album reviews

Cloud Nothings
Cloud Nothings
Label: Rogue/Inertia
Release Date: February 4

The one-man band behind Cloud Nothings, Dylan Baldi, is only 19. The amazing thing is that he is about to release his highly anticipated self-titled debut. Highly. Anticipated. Cloud Nothings subtly taps and awakens your punk alter ego that you thought you laid to rest. Remember the late 90’s where you picked up your first guitar to play power chords? You picked up a few more riffs, scales and chords, and eventually graduated from guitar 101, leaving behind your punk roots. Cloud Nothings however carefully balances these punk riffs with upbeat pop melodies, blanketed with lo-fi fuzz. Consider a cross between early Pixies, Wavves and Pains of Being Pure at Heart – that is the sound of Cloud Nothings. A little twee, a little punk, heaps of variety and hella infectious. Between you and me, Cloud Nothings’ self-titled debut is something secretly awesome.

[MP3] Cloud Nothings – Understand It All


There is not much I know about Little Dragon other than the fact they will soon be supporting the Gorillaz on their Australian tour and that they are from Sweden – there are two things I like from Sweden: music and clothes. Provided the Gorillaz association was ignored, I would’ve warmed to Little Dragon’s Machine Dreams from the get go.

Little Dragon
Machine Dreams
Label: Virgin/EMI Records.
Release Date: November 26

Little Dragon is a Swedish electronic quartet, in a similar vein to countrymen The Knife but with more pop and fronted by Japanese singer Yukimi Nagano. Machine Dreams is the follow-up to their self-titled debut and if this record is anything to go buy, you would probably want to dig up that debut of theirs.

Machine Dreams opens with “A New”, which is a stark and eerie introduction to the record and ultimately the band for those unfamiliar with Little Dragons. From here on, the record gathers a steady stride with abstract pop dance tracks including “Looking Glass”, “My Step” until it hits a peak with “Runabout” – this track has most lovable dance track of the year written all over it. Nagano’s sultry vocals features in the smooth tracks “Thunder Love” and “Fortune” while her vocals compete with the complex melodies in “Blinking Pigs” and “Swimming”. Machine Dreams is a record full of surprises and utterly fun.

[MP3] Little Dragon – Runabout

Straight Arrows
It’s Happening
Label: Rice Is Nice
Release Date: November 19

I never thought the Straight Arrows could make chilled out punk vibes but they have in It’s Happening and I find myself saying, “Yeah! Bring it on!” Aside from summer and a good break, I’m also pretty excited about this release.

It’s Happening has destroyed all preconceptions based on support slots I’ve managed to catch. I’ve also never been able to get my hand on earlier Straight Arrows 7” releases and I bet now, they would fall under the collectors category. Believe me, It’s Happening is the best I’ve heard from the quartet. Whilst still fast-paced and drenched in reverb, they have refined their sound to something very accessible. With tracks like “Something Happens”, “Running Wild” and “Bad Temper” leaning towards garage-pop, and the nostalgic “Golden Torch” sounding like it’s from the movies. Yeah! This is a very refined and enjoyable Straight Arrows, so much so that at times “Magic Sceptre” and “Haunted Out” seem like Joy Division. It’s Happening screams two things: great new Australian music and fun.

[MP3] Straight Arrows – Something Happens

No Age have turned a big corner with Everything in Between – the follow-up to their killer 2008 release, Nouns. The L.A. duo have established a new atmosphere and it’s bigger, unexpected and all sorts of amazing.

No Age
Everything in Between
Label: Subpop
Release Date: September 28

The opening two tracks are grand, euphoric and cinematic, the latter of which I’d never thought would be an attribute to the No Age sound. But don’t think for a second that No Age have loss their skater–punk roots because from “Fever Dreaming” the record increases with pace and volume in familiar territories. The opening riff in “Depletion” is eerie while “Common Heat” is closest thing to an acoustic sound by No Age’s standards. “Skinned” and “Katerpillar” are ambient and cinematic, and “Dusted” follows suit – one of the many standout tracks on Everything in Between.

Although ambitious, Everything in Between is cleverly articulated, even with the new explorations of Dean Spunt and Randy Randall who have seamlessly integrated this with their d.i.y., skater-punk aesthetic grounding the record. Even if No Age had no intentions to conquer something with Everything in Between, by the time “Chem Trails” ends you know No Age have just blown your mind. This is music for a new decade.

[MP3] No Age – Glitter

The Heart of The Nightlife
Label: Pod
Release Date: November 19

Yesterday I presented what was my last project for uni after six years, so you can only imagine how crazy it has been for the pass few weeks. One of few things keeping me afloat was the debut release from L.A. duo Kisses, that was until I lost it amidst the mess of architectural models. I moved the cd around the whole house playing it wherever and whenever I could – I enjoyed hearing it so much that I had to play it everywhere and now I don’t know where it could be. You can understand that I’m a little bummed out right now that I’m reviewing their debut, The Heart of The Nightlife – the most infectious release of this year – without knowing where it could be.

From what I remember of The Heart of The Nightlife, there might have been one or two tracks I didn’t enjoy as much the others, but everything else was on high rotation. Why? When an emerging band sounds like The Whitest Boy Alive, Hot Chip, Arthur Russell and Belle & Sebastian in one release, it is assured that you have my undivided attention. Drenched in glittery, disco-esque melodies and Kisses, you’ve sealed the deal. This is great but please The Heart of The Nightlife, could you please show yourself again.

[MP3] Kisses – Kisses

It is wrong to expect only the best from the highly talented and visionary, Sufjan Stevens? Stevens is one of the few singer-songwriters that bestows me with rare gifts, as if kept safe for centuries before seeing light. So I guess it’s no secret that I am expecting grand things from The Age of Adz (pronounced ‘odds’) – Stevens’ latest release.

Sufjan Stevens
The Age of Adz
Label: Spunk
Release Date: October 8

Opening with “Futile Devices” the ornate and delicate Steven aesthetic is in full swing – it’s effortless with his vocals hushed through like a soft blow of wind. “Too Much” follows with surprising awkwardness perhaps a little excessive in its heavily-layered structure. The title track “Age of Adz” felt more Grizzly Bear in its grandeur than Sufjan Stevens at the best of times. The bass in “Get Real Get Right” is heavy and dramatic contrasting the flowery accents. Eight tracks in, Stevens delivers his best with “Vesuvius” – a euphoric explosion of ornament, technical exploration and vocal anthems executed with the skill only associated with Stevens. “All For Myself” followed and exuded with ephemerality in it’s lo-fi and ghostly bellows.

It was evident in The Age of Adz that technical exploration was more precedent than conceptual rigor. The sounds that were unfamiliar were simply out of place for Stevens. Those that were familiar felt right at home reducing The Age of Adz to a hit-and-miss album. It didn’t scream ambitious like the previous The BQE or Come On Feel the Illinoise. None the less, it was still highly imaginative and I must give Stevens due credit for that alone.

The Hundred In The Hands
The Hundred In The Hands
Label: Warp
Release Date: October 1

The Hundred In The Hands’ self-titled album was a puzzling listen not in the negative sense; just the lack of sleep has clouded my thoughts. After reading up on the Brooklyn duo, perhaps it was the intention of their self-titled debut to be a little, well, everywhere with influences spanning French disco to post-punk to 60’s pop – this is a band still finding its feet sound. Don’t get me wrong, some songs from their self-titled are fun and Eleanore Everdell’s vocals are ridiculously cute but it was just scattered. That said, a few key tracks shine on their own including “Pigeons”, “The Day Is Made” and “Dead Ending” the latter of which oozed with an effortless cool and disco daze reminiscent to the sounds of Chromatics or Broadcast. I’m a bit speechless this morning but I’ll leave you with this: The Hundred In The Hands’ self-titled debut is everything you know about the pop and electro genres all crammed in eleven songs – believe me, it’s all there.

[MP3] The Hundred In The Hands – Pigeons