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Music

Fazerdaze: Morningside

Photo: Samuel Kristofski

The balance between poppy and grungy make Morningside a fine debut, despite its all-too clean appearance.


Fazerdaze

Morningside

Label: Flying Nun
US Release Date: 2017-05-05
Amazon
iTunes

There is a soothing, warm presence within Morningside that makes up for its lack of dynamic and flexible changes. Fazerdaze creates an album that is childlike in nature, one that has a sometimes annoyingly clean varnish. While the Auckland-based band’s debut might be one that could be lost to time, it is a fairly strong piece that shows its internal and external conflicts well. There is enough self-deprecation on this album to fill three glasses of wine, and yet there is cutesy instrumentation that creates the façade of happiness. Morningside could have simply been about relationship issues and growing up, but Fazerdaze show themselves as a band capable of demonstrating more than that.

The main issue the album contends with is time. For vocalist Amelia Murray, life is engaging in a tug-of-war between taking everything fast and taking things in stride. Whether she means it literally in “Take It Slow” and “Jennifer” or more rhythmically in “Bedroom Talks”, the record struggles to take a side. Despite the very slight shifts in vocals, what becomes the shining feature of these tracks is how each song positions themselves in a spectrum. Fazerdaze does not position their songs as happy or sad only by their lyrics alone; the push-and-pull between different genre influences shifts each song along the scale. Nothing makes that any clearer than Fazerdaze’s dabbling in grunge.

For an album that starts with the childlike, ‘90s contemporary pop “Last to Sleep”, there is a surprising darkness and depth that permeates. One would not reach that core after the joyful “Lucky Girl”. However, deeper takes like “Friends” and “In My Room” demonstrate a depression that makes the lethargic vocals understandable. Though the previous poppy instrumentals are genuine, they do not hide the fear underneath. Murray is afraid of losing her friends and what it means to be one to others; she is scared that her goal of wanting to figure life out is impossible.

Each self-deprecating line feels like a stab that reaches out to the listener. Lyrics become drenched in the idea of having wronged someone. “Have I misread the way I feel about you?” (“Misread”); “I’m trying not to try so hard for you” (“Shoulders”); “All I want to do is change” (“Bedroom Talks”). The pretty electronics thus create the façade while the grungy guitars demonstrate a more unkind reality and lethargy. It is not a surprise to hear explosions of energy flutter in-and-out of a couple takes.

Sometimes these fluctuations of energy can cause issues. “Take It Slow” finishes with instrumental and vocal textures that smother each other in a fashion more suitable for shoegaze. The absence of energy and livid instrumentation produces a track like “Little Uneasy”, an item that fits more into emo. The two songs highlight the all-too-clean finish of some strings and vocals; they detract from the experience of a warm self-deprecation.

For a debut record, Morningside shows its depth well. Throughout the ‘90s adult pop sound of the first half of the record is an encapsulating sadness that would grow in its second half. Fazerdaze does not have to get rid of its clean tone, both in its vocalizing and instrumentation. Perhaps this fault is what makes them endearing.

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Music

The Best Indie Rock of 2017

Photo courtesy of Matador Records

The indie rock genre is wide and unwieldy, but the musicians selected here share an awareness of one's place on the cultural-historical timeline.

Indie rock may be one of the most fluid and intangible terms currently imposed upon musicians. It holds no real indication of what the music will sound like and many of the artists aren't even independent. But more than a sonic indicator, indie rock represents a spirit. It's a spirit found where folk songsters and punk rockers come together to dialogue about what they're fed up with in mainstream culture. In so doing they uplift each other and celebrate each other's unique qualities.

With that in mind, our list of 2017's best indie rock albums ranges from melancholy to upbeat, defiant to uplifting, serious to seriously goofy. As always, it's hard to pick the best ten albums that represent the year, especially in such a broad category. Artists like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard had a heck of a year, putting out four albums. Although they might fit nicer in progressive rock than here. Artists like Father John Misty don't quite fit the indie rock mold in our estimation. Foxygen, Mackenzie Keefe, Broken Social Scene, Sorority Noise, Sheer Mag... this list of excellent bands that had worthy cuts this year goes on. But ultimately, here are the ten we deemed most worthy of recognition in 2017.

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Country Music of 2017

still from Midland "Drinkin' Problem" video

There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

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It's ironic that by injecting a shot of cynicism into this glorified soap opera, Johnson provides the most satisfying explanation yet for the significance of The Force.

Despite J.J. Abrams successfully resuscitating the Star Wars franchise with 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, many fans were still left yearning for something new. It was comforting to see old familiar faces from a galaxy far, far away, but casual fans were unlikely to tolerate another greatest hits collection from a franchise already plagued by compositional overlap (to put it kindly).

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs played a few US shows to support the expanded reissue of their debut Fever to Tell.

Although they played a gig last year for an after-party for a Mick Rock doc, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hadn't played a proper NYC show in four years before their Kings Theatre gig on November 7th, 2017. It was the last of only a handful of gigs, and the only one on the East coast.

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