-titled debut album. It’s full of pop nuggets with a side of retro, summer-y fuzz, and while the album isn’t especially innovative, they wear the sound well. There is little filler to be found on the album, but the standout track is pretty clearly “Archie, Marry Me”, a dreamy ode to love that happens to be catchy as hell.

3.5

 


Trampled By Turtles – Wild Animals

There’s something undeniably calming about the folky/bluegrass-tinged sounds of Trampled By Turtles. Unfortunately, their latest LP feels too monotonous to really make much impact. It often feels like the band is hammering away at the same strumming patterns for several songs on end, and there just isn’t a lot here that made me perk up my ears. The exception, however, is “Lucy”, a slow-burning and cello-backed number that offers some of the drama that made me fall in love with Trampled By Turtles on previous tracks like “Alone”.

2.5

 


Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

With a runtime of just 19 minutes, Never Hung Over Again can barely be called an LP. However, Joyce Manor somehow delivers 10 fully realized songs in that brief amount of time, and as far as pop-punk goes, this is a surprisingly solid collection. “Schley” is catchy and brash, while “The Jerk” is a melodic homerun. The influence of emo and acts like Green Day is strong, and Joyce Manor certainly boasts a familiar sound, but Never Hungover Again is a concise and satisfying slice of accessible punk.

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