You know, while it’s still the season, I should really go strawberry picking. Because then there would at least be some chance that I would come out at the end of this summer having obtained some
For now, though, we’ll just keep plowing through the new music. I guess.
Arcade Fire – Everything Now
Mark: I’ve come a long way since living in Toronto in 2003 and rolling my eyes at the way that people were freaking out over this Arcade Fire band that they were all into. Gone are the days where I would get petty satisfaction from telling friends that the clandestine Arcade Fire show that they’d just attended and been amazed by sounded “hella lame” (the parlance of the time).
No, I’ve finally grown up. I can even find things to appreciate about the early Arcade Fire tracks that I had slagged out of principle. I even developed what might be considered a mild interest in the band around the time the release of their record, The Suburbs, as I enjoyed the singles and (most importantly) had heard that they’d covered a Fugazi song.
All that being said, Everything Now, essentially proves 21 year old me absolutely right. From the painfully on-the-nose “marketing” to the music itself, it feels like a band reaching so hard to do Something Important™, they’ve slipped something out of joint and are now hobbling along in an altogether embarrassing fashion. The three songs off of this album that I have heard are the three worst Arcade Fire songs I have ever heard.
Although I may have said it ages ago, I’m not going to say that this band is terrible and that they’ve never done great work, because that wouldn’t be fair. It also wouldn’t be fair to call what I’ve heard off of Everything Now anything more charitable than “an embarrassing mess”. If they remade all of the songs on this album and replaced all of the vocals with cat sounds, and then released it as Everything Meow, they would wind up making a way more innovative statement and it would wind up being more interesting and listenable than what is currently going on here.
Josh: Everything Now is a fitting title for this disco-dripped exercise in excess from a band on an all out campaign to Pimp-My-Ride their aesthetic. Unlike the best Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, it doesn’t wrestle with issues of apocalyptic anxiety as much as shrug over them with the smugness of a disapproving, tongue-clucking Jeremiad. Look, I love Arcade Fire, and this isn’t even a bad album, just their worst one. But “I told you so” doesn’t add anything to the cultural discourse. Where is the band who once sadly yet slyly offered up a prayer for “a daughter while I’m still young, but if it’s too much to ask send me a son?” Instead, we get a mirror of tracks with the same name bemoaning our satisfaction with “infinite content / we’re infinitely content.” See, we can even get it as punk rock or country—get it? Wake up, sheeple!
I usually go for this kind of winking dickery, but lines like “Say goodbye to your oldest friends with a good goddamn / maybe there’s a good god, damn,” suggest Win Butler is serving a shitty grin with that wink. Don’t expect us to take anything seriously if you can’t, Win. You can’t win.
Mark: As I will eventually be covering this album in my series of Nine Inch Nails album reviews, I must recuse myself from saying anything about Add Violence for the time being. I understand that Jay is quite fond of it.
People Like You – Verse
Mark: People Like You are an indie-pop group with jazz inflections that make me feel instantly nostalgic for the early 2000s, when a lot of this kind of thing seemed to be floating around. Plenty of poly-rhythms and math-y weirdness paired with delicate arrangements and guitar noodles. The songs feature female and male vocalists in tandem, performed in a style that seems to be deliberately reflexive of the awkwardly over-enunciated and earnest vocal approaches of the indie/emo explosion of the turn of the millennium. There are many, many things about Verse that I find cringe-worthy and irritating, but I would be lying if I failed to report that I also find something incredibly pleasant and comforting about hearing this type of thing again after so long. Were it not for the vocal affectations, or if the vocal approach was even slightly less affected, I could perhaps even recommend this.
Umm – Double Worshipper
Mark: As a fuzzed-out, modern take on laid-back vintage trash garage pop, this works pretty well. Again, we have a female & male vocal pairing, employed for tuneful harmonies over a suitably head-bopping tune. “Black Summer” has a quality that I enjoy, but certainly not in an “ooh la la, this is something fresh!” sort of fashion. I’ll check out the rest of Double Worshipper when I have the chance.
Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs – S/T
Mark: While we’re on the topic of acts that are making a go at aping their progenitors, Sam Coffey and The Iron Lungs appears to be pedaling a slightly tougher-edged take on sing-along pop rock ‘n roll that isn’t a giant leap away from what may have been considered edgy in the late 70s or early 80s. The band rocks along competently and “Talk 2 Her” has a tuneful stomp that might suit you if you’ve been in the mood for more of this brand of rock music than the myriad of material that already exists when you turn on a classic rock radio station. I’m not, personally. But hey, it takes all kinds, right?
Joywave – Content
Josh: This is the kind of electronic music that makes me feel like bugs are crawling inside my ears. Everything about the production feels unnatural, sterilized and devoid of humanity. I mean, look at this guy. He looks like a space alien who learned everything he knows about earth from Weezer.
Bright spots on an album that otherwise just makes me feel empty include: the vaguely afrobeat-sounding intro to “Thanks, Thanks for Coming,” the bittersweet synth riff and soulful vocals on the latter half of “Going to a Place” (which is a completely different song from the first half), and the weird jazz fusion closer, “Let’s Talk about Feelings.” Just don’t call your band Joywave when you sound this miserable. Give me the twee abandon of someone like Passion Pit or Phoenix over this cold nightmare any day. Hey, speaking of Passion Pit…
Passion Pit – Tremendous Sea of Love
Josh: Passion Pit’s fourth album was actually released for free back in March if you were on the ball enough to catch it on Twitter. After that it disappeared until this week, when it was finally launched on streaming services. The product of a year in which frontman Michael Angelakos both divorced his wife and came out as gay, the record is immensely personal. This band has always been sincere and complicated in a way that is easily overshadowed by the buoyant sounds of their pop aesthetic and a vocal style that one might characterize as a cartoon character trapped in a vice. These songs were intentionally written, recorded, and mixed in a hurry so as to avoid the industry tendency to revise to perfection. Angelakos wanted flaws and raw impulses on display, which results in an album that is rough, ambitious, busy, and kind of all over the place but the better for it. He’s doing different things here, but all in service of what feels like a plea to be honest and caring with each other and to value life—Angelakos has also been vocal about his own mental health struggles and launched this record to coincide with an initiative to ensure artists have access to mental health services. “You’re a goddamn human / you’re already set free,” he sings on “To the Otherside.” We should all be so lucky to have such an epiphany.
Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface
Josh: I’ve been a long-time fan of this Atlanta rock band. A Black Mile to the Surface was stated as an attempt to “strip down” their sound, though it very much feels like a lean in the opposite direction, with layered sounds, sudden shifts, and a sense of a band trying to push themselves into new places. There are shades of Death Cab for Cutie, Silversun Pickups, and Band of Horses here, but it still sounds like Manchester Orchestra. From the quiet beauty of the choral opener, “The Maze,” to the shreddy “The Moth,” Black Mile feels calculated to make an impact, while also being the band’s most restrained record. It’s a strange album from a band that has always felt familiar. Whether it’s strange in a good way—probably—or not, I can’t decide. But an album that makes you wrestle with it, that’s an accomplishment in itself.