April 27, 2015

REVIEW: "Kintsugi" by Death Cab For Cutie

Kintsugi Tries To Piece Death Cab
For Cutie Back Together
Everybody leaves Ben Gibbard. It’s the very crutch of his art. Fittingly, then, that Death Cab For Cutie’s eighth album, Kintsugi, arrives in the aftermath of his divorce to New Girl Zooey Deschanel and, more recently, the departure of longtime member and producer, Chris Walla. Those twin departures can be read on every song. Their last album was 2011’s Codes And Keys.
   Kintsugi opens with promise. “No Room In Frame” grabs the reins with a polished version of the group’s past. Ben Gibbard does his usual straightforward moping sneer in climbing reverb. The drums shuffle the song along through each subtle transition.
   When I first heard the album’s first single, “Black Sun,” I was filled with hope for the upcoming full-length. The song spreads out with a stuttering drum beat and Walla dropping in heavy doses of orbital keyboard. There is an extra tinge of hopelessness, of darkness here that hasn’t quite been heard from Death Cab. Most of their songs’ emotion stems from sadness, regret, loneliness, but never do they creep into the darker flip side of those emotions, vengeance and despair. Basically, it’s a Death Cab song, but with all the sap cut out.
   Walla, who has been at the helm of Death Cab with Gibbard for 17 years, quit after the recording of Kintsugi was finished. As he makes his exit, Walla shows on “Black Sun” how this band could evolve into a tighter, more exploratory rock group. Unfortunately, the rest of the album follows the group’s recent two-album (or so) decline.
   “Little Wanderer” should have been passed onto Josh Groban. (You still would’ve been paid, Ben.) Sounds like Gibbard lost his Internet connection and now misses some girl. Maybe the riff sat unused on a harddrive and so they decided to force this very skippable song. It’s a weak sequence of verse, chorus, verse, chorus. But, somehow it’s the only song from this album to get stuck on the trackmill in my head.
   “The Ghosts Of Beverly Drive” and “Everything’s A Ceiling” are just flat out boring compositions. Gibbard, though, still nails the tragedy of life’s constant creation of distance from everything you know and love on the spare acoustic number, “Hold No Guns.”
Kintsugi finally finds a groove on “Good Help (Is So Hard To Find).” The drums and bass swivel to a disco beat while Gibbard plays guitar like he’s in the Dire Straits. Drummer Jason McGerr doubles down on “El Dorado” with a pummeling beat while Gibbard’s voice floats up into the California sun.
   The final song, “Binary Sea,” plays on the waves of piano keys and sounds like a B-side from Transatlanticism, the album that continues to stand as Death Cab’s artistic peak. Kintsugi looks up at it and has to quint only a little to see it.

source: http://imp

Key Tracks: “Black Sun,” “Good Help (Is So Hard To Find),” “El Dorado”

April 14, 2015

REVIEW: "Strangers To Ourselves" by Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse Spend Eight Years
to Sound Like Modest Mouse
Isaac Brock has spent the past eight years sputtering in the wilderness of his creative mind crafting Modest Mouse's sixth album, Strangers To Ourselves.
   The title track slips in casually with the opening seconds. Brock's depleted quivering lisp mixes in with strings in a swirl and brushes on the snare. It's a slow-rocking somber opening, but the second song and first single, "Lampshades On Fire" kicks the mood up into the sky.
   In its three-minute presence the perfect recipe is heard from a band that's been cooking since 1993 when they formed in their native state Washington. There's the hearty drum beat, Brock's spittle on the microphone and harmonic guitar squalls that poke from the rush of movement. In 2015, one could call this the classic Modest Mouse sound.
   Strangers to Ourselves is the group’s first with the absence of bass player and founding member Eric Judy. The album is the follow-up to 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, a mostly uneven set of songs, that fell from the aftermath of “Float On,” the single that catapulted them into new heights. It was 2004 and suddenly everyone and their mothers were singing “Float On” and “Hey Ya” by Outkast on the way to school.
   Nearly every song on Strangers To Ourselves is busy, working like a village of tiny lemmings and packed front to end with full instrumentation. The band’s earlier records had more space to breathe, while their more recent releases jerk the listener around.
   On "Sugar Boats" we hear an oddball chunk of New Orleans funk with horns dodging Brock's wound-up guitar. "Shit In Your Cut" is weighed down by a chunky drumbeat and a bassline that teeters left to right. Brock's vocals fall into his lower register, monotone and spectral, for the haunting chorus, "I guess we'll ride this winter out." The song slips away like the sunlight on a winter day.
   On "Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miama, FL 1996)" Brock sounds like your drunk uncle talking at you after downing a bottle of cough syrup. It's a froggy demented party-time track. "The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box" locks into a Modest Mouse groove with guitar sparkling at the edges. The hi-hat hits consistently on the offbeat through a wavy, woozy chorus that spins around from ear to ear. The songs stumbles into an avalanche of guitar crunch and harmonic flurries before leveling off in the wake of quaking horns and glass bottle tops.
   The album’s best song is "Coyotes." Its simple acoustic strum leads the way as Brock addresses the disappointment of what it means to be human. He suspends his drunken bard's croak to whisper warily on the wind, "Mankind's behaving like some serial killers.” Not only the best here, but since anything off The Moon & Antarctica.
   Strangers To Ourselves is a good time, and better as their last, but it fails to make much of a lasting impression after an eight-year wait. Modest Mouse is still one of the great live acts of the current day, but on their sixth album they only cements their formula further.

Key Tracks: "Lampshades On Fire," "Shit In Your Cut," "Coyotes," "The Ground Walks, With Time In A Box"

source: http://imp