In 100 words | Music reviews in a few words, for the hasty!

A view on the world, always in a one hundred words format.

The Black Lips: Arabia Mountain

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Unruly, provocative and quite productive, the Black Lips enjoy making music and they do it well

review The Black Lips Arabia MountainSounding like a joyous lo-fi crossover between the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Hives and the Kinks hardly hurt anyone. The Black Lips therefore enjoy a rather pleasant pool of influences, skillfully oscillating between fist-pumping punk-pop (‘Modern Art’) and hypnotic psyche-punk (‘Mr Driver’). As you might have guessed, the idea is that punk is always somewhere to be found in their little musical cuisine but isn’t strong enough to be just that. Does it work though? Mostly, yes. It is euphoric enough for anyone to enjoy, and this multicultural homage has such glorious moments (as in ‘Time’) it can’t really be seen as a failure.

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Written by Benoit Rajalu

July 10, 2011 at 22:45

Posted in Reviews

The Leisure Society: Into The Murky Waters

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British opera-pop band’s second doesn’t quite have its predecessor’s charisma.

critique leisure society into the murky watersThe Leisure Society’s universe is built on rich melodies and inspiring lyrics. It makes one travel through soundscapes of melancholy or puts them in a state of sheer relaxation: you only need to be receptive to what you’d call British opera-pop, or the result of The National suddenly making music for Soho musicals. “Into The Murky Water” has the same diverse riches, from country-inspired ballads (‘Better Written Off (Than Written Down)’) to standard pop songs (‘Dust On The Dancefloor’) and remains very pleasant, with its trademark autumnal melancholy. Still, frontman Nick Hemming’s continuous verbose lessens the impact of an otherwise promising record.

Written by Benoit Rajalu

June 19, 2011 at 20:26

Posted in Reviews

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator

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Unsurprising but tremendously good record from Blues’ most talented couple.

Tedeschi Trucks Band RevelatorWhen Derek Trucks, one of the most critically acclaimed guitarists of the last 20 years, married the unchallenged blues goddess Susan Tedeschi in 2001, things looked promising. After some remarked live performances spread over the past 10 years, they have finally focused on recording together. “Revelator” is therefore the Tedeschi Trucks Band debut, and is exactly what you’d expect from such a collaboration. Trucks’ mastery of various guitar styles and Tedeschi’s superb voice have made it an inspired masterpiece, from slow-burning soulful ballads (‘Until Your Remember’) to funky numbers (‘Love Has Something Else to Say’). It might be this year’s best Blues record.

Written by Benoit Rajalu

June 12, 2011 at 13:52

Posted in Reviews

Arctic Monkeys: Suck It and See

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With their solid American influences, the four boys from Sheffield return to British pop rock.

review Arctic Monkeys: Suck It And See“Suck It And See” is the perfect title for the Arctic Monkey’s fourth record. They’ve done a bit of everything already, so you’d have to give a go at this latest if you really wanted to know what was left in stock. It is, in fact, the sum of everything they’ve done before and probably a bit more. It’s poppy as hell on ‘Black Treacle’ (I’d say it’s bubblegum-y) and there’s even a bit of classic Beatles-induced Britishness in Alex Turner’s way to sing on ‘She’s Thunderstorm’. ‘Don’t Sit Down ‘Cause I’ve Moved Your Chair’ however has got the heavy riffing they’ve borrowed from Josh Homme and classic Monkeys nonsensical lyrics. It’s enjoyable to boot – unmissable, no less.

Written by Benoit Rajalu

June 5, 2011 at 20:05

Posted in Reviews

Bon Iver: Bon Iver (2011)

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Indie folk sensation returns with a little less pathos, a little less success

review bon iver bon iver 2011Justin Vernon’s first delivery as Bon Iver was the stuff of legends: ethereal, intimate and fragile folk with a background. Not anyone can turn a bad breakup into a great record, isolated in a cabin lost into the wild. It seems Vernon has been spared the experience this time, lucky him. However, the simply-titled “Bon Iver” rarely attains the grace “For Emma” had (‘Perth’, ‘Michicant’), lacking most of what made the first record so special. It trades it for a handful of experiments (like the feedback and noisy samples reminiscent of Sparklehorse on ‘Lisbon, OH’) and a sense of vacuity, still nice but boring the listener ever so slightly.

Written by Benoit Rajalu

May 30, 2011 at 08:43

Posted in Reviews

Okkervil River: I Am Very Far

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Continuously beautiful but slightly new direction for the cult Texan indie band

review Okkervil River I Am Very FarOkkervil River was last known for the record they made with psyche-rock legend Roky Erickson. They had delivered a rich and haunting musical background for his equally haunting songs. “I Am Very Far” may therefore come as a bit of a surprise in comparison. This is a pop-folk record, evoking simultaneously Bright Eyes’ “I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning” on its most glorious moments (‘White Shadow Waltz’)and a folkish take on The National, found on dandy pop songs such as ‘Your Past Life as a Blast’. The band showcases great songwriting and wide musicianship skills, making of “I Am Very Far” an interesting and entertaining record.

Written by Benoit Rajalu

May 21, 2011 at 20:34

Posted in Reviews

Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues

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Seattle’s indie folk youngsters make an unsurprisingly successful return

review fleet foxes helplessness blue « No one does Americana like the Fleet Foxes. » This is what I read a few weeks back, before the release of “Helplessness Blues”, and I already thought it was true. After all, their first release offered a take on Folk and American music traditions spliced with British pop influence that felt instantly modern. Original without being peerless, they dig in America or Iron & Wine’s heritage, taking artists such as Bon Iver or The Low Anthem in their wake.

This recognizable and consistent sound made a success out of their 2008 debut. They blended carefully crafted Folk soundscapes and anthemic lyrics sung with passion and identity: Robin Pecknold is 25 and sings like an idealised Neil Young. He is even able to be credible on subjects less-talented singers would only make sound corny – not everybody can sing about death, nature and doubts without being downright emo. Pecknold can, deal with it.

But all that was three years ago. What of it now? First things first, they aren’t masters in reinvention. The Fleet Foxes formula remains unchanged: cue acoustic guitars, Pecknold’s unique voice, harmonics, choruses, and the rest of the band acting as a choir every other sentence. It still works, but it might bore many casual listeners. The lyrics, though brilliant, require attention and this is a long record. 12 tracks, a bit over 50 minutes of heartfelt existential questions. But if you can take it on, this is a thoroughly deep and interesting record, even without the lyrics.

Indeed, if they haven’t changed their basic structure, the Fleet Foxes core is a duo of young, learning boys with an eye on the past. They bask in influences such as Brian Wilson or Crosby, Still, Nash and Young for everything obvious, but lend a careful hear and you’ll find the Fleet Foxes have widened their roots. The guitars on the beautifully oriental ‘Sim Sala Bim’ recall the Jimmy Page of ‘Tangerine’ or ‘The Rain Song’, a treat for a record that rarely shows-off its artists’ musicianship.

The jewel here is the title track. ‘Helplessness Blues’ has everything that made and still makes of the Fleet Foxes such a special band. Not only for the gorgeous lyrics, filled with questions (“What good is it to sing helplessness blues? / Why should I wait for anyone else?”) and aspirations for a lifestyle 25-year-olds rarely formulate (“If I had an orchard / I’d work ‘till I’m raw / and you would wait tables and soon run the store”). This song, mirroring the entire record, is a complex and nearly cinematographic indie-Folk landscape: the music tells a story alongside Pecknold’s lyrics, in a perfect combination of shape and content.

Amongst all this coherent creation lie the seeds of experimentation. ‘The Shrine / An Argument’ illustrates best the will to evolve and pursue new directions: just like the less remarkable two parter ‘The Plains / Bitter Dancer’, the song offers a range of rich and unique musical phrases – serving again as a wonderful background for story-telling.

This is not perfect though, the length of it all being a bit too heavy on the band’s shoulder, but it certainly is refreshing. “Helplessness Blues” might not have the same aura as its predecessor, but it remains a remarkable record nonetheless.

Written by Benoit Rajalu

May 15, 2011 at 12:06

Posted in Reviews

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