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Swans

The Seer

(Young God)

5



Swans
The Seer


Before the release of The Seer, Swans frontman Michael Gira spoke of the album as being 30 years in the making. While it was unquestionably a culmination of his past endeavors, brought to bear in a vanquishing fashion, it was also a monstrously visceral image of the future. The album’s lengthy emotional trawls through darkness and luminescence were undeniably forward-thinking, gracefully arranged, and aggressively delivered, with Gira and co constructing edifices of vibrancy, sound and color—their foundations set deep in fertile, doom-laden soil. The Seer pummeled, stroked and nurtured, dripping with ecstatic catharsis like no other album from 2012, its thick hallucinogenic and physical tension released in palpable purgative doses throughout the album’s two-hour journey. Reveling in trepidatious rapture, The Seer celebrated life, death, chaos and fear as potently as in the Swans’ very best work. Through it all, the “lunacy, lunacy, lunacy…” was overwhelming resonant. Craig Hayes


 

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Beach House

Bloom

(Sub Pop)

Review [13.May.2012]

4



Beach House
Bloom


It’s presumptuous but not farfetched to predict that 2013 will be the year of Beach House. Just like the Arcade Fire two years ago—best album Grammy, sold out world tours, deluxe album reissue—Beach House seems poised for mainstream success. Bloom, the Baltimore duo’s fourth LP, sold more than 40,000 copies the first week it was released, and for good reason. The album has all the hallmarks of a pop masterpiece: simple arrangements, hummable melodies, universal lyrics and the right amount of edge to appeal to a range of musical tastes. Bloom‘s success can also be attributed to timing: the album came out just as a new wave of dream pop artists seemed to be reaching their height in popularity. At its core, Beach House’s music owes much to dream pop progenitors like Cocteau Twins and Mazzy Star, though without the noise and disaffection of those bands’ work. The pretty, ethereal, slow-tempo songs that make up the bulk of Bloom, carried by Victoria Lagrand’s smoky voice, seem both evocative of the past and embracing of the future. It’s a formula that’s bound to earn Beach House new fans and even more acclaim in the days ahead. Michael Kabran


 

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Fiona Apple

The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

(Epic)

3



Fiona Apple
The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do


Fiona Apple has seemingly become the “Terrence Malick of Pop”. She takes bloody ages to do anything and when it arrives you’re often initially baffled. Cryptic curios written in tongues and riddled with riddles. Beautiful, poetic but spiked with sadness and so meticulously engraved you know every teeny detail is carved for a reason. But what does it all mean and er, which way is up? So you persevere. Days come, nights go, heads are scratched and slowly this most curious thing starts to breathe, show its colours, reveal its secrets. This Apple doesn’t dilute for no one; you gotta get off your fat ass and go up the mountain yourself to see these wonders. Stripped of the fanciful studio trinkets of Extraordinary Machine, Idler ultimately cuts both ways and like its reassuringly unique creator proves simultaneously intimate, distant, childlike, ancient, funny, saddening, maddening, yet vibrantly life-affirming. Folks, Apple’s Wheel is for the long road. Matt James


 

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Japandroids

Celebration Rock

(Polyvinyl)

Review [4.Jun.2012]

2



Japandroids
Celebration Rock


Japandroids grow up on Celebration Rock. While they have haven’t tempered their rambunctious, hot-and-bothered sound too much—if at all—Japandroids’ point-of-view virtually matures over the course of its urgent sophomore effort. On Celebration Rock, the duo of singer/guitarist Brian King and drummer David Prowse proves that you can imbibe heedlessly like there’s no tomorrow at the same time you’re playing the house-party existentialist. So while loud, primal, excessive songs like “The Nights of Wine and Roses” and “Fire’s Highway” give you the idea that Celebration Rock isn’t just about hedonism, but an exercise in hedonism, there’s something deeper to Japandroids’ vivid vignettes than just empties and hangovers. The album captures how present tense turns into the past before Japandroids’ very eyes, their carpe diem indulgences becoming memories in real-time as the yearning strains of King’s vocals tell their tall tales. Nowhere is the sense that Japandroids are running against time—and out of time—so poignant and bittersweet as on “Younger Us”, as King frantically howls, “Gimme that you and me in a grave trust / Gimme younger us,” as if he’s desperately hanging on to something that’s slipping from his grasp. Celebration Rock is a testament to living for the moment because Japandroids know those days are numbered. Arnold Pan


 

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Frank Ocean

channel ORANGE

(Def Jam)

Review [12.Jul.2012]

1



Frank Ocean
channel ORANGE


This is going to be a bad pun, and I certainly don’t mean to make light of the situation, but Channel Orange was one big coming out party for Frank Ocean as an artist on a number of fronts. His announcement on Tumblr that he had unrequited feelings for another man just a week or so ahead of this album’s release (which, in turn, was moved up a week from the date it was supposed to be released—say what you will if you’re cynical) was an act of gravitas. As an African-American artist who openly expressed that he had same-sex leanings, he was a pioneer, a real trailblazer. Being black and working in the hip-hop industry—one that is often well known for its expressions of homophobia—isn’t easy, so that move to out himself alone would have crowned him Artist of the Year in most critics’ books. All of this, however, would obscure and overshadow the fact that the album itself was a brilliant amalgam of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. From the soulful “Thinkin’ Bout You” to the piano vamps of “Super Rich Kids” to the grandeur of the 10-minute long centerpiece “Pyramids”, Channel Orange would have been an exception album by any artist, regardless of its maker’s sexual leanings. It’s hard to listen to the record without thinking of the impact Ocean’s announcement that he was bisexual had on rocking a particular community of musicians, let alone listeners, which may be, in a sense, a tad bit unfortunate, but forget all that. Just get lost in the warm vibes of this R&B masterpiece, and let the music do the talking instead. Zachary Houle


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