Quickspins + Retroview

The Horrors – Skying (XL; 2011)

The Horrors make a complete genre change with every album they release. They went from eccentric, garage rock-inspired vocals and guitars with Strange House, to gothic rock with Primary Colors. Skying is psychedelic shoegaze, making use of electronic beats and reverb. The result is a more atmospheric vibe, though more inconsistent than Primary Colors, when they wore their post-punk influences on their sleeves.
Some songs, like “I Can See Through You,” sound like they could be part of the Tears For Fears repertoire. Others are inspired by The Psychedelic Furs and My Bloody Valentine. The Horrors have surprised us again with another genre shift filled with crafty, clever musical ideas.

Trial track: “Still Life”

РFr̩derique Landry

Beirut – The Rip Tide (Pompeii; 2011)

Beirut’s established sound is all heavy horns and loud orchestral resonance, and The Rip Tide continues this tradition. Despite some really catchy tunes like “East Harlem” there are no hooks, no shocking beats, and no out-of-the-box melodies. The theatricality of his earlier instrumental and voice work is still there, but sometimes that same theatricality is just irritating. Case in point: “Santa Fe” and its uneventful (and annoying) beat of drum machine.
The album has its high points, with some quirky up-tempo beats, nice string work in “Payne’s Bay” and a gentle use of electric organ in “The Peacock.”  Nothing memorable and definitely not as passionate and inspiring as the classic Beirut album The Flying Club Cup.

Trial track: “East Harlem”


РFr̩derique Landry

Bon Iver – Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar; 2011)

When I found out Bon Iver’s frontman Justin Vernon had recorded a song with Kanye West for My Dark Twisted Fantasy, I was a bit scared that his debut For Emma, Forever Ago was just another one-hit wonder. I wanted more of that mournful, lonesome and introspective feeling he put me through with For Emma, where you can either cry your balls out, or make passionate love. However, I didn’t quite get that with Bon Iver.
What it lacks in raw emotion, this sophomore album makes up for with musical prowess. Vernon’s creamy falsetto remains present throughout the whole album, but the recording is more pop and less wintry. This time, we are focused more on the ensemble than just the frontman; you can hear this on the bombastic horns in “Perth,” the subtle piano in “Wash,” and the electronic beats of “Hinnom, TX.”
The album is undeniably a remarkable piece of music, and it’s almost as beautiful as the last one, but it’s a mistake to listen to it expecting another For Emma.

Trial track: “Wash”


РFr̩derique Landry

Big Star – Third/Sister Lovers (PVC Records; 1978)

Dysfunctional American band Big Star produced three albums before finally breaking up for 20 years. Produced by famous Memphis producer Jim Dickinson, Third was recorded over several short periods of time with only two of the original band members. The fuzzy guitars, endless voice echoes, overdubs and things like using a basketball as a snare drum may have killed the mainstream potential of the album, but they created something spooky, surreal and truly honest. It’s the sound of a band falling apart.
In Radio City, Big Stars’ second album, it was easy to detect the departure of lead singer Chilton’s writing partner, Chris Bell. But with Third, Chilton seems to have settled and completely let his mind loose. He sounds like a man without a soul, a friend in need. You can hear the shakiness of his voice in the opener, “Kizza Me.” Some say he destroyed most of the songs during the recording process. What really happened? Only the band knows.
Third/Sister Lovers will leave you caught in a wasted state of mind. It is a pop masterpiece.

Trial track: “Thank You Friends”

– Jean-Philippe Bourgeois


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