The National – Trouble Will Find Me
When the National became what we could arguably call “present’s world greatest indie band”, a classification Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati group (tks, P4k) achieved among some folks with their widely acclaimed 2010 album High Violet, they’ve sort of crossed the river of relative “pop/rock starness”. That can be tough, can lead to get your own fans to stop from being your fans, can lead, in a band like the National, to an extreme, pernicious mainstreamization, to be sloughy about your song writing and music composition. Even if some people, like that friend of mine (no pun intended) who claimed that despite being a huge fan of Sad Songs for Dirty Lovers and Alligator, and “all tolerant” about Boxer (that enormous collection of catchy – though kinda sad – songs), thinks High Violet is awful, its drumming is unbearable, et cetera, et cetera, the fact is that a record like that only happens once in a blue moon. High Violet is the sad (and officier) version of Seinfeld, the sitcom, of the 21st century, in the form of a music record. Also, the National’s evolution with time is unbelievably well, I dare say flawlessly planned. They have grown as a band with the years, just the way most of their records do the more and more one listens to them (Alligator or its little brother Cherry Tree EP are, probably, the finest example of it), and their strategy is a good one: each time a new record comes out, a new sound, a new topic is added on top of what we already knew.
On Trouble Will Find Me, it’s probably that baroque, basso continuo-alike sound, listened right when the album starts, with a great, strong, proper ballad, “I Should Live in Salt” – one of the nationalest songs in the record, too.
Some (yeah, in this text we only care about people who like the band – or at least don’t hate all the National’s work) may be disappointed with the absence of the roughness, especially on the lyrics they had us used to, but, at the same time, I believe some of that roughness was rather naïve, being fare to say that Matt Berninger, even though still able to produce little amazing drunken phrases like “I wish everybody knew / what’s so great about you”, has matured a bit, which is, sorry for the cliché, not better or worse, it’s just different.
On “Demons”, first song officially put out, the repetition of a boring and meaningless verse (“I stay down / with my demons”) sort of spoils the mood of the listener, right on the second track. Fortunately, “Don’t Swallow the Cap”, with the well-known drumming of Bryan Devendorf, introducing higher than usual pitched lead vocals, comes not to show up as the album’s best moment, yet as a very good tune, with an excellent guitar work. The National do know how to rock and roll, and it’s songs like this one or, and especially, “Sea of Love” (with that bass – Scott is great – inherited directly from Boxer) and “Graceless” (the best on TWFM, a song which has had the awful luck of being born in the shadow of a similar, and even greater, one: “Bloodbuzz Ohio”) are proof more than enough of it.
Assuming a bit of taste, even the biggest fan (and for credibility sake I have to admit I am one) knows this is the record of expendable songs. “Fireproof” is one of those songs (srsly, Cherry Tree is there, it’s amazing, no point on overdoing it), and, nearer to the end, “Pink Rabbits”, a pretty but way toooooo slushy (too mnstrm! that’s what I was talking about earlier) slow which isn’t able to convince – even with those solid, as usual, words here and there.
Still, the record isn’t far from great. Sorry, it’s only the truth. The level on the best songs already mentioned or ones like “I Need My Girl” (Dessner brothers are the best guitarrists on the indie world right know, I assure you) with the sweetest, simplest melody and amazing lyrics; or the not less beautiful, “Gospel” (the outstanding song that closes 2007 Boxer) sound-alike “Heavenfaced” – a wonderful instrumental arrangement, from the guitar to the keyboards, highly elaborated, ever growing, not the best but doubtlessly the loveliest. And, like returning to the beginning, so long ago, of an American americana-rock band some people thought was the successor of Silver Jews on 2001 The National, “This Is the Last Time” is nothing else than a bridge from “American Mary” to 2013. On “Slipped”, an enormous piece of songwriting, Matt apologizes for everything (something he’s so fond of doing) and states that doesn’t need “any help to be breakable”; it’s the band’s lead singer telling the listeners nothing has actually changed. “Humiliation” suffers a bit from the problem of being eclipsed by so many better songs this band has done in the past, but “Hard to Find” is, once again, different, in a good way, it contains the sweetness that is the most valuable acquisition of the National in this process of evolution. All in all, with all the (objective) odds against them, they “failed to fail”. Which is great.
Another friend of mine (again, no pun intended) trusted them with her skin. I, by now, am fairly sure I’d trust them with my life.
Atoms For Peace - Amok
I’m probably just throwing whatever indie cred I have left out of this twenty-three story window we call modern life, but let me say this: I like RHCP. I love Flea. I love that he once auditioned for Public Image Ltd. (which, incidentally, is a band that I love). I love his catchy, funky bass lines. I love it he’s still going strong despite playing for a band that has gone way past their prime (oh, how I fucking love - and miss - Californication’s absolute lack of pretension and great tunes to sing along to). So, when I found out Atoms For Peace would be a supergroup consisting of both him and Thom Yorke (whom I like, not love, but respect), along with some other guys no one cares about (just kidding), I was excited to hear what could possibly come out of their epic brainstorming. Amok, however, kind of failed to deliver - not that it is a bad record, it is actually a pretty great record, but I was expecting something funkier, something that would blow my mind away (then again, I should know hype is a very dangerous thing), and not just The King Of Limbs 2.0. Oh, well. I guess I’ll have to settle for dancey tunes such as “Before Your Very Eyes”, for the overall dub techno feel I get from this record, and for Yorke’s vocal take on “Judge, Jury And Executioner”, depressing-but-not-in-a-cut-your-wrists-right-fucking-now-kind-of-way, depressing in the sense that you could be chilling to it at the beach during sunset, like in a Café del Mar soundtrack or something of the sort. I like, not love, Amok; but I’m glad it came out and gave a reason for Yorkey and Fleayey to carry on with their rockstar lives past forty, that it gave them - especially Flea - a special kind of artistic credibility outside their regular bands. In a way, Amok might very well get some hipsters thinking, man, Flea’s pretty good, isn’t he? Why the hell did I hate RHCP in the first place? Why the fuck do I hate fun? Why isn’t James Blake in here?
Having been born in Venezuela and living homeless in the U.S., suffering from a drug addiction and embracing an almost militant homosexuality, it would seem that Yva Las Vegass had no other choice than to be a punk in the stricto sensu of that term, ignoring all its musical connotations and fashion aesthetics that the late 1970’s brought it. She was brought up to everyone’s ears’ attention when a post-Cobain Krist Novoselic formed Sweet 75 in 1995, a now forgotten alt-rock band she was the singer for, after the bassist’s wife found her busking in the streets of an apathetic - because all grunge is apathetic - Seattle. I Was Born In A Place Of Sunshine And The Smell Of Ripe Mangoes is not apathetic in the least. It is a defiant record, a portrait of everything a gay woman of colour has been through in a foreign land to her, where deviation from the WASP norm is seen (even today) with an utmost disdain; a record where folk tunes meet latino tunes, where spanish is sung not because it is her first language but because it will piss off whitey; an album filled with passion, filled with sadness, filled with a guerrila’s spirit («I believe the Civil Rights Movement just wasn’t enough», says she on “Crack Whore”), filled with that kind of paradoxical regret you feel when something went bad in your life and you’re still proud of having experienced it, and, most importantly, a joie de vivre you simply won’t find anywhere else, unless you, like her, are a punk, an exception to the rule. I Was Born…, because of Yva’s life story, and because songs like “Mariposas”, “Diente Flojo” and “Mentiras Cuento” deserve their place in the rock pantheon, is the best record of 2012 you’ll probably only have listened to in 2013. It deserved more. So much more. But its mere existence is already - in her eyes, probably, and in our ears, definitely - a victory.
So.ma - Fuga EP (2012)
Fuga may be So.ma’s debut release, but none of the band members can be called a novice. Raising from the ashes of the mid-00s Portuguese powerhouse Madcab, which included now-well established musicians Luís Costa or Azevedo Silva, So.ma’s first EP follows the footsteps of said now defunct act and drinks from the same water that made Oceansize’s brand of neoprogrock (whatever that means) so popular in the latter years of last decade. You can stream and download the five tracks for free on their Bandcamp. Just follow the widget below.
Sacred, holy, to put it in words
HOLY SHIT THIS IS AN ALBUM REVIEW
I spend a lot of time on the Internet, enough to call it my home, real life being more akin to a parasitic leech (is this redundant? I dunno lol) that sucks my blood dry and prevents me from doing what I enjoy the most: procrastinating. And because I spend a lot of time on the Internet, and I happen to enjoy music very much, I come across a ton of different bands of different genres which I listen to as many times as I feel like and then, pollice verso, let them live inside my HDD or delete them forever and never speak of them again. With Italy’s Sacri Cuori is different: after listening to it I just had to delete their newest record, Rosario, which I had
downloaded illegally purchased on a blog somewhere, because I felt incredibly guilty over not owning this LP; it is that good. Sacri Cuori are a four-piece who make music best suited for westerns or road movies, a mixture of blues, folk and rock n’ roll - some would call it true Americana, but not me, ‘cause I’m European and I stereotypically hate those bastards (this is sarcasm btw), and because track number two, a beautiful guitar song, reminded me of our own Dead Combo, which is probably the single most important Portuguese band of the last decade and if you haven’t listened to them you really should, they were on No Reservations and everything. Anyhow: Rosario is a stellar sophomore effort by a band which I hadn’t heard of until now, and with whom I became completely infatuated. “Silver Dollar” and “Garrett, East” are amazing songs, where this beautiful female whisper - Google leaves me short on information so I don’t know who she is - takes their dreamy folk tunes to the heights of a (great) band such as Mazzy Star, whereas “Teresita”, a version of which you can hear on Youtube below, is a catchy quasi-mariachi song which could serve as an entry point to the Italians’ music. An amazing record overall which you should buy, if you have any self-esteem. Seriously, I’m totally not overreacting.
Overall grade: Send a promo/10