Mac DeMarco – This Old Dog Review 


In his latest studio album, Mac Demarco brings a more relaxed approach than 2014s ‘Salad Days,’ something which I didn’t even think was possible. The album follows the trend of laid-back music, with deep, meaningful lyricism. However, where in the past Demarco went all out on production, this one is very simple with production, giving more power to the lyrics themselves. The album maintains similar traits to his previous work, but employs them differently, allowing for an entirely different experience overall.

​The opening song, ‘My Old Man,’ is a brilliant example of this lyricism. The song itself is one that is very simple musically, including nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a gentle drum beat in the background. The vocals on this particular track contain a degree of passion and reflection to them, making my genuinely think about the meaning behind them. The repeated line “looks like I’m seeing more of my old man in me” leaves genuine pause for thought, and Demarco utilises his voice perfectly here. Similarly, ‘This Old Dog’ is another simplistic, yet powerful track. The lyrics in this sense provide a commentary on human emotion, and is yet more proof that Demarco’s “less is more” approach is effective and meaningful.

​’Still Beating’ provides more in terms of production, and if you have listened to ‘Salad Days,’ will definitely feel more familiar. However, whilst maintaining the high production, it feels somewhat different due to the more cynical application in Demarco’s vocals. ‘On The Level’ also utilises high production and has a tune that stays with you even after the song s finished. There is a distinct uniqueness to the song itself, with it being a clear stand out on the album. The production is matched with simplistic lyrics and vocals that come together to make a good solid piece of music.

​’This Old Dog’ is a good, strong outing by Mac Demarco. Whilst sill keeping familiarities with his previous works, Demarco has made something that seems unique due to its effectiveness. Whilst creative, the album does sometimes lack in variety when it comes to the music itself. However, if you were to sit back, relax and take a listen to the powerful lyrics on each track, you would certainly have a thoughtful and meaningful experience.  

Mac Demarco – This Old Dog = 8/10

Matthew T. Johnston

Single Review – Mac DeMarco – On The Level

Previously, Mac Demarco has merely dipped his toe into any exploration of serene synth music, but in his latest single, previewing May’s This Old Dog, his echoic vocals are fully submerged in it. And likening the track to some kind of undulant body of water sums it up nicely. It’s subtle and brooding, with the constant flux of throbbing synths backing a piercing hook and the ethereal voice of Demarco, giving On The Level it’s relaxed rippled air. Demarco himself has described it as Chamber of Reflection’s “sister song”, reflecting his only justifiably synth-centred track’s ghostly moodiness. Yet, On The Level has strong mature undertones that not only haven’t been explored to this extent throughout his back catalogue, but also wouldn’t be expected from an artist so familiar with scandal. It mulls over the inevitability of growing older and taking on the responsibilities his father took on. The track reaches its contemplative close with a repetition of the title; a fitting conclusion, with which I can imagine Demarco dwelling on the future these new responsibilities hold. It’s pensive, considered and cleverly composed.

Eleanor Chivers 

Single Review – Suuns – Brainwash

The Canadian indie rockers have released another single to feature on their upcoming April 15th album Hold/Still. They are group experimenting at the moment and that is evident in their previous singles featuring broken and disjointed sounds and fusions around echoed environments. Their latest single ‘brainwash’ fits that mould with minimalist arrangements of guitars. This sparse environment is blown away by heavy trap drop beats before carrying on as if nothing had happened. There is no like between each sound and almost feels as if it was used because they could. Something much more imaginative could have been formed here.

Owen Riddle

Yeasayer -Amen and Goodbye Review

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Brooklyn-based four-piece Yeasayer have always taken their listeners on an experimental, meandering journey. Each of their albums, since debuting in 2007, have provided a different sound – from the ethereal and spiritual references in All Hour Cymbals and Fragrant World to the more pop-based concoctions in Odd Blood. After a four-year hiatus, listeners have been eager to hear just what they have generated in their fourth studio album, Amen and Goodbye.
The opening track Daughters of Cain immediately seems to pay homage to their mystical roots. Listeners are eased into the track with eerie, undulating synthesisers, before propelling into ghostly harmonies, reflecting numbers of previous albums. This chilling, Beatles-inspired hymn then spirals into the robotic I Am Chemistry, symbolic of battle between science and religion. Though cleverly figurative, there’s no doubting the second track is a little peculiar. It may just be me, but I am already perplexed by the second line “A C4H10FO2P puts you on your knees.” Whether it’s making some kind of obscure message about poisonous behaviours, or simply trying to add to the diverse ‘hipsterness’ of the album is uncertain, and makes the album less easy to listen to and/or understand. The track makes reference both to its ancestors with elements of choir, but also ties in with the psychedelic pop direction of Amen and Goodbye, as well as the scientific allusions made in this song with whirring synths. The contrast of sounds and handful of discordant genres tossed into one track makes the song all the more bewildering.
Silly Me then follows. Even the title implies a giant juxtaposition between tracks two and three. Though similarly psychedelic-pop based, without the inclusions of all the unnecessary jazz, Silly Me surrounds a much more identifiable topic of blaming yourself in a failed relationship. This, married with vivacious basslines plus infectious, and – dare I say it – pleasingly simple lyricism, makes for a thoroughly refreshing addition to the track list. These conflicting tracks sum up the semantic field of oppositions represented throughout the whole album. This includes a confusing yet intriguing assortment of the funky and up-beat (Silly Me, Dead Sea Scrolls, Gerson’s Whistle) versus the ominous and unworldly (Daughters of Cain, Prophecy Gun, Uma), in addition to the underlying symbolism of religion and science. And then comes the completely needless embellishments of Computer Canticle 1 and Child Prodigy; both ‘songs’ under a minute long that add nothing to the album but a confirmation that, despite their break, Yeasayer are still, very much, hipster. Frankly, they just dumb down what seems to be a mature, philosophical composition. Though it can be completely baffling at times, and there are elements that deplorably clash, Yeasayer have produced an album that heightens their intrigue all the more.

Yeasayer – Amen and Goodbye = 6.5/10

Eleanor Chivers

Single Review – Yeasayer – Gerson’s Whistle

One of Brooklyn’s more successful experimental acts in Yeasayer are to release their fourth studio album on April 1st with Amen and Goodbye. This latest single from the album opens with whirring vocals that slowly develop into vocal rounds and soon become an indelible track with sturdy rhythms and wiry melodies. The song peels back its various elements for more vocal rounds and from here new sounds are built up to a greater, expansive and anthemic interlude. The song continues to pull back the layers leaving you with acoustic sounds and a purposeful beat. The track shifts and changes a lot, but it retains a purpose throughout and is dynamic and varied.

Owen Riddle

Pingrove – Cardinal Review

The effort of trying to convert alt-country music into a more rock infused sound is hardly a new idea (see Ryan Adams and Ben Kweller). The slacker indie style that Pinegrove bring to ‘Cardinal’ makes it on occasion sound rather ordinary despite the more unique country elements they have. Indeed, the character the album’s songwriter Evan Stephens Hall has created is very similar to that of many other indie bands; that of the well-read lovelorn teenager. Even musically the LP is a little routine. Although the blending of traditional country instruments like the pedal steel on occasion comes off very well but isn’t a significant enough part of the album to warrant the praise that ‘Cardinal’ has been getting. In general, Pinegrove’s ‘Cardinal’ has been very well received. It has an immensely impressive critical rating of 85 on metacritic.com putting it among some prestigious company; a similar rating to that of David Bowie, Pusha T, Savages and Grimes.

Cardinal opens with ‘Old Friends’ which finds the act in a reflective mood as they look back on the happy times they had with their ‘old friends’ before they got “too caught up in their own shit”. The spikey bassline is offset against twangy banjo’s and expanding pedal steels; traditional indie meets traditional country. In many ways this is symbolic of the album as a whole. Though it successfully combines these two elements it doesn’t really feel like anything hugely new has been created.

‘Then Again’ catches the band in a more fun mood characterised by its quick spiky pop-punk bassline and messy clashing guitars as Hall asks the listener to “try one more time with feeling, it’s easy”. Although the track is unmistakably catchy, musically it traverses the same, well-tread ground that indie acts of the previous decades have already done. The up-beat attitude of ‘Then Again’ is then contrasted with the more sombre ‘Aphasia’. It is here that the band better blend in the country elements into their overarching indie sound. The slower pace of the song undoubtedly helps this process, as does the Hall’s impressive lyrics and voice (sounding much better in this context). ‘Cardinal’ ends on a more optimistic note with “New Friends”. The song starts with what it is clearly a Ryan Adams style opening before it transgresses into a fairly routine indie style track.

Given the praise this album has received it fell immensely short of my expectations. Although this review may sound fairly negative, the album is still a good effort for the act. There are undoubted strengths in the album too, the use of the pedal steel and banjo are interesting and should be utilised more if they want to create a more unique sound.

Pinegrove – Cardinal = 7/10

Callum Christie

Single Review – Parquet Courts – Dust

 

In the space of a month we’ve got garage rock titan Ty Segall’s album ‘Emotional Mugger’ and now the lead single for another industrious (they’ve released 5 albums in 6 years) garage act, Parquet Courts. Hailing from Brookyln, the band’s slacker rock style has attracted the ears of critics mainly since they’re second album, ‘Light Up Gold’. The band’s third and fourth albums highlighted the band’s witty lyrics which can be overlooked given their cool but lazy style of delivery. The titular track, ‘Content Nausea’ is a great poem let alone song, as the band lament modern life. By the way, it ends with a great refrain, ‘I am a land mine, wrong supplier’. Just thought that deserved a mention. Musically they’ve never really strayed too far from their messy garage roots, it has been the bands clever lyrics that has kept (me at least) interested.

Dust, from their upcoming album Human Performance, feels as gritty and dirty as the lyrics are. Musically the track shows some change for the band who retain that core garage rock sound they’ve crafted but incorporate new elements. The jangly guitar that starts the track is replaced quickly by distortion; as if someone has just walked in a dusty motel room from the outside. The chorus hypnotically reminds us that ‘dust is everywhere, sweep’; the germophobes worst nightmare. Dust ends with a distorted, almost choked up trumpet which eventually merges into the rest of the rest of the horror-like distortion. Overall, it sounds promising for the upcoming album, due for release on 8th April.

 

Callum Christie

DIIV – Is The Is Are Review

Brooklyn Indie Rockers DIIV return with a follow up on their 2012 album Oshin with their second studio album Is the Is Are. Their particularly predictable strand of Indie slanted dream-pop has not been something ridiculed like their counterparts Swim Deep and Peace etc. At the same time they are far from the standard of Beach House or even the Horrors in mastering the genre. Oshin was the solid debut all of their British ‘B-Town’ counterparts didn’t get as their sound had much more substance to it and an air of genuine quality. The notorious second album is where your reputation is cemented however.

 

‘Bent (Roi’s Song)’ very much follows the path of many Indie groups who dip their toe into Psychedelica. The loose riffs echo modestly across the track and are underpinned as always by a steady and lightly rumbling bass line. The nonchalant and dazed vocals ink into the instrumentation and it is perhaps because of this, the song progresses uncomfortably and indefinitely until you get the guitars hook in the chorus. Musically, it has a little more mystery to it then most of their Indie counterparts produce. ‘Dopamine’ offers you those loose riffs again with a swooning echo of a vocal which is presented as a little indefinite next to the rest of the instrumentation. Once replicated across the whole track, the whole song sounds unsure of itself until they pour in some ringing guitar solos into the mix and the rhythm becomes more solid. ‘Under the Sun’ is a track with more of a kick and tangible structure to it with more solid percussion behind it. The frayed vocals work better in this environment as it gives an element of depth and light and shade to the track. It is completely plucked from a late 80s indie disco however, so if offer nothing in the way of novelty, but it is a keen rocker of a song. ‘Is the Is Are’ is mirrors TOY but with a little less psychedelia and with those wispy vocals. The tones and variations of the instrumentation are more prominent though. They offer more than one dimension with this track.

 

‘Blue Boredom’ offers up the same instrumentation and rhythm format that’s on offer in pretty much every track on the album. Sky Ferreira offers up a whispered vocal and provides a welcome variation in the vocal department. You find near identical sounds on ‘Incarnate Devil’ minus the guitar solo they borrowed from a couple of their singles. ‘Healthy Moon’, Loose Ends’ and ‘Dust’ regurgitate sounds from the album you’re already familiar with and just familiar with in general. They would have been able to conceal the lack of variation from track to track with a ten track album, but at seventeen it is a long, tedious slog to get through. ‘Waste of Breath’ is welcome at the end for a couple of new ideas like a distorted guitar solo, but the fact you find joy in such a simple thing is perhaps a clue to the quality of the album. They have really took a step back here with such a lack of imagination and dynamism. An echoed vocal and loose riffs aren’t going to get you anywhere in 2016 and someone should have told DIIV that long, long ago.

 

DIIV – Is The Is Are = 5.5/10

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Chairlift – Moth Review

We’ve been following the progress of Chairlift’s third studio album Moth very closely since the attention grabbing release of ‘Ch-Ching’ late last year. Since then, the Brooklyn-based duo of Caroline Polachek and Patrick Wimberly have continued with the bold and bright singles. The duo are a leaner, sharper outfit in many ways and with their developments in mind, they look set to enter the realm of Pop sophistication and creativity.

‘Ch-Ching’ marked their change of direction in the four years since their last work and sees the duo try their hand Hip-Hop themed electronica with those moulded harmonies from Polachek that have since been popularized by HAIM. It’s a song that swings from it’s Hip-Hop inspired verses to the Pop melodies of the chorus and a fade out into a hazy electronic bridge. A song that remarkably pulls off the mixture of styles and genres with ease and sheds light an a wider talent that Chairlift might possess if they keep this up. With ‘Romeo’ we have competing layers and sounds battling for supremacy around a drum sample and Caroline’s soaring vocals. The song’s energy and rapidity around a streamline song structure make the track sound as if it is in a constant chorus and the switching from industrial soundscapes, to dance, sweeping electronica and rhythmic acoustics keep you on your toes throughout. ‘Moth to the Flame’ and continues on the well rounded pop journey the duo have took with this record. The more dance orientated track on show here features morphing beats and glimmering electronica. On top of this are the repetitive lyrics that are swept over with ease by Caroline’s improved vocals which hold their notes across the chorus. This song could be played in most clubs unedited, but despite that it still retains the light-hearted and welcoming nature of most Chairlift songs.

The duo have shown their vulnerability with ‘Crying in Public’. The first lines from Caroline talk of throwing away the defences and that’s exactly what this song does in terms of it’s delicately formed emotion. The vocals are perfectly matched to the track and she demonstrates the versatility of her wonderful ability. The arrangement compliments it without being stale, there are light synth chords, an easy beat and rich bass line. The song ever so slightly reaches a higher peak with richer synths and the odd guitar riff too. It is a beautiful song to balance against the bold and exciting Pop. ‘Unfinished Business’ provides us with a similar intimate track, but in a different environment of gently nudging beats and the soft sweeps of piano chords. This leaves Caroline’s bracing vocals to fill the space and they do in an eloquent and stylish fashion. ‘Show You Off’ delivers yet another varying piece of pop music with chunky bass-lines and bursts of electronica and falsettos to drive into the funk evocating chorus. Tracks like ‘Look Up’ offer up the echoed spheres and warping riffs and synth chords that aren’t too far away from a Peter Gabriel track whilst ‘No Such Thing as Illusion’ is more evocative of his more experimental work. The album tracks certainly match the singles of a body of work that draws to mind Peter Gabriel, Brandon Flowers, HAIM, Aluna-George and many more. It has to be the quintessential Pop album of 2016.

Chairlift – Moth = 8/10

 

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Single Review – Chairlift – Romeo

 

The Brooklyn Indie Pop duo that are Chairlift have released ‘Romeo’; their second single from their upcoming third album MOTH which is out on January 22nd. After the marvel of the pop fusions and downright arrogant ambitiousness of ‘Ch-ching’, their second single offers up a different tone. With ‘Romeo’ we have competing layers and sounds battling for supremacy around a drum sample and Caroline’s soaring vocals. The song’s energy and rapidity around a streamline song structure make the track sound as if it is in a constant chorus and the switching from industrial soundscapes, to dance, sweeping electronica and rhythmic acoustics keep you on your toes throughout. This single adds validity to suggestions that their third album might be hard to beat throughout the course of 2016.

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995