Album Review Music

Cal’s Music Review Quick Hits

James Blake – Overgrown    (2013)

When the casiotone beat kicks in at the beginning of the self-titled opener of Overgrown you know that James Blake is back but maybe he has shifted a little.  While all the elements are there from his debut full length (beats, piano and his distinct voice), Overgrown sounds more confident and more complete.  It takes much less time for the hooks and harmonies to saturate themselves to your brain and as with his S/T album, it rewards repeat listens.  This sounds closer to an Antony and The Johnsons album than it does his debut which serves Blake really well.  I Am Sold sounds as if was plucked from the b-sides of I Am A Bird Now but Blake lets the beats and the ambiance build the collage instead of running around on the piano keys.  DLM incorporates more piano while layering soul harmonies in the background and while it reminds us of the S/T cut Give Me My Month, it is a lot fuller and ultimately has more impact.  The voices that fill some of the last notes of the song are haunting like the oncoming rapture without the feeling of forced emotion.   This takes us to the album’s strongest track Life Round Here which in the wrong hands would have been turned into a generic radio hip hop song but instead it oscillates between a deep soul cut and groove piece.  There are several interesting moments and the RZA sung “experiment” Take A Fall For Me works more than it doesn’t.  James Blake has struck a fine balance between his digital experiments and his softer, dare I say it, piano ballad side.  There are only 2 or so blah tracks on a stellar album and there is a great possibility you will see Overgrown on several year end lists.     Score: 9.0/10

Fat History Month – Bad History Month   (2013)

Fat History Month are a duo that exceed the normal confines of a guitar and drums band.  Silly name aside, Bad History Month is a heavy dose of late 90’s/00’s indie rock nostalgia.  Melding songs in the same disjointed guitar line ways that The Joggers did but with vocal melodies that avoid too many off-notes.  They are mathy at times, pop at times and ass kicking always.  There is plenty of distortion without turning into a hard rock album and enough hooks to have you pushing the repeat button often.  Everyday is Christmas is a fine example of how the brooding nature of their music nestles nicely with the cocksure bravado approach as if they are egging you on to rock out but they want you to do it with a grimace on your face.  There are many times you wonder if the songs are going to dissolve into a jangly mess but each song finds a steady footing, even if it takes a bit to get there.  Bald History Month wants to blow up in your face but it is the restraint that you gravitate to and at the 2:20 mark the bridge??, brings on some great guitar lines including a start/stop moment which builds to the finish.    Most duo’s sounds just like that and are very limited by lack of other musicians but Fat History Month fills every crevice with sound and has enough sonic variation to warrant many, many listens. Score: 8.5/10

The Men – New Moon   (2013)

I was pretty excited when The Men dropped their first single for New Moon.  It was fun, it was loud and the kinda excitement that I have been missing with the breakup of Wolf Parade and The Constantines.  Unfortunately New Moon is really none of those things.  Where it misses the mark is pretty obvious: For instance, the inclusion of a harmonica on Without A Face turns a great rocker into an annoying pile of rubble.  On The Brass, noise trumps any idea of development and you are left with just a wall of gray, which I thought they were beyond this level of generic.  The album isn’t completely devoid of good music with Freaky and I See No One they continue to pull out a great, early era Dinosaur Jr. act.  The slower acoustic songs Bird Song and Open The Door are decent ideas but sound half baked and that sums up most of the music on the album.  While I don’t think that The Men were playing it safe on their follow up to the highly reviewed Open Your Heart, I also think that they went far too basic with the song selection.  Songs like The Seed simply sound out of place stuffed between 2 hard rockers, but it also doesn’t fit better in another slot.  It is just generic filler material.  Water Babies which was the b-side to the Electric single, could have easily replaced a good half of the songs that made the album, which furthers my distaste for the album.      Score: 5.5/10

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