Cosmogramma somehow achieves the difficult task of sounding like it’s all over the place and completely unhinged yet able to put you in a trance with its grooves and catchy beats. You’ll hear all sorts of live instrumentation sampled from horns, guitars, spaced out synths, and even harps and the songs are frequently more free-form than one would expect from a producer commonly associated with hip hop. Yet unlike on Los Angeles, the album always sounds coherent. Songs like “Do the Astral Plane” feature a smattering of samples, yet you can’t help but bob your head to the sounds he creates.
Cosmogramma features guest vocals from Thom Yorke, Stephen Bruner and Laura Darlington. All of these contributions work as more of complimentary roles. If you’re expecting Radiohead as produced by Flying Lotus you might be surprised to hear how “The World Laughs With You” merely uses Yorke’s voice as another random ghostly addition to the sounds that Ellison combines throughout Cosmogramma. This goes more in line with how Yorke wished to utilize his vocals on Kid A, where they were just another instrument. Ellison was wise to not devote too much attention to making these guest spots the core focus of the album as it would have gone against the melting pot nature of the LP.
With Cosmogramma, Ellison has proven that he is not a mere beat-maker but an artist unto himself with a grand scope and a bright future. He has said that he is already working on a follow-up to Cosmogramma, and considering the promise that he has shown (and delivered on) on his first two LPs, that has me very excited for 2011. ---Paul
It still carries much of the same bouncy playful youth of their earlier albums, but Mines comparatively just flat out rocks harder. It's been awhile since an indie rock album has felt as genuinely anthemic as it does, and not been bloated with excess and overindulgence. This is stripped down rock 'n roll in its most pure and most powerful at its best.
That isn't to say the sound of Mines isn't dark and brooding like much of their previous work. Thick walls of noise engulf many of the tracks, as the bass shines through like a beacon of hope while drums clatter emphatically around it all. Mines may even be chaotic, and at times claustrophobic, but it never once feels boxed into anything. This is grand indie rock. It's purpose or meaning may not be as easily apparent, but that's apart of what Menomena have been working towards their entire careers. If anything, Mines could be considered their swan song. ---deacon zonday
After spending over a decade in obscurity with an impressive collection of tracks both self released and through Paw Tracks, the guy has more than made a name for himself as a lo-fi songwriting genius. So then, you have to wonder how well his songs would actually hold up under the microscope of fabulous and authentic production techniques and equipment that he finally found himself this time in the studio. What's impressive is that he not only used Before Today to combine all of his discography's greatest moments into a convenient package, but he also goes out of his way to show off his production mastery.
Let's be real, Ariel Pink is far from a gimmick. If he were, I doubt his peers would respect him so greatly. To prove it, with all this studio trickery up his sleeves for this release, he more than out does himself, showcasing the most genius choruses from 30 or 40 years ago that have all but been since forgotten. Songs like "Round and Round" are undeniably phenomenal creations of epic retro proportions.
At the end of the day, it's nothing groundbreaking in the Ariel Pink catalogue, but with this guy, you have to take in to account his forte is in lo-fi bedroom quality demos that end up sounding like they were lost 60s relics. So after getting all the tools to finally make his landmark accessible masterpiece, he still comes out on top. The man deserves some major respect. ---deacon zonday
Agalloch again venture into unknown territory, yet all the while maintaining their signature sound of desolation. It is undoubtedly their most dense and eclectic of albums, with influences ranging from Ulver to Godspeed You! Black Emperor to Swans; even to Bela Tarr’s masterpiece Werckmeister Harmonies. I’ve heard more casual listeners describe the album as noisy and a mess, and it is for these reasons that I think the album deserves multiple listens. The harmonies and sheer emotion truly reveal themselves and resonate within after several reoccurrences.
Like always, the atmosphere is ever encompassing and immersing. The opening instrumental immediately informs the listener what they’re getting into with its sombre, wailing melody. The next track makes perfect disparity in structural composition, upping the tempo and resembling something found within the Black Metal scene in Norway, while inexplicably evoking a sense of tranquillity and preserving the solemn mood. It is these juxtapositions and seemingly contradictory contrasts that best depicts the album, I think. Despairing yet melodic. Aggressive yet peaceful. It is an emotional maelstrom.
The vocals are, clichés aside, heartfelt. This is most prominent in the 17 minute experimental epic "Black Lake Nidstang", when John Haughm does a fantastic Depressive Black Metal impression. As usual, the instrumentation is superb, with the dual guitars often overlapping, complimenting each other. The drumming has improved dramatically with the addition of Aesop Dekkar, although the use of blastbeats are occasionally overused. At the length of 65 minutes (with each song averaging almost 11 minutes), the album is long, perhaps even a little overlong and meandering at times, though it is an ultimately gratifying experience. ---The Grimp
The Wild Hunt shows Matsson building on the soundscape he created with Shallow Grave. In every way this album marks an improvement, his singing is more capable, his lyrics as poetic and Romantic as ever - and the same, nimble-fingered, guitar-playing (which can alternate between delicate and beautiful finger-picking to intense strumming that makes me want to drive my car very fast or, even, fist-pump depending upon how drunk I am. This is particularly evident in the second track, Burden of Tomorrow, which has such a running energy to it I can't help but feel lifted while listening to it.)
However, despite Matsson remaining true to his general skeletal approach to music, there are moments of instrumentation. The title track features a banjo, and the closing track, Kids on the Run, features a piano as the source of instrumentation instead of the guitar. This track sticks out, but not so much like a sore thumb as a lover's finger. It's nostalgic and virginal, while simultaneously being reflective and wise.
Ultimately this is an album of summer, autumn, winter and spring. In the opening and title track, Matsson proclaims that he's given his heart to the Wild Hunt, that great European myth of everything from Odin to the dead, and with the evocative lyrics and the aesthetics of this album, one would believed this is what Matsson has dedicated his art to.
With this release, Beach House have become more accessible then ever before. There's less darkness then on previous releases. In addition to that, the production of Chris Coady (TV On the Radio, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blonde Redhead, Grizzly Bear's Yellow House) has made the instruments more clear and distinct. Beach House have always been pop experts, and I think those factors and their ability as songwriters explain why this is their most successful release yet.
Beach House have been improving with every album, I think they have the potential to release the next Pet Sounds. It's become apparent with every release that they're masters of creating dreamy soundscapes and when listening to them I think I need a map, cause I get lost (+1 for using bad pick up lines on albums.) Just kidding, but I do think this albums from Tennessee. ---deadlikeethan
It's easy to talk about the success behind Big Boi's journey to Sir Lucious Leftfoot. After Outkast broke up, everyone was speechless. The possibility that the rap game could be forever without a release by either giant was devastating. That the two refused to work together made it apparent that their brand of Southern hip-hop was all but going to die. In many ways, Sir Lucious Leftfoot is more than just a return to the prime form Outkast used to regularly grace us with every so often. It is entirely a Big Boi album. The creation of a man who has constantly brought rap new slang and countless chart hits with what seems like everything he touched.
It is both the future of hip-hop and the past at once. The production on songs like "General Patton", "Shutterbugg" and "Shine Blockas" are benchmarks for the year in hip-hop, and on both of those songs, Big Boi absolutely kills it as if he never left the game. The biggest surprise about Sir Lucious is how poised and on point Big Boi is, despite the seemingly infinite hiatus he took before it. Everyone who acted like they were the ones on top while Big Boi was away are relegated to take a seat and think about what they've done. (You know who you are, don't make him come after you.) On top of the fabulous production and Big Boi being Big Boi, the guest spots all impress. Even Gucci Mane shines on his chorus hook in "Shine Blockas" (but then what doesn't glow as much as shine on that song).
Even when you talk about the other things that went into the year's most celebrated hip-hop album upon release, like the feud with the label that Big Boi had to endure, nothing can diminish how impressively well constructed and impeccably consistent this album is. It more than surprised a bunch of people; it completely shattered what we expected from the man in the first place. Sir Lucious Leftfoot is quite possibly the best thing that could've happened in any circumstance, even one involving an Outkast reunion. Sorry to fans of 3K, but don't try and block his shine, because he deserves it. ---deacon zonday