New Album Reviews – Sept. 2012

Centipede Hz – Animal Collective

It’s been three years since Animal Collective released the album that put them on the map, and they’ve since done nothing but try to get off of it.  Shying away from the spotlight, AnCo released a B-Sides EP, made a movie, split up, went solo, got back together, and now they’ve finally decided to release a new studio album.  I can’t say I was anxious for the new record, but I have to say I was curious to see where they would try to take their sound from where they left it off.  I was pleasantly surprised when I listened to the record, and found that they didn’t really take their sound anywhere new.  The first track kicks off with some high-dynamic synth punches that turn into a hip downbeat layered with plenty of good old knob turns and button pushes.  My first impression was that it was reminiscent of the edgier, faster-paced sound of their pre-Merriweather albums, but without the often unsuccessful ventures into the experimental.  The album goes on to crystallize this style, seemingly not trying to please any of their fair-weather merriweather fans.  There’s a scarcity of the repetitive yet too-god-damned-catchy grooves that made them a household name, instead favoring structured songwriting and thoughtful progressions.  More than anything, it seems like the guys are just having fun again, which you definitely pick up on in the album.  You might not add any of these tracks to your party mix, but you’ll definitely listen to this album all the way through more than once and enjoy something different about it every time.

America – Dan Deacon

To promote his new album America, Dan Deacon has changed his homepage to a letter to fans explaining the meaning behind the title of the album, and exactly what he was trying to achieve in it.  So if you want to enjoy this album at all, whatever you do, do not read it!  To give you the summary, Danny boy states that the album was inspired by his first trip overseas, which gave him a broader perspective on what it means to be an American.  He then goes on to brag about all the different ways he has tried to remove himself from the American ideal throughout the years, but failed to miss the point that all the countercultures in our nation is part of what makes it great.  Inspirational to be sure, but it seems like a lot to try to translate through music, especially the super-happy 8-bit rapid-fire electro-pop that he’s pioneered.  He claims the lyrics of the album reflect his “frustration, fear and anger towards the country and world I live in and am a part of,” but like most of his lyrics, they seem too vague to really mean anything, and more often than not they take a back seat to the brain-blasting beats and melodies, which is mostly why I like him in the first place.  So if you listen to this album, like most of his, don’t try to find the meaning in it.  Just enjoy.  All intentions aside, Double D has definitely advanced and matured his sound with this new album.  The first half is all of the heavy harmonic electro-rock that we’ve come to love, while the second half veers more towards the epic cinematic sound he began to attempt with songs like Snookered and Of The Mountains from his last album, Bromst.  Definitely worth picking up if you are or ever have been a Dan Deacon fan.

One Wing – The Chariot

At some point in their career, the chaotic mathcore monsters known as the Chariot decided to stop spending years rewriting and re-recording every song three to five times, instead opting to spend as little time as possible on each one.  I had barely gotten used to Wars and Rumors of Wars of 2009 before Long Live came out, and I haven’t even had time to make up my mind about that one now that their newest album One Wing is out.  So I better write something about this one before another one comes out and makes this post obsolete.  In an interview about this album, frontman Josh Scogin admitted to the new method of songwriting, stating that “if you get too much time, we start overthinking stuff.”  There’s definitely no overthinking apparent in the last two albums by the feedback fiends.  They are roughly one hour of non-stop jackhammer beats and bone crunching guitar riffs likely to kill as many brain-cells as a fifth of Jack Daniels.  Scogin also admitted that this is their ‘weirdest’ album to date, and he couldn’t be more right.  This new embracing of the strange is what separates this album from the past two, in fact from their entire body of work so far.  There are obvious abnormalities, such as a church choir serenading us with a stanza from the second track of their first studio album The Fiancée, as well as a break down that digresses into what sounds like the score for a western horseback riding montage, complete with bullwhip sound bytes.  But the biggest differences come in what is supposed to be the more ‘normal’ aspect of the album.  In between the gimmicks, the band seems to have generally calmed down, favoring slower (which is still pretty breakneck for them) bluesy guitar riffs and beats that are not quite as hard to follow.  The opening riff of Tongues sounds like something that could be in a Metallica song, and the beginning of First is also surprisingly easy to follow.  It seems like the band isn’t just trying to make our ears bleed anymore, at least not to the point where we can’t pick up the subtleties of their songwriting.  This is exemplified best in the track that seemed like part of the gimmick at first, but after a few listens seems to be a stripped down and simple study of what makes hardcore unique as a genre.  Speak is simply Scogin screaming over a chord progression played with no accoutrements on an upright piano.  This makes it easy to hear the complex and unique chords and progressions that are usually drowned out by distortion and blast beats.  The band realeased a video of the recording of that track, and it’s nothing less than an intimate look into a underrated style of songwriting that is often overlooked by serious musicians.  Take a gander and definitely take a listen to the album in full whenever you get the chance.