January 7, 2009 | Comments ()

By TK | Music | January 7, 2009 |


At last, the final entry in the Year in Review. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our favorites. Check back tomorrow, where we see how we stacked up against the top sellers of the year (hint: not too fucking well). Thanks to everyone who read and especially those who contributed.
—TK

attackandrelease.jpgThe Black Keys: Attack and Release
[Nonesuch Records]

You want rock and roll? I got your rock and roll right here. For those who don’t know them, The Black Keys are an immensely powerful two-man blues/rock duo hailing from Akron, OH. They play heavy, driving, sadness-tinged rock that makes you shake your head and stomp your feet. When Erive and I saw them at the Orpheum Theater in Boston back in 2008, we walked away absolutely stunned. Because their performance is incredible — way more sound and noise and fury than you could ever expect just two men could create. But wildman vocalist/guitarist/genius Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, the stoic, dead-eyed drummer whose skills are nothing short of massive, do just that. They are, simply put, a blues-fused two-man ruckus.

2008 saw the release of Attack and Release, produced by, of all people, Danger Mouse (of The Grey Album and Gnarls Barkley fame), who helps give it a decidedly lo-fi, dirty sound that fits with the bands attitude and sound perfectly. I confess, when I first heard of his participation, I was nervous, worried that I’d end up hearing a Keys albums filled with samples and penny whistles or some shit. But instead it’s just more straightforward, gorgeously performed blues rock, perhaps their rockingest album to date.


“I Got Mine”

Seriously - does the opening of that track not rock your face off? Well, Attack and Release manages to consistently slap us in the face with its grinding, powerful, beautiful ruckus. The lyrics are what a good blues record should be: desperate, dirty, honest and gritty. The instrumentation is spectacular — Auerbach’s guitar work is the kind of nasty twanging mixed with power riffs that you feel in your spine, and Carney’s furious, complex drumming makes you want to pump your fist and stomp your feet… or grab a girl (or boy) and just shake your ass.

<a href="http://www.joost.com/0826w3u/t/The-Black-Keys-Strange-Times">The Black Keys - Strange Times</a>
“Strange Times”

That video is too bizarre. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was hatched from Danger Mouse’s nutso brainpan. In any event, if you want to hear two guys with a deep-seated love for the blues, but with a rock and roll attitude, two guys who want to spend their lives producing music that will knock you consistently on your ass, even in their quiet moments, as in “Psychotic Girl” (“Just a pyschotic girl / and I won’t get lost in your world”), then The Black Keys are for you. Feel free to start with Attack and Release, one of the best true rock records of 2008, and you’ll soon be hungrily digging through their entire catalog.
TK


m83.jpgM83: Saturdays = Youth
[Mute]

“It’s your face,” Anthony Gonzalez tweets in a falsetto amid a flurry of suspenseful synths and you can just close your eyes and see the beginning to the imaginary film: a slow, steady slow-motion pan and zoom in on a gorgeous dreamlike visage, high-contrast white rose bushes gently rustling from the wind in the frame’s background. Saturdays = Youth is the movie that makes your heart skip a beat and remember your first kiss, in audio form. And it’s all so delicious, genuine, and unrelenting that you’re left with no time to question its ability to manipulate your emotions…you just give in.

The album’s title says it all: for those of us still grappling with that whole “growing up” thing, hell and even those out there that have supposedly fully entered adulthood, there will always be a Saturday to look forward to, to dive into and get nostalgic. Wake up at noon and eat a bowl of fruit loops. Sit in your pajamas all day and watch John Hughes movies (quite possibly what Gonzalez does, citing the filmmaker as one of his biggest influences). Stay out late with your friends and make out in public places. There’s nothing holding you back, and as the keyboards swell in your headphones while listening to this record, you might actually be moved to do something fun, Saturday or not.

What’s most rewarding about listening to Saturdays = Youth, though, is not its call for reclaiming lost innocence, but its consistent blend of sorrow and hopefulness that envelops every song, as if eternally lost in a void between denial and acceptance. The confusion and disappointment is masterfully communicated. And while not everyone can directly relate to the 80’s sheen of washed-out guitars and saccharine pop melodies that obviously stayed with Gonzalez throughout his years, the updated sounds he creates here are so moving that regardless of your musical childhood, it will burrow under your skin and induce flashback goosebumps of heartbreak and rebellion.

The two songs that are so immediately gratifying they easily could have been hit singles used to soundtrack the cascading credits of a hypothetical Ringwald/Cusack collaboration are “Kim & Jessie” and “Graveyard Girl.” The former oozes colorful beauty, including a chorus that will haunt you for days and a bridge that scares you so much into thinking the song is over that when that kick drum comes back in, you’re ready to give it a standing ovation. The latter is so cherubic and giddy (with a healthy smidgen of solemnity) that you just might find yourself dancing amongst tombstones the next time you visit a loved one on a gray day.

The enjoyment doesn’t stop there though. With the heavenly female vocals of keyboardist Morgan Kibby interleaved with much of the album’s atmospherics, specifically on “Skin of the Night” and “Up!,” and respites for beautiful ballads (“Too Late”), hypnotizing dance epics (“Couleurs”), and even ambient excursions (“Midnight Souls Still Remain”), M83 prove they are no average pop act wrought with mimicry. This is a fully fleshed-out ambitious album that gives the listener as much to feel as it does to listen to. All this and there is still a sacred flow that simmers throughout, ebbing and flowing with nothing but ease. Just because it’s not a challenging listen doesn’t mean there’s nothing to absorb here: this is the warmth that one wants to feel over and over again, with a new touching moment found with every listen.

M83’s Saturdays = Youth can be the new tattered periwinkle blanket you carry around with you: it’s comfortable, familiar, and has been everywhere you have, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Chris Polley

walkitoff.jpgTapes ‘N Tapes: Walk It Off
[XL Recordings]

Walk It Off is the follow up to Tapes ‘N Tapes’ 2006 release The Loon. This Minneapolis band’s rise to underground fame came quickly with their television debut on “Late Night with David Letterman” in 2006, selling out numerous shows around the country and performing at both Coachella and Lollapalooza 2007.

Tapes ‘N Tapes (aka TNT) started off as a small Minneapolis band. Some of the members were already known through the local music community however; Josh Grier, the lead singer, was a data analyst. They self-released The Loon to a small wave of local critical acclaim, but they really took off with the help of bloggers who talked the album up online. Soon after self-releasing The Loon, TNT signed with the United Kingdom’s XL Recordings, which is also home to Vampire Weekend, M.I.A. and Adele.


“Hang Them All”

Standouts on Walk It Off include “Le Ruse” and “Hang Them All,” both of which have so much energy behind them they can either start a party or start a raucous bar fight. This album is also great for when you want to pop in your headphones and drown out your annoying ass co-workers. Before you know it the sounds of Joe in the next cube clipping his fingernails will be drowned out and you’ll be air drumming in front of your computer. The slower songs on Walk It Off such as “Time of Songs” and “Anvil” aren’t a complete snooze though. They prove to balance a musical and rockin’ edge to the slower tempo beats.

This quartet will soon be on tour after the new year, and is also experimenting with new music and new arrangements of existing songs.
Felicia

bk5.jpg

Pajiba Music

The Year In Review, Day 7
/ Pajiba Music Writers & The Eloquents

Music | January 7, 2009 | Comments ()




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