Album of the Fortnight
Artist: Yann Tiersen
Album: Dust Lane
Dust Lane is the sixth studio album from Yann Tiersen, a solo artist from Brittany, best known for composing the soundtrack to the film Amélie.
This album marks a new development for Tiersen, as Dust Lane blends the avant-garde piano, violin and guitar melodies of his previous works, with vintage electronic sounds. The result of this mixture is quite impressive.
Most of the songs are slow starters, but their progression from bleakness into delicate and uplifting anthems makes them a treat to listen to. ‘Dark Stuff’ is the best example of this, as its gritty opening develops into a triumphant and epic conclusion, encapsulating the strengths of this well-polished effort.
In a nutshell: A fascinating and enjoyable synthesis of various musical elements.
Album: The Fool
Brown, red and ochre entangled on black skin, searching for an endpoint but never finding it. The name would suit a metal band pretty well, but behind the martial surface are four girls from Los Angeles playing pop/rock. Still, Warpaint’s music is a bit burdensome.
Their debut, The Fool, was recorded in a gym in LA and consequently, all tracks are soaked with reverb. Interweaved guitar textures reminiscent of numerous post rock bands are supplemented by trip hop-like drums. Above that foundation floats Emily Kokal’s bright, gentle voice.
While the album manages to create a dark psychedelic atmosphere, the “wow” moments are missing. Listening to depressed hippie-girls can get frustrating in the long run.
In a Nutshell: This might be appropriate elevator music for a haunted house.
Artist: Cloud Nothings
Album: Turning On
Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings is obviously adept at writing fun, interesting pop music reminiscent of The Kinks and Guided by Voices. Turning On is an album that delivers memorable hooks, instrumentation that is proficient though not spectacular and liberal use of skilful vocal harmonies. These elements showcase the high quality of Baldi’s songwriting.
Unfortunately, the lo-fi production style of Turning On will not distinguish Cloud Nothings from much of the indie pop currently being released. This is especially problematic when one hears songs such as late-album highlight ‘Morgan’ and the fantastic ‘Old Street’, which arguably could have sounded even better if traditional production values were used. This minor issue, however, does little to hamper Baldi’s fine effort.
In a nutshell: Solid if not innovative.
Artist: The Walkmen
The Walkmen will probably never escape the demoralising “Hey, it’s one of those indie bands from The OC!” tag. However, the Brooklynites’ sixth offering proves them more accomplished than that moniker suggests.
Lisbon still has moments of bruising velocity that defined The Walkmen’s early material. The rhythm section can still thrillingly compliment Hamilton Leithauser’s animated yelps, but when the band does calm down they produce a sound of gorgeous maturity. ‘Blue as Your Blood’ and ‘Stranded’ flourish in this less frenzied environment, and the respective additions of strings and horns serve to enhance a wonderful change of pace.
The record remains relaxed until the end; ‘Woe is Me’ and ‘Torch Song’ can only produce a longing smile, but the disarming simplicity of ‘While I Shovel The Snow’ marks the true climax of a fine album.
In a nutshell: Intermittently languid and energetic, continuing a bittersweet transition into musical maturity.
Album: Majesty Shredding
Superchunk are long overdue some credit. Having slouched out of North Carolina just over 20 years ago, the slacker-rock heroes have ploughed on through the years, never achieving the fame or acclaim they deserve.
Ninth album Majesty Shredding may not break new ground, but it shows the band still do two things excellently: write songs and rock out.
Their sound is a classic ’90s marriage of power-pop songcraft with a punk aesthetic. It’s indie before it was a fashion buzzword, or emo before it meant side fringes. The tunes themselves are stellar, each one a feast of catchy hooks and dazzling guitar lines.
Tracks ‘Rosemarie’ and ‘Learned to Surf’ are like bursts of energy that refuse to be ignored. Ultimately, it’s the musicianship of the band, and the frenetic enthusiasm they play with, that makes them irresistible.
In a nutshell: A lovably energetic chunk of indie-rock nostalgia.