Friday, December 23, 2011

NEWSIC: We Are Trees

There is very little to know about We Are Trees at the moment. We can guess they are from Virginia Beach pretty wisely. But they haven't tweeted since December 2009 and they are apparently very good at Galaga? Their Bandcamp and pictures show they like to have a good time though, which is really what is important. 

To this day, the duo has only released a few EP's named solely after relationship titles. On this year's Girlfriend EP they live up to their self-proclaimed "acoustic bedroom low fi folk pop." Lyrically they are a lot more mature than the way they come off. That is where most up and coming folk-pop band's like this have to truly show off. Most point to Grizzly Bear for vocal comparisons with this band which is admittedly spot on. That can beckon some minimal Fleet Foxes comparisons as well, but I hear the soft acoustic melodies next to driving percussion of Local Natives on their track from 2010's Boyfriend EP, "Sunrise Sunset," below. I guess in the end, those three are in the same boat, so I'll mix it up a bit and compare their laid back feeling to that of Fences. That's it for me, buy their newest release below for one dollar. Do it. 

SONG OF THE DAY: Los Campesinos! - "By Your Hand"

Indie pop is certainly a fun thing. While some of it can be both fun and earnest, most is generally exciting to hear with no true lyrical depth. Los Campesinos! is no exception of this. That's no offense to them however. Foster the People bridged the emotional gap with only one track from their debut LP and we still love that album.

"By Your Hand" is the first track from Los Campesinos! newest record, Hello Sadness. The track is cute and features everything that indie pop needs to make a hit. See the poppy synth line to carry the listener through the verses leading into the massive and cherry chorus. The band also does themselves a favor by leading off with the chorus before diving in lyrically. 

The words are direct and somewhat boyish. The sexual references are there for sure, but they aren't exactly well aged (see "her hand in my trousers"). That's pretty much the best outline of the verses. The chorus is another thing though. They do show some maturity with the lyrics. After the titular line, they go on to sing, "i have been dreaming you've been dreaming about me." While it isn't quite "Rolled Together" material, I was impressed with this line. It's a smart teenage view on the subject at the least. But then we got back to the verses. Not that big a fan of, "i lay you down atop the baize."

REVIEW: The Antlers - Burst Apart

Grade: 91% (A-)

"Music that keeps moving and is kind of entrancing and expansive at the same time. Headphone music, music that keeps you going while you're driving for 20 hours." 

That is the way that the Antlers frontman Peter Silberman describes their newest record Burst Apart. That description is about as good as it gets and this review is therefore essentially worthless. But I'll trudge on anyways. Burst Apart was recorded after the trio's expansive tour in support of 2009's Hospice and the sound of the record was greatly shaped by their travels on the road. With the new incorporation of synths, the record holds a quirky ability to be all over the place rhythmically, yet maintain a steady pace throughout without leaving the listener's head spinning. 

The newly added synths do not take the front seat and nor do they take the rear. In fact, no instrument truly leads the effort on this record. It is as much of a cohesive effort that I have heard this year. The instruments work off of each other in a way to let the vocals ascend and float merely inches above the rest. This might also be the most emotional album of this year as well. There are moments of darkness and moments of light. Some songs could be used in The Dark Night Rises and some could be used in The Notebook

Multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci has said that he thinks people will be, "sucked in… to the world of the record." That is exactly what Burst Apart does. It doesn't bounce around in your mind, it instead reverberates throughout it, touching every sense. Credit Silberman's vocal talents for most of this. On "No Windows," he uses his voice as an instrument, like a synth in itself, setting the mood for the song with his murmurs. 

Again, this record is still the strongest cohesive effort I've heard in a while. It was in fact recorded and produced by only the three of them. Michael Lerner's drums toy with your sense of the album's early rhythms on "Parentheses," and the guitar guides the albums top track "Rolled Together" while being sheltered throughout by synth work. There is an atmosphere preserved throughout the record while it still remains direct and palpable for the casual listener. 

Lyrics help with that. While Silberman is emotionally deep and deceptively simple on "Rolled Together," he sings, "so if i see you again, desperate and stoned," on opener "I Don't Want Love." But that doesn't mean the song has no depth. In fact, he uses that amusing line to reassert the overall sexual connotations of the song as a whole. This type of lyrical flair is found throughout the record. 

These concepts range on the album. In fact, countless subjects are breached over the ten songs all while it continues a togetherness. This can be related back to the inspiration of the record as a whole. While spirited by the life on the road, the trio still experienced all of those things together. Whether it would be sleeping in a tiny van in the freezing night or playing a bad show in a town they'd never heard of. They experienced all of that together as a group. That's the feeling you get from this album: an illusive togetherness, and maybe that's where their EP entitled (together)  came from. Or maybe not. I might be the only one who cares. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

NEWSIC: High Highs

Spin has defined High Highs as "Church Wave." I like to think of them more as acoustic based chill wave... Some people might laugh at me for that one. The New York duo transplanted from Australia with a mindset of dance-music trending softer so maybe that comaprison isn't too lofty. Either way, these guys certainly bring the chill with their music. With their debut four song self-titled EP, they craft soft melodies around acoustic guitars and throw even fluffier noises on top of it all to completely relax the listener. This is more headphone music while staring at a frozen pond in the dead of winter. This is the stuff Thoreau was searching for at Walden. The sounds remind me of The Radio Dept. and Fleet Foxes circa the Sun Giant EP. Throw some Young Man in their while you're at it too.

Check out "Horses" below and download (buy) their EP at their Bandcamp here.

TOP 25: December 22nd, 2011

So we'd like to introduce a new segment here at BabyBackBullshit entitled TOP 25. In this, we will be following our Top 25 Most Played Songs in iTunes and keeping track each month. This will be a nice way to keep track of what we've been listening to the most as time progresses and will add a friendly dose of competition to the blog.

TOP 25: December 22nd, 2011*

Rank ~ Song ~ Artist ~ Album ~ Total Plays

1) "All My Friends" ~ LCD Soundsystem ~ Sound of Silver ~ 36

2) "Someone Great" ~ LCD Soundsystem ~ Sound of Silver ~ 35

3) "Senator" ~ Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks ~ Mirror Traffic ~ 28

4) "I am Trying to Break Your Heart" ~ Wilco ~ Yankee Hotel Foxtrot ~ 28

5) "Midnight City" ~ M83 ~ Hurry Up, We're Dreaming ~ 25

6) "How Deep Is Your Love?" ~ The Rapture ~ In the Grace of Your Love ~ 24

7) "Tigers" ~ Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks ~ Mirror Traffic ~ 23

8) "Lonely Boy" ~ The Black Keys ~ El Camino ~ 21

9) "Rolled Together" ~ The Antlers ~ Burst Apart ~ 20

10) "Us vs. Them" ~ LCD Soundsystem ~ Sound of Silver ~ 20

11) "Don't Move" ~ Phantogram ~ Nightlife EP ~ 19

12) "I Don't Want Love" ~ The Antlers ~ Burst Apart ~ 17

13) "Fallout" ~ Neon Indian ~ Era Extrana ~ 17

14) "Sex Karma" ~ of Montreal ~ False Priest ~ 17

15) "No One Is (As I Are Be)" ~ Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks ~ Mirror Traffic ~ 17

16) "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep" ~ Bombay Bicycle Club ~ A Different Kind of Fix ~ 16

17) "You've Got Nothing to Be Proud Of" ~ The John Steel Singers ~ Tangalooma ~ 16

18) "Gold Soundz" ~ Pavement ~ Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain ~ 16

19) "Green Aisles" ~ Real Estate ~ Days ~ 16

20) "Watch the Tapes" ~ LCD Soundsystem ~ Sound of Silver ~ 15

21) "It's Real" ~ Real Estate ~ Days ~ 15

22) "Strange Mercy" ~ St. Vincent ~ Strange Mercy ~ 15

23) "Montana" ~ Youth Lagoon ~ The Year of Hibernation ~ 15

24) "North American Scum" ~ LCD Soundsystem ~ Sound of Silver ~ 14

25) "War on War" ~ Wilco ~ Yankee Hotel Foxtrot ~ 14


LCD Soundsystem has five songs on the list, including the top two, and all are from their album Sound of Silver

The three songs on the list from Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks' album Mirror Traffic are the first three songs off of the album

15 of the 25 songs were released in 2011. Only one is from before the year 2000 ("Gold Soundz")

Seven of the tracks have been featured in our "Song of the Day" category

*Library has been active since September 1st, 2011

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

NEWS: Lana Del Rey US Television Premiere

Lana Del Rey, AKA Lizzy Grant, who's debut album Born to Die drops on January 31st, will be appearing on Saturday Night Live on January 14th with host Harry Potter... I mean Daniel Radcliffe (Don't feel bad he got to kill You-Know-Who and make millions doing it alongside Emma Watson). You can check out her video for "Born to Die" below, a track she is likely to play alongside her hit "Video Games."

VIDEO: Panda Bear - "You Can Count on Me"

SONG OF THE DAY: tune-yards - "Powa"

The generic sound towering over tUnE-yArDs' 2011 album w h o k i l l is all over the place and this track is no exception. "Powa," aptly spelled in a curious way like every thing else in this band, starts with a high-pitched and soft voice singing over quiet acoustic guitar strumming. The riffs then become heavier less than a minute in and the singing rises in volume and drops in pitch as the song truly gains "powa." It moves along to the chorus where it exudes even more confidence, completely contrasting the innocence of the opening. The bridge continues this trend as the bassline carries the song along and then dives into an expression of emotion with lyrical movements near the genre of rap. The last 90-seconds are swirling around the chorus and Merrill Garbus' vocal talents as the song mellows out and eventually fades out, leaving you with the same emotion you felt coming in.

NEWSIC: Motopony

As their KCRW session clearly notes, Motopony loves to be mysterious; so, we won't play around and pretend we know anything about them. On the track below, "King of Diamonds," from their self-titled debut, you can get a good sense of the band's persona. They have a folk based sound but include some pop elements to brighten their bluesy rythyms and then top it all off with thoughtful and intriguing lyrics. Some of their sound reminds me of a lighter Broken Social Scene and the lead singer's guiding voice points to Sam Beam's of Iron & Wine.

Monday, December 19, 2011

SONG OF THE DAY: Youth Lagoon - "Montana"

We gave a gushing review of Youth Lagoon's debut album The Year of Hibernation and rightfully so. And on a gray day like today, their is nothing more fitting than Trevor Powers' mellow and forthright sounds to get you in the right mood for the hustle that the coming weeks will bring as the holidays approach. 

Powers lays out the track with a slow yet determined piano and quickly gets to his dreamy vocal layers. For a twenty-two year old kid, Powers is as gifted a lyricist as anyone. This song covers a confrontation with the demons of his past. However, as it builds and builds, it becomes more and more inspirational as he seems to be getting over these demons from his neighboring state. This song is beautiful and it is hard to believe that something so moving could be erected by such a young kid from such an odd place. 

NEWSIC: Young Buffalo

"Anthems for a 17-Year Old Girl" is not an easy track to cover. The original version by Broken Social Scene offers up a twangy banjo overdubbed with Emily Haines' ghostly vocals about none other than the life of a seventeen year old girl. It's both gorgeous and affecting at the same time. Therefore, when I came across Oxford, Mississippi's Young Buffalo and their ambitious cover of the track I was intrigued. This could go really poorly or potentially go really well. The trio does a magnificent job and you can download their version over at their website in exchange for an email address. Rather than trying to come across with the emotions of a female in their version, they do their best to respect the original and add in their own variety of a adolescent male's point of view. 

On their debut Young Von Prettylips EP, the band goes from down tempo soul to upbeat pop on their opening track "Only We Can Keep You From Harm" in a quick flash. Their track "Catapilah," the video of which we have included below, includes a soaring chorus comparable to something like that of Young the Giant. The trio has all the pop elements to blow up via the internet and touring with other up and coming bands like Wu Lyf and The Vaccines will only help this group grow even more.

REVIEW: Real Estate - Days

Grade: 90% (A-)

Don't just Google "real estate" because nothing regarding the New Jersey indie rock band will come up. Instead, you'll find, at least for myself, an assortment of depressing Buffalo, New York homes up for sale. It's not so much the homes that are depressing, it's the choices of pictures put up to showcase the homes. Each of them seem gray and gloomy. 

If Real Estate, the band that is, were using their music to sell their home to you, that is exactly how they would portray their house: gray and gloomy. Their follow-up to 2009's self-titled debut is just about as mellow and dreary as the Jersey shoreline in mid-February. These songs speak of a childhood in this environment. This "careless lifestyle," as Martin Courtney sings on "Green Aisles," is perfectly sketched by placid and groovy basslines backed by endless guitar arrangements.

But there is still a glimmer of hope. While some of these tracks bring back feelings of sadness and remorse, some also bring out ambition. "It's Real" is a quick, jangle-pop guitar based song that rises and falls through verses and choruses about communicating your emotions and seeing your potential. These songs are built for the late fall and early winter; when the sky is dark and no snow lays on the ground as you sit near the fire and reminisce on the days of summer and look forward to the winter landscape that is so unbearably close. 

They also seem to stretch on forever and make the horizon seem unattainable on that long road trip. The instrumental "Kinder Blumen" is guided by guitars and percussion but includes background effects and noises that play tricks on your ears and mind. "Green Aisles" circles around you with it's flawless guitar work, threatening to strike on your sorrow at any moment like a flock of buzzards but instead taunts you for five minutes. There is an eerie 60's nook combined with the warm dejection of the 90's on "Out Of Tune." 

The band seems to enjoy their emotional release on the record so much that they almost never let it end. The final song, "All The Same," stretches almost seven and a half minutes and could end at any moment as the band extends the phenomenal jam into the end of the day. It chugs along with an upbeat attitude, as if they are done with the despair of yesterday and are looking forward to the promise of tomorrow. It bundles these ideas and jostles them into your head, leaving you ready for whatever the near future brings you. This song is surely a concert staple.

Just because they are downcast, that doesn't mean these songs are depressing to listen to. They find a way for you to put things into perspective on bad days, and appreciate the good ones. While Courtney reflects on his childhood on Days, he is allowing you to reflect yourself, and maybe take a second look this time, remembering things differently. The title itself doesn't refer to specific moment's in his life, but simply refers to the "days" that once were for everyone and you can potentially find out a lot about yourself by giving these memories the second chance that they never had. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

REVIEW: The Rapture - In The Grace of Your Love

Grade: 94% (A)

Since arriving at my freshman year in college in September, few things have captured me more than LCD Soundsystem. A casual fan prior, mainly as a fan of the epic drop on "Dance Yrself Clean," I had not really dove into their discography. However, in the month of October, something in me decided that I was sick of reading about their praises and not experiencing it. So, I made a conscious effort to listen to Sound of Silver as much as possible. After the first three or so listens, I was only mildly impressed, mainly by the mainstream hit "North American Scum." However, something clicked around that fifth or sixth time around, and all of a sudden "All My Friends" and "Someone Great" were my most played songs in my iTunes library. Maybe it was the fact that I really did miss my friends and "Someone Great" really related to my romantic issues at the time, but LCD Soundsystem climbed near top of the charts when it comes to my favorite bands. 

Fuck. James Murphy retired. I knew all of this, I dissed the live stream on Pitchfork of their final show. I probably could have gone. And looking at the setlist, FUCK, I should have gone. Now I have to live the rest of my life knowing I will never see one of my favorite bands perform some of my favorite songs (barring a comeback of course). I was too late. 

But wait, along comes this little piece of joy. I've spun In the Grace of Your Love almost as much as anything else I have in the three months I've been at school. The Rapture's return isn't Sound of Silver, but it is contemporary dance-punk at it's best. They aren't my favorite band, but I know that seeing them live will feel as close as it gets to what it would have been like seeing LCD live. It was in fact, James Murphy who told Luke Jenner to "unquit his band" after it fell apart following the departure of bassist Matty Safer in 2009. 

Maybe I'm a overplaying this a little, but then again, I truly do love this album. From the first driving pulses of the opener "Sail Away," to the groovy closer, "It Takes Time to Be a Man," I was in a trance. I just want to dance. That rhymes. 

Jenner's lyrics are a little better than my previous attempt at poetry. Probably a lot better in fact. Since the band's last LP, he became a father and lost his mother, two major life changing events that shaped his songwriting for this record. So yeah, they're gonna be a little dark, but because the music is so uptempo, you don't notice unless you truly listen. On "Children," maybe the purest dance track of the album, he sings, "children breathe, children bleed, i can't see you and me." He carefully places his defining song as the final track, proving that he has climbed the mountains he's faced, and now he's ready to help anyone else who went through the shit he did. 

Though they lost their bassist in 2009, there is no lack of catchy basslines here. In fact, the songs are almost crafted around them. The bass acts as the core as the band throws dreamy synths and surging beats on top of them to match the integrity of the vocals. "Come Back to Me" rides along the ridge and refuses to dip into the valley and end as it taunts the clouds with it's ability to maintain rhythm and posture.  

These tracks are long and have a certain grittiness to them. The title track has a playful but angry instrumental jam at the beginning as it leads into the charming verses only to revert back to that ire with the soaring vocals in the bridge/chorus as Jenner sings, "don't want you dead." While the songs have a quiet uniformity to them, they are much more jam-based and informal than the carefully structured rhythms and beats that Murphy used in LCD Soundsystem. 

Guitar takes center stage to start the distinctly floaty "Roller Coaster" and the song serves as a perfect example of the repeated choral lines that appear throughout the album.  "Miss You" has a supreme baseline and the edgy synths act as a perfect matchmaker of the beat and vocals. "Blue Bird"'s continual guitar strumming is like a little kid punching you on the arm to get your attention, until you finally do and then the solo pops in with a change of the song's theme.  

Now to the best track. Second to last on the album, "How Deep Is Your Love?" encapsulates each melody from the previous nine songs into one. It is piloted by it's piano riffs and extended with layered synths. There's no lack of disco motifs in the chorus and the song just gets better and better as it continues. Without it's extended bridge and conclusion it's a good track, but with them, it is a great and masterful track. With two and a half minutes left, the saxophone is introduced, and before you know it, you are hurled into an array of sounds that stab at your ears before bursting through and commanding your body to move. The "hallelujah!" screams at the end coupled with the other repeated lines are sure to make a concert hall rock. Don't fault he band for going after "Midnight City" for best saxophone solo of the year. 

This isn't the genius that Sound of Silver was, but The Rapture might be pointed to to do their best to fill the gap that LCD Soundsystem has left us. And with In the Grace of Your Love, they clearly have done a pretty good job, and like I will with Sound of Silver, I plan on having hipster dance parties while listening to iTGoYL front to back. 

SONG OF THE DAY: of Montreal - "Sex Karma"

My relationship with of Montreal has been pretty up and down. I first dove into their early records and was less than impressed. Even so, I still decided to attend their show in Buffalo this past spring and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I got very into Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer? after that… Only to stop listening for a long time. Things were not looking that good after they announced their newest album (Paralytic Stalks due out February 7th) as I was just less than enthused. Their first single, "Wintered Debts," did very little to reinvigorate me. But then, while reading the story on Pitchfork, I watched the video of them performing this track and fell right back in love. Since then it's been False Priest marathons in the car, my room, even the shower. 

Recorded with Solange Knowles (BEYONCE'S SISTER!!!!!!!!!!!), "Sex Karma" is the epitome of sexy pop songs. And I mean that both literally and figuratively. Kevin Barnes' lyrics topple John Mayer's "Body is a Wonderland" (that fucking creep) with regards to describing sexual tension between males and females. The string section doubled by the sampled erotic noises barely heard in the background set the entire tone for the song. Again, the lyrics take no prisoners ("closer your eyes and count to three, i'll kiss you where i shouldn't be"). This track screams skinny jeans, for males and females. I just want to bang a tambourine against my thighs and sing this song with either of the Knowles sisters. Hell, I'll take the mom at this point, she's gotta have some talent. 

VIDEO: Arcade Fire - "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)"

Please don't make me explain it... Just go to this website for more. 

NEWSIC: Air Review

First of all, look at the word, "air." Doesn't it look like it's spelled really weird? Having one of those weird moments while listening to them right now, yeah. 

Anyways, to some new music and beyond. Meet Air Review, the Dallas based psych-folk band. Their only release as of yet is their America's Son EP, of which you can see the video for the title track below. I hear a lot of different influences in their sound. While they have a softer edge to their vocals and piano parts, they do have some psychedelic features to their noise which reminds me a little of the backing effects on Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. They also have that steady kind of rhythmic beat that is slightly reminiscent to The Boxer Rebellion. Either way, this band's EP is incredibly relaxing and "chill," which can best be seen by watching the video below. 

REVIEW: The War on Drugs - Slave Ambient

Grade: 93% (A)

To suggest that we are slaves to the ambience of our surroundings would be a little ridiculous. However, to suggest that we are slaves to the ambient sounds that The War on Drugs produce on their latest album would be anything but ridiculous. As it so happens, their newest LP is entitled Slave Ambient. What a coincidence. 

After listening to an album four or five times with careful consideration to the music each time, you can generally begin to pick out songs, even if they are not catchy or even good. However, after listening to Slave Ambient four or five times, I still could not discern one song, even one sound from another. That is how well produced and devised this record is. 

Each song incorporates strong rhythms with some superb guitar work. Working alongside those are some keyboard and saxophone work that dazes you and baselines that keep the whole operation on course. Top all of this off with a voice that blends in with everything all while making it's case to capture your spirit. 

While it all is "ambient" however, none of it is trippy. Well, some of it is trippy, but that is not the point the band is trying to get across. Besides trippy, it is more importantly penetrating and surrounding. The noises and sounds emanating from your headphones slides down your ear and into your lungs before your brain can even recognize it. After that first breath, you are filled with the songs presence. Only slow deep breaths can keep it from taking you over after this moment. 

You feel cloaked by the music and protected by the invisibility it provides you. With these sounds on your side, you can fall asleep if you want, or write a novel and no one will bother you because you cannot be harmed. They make you confident and expressive, while also being weary and guarded. You can truly look inside and discover not only things about yourself, but also about your interactions with other people. You can interpret other people, and what their thoughts are by just looking at them. You can judge a person with one look, and discern them as good or evil, or a little bit of both. In other words, Slave Ambient makes you feel empowered to think clearly in any which way you want. But in some way shape or form, none of this feels, or even is bad, because you know that it is just a feeling you are experiencing from the music, and any or all of these thoughts could be 100% true, or completely false. It all depends on your reflection after listening.

I swear I was not high when I wrote this review. 

REVIEW: The Strokes - Angles

Grade: 78% (C+)

After seven-and-a-half minutes of the Strokes' first album in six years, you're reminded why this band was dubbed as "the revivalists of rock and roll" in the early 2k's. Then, you are reminded why the Black Keys, their competitors at the time, have made it further than them in fulfilling that declaration. Much like 2005's dud First Impressions of Earth, 2011's Angles starts off strong and then tapers off. Angles, however, still has many more redeemable qualities than it's predecessor. 

The one two combo of "Machu Picchu" and "Under the Cover of Darkness" to start off the record is undeniably both catchy and genius. Seconds into the opener's glitchy guitar work you are hooked and UCoD may as well be notched as a top five Strokes song of all time. Julian and Co. remind us why they were the darlings in the early parts of the new millennium: their ability to snatch you up with their instrumentation and then carry you with their contrast of drawling and soaring choruses (whichever you may prefer). However, much like they have done in the past (opening up First Impressions of Earth with the near perfection that is "You Only Live Once"), they are unable to follow up their opening songs with equally as good tracks. 

Don't get me wrong. Angles is exponentially better than First Impressions, it just simply isn't the Strokes we were promised ten years ago… Better yet, let's be honest; it simply isn't Is This It. While their monster 2001 debut had a teenage punk grittiness mixed with an endearing New York lyrical structure, Angles seems too, as stupid as this sounds, grown up. It is missing that core youthful edge that Is This It made us fall in love with. Maybe this is why Casablancas sings, "everyone singing the same song for ten years," on the second track. 

Maybe it's because they have truly gotten older, or maybe it's because of in-band strife during the recording process. While previous records were written solely by singer Casablancas, Angles is a collaborative effort. After the members went off and did solo-projects during their break, they apparently all wanted in on the newest Strokes record. This and the scary idea of Julian sending his vocals in via mp3 has led to Angles. 
"Two Kinds of Happiness" is the matured version of "Trying Your Luck." While it is better orchestrated and stronger mechanically, it lacks that eager feel the band had in their younger days. "You're So Right" is a waste of two and a half minutes of vinyl, but "Taken For a Fool" has a bridge and dueling guitar work that reaches back in time a little. The most intriguing track on the record is "Games." With a drum machine produced beat, guitars take the back seat in the chorus as synths and other electronics frolic around the vocals. This isn't to say the song isn't good. It certainly is, and is probably the strongest track on the album more because it jumps out in comparison to the others. 

"Call Me Back" starts off strong with it's guitars but then gets too weird to function by the chorus. The closer, "Life Is Simple In The Moonlight," is like "Games" in the sense that it is somewhat experimental. It is a very redeemable track though, with the verse growing very well as it leads into the chorus. It also is a great example of the increased amount of solo guitar jams that this album features in comparisons to others by the band. 

While it could lose some songs, the record is still only thirty-four minutes long. I look at it as a middle-aged record. A reflection on the greatness of your younger years and interpretation of the mistakes of your late-twenties. In that sense, this album was destined to be nothing but average, especially with the setbacks the group faced in the recording process. Nevertheless, they are already recording again, meaning (hopefully) those relationship issues are fixed up and ready, because where they go from here will likely define them as either the band who blew up the scene and faltered forever, or the band who rose to prominence, then learned from it's fall from grace only to regain it yet again. 

REVIEW: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Mirror Traffic

Grade: 88% (B+)

Birkenstocks, bourgeoisie, and blowjobs. That is how Malkmus decided to begin his newest LP with the Jicks. The first three tracks off of Mirror Traffic could stand for an entire album as themselves, traveling from the quick pop guitar of "Tigers", through the piano and brass supported sunset car-ride acoustic jam that is "No One Is (As I Are Be)," and sprinting the last 90-or so meters with the riffy, fellacio referencing, and Congress slander in "Senator." While the diversity of these tracks is impressive enough, most importantly in their ability to strike and emboss you in three individual fashions, they best show how Malkmus still has it. 

The lyrical genius of "Gold Soundz" can be found splattered throughout this record. "Senator" is likely the best example of this even in the shadow of it's hilarious sexual jibes at our nation's leaders. In it's video, "Senator" portrays a coke driven and rambunctious Senator (who would've guessed?) played by Jack Black of all people. And while the song's focus and idea is driven by the issues in our government today, Malkmus' true motivation in the song is displayed in the bridge when he sings, "smoking weed in our truck, the cops roll up, how couldn't they not know? we are so so so invisible." He is brilliantly playing these two stereotypes off of each other: a horny and power mad Senator versus a lazy teenager who loves getting stoned. In the video, these kids are portrayed by a couple of adolescents who volunteer to put up campaign signs for the Senator and blow it off by getting high and going to a party. But Malkmus deceives you right till the end when he screams, "i know what everyone wants, what everyone wants is a blowjob," in essence telling us that these people are just like everyone else. You'll have to watch the video to get where his idea goes from here. 

Enough about BJ's. The rest of the album is no slouch either. With a release date of August 23rd, it was the perfect record to straddle the end of summer and coming of fall. Jam and guitar guided songs like "Brian Gallop" and "Georgeous Georgie" extend just over five minutes as they prompt you to sort through your thoughts line to line while short/calming fret accentuated pop songs like "Asking Price" and "Fall Away" are assisted by the gentle 73-second "Jumblegloss" to maintain a balance on the album's overall rhythm. Strong tracks like "Stick Figures in Love" and "Forever 28" reinforce your belief that Malkmus is still here and here to stay. 

Mirror Traffic is a departure from the long jams of 2008's Real Emotional Trash and instead samples a little bit of everything from Malkmus' songwriting efforts in the past. It is short and to the point at some moments and long and well thought-out at others. To your amusement, it's also nice to know that Stephen won't say blowjob on national television, but he will say fuck. Oh, and if you were lucky enough, you could've won his "blowjob contest" this summer as well. He still hasn't grown up, and if this album is any indication, it's a good thing.