The War on Drugs – Slave Ambient

Rating: ★★★★☆

While some may say to ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ I will forever judge an album by its artwork, or at least base my idea of what the band behind the cover art would possibly sound like. Sometimes, this theory proves faulty and none of the visual clues match up with the sound. Others, however, like with this release, fit perfectly; the ethereal pinks and purples mixed with the overall fuzziness match the lush waves of guitars and hazy pop/rock sounds of The War On Drugs.

The first track, “Best Night,” is one that should blow you away, as it did to me. Upon listening the first time, I was pleased with it, but after repeated listens, it began to grow to something much more. Soft, muted drums echo demurely in the background, easing into the meandering guitar parts until the scraggly vocals of Adam Granduciel chime in and you’re instantly hooked. Steady guitars feel confident and omnipresent, creating a flowing wall of background sound that is always buzzing in your ears. It’s a killer track to begin with, but then The War on Drugs throws in some extra minute details that just sets this above most common tracks; there’s something about the way the guitar part matches the little stretch out of a word that has me swooning over this track. To top it all off, the song transitions to the next with a sensational instrumental groove that is sure to have you grooving along with each riff.

Even though the first track is a big deal in itself, the rest of the album is nothing to turn your nose up at.  There isn’t a song that you’ll want to skip, and there are certainly more to treasure than just “Best Night.” “Come to the City” is a four minute and thirty second drum-driven party number, complete with buzzy guitar break. “Blackwater,“ the ending track, loses the drums for the most part, and takes a leaf out of the acoustic book, allowing you to appreciate the strength in such a powerful voice. Unifying all these great numbers is some stellar songwriting and the thematic waves of serenity.

When comparing this band to others, names like Bob Dylan and Springsteen tend to crop up, leaving big shoes to fill. However, it seems like this band has taken comparisons like these in their stride and not looking back. While this may not be a revolutionary album, filled with a dramatic and entirely unique sound, Slave Ambient is still a constant and confident effort from The War On Drugs.

Gardens & Villa – s/t

Rating: ★★★½☆

So much can be said about a band’s debut album; most importantly, it is the first real taste at the style of the group. For Gardens & Villa, this debut is even more important considering the fact that they did not produce an EP as an introduction. With that in mind, this album feels even more impressive, as the songs feel much more mature and aged than that of a group just getting things together.

The opening track proves to be one of the finer moments from the start. “Black Hills,” begins with pulsating synthesizer beckoning your ears to wait keenly for this song to kick into gear. Then percussion is added to bump things up a notch, but not to an outright dance number. Instead it comes across as more of a casual psych pop number, with the vocals pushing it to something more. In stark contrast with the deep tones of the synth, the vocals are edgy, and borderline on falsetto in moments. Mellow, yet still bubbly, this opener finds the right balance between moody and groovy.

The next noticeable standout comes on “Thorn Castles,” a short number that only feels shorter when sandwiched in between the rest of the numbers on this album. On this track, what stands out the most are the vocals provided by lead singer Chris Lynch. Running along the lines of a shriek, it completes the eerie-cheery vibe that Gardens & Villa have definitely got going for them. In fact, this theme seems to persist into every song, and even takes over completely at the end of “Spacetime,” when the beat slows down to a gait and the vocals eases from its starkness into to a creepy whisper.

As far as variation in pacing goes, this album is all about the changes: one instant, you have “Chemtrails,” and the next “Star Fire Power,” which are perhaps both songs at the opposite end of the pace spectrum for this band. “Chemtrails” is a crawler, laden with minute details and elegant harmonies at its close. It is followed directly by “Star Fire Power,” which is a stellar dance party number that begins slowly, and then builds to a catchy chorus with a deep bass line that is sure to have you bobbing your head.

Looking at the whole album, I do not see a song that sticks out as horrible or misplaced. There are definitely some that resound above the rest, and others that fell mediocre in comparison, but on a whole, this is an impressive and enjoyable first effort.


Download: Gardens & Villa – Star Fire Power [MP3]

More New Music From Gardens & Villa

After sharing “Black Hills” over a month ago, here’s another new synth-pop song called “Star Fire Power” from Gardens & Villa.  This new track is pretty similar to the last one we shared, but with a bit more of the 80s vibe going on.  Once again, you can pick up the new self-titled album on July 5th via Secretly Canadian.

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Download: Gardens Villa – Star Fire Power [MP3]

New Music from David Vandervelde

David Vandervelde has to be one of my absolute favorite musicians. Sure, he sounds like Marc Bolan, but don’t you dare come at me and say that’s a bad thing!  I got news yesterday that David’s working on some new stuff, just this time under the moniker Vandervelde.  He’s releasing a digital single via the good people over at Secretly Canadian.  This one definitely has David giving off a different vibe, one that’s more drenched in heartache than the past of Tyrannosaurus Rex; his voice even sounds a touch warmer, albeit just as good, than it has on previous efforts.  Not sure if this is a sign of more Vandervelde work in the future, but whatever it is, if it sounds this good, we’ll gladly take it.


Download: Vandervelde – More Than You Can Feel [MP3]

New Music From Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic are a band that we fancy around here in the ATH offices.  The band puts out solid tunes on a regular basis, is great live, and even manages to be a pretty nice group of people.  Continuing with their hard work ethic, the band  is getting ready to release a new EP of material entitled The January EP on May 10th via Secretly Canadian.  Below you can find a taste of that EP in the form of “Hands in the Sky”.


Download: Here We Go Magic – Hands in the Sky [MP3]

New Music From The War On Drugs

We here at ATH have been jamming this new song “Comin’ Through” from indie band The War on Drugs most of the day.  People representing the band have told us that a new album entitled Future Weather will be released on October 26th on Secretly Canadian.  Enjoy the track and head to your local record stores to pick this one up when it comes out.


Download: The War on Drugs – Comin’ Through [MP3]

New Tunes from David Vandervelde

This guy just won’t quit! David Vandervelde always writing songs, and we’re always falling in love with them.   He’s prepping a new 12″ release, Summer Time Hits, that is set to come out on August 3 via Secretly Canadian, and we’ve got one of those new songs for you to check out.  This tune has a touch of glam rock, and there’s a little bit of a falsetto in his voice, similar to the high pitched yelps of Ted Leo.  It’s a lot more rocking than his last effort, but when did the rock ever bother us here at ATH?  Precisely, it doesn’t, and it shouldn’t bother you, so get with it.


Download: David Vandervelde – Checkin’ Out My Baby [MP3]

New Music From Here We Go Magic

Luke Temple and his band Here We Go Magic are currently sitting on top of the world.  They earned spots on all kinds of year end lists with their debut LP last year and pretty much everyone is labeling them the next big thing.  Now only a year after their debut release, HWGM are planning to release their sophomore effort, Pigeons, on June 8th via their new label Secretly Canadian.  This album will feature collaborations from all band members as opposed to last years album that was basically a Luke Temple solo effort.  Below you can find the first sneak peak from the album, “Collector”, which some of you may recognize as a staple of their live sets.  After a few spins, I’m ready to call this best new song of the week and a must have album in 2010.


Download: Here We Go Magic – Collector [MP3]

New Tunes from David Vandervelde

vander-picIt’s been awhile since we heard anything from David Vandervelde, but now that there is wind of a new recording, we couldn’t be more excited.  We loved Waiting for the Sunrise, so we expect more great things from David this time around.  Secretly Canadian has put up a digital download of a couple new tracks, and we’ve got one of those to tide you over before you get your hands on it yourself.  Expect his next record to be nothing short of sublime.


Download: David Vandervelde – Learn How to Hang [MP3]

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