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Weekend Watch: Reviews from the Week of 2/29

By Music Staff | 3/3/16 12:07pm

Animal Collective- Painting With 

Courtesy of Domino Records

A Bunch of sounds that shouldn’t go together but somehow creates incredibly catchy indie music

When it comes to experimental indie music, Animal Collective are the indisputable trailblazers. The band is renowned for collecting and combining a multitude of genres to create their own odd and unique sound. Since their huge commercial success with Merriweather Post Pavilion, however, Animal Collective has not gotten as much positive reception on their more recent albums. I believe that Painting With is an album that could match the popularity of Merriweather Post.

The first song off of the new LP, as well as the first song that was released to the public, was “FloriDada.” With the song came a music video, and the combination of the song’s incredibly upbeat tempo and catchiness with the absurdity and colorfulness of the video creates an experience that I can only describe as euphoric. The use of unique vocal synchronization is prevalent in every song in Painting With, and the chords created by it cause a very powerful emotional response. “FloriDada”, taking influence from the art style of Dadaism (which is rooted in absurdity itself), is such an enjoyably absurd song that to this day I still can’t get out of my head. Then comes another highlight of the album, “The Burglars.” A very high-energy track that has sweeping melodies that elicits one to move. What really adds to the manic energy of the song is the arcade game-like synths climbing and falling in the background of the song, building to the song’s intensity and then gracefully breaking down and fading out at its conclusion. “Bagels in Kiev” is also one of my favorites, due to its sweet tones created by the ever-present vocal synchronization. The layering of the verses, as well as the “do-do-dos” inbetween create an atmosphere of nostalgia for something that most have never even experienced. When I listen to that track, I yearn to be back at that Ukrainian bakery even though 1. I’ve never been to Eastern Europe and 2. Have never had particularly important memories in a place as mundane as a bagel shop. That’s just how powerful the compositions of these songs are; they force you to feel things that you never would have prior to listening to them. What really made this album for me, though, was one of the final tracks: “Golden Gal.” When I heard Animal Collective’s use of sound clips from the popular show “Golden Girls,” I was simultaneously shocked and ecstatic. I LOVE Golden Girls. To have a band like Animal Collective use that show in their music was, not exaggerating, life-affirming.

A critique that I can give the album is that some songs do start to blend into one another, due to them using similar harmonies, tempos, and synths. Without certain identifying factors (the absurdity of “FloriDada”, the use of lagging back-and-forth of “Spilling Guts”, or the audio clip of Beatrice Arthur’s voice in “Golden Gal”) it can be hard to differentiate between tracks. However, those songs are still good to listen to, but just do not stand out as much. Overall though, Painting With is an outstanding album, and though it may be early in 2016, I think it may be one of the most important albums for the indie pop genre this year.

RIYL: Ariel Pink, Grizzly Bear, Of Montreal

Recommended: 1, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11

Balkun Brothers – Balkun Brothers

Jess McGowan

Courtesy of  Balkun Brothers

Your classic Chicago-style blues-rock album

The Balkun Brothers self-titled album is, in a few words, classically rockin’. With a bluesy rock feel in each song, Balkan Brothers gives an energy that is so rare to find nowadays because blues rock is anything but mainstream. This album is not afraid to really growl in your face with the raspy vocals and heavy hitting bass guitar. The opening number, “Been Driving,” is the quintessential up-tempo blues song—energetic, in-your-face, catchy and repetitive, and overall fun. The mix of classic blues themes (such as girlfriends cheating), improv guitar rifts, growly vocals, heavy bass, and ending drum solos will make you want to listen to the blues all day long.

RIYL: Ghost Town Blues Band, Slam Allen, John Earl Walker

Recommended: 1, 6, 7, 9

Gazebos- Die Alone 

Jenny Bernardi

Courtesy of  Gazebos

If Rocky Horror Picture Show turned into an indie band

As a child, on long road trips one of the things my parents subjected me to was the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. My mom adored that movie, and all of its music. Though to this day I’ve still never seen the movie, boy oh boy have I heard it. When I listened to Gazebos Die Alone, I found their sound to be strikingly similar to that of the songs within the cult-classic, particularly in the delivery of the lyrics. This thought was only reinforced when I saw a picture of the band: all wearing somewhat garish makeup, with frontwoman donning a blue sequined number and permed bleach-blonde hair. A very theatrical look, to say the least. All of this just adds to the greatness of Die Alone. The entire album can be compared to a spectacular performance; the unnerving crescendo in “Let’s Get High”, the bizarre vocal tactics in “Ere Specka”, and the fantastic lyricism in each track makes for great entertainment. After listening to this album, I’ve got a hankering to see this band live. I’m sure that if I can recognize such a high level of showmanship through recordings, it can only be at least tenfold in person.

RIYL: The Rocky Horror Show Original Soundtrack, Shannon and the Clams

Recommended: 1, 5, 9

Mothers - When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired 

Deanna Mudry

Courtesy of  Mothers

Plucky, rural, good spirited but super capital “A” alternative

This album is all over the place. The opening song comes in and shows all of its folksy colors and then on the second makes a complete 180 into a smooth, indie rock ballad. But, you’re bound to be all over the place When You Walk A Long Distance You Are Tired- so maybe it’s a brilliant stylistic choice after all? I don’t know. But what I do know is the only thing that carries throughout the whole album is the lead singer’s strong Birdy-ish, alterna-girl accent, so if you can get down with that you’re in good hands.

“Lockjaw” is the tune of the album and its lack of cohesiveness is what makes it a great track. It oscillates between super soft and going in hard on the guitar. You keep waiting for the crescendo to hit but it just doesn’t, and this five minute back and forth still manages to keep you hooked with its up and down melody and good lyricism like “I don’t want your kind words/ I want your ghost inside a thimble.” “Copper Mines” is really good too. It’s like a much lighter take on Violent Femmes’ Hallowed Ground folk-punk vibes but also Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy” and brings just as much frustration and flow as they do. Overall, the album’s content really lives up to the world-weariness that its title promises and lets all that frustration out it every way possible.

RIYL: Birdy, Lisa LeBlanc, Bon Iver, Farao

Recommended: 3, 5, 6

The Cave Singers- Banshee

Rebecca Jacobs

Courtesy of  The Cave Singers

Gloomy Folk Rock

As I type away on my computer, I find that The Cave Singer’s Banshee makes for the perfect soundtrack to this gloomy day. The Cave Singers manifest a unique brand of folk rock. They perfectly represent the dark side of the genre. Banshee offers the vibrant, percussive, foot tapping vibe that is characteristic of modern Americana music, but with a crunchy and earthier sound.

Banshee is introduced with a relaxed, sauntering baseline under a funky yet sinister guitar riff, setting the scene for the album. It’s playful, yet holds The Cave Singer’s signature melancholy quality. The Seattle trio has quirky yet dark sound that was obviously curated in the Pacific Northwest. Overall, Banshee is definitely their strongest album yet.

RIYL: Deer Tick, Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons

Recommended: 1, 3, 9

Michael Nau – Mowing

Max Gowan

Courtesy of WRUV Reviews

Moody Folk and Rock

The first track on this album is a bit of a monkey wrench, but not in a bad way. Softly plucked acoustic guitar accompanies Michael Nau’s voice as he strums through a smooth little folk ballad. It’s beautiful, and it doesn’t overstay its welcome, but the album takes an even better turn after that. “The Glass” comes in with jazzy percussion and creative piano lines built around guitar melodies. Nau builds a lyrical narrative around changes in romance, and the track works beautifully.

The album progresses on a really great trajectory from there. All of the tracks have their own ways of being memorable, but Nau really ends it on a high note with “In There”. This song starts will a near minute-long string section and ambience build, until it breaks down into a straight up folk song with a beautiful melody and lyrics. It’s a great way to end a great record.

RIYL: Bon Iver, Elliott Smith, The Beatles

Recommended: 1, 2, 3, 11