Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Cheap Shots

Helplessness Blues
Fleet Foxes

The first thing I'd say about the sophomore Fleet Foxes album is that it's gorgeous, and it is. Astonishingly so. But I don't like it when that's the first thing I'd say about an album. They have a beautiful, refined folk sound all their own, and their writing is good. But when you apply that breathtaking vocal sheen to everything on an album, it bleeds together. I had the same problem with their debut, but at least I catch myself humming bits of it every now and then. When what I remember best is the acid-jazz sax freak out in the middle of a ten minute song towards the end of the album, it serves to remind that walking away thinking "God, that was gorgeous" doesn't mean I'll be walking back again any time soon.

Gloss Drop

Math rock doesn't even sound inviting. I rarely go for it. But, with Battles, I have a history. I bought 2007's Mirrored during a brief phase where I was trying to like weird music. This was the same time frame in which I purchased my first Wilco album, and Brian Wilson's Smile. It was an awkward time. I picked up Gloss Drop much as I still pick up a new Wilco album. Like it or not, I feel I owe it to my younger self. Gloss Drop is, as one would expect, a technically impressive album. It has moments that are really enjoyable, but it is mostly music for the sake of music. For me or not (it's not), there's nothing wrong with that. Still, what I ask is clearly not impossible. Gloss Drop made me go back and listen to Mirrored again, and I tell you what, that is an impressive and enjoyable album.

House of Balloons
The Weeknd

In this day and age, is there a difference between a mix tape, an EP, and an LP? Debatable. This is technically the first, though it could easily be any of them. It's long enough. And it's good enough. Imagine if early-period Portishead were just slightly more ethereal, frequently used the word "shawty", and sang about doing lots and lots of cocaine. Not as much of a stretch as you'd think. And, like Portishead, The Weeknd never give you the high. Just the aftermath.

I learned about them from Pitchfork, which right away tells me I should be suspicious. But, honestly, I really like the cover. And I appreciate what they're doing here. A throwback, writing simple and infectious songs about relationships. I'll give them time. It will either be their proving or their undoing. Even on the less-impressive tracks, there is a youthful hum and vigor here, particularly on opener "Abducted" and closer "Rave On," which is, lets be honest, what pop is all about. But I'm not so sure there's anything else, and you can't live off of hum and vigor forever.

No comments: