Run the Jewels

Admittedly, I’ve been extremely bad at posting album reviews – both in the writing process and in finding releases I wanted to talk about. I felt my writing was formulaic and uninspired. My goal was not to establish myself as music reviewer, but to find a group of people who liked what I liked and would expose me to new things.

Initially, I was hesitant to put my name on this blog.  Not because of anything being said here, but because I wanted this to be a place where everyone was equal in terms of opinion and interests. I didn’t want any one person to dominate the space.  I wanted everyone to be able to suggest albums for the Club to review.  It was meant to be a place for me to share what I liked AND hear about what you were interested in.

That being said, I want to change formats a bit.  I still want you all to post comments about what you’re listening to and what you think I might like, but I’m going to share a video or two a week to share whatever I’ve come across and enjoyed.  It’ll be better for all of us – you don’t have to read what I puke out and I don’t have to puke out anything for you to read.  It’s win-win.

First thing you should check out, Killer Mike and El-P’s free-to-download collaboration Run the Jewels.  The only stupid thing about the album is the video for “Get It” is only on MySpace – something not supported by WordPress.

Daft Punk Random Access Memories Review

Daft Punk’s fourth studio album, Random Access Memories, is a bit of a departure from their much-loved electronic dance sound. The album has some funk influences and much less electronic flair. Let’s discuss!

Daft Punk Random Access Memories

The hype machine for this album was incredible – posters in cities everywhere, SNL commercials, and a YouTube channel featuring interviews with collaborating artists. The Daft Punk community on Reddit was all over this album like it was the best thing in music since, well, Daft Punk’s Discovery. Most of these people were foaming at the mouth for the album before it ever came out. [Side note: to the reddiot who said the lyrics were amazing, everyone hates you.] The expectations were impossibly high. Part of the reason this review is so late is that I wanted to distance myself from immediate reactions to Random Access Memories and give the album a little bit of time to germane.

What we got in Random Access Memories was an experiment. Daft Punk said they wanted to create a 70s dance album using mostly analog tools because they felt much of today’s electronic music sounded the same because many artists are using the same programs to create music. Daft Punk had everything they wanted at their disposal to do this:  an unlimited budget, every name in the music business clamoring to be a part of it, and a huge fan base. What many people failed to remember is that the two guys behind the robot masks hadn’t released a new album in almost 10 years and most people would agree that it had been about 15 years since Daft Punk gave us a memorable album (Discovery, if you forgot). After 10 years, it is difficult to find a sound that appeals to the masses because other artists propelled music in new and different directions and helped us refine our tastes.

In that 10 year period, my anticipation for a new Daft Punk album had become fevered. I had listened to Discovery about a million times and wanted more from that period in Daft Punk music making, but even better. There was no way Daft Punk could meet my expectations for topping their masterpiece, even if it were close I would still be disappointed if I weren’t blow away.

When I finally heard Random Access Memories, I was let down.  My first impression was not a good one.  The tracks were somewhat down tempo. The whole album lacked the “one more time” dance sound I expected.     After listening to Random Access Memories several more times, it started to grow on me.  “Get Lucky,” “Instant Crush,” “Lose Yourself to Dance,” and “Doin’ It Right” have become my album favorites.  Unfortunately, I’d prefer to skip over most of the songs not mentioned. Many are very long and about as exciting as an episode of How It’s Made (full disclosure: I love this show. It’s just not exciting).

Beyond the songs themselves, the sound production and mixing of the whole album is masterful. Daft Punk definitely cares about the sound quality of their releases. Both the vinyl pressing and mp3s sound absolutely fantastic on my hi-fi setup (well, higher fidelity than the average Joe anyway).

Verdict: Give it a listen and see if it does it for you.  I feel the album is somewhat divisive: you’ll love it or hate it.

I’d love to hear your reaction to the album. What were you expecting?  What did you think when you first listened to it?

Django Django Review

Django Django, British indie rockers, delivers an debut album we’ve sort of heard before from other bands.Django Django

When I started Sunday Night Music Club, I wanted to make sure the reviews I wrote stuck with the positives but I’ve found this increasingly harder to do as I lend a critical ear to the albums I listen to.

Django Django’s sound is a indie rock fused with a bit of a folk sound and the occasional uptempo dance track. You can hear the guitarists move their hands across the strings from cord to cord, giving it a more acoustic sound. The vocals are a little strained and whiny.  If I were to make a comparison with another band, I’d say a lighter Deerhunter or maybe even the Shins, but with less variation in sound from track to track. I’d even go as far as to say a lot of their sound reminds me of the Devo tracks most people haven’t heard (and for good reason).

So this leads me to the critique – the album is boring.  It’s inoffensive and tame. It’s a rock band your mother would like. Maybe that’s more the state of rock in general at the moment. There seems to be very little out there stepping outside of the boundaries of the current indie rock sound.

Django Django starts out strong with “Hail Bop” and “Default,” tracks two and three. But once you get past these tracks your attention will wane. The later half of the album really does little to distinguish itself for the listener.

That having been said, I did see Django Django in concert (after I heard “Default,” I figured I’d like the rest of their album).  I thought their live performance was better than the record. Also, they only have 13 songs total, so that’s all you’ll get. After they played the entire album, they said, “We’ll be back when we have more songs” and walked off stage with no encore.

Verdict: Skip Django Django. There isn’t anything here you haven’t experienced before.  If you’re really interested, check out the song “Default.”

Django Django
“Default”
Django Django

Daft Punk Random Access Memories $40 on Vinyl?

I was excited to see that the new Daft Punk album Random Access Memories will be released on May 21 in the US.  I was less excited to see that the vinyl release was going to be $40.

Daft Punk Random Access Memories

The conversation occurring on the Daft Punk website and on Reddit was an interesting one – a few people stated the price was too high and others were justifying the cost because “it also comes with a digital download code and a record-sized booklet.”   This is a silly argument, not because most records these days come with digital download codes, but that they are arguing in favor of the record companies’ draconian copyright laws.

Don’t be ignorant to the fact that you shouldn’t have to fork over any additional funds to transfer Random Access Memories from an analog format to a digital one.  Instead of doing things harder, better, faster, or stronger  – try doing them smarter.

Legally, you are allowed to create one backup copy of your music – meaning you can transfer it from the vinyl to your hard drive if you so choose.  The download code is meant to make this easier for you as a consumer so you don’t have to hook up a record player to your computer, manually record the songs, then separate and label the tracks. The download frees the music from the vinyl format it is otherwise locked in, allowing you to access it on any number of devices.

Back to the $40 – most records run between $15 and $25, including digital download code. Not one thing mentioned in the description of the vinyl release of Random Access Memories, from it being 180 gram vinyl to it being a double-gate fold cover (which is the norm for a two-disc record set) justifies this price. Until I have a sense of what the “record sized-booklet” that is included with this album actually contains, I am going to publicly state that you are being ripped off.

New Daft Punk song?

Supposedly, this track is from the upcoming Daft Punk release. Whether it’s authentic or not, it has a nice bass groove. Good job to whoever created this track!

Daft Punk?
“Dancing to the Beat (Disco Music)”

Music is getting exciting again! I feel like there has been a drought of things I’ve liked recently, but now I have something to look forward to.

Starfucker Miracle Mile Review

Starfucker, a band whose mainstream success is probably hampered by its name, delivers their fourth full-length album Miracle Mile.

Starfucker Miracle Mile cover

Starfucker is an indie/electronica act from Portland, Oregon. Their sound includes a lot of keyboard, a strong bass line, a bit of guitar, and males mostly singing in falsetto. I struggled to think of band with a similar sound, so I turned to Last.fm to see what comparison it made – Passion Pit, Neon Indian, and Washed Out.  While I disagree that Starfucker sounds like these  bands, my guess is if you like that kind of thing you’ll like Starfucker.

I loved Starfucker’s previous album, Reptilians. Starfucker did everything right on this album – catchy tunes, interesting lyrics, songs that stood on their own. It was synth heavy and played like an homage to Duran Duran. I was really looking forward to their next release, but had some concerns they’d be able to meet my expectations.

I was disappointed to find my skepticism was well-founded. Miracle Mile didn’t do it for me. The songs on the album, while enjoyable, were a bit bland. Where Reptilians succeeded in giving each track a life and sound of its own, Miracle Mile seemed to gloss over everything with low-fi distortion that made most tracks indistinguishable from the others.

There are some gems on Miracle Mile. “Atlantis” is a song I thoroughly enjoy. The lyrics at the beginning of the track are some of my favorite of any song in recent memory. “You are my angel. I am an astronaut.” The pairing of these two individuals seems so wonderful, but I would have never put the two together myself. “While I’m Alive” is catchy, but I think it’s a song that I will eventually tire of.

Verdict: Check Starfucker’s Miracle Mile out before you commit to buying. I think most people will enjoy the album, but you might not feel it is worth your money. While Miracle Mile isn’t the perfect album, it is enjoyable escapism from other sounds around you. Put on some headphones, and chair dance at your computer while pretending to work.

Video from Miracle Mile

Starfucker
“Atlantis”
Miracle Mile

Lord Huron Lonesome Dreams Review

Lord Huron, indie folk rockers from L.A., deliver a wonderful debut in Lonesome Dreams.

Lord Huron Lonesome Dreams

Several months ago I came across a music video for Lord Huron’s “Time to Run.”  The song immediately caught my attention.  I went over to Spotify to hear what the rest of their tracks sounded like and really enjoyed what I heard.  For some reason, it took me a while to give it a second listen.

When I did give Lonesome Dreams a second play, I loved it. Since then I’ve probably gone through the album 15 times or more. Folk rock is not a sound I typically seek out, but Lord Huron mellows out the country twang with a bit of electronic mixing to give their tracks a dreamy feel.  It doesn’t hurt that the lead singer’s vocals are very well done and match the music perfectly.  I think that both country and indie rock fans will find something to enjoy in this album; country fans will enjoy the American folk sound and indie fans will enjoy the stylistic tweaks and lyrics. Everything comes together so well that I think Lonesome Dreams could find mainstream success.

To test that theory, I told several friends with varying taste in music to check out Lonesome Dreams. All have come back to say they really liked the album and thanked me for turning them on to Lord Huron.

Lyrically, the album focuses on lost love, love love, and just to change the pace – relationships that failed due to distance. I think this is the only potential stumbling block.  Having ten tracks about what a man wants emotionally in his life might not be everyone’s cup of tea.  Personally, I found solace in them. I also found solace in knowing this guy had it so bad he wrote a whole album about how bad it was. At that point, I felt like things were looking up. Mission accomplished cathartic song-writer!

Verdict:  You should listen to this album right now.  I’m saying this as a person who doesn’t typically have an interest in folk rock.  You will like this album.

Videos from Lonesome Dreams

Lord Huron
“The Stranger”
Lonesome Dreams

Lord Huron
“Time to Run”
Lonesome Dreams

Lord Huron
“Lonesome Dreams”
Lonesome Dreams

Big Boi Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors Review

Big Boi (of Outkast) recently released another solo album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, filled with  collaborations from a variety of indie music darlings and rap superstars.

Big Boi Vicious Lies and Dangerous RumorsWhere to begin?  Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors is all over the place, spanning genres and sounds. Some songs are R&B slow jams, others have the booming bass of Southern rap, and finally there are the genre mash-ups featuring big name indie rockers. On this album, Big Boi collaborates with rap superstars Ludacris and T.I.; indie darlings Little Dragon and Phantogram; and surf rockers the Wavves. There is a little bit for everyone here.

I tended to gravitate toward the songs with the indie rockers.  I think the strong, distinct female vocals of Little Dragon and Phantogram add a lot to these songs.  My favorite tracks were “Objectum Sexuality” (featuring Phantogram) and “Shoes for Running” (featuring the Wavves) – both have been in heavy rotation. The 13 year-old in me enjoyed the ridiculously sexually explicit “She Said OK” (when asked Let me see your titties).  These extremely classy lyrics like this make me giggle – a lot.

Big Boi also announced that Little Dragon’s vocals on “Mama Told Me” were replaced with Kelly Rowland at the last minute due to some label dispute.  I like both versions of the song, but the smoky vocals of Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano edges out the autotuned pop singer Kelly Rowland.  Big Boi leaked the Little Dragon version to the net.  Get it here for free.

Verdict: Some of the collaborations with the indie rockers are fantastic. The rest of the album has some enjoyable tracks, but generally they lack originality and won’t hold your interest.  The collaboration I really want to see is Big Boi and Andre 3000 working on another Outkast album.

Standout Tracks: “Objectum Sexuality,” “Shoes for Running,” “Mama Told Me” (Little Dragon version)

Videos from Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors

Big Boi
“Mama Told Me”(featuring Kelly Rowland)
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors

Big Boi
“She Said OK”
Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors