Beat Connection

Music is a thread that connects all of our lives and has been since the beginning of time. One problem: some of that music could change your life, but some of it may make you want to run the other way as soon as you hear it. Beat Connection is here to help you sort through some of that. This blog is mainly written by Chris Nordahl, a Texas based college student who has diverse tastes, an open, objective mind, and above all, a deep love and appreciation for all things related to music and writing. This blog will cover topics including the goings on in indie rock, pop, singer/songwriter music, electronica, hip-hop, folk, dance, punk, noise, post-rock, and experimental music so stop on by for some in depth reviews and alerts to new developments in the world of underground music!

Posts tagged album review

Feb 20

Grimes - Visions

In a world in which a person can define themselves by the content of others all too easily over the internet, it has of course altered the way new artists can define themselves. An artist can become attached to a stigma or niche simply by presenting himself or herself in a certain way and as a result, can be embraced almost as equally as they can be cast out of certain defined groups. For Montreal’s Claire Boucher, her output as Grimes has come to be defined by certain internet trends. Assembling her music using the featherweight production capabilities of Garageband, Grimes’ earliest material was categorized under the dubious flag of witch house for perhaps longer than the artist would care to acknowledge. Combining beats with dark sampling, airy keyboard, and piles of haunting vocal loops, Grimes’s first two self released cassettes Geidi Primes (2010) and Halfaxa(2010) garnered the attention of fringe blogs in a time when groups like Salem and oOoOO were initially making waves and Grimes’ embrace of the upside down cross and triangle imagery of witch house brought her even closer into that fold. Darkbloom (2011), the split LP Grimes released with D’eon last year, pointed towards a more accessible direction and revealed a greater range of influences than those found in the group Boucher was lumped in with. The sophisticated knowledge of R&B, dance rock, and K-pop displayed on Grimes’ side of that LP pointed towards the direction of her newest LP Visions (2012), her first for major indie label 4AD. Boucher has said that Visions feels like her first LP and the clearer production and greater focus on darkwave electronic pop aesthetics she has taken on the album makes this feel like an almost entirely different Grimes, subsequently making Visions Boucher’s strongest offering to date.


Feb 17

Chairlift - Something

Up to this point in their career, Chairlift is known mostly for writing one great pop song, that being their 2008 fringe hit “Bruises” from their debut album Does You Inspire You (2008), which made its way onto one of Apple’s more memorable iPod commercials. The song almost sounds as if it were written with the nonthreatening and carefree creativity Apple portrays as an entity in mind, with its twinkling synths and wide eyed professions of love and devotion, making Chairlift feel like one of many electro-pop groups amongst a sea of Brooklynites with MicroKorgs and drum machines with those same ideologies in mind. But after shrinking down to a duo of singer Caroline Polachek and multi-instumentalist Patrick Wemberly and working with Das Racist on several cuts from their Sit Down, Man (2010) mixtape, Chairlift feels like a more developed band on their sophomore recordSomething (2011), taking a more mature approach to their themes and musical ideas instead of going at everything with such youthful naivete. And while a sense of wonderment in music is certainly not a bad thing and hasn’t been completely abandoned by Chairlift, the band sounds more effective now dealing in harder edged 1980s inspired dance pop and offering bits of wit and wisdom instead of focusing on trying to write a single catchy electro-pop song. Something is a major aesthetic improvement on the sound and style Chairlift first employed on their debut, coming off as smarter, deeper, and more expertly refined.


Jan 23

Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory


Memories shape our perspectives and ideas about the world around us. They are the images and ideas that create identities and personalities and the basis of a great deal of general knowledge. Memories can often be a source of comfort, warm nostalgia, and can often leave us feeling good about the world around us but on Cleveland outfit Cloud Nothings’ sophomore LP, that comfort is exactly what the band is out to destroy. The album’s title Attack on Memory (2012) of course could not be better suited for such a mission statement, but with perhaps a nod to bare bones producer Steve Albini, being anything other than direct would be pandering to the audience. The band’s debut LP, the self titled Cloud Nothings (2011), was recorded in full by singer/songwriter Dylan Baldi, a young artist from humble beginnings who recorded the earliest Cloud Nothings material in his parents’ basement. Filled with sugary sweet hooks and a mid level production quality, Cloud Nothings was a pop record’s pop record, easy to digest and to make sense of. From the onset, Attack on Memory seeks to completely dismantle that view of Cloud Nothings as a band. The album is substantially rougher, rawer, and louder than the group’s debut as the simple three chord pop song no longer seems to be on Baldi’s mind. Nodding to late 80s indie rock, post-hardcore, no wave, and noise rock, Attack on Memory thoroughly manages to distance itself from the perception Cloud Nothings previously were characterized by without totally abandoning the pop intuition that made the band’s debut so appealing. Attack on Memory comes as a mature and powerful record that hits like a ton of bricks but knows just when to offer slices of pop sweetness to offset the hard rock sour.


Nov 28

Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness


In the late 80s and early 90s when Beat Happening and Heavenly were defining the music of a generation of bookish, bespectacled teenagers who preferred The Kinks and The Beach Boys as opposed to Guns N’ Roses and Van Halen, twee was a statement. The idea of being invested in thoughtful music that dealt with feelings of being an outsider and sexual frustration played in a style that draws from 1960s pop rock seemed at least as rebellious as punk was, albeit for a much quieter group of listeners. Now fast forward to 15 or 20 years later and UK indie rockers Los Campesinos! carry on that spirit and ideology with a doleful dose of punk rock and hardcore thrown into the mix. Across three years and now four albums as a band, Los Campesinos! have been systematically refining a sound from the extremely youthful wails and personally specific lyrics of their beloved debut Hold on Now Youngster… (2008) to what is now their most recent full length, Hello Sadness(2011) an appropriately dour title for the band’s most heart wrenching and emotionally taxing album to date. Where the band’s general style of making music hasn’t changed much, Hello Sadness is the band’s most musically mature offering thus far, backing away from the raw, scorched Earth thrashings of their last full length, Romance is Boring (2010) and focusing more on crafting fully realized pop punk songs that offer blasts of jagged edges in more controlled bursts. All the while, band centerpiece, singer/lyricist Gareth Campesinos offers up mouthfuls of his darkest lyrics to date, contrasting many of the instrumentals with tales of deteriorating romances, sexual anguish, and violence both physical and emotional. By sticking to their guns and working to make their brand of “tweepunk” into a truly viable style, Los Campesinos! are making a statement of their own on Hello Sadness, that even though the generation who once worshipped Calvin Johnson have likely moved beyond twee music, it’s still a medium that can connect and apply to music listeners.


Nov 18

Atlas Sound - Parallax


Does great suffering beget great art? The debate has raged on for centuries in reference to some of histories most tortured artists from Vincent Van Gogh to Ian Curtis and as recent events have panned out, the latest artist to join this troubled but no less esteemed group is incessant music maker Bradford Cox, known mostly for his role as the frontman for Deerhunter but no less regarded for his frequently brilliant solo project Atlas Sound. After the release of Deerhunter’s critically acclaimed LP Halcyon Digest (2010) Cox found himself thrust into the spotlight, becoming the face of Deerhunter and a reluctant icon of indie rock in the process. Reaching a much broader fan base than ever before after the release of the album, Cox often expressed his disillusionment with the indie rock scene and his own fans remarking on how a great deal of the people who went to Deerhunter’s concerts weren’t even aware of the band’s past in which Cox would dress in drag, the band would sometimes cover themselves in blood, and proceed to go into violent and hallucinatory trances in which they themselves wouldn’t even remember the events of the show afterwards. It appears the disillusionment Cox has been feeling has now come to a head with the release of Atlas Sound’s newest LP Parallax (2011). The project of solely Cox, Atlas Sound often casts the singer/songwriter as being starkly alone and on Parallax, Cox sounds as insular and dark as perhaps he has ever been while simultaneously putting out Atlas Sound’s strongest LP to date and one of the most impressive recordings Cox has been involved in period.


Oct 24

M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming


The double album. Where multiple discs abound and an eclectic list of names sit along side each other including Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and The Magnetic Fields. This deadly duo of two discs is perhaps the single most cocksure move possible in music, a statement that says, “I had too many great songs to just be contained on one album”. It can be cocky, presumptive, and a little cliché, so a double album was just about the last thing anyone was likely to see coming from France’s M83, a group known mostly as an 80s electro influenced shoegaze band. On past works, most prominently M83’s last full length Saturdays = Youth (2008), project leader Anthony Gonzalez preferred to work mostly within the confines of guitars thick with reverb and distortion along with shimmering synths, to recreate the melodramatic pop rock of the 1980s into something more poignant for today. Singing mostly at an intimate decibel, M83 felt intentionally confined, an attribute that gave them the intimate feeling of a much smaller project and appealed to a broad base of their listenership. Enter M83’s latest album, the two disc Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011) and what is found in terms of approach and texturing is very much the opposite of the band’s last album. The band plays with a goal that could conceivably be to touch the sky and never come down with tracks flying to dizzying heights, feeling as massive and epic as songs written by groups like the Polyphonic Spree and Arcade Fire without a shred of either of those groups’ self importance. M83 lets go off all inhibitions and revels in the pure joy of making music on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming and the results are, in an appropriately large word, spectacular.


Oct 12

Zola Jesus - Conatus


When one is plunged into an unforgiving darkness, there will inevitably be snatches of light that poke their way through and one will likely emerge from such an experience with valuable life lessons and experience to speak of. Nika Roza Danilova’s Zola Jesus project has often felt like this, her music often feeling like brooding funeral dirges devoid of humor and hope but acting more as experiences showing a black hearted or even nihilistic vision of art that are meant to show the darkness that can lurk in the far reaches of the human mind. The string of EPs Danilova released in 2010 as Zola Jesus explored this feeling down its deepest tunnels and trenches, with the EPs Stridulum (2010), Valusia (2010), and LA Vampires Meets Zola Jesus (2010). The EPs displayed a rich gothic imagery and a flair for operatic dramatics that Danilova has since made synonymous with the name Zola Jesus but at the end of last year, had seemingly run their course with the artist. Songs like “Night” from the Stridulum EP focused on utilizing thick drones and Danilova’s powerful pipes to completely suck any breathing room from the arrangements, not making the songs sound cluttered but at times grossly heavy and conveying emotions that can often be difficult for the average person to bear. But on Zola Jesus’ new full length LP Conatus (2011), Danilova steps away from the front and center emotional weight of her recent EPs to create a record that feels like the most human and accessible of her career, making songs that utilize dark new wave and goth rock sensibilities, skeletal industrial clatter, and at points, even danceable backbeats, all without sacrificing the emotional clarity Zola Jesus has become known to portray.


Oct 3

Sleep ∞ Over - Forever


There is perhaps no greater slice of teenage romanticism than the idea of starting a band, writing your own songs, and touring the world. It is the ultimate act of rebellion against authority while simultaneously being a deep personal statement that allows for youthful expression of dreams and fantasies. The problem is that the majority of the people who actively chase this classic adolescent dream more often than not forget about it’s stasis, leaving the young people who have real world problems, ideas, and imaginations far behind. Then there are artists like Austin, TX’s own Stefanie Franciotti, who is still grounded firmly in the constraints of reality despite being able to express herself artistically and sounds to still be very much in touch with the hopes and desires of her listeners and peers. Franciotti leads the group Sleep ∞ Over, a band that has become an intimate bedroom project not through necessity but by choice after former band members Sarah Brown and Christa Palazzolo left Franciotti to start the group Boy Friend. As a result, Sleep ∞ Over has become a solo project of sorts for Franciotti as the artist was forced to handle all of the recording on Sleep ∞ Over’s debut full length LP Forever (2011) by herself with the occasional help of her roommates while recording the LP at her apartment. What comes as a result of Franciotti’s efforts is a lush, unpretentious collection of songs full of echoing synths, moody drum machines, emotionally charged ambient hums, and reverb blurred vocals, creating a mysterious and haunting LP that still manages to keep a good head on its shoulders.


Sep 29

Twin Sister - In Heaven


There may be no more of an appropriate and gratuitously assumptive title for Long Island band Twin Sister’s debut album than In Heaven (2011). On the one hand, the title is somewhat accurate as most of the album is characterized by a dreamy sense of the ethereal, conjuring up images of floating spirits against a sweeping and spectral drive through the history of left field pop music. On the other, the very nature of the phrase In Heaven suggests a supremely blissful experience that satisfies on all terms and while Twin Sister’s debut manages to hit certain sweet spots, the album can’t exactly be considered heavenly. That being said, In Heaven is an impressive debut from a band that has been the subject of major hype since their debut EP Vampires with Dreaming Kids was released all the way back in 2008. The band substantially added to their buzz bubble with the release of their Color Your Life - EP (2010) last year, as they worked closer to nailing down a sound that defines Twin Sister as an entity with bouncy pop numbers that drew from understated shoegaze and post-punk. On In Heaven, however, Twin Sister hasn’t seemed to have retained much of what made Color Your Life - EP successful, sounding funky at certain times, smoothly and sensually wistful at others, and coolly aloof throughout almost all of the proceedings. 


Sep 28

Youth Lagoon - The Year of Hibernation


In the last few years, as music has become more of an endeavor for anyone with computer access, more and more great records have come from the bedroom. Classic records from artists like The Microphones, WHY?, The Antlers, Bon Iver, Neutral Milk Hotel, Daniel Johnston, and The Mountain Goats have all come as products of general solitude, locked within the confines of those most personal of living spaces. However, with bands like Arcade Fire and Bright Eyes popularizing indie rock and making it all the more anthemic in the recent months, independent music has been opening itself to the aspect of community more frequently. Standing at the crossroads between the reclusive bedroom artist and the pounding stadium rocker is Boise, Idaho’s Trevor Powers and his project Youth Lagoon. Powers does what most DIY songwriters had only once dreamed of: makes music that sounds absolutely huge and life affirming all by himself with the use of piano, keyboards, drum machine, minimal guitar and bass, and his frail and fractured tenor that delivers an extreme sense of earnestness despite often being awash in reverb. Youth Lagoon as a project and now as a band has risen to impressive heights with debut record The Year of Hibernation (2011), putting forth a record that feels intensely personal and intimate the way the best bedroom albums should but largely relatable in the way that foot stomping anthems sound. What comes as a result is an emotionally arresting and sonically pleasing work that looks forward to the future of homemade recordings and to the future of how we as listeners will relate to music being made in all corners of the globe. 


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