Dirty Beaches- Badlands
(Zoo Music; 2011)
Dirty Beaches is Vancouver solo artist Alex Zhang Hungtai, and his debut LP is a tormented reduction of rock ‘n’ roll. Any notion of familiar song structure is abandoned for nearly half the record, manifesting as moody, lo-fi rumblings. Hungtai comes nearly to the point of breaking into tongues on the hypnotic “Sweet 17,” which serves as the album’s most memorable moment. Expect restless love, lust and longing to haunt the record’s 26 minutes, but don’t expect any kind of resolution. These songs are devoid of any pop fingerprints, embodying a disarticulation of familiar sounds. As if the album art didn’t already give it away, this is a dark record â€“ but not one completely without hope. Although Hungtai’s reverb-saturated delivery renders most of his lyrics barely decipherable, the emotional content grants passage into Badlands’ possible intent. Hungtai is basking in some kind of struggle; this record is anything but a cry of submission.
Trial Track: “Sweet 17”
7.8 / 10 – Colin Harris
Banjo or Freakout- Banjo or Freakout
London-based producer Alessio Natalizia has been creating his brand of bedroom-pop since he began playing with a music program on his girlfriend’s laptop in Hackney, London. He has since released a slew of EPs and demos, attracting the attention of noted producer Nicolas Vernhes (Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors, Bjork and Spoon), with whom he collaborated on his first LP, Banjo or Freakout.
Supplying neither banjos nor freak outs, this album is a mix of the dreamy and the dreary. Songs like “105” and “Idiot Rain” boast pop sensibility and richly textured sound, sure to please fans of Atlas Sound or Panda Bear, and show definite potential. Unfortunately, most of the album’s offerings are so frail that they could simply float off, if not weighed down by aimlessly synthesized distortion.
Once Natalizia’s skills are honed and he has reached maturity in the industry, we might hear something more noteworthy from Banjo or Freakout.
Trial Track: “105”
6.0 / 10 – Paul Traunero
Mother Mother- Eureka
(Last Gang; 2011)
If you’re looking for a sweet-and-sour pop-punk indie record, Mother Mother’s second album Eureka may be it. Mother Mother is surely part of this country’s indie’s ‘crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me” while distancing itself from other Canadian bands in the genre. And they’ve proven it once again with their latest concoction, which is edgy as hell.
This record is fresh and upbeat, and their legendary layering of vocals is ever-present. Slow songs like “Simply Simple” are soothed by lingering keyboards, while tracks that are more fastâ€“paced, like “Chasing It Down,” rely more on beats created by clipped vocal melodies and loud drums.
Colourful yet never cheesy, Eureka is well-crafted, clean cut and methodically recorded. At the core of most songs are very melodic beats. Guitars are mostly rhythmic, voices are mastered and layered, and the arrangements are overall harmonious.
Trial track: “Baby Don’t Dance”
8.0 / 10 – Lea Choukroun
The Smiths- Meat Is Murder
(Rough Trade; 1985)
Meat Is Murder is a great introduction to The Smiths. Although their 1986 release The Queen is Dead is recognized as their greatest album, the sound of this 1985 record proved that The Smiths had found their identity. This album takes their well-known characteristics, such as Morrissey’s moody lyrics and Johnny Marr’s spirited guitar riffs, and crafts them into something more defined and creative.
“The Headmaster Ritual” starts off the album with these Smiths staples as typical Marr melodies mingle with thought-provoking words. Serious lyrics are often candy-coated with Marr’s uplifting melodies. Tracks such as “Rusholme Ruffians” and “Nowhere Fast” have a rockabilly flavor. These two songs are toe-tapping tunes, but they will take some time to get used to if one is just getting acquainted with The Smiths.
Finally, “Meat Is Murder” is any vegetarian or vegan’s anthem.Â Disturbing slaughterhouse noises fill the intro and outro of the track. This song is the most chilling track The Smiths have ever recorded.
Trial Track: “The Headmaster Ritual”
– Roya Manuel-Nekounei