The Spinto Band: Moonwink
Author: Genna Ord
Rating: 2.5/ 5
When people consider the hotbeds of musical talent, the Midwest has a habit of being overlooked. Paying more attention to upcoming artists, however, shows that Mid-America is being severely underrated, and the bandMason Proper, who began in Apena, Michigan, is one prime example. Olly Oxen Free, the band’s sophomore album, was mixed in an 11-day marathon session, but the tight time schedule isn’t apparent in the finished product. Part of this might be due to the talents of Chris Coady, the producer/engineer who has worked with groups like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Blonde Redhead, but Mason Proper’s own skill would have made the
album a success regardless. For those who missed their first (and self-produced) CD, There Is A Moth In Your Chest, Mason Proper has a sound that brings to mind groups like The Shins, but not enough to draw a straight line between them like a twisted, hazy reflection in a funhouse mirror.
Jonathan Visger’s vocals are wispy and eerie, and many of the tracks are in a minor key with occasional tempo changes and murky background noises, from wailing sounds to seemingly random piano chords. The opening track, “Fog”, earns its name. The entirety of the song feels poised at that in-between time just before or after the sun breaks the horizon, and the sound is soft-edged but still full, like a shape in the mist. It sets the tone for the rest of the album, which explores the darker side of things there are several mentions of flies and fog throughout Olly Oxen Free without leaving the listener feeling depressed. The late-September release is good planning; the album is best listened to when looking out at fallen leaves and gray skies.
“Down that twisted path, you can find us there,” Visger promises in the first line of Only a Moment, and you can bet I’ll following those directions.
Domino Recording Company
By Alec Bell
4 out of 5 stars
This album is a two-disc compilation of the late Elliott Smith’s recently rare and unreleased songs from a period in Elliott Smith’s life where he began releasing his solo music (1994-1997). The compilation also includes a cover of Big Star’s “Thirteen.” The compilation as a whole is very accessible, yet a poor surface reading might classify this as a drone and dreary album. In its simplicity, Smith’s voice and rather consistent dynamic spread create a beautiful sound that has depth in its moments of sadness, anger and its happy interventions. Track one; “Angels in the Snow” sets the tone for the whole album with paradoxically somber sounding lyrics that serve the dual purpose of evoking a depression and a celebration of his love for the Angel. As for influences and musical similarities, momentarily, track three on the second disc, “Big Decision,” has a certain resemblance to some of the classic Violent Femmes songs. Also, “Fear City” has a repeating chord progression similar to some of those created by Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. The mood of this compilation is very true to what Elliott Smith delivers in his other albums. The lyrics help to drive this point home, especially in New Monkey:
He’s in my ear
Wants me to live in denial
Says you’ve gotta settle for something
Though it might not be really living
Anything is better than nothing
The cover echoes the simplicity of Smith’s art of song making. The album cover incorporates the colors Vincent Van Gogh used in his early paintings and is reminiscent of his painting “Stary Night.” Overall, this album is solid; listen to it straight through or on shuffle. Specifically check out “Angel in the Snow,” “High Times,” “Looking Over My Shoulder”, “Fear City,” “New Monkey,” and “Either/ Or”.
An End Has a Start
By Justin Gumbel
The sophomore album An End Has A Start, by the British indie rockers Editors is a dark, complex album that is well composed and worth listening to. Any fan of The Killers or Interpol should pick up this record. The vocals and drums are reminiscent of The Killers especially, yet both have an original flavor to them. While this album is centered on death, it concentrates on moving past the hard times. An End Has A Start looks death in the eyes and says you are not going to rattle me. The drums have a strong and straightforward theme, which fits what the music needs. The beat of the song ‘Bones’ would feel at home in a dance club. The blend of guitar, bass, and the occasional keyboard/synthesizer makes it sound musically mature. The tone of the two guitars is very interesting, because they have a soothing almost soft feel, yet they can let the songs rock out when needed. The bass is tight and locks in well with the drums, giving the impression of a strong rhythm section.
Overall, the vocals are melodic and musical, but could use more strength, especially on ‘Well Worn Hands,’ the last track of the album. It sounds like Tom Smith, the singer, is struggling with his musical range. The harmonies on ‘When Anger Shows’ are very catchy. Every track has a well-developed intro and ending. This album sticks out so much because, unlike most modern pop albums, this is not an album filled with one or two singles and a bunch of fluff. Every track is a great piece of art in its own right. The album flows quite well, almost to the point where it feels as though all of the songs are intertwined and each is a part of one big song. The songs do start to sound similar, yet they all are slightly different. This is what an album was meant to be and I think Editors does a great job of this. Overall, Editors has succeeded in doing a great job of composing an indie album that anyone can appreciate.
Apples In Stereo
New Magnetic Wonder
4.5 / 5
Finally, after a five-year hiatus, Apples in Stereo returns to treat us all to a serving of pure ear candy. With one fantastic song after the next, it’s truly difficult to listen to just part of New Magnetic Wonder. This carefully produced, beautifully engineered album not only marks the reunion of the Apples but also features other Elephant 6 alumni such as Jeff Magnum of Neutral Milk Hotel and Bill Doss of Olivia Tremor Control. Although it wasn’t released on E6, New Magnetic Wonder really takes you back to the finer of days of the Elephant 6 Recording Collective and makes you remember what it was to be lo-fi. Apples deliver in this album, giving a wide range of tracks, counting in at 24, half of which are small interludes that accompany you from one song to the next. There is really nothing critical to say about this album, it’s a silly album that provides a breath of fresh air from the melancholy motif of the indie scene.