Friday, July 1, 2011

Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction and Ghost

This post is gonna be a bit different than usual. It'll be a double review of sorts, and I'm going to give the backstory before I get into anything else. If you don't know who Devin Townsend is, let me enlighten you. Mr. Townsend is a guitarist, singer, and producer well known in the metal community for both his work with Strapping Young Lad and his solo efforts. He was known for his often silly antics and being.. well.. kinda crazy. In a very appealing and charming way, though. Not to mention being very talented and having a distinct style that's immediately recognizable. Then in 2006 he split both Strapping Young Lad and his side project The Devin Townsend Band and took some time off. He apparently quit alcohol and marijuana during this time and was becoming concerned that he found it difficult to write music without drugs. Then after he took a year off and did some self-discovery, he started this project, stretching across four albums, each with a different line up of musicians, that's meant to reflect different sides of his personality and the different sides of his personality, while writing sober. The first two albums came out in 2009 and were very different from eachother, one being a sort of rock ambient hybrid and the other a very heavy yet accessible piece. Now this year he's released Deconstruction and Ghost, on the same day. These are what I'll be discussing.

Deconstruction is the heavy of the two Townsend albums released this year. In a lot of ways it's a throwback to some of his work before the Devin Townsend Project. While Addicted, the album before this one, was heavy, it was also very commercial and accessible and had a more serious face than what we have here. This is more to the liking of Townsend's album Ziltoid the Omniscient. Townsend's trademark humor is back, and just overall bringing something I think would appeal to fans of his older stuff that haven't liked the other albums in this project. According to Townsend himself, this is a concept album about: a man who goes to hell and meets the Devil, who tells him that he will show him the secrets of the universe, then shows him a cheeseburger. But all he gives him is a cheeseburger. So the man is a vegetarian and deems his journey pointless. Yeah... remember how I said he was bringing more of his humor back? This is what I meant. And this sort of humor doesn't appeal to a lot of people, but others and fans of Townsend will love it.
But the way this album begins you wouldn't expect it to be that way. "Praise the Lowered" starts out very quiet and creeping, with Devin softly singing and saying "get ready". It goes on like that for a bit and slowly builds up before exploding into aggressive chugging guitars and screaming. Then the album never goes back to that more gentle face it started out with (except maybe briefly in "The Mighty Masturbator" we'll get back to that later). It's a fantastic opener, but for me it was a dynamic that was missed later on in the album. Because the rest of the running time (which is pretty long, clocking at 70 minutes) is all chaotic and crazy. The timing is changing a lot, and just when you're getting used to a riff or pattern it changes. It's really fun and exciting for the first 1/3 or so of the album, but find myself having less and less fun as it goes on from there. The chaos that was earlier very attractive and exciting starts to feel a bit stale as it goes on. "The Mighty Masturbator" brings it back a bit, by having the only build-up in the album besides the opener. It has the most variation in it, and the most humor. But it still feels overlong at 16 minutes.
I think those are the two main problems I can pinpoint with this album that's keeping me from loving it. I feel like it would have better suited a shorter album, and shorter songs. And if it was to still be this long, it could use more build up. Essentially this is the problem of little build up, lots of pay off. Which is usually preferred to lots of build up and little pay off, but it's still a problem that kind of kicks the album in it's shins. But overall this album is great. Devin's funnest album in years, and any fan of his heavier and more humorous work should love this, and those that like progressive metal and haven't heard Devin should check this out. There's a lot to recommend here, but it just might bore you sooner than you'd expect.


Favorites: Praise the Lowered, Juular, The Mighty Masturbator

Now onto Ghost. A total change in mood from Deconstruction. Here we have Devin's calmer side. Pretty guitar melodies, gentle singing, woodwind instruments, and lots of ambiance. If you've heard Devin's album Ki then you know what to expect here. It's the polar opposite of Deconstruction. Where Deconstruction was fast, heavy, chaotic, frantic, Ghost is slow, soothing, peaceful, etc. It's perfect when you think about how it's meant to represent different parts of his personality. Here is where his "self reflection" really shines through. While it's, I'm sure, an incredibly personal album, it feels very open and inviting. Like it's asking you to fold your legs, straighten your back, and meditate. Which this is perfect for.
I think I have a problem reviewing calm ambient stuff. Like how I talked about that Codes in the Clouds album and just couldn't come up with much to say about it. I guess it's because they're kind of those albums that are supposed to just be really "deep" when it comes to their sound and it evokes different feelings in everyone, so the only things I can think to say to describe it are very personal things; the emotions and memories that it brings out in me. I guess that right there says that the album accomplished it's goal in my case. There are quite a few parts of this album that hit particular chords with me, especially when Devin comes in with layered vocals and is surprisingly good at complimenting the peaceful mood of the album. And the lyrics are pretty simple, yet might bring up those sort of "life questions" in you. Like the song "Feather" which seems to be about family. And I haven't mentioned yet that there are occasional female vocals here too, which are good and fitting but not particularly fantastic.
While I've said a lot of things good about this album and said it accomplished it's goals, there are times here (like with Deconstruction) where I can find myself getting a bit bored. Which can happen a lot with ambient music and might be hard to avoid. But there's just quite a bit of this (also 70 minute long) album where it feels like there isn't enough going on. There will be nature-y sounds and just ambient noises, which, while calming, can just feel like it's not going anywhere. Particularly toward the beginning of the album. Later on it's a little less ambient and more, maybe folkish? Devin brings in a banjo on some tracks and the songs are constructed in less of an "easy listening" way, but while there's a lot more going on here than others, they still don't particularly stand out to me. But maybe that isn't the point. The album in some ways takes a lot of thought, and in others hardly any at all. The music makes you think, about what depends on the person, but it's not really trying to get you to think about IT, necessarily. I don't think it even wants all your attention. It WANTS you to sit back and drift in your thoughts. Get lost in it. My problem is sometimes I'm getting lost, but not in the music. I'm more drifting away from it than drifting in my thoughts along with it, so to speak. But overall this is really good. But, also like Deconstruction, it feels a bit dragged on. The length of both these albums are around 70 minutes and it can feel like a chore to listen to them, which is rarely a good sign in my book. But if you like ambient, rock/non-electronic ambient in particular, then check this out. You really have to be in the right mood for this music though.


Favorites: Fly, Feather

Codes in the Clouds - As the Spirit Wanes

This album came out all the way back in January, but I want to talk about it so dammit I'm going to. Not to mention I think it needs more attention. Once I'm done catching up on all the 2011 albums I feel like talking about that have come out thus far, I'll have like a three month cut off date.
Codes in the Clouds is one of the more recent post-rock bands to come onto the scene, from England. Which is cool because a lot of post-rock bands tend to be Japanese, I'm noticing... anyways, I was really excited to hear this album, as a huge fan of instrumental rock and post-rock in general. Especially since I heard a few songs off their 2009 album and was very impressed with what I heard. So now we have As the Spirit Wanes (which is free to listen to on their bandcamp page, link at the bottom of this post). And it's about what you'd expect from instrumental post-rock. Emotive, sometimes feeling melancholic and cloudy-day like music, and then a huge crescendo will come in like the sun bursting through the clouds. Probably sounds like a very familiar feeling if you've listened to the likes of Sigur Rós. What we have here is very pretty guitar work, for the most part. There's bass and drums to compliment them, but for the most part the guitar is entirely in the foreground. There are moments where a violin might come in, but less so than a lot of post-rock you'll hear. And while this is more simple in instrumentation and production than you might expect, they're still very good at getting those emotions from you. It does sometimes suffer from that more simple instrumentation though.
At times the album can feel a bit predictable, like you know exactly what they're going to try and throw at you next. Overall it's quite enjoyable and emotive, but doesn't require as much attention as you might expect from the genre. It's pretty, it's melancholic, it's hopeful. It goes through the usual. But it still does so in a very enjoyable way. This kind of music is perfect for laying in the grass and staring at the sky. Or even laying in bed and you just want to think. It's thoughtful but not overbearing and doesn't feel like it's trying too hard, which is one of the things I like about it. It's not up and in your face desperately trying to get an emotional response from you. It just sits down, does it's thing, and walks away letting you decide for yourself.
I haven't had a lot to say in reviewing this, and that might seem like a sign that it's uninteresting, which I wouldn't say. It's just that while I like it there isn't a lot to give much comment on. It's fairly generic post-rock, but it's good post rock. If you like post-rock at all you should like this, and maybe if you've been wanting to try out on instrumental stuff this would be a decent place to start, as it is accessible and an easy listen. And it's free, dammit. No point in not seeing for yourself.


Favorites: Where Dirt Meets Water, You and I Change Like Seasons, Cold Calls

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Com Truise - Galactic Melt

Let me say first that I hate the term "chillwave". For about a year or so now everyone in the music blog community has been arguing over whether or not this is a genre. Some say it is, but it's just a trend that will/is fading fast. Others think it is and absolutely love it, calling themselves "chillwavers". Then there are people more like me who don't see the point in arguing over genre tags instead of just listening to the music and deciding whether or not you like it based on, yaknow, what it sounds like. The only reason I go into genres on here is for other people's benefit and because to properly review it I need to give an idea of what something sounds like. For those that don't know chillwave, if it is a genre, is basically electronic music with heavy heavy use of effects, synthesizers, looping, etc. People draw similarities to synth pop and new wave from the 80's, just more modern sounding.
Anyways, now to talk about the actual album. Com Truise, despite having a name that I assume is specifically designed to annoy those with OCD and dyslexia, is a new persona of a man named Seth Haley, who apparently has many personas. I've never heard his music before and this is my first go, so I'm not going to try and go into much detail. The music here is something that makes me think of the 80's version of Tron. That's basically the mood here. I wouldn't really call it upbeat but it's not negative either. I think it's safe to say that this guy really really likes his synthesizers. This album is from what I can tell, 100% electronic. Anything that isn't electronic is probably sampled and then put through so many effects that it no longer sounds organic in the least. Which isn't always a problem, a lot of electronic subgenres that I like do things like that. However here everything just feels kind of... smudged. The album cover is kind of appropriate in showing how it feels. It seems like what this guy might do is make basic outlines of his song, then just wipe his hand through it and smudge it. Which sounds like it could be really appealing, but to me it isn't. There are a lot of moments I like here but then things will just go all out and blur together so much that it just kind of gives me a headache. There are times where there's just too much synth going on all at once and it just buries any sort of appeal in it for me. I love electronic music, and I love synth, but I've found that it's rare for that "wall of sound" effect to work well with it. The production here most the time turns pretty much all of the many layers all the way up, and you can feel the beat shaking but other than that all you can think is "OH MY GOD SYYYYYYYNTH". You get drowned in it, instead of being able to swim in it. It's kind of how I feel about some heavier noise rock bands, but in an electronic context. Which I realize some people really like that feeling. If you do, then disregard what I've said. But it's just not for me.
I'm a big lover of a lot of things that influence this album. I love my 80's synthpop, IDM, etc. But I think what this album is missing is a genuine feeling. It feels too random to me. Like he had the base figures of really good electronic songs, but then just added so much to it it lost all it's feeling. Kind of like when you over edit a piece of writing or a speech or something. But this might appeal to you if you really like loud, in your face, wall of sound type music and also like yourself some synth. However I haven't seen that line blur too much. There are appealing electronics here, and some moments where I feel like what I'm asking for is being achieved, but they are brief and not too dominant here. If you like electronic a lot and my complaints don't seem like they would bother you all that much, go ahead and give the link I provided at the bottom a try. If it appeals to you, then you'll like this album.


Favorites: Air Cal, Broken Date
Listen (samples of all songs):

Battles - Gloss Drop

I hate playing the bad guy. I really do. And it's such a rare thing. I'm not that hard to please, I'm really not. I'm easier on my criticism than a lot of critics and reviewers out there, but for some reason I'm just not liking this album as much as I'd hoped to. I don't dislike it, not at all, but it's just not as great as what I was expecting. Which may very well be my problem.
Battles is a small experimental rock/math rock band based in New York. They're kind of what you'd call a super group, even though none of them have been in anything all that well known. If you're curious, go look them up on Wiki. Anyways, so this group had one album previous to this, Mirrored, which came out in 2007 and was their first album. Back then they had one more member than they do now. That was Tyondai Braxton, who was a vocalist (wouldn't say "singer") and multi instrumentalist. He was a very major part of the band and gave it a big part of it's mood, which was hyperactive, fun, yet experimental and technical. His voice was far from accessible but most people grew to love it within minutes, me being no acception. So if you can't tell by how I've talked about it, I really enjoyed their first album. A lot of people did. So when word got around that Tyondai left, and they were making a new album, there started to be a lot of wondering. Wondering how it would sound without that very distinct addition to the music. And they have changed, kind of.
Since their vocalist left, I assumed they would become just an instrumental outfit, like a lot of math rock bands are. But then they dropped their first single from the album titled "Ice Cream", which had a guest vocalist. One who was also very experimental with his vocals (sorry, I know nothing about this guy so I can't comment much more than that) but I wasn't a huge fan of. The song was very fun and eccentric like their old album, but for me it just didn't feel the same. It felt... I guess "forced" is the word I'm looking for. Like it was trying to hard to keep that same feeling as the old album but to me it just felt like it was a mask they were trying very hard to make look real. And on the full album there are four songs with guest vocalists, and all those tracks kind of stand out to the rest. Because while the songs here have a lot going on, lots of instruments and great production, they just don't feel as stand out. While they are experimental and have a lot of change ups, most of the time the main riff or beat is in the foreground for the entire song, and most of these songs are quite long. The song will start with the main instruments, after a bit they add a layer, then they add another, and continue for usually about a minute, then drop the layers and have a short transition, then start with what sounds just like the beginning of the song again with maybe one or two minor changes. Then they start adding layers again. And it repeats like that for most the songs. This isn't the case for every song, but that's what it felt like. The songs without guest vocalists all seem somewhat similar too, at least to me. And usually by about halfway into each song I'm getting the urge to skip the song, which I don't do often. Hell, I listen to prog rock and ambient music. But there are just points where the instrumentation just kind of loses my interest, even though it's on the experimental side. The album feels too long for it's mood. Really fun and eccentric music is often better fit to shorter albums, and shorter songs. Otherwise it slowly feels like you're having less and less fun.
And while this album is most definitely fun and eccentric, like I just said, it seems like a toned down version of their previous full length to me. It's lost some of it's charm but it's trying to keep it. If Battles where a person and each album was a phase of it's life, Mirrored was it being a hyperactive ADHD kid that was really good about keeping it's family and friends entertained and has a reputation for being the funny one, while Gloss Drop is the same kid in his early teen years who has somewhat matured but is trying to keep that same charm he used to have, succeeding sometimes but for the most part it's just not the same. If you hear this without hearing the first album you probably won't see what I mean. So I guess for me it feels like this suffers from "Sophomore Album Syndrome". Where you love a band's debut album so much, then move on to the second with very high expectations, so high that it's almost bound to disappoint you, even if it IS very good in itself. I know there are a ton of people who are praising this album like no other, even ones who loved their first effort. So I'm somewhat alone on this one. But I really can't help how I feel about it.
In the end I still give this album a recommendation. If you like experimental music, math rock in particular with a heavy focus on eccentricity and fun instrumentation (not to mention great production), than I highly recommend you give this album a listen. Since so many others are liking this better than me, you probably will too. So don't take my pessimism too seriously. I just have to be honest about my opinion. I can say, whether good or bad, this is probably the most fun and optimistic album of 2011 so far. Give it a try and see what YOU think of it.


Favorites: My Machines, Rolls Bayce, White Electric

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Touché Amoré - Parting the Sea Between Brightness and Me

Good instrumentation, very one note lyrics, sounds ridiculous on a track like "Condolences"
Very short tracks but they all flow together with almost no stops whatsoever so it flows together
then just stops abruptly at the end of the album

Touché Amoré is a post-hardcore band from LA that have been making quite a buzz with their newest album, pleasing a lot of post-hardcore fans who've been disappointed by the more recent efforts to come from the genre. And while I wouldn't call myself the biggest post-hardcore fan by any means, I like quite a few bands that have been at the very least strongly influenced by 90's post-hardcore bands like At the Drive-In and Fugazi. So I came into this expecting to find something I'd like. However what I've found is a very bittersweet experience.
This album is fairly predictable if you know post-hardcore. It's very aggressive, slightly melodic guitar riffs, equally aggressive drums, and yelling/screaming vocals. There's only one single track on this album that goes over two minutes long. However this isn't that much of a problem because one thing this album does well is flow one track to the next. If you don't watch as the tracks change you likely won't know when one stops and the next begins. Usually a riff will end quiet down very briefly and then it immediately goes to the next in-your-face song. We do have a couple quieter moments here though, where the music is less aggressive and sounds more along the lines of "emo" music. I don't really consider emo to be a genre, but these guys seem to be influenced by the kind of music that's usually tagged as emo. It's especially apparent in the lyrics, which might remind one of Brand New. But back to the instrumentation, there's a lot to like here. While it's aggressive it is so in a very likeable way and has some really catchy parts. The guitar work is really what's worthy of praise. The drumming never particularly stood out to me as anything fantastic but I do think it compliments the guitars well enough. However there are few moments where there's any sign of a bass, and when there is it's pretty unremarkable, which is a really huge pet peeve for me (as a bassist myself). But there's even a short piano part in this album that comes across quite emotive and touching, for a moment at least. And that brings me to my biggest problem with this album...
As I said before, here we have aggressive, yelling, screaming vocals. And he's doing this for like 85% of the album. Rarely is he not screaming something in your face. While I rarely have a high opinion of them, I can deal with aggressive vocals, especially in post-hardcore bands. BUT, what I really like in any sort of genre, is variation. Especially in vocals, especially when they're present for this much of the album. Because otherwise I will get incredibly tired of what I'm hearing very soon. And that's what's going on here. This guy is one note. He has one gear in a broken stick shift. I had the same problem with Fucked Up's latest album too. I always enjoy the first couple tracks of this album while I'm hearing them, but by the time I get to about the halfway mark it feels like there is a cheese grater taped to my brain and it just irritates the hell out of me and anything I found appealing in the music is quickly forgotten. Especially since with the production here, the vocals are mixed at the same level, if not a bit higher, than the guitars. There are some moments on this album where I think the vocals just sound absolutely ridiculous in juxtaposition to the music. While the first six tracks or so are pretty much non-stop aggressiveness, later tracks make a few efforts to have more quiet, emotional, and sentimental moments. Especially at the beginning of "Condolences" when there's a nice sad (if simple) piano melody going on. But right as you're starting to get used to the abrupt change and enjoy it, the vocals come in again, just screaming at you. And while the lyrics may well fit the mood change, the vocals laughably don't. I literally laughed out loud the first time I heard it. Especially since they do something different with the production and it sounds like he's yelling it from across a large empty room. So basically I picture someone playing a nice piano on one side of the room while the vocalist is drunkenly yelling at his girlfriend on the other side of the room. That's what it sounds like. And it's ridiculous in my opinion.
However I have to acknowledge that the aggressive vocals may very well just not be my thing, and I know a lot of post-hardcore purists will have absolutely no problem with them. That's why even though I just bitched about this album for a good bit, I'm still recommending it to anyone that likes aggressive music, specifically post-hardcore. So long as you don't mind the slight "emo" influences, that is. And if you don't care about one-note vocalists. It's just a very big pet-peeve of mine that can very quickly ruin something I would have loved otherwise, and this is a prime example. So in summary, I really liked the guitar work in this album and would have liked it much more had there been variation in the vocals, particularly when the instrumentation tries to change up. I can see myself coming back and listening to bits and pieces of this album at a time, but that's about it. Most others are enjoying this a lot more than me, so check it out and see what you think.


Favorites: Pathfinder, The Great Repition

EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

By looking at this album cover, what kind of music would you guess it garners? Well, maybe you have a better guess than I did, but in seeing this cover I imagined something along the lines of dance pop, party sort of music. I think it's the necklace that does it. However this album is certainly far removed from dance music of any sort.
Erika M. Anderson (aka EMA) is a singer/songwriter from the midwest that used to be in a band called Gowns, which I haven't listened to but I've heard described as "freak folk" or "noise folk". I suppose you could put this album in the same category. What you have here are acoustics, EMA's raw, emotional, sometimes shaky vocals, and a lot of filters put through. There are times in this album where the instruments are swelled to a wall of sound, not unlike noise rock, and there are times where it sounds much more singer/songwriter-ish. And the album flip flops between them in a way that actually makes it pretty appealing. EMA always has very abrasive lyrics here, but very honest, not unlike most singer/songwriter's. And she doesn't try to sound pretty when she sings, not at all. Her voice can almost be brooding at times with her half-singing half-talking, and it can get pretty powerful when things start getting noisy
The mood of this album is definitely not on the positive side. It isn't the most depressing or angry album I've ever heard, but it's what could be described as a "bedroom album". Something you listen to on a Friday night when you're home alone and sick of the world. The lyrics sound like the kind of things you'd write in your journal as a stream of conscious, you're not paying attention to any sort of rhyme scheme or the words flowing through together, but when they're sung here EMA's approach to vocals only compliments it and makes them feel like they could be something from your own personal journal. In some songs she sounds very angry and negative (California), going on about the things she can't stand, and in others she's more vulnerable (Marked), and she switches between the two like most people with emotional problems do. I think everyone can relate to that feeling of not being able to control your emotional swings like that. And reading the lyrics along with listening can add another layer to the experience. So this album is cathartic, to say the least.
Yet despite all these compliments, I'm still not totally loving this album. I definitely like, but it's not completely blowing me away like it is some people. I really really like the honesty I get from this album, which is what attracts me to most singer/songwriter music. However the main problem this album suffers from is having it's best song being the first on the album. Now this isn't always a problem, I know a ton of albums that have their best song as the first, being the thing that draws you in and sets the mood and tone for the rest of the experience. Here it seems like it would be a much more appropriate closing track. I know it sound like I'm nit picking, and I suppose I am, but after the opening song it seems like nothing else quite adds up to it. Not to mention that the first track is the most "accessible" song, so it's very possible that it could leave the wrong impression. On this album there are a few songs that I really really enjoy, only one being in the second half and even then just barely. There are only nine songs on this album, and the last three or so in my opinion fall really flat and just don't close the album like it should. Others might feel different but since I got this album it's been the kind where I go in, listen to my favorite songs off of it, then usually turn it off at that point. So while there are a lot of things I like here, and there are songs I could say I love, as a whole it just doesn't quite hold up like I think it should. 
I will say that I'm excited to see what's next for EMA and where she'll go next, and hope that her next album fixes the issues I had with this one. I'd suggest this album for those that like their singer/songwriters to be female, and more on the experimental side. And also for those that are looking for some more sad and emotional 2011 albums. But if you don't like singer/songwriter or "sadcore" music, then you won't like this. Check it out and see what you think of what a lot of people are calling one of their favorites of the year.


Favorites: The Grey Ship, Anteroom, Marked.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wild Beasts - Smother

This is one of those occasions where I feel like I'm really late on the bandwagon. Wild Beasts are a four-piece "indie" group from England that have been causing a bit of a buzz lately. I didn't hear of them until this album, but apparently they've been around since about 2002. However this is only their third full length LP, following two very well received predecessors from 2008 and 2009. And although this is my first time hearing one of their albums in their entirety, I've heard some of their earlier works for the sake of this review and their sound has definitely been evolving.
Smother isn't too much of a departure from their sound, but I'd say it's definitely a departure in mood. Their first two albums seemed much more playful, where as this one seems almost sinister, but in a very sexual way. Just about every song and all the lyrics on this album are about sexual desire. And normally for me that would get boring after a bit. Don't get me wrong, I like my sexy songs, but unless you change it up and manage to keep it genuine or put an interesting twist on it I will get sick of it. But thankfully this album steers from that, in my opinion. The music itself and the way it's presented is itself seductive, but strange. When the first song "Lion's Share" comes on (if you're not familiar with Wild Beasts) it will no doubt seem strange to you, the vocals and lyrics in particularly and probably even put you off. However as things go on it quickly is very appealing and very addicting, and the second you let your guard down it just grabs you. For me it was a very fitting experience with the context of the album. Because that's just how seduction works. It takes you by surprise and, if it's tricks work, you're sucked in and you're stuck. Within the first couple songs it's performing it's mating dance for you, and then you either stay excited and wanting more, or leaving annoyed and put off. And if you stay wanting more, I can tell you you'll be quite satisfied with what you get.
I had a bit of trouble on how to tag the genres of this album. It has elements of indie, I suppose, and it's influenced by quite a bit of electronics, but I really don't like putting it under either of those blanket terms. A lot of people are calling it "dream pop", which I've had little experience in, so I'm not too sure if that's what you'd call it or not. But it is very dream like, and it does have pop moments, so why not. However I think production wise this probably doesn't fit in with any of those. The production is very clean, little to no reverb whatsoever, which in my opinion is refreshing because sooooo many lately have just been drowning themselves in reverb, no matter what genre they are. I like reverb sometimes but lately I've been getting so sick of it that this is incredibly refreshing. However this album, the vocals in particular, can be kind of hard to swallow. There are two vocalists, Hayden Thorpe, and Tom Fleming. The former singing in a falsetto that seems almost alien like vocals, that can be really off putting at first but you either grow used to it and start to love it very quickly or you'll go in the entirely opposite direction just as fast. The latter however, while being by no means a baritone, has a deeper voice and sings in his own strange way that sounds almost... throatless? I have no idea how else to describe it. Kind of how you sound after you've finally gotten over a terrible cold you had for like a week and your nasal passages are clean for the first time in so long. Something like that. Anyways, in my opinion Tom's vocals don't bring as much to the plate as Hayden's do, and the tracks where he's leading are probably my least favorites, but at the same time I think that without that dynamic there this album wouldn't be quite as appealing. As for the instrumentation, it's incredibly cerebral. There's a lot of percussion going on, and very beat orientated tracks with the vocals leading the way most of the time. And while there are lots of guitar and bass things going on their less in the foreground than you'd maybe expect. Then with the production there are a lot of subtleties going on that compliment the instrumentation and give it more of that other worldly feeling. None of these songs are particularly upbeat either, but not sad either. They fit the content of the song meanings very well though, and on songs like "Plaything" and "Lion's Share" they are appropriately inviting, but in almost a suspicious way. And songs like "Bed of Nails" and "Albatross" give almost a feeling of yearning, just like the songs. Like a desire you can't have, or desiring something that you used to have.
I don't have any particularly big gripes with this album, honestly. However I can say there are some short, rare moments where I might lose interest in the song, although it's usually very brief. It's just there are a few songs in here that at times feel they start to kind of lose themselves and you want it to have some sort of major shift to grab you back. For me these moments mainly occur on the tracks that Tom is taking the lead vocals, which might be my main problem. Others might find his additions more interesting than I do, but this gripe is really the only one that I have and other than that I can say this album has got me completely addicted to it's ethereal take on desire. This album has quite a few tracks that I absolutely love and the rest fall just under that.
I would suggest this to anyone that likes some odd music, or seductive music. However if you're really picky on your vocals, or really cynical about them, you probably will be put off. But I highly recommend you listen to a song or two, because that should immediately tell you whether or not this is your thing. What do you have to lose besides a few minutes? I can see some people really not liking this sort of thing, but those that do will likely fall in love with it. Give it a shot.


Favorites: Bed of Nails, Albatross, Plaything