Albums

EP Review: Ugly Purple Sweater – Washington, DC

Posted on by halley in Albums | Leave a comment

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Is judging an EP by its song titles as bad as judging a book by its cover? Because even before listening to Ugly Purple Sweater’s new EP I was all about “I Will Not Regret” (which is a personal mantra of mine, along with the likes of “No Shame” and “No Looking Back). Regardless of what you may think about snap judgments and jumping to conclusions, you’ll be happy to know the DC band’s new creation bears up to any and all levels of scrutiny.

The EP is 4 tracks long – meaning my only complaint is that I wish it had more material! Hopefully that will be coming soon. Despite my instant inclination to love “I Will Not Regret”, my actual favorite track ended up being “I Can Tell the Difference” which builds up to its core right around :49 and then proves an excellent example of this band’s story-telling style. “ I Will Not Regret” is a sad, more soulful-sounding song, “Central Detention Facility Blues” has an old-school finger-snapping feel to it, and “DCUSA” will strike a chord with any DC’er who’s seen the gentrification of the district progress and accelerate over the past few years.

Overall, this EP is a great listen for DC- and non-DC’ers alike. It’ll be publicly available January 8th, followed by the band’s performance at Black Cat on the 12th. Take advantage!

Track by Track CD Review: Robbie Williams – Take the Crown [2012, Island]

Posted on by Ricky in Albums | Leave a comment

take the crown

So me and Vik both like Robbie Williams for his earlier solo material, which basically elevated him into a megastar. His new record, Take The Crown is supposed to be his comeback record and has already reached #1 on the charts in the UK and spawned a #1 single for him, so obviously, we would listen to the album. Here are our thoughts as we listened to it.

Tracks 1,2,3
Ricky : checking out robbie williams
Vik : wait until you listen to ‘candy
Vik : weiiiiird
Ricky : thats track 3
Vik : ya
Ricky : the album’s sposda be his comeback album
Vik : jesus
Vik : i think he’s tried to make all his songs sound like whatever tunes are currently popular
Vik : like with track 3. i could hear katy perry sing that
Vik : a bit of carly rae jepsen in track 2
Ricky : ” My main priority was to write what I consider, and hopefully what the world would consider, to be hits. “
Vik : what a hack
Ricky : yea specially when the dude is probably absurdly loaded

#4 Different
Ricky : the 4th track is alright
Ricky : pretty standard robbie williams

#5 Shit on the Radio
Ricky : track 5 could be a Pink song
Vik : haha based on the title alone
Ricky : just cos it has swearing and stuff “shit on the radio” sounds like something Pink would write in a misguided attempt to sound hard
Vik : yeah man
Ricky : everything on this album sounds like a single

#6 All That I Want
Vik : trying to sound like bowie on track 6
Ricky : yeah
Ricky : he’s almost singing with a bowie accent
Vik : yeah
Vik : he has an accent in candy as well. like jamaican
Ricky : a bit U2ish
Vik : yeah
Ricky : i mean if U2 came out with an album it’d probably sound like this song
Vik : i was thinking that but just a tad poppy
Ricky : only with an epic song title
Ricky : the backing guitar is straight out of the joshua tree album
Vik : haha yeah

#7 Hunting For You
Vik : track 7 is a power ballad from 1998
Ricky : it just started
Ricky : life thru a lens came out in 97 actually
Vik : so bad man. and it’s not like i’m being a snob either. i wanted this album to be good
Ricky : this song would have been a b-side on that album
Ricky : should of never enlisted gary barlow for some of this album
Vik : ahhh now the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place
Ricky : although this hunting for you song will be in at least two movie commercials in the next year i think
Vik : haha yeah
Ricky : starring hugh grant
Ricky : as an inept ____ who mumbles his way to a hot girl

#8 Into the Silence
Ricky : nevermind this track is the u2 cover song
Vik : yeah the rest of the album is starting to sound that way
Ricky : i can already see bono cashing in his royalty checks
Vik : okay i never made it past track 8 yday
Ricky : gotta do it now
Ricky : theres only 5 more tracks
Vik : …and omg track 9 haha. i’ll wait till you get there
Ricky : its called hey now yeah yeah
Vik : yeah
Ricky : sounds like something bieber would write
Ricky : but im not there ya
Ricky : i wouldnt be surprised if track 8 became a hit though
Ricky : its got stadium anthem quality
Vik : yeah, a few of them would probably sound good in a stadium

#9 Hey Wow Yeah Yeah
Ricky : okay im on track 9
Ricky : hahaha
Vik : right? it’s like he’s trying to channel ting tings or something
Vik : may have wrote this in 2008
Ricky : the beginning sounds like timbaland
Ricky : produced
Ricky : only thing missing is the periodical “yeah”
Ricky : but yeah this is a tings tings tune, or karmin or something
Ricky : hey wow wow yeah yeah clap your hands now is a chorus
Ricky : that was the first real crap song though imo

#10 Not Like The Others
Vik : this is a perfect song for a montage of a bunch of faux hipsters dancing on a NY rootop for a cell phone commerical
Ricky : yeah
Ricky : probably by samsung
Ricky : ‘you and me not like the others’
Ricky : its probably already being practiced on glee
Vik : haha
Ricky : this song can be a katy perry song i feel
Ricky : but i think every electro pop song could be a katy perry song
Ricky : this song is going to be a hit though

#11 Losers (Featuring Lissie)
Ricky : who is Lissie
Vik : i was just googling that
Vik : not much
Vik : i thought it might be nicole kidman again
Ricky : robbie williams circa 2002 would have got kylie
Ricky : this song is okay, nothing special
Vik : gone back to generic pop for tracks 11-12
Ricky : yea
Ricky : oh 12 is a bonus track apparently
Ricky : im just going to stop listening..13 is also bonus track
Vik : haha really?
Ricky : yea
Ricky : this would probably make a good review article
Vik : yeah track by track man
Ricky : its serviceable record, probably gonna have hits but i’ll probably forget about it next week
Ricky : would be my concluding statement
Vik : yeah

In defense of Reptar: an album review of Body Faucet

Posted on by Celeste in Albums | Leave a comment

reptar

Something must have been in the water in 2012 – it was a year of magical events. Not only did Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson patch things up (to a collective sigh of relief from humanity, their faith in true love restored) but, even more importantly, two phenomenal albums were dropped in 2012; one to great acclaim, and one to not such great acclaim.

Django Django and Reptar both dropped their debut albums in 2012. Django Django’s self titled album was released in January to rave reviews – Reptar’s body faucet was dropped in May to less than rave reviews – to give a general idea, Django Django recived a 7.2 from Pitchfork. Reptar? A 3.0.

So why the 4.2 point difference in their marks? Reptar sampled too liberally from contemporaries – Animal Collective, Passion Pit, Vampire Weekend. They had too much enthusiasm and not enough focus. Boiled down to it, Reptar was deemed to be too much sugar for your diet without the necessary fiber to make it worth consumption – kind of like chewy granola bars.

And I don’t declaim the first two points – Reptar samples liberally from other artists on their album, yes, and their enthusiasm is nothing if not unbridled. But depending on how you spin it, couldn’t those also be points of praise?

From the moment the beat drops on Sebastian to the last meandering a capella chorus of City of Habits, Reptar has crafted themselves, what I would argue to be, an eclectic and adventurous first album filled with, true, sugary-sweet afro-beats and synth that unabashedly points to its audience and says, “you! Get up and dance!” but also with thoughtful lyrics and a detailed eye for rhythm and instrumentation that belies their reputation as nothing more than a good time live.

The foundation of the record rests on Water Runs, an unconventional ode to relationships, some newly beginning and others falling apart at the seams, Sebastian, a wink to the saint who became a gay icon, and office origami which tips its hat to themes of dreams, nightmares and creativity. Without these three staples the album might not hold up under the sugary sweet goodness of sweet sipping soda and houseboat babies. But these two fine spun confections are necessary counterparts to the more experimental and bizarre Natural Bridge. While some have argued that this album is a hodge-podge mess of dance beats and enthusiasm, I would argue it’s actually a very well balanced and organized creation that takes into consideration not only the recorded listening experience but also the live one. Not an easy task.

I began by comparing Reptar to Django Django not only because their albums dropped in the same year and I’ve had them both on repeat for the past two months, but also because I see parallels between the two albums. When I listen to Django Django I hear a modern twist on Simon and Garfunkel and the Beach Boys, with maybe even a wink to Daft Punk at the end of Waveforms. Both bands sample from their ancestors and contemporaries, but with enough of their own spin that I would argue that they’re both still “advancing their field.”

Does Reptar take itself too seriously? Absolutely not. Reptar is a silly band name. They put a lot of emphasis on having fun. Their live show might or might not have included a disco ball. Does that mean that they don’t take their craft seriously? Absolutely not.

Album Review: Dead Can Dance – Anastasis [2012, PIAS Recordings]

Posted on by Allison in Albums | Leave a comment

dead can dance

There are some bands, that despite being on my radar at the time, completely managed to pass me by. Dead Can Dance was one of those bands, who along with the Cocteau Twins managed to build the iconic, sepia-toned aesthetic of 4AD Records. The politics of record labels, domestic and foreign distribution rights, and other seemingly antiquated notions in this digital internet age, but are ultimately what shaped 4AD’s forage into the North American market through a distribution deal co-founder Ivo Watts-Russell inked with Warner Bros.

I was vaguely aware of this at the time, because of a program called mIRC (“Internet Relay Chat”)–a chat program that seems crude by today’s standard. It was there that I met many of the people I would trade mix tapes with…one in particular was cataloguing every aspect of 4AD, which is how I came to learn of Dead Can Dance. I would soon grow to love bands like the Red House Painters and Mojave 3, but mostly how cohesive their catalogue seemed to be. Little did I know Dead Can Dance would come to be categorized as “world music”.

Anastasis, DCD’s first release since 1996 definitely has elements of that, but I find it interesting to note that over the past few decades, it has attracted a mostly industrial/goth audience. Listening to their earlier material there is more of that feel to it–Anastasis is sadder, slower, and accompanied by a chamber orchestra. But it also manages to create what most good albums strive for: rich atmosphere.

There’s no question that the pace of this album is a plodding one–Perry carries the duty of most of the heavy lifting with the vocals, and the usual gongs, sitars, trumpets, sitars, and strings. In short, there’s no shortage of an audio sensory overload here with lots to keep you occupied.

At least no one can accuse them of going small or under-ambitious.

The album starts off with Children of the Sun, with a cinematic beginning and some great drumming–clocking in at over 7 minutes of Perry’s deep vocals and a whole lot of gongs and horns. It then moves into the Indian-tinged section with the plucky Anabasis and Agape, which took me back to my schoolyard days. The melody very much reminded me of the following chant:

In the land of Oz, where the ladies wear no bras
And the boys don’t care, they don’t wear no underwear

Amnesia is one of the stronger tracks off the album, reminiscent of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Power of Love (I mean this in the best way possible), only carrying bone-crushing weight. The meaty middle portion of the album continues with the Middle-Eastern-y Gerard-voiced Kiko…but it’s really Opium that stands out to me as having the best arrangements off Anastasis. Strings and percussion play nicely together here. The album finishes with the Isle-influenced Return of the She-King that might appropriately score an epic Irish Springs commercial and All In Good Time. I think the important thing to note is that DCD has stayed committed to achieving a flavor with this work, and they have managed to do so, with some epic song-writing arrangement-wise.

In thinking about Dead Can Dance, Perry and Gerrard’s former relationship, trans-oceanic break-up, and 16 year hiatus, I’d be hard-pressed to think of any better build-up to tonight”s concert at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts (the Hummingbird to the rest of us). If you need any confirmation of the way their music will play out in a theatre’s acoustics, you need only look at the long string of sold out dates on this world tour.