Categories :

Albums

CD$12.99

Electronic/Dance - Released May 17, 2010 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection Les Inrocks
Following up Sound of Silver was never going to be easy for LCD Soundsystem. There was so much positive reaction from music fans, the press, from everywhere, really, that almost any move James Murphy made was bound to be seen as inferior, or at the very least, flawed in some way. To his credit, he doesn’t try to do anything dramatically different on This Is Happening. There are no attempts to hit the top of the charts (a point made crystal clear in the song “You Wanted a Hit”); conversely, there are no attempts to dirty up the sound or make it more challenging. There are no radically new elements added to the LCD sound, nothing subtracted either. Murphy is definitely a savvy enough musician to know when things have gotten stale and need to be changed up; he at some point must have decided (correctly) that the time for a reboot hadn’t arrived yet for LCD. Another record of long, dancefloor friendly disco-fied jams mixed with punchy rockers and paced with a couple introspective midtempo ballads is still perfectly acceptable, especially when it’s as tightly arranged, energetically played, and thoughtfully constructed as Happening is. Murphy’s highly skilled production is all over the record, from the squelchy layers of synths, the dry punch of the drums, and the tricks and surprises that bring the songs to life, to the way he makes it sound like a live band when it’s just him (though there are the occasional people helping out, most notably Nancy Whang on backing vocals). And while there isn’t a song as staggeringly emotional as Silver’s “All My Friends,” or as simply and heartfelt as its N.Y.C. tribute “New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down,” Murphy continues to expand as a songwriter and lyricist. He’s still the master of deadly zingers ("Eat it Michael Musto/You’re no Bruce Vilanch") and hilarious streams of lyrical gems (all of “Drunk Girls”), but songs like the nakedly emotional "I Can Change" (which includes the sweetly romantic plea for someone to “bore me and hold me and cling to my arm”) and the insistently melancholy “Somebody’s Calling Me” show continued growth and impressive range. Of course, if you aren’t all that interested in lyrics, artistic growth, and feelings, you can just crank up songs like "One Touch," "Pow Wow," or "Home" real loud and dance. At heart, Murphy remains a dance music producer and these tracks reveal him at the top of his game. This Is Happening doesn’t quite reach the monumental heights of Sound of Silver, but it serves as an almost-there companion and further proof that LCD Soundsystem is one of the most exciting and interesting bands around in the 2000s. ~ Tim Sendra
CD$12.99

Rap/Hip-Hop - Released March 3, 2010 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions 4 étoiles Rock and Folk - 5/6 de Magic - The Qobuz Ideal Discography - Pitchfork: Best New Music
Gorillaz began as a lark but turned serious once it became Damon Albarn’s primary creative outlet following the slow dissolve of Blur. Delivered five years after the delicate whimsical melancholy of 2005’s Demon Days, Plastic Beach is an explicit sequel to its predecessor, its story line roughly picking up in the dystopian future where the last album left off, its music offering a grand, big-budget expansion of Demon Days, spinning off its cameo-crammed blueprint. Traces of Albarn’s Monkey opera can be heard, particularly in the hypnotic Mideastern pulse of “White Flag,” but Damon’s painstaking pancultural pop junk-mining no longer surprises -- when hip-hop juts up against Brit-pop, it’s expected -- yet it still has the capacity to delight no matter which direction the Gorillaz may swing. Lou Reed’s crotchety croak on “Some Kind of Nature” has the same kind of gravitational pull as Mos Def leading the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble through the intensely circling “Sweepstakes,” while the group reaches new heights of sparkling pop on “Superfast Jellyfish,” aided by the return of De La Soul -- the rappers who propelled “Feel Good Inc.” -- and an appearance from Gruff Rhys, the Super Furry Animals frontman who is an ideal fit for Gorillaz (possibly because SFA’s genre-bending pop and Pete Fowler artwork clearly paved the way for Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s collaboration). A common thread among all these tracks is that they find Albarn ceding the spotlight to his fellow musicians, preferring to be the puppetmaster behind the curtain, and Plastic Beach works best when he’s the composer and producer, finding hidden strengths within his guests -- having Mick Jones and Paul Simonon for the elastic title track, coaxing some powerful performances out of Bobby Womack -- but often when Albarn takes center stage his laconic drawl lets the air out of the balloon. Curiously, much of this arrives toward the beginning of the album, the record gaining momentum as it unspools, working toward its climax, but the overall album accentuates moody texture over pop hooks. This emphasis means Plastic Beach is the first Gorillaz album to play like a soundtrack to a cartoon -- which isn’t entirely a bad thing, because as Albarn grows as a composer, he’s a master of subtly shifting moods and intricately threaded allusions, often creating richly detailed collages that are miniature marvels. Ironically, these individual pieces don’t add up to an overall masterpiece, possibly because the narrative is convoluted and strained, getting in the way of the pure musical flow, but also because it’s hard not to shake the feeling that this is a transitional effort, pointing toward a day when Damon Albarn will feel no need to front a band, not even in a cartoon guise. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
CD$12.99

Rock - Released January 12, 2009 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Natasha Khan's debut album as Bat for Lashes, Fur and Gold, was so vivid and fully realized that it was a tough act to follow: she found ways to make her wildest flights of fancy into music with the immediacy of pop and the intimacy of a singer/songwriter's confessions. It takes a lot of ambition to pull off that kind of alchemy, and that ambition defines Two Suns. Khan's sounds and visions are even more widescreen here, full of pristine electronics and heady concepts, and Scott Walker, the undisputed king of high-concept music, duets with her on the ultra-theatrical finale "The Big Sleep." Since Bat for Lashes' songs practically burst with characters and ideas, a concept album seems like a logical next step for Khan's music, but the magic her songs had previously feels dissipated this time around. Two Suns revolves around Khan's "desert-born spiritual self" and her "destructive, self-absorbed, blonde femme fatale" alter ego Pearl as it covers "the philosophy of the self and duality, examining the need for both chaos and balance, for both love and pain, in addition to touching on metaphysical ideas concerning the connections between all existence." That's a lot to pack into just 11 songs, and it's not always entirely clear just what they're about, despite motifs like "blue dreams" that run through them. Some songs are just plain overdone: "Traveling Woman" and "Peace of Mind," with its tribal rhythms and gospel choir, aim for majesty but end up dragging. Others use the album's posh polish to make an impact, like "Glass" -- on which Khan hits some amazing high notes -- and "Daniel," which nods to the poppier side of her music. The directness that made Fur and Gold's modern-day fairy tales so enchanting and moving is often missing, and nothing on Two Suns is as musically or emotionally immediate as "What's a Girl to Do?" or "Sad Eyes." However, the subtler spells Khan casts with hypnotic tracks like "Sleep Alone" and "Moon and Moon" eventually reveal their beauty. And as Two Suns unfolds, it gradually shifts from overt attempts to dazzle listeners to focusing on Bat for Lashes' greatest strengths: Khan's voice and her considerable skills at telling a story and setting a mood. Pearl may be the album's dark side, but she's responsible for some of its best songs. "Siren Song" sets her seductive false promises to dramatic pianos, while "Pearl"'s Dream," with its battles and kingdoms, is classic Bat for Lashes. "Good Love" reaffirms Khan's way with bruised ballads, and "Two Planets"' pummeling beats and swirling voices make the mystical power the rest of the album reached for crystal-clear. Ultimately, Two Suns is nearly as graceful and poetic as Bat for Lashes' best work; it's just that the album's massive concepts and sounds require a little more time and patience to unravel to get to the songs' hearts. It's clear that Khan's talent and ambition are both huge, and for her to slightly overreach is better than not aiming as high as she can. ~ Heather Phares
CD$12.99

Pop - Released January 24, 2005 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
If a music-nerd version of Animal House set in 2005 is ever made, "Daft Punk Is Playing at My House" -- the boisterous opener of LCD Soundsystem -- would make an ideal theme song for the fraternity on which it is based. The self-conscious, awkward music obsessives pledging into this fraternity would have to pass a complex trivia test, own a compulsory list of records, and, as a hazing ritual, ask to dance with someone in public. If LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy were the least bit open to the concept, he could be the fraternity's advisor. Judging from a handful of singles and this album, he'd be more than qualified. His first A-side, 2002's "Losing My Edge," laid all his cards on the table, name-checking nearly everything that has been branded indispensable by a record store clerk during the past 20 years. This is someone who clearly owns tons of records and cannot escape them when making his own music. Acid house, post-punk, garage rock, psychedelic pop, and at least a dozen other things factor into his songs, and he's not afraid to be obvious. On occasion, he doesn't even allow fellow nerds to play guessing games. This is the case with "Never As Tired As When I'm Waking Up" -- drowsy/dazed John Lennon vibes through and through -- as well as the drifting/uplifting "The Great Release" -- an alternate closer to either of Brian Eno's first two solo records. Otherwise, Murphy's songs cough up references from his subconscious or are put together as if he's thinking more like a DJ, finding ways to combine elements from disparate sources. "Movement" careens into high-energy guitar squall after a pounding beat and cranky synths; "On Repeat" happily replicates the scratches and jabs of guitar heard from A Certain Ratio, PiL, and Gang of Four, but its mechanical pulse and curveball synth effects couldn't be any more distanced from those three groups. Nothing here exceeds the brilliance of "Beat Connection" or "Yeah." Like just about everybody else these days, Murphy's more skilled at creating isolated tracks than making full-lengths, even though this particular full-length has few weak spots and unfolds smoothly as you listen to it from beginning to end. The bonus disc, containing all the stray single tracks, adds a great deal of value. ~ Andy Kellman