Sunday, December 27, 2009

The XX

Time for another band that's been tipped by many as tops for the year, The XX.

Lots of folks lump these Londonites with The Big Pink, but I think that does a disservice to both. There may be some similarities, but they are somewhat limited. Where The BP are pop songs under a sludge of effects, or harder edged codeine-fueled anthems, The XX are, in a word, "sparse." Yes they are dreamy and have spacey ethereal moments, but what they have really brought to the table is a discreet sense of emptiness. And while this sensibility is very "post-punk," coming from The XX, in 2009, there is also a sense of freshness. The three-piece leave well enough alone, and don't overstretch things, just to create a false sense of earnestness.

But as they live by the sword, they also die by the sword. At times, the emptiness leaves the listener a bit cold, and often, even after repeat listens, it's hard to remember hooks are moments that you want to bask in again. It's not forgettable, but it's not memorable either. At first, I couldn't understand why the record left me a bit colder than I thought it would, but then I saw them live. The problem live, which I think may also have to do with the record, is that there is very little behind the songs in terms of emotion, fear, anger, loss or destruction. Even with the bands they were inspired by (Portishead, Echo and the Bunnymen, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Mazzy Star) there was a front of stage sense of something. The XX have not found their thing yet, but hopefully, in time, they will.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Arctic Monkeys

Been meaning to throw this video up on my YouTube Channel. After the weird grandeur of "Crying Lightning," I really love the punk rock reaction of the Arctic Monkeys next video, "Cornerstone." Simplicity delivers.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AEC YouTube Channel and Izza Kizza

I realized that I post a good handful of videos here, and sometimes I forget to psot good stuff here, but I'm favorite-ing things on YouTube all the time. Therefore, I decided to bust out a whole AEC YouTube Channel. I'll to write a little bit about videos more often here, but you can always go through, and check this channel in case I missed posting about something. So every now and again, check here for videos when you are bored:

It all started with Izza Kizza.

When I saw Izza Kizza's "Ooh La La" video on Subterranean earlier this month, my first thought was that it reminded me of OutKast. Which is not to say that it sounds just like OutKast but more in the sense of, if OutKast were to put out a record now, I hope it sounds kinda like this. And of course there's a reason for this, it's a Timberland project. And God knows I love me some Timmy. So check out the video, the record's not out til February, though, so the video will have to suffice. You can grab a download of another track from the forthcoming record at Izza Kizza's official site.

More editorial on the other videos soon, I promise.

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Big Pink

In a recent interview, The Big Pink were asked about the bands that influenced their debut. All of their choices were respectable, but that they gave a nod to Ministry really stood out for me. This is mainly because it showed me the difference between them and most of the other neo-shoegazer bands of late. What they, and Ministry (and other bands of which The Big Pink is reminiscent, like the Verve, Chapterhouse, Love And Rockets, or Curve) understood was that no matter what the tempo of the music, there has to be a sense of danger making it compelling, especially if you are making somewhat dark music. The sense of the ominous and a sense of urgency seem to be what many new bands are missing. Not so with The Big Pink.

And that's why I love this record. It's underlying melodies make it extremely listenable and require repeats, but that's not to say it's a simple record. A Brief History of Love is also paced well, which accents the moodiness of the record, without sacrificing the darkness and gothic nature of the whole work. There are enough symphonic moments to make the debut seem grand and festival ready, but there's enough texture and space to justify a long focused headphone listen as well. But it all comes down to the songwriting, and this is where The Big Pink excels. The songs are big, catchy, dark and simply rock and roll the way it was meant to be. This might be a contender for my record of the year.

Grab "Dominoes" and "Too Young To Love" at:

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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Arctic Monkeys

I have yet to weigh in on the new Arctic Monkeys. Honestly, I wanted to give it some time to sink in before I made a decision, especially because it is such a departure and is a complex record.

With Whatever People Say..., the Arctic Monkeys came out as the sassiest, most whip-smart Brits in years. They were brash, snotty and judgemental, but 100% real. With Favourite Worst Nightmare, they broke into different musical personas, proving they could pull off love songs, urgent rock riffs, and still retaining the crown for the sharpest tongues in the UK.

So as their next move... they go metal? Well, it's perhaps not straight metal, but the Sabbath riffs are there. The guitar solos are there and so is the "devil's note." Sure, Josh Homme's production added some of this to the brew, but my thinking is that Alex and crew are just making their rounds through their influences and seeing what, in 2009's music landscape, is sorely lacking and filling that gap. And God knows we are all lacking in some heavy rock. But since the quartet are smart enough to know better than to simply nick songs with reckless abandon, they instead have fused this with their own sound, and, of course, the Alex Turner mind-spinning lyricism. I have poured over the lyrics to this record endlessly, just as I did with their first two releases, and I don't think I'll tire of this one either. With songs about love, sex, drugs, and overall reckless abandon, they understand and deliver what rock and roll has always been.

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Julian Casablancas

Other than Nick, each member of the Strokes has released a solo record. While each was enjoyable, Julian Casablancas's effort wins.

Fab's Little Joy was fun and so very spring/summery. Albert's records have been smart, but a bit spark-less. Nickle Eye was surprisingly solid, but a bit morose and very much a lo-fi "bedroom" effort. Julian's solo debut takes Fab's route of reinvention and runs with it. Upon hearing the first tones of the single, I knew I was in for something completely different. When I heard "11th Dimension," I thought Julian was trying to bring back Shannon/Lisa Lisa era freestyle. But just going electro dance would be too simple. Phrazes for the Young hits country notes, electric organs play a significant part, as do waltzes and piano bar ballads. And of course, as with all of the others' efforts, Julian is still a Stroke, and these songs still evoke that spirit. But this time out, it's the perfect balance. Just enough of the old, the new and the different. Well done, Mr. Casablancas.

Plus, I also love the graphical allusion made with that pic above.

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