Tag Archives: Music Review

Review: 22, A Million

PSA: The new Bon Iver album is out! This is a big deal in my circles because I’m from the same town as Justin Vernon, the guy writing under the Bon Iver nom de plume. (We have mutual friends and had some classes together, but we were hardly “friends”, so this fact doesn’t make me very cool.)

This is the same album Bon Iver premiered at the Eaux Claires festival back in August, and the full album was released today.

I think Vernon made some brave choices on this record. Extended sax techniques on a pop record? Yes. The style is definitely is a departure from For Emma, but the songwriting and vocal stylings are similar. I’m glad he didn’t feel pressured to stick to one formula, and that he no longer has to start an entirely new project just to experiment with his sound.

Unpopular opinion time: While I love most of the digital effects, the harmonizer is just not doing it for me. I get that it’s a nod to the post-production layered vocals and auto-tune that made him famous, but it’s too much. (Also “too much”? Those titles.)

I also think that he tried too hard for an arena sing-along in “22 (Over S∞∞n)” and “00000 Million”. Somehow they’re a far cry from “Skinny Love” and “Holocene”. He would have done better by not pandering to his audience. Having said that, though, “22 (Over S∞∞n)” has gotten stuck in my head more than once.

My favorite on the album is “666 ʇ”, where he and the band get everything right – the reverb-heavy guitar, light electronics, juicy bassline, buildup driven by the drums, etc.

Overall, this one is growing on me, but I don’t think it will be my go-to listen. What I do love about this album is that it will likely have ripple effects of inspiration throughout the industry, in the same way that For Emma and “Woods” (off Blood Bank) led to some real shifts in the pop music world (amid the many second-rate copycats).

Best Summer Music 2015

Summer (unofficially) ends today, though here in Seattle it seems to have ended a couple weeks ago. It was a good summer for music, at least. Here, in no particular order, are my favorites:


The Chemical Brothers: Born in the Echoes

I love the polyrhythms in “Reflexion”, but my favorite track on this album is probably “Taste Of Honey”. It’s just so weird and wonderful. It’s based on a slow, micro-tonal groove, overlaid with buzzing. Listen to it through headphones or earbuds, and you’ll hear the buzzing alternate sides. If strange bee sounds aren’t your thing, check out “Go” (which is a contender for best song of the summer) and “Born in the Echos”. And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t recommend listening to “Wide Open”, which features Beck on vocals.


Jamie xx: In Colour

The best tracks on this album may be the ones which feature Romy: “Seesaw” and “Loud Places”. “Gosh” has a weird, frenetic quality that’s somehow perfect for summer. “Obvs” is fun because of the way the steel drums drift back and forth between straight and swung eighths, leaving it with a somewhat lazy, vacation-y feel.

My favorite from the album, though, may be “The Rest is Noise”. It starts out with a weird sample that has two phrases of the following beat groupings: 10, 11, 11, 11. The percussion entrance around 0:30 makes us reinterpret that beat structure – the clap on 2 & 4 create a well-defined meter of 4/4, over which the opening sample is recognized for the (roughly) quarter-note triplet it really is. (That interplay is a little easier to hear after 3:42.) Forty-five seconds in, the piano joins and alternates tonic/dominant every other measure, reinforcing the square 4/4 meter we hear through the percussion. At the point where the piano joins, we also get a very catchy rhythm in the bass drum. Altogether it’s a fun groove with a lot of forward momentum.


Alabama Shakes: Sound & Color

This album has delta blues roots and lush orchestration. There’s plenty of sultry, radio-friendly fodder, while still containing enough depth that it improves upon repeated listens. I love the vibraphone on the title track, but my favorites might be “Dunes” (which always gets stuck in my head) and the gritty, 12/8 ballad “Miss You”.


Veruca Salt: Ghost Notes

I was never all that big into Veruca Salt, but their first release in nearly a decade hits the nostalgia button. “Laughing in the Sugar Bowl” is basically a late ’90s hit written two decades late. This album is fun, and I can only hope that Letters to Cleo follows suit and releases a new album.


Tame Impala: Currents

The first time I heard “Let It Happen”, it was on my local indie station, KEXP. The station plays music from all eras on all types of media, so it’s not uncommon to hear an old CD start skipping, typically followed by silence and an apologetic DJ frantically searching for something else to put on. When I heard this song, I wasn’t sure if it was something old or new. (Tame Impala, often compared to The Beatles, has moved into their Sgt. Pepper phase.) Halfway through the track (around 3:30), it seems like the quality is deteriorating, and then it gets stuck on one skipping section. Just when it feels like you’ll hear the DJ cut in with a new song, or when your ’90s self is trying to find the CD player, you hear a rich entrance in the low strings, and the new skip groove is incorporated into the rest of the song. It makes for a very neat “cold” digital vs. “warm” analog feel.


Honorable mentions (meaning I haven’t listened to them much yet):

Dr. Dre: Compton

FKA Twigs: M3ll155x

Beach House: Depression Cherry