Sights and Sounds
by Mike Evans
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
THE HELIO SEQUENCE — Negotiations
THE GOOD: Oregon duo Helio Sequence continues to refine their sound on a fifth set.
THE BAD: Nope.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Listen to Negotiations and you tend to forget that Helio Sequence is only two guys. Not that they make a big noise, but vocalist/instrumentalist Brandon Summers and multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Weikel certainly make a sophisticated one. Blurring the lines between indie rock and modern folk (not quite rugged enough to be considered a “bearded band”), HS still produce music with plenty of homespun charm and quiet power.
Negotiations picks up right where their 2008 breakthrough, Keep Your Eyes Ahead, left off. It’s another collection of low burning, mid tempo melodic wonders brimming with grace and style. This time, the songs may be even stronger though; the entire record more consistently satisfying.
Tracks like slowly building opener “One More Time” and the somber yet divine “December” draw us in with exquisite melodies and spacious settings; the guys knowing when to add just the right amount of atmosphere. Even the lesser cuts sparkle, a feeling of tranquility making up for any musical shortcomings.
BUY IT?: Oh yes.
AND OF HORSES — Mirage Rock
THE GOOD: Seattle indie folk/rock outfit Band of Horses sharpens up on their fourth.
THE BAD: Mirage Rock is too calculated in spots; the rambling charm of earlier albums somewhat lacking.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The legendary Glyn Johns (The Who, Eric Clapton, the Clash) produced, mixed and engineered the album; his presence definitely influential. BoH have never sounded so much like a rock band before. The drums are more up front; the harmonies very direct. “Electric Music” is a super-charged highway anthem. “Long Vows” is a smooth country rocker straight off the Eagles’ On the Border (Johns was around for that one too). It’s as if the band have abandoned the campground and are heading toward the city.
In that sense, Rock is a double-edged sword. It shows off another side of these guys; giving us a fresh sound. However, the new album is not as sonically exciting as past efforts; Rock is not exactly a bid for the mainstream, but “getting there.”
BUY IT?: Rock is worthy of your time. But where are these guys headed? Here’s hoping they proceed with caution next time.
GRIZZLY BEAR — Shields
THE GOOD: Indie outfit Grizzly Bear are back with a multi-textured fourth.
THE BAD: GB is another polarizing artist. You either embrace the subtle twists and turns, or you don’t.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Their name and style always conjure up images of a northwest folk-leaning neo-hippie band. But GB hails from Brooklyn where the closest actual grizzly bear is probably caged at the Bronx Zoo. Sometimes geography doesn’t match the sound.
They’ve been critical darlings for almost a decade now, making albums that are meant to be swallowed as (gulp!) albums. For that I give them much respect. It’s very easy to slip on a pair of headphones and become lost in the mood swings and varying tempos. Shields is just another sparkling set that either demands our attention (the sure-footed “Speak in Rounds”) or allows us to blissfully drift (the quietly rolling “The Hunt”).
It takes some effort though. Grizzly Bear are not a singles band or a source of instant gratification. One must be willing to feel back all the layers of this folk-tinged, progressive-leaning, indie rock concoction.
BUY IT?: Yes, and embrace the unpredictable.
NEW RELEASES — CD
CHRISTINA AGUILERA — Lotus
SUSAN BOYLE— Standing Ovation
CLINIC — Free Reign
CRYSTAL CASTLES — 3
CELINE DION — Water and a Flame
50 CENT — Street King Immortal
GREEN DAY — Dos
AARON LEWIS — The Road
ONE DIRECTION — Take Me Home
THE ROLLING STONES — Grr! (Compilation)
SOUNDGARDEN — King Animal