Welcome to the second installment of Listen to This! While neither of this week’s albums get very high grades, they are both interesting listens for very different reasons, we hope you like what you read (and hear).
Young Magic – Melt
Release date: February 14
Anyone who keeps up with the latest music knows how difficult genre definition can be, and chillwave has certainly been no exception. Much of Young Magic’s debut LP, Melt, can be dubbed ‘chillwave’, but it delves deeper into both the psychedelic and worldly than artists like Washed Out and Neon Indian.
Some of this worldliness can be traced to the band’s history, as the trio started out in New York before settling in Australia, the rest can be attributed to their obvious desire to explore different possibilities in their music.
That exploration starts early, as album opener ‘Spakly’ wastes no time inundating the listener with tribal percussion and chants aplenty. Animal Collective isn’t a band one would usually associate with chillwave acts, but you can hear a lot of them in several songs on Melt. Track two, ‘Slip Time’, is a standout, with a screeching synth line that manages to be catchy despite its almost banshee-like quality. For all of track two’s catchiness the third track begins the album down a meandering path, ‘You With Air’ attempts to fuse the funkier sides of Toro Y Moi with the afformentioned Collective and a healthy dose of Yeasayer, to mediocre results.
‘Jam Karet’, the album’s fifth song grooves in a sanguine dopamine fueled haze, and finishes strong. ‘Night in the Ocean’ is the album’s middle point and it serves a nice hinge between the weird, but not too weird beginning and the off the wall end to the album. Tracks like ‘Watch for Our Light’ and ‘The Dancer’ start out with African instrumentation which quickly gets buried in layered vocals and maxed out production.
Instrumental track ‘Cavalry’ is a good attempt at honing in the myriad ideas into something good, and acts as a good doorway into the album’s final two tracks. Those final two tracks include another standout in ‘Drawing Down the Moon’, a song which incorporates some extraterrestrial sounds to go with the African and psychedelic theme that pervades the rest of Melt.
I, and many listeners, always search for innovation in artists, and Melt has plenty of that, sometimes to its own detriment. Young Magic have something magical in them, and the highlights of this album prove that, if you can overlook a variety of missteps.
Tindersticks – The Something Rain
Release date: February 21
While Young Magic (whose album I review above) have just released their first full length which darts all over the map, Tindersticks have been doing their very specific style for decades, The Something Rain is the Nottingham band’s ninth album since their 1993 debut. Despite producing music for nearly 20 years, they have managed to put out intriguing chamber pop tinged with jazz that sounds relevant.
Tindersticks have always stood apart from their British peers, dealing with sparse soundscapes and slow (sometimes spoken) lyrics, and they start in that fashion here. Album opener ‘Chocolate’ wouldn’t be out of place opening a film as credits scroll across the screen with an image of a rainy city at night in the background. ‘Chocolate’ tells a long-winding and in the end comical tale that harkens back to The Crying Game, with a dissonant guitar line and a woodwind fuelled climax. If you think this sounds like something the Velvet Underground would have done, you’re spot on.
Tindersticks’ experience shows throughout, as the album’s pacing is picture perfect. The album’s second track, ‘Show Me Everything’ is another sparse affair, highlighted by a juxtaposition of male versus female vocals. Valentine’s Day may have been last week, but this track wouldn’t out of place in the bedroom after some red wine (both drank and spilt). That atmosphere holds for the entire album, as highlights like ‘Slippin Shoes’ sound like something out of a smoke and amaretto filled lounge. The band has never to use unique instrumentations, such as woodwinds and hand percussion, and there are plenty of both here.
Another one of the highlights on The Something Rain is ‘Frozen’, a track which, despite the name, is one of the liveliest and most high paced on the album. The moody instrumentation here is furthered by layered and trippy vocals expressing rather desperate longing.
While Tindersticks have a sound very much their own, thanks in large part to Stuart Staples unique raspy baritone voice, fans of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Lambchop and The Afghan Whig will find something to enjoy here. While fans of older vocalists like Leonard Cohen or Ian Curtis can rest assured singers are carrying that dim smoldering torch well into the 21st century.
Languid would be an excellent word to describe the mood of this album, as it sways through nine songs with seemingly little effort. This album likely won’t win Tindersticks any new fans, but longtime listeners might hear a slight return to form.
Let us know what you’re listening to in the comments below.