Sam Roberts Band – “Collider”


Brace yourself, this is the start of a new brand of music; this is groundbreaking. That was sarcasm. Collider sounds just like original Sam Roberts material, so Sam Roberts fans rest at ease. With the growing recognition of Sam Roberts work, it is a smart idea that Sam Roberts Band did not stem too far from normality. Fortunately, to avoid being banal, there are new worldly sounds on this album that will give a new texture to the music you have come accustomed to.

“The Last Crusade” is a funky bass-driven groove with fun intentions. Unintentionally or intentionally inspired by afro-beat, “The Last Crusade” is an ethnic rumpus that skillfully avoids being corny. Imagine this: you are bobbing your head to a firm beat when all of a sudden the Star Wars Cantina Band comes in with blistering horns. I kid you not, the horns mimic the jam band from Tatooine. Oddly enough, it fits. The song is a funky, fun, and cool little hymn. “The Last Crusade” has the Sam Roberts feel but the newly added funk gives it a little flare.

Sam Roberts knows how to make rock songs. Each song has something distinctive that makes you crave for a relisten. The soothing progression of “No Arrows”, the vocal harmonies on “Longitude”, and the dancey chorus of “Sang Froid” all make the album frequently worth an entire run-through. Not one song is bad which makes it an easy choice for a great unabridged listen. Even the single, “I Feel You”, which sometimes is a band’s weakest tune, has an explosive chorus and true passion. The tone is beyond powerful.

Collider is not going to blow you away with something you have never heard before. It is the same old style but that is good. Why change the style of an artist that is just now rightfully getting recognized? This album will leave a smile on your face, even if it is only for a short period. It is not a rehash, it is simply a Sam Roberts redux or now the newly formed Sam Roberts Band.

Fergus & Geronimo- “Unlearn”

Unlearn

Fergus & Geronimo, believe it or not, is not a 1970s sitcom. Fergus & Geronimo is a duo of Jason Kelly and Andrew Savage with collaborations from others and when they perform live, they often do with a large groups of people. Yes, Fergus & Geronimo is a side project but Fergus Geronimo hopes you do not simply see them as a halfhearted attempt. Sorry, I just really think it is fun to type Fergus & Geronimo.

It is 2011 and I do not believe garage rock is still relevant; was garage rock ever relevant though? Anyways, Fergus & Geronimo fill the whole album of Unlearn with a stripped down unapologetic garage rock sound. At times, certain songs may peak your interest, most notably, “Where The Walls Are Made Of Grass”, which may take the award for Laziest Sounding Western Song Ever. Unfortunately, the past winner of this award was Natalie Cole for this great little number.

There is not much to write about this album actually. It is alright. If you want something new and fresh, do not bother even listening to it. The album becomes a bore after the second song and you have heard an album like this a hundred times. Unlearn brings nothing new to the table. As if lack of innovation was not enough, sometimes the musicianship is just sloppy. The anthem, “Wanna Know What I Would Do If I Was You”, is sluggishly sung. The vocals are almost as bad as Bill Murray in Lost In Translation. Sometimes it is nice to have relaxed vocals and at times even imperfect ones but Fergus & Geronimo sound like that drunken asshole that is always at the bar on karaoke night. As a listener of this album I feel similar to a mistreated girlfriend. I just wish Fergus & Geronimo would show that they care about me and put some passion into what they were giving me. I just want attention. I just want to know that they care. Instead, we are left with an uninspired lazy album. We are left with Fergus & Geronimo sitting on the couch and sipping a beer on Saturday night– forcing us to look for another lover that actually will show that they care.

Destroyer- “Kaputt”

Dan Bejar has been putting out music for over fifteen years under the name Destroyer; essentially, that means he has pumping out indie music ever since a little movie entitled Braveheart was released. That is a long time. This was a faraway time where Mel Gibson had not yet gone ape-shit and “social networking” meant hanging around the water-cooler. Let’s just say Destroyer is a mature band that has experimented with all types of sounds and if it was a smooth bachelor, it would know all the moves to get you in the sack.

The band’s lucky thirteenth release, Kaputt, starts off by seducing the listener. The opener “Chinatown” gives the listener exactly what they want to hear: a nice rhythmic guitar, polished vocals, and even accents of horns. Just when you think you are being sweet-talked, your suspicions are confirmed with the following fantastic single “Blue Eyes”. A song that was taken straight out of the 1950s via a weird Sammie Kaye time machine. The accompanying female vocals on the track are magnificent. “Savage Night of The Opera” and probably the best song on the album, “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker”, are pure delights and the first half of the album takes you to a time where music uplifted spirits and was amorous.

Unfortunately, the second half of the album aside from the fantastic closer “Bay of Pigs” shows a loss of steam and lyrics like “Wasting your days/Chasing some girls/Alright/Chasing cocaine to the back-rooms of the world all night” followed by the overuse of jazz horns is to the narrowest of margins pleasing. It is as though Destroyer made two albums; the first half of Kaputt is the correct way to make a reappraising of 1950s-esque music and the second half is littered with mediocre jazz.

All in all, it is okay because as the album closes, Destroyer has delivered the hits just like any crafty veteran manages to do in the time it is given. Kaputt is a blast; the musicianship for the most part is great, lyrics are interesting albeit a few eye-rolling moments, and there are a handful of catchy singles.

Review: Guards – self-titled EP

Guards EP
Guards is essentially just singer Richie Follin with contributions from Caroline Polachek (Chairlift) and Cults. The album is filled with so much sound that one might think it was a five-piece band. There are many instruments used on the album and each does a particular job to create a lo-fi pop experience.

If MGMT was married to Karen O and The Kids and had an illegitimate child with Arcade Fire, it would be Guards. This bastard child croons, chants, and makes sure it is heard on all eight tracks of Guards. Guards seemingly have all the characteristics of its parents: It has the “Oooh Oooh Oooh” backing vocals a la Arcade Fire, yowling vocals set to a magical keyboard a la MGMT, and  a childlike wonder tone a la Karen O and the Kids. It has been a while since  a debut EP has been so ambitious.

This is not some exasperating brat that steals from its parents’ success, in fact, Guards explores new terrain especially with vocal harmonies. “Sail It Slow” strides forward smoothly as the vocals play off one another in a vigorous fashion. The opening track “Resolution Of One” has a chorus that explodes like a Jerry Bruckheimer movie. On “Crystal Truth”, there is a blissful melody that makes you wonder how no one has written it before. Each song is solid in its own distinct way and it never feels like you have been listening to the same song for too long. This is probably due to the fact that most songs do not go past the three minute point. Also, each song flies by with the help of the harmonizing refrains. Instrumentally, everything is solid especially the thunderous drums. The beat always feels firm next to such sweet-tempered vocals and each instrument highlights another fittingly.

It is impossible not to allude to other bands that Guards sounds like but that does not take away from the achievements of Guards. No doubt, Guards sounds like the illegitimate child of a few notable indie bands but who really cares? At least it is not the illegitimate child of MC Hammer and LFO. This is a wonderful debut EP for the little brat.

Ghost House – “Departures”


Ghost House is a self-proclaimed soul band that hails from Vancouver and hope you take notice of their debut album, Departures, with it’s satisfying harmonization of new wave, Motown soul, funk, and some may even say nu-jazz genres. Certain songs will get stuck deep in your head for days like the tracking device in Total Recall. However, just like that same tracking device, some are excruciatingly painful as well.

When you listen to Departures, you truly want to love it because Ghost House sound like they had a blast recording the whole album. Each song is filled with blotches of piano, excellent guitar riffs, and frenetic drumbeats that would make even the most grumpy old uncle dance at a wedding. With this being said,  you wish the album would surprise  at some point with a different methodology besides the drums and guitar making out with each other in gross public displays of affection. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for horns to come in at certain points just to break up the piano, guitar, and drum orgy that continues for all ten songs with no recess.  If it was not for the refreshing female vocals in “Origami Nightmare” each song would mesh together as a monotonous drone. At some point you begin questioning how long you have been listening to the album.  Even the audio clip of a weather forecast on “The Crows Know” is a welcoming change of pace on the album. Vocally and lyrically, everything is fine. There is nothing to bleat about in that aspect but the true problem is the song dynamics or should I say lack thereof.

There are plenty of catchy songs on Departures; standout songs such as “Transmit”, “The Crows Know” and “Penultimate” litter the album with hope but do not make up for the bland others that drag it down like an anchor straight to the bottom of the indie music sea where countless other bands have drowned due to lack of experimentation. Do not get me wrong, I fully enjoyed Departures, but with each listen you get an overwhelming sense that the band has the potential to record something much better in the future. This is a formidable first step though.