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by Archives October 21, 2008

The Stills
Oceans Will Rise
Arts & Crafts

You come to expect certain things from Montreal’s The Stills. You expect solid carrying percussion with distinguishing guitar riffs. Their new album? definitely does not disappoint in that respect. Tim Fletcher and Dave Hamelin continue to belt out the same tantalizing vocals through clever melodies on Oceans Will Rise. Songs like their first single “Being Here” and “Hands on Fire” perfectly sum up the sound of the new record. It’s definitely a pleaser for fans of the band and of good home-ground music, but one thing that Oceans Will Rise is missing is a true distinguishing variation from their prior album Without Feathers. They can easily be mistaken for each other.

-Jarred Coxford

Ray LaMontagne
Gossip in the Grain
RCA

It’s difficult not to like Lamontagne at first listen. He has a powerful voice that is strikingly similar to a mix of Van Morrison and Joe Cocker, which can he heard most vividly in “You Are the Best Thing.” This new record, Gossip in the Grain, simply doesn’t have the zing that his debut Trouble had. His mesmerizing voice isn’t enough anymore. This album does have a couple of very bright spots however, with some very ear catching songs. “Hey Me, Hey Mama” has a very upbeat roots feels that seems very atypical of Lamontagne and “Henry Nearly Killed Me (It’s a Shame)” is one of the best driving songs I’ve heard from a folk musician in quite a while.

–Jarred Coxford

Department of Eagles
In Ear Park
4AD
Department of Eagles’ In Ear Park is a highly interesting listen, with a trajectory that is rooted in pop-sensibilities, courtesy of Grizzly Bear’s Daniel Rossen-who started the band with his college roommate.
Referencing Van Dyke Parks, whom Rossen apparently holds in high esteem since childhood, we can see the heights of musicality the album aspires to achieve. And it does, beyond citing more influences; the music is contextualized in an art school approach to pop music.
The lead single, “No One Does It Like You,” is drenched in frontman Daniel Rossen’s harmonized vocal tracks, amid a distorted fuzz bassline. “Teenagers,” is both playful and serious – a dichotomy Rossen is able to execute effectively and often in his songwriting. The lush instrumentation and lead piano lines allow the song to chug along at a slow but steady pace. “Herring Bone” is a haunting number, with just Rossen and a piano, before being joined by a modest wood-wind/string section in the last 30 seconds. It reinforces his ability to illicit powerful dark imagery that made “Deep Blue Sea” so memorable.
This is the kind of record you can’t just dive into, and walk away feeling like you “understand” it. In Ear Park really requires a few solid listens to soak into the subconscious, to catch all of the subtle nuances and to fully appreciate Rossen’s songwriting talent. His knack for composition has been attracting a great deal of praise on the Internet – a few people claiming he is the best songwriter in the United States right now. However bold this may seem, Grizzly Bear has a McCartney/Lennon situation on their hands – Ed Droste and Rossen are two incredible songwriters in the same band together. The fact that Rossen has a side-project is a testament to this notion – he has too many ideas to be contained in one musical entity.

-Jon Dempsey

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