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Future of the Left

Future of the Left


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Flight of the Conchords

I Told You I Was Freaky

(Sub Pop)

Review [28.Oct.2009]


Flight of the Conchords
I Told You I Was Freaky



Critical consensus has it that Flight of the Conchords’ second album is heavily reliant on the context of the duo’s HBO series to really work. I say hogwash. As with their self-titled debut, here loveably awkward New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement turn out well-crafted tracks that inhabit various genres (such as hip-hop, reggae, and neo-‘80s synthpop) so effectively, the songs can stand apart from the jokes, much less the TV show. Still, laughs are part of the Conchords package and the album’s best moments—the wounded rapper lament “Hurt Feelings” (“The day after my birthday is not my birthday, mom”), the R. Kelly-inspired drama dialogue “We’re Both in Love with a Sexy Lady”, and (my favorite song of 2009) the Autotuned club anthem “Too Many Dicks (on the Dancefloor)”—are filled with so many nice little touches (a ridiculous rhyme, a note played at the perfect moment) that they continue to amuse after repeated listens. AJ Ramierez


 

 



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Ben Folds

Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella

(Epic)


Ben Folds
Ben Folds Presents: University A Capella



Ben Folds Presents: University A Cappella! serves as a reminder of the recent resurgence and popularity of a cappella and vocally-focused music. From television shows like Glee and The Sing-Off to countless television commercials, the style has experienced a new popularity making Folds’ experiment a well-timed release. Folds recruited university vocal groups from all around the country to record new versions of his songs and the results are almost uniformly wonderful. The arrangements showcase the songs in a whole new way, especially considering the absence of Folds’distinctive and energetic piano playing. Highlights such as “Magic” and “The Luckiest” stand out as the mix of both male and female voices create contrast and emphasize moments that might have otherwise been overlooked in their traditional form. On the surface, this may not be an album for everybody, but these new interpretations open up the original songs in an unexpected way and they are better for it. J.M. Suarez


 

 



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Ben Frost

By the Throat

(Bedroom Community)

Review [24.Jan.2010]


Ben Frost
By the Throat



The Australia-born, Iceland-based Ben Frost’s second full-length, By the Throat, expanded on the metallic, volcanic landscapes Frost began creating on Theory of Machines. The album bears two trademarks of genius: songs never end up where they began, and no sonic element is off-limits. “Híbakúsja”, a seven-minute highlight, begins with soothing guitar arpeggios and slow strings, then quickly expands to what might only accurately be called classical heavy metal. Valgeir Sigurðsson’s production is sharp as ever—the album contains plenty of the distorted liquid explosions that often mark Sigurðsson’s work. Beyond the music, By the Throat forces a ponderance of futurism. Not only are the songs clearly bred by the past and looking to the future, but the elements of human and industry fuse here as well. Breath sounds and rare vocal samples permeate soundscapes otherwise devoid of human life, leaving listeners wondering how this world could be evolved enough to contain such a cyborgian sound. Erin Lyndal Martin


 

 



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Fruit Bats

The Ruminant Band

(Sub Pop)

Review [2.Aug.2009]


Fruit Bats
The Ruminant Band



For music fans who like to “think” about the relevance of their pop music, let’s be honest: the Fruit Bats aren’t going down in the books as visionary pioneers of the early 21st century. In fact, according to most publications—including PopMatters—the Fruit Bats, better known as that band with that guy who plays guitar with the Shins sometimes, weren’t even worthy of a mention in 2009. The closest they came to garnering any kind of attention this year was when Starbucks named “Primitive Man” as their iTunes Pick of the Week in December, a move that, unfortunately, probably hurt the band’s indie label image more than it helped. It’s a real shame too, because on their fourth full-length, The Ruminant Band, that guy, Eric Johnson, and his rotating cast of band members finally flesh out their bedroom folk-rock into one genuine, shimmering, understated pearl of a pop album. Crafted in the shadow of several Sub Pop giants, The Ruminant Band toys with Fleet Foxes’ canyon-of-reverb and the Shins’ jangly guitar pop without pandering too much to either band. Instead, the Fruit Bats’ soft-spoken retro-pop mostly forgoes contemporary experimental trends with refreshingly familiar and occasionally transcendental results. Ryan Marr


 

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Future of the Left

Travels with Myself and Another

(4AD)

Review [16.Jun.2009]


Future of the Left
Travels with Myself and Another



After a well-received debut, Curses, that took the edge off the expectation heaped on Andy Falkous after Welsh punks Mclusky disbanded, there wasn’t the quite the sense of urgency with Future of the Left’s second album. No one could have predicted that it would hit so very hard and truly as it does, nor that it would prove so popular. Falkous’ rage is deployed with typical weariness and resignation, but the songs themselves are full of resolve. “Arming Eritrea” is by far and away the finest song he’s ever written, including all his work with Mclusky, as it’s utterly sparing and anthemic throughout. Several other tunes are also in his upper echelons also, in particular “Throwing Bricks at Trains” and its tale of literally throwing bricks at trains, and the plodding burn of lead single “The House That Hope Built”. Many angry records may have been released in 2009, but few of them contained such focus, such fun and such brilliant rock music. Daniel Ross


 

 



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Gallows

Grey Britain

(Reprise)

Review [21.Jul.2009]


Gallows
Grey Britain



In many ways, it’s not exactly surprising that feisty Wigan hardcore-ians Gallows’ latest record failed to make a dent in this year’s “best of” list. For one thing, you couldn’t call Grey Britain a crowd-pleaser; not unless your definition of crowd enjoys being tied to a chair and screamed at by a tattooed ginger man for the best part of an hour. Yes, I admit it—Gallows’ major label debut is a trying listen at times, but it’s also a vital one, for all sorts of reasons. The songs are dark, gritty, and great; there’s enough light and shade to cause even the most dedicated pigeonholers confusion; and the trappings of major label-dom are used to enhance the aesthetic of the record rather than a cover-up for shoddy songs. Most importantly, in a world where “punk” is almost solely defined by the nonsensical political gibberings of Billie Joe Armstrong, Grey Britain throws all that into sharp relief with brute force and a smash-your-face-in rage. Essential. Shane Commins


 
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