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by Jessica Suarez

17 Dec 2009

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The Boy Who Knew Too Much

(Universal / Island)

Review [22.Sep.2009]

Mika’s The Boy Who Knew Too Much is the natural follow-up to his Life in Cartoon Motion in that it carries over the same energy and exuberance of his debut while adding more depth to the songs. The album opens with the single “We Are Golden” and it may as well be “Grace Kelly” 2.0 in the best way possible. Mika’s crafted yet another instantly catchy and idiosyncratic melody into a great single. Falsettos and handclaps abound, along with terrific choruses resulting in an album of such exuberance that it defies the listener to not give in completely. The album jumps from Mika’s piano sing-alongs to the Caribbean-tinged “Blue Eyes” to the gospel choir-backed “Touches You” to a tender duet on “By the Time” with Imogen Heap. Mika’s strength lies in his ability to infuse so much joy into his music. Who else could make a song about hating the rain (“Rain”) sound so wildly happy? The Boy Who Knew Too Much is a true pop album in the best sense of the word and Mika remains poised as that rare songwriter who straddles the line between artistic experimentation and a true popular sensibility, all the while creating irresistible songs.

by Louis Battaglia

16 Dec 2009

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Lotus Plaza

Floodlight Collective


Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt’s first solo album as Lotus Plaza has an incredibly personal feel to it, as if Floodlight Collective was made with the primary intention of satisfying its creator. And while most albums made in this manner veer into the realm of self-indulgence, Pundt has created a remarkably buried, but brisk, and tangled, but tempered sound. On “Whiteout” and “These Years”, his voice calls out from beneath a sonic abyss of twinkling effects and layered pads, not so much struggling to be heard, but rather enticing the listener to venture downward. Building on the first half of Deerhunter’s self-proclaimed genre of “Ambient Punk”, Lotus Plaza’s album dabbles in drone on the title track, while “Antonie” would easily have felt at home on Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox’s first solo album as Atlas Sound. For more inventive moments, see standout track “Quicksand”, which synthesizes ‘60s doo-wop sounding beats with a surf-like guitar, coated with gorgeous atmospherics.

by Dan Johnson

16 Dec 2009

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Junior Boys

Begone Dull Care


Review [9.Apr.2009]

From Kraftwerk to Daft Punk, electronica often has a natural inclination to sound like the music of robots. Precision beats and cold melodies compel movement and ring with huge volume but the genre often fails to synthesize music that sounds flawed, intimate and well, human. Canadian duo Junior Boys’ 2009 album Begone Dull Care is significant in its ability to warp clunky electronic beats into emotional, empathetic songs. Transcending genre, the album simultaneously blends fluid structure with colorful statements on love that swing from sexy to sweetly innocent in a matter of measures. Deep and dynamic, Begone Dull Care is so enjoyable and relatable perhaps because it is so well layered and prone to pleasing changes that make it brazenly addictive. Entrancing love ballads like “Hazel” take washes of perky synth bits, a ferocious beat, and stacked melodies into a climactic duo with romance stained vocals.  As the ecstatic energy of one solo dwindles, the ominous sweep intro of the melancholy “Sneak a Picture” transforms the an exuberant mood into the sound of a rainy, dark dance between majors and minors. With careful attention paid to the rich interplay between parts and a penchant for authentic transformations within songs, the Junior Boys gifted 2009 with an insanely catchy collection of tunes that rewrites a human sort of electronica for the year’s lovers and broken hearts.

by David Abravanel

16 Dec 2009

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Harmonic 313

When Machines Exceed Human Intelligence


Review [4.Mar.2009]

Mark Pritchard is an incredible musical chameleon—while the earlier half of this decade saw him making an homage to library records with the mellotron-filled Harmonic 33 project, that little “1”–-also a nod to the Detroit influence—changes the game to hip-hop, techno, and dubstep. Taking cues from J-Dilla and Cybotron, Machines is a reflectively cold, yet subtly satirical take on retro-futurism. Tracks like “Galag-A”, with its classic video game title and decayed faux-Plaid synths, look inward at the mechanical visions of the future from yesteryear. “Falling Away”, with Steve Spacek, puts a human voice to the achingly expressive beats. Machines is an unmitigated triumph and a career high-point; given that Mark Pritchard was one half of Global Communication, the duo responsible for timeless ambient house classic 76:14, that’s saying something.

by Ross Langager

16 Dec 2009

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Kingdom of Rust


Review [5.Apr.2009]

Mancunian epic rockers Doves often suffer in the indie world’s view for their generic similarities to several derided giants of British stadium rock, but there’s no other lad-rock anywhere that’s quite this dynamic, angular, and haunted. For Kingdow of Rust, Doves shook off the dust from the sonic blueprints for their career-best effort, The Last Broadcast. The final product can sometimes be over-familiar (“The Greatest Denier” and “Spellbound”), but the most evocative moments are undeniably powerful. Opener “Jetstream” is influenced both by Kraftwerk and Vangelis’ Blade Runner score, and expands gloriously on its electronic base. The title track envisions ghostly shapes amidst Manchester’s cooling towers and the Pennine moors. “10:03” begins predictably but soon switches tracks to something more forceful and sinister. The rewarding journey ends with the wonderfully-produced “Lifelines”, their finest ballad since “Caught by the River”. Four albums in, Jimi Goodwin and the Williams brothers continue to restlessly tweak their creative formula, with completely satisfying results.

//Mixed media

Because Blood Is Drama: Considering Carnage in Video Games and Other Media

// Moving Pixels

"It's easy to dismiss blood and violence as salacious without considering why it is there, what its context is, and what it might communicate.

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