New 7 Worlds Collide, "Bodhisattva Blues"

As many probably know, Radiohead's Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway, along with Neil Finn, Modest Mouse's Johnny Marr and Wilco's Jeff Tweedy (amongst many others) have put together a supergroup album under the name 7 Worlds Collide. Drawing from influences across the spectrum of music these artists cover, the release is intended to benefit Oxfam, which works to fight poverty. From what we've heard thus far, it's sure to impress, and this just adds to that feeling. "Bodhisattva Blues" is the sort of thing one might expect from Wilco, sans group vocals. Raucous, appropriately bluesy and grabbing at the corners of psychadelia, it's a standout sure to please fans for the overall prospects of the project. If you'd like to listen for yourself, check out the track, streaming over at Stereogum. And if you're in the U.S., look out for The Sun Came Out, which will be released via Sony on September 29th.

Music Video Monday: "Catamaran"

Track: Catamaran
Artist: Bear vs. Shark
Album: Terrorhawk
Year: 2005

Admittedly, there's nothing special about the video for Bear vs. Shark's "Catamaran." It's simply live footage, interspersed with each other, and decorated with slides of color. It's basic, unimaginative and was the norm of 2003-2005 in music videos. Yet, it's probably the best way to properly represent the track. As hard-hitting and energetic lead singer Marc Paffi's signature growl/howl is, I'm not so sure it carries a video sans images of the band's live show. Seeing Paffi in action, and capturing the electricity of their performance via video, to me, is seemingly the only way this music video concept is completed effectively.

What kills me about this though is simply the fact that the band isn't around anymore. One of my favorite albums of all-time, 2005's Terrorhawk was one of the definitive achievements in post-hardcore. It blew me away on the first listen, and similarly effected a lot of others as well. It's hard to argue against all of its quick hits, explosive vocals and staggering range, and very few would bother refuting its excellence. Now, all we've got left to remember them are these impressive and show-stopping images. Enjoy.


Pre-Screening: David Bazan

Album: Curse Your Branches
Artist: David Bazan
Label: Barsuk Records
Due Out: September 1st

It's always interesting to come upon a new release in the tumultuous career of David Bazan. The former Pedro the Lion frontman, once loving God, then questioning that faith, then drowning it in booze and now sort of questioning again, is a tortured soul. But that's what attracts many to his work. As he completes his most recent comeback from the fringes of alcoholism and agnosticism, we finally see the fruits of his labor, Curse Your Branches. Before even listening though, the questions are nearly endless. Is he focusing on God again? Is it genuine? Will it be another flippant, albeit quality piece of work like 2007's Fewer Moving Parts? And so it goes.

"Hard To Be" begins slowly, building on a quaint, but active electronic keyboard part, adding in more instrumentation as it progresses. Once Bazan's voice kicks in though, the album is ceremoniously christened as another tongue-in-cheek effort, lamenting over christianity and his life. I mean, the chorus' main theme is "it's hard to be a decent human being." I think that seals it right there. "Bless This Mess" comes in next as a surprisingly bright, folksy carnival ride, listing off a long series of ironic things to bless. Some are kind of worthwhile, while others are a bit less-rewarding aspects of life, but overall, the concept translates well enough. Then we proceed to where Bazan functions best, his "ol' wheelhouse" for lack of a better term. "Please, Baby, Please" is filled with his most prototypical prose-- complaining about drinking and terrible encounters with women. Bazan could use a hug and a nice girl.

The title track, "Curse Your Branches," as was the case with his previous solo releases' title track, probably best sums up the concept of the record. In a life analysis that's oddly forward-thinking for Bazan, he questions belief (not uncommon, obviously) and derides the hand that feeds, per se ("all fallen leaves should curse their branches"). Following this, we are joined by more anti-belief/religion rhetoric. One of my favorites from Bazan's collection of unreleased tracks has always been the brief "Harmless Sparks," so I was thrilled to see it included on the new album. Now expanded, and including some mock church vocals, it opens using the vehicle of a group of clergymen not being completely faithful to their vow of celibacy. Of course, this leads to drinking and interaction with nuns in one of Bazan's most thorough and obvious condemnations of the organized church. From the negative, we then hit the fun (hard to believe, but it is, sort of) and kind of positive "When We Fell." It's not that it actually focuses on positive themes, but more that Bazan sounds glad to be singing about the subject matter-- another rarity for him.

"Lost My Shape" starts off the closing stretch with an airy and spacious sound reminiscent of Bright Eyes' Cassadaga. As if he's swimming underwater, Bazan's voice seems suspended in space, actually gliding off the piano chords bouncing in the background. It also got me thinking about the video for Radiohead's "No Surprises," which kind of makes sense, given David's well-documented Thom Yorke fandom. "Bearing Witness" instantaneously breaks this mellow feel though, with another western-folk vibe. It's an interesting juxtaposition he employs several times however; presenting negative themes to the backdrop of positive musical arrangements. He's done it before, but for some reason, it seems a lot more frequent, and well-executed on Curse Your Branches than it did on previous tries. Continuing in this vein, "Heavy Breath" keeps momentum up, nearly passing itself for a pop song, if not for several slowed-down sections interspersed within it. Not one to send us off on a positive note, Bazan offers piano ballad "In Stitches." Amazingly, after such a lengthy career, this may be the most honest thing he's ever written. He spills about drinking, troubles raising his daughter and her mother's absence. He even pulls a couple falsetto notes for a stunningly beautiful and heartfelt ending to an album that was seemingly the antithesis until this point.

You always feel bad for David Bazan, but perhaps at no time more than those few closing notes on piano to finish this album. Rarely someone who does something new with his work, and rather, simply expands upon the themes he's always presented us with, Bazan's approach here is both fresh and different. Embracing more folk and western influences than his usual indie rock sensibilities, the album oozes the scenery of the Pacific Northwest. At the same time, however, once can't get too wrapped up in the sentimental aspects to notice a considerable lack of teeth here. There are moments, no doubt, but without a little more bite, Curse Your Branches sometimes blends together a bit too much with its similar themes. Bazan's return is neither a huge success nor a major failure, but maybe it wasn't supposed to be. Just one step in the right direction could be all he needs at the moment. For similarities, please consult Pedro the Lion, Damien Jurado and The Good Life.

Rating: 7.0/10

Best Track: "Please, Baby, Please"


Weekly Top 10: Best Songs of 1989

I'm not even sure what inspired this week's Top 10 list. Maybe it was extended listening to Dinosaur Jr. (who, evidently, are not present on it due to not having a release in 1989) lately. Perhaps just a mood thing. Regardless, for your listening pleasure, I present to you our best songs of 1989. You may agree. You may not. Since I was not old enough to remember any of these songs at the time, keep in mind the list has been constructed in non-immediate retrospect.

Top Tracks of 1989


John's Track of the Week: "Human Hands"

Song: Human Hands
Artist: Sondre Lerche and The Faces Down Quartet
Album: Duper Sessions
Year: 2006

I'll start off by saying, yes, I'm well aware that this was in Dan In Real Life, but I will not be discussing the film, because I believe the track can stand on its own. The Elvis Costello cover is a fun, jazzy number that Lerche executes to perfection, allowing his voice to dance along the engaging piano part. I actually like it better than the original. Now, don't chastise me, Costello fans. The original version still suffices, but Lerche's re-imagining of the song is superb. What was once a more awkward description of feelings is now a smooth and matter-of-factly list of what is on our narrator's mind.

For those interested in more work by the multifaceted Norwegian, see any of his work under his own name, or his releases with The Faces Down Quartet. While his Faces Down collections are more jazz-oriented, his music under Sondre Lerche is more geared towards rock. Either way, a good mix of genres for your collection. Also, be on the lookout for his new album, Heartbeat Radio, which will be released September 8th via Rounder Records.


Tuesday's Releases (8/25): Now Streaming

For those who've been wondering where we've been lately, see a lethal combination of vacation, work and tying up some loose ends. Now, though, we're behind all of that-- sort of. Please bear with us as we ease back into our normal schedule over the next week or so. To kick off that re-adjustment is this week's releases, streaming across the interwebs (but mostly on Spinner) for your enjoyment before buying. As always, credit for the original idea goes out to LargeHeartedBoy.


Pre-Screening: Arctic Monkeys

Album: Humbug

Artist: Arctic Monkeys

Label: Domino/Warner Bros./EMI

Due Out: August 25th

Like many other bands reaching for the third album milestone, the Arctic Monkeys had a few possible directions they could take. Their first two albums were both well received, but dramatically different. With sounds spanning from the riotous, young swagger of 2006's Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not, to the angst-stricken swoon of 2007's Favourite Worst Nightmare, not to mention Alex Turner's 60s-obsessed work with The Last Shadow Puppets, it was really anyone's guess what was in store. What was clear at the third album mark is that the band needed to make a dramatic move. As much of a departure as Favourite Worst Nightmare was, it almost seemed like a snapshot, caught in the middle of a larger transition. There were obvious changes like surf-influenced guitars and a move towards a generally darker sound, but the band still fit into their old skin. Humbug, however, feels like the product of the full transition. Without losing themselves in the process, they've embraced a whole new set of influences (Cream, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, etc.), and made a record that once again sets them apart in a crowded scene.

Starting with "My Propeller", you can immediately throw away any notion of getting something you've heard before. It's noticeably looser than your average Arctic Monkeys tune from the get go, and then it quickly becomes ominous and brooding. It showcases a dark side of the band that we have only seen in short glimpses previously, and from there it only gets more pronounced as "Crying Lightning" takes us deep into an eerie, Willy Wonkan world of oddities. As Turner continues to let his imagination run wild with imagery, the songs twist and change form. In many cases, what you start with is a far-cry from the end point, and the ride in between is never dull. Only after fully engaging their audience in the unfamiliar does the band give a subtle nod to its roots on "Dangerous Animals", which has the classic bounce of "Dancing Shoes", with the addition of reverb spring impacts for accents.

The next track, "Secret Door" begins with a sweeping melody, reminiscent of "The Only Ones Who Know", that eventually morphs into a steady gallop, and then floats back down on Turner's softly sung refrain. But even here in one of the album's lighter moments, there is a tangible hint of cynicism, as always. The guys continue to extend their prowess on "Potion Approaching", which features thundering drums and a half-time breakdown, sounding like a giant trudging through a wooded countryside. This is one of the points where the band starts to redefine their own niche by abandoning the playbook, but after listening, it isn't so hard to believe that they have always been capable of such dynamics.

As we enter the second half of the record, the experimentation continues into the rowdy "Fire and the Thud". This one starts with a vibe not too unlike The Doors' "Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)", before opening up to one of the record's catchiest hooks and a mess of guitar solos. It also features a supporting vocal performance by The Kills' Alison Mosshart, which serves as a nice contrast to Turner's own hushed grumble. The album's standout track, "Cornerstone" follows next, and although it is very much in the same vein as the rest of the album, it's clearly single material. The roughest edges of what we've seen thus far are softened and the subject matter turns to lost love and loneliness in the most straightforward sense, as Turner asks every new girl he meets, "Can I call you her name?" Reversed, Beatles' "I'm Only Sleeping"-esque guitars lead us out to "Dance Little Liar", where things pick up where they left off, and alternating machine-gun burst guitar riffs and high pitched squeals bend and wail over the frantic pounding of drums. Virtually without exception, every song on Humbug shows us the Arctic Monkeys in their most raw form ever put to tape.

Before bringing things to a complete close, the band still has a couple more tricks up their sleeves. They save the most scathing track on the record for second-to-last with "Pretty Visitors". It rages along as fast and hard as old standbys like "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor", but with an unsettling organ and word-spun images of snake pit shadows. From there, the haunting, "The Jeweller's Hands" closes out the record on an energetic cliffhanger as lingering guitars and chimey key strokes continue plugging away, with the volume eventually fading out to silence.

The biggest thing I took away from this album on first listen was the incredible amount of musical growth displayed. In the three years since Whatever People Say I Am, this is a band that has changed dramatically but logically, and not just for the sake of it. Now, after giving it many more listens, Humbug has just continued getting better. For a band like Arctic Monkeys, who so suddenly stumbled into international superstardom as fresh-faced kids, staying above the hype is always a concern. Even now that they're older, and an established wrecking force in the genre, it always helps to deliver the goods, and that is just what they do. They keep it interesting, and they do it with staying power. I can see myself actively listening to this one for quite some time.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best Track: "Cornerstone"

Pre-Screening: fun.

Album: Aim and Ignite
Artist: fun.
Label: Self-released
Due Out: August 25th

I'll admit it right off the bat-- I've been looking forward to this one coming out ever since The Format's unfortunate break-up back in 2008. Fresh off my New York Giants' stunning victory in Super Bowl XLII, I happened to head over to The Format's website the following day. The news was shocking, a bit sobering and overall, quite depressing. As far as the future, it was up in the air, only with the slight promise that Nate and Sam would be pursuing their own releases separately. After such a long wait, I am proud to talk about this, Nate's project, fun. Teaming up with Steel Train's Jack Antonoff and Anathallo's Andrew Dost, the project seemingly picks up where The Format left off. Nate's obviously moved on, both from the situations intertwined within Dog Problems, and the band itself, but he's able to work that to his advantage on Aim and Ignite. It's a fresh start for him, and if this effort is any indication, he's going to make the most of it.

"Be Calm" begins rather aptly, appearing fairly calm, cool and collected-- a stark departure from most of The Format's work. The emotional damage is gone, and with its absence, the sense of desperation has dissipated for the most part. Still, the opener does not disappoint from an energy standpoint. Rolling in slowly, but surely, by the halfway mark, the tempo reaches its pinnacle, and is joined triumphantly by an extensive orchestration Format fans know all too well. Next is "Benson Hedges," which was the project's first track presented to the public, albeit in demo form many months ago. Bouncy and building, the song, which starts at a fever pitch, just continues to grow throughout. Nate's obviously excited about what he's singing about, and to me, that's a reward in itself. "All the Pretty Girls" jumps right in afterwards, seemingly taking a more-matured view of Nate's normal observations. As much as there's a ton of auxiliary percussion, horns and strings running rampant on the entire album, one can't help but notice the heavy rock influences, specifically rooted in the 1980s (is it just me?) Handclapping is also a necessity, as Nate puts his first real personal stamp on the record.

"I Wanna Be the One" is our first look into the goofy and corny side of the band. I don't look at it as a bad thing in any way. In fact, to me, these oboe solos, doowoop choruses and other niceties are actually the draw. Nate's at his best when he embraces raw and honest emotions, and though slower than most of the record, this one would qualify as a success. And then there's the first finished song which all fans heard. "At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)" signaled to me and so many others that Nate was, in fact, back in action. Any elements he's ever used over his career are on display throughout the fun (no pun intended) and active track that looks to personify the entire record. Triumphant is probably the best word I can come with, specifically when he sounds a bit like Freddie Mercury. Coming right off that, we reach the album's most relaxed and sentimental moment, "Light A Roman Candle With Me." Not a plea, as much as a request, it simplifies our narrator's feelings for someone in a simple action, amongst a collection of others he lists quite extensively.

"Walking the Dog" starts off a bit tropically, and for the most part, it maintains that aesthetic, though I'd never really categorize it as island music of any sort. Rather, it just plays on surf guitars and some caribbean keyboard settings, for another interesting trip inside Nate's head that includes questions about the "Boys of Summer." Then, if you didn't know any better, you'd think the album was coming to a close. "Barlights" is a celebration, if nothing else, about life. It's truly the type of thing you'd come to expect at the end of any album, specifically one such as this. Yet, it's just the warning shot, jazz hands, James Dean references and all. Unexpectedly, it gets very ballady on us, as we are rounding the final turn. The hypothetical tale of two lovers who promise each other they'll grow old together, until one is diagnosed with cancer. Obviously, Nate's not old enough for this to be about him, but it could possibly be about his own father (see The Format's "On Your Porch"). However, I digress. On closer "Take Your Time (Coming Home)," the band busts out all the stops to send us out with a bang. Rock piano, powerful riffs, positive introspection and even some solos create one of my favorite final tracks of the year. That's right, I said solos. It's true. To me, this nearly eight-minute monster is what the effort's all about, and I couldn't think of a better way to close the book on it.

All the anticipation was worth it. To me, at least. For the better part of the album, Nate channels his inner Billy Joel and makes quite a strong rock album that's just amplified by the alternative pop elements blended in. Every track bleeds confidence and determination. At times, it's breathtaking. I wish I wasn't being so sensationalist about it, but well, I can't help it. When you're such a huge fan of a band, you'll take whatever you can get, and in this case, I'm not just picking at scraps. I know that fun. is not The Format, and I'm not asking them to be. But as fun., they've thoroughly impressed me with their initial effort, even if it did allude to sounds of Nate's old band, and hopefully I'll be listening to these guys for quite awhile. If you'd like to reference some similarities, please check out The Format, Queen and All Get Out.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best Track: "Barlights"


Weekly Top 10: Island Songs

As per usual on Thursdays, we've got a playlist of sorts. This week, due to us being on vacation in a fairly coastal area, we decided to use island songs as our theme. What constitutes an island song in this case? A song which is more of a stand-alone track from an artist who normally wouldn't be classified as reggae, surf rock or any other type of tropical music (though there is one artist here who could fall either way, but we decided to include him). Hopefully that clears up any concerns about the omission of certain artists. Enjoy below.

Matt's Track of the Week: "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts"

Song: Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts

Artist: Wolf Parade

Album: Apologies to the Queen Mary

Year: 2005

Last year, Wolf Parade released their second full-length album, At Mount Zoomer. Just like its predecessor, it was full of intensely emotional, haunting, indie rock gems. There were explosions of frantic energy and slow-burning laments. There was even notable musical growth in some new and interesting directions. It's all we could have asked for in a follow-up to one of the decades' most highly acclaimed releases, except for one thing. The album lacked a certain element of "classicality".

Almost every song on Apologies to the Queen Mary stands on its own two feet, along with working cohesively as a moving part of the bigger machine, and that is the secret to a great album that will stand the test of time. "Dear Sons and Daughters of Hungry Ghosts" is a bit of sleeper gem when compared to the undeniably epic "I'll Believe In Anything", but there are few things more beautiful musically on this record than the harmonies of the guitars and synths during this song's chorus break. It's one of those moments on an album that stops you dead in your tracks and has you putting the song on repeat until it gets old. The great thing about this one is, it never does. Check it out below.

Album Review: tUnE-YaRdS

Album: BiRd-BrAiNs
Artist: tUnE-YaRdS
Label: Marriage Records
Out: July 2008/March 2009/August 18th

We'll end the non-immediate offerings of Reviews Week with something very related to yesterday's post. Tune-Yards, aka Merrill Garbus, who we spoke of at-length yesterday, released a fantastic record last July, then again in March via Marriage Records and then once more this week, via 4AD. Bird-Brains, which I will consider as released this year for the sake of any end-of-year consideration, is much of the same buffet of sound I touched on with Sister Suvi yesterday. The real difference is that here, it's simply Garbus, by herself, with nothing but some computer software, random instruments and a handheld microphone. The result is lo-fi bliss, and an impressive year in news for an album constructed by Garbus all by her lonesome.

Without the aid of a full band, one might expect Bird-Brains to sound sparse, or at least have a sound reflective of a solo recording effort. On the contrary, the album is a pleasant, and at times, stunning surprise, producing waves of sounds coming at you in the form of awkward timing and crashing cymbals. As I've mentioned on this site before, this is most apparent on "Sunlight," the collection's most active, standout and hectic piece. Though immersed in an album full of noise, it manages to stand above the rest, perhaps bouncing higher, and careening off the walls just a tad longer than the rest. The bevy of sounds here, and everywhere else, give off an appearance of having been run through several subwoofers for effect, yet it only amplifies how strong each is musically.

Style-wise, this, similar to Sister Suvi, also jumps around quite a lot. As I had said, Garbus was a large influence, thus that makes sense. The skips from shocking noise pop to bits of hip hop to tribal folk are frequent and unrelenting. I think I just referred to it as "alternative" on my computer, because I've still yet to figure out the correct genre (I keep everything confined to just 30 different ones) to classify it. Oddly enough, though I, and so many others have offered rave reviews of this one, there are also those who have told me it is a tough act to listen to. Though not of that camp, I suppose I can understand the rift it may create for some. If one is interested in listening to a consistent sound, I can't say with any confidence that you'll enjoy Bird-Brains. Garbus is a pro, but as good as she is, there can be a few misses here and there. These are subtle however, and to me, take away little from the album's overall quality and purpose. I mean, how could you not love the freak-folk and barbershop quartet harmony mix on "News?" I couldn't tell you.

What Garbus succeeds at, perhaps better than anyone except maybe Animal Collective, is taking something that could potentially be a hard sell, or awkward, and turn it into music gold. Though this isn't always in the financial sense (though for AC, I'd say it is, lately), it does make for effective and enjoyable music which manages to exist off the beaten path. Admittedly, Tune-Yards can even exist outside of those fictional limitations set for this type of music, but the pure ability and range displayed here, as well as the ambition it takes to undertake this sort of project, allow for it to excel. Poor timing has a place in music, as do minor chords, and if used constructively, this is what you come out with. Once again, I commend the effort by Garbus, and I hope to hear a lot more from her in the future. If you're still looking for similarities after all of that, go check out Sister Suvi (obviously), Here We Go Magic and Bibio.

Rating: 7.5/10

Best Track: "Sunlight" (courtesy of Pitchfork)


John's Track of the Week: "Funny Little Frog"

Song: Funny Little Frog
Artist: Belle and Sebastian
Album: The Life Pursuit
Year: 2006

For years, I was not a huge fan of this song. To be honest, I kind of had something against it. It wasn't the overly-happy or poppy nature "Funny Little Frog" seemed to exude, however, it may have had something to do with the band's altered sound. I'm of the camp where I thoroughly enjoyed the older, more melancholic Belle and Sebastian of the late 1990s, so perhaps this was just the song that set me off more than any other recent piece of work. Still, I would occasionally listen to this track, along with several others from The Life Pursuit, just to try to prove to myself that maybe it wasn't so bad. Surprisingly enough, I ended up being convinced by God Help the Girl, Stuart Murdoch's side film/recording project. Among the fantastic collection amassed on that record, a very toned-down version of this song somehow rose to be one of my favorites. With time, I began to gravitate towards the original, and now we're here, with it being my Track of the Week.

The song chronicles a literal laundry list of feelings which our narrator has for his partner. However, as we find out at its conclusion, it ends up that none of this is actual said out loud, and instead, promised to be shared at a later date. It's almost timeless, the message and the different images evoked, that it nearly makes the song somewhat of a classic love ballad. Especially in our modern times, it seems to me that it has become harder and harder for people to really share their true feelings in spoken word. Perhaps this provides the chronicle of that struggle? A goofy, slightly awkward, but overall, pop-driven and metaphor-filled recap of how much one person means to another. Somehow, in 2009, I'm tempted to believe that this is one of the most accurate observations of modern life I've seen. Or I could just be overanalyzing. Either way, it's below, for your listening pleasure.

Album Review: Sister Suvi

Album: Now I Am Champion
Artist: Sister Suvi
Label: Common Clouds
Out: April 14th

Welcome to the third day of Reviews Week. Today, we're discussing Sister Suvi's Now I Am Champion. For those who may be unfamiliar to this point, they're a fun, freak-folk and noise trio made up of Merrill Garbus (of Tune-Yards), Patrick Gregoire and Nico Dann. In a rare feat, Garbus has managed to light up some corners of the music blogosphere with two separate efforts in the same year, so I'll warn you in advance that there is sure to be a greater focus on her at the beginning. However, that is not to discount the contributions and skill of the accomplished Gregoire and Dann, in their own rights. I just feel that a lot of the influence here stems from Garbus' stream of consciousness which she developed with Tune-Yards. That being said, we can now continue--

Now I Am Champion thrives on its use of off-kilter percussion parts, and a fast-paced, chaotic nature. While the vocals can, at times, sound like Buddy Holly, and others, touch on more tribal influences, the consistency is the haphazard and delightful game being constructed in the background. The clashing chords, both with guitar and chorus, and random inserts of sound here and there light up the entire aesthetic as it bounces between folk, noise and pop at a rapid, and alarming rate. With all of this stress on percussive work (which is fantastic, of course), you can't discount the intricate and technical guitar melodies which are at the heart of each track. Every one is touched with a bit of folk, while also employing a fair share of guitar pop sensibilities to move the songs along at a steady, and provocative pace. Goofy, yet appreciated country gang vocals also make a few guest appearances to further this in-between-genres duel of chance, surprisingly to much success.

Don't let all of these weighty, wordy descriptions fool you either. As much as Sister Suvi bases this entire effort off of the intricacies of blending several different types of music into one cogent, and persuasive argument, this is, in essence, a pop record. The difference, of course, is in what types of pop they're going for at any given moment. Likewise, these moments are never without a counterpoint of some lesser-used element. Freak-folk and noise are the first two that come to mind, but I'd like to believe that 1950s rock 'n' roll plays a roll too, along with a bit of hair metal. I just love all of the sounds that manage to mix themselves into this effort, which lasts just nine tracks, yet manages to fit in so much thought. It flows, then it's mechanical, then its flying, and then it's a frenzied indie mess that alludes to reggae and hip-hop. The word "dizzying" probably doesn't even do it justice. The fact is that you can't sit still while listening to this, yet in no way would I consider it danceable. Rather, Now I Am Championshould be considered a sound record, of epic proportions. It evokes every emotion imaginable, and tosses us into the middle of such a hodgepodge of influences that we are forced either to fight our way out, or simply go with the flow.

All things considered, a record that jumps, stops and starts as much as this one does has no business garnering such high praise. Yet, I can't help but say great things about it. How can a record like this go largely unnoticed by the larger community of indie bloggers, and the indie scene in general? Garbus is a well-kept secret. for the most part, except around here, where she does have a bit of a celebrity. I'd tell you that you'll love Now I Am Champion if you love music, but of course, that's not true. Sadly, in order to enjoy an effort like this, not only do you have to appreciate each element individually, but you've got to be able to handle their marriages in such a disorganized fashion. If you can agree with all of that with confidence, then yes, perhaps Now I Am Champion is your new favorite album. Give it a chance. Even if you don't get it right off the bat. Like so very few records, it grows on you with each listen, and once your head is finally wrapped around it all, it may just explode. Really. Similarities may possibly include Garbus' Tune-Yards, Islands and Here We Go Magic.

Rating: 8.5/10

Best Track: "American"


Album Review: Eels

Album: Hombre Lobo
Artist: Eels
Label: E Works/Vagrant
Out: June 2nd

As we continue Reviews Week here at Animal Noises, we'll be talking about Eels' Hombre Lobo, which came out back in early June. Using the Spanish translation for the word "werewolf," the album explores that theme visually, while delving into the emotions that make up desire within the confines of the songs' lyrics. Eels frontman, E, has claimed it to be a concept album about that, and for the most part, it holds true to that mission. Many of the tracks appear to be grasping at straws, or rather, at something wanted, but unable to be attained. While singing, E is distant from his subject, both in joy and sadness, and that separation he's created allows for the successful execution of the concept.

As much as Hombre Lobo stays to a central concept both thematically and lyrically, the accompanying music is another story entirely. Jolting the listener back and forth between slower acoustic numbers, such as E's favorite, "That Look You Give That Guy," to brazen, eccentric burners such as "Lilac Breeze" that breeze through the motions at lightning speeds, the album has no consistency whatsoever in terms of mood. And that may be what I enjoy most of all. Normally I'd be critical of this type of endeavor. Usually described as herky-jerky, or a bit disjointed, I usually look for a collection of songs to fit smoothly together, and only making mood transitions where necessary and appropriate. Yet, Hombre Lobo, with all its adjusting, and literal bipolar nature, comes off as charming, and even necessary for the album.

On top of these differing tempos, styles are also a huge point of positive contrast. One second, E's trotting along at a relaxed pace which could even invoke comparisons to Belle and Sebastian. The next, we see a rock 'n' roll-infused revival session reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix himself. It's enough to cause a double-take upon first, or even second listen. How does any effort carry on for this long while switching on cue, between songs, and still manage a coherent thought? This album's method is the only answer I can come up with, I guess.

Even with these heavier, more electric moments though, one can tell that you're experiencing a very personal piece of work. The bipolar characteristics lend to the plot of the concept. An individual wants for something, and thus acts out in separate, but related fits of joy, rage and sadness. Some are subdued, and some are obviously more bombastic, but overall, each lends itself to the overall picture of desire. It's a tough emotion to handle, and just as difficult to describe. Still, I believe E is effective here in at least carving out some of the details for us, in the hopes of some comprehension.

As many movies as Eels has been featured in, and there have been a lot, the band still manages to stay fairly small-time and under-the-radar. It's a feat none too many artists can accomplish in these days of sensationalism and Next-Big-Thing hype. I commend E for it. However, I do hope it doesn't rob this album from gaining the praise it deserves come end of year for 2009. Hombre Lobo makes no small accomplishment out of itself, grabbing at various textures and sensibilities to convey the same experience and emotion in as many ways as may be possible. And there isn't a reach in sight. If you're interested in anything that will keep you coming back for more, or even just a partially-fun, but most just entertaining record to close out your summer, this could be what you're looking for. Similarities, if you still need any convincing, include The Flaming Lips, Spoon and Wilco.

Rating: 8.0/10

Best Track: "Beginner's Luck"