Tame Impala – Lonerism

Rating: ★★★★ ·

When Tame Impala burst onto the scene, they were pretty much atop everyone’s list for their creative first effort, Innerspeaker, but while the adoration has remained, the music seems to have shifted.  Lonerism is almost absent of guitars, choosing to craft songs out of layer upon layer of electronic samples and drumming, rather than fill your speakers with shifting guitar noises.  If you can discern the beauty herein, you’ll find a record worthy of repeated listens.

Statements are made almost immediately, with “Be Above It,” opening to a propulsive drum beat and repetitive vocal sample.  Musically, that’s about all you get from the track, though the drum begins to echo a bit more and the vocal is replaced with a more sincere pop lyric.  It’s a pretty empty track when you look at it musically, yet somehow the vocal grew on me as I listened time and time again.  Similarly, “Endors Toi” takes an approach filled with beeps and bloops and break-beat drumming.  It’s as if you’re listening to early DJ Shadow run through a mixing board by the kids in Black Moth Super Rainbow.  But, at the heart of the track is this glorious chorus, showing that while the Tame Impala has altered their sound, they’re still nearing perfection.

Personally, I still find myself gravitating towards the tracks that feature a more prominent guitar line, such as “Mind Mischielf.”  It’s got a crunchy bit of guitar that doesn’t seem to carry too much musical construction, almost as if it was placed atop the music in post-production.  For me, the vocal’s tone closely resembles the pop explosion that I set out looking for in Lonerism, even as it seems to fade out far too often.  “Elephant” is another such song, using a chugging guitar line that plugs away in your ears rhythmically throughout.  The darker tones of the guitar are perfectly juxtaposed with the flow of the lyrics, making the song neither grim nor overly happy, although that keyboard mid-track definitely brings up the spirit quotient.

Even with an absence of guitars for the most part, or minimized guitar work, there are still songs that evoke traditional songwriting, in both structure and melodic approach.  My favorite is perhaps “Keep On Lying,” which opens with a fade in that rather appears like a fade out.  Somehow Tame Impala have managed to organize the structure of the track where the beats almost resonate as guitar stabs or downstrokes, applying the traditional formula, albeit in their own way.  And, as the song unfolds, a guitar does come noodling its way into the track, providing yet another layer of sound to push the jam further, even when the lyrics disappear.

Honestly, Lonerism is a far more adventurous effort than what I originally expected.  I almost hoped that it was a re-hash of the first album, knowing that would more than satisfy me, but as I’ve spent more time with Tame Impala, I can see that this might be more rewarding in the long-run. It’s not something you’ll immediately “get” or fall in love with, yet the nuances of construction make it pretty brilliant.  Only time will tell the story of this record’s longevity, but for now, I don’t really want to listen to anything else.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Apocalypse-Dreams.mp3]

Download:Tame Impala – Apocalypse Dreams [MP3]

Four Tet – There Is Love in You

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Rating: ★★ · · ·

Kieran Hebden has been at this game longer than most, so it’s no surprise that people expected big things from his latest effort under the Four Tet moniker.   There Is Love In You has already garnered a lot of interest over the Internet, though one must look at it through their own looking glass in order to fully evaluate where this record falls.

For me, I’m not one to fall easily for Intelligent Dance Music, and it really has to be something to knock me off my feet in order me to appreciate it, let alone even contemplate trying to understand it.  I remember Aphex Twin videos blowing me away, but that was based more upon twisted imagery in the videos.  DJ Shadow blew me away, but at the time, I had a faint interest in hip-hop.  But now, I’m not really into that sort of thing, especially since it lacks solid vocal involvement, which is one of the main reasons I listen to the stuff I do.

Now, as far as this album goes, I’m going to have to stand on the sidelines and watch the rest of the adoring fans as they chase Kieran Hebden around.  Song after song just seems like really simple loops being placed atop each other at certain intervals.  At times, like during the aptly titled “Sing,” you get some fearful moaning of sorts in the background, but nothing worthy of latching onto as a whole.

For me, there has to be some sort of sharp shift in the music, some sort of influential piece of movement within a song, and this, by and large doesn’t really seem to have that sort of craftsmanship to it.  Given, the use of space and timing here does seem to accomplish the affects that Hebden is associated with in his work, but I can’t lie and tell you that any of it is all that interesting. After more than a dozen listens, this album only made me focus more on my immediate surroundings as opposed to this record, which I suppose is a lot to say for an album.

The duration of There Is Love In You allows for the listener to look within himself (herself, if you so choose) while the content of the loops and layering of sounds only makes things appear more cosmic, in a sense.  You can feel yourself being absorbed into your surrounding, sinking within yourself, and that is entirely due to the non-invasive quality of the music on Four Tet‘s latest album.  It’s perfect for what it is.  It allows you to successfully pass the time while being absorbed in your own world.  Perhaps my anxiety about the world’s plights have always served as a blockage to my understanding of IDM, and for that I apologize.  Remember, this is just one man’s opinion of walking alone with this album, absorbed in himself for once, thanks to this album.

Owen Pallett – Heartland

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Rating: ★★★ · ·

It seems that Owen Pallett has finally shed his video game moniker, suggesting to some that this album would show a wee bit of maturation for the orchestral singer/songwriter.  Now that we have the name cleared, let’s rest assured that Heartland is not an album about growing up, as it’s clear that Owen still holds true to a great deal of the playfulness he’s presented us with in the past, which makes him so endearing.

In the past, we’ve found Owen balancing minimal instrumentation atop his clever sequencing of violin loops.  Such stylistic flourishes brought great moments such as the trumpet blast on “This is the Dream of Win and Regine.”  Now, while he hasn’t abandoned the symphonic approach, not at all, he seems to be playing with more instrumentation.  Take “Lewis Takes Off His Shirt,” for example; a song which features orchestral backing, yet the strings sing to hang lightly in the background, allowing Owen’s voice, along with electric beats to push the song forward. “The Great Elsewhere” is similar in that it provides an electric organ as its background, reminiscent of some great work by DJ Shadow, just with Pallett’s voice cresting on the wave.

It says a lot for the artist when their voice can carry the entirety of a song, and such is Owen’s vocal skill.  “Keep the Dog Quiet,” which seems like a brooding scene in Fantasia, is wholly held up by his vocal performance.  He plays with his vocal range, not always trying to rise to the highest octave, an act which seems to bring a more complete balance to song itself.  But, in the end, in the last minute of the song, you can tell that Owen clearly has the chops to cut it in the music business outside of the muddied waters of independent music.

Still, for those die hard fans who loves the string arrangements as presented during the Final Fantasy years, rest assured you will find what you seek.  The opening track, “Midnight Directives,” picks up where the last album left off, reminding of us of where Pallett once was in his career.  Yet, you might find a further maturation in the classical sound he’s created when you get to “E is for Estranged.”  Gentle piano work accompanied by strings makes this one of the most beautiful moments on the album, not to mention one of the more special moments in Owen’s career.

Some might find it hard to dive right into the sound of Owen Pallett on Heartland, yet it’s a taste that takes time to fully absorb into your musical soul.  At a time when we’re enthralled with lo-fi and ambient electronic tunes, Mr. Pallett brings a refreshing touch to the musical world.  If you grew up playing an instrument, especially the band nerd types, this album is for you. His touches of classical music alongside pop music provide listeners with a certain sense of cleansing, one that we should all cherish as we begin a new year.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/05-Lewis-Takes-Action.mp3]

Download: Owen Pallett – Lewis Takes Action [MP3]

Ratatat – LP3

Rating: ★★★★ ·

What does one actually have to say about instrumental music that can garner any attention? How on Earth do you come across a Ratatat record and give it any justice without completely losing the point of the album? I’m not sure how to do this, so I am going to take a different approach.

Shiller: The curtain is pulled back immediately, revealing a lonely woman in a chair. A light appears just above her heart, and it pulsates with the rhythm. Her eyes blink candidly, occasionally shooting towards the window at the back of the stage as lightning strikes. Towards the end of the scene, rain falls hard against the window; her heart beats on.

Falcon Jab: This is a Lance Armstrong commercial. He is pedaling slowly uphill, fighting the winds in his face. Down he cruises through the town, racing past buildings on all sides. Stopping, he takes in a few short breaths, then continues on his journey.

Mi Viejo: While in Mexico for summer vacation a few years back, I sat outside a local bar at the outskirts of Saltillo. Empty, I opted to sip slowly on my Negro Modelo. Suddenly, two dancing sirens entered the bar, bright flowing dresses circling their ankles as they pulsated to a silent rhythm. Mesmerized, my beer grew warm. I opened my eyes and they were gone.

Mirando: This is the sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Tired of the l label of classically trained aliens, only able to play symphonic harmonies, the aliens step it up. Instead of their traditional beeps, they opt to add some guitar; all riffs taken from their latest version of Guitar Hero.

Flynn: This is what it feels like to be on mushrooms in the middle of nowhere, as your college roommate plays guitar by the firelight. He thinks he is the next Bob Marley.

Bird Priest: I’ve never been able to beat the game of Zelda. I bought Nintendo Power Magazine because it had all the maps to get through the game in the quickest fashion. I’m not good with directions, and my father never told me how to read a map, so I just sat there watching the credits roll down my anti-HD TV.

Shempi: Iv’e been sitting in my room all week trying to write music to dance to with my friends. I’ve got some solid loops going in the background; the basic beats aren’t anything special. Still, when I threw those bongo beats in at the end, we grabbed our glow-sticks and shook it until my mom told me to turn it down.

Imperials: DJ Shadow is a close friend of mine. We like to get together and blow a lot of bubbles while lounging in the comfort of his home. Occasionally, we just chill out while he lets the washing machine make the bubbles for us. Today was one of those days.

Dura: When you hang out with Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields you think that he is only good for one thing; brilliant ukulele songs. This is not true. On off nights in New York City, he likes to write serious electronic music. I still hear the ukulele.

Brulee: Girls love to jump rope, especially when its double-dutch. Sometimes they jump and jump and jump, and the rope becomes a blur on the horizon of the suburbs. At some point, they have to catch their breath, pouring water over their heads to cool off in the summer heat.

Mumtaz Kahn: Electronic dragons are the biggest thing in Japan right now. Instead of roaring and shooting flames, which we know is not good indoors, they now purr like kittens. It’s the perfect house pet, and sure to keep the neighbor’s minding their own business. Of course, they all come with their very own Mongolian Kahn.

Gipsy Threat: Do you like to listen to Beirut? I do. The problem is, I only have a computer; there isn’t money enough for real instruments. I spend my days trying to write Beirut cover songs with Garage Band. I made you this one for you.

Black Heroes: We all know that Bruce Leroy defeated Sho’nuff in their epic battle during the eighties, but most never saw this side of the two enemies. In the Criterion Collection of this movie, it has a flashback scene where Sho’nuff and Bruce Leroy were making lemonade in their neighborhood. This is just before they parted ways, most likely due to a poor profit margin.

Now you try.

Hear opening track “Shiller” below or listen to “Mirando” elsewhere on our website:

You can also stream the whole darn thing over on spinner.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/01-shiller.mp3]

Download: shiller.mp3