Monday, April 12, 2010

Review: MGMT - Congratulations

Gosh golly gee. Forgive my childishness but I love it when a band makes a sharp turn and releases something this surprising and different from their previous output.

So far 2010 has been a pretty great year for music with new albums from Black Francis, Brick+Mortar and Vampire Weekend. Well now you can add MGMT's 'Congratulations' to the list. This is without a doubt one of the better albums I've heard in sometime and to top it off it puts their last album, 'Oracular Spectacular', to shame.

To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of that album, it seemed to be built around a few "single-ready" songs and a lot of lesser songs. 'Congratulations' on the other hand treats you to a sonic journey like few other albums in recent memory. From the fun ode to hallucinogens that is "It's Working" to the beautiful closing title track, this is nothing less than a great album.

Most critics have said that this album has no "obvious singles", I'm looking at you, Pitchfork, but they couldn't be more wrong. Sure there's nothing on here as catchy as 'Kids', but this album doesn't need a retread of that song. It has amazing songs like 'Song For Dan Treacy' with it's refrain of "He made his mind up," which I've had stuck in my head for weeks, and the aforementioned title track, with it's lush keys and acoustic guitar to sooth your soul.

Does the album stumble? Yes, but only for one track. That track however is the 12 minute plus 'Siberian Breaks.' I'm all for the long song in a band's catalog but this song seems to meander a bit after the 9 min mark.

If you absolutely loved 'Oracular Spectacular' and can't get enough of 'Time To Pretend' and 'Kids', guess what? You're going to be sorely disappointed and probably a little lost here. The only song that comes anywhere close to that level of "fun" is 'Flash Delerium', which much like 'Kids' has a pretty trippy video, after that the similarity essentially ends.

Overall, this is a stellar album by one of the more interesting bands to come along in the 2000's. They've moved away from the Electronic/Pop of their first album and dove head on into some intense Psychedelia with 'Congratulations.' Truthfully, they're all the better for it.

'Congratulations' is available for free streaming on MGMT's website here.

Best Tracks:
It's Working
Song For Dan Treacy
Someone's Missing
Brian Eno

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: Black Francis - NONSTOPEROTIK

A full album of songs about sex sung by Black Francis of Pixies fame might not seem too appetizing when you first hear about it...but trust me, this is one of his strongest outings since 1994's 'Teenager of the Year.' Although it's not as epic and sprawling as that mid-90's masterpiece, it is however a great album and a great reminder that the man still knows how to write some amazing songs.

The opening riff to 'Lake of Sin' lets you know what you're in for, for the remainder of the album. The refrain of "Lake of Sin" shows Mr. Francis in fine voice, and perhaps he's even gotten better with age.

The single 'Six-Legged Man' is a rocker in the purest sense of the word, being dedicated to the "undisputed Queen and Kings of the back beat...Teri and The Possibilities." This song also features some of my favorite Francis lyrics in the form of "Someone take the high note, Someone take the low note, Someone take the middle, Ain't no second fiddle." It's songs like this that make me wonder why this man hasn't made it huge as a solo artist, it's just too good to not be known.
Other critics have said the album stumbles with his cover of 'Wheels' by the Flying Burrito Brothers, I disagree. For this reviewer at least, it's a highlight of the album. From the fuzzy guitar to the backbeat this is just a great song, and Black Francis does it justice.

The dirtiest chorus on the album certainly belongs to 'When I Go Down On You," even though the song is less graphic than it is a beautiful plea for love. Another interesting note is that the title track itself isn't all that erotic but in fact pretty romantic.

With the closer 'Cinema Star' the best was saved for last. In this song he compares himself to a movie star "just not the kind you think." This is one of Francis' most personal songs, it calls back the classic 'Letter To Memphis' from the Pixies "Trompe Le Monde" in it's lyrical content.

So is it as good as Bluefinger? No it is not...but is it great nonetheless? Of course.

Best Tracks:
Cinema Star
Six Legged Man
Lake Of sin

Review: Brick+Mortar - 7 Years in the Mystic Room

Let me just start off by saying this is one of the best albums I've heard all year. That's a pretty bold statement, but in this case it's undeniably true.

Brandon Asraf (Vocals/Bass/Samples) and John Tacon (Drums/Drums/Samples) combine to make music that has a little something for everyone. From insane beats to haunting vocals to introspective lyrics this debut has broad appeal. There's just no way that these guys aren't going to get huge in the next year or so.

The EP starts off with '20LB' and never lets up all the way to closer '185 Drop'. '20LB' has some amazing lyrics and bass playing mixed with some complex drumming that all adds up to a great song. If you haven't seen the music video yet, directed by Dan Feeny, see my previous'll blow your mind.

Second track 'Told You' is an autobiographical tale of Asraf's life. These are some of the best lyrics on the album, recalling an upbeat Dylan at times. I love a good "story song" so this is a definite highlight for me.

Next is the medley of 'Backwards Clock/New Possibles', it starts off in a truly somber mood and evolves into a total rocker by the end. A story of addiction, regrets and eventual realization, these are the two best tracks on the album without a doubt. Backing vocals by both John and Samantha Tacon (River City Extension) really add to this shocking medley. a friend of mine once said, "Clapping makes every song awesome."

The album comes to a close with '185 Drop', another song that proves what a great band this is. It seems like they've decided to end the album with a song that shows what each member can do when they're at the top of their game. Everything about this song; lyrics, basslines, drumbeats and samples is right on target. "Learn to let go so your heart don't gotta," has to be one of the best lines I've heard in quite some time.

Admittedly I was a huge fan of these guys before the album came out, having personally known them for years. Don't take this as a biased review however...I'm pretty picky when it comes to music. I haven't met one person who's heard these guys not become a fan. All in all, this EP will be a highlight of 2010 for anyone who hears it.

The EP is available in both physical and digital format. Download your copy here.

Best Tracks:
The Entire 5 Song EP