Tag Archives: album review

Album Review: Lady Wray – Queen Alone

Queen Alone is the second solo studio album from American R&B singer Nicole Wray, and her first album under the name “Lady Wray”. Eighteen years since her first album, Make It Hot, Wray has a new record company, a new producer, and a new sound. Make It Hot was part R&B and part hip-hop, with heavy drum beats and frequent features by album producer and rapper Missy Elliot. Queen Alone presents a more mature, classic R&B sound that puts the focus on Wray’s powerful vocals.

Most of the songs on Queen Alone are old-school R&B. Simple instrumentals are punctuated by trumpets and background vocals heavily influenced by gospel, a side effect of Wray’s church upbringing. This can be seen in tracks such as “Do It Again”, “Guilty”, and “Make Me Over”, nostalgic tunes about love and loss. As the album progresses, however, the songs begin to bring in elements of other genres. “In Love (Don’t Mess Things Up)” features a folksy instrumental not typically seen in R&B, providing an interesting contrast to Wray’s vocals. “It’s Been A Long Time” is reminiscent of the Jackson 5, bringing in more of a pop vibe. The tracks “Cut Me Loose” and “Underneath My Feet” delve into rock, with heavy guitar and drum beats. Finally, “They Won’t Hang Around” brings back memories of classic Amy Winehouse hits such as “You Know I’m No Good”. With elements of so many different genres, Queen Alone runs the risk of sounding like a collection of single songs rather than an album. However, the R&B undertones of every song, combined with Lady Wray’s powerful vocals, give the album the necessary cohesiveness.

Queen Alone is remarkable different from Lady Wray’s first album. Her new sound emphasizes her incredible voice instead of relying on the heavy backbeat and hip-hop elements of Make It Hot. Wray’s return to a more classic R&B sound suits her well, and is a great listen for anyone looking to reminisce about the old-school days of R&B.

– review by Emma Park

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Album Review: Phern – cool coma

a2678303782_10The brand-new release from Phern, a supergroup composed of underground darlings from the Montreal indie scene, proves once again that the city is a both a breeding ground and a blank canvas for creative ventures big and small. Phern, which consists of members from Moss Lime, Soft Cone, and Sheer Agony (to name a few), has quietly written and produced the tiny EP Pause Clope and a tightly spiraling LP cool coma within the 514 city limits. The group could be dismissed as another cute local band if not for the fact that its members have already weathered the city’s saturated music scene, and thus have been able to create an album that adeptly straddles a label of jangle-pop and experimentalism.

The sound is not unlike The Microphones or early Grizzly Bear at times, and influences of Sheer Agony’s Masterpiece are sprinkled here and there. Within cool coma there exist jangle-pop earworms such as “I Sold The House” and “Pebble,” and a couple Phil Evrum-esque tracks appear in “Flipper Twister” and “Hospital Garden.” The album is presented in the order in which the songs were written and recorded; an honest, casual, stripped-down approach to presenting music. No track on cool coma reaches past the three-minute mark, providing short bursts of tart rhythms and staccato, syncopated beats. Hélène Barbier’s soft drone provides an anchor for the loose drums and wandering, chaotic guitar and synth.

“I Sold The House,” the first track on Pause Clope, starts with the sound of jaunty snares and a liquid electric guitar. It’s a catchy number, and Barbiere’s vocals here are less abrasive here than on other tracks, providing a soft, catchy introduction to Phern. “Excavator,” the first track on cool coma, has a psychedelic element. With fuzzy vocals and slow, fluid layering, the entire track appears to be soaked in sepia. “Pebble” provides a nice walking track to the tune of jangly electric guitar and expert syncopation. Barbiere’s vocals provide a physical and lyrical dissonance to the instrumentals, which are quite reminiscent of Sheer Agony.

“Real Nice Chair” features a lovely bass guitar intro before the electric guitar interrupts without warning; Barbiere’s voice then slinks in and proceeds to hover just below the instrumentals for the remainder of the track. “Crosswalk Talk” features more bass guitar solos and a hypnotic chorus, which repeats “I would recommend that you don’t cross here.” It is at once robotic and evocative, with Barbiere’s high monotone serving as a warning sign.

cool coma simultaneously keeps you on your toes and lulls you into a sense of complacency. The instrumentals come in fits and starts, with heavy syncopation and time signature change, but the overarching sound is very similar throughout the album. There is a gentle abrasiveness to cool coma, with many tracks affecting an endearing subtle dissonance; Phern knows what they are doing, and they do it well. 

Album released: November 25, 2016 (Pause Clope was released October 14, 2016)

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Album Review: Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth

 

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Natalie Mering, or better known by her stage name Weyes Blood, released her elegant new LP Front Row Seat To Earth a couple of weeks ago. The New York singer-songwriter’s second album released under Mexican Summer’s record label approaches the listener with tenderness and care through the whole tracklist. The realities of dealing with relationships and celebrating change in attitudes are central themes surrounding Mering’s latest project.

“Diary” is the first track off the LP that starts with a slow piano progression that feels heavenly to the effect of Mering’s beautiful vocals. The atmosphere feels intimate and sparks different notions of what Mering might be experiencing in her life. It’s almost as if she’s singing a personal passage from her own diary, informing the listening audience about how she feels. This sets the tone for the rest of the album which feels extremely personal from one track to the next.

The song “Be Free” is absolutely stunning, it pulls at your heart in the most comforting way possible. The guitar playing feels dreamy, Mering’s vocals towards the later half of the track resonate well against the brass instruments and finishes the song off exquisitely well. “Generation Why” was used as one of the singles for Weyes Blood’s latest record and discusses the idea of our current generation and dealing with change in everyday life. The gentle guitar plucking throughout the song is accompanied by violins that support Mering’s stellar harmonies on the track. At this point the consistency of the album feels satisfying and carries forth similar production within each song proceeding.

“Can’t Go Home” is the following track after “Generation Why” and utilizes a harmonizer for the background vocals, the effect feels like a beautiful outer worldly instrument. “Away Above” has cool synth work seeping its way through light guitar playing and pretty vocals that emulate a sense of sorrow that’s oddly uplifting at the same time. Mering addresses how confusing love can be, what it means to love someone, and how real that feeling can be to someone. It’s a harrowing track that is relatable for anyone facing the dilemma of what it means to have feelings of love resonating within one’s self.

Front Row Seat To Earth is a magnificent accomplishment for an album. Exceptionally touching and forward thinking, the latest LP from the New York songstress is one that should not be overlooked. Pick up this record and give yourself the pleasure of pulling up a front row seat to the experience. You’re going to want to be seated for the initial playthrough.

– Review by Michael Eidelson

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Album Review: Kadhja Bonet – The Visitor

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Kadhja Bonet is definitely a singular artist. Her entire album can be described as a compilation of snapshots, scenes that each tell their own stories. Her style can be described as… well, let me quote NPR here: “a cinematic and folky kind of psychedelic soul music impossible to pin down.”  I cannot disagree.

My experience listening to “The Visitor”? I inserted the album into the CD player and distracted myself on the computer while the album was loading. But my attention was captured by Kadhja Bonet as soon as the first track, “Earth Birth,” began playing. It.is.golden. You feel as though you are walking through a sci-fi movie, transported somewhere in space and discovering a whole new universe. But soon enough, this extraterrestrial space is closed and you are brought into a solitary place in which you long for your “Honeycomb.” Does the move from extraterrestrial to melancholy seem slightly drastic? Surprisingly not. Kadhja Bonet masterfully ends each track in suspense, making the listener eagerly wait for the next song and therefore willingly accept whatever change in beat and atmosphere it comes with.

Throughout the entire album, Bonet expertly accompanies her listeners from space to space, scene to scene, story to story. Each track is artfully crafted, for not only is she gifted with the ability to generate beautiful arrangements of strings and synthetics, but she also demonstrates a particularly soothing low voice. This was especially apparent in “Portrait of Tracy” with its combination of strings, percussion, and gospel-inspired vocals. This short track, only 2:16 in length, ends with a heavenly acapella section which sounded curiously like angels – or at least what I imagine angels would sound like.

Many, if not all, artists experiment in their work. Kadhja Bonet embraces this tactic fully, and her creative use of sounds, voices, and arrangements is definitely worthy of praise. All her songs are very pleasing to listen to, yet they also have a little something that catches you by surprise and makes you want to listen for more. During the entire duration of the album, you are continuously pulled in because each song tells its own story and paints its own scene in which you, the listener, can picture yourself as a character.

– Review by Se Jeong Park

 

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Album Review: American Football (LP2)

AF_2016_LP_Jacket_PRINT.inddYou might be under the assumption that after seventeen years, certain aspects of a band would have changed so fundamentally that the sound is no longer prevalent – or in some cases, even relevant – in this day and age. With the much anticipated release of emo darling American Football’s second self-titled LP, colloquially known as LP2, the question on anyone’s mind is: how could these low-fi leaders of the Midwest emo scene, now approaching middle-age, deliver the same je ne sais quois melancholia reflected in the average twentysomething?

Overall, our fears have been assuaged. American Football’s lead singer Mike Kinsella has taken the care to keep the overall theme of the band crystallized in time, with messages successfully delivering the old emo nostalgia they so masterfully perfected at the turn of the millennium. Kinsella’s lyrics remain fatalistic in meaning and poetic in delivery, and are peppered with ruminations on the passage of time. The instrumental accompaniments are still as ambient and intricate as they were nearly two decades ago, albeit more produced and expanded with the help a full back-up band. American Football remains a fan of discordant time signatures, with guitar riffs and drum sets cleverly syncopated in rhythmic harmony to create a constant, moving ebb and flow underneath Kinsella’s vocals. 

Kinsella’s voice has aged like a good oak table, becoming more weathered and smooth as the years have passed. It remains a sturdy and present force amidst the swirling guitar, bass, and drums. However, his vocals stand at the forefront of tracks as compared to the last album, where he had a tendency to submerge himself in the instrumentals and resurface for clarity and emphasis. You won’t find any tracks along the lines of LP1’s “Honestly?” here; Kinsella has made the full transition into “frontman” after years performing as his solo act, Owen. 

The album begins quietly with “Where Are We Now?,” as if waking from a dream; chime-like electric guitar pickings precede Kinsella’s quiet “Where are we now?”. It is a subtle nod to the years that have passed since he last assumed the American Football mantle, and the song itself feels like shrugging on an old, well-loved jacket. American Football plays around with syncopation in “My Instincts Are The Enemy,” with choppy guitar and drum melodies acting as an introduction for Kinsella’s vocals, which alternate between his signature plaintive cry with soft falsetto. “I’ve Been Lost For So Long,” the first single released by the band, is a bleeding-heart track begging to be performed in front of an audience. It’s a new switch compared to the “old” American Football; most tracks on LP1 are contemplative and wandering, while this tightly produced track expertly fields a strong drum beat amongst layered guitar arpeggios. The syncopation returns for emphasis on the chorus. “Give Me The Gun” is an active track that also strays from the meandering ways of yore, focusing instead on projecting an atmosphere of constant fluid movement; guitars and drums are heavily layered.

The album art from American Football’s LP1 features the plain exterior of a lit house at night, providing an accurate air of isolation and late-night contemplation. Compare the LP2 album art, which features not the outside but the inside of a nameless house, with the viewer’s vantage point set on an open door bathed in a morning glow. The subtle contrast provides a glaring thematic message: the outside façade may have not changed much, but the core entity now lends an entirely different view, and a hopeful one at that. While this may be the last we hear from American Football for the foreseeable future, the impact that these lost boys – now grown –  have had on countless other lost listeners will continue to stand on solid foundations.

Album released: October 21, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Album Review: 22, A Million – Bon Iver

JV1In Bon Iver’s latest release, 22, A Million, Justin Vernon is inviting you inside his head. However, the difference of five years has changed many a thing for Vernon, including the way he approaches music. The inward, contemplative soul-searching of For Emma, Forever Ago and Bon Iver has been shed for an extrospective, existential outlook; Vernon is examining human existence through the lens of personal experiences. He has described the album title as such: the 22 stands for him, as “the number’s recurrence in his life has become a meaningful pattern through encounter and recognition.” The “a million” represents the rest of humanity, and “everything outside ones’ self that makes you who you are.” He speaks of searching for self-understanding through love and life, and the sentiment is truly reflected through his music.

22, A Million is by far the most produced, and yet starkly bare, album put out by Bon Iver. Vernon’s interest with vocal and instrumental manipulation has been fully realized here with his extensive use of the Messina (a software-hardware amalgamation birthed by Vernon and his engineer, Chris Messina) and the OP-1. Vernon also takes the chance to heavily feature the saxophone, aided by the saxophone collective Sad Sax of Shit. Vernon’s voice is, at times, barely recognizable; he has left the corporeal body presented in For Emma and fully immersed himself in the music, rising up from under the surface occasionally to voice his inner thoughts. Thus, the listener is compelled to actively listen to the lyrics, flawlessly executed but at times submerged under the intense instrumental manipulations.

The tracks are hypnotizing, almost psychedelically so at times; for many, it is easy to get lost in the swirling, half-formed melodies and jagged interludes. The lyrics fluctuate from half-lucid utterances and cryptic messages (“22 (OVER S∞∞N)”) to bold statements and ragged pleas, almost shouted by Vernon in later tracks. More interesting is Vernon’s curious fascination with symbols and numbers that peppers the track titles. An active listener would be in want of a guidebook to follow the mysterious content Vernon has included in 22, A Million, or would need to reconcile the fact that we may never fully understand the methods behind the madness. 

22, A Million opens with “22 (OVER S∞∞N),” introduced by a ghostly monotone note and Vernon’s auto-tuned “It might be over soon,” played back on a distorted loop. Lush, layered melodies fade in and out of the track, giving it a decisive ebb and flow. Vernon has sampled Mahalia Jackson’s live version of “How I Got Over” at various points along with the saxophone. (If you’re feeling a slight “Ultralight Beam” vibe here, you’re not alone.) “33 ‘GOD'” features a plaintive, simple piano melody throughout, though by the end of the track it is almost indiscernible. Vernon is fond of the echo on this track; his own vocals are followed by a distorted chorus, and high-sung melodies swirl around a heavy, dark beat, providing an effective counter-balance. 

“29 #Strafford APTS” is a solitary return to an acoustic guitar; evidently Vernon cannot fully deny his roots. The track is resonant and familiar, with cryptically poetic lyrics hiding a message of lost love in plain sight. The instrumental manipulation has been stripped away, providing only a faint echo of reverb for punctuation. Vernon’s signature falsetto is haunting here, used sparingly for emphasis on repeated words such as “paramind” and “canonize.” “8 (circle)” begins with a dissonant, whimpering saxophone that fades into a lush synth with an gentle underlaid beat. Vernon’s voice is unadorned by any falsetto or manipulation here, and his lyrics resonate honestly. The saxophone fades in again, confident and slow this time as the instrumentals start to build upon one another and crescendo; Vernon’s voice takes on a new urgency. The track is positively hymnal in nature, and the use of rounds in the last verse only underscores this aspect.

22, A Million is, at first glance, an album for the ear and the brain, not an album for the heart. Yet with every take, the lyrics resonate and permeate; the album itself is forming as you listen. A word to the wise: before dismissing this album on the assumption that Vernon has forgotten his old ways, let yourself fall in and explore the lush musical landscape he has so painstakingly created for himself. Vernon may have released the preconceived notion of traditional “song-writing,” but by no means has he abandoned his need to communicate through song.

Album released: September 30, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Album Review: I Had A Dream That You Were Mine – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam

imgresLet’s do an exercise: imagine that you’re at your favorite local joint and in a dusty corner stands a somewhat saturnine singer, crying into a standing mic while a man in the shadows accompanies him with an old piano and soft backup vocals. Now, imagine that the singer is former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser and the genius on the piano is ex-Vampire Weekend member Rostam Batmanglij.

If you’re excited by this scenario, then you’ll be happy to know that these two indie rock masterminds have teamed up for a full album, I Had A Dream That You Were Mine. Batmanglij (known simply as Rostam professionally ) and Leithauser met and collaborated in 2014 for Leithauser’s first solo project, the Sinatra-inspired Black Hours. They soon formed a friendship over shared origins – both originally hail from Washington D.C – and a mutual sense of respect and admiration.

The album masterfully combines Leithauser’s rough-and-ready bad boy howl with Rostam’s smooth production and international influence; a hint of Afro-pop influences, similar to those that carried VW’s first album, are noticeable in the background of certain tracks. The instrumentals follow a vintage sound throughout, where the doo-wops and the continual plink of a piano are accompanied by sparse drums and subtle horns.

The album begins with “A 1000 Times,” which sneaks the album title into the chorus. The track is a good litmus test for what is yet to come, but is admittedly one of the less imaginative tracks in the collection. “Rough Going (I Don’t Let Up),” otherwise known as “that track with the doo-wops,” is a melange of sounds and musical genres. A bass beat reminiscent of a barnyard boogie underlays Rostam’s polite background vocals, with Leithauser’s ragged howl at the forefront of the track.

On “You Ain’t That Young Kid” Leithauser speak-sings, painting an intimate picture of a man nursing a broken heart; the lyrics here are deliciously heavy and human. Clever tempo changes keep the track from feeling cut off. The first part features harmonica and plucked electric guitar, which then crescendos to feature an organ-like instrument and a slowed tempo; Rostam’s signature arpeggios litter the bridge as a powerful beat almost overpowers Leithauser’s vocals. The last tempo change returns the track to a more even-tempered, reflective place, featuring Leithauser’s vocals once again.

“The Bride’s Dad” is the penultimate track, beginning with a wistful piano accompaniment and harmonies between the two artists; Leithauser’s timbre falls to his comfortable gravelly yell, while Rostam remains in the stratosphere. The track climaxes with a sudden crescendo, introducing thumping drums, hand clapping, and more forceful piano. The addition of the well-known synthetic choir accompaniment provides a moving finish. While the track is short, barely cutting off at two minutes, it is a powerful one.

I Had A Dream That You Were Mine centers around the general theme of loss, but the music disguises the darker lyrics well. The tracks remain musically diverse: at times there is a raw and uncut feel to tracks, loose drums and lyrics slung with a casual “je ne sais quoi” attitude that flirts with the sadboy mentality – a trademark of the Walkmen. At other times, Rostam’s prowess as a producer and his influence as a member of Vampire Weekend shine through, creating musical gems that sparkle through underneath Leithauser’s dusty vocals and soulful lyrics. 

Album released: September 23, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

 

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Album Review: MNDSGN – Body Wash

a3786040268_10In his newest release Body Wash, Mndsgn (née Ringgo Ancheta) brings us on an inter-dimensional electro-funk adventure through space and time, combining psychedelia and R&B in masterful and innovative ways. In his words, Body Wash is “a soul record that plays with nostalgic elements in a very dynamic & positive way. Think about it as a box of crayons for you to draw emotions with.”

In conjunction with this description, the album is loosely based on an illusory story that goes something like this: a homeless man meets an enigmatic woman who offers to take him in, and then has him bathe with a strange body wash that surrounds him as he soaks. Eventually, he is transported to an alternate dimension. The narrative is a subtle one; though looser themes of self-realization and human connection are easily identifiable from the tracks, it is only through the track titles (“Enter Her Abode,” “Prelude 2 Purification,” and “Lather” to name a few) along with album title that hint at the underlying story. 

So, we’ve established that Mndsgn is not your typical R&B producer. It may have something to do with his childhood history and his past collaborations: he was raised on a commune in rural New Jersey by Filipino immigrants, and in the early 2000’s befriended and then collaborated with Kendrick Lamar producer Knxwledge to form the Klipm0de crew. He moved to L.A to pursue his beat passion and was featured in various albums (notably, Blasphemous Jazz’s Bitches Brew) before releasing his debut album, Yawn Zen.

Body Wash provides a glimpse at Mndsgn’s growth and exploration as an artist since Yawn Zen, which was more of a sprawling, wandering experiment of an album. His sophomore release is tighter, more produced, and more focused; the frequent inclusion of his own vocals is a welcome addition as well. Ancheta’s voice serves as a quiet, unobtrusive addition to fluorescent and layered instrumentals, floating in and out of music as if from a dream. At times, it adds air of introspection; at others, it serves as an echo for the music, reflecting and deepening the message without driving it. 

There is a clear directional quality to Body Wave, marked physically with a beginning (“Overture”) and an ending (“Guess It’s All Over”). The album is awash in vintage 80’s and 90’s R&B themes, with fluctuating tones overlaid to set the mood of the track.  Some tracks have more of a jazz influence (“Release Ya Mind (Twentyfourseven)”), while others are straight funk (“Vague//Recalibrate”). All throughout Body Wash is the riff of psychedelic influences and modern synth; Mndsgn samples from retro sounds, but does not entirely channel the past, choosing instead to use it as a platform onto which he can build his soundscape.

Nota bene: It has been recommended (and I would echo this sentiment) to listen to the album all the way through. The tracks build on one another to establish a common thread, and while the listener may have to hone in on a few songs to realize their potential, it is best to let Body Wash soak in slowly over time.

Album released: September 16, 2016

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam

 

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Album Review: Best Fern EP – Best Fern

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The first thought that springs to mind when listening to the latest EP by Best Fern is how elegant the whole project makes you feel. Montréal based duo Alexia Avina and Nick Schofield string together spacious ambient production to create an inviting atmosphere that only exists within the realm of their EP. There are only five tracks on the entire project which creates a short but delightfully pleasant listen and suits the time of year where summer is slowly dwindling away into fall.

Soft synths start off the EP with the track “A Way” and establish’s the tone for the remainder of the dreamy project. Alexia’s approach to singing over the light production feels otherworldly and complement the style of dream pop that the two are crafting together. “Lay It On Me” continues to carry the narrative of the first song and brings a far more relaxing element than the previous track. It’s comforting and sedates the listener for the rest of the atmospheric environment that Alexia and Nick dive into.

The longest track on the EP standing at five minutes long, “Do U Love U” is incredibly tender and has synths working in parallel with Alexia’s beautiful voice. There are echoes in the background that form a concrete idea that you’re thrown into a different world completely while listening to the new EP. “R U Well” has synths that are layered on top one another but doesn’t clutter the sound, the effect makes the song more spacious with flutes that float their way throughout the duration of the track.

“I Will Try” finishes off the EP with a booming bass that isn’t over the top by any means, but instead feels like a grand finish for the project. Best Fern pull off a stellar debut with their self-titled EP. It’ll be interesting to see what directions the duo head in with future projects and  the sort of direction that they decide to head in.

You can pick up their latest EP from their bandcamp and follow them on facebook and soundcloud. They’ll be opening for Angel Olsen on Friday September 23rd at the Rialto Theatre and will have another show on Thursday October 6th at La Plante.

– Review by Michael Eidelson 

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Album Review: Deerhoof – The Magic

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The Magic, Deerhoof’s latest release, greets us with a mix of noisy pop and chaotic rock & roll. The album as a whole takes a more aggressive tone in comparison to previous releases; however, the experimental rock band stays true to their overall sound even while playing around with styles and technical approaches. Drummer Greg Saunier remarked that the album has roots in “what we liked when we were kids – when music was magic – before you knew about the industry and before there were rules. Sometimes hair metal is the right choice.” He gives some insight into the album’s chaotic mixture of styles and consistent rawness of sounds. After reading about the album, I stumbled across many sources stating that the entirety of the album was recorded in an abandoned office rental space in the desert of New Mexico. It makes a lot of sense that an album recorded in such a space would feel so free and uncalculated, as the nature of the location permitted the musicians to play loudly and without restraint, which is definitely reflected in the final product.  

“Kafe Mania!” pops off with fun synth, crunchy guitar, and driving percussion reminiscent of “The Tears and Music of Love” off their 2008 album Offend Maggie. The synth becomes increasingly melodic, and Satomi Matzusaki’s vocals take a staccato, yet dreamy pop sound. “Life is Suffering” entertains the same juxtaposition between rough instrumentals and sweet vocals sung by both Matzusaki and Saunier this time. The catchy chorus “life is suffering, man” (too real) is accompanied by steady drums and classic electric guitar.

“That Ain’t No Life to Me”, sung entirely by Ed Rodriguez, Deerhoof’s veteran guitarist, takes a cliché rock vibe and combines it with feedback-laden garage noise. While it stands out as a bit of an anomaly from the usual dreamy noise Deerhoof is known and loved for, the song isn’t the only heavy tune on the album. The full-on rock vibe returns later in “Dispossessor” with Rodriguez taking the frontlines once again with vocals and strong guitar riffs. I am not too keen on macho rock & roll tunes, though these are a refreshing change from Deerhoof’s typical experimental sound and ultimately showcase the band’s stylistic versatility.

“Criminals of the Dream” starts off with a humming synth and dreamy (go figure) vocals, followed by sweet poppy electronic keyboard. The clipped rhythms line up perfectly with Matzusaki’s trademark vocals repeating, “you can dream, you can dream, you know you can dream”, sending you afloat down a pink lazy river. The offbeat jazzy tunes of “Model Behavior” follow, with dystopian synth ringing in the background. Greg Saunier takes the frontline with powerful drums that accompany Rodriguez and John Dieterich’s (Deerhoof’s other resident guitarist) funky guitar rhythms.

The rest of the album follows the same pattern of technical aptitude and stylistic ambiguity. Deerhoof’s characteristic musical risk-taking mixed with more traditional rock algorithms with makes for a fascinating overall sound. Though not my favorite Deerhoof album, The Magic is still a strong addition to their oeuvre.

– Review by Erika Kindsfather