Is anyone else sick of the recent glut of “indie-pop” bands that all sound the same? I know I am.
Immaculate MachineFables**Is anyone else sick of the recent glut of “indie-pop” bands that all sound the same? I know I am. And that makes it really hard to like Canada’s Immaculate Machine. Our friends in the great white north have the same problem we do: competent bands, playing ultimately unnecessary songs. Is this album terrible? No, Fables is actually kind of decent. But, does it stand out in any way? No. It’s the standard guitar-synth-drums formula that has been beaten to death recently. The three-part vocal harmonizations are nice–but again, not noticeably unique. Then again, it’s hard to see where Immaculate Machine could improve. Their sound is complete, in a nice, unobtrusive way. Like drummer Luke Kozlowski sings on “C’mon Sea Legs,” “it looks good on paper.” But in reality, it isn’t.
Talib KweliEardrum***Eardrum starts off with an auspicious bit of navel-gazing from one of the premiere MCs of underground hip-hop. Kweli raps about how he “can’t please everyone” and splices the song together with recordings of fans describing how he or she got into Kweli’s music. The song sounds like a rumination on his increasing push for commercial success. It’s an unnecessary gesture. As one of the founders (along with Mos Def) of alternative hip-hop leaders Black Star, and after collaborations with Kanye West, it’s long been clear that Kweli has more commercial power than most MCs of similar stature. He still has his integrity, but Warner Brothers doesn’t give you your own record label if it’s not going to make them money. The album itself is very exact in its appeal. Great production and beats, courtesy of some of the best producers in hip-hop (Madlib, Just Blaze) dot Kweli’s musical landscape. Similarly, his rhymes and flow are spot on. His lyrics are as intelligent as ever, touching on religion and politics among other subjects. Eardrum is an entirely consistent effort, but that’s its weakness. There are no surprises to be found here, and no mistakes either.
LiarsLiars****Scuzzy, distorted, weird and heavy (in the metal sense of the word), Liars make pretty awesome music. It just doesn’t make any fucking sense. There are elements of pop in the brew, along with a little bit of atonal misanthropy, not to mention a hefty dose of noise and experimentalism. It’s as if a normal pop-rock band was put through a wash of buzzing synth and a pissed off vulture shat into the open-spin cycle to ensure vicious sounds soaked into the threads. This album contains a few traditional-ish rock songs, but everything is put through the Liars’ filter–a filter that is damn near indecipherable, but it’s also entirely their own.
Amplified HeatHow Do You Like the Sound of That?***Modern southern rock is generally pretty bad. We get it: you like Lynyrd Skynyrd and ZZ Top. As with any genre, there are only a few bands that can add the right energy and attitude to pull them through the murky depths of their influences. Amplified Heat is one such band. The attitude can probably be credited to the fact that two members recovered from multiple stab wounds during the process of writing this album. Their energy is evident from the record, which is damn near perfect for the vibe these dudes are going for. The lyrics are nothing to write home about (in fact they’re generally pretty stupid), but How Do You Like the Sound of That showcases a solid rock band.