Now and again their are albums released that really strike a chord with us and reach somewhere that may feel uncomfortable and unsettling and make us question the real purpose of its content. This week we listened to the new album by Lana Del Rey and question just to that. Read our review, listen to the album again and make up your own mind. On an equal par of confrontation of another kind is the new release of White Lung delivering a short but powerful album that needs to be read about to be understood as more than just a punk release. On a lighter note, Young Liars release an album full of good times and summery dream pop and share the stage with Donovan Blanc and their debut, an album that will take you on a trip back to the good old days (we are told). While The Antlers continue their suspenseful journey into melancholia with their most recent addition to an already powerful and emotive back catalogue, with the album entitled Familiars.
Artist_ Lana Del Rey
Album Title_ Ultraviolence
Genre_ Dream Pop, Ambient, Shoegaze, Pop, Downtempo
Moments Of_ Adele, Mazzy Star, Sky Ferreira
Stand Out_ Shades of Cool
It turns out that Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach produced much of this record – and that’s totally believable when you listen to the lazy, ominous ambience that compliments Lana Del Rey’s amazing voice so well. Apart from that however, Del Rey’s Ultraviolence is an album that is both disturbing and tragic; desperate in its loneliness and really pretty fucking awful in its relationship advice, it’s the disappointingly copycat follow-up to the similar sad-pretty-girl shtick of Born To Die.
It really shouldn’t play such a large part in my reviews, but the image and social presence of artists seems almost necessary to disseminate the noises they make. Context can enrich music; after all, on the most basic level, what is the point of the sexy frontman of a band if not an identity to paste on the music they make?
But this week’s artist is tricky – to what extent do we take the image of the artist as an important factor in listening to the music? Particularly when, like Lana Del Rey, the image can damage the beauty of the music she has created.
I want to be pro-Lana. I want to be able to say that women should be able to create an image to present to the world without being policed by anybody, whether that be a positive, negative, sexualised, prim or whatever, it is an image she has a right to embody. But there is something in Del Rey’s latest creation – Ultraviolence – that is quite scary in its hell-bent self-destructive imagery. And not just self-destruction, but willing destructiveness of a woman in the hands of a man. Which is too bad, because musically, this album is a triumph.
From the opening deep reverberations of Cruel World, this album has no low point – lyrics aside. Del Rey’s vocals flutter and dip over a rich and perfectly produced blend of instruments, wah-wahs and twangs work without sounding revivalist… basically I really love her work.
Shades of Cool is where Del Rey really shows of the sweetness and richness of her voice. Check out the video clip (above) that goes with it – she manages, like with all her clips, to create the visuals that parallel her music flawlessly, from the melancholy beauty of Shades of Cool to the romantic grittiness of West Coast. But lyrically, this desperate loneliness that she manages to weave throughout the album is almost sleazy. It would be funny if it wasn’t so pitiful, and frankly, in pretty bad taste. Some examples of classic Del Rey lyrics; Are you gonna hurt me now / Are you gonna hurt me later?, He hit and it felt like a kiss, and my personal favourite for wallowing in self-pity Don’t come through babe / You never do / I’m pretty when I cry. It’s a tragically overdone, blown up image – of a woman that mourns over men who treat her horribly, endures loneliness and depression, all while managing to stay devastatingly beautiful and sexy – stretched into an album concept.
Is this an authentic image? If it is – a question this article poses – then I truly feel sorry for Lana, she is obviously incredibly lonely and miserable, and I sincerely hope that she hasn’t experienced violence in a relationship or the devastating effects of mental illness. If it is however, merely an image, then it is seriously fucked; to perpetuate these ideas as romanticised melancholy when real women are trapped in abusive relationships is not only bad taste, it is damaging to anyone’s perception of a healthy relationship.
Artist _The Antlers
Label_ Anti-, Transgressive
Genre_Indie Rock, Folk, Dream pop
Moments Of_ Youth Lagoon, Sigur Ros, Junip, Beaches
Stand Out_Hotel, Doppleganger
Over the last 8 years The Antlers has transitioned from a solo act, producing lo-fi bedroom folk music, into an orchestrated indie rock band, with Peter Silberman leading the show from day one. Silberman’s vocals are evident throughout the discography, however their sound has become more defined and well recognised since drummer, Michael Lerner and multi-instrumentalist, Darby Cicci joined. Familiar’s is the bands 5th full-length album release, tied together with soothing vocals, piano, slide guitar, drums and rich with the sound of trumpets.
Familiars is a slow paced, pleasurable album that allowed me to reflect, and emotionally connect. The album may require some patient listening as each song is contained, rolling onto the next without interrupting the steady musical flow. There is no break down beat, or bursting at the seams moments here. But, if you open yourself to the music it has the ability to release emotions, and having listened to it at the right time it was beautiful, inspiring and comforting. It’s all about circumstance and timing.
Being in company and not the right state of mind, it made sense to stop Familiars half-way through the first track after I realised that this was an album I should tuck away and listen to it in my own time and in the comfort of my own home.
Silberman founded The Antler’s and determined the sound and direction from the very start. After the release of various solo projects, he integrated two more band members and various instruments to enrich their sound, continuing to successfully express his emotions and touch on confronting issues through music.
Hospice (2009) told the story of an emotionally abusive relationship, set in a cancer ward. Burst Apart (2011) focused on dying relationships, and 3 years later, Familiars compares the disconnect between your past and present self. There is no evidence of stagnant jumping from verse to chorus. Each track on the album is poetic, as each sentence rolls onto the next, somehow resembling or reminding me of a lullaby or even a nursery rhyme.
However a lovely introduction to the album, the first track Palace is not my favourite. The next track Doppelganger is the underdog for me, a song about confronting parts of yourself that you fear the most. A soundtrack for a sad, scary movie. The bass, keyboard and horn set the pace of the song, then Silberman steps in with a slightly adjusted hoarse and raspy voice, almost like he’s hunchbacked, creeping through each word like he’s trying to creep out the listener. Further into the track, he increases his pitch and starts singing, “And now he’s howling, but I’m muted by the horror”. His voice is ghostlike, showing off his impressive vocal range. The consistent light tapping of the drum in the background lifts the song a little, but does not amount to anything more than a backbeat.
Hotel is the more obvious standout. The instruments are uplifted and help shift the mood, sounding really refreshing after the beautifully haunting, but a slightly draining previous track. Silberman also goes for it a bit more in Hotel, drawing out his vocals and teaming it with catchy melodic guitar riffs, tinkering piano keys and the same unobtrusive drum beat to tie it all together.
So if you haven’t already heard the album, get your hands on Familiars and separate yourself, find a comfortable space, absorb the album and let your mind run free…
Album Title_ Donovan Blanc
Label_ Captured Tracks
Genre_ Alternative Rock
Moments Of_ America, Grizzly Bear
Stand Out_ Hungry A Long Time, Without A Thing To Doubt
Former members of Honeydrum Raymond Schwab and Jospeph Black have come to the party with a new moniker and few fresh, pop – tastic tricks up their sleeve. Their current incarnation Donovan Blanc proffers a veritable mish – mash of nostalgic scapes, all in generously appropriate measure. Homages to the heyday of classic rock collide with modern production for surprisingly impressive first effort.
One of the many beauties of blogging for The Lamb is that I often find myself flailing hopelessly in the deep end. Weekly, we get to choose from an array of artists and at times, because I am oft in recovery mode from some shameless bender and subsequently slow off the block, I find myself in the company of an artist I usually know absolutely nothing about. But the beauty in that is, more often than not, I find myself enamored of a creative that I might never have looked at twice.
And thus this week, ‘twas no different. In my classic fashion, I was the last cab off the rank (was a great weekend though) and assigned what I assumed seemingly, looked like another self-indulgent come – up hipster, fly by night pop duo. But once this baby was on blast courtesy of my Black Mumba (that’s my beloved ipod guys, and really the only thing that remotely constitutes a relationship at this point in my life) my pretentious, completely unfounded notions withered, and once again, I was made to eat my words.
Donovan Blanc’s self titled EP is an astute, well-written and thought provoking first effort and I positively loved doing this review. Many a chord progression on this album hold a nostalgic, transportive quality that harks back to the soft rock come psychedelic nuances of the 70s. All the nomenclature of the era is safely in place, punctuated with some of the shamelessly, shiny affectations of modern production.
First track on the album is Girlfriend, a broody and melodically stirring affair that flirts in minor chords and pensive reflection. As a prelude to the rest of the album, I found this track to be an appropriate sampling on my palette as a preview of things to come. Second up was Hungry A Long Time (quite possibly my fave) is a capricious, upbeat track filled with percussive gusto and old school charm. I couldn’t help but make comparisons to America whilst listening to this one, and also perhaps some Empire of The Sun action as well, certain cadences felt very familiar. There’s a good dose of synth too which, as I have mentioned repeatedly, will always get my vote. Without a Thing To Doubt had an Isley Brothers feel on the intro, which was a very welcome surprise and a very unexpected nod to classic soul and R & B.
I was taken places sonically that had me perplexed yet delighted (a remote albeit generally foreign sensation). Minha Menina is the first single released, a melancholy, lilting ditty (and I say ditty because it seems entirely appropriate and something they might say in the time period which this music truly belongs) complete with psychedelic flutes and gloomy, inflective riffs. When You Believed Me almost had an early Michael McDonald groove, a slightly bloated bass line and a sparse narrative to accompany some dreamy, disaffected keys.
In short, a stellar, soaring first effort from these two. I could not recommend enough, and if you dig the nostalgia of yesteryear, are inclined towards the musings of Grizzly Bear, America, The Monkees, or even just like some good music to zone to whilst enjoying some zoom on the weekend, this baby is most definitely for you. A dazzling first offering, where they get the balance between old and new just right.
Artist_ Young Liars
Album Title_Tidal Waves
Genre_Indie Pop, Dream Pop, Synth Pop
Moments Of_ Washed Out, Bombay Bicycle Club, Local Natives, Foster The People
Stand Out_Night Window
Young Liars are a pop-making quartert out of Vancouver who despite playing together for over 5 years and releasing only one EP some years back, it is only now that the band release their debut album Tidal Wave, an album that simmers with catchy teen pop tunes. Providing all the necessary ingredients of drums, bass, guitar and quirky synths, this is an album of familiarity, nothing ground-breaking but will surely win the hearts of a more recent generation.
I hear Vancouver is quite beautiful, in fact I believe it is ranked one of the top 5 cities to live for quality of life, next to Melbourne of course, let us not forget. I hate to say it (this is my view of course) that Vancouver aint really a city that offered me much in the way of building my musical collection apart from Destroyer and The New Pornographers. If I hadn’t taken heart to bands like Local Natives and Bombay Bicycle Club I think I would have happily added Young Liars to my collection of great new bands. The problem is just that, they sound all too familiar to bands that have come before them.
Opening Track, Odyssey of Love indicates a band that have sealed a sound that works for them, slightly drawn in emotion but full of rhythmic syncopation and a sense of swirling atmospheres that carries this opener through a few quite wonderful genres. It just doesn’t offer anything more than what others who stood before them have offered. Where Local Natives (and the band should be happy for the comparison) play each song with such effortless urgency and passion, Young Liars doesn’t have the ommphh to make it memorable.
Equally, there is not one bad track on this album, tracks like Young Again, U-Dream and Lovely and Wild should not shy away from Single releases with some great production behind them, instantly catchy verses that dip and peak in an atmospheric progression that would translate quite brilliantly live and get an audience shifting.
Single Night Window shows no change of formula with shuffling drums and rumbling basslines set against Jordan Raine boyish and rather cute lyrics about waiting outside of windows of a girl he likes and throwing pebbles at her window. Its rather cheesy stuff and instantly I felt old and a little American teen flick, it kind of ruins what is a musically great track. Then again, it goes to prove that is a band that just don’t give a shit about a late 30 something opinionated music head, instead, playing to that girl in the front row who reaches out to get a feel for the dirty trainer of one of the Young Liars.
The more gentle and laid back ambience of tracks like Tiny Creatures, Blooming Hearts and SuperTramp touch on the mature side of the band both lyrically and relaxed feel of the music, not just in sound but its delivery, these are 3 tracks that don’t try so hard and appear to come from the heart. But you know what, there is no hurry, I need to lower my tone and appreciate that bands start young, want to vulnerable and don’t want to grow up. If all music was to be deep, overly considered and just plain old serious, what are the youth today to do, to move to.
Remove 15 years from my life, have me write this review as a 24 year old (actually remove 20 years and make me 19 years) and this would be a contender for a Top 10 debut release for 2014. So how does one lamb score such an album? Easy, as a bitter overly opinionated man heading toward middle-age, it gets 4.5 tired lambs, BUT as a 19 year old go-getting music lover of all things pop it gets a hipster 8.
Artist_ White Lung
Album Title_ Deep Fantasy
Genre_ Punk, Hardcore, Punk Rock
Moments Of_ Perfect Pussy, Metz, Japandroids
Stand Out_ Drown With The Monster, Face Down, Snake Jaw
Canadian punk act White Lung present their album Deep Fantasy with a kick in the jaw and an invasive ear worm, leaving you with a serious case of tinnitus and some random body bruises for good measure. Hailing from Vancouver, B.C., the groups’ third album has been impressing critics around the world and most recently, leaving a lasting impression on those lucky enough to witness their live show here on Australian shores. These girls (and guy) definitely know how to make a no-fuss punk album, storming by in just over 20 minutes.
Lead by blonde powerhouse Mish Way, the explosive drum machinery of Anne Marie Vassiliou and garage-punk-on-steriods guitar work of Kenneth William (also recently with new bass player Hether Fortune of Bay Area post punk band Wax Idols), White Lung are here to remind you how simple but powerful guitar music can be so exhilarating. On trying to describe this band’s sound to my housemate recently when returning home late one Saturday with a shiny new purchase of Deep Fantasy on vinyl (coloured!), the first thing I that came to my head was “It’s not really night time music”. More realistically, not exactly wind down music. Despite this, we both wanted to hear it. I put it on the turntable, played it at standard 33 and a third only to find some odd drone black metal coming from the speakers. But of course! Such a short album has to be played at 45rpm! Ahhh, that’s sounds more like it!
White Lung take influence from many late 80’s and 90’s American punk and hardcore acts such as Corrosion of Conformity, Wipers, Venom and The Descendants, but also share many riot grrrl loves, with due thanks to heroes such as Hole and L7. Being fairly new to discovering White Lung, my first comparisons and contemporaries come in the form of other ‘hardcore’ acts with female singers such as Perfect Pussy, but Way’s singing is more melodic, forceful and emotive. Another personal idol and likening to White Lung (I guess mostly in energy less directly in sound) is Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I can imagine myself jumping around the bathroom getting ready to go out on a Saturday night to Face Down, as I would have many (!!!) years ago to Date With the Night from YYY’s 2003 breakthrough album Fever To Tell. As too with YYY’s, lyrically White Lung are as powerful as their sound. Way, who holds a creative writing degree with a major in feminism, explains her own personal demons of body dysmorphia and the effects it can cause mentally and physically on the track Snake Jaw. Which can be surprising for some; people have described Way’s stage presence and social media personality as ‘intimidating’, certainly White Lung in the live setting are a force to be reckoned with. In reality, everyone has their own ups and downs, and as Way said in a recent interview with Rookie magazine, ‘I think that’s just being human.’
As a band who has really grown to learn about themselves and each other, this has definitely reflected in the quality of production, song writing, their skills at their instruments and honing their individuality and presence as a group. It would be pretty hard to listen to this album (and even harder if you saw them live, knowing nothing about them previously) from start to finish and not be moved in some way or another. Even if you are the kind of person who is more the ‘night time music’ type, there is a lot to appreciate about here in this album. Play it loud, forget your critics and go out and have a great time.