Thursday, June 28, 2007

Editors: Head "Start"

Editors An End Has A Start - 4/5 Narks

One of the U.K.'s finest rising bands, Editors, have returned with their highly anticipated album, An End Has A Start. As mentioned in a previous post, Editors are one of the first bands I stumbled upon when I was in search of new music last year. Its fair to say, they are one of the first bands I can say I've followed, which is great because I can see how they grow and evolve (Arctic Monkeys are a close second). After playing their platinum debut, The Back Room, countless times in the past year and catching them in concert last summer, I have been more than anxiously awaiting their next offering. This also makes it tougher for me to a) criticize their latest effort without bias and b) not be jaded to the fact that it might not be better than The Back Room, but I did my best.

After a first listen, it was apparent that the band has only got better at playing together. Whether it was by the guidance of recruited producer Jackknife Lee or touring the globe, their improved efforts have not been wasted. However, improving a craft does always translate into dramatic results. The new album treads much of the same ground as Editors' debut, specifically the epic ballads that highlighted The Back Room: "Camera" and "All Sparks". In a post on the band's myspace page, they cite deaths and trials throughout last year fueled the morbid, yet truthful finished product. Fortunately, dark themes and art rock are one of the band's strongest attributes.

The first single, "Smokers Outside the Hospital Door", opens the album on a grandeur note in heart breaking fashion. This tale features lead singer Tom Smith wondering how his life got to this point, seemingly in ruins, simply asking, "Someone turn me around/Can I start this again?" The song climaxes with a choir chanting, "We've all been changed/From what we were/Our broken parts/Smashed off the floor" almost as an otherworldly being answering his calls for redemption. "Weight of the World" continues the trend with commentary about a person's role in the world pondering, "Every little piece in your life/Will add up to one/Every little piece in your life/Will it mean something to someone?".

One of the standout tracks on the album is "Bones". The song is a heartfelt conversation about striving for a love that never quite matches the trouble. On the mid-tempo cut, the words "In the end all you can hope for/Is the love you felt to equal the pain you've gone through" speak to how relationships can be just as taxing on a person as physical injury. Further, "A system's put in place/Put there to protect us/For you I throw a life line every time" is explains how a person's skeletal structure is there to safeguard from pain and heal wounds. The parallel is made to the way a person can be hurt and but still be able to heal and forgive, even if they subconsciously know they will be hurt again.

Lighter fare can be found in the pulsing title track, "An End Has A Start". It features a rapid guitar with some synth assistance and states "You came on your own,/And that's how you'll leave,/With hope in your hands,/And air to breathe." A bit morbid, but a scenario for a variety of situations (birth and death or the rise and fall of a relationship). "Racing Rats" has up tempo energy and an industrial sound similar to "Fingers In The Factories", and speaks about being caught up in the contemporary world unable to keep in touch with whats important. Enough that you might not even notice the apocalypse. Many of these tracks will only further the comparisons to Interpol and Coldplay, but is inevitable with those bands citing similar influences (U2 and Joy Division).

Though experimentation is usually lauded in this forum, there is something to be said for consistency. An End Has A Start may not cover a lot of new territory, but Editors should be admired for creating a solid follow-up to their debut. Fans familiar with the band should enjoy it and I expect a larger US following after the release on July 17th. They are truly championing their sound which I would describe as industrial, with a touch of grandeur.

Editors - Bones

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pharoahe Monch: "Body" Shot

Its as if the leaders of hip-hop read my post about the decline of my favorite musical genre. Kanye West dropped the "Can't Tell Me Nothing" mixtape in an effort to push his release date up to August, Talib Kweli's "Eardrum" album has leaked (but worth buying), Wu Tang Clan is reuniting for a new album, and UGK's collaboration with OutKast, "International Player's Anthem" is gaining steam. Within the past two weeks, I have felt a jolt of excitement about hip-hop music, which hasn't happened since Little Brother shook the underground with "The Listening" in 2003.

Further fueling my anticipation of hip-hop on the rebound is Pharoahe Monch. The underappreciated MC returns from an astounding 8 year absence after his critically-lauded 1st release, Internal Affairs. Pharoahe Monch's complex flow and thought provoking lyrics were highly regarded in hip-hop ciphers and caught the ear of many in 1999. Since then, he has kept a low profile since former powerhouse label, Rawkus Records folded. His name popped a few years ago when he was said to have been courted by a number record labels, including Eminem's Shady Records, before finally settling with Street Records (headed by former Loud Records CED Steve Rifkind).

Pharoahe Monch's latest offering, Desire, is sure to headline a number of year-end lists and might even climb mainstream music charts. The street single, "Push", already has the underground buzzing and "Body Baby" should catch some of the OutKast crowd with Pharaohe's over-the-top, soulful crooning, mixed with spitfire rapping and a jazzy, infectious beat.

Pharoahe Monch - Body Baby

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Rosebuds: Indie Sounds of the "Night"

The Rosebuds Night of the Furies - 4/5 Narks

The Rosebuds are back with their latest offering, Night of the Furies and they've added a new twist to their style. The husband and wife duo of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp, known for their folk/indie rock melodies on the stellar Birds Make Good Neighbors, decided an electronic touch would be the perfect complement. This added element makes for catchy hooks that bring an indie-feel to the dancefloor.

The lead single, "Get Up Get Out", is one of the stand out tracks that showcases the group's embrace of dance beats. The dark, yet danceable tune features Ivan suggesting a companion the opportunity to "get out" and experience something new and exciting. It seems as though the song could also be in reference to this new and welcome sound the Rosebuds experimented with on Night of the Furies.

Other favorites include the grandeur sound of "Cemetary Lawns", the sonic handclaps on "Hold On To This Coat", and the odd, yet foot-tapping "I Better Run". The cowbell infested track features Ivan as a one man choir on the chorus, while Kelly seductively speaks of family heirlooms and her need to escape (as far as I can tell).

The only bad thing I can mention about the Night of the Furies is the short track list. At 9 tracks, it leaves the listener eager for more. Maybe its the fact that I am used to most rap (not hip-hop) albums that boast bloated tracklists 19 to 22 songs deep. Those albums usually contain garbage skits and filler tracks that aren't worth more than one listen. Fortunately, the replay value of the Rosebuds music is very high, especially on this album.

In the Rosebud's bio, it states "we set about recording these and other stories right away and Night of the Furies is the result. It is a dark, sexy, danceable, nuanced, and sublime record." And they effectively did so, its just a shame there wasn't more of it.

The Rosebuds - I Better Run

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Little Ones - West Coast "Sing Song"

The Little Ones is an indie pop group from Los Angeles that has an penchant for writing addictive hooks over festive instrumentals. Though they have only begun to gain notoriety in the indie realm, they already have amassed a small following on the road, opening for the likes of Tilly and the Wall and the Kaiser Chiefs. They were recently blessed with the rotation of their singles on the Zane Lowe Show and given a spot on the NME New Music Tour across Europe.

Their Southern California background and '60's pop influence is fittingly similar to fellow West Coast alumni, The Beach Boys. On their first release, Sing Song EP, The Little Ones use handclaps along with traditional instruments to create catchy tracks reminiscent of Pet Sounds. "Cha Cha Cha" comes off as beachside guitar pop with a chorus featuring wave-like strokes that sound inspired by the Pacific.

I first heard "Lovers Who Uncover" on the greatest college radio station in the country, Impact89 FM. I managed to write down their name for further research, all while dodging orange barrels and orders from ornary, middle-aged "ruffers" at Michigan State University last summer.

The Little Ones - Lovers Who Uncover

Friday, June 1, 2007

Scott Matthews: More Than "Passing"

One of the best songs of last year was finally rewarded for its excellence. It wasn't a Grammy or American Music Award, it was an Ivor Norvello award. Until today, I had never heard of the awards, but it is well deserved in this instance. "Elusive" by Scott Matthews was given the prestigious British award for merit in songwriting and composing.

Scott Matthews is part of the wave of singer/songwriters from across the pond and has shown he can craft a great song in a variety of styles. His debut album, "Passing Stranger", covers America-esque storytelling ("Elusive", "Earth to Calm"), experimental rock ("Dream Song", "Eyes Wider Than Before", "City Headache") and even some bluegrass ("Passing Stranger", "Sweet Scented Figure"). The effort is very much worth checking out.

"Elusive" is a bare-bones tale of a woman who always seems to be just out of reach. Matthews' chilling voice reverberates over the subtle guitar strums and elevates later with the background vocals that could easliy be mistaken for a string section. On the chorus he states "She's elusive and I'm awake,/You're finally real, there's nothing fake./A mystery now to me and you, /Open my eyes and I'm next to you./She said my destiny lies in the hands that set me free." But he later realizes his love interest is only part of his past and may only be accessible through memories.

Scott Matthews will open for Snow Patrol at Freedom Hill Ampitheatre in Sterling Heights on August 6th.

Scott Matthews - Passing Stranger

**I posted both a zshare link and an audio player your your listening pleasure. Any comments as to your preferences would be greatly appreciated.