Tag Archives: The Shins

320. The Folk Implosion – “Dare to Be Surprised”

There’s some bloke in the bible called Lazarus whose name gets invoked whenever someone upsets expectation and returns alive and kicking.

I’m note sure that exact imagery or parallel should be drawn here, as, while  the first incarnation of The Folk Implosion certainly seemed dead in the water, there was always that awareness that Lou Barlow had a strong songwriting pedigree.

Here, along with his collaborator John Davis, he delivers a much more pleasing, captivating, soothing set of ditties.

It is all still pretty lo-fi, but with some thought given to the listener. I guess we’re still listening through the wall, but they’ve given us a comfy couch to recline on.

It turns out these guys had some minor mainstream hit in between the two albums (some song from the Kids soundtrack).  Maybe that got them thinking about hooks and the like.

The vibe is chilled drums, atmospheric guitar, warm vocals, slowly building and swirling.  It’s a little like the quieter stuff the Shins were lauded for almost a decade later.

Barlow has a voice that gets to me, and on tracks like Barricade, Burning Paper and Checking In it is perfectly matched with the sounds around it.

File under:Who dares wins

214. Death Cab for Cutie – “We Have the Facts and We’re Voting Yes”

How appropriate that on the day of a ballot in Australia, I should review an album with “voting” in the title. Unlike today’s outcome (a shift to the crazy Christian right), there is much to like about the CD in question.

I think I picked this album up on a whim, having heard good things about the band in question, but being unfamiliar with their sound. I liked it from the first listen, and still take a lot of joy from it.  I struggle to explain why however.

DCFC are one of this bands that bridge the cerebral and the emotive.  They build an effective wave of guitar that sweeps you through track after track, driven by a hypnotic rhythm (think the under-rated Aussie soundscapers Gersey).

Meanwhile, the songs are verbose, laden with very literate and imposing content and vocab.  The vocals are  similar to Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, but without the overt showmanship.

I must admit, however, that this album has always tended to wash over me, rather than directly engage.  I can happily loop it for hours on end, but still  struggle to distinguish one track from the next. The Shins do a better job of nailing the pop version of this.

File under: Worth my preference vote

178. The Coctails – “Peel”

This 1994 release from Chicago ensemble The Coctails snuck into my collection a few years back, presumably picked up cheap at some sale, and I can’t remember ever giving it much of a listen.

Album Cover Cocktails Coctails Peel The I have a feeling I bought it on the recommendation of a buddy now residing in Brisbane town.

Well, now I’ve heard it, and I like. This stands as another example of right sound, wrong place. These guys deliver the sort of material that made Pavement indie stars – quirky vocal stylings but with very sound pop basis and with jangly, angular guitars and keys. Take their tune Postcard and tell me that this couldn’t have been a single off Slanted and Enchanted. Fans of The Shins or Modest Mouse wouldn’t be disappointed with at least half the tunes here.

The album is more than an homage to Malkmus and co however. The band has a trio of songwriters and an adventurous bent, so we wander in and out of genres with abandon. There are shoegazey Gersey-like moments (on Peel), and rockier efforts (Wicked Way).

Purportedly these guys started out as a “lounge-core” act. I must find out what that means, because they get this later stuff very right.

File under: A-peel-ing (I couldn’t resist)

107. The Brunettes – “Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks”

And thus we encounter our first album from across the Tasman. Most good New Zealand artists get quickly adopted as Aussies. It’s a crime that hasn’t happened to these indie popsters (yet).

the-brunettes-holding-hands-feeding-ducks-album-coverThese guys don’t need our help however. They were adopted by The Shins a few years back, have been dragged around the US on tours and signed up to the iconic Sub Pop label.

It is appropriate that they headed up north, as they are overt US-philes, enamoured with a very Gen X mix of cultural icons – Footloose, Grease, mafia accents and adult comic book collections.

The Sub Pop connection is more surprising, as this CD is about as far removed from grunge as possible. The album is pure bubble-gum pop, synth heavy with Spector-esque ambitions.

The guitar is jangly. String arrangements burst through almost at random. The girlie vocals are breathy and high. The dude opts for a cocktail hour spoken word approach.

It all comes together very effectively on most tracks. There are moments where the ‘kitchen sink’ approach leads to a saccharine overdose however. And the tempo isn’t maintained particularly consistently, so the mood gets dragged down by the under-rhythmed efforts.

File under: Frosted Kiwifruit anyone?