School of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire

Rating: ★★★½ ·

Often times, we find that a bit of clarity pays off huge dividends.  For the second album from School of Seven Bells, Disconnect From Desire, this is precisely the case.  A few years of touring since their last release, and those moments of clarity provide for an entirely different listen than their previous album, Alpinisms.

While the band once coated their sound in a bit of fuzz and indifference, the moment you hear “Windstorm”, you can tell the group has flipped the table over, revealing a more pristine, electronic version of themselves. For one thing, the production has the Deheza sisters coming off a bit clearer, even with the tribal chanting in the background.  Sonically, they sound as if they aged, like a fine wine, getting better with as time’s passed.

But, the bread and butter of Disconnect From Desire has to live in the darker elements of the record.  “Heart is Strange” probably sounds really powerful in a venue, but in your home stereo, there’s an element of smoke filled clubs coated in debauchery.  This isn’t to say that the band is hinting at such things with their lyrics, but you can almost feel yourself sinking into a sense of despair, albeit an exuberant sort of despair.  “Dust Devil” evokes a similar quality with its driving rhythms, and vocals that seem to just float atop the air.  For some reason, this track evokes a weird monastery feel, perhaps its the way the twins carry the notes, almost to the point of chanting.

Using a minimal amount of instrumentation, however, does create a bit of redundancy throughout the entire listen.  It’s not that School of Seven Bells can’t write good tracks, as it’s clear they have that power, it’s just that the album doesn’t have a lot of variance; it blends together a bit, and gets mundane.   “ILU” and “Camarilla” use really delicate vocals from the girls, but their voices are so distinctive, that if you placed these songs back to back, which they’re not, you might find it hard to completely tell the songs apart from one another.  Perhaps some will find this attribute infinitely rewarding, as many people love their electronics with a solid vocal behind it.

All that being said, one track will surely stand out for every listener. You’ll find this hook on “Bye Bye Bye,” where the programmed element alone is enough to keep this track on repeat for prolonged periods of time.  Oddly, the girls sound a bit younger here, almost a bit more refreshed.  A few more tracks like these placed carefully around the album, and you’d probably have Disconnect From Desire in the running for album of the year.  Just promise yourself you won’t miss this track.

All in all, progress has been made, and it seems a great deal more rewarding for all parties involved with concerns to Disconnect From Desire.  A dark quality resides throughout the album, but it comes in the form of moving electronic flourishes, clear, for the most part, of the elemental noise that was present in the past.  School of Seven Bells have made an honest record, and one that now seems to match their electric live performances.


Download: School Of Seven Bells – Windstorm [MP3]

The Love Language – Libraries

Rating: ★★★★ ·

It sounds like things in North Carolina couldn’t be any better. The Love Language recently signed to Merge Records, and then they followed that up with the release of Libraries.  At first listen, you might find sonic touches of other bands, you might even think you recognize vocal qualities of singer Stuart McLamb.  In the end, you’ll find that this record is full of well executed songs, all of which provide repeated listening pleasures for every individual who puts down the cash to get this well crafted pop opus.

“Pedals” starts off slowly, before guitars begin to ring in backed by light keyboard strokes.  Enter Stuart, carrying his melody high above the rest of the band’s swirling sonic display.  There’s an edginess to all this beauty, and every movement within the song feels sharp, yet incredibly uplifting, especially when the strings arrangements enter during the latter part of the song.  You can’t start off much better than this.

During “Brittany’s Back” you start to get a hint that McLamb has a bit of Hamilton from The Walkmen in his voice, but during this song, his voice seems much more controlled than his vocal contemporary.  But, on “This Blood is Our Own” you really see a similarity, as Stuart reaches for that high spectrum of his own pitch, wavering just a bit at the top.  Still, this song, aside from the piano, doesn’t really sound all that much like the aforementioned band; it has a much more cinematic quality, one that would fit nicely in the wooded regions of the Carolinas.

“Summer Dell” starts off a slew of songs that don’t sound as crowded, musically, and they really take Libraries to the the top tier of indie rock.  Steady guitar strumming, and really sharp drum hits, give it a strong emotive quality, yearning for you to get lost amidst the finer details of the song.  “Heart to Tell” takes a like-minded approach, as its similarly stripped down, though you’ll find a more upbeat group, giving you a little bit of swing as you listen.  McLamb’s vocal performance here is one of the strongest of the whole collection, and creative production from the percussive section adds an extra level of enjoyment.

Something about the approach to the writing in “Wilmont” will forever stick with you.  After an album that seems filled, cleverly, with every inch of space, you have a slow number that is carried by light strumming and McLamb, that is to begin the song.  Once the drums kick in, and the guitar seems to be chasing the stars, you try to follow, yet you’re distracted by the vocals, almost haunted.  It is hard to pull yourself away from this song; you simply can’t do it.

That’s precisely the way you’ll feel listening to Libraries, especially after the third and fourth listen.  Details will begin to emerge, melodies will seep inside you, and you’ll discover that crooning sounds coated in wooded effects can be successful.  In fact, it’s so much so, you will keep coming back to The Love Language just to take a different look around the indie world. You’ll be better off for it.


Download: The Love Language – Heart to Tell [MP3]

New Tunes from The Cinammon Band

After touring with Wolf Parade, The Cinammon Band made quite an impression.  So much so that they were fortunate enough to be invited to record at the band’s Mt. Zoomer studio.  The session left the group with a four song EP of swelling indie rock full of melody and soul, something you wouldn’t expect necessarily from a duo to pull off so successfully.  But on the All Dressed EP (out 8/10), they do, and they do so with promise for a future full of great sounds. Here’s to the future.


Download: The Cinnamon Band – I’m Asking You [MP3]

New Tunes from Lower Dens

Jana Hunter‘s been around for a bit, usually making quiet low-fi tracks.  But, her new group Lower Dens take a bit of a different approach.  They combine her vocals with a bit of bedroom melody and somber pacing, giving Hunter and the band a completed sound that’s sure to accompany your rainy moods.  The group’s new album Twin-Hand Movement comes out July 20th on Gnomonsong, and it’s something you’ll surely need in your collection. Also, the band will make their way to Austin in September, so that gives you time to plan.


Download: Lower Dens – Tea Lights [MP3]

New Tunes from Nightlands

Dave Hartley of Philadelphia is primarily a sideman for some notable bands, namely The War on Drugs, which has some affiliation with Kurt Vile.  Currently, he’s just put together a long project under the moniker Nightlands, and it’s something that I think everyone out there will enjoy.  The track we’re featuring recalls a bit of that wintry folk that’s won fans since the debut of Fleet Foxes, but it also uses multiple loops and vocals to create a bit of a soundscape, a la Animal Collective or The Books. Thrown altogether, and its just plain beautiful.  You can get the album, Forget the Mantra,  for $5 right HERE.


Download: Nightlands – God What Have I [MP3]

New Tunes from Adam H Stephens

Those of you who have had your eyes and ears on Two Gallants will be pleased to know that Adam H Stephens will be releasing his solo debut.   He’ll be releasing We Live on Cliffs on September 28th via Saddle Creek Records. The first single is a gentle little ballad, but of course it has that country/punk sound, though quite a bit softer than his work with TG.  I’ve been pressing repeat all day on this one, and I’m sure you’ll be doing the exact same thing once you give this track a listen.


Download: Adam Stephens – The Cities That You’ve Burned [MP3]

Admiral Radley – I Heart California

Rating: ★★★ · ·

Odds are you know more about Admiral Radley than you think you do.  Comprised of Grandaddy members (namely Jason Lytle) and Earlimart members, the band has concocted an album titled I Heart California, which has left the Internet hounds wondering precisely what would come of this collaboration.  Well, if you know these artists, then you know precisely what the sound will be, and you’ll either love it or hate it, depending on your attachment to aforementioned parties.

Kicking things off is this Grandaddy-esque “I Heart California.”  It’s laden with pounding piano, blended with textures from electronic land, and it blossoms during the chorus with that trademark wall of euphoria. Odd lyrics, well, for a song about California, such as “fake tits in the symphony” make one wonder about Lytle’s dedication to his homestate, especially after his move to Montana.  Nonetheless, it’s the catchiest number of the collection, and one worthy of so many repeat listens.

But, bubbly software pop is not all that fills the minutes on I Heart California.  Aaron Espinoza takes the lead vocal on several tracks throughout the duration, and his soft touch gives tracks such as “Ghosts of Syllables” a warmer, less-quirky sound.  It’s an interesting dynamic, providing listeners with a substantial bit of deviation between songs, although this might lead some to look at a lack of cohesion, or perhaps a schizophrenia within the writing process. Aaron isn’t the only Earlimart member to share his voice here, as Ariana Murray gets her own number with “The Thread.”  It’s something that seems to fit with her own personal style, using a certain light-hearted approach to the crafting of the melody, which really takes control of the song itself.  However, it seems oddly placed smack in the middle of the record, and it kind of breaks up any momentum the album had.

All their appearances aside, Jason Lytle is really the mainstay, or the big ticket here.  His presence alone provides Admiral Radley with a substantial amount of credibility from the get go, and it pays off with songs like “GNDN.”  Skeletal piano holds the song up, as quiet guitar strumming and light percussion build the landscape of the song itself.  Electronic beeps and blips, a Lytle staple, are largely absent, at least in the final mix, which actually makes a strong argument for Jason as a songwriter.  There’s something in the fragility of his voice here, something unnamed that makes it all extremely affecting.

Most listeners will likely find the last four songs the most enduring in their playtime of I Heart California.  “End of Me” starts the final run, and if you could strip the casio keyboard effects away, it might succeed as the best song on the album.  Beginning quietly, it erupts into a pretty solid rocker.  In fact, the more you listen, the more this might be  your favorite song here.  From there you go to “GNDN” all the way to “I Left U Cuz I Luft U.”  All if makes a strong closing statement, providing some structure and cohesiveness that seemed a little bit scattered from the beginning.

Casual listeners of Admiral Radley will definitely find some really rewarding moments on I Heart California. They’ll find pop gems waiting to make your day brighter; they’ll find the attraction to Jason Lytle many discovered years ago.  Those who fell in love with Grandaddy and Earlimart might be a bit disappointed, however, as you expect these four to knock it out of the park, blasting us all into sunshine.  Instead, they give us a good record, not a great one.  There’s nothing wrong with that in the long run, as good records are often rare nowadays, and, besides, isn’t it just nice to have Lytle still around writing music?  One listen here, and you’ll be sure to agree.


Download: Admiral Radley – I Heart California [MP3]

New Tunes from Bottomless Pit

This band really excites me.  Bottomless Pit received a lot of rave reviews with their last effort, and now the band is set to return with their new album, Blood Under the Bridge, on Comedy Minus One Records.  As someone who is personally tired of all the same old electronic pop music coming our way, I love the fact that this new single just rocks along, using discordant guitars to create a nice little wall of post-punk.  Praise the return of guitars!


Download: Bottomless Pit – 38 Souls [MP3]

New Tunes from Jaill

It seems like August is shaping up to be a month for guitars, and well, minimal electronic intrusion. One of those bands, Jaill, is ready to prep the release of their new album, That’s How We Burn, with our friends over at Sub Pop.  While their latest single has hints of modern post rock, the rest of the album has a nostalgic sound to it, one that sounds like The Feelies on speed.  Guess that’s my impression. Whatever the sound, you’ll surely fall for this band.


Download: Jaill – The Stroller [MP3]

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