Thursday, January 19, 2012

Islands - "A Sleep & A Forgetting" out Feb 14 on Anti-

Islands are quite an aptly named band: you can almost picture lead singer Nicholas Thorburn strumming a ukulele with his feet in the sand...

Most of Island's fourth record is not thrilling, but nice. Mellow to the point of sleepy. They're more interesting when they step out of their comfort zone: the poppy "Never Go Solo" had a bit of a Jellyfish ring to it, and the spacey "Same Thing" is a solid album closer.

A Sleep and a Forgetting was apparently written about a difficult breakup for Thorburn, which can often be songwriting gold. But with Islands, I'm just not
feeling the despair or urgency... - CR

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dr Dog - "Be The Void" out Feb 7 on Anti-

Dr. Dog - Prospect Park -2009
Dr. Dog. - Be The Void
I had a really hard time writing this review. Granted, I'm still pretty new at this whole "music criticism" thing, relatively speaking. I'm not exactly a seasoned veteran, or even an experienced Padawan; I have a long way to go before reaching Jedi Critic status. I'm learning as I go, picking up neat tricks of the Force here and there, moving words with my mind as prompted by the music.
Still, when I was presented with the opportunity to get an early listen to "Be The Void" and write some words about it, I thought it would be pretty easy, for reasons that seem silly now. See, I'm not only a long time fan of the band, but I'm also a musician, and I worked on an album in the very same Philadelphia studio where Dr. Dog was cutting tracks, for a time. None of this really has much to do with "Be The Void", but I was deceiving myself when I thought that writing about it would be easy because of all these things.
It made everything so, so complicated.
Dr. Dog - Williamsburg Waterfront 2011
"Be The Void" is a sincere, lyrically diverse, occasionally anthemic, and beautifully flawed rock-'n-roll record. It's not perfect, and it's not supposed to be, and even if it were perfect, what the hell would that sound like? No, it's got some issues, but having listened to it about 10 times now, I can say that those issues are extremely minor.
This record is about as great as a record can be, given the circumstances.
Those circumstances are... complicated. Dr. Dog is a band that many feel was strongest in its heady youth, making lo-fi jams reminiscient of everyone's favorite proto-indie songwriters. Then they got noticed, and things changed. There was polish, attention to detail, and (depending on who you spoke to) a drop-off in song craft.
Dr. Dog - Williamsburg Waterfront 2011
Personally, I liked the songs on "Fate" and "Shame, Shame." Solid writing, both lyrically and soncially. Did I love them? Harder question to answer. A few of them defintiely resonated with me (especially on the latter album) but at the end of each album, I was always left with a sense of want. What I wanted, looking back, was more of the joyous, groove-driven songs that were prevalent on the pre-polish Dr. Dog albums. I wanted them to hook me a little harder.
"Be The Void" is not lacking in the hook department. Nearly every song on the record pops at the listener. I really don't want to use the word "infectious" but it's getting to that point.
The first time I listened to the album, I thought it was too long. At twelve tracks and about forty-eight mintues, it's really not that long. It felt long. I thought that was a flaw of the album. It's not. The songs felt like they're longer than they are because my brain wanted them to last forever. I don't remember the last time an album had that effect on me.
Dr. Dog - Terminal 5 - 2010
Seriously, I was ready to write a review in which I came down hard on this album for "feeling too long." What does that even mean?
At first, I think it was just an issue of track order. The album starts strong and ends strong. In the middle there are strong tracks that I may have thought were out-of-order, but upon further listenings, I discovered I just had to open my ears, and mind, just a little bit. The pacing of the album really is more than okay.
There are strong strains of all kinds of music on these tracks. There's a fair amount of soul, a hefty portion of doo-wop, and generous servings of psych-rock. There is a Yeasayer-type song, synths and all, but with more attention. There is bluegrass and folk and old-time. These guys really know how to run the gamut. It's extremely rich in flavor, this album.
Dr. Dog - Terminal 5 - 2011
It also sounds great. Like, the guitars are rich and beautiful, and the bass is powerful when called upon, and the drums are damn near perfect. It's engineered, mixed, and mastered to perfection. I don't think there was a moment during the whole thing when I thought, "This couldn't be what the band wanted this song to sound like." All of the intent, the emotion, the lyrical meaning, is out there, laid bare for the listener.
Which is a pretty daring move, in a way. A lot of bands hide behind effects, reverb and delay, noise and distortion. Dr. Dog isn't interested in obscuring a single lyric, or muddling any of their musical intentions. What you hear is what they wanted you to hear. I applaud them for that.
Sometimes the songs get a little distracted with themselves; they wander off in directions that don't seem to make sense at first. I don't want to give any specific examples, but I will say that for the most part, the songs end up in the right place. I just wasn't really sure how they got there. And you know what? I'm okay with that.
Dr. Dog - Prospect Park - 2009
So I'm just going to come right out and say it: "Be The Void" is the Dr. Dog album that you and I, and everyone who likes this band as much as you and I do, have been waiting for. It's the album, guys. It's here. Prepare your headphones, buy new speakers, get ready to write fan mail. Save money for concert tickets, and tell your friends. You're gonna fall in love all over again.
Dr. Dog - Williamsburg Waterfront 2011