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Archive for the ‘The Water Cooler’ Category

Noisettes (The Water Cooler)

Posted by Keith Freund On April - 6 - 2009COMMENT ON THIS POST

noisettesArtist: Noisettes
Album: What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?
Released: 2007
Sound: Indie Rock
For Fans Of: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Janelle Monae
Recommended Tracks: “Scratch Your Name,” “Don’t Give Up”


To get a feel for Noisettes, you have to start by watching frontwoman Shingai Soniwa’s electrifying performance in their music video for “Scratch Your Name.” This is classic case of a lead vocalist taking an act from good to great.


I saw them play a small Brooklyn night club a few summers ago. The show unexpectedly got combined with Battles at the last minute. (This was right around the time Mirrored came out, one of my favorite albums in the last 5 years.) The energy was unreal throughout the night. Since then, they’ve have toured with Bloc Party, TV on the Radio, and Muse.


While their sound is not “revolutionary” per se, Noisettes doesn’t particularly sound like anyone else. It would be a disservice to compare them to the decidedly darker and grimier Yeah Yeah Yeahs (though Shingai does list Karen O as an influence).


When Janelle Monae came out last year, I immediately thought “hey, she’s ripping off Shingai’s look,” (although she’s equal part Andre 3000). Musically, though, Janelle is a solid Motown-era soul singer while Shingai is an epic, class-of-her-own, wouldn’t-want-to-challenge-her-to-a-thumb-wrestling-match rock vocalist. Her signature is when her voice squeaks in just the right place at exactly the right time. You have to hear it to understand.


noisettes-s“Don’t Upset The Rhythm,” the second single from their yet-to-be-released sophomore album, has reached #2 on the UK Singles chart after being featured in a Mazda commercial. This track, along with the other single released from their upcoming sophomore album, ironically seem to indicate a directional shift for Noisettes towards a more processed, dance-y, Janelle Monae-esque sound. Guess indie rock wasn’t paying the bills. I will reserve judgment, however, until the new album drops.



Wild Young Hearts comes out April 20th on Universal.


Noisettes on Myspace

Sonic Deconstruction: MGMT “Kids”

Posted by FixYourMix On March - 30 - 2009COMMENT ON THIS POST

Sonic Deconstruction is a monthly feature where we spend an entire week analyzing one song from every possible angle: personnel, instrumentation, composition, recording, mixing/mastering, and production. Check back every day this week for the next installment!


 

mgmt3kh3 Perhaps the joke is on us. According to their interview on caughtinthecrossfire.com, it wasn’t until Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden began writing pop songs as a joke that they started to realize their music-making potential. Writing under the name “The Management,” even their moniker was a part of the gag—a jab at corporate manufactured pop with the end-game to “sell out as quickly as possible.” We’ve all heard that same tired construct a thousand times in half-baked collegiate pseudo-comedy so even though they don’t get points for back-story originality, they do take home the prize for execution as their efforts have snowballed into genuine pop glory. Somewhere along the way the Brooklyn duo, now performing as MGMT, have forgotten the punchline and are enjoying the kind of global success not known to very many indie rock groups, serious or not.

 

 

MGMT is a peculiar entity combining an aged sonic sensibility with a somewhat naïve stage presence.

If you remember the 60s, you weren't there.  Or you weren't born yet...one of the two...

Critics often chide the youngsters for invoking a psychedelic persona that is worn like daddy’s oversized shirts. Even so, the group has certainly left their mark over the past year after earning accolades from Spin.com, Rolling Stone, and the BBC. Oracular Spectacular has been a global hit and was named best album of 2008 by NME. Their simple but infectious hooks have become part of the pop culture collective unconscious after being featured on numerous television shows, movies, and video games. “Electric Feel” comes pre-loaded on iPods and even French president Nicolas Sarkozy realized the inertiatic power of the pop-synth in “Kids.”

 

 

In researching their satire, MGMT unwittingly found the formula for crafting a perfect pop tune. Perhaps their greatest discovery is how to not muck-up the mix with unnecessary complications. Their magnum opus, third single “Kids,” is a modern hit in the sense that it hearkens back to presently fashionable periods in music history. Combining the dancey rhythmic simplicity of disco with the melodic simplicity of monophonic-synth driven New Wave, the song earns high marks by resisting the temptation of cluttering the mix with unnecessary production ideas like chords.

You could try playing chords on the MiniMoog, but you would fail...

You could try playing chords on the MiniMoog, but you would fail...

 

While the group tours as a five piece, the entire record is presumably the brainchild of the twosome plus indie rock super-producer Dave Fridmann. Fashioned over a period of time at his live-in upstate New York studios, Fridmann’s mature acuity is immediately perceptible. His guidance is especially evident when the album is measured against MGMT’s live show and even their pre-producer EP. His sounds are dense yet spacious and provide gritty credibility to what might be an otherwise adolescent romp.

 

 

Given the simplicity of their production implementation, MGMT would seem to be the perfect case study in how anyone can craft a terrific pop tune. I mean, if two stoned college kids (armed with only drum machines and synths) can do it as a joke and get signed to Columbia Records, then what’s stopping you?

 

 

Watch out for Part II of the Sonic Deconstruction: MGMT “Kids” saga with tomorrow’s contribution–an in-depth analysis of the song’s compositional elements!!

The Bells of 1 2 by Sol Seppy

Posted by Keith Freund On March - 23 - 20091 COMMENT

bellsof12Artist: Sol Seppy
Album: The Bells of 1 2
Released: 2006
Sound: Dreamy Indie Rock
For Fans Of: Sneaker Pimps, The Cardigans, Radiohead
Recommended Tracks: “Slo Fuzz,” “Enter One”


The Bells of 1 2 is among the greatest indie rock albums you’ve never heard. I have yet to meet a Sol Seppy fan here in the states, though based on her Myspace play count it is safe to say she has a fanbase somewhere out there.


Former Sparklehorse member Sol Seppy (Sophie Michalitsianos) is a classically trained Australian living in the UK who writes, sings and performs all of her own music. To top it off, she recorded her incredible-sounding debut herself in her home studio (though mixing is credited to both Paul Antonel and herself).


I hesitate to call this album “rock” because half the songs feature only piano and vocals. I hesitate to label it “singer/songwriter” because it is so beautifully orchestrated, layered and produced into something enormous. I hesitate to say her slow songs are “ballads” because they come from a completely different emotional space than any ballad I’ve ever heard before.


I hesitate to use these labels because they connote a familiar emotional content, where Sol Seppy’s brilliance lies in her ability to seem at once down-to-earth and other-worldly. While the stripped-down arrangements and soft vocals constitute a very vulnerable and human element, ambient piano and sparse chords, particularly Sus2 and Maj7(no3), make her music seem aloof or foreign: shoegaze for the 21st century.


solseppy_car


The album’s mood swings between slow, brooding-yet-hopeful piano and kitschy synth-pop reminiscent of television commercials for compact cars. (The chorus to “Come Running,” for example, calls to mind an Audi being driven on the side of a snow-covered mountain.)


In my personal favorite, “Slo Fuzz,” Sol Seppy takes the most cliché of all the scales, C major, and creates something that is at once beautiful, amazing and tragic, like a lone astronaut projected into the atmosphere.


Only about half of the tracks have drums and they are programmed, though convincingly real at times (particularly the track “Come Running”). On the songs without percussion, she forgoes a click track altogether, using tempo changes as a form of dynamics.


The Bells of 1 2 has received little critical recognition, excepting a 7.1 rating on Pitchfork and her song “Gold” being featured on the CBS series Without a Trace. Sol Seppy has not updated her Myspace page in about six months, so we can only hope her new album will be finished soon.


Buy The Bells 1 2 directly from her independent label, Gronland Records (CD or MP3).


Sol Seppy on Myspace

† by Justice

Posted by Keith Freund On March - 9 - 2009COMMENT ON THIS POST

Artist: Justice
Album:
Released: 2007
Genre: Electro/Dance
For Fans Of: Daft Punk, MGMT, Ratatat
Stand-Out Tracks: “DVNO,” “D.A.N.C.E.”

 

 
After much deliberation, I’ve decided to kick off our Monday music reviews with something you can dance to: French duo Justice. Their album is a mix between electro, hipster disco and good ole’ fashion pop with samples (probably intended to be ironic) from Three 6 Mafia to Devo to the Brothers Johnson.

 
Sonically, the brightness of shocked me upon first listen. It was mastered to be as sparkly as the brightest techno record out there, yet they’re more associated with the hipster/electro scene than anything going on in Europe. It sounds like a harmonic exciter set to STUN in the range of 12 kHz and above.

 
The arrangements are amazing throughout the whole album. They come together in a way that I full band really can’t, because the depth of instrumentation and tonality is limitless with electronic music, especially sampled music. Chopped-up sounds cut in and out at will, creating a dense harmonic landscape which is too fast-paced to comprehend until you’ve listened over and over again. It is a mix of the familiar (e.g. slap bass, disco-style drums, catchy vocals) and the foreign (e.g. distorted found sounds, granular synthesis).

 
I contend that that their crossover success (from Eurodance to the American indie scene) is owed to two things:

 
1) Vintage samples. Had they used modern keyboard drum kits and synth patches, Justice would not have made an impact on American pop music, nor would they have been nominated for a Grammy.

Cross by Justice

Instead, they took a cue from American hip hop (the digging in the crates aesthetic) by using lofi drum hits, funky basslines and retro synth sounds.

 
2) The role of the snare drum. The snare plays a much more significant role here than in a typical techno album. It is up front in the mix and has a considerable amount of low end.

 
Justice also has an impressive remix resume, including N*E*R*D, Justin Timberlake, Franz Ferdinand, U2 and a 2009 Grammy-winning remix of MGMT’s “Electric Feel.” No plans for any new Justice releases yet, but I will post when they are announced.

 
Buy the album from the music group that outranks the US Department of Justice on Google.

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