Review

Animal Collective//The Painters & Meeting of the Waters EPs

The perception of an artist’s’ prolonged excellence can often thank gradually reduced expectations for that longevity; same applies for Animal Collective. After the underwhelming but still compelling Centipede HZ. and the largely uninteresting Painting With, this year’s EPs have seemed like a resurgence – even if they’re not. Continue reading

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Review

Assorted Albums // Random Things

An assortment of reviews I did for other things over the past couple months, now all converted to my beloved letter grading system. Where once there was a 4, a 3, and a 3.5 there are now unquantifiable letters whose relative merit is vague and changeable. Just the way all attempts at objectivity should be.

Also, justice for The Lego Movie!! Vive le lego etc.

Panda Bear // Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Part of what makes Animal Collective the most fantastically diverse act in music is how every member brings something different to the table: Avey Tare brings crunch and rawness, Geologist brings a love of odd textures, Deakin brings… erm… I’m not sure – maybe a bit of madness. He was absent for Merriweather Post Pavilion and it was simultaneously their most controlled and their most fantastic release yet. Panda Bear brings a love of harmonics that led super-critic, Robert Christgau, to dismiss Merriweather simply by quoting Beach Boys. That tendency to turn 21st Century Beach Boys infects all the band’s albums, serving as a messy, mad, and sometimes wonderful way of covering up vocal deficiencies.

On Panda Bear’s solo work it comes out even stronger. Person Pitch was a mad, weird set of extended suites of pure harmonics – sometimes pushing over a dozen minutes – the highlights of which are some of the most fascinating, mesmerising music you’ll hear this century. Follow up, Tomboy, was more tame, and suffered for it.

New release, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, is somewhere in between the two. It doesn’t push to the extremes of Person Pitch, but doesn’t drift off into the sonic somnambulism of its lesser cuts. It has more character and verve than Tomboy, but retains the measured consistency that was also that album’s undoing in a way.

What we get instead is an album that has Panda Bear’s trademark vocal texturing, allied to a bounce and energy reminiscent of Centipede Hz’s finest hours. With songs like standout, Mr. Noah, we get a weird, trippy, dub-drenched piece of p-arty pop. That it’s able to balance the fun with the frantic inventiveness is down to the same joyous blend of wide-eyed, child-like wonder, and fully grown up emotiveness – that classically Brian Wilson effect of latent anxiety making the fun that much more invigorating and sincere – that has defined Animal Collective’s finest hours.

That melancholy that quietly underlies so much of Panda Bear’s work comes to the fore most clearly on album centrepiece, Tropic Of Cancer. With Animal Collective’s reputation as a fun, weird band in mind, the title, Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper, would seem to promise an oddly macabre adventure, with hijinks aplenty and typically infectious energy. Over the six minutes of this mournful, harp-led dirge, the album unfurls itself for the pensive piece that it really is. Through Animal Collective, Panda Bear has touched on his father’s death from cancer, but here there’s no escaping its shadow, rendered almost into a lullaby in a refrain that sighs:

And you can’t come back,
You won’t come back,
You can’t come back to it.

The tropical locale of the song title and the lightly Hawaiian lilt, speak of the same covering up that he laments throughout the song. It’s a moment of rare clarity and quiet in the midst of the swirl, casting the album in a new light – one that pierces through the layers of joyous whirling to a centre that is tinged with a sadness and emotional weight that speaks more powerfully than any of the abstractions of his other work ever could.
The swirling soundscapes that bury these more mournful moments are almost intimidatingly dense, but perhaps not quite as immersive as they could be. At times, they lapse into a meditative lull that harks back to Bros. – Person Pitch’s defining statement – and at those moments, as on Boys Latin, the album becomes something to really sink into.

The tendency to regularly stretch these soothing sojourns past the five minute mark does mean the album overstays its welcome, however. At the mid-point, we see the sludge-y bog of Come To Your Senses (over seven minutes long) stretch itself much too thin for what is already one of the least musically engaging tracks on the album. At other points, such as Butcher Baker Candles, it perhaps bounces without the flex in between. It’s oddly rigid, as much of the album is, in truth, suspended on beats that are thick and pushed way up front.

But Panda Bear’s vocal magic can usually carry the day, and often intertwines in bizarrely hypnotic fashion with the pounding sounds around him. All the same, as a whole, at 51 minutes long it lacks the proper variety to sustain itself, and album closer, Acid Wash, is a bum note to end a largely impressive album on.

Where last year’s Slasher Flicks by Avey Tare was a release that stood on its own (and not with much distinction), Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper is an album that any fan of latter day Animal Collective will appreciate. His brand is perhaps the most distinctive, and, probably, the most crucial to the collective. It lacks the dynamism and wonderful contrasts that make their work so strikingly compelling, but the result is a more inoffensive, meditative, and ultimately accessible work.

 

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WAIT, THIS IS ACTUALLY KINDA GOOD // Villagers – Awayland Review

Ask me a few months ago to list the dullest bands I could think of and Villagers would doubtless have featured prominently. Provided I could remember they exist that is, which is pretty difficult when you have virtually nothing to distinguish yourselves from an hour of silence. They were up there with The XX in terms of listenability, and I think The XX are like listening to paint dry.

What I’m trying to say here is that I wasn’t a fan. I couldn’t understand how anyone even could be a fan. I couldn’t even understand how people could pay attention long enough to write reviews on them, never mind the glowing ones that seemed to crawl out of every corner.

On {Awayland} that’s changed.

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My List Of Things That Happened in 2012

So, 2012, that happened. A year that started off without much of a bang but that was at least expected to end with an endless screaming nightmare fury of a bang. Nice one Mayans, way to get us all excited for nothing. Instead we had to settle for a year where, in spite of not developing in any way, Justin Bieber has managed to stay bafflingly huge and a dancing oriental fat-man has become the BIGGEST THING EVER. Some Canadian also encouraged people to impulsively pass their digits around and Snoop Dog became Jamaican all of a sudden. A man also jumped from very very high and another man who was very very high died. And no, unfortunately, it wasn’t Charlie Sheen. I could fill this with a personal account of how I’ve grown as a human being and transformed into a beautiful butterfly this past 12 months but instead have some lists. Here’s my impersonal list of the top things of 2012: Continue reading

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Public Call To Arms – Cover This

Someone really needs to cover this, or at least listen to it.

First off, there’s the title, All My Hate And My Hexes Are For You is a stupendously awesome title for a song, it’s just the shizz. Then there’s the fact that it’s a damn good song from a damn good band who are criminally underrated and underheard. Seriously, go listen to Sleep Forever by them, it’s an awesome album. Like Suicide mixed with My Bloody Valentine or something. I’d properly review but I’m lazy, it’d be a solid 4 to 4 and a half stars though.

And here’s what holds them back from 5 stars – that they hold back. They never cut loose. I know that’s kind of a given when you mix those two bands but come on, just once lose it a bit, show some emotion. Especially on this song. This song is dying for some killer edge a la For Reverend Green by Animal Collective, it’s dying for someone to really attack it. I’m not saying the current version isn’t good, it’s really really good, but I think it’d be great to hear a change, a different take, and I think I would have loved it even more if they’d had the balls to do it a bit.

I mean the lyrics and the whole thing are just so good, they just drip with latent malice, they’re perfect for a bit of controlled aggression.

So yeah, someone cover this and just assault it, not like heavy metal assault obviously but more of a Pixies kind of way. Please and thank you.

Needless post of the day done.

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I Don’t Even Know What They’re Saying And I Love Them: Radio Radio – Havre De Grâce

A French-Canadian hip-hop collective that drifts between French and English mid-sentence and is backed by beats that sound straight from Animal Collective must be a pretty hard sell. Fortunately Radio Radio are very smooth salesmen. I don’t even know what they’re saying half the time and I’m still hooked, that’s how damn good these songs are.

An arguably darker and more complex release than Belmundo Regal, Havre de Grace is nonetheless a major step-up. This is a supremely confident record, infinitely more mature and challenging than it’s predecessor; where once their concerns extended merely to luggage they now channel their greater experience into an album that is markedly more eclectic and experimental. Continue reading

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