Monday, March 28, 2011


I'm on thesis...I need the time that subwaywalk is taking from me...I'll miss you...I love you and I will be back in the summer...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Hawk and A Hacksaw - Cervantine (2011)

Heather Trost and Jeremy Barns are no strangers, Heather formerly of the band FOMA and Barnes the former drummer of critically acclaimed band Neutral Milk Hotel, no need to say how big Barnes is in the music world, they’re also responsible on discovering, collaborating and putting on the music map a kid named Zach Condon, also known as non other than Beirut.

With only these references, there’s no need to say how much I expected this LP and how badly I love this band, while a lot of bands of the same scene tend to change the sound, they stick to the Balkan, Turkish and Eastern European sounds and the not compromising sound to a certain ethnicity in particular, each song is rich in influences, experimental and not over the top.

The relevance of this LP is that is the first one they do out of Leaf Records, that was their record label since the beginning, and the reason is that they decided to embark in the adventure of starting their new label called L.M. Dupli-Cations.

In this LP most songs are instrumental, but the focus turns to Stephanie Hladowski voice in the song “Mana Thelo Enan Andra” beautifully executed with Greek musical inspiration remembering the richness of the mix of cultures of the area, and also the more intentional reference to Turkish music in the song “Üskudar”, that mixes earthy sounds with a busy percussion and the perfect mix of nimble strings that go along side with the vocals and a tuba setting the sentiment in the foundations of the song.

The production is impeccable, and some songs mix a cinematic playing with the distance of the instrumentation, in “Cervantine” the strings back out to allow a protagonist lead to the wind instruments and the Arabic Percussion. But nothing sets a romantic landscape like “Lazslo Lassú”, an instrumental piece with accordion and violin that steal the attention of the listener with a crying melody.

This LP is a class act of what A Hawk and A Hacksaw are all about; it has both, sorrow and a playful nature, and ad interesting changes on the production, managing and mixing the sound in familiar ways but with what seems a more oriented purpose, previous releases were a mix of experiences and collaborations that reflect the idea of travels and ethnicity growing together in a jam session, but this time around the spirit is still there but the demonstration is that there is now a path followed and the sound has rested in what becomes a distinctive sound of A Hawk and A Hacksaw.

Being a fan of Beirut for some years now, I loved how they contributed to the sound of “Gulag Orkestar”, and their own records shared a lot of these sounds, but this time around it seems like they’re really reaching for a produced identity that doesn’t show the parade of experience they’re having in their travels, but shows the path that has been already followed, this is by far the most mature album they’ve made, no longer showing their past influences and experimentations of playful and messy nature, but really accomplishing a sound of their own in a very beautiful way.

Miguel de Cervantes would've been proud.


1. No Rest For the Wicked
2. Mana Thelo Enan Andra
3. Espanola Kolo
4. Cervantine
5. Üskudar
6. Lazslo Lassú
7. At the Vulturul Negru
8. The Loser (Xeftilis)

Rate: 8.3/10

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Noah And The Whale - Last Night on Earth (2011)

It seems like a good idea to think that is time for Noah & The Whale to start pursuing different sounds, the reason is because there are a lot of bands that are getting not only dangerously close, but also are doing it just as good; the case of Mumford & Sons and their critically acclaimed debut album to set an example, and the personal sounds of indie folk that Noah & The Whale are going after were going to be awfully predictable and painfully failure if they would be hitting the same way.

This change was very much taken seriously with the third record of the band called “Last Night On Earth”, and for them the change started with the free download of “Wild Think” that was a good change for the band with the distinctive voice of Charlie Fink over ethereal synths and a very atmosphere quality of airy guitar and a little bit of electronic drumming, a really beautiful song that was pretty far from what the band was used to because this was not trying to approach some folk sound.

Everything became more evident when the lead single hit the scene “L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N”, that is a happy pop tune with pretty lyrics and a very upbeat spirit, a little bit of banjo but a distorted base. This song is a good one, the thing is that for the ones that are use to the previous work of the band it may come as a Californian sell out of the sound they had previously.

I think that the more relaxed and self aware epic sound that they were pointing previously is good, because at least they were trying to do something different, and not hang to the success of the sound and put themselves maybe like competitors against newcomers that are also doing good and probably would have done better than them in their old sound. It’s always good to have a band resign to their successful sound to conquer some new arena.

Now, the downside of the experiment is that there is never a really up point, is a very linear LP with not a single bad song and not a single good one, and not only is a good album but also the most fun that they’ve ever delivered, and I don’t know if I’m resisting to change, but I like to get my heart broken by a Noah & The Whale song every once in a while, they’re not the kind of bands you go looking for when you want to go dance on a beach in a pop scene, making songs like “Give It All Back” a real low point in the LP, the fun songs used to be really epic and now they’re just missing something, maybe is what happens when great folk musicians start exploring with electronic sounds, they get minimal and lose their epic qualities, it kind of happened with Beirut as well, but he managed to keep the same soul, which in case of Noah & The Whale they just get lost in this sort of happy and then suddenly getting dangerously close to some U2 kind of bull shit.

The old works of the band were good music, but this time around the album is catchy, and I don’t see anything wrong with being catchy, but seems like they’re approaching new markets and I fear that this catchiness could convert into making a bad record in the future, this one is not bad, at all, but is not better.


1. Life Is Life
2. Tonight's the Kind of Night
3. L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.
4. Wild Thing
5. Give it All Back
6. Just Me Before We Met
7. Paradise Stars
8. Waiting for My Chance to Come
9. The Line
10. Old Joy

Rate: 6.5/10

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Burzum - Fallen (2011)

Burzum is a musical project of Varg Vikernes, he does all the instrumentation and his music outside the Black Metal or Dark Ambient sphere is not as known as his personal conflicts with the law, both with murder and church burning; he’s also related to some racist controversy and paganism; because of murder and church burning he did jail time the last 16 years and produced a lot of his music in jail with help of a fan that made a record label just for the purpose of putting out his music. In Norway the Black Metal has had very serious controversy and from the people’s point of view it has been a very criticized genre due to the people that started, involved in sever acts of vandalism, murder and very nasty and absurd suicides. So yes, Black Metal has had a very doubtful start in Norway but for many people this has been part of the charm of it. My opinion is that if you need to like the music for the personal history of the artists you’re more into it as a form of dogmatic religion and not as a music follower. Let’s face it, I love Bob Dylan or Cat Power, and probably I admire things about their personal lives, but that’s not what makes their music good, because I recognize that they’ve had terrible albums as anyone could.

That was the case of Burzum’s “Belus” LP, it was his first LP after more than 10 years and the first one he released since Vikernes got out of jail, and maybe had to do with that sense of freedom but the album was so loud that lost the qualities that Burzum had in the previous releases. Of course, the violent nature and the tinning guitars overshadowing every other sound in the record found some experimentation that were interesting in comparison to previous albums, this was finding Vikernes vocals clean on some moments and not this very agonizing wolf deep voice he’s characterized. In terms of Buzz, probably “Belus” had more buzz than “Fallen” has had this year, but musically speaking, Fallen is an honest attempt to push the previous sound of Burzum without destroying it in a very violent way like “Belus”.

I’ve never been a fan of Black Metal or almost any kind of Metal, and I hardly compromise to one genre, that’s why probably my critique of this record this time around can be easily criticized by some hardcore Metal fan, but we’re not talking about a closed logia, since the beginning the buzz around Burzum has crossed over to other listeners, thing that made him had conflict of ingresses with the record label of his later murder victim Øystein Aarseth (Deathlike Slice Records).

In terms of sound Fallen seems much more calmed, it has 7 songs but two of them are intro and outro very spacey and slow with different instrumentation from the rest of the album, so is practically a 5 songs album of almost 50 minutes. The songs have a production and structure very similar to other Burzum records and still retain some of the heavy grips of “Belus” but more soft with the Lo-Fi qualities and the wolf like voice is actually soft and almost haunting when the choruses of the songs come, for those into Black Metal this will not only be a good album, but the return of Burzum’s sound without sticking to the 90’s concepts, taking what was best from “Belus” and blending it all to the sounds known in classics like “Det Som Engang Var”.


1. Fra Verdenstreet
2. Jeg Faller
3. Valen
4. Vanvidd
5. Enhver til Sitt
6. Budstikken
7. Til Hel og tilbake igjen

Rate: 7.2/10

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

#FlashbackSunday Leonard Cohen - Songs Of Leonard Cohen (1968)

Of all the singer-songwritters around the music world probably one of the most iconic of all is Mr. Leonard Cohen. He was the first folk artist to make approach to the sound without being part of a political folk movement, such as Joan Baez or the king Bob Dylan, and though he has been an inspiration to everyone that takes a guitar in his hands and tries to become a singer-songwritter the real contribution of Leonard Cohen is the expansion of the genre of folk.

The nature of his songwriting is very lonely and with literal references due to his past as an author on both poetry and a novelist, he touches with complexity stuff like love, relationships and religion. Something that inherited from novels and poetry his songwriting is the expression, only a novelist is capable of creating characters that discover each other without saying who they are, sort of mirror characters that reflect realities of another, the way of composing his songs have this sort of story telling complexities, and everything started in 1968 with “Songs Of Leonard Cohen”, it was his first album at 33 years old and started with his version of “Suzzane”.

“Suzzane” is one of the most iconic songs of Cohen, first recorded by Judy Collins in 1966 then when he made his album he recorded his version, this songs is the one that has most covers of Cohen, covered by artists like Neil Diamond, Nina Simone, Halley Belafonte, Peter Gabriel, Tori Amos and many other influential artists, not to forget the Beck tribute to Cohen making the complete album along side with Devendra Banhart and MGMT in 2009, for one of his record club albums.

Also in the movement of creating a new kind of folk, Cohen was on the center of the movement that later reached maximum capacity with other singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Neil Diamond and Tim Buckley (father of another legendary artist Jeff Buckley, who someday I’ll flashback to him as well).

I’m just here to say that this album has is great or that it has historical importance, but in part is important to understand a lot of artist who admit and covered songs of Cohen due his amazing influence such as Nick Cave, Jeff Buckley with his famous cover of “Hallelujah”, Nirvana with the unplugged “Pennyroyal Tea” and the list goes on.

Part of the good music I cover in this blog has Leonard Cohen written in the veins, that’s why I thought it would be important to take some time and pay my respect.


1. Suzanne
2. Master Song
3. Winter Lady
4. The Stranger Song
5. Sisters of Mercy
6. So Long, Marianne
7. Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
8. Stories of the Street
9. Teachers
10. One of Us Cannot Be Wrong

Rate: 10/10

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Those Dancing Days - Daydreams & Nightmares (2011)

I heard this second release of Those Dancing Days a few times because a lot of people were talking to me about them with a lot of love and respect, and I’ve tried to understand the reason why but, in the end, I just don’t get it. Back in 2008 I never really got into this particular band (though I listened to the singles) and the music was the kind I don’t care so much; but instead of closing myself with prejudice and for the sake of democracy I decided to give it a try on this second LP (and also looking back to the previous release). It’s called Daydreams & Nightmares and though I didn’t see a lot of daydreaming I had a few of those Nightmares.

Some songs were OK, like I’ll be yours kind of reminding me a Diamond Rings with a little bit less of an edge or enough novelty that kept me interested, and this was one of the songs I remember thinking that was kind of strong of the album, and by strong, I mean average. The instrumentation here doesn’t have the kind of innovation that the band should be having after the 2008 record, maybe back then the sound was not so new because we didn’t know Linnea Jönsson vocals yet, and if “In Our Space Hero Suits” (the first record) this didn’t made the music worth it without the vocals holding it for this second time I guess the move had to be bettering the sound a little and depend less on the emotion that the vocals can bring to the mix.

Over all, everything sounded like a middle point between Florence + The Machine and Paramore taking distance on the possible rock sounds that could get out of this and trading it for text book indie pop, and sadly that’s the only thing that are maintaining them away of sounding like something like Pink, and I even get flashes of shit like that. Even songs like “When We Fade Away” that try to make musically something a little bit more reflexive and less standard pop the only thing saving the songs is the powerful croon of Jönsson who’s shoulders cat bare the album to make it stick in the memory, for me most of the songs are just forgettable.

For people that like their lead singers quiet and enjoy the music, this is not the way to go, but if you like the power voices and you don’t get bored of listening only the tricky power voice trying to sustain an album this most definitely could be an add to your musical library. I see people that are into mainstream pop entering in the indie pop scene thanks to works like this ones, something that doesn’t damage; I can also see former emo that didn’t evolve with Bright Eyes into his Americana music and stayed on the fence waiting for some sort of screaming emotion without being hardcore also liking this (that I’m not so sure if can be a good or a bad thing).

The only good thing I can say to Those Dancing days is to dissolve, and to Linnea Jönsson I can advice to find some interesting way to use her voice, maybe starting to do more collaborations that take her out of her comfort zone, I apologize with my friends and everyone that liked this, I understand that people might like this kind of sound, but for me, this is just not adding anything new and exciting, is repetition of text book indie pop, and what's worst, repetition of themselfes in the 2008 record, still remember this is my opinion. I hate this shit, but you be the judge on the goodness or badness of it.


1. Reaching Forward
2. I'll Be Yours
3. Dream About Me
4. Help Me Close My Eyes
5. Can't Find Entrance
6. Fuckarias
7. Forest Of Love
8. When We Fade Away
9. Keep Me In Your Pocket
10. I Know Where You Live pt. 2
11. One Day Forever

Rate: 3/10

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Alexander - Alexander (2011)

The only word to qualify an artist like Alexander Eberet is “Amazing”. This guy has been in music for more than a decade and has participated in several bands, two of them still active, those two bands being Ima Robot and Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros, with the Magnetic Zeros he’s been getting special attention and has been very busy; for that reason, seems incredible he got the time to start juggling with a solo project and specially a solo project turning out to be good.

The debut couldn’t have any other name than Alexander and shows a lot of sides of Ebert that we’ve never seen before, specially his multi-instrumental abilities. For Alexander he made absolutely every sound, percussions, strings, wind, clapping, backing vocals, the sound is very full and still doesn’t loses the intimacy. If you Know Alexander’s past work you’ll definitely will want to come check this out, specially if you’re more into Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros.

With Edward Sharpe, Alexander has done exceptionally good joined work with the band members, and the song structures here is very similar but have that intimate sound and less band touch taking notice that Alexander is doing everything, that’s why it seems to present a more aesthetic performance and less a sort of musical experience that can be Edward Sharpe, but this doesn’t take away the effort, this doesn’t mean that the concept or intention of the record is not clear, because the only thing that is clear is that is a personal journey through life and spiritual search.

The money makers on this record are the sing along kind of songs, cheerful tunes with joyful spirit, but for me the slow songs create another level of intimacy needed to get a glimpse of the true nature of Alexander the joyful and Alexander the pensive, both in songwritting and in composition the result turns out to be absolutely stunning.

It might be a little protective to have a 10 band member band playing with you, and for a lot of artists of many bands, as creative as they are, don’t show solo material for fear of being too intimate or fear of sucking, a fear that Alexander might have had specially with the notoriety of Edward Sharpe. He even tells the story about never touching violin and wanting the bridge of “Glimpses”, and in the end, instead of calling someone to do it he took the risk and the song turns out to be Alexander as vulnerable as he can be, a very slow ballad, tender singing, echo that give a sense of church touching music, and then the bridge grows stunning in with a shy violin on the back adding simple charm. This little detail makes the album an even more honest one.

The sounds tend to have more awkward charms like with the plays of clapping and mouth sounds in “Let's Make a Deal to Not Make a Deal”, and in general the album is less crowded and more intimate than what you can find with Edward Sharpe.

So yes, Alexander is amazing, and the word to describe this album is “stunning”.

Alexander Ebert :: "Truth" by NaturalBeardy


1. Let's Win!
2. Awake My Body
3. Truth
4. In the Twilight
5. Bad Bad Love
6. Old Friend
7. Million Years
8. Remember Our Heart
9. Glimpses
10. Let's Make a Deal to Not Make a Deal

Rate: 8.6/10

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Papercuts - Fading Parade (2011)

Papercuts fifth album is a warning to all the young artists that want to start making music inside the Lo-Fi arena, it’s a trend with a lot of repetitions and only if you’re really good at it the production will help you, if not, the production will kill you, is that simple; and that’s the case of Papercuts, a very talented band that for their first big LP in a new “big” small record label (Sub Pop); instead of pushing the sound to another level, they did the same of their previous album and not updating their style, but leaving it exactly there, and the last time around, in the 2009 “You Can Have What You Want” they were capturing what dream pop is all about.

The Dream Pop sound should be about atmosphere and not about a clear picture, the music must express things in a sort of a haze but the music also needs to have a direction, that’s why the appreciation of details inside the atmosphere of the music only adds charm and makes the listener enjoy the little dots of focus here and there. When the Dream Pop becomes more of a dream and the haziness becomes more of a deep fog that doesn’t let you see anything you’ve got a problem, and Papercuts are guilty as charge in this LP, they put the dream on Dream Pop and all you want to do is go to sleep while the album is happening.

But don’t get me wrong, I love sleeping, the thing is that when your music knocks you out the value is not to enjoy it but to leave it there as a quiet companion that keeps you out of the addiction of sleeping pills, so in a way this kinds of records are a life and family savers, but don’t add anything to music.

In terms of the songs, none of them are bad, they get kid of all over the place lost in the reverb, and instead of becoming sort of cloudy like in Deerhunter’s albums, or become incredibly loud building from a straight silence to be elevated to a dream like M83, this band just gets lost behind a cloud, and you can almost hear that something cool is happening but is so far away that instead of pushing a right button gets exhausting, so listener finally gives up in trying to grab something out of it and settles for the blur.

I see a lot of people liking this sound for different reasons, it never gets hateful, and is never really awful, but in the end it’s just another dream pop band in the spectrum, and having to be there without adding anything special is just sad. I know every song might’ve been better if all the cloudy reverb would’ve been turned down a little to let the listener appreciate what was happening, but not even live their sounding that way. Again, I get why people like this, is just that I don’t get it. Why put the dream on Dream Pop if you can make an exciting dream? And if you’re going to make a dream about dreaming why not making it epic and do a sort of inception kind of dream? Do it epic or don’t abuse of the reverb, keep it simple, sometimes less is more.

The album is called "Fading Parades" and the reality is that it just fades away. For me is very Average, not bad, not good, just average, with good moments that could be great but are not. Some songs remind me of Seabear, and I love Seabear, but I rather listen to Seabear, there is really not much pulling me to say that this LP is great. It's a cute LP, listen to it, perhapes you'll like it, all I know is I don't hate it.


1. Do You Really Want To Know
2. Do What You Will
3. I'll See You Later I Guess
4. Chills
5. The Messenger
6. White Are The Waves
7. Wait Till I'm Dead
8. Marie Says You've Changed
9. Winter Daze
10. Charades

Rate: 6/10

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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

DeVotchKa - 100 Lovers (2011)

DeVotchKa has had a lot of ups and downs in critiques opinions, some love them and some hate them, but the real deal is that nobody keeps far away from an opinion; the music they do is very complex due to a multi cultural influence and for sure this sort of experimentation can be very good or very bad, DeVotchKa has been guilty of staying in the gray area, not completely good like Beirut but not near bad either like say maybe Shakira. In terms of influence the new LP “100 Lovers” has every sound expected of one of their records; a little gypsy, a little cabaret, a little mariachi, a little merengue, a little tango, a little bolero and a lot of Eastern Europe folk music (Greece, Romania, Balkan), and the special blend of punk and rock music around this. This alone is a lot to chew, and they never seem to quite get a correct way of organized expression. None the less, the reasons mentioned are what make the albums less than mind-blowing, but they’re far from sucking completely.

“100 Lovers” have more Arcade Fire than I expected, and since the “Little Miss Sunshine” Soundtrack and a Grammy nomination they got to much more fame that even they could expect. Probably that fame is the one that leads to critiques to have two sides of the story they told and tend to judge harshly the fact that mixing all the sounds they do shoes very little commitment to genre and it’s hard to get a grip on what they’re all about, something that sounding more like Arcade Fire will not work. Still the music have a lot to offer, songs like “Sunshine” show a very sort of cinematic psychedelia as the blend with a merengue trumpet and tango violins give a sort of fresher look of the picture in “Contrabanda”, not to miss the centerpieces of the record, more classically DeVotchKa, being “100 Other Lovers” a very Arcade Fire kind of ballad, “The Man Of San Sebastian”, very tango and overly dramatic gypsy act, “Bad Luck Heels”, that mixes mariachi with a very Calexico (ish) sound.

But other songs like “All the Sand In All the Sea” are a display of what DeVotchKa can deliver with a more conceptual songs and transform their typical influences to a regular Indie Rock sound, I’m getting mixed feelings about this, the more I listen this songs the more I like them but the more they sound less a DeVotchKa song, and this talks good about the songs but bad about the band, because somehow I’m starting to doubt about the capacity to keep the sound together. For example, everyone has seen how Beirut pulled of one electronic EP and still sounded like Beirut, no matter if he’s playing with electronic music or with the typical world references of Balkan traditional music and Mexican style inspired songs, and on the same boat millions of artist can stand triumphant, from Calexico to Beck. The mixture turns good only in songs like “The Common Good”, which mixes Middle Eastern violins, with Spanish claps and then a guitar reverb sets noise and sound, but then this experiments of traditional sounds turn back again into indie rock formula.

If one thing they have credit on this album is that is their most accomplished record to date, the production of Craig Schumacher that produced Neko Case and Calexico, and also counts with collaborations of Thom Yorke’s band Atoms for Peace and (not to sound redundant (Calexico), and their rock edge is maybe what keeps them far of sounding as elegant as the rest of the excellent artists that pursue this kids of influences and get them misunderstood. Still is a great record, but not amazing.


1. The Alley
2. All the Sand In All the Sea
3. 100 Other Lovers
4. The Common Good
5. Interlude 1
6. The Man From San Sebastian
7. Exhaustible
8. Interlude 2
9. Bad Luck Heels
10. Ruthless
11. Contrabanda
12. Sunshine

Rate: 6,5/10

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