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Albums of the Week

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Cults
“Static”
Columbia, Oct 2013

The indie pop band Cults come back with their sophomore album “Static” after a considerable amount of time touring. Madeline Follin’s voice, which is high but modulated, is certainly the most intensified element to this album. It goes nicely with Brian Oblivion’s perpendicularly low, raspy voice featured on “Were Before”.

The minimalist instruments which highlight the high span of Follin’s voice on “Always Forever” stand out most memorably. It also contains a jubilant electric guitar riff right before each chorus. It’s definitely one of the most lighthearted, good-spirited songs they’ve ever written.

Synthesizers give “TV Dream” a very futuristic vibe. It sounds like that music you’d hear in the background of an alien sci-fi cartoon. The same attitude shows up again in the next track “We’ve Got It,” except it is more nuanced.

In all, not a single song disappoints on this album.

The Fratellis
“We Need Medicine”
BMG Rights Management, Oct 2013

The Fratellis’ “We Need Medicine” showcases more fun than their previous work, and immerses itself in heavier blues and classic rock.

The opening track “Halloween Blues” contains a lot of energy, making it the perfect starting point for listeners. Old-fashioned rock-guitar riffs and bouncy vocals seem to shoot out of Jon Fratelli’s mouth like a dart gun. There is a quiet bridge, which then has some crazy saxophone solo and altogether creates a lively party of a song. It garners instantaneous appeal.

The rest of the album follows in the opening track’s footsteps: It remains boisterous, loud, and a little messy. The downfall comes from its predictability; one easily will become bored within two tracks. Pretty much, the album begins to sound like the same song over and over again.

Bands who choose to repeat themselves too much and refuse to add spice to the mix will inevitable become bland and tasteless—no matter how happy-go-lucky they try to be. “We Need Medicine” is a great album but only in small doses.

The Head and The Heart
“Let’s Be Still”
Sub Pop, Oct 2013

Indie folk band The Head and The Heart excel in their writing on their newest album, “Let’s Be Still.” A recurring theme generates the album—the yearning to be home. It’s understandable, seeing as how the band experienced an explosive boost in popularity since their 2009 launch.

The lyrics of “Let’s Be Still” emphasize the theme but also demonstrate the beauty of their writing: “The world’s just spinning/A little too fast/If things don’t slow down soon we might not last/So just for the moment/Let’s be still.”

“Let’s Be Still” uses metaphors that make their music more introspective and not as obvious. “Springtime” is short and serene and slowly speeds up to lead up to “Summertime,” a louder, rowdier version.

The fast growth of The Head and The Heart certainly proves the band is full of promise and potential. I can definitely see them becoming a big name, growing rapidly as other indie folk groups like The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons.

Pentimento
“Inside The Sea”
Paper and Plastick, Oct 2013

Pentimento, like the majority of punk bands, writes music about life that’s honest and frank. With titles such as “Just Friends” and “It’s Okay,” their four-track EP, “Inside The Sea,” defines what punk is all about now. It’s less about “the man” and anarchy and more about relationships of how you fit in around the world.

“Just Friends” contains lyrics which hit home. It tells a classic case of not judging a book by its cover. Despite its name, the song isn’t a whiny, sappy teenage anthem about how unfair it is to be put in the friend zone. It takes on deeper meaning: “You walked in, expressionless/You were cold like the space between your coat and your clothes/I’m in between deja vu and delirium/Remembering things that haven’t happened yet/I don’t think before I speak/What an empty attempt at a personality.”

It takes an abstruse journey into the mind of an individual who can’t seem to get past the first level of a relationship. The writing is impressive and heartfelt.

Deep-rooted lyrics continue in “Any Minute Now” and “It’s Okay,” the latter which demonstrates frustration and a sensation of anger from built-up tension. “Inside The Sea” ends very abruptly, and makes the listener expect and want more from this EP.

The title of the album seems very fitting thanks to its layers of meaning. Pentimento is strong and delivers their best music so far.

The Swellers
“Light Under Closed Doors”
No Sleep, Oct 2013

The Swellers have always been an unappreciated pop punk band, but they really polish things up with their new album, “Light Under Closed Doors”

Originally slated to be a solo project, the band distributes a lot of ideas. They bring it back to basics—which is surprisingly better than their old stuff—and a little less manic. The songs intensely focus on both the lyrics and the instrumentals. Although a common trend often appearing more in today’s pop-punk music, it still feels like a breath of fresh air from the fast, panicking beats and uneven rhythms.

Tracks that steal the show include “Should,” which opens the album with the most compelling sound they’ve ever played. It’s short and sweet, like all punk music should be, and highlights the subject they’ve always written about: negativity toward the world. It’s introspection based on real life, and the songs get straight to the point. There aren’t insane intros or outros weighing down the album.

The Swellers know what they’re doing and what it takes to make their fans happy. That will get them far on their own.

Best Coast
“Fade Away”
Jewel City, Oct 2013

Since their hit album “Crazy For You,” Best Coast finally released a follow-up with “Fade Away.” The album peels away from their usual gushy topics of love, which made “Crazy For You” sickly sweet. The album still comes with crazy repetitious choruses, but that is just one of Best Coast’s characteristics, no matter how annoying it may get.

The first track of the album, “This Lonely Morning,” ends almost exactly the same as “Crazy For You” from their last album. It’s almost impossible to forget the title of the song because Bethany Cosentino repeats it over and over again—20 times to be exact. It wouldn’t be a big deal if it were a longer song and the lyrics were spread out a little more, but it’s only a little over two-and-a-half minutes long. I can’t say much remains different for the other songs off the album either.

I really loved “Crazy For You,” but “Fade Away” does not cultivate creativity. It definitely can’t compete with Best Coast’s past albums.

Mazzy Star
“Seasons Of Your Day”
Rhymes of an Hour, Sept 2013

I love this album so much. Mazzy Star has been around since the last 1980s and they have gotten so much better with time.

The thing that makes Mazzy Star so great now? They haven’t released an album in 17 years, yet sound exactly the same as they did when they released “Among My Swan” in 1996.

On “Seasons of the Day,” “California” gives the feeling of summer evenings with light acoustics and calming vocals, which contradicts the songs lyrics: “I think I’m going back to California/Summer distant and it’s all far away.”

“Common burn” sounds gloomy yet beautiful with angelic guitar riffs. The song doesn’t change much throughout and the end sounds like the beginning—but it invokes a mind-wandering experience nonetheless.

“In The Kingdom” mixes up the album more than any track, thanks to its organ introduction, slightly more dynamic pace and bluesy electric guitars.

This album certainly does not give off any dance beats or sassy attitude; instead, Mazzy Star continue to write soft, distant tunes that go along with the enchanting vibe they coveted two decades ago.

Arcade Fire
“Reflektor”
Merge, Oct 2013

Reflektor is all about change for Arcade Fire. It has new hooks, new sounds, a completely new style—and it sounds nothing like Arcade Fire’s previous albums.

“Reflektor’s” hints of disco starts the album out with a vibe fans haven’t felt before from the Canandian group. In fact, I wouldn’t have ever guessed it was them. This brand new twist sounds like overkill to my ears. Only the first three or four minutes of the title track feel bearable. (The song is an excruciating eight minutes long.)

That dancey, disco touch continues to appear in the rest of the album. Again, the bass groove style drags on for an unnecessary amount of time in “Joan Of Arc.” It could’ve been a great song if they cut the time length a bit. “Afterlife” defines the entire album and pulls all of the songs’ good qualities into one, which are its catchy hooks, beats and funky style.

Personally, I like Arcade Fire better when they plant their roots firmly in indie rock more than disco wave. Yet, this new style might get them the attention they want.

State Champs
“The Finer Things”
Pure Noise, Oct 2013

Hands down, State Champs are as powerful as ever with the new release of their album “The Finer Things.” They demonstrate the finer elements of pop-punk as a genre, with its explosive, exhilarating sound, screaming vocals and fast and simple guitar chords. Derek Discanio is actually a great singer—talented vocalists are not common in punk.

Tracks “Remedy” and “Critical” are both on an earlier EP but have been remade to sound more professional and better. Changes take place mostly in the way the guitars are played, and although the original version of these songs are already fantastic, the remakes prove they still benefitted from a little polish.

If State Champs changed in any way since their earlier EPs, it is because they matured and put more time into their music while continuing to play a youthful, fun set.

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