WASHED OUT – Within and Without
THE GOOD: Chillwave artist Washed Out (actually Ernest Greene) gives us a subtle, yet powerful, debut.
THE BAD: Nothing.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Two years ago, Greene graduated from college with the hopes of being a librarian, but he couldn’t find a job. So the guy started making records. Hooray for a crappy economy!
Try to imagine this – the harmonies and reserved vocal style of your favorite modern, alt-folk group just got tossed against some trippy backbeats and swirling synths. That’s Washed Out.
Within and Without is also one of those rare records that take over just about any setting. The thing sounds great as background music, or as the soundtrack to an early morning jog, mid-day screw or late-night drive. You can dance, or just drift. The album is that versatile.
Practically every cut is a fragile gem; the songs transcending their heady atmosphere. Greene’s hushed vocals carry seamless melodies over quietly pulsating hypnotic backdrops. I’m immediately reminded of both Erlend Oye’s solo work from almost a decade ago and contemporaries such as Caribou and Small Black.
BUY IT?: Yes! Right now!
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
THE GOOD: French electronic artist Anthony Gonzalez releases a nighttime album both broad in scope and mysterious by nature.
THE BAD: Why, with a total running time of 74 minutes, is Dreaming a DOUBLE disc set?
THE NITTY GRITTY: All nitpicking aside, Dreaming is an amazing journey; an album exploring everything from neon soaked city streets after dark to the inner workings of the subconscious mind. The collection’s title is appropriate.
It’s a record that brings together pieces of the artist’s past, creating a whole we never saw coming. Tracks like “Midnight City” and “OK Pal” are aggressively catchy with their traditional structures and Gonzalez’s newly found vocal confidence. For the first time, the man doesn’t rely heavily on outside guests or bury his voice beneath a heavy synthetic fog.
“Wait” and “Splendor” are softer moments both graceful yet haunting; quiet studies in emotional anguish. Even the short instrumental links are strangely compelling, adding to this eerie multi-textural tapestry. It’s as if the album possesses a hidden concept that’s left up to the listener to discover. Are you up to the challenge?
BUY IT?: Surely.
NEON INDIAN- Era Extrana
THE GOOD: Neon Indian (singer/songwriter/producer Alan Palomo) releases “his” second chillwave collection; an album that’s less “chill” and not quite as lo-fi as 2009′s fantastic Psychic Chasms.
THE BAD: Will fans embrace these subtle changes? They should.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Recorded mostly in Helsinki, Finland (this Tex-Mex kid has come a long way in the past two years), Era Extrana (loosely translated as “Strange Era”) picks up where Chasms left off, but sounds cleaner and more self assured. Palomo has been developing both as a singer and songwriter; the record brimming with a new found confidence.
Yet it remains the expected mix of bizarre little instrumental pieces and smart subtle electro-pop songs. Better bits include “Polish Girl” and “Future Sick” with their snappy keyboard riffs and dreamy melodies. “Hex Girlfriend” is more blistering and “Suns Irrupt” brings on an unstoppable dance floor thump. That’s the biggest difference between Era and Chasms. The new record occasionally turns up its volume whereas Palomo’s debut kept a semi-consistent mood.
BUY IT?: Surely. Palomo is one to watch over the next decade. He’s just getting started.
NEW RELEASES – CD
THE BLACK KEYS – El Camino
KORN – The Path of Totality
THE ROOTS – Undun
T-PAIN – rEVOLVEr
AMY WINEHOUSE – Lioness: Hidden Treasures
NEW RELEASES – DVD
COWBOYS AND ALIENS with Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford
THE DEBT with Helen Mirren and Sam Worthington
FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis
THE HANGOVER PART 2 with Bradley Cooper and Zack Galifianakis
THE HELP with Emma Stone and Viola Davis
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS with Jim Carey
THE SMURFS with Jayma Mays and Neil Patrick Harris