Pearly Music

    27 May 2010

    "Forgiveness Rock Record" (2010) by Broken Social Scene

     

    It’s always hard to come up with something original about a record. Especially when those devils at Pitchfork Media have already said the funny, clever stuff that you were thinking when you first listened to it. Legendary indie-hipster-favourites-huge-Canadian-musical-collective Broken Social Scene have returned to the scene with album number 4. Is it different? No, not really. There’s plenty of clever, introspective, thought-provoking music on here, reminiscent of everything else that BSS have ever done. But is it good? Yes, dear God, yes, it is. Comparing this to most of the other self-proclaimed “indie” records released this year, it stands out like a golden nugget floating on a sludgy, brown river of shit.

    Everything you’d expect from a Broken Social Scene release is on this record. You have the horns, the instrumental, the collaborations, and the grandiose of the music in general. There are hints of Pavement, Modest Mouse, Beck - name an indie music legend, and I’m sure you’ll be able to hear some of them in here. As many bands do as they grow older and mature, BSS have recorded some of their most radio-friendly tracks on this album. Songs like “World Sick”, “Ungrateful Little Father”, and “Texico Bitches” are only one quick edit away from being hits - maybe knock out the swearing, or cut the long instrumental sections, and you’d have yourself a single. The band won’t be planning on doing this, however - for the last three albums, they’ve been content with featuring only on hipster favourite radio stations cool enough to play them such as JJJ, and I highly doubt that they’ll stop this trend.

    Forgiveness Rock Record is all about forgiveness and grandiosity. Not heartbreak, not sympathy, not melancholy, but forgiveness. As an emotion, it’s deeper and more sincere, requiring BSS to mature their songwriting. Have they taken this challenge head-0n? Well, yes and no. Musically, they’re tenfold better than they’ve ever been. Lyrically, they’ve evolved and expanded, while still retaining their prized indie cred.

    So, yeah, it’s a good indie album. It’s cool enough to be held high by hipsters and yet still accessible enough to be held high by everyone else. Forgiveness Rock Record turned out to be everything I’d expect from a Broken Social Scene record - but hey, I’m not complaining.

    7.4
    Choice tracks: World Sick; Chase Scene; Ungrateful Little Father; Meet Me In The Basement
    If you like: the Polyphonic Spree; Feist; Neutral Milk Hotel; Mercury Rev 

    17 May 2010

    "Crystal Castles" (2010) by Crystal Castles

    Canadian duo Crystal Castles have followed up their debut self titled record with yet another self titled record. Crystal Castles (2010), while shying away from the kind-of radio friendly singles from their debut such as “Alice Practice”, also loses the perfect mixture of fun, doom and experimentation that their debut has. While experimenting is never a bad thing, Ethan’s gone a little too far down the wrong path this time, and come up with an altogether bland, dreary final product.

    I think what I miss the most is the 8-bit sounds from the first record. When they went, all the fun in their debut also went. Not that this is necessarily bad - hey, the album cover doesn’t exactly suggest “Yay! Lots of fun to be had on this album!” But they don’t do the doom and depression right. You can tell they’ve tried, and props for that, but it’s a little bit half-arsed and half-cooked. There’s been too much effort spent on making the record dance-able, and not enough on giving it the right atmosphere and feeling. In general, it sounds like someone’s taken Nine Inch Nails, made it more like house music, and flushed it through the toilet of bad-atmosphere (I couldn’t come up with a simile for something with lame atmosphere.)

    That being said, Ethan still makes good use of noise in his second attempt, and, as before, the best songs are the ones in which Alice shuts her hole and lets Ethan work his magic. I still don’t get why everyone considers CC a “band”. As far as I know, Alice doesn’t do anything except for sing/scream in a few tracks, and not even the good ones. The standout tracks on Crystal Castles II are definitely the ones without Alice that retain the dance-able beat and chopped up samples which made the first album brilliant. Her voice is used in many ways, but most of them are hardly her and mostly Kath taking her vocals and mushing them into something entirely different.

    Crystal Castles II is a jack of all trades but a master of none. The good tracks are too sparse for my liking, with too much shit to sift through in order to get to one. It’s good, yeah, but it’s not great, it’s just.. meh. Personally, I’ll look forward to any solo Ethan Kath release, but I haven’t got my hopes up for Crystal Castles’ future. And I want more 8-bit.

    6.9
    Choice tracks: Violent Dreams; Vietnam; I Am Made Of Chalk
    If you like: hmm, well, it is original, I’ll give it that. Maybe The Future Sound Of London; Justice’s softer stuff.

    21 Apr 2010

    "My World 2.0" (2010) by Justin Bieber

    My World 2.0 is the hip new record from everyone’s favourite pre-pubescent sixteen year old. A contrast from all the records I usually review, I know. But will I hate it as much as you’re probably expecting me to?

    Well, yes. I did listen to it with an open heart, open ears, open arms and an open mind, and it just isn’t good. He’s no pop revolution or icon or anything. Beneath all that hair, there’s no child prodigy hiding, waiting to be released. Justin’s just another pop star, who, after his fifteen minutes of fame and numerous accusations of beating his girlfriend, will be doing an Usher and promoting the latest upcoming 16-year-old pop star.

    But about the music. Is it that bad? Yes. For starts, Justin’s voice is completely blank and devoid of all real emotion. While the songs are written from the point of view of a 15 year old, they haven’t got any sense of authenticity to them - it’s like someone older wrote them to sound like a 15 year old, not like a 15 year old actually wrote them, leading to very phony sounding lyrics. Plus, he uses the word “shorty” way too much, when he’s probably shorter than most of the girls that the songs are targeted at. His vocal ability is evident, but only half cooked - and the thing is, the amount of time required to cook it to a perfect golden brown is longer than the (estimated) amount of time before he hits puberty, so he’ll most likely have a shithouse, deep voice by his next record, and lose the fans he’s gained because he’s so young and cute.

    The music is all very generic and boring. Maybe one or two of the tracks are catchy and have potential, but the better part of the album is filler. The ballads are cringe-worthy, the upbeat, dance songs such as “Eenie Meenie” even more so. The rhythm is very simplistic in all the tracks - something which works for a few contemporary R&B artists, but not this one.

    I’m hoping that, with his next album, Bieber might try writing his own songs - no, Justin, putting your name on all of the song’s writer credits isn’t fooling anyone. Oh, and make better album titles and covers. Maybe then you will be more convincing and accessible. But, until then, you’ll have to be contempt with your fan base of 7-18 year old girls and a few sad men going though their midlife crisis.

    2.1
    Choice tracks:  
    U Smile; That Should Be Me
    If you like: Usher; Miley Cyrus; early Justin Timberlake  

    18 Apr 2010

    "Heligoland" (2010) by Massive Attack

    They’ve been away for a while, but Massive Attack’s fifth studio album has definitely let them re-stake their claim as the kings of trip-hop. Even though Heligoland is their biggest departure from the true trip-hop sound, it’s equally as good as any of their previous work, if not better.

    Heligoland encapsulates everything that Massive Attack is, but manages to not sound the same as any of their previous works. The vocal work throughout the record is wonderful, featuring a whole array of notable guests such as Damon Albarn, Guy Garvey, Horace Andy and Tunde Adebimpe, as well as amazing delivery by the duo itself. As one would expect from a Massive Attack record, the production is sublime. Eerie noises stand out, but don’t detract from the creepy and depressive music. There are the weird beats and rhythms, strange melodies, and clever use of repetition that we’ve all come to look forward to from Massive Attack.

    But this isn’t pure trip hop. There’s not as many slow, chilled songs, and much less (if any) record scratching and eerie, drawn out vocals. This works in their favour, however, as it prevents them from being another washed up 90’s band, opening them up to a new audience. While there’s no one definitive stand-out track, the whole album works, and each and every track on its own. To put it very simply, everything just sounds plain great.

    The lyrics are great and somehow manage to not become cheesy. It’s their simplicity that works in their favour, the fact that they can get the message across in as few words as possible, and can be sung with a perfect melody to accompany the song. They seem as though they were written not for the words, but for how the words sound - their rhymes, tones, structure, length, etc. But that doesn’t lessen the quality of the lyrics themselves. They’re still clever and fitting, blanketing the whole record with the perfect lyrical theme of love, distance and isolation.

    Heligoland is a more than welcome release from one of the best groups in the last twenty years. Head-bobbing and interest-grabbing, it’ll keep you listening, most probably on repeat, for a long time to come.

    8.4
    Choice tracks: Pray For Rain; Splitting The Atom; Girl I Love You; Saturday Come Slow; Atlas Air
    If you like: 
    Portishead; Tricky

    18 Apr 2010

    "Screamworks: Love In Theory And Practice, Chapters 1-13" (2010) by HIM

    It’s no wonder that the majority of HIM’s fan base is made up of pre-teen girls. But it is a wonder that the same people that are completely against emo pop groups such as Fall Out Boy are into HIM. They really aren’t that different at all. A lot of the time, HIM gets called a metal band. HIM, metal band? Fuck off. Screamworks is a work of pure emo pop. The only people that call HIM a metal band are their fans - people who like to think of themselves as metalheads, but don’t enjoy real metal, so they’ve found an alternative which they think is just as cool.

    If you want very cheesy lyrics set against even cheesier music, then you’ve come to the right place. That’s all there is on Screamworks. Bad riffs make up the majority of this record, alongside pretty poor vocals, lousy electronics and crappy, clichéd guitar solos. “We’ll drift along this river of sadness until we feel no pain”. Thirteen tracks at nearly fifty minutes is too long, especially for a record full of lame pop songs.

    To be fair, Screamworks does what it sets out to do. I’m sure it will satisfy even the loudest screaming teenage girl. There’s plenty of heartbreak, loss and loneliness to go around on this record. Some can pull off sad emotions with perfection and honesty, and, some can’t. It’s a pity that HIM fall into this “can’t” category - it just doesn’t seem authentic. As I said, it’s enough for any HIM fan, but for anyone who isn’t preconditioned to their music, it’s not good enough. The lyrics are purely cringe-worthy.

    The songs sound as if they were written by a machine, not by a human. Everything is so clean and perfect. Screamworks, just because of its themes, should be dirty and gritty, but instead it’s a crisply-produced emo pop record. Unless you’re a hardcore HIM/emo pop fan, it’s really not recommended.

    3.9
    Choice tracks
    : Scared To Death; Dying Song
    If you like: Fall Out Boy; early My Chemical Romance