CFCF – Exercises EP

By: Jack Stein

Anachronistic high school science instructional videos on VHS. Donkey Kong Country. The ominously piano-laden movements on the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Staring up at a night sky from one’s backyard, wondering if anything at all is alive out there. If Montreal producer CFCF’s latest artistic metamorphosis on his recently dropped Exercises EP is redolent of any or all of those things, then you’re definitely in his wheelhouse. Continue reading

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Deep Sea Diver – History Speaks

By: Max Burke

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Seattle-based Deep Sea Diver is bound to be compared to another female-led three person band: Yeah Yeah Yeahs.  Jessica Dobson of DSD, like Karen O of YYY, can belt out a strong rock chorus one moment and then sing a tender ballad the next.  Each debut album—which History Speaks is—is just over 37 minutes in length and offers compact, instantly listenable rock songs.  But the comparisons end there; at least in terms of their first albums.  History is more musically complex and less enveloped by distortion and feedback than Fever to Tell.  It almost feels like a Walkmen album sung with the vocal diversity of St. Vincent.

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Explosions in the Sky – Take Care, Take Care, Take Care

By: Taylor Morton

It’s been four years since the Austin based instrumental rock band put forth any new material, but after listening to their latest release, fans have no problem forgiving Munaf Rayani and company for the wait, as Take Care, Take Care, Take Care delivers on everything fans could have wished for.  Following in a similar fashion as their previous works, Take Care does not try to change its stripes in order to gain popularity and appeal to a wider fan base.  Instead, Explosions does what they do best: they take you on what I always picture as a sort of magic carpet ride, where they formulate musical waves that takes those who are willing to simply let go on an imaginary ride; one filled with joy, sorrow, passion, and pain.
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Real Estate- Days

A wistful, timeless indie classic that subtly rewards in understated ways.

By: Jack Stein

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Nearly everything about burgeoning Ridgewood, New Jersey crew Real Estate is understated, unassuming, even slight. The band name itself is so generic it crashes Google; the near-extinct “Traditional Indie Band Lineup” (vocalist/guitar/bass/ drums…no MPCs or 808s?!) that Real Estate employs harkens to the halcyon days when Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. were ruling college airwaves; the sonics themselves are a delightfully hazy web of jangled guitars, pattering drums and gently murmured vocals, certainly nothing remotely close to the shot of norepinephrene that so much of 2011’s music attemped to administer (insert dubstep dig here.) Indeed, especially amid the Year of Cacophony that so often greeted us in 2011- from M83’s in-your-face earnestness, the unrelenting pulse of Skrillex and cronies, and even the thunderous boom-bap of Clams Casino – Real Estate seems almost out of place with the current sonic landscape. However, therein lies the beauty of this band’s approach. What these four nonchalant guys from suburban New Jersey have quietly done is (shh…) crafted one of the most wistful, tersely gorgeous, and simply masterful records of the year, proving that, in the hands of exceptional songwriters, less is often more. And to think: all done without turning on a distortion pedal, employing a synthesizer, or raising the vocals above an insistent coo.

The secret behind Real Estate’s tremendous successes here lies beneath the sonically placid surface in the astounding levels of emotional accuracy with which they depict the ubiquitously uneasy feeling of searching to find one’s place in this world. The lyrics take much more of a precedence here than on their comparably hazy self-titled 2009 debut, with Martin Courtney’s vocals pushed to the front of the mix – and with dramatic effects. The songs alternate between brilliant paens to nostalgia for a youth and carelessness long lost (“Green Aisles”, “Three Blocks”), wistfulness towards a past love (“Wonder Years”), or an insistent desire to believe in something authentic in a world where seemingly so little is (“It’s Real.) Similarly to how the increased clarity of the vocals on Deerhunter’s latest effort Halcyon Digest served to shine a light on the previously obscured thematic content, this crucial change takes the jams from stoned and ambling to purposeful, direct, and almost blindingly bright (in a late August, setting-sun kind of way.)

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The Weeknd – Echoes of Silence

By: Max Burke

If you’ve been following music much on the Internet the past year, you might have come across The Weeknd.  If you researched the topic any further, you might have realized that beyond a few recent mixtapes and his collaboration with Drake, there is little formally known about Abel Tesfaye—the enigmatic twenty-one year old behind the project.  And that’s probably how he prefers it.   Continue reading

Youth Lagoon – The Year of Hibernation

Youth Lagoon does not easily fit within the confines of one genre. Set in an overall slower tempo, the album only hits the notes it needs to, and none of what isn’t necessary. Continue reading