Monday, February 25, 2008

Beach House - Devotion

We're still pretty much at the beginning of the year but there's already a tendency that is starting to shape 2008: music is turning inwards. Less dependent on instrumental ear-catching tricks, musicians seem to be searching for their own deep hidden secrets before sharing them with the rest of the world. The new releases by Goldfrapp or Atlas Sound (side project of Bradford Cox, aka Deerhunter frontman) are some of the newest examples, along with the numerous folk records lately hitting the shelves. "Devotion", the second album from Baltimore project Beach House, is one of the best examples of this. With a very strong identity from start to end, it could be argued that nothing much differentiates each of its 11 songs. But after looking a bit deeper, it becomes clearer that this record is full of haunting thoughts and memories, making it a much more intense experience than you'd probably expect. Ingredients are sparse but elegantly detailed (reverb voices, pastoral organs, lo-fi guitars and discreet beats), while the songs seem like dense giving moments with a few narcotic powers. This is enough to build a somewhat holy atmosphere that is almost breathtaking. (8/10)

Beach House - You Came To Me (video)

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Sunday, February 24, 2008


Every year, the Oscars have an outsider among its nominees and this season is no exception. Juno is a nice little romantic comedy about teenage pregnancy and family-life in the american suburbs, a movie that doesn't have too much artistic or cinematic ambitions except for being fresh and clever entertainment. But among its many attributes, two things take it apart from your usual teenage comedies. For a start, we have great interpretations from all actors involved, with a special mention to Ellen Page in the lead role. And then there's the fabulous script, full of smart punchlines, pop cultural references, touching situations and characters that are impossible not to like, making Juno a movie that easily wins our hearts.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lykke Li - Youth Novels

The amazing video for "Little Bit", posted here some months ago, was the first lead that there was something to this girl. "Youth Novels", her first album, only confirms our thoughts, as it really seems impossible not to fall over her heels. Ever since she appeared, comparisons to Robyn have abound and they do make some sense, as both are swedish and have very personal views of what pop music should be. However, Lykke Li makes a difference for playing more with the elements around her voice, her songs seeming like little bricolage miniatures. With a sound less dependent on electronic tricks, we have amazingly-written songs and a sugar-candid voice that is just irresistible, taking us into a personal journey that, musically, manages to sound both experimental and extremely catchy. The trick is to maintain its pop values, high-class elegance and a half-delicate approach and then having some twisted fun around it, incorporating unexpected elements and new darker angles. Simple at first, revealing more and more complex atmospheres with each new listen and, in the end, intensely seductive. (8,5/10)

Lykke Li - I'm Good I'm Gone (acoustic live version featuring Robyn, Adam & Bebban from Shout Out Louds, Daniel from The Concretes, Lars from Laakso and Mikael from Hjalmar)

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Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

With so much hype surrounding this Brooklyn band for the last months, I have to confess that, when finally hearing their debut album, there was a bit of disappointment from my side. Sure, the much-talked african influences and rhythms were nice and all but, hum, it just felt there was nothing really groundbreaking here as it should. That's the problem with managing expectations, right? But a few more listens and everything starts making sense. It's still true that nothing here is particularly new but there's also an out-of this-world freshness from start to end that is impossible to resist, something that makes this music completely addictive. And nothing else is needed than having each sound carefully inserted in the right place and let inspiration and enthusiasm do the rest. So their goal wasn't changing the world, it was just having fun and make plain-simple indie songs that are insanely catchy. And when music has the ability to make you happy and smile, what's not to love about it? (8/10)

Vampire Weekend - Mansard Roof (video)

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Music Videos # 73

Klaxons and Rihanna - Umbrella (Live at the Brit Awards)

The Klaxons and Rihanna together sounds like material for wet dreams and that was almost what happened this past week, during the Brit Awards ceremony. The reason? "Umbrella" again, of course, with the Klaxons boys providing the instrumental parts, backing vocals and adding more than a few drops of "Golden Skans". To top it all, a lighting extravaganza was happening at the very same time. Must see, must see.

Monday, February 18, 2008

British Sea Power - Do You Like Rock Music?

What really strikes me in "Do You Like Rock Music?", the third album by this Brighton band, is the way it manages to stay on the brink of very bad things without ever losing it. Inserting every known and widely-tested ingredients normally used when you want to easily build epic anthems and grandiose atmospheres, there are angelic choirs, dramatic violins, church organs, lots of echoes and reverb, sirens, football chants, powerful riffs and even FM melodies not unlike Coldplay (ok, in a good day and with much less ballads). Does it sound too calculated? Are they using too much calories in their songs? Honestly, I'll never quite understand. The fact that all this actually works really well is rather uncomforting but, hell, it does. So say hello to another rock album that is also a very strong cathartic experience, full of hypnotic music, larger-than-life songs and solemn moments. And expect to see them in the nearest stadium, somewhere in the not-so-far future. (7,5/10)

British Sea Power - Waving Flags (video)

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Field - Sound Of Light EP

With more than 60 minutes, this EP (commissioned by Stockholm's Nordic Light Hotel) could hardly be considered less than a full-length album. But 4 songs, 15 minutes each, seems like a challenging concept for anyone, even when you're famous for streching and looping isolated sounds to their limits, until they become an act of escapism, like Axel Willner does. It turns out that Sounds Of Light brings to the front both the best and the not-so-good of The Field's vision. With so much time for each song, it really is a breathtaking experience to hear how each sound evolves, drawing circular lines that extend our pleasure. The only complaint is that, contrary to From Here We Go Sublime (an album with ten shorter songs and thus a wider palette of sounds, atmospheres and experiments) this new work runs the risk of becoming too self-absorbed and closed in its own world. But the fact that it still feels incredibly rewarding to be involved by it, is a proof that the formula isn't quite death yet. (7,5/10)

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Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

The bad news first: this a not Tim Burton at its best. The fact that Sweeney Todd is a musical and the rigid codes that this format usually presents have limited a bit of his creativity and, sometimes, they don't let the movie flow the way it could/should. The good news: Sweeney Todd still has loads of things that make it a must-see. A visual gothic orgy in the way it presents London during the 19th century, its twisted humour, Johnny Depp still as good as ever and, most of all, watching an almost colourless screen being invaded by blood and suddenly becoming covered in red.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Music Videos # 72

MGMT - Electric Feel (interactive video)

Keeping on with the MGMT moment that I've totally been living lately, here's the video for "Electric Feel", a crazy song that is some sort of reinterpretation of Beck circa "Midnight Vultures", which itself was a reinterpretation of many things but mostly vintage Prince. Never ones to do it the simple way, the clip shown above is actually just one out its "625 to the 229th power" possible versions. How come? Interactivity, kids! You too can play with all the psychedelic colors and badass effects, letting your creativity flow, hum, randomly. To do so, just download the interactive video music game here and start pushing those buttons.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

Signed to Sony/Columbia Records, MGMT (diminutive for Management) are a rare case of risk-taking in a time when most major-labels have given up and are just making safe-bets to survive. And how did they get here? Two young Brooklyn guys, a home-made record ("Time To Pretend EP", out in 2005) and, all of a sudden, being in the studio to record their first full-length album accompanied by Flaming Lips music producer Dave Fridmann and becoming everyone's new favourite band (as they're about to). It must have been exciting for them and, thankfully, we can also totally feel it when hearing this album, full of that contagious and sincere enthusiasm that is so special. An amalgamation of disparate references and influences (glam-rock, electro, psych-folk, funk, 1970's prog...), "Oracular Spectacular" has an intense and epic feeling from start to end that is, quite simply, breathtaking. Full of catchy pop melodies as rarely-heard before and loaded with vicious hooks and intricate structures, the rule must have basically been "everything goes!" to create a brand-new universe inspired in mythological figures and the eternal-youth potion. And finally, an extra bonus: amongst all the wonderful melodic bricolage and risky experimentation, there are at least two songs that have everything to become generational anthems (no kidding here!). Have a listen to the synth-loaded "Kids" and the intense hello-we're-here moment that is "Time To Pretend" and feel the goosebumps. Blinding! (9/10)

MGMT - Time To Pretend (video)

"This is our decision, to live fast and die young / We've got the vision, now let's have some fun."

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Club 8 - The Boy Who Couldn't Stop Dreaming

Sweden yet again! Coming from Stockholm, Club 8 consist of Johan Angergård on instruments and Karolina Komstedt on vocals and they practice a lo-fi and ethereal pop sound with a candid female voice singing (whispering?) everyday thoughts. Apart from a few sparse electronic appointments, the atmosphere is mostly acoustic, with a serene and limpid approach to melody. The end result is as simple and tender as it could get, almost to the point of being naïve. But it's also so warm and conforting that it really would be unfair to ask for more. (7/10)

Club 8 - Whatever You Want (video)

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