Category Archives: Quick Takes

November 2014 Quick Takes

TVotR

“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.

Alone for the First Time – Ryan Hemsworth

His latest LP may be a lean 27 minutes long, but Ryan Hemsworth doesn’t waste a second of that run time. On Alone for the First Time, the Halifax DJ weaves a smooth, layered collection of songs that often flow right into one another. And while Hemsworth’s beats aren’t quite groundbreaking, Alone for the First Time creates an effective atmosphere that lives up to the LP’s name. The music is sad, shimmering, brooding, and often frantic; it’s danceable, but hardly party music. It seems like 24-year-old Hemsworth is highlighting how lonely today’s cluttered, buzzing digital landscape can feel.

3


Four – One Direction

My biggest takeaway from Four is that the members of One Direction seem to have to hit their quarter-life crisis. This is slightly alarming on a cultural level, but, as it turns out, also doesn’t make for very interesting song lyrics. On “Night Changes” the wizened Harry Styles (all of 20 years old) croons, “We’re only getting older, baby.” Similarly, “18” is a nostalgic, rose-coloured look at the long-lost carefree days of being 18. Because, in case you weren’t aware, these guys are adults now. And accordingly, this album does feel surprisingly sombre. Other than the boppy “No Control” and the woozily anthemic “Clouds” (easily the two best songs on Four), there is a lot of earnest pleading and far too many stately mid-tempo offerings. I suppose the assumption is that 1D’s fanbase is aging right along with the band, but I’m not sure if these overstuffed, somewhat laborious songs are what any One Direction fan wants from the band’s music.

2.5


Content Nausea – Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts (or Parkay Quarts or whatever the band has decided to call themselves today) made quite a splash with Sunbathing Animal earlier this year, so it’s a bit surprising that they’d want to follow it up so quickly. But here we are, five months later, with another LP. I seem to be in the minority, since Sunbathing Animal didn’t do a whole lot for me, but Content Nausea still somewhat pales by comparison. If you like Parquet Court’s laconic style, you’ll probably also enjoy this album, but to me, it feels like more of the same. The snaking guitar jangle of “Slide Machine” and the unexpected melody of “Pretty Machines” is great, and as usual with Parquet Courts, there are elements at play here that I like. But for me, it doesn’t all come together to form a fully satisfying whole.

3


Seeds – TV on the Radio

The last time people got particularly excited about TV on the Radio was probably somewhere around 2008. However, the incendiary and soulful “Quartz”, the opening track of the band’s latest album, is reason enough to recall some of that excitement. Seeds shows that even if TV on the Radio isn’t as topical as they once were, they’re still one hell of a great band. “Lazerray” and “Winter” offer spiky punk rock, while more mellow offerings such as “Careful You” feel just as vital. This is a band that has always seemed startlingly self-assured, and this fifth studio album may be their most fully-realized and enjoyable offering to date. The musicianship is impeccable as always, and Seeds proves to not only be dynamic, but also surprisingly relevant.

4.5


Ixora – Copeland

From the slinky, pulsating R&B of “Like a Lie” to the sighing indie balladry of album opener “Have I Always Loved You?” the newly reunited Copeland have created a dreamy fifth album with Ixora. The electronic-heavy instrumentation (which becomes more pronounced as the album progresses) adds an interesting element to the album, but even with only 10 tracks and a 40-minute runtime, Ixora still feels a bit bloated. Singer Aaron Marsh’s earnest, emo-ish vocal delivery sometimes feels at odds with the distant, cool production. There’s some good songwriting to be found here, but the slick presentation seems to undermine some of the potential for genuine emotion.

3

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October 2014 Quick Takes

Weezer-2014

“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.

Ben Howard – I Forgot Where We Were

Ben Howard perhaps had the misfortune of releasing his first album just as the (mainstream) British folk music scene was on the cusp of becoming something entirely different. So while Mumford and Sons is winning Grammys and Ed Sheeran is winning the hearts of tweens, Howard’s earnest folk-pop feels almost dated in that it contains some traces of actual folk music. I mean, don’t get me wrong – the guitars are pretty big and the vocals sometimes sound oddly processed, but he knows how to write a heartfelt tune. Unfortunately, there’s nothing on this latest EP that matches the urgency of his breakthrough single, “The Wolves”. It’s not a bad collection of songs, and Howard’s voice is engaging, but it all blurs the lines between traditional and pop too much to feel very dynamic.

3


Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End

It seems like every new Weezer record is marketed as their “return to form”, yet they’ve never quite managed to recapture the glory of their first two albums. There’s a bit too much forced pep and middle-of-the-road songwriting  here to get too excited about it, but this is probably the most solid LP they’ve put out since the Green Album. (Although I seem to be the sole defender of Make Believe.) On the whole, the band feels reenergized and the melodies are suitably bouncy. For whatever its worth, this album feels like what might happen if someone living in 2014 who had never heard Pinkerton read a lot about that album and then tried to create their own version of it. It’s up to you to decide whether or not that’s a good thing.

3


Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight

Second Sight is a disappointingly light offering from Newfoundland’s own Hey Rosetta. The propulsive percussion and visceral vocals feel watered down from earlier standout singles like “Red Heart”. They show hints of that otherwise absent intensity on the sprawling “Promise”, which is easily one of the album’s angriest and most captivating tracks. “I’ve got promise,” singer Tim Baker repeats. This album does, too, but it unfortunately never lives up to it.

2.5


Stars – No One is Lost

This dreamy outfit from Montreal has been creating swooning, transcendent indie rock for over a decade now, and while their latest album, No One is Lost, feels like it’s trying a little too hard to be current, it’s nonetheless another solid LP from Stars. The beat-heavy, dance-y tracks here feel like too generic of a direction for the band to take, but the album settles into a pretty nice groove by its mid-point. “Turn It Up” and “Trap Door” as big and as gorgeous as anything they band has written, and on the whole, this album proves Stars still have the chops to be major players in the murky indie scene.

3.5

August 2014 Quick Takes

benjamin booker

“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.

Willis Earl Beal – Experiments in Time

Willis Earl Beal’s meditative album won’t be for everyone, and admittedly, the songwriting here is a little less dynamic than I would have liked based on preview tracks from the album like “Traveling Eyes”. However, Beal’s deep, weathered voice perfectly conveys the pain in his deceptively simple melodies. This album is a slow-burn, and if you can allow yourself to become immersed in Beal’s reverie, the results are fairly stunning.

3.5

 


The Rosebuds – Sand + Silence

The fact that Justin Vernon produced Sand + Silence certainly gave The Rosebuds a publicity boost but unfortunately, the album as a whole is a decent but completely expected slice of indie folk. Granted, the husband-wife duo have some slick melodies, and the LP is certainly pleasant. But beneath Vernon’s crisp production it doesn’t feel like there’s a whole lot to hold onto.

3

 


FKA Twigs – LP1

FKA Twigs became something of a sensation earlier this month as critics rushed to lavish praise on LP1. And indeed, Tahliah Debrett Barnett has a bewitching coo and some daring deconstructed R&B tracks to back it up on this LP. It’s certainly an intriguing full-length debut, yet I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed. It seems as though FKA Twigs is still cementing a sound. Perhaps “LP1” is a fitting title – to me, the album strikes me more as a first pass than a fully realized album.

3.5

 


 Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker

Benjamin Booker managed to hit just about every major summer music festival this year, wooing critics and music fans along the way with his rollicking live show. And indeed, that energy comes across well on his self-titled debut. He’s got a youthful spirit (which makes sense, since he’s only 25) and he does the raspy blues-rock genre proud. Where he still has room to improve is in the actual songwriting, which, while solid, doesn’t have quite enough juice to propel an entire album.

3.5

 


The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

Canadian indie stalwarts the New Pornographers sound as lively as ever on their sixth studio album. They’re clearly influenced by an ‘80s dance sound (which can be heard most clearly here on “War on the East Coast”) and they certainly make the most of their penchant for sing-along pop hooks. From the pounding title track to the shuffling “Wide Eyes”, Brill Bruisers is an ace power pop album, proving that practice might actually make perfect when it comes to the New Pornographers.

4.5

 

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.

4

June 2014 Quick Takes

first aid kit

“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. Being that the Faint Uproar is just a week old, there’s plenty to catch up with in terms of June releases. Let’s begin!

Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour

Sam Smith is currently finding his footing in the U.S. top 40 charts based on the strength of his swooning, gorgeous single “Stay With Me”. Unfortunately, much of the rest of his debut album doesn’t meet the same standard. “Leave Your Lover” is a startlingly direct plea to a platonic friend to leave their lover in favour of Smith, and that seems to be the realm that Smith is most comfortable in. There, his voice shines with a magnificent ache that is absent from some of the album’s more dance-friendly (and more anonymous) tracks. In the Lonely Hour is a prime example of a developing act with the vocal heft to demand your listening attention but who lacks the material to back it up.

2.5

 


First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Swedish duo First Aid Kit made the jump to the major labels with their sophomore LP, Stay Gold. And while their throwback-folk style remains largely intact, the pair seems a bit swallowed up by the album’s shiny production. Lead single “My Silver Lining” – a pleasant, Fleetwood Mac-esque pop gem – is a perfect example of how their songs here tend to get undermined by just too much stuff all going on at once. There are certainly some good songs to be found, and sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg sound as pleasant as ever, but Stay Gold sounds a little too drenched in ‘70s retro vibes to ever take completely seriously.

3

 


The Antlers – Familiars

Fans of the Antlers’ stunning, muted 2009 LP Hospice might be a little confused by Familiars on first listen. (Or second listen. Or sixth listen.) Here, the band opens up their sound more than ever, adding in horns and featuring noticeably stronger, full-voiced vocals from frontman Peter Silberman. However, Familiars feels just as exquisitely crafted as Hospice – just in a different way. “Palace” is a big, shimmery exhale, and the perfect way to kick off the album. From there, they craft a specific groove for the album, and while it may not be one that everyone appreciates, it does mark decidedly new and interesting territory for the Antlers to explore.

4

 


Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

If the endless media cycle has taught us anything, it’s that the world needs a pop princess to collectively debate, worship, and vilify. Rihanna, Miley, and Gaga can step aside, though, because apparently in 2014 the best we’ve got is Lana Del Rey. (Someone please tell me that 2015 won’t be the year of Ariana Grande.) And after 2012’s largely hollow Born to Die, Del Rey returns with more tragic/sexy mid-tempo sonic meanderings for bloggers to attempt to analyze.

Granted, The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach is a very welcome addition as producer on the bulk of the album. He adds some psychedelic guitars and brings out some new layers to Del Rey’s sometimes enchanting and often confounding vocal delivery. But while the album has moments of genuine loveliness (the plaintive guitar of “West Coast”, the straightforward croon and strings of “Old Money”, crackling opener “Cruel World”) most of the songs just shuffle around between styles for a while before eventually fading out. And rest assured: the lyrics are just as daft and numbingly clichéd as ever.

2