Articles posted in June 2009

Metric is no longer just a singles band

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Metric has always been a great singles band, but it has never been able to sustain the momentum over an entire album. Even on the breakout smash Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, repetitive song structures and little sonic diversity meant that the album felt overlong, even at 37 minutes. Fantasies is the group’s fourth full-length, and it succeeds where the others did not: it’s solid from top to bottom, with album-only tracks that stand up against—and even surpass—the singles.

Fantasies doesn’t reinvent Metric’s sound, but it contains richer textures, which bring the band’s electro-tinged dance rock to life. The acoustic guitar that enters during the chorus of the fuzzy “Gold Guns Girls” is a subtle touch, but it changes the tone of the song completely. Similarly, “Help, I’m Alive” begins with an ominously clanking beat and dire lyrical warnings (“Help, I’m alive / My heart keeps beating like a hammer”) before breaking out into a technicolour bridge with grunge-y powerchords and soaring falsetto vocals.

Of course, Fantasies still has its own knockout single: “Gimme Sympathy” is propulsive disco, with buzzy synthesizer chords and plenty of lyrical allusions to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. But the best song of all is the more restrained “Collect Call,” with its hauntingly echoed guitars and lush dream pop choruses. It would be too slow to work on the radio, but that’s not a bad thing; It proves that Metric is no longer a band that makes great singles—it’s a band that makes great albums.

Fantasies is out via Last Gang. As of this posting, the entire album is streaming from the group’s MySpace.
 
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Indie pop joins the new age

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Hospice, the sophomore album by Brooklyn trio the Antlers, begins as a pleasantly innocuous post-rock album, with soothing washes of synthesizer and distant guitar. The first four tracks are undeniably pretty, but they pass by on a wave of new age passivity, never making much of an impact. Even the pounding drums of “Sylvia” get lost in a swirl of ambiance, its vocals similarly buried in echo and reverb.

Things suddenly turn around on track five, with the focused, lyrical “Bear.” Beginning with lullaby keyboards and Peter Silberman’s quiet, half-whispered vocals, the song soon explodes into a singable chorus of “We’re not old at all.” With an almost-danceable beat and strummed guitar, its poppy accessibility is a marked departure from the rest of the album. “Two,” which follows two tracks later, ups the ante with insistent acoustic guitar chords and a triumphant vocal melody that resembles the emotive grandiosity of Arcade Fire. (Funnily enough, it also sounds a little like “Afternoon Delight.”) It’s the kind of song that could have been written any time in the last 40 years, and its timelessness is given added impact by contrast to the rest of the album.

Hospice returns to light-hitting dream pop for its final three tracks, closing with “Epilogue,” a moody ballad that shows off Silberman’s impressive falsetto. Its a haunting way to finish, but its the memory of “Two” that lingers after the album has ended. Based on the evidence here, the Antlers would be better served to favour immediacy over atmosphere more often.

The Antlers self-released Hospice in March of this year. It will be reissued on August 18 via Frenchkiss.
 
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Not to be confused with The O.C.

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Technically, Help is Thee Oh Sees second album, the follow-up to last year’s The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In. But this is no ordinary sophomore album, since Thee Oh Sees are actually a re-christened version of OCS (and were also briefly known as the Ohsees). Whatever name they happen to be going by, Thee Oh Sees are fronted by former Coachwhips frontman John Dwyer; once an experimental solo recording project, Thee Oh Sees are now a noisy garage rock four-piece.

Help is pure retro rock ‘n’ roll, its rowdy lo-fi sensibilities harking back to ’60s garage rock pioneers such as the Sonics and 13th Floor Elevators. The vocals are typically buried low in the mix and often soaked in reverb and echo; this means that the album doesn’t offer much in the way of pop hooks, favouring raucous grooves over sing-alongs. Only “Ruby Go Home” contains a memorable chorus, and that’s more to do with repetition than melody—Dwyer spends much of the song’s four-minute runtime repeating the titular phrase.

Despite lacking the radio-ready hooks of retro rock contemporaries such as the Strokes or Arctic Monkeys, Thee Oh Sees have plenty of thrilling ideas that begin to take hold with repeated listens. Opener “Enemy Destruct” is mostly made up of a single chord being pounded over and over, broken up only by brief breaks of herky-jerky riffing. The choppy power chords of “Meat Step Lively” give way to a jaunty groove and arguably the greatest flute solo in rock ‘n’ roll history (sorry, Jethro Tull). “Can You See?” and “Peanut Butter Oven” scale back the noise rock mayhem in favour of haunting falsetto vocals and (comparatively) mellow arrangements.

Help has more than enough musical ideas to merit a listen, but it’s also worth noting that the LP comes in one of the year’s best-looking packages. As well as having a badass purple-bat-and-rainbow cover, the album comes on pink vinyl with an illustrated sleeve with lyrics and bizarre doodles.

Help is out now via In the Red.
 
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