Thursday, July 16, 2009

New CD Reviews in The Scope + Fiery Furnaces and Swords

Well the new issue is out and they ran a couple of my CD Reviews this week. But I have a couple of other ones I did for them that they never ran so I figure I'd stick em' up here. In other Scope related news, Elling got me to conduct an interview with Banjo picker and worldly music collaborator Jayme Stone, he's playing in Bowring Park on Saturday as part of the Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival. Everyone should go check him out, you can read the interview here. Anyway, here are some reviews:
The Dead Weather and Precious Fathers ran in the Scope and Fiery Furnaces and Swords did not.

The Dead Weather
The debut album of Jack White's new supergroup/side project The Dead Weather is a bit of a mixed bag. Featuring members of The Kills, The Raconteurs and Queens of the Stone Age. Jack White's duties take an uncharacteristic step away from the spotlight by (mostly) sticking with the drums while backing up singer Alison Mosshart, although he is the producer and co-writes 7 of the songs so the focus is never completely away from him. There is plenty of swagger and bravado soaked into this album and if nothing else Jack White as a producer is a master of getting guitars to sound wickedly bestial, but here the riffs miss just as often as they hit. The greasy high plains groove of "60 feet tall" and the oppressive grind of "New Pony" attack the body in just the right way while Rote rockers like "Treat me like your Mother" and "I Cut Like a Buffalo" come across as an uncomfortable fit of Rage against the Machine and Black Mountain. Bottom line, The high points of this album compare favorably to most of White Stripes catalog but the low points reek of "disposable side project"

Precious Fathers
Alluvial Fan
Vancouver based instrumental band Precious Fathers' new album "Alluvial Fan" is a dense soup of cavernous guitars, grandiose swells and dramatic dynamics, but it never strays too far from a warm emotional center. The band constructs it's songs from slow tidal crescendos and wide screen cinema-scope releases, always with a steady driving pulse behind it moving it forward. While the album is decidedly on the introspective and meditative side of the Tortoise/Do Make Say Think canon of epic post-rock, the album never feels morose or overly melancholic. It's hard to describe the sound without using the word "cinematic" or imagining wide open vistas while you listen to it, the songs go for gradual understated shifts as opposed to sudden shocks and if there is a major problem with the record it's that it lacks the immediacy and the show-stopping technical showiness to grip the listener fully on the first listen. This album takes time to fully digest and reveal itself but if you're the patient type of listener then it's well worth the effort.

The Fiery Furnaces
I'm Going Away
After the success of 2004's "Blueberry Boat", a strange, and catchy pop opus that won over the hearts of hipsters and music geeks all over, The Fiery Furnaces have spent the last 5 years steadily releasing albums that perversely try to alienate themselves from their audience. Although I admired their willingness to experiment wildly and to keep challenging their fan base's expectations, I just couldn't actually find much to enjoy in the albums. "I'm Going Away" is an excellent return to form. In this album the songs come first and formost and the band hasn't sounded as natural and happy in ages. While there is plenty of weirdness and progressive flourishes present, this time none of it comes across as a hollow gimmick. Matthew Friedberger's trademark excessive wordplay is thankfully reigned (a bit) and the songs are allowed to have proper Hooks(!). The Friedberger sibling have finally stopped being so concerned with the avant-garde and made an album that is actually charming and enjoyable from start to finish.

album: [Monument of] Swords
This is the type of music I like to listen to on headphones while walking around a Wal~Mart the day before Mothers day or while waiting in outpatients at St Claires for five hours. The kind of music that expresses and transposes your epic existential disgust for societies most dehumanizing institutions while it hypnotizes you in it's oppressive waves of panoramic, Teutonic brutality and incomprehensible screaming about mythological warriors. This is metal but it's not very easy to headbang to. The riffs are slooooow and relentlessly churning in a thick gravy of dissonance with only brief clean strummed respites to break it up. [Monument of] SWORDS gets the formula of epic discontent just right for those days you'd sooner push thumbtacks into your skull then go to Services Canada.