new stuff in short blurbs: unnecessary and unfocused reviews~

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12 juin 2007, 12h07m

Feist - The Reminder
been listening to this since the leak, but only extensively in the last few weeks. her sound's become SO refined and focused since the already pretty damn great let it die. full of folky, indie pop charm, powered by feist's reflective warmth. for every tender, personal track (The Water, How My Heart Behaves) there's the handclapping sing-songy Past in Present (there's so much past / inside my present) or the overwhelmingly infectious contemporary pop of My Moon My Man, which, if there's any justice in the world, should be her REAL breakout song. if mushaboom got her on tv, this song should get her millions of dollars.

while a lot of the up tempo tracks are pushed to the first half of the album, it's hard to find fault. i guess there's an emotional narrative somewhere in here. amazing stuff all around, and a high bar set for the recent crop of singer-songwriter chicks trying to make a mark.

hey i came up with a better system of rating than numbers - LOVE it.

(post completion edit: holy shit i think i gave feist the short end of the stick here. it should probably be easier to write MORE about things i really love, but i guess i'm either more or less of a critic than i give myself credit for. maybe i'll expand on this later.)
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Architecture in Helsinki - Places Like This
i think everyone had to be at least a little pensive over this album when they released the We Died, They Remixed. sure, it wasn't representative of what aih had in mind, but the fact that they ALLOWED some of that garbage to make it to production was worrying. soon after, two of the female members jumped ship, citing "creative differences", and i think a collective sigh of worry was heaved.

then Heart It Races confirmed all fears. a sort of self-parody, if you will, of the things that gave aih notoriety. a scattershot array of backyard twee and the sort of vocals that those with better sensibilities only utter in privacy. but it all jived in some sort of randomly calculated way. maybe it was the sense of naivete. lines like "i've got machine guns / i never shoot them / i only borrowed them in case we die" worked. all i know is, the first two albums were fucking catchy and had some truly great songs.

here, not so much. maybe cameron became too confident and that little impish charisma got kind of brazen and clunky. the old male/female dynamic is downplayed, the vocals occasionally extend beyond the borders of relative good taste (Debbie), and the various influences of new wave (Feather in a Baseball Cap), world music, and bubblegum pop just becomes muddy and murky. there's still a few glimpses of the bright and sunny joy from In Case We Die, mostly on Hold Music, Like It or Not and the album closer The Same Old Innocence, but in general, places like this just overreaches and frustrates.

maybe the fact that i intended this to be like one short paragraph and it turned into 3 should well-illustrate that frustration, actually.

hate it.
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OZMA - Pasadena
ozma reminds me of 2001. i'll get that out of the way. i get a little bubble of nostalgia-come-too-early in my stomach when i listen to their older stuff. so, i had my hopes pinned high when the reunion and new album was announced. i think, though, i got exactly what i really expected out of this.

they'd been making a shift from indie rock to structured and styled ~INDIE ROCK~ on Spending Time On The Borderline, and i was mostly okay with it. Eponine was a great song, ok? was it great enough to be released again, with minimal alterations on this album? probably not; nor was No One Needs To Know, a callback to their earlier material, freshened up with some superfluous overproduction. i can't offer a good explanation as to why 2 of the 11 songs on their big reunion album are old material, so i won't.

the new material is mostly in the same vein, though. lots of casio chords, some frilly synthesis, and a metric ton of saccharine rhyme scheming (knew we'd never stand a chance / we were slave to circumstance / maybe we'd have seen it through / if you were me and i was you) that is at best cute and at worst boring. the bulk of the album is interchangeable in this sense; not outstanding but offensive only in the doldrums of one track blurring into another. i mean, i DARE someone to give me concrete proof that Barriers and Fight the Darkness are two different songs.

in any case, everything sounds just fine, until the "grin and bear it" cheese of the closing Straight Flush, where pitiable poker/relationship metaphors go to die. that kind of songwriting was adorable back on Apple Trees, guys, but this is wearing a bit thin.

ozma still managed to produce some decent music in spite of themselves. Heartache Vs. Heartbreak is adventurous enough and breathes some life into the vocals with rachel haden accompanying ryan and dan, but it's only a brief flare up among a lot of mediocre, acceptable music. back in the kazaa days, a lot of people used to confuse ozma tracks for weezer, or the rentals. but frankly now i'm confusing ozma songs for other ozma songs.

don't like it.
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ok i think i've exorcised the demons. let's try to get this back to the blurbs insinuated by the journal's title.

New Buffalo - Somewhere, Anywhere
what have you done to my dreampop?!?!? this is a bit different, here, as i'm only a casual fan of new buffalo (shown well by the fact that this album is months old and i didn't know it was out), but i LOVE the aesthetic that i knew. voice driven lullabies, mostly carried by some pleasing electronics, with a few piano arrangements.

here, it is much the same, but different. namely, the entire album is backed by a piano and a small, jazzy ensemble. it's a shift away from the drifty-dreaminess of 16 Beats or I've Got You And You've Got Me, and moves things into a lounge. that's not entirely a slant, of course. as someone who absolutely fucking loves regina spektor, me and the piano are best buds. but i just didn't find this as interesting as the older material (or any of regina's material, for that matter).

tracks like City And Sea (Lady Nameless) and Emotional Champ work just fine, and exploit the best pieces of sally's relaxing vocals, but i think it's You've Gone My Friend that works best, mostly because it lies outside of the tight structure on the rest of the album, pairing overlaid vocals together to some bongos and strumming as calm as her voice.

it's still really the same soothing material i know her for, in the end, and i guess it's silly to expect the same album everytime, but i just think this could have been a little bit more.

like it.
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Tegan and Sara - The Con
if you can't tell by now, i'm a sucker for female indie pop. thus, obviously, i like tegan and sara, the only lesbian twins you can google with safe search up.

they know how to construct a damn pop song; that much is already known, since they perfected it on So Jealous. so of course, the con opens up with 3 great songs in a row, with the titular The Con standing out the best. all of the elements are familiar: riffs fit together like puzzle pieces, the sisters sharing/exchanging lines, the catchy hook and singalong refrain. new, though, is a bit of synth. i've seen this referred to as an influence from the killers, and can't really disagree. but it's really just icing, and the pair's strengths are still the centerpiece.

they step further outside of the comfort zone, though, on track 5, Are You Ten Years Ago, which features the girls basically reading the lyrics uptempo over some uncharacterically darker beats. things shift right back, though, onto what should probably be the lead single, Back in Your Head, built around a peppy bit of keyboarding and the songwriting the sisters excel at (i'm not unfaithful / but i'll stray).

the status quo remains for another few tracks, but refuses to get boring, as they pipe in little flourishes here and there, casually adding a few synth beats (Burn Your Life Down), or hanging songs on some prominent drum beats. the next to last track, Like O, Like H steps things up again. it's kind of brooding, and reminds me of the evil twin of Speak Slow, dominated by a strong refrain. oh god did i just say evil twin while talking about a tegan and sara song?

things begin to wrap up with Dark Come Soon, one of those tracks made with the clear intent of closing an album. a love song written like a warning, with every little bit of this album that's worked packaged into a radio friendly bundle. everything i say / i say to me first / everything i do / i do to me first / so what, i lied / i lied to me too. just to reiterate, they really have this pop song-writing thing down.

and finally, (thanks SketchySusan), is a very traditional t&s song, Call It Off. a quickie about missed opportunities, it ends things on their strongest note, simple songs about love. "maybe you would've been / something i'd be good at". another very radio/soundtrack friendly song that will probably get airplay SOMEWHERE. not that there's anything wrong with that, right?

does the con go anywhere exciting? not tremendously. does it REALLY explore much more than their older stuff? not really. but i think the only real strong critics of this album are going to be from the lot that bitch about rilo kiley albums. basically, people with no joy.

love it.

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