Album in Review: Undun by The Roots

Album in Review: Undun by The Roots

Album in Review: Undun by The Roots

Any fan of The Roots--an outfit with a storied career and prolific a body of work--should expect the development of a concept album from the band. Their latest album, Undun is just that, and it is an interesting one.

The album tells a story that is neither complex nor revolutionary, and features songs that alternate between gripping and silly. In the end, both the music and the story end on a dismal note, but true fans of The Roots may extract some value from a few listens.

 Video for "Sleep" from Udun

Undun begins with the premise of having a man die, and moves on from there. The man is another child of the ghetto, caught up in the life of a hustler and pays the price. The Roots presents this story through their tracks in a matter-of-fact way, and without judgement.

While Undun doesn't push envelopes, it is certainly diverse. Not every track is punctuated by Questlove’s driving drum beats, and Dice Raw is featured singing in several tracks. Guitar lines drive songs such as “Kool On” and “Stomp,” and a four-movement orchestral finale closes out the album.

 The Roots have been broadcasting their unique “live-band, rock and rap” formula for more than a decade, and this album is a welcome addition to their catalog. However, vocalist Black Thought and his cohorts sometimes fail to express any gripping emotion, despite their best efforts.

The musicality is well-rounded and expertly executed (given that they are all stellar musicians). However, Undun doesn't quite accomplish its goal of telling the most compelling story about racially-charged issues in American society.

Undun is a worthwhile album, and would, at the very least, get you bobbing your head.

LISTEN: Islands – “This Is Not a Song”

LISTEN: Islands – “This Is Not a Song”

LISTEN: Islands – “This Is Not a Song”

Nick Thorburn, the former frontman of the short-lived yet influential indie group The Unicorns and current frontman for Islands, once again showcases his song-writing prowess with the latest Islands’ track “This Is Not a Song”  from their upcoming album entitled A Sleep and A Forgetting.

Take note, this is a ballad fit for the winter months.

Thorburn croons the melancholic song as if he is trudging through waist-deep snow, all while presumably lamenting a love recently departed, and his heavy-handed lyricism that carries over from The Unicorn’s days is heard throughout.

Even so, Thorburn  is successful in creating a fresh,  perfectly balanced ballad that is simple and endearing.

A Sleep and A Forgetting is set to be released on February 14th, 2012 (Valentine's Day) on Anti- Records.

“This Is Not a Song” proves that fans of Islands can expect another quality release in 2012, albeit an emotional one. You can download the track for free here.

Album in Review: The Oh Sees – “Carrion Crawler/The Dream”

Album in Review: The Oh Sees – “Carrion Crawler/The Dream”

Album in Review: The Oh Sees – “Carrion Crawler/The Dream”

Anyone who was a fan of John Dwyer’s storied garage-punk group, Coachwhips eagerly awaited the first release of his solo work as Thee Oh Sees. What began as an outlet for the frontman’s more psychedelic, and at times, discombobulated musical tendencies has clearly evolved. His album, Castlemania (2011) was filled with woodwind instrumentation, subdued vocals and enough trippy-ness to make it feel like that one weird night in college all over again.

However, Dwyer's latest album, Carrion Crawler/The Dream is not that.

This record is about riotous rock ‘n’ roll; and "Carrion Crawler" demonstrates that the band has extended itself beyond the talents of Dwyer. Lars Finberg is featured as the group’s second drummer (which should indicate just how “rock” this record is).

There are traditional guitar hooks aplenty, and these often devolve into extended jam sessions that showcase the band's harmony. Their track, “The Dream” begins with a guitar intro that may prepare listeners to hear a song that The Who might have written; and what follows is a twangy, garage track that steams ahead like a runaway freight train.

 Opposition By Thee Oh Sees

After several minutes, the jamming sets in. Most of the songs follow this format, with exception of the track, “Opposition,” which clocks in at a brief 1:29, and breaks up the flow of the album with a DEVO-inspired jam that doesn’t lose the band’s edge.

If you started listening to Carrion Crawler/The Dream with your arms skeptically folded, expect to be jumping around your bedroom and ready for the afterparty by the record’s end.

LISTEN: Dive – “Sometime”

LISTEN: Dive – “Sometime”

LISTEN: Dive – “Sometime”

Brooklyn’s storied beach rockers, Beach Fossils have branched out with separate side projects from vocalist John Pena (Heavenly Beat) and from guitarist Zachary Cole (Dive).

While Heavenly Beat has already released singles under the Captured Tracks label, John Pena’s solo project Dive just released its debut 7”.

The track, “Sometime” from Dive, evokes a sense of lurking sadness, but it still successfully manages to channel Beach Fossils’ mid-tempo, washed out rock aesthetic.

The guitars are soaked in reverb, yet the hook in this song is undeniably catchy, and the minimal drum tracking indicates that Dive looks to be a more guitar-driven band than Beach Fossils. The combination of spacey guitars and distorted, ethereal vocals make this track a haunting one that cannot be ignored. Take a LISTEN.

LISTEN: The Black Keys — “Lonely Boy”

LISTEN: The Black Keys — “Lonely Boy”

LISTEN: The Black Keys —  “Lonely Boy”

The Black Keys will release their newest single from their upcoming album, El Camino in digital format today.

“Lonely Boy,” from El Camino (out December 6th, Nonesuch Records), is not nearly as gloomy of a track as its name might suggest. The beat is reminiscent of the clap-along pop style in the 1950’s, only the Keys have interjected their brand of garage-punk into the track.

The lyrics of vocalist and guitarist, Dan Auerbach continue to be as bluesy as we’ve come to expect from the duo. And with esteemed producer, Danger Mouse co-producing, fans can expect some deviations in the band’s style, although for the betterment of the album.

Physical copies of “Lonely Boy” will be released on November 25 as part of Record Store Days’ Black Friday series. It will be followed by the single, “Run Right Back,” also from El Camino.

Music in Review: Real Estate's New 'Days' Album

Album in Review: Real Estate's 'Days'

Music in Review: Real Estate's New 'Days' Album

After an exhausting summer of barbeques, swimming holes and long hot days, the coming of fall is a welcome relief.

Leaves change colors, and with that metamorphosis may come to us a reflection of a season's past.

Autumn, like summer, has its own emotional complexities, and indie rock band, Real Estate’s newest album, Days, is seemingly written for those who agree. Days is truly a beautiful and complicated record. It is not without its faults, but it captures the spirit of fall in a way few records have done before.

Formed by group of childhood friends from Ridgewood, New Jersey, Real Estate was pegged as a surf rock band.

Their debut self-titled LP, released in 2009 on Woodsist, was replete with bright chords and a carefree wistfulness. Praise from independent music publications piled up shortly thereafter, and venerable British label, Domino Recording Company commissioned the band’s next album. The big label provided Real Estate with more resources and improved production value to showcase their tracks. Compared to their debut album, Days is far more complex and multifaceted.

Real Estate - It's Real

Real Estate’s sound on Days can certainly be described as “pop,” but it is clear that the band has departed from their psychedelic, lo-fi sounds seen in their first album.

Days show a maturity in lyrics, instrumentation and emotional density. The album’s opening track, “Easy,” is a toe-tapping and head-bobbing number; it may evoke memories of running through grassy fields even before vocalist Martin Courtney sings.

In “Green Aisles,” the tempo slows to a pace familiar to their fans, however, the crisp, effect-free guitars echo a different disposition. Lines such as “All those wasted miles/ All those aimless drives through green aisles/ Our careless lifestyle, it was not so unwise" stand out, and are quite endearing when sung on top of such majestic instrumentation.

Real Estate - Green Aisles

Days draws inspiration from other bands. “Out Of Tune” is a track that confirms the derivative nature of Real Estate’s sound, as it largely draws from indie band, The Shins.

Similarly, the track “Younger Than Yesterday” begins with a riff that Neil Young may have written for Harvest Moon. Still, it is clear from Days that Real Estate's sound is anchored by their own self-identity.

The next time you hear the leaves crunching underneath your steps, and feel the introspection of fall , consider throwing on Days. It is a stunning album with lyrics that are connotative, complex and happy-go-lucky.

Click here to buy this album


LISTEN: Coasting — “Portland”

LISTEN: Coasting — “Portland”

LISTEN: Coasting — “Portland”

Coasting, the new project of Fiona Campbell (drummer of Vivian Girls) and Madison Farmer, is set to release their first LP, entitled You’re Never Going Back. Their debut is highly anticipated, and the song “Portland” shows us why.

In keeping with Coasting’s lo-fi and D.I.Y. musical heritage, “Portland” is a simple track. Yet emotionally raw, hopeful vocals punctuate a backdrop of garage-pop musicality that is as basic as it is beguiling. It is beautiful, short and yet another amazing entry in the growing movement of female-centric pop music currently being released.

The full LP will be available from Brooklyn-based M’Lady Records on November 15 of this year. Until then, we  have “Portland” to enjoy.

LISTEN: Phantogram — “Don’t Move”

LISTEN: Phantogram — “Don’t Move”

LISTEN: Phantogram — “Don’t Move”

After Phantogram's washed out debut LP from 2010 (Eyelid Movies), many fans may be taken aback after listening to “Don’t Move.” A musical group almost always classified in some way as “trip-hop,” Phantogram has managed to retain elements of their former style while crafting a truly delicate pop song.


 Buy Phantogram's Nightlife

The duo of Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel kept it upbeat on this track, weaving brass-tinged embellishments with pulsing synths and a beat that in undeniably of the hip-hop school. Barthel’s ethereal vocals remain, and are layered and sampled complexly throughout the track.

Phantogram has managed to create an eerie but undeniably catchy song with “Don’t Move,” and have given fans a reason to look forward to the release of their next LP, entitled Nightlife.

LISTEN: Wavves — “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl”

LISTEN: Wavves — “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl”

LISTEN: Wavves — “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl”

The summer season has nearly slipped away, but listening to Wavves’ new “Life Sux” six song EP brings some warm-weather vibes, if only briefly.

What once began as the lo-fi solo project of lead singer and guitarist Nathan Williams has continued to evolve since his debut album was released in 2008.

Buy this on Itunes

A rotating crew of musicians, drunken outbursts, and addiction were a constant element of the group.

With recent changes of a solidified line-up and William’s cleaning up his act, their music still retains the catchy disillusionment that we loved from the beginning.

“Life Sux,” released on Williams’s own Ghost Ramp record label, features collaborations with hardcore punk group Fucked Up (“Destroy”) and fellow surf rock band Best Coast (“Nodding Off”), as well as a live version of “In the Sand.”

The single from the album, “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl,” delightfully captures the slacker attitude of Williams and his band.

The lyrics are simple, repetitive and snotty, and the clap-along beat and meandering guitar compliment them perfectly.

Immature and entitled as the band is, I can’t help but chill with them. The music is catchy, and any beach vibes around this time of year are welcome.