Monday, December 29, 2014

NYPC - The Numbers (2013)

In 2007, New Young Pony Club released Fantastic Playroom, which was a great start for a young band, and included the epic song "The Bomb."  They were a young five-piece indie rock dance band from the UK on their way up, and with ridiculous upside.

Flash forward to 2013.  They've changed their name to NYPC, are on the third album... but now they're a two-piece band, and sound kind of tired.

What happened?  I wish they could go back to 2007... well, why describe it.  I know this is the wrong album, but check this jam out:

Then:  New Young Pony Club, 2007 - "The Bomb."  NOT on this album.

Here's NYPC, 2013:

Now:  New Young Pony Club, 2013 - "Hard Knocks."  This IS on this album.

Instant analysis:  just not good.  What happened?

CD Placement rating:  Sell-back 1.  Only "Overtime" (which may or may not make it anyways) gives this one a reprieve from the Pile of Death.

- Snilch

Sunday, December 28, 2014

CSS - Planta (2013)

For their fourth album, CSS is back without their songwriter, producer, and drummer.  (They're all one person... and the only guy who was in the band.)  Without him, they lean more towards the light dance/poppy sound, but retain some of their edge as well.  This album sounds like a poppy/super excited Suzanne Vega over electronica. It's more polished than their debut, less indie rock than their previous couple of offerings.

But ultimately... it's a little thin and one-note-ish on the whole.  It's a great note, mind you; it's just a lot of the same throughout.

CSS - "Dynamite" (My favorite song from the album)

Overall:  pleasant but not ground breaking. It's a fine, fine soundtrack for a sunny afternoon.  Well, most of it, at least.

CD Placement Rating:  Portable CD Case... as the album drags on, it slides into the CD Rack. 

- Snilch

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Cage the Elephant - Melophobia (2013)

It took an appearance on Later... With Jools Holland (hmmmm... I wonder where I am catching new music these days) to more thoroughly investigate this band.  They've been on the periphery of my radar for quite a while.

This album, their third, is great. Think quirky, edgy, alternative/indie pop.  For a band from Kenutucky, the vocals are actually are most reminiscent of the English band Arctic Monkeys.

It's a snapshot of a band still growing into their sound, which is scary as this is already really good.  Their sensibility in layering sounds and changing tempo are both already at an expert level.  The band meanders purposely throughout.  It's a listen that will satisfy pretentious snobs (like me) and "I like what sounds good" lunchpail joes (oddly enough, also like me).  "Spiderhead" and "Halo" are my personal favorites here.

Cage the Elephant - "Come a Little Closer"

This is a very good album, but I suspect their next one will be epic.  Get on board now.

CD Placement rating:  Car iPod.

- Snilch

Friday, December 26, 2014

Thalia Zedek Band - Via (2013)

Thalia Zedek has a way of softly lulling you into a comfort zone, just to pull the rug out from under you to get your attention.  Her voice sounds 1,000 times better than her last effort on Via -- she's put a lot of effort into recovering both her voice and her range, and it shows.

And (not surprisingly) the songs really benefit from this.  The strings complement her voice very well, and it's a great, uplifting (musically at least) album she never would have been physically able to pull off five years ago.

Highlights for me include "Winning Hand," "Straight and Strong," and "Lucky One."

Ultimately, this is laid back without being lazy, and an excellent low to mid tempo listen.

CD Placement rating:  Portable CD Case.

- Snilch

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Barrence Whitfield and the Savages - Dig Thy Savage Soul (2013)

I wasn't even aware that Barrence Whitfield and the Savages had a new album until I saw their blistering performance on Later... With Jools Holland.  Normally, I'd blame the lack of 120 Minutes, alternative radio, and my general avoidance of the music press, but I find it makes me feel much better to blame others. Therefore, I am blaming Andrew for not making me aware of this.  (Even though it's possible he did and I forgot.)  But that's neither here nor there -- ultimately, the only conclusion we can draw is that Andrew is just very disappointing.

First, let me just say that it's actually refreshing to hear a band with sax in this century.  (I said "sax," you pervert.)  It's enough distance from the 80s where they are allowed back in rock again.  And in general, the album does feel like a great 80s throwback rock n roll attack.

For those of you who saw "throwback," groaned, and crossed this off your list, STOP.  This album is what I always hoped The Stray Cats would turn in some day -- a blues-based rockabilly stomp.  And Barrence... well, he's got the voice of an angel and a devil, all rolled into one.  Simply ridiculous. That is worth the price of admission alone.

This is an album that is fun, has legs, and plenty of sax.  (Creep.)  I'll have to check out some of their back catalog for sure.

CD Placement rating:  Car iPod.

- Snilch

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Arcade Fire - Reflektor (2013)

This is the fourth album from Canada's indie-rock darlings.  For you ADD readers, here's the synopsis:  The Arcade Fire has yet to match their brilliant debut, Funeral, but this album comes the closest.

The opening title track is excellent -- classic Arcade Fire fare, complete with great harmonies and horns.  It's the first indication that this is definitely a headphones album -- the lush production (particularly the bass thump) really comes through on the headphones as opposed to the car.

A great example is "We Exist," which sounded like a so-so track in the car, but is a tour de force in the headphones, where bass separation takes over and turns it into a measured romp.

The other star of the set is "Normal Person, which is a look back to their indie days.  It has both the charm and awkward sloppiness of a newly formed band (in the best possible way), but is arranged with the wisdom of years in the professional recording arena.  The off-kilter yet somehow perfect guitar riff is simple yet addictive.  The lyrics reflect a band at a crossroads:  "Look at those normals go," indeed.  It's both raw and refined at the same time, and sums up the balance of the album perfectly.  

The Arcade Fire - "Normal Person" Live on Jools Holland. "Creep" intro included at no additional charge.

One other track of note:  "You Already Know" just may be a tribute to The Fall.  Here are some clues:  1) musically it sounds like a classic Fall song; 2) they imitate lead singer Mark E. Smith's vocal delivery in the intro; and 3) they name-drop The Fall in the lyrics.  Eat your heart out, Encyclopedia Brown.

Overall, the moments of brilliance outweigh the moments of average-ness. If that is a word.  (Editor's note:  it is not.  It is not.)

CD Placement rating:  Portable CD Case.

- Snilch