Bandwagon Selects: Recent Record Reviews Edition #6

Hello penultimate month of 2012! An eclectic mix this one, a bunch of pretty heavy and loud stuff, some chillwave, a gem of an indie-pop record here, we threw in some dark-pop... we just want to share with you our very well-rounded listening habits. We don't discriminate yo. Except Nickelback, always Nickelback.

Blackbird Blackbird / Boracay Planet EP

Named after a popular beach in the Philippines, this whole album also exudes that laidback, dreamy, ‘I’m on vacation, permanently’ vibe. Not like it’s a bad thing. Mikey Maramag is a genius at blending electronic beats and organic instruments to perfection. Ambient and moody at times, he balances it out with jangly guitar riffs and dusky vocals. Blackbird Blackbird’s style of music is mesmerizing and minimal, almost zen but powerful all at the same time. The extra remixes are a bonus but it is the original tracks that stand out. It’s hard to pick favourites in this EP because really, it should be listened to in its entirety. Mikey Maramag: doing chillwave the right way.

Standout tracks: Happy With You, Keep It Up, Tear

Freelance Whales / Diluvia

While their first album, Weathervanes was eccentric (but really lovely), Diluvia charts their tasteful progress in their sound. You still get hints of quirk in some of the tracks but overall, this album is more compact and more refined than their previous work. Diluvia feels like a 52-minute listening journey in space (their video for ‘Locked Out’ was all Stanley Kubrick’s Space Odyssey), rather than an album with several different individual tracks. The songs sprawl lazily throughout the album with building crescendoes, the marriage of glockenspiel and banjo and synthesizers, a bunch of well-placed surprises here and there and still maintaining their familiar sound. One of the best bits about the album is Doris Cellar having more vocal presence on the most of the songs – she even takes full charge on ‘Spitting Image’. A definite ‘grower’, Freelance Whales is set to be one of the most intriguing indie acts out there.

Standout tracks: Spitting Image, Locked Out, Red Star

Bat For Lashes / The Haunted Man

I know y’all want to talk about that album cover. Yeah it’s stunning all right. Gone are the hippie headdresses and accessories and the sort. She’s well, bare now. But that’s not to say about the songs on The Haunted Man, it’s anything but minimal. On her third LP, Natasha Khan has perfected her brand of dark-pop. On ‘Laura’ she gives you a bout of gloom and nostalgia with her tenderized piano tune, there is a hint of terrestrial spookiness to ‘The Haunted Man’ and the haunting ‘Deep Sea Diver’ almost breaks your heart. It’s not a mega shift for the Bat For Lashes sound but the subtle difference is a testament to her growth. Dark, yes but dull, this album is not.

Standout tracks: Laura, Marilyn, The Wall

Paul Banks / Banks

It’s not the first time that Paul Banks is doing some solo work but this time the Interpol frontman decided to drop the moniker ‘Julian Plenti’ and settled on using his real name instead. He has not strayed far from the Interpol sound but Banks is definitely a somewhat more mature and toned down Interpol album. His songs still speak in typical icy and bleak Paul Banks’ style but somehow his baritone gloom seems more unique and renewed, detached from his many years as Interpol frontman. Opener ‘The Base’ is classic and familiar of Interpol, ‘Young Again’ apart from it’s slightly bitter lyrics is dreamy, but it is on ‘Lisbon’ and ‘Another Chance’ that he forges his definite identity, divorced from Interpol. Although Banks holds a bunch of pretty strong tracks, it’s still feels like it is still quite searching. But here’s to being hopeful, it is only Paul Banks first proper solo effort as uh, himself.

Standout tracks: The Base, Young Again, Lisbon

Tame Impala / Lonerism

Lonerism is not an album - it’s a narrative experience. It’s a sunny day outside, the clouds are fluffy marshmallows. It’s not too hot, so you’re lying down on your silk-stringed hammock outside with a good book - Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy - and your cat asleep on your belly. You’re about to fall asleep yourself when you hear a familiar sound: your best friend Dave, the chillest guy you’ve ever met (and your occasional drug dealer) just drove up his Volkswagen Kombi into your driveway. You get up to meet him. Yo Dave ‘sup you say. Nah just chillin’ man he says. Get in the car, we’re going somewhere groovy. Aight man you say and you get into the back of his van, bringing your cat in as well. 

Dave drives off, whistling a tune you remember hazily from your childhood days. As you try to remember the name of the song, Dave suddenly banks the van hard onto the bumpy, rocky plains. You rub your head, all throbbing from hitting the side of the van. And then to your horror you realize, the van’s heading straight towards the cliffs. DAVE BRO WHATCHOO DOIN you say. It’s aight bro he says, letting go of the steering wheel and pressing down harder on the throttle. This is the end, you think to yourself as the van veers off solid ground. Then the Kombi sprouts feathery wings and flies toward the quadraple rainbows in the distant horizon with unicorns made of living light and that’s when your cat said “Cool”. 

Standout Tracks: Feels Like We Only Go Backwards, Keep On Lying, Elephant 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor / ‘Alleluja! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

The uber respected canadian post-rock band have been in hiatus for so long that we’re starting to remember them as a time once lost, when their short existence was a distant reminder of the hay days of great post-rock. ‘Alleluja! might be band’s first proper record in 10 years, but it feels like no time has passed in between the records. The band pick up right where they left off and show the world how proper post-rock (or even music) should be done right and give us a 54-minute musical experience that requires you to sit down and really listen to it.

It’s the most immediate of all their records, and to a point, the most accessible. Sure the songs have been floating about online in the form of bootlegged recordings under different song titles, but we’ve never heard a proper recording of it. Well now we have, and it sure was worth the ten year wait. It’s a triumphant return to form that could possibly herald a new era in the band’s career. It’s a reminder to us that music can defy any conventions of classifications and structure and still remain extremely emotional, visceral and incredible.

Standout Tracks: Treat the whole album as one huge epic song, trust me. And be patient. 

Converge / All We Love We Leave Behind

If you’re not expecting Converge to kick your ass in their new record, you’re doing it wrong. The Converge sound - already wild with frantic instrumental technicality and Jacob Bannon’s beastly vocls - progress into something more manic, an entity that grabs your ears by its canals and doesn’t let go until it’s properly ravaged. Converge are in the prime of the careers, exhibiting greater songwriting skills that balance the fine line between melodic lines and chaotic tornadoes of sound. The album features catchy riffs, and lots of it. Even Bannon’s vocals almost sound discernible (gasp!) at times, but it doesn’t make the album any less brutal.

All We Love doesn’t surpass the masterpiece of 2001‘s Jane Doe but it’s certainly very close to it. The record is the aural equivalent of a trailer truck bearing down towards a gas station; it’s blisteringly fast, it’s unstoppable and you’ll want to stay to watch the explosion. 

Standout Tracks: Sadness Comes Home, All We Love We Leave Behind, A Glacial Place 

Between The Buried And Me / The Parallax 2: Future Sequence

To be honest, if I were Between The Buried And Me, I’d find it hard to top the 64 minutes of sonic perfection that was 2007’s Colors. But they sure are trying hard. Their past few releases have been good, but not great - they seem to be bogged down by their own technicality and proginess, feeling like they’re trying too hard to reproduce their crazy genius. As like any other recent BTBAM releases, Future Sequence just jumps between ideas to another quite suddenly; elements of metalcore jumbled up together with prog rock, jazz, blues and even whimsical moments (that cartoony part in ‘Extremophile Elite’). The theatricality gets stepped up to the next level; there’s cheesy vocal lines thrown together with blast beats and space-travel inspired riffs. The technicality is at it’s best here and the mood switches as easily as the tempos. A few gripes with the inconsistencies and moments that feel too out of place (even in BTBAM standards) but overall it’s a respectable record that almost stands up to Colors.

Standout Tracks: Astral Body, Lay Your Ghosts To Rest, Telos 

Flying Lotus / Until The Quiet Comes

LA electronic producer Steve Ellison already achieved legendary greatness in his last album Cosmogramma, an album chock full of bass, rhythms and textures you couldn’t park an extra molecule in it if you wanted to. It was a relatively dark, trippy adventure into the human mind, and one that was a soundscape that constantly evolved before your eyes. In Quiet, Ellison slackens the tension and lets his airy electronic melodies run freely. Less throbbing and more intimate, the bleeps and bloops sound warmer and welcoming, having more similarities to dreampop bands than his electronic contemporaries. The tracks flow and burn slowly, allowing us to be drawn hazily into its hypnotic arms. It’s spiritual, it’s comforting, it’s zen. A perfect album to listen in your room with the curtains drawn. Don’t forget to let your head hang down upside down from the bed.

Standout Tracks: Getting there, DMT Song, Phantasm

Death Grips / No Love Deep Web

An album so important that the band cancelled a potentially money-making tour in order to finish. An album so bold that it features a bare male sexual organ on the album art. An album so controversial that the band had to leak the album themselves after the label inexplicably decided to delay the official release. Now, they've been dropped by their label, and they don't even care. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Death Grips. 

No Love Deep Web is BitTorrent crusaders Death Grips' second major label album, the first being the uncanny masterpiece The Money Store after their debut mixtape Exmilitary. This time, the experimental hip-hop trio hands over an album that's shockingly dense and minimal, contrasting the insanely catchy hooks and bright synths of The Money Store. The atmosphere is sparse but Death Grips has never sounded so menacing. Heavy bass beats fill the air as frontman MC Ride rants about the end of the world like a hysterical madman on bath salts. And that's just skimming the surface. No Love Deep Web may be a lot less accessible than The Money Store, but it does not lack in depth of content at all. Punishingly abrasive and loud, give it a chance and you'll be sucked in.

Standout Tracks: Come Up And Get Me, No Love, Lil Boy

Pig Destroyer / Book Burner

American slaves-to-the-grind Pig Destroyer return after a five-year long wait that began with their pummeling fourth studio effort Phantom Limb. Like most of their discography, Book Burner is a chaotic riff-fest. Usual grindcore lyrical content such as murder and politics are covered here, but what makes Pig Destroyer stand out from the pack is the precise and hectic musicianship of the guitarist and drummer and the horrifying vocals of J.R. Hayes. In case you were wondering, yes they don't have a bassist. But they can make it work, although it isn't a new feature (local grindcore stalwarts Wormrot are the same). All in all, a solid grindcore opus that will appeal to old and new Pig Destroyer fans.

Standout Tracks: The Diplomat, Sis, Book Burner

Text: Daniel Peters, Ilyas Sholihyn, Delfina Utomo