Tag Archives: Madison Palmer

Album Review: Tim Hecker – Konoyo

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

Konoyo by Tim Hecker, Kranky

With yet another midterm season upon us, it is sometimes easy to neglect the notion that professors lead careers outside of their lectures, and Tim Hecker is no exception.  The Vancouver-born McGill professor began his music career as a DJ and techno producer, the influence and experience of which resonate thoroughly across his September 28th release Konoyo.  For his 9th studio album, Konoyo shows concise stylistic refinement, employing synthesizers and software that emphasizes the importance of the samples Hecker is isolating and manipulating.  The foundation of the musicality and inspiration of this album stems from a form of Japanese imperial court music known as Gagaku; an intense ‘drone-style’  produced by the incorporation of instruments such as bamboo mouth organs and double-reeded aerophones.

I want to preface this review by admitting that I am fairly unacquainted with the electronic genre, and Konoyo was my first introduction to this distinct style of experimental minimalism.  While I don’t have precedent albums to compare this one to (including Hecker’s previous works), I can say that my first impression of this album was overwhelmingly positive.  Released by Chicago-based label Kranky, the tracks intertwine with each other perfectly, keeping the listener in a suspended tranquility deprived of jarring breaks as the album completes its hour-long play.

Konoyo opens with “This life”. Comprised of only jarring synth tones until approximately 30 seconds in, this track sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album.  It is, tonally speaking, clinically cold and through immense tension the songs create a sense of apprehension.  The sounds emulate waves as the tension pulses through its eight-minute course and demands the full attention of the listener.  On an interesting note, while it obviously connects seamlessly to the following track “In Death Valley”, it also pairs perfectly with the closing track “Across To Anoyo”.  At the 15 minute mark, the song’s intensity ties together the elements of the first six , with a significant call back to the first track as the music fades out into more ambient.


Moreover, t
he length of these pieces gives Konoyo a highly introspective quality.  The meditative nature of Hecker’s style makes this unavoidable, regardless of whether the listener is closely analyzing and dissecting the music or just throwing it on as background music while studying.  This is an amazingly versatile album, that can be perceived as complex or as simple as the listener wants, and serves as a virtuous introduction to this genre.

~Review by Madison Palmer, Noise Architect

 

 

Album Review: Mitski – Be The Cowboy

mitski album cover

Montreal’s terrace season is starting to wind down.  Leaves are slowly oranging, and the infamous humidity that has been hanging in the air over the past couple of months is starting to crisp up.  The encroaching post add-drop lethargy is hanging over students, and they may be starting looking for the perfect soundtrack to accompany the upcoming gloomy fall days.  Thankfully, Mitski’s new album can provide an end to that search.

Be the Cowboy is the Japanese-American artist’s 5th studio album, and is truly a gem sent down from the bedroom pop gods.  Tying together atmospheric lyrics with relatively grungy rock guitar riffs, the soon-to-be 29 year old has been hailed as “the new vanguard of indie rock” and this new album —released August 17th— lives solidly up to this reputation, however it is at its core a very standard sounding indie album.

The standout songs are, obviously, incredible.  The opening track, “Geyser” is, in my opinion, one of the strongest songs on the entire album.  It establishes itself with a haunting synth that slowly builds up to a climax about 1 minute and 20 seconds in.  The atmosphere of the song creates a feeling of bright optimism. This atmosphere is complemented amazingly in the closing track “Two Slow Dancers”, a song that not only saved the album for me, but also gave me a glimpse at what I wanted the album so badly to be.  The song is contemplative, nostalgic, and just as lyrically and sonically powerful as the opener.

Everything in between these two are all —lyrically speaking— cookie cutter indie songs. Tracks such as “Old Friend”, “Nobody”, and “Blue Light” could easily have been left off the album and it would have no significant effect on the listener’s experience.  The songs that stood out the most were the ones with actual unique qualities. “Remember My Name” and “A Horse Named Cold Water” are both incredible examples of this diversity; the former embodying the same college band feeling as the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack and the latter, opposingly, showcases stripped down vocals over a few piano chords.  Even “Me and My Husband” (far from my favourite song on the album) is a jarring shift from the songs it sits between, adopting a noticeably more 2011 mainstream indie pop sound.

In spite of these qualms, Be the Cowboy is unquestionably a good album.  All the songs blend together beautifully, and its length of 32 minutes makes it the perfect soundtrack to your fall semester study sessions to help ease you into the fast approaching midterm season and even faster approaching winter.

Review By Madison Palmer

sharon-jones-soul-of-a-woman

Album Review: Sharon Jones – Soul of a Woman

Whenever I talk to relatives or family friends about music, I’m often besieged with the common complaint of how “they just don’t make music like they used to.” It’s true that many new genres and subgenres of music have developed over the past several decades, but if people are complaining about the lack of “old-school” music in the modern day, then it’s clear they have not heard about Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings.

Grammy nominee and subject of acclaimed documentary Miss Sharon Jones!, Sharon Jones had an awe-inspiring career as a soul singer before her tragic death almost exactly one year ago, on November 18th, 2016. Jones and the Dap-Kings released seven studio albums over the course of 17 years, each one encapsulating the raw, Aretha-like authenticity that Jones made a standard in her work. The release of the group’s newest album Soul of a Woman almost exactly one year after Jones’s death is a sad yet significant reminder of the inspirational power possessed by this incredible woman.

Soul of a Woman relates directly back to the title as a reflection of album’s thematic context. The tracks vary in subject matter, ranging from elements of love and break-ups to the importance of hard work and in some cases even religion, yet they demonstrate the day-to-day experience of a modern woman. Every lyric of this album is relatable to a level that is almost uncanny. While listening through this album for the first time, I often found myself believing Jones was singing directly to me about own experiences — something I can honestly say I’ve never experienced before.

The album begins with the strong opening of “Matter of Time,” a song rich with gospel-influenced call-and-response elements. The simple harmonies add invigorating, but not overpowering, dimension to Jones’s dominant voice. The track is upbeat and light-hearted and sets the listener up for what seems to be a fun, bluesy journey. Interestingly though, this is not the case; while many of the earlier songs on the album are upbeat, the tempo goes through a notable downwards trend as the album progresses, with songs becoming more impactful in terms of orchestration, shifting genres from blues to soul to gospel, and finally coming to rest with its inspiring terminus “Call on God” and its optimistic chorus “Call on God/and He’ll carry you through.” It carries the message of Soul of a Woman in a soft yet powerful manner and is the perfect closing to an album about love and loss.

The climax of this album, in my opinion, comes with the second to last track “Girl (You’ve Got To Forgive Him).” Jones takes on the role of an instructive friend: her vocals, laden with intense emotion, are laid over heightened orchestral sound, which will leave this song echoing in the listener’s mind for the rest of the album’s duration.

If you’re looking for an empowering album that perfectly captures the spirit of ’60s and ’70s soul, then this album is a must. Soul of a Woman not only succeeds in proudly carrying the torch of what many incorrectly consider to be a dying genre, but also encompasses the enormous spirit of Sharon Jones herself.

– Review by Madison Palmer
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Album Review: Reptaliens – FM 2030

With the Montreal winter fast approaching, it’s not difficult to find oneself reminiscing about the long-ago September heatwave in addition to the ever-present summer nostalgia that hazes our memory. Who among us doesn’t wish they could perfectly articulate this? The newest album from Portland, Oregon band Reptaliens FM-2030 was released on October 5th and brings a dreamscape aesthetic that draws the listener into this seasonal fantasy with them.

The duo behind the band, husband and wife Cole and Bambi Browning, base their band’s sound in the surreal indie-pop psychedelia that is omnipresent throughout the album’s 35 minute span. As a concept album, FM-2030‘s central theme is concerned with love and obsession, as evident in lyrics such as “If you want to get high/find your love/get it right” from “If You Want” and “Back at his home/told her ‘they’re not alone’/and they gave all their love to the lord” from “Satan’s Song.” It should be noted that in order to experience the full effect, FM-2030 should be listened to in one sitting with no interruptions.

That being said, there are several stand out tracks on this album that deserve an honourable mention, including the vaguely sinister “666Bus,” mainly because of the blunt lyrics “Maybe I’ll get hit by a bus while I was dreamin’ of falling in love/Or maybe I’ll fall in love and die of a broken heart.” “Nunya” has a easygoing, catchy groove to its melody, which echoes in your mind long after the song is over.

As a fan of love-orientated cynicism, this album was a dream come true. The songs all sounded related but not similar enough for them to become boring or repetitive; rather, the tracks faded into each other perfectly with a balanced flow, drawn together cohesively by synths that set the mood for the whole record.

Those unfamiliar with this band’s prior work (especially their 2017 EP Prequel/Olive Boy) it may seem as though FM-2030 is simply be a conglomeration of similar, if not identical, bedroom pop tracks. When listening to the album, however, it becomes clear that there is a significant variance and complexity to each of the 11 songs. The heavy summer-in-suburbia atmosphere is an extended metaphor woven through the album brings much needed warmth to the rainy Montreal weather.

– Review by Madison Palmer