Friday, October 21, 2011

Justice - Audio, Video, Disco Review

Occasionally artists tell the truth. When asked about the direction the new album was taking, Xavier de Rosnay (Half of French Duo, Justice) replied "the album would have a bit more sunshine... daytime music". He wasn't lying. Fours years after their massively successful debut Cross, they are set to release Audio, Video, Disco next week. While it's bound to be compared to their first album, the new material takes a lot of risks, with results good and bad.

If you are looking for the funk and strings of DVNO, you won't find it. How about the distortion and stutter of Waters of Nazareth? Nope. A hint of D.A.N.C.E., their biggest hit? Maybe. While most of the last album was constructed on a computer, this one was created with real instruments, giving it a completely different feel. They may not be the greatest musicians, but surprisingly, it's the live tracks that show the most growth and the electro instrumentals that feel a bit stale.

Horsepower, the opening track felt wrong from the beginning. Did anyone else think they were about to hear Michael Jackson's Beat It? It's basically a drawn out intro to Civilization with the last 30 seconds sounding like something from Legends of Zelda. Civilization was supposed to a hit. Similar to D.A.N.C.E. and tied to a worldwide Adidas campaign, it's the best example of both styles working together. Lyrics have never been their strong suit and you can get away with it when you are asking people to dance the night away. But, "Beating of a million drums/The fire of a million guns/The mother of a million sons" just seems lazy and lethargic.

Thank god for On'N'On, easily the best track. It really saves the album after the average Ohio and Canon. On'N'On is fluid from beginning to end, the vocals and strings build the song properly and it gives you a brief glimpse of what might be. After such great promise and excitement, we get Brainvision which features the most guitar, albeit single-note, and little else. It's these missteps, followed by the bland Parade that frustrate me the most. They are failing where they should be succeeding. Just give me a great synth line with some energy!

Amazingly, they seem to get it together at the end. I can't say a bad thing about the final three songs. New Lands starts off by borrowing the riff from Ac/Dc's For Those About to Rock and there's nothing wrong with that. The breakdown in the middle is just enough to indulge in while resisting the temptation to make a mess of a very good song. Helix is what they do. You've got it all, stuttering vocals, great hook, focus and energy. It was originally reported that this was going to be left off the album (it was included on the Audio, Video, Disco EP), but this song restored my faith in them. While the closing track doesn't break new ground, it does give that ray of light, that peak of sunshine. I just wish it didn't take so long.

Rarely do you find a dance album that doesn't have filler, I understand that. But, the peaks and valleys of this album are so far apart that you are left with 5 good songs and 6 bad ones. It's baffling. Despite the fact that half of the album is sub par, I'm very interested to see how it works live. A new album always means a new tour and there's nothing wrong with that. Listen to the whole album below (via NME) and pick it up next Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Black Keys Announce El Camino

Either The Black Keys are releasing new music or they are going to great lengths to sell a minivan. A fake ad was released on Sunday that features Bob Odenkirk attempting to sell a minivan. Maybe Akron is thin on actual El Caminos, or maybe it's another part of the joke; either way it got my attention. The clip ends with the words, "The Black Keys, El Camino, December 6". Also popping up is the site, which has a phone number for potential buyers. The number goes directly to a message from Patrick about the car with no mention of new music or an album. Lastly, Patrick sent out a message on Twitter yesterday to follow @WannaBuyAVan. The account is based out of Akron, Ohio and has zero tweets.

Pre-Order information is up now and the first single, Lonely Boy is due October 26th.
1.Lonely Boy
2. Dead and Gone
3. Gold on the Ceiling
4. Little Black Submarines
5. Money Maker
6. Run Right Back
7. Sister
8. Hell of a Season
9. Stop Stop
10. Nova Baby
11. Mind Eraser

Monday, October 10, 2011

Introducing: ARMS

While digging around Daytrotter last year, I stumbled on to a band called ARMS. The side project of Todd Goldstein has since become his main focus following the breakup of his former band, Harlem Shakes. After hearing their new single, that doesn't seem to be a bad thing. Todd released 2009's Kids Aflame playing most of the instruments and keeping it a fairly solo project. 2010's ARMS EP was recorded with band members and the growth is evident. Heat & Hot Water is a great song built on a rumbling bass line and Todd's drawn out vocals.

My hope is that 2011 will be their breakout year, with a full album, Summer Skills due in November. The first single, Fleeced is a huge step forward with the addition of synthesizers and more energy. Fans of Local Natives or Ra Ra Riot should enjoy their ability to incorporate a lot of rhythm without losing the drive or focus of a true gem. Both the ARMS EP and Fleeced are available now for free on their Bandcamp page. With absolutely no hint of a label, these guys are doing it themselves and should be supported.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mayer Hawthorne - The Walk

I had the pleasure of catching Chromeo last Friday at the House of Blues and the boys did not disappoint. However, it was the opening act that really impressed me. As someone who grew up on Motown and can appreciate the genius of Smokey Robinson, I am very skeptical when it comes to new R&B. Especially when it comes across as some sort "Retro/Neo-Soul" gimmick. Admittedly, when I initially heard Mayer Hawthorne and his first album, A Strange Arrangement, I dismissed it as such.

But, like so many of those hard-working Motown Revues in the 60's, Mayer Hawthorne & the County bring so much energy, it's hard not to leave a fan. His music immediately got the crowd moving and even had Jill Scott singing and dancing from the balcony. His second album, How Do You Do was released on Tuesday and his video for "The Walk" debuted a few days ago. The Night Falls Tour featuring Chromeo, Mayer Hawthorne & The County, and Sammy Bananas runs through November, so check them out.