Fall 2012 album reviews

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The xx-Coexist

For any of those unfamiliar with the sound of The xx’s work, you’ve been missing out. It’s nothing short of masterful, not to mention unique.

The band works in a genre known as dream pop, focusing on the creation of a very atmospheric and discrete tone through the utilization of subtle beats and low-key vocals that whisk you away with its melodic notes.

The group from South London burst onto the scene with their self-titled 2009 album, offering an alternative sound unlike anything listeners had heard before.

In particular, many will remember their preliminary track “Intro” featuring a steady bass line with a memorable rhythm, catchy enough to have you humming the tune for weeks.

Three years of remixes and mash-ups later we’ve arrived at the band’s follow-up album, Coexist. Here, the band’s abilities and sound has really blossom into something more than just a backbeat of a re-imagined Notorious B.I.G. or DMX song.

Put simply, Coexist expresses a love affair between strained individuals reflecting on the trials of relationships both old and new.

These tense sentiments of broken bonds and fraying intimacies shine through across the entire album, especially when the lead vocalists, Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, contemplate the uncertainty behind their decisions in songs like “Chained” and “Swept Away”.

Whether you can relate to the tensions of the artists’ stories or not, this album is a requirement for any listener.

–Andrew Savory

 

How to Dress Well- Total Loss

In a recent interview with Pitchfork, Tom Krell, the man behind How To Dress Well, claims that he is striving “for a balance between wordless singing and signifying lyrical lyrics”.

Total Loss, the follow-up album to the stunningly haunting Love Remains (2010), is a more sonically complete album than his debut.

Whereas Love Remains sets the listener in an isolated space of blown out reverb and echoed cries for help, Total Loss is more focused, yet deeply personal.

Krell addresses those important to him within each track. If you can’t relate to the confessional lyrics in “Set It Right” where Krell cries out “Jamie I miss you/ Momma I miss you and Dad I miss you”, it’s because listening to Total Loss feels like an intruding visit in his isolated cave.

This is a downtempo R&B record, that doesn’t mention the balancing act of sex and drugs.

Total Loss is more successful because it feels sentimental rather than idolized. As well, Krell’s voice acts as an accompanying melody, rather than the sole focus of each track.

As heard on “Running Back”, in true Michael Jackson fashion, Krell uses his voice as layers of percussion and backing rhythms, letting out sighing breaths for each. His obsession for reverb still exists, but Total Loss is more focused than his previous work.

Total Loss is expansive without feeling confident. It’s more layered but Krell is still very much secluded. There’s even a climactic ballad at the end (“Set It Right”).

Krell has managed to expand the sounds of the compiled Love Remains without sacrificing isolation—which made it so haunting to listen to. Even at surface level, Total Loss will arrest you upon first listen and linger long after.

–Cameron Noble

 

Mumford and Sons – Babel

As a major Mumford and Sons fan, I couldn’t have been more excited for their new album. I pre-ordered it on iTunes and downloaded the early previews. In fact I’ve been waiting for this album since I attended their concert last year and they played songs from it.

So when I finally could click “download available content” on my pre-ordered album, you can imagine how excited I was— only to find that the CD is fairly, underwhelming.

“I Will Wait” is arguably the best. Though it is similar to a number of their songs from the previous album Sigh no More, it was an excellent choice for them to pre-release this track. Unfortunately, once you’ve heard “I Will Wait” you’ve heard most of the album. The songs all sound quite similar.

For people who enjoy Mumford and Sons, this is not necessarily a bad thing. If you like the folk-rock sound they’ve perfected, you’ll like a lot of their new songs — it just gets old quickly.

This has been a major criticism of the band in the past. I previously overlooked it, as there was enough variation on the album Sigh No More to appease me, but I’m beginning to see the point.

It’s hard to criticize one of my favourite bands, especially when I’ve been waiting for this for so long. Maybe that is the problem, I gave it too much hype.

Despite all of my disappointments, I still recommend going out and buying the album (does anyone do that any more?) The music is good, but it’s just not as good as I had hoped.

–Spencer Dunn

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