12.20.2010

Best Songs of 2010 (John's Picks)

In the site's more recent, less updated form, we've failed to really cover music the way we have in the past. While that will not be changing for the time being, we still felt compelled to put together some lists to coincide with the end of 2010. Also, just because we haven't been blogging mean we haven't been listening to this year's slate of new releases. On the contrary, writing less about what's new has allowed us to better enjoy it. And now, we'd like to invite you to enjoy our much scaled-down 2010 end-of-year coverage.

John's Top Songs of 2010: #50-1

50. "Crazy for You" -- Best Coast
49. "I Want to Be Well" -- Sufjan Stevens
48. "Giving Up the Gun" -- Vampire Weekend
47. "XXXO" -- M.I.A.
46. "Excuses" -- The Morning Benders
45. "Norway" -- Beach House
44. "World Sick" -- Broken Social Scene
43. "While We're Young" -- Department of Eagles
42. "Bermuda" -- Kisses
41. "Simple Graces" -- Delorean
40. "USA Boys" -- HEALTH
39. "Round and Round" -- Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
38. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" -- Arcade Fire
37. "Floating Vibes" -- Surfer Blood
36. "Doe Deer" -- Crystal Castles
35. "Daisy" -- Fang Island
34. "The Day" (Feat. Mos Def & Jay Electronica) -- Curren$y
33. "Fever Dreaming" -- No Age
32. "Conversation 16" -- The National
31. "Over" -- Drake
30. "All Summer" -- Kid Cudi, Best Coast, Rostam Batmanglij
29. "Someday Soon" -- Harlem
28. "Nothin' On You" -- B.O.B.
27. "Eat You Alive" -- Donnis
26. "Superfast Jellyfish" -- Gorillaz
25. "Not In Love" (Feat. Robert Smith) -- Crystal Castles
24. "Rill Rill" -- Sleigh Bells
23. "See Me Now" (Feat. Beyonce & Charlie Wilson) -- Kanye West
22. "Heartbreaker" -- Girls
21. "Heaven's On Fire" -- The Radio Dept.
20. "hahahahaha jk?" -- Das Racist
19. "Crushin' Feelins" -- Freddie Gibbs
18. "Revival" -- Deerhunter
17. "Only Girl (in the World)" -- Rihanna
16. "Post Acid" -- Wavves
15. "Yamaha" -- The-Dream
14. "O.N.E." -- Yeasayer
13. "The Suburbs" -- Arcade Fire
12. "Angela Surf City" -- The Walkmen
11. "Cousins" -- Vampire Weekend
10. "Swim" -- Surfer Blood
9. "Collector" -- Here We Go Magic
8. "Bloodbuzz Ohio" -- The National
7. "I'm Back" -- T.I.
6. "Zebra" -- Beach House
5. "Power" -- Kanye West
4. "Exhibit C" -- Jay Electronica
3. "Fuck You" -- Cee-Lo
2. "Shutterbugg" (Feat. Cutty) -- Big Boi
1. "Runaway" (Feat. Pusha T) -- Kanye West

Best Albums of 2010: #10-1 (John's Picks)

In the site's more recent, less updated form, we've failed to really cover music the way we have in the past. While that will not be changing for the time being, we still felt compelled to put together some lists to coincide with the end of 2010. Also, just because we haven't been blogging mean we haven't been listening to this year's slate of new releases. On the contrary, writing less about what's new has allowed us to better enjoy it. And now, we'd like to invite you to enjoy our much scaled-down 2010 end-of-year coverage.

John's Top Albums of 2010: #10-1

10. How I Got Over -- The Roots
Top Track: "How I Got Over" (Feat. Dice Raw)

9. Wild Smile -- Suckers
Top Track: "It Gets Your Body Movin'"

8. King Of The Beach -- Wavves
Top Track: "Post Acid"

7. The Suburbs -- Arcade Fire
Top Track: "The Suburbs"

6. Contra -- Vampire Weekend
Top Track: "Cousins"

5. Halcyon Digest -- Deerhunter
Top Track: "Revival"

4. Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty -- Big Boi
Top Track: "Shutterbugg" (Feat. Cutty)

3. High Violet -- The National
Top Track: "Bloodbuzz Ohio"

2. Teen Dream -- Beach House
Top Track: "Zebra"

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy -- Kanye West
Top Track: "Runaway" (Feat. Pusha T)

Best Albums of 2010: #20-11 (John's Picks)

In the site's more recent, less updated form, we've failed to really cover music the way we have in the past. While that will not be changing for the time being, we still felt compelled to put together some lists to coincide with the end of 2010. Also, just because we haven't been blogging mean we haven't been listening to this year's slate of new releases. On the contrary, writing less about what's new has allowed us to better enjoy it. And now, we'd like to invite you to enjoy our much scaled-down 2010 end-of-year coverage.

John's Top Albums of 2010: #20-11

20. Transference -- Spoon
Top Track: "Written In Reverse"

19. Down There -- Avey Tare
Top Track: "Lucky 1"

18. Fang Island -- Fang Island
Top Track: "Daisy"

17. Thank Me Later -- Drake
Top Track: "Over"

16. Everything In Between -- No Age
Top Track: "Fever Dreaming"

15. Lisbon -- The Walkmen
Top Track: "Angela Surf City"

14. Pilot Talk -- Curren$y
Top Track: "The Day" (Feat. Mos Def & Jay Electronica)

13. Astro Coast -- Surfer Blood
Top Track: "Swim"

12. Love King -- The-Dream
Top Track: "Yamaha"

11. The Age of Adz -- Sufjan Stevens
Top Track: "I Want to Be Well"

Best Albums of 2010: #30-21 (John's Picks)

In the site's more recent, less updated form, we've failed to really cover music the way we have in the past. While that will not be changing for the time being, we still felt compelled to put together some lists to coincide with the end of 2010. Also, just because we haven't been blogging mean we haven't been listening to this year's slate of new releases. On the contrary, writing less about what's new has allowed us to better enjoy it. And now, we'd like to invite you to enjoy our much scaled-down 2010 end-of-year coverage.

John's Top Albums of 2010: #30-21

30. Gorilla Manor -- Local Natives
Top Track: "Airplanes"

29. Majesty Shredding -- Superchunk
Top Track: "My Gap Feels Weird"

28. Odd Blood -- Yeasayer
Top Track: "O.N.E."

27. Play It Strange -- The Fresh & Onlys
Top Track: "Waterfall"

26. The Archandroid -- Janelle Monae
Top Track: "Tightrope" (Feat. Big Boi)

25. I Learned the Hard Way -- Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings
Top Track: "I Learned the Hard Way"

24. Cosmogramma -- Flying Lotus
Top Track: "... And the World Laughs With You" (Feat. Thom Yorke)

23. Album of the Year -- Black Milk
Top Track: "Welcome (Gotta Go)"

22. Before Today -- Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Top Track: "Round and Round"

21. Treats -- Sleigh Bells
Top Track: "Rill Rill"

Best Albums of 2010 (Matt's Picks)

In the site's more recent, less updated form, we've failed to really cover music the way we have in the past. While that will not be changing for the time being, we still felt compelled to put together some lists to coincide with the end of 2010. Also, just because we haven't been blogging mean we haven't been listening to this year's slate of new releases. On the contrary, writing less about what's new has allowed us to better enjoy it. And now, we'd like to invite you to enjoy our much scaled-down 2010 end-of-year coverage.

Matt's Top 10 Albums of 2010

10. Wild Smile -- Suckers
9. Thank Me Later -- Drake
8. The Suburbs -- Arcade Fire
7. Expo '86 -- Wolf Parade
6. Lisbon -- The Walkmen
5. Contra -- Vampire Weekend
4. Heart of the Nightlife -- Kisses
3. Astro Coast -- Surfer Blood
2. High Violet -- The National
1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy -- Kanye West

7.05.2010

Best Albums of 2010 (So Far)

If it feels like Animal Noises has been gone for awhile, it's because it's true. There are various reasons for this-- a disenchantment with reviewing music, a floundering music scene and a dearth of good music are a few. What encourages this post however also has meaning behind it. This past week was our second birthday as a blog; an eternity on the internet, really. Our first post was a list just like this one, albeit more crudely and haphazardly constructed. Matt wrote about album art, I wrote hack reviews (some might say I still do), and the site was not yet molded into its 2009 form. Almost 700 posts (mostly in 2009), a senior editorship at 20 Watts and (at one time) a surprising surge in notability later, this probably isn't what most (myself included) envisioned for the blog at this point. But such is life.

I won't make any promises as to what our format will be going forward. I honestly don't know. Nonetheless though, here are our (mostly my) picks for the top 15 studio albums of 2010 thus far (through June 30).

15.
Avi Buffalo, Avi Buffalo
For a band made mostly of under 20-somethings, Avi Buffalo delivers a surprisingly expansive album experience on their first go-around. Of course, there are moments where they can, and do act their age, but for the most part, it's a real show of emotions, without being too sappy or immature.

14.
Transference, Spoon
By my account, Spoon's most experimental effort to date,
Transference seems to forgo the radio-friendly, locked-in nature of 2007's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga for a rougher, gruffer exterior. The results are a surprising change of pace that deliver few singles, but a very complete and complimentary collection of songs.

13.
Treats, Sleigh Bells
Sleigh Bells were discovered by M.I.A., something that shouldn't surprise you at any point during
Treats. Their brash electronic pop is a burst of raw energy, electrifying and different with an air of youth typified by the cheerleader themed album cover.

12.
Before Today, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Before Today may be the only appropriate title for Ariel Pink's latest effort, with a sound that grabs at 70s and 80s pop conventions as if they were gold. Though it may be more polished than his previous work, it also manages to display more outward emotion as well-- the biggest draw on an album full of them.

11.
Swim, Caribou
Harsh, melancholy and removed all at once, Caribou's Daniel Snaith seems to outdo himself on
Swim. More worked-over than what we've heard from him to this point, its seamless juxtaposition of various textures and elements keep it engaging and interesting throughout.

10.
Thank Me Later, Drake
Drake's highly-anticipated debut ends up here mostly on the strength of production value and a bevy of memorable radio singles. In spite of all his detractors and critics, the entertainer has still accomplished quite a bit in a very short time, and this album seems to be just the first in a string of solid outputs we'll see from him in the years to come.

9.
Cosmogramma, Flying Lotus
A cacophony of sound,
Cosmogramma may be the most difficult record on this list to wrap your head around. That said, the stunning collection of hip-hop, jazz and electronic experimentation will reward any and all listeners willing to put the time in.

8.
How I Got Over, The Roots
It would seem counter intuitive that The Roots would deliver one of their better albums at this point in their career. Then again, maybe mainstream exposure doesn't have to ruin every artist. The hip-hop veterans couple with various out-of-genre collaborators here to put together a highly optimistic, and internalized collection of songs.

7.
Innerspeaker, Tame Impala
In spite of their early psychedelic influences (which ring very apparent), Tame Impala manage to make
Innerspeaker an energetic, modern tour de force. With nary a lull in sight, the band grabs your attention from the start, and holds on throughout, as only an expertly engineered album can.

6.
Fang Island, Fang Island
Fang Island's self-titled debut is decidedly jovial, and almost childish-- a trait that actually sounds better in practice than it does in print. Still, the endless enthusiasm they provide is something of an anomaly in today's scene, so infectious that you have no choice but to join them in exuberance.

5.
Astro Coast, Surfer Blood
Astro Coast is a technical gem, with a level of guitar work far surpassing anything a debut album should be capable of. And yet, you are helpless to believe it from the record's opening notes all the way to the end. Thrashing wildly amidst a summer vibe, it's a storm worth sitting through.

4.
LP4, Ratatat
Devoid of many of the club bangers that have made them famous, Ratatat's
LP4 still manages to excite the senses with a much more closed-in approach. Even within the contained sound though, you are consumed by its textures, which harp far more on composition with (from my vantage point) a decidedly Latin flavor.

3.
Contra, Vampire Weekend
I deserve criticism for my initial evaluation of
Contra, which was less than favorable. That being said, it's a record that thoroughly grows on you, as each listen uncovers a new intricacy and songs gain new meanings. Rife with experimentation and intrigue, Contra never ceases to add a new dimension to your experience with it.

2.
High Violet, The National
Abandoning a sound that can best be described by me as "cozy," The National go for a darker transition on
High Violet, and pass with flying colors. Textured, brooding and thoughtful, the moody collection of songs is a saga-of-sorts, with a damaged and flawed cast of characters you are unlikely to tear yourself away from.

1.
Teen Dream, Beach House
A floating, sensational commentary on young love,
Teen Dream is airy and downright gorgeous. Each note sparkles and shines, whether happy or sad, dragging you closer and closer into the feelings that created it. When the final notes of closer "Take Care" fade away, you have only once choice but to hit play once again.

4.01.2010

Matt's Track of the Week: Twins' "Drive By Digital Ghost"

Song: Drive By Digital Ghost
Artist: Twins
Album: The Other Side Of
Rating: 7.0

Although he's been getting a little buzz here and there, Twins (Matt Weiner of Brooklyn) seems like a remarkably small and relatively unknown artist. His Myspace has 2,520 hits at press time, the most listened to track on his page has 307 plays, and his last comment was on January 5th, wishing him a happy new year. So why exactly is a new Twins song something that should even be on the radar of this blog and similar publications? I couldn't tell you. But after listening to it, you'll probably be glad that someone out there is on top of their new artist news.

"Drive By Digital Ghost" is an eerie throwback to the analog 80s. Mixed between intermittent guitar strokes, whining synths and distorted create a chilling atmosphere that sounds like being trapped inside the darkest, most warped corners of your imagination. His distinctive sound here is both unique and familiar, but at all times estranged and lonely, painting a spacious, hopeless portrait of a doomed endeavor. A sonic landscape this expressive is something you don't here all too often. You can listen to and download this track (via Pitchfork). Check it out below.

Weekly Top 10: Songs for Spring

Though spring has actually been upon us for the past week and a half, the 70-degree temperatures currently in my locale have finally made it official. Below you'll find tracks both about spring and evocative of spring as well. Some may be more obvious (The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun"), while others may not jump out right away (Wilco's "Hummingbird"). Still, an enjoyable, seasonal collection. Check it out.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Weekly Top 10: SXSW Acts (Part 2)]


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3.31.2010

John's Track of the Week: Meth, Ghost & Rae's "Our Dreams"

Song: Our Dreams
Artist: Meth, Ghost & Rae
Album: Wu-Massacre
Rating: 7.0

Creating an album for the fans isn't exactly a novel concept of late. Lil' Wayne would claim every mixtape to be such a gift, and let's face it, he's made quite a few of those. Yet, for artists like Wu-Tang Clan's Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, not only is it abnormal, but nearly unheard of to leave the confines of their normally sprawling collections of gangsta hip-hop. So when the three artists announced they'd be releasing fan album Wu-Massacre under the Meth, Ghost & Rae monicker, one wouldn't be blamed for being somewhat surprised, and at least mildly excited.

For what Wu-Massacre lacks in production value (the group has said it was recorded on virtually no budget), it excels in how comfortably the three rappers gel together. Over two years removed from Wu-Tang's last effort (2007's 8 Diagrams), it's as if they never left the studio, with their rhymes as crisp and locked-in as ever, and each artist naturally conceding to the next whenever necessary. Though exemplified on many tracks, one of the most interesting representations is on "Our Dreams," which features Inspectah Deck and Sun God, as well as a looping sample from Michael Jackson's "We're Almost There." Playing off the psychedelic vibe and MJ's vocals, the rappers mingle flawlessly within its confines to create a smooth, cool hit. Check it out below.

3.29.2010

Music Video Monday: Devendra Banhart's "Baby"

Track: Baby
Artist: Devendra Banhart
Album: What Will We Be
Year: 2010

The premise of Devendra Banhart's "Baby" video isn't exactly forthright, but we'll give it a whirl anyway. Basically, Banhart and his hipster pals (which include The Strokes' Fabrizio Moretti and MGMT's Andrew VanWyngarden, among others) are just walking down the street when they're suddenly abducted by some sort of large cylinder. The cylinder then blasts off into space, where they arrive inside some odd pink planet of-sorts. Once there, they are surrounded by H.R. Puffinstuff-type cartoon characters, whom they interact with here and there. To top it all off, GZA is the king of this whole realm (totally makes sense), which he rules from his iPhone.

And that's the long and short of it. We never get an explanation for any of these actions-- especially GZA's appearance, which may only be because he's a Banhart fan. Yet, in a way, you don't really question the whole ridiculous affair. I, for one, stopped being surprised when the cartoons showed up, but maybe others felt differently. Either way, it's worth a look below.

3.26.2010

Pre-Screening: Usher's Raymond v. Raymond

Album: Raymond v. Raymond
Artist: Usher
Label: LaFace
Rating: 5.5

Raymond v. Raymond, Usher's latest studio album, shows an artist at a serious crossroads both personally and professionally. As he recovers from his divorce with Tameka Foster, not only must he decide how he wants to cope with the situation behind closed doors, but also in his music (if at all). Herein lies the focus of Raymond v. Raymond, billed as an introspective and emotional album describing Usher's struggles and recovery. As a central concept of an R&B album, this would work perfectly, if executed properly. Unfortunately for Usher though, he is unable to channel his emotions into an entire record, so instead, we are left with two separate records for two separate moods-- with both jockeying for position inside Usher's head, and throughout the entirety of Raymond v. Raymond as well.

What's most surprising about the album is Usher's struggle for relevance, and his appearance of being out of place. In 2005, he was a worldwide superstar, fresh off of the platinum-selling Confessions. Whether laying down heartfelt R&B tunes, or energetic radio hits like "Yeah!" it appeared he could do no wrong. But here, that same artist can hardly find his bearings. Tracks like "So Many Girls" and "OMG" are supposed to be club bangers on par with the best of his past work, yet they fail miserably due to schizophrenic switches in subject matter (depressed, to player and back) and overly cliched lyrics. The worst case of this can be found on "She Don't Know," a track which is already forced and awkward enough before Ludacris's unfortunate appearance. Like everything else Luda touches, the song seems like it's stuck in 2004, and that effect begins to rub off on Usher and the rest of the album, too.

Beyond these major missteps, there are some bright spots as well. "Pro Lover" is one of the collection's best pieces, juxtaposing Usher's smooth vocals over a beat that sounds slightly borrowed from Dr. Dre's "Still D.R.E." (but all for the better). It's unfortunate that it takes until the eighth track for Usher to appear completely natural and honest, but the break from the cheesy womanizer we saw earlier is most welcome. Continuing in the more toned-down, heartfelt theme, "Foolin' Around" scores this album's version of "Burn" as Usher further opens up about his feelings surrounding the divorce. Between those two tracks, and 2009 single "Papers," it's obvious that this album could have ran completely on more unforced and honest R&B. The question is why didn't it?

As mentioned earlier, by the end of Raymond v. Raymond, we're really not sure which Usher we're getting a glimpse at-- the crux of the record's difficulties. One minute he's full of remorse, the next he's setting up threesomes at the club (the actual theme of the Nicki Minaj-featured "Lil Freak"). Perhaps if these two personalities had been broken down into two halves (i.e. Beyonce's I Am... Sasha Fierce), the message would have been more workable for listeners. But, instead we see a bipolar artist, still unsure of who he is and how he should deal with his life or career. For all of our sakes, we should hope he gets ahold of both soon. Music would hate to see someone this talented just fall off the map.

Best Track: "Pro Lover"

[Previously on Animal Noises: Most Prolific Artists of the Decade: #11-20]

3.25.2010

Matt's Track of the Week: Joker's "Tron"

Song: Tron
Artist: Joker
Album: Tron (Single)
Rating: 8.0

Although as far as we can tell, this is completely unrelated to the upcoming Disney flick, looking at the single's artwork, one can assume it was at least inspired by it. Joker hasn't yet become a household name for many, but last year, he built quite a reputation for himself as a hit factory in House and Dub-Step scenes around the world. His debut album is expected sometime in the not so distant future, and if he makes anything even close to past hits like "Purple City" and "Digidesign", it won't be long before everyone his name is being thrown around with the likes of Daft Punk and Justice.

On "Tron", Joker showcases every play in his book to perfection. The synths are edgy, the mood is dark, and it has a nod-your-head hip-hop vibe that makes me almost certain that we'll be finding it on mixtapes later this year. This track is his first statement of the new year, and rightly a bold one. Check it out below.

3.24.2010

John's Track of the Week: T.I.'s "I'm Back"

Song: I'm Back
Artist: T.I.
Album: I'm Back - Single
Rating: 8.0

This song isn't necessarily that new (it's been around for a couple weeks), but nonetheless warrants a discussion since we haven't yet delved into T.I.'s first comeback single. "I'm Back," T.I.'s initial foray back into the rap game after his yearlong incarceration for gun possession, is fairly self-explanatory. He was gone, now he's not, thus he's "back" as the song's title and main theme suggest. But it's not necessarily that simple.

The logic behind 2008's Paper Trail was to ensure T.I. wouldn't be forgotten by the mainstream public during his year away. Business-wise, it was a smart move. The best hip-hop album of 2008 (per this blog's opinion at least) provided people with a steady slew of guest stars, radio singles and tons of potential for repeat listens. Now, he's returned explaining to you what he's allowed to happen over the course of the past year (mostly begrudgingly), and with Paper Trail on your mind, you'll actually perk up your ears when he attempts to rectify the situation. With copious amounts of material, and a newfound chip on his shoulder to boot, chances are we'll be hearing a lot from T.I. prior to the formal release of his next studio effort on August 24. In the meantime, check out the single below.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Most Prolific Artists of the Decade: #1-10]

3.22.2010

Music Video Monday: She & Him's "In the Sun"

Track: In the Sun
Artist: She & Him
Album: Volume Two
Year: 2010

Without going any further, you should know that the video for She & Him's "In the Sun" is incredibly hokey. That being said, it's that hokiness which makes the duo the charming, pseudo-throwback it is. Fittingly, this visual presentation takes place in a high school, supposedly circa the 1960s. If it weren't for the countless hallway song-and-dance numbers we've been subjected to over the years, from Grease to High School Musical, perhaps this one would resonate even more. Once again though, the fact that said concept is so tired somehow makes it more interesting when used by She & Him here.

The fact that Zooey Deschanel screams 1960s wherever she goes helps matters. While most female recording artists would look slightly out of place dressed in the more conservative school dresses and other outfits of the era, Deschanel fits in perfectly. The fact that she is an actress also pays big dividends as the song-and-dance never seems oversold. Instead, her leading a group of supposed teens in song just looks right, and M. Ward's persona as the artistic loner airs out just as well. Sometimes a video and a song are just a perfect fit. Check it out for yourself below.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Pre-Screening: She & Him's Volume Two]

3.19.2010

Pre-Screening: She & Him's Volume Two

Album: Volume Two
Artist: She & Him
Label: Merge
Rating: 7.5

It's probable that She & Him will fail to ever break new ground. The M. Ward/Zooey Deschanel project will never test any other sound, mood or subject matter. Nor are they likely to release a record unless they’ve got some good material to work with. For better or for worse, you know exactly what you’re getting from them-- no more, no less. It can be comforting at times, especially in a sea of artists who change their stripes so often.

And yet, this seems to work perfectly for the duo. So long as Deschanel continues to lend her sultry, classic voice to Ward's instrumental stylings, this cycle could conceivably continue going on forever. Or at least for now, until the conclusion of their second album Volume Two.

There is very little difference from their previous effort when you first begin exploring Volume Two. What more can be accomplished with the aforementioned pieces? Still, the duo have actually managed to extrapolate their seemingly closed and confined sound into something even more polished and sentimental than the last record. Deschanel’s voice frolics with the hopes of young love. Her gushing persona as a young girl musing about boys is simply irresistible, from the bopping opener “Thieves,” to closer “If You Can’t Sleep.” The ladder of which may very well borrow most of its premise from Bing Crosby’s “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” but in a project like this, sometimes borrowing from classic tunes can be helpful and even encouraged in bits and pieces.

It’s that glowing charm that really carries Volume Two, even more so than its mostly-cheery predecessor. Of course, while increasingly extensive orchestration by Ward also lends to a much more grown-up and solid sound, one can’t help but notice Deschanel’s newfound fifth gear in the radiance department-- see "Lingering Still," amongst others for examples.

Amidst the breezy, open paths and winding, romantic roads we travel here, one problem does occur however. Repetition. For a large majority of the album, the two employ a pretty standard verse-chorus setup and three-minute runtime, with echoing Motown-style backing vocals for good measure. “Me and You,” “Sing,” “In the Sun”– you name it, the song will have those same elements. Besides some slight breaks such as “Home” and the aforementioned closer, many tracks can end up merging together. Since this wasn't the case on Volume One, we see it as the slightly unfortunate side effect to better production and maturity.

Still, it’s hard to fault She & Him for their songs appearing too similar to one another. Ward and Deschanel have never strived to be more than just a pleasant little pet project that (at times) resembled the 1960s, and that’s what Volume Two presented itself as. Such execution, even of their modest goals, can be appreciated and in this case, moderately celebrated. She & Him never try too hard, and it shows in how easy and pleasant an experience it is to listen to their music. Just take it for what it is, and chances are you'll enjoy what you hear.

Best Track: "Thieves" (via Pitchfork)

3.18.2010

Matt's Track of the Week: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti "Round and Round"

Song: Round and Round
Artist: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti
Album: Round and Round (Single)
Rating: 7.0

There's an obsession in many circles of the indie music scene for bringing back the imagery of yesteryear. Whether it be implementing the use of analog synths, vintage amplifiers, or just a classic, thrift-shop wardrobe, it has become more than accepted, and in some cases, the norm to look far beyond your years. Personally, I think it can be comforting. Even if you weren't personally around for when the it was new, you still feel a connection to it, and sometimes it almost brings you back to a time that seems better than the one you're currently living in. "Round and Round" is an example of that. It's okay that it isn't the next big thing, because sometimes moving things backwards can strangely be a progression.

The first thing you notice when listening to "Round and Round" is precisely this aged-charm. This is something that Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti is known for, and is even considered a pioneer of (or as much a pioneer as someone trying to sound like older music could be), having done this since 2002. Granted, this song is slightly more polished than some of his older work, but it remains nonetheless true to form for what a fan would expect. Check it out below.

3.17.2010

John's Track of the Week: Kisses' "Bermuda"

Song: Bermuda
Artist: Kisses
Album: The Heart of the Night Life
Rating: 7.0

Even though spring is nearly upon us, we're going to skip a season today and go straight to summer. Kisses' "Bermuda" provides all of the imagery of the beach and summer sun-- layering its breezy ocean vibe with a lo-fi pop feel. Through its bursts of bright and jovial energy, it's the type of track you can't help but bop your head along to, with a pair of shades and swimsuit on of course.

Though unsigned at current, it's doubtful Kisses will stay that way for much longer. Their sensibility for melody is extremely apparent here, and with that aforementioned seasonal change, perhaps the time is right for the L.A.-based group to be picked up. The single for "Bermuda" is due out soon, either via Transparent or Surround Sound, so with luck, a deal is in the works. Check it out for yourself below.

3.15.2010

Music Video Monday: Yeasayer's "O.N.E"

Track: O.N.E
Artist: Yeasayer
Album: Odd Blood
Year: 2010

This video may make sense. Matching their eclectic, haphazard musical arrangements, the visual representation of Yeasayer's "O.N.E" is equally so. Among its many themes-- facial morphing, neon, warehouse raves and people either grabbed from NYC's underground club scene, or just generic Euro trash. Yet, all of this works out fairly well.

Overall, "O.N.E" is kind of reminiscent of one of our culture's many presentations of a dystopian future. Lights function as musical instruments, and means for bartering, while everything else is mostly in a dreary mess. It's an uncivilized society, at least by the standards we see in the video. The only spoken words are through the lyrics, so sadly these visual cues are the only things we have to surmise the plot. Unsurprisingly, we're left wondering what the hell just happened at the end-- not completely unlike parts of Odd Blood. Check it out below.

[Previously on Animal Noises: Pre-screening: Yeasayer's Odd Blood]