Pick of the Week
The world of distorted rock is one that many bands dare to succeed at doing well, but ultimately fail at when it comes to executing at an album level.
It is a highly fickle sound that some attempt to manage, but fail to pick up an audience that becomes significant at a larger level. Even with all the disadvantages of taking a path that does not frequently lead to success, Yuck has embarked on this task.
As their debut album proves, they have all the potential of being a band that proves to be at the front of rock fans. Receiving accolades from the likes of the BBC Sound of 2011, Yuck had a lot to live up to, and their debut holds up astoundingly.
Yuck wastes no time when giving the audience a direct message about what they have come to accomplish. The first track, “Get Away,” kicks into gear with little hesitation. The punch from the guitars has a raw and rhythmic tone with a subtle screech that makes the track accessible and instantly likeable.
Starting off on a good foot, Yuck follows one of the best tracks on the album with another that tops the list. Changing up the overall feel of their lo-fi sound, Yuck shows a lot of heart and determination. Their guitar riffs are soaring and contribute to the momentum of the tracks rather than serving primarily as a placeholder.
The brilliant thing about the young group’s album is not that they deliver one hard-nosed track after another, but that they have a precise understanding of pacing and are willing to venture outside of their comfort zone.
Instead of over-saturating the listener with several songs in succession with the same tone and grittiness, Yuck strategically places tracks that are much slower, easier on the listener and expose an additional depth to the band not previously seen.
Pacing and changing up the tone of songs come to a pinnacle when placed perfectly into the middle of the album with the track “Georgia.” Nostalgic, poppy and high-energy, “Georgia” becomes a standout that demonstrates the raw talent of such a young group. Adding their female member’s vocal talent to the track demonstrate how they are able to diversify their overall sound.
For the lovers of 90s rock of a similar likeness, it is hard not to pin down the influences of 90s lo-fi acts within many of the songs. “Operation” quickly becomes one of those tracks that highlight the magnificence of artists before them, while demonstrating the band’s enormous amount of heart.
Yuck provides for a sound that is easy to compare to other lo-fi artists, yet unique overall. It’s simple, direct, distorted rock at its finest.
Ending off a fantastic album the right way, Yuck delivers the spectacular seven-minute journey “Rubber.” Full of anxiety and the scruff that overwhelmingly defines their sound, “Rubber” becomes an excellent finale to what is a magnificent debut. If anything, Yuck is supremely appetizing to anybody that wants to listen to rock as loudly as possible.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 1/26
By Sarah Hager, WKNC DJ
The Portland, Ore. natives are known for their mix of indie, folk and rock music all packaged under the chilling yet soothing voice of Colin Meloy. The new album offers another genre blend that wasn’t prominent on former albums. The influences of Americana and blues are unmistakable during each new track.
The six-piece band plays an array of over 14 instruments, including Hammond organ, piano, violin and harmonica. In addition to the band members, guests Peter Buck of R.E.M. and indie folk star Gillian Welch also appear on the new album. Despite the mass amount of instruments and bodies, each song has deep layers of music without any part of it sounding odd or random.
“Don’t Carry It All” starts off the album with a blast from Meloy’s harmonica to immediately set the mood of The King is Dead. All the instruments complement one another. Sara Watkins harmonizes with Meloy on the choruses, which turn out to be a common tool throughout the album.
The second track picks up the tempo and adds interesting lyrics, which are an aspect of The Decemberists that any fan immediately recognizes. Their lyrics consist of clever rhymes and vocabulary-building words virtually every time.
“Down By The Water” and “Rox in Box” are truer to older Decemberists music. The first features harder cymbals, harmonies in all the right places and musical build-ups to engage the listener. This is the one you’ll sing along to first. The latter is also catchy, but has an older feel to it, laced with sharp guitar licks and accordion.
“January Hymn” reminds me of Dave Matthews Band. It’s slower with heavy reliance on acoustic guitar and voice. Lyrics like “April, all an ocean away, is this the better way to spend the day/Keeping the winter at bay” paint a scene of someone deep in thought, retracing their choices. With a shaker acting as the only percussion, the listener focuses on the lyrics and gets lost in thought.
“This Is Why We Fight” is a track that has more rock than country. The lyrics are choppier and repetitive, making a point and getting straight to it. “Come the war/come hell” paired with a chorus containing “and when we die/we will die/with our arms unbound” has a political air to it. The last 45 seconds of the song feel like listening to someone playing guitar from another room.
Overall, this album was not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it. They embrace their Americana roots and run with it. This is right up the alley of fans of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. The vocals, wide range of instrumentation, lyrics and genre variation will reach a wide listener range. Although it strays from the rockier center of traditional Decemberists music, The King is Dead is definitely worth a listen.
4/26 WKNC Pick of the Week
written by DJ Ones, WKNC Daytime deejay
Following the immense success of 2008′s debut self-titled album, Fleet Foxes took three years of touring, recording and reflecting before their sophomore release, Helplessness Blues.
The delay, although difficult for early fans, may have done just what it needed to calm some of the hype for their second full-length. It also allowed time for Fleet Foxes to grow, experiment and hone their skills as proper folk artists.
Fleet Foxes, while holding onto their abilities to create folk tracks with large amounts of grandeur, allowed themselves to experiment, reflect and refresh what could have been an attempt to repeat the sounds present on their debut. Quite simply, Fleet Foxes did everything that was necessary for a proper sophomore album.
Getting an early insight into the majestic, nostalgic mind of lead singer Robin Pecknold, the album starts with an intimate beginnings as he reflects, “Oh man what I used to be!” As the harmonies of the band echo in the background, Pecknold carries along with hopeful yet observant sentiments on what could happen and what already has happened, a proper opening for an excellent second album.
Helplessness Blues keeps the audience captivated as they experiment with new techniques for song writing.
On two different occasions the band combines two songs, which create some of the most peculiar moments on the album. In “The Plains/Bitter Dancer,” Fleet Foxes start with a light, yet long instrumental opening that merges into a track that is less traditional Fleet Foxes, and instead calls back to the older folk generations that influenced their music.
Some of the most stripped down moments throughout the album allow for some of the most powerful moments.
In the title track, Fleet Foxes hone this surging folk sound dominated by multiple acoustic guitars, the range of Pecknold and the ability to progress tracks from within to climax.
Pecknold and company have the capability to bring in beautiful lullabies to calm down and change it up. In “Blue Spotted Tail” they utilize only the smooth harmonies of Pecknold’s voice and a guitar, which proves to be both soothing and dreamy.
However, Fleet Foxes is able to deliver one of their greatest tracks with the conclusion of Helplessness Blues.
“Grown Ocean,” a soaring dream of Pecknold’s creation, carries alongside an optimistic, grand collaboration of all elements, old and new.
Hearkening to some of the vast musical mixtures of their first album, Fleet Foxes is also able to create layers with incredible precision. As flutes penetrate the epic collision of instruments that guide us along the dreamy atmosphere of Pecknold’s lyrics, Fleet Foxes conclude their excellent album with one of the greatest folk tracks of the past decade.
Through a combination of experimenting with new musical elements, utilizing their previous combinations of folk music and writing meaningful lyrics, Fleet Foxes delivers one of the best albums of the year.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 10/28
By WKNC DJ Margot
Sufjan Stevens has been silent for the last five years. His last album, Illinoise, was released early in the summer of 2005 and consisted of his usual, brilliantly haunting pop that is anything but normal.
The Age of Adz, released in early October of this year, follows a different path for Stevens. Instead of the orchestral arrangements we have come to know and love from his older albums, Age of Adz is brimming with electronic sounds and synthesizers.
For many Stevens followers, such as myself, this album instilled shock and anger. Stevens already took the originality that we loved and threw it to the ground. Everything has changed.
Stevens is no longer following his quest to create an album for each of the 50 states. Shocked fans discovered that the states mission was only an advertising scheme.
Listening to the new album, there is hardly a hint of Stevens’s famous banjo. This news hurts.
But, by giving The Age of Adz a chance and a good listen, fans are able to see Stevens as the artist he represents. He is no longer a one-sound musician, but a genuine talent who has more to offer the world.
For those who have not experienced any music by Stevens, this is the time. Stevens covers a full spectrum of sound. The Age of Adz gives listeners a taste of the future for music.
Brass instruments mixed with electronic, constant beeps followed by trills and Stevens’s known harmonies alongside auto-tuned tracks — this combination of sounds, both old and new, shows the expanse and brilliance of the artist that is Sufjan Stevens.
For fans who are like me, take a deep breath, plug-in and listen to The Age of Adz with an open mind. Stevens is still there, under all of that new sound. We first fell in love with him for his originality. Now we can fall in love with him all over again.
Instead of following Stevens through the past and present of Michigan and Illinoise, let him guide you into the future with The Age of Adz.
We expected great things and he followed through with something greater than we could have imagined.
If you are still looking for the old Stevens, listen to the first track, “Futile Devices,” which falls closely in line with Stevens’s 2004 album, Seven Swans. The best example of his combination of sounds is, “I Want to Be Well,” which is featured toward the end of the album.
With Stevens, nothing can go wrong.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 10/22
By Jonathan Newman, WKNC Chainsaw Music Director
How does one define epic? I believe, in my humble opinion, that if you were to look up the word epic in the dictionary you would see a picture of Blind Guardian’s latest magnum opus, At The Edge of Time.
This album is pure magic. From the opening strings and orchestra, to the closing guitar riff, this album is absolutely flawless. All of the songs on the album are based off of fantasy stories, and it really shines through in the lyrics.
The opening song, “Sacred Worlds,” was originally in the video game Sacred 2, where you had to find the band’s instruments in a quest. They extended the song with a full orchestra intro and outro, adding more depth and character to the song. This song immediately sets the tone for the whole album and gives you an idea for what you have in store.
The next song on the album that really shines is “Tanelorn (Into The Void),” based off the series of books Eternal Champion. The song is fast, having more speed metal akin to their earlier work. The guitars drive you forward, leading you to a catchy chorus you can’t help but sing along to.
One of my personal favorites, “Curse My Name,” is based off of John Milton’s novel, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrate, where a king is killed for not fulfilling his duties. It is an epic ballad where you will sing along to every word, and even raise your fist in the air, screaming the chorus at the top of your lungs. It is one of the best tracks on the album and quite possibly the best out of their entire 20 year discography, ranking second only to “The Bard’s Song (In The Forest)”, a crowd favorite.
Another stand out track, released as a single earlier this year, was “A Voice In The Dark.” This song is a combination of all things that makes Blind Guardian special. It is a fast, speed metal type song with a catchy chorus that cannot help but make you smile as you listen to it. Try as you might to resist, you will have trouble not singing along to the chorus every time it rolls around.
The last song to make mention of is “Wheel of Time,” based off of the Wheel of Time fantasy series written by Robert Jordan. This song is very much akin to the band’s last epic song, “And Then There Was Silence.” It is bombastic with its huge chorus where the lead vocalist, Hansi Kursch, vocals are layered upon each other.
It is a fantastic way to close an album, and one that will force you to play the CD again, and again.
All of the songs on here are beautiful and composed perfectly. The orchestra added to the songs con-tribute depth that one rarely finds in CDs these days.
This band has been together for over twenty years and have grown immensely; evolving from a speed metal band, to something that defies genres. I recommend this album for anyone who loves power metal, prog metal or even just music in general.
It is a fantastic album and one I think that will be very hard to top. I will be listening to this album until I reach the edge of time.
WKNC Pick of the Week, February 11, 2011 by Jonathan Newman, WKNC deejay
Musically, this album is more akin to the bands earlier works Where The Shadows Lie and Sword’s Song with the driving guitars and blast beats. They blend the male and female vocals seamlessly over the keyboards and guitars, giving the songs a more earthy, yet powerful tone.
The male vocals have improved dramatically. The vocalist has seemed to have found the perfect line between growling and singing to add a voice that blends both a uruk-hai and a man. The female’s vocals sound like the elves Arwen and Galadriel combined, forming a light sound that compliments the male’s harsh vocals. Together with the lyrics, the music creates a powerful effect that sucks you in, leaving you wanting more.
While all the songs on the album are special in their own right, there are a few songs that one should take notice of, with the first of these songs being “Bow and Helm.”
The song immediately kicks in with dual guitars and a pounding drum beat before filling your ears with the horns of Gondor. The male vocalist speaks softly to us about the land of bow and helm, before the voice of the orc breaks in screaming over galloping guitars about the rise of the dragon. Then it slows down, letting the elf and man sing quietly, before quickly returning to the orc attack of guitars and drums.
“Kärmessurma” is one of the more unique songs on the album, utilizing both male and orc vocals over a driving guitar. Yet what makes it special is the whole song is sung in elvish, making us feel as if we are watching a shouting match between a man and orc, before the female comes in and calms everything down.
The second-to-last song on the album is worth noting. “Doombound” is the last song to use vocals, and it uses them to such an extent that when mixed with the keyboards and guitars, you truly feel the pain that Túrin felt in his last moments. With a catchy hook and painful roars, the song plows on, dragging you down, before lifting you back up with a piano interlude filled with the serene voice of the elf, giving you peace despite the fact that you are doom-bound.
88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 2/8/11, written by DJ Switch, WKNC deejay
You never think your kid’s ugly. Well, at least you never tell your kid you think they’re ugly. My parents never did. They did say I have a face for radio, but I never quite got what that meant. Either way, there’s no need to lie about the beauty of WKNC’s Double Barrel Benefit compilation, because even though the student radio station put it together, it’s a handsome piece of local music by all objective accounts. Recorded mostly in Caldwell Hall, this album was passed out to the crowd at 88.1′s annual benefit concert as they watched those very same bands bring down the house.
Showing the diversity of Raleigh’s music scene right off the bat is rapper Inflowential’s “Wherever.” It has a cheerful rhythm that reminds of Sugar Ray. As soon as you’re swaying to that, he slips in nonchalantly and starts commanding a pitter-patter of rhymes. Inflowential has an easy mastery of words like Nas or Jay Z, but with none of the intimidating lyrics.
Kid Future has some seriously artful song lyrics, such as “you were born with no blood, wind in your veins,” and the Old Ceremony has that simple beauty that you used to only be able to find in Bob Dylan or James Taylor songs.
Luego are students of the Guthrie school of folk rock, but, like Blitzen Trapper, they bring their modern indie rock sensibilities to give it a modern twist. Don’t let the song title fool you, “California” is an ode to the good old North State, done right by a group of native musicians with true Carolina accents.
Cassis Orange easily became one of my new favorite bands with their contribution, “May, June, July.” Now, normally I don’t like dance music. I think this aversion stems from a childhood of getting rejected by girls at the middle school dances — and an adulthood of getting rejected by some of those same girls at college parties — but this track made me forget all that entirely. It’s sort of like a mellowed-out Madonna, but not so dancey that it loses its beautiful, trippy melody and its mature songwriting.
Yardwork makes order out of chaos with “Hot Balloons.” The guitar solos seem to climb around the impassioned vocals like ivy, wrapping over the pounding snares in an effort to quell this eminent crescendo of emotion. Bright Young Things is a sort of happy hodgepodge resembling something like Kula Shaker or maybe even an experimental-era Beatles.
Like their name, Hammer No More the Fingers is something both indescribable and obvious. You can’t pin down exactly what it is that works for this band, but you know that it works— and “Blanko Basnet” definitely works. The vocals are some of the most unique I’ve ever heard. They have a slight adolescent twill, but still retain the power and resonance to howl above the rich intensity of the song.
No lie, this compilation is beautiful. Me, on the other hand—that might be another story.
WKNC Pick of the Week, December 2, 2010
By John Gomes, WKNC Daytime deejay
It’s that lovely time of the year where we put up Christmas lights, enjoy egg nog shakes at Cook Out and look back on the year that was. 2010 proved to be an eventful year, despite all the terrible moments — earthquakes, oil spills, that bad call in the Maryland football game — this year saw the release of some good albums. I highly recommend my personal Top Five list for your listening pleasure over break.
The sophomore release from this eclectic group is a warm, pop-infused masterpiece—a curious departure from the darkness of their 2007 debut album. Yeasayer introduces huge, pulsing synths and primal rhythms into their sound, resulting in some infectiously upbeat and organic numbers. Odd Blood isn’t one-dimensional, however. The album features a couple of heavier, darker tracks to balance out the pop sound. Yeasayer remains experimental as ever, exploring everything from R&B to Middle Eastern dance music. The end result is a well-rounded, highly enjoyable album. (Bonus points for the band self-producing it.)
Possibly the most anticipated album of the year, Arcade Fire’s third release garnered universal praise. Like Odd Blood, The Suburbs represents a new sonic direction for Arcade Fire—gone are the Baroque sounds and grand crescendos that defined the band’s sound. Instead, the album maintains a latent energy throughout every song, steadfast rhythms layered with rich textures and tones. These elements form the perfect vehicle for the album’s main concept — innocence and coming-of-age set in the backdrop of suburbia. Poignant and poised, The Suburbs is Arcade Fire’s best release yet.
Though many artists are doing the retro surf-rock thing nowadays, Best Coast does it best. The group is led by Bethany Cosentino, whose approach is refreshingly simple — reverb-heavy guitars, easy chord progressions and honest lyrics about boys, her cat or getting high. Sure, it seems like a third-grader can write these songs — “One day I’ll make him mine / And we’ll be together all the time” — but there is beauty in the simplicity. The songs on Crazy For You are little pieces of pop perfection — they’re sweet, short, and will stay in your head for days. Put this album on and you’ll feel like you’re on a beach.
Broken Social Scene is a rather apt name for the group whose massive lineup continuously changes. With so many band members playing so many instruments and adding so many sounds and textures, Forgiveness Rock Record is inevitably orchestral and grandiose. Each song exhibits a different dimension of beauty, from the majestic climaxes of “World Sick” to the melodic angularity of “Art House Director.” Though not as cohesive as previous albums, Forgiveness Rock Record is still classic Broken Social Scene — lush, resplendent and larger than life.
Dan Snaith, who operates under the name Caribou, is an electronica artist and British mathematician. Naturally, you wouldn’t expect those two things to go together. Swim evokes the same reaction with its out-of-left-field collection of tracks. Flip-floppy synths, divine bell chimes, and even jazzy flute flourishes all coalesce atop powerful, danceable grooves while whispery vocals echo and modulate in and out of your consciousness. This is not your father’s electronica album. Each and every song evolves into something surreal at the end, with elements of rock, jazz and psychedelica thrown in the mix. Out of all the albums on this list, Swim sounds the most transcendental.
11/19 WKNC 88.1 Pick of the Week, written by Kunal Vasudev, DJ Wise, Underground 88.1
Though the MC-producer collaboration is a concept that seems to have been left in the past, every so often an MC and producer team up for an album that recalls the days when acts such as Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth and Gang Starr ruled the Hip-Hop scene. Brooklyn MC Skyzoo and New Jersey Hip-Hop producer !llmind team up to craft a sharp, 12-track record that seamlessly combines the sounds of Golden Age Hip-Hop with the sounds of today’s Hip-Hop.
From the opening track, Live from the Tape Deck presents itself as an album built heavily upon hard-hitting beats and filling rhymes. The album is Skyzoo’s sophomore effort, fresh off of his 2009 debut The Salvation, and definitely showcases the MC’s evolving lyrical abilities. Where The Salvation left off, Live picks up, featuring a more focused Skyzoo who exhibits the ability to use fundamentally sound rhymes to construct fleshed out verses. His grasp of the English language is displayed as well, as Sky is able to twist words to his desires and utilize them in simple yet effective ways. This is very clear from the get-go in the second track of the album, “Frisbee,” where Skyzoo starts each line with the last word of the previous line so seamlessly that you don’t even notice that it is being done. Even further, “The Winner’s Circle,” finds Skyzoo roleplaying as Lebron James, taking a little under three minutes to explain what took Mr. James an hour and a some years to get out to the world. But Skyzoo’s abilities are truly exhibited on “Krylon,” a track, which, on the surface, seems to be a simple ode to graffiti, but digging beneath the rhymes reveals a deep track filled with metaphors about violence in it’s many forms, whether it’s physical, emotional, or sexual.
Of course, the album is not all about the impressive lyrical talents that Skyzoo showcases. !llmind, the Filipino-American producer hailing from New Jersey, displays why he is one of the most sought after producers in the Hip-Hop underground, producing for acts such as Little Brother, Boot Camp Clik, Supastition, and most recently Skyzoo. With Live, !ll attempts to capture the analog sound of the cassette and give it a more updated feel. What you have is typical East Coast boom bap percussion beneath layers of strings, synths and keys, which !llmind uses to create a haunting soundscape for Sky to mold his rhymes. It also does a brilliant job of recalling the hard-hitting sounds of the past while looking into the future of Hip-Hop production. The production calls for the best speakers one can find just to appreciate the richness, the honesty, and the fullness that !llmind weaves into his beats.
Live From the Tape Deck also has the bonus of making every part of the album feel apart of the album rather than just a collection of singles compiled together. The features, though appearing on four of the twelve tracks, match perfectly with Skyzoo and fit well with the records they are featured on, from Rhymefest on a political track to Torae backing up Skyzoo as “The Barrel Brothers.” And the intros & outros seamlessly transition into one another, never seeming out of place as the album progresses.
Ultimately, while Live From the Tape Deck evokes memories of the past, both through it’s title and the sound of the album, it is hard to attain that same feeling from the days of the tape deck. But Live brings Hip-Hop to its basic essentials: the beats, the rhymes and life. Nothing more, nothing less, and Skyzoo & !llmind combine to make it one of the best releases of 2010.
88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 10/15, written by Mason Morris, WKNC Operations Manager
If you have seen the French film Amélie, you perhaps recall its vivid colors, quirky dialog, touching plot and most certainly its soundtrack. The violin, accordion, piccolo, xylophone and tambourine just begin to comprise its emotional tsunami of sound. It floats spirits, it drowns souls and it moves the viewer with sound as much as the cinematography does with sight. From the highs of “Les Jours Tristes” to the devastating crash of “La Valse D’Amélie,” each piece from the soundtrack pulls the strings of the listener’s heart. Fans of the Amélie soundtrack should be delighted to learn that the composer Yann Tiersen’s masterpieces did not start, and have not dropped off with his premier film score. Tiersen’s most recent studio release is titled Dust Lane, and it serves as his formal American debut. After my first listen through, I can only attempt to fathom why he did not appear sooner. The notes on the cover of the album share it’s dedication to the artist’s mother and Dédé Lafleur, both whom were dear to him and died at the time of writing and recording. These close sentiments are reflected throughout the pieces in an imaginative expression of love and dedication. The album begins with “Amy,” a song peppered with beeps and blips as a vessel lost in the stream of life searches for guidance and some solidarity.
This murky start clears as a glimpse of hope, rare to the album, crescendos into further chaos. “Sinking, sinking,” Tiersen laments. An end, presumably death, has been revealed to the man, as his music transitions to a drearier tone. The listener is led through a cloud of deeply personal confusion from here to the album’s conclusion. Dust Lane ostracizes Yann Tiersen’s previously known musical style with a mélange of synthesizers and heavy guitar riffs. The change is both genius and welcome.
“Palestine,” a politically charged, yet emotional, song from the album, puts Tiersen and colleagues spelling the state’s name repeatedly behind a haze of melody that dissolves as all structure falls. From Tiersen’s label, ANTI-, comes his description of the track. “I ended my last tour in Gaza City, and realized that even in the most unfair situation there is hope. It is when surrounded by mess and dust that everything comes to life again,” Tiersen said. Percussion and interference set a background as vocals intensify, eventually misspelling and entirely collapsing the idea — Palestine.
Tiersen succeeds in delivering his message to audiences with grace and beauty that is sure to cause chills. Yann Tiersen’s album does not end on an entirely negative note. “Till The End” is its penultimate track, and it is haunted by gorgeous ethereal singing, spiraling screeches, piano solos and a gleaming resolution. Perhaps all will be okay. Perhaps one can only move on. The piece transitions into the finale, “F*** Me,” where the album’s climax rests. “Love me, love me, and make me love again,” Tiersen begs in a major key. The end is not nigh for all. In an unmistakably complex way, the musical artist finds solace in the comfort of his partner and sings to her. Good music is listened to, but great music is experienced. Tiersen succeeds at this on all fronts in a brilliant album that must be listened to by all.
88.1 WKNC Pick of the Week 10/15, written by DJ Ones, WKNC deejay
It’s hard to believe that it has been nine years since Superchunks’s last full-length album. Aside from recording a track here and there, Majesty Shredding comes as the Chapel Hill band’s storming entry back into the forefront of the local music scene. Although the legacy of Superchunk will most likely spur talk about the history of Merge Records and the earlier punk scene of Chapel Hill, it is increasingly difficult to fail to acknowledge their arsenal of great music.
Almost a decade has gone by and Superchunk has not missed a beat. Starting from the first track, “Digging for Something,” the album channels that same heart and drive prominent throughout their career. Upbeat, anthemic, and full of great guitar riffs, Superchunk proves they are still hyper enough. The high-paced tracks keep coming. “My Gap Feels Weird” punctuates a more mature, higher-quality production that never loses sight of their distinct sound. Subtly layering the vocal styling of lead singer Mac McCaughan, the track progresses and builds toward a strong ending—the likes of which do not disappoint. However, the band does show they can perfect slow-paced pop tracks. “Rosemarie” offers a great transition out of the upbeat into the relaxed, and is still able to deliver the distinct Superchunk kick. Tracks like “Hot Tubes” and “Fractures in Plastic” are sprinkled throughout to give the listener a general break, and they are a necessary breather for an otherwise fast album. They also show how Superchunk has strengthened so many areas of their overall sound over the decades.
Nevertheless, prepare to strap yourself down for this album. Barely skipping a beat, Superchunk delivers epic guitar riffs that penetrate almost every song and are timed masterfully within the tracks. Where other bands may attempt to write songs that are similar in nature, very few are able to execute them on the same level as a band as experienced as Superchunk. Majesty Shredding ends on one of the highest notes any album for the year has. “Everything at Once” starts with the simple background vocals of the band and builds with the introduction of McCaughan’s high-registering vocals. The track builds a sense of anticipation released with a face-melting guitar solo. With every member firing on all levels, it is hard to deny that fans of Superchunk, or the power-punk sound that signified the band’s career, will be disappointed with their latest release. The wait has been well worth it as Superchunk has crafted another album that not only will reignite the interest of old fans, but will also fit nicely as one of their most complete albums to date.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week, written by Drew St. Claire a.k.a. DJ SWITCH
When I was just a newborn, my mom would sit in this old rocking chair and cradle me while she sang her favorite Beatles songs, instead of the traditional lullabies. I’m guessing my dad’s renditions of Led Zeppelin didn’t quite make for good bedtime music. So, while I was listening to The Love Language’s newest release, Libraries, I couldn’t help but see a similar scene playing out in my mind—some trendy Triangle couple crooning this local band’s latest release to their little bundle of joy. It’s just got that same kind of simple beauty to it.
A couple of years ago, the Love Language’s frontman, Stuart McLamb, was more likely to be found lying in a Raleigh back alley than rocking the big stage at the Hopscotch Music Festival. After a turbulent series of personal events, McLamb created a new band (The Love Language) and put out a self-titled album about his struggles. Libraries comes out just a year after that debut self-titled album and is a very solid follow-up. If the Love Language hasn’t proven themselves to be heavy hitters in Raleigh’s thriving indie rock scene yet, this album will certainly solidify them as such. The first track, “Pedals,” starts out with a quiet piano intro but then crashes into this rich melody with all sorts of layers to it. Those are going to be the keywords for Libraries: “rich” and “layers.” “A season for the both of us, a reason that rose off the coffin”—those are the first bold words from Stuart McLamb, the lead singer and guitarist. He has a bit of Morrissey (from the Smiths) in his voice, and it works well echoing out over the rich ebb and flow of the music. With those symphonic-like buildups and crashes from the instrumentation, I also got a pretty definite Arcade Fire vibe as well. That lovely riff running throughout “Pedals” sounds just like the outro from “Intervention,” but with a beautiful tragedy that is all its own. Another quick standout for me was certainly “Horrorphones.” This was The Love Language track WKNC included on the Hear Here compilation, which was reviewed by yours truly a few issues back. I still stand by what I said about this song back then—a melodic headtrip that’s equal parts I’m From Barcelona and the Beach Boys. Tracks like “This Blood Is Our Own” and “Anthophobia” give off an almost beach-vibe with their bending and sliding guitar solos. This underlying feeling became so pervasive to me that I checked out the band’s website and, sure enough, I see crashing waves and faded photos of wholesome girls in one piece bathing suits. Songs like these, and ones like “Blue Angel,” put me in what I think a 1950’s prom would have been like, but with a much more hip twist to it (and none of the embarrassment). The album closes out with “Wilmont,” which I assume is an allusion to the historic apartment building just down Hillsborough Street. Like the building it references, the song has plenty of heart and soul, made manifest by an acoustic intro and McLamb’s sincere lyrics, “I want you to be with me, ‘cause I’ve got a big heart to feed.” With songs like that, maybe it’s not too far-fetched for Libraries to become lasting lullaby material. Maybe one of those little babies will even grow up to write CD reviews of The Love Language’s next release.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 9/10
written by Sarah Hager, WKNC DJ
As I opened Citizen of the Empire’s self-titled and self-released debut, the CD insert caught my attention. Where the copyright information should be, I read, “No Rights Reserved.”
“We prefer to make our lives a work of art as opposed to ‘making a living’ from our art. Reproduce and distribute in any form by any means. Share with your friends and enemies alike.” I will say, after listening, I’ll be sure to do just that. The seven-track album starts off with a slow, ethereal guitar riff with subtle crash symbols. This track, entitled “Insurrection is Our only Weapon against the Machine of Alienation,” is a perfect way to get the listener ready for the remainder of the album. Citizens of the Empire seems to be a very politically-oriented band, giving links to Zeitgeist, among other online movies, as well as titling the tracks according to their views. I immediately realized I would get a fuller experience if I turned the music up and let it replace all other things I was thinking of. Closing my eyes, it was easy to lose myself in the music. The fourth track, “Power is not to Be Conquered, It is to Be Destroyed” is by far the strongest. It’s immediately up-tempo and forceful. Continuous riffs throughout make it fun and interesting for the duration of its six-minute length. “Everything We Possess will in turn Possess Us” is another example of exciting riffs, but this time sprinkled over the seven-minute track contributes to such a full-sounding post-rock song. The ending song, “We Pay for Our Lives with Our Deaths,” is a strong finish to the album. Its intricate guitar is weaved into enough vice that when the song finishes, all you want is more. I was surprised to learn Citizens only consists of three members—Andrew Carson playing drums, Patrick Seawell on bass, and Jacob West shredding guitar. This three-piece is from Minneapolis, MN. Citizens fits in perfectly with bands such as Mogwai, God is an Astronaut and Explosions in the Sky. While your mind won’t be blown to pieces, it will be fully satisfied by the instrumental rock laid out for listening pleasure.
88.1 WKNC’s Pick of the Week 9/3
By Charlie Burnett, WKNC DJ
Side projects by members of great bands tend to go one of two ways. Either they’re just as great as the actual band, like Wilco-offshoot Loose Fur, or bland and forgettable, like Mick Jagger’s entire solo output. Guitarist for country-rockers My Morning Jacket Carl Broemel’s debut solo record, All Birds Say, falls into the former category.
When performing with My Morning Jacket, Broemel can often be found flailing around the stage during up-tempo barn-burners, or adding texture to one of the band’s hazy ballads. For Broemel’s solo record, however, he trades in his electric guitar for an acoustic set of lilting country-folk numbers perfect for the segue into fall.
With a warm voice similar to My Morning Jacket lead-man Jim James, Broemel effortlessly works his way through breezy, relatively simple songs that, generally put, fall into the folk-rock genre.
The instrumental title track, “All Birds Say,” proves an apt starting point for the record. A sunny, classical, guitar melody eases up to a piano-bass-drums combo that gently fades into second track “Life Leftover,” a laid-back folk song about not taking for granted the short time we are given on earth.
Tucked into a dreamy country number called “Carried Away,” a subtly moaning lap steel guitar matches the weary chorus: “Don’t get carried away in the past, it’s not there/Don’t get carried away in the past, it’s not fair.” These lyrics are merely one example of the subtly poignant style of Broemel’s songwriting.
Elsewhere on All Birds Say, simple truths such as “Seems impossible to get ahead/When you are only making just enough,” from “Enough,” and the close detail of the gentle shuffling “On The Case,” with its descriptions of dusty, unfinished books and weeds “growing in beds by the water,” display Broemel’s lyrical prowess.
All Birds Say may disappoint some My Morning Jacket fans looking for another record of balls-to-the-wall, country-rock anthems and psychedelic balladry. Those willing to accept the fact that All Birds Say is a slower, more easy-going affair, however, will find a perfect fall record full of lilting, country-folk songs focused on the simple truths and nuances of everyday life.