We’ve been waiting to see what Polyvinyl wheel out of their vault to celebrate their 20th Birthday and we were not disappointed. Julia Holter moves into writing movie scores while Letherette show how far they have matured as talented artists while Elephant Stone make their most palatable album yet, but at what cost?
Artist: Various Artists
Album: Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl
Genre: Indie / Rock / Experimental
Moments Of: Polyvinyl artists
Stand Outs: In Green / Never Meant / Hi, I Hear You Say / Since You Stole My Heart / Heart It Races
To mark its 20th birthday, the label Polyvinyl has released a compilation of tracks in which artists cover other artists on the label. Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl has just a slither of the talent on the indie labels roster, but that slither comes through with the goods.
The best thing about Polyvinyl plays Polyvinyl is that it never feels like anyone just “phones it in”. Despite none of these songs being their own, each track feels like it could be a part of an artist’s catalogue. Successfully blending the inherent charm and appeal of the original with the cornerstones of their own sound.
There are simply too many great covers on this release, and unfortunately, we can only touch on a few. ‘Hi’, originally by Xiu Xiu, covered by Deerhoof, give the experimental song a rock-infused kick. Pillar Point manage to touch a nostalgia nerve with ‘Heart it Races’, originally by Architecture In Helsinki, as they employ a more minimalist approach. Saturday Looks Good To Me’s song ‘Since You Stole My Heart also deserves a mention with its endearing jangle pop vibes.
The variety on Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl is immense. With 20 songs to indulge in, you’re likely to find something to gratify your sentimental and current sonic habits. Polyvinyl have done a fantastic job championing artists over the years, and on this compilation, it feels like each artist does the label justice. Also, if you’re searching for a bit more variety than the common Triple J ‘Like A Version’ which very rarely sees a deviation from the recycled hit machine formula, then Polyvinyl Plays Polyvinyl is where to look.
Artist: Julia Holter
Album: Bleed For This (Soundtrack)
Label: Milan Entertainment Inc.
Genre: Classical / Baroque Pop / Dance Pop
Moments Of: Julianna Barwick
Standouts: Fighting Duran / Vinny’s Triumph
Julia Holter has dipped her toe into the film industry as she creates the score for the most recent boxing flick Bleed For This. The soundtrack is a collection of 18 tracks chosen to accompany the story of Vinny Pazienza, an injured boxer meant for retirement but destined for a comeback in the ring.
First of all, it’s hard to judge one piece of work alone when it’s effects are so closely related to the execution of another. Holter’s additions to the soundtrack are no doubt atmospheric and contain the right mix of classical ambience that encourages emotional investment and a certain amount of introspection. In the case of ‘Bleed For This’ most likely about conviction, resilience and redemption. But in the end, the entire album feels disjointed and peculiar.
The beginning of the album consists of jagged 80’s glitz, bred for a triumphant boxing movie. It sets the tone, albeit a familiar one. It’s slightly cheesy, but it still feels like it belongs. That is until we reach the orchestral pieces from Holter halfway into the album which seem to apply to a totally different movie and contradict any of the themes of the first part of the album.
Holter’s music is filled with an abstract ambience that probably shouldn’t lend itself to the clear cut path of a redeeming boxing story. But she does a great job of creating a narrative that could apply to a movie, more likely a darker drama than Bleed For This. Unfortunately, in this case, your only as good as the sum of your parts and the beginning of Bleed For This seems to contradict any of the themes Holter aimed to create with her original pieces.
Album Title: Last Night on The Planet
Label: Ninja Tunes
Genre: Hip hop / House, Electro
Moments Of: Kaytranada / Gold Panda
Stand Out: Momma / Dog Brush
The sophomore LP can be quickly bracketed into an idealized understanding of “maturation.” Electronic duo Letherette have indeed updated their vast musical palette since their first album, adding more hip-hop and downtempo elements to their disco, house, and synth pop foundations.
Album opener ‘Momma’ sees a guest appearance from hip-hop wordsmith, Rejjie Snow. A slick choice from the electronic duo as the rapper sounds right at home throughout the entire two and half minute ballad. Filled with classic Letherette warm, lived-in beats and sample-centric approach. The groove intensive first single ‘Shanel’ see a duo looking to expand on their debut records tone with a more polished production and accessible sound.
Letherette isn’t always concerned with making you dance. Moments like ‘Bad sign’ flaunt their versatility with emotive tones and slower rhythms. These quieter, more introspective moments demonstrate a mode Lethertte are clearly comfortable in. The disco-tinged ‘Dog Brush’ see a fusion of joyous house beats and jumpy samples creating a warm and exuberant track that is endlessly playable. The album closer sees the duo merge several genres into one track. The futuristic tone and jumpy rhythms feel jumbled and overbearing, but return to a subdued synth orientated conclusion.
Last Night on The Planet is a solid improvement. The duo has created a masterful array of different vibes and genres that excel with a more polished production and cohesive sound.
Artist: Elephant Stone
Album Title: Ship of Fools
Label: Burger Records
Genre: Synth Pop
Moments Of: Kaiser Cheifs / Kasabian
Stand Out: Manipulator / Cast the First Stone
Formed in Montreal in 2009, SynthPop outfit Elephant Stone is the brainchild of vocalist, bassist, songwriter, and sitar player, Rishi Dhir. With a career spanning three full-length albums and one remix album, the band has shaped their most accessible work to date.
Elephant Stone’s readiness to switch things up serves them well on Ship for Fools. ‘Manipulator’ gets off to a fun start with its catchy chorus and edgy guitar riff intro. Don’t count on too many surprises as the album progresses with lead single ‘Where I’m Going’ staying within the boundaries of its genre with a continual bass line and synths that keep the song smooth but fails to reach any sought of crescendo. Dhir’s skillful baselines capture a masterful coming together of band mates in ‘Cast the First Stone’ epitomizing the album’s tone and rhythm.
The acoustic driven ‘Photograph’ shows the bands ability to create a sentimental yet radio-friendly ballad. The song bounces along confidently but loses its charm with its flat instrumentation that surrounds the quaint guitar strumming as Dhir bellows “As I stare at this photograph.” Moments like the disco-tinged ‘Love is a Spinning Wheel’ show a bare-bones synth pop creation that is both warm and easy to listen too.
Although Ship for Fools is somewhat innovative and adventurous compared to previous works, the group play it relatively safe in this release. The mixture of radio-friendly hits with modern rock roots see a group looking to rekindle the fire.