In 2010, a quartet of skinny, shaggy-haired Aussies burst onto the indie-rock scene with a distinctive blend of loud, synth-driven, psychedelic rock. Melding melody with heavy distortion, Tame Impala’s music conveyed the image of a stadium arena, filled exclusively with beer-swinging, pot-smoking bros. Two years down the line not much has changed.
Although their single “Elephant” seemed to promise a change of direction for the band, their sophomore effort Lonerism continues in a similar vein as their debut Innerspeak. Digging even deeper into their signature sound, Lonerism has amped up the weirdness, burying their songs in psychedelic tangents and studio tinkering. Simultaneously, singer Kevin Parker’s eerily John Lennon-like vocals, paired with the trippy melodies, makes one wonder how Magical Mystery Tour would have sounded with today’s technological innovations. Nevertheless, Lonerism lives up to its name, leading the listener in a solo adventure down the rabbit hole.
Trial track: “Elephant”
A.C. Newman – Shut Down The Streets (Matador; 2012)
Best known as the frontman of Canadian indie rock group The New Pornographers, Carl Newman is finally showing a more personal and intimate side to his songwriting. Newman said that Shut Down The Streets “is all about birth, death, happiness and sadness, chronicling a time in my life where all those things had to learn to coexist side by side.”
Following a year of joys and sorrows, the heartbreaking “They Should Have Shut Down The Streets” was written after the death of his mother, while the blissful “Strings” and “Hostages” are about the birth of his son.
Inspired by classic ’70s folk and pop singer/songwriters, and featuring vocal contributions by fellow bandmate Neko Case, Shut Down The Streets is a beautiful album, full of timeless string arrangements, acoustic and synthesized instrumentation, and a brutally honest sentiment that is sure to win your heart.
Trial track: “I’m Not Talking”
– Paul Traunero
Ultraísta – Ultraísta (2012; Temporary Residence Records)
Nigel Godrich, of Radiohead producing fame, formed Ultraísta with famed session musician Joey Waronker and vocalist Laura
Bettinson. The band’s name takes its inspiration from a former Spanish literary movement.
Though Godrich’s involvement has certainly spurred the media’s hype over this obscure three-piece band, the attention is well deserved. The vocalist’s prowess keeps you listening to every second of each track. There is heavy use of vocal looping and digital cut-and-paste production, creating a unique vibe.
The result is an excellent debut, sure to please fans of Radiohead, Zero 7, and electronic enthusiasts. Some might find the music a little too abstract for their taste, as a result of overproduction.
Trial track: “Smalltalk”
Rating: 8.7 / 10
Three Days Grace – Transit of Venus (2012; RCA)
A ‘transit of Venus’ is an astronomical phenomenon by which Venus passes in front of the Sun, becoming visible to Earth. With Three
Days Grace’s new album, aptly titled Transit of Venus, the band does just that. They reach for the sun and increase their visibility without burning themselves. Instead, they shine.
Each song sounds carefully structured and ached over, and each lyric bleeds perfectly into the next through frontman Adam Gontier’s voice. The lyrics are what have improved the most since 2009’s Life Starts Now. Each song is heavy, honest and raw. From breakup anthem “Chalk Outline,” all the way to closer “Unbreakable Heart,” the band shows just how much of themselves has been poured into this album. Having been in the industry for 20 years and in the mainstream for the last decade, it is a true testament to their skill that this new release may come to be remembered as the group’s best yet.
Trial track: “The High Road”
– Ryan Demberg