TNB Music Staff Picks for February, 2012
THE SLIDESHOW EFFECT
Evidence of Autumn
A collaboration between musician/composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion, Memoryhouse began with the intention of creating drone music accompanied by visuals, but evolved into a dreamy sort of pop music. It is this “dream pop” that got them noticed, and then signed to Sub Pop, which released a re-recorded version of The Years EP. On The Slideshow Effect, their debut album, Memoryhouse take a page out of the Lush playbook by dropping the heavy reverb and putting the focus firmly on Nouvion’s voice.
The album has a very autumnal sound, one which fits the material quite well. The mostly mid-tempo songs are imbued with a wistful sort of melancholy, reinforced by quietly shimmering guitars, subdued rhythms, and Nouvion’s measured, deliberate (and, sometimes, oddly neutral) vocals.
The songs themselves seem to be largely about regret and the loss of happier times, combined with a quiet resolve to keep going—”A pact to carry on, in case this all goes wrong,” as Nouvion sings in “Heirloom”. It is this sense of resolve, even defiance, that gives the album its emotional resonance.
Not a bad way to spend an autumn afternoon, really. -Kevin O’Conner
TWIN LAKES (EP)
An exquisite soundtrack for gazing at your shoes
Chattanooga’s Moonlight Bride have followed up 2010′s Myths with a startlingly-good five-song noise pop outing, though these tracks are simply too hooky to be lumped into the ranks of straightforward noise purveyors. That being said, one of the five tracks is, in fact, pure noise;”Versinthe” will test anyone’s stamina for enduring sheets of jangly feedback. The balance of Twin Lakes however, is a warm, sugary dose of ear candy.
Sounding a bit like Interpol, but with a delicate shimmer of psychedelia laid on top, Moonlight Bride are all about the soundscape. Warm, fuzzy guitars with freewheeling bass lines and colorful keys color the open spaces to create an deep contrast to Justin Giles’ plaintive vocals. Opener “Diego” showcases how well it all comes together, complete with high harmonies and a snappy dance cadence.”Lemonade” is the obvious single, with infectious melodies rolling over clouds of distortion, a la the Jesus and Mary Chain. The real winner on the album is “Drug Crimes,” which officially unseats the Lemonheads’ “Drug Buddy” as the most beautiful song ever about drugs.
Sure, there are moments of feedback and sonic experimentation, yet they serve the songs well rather than distracting from the immensely satisfying pleasures these songs offer. The biggest problem with this album is that it’s about five songs too short. -Joe Daly
Dreams Make Noise
In the absence of any other information, when listening to Strange Weekend for the first time, you might think you’re listening to a demo by an unknown female singer. Even the band’s label describes the singer’s voice as “an androgynous vapor” before comparing it to the likes of Julee Cruise and Judee Sill. (They also compare it to Nick Gilder; just pretend you didn’t read that.)
But looks, as they say, can be deceiving. Strange Weekend is, in fact, the first full-length album by Porcelain Raft and its sole member, Mauro Remiddi, who recorded it over a two-month period in Brooklyn.
The overall vibe of the record is dreamy, gauzy and echo-drenched, with Remiddi’s vocals navigating a bedlam of processed beats, atmospheric keyboards, and guitars, all swirled together into a heavily compressed, in-your-face brew.
A record like this really couldn’t have been made at any other time, yet you’ll hear all sorts of influences along the way—among them Elton John, T-Rex, John Lennon, George Michael, and even Robert Fripp and mid-decade hip-hop. And it all works.
Best listened to on an MP3 player with earphones; it’s a little too intense otherwise. (Note: the iTunes edition adds an extra track.) -KO
CRIME ALWAYS PAYS (EP)
The New Criminals
Traditional punk still sounds great
L.A.’s technology-hating three-piece, the New Criminals, don’t tamper much with the formula laid out by the Ramones. In fact, with songs like “Bop Till You Drop,” it’s not hard to pinpoint their most significant influence. This is not a bad thing at all.
With six songs coming in at just over ten minutes, Crime Always Pays is no road trip soundtrack. In fact, you might have to play it twice to make it last on your morning commute. If however, it’s a quick injection of old school punk rock that you crave, this will do quite nicely. “Good N’ Plenty” is a head-bobbing ode to candy with the lyrical humor of the Groovie Ghoulies, plus a hint of the menace of the Dead Kennedys. “Natural Disaster” is as good as it gets, a punk rock pile-driver with plenty of low-slung swagger and big fat chords to get your blood pumping.
While there’s not a lot of variety in the songs, nor is there a weak song in the mix. -JD
STRANGE WAYS OF GOING HOME
The Germans are coming
Strange Ways of Going Home is the second album from German rockers Sep7ember, coming almost seven years after their 2005 debut. In their current incarnation, Sep7ember proclaim themselves “the answer to all who have lost faith in noisy, barefaced and rock ‘n’ roll [sic]”, boasting “1900 torn guitar strings and 250 busted drum sticks” (among other things) to get where they are now.
Though most folks seem to label Sep7ember as an alternative or punk band, the truth is that they haven’t really retained enough rough edges to be considered either. That’s not to dismiss the band, though, because they’re definitely on to something here.
The standout track—or, at least, the one that’s always going to be mentioned first—is “I Hate NY”, in which the band professes to hate just about everything, while simultaneously showing that they have a sense of humor.
Overall, their music is reminiscent of early ’90s Pearl Jam, but with a poppy veneer and tautness that suggest Cheap Trick in their late ’70s prime (before the personnel changes and dodgy ’80s production sunk them commercially). And this is a good thing, because it makes Sep7ember eminently listenable enough to forget the overwrought bombast of the Scorpions… -KO
BLOOD FOR THE MASTER
If it ain’t broke…
There’s more to The Big Easy than jambalaya and Big Ten students puking off of balconies; whispers of the occult and voodoo ceremonies blow through its darkened alleys. It is therefore no surprise that the city would birth Goatwhore, that legendary blackened death metal outfit that twenty-five years into their career are still making music that could frighten serial killers.
With their latest release, Blood for the Master, Goatwhore tip the scales towards the black metal side, release another thirty-eight minute maelstrom of screaming, distortion, lo-fi blastbeats and enough unsettling imagery to make Dante look like a Hallmark card scribe. One thing about Goatwhore is that you’re not throwing them on when you need to gather focus for an important task. You put on Goatwhore when you want to build up as much rage as possible and then release all outcomes.
“Embodiment Of This Bitter Chaos” is the standout track, with an acoustic intro atop an dissonant electric solo that leads into a full-on thrash attack. “Death To The Architects Of Heaven” and “His Name is Frightful Among the Believers” deliver punishing barrages of Zack Simmons physics-challenging skins work beneath muscular riffs and corpse-waking vocals. Will this earn them new fans? Probably not, but when you sing about deicide, you sort of take what you can get. -JD