Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beck - Modern Guilt

Ever since releasing the beautiful "Sea Change" in 2002, a testament to all things sad, it's getting clearer that Beck is going much less optimistic with age. But when you're known for having irony as your best friend and postmodernism as your lover, how can you age gracefully and still surprise your fans with the many twists you're famous for? The answer was already found with 2006's "The Information", a solid statement that managed to successfully marry all sides of his previous personas in its songs. Now with "Modern Guilt", his 10th album, the title already shows what's partially in store: the themes are even darker and there's almost no hope in its lyrics. However, the choice of super-producer Danger Mouse as partner in crime would suggest that we were in for another fusion between this grown-up Beck and the old-times more fun one. Surprisingly, that doesn't happen completely. Adopting a very direct and straight-forward approach, Danger Mouse's work in here is much more subtle than you'd expect, leaving the attention almost completely to the songs themselves and making this one of the most simple and sparsest Beck records to date. It's true that some of the songs never seen to ignite and nothing in here feels as exciting and new as, say, "Midnight Vultures" at its time. But try giving it a few more listens and you'll find that this album is full of discreet and elegant details to be slowly savored, while he still writes and sings like few other people. (7/10)

Beck - Orphans (video)

Official site
Modern Guilt site
MySpace page

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crystal Antlers - EP

The concept of garage rock may have some intrinsic limits based on its DIY and lo-fi rules, but thankfully those same limits can be outdone as it they were nothing. Meet Crystal Antlers, a project that turns the garage rock philosophy upside down and, while using its known methods and dynamics, still manages to make music that sounds larger than life. With multiple layers of instruments, all of them magically brought forward with equivalent (huge) space, we end up with an intense psychedelic cacophony full of abstract riffs and dissonant roarings that manages to equally translate both violence and transcendence. Not the easiest record of the year, but well worth exploring and being immersed by all of its intricacies. (7,5/10)

Crystal Antlers - live video

MySpace page

Monday, July 28, 2008

Magistrates - Make This Work (video)

Coming from Essex in England, the Magistrates will launch their debut single on the 4th of August and, if everything goes as it should, give it a few months and these guys will become everyone's new favourite band. With absurdly catchy melodies and applying inventive solutions in each of their songs (for an example, have a listen to the infectious keyboards and minimal production heard in "Make This Work"), one of their twists is inserting a soul falsetto voice in amazingly written indie-pop anthems . See what Sam Sparro did to Goldfrapp in "Black & Gold"? The method in here is the same, but this time applied to a sound not far from what Klaxons gave us an year ago, with incendiary results.

Myspace page
Official site

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Jeremy Jay - A Place Where We Could Go

Don't let the picture above or the first impressions upon first hearing this album mistaken you, this was really recorded just a few months ago and is not a long-lost classic from the 1950's or 60's. Jeremy Jay is a young singer/songwriter, but his debut full-length is so full of past influences like yé-yé or doo-wop, featuring also catchy innocent melodies and cinematic atmospheres, that he seems more like a timeless character. With 11 songs, each moment in "A Place Where We Could Go" seems like an ode to something that may only have existed in dreams, be it a specific moment, a feeling or, hum, a place. Everything is then loaded with reverb effects, adding a subtle dose of ghostly textures to this lo-fi pop songs and a much less naïve approach than what you'd first expect. The end result seems to walk on a very thin line (like dreams?) between mellower moods and more aggressive things, never really falling into any of them. Instead, it prefers to just stand inbetween, a nameless and mysterious but still wonderful place to go. (7,5/10)

Jeremy Jay - Someone Cares (video)

MySpace page

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A music video made of 9580 paper dolls

As a way to celebrate its 100th anniversary, american brand Converse commissioned a music video for "My Drive Thru", a song produced by and with Pharrell Williams feat. Santogold and Julian Casablancas (from The Strokes). If the Pharrell song is amazing (as always), the video kicks some serious ass!!! Directed and animated by Psyop, the ideas behind this were to express connectivity and an existing print campaign, where different artists, as paper cutouts, are connected by their feet (their Chucks are a symbolic link). The highly elaborated process ends up with a simple and effortless handmade feeling and that is what is so surprising and inspiring. Check the video bellow:

Monday, July 14, 2008

This is technology mixed with a band

On top, a little bit of glamour from Grace Jones from her Disco 54 days. Bellow, a brand new track called "This is Life" leaked from her new album (out on October) on Wall of Sound Records. The track is most probably produced by usual partners in crime Sly&Robbie and it goes back to her Compass Point sessions in the early 80's. I love it! It has been described as something M.I.A. would probably do if she was able to sustain a melody. I'm really excited about this record, it's her first in 20 years and judging by the leaks so far it sounds very promising.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Polaroids # 19

MGMT at the Alive!08 Festival

(Pictures taken on the 10th of July 2008 in Algés, Lisbon)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Home Videos # 11

MGMT - Of Moons, Birds & Monsters (live)

Apart from a couple of more immediate songs, the atmosphere of Oracular Spectacular could be difficult to translate into a live concert, but MGMT did not disappoint at all. Playing with a full live band, no concessions were made as they reinforced the psychedelic elements heard in their music, with an hypnotic set full of 70's progressive rock influences. Still, the best moment came in the end when the rest of the band left the stage, leaving Andrew and Ben alone to perform the infectious "Kids" like there was no tomorrow, on top of a pre-recorded instrumental track.

Vampire Weekend - Campus (live)

Late afternoon, sunny and warm weather, smaller tent, it was the perfect set for these guys catchy african-influenced indie pop songs. Visibly having as much fun as the rest of us, their energy and positive vibes were absolutely contagious, making it completely impossible for the audience to stand still and not starting to jump like maniacs.

(filmed on the 10-07-2008 at the Alive!08 Festival in Algés, Lisbon)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Air France - No Way Down EP

Slowly but surely, Gothenburg-based Sincerely Yours is becoming one of the most interesting music labels out there. A small independent structure created by the one-and-only The Tough Alliance almost 3 years ago, this has been home for some great projects like The Honeydrips, Jonas Game, Joel Alme, Skimret or Air France, besides of course the always-too-good TTA themselves, with a very intriguing catalogue that is worth exploring in its own entirety (you can do it here). One of its latest releases is this second EP from Air France, and the least we can say is that it lives up to Sincerely Yours very own spirit (creating art in general and music in particular as the ultimate form of evasion and escapism) and even manages to improve it, if that could ever be possible. A collection of 6 songs clocking in at 23 bright-sunny minutes, "No Way Down" uses traces of tropical and Balearic elements and inserts a whole lot of fantasy and sincere joy to create a new world of dazzling beauty. Full of affecting moments, gorgeous sounds and elegant catchy grooves, what then takes everything apart is the feeling of innocent fun that is all over the place, increasing even more the intensity felt in here. Make no mistake, these guys really had no shame in imagining an idyllic paradise very far from reality, making music that could be its aural translation: out-of-this-world. Or, as the lyrics to "Collapsing At Your Doorstep" go: “Sorta like a dream? No — better.” (9,5/10)

MySpace page