Dan Mangan – More Or Less

Rating: ★★★★ ·

I had to search our own site to find out how long it’s been since I’ve posted an album review and I will refrain from embarrassing myself with the exact timeframe, though you could search yourself I guess. We as an ATH staff have been neglectful as a whole when it comes to album reviews and we are hoping to rectify this moving forward. Hopefully you can understand that if an album has brought me out of my review slumber it must be a great one. The very soon to be released new album from Dan Mangan, More Or Less, is just such an album because, holy hell, it’s impressive. Hit the jump for some thoughts, photos, and tunes.

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Wild Nothing – Indigo

Rating: ★★★★ ·

Indigo marks the fourth full-length studio release of Wild Nothing, the moniker for Jack Tatum’s sonic explorations in the realm of shimmery indie rock. We’ve seen Tatum’s style change with each release; a devotee to growth and expansion, Tatum is not one to rest on the early success of the band, but has pushed himself in entirely different directions. Indigo sees yet another direction, but one that functions essentially as a patchwork quilt of past soundsyou can hear elements of prior albums, but Tatum has reimagined them into an album that burns brighter and bigger than the past.

 

Opener and lead single, “Letting Go,” positions Tatum to soar higher on this release than before. The guitars, ever jangly and bright, ease past fans into the sound. While familiar to Nocturne at first, the track then surges into infectious pop with the choral hook. Tatums vocals are high and resonate starkly at the top of the mix, cueing us into the glossy production that is present all over Indigo.Here is a more proto-typical pop song than weve heard from the dark and simmering Wild Nothing and it’s refreshingly glorious. Not to be outdone by sultry, “Partners in Motion,” whose echo-y percussion and vocal effects make for a 80s synth banger. When Tatum sings lines like, “I had a temper/but now I’m delicate,” the vocals are doubled over and drenched with reverb, urging you to join along. A toe-tapping bass line, playful and snappy guitar licks, and saxophone flesh out the tune into something great.

 

While the production on this album is glossy and clean, were not so far away from the humble beginnings of Geminithat we feel alienated by Tatum’s new sound. On the contrary, at a cursory listening this record is very easy to cling to with its catchy choruses, danceable synths. You get swoon worthy moments all across the eleven tracks, but probably the most sincere chunk of is the combination of “Shallow Water” and “Through Windows.” Both songs dive into what it means to be in a loving relationship through life on the road, the former a sweeping ode and the latter a tightly wound jam. With lines like “When I’m home/ there’s nothing I’m looking for/ that you havent already found,” Tatum crafts the wonderfully genuine “Shallow Water” as a number about being off the road and completely comfortable with another, the kind of love that people yearn for. Conversely, you get “Through Windows,” about being on the road and not wanting to give it up, but recognizing at some point Tatum will give it up, but that wont be entirely a loss: “Quit this circus life/ and take off my shoes/ I’m still paying what I owe/ to be noticed by you.”

 

It’s not all sunny pop though–the brightest gem, for me, is “Canyon on Fire,” which is a guitar heavy track that you are immersed in for its five-minute duration and then immediately play again. A brief moment of pause between the previous instrumental interlude of “Dollhouse” washes over you before the squall of electric guitar announces itself with a roar. Soon, you’re hit with dueling riffs that perfectly compliment each other while an even bass line chugs away and airy percussion keeps everything just on the verge of chaos. Tatum weaves us a picture of Los Angeles through his eyes, each line hitting with a soothing cadence that provides lovely juxtaposition to the snarling guitars. He asks, “Who would I be without you?” addressing a love or potentially the city itself, and then answers the question with “Someone I dont know,” acknowledging that Tatum is married to the subject–be it LA or a significant other. That kind of bond has made it impossible to imagine life otherwise. This all takes places within a simmering bridge before the track surges once more into full volume for a glorious victory lap. “Canyon on Fire” merges Tatum’s impeccable songwriting with the infectious guitar riffs from Nocturne-era to make for the best track on this album.

 

In the end, Indigo, is a well written record about love and being deep in the waters of it. Unencumbered by irony and disdain in an otherwise bitter world, the soaring pop of this album makes for a sincere feel-good (and just damn good) eleven tracks of escape, though far from devoid of introspection. Tatum has found his stride, crafting a collection of songs that youll find hard to turn from. Indigo is both intimate and lofty, hoisting you up with each track as it flies to new heights for dream pop.

 

 

RF Shannon – Jaguar Palace

Rating: ★★★★ ·

RF Shannon, or the project of Shane Renfro, has always been about expansive desert psych americana. Since the origin of the project back in 2013 with the recording of their first demo, Renfro and company have been doing this quite well. With two EPs under their belt, RF Shannon looks to try their hand here at a full length release. The result is, to put it mildly, epic.Jaguar Palace is a record to put on as a soundtrack for traversing a sun bleached desert. be that literal or figurative.

At six songs in length, you may take a look at the track listing and think that you’ve merely encountered an EP, but each song is meticulous and sprawling– a kite let out on its string to a great height, but still tethered to your hand at the ground. Our journey begins with title track, “Jaguar Palace,” which is a perfect introduction to the album. Delicate flute sounds and graceful piano fill your ears with wistful musings for almost two minutes before the guitar, percussion and vocals burst in. This well orchestrated build-up makes the full entrance of the sound huge when it comes along and lets you know you may want to take this album sitting down. Renfro’s vocals are layered and hazy, like a breeze that is gentle in one moment but almost knocks you down the next. Later on, he is accompanied by some female backing vocals that fully flesh out theforce and provide even more texture to the mix. Even one song in, you already know you’ve merely hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of whats in store.

To pick one track out of this collection feels somewhat wrong, as it truly is an album you’re meant to listen to from start to finish, putting ‘single culture’ to shame. For the sake of the length of this review, I’m going to hone in on the heart of the album, “Tell My Horse” and “Had a Revelation.” These back to back numbers show the band hitting their stride with poise and finesse. “Tell My Horse” is a story of wandering alone, whispering tales of your wearisome travels to your animal companion. This is the sort of solitude that is welcomed on Jaguar Palace, embraced even, as the number picks up a nice bit of jam on its way out that carries into the next song. “Had a Revelation” is the shortest track on the record and it’s the song you should play your friends in order to hook them in. Renfro commands the song with his vocals, asking you probing questions: “Do you change with the seasons? Do you cling to the past?” Acoustic guitar carries the track, while slide guitar sneaks in and out, floating over the bouncy percussion.

What’s superbly impressive about the tracks that RF Shannon have delivered here is that while they’re long and sprawling, you don’t notice. On the contrary, each number is careful and poised, akin to the chapters of an epic novel. They serve as gems of their own, but lace together with their counterparts.Jaguar Palacetakes a bit of time to really sink into, but after a few go-rounds of the steady waves of reverb drenched guitar washing over you, you’re fully immersed. If you let RF Shannon, they will hypnotize you into wading in deep and baptize you with their desert psych masterpiece. Get washed clean.

Spoon – Hot Thoughts


Rating: ★★★★½

Everyone knows it–Spoon are a force to be reckoned with. Twenty plus years of crafting relevant and consistent rock music and 9 full length LPs under their belts hasn’t slowed them down in the slightest. Sure, the band has had ups and downs over the years, but their lows aren’t so much missteps as sidesteps. Hot Thoughtsis by no means a sidestep, but rather a confident stride in a marathon of a career.

It’s so much so a given that any record that Britt Daniel touches will be worth your listening ear that I debated whether or not to review this record for a while. With the release of the lead singles, “Hot Thoughts” and “Can I Sit Next To You,” the band hinted that the album would be jam packed full of disco-studded indie rock jams and they weren’t bluffing. The aforementioned singles are but the icing on the cake that you’ll find yourself gorging on time and time again. That being said, the singles make for some damn good icing. “Hot Thoughts” is a radio ready hit that plays with what you’ve come to expect from the band in that simmers to a raging boil, the instruments packing the bite and snarl before Daniel’s vocals do. Tinkering xylophone sounds make Eno’s always steady percussion a little spicy, while the guitars are tight knit and signature. “Can I Sit Next To You” is sneaky, sliding to your side with its handclap beat and snuggles into your arm with its waves of smoky synths.

There are no dull moments on Hot Thoughts. But the songs aren’t just catchy– they’re also musically quite interesting and push into realms that Spoon haven’t stretched into before. The band tries their hand at disco with “First Caress,” which features vocals from Sharon Van Etten and is a full on dance tune. We get a softer track(for Spoon) on “Pink Up,” whose musical motif carries over into the ending track. Shimmering percussion lies at the heart of this song while Daniel whispers lyrics like “Everything you think we are, we are” into your ear, as if he knows he has you under his thumb and knows you like it. But then “I Ain’t The One,” cuts this ‘cool-guy’ persona back down to raw sincerity and emotion that Spoon still embed into their work.

Personally, the song that has pulled me back the most is “Whisper I’ll listen to hear it,” which has landed itself high on this album as well as Spoon’s entire discography. It’s here that the band really shows their finesse and sleekness; the song is effortlessly cool while being musically interesting and involved, a far stretch from formulaic or dialed in. Pulsating synths make their entrance first, setting a foreboding tone before Daniel and some cutty electric guitar join in, letting you know that this is only the beginning. Just when you’re settling into this pace, hanging on every lyric, the rest of the band joins in and the band steps on the gas pedal, launching into a fast paced, white hot hit, complete with a non-cheesy and perfectly placed guitar solo. Daniel’s vocal delivery peaks on this song. As the tune progresses and evolves,growing quicker in pace, his vocals grow more intense, mirroring the musical build with their own growl.

The only faux-complaint I have at the end of Hot Thoughts is that the album seems short. This is purely selfish and not a real complaint– the album is actually a little over forty minutes, but these minutes fly by with this band at the helm and before you know it, you’re starting over, the familiar, quick lipped Daniel to guide you along. Spoon have done the impossible, somehow managing to please fans old and new, while remaining relevant and sharp, which is a feat you can only say about a few modern rock bands. Well done and press on, Spoon.

The xx- I See You


Rating: ★★★★ ·

When your first album is a sweeping success, how do you move forward and create something that both steps away from your past hits yet strikes the same sort of resonance with your painstakingly huge fan base? This seems to be the question that plagued the ever-huge The xxon their sophomore album–while new tunes from these indie rock darlings immediately grabbed my attention and affection, these feelings didn’t bring me back to continued listening. Third time around, it seems like these South Londoner’s have shaken off the chains of their past catalogue and pushed into exciting new space.

With I See You there is a key caveat–to really dig into the songs, you need to be willing to accept the pop simplicity that the band has tried their hand at this go-round. Before, it sounded as though the band made their own sound, which shaped and happened to appeal to pop listeners, but here they’ve put their own spin on pop music itself. On this album, the tight and intricate guitar-work that first drew in early fans has been supplemented with sampling, and more synth breakdowns. However, for The xx, this feels like a natural and logical progression.

The band launches straight in with dance-ready opener “Dangerous” with sampled horn sounds. You’re rooted to the track by the prevalent bass line, pulled closer by the ever-enticing male/female tradeoff in vocals that this group has always excelled at. These vocals are punchier than you’ve heard them before; more commanding and compelling. This grip that The xx puts on you holds strong through the first four songs. Single, “Say Something Loving,” isone of the superstars of the album, again the vocals are demanding and so strong, begging you to scream along with them. The samples are integrated with the vocals seamlessly, hitting you ears with ease and not distraction.

 

Later on you get tunes like “Replica,” and “I Dare You,” which rely on the bands’ knack for sleek guitar riffs. “Replica” is a simmering dark track with shimmering interludes of lightness. This song may not hit you hard with immediacy on your first spin of the record, but provides a less obvious treat for the next listen with its detailed lyrics. On the contrary, there’s “I Dare You,” which stomps into the penultimate and will immediately jump into your favorite track place. The percussion on this song is a steady beat of what sounds like sampled handclaps, which puts a dance-rythym immediately into play. Those sleek guitars mirror the vocal melody, playing into the pop aesthetic, an the result is pure bliss.

 

Overall, I See You is a bright and bold move for The xx, striking an easy-listenable balance between intricate and simple–offering hooks for your first listen and subtleties that will hold your attention and have you coming back for more. Like the ‘new love’ high that a lot of the lyrics touch upon, you want to stay with I See You for the long haul; “don’t let it slip away.”

Survive – RR7349

surviveRR7349 (Relapse Records) sounds like some sort of galaxy or nebulae that has yet to be named by human scientists. While this isnt the case (Its the catalogue number) I think the general line of thought fits. The sounds, timbres and moods contained in this record are upfront, but theres subtleties at work that make it difficult to say exactly what they are. Read more

Local Natives – Sunlit Youth

sunlit-youth

Rating: ★★★½ ·

In 2010, Local Natives, then a four piece, now a five piece, released their first studio album, Gorilla Manor,here in the United States to thunderous approval from the masses– their lush harmonies, wild yet clean percussion, and orchestral elements made their pop stand far above the masses whilegenerating a wide fan base. Three years later, they followed withHummingbird, which saw the band furthering their percussive reaches and treading into more emotional territory with a little production help from Aaron Dessner. Once again, three years have passed, and the band has pushed themselves into yet another territory: unabashed pop. The result is is Sunlit Youth; a fairly triumphant third release that refuses to apologize for its pop warmth and youthful glow. Read more

Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN

angel-olsen-my-woman

Rating: ★★★★★

“Maybe you know that its been too long.” Yes we do, Angel. It’s good to have you back.

At this point in her discography, I assumed that I knew what to expect from a new Angel Olsen album – confessional folk music that explores the uncomfortable dichotomy of relationships while occasionally picking up an electric guitar. In fact, I had the intention of analyzing the albums meaning and lyrical intentions when I initially dived into it, but I was constantly sidetracked by the range of emotions this album reverberates through its variety, production, and songwriting. Angel Olsen of the past, as a songwriter, seemed to deliver her message carefully and quietly. Now she’s writing unique pop and rock songs with confidence and conviction in her delivery; whether it’s a background vocal laden in effects, a climactic guitar solo, or a keyboard subtly peeking in, Angel relies more on the instruments around her and her tools in the studio than her voice to manipulate her listeners emotions. Read more

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