Review: InnerSpeaker (Tame Impala)

It’s difficult to imagine what John Lennon would say..

It’s not every day that you come across a band so involved in modern sound and contemporary style who also has an unhealthy obsession with the ways of yesteryear. But that’s Tame Impala for you. And, no— they’re not related to anything in the rap department.

Hypothetically speaking; if the Beatles, MGMT, Mew, and perhaps some other obscure new wave/psychedelic rock group formed a collaborative “child” album, Tame Impala’s InnerSpeaker would likely be kin to the result.

And so, away we go.

As if anything even remotely agreeable in our everyday lives begins with abrupt and irritable static, InnerSpeaker’s initial piece “It is Not Meant to Be” barges in on all concentration and expectation in order to establish the unearthly psychedelic tone of this bizarre record.

Next up is “Desire Be Desire Go.” The tune is, start-to-finish, a completely unmissable Beatles.. umm.. “tribute.” Though the crunchy, metallic guitar tones are vastly independent from any sort of sound that George Harrison would/could have constructed, the melody and its lyrical counterpart are borrowed directly from any given Revolver track. The track’s successor, “Alter Ego,” additionally harkens back to the trippier days of the Fab Four; almost as if sung by the late, great Lennon himself.

Usually, this blatant misuse of 60’s reminiscence would either anger or bore a modest Beatles fan, such as myself. Yet, due to some unexplainable sonic phenomenon, Tame Impala is able to both acknowledge their obvious homage and present a respectably original and pleasurable aspect that is wholly their own.

Other InnerSpeaker successes include the wildly colourful and transmissible single “Solitude is Bliss,” the ferociously fuzzy and vaguely “Taxman”-esque “Lucidity,” and the stomping, spacey, seclusive “Jeremy’s Storm.”

To boot, there aren’t even really any grievously blemishing glitches in the overall scheme of the album. Every track is, at the very least, bearable and enjoyable on some level.

And so, unlike the majority of overly-hyped-musical-disappointments-waiting-to-happen, Tame Impala is a beacon of possibility and integration, fluently fusing musical portions across decades of classic psych-rock personality and progression.

83% / B- ☆

July 2010 Single Spotlight: Ready to Start (Arcade Fire)

With a résumé as impressive as Arcade Fire’s, there’s not only a substantial amount of pressure and expectation surrounding new releases, but also a healthy sense of reawakened anticipation.

“Ready to Start” is easily the darkest piece that the band has revealed to their listeners in preview for the upcoming The Suburbs LP. As most may already know, Markus Dravs (who worked with the band on their previous release, Neon Bible) is a valuable contributor here on the Suburbs material, especially on “Ready to Start.”

As was the Neon Bible trademark, “Ready” initiates with an advancing drone, restlessly progressing into stimulating, yet decidedly crestfallen territory, mimicking the abrupt stop-and-start rhythmic arrangement of past single “Keep the Car Running.”

The glittery synth trickles down the cerebral cortex with roguish ease, while the teetering piano tones wheedle the second verse into a wicked paralysis. Depeche Mode influences abound.

The overall sound is fresh though; no regressive overlapping or involuntary repetition. Moreover, the lyrics are as engaging and descriptive as ever (“All the kids have always known / That the emperor wears no clothes / But they bow down to him anyway / It’s better than being alone”).

And with an ominous anthem like “Ready to Start” backing them, Arcade Fire is sure to captivate indie-rock lovers with the arrival of The Suburbs next month.

Review: Tell Your Mama (The Vespers)

It’s a crying shame…

Two sisters plus two brothers, equals one band. The Vespers’ debut, Tell Your Mama, is a seemingly intriguing piece of indie-folk sonic literature; boasting voluptuous harmonies, gospelesque undertones, and narrative passages. Sure, the ideal ingredients are at hand, but does their unity result in a well-crafted, memorable album?

And not to deny these talented sisters the respect they’re surely do, but.. Why stoop to the use of pitch correction? Why soil naturally perfect, angelic voices with the harsh digitalization of such tactless tools?

You see, there are some really outstanding compositions on this release; the surreal soundscape of “Cottonfield” is dream-worthy and is reminiscent of something Copeland, and “Abbe’s Song” coaxes and conjures up some old-timey writ with simple but effective phrases such as, “I’ll share you with this world.. but it hurts.”

Of course, the sisters’ harmony really assumes the lead on most of these rural-tinged creations; and, naturally, the playful interactions and frolicsome exchanges of their two voices is striking and appreciable.

Then, the pitch correction swoops in for the kill, wrestling every respectable melody twist and sonic illustration to the baron ground. What could have been a heartfelt, long-lasting collection of folky-pop goodness is instead over-processed and homogenized.

A crying shame, indeed.

68% / D+

Review: Gemini (Wild Nothing)

You know when something is so absolutely wonderful that you wish it would never end?

This highly unknown band has swiftly scaled the charts over at Insound, leading them to a whole new world of underground praise and fanbaseship.

Wild Nothing’s sound is a bit lo-fi, a small bit shoegaze, and a large bit alternative. Vocals like a fog, drums like a pacemaker, bass like a swirling rush of river current, and Johnny Marr-like guitar tones doused in nostalgic reverb. If there really ever was a such thing as a “magical music formula,” it might include a lineup such as this.

And so we glide right into the introductory track, “Live in Dreams,” a savvy, subtle, mid-tempo confession. We’re talking major shoegaze lyrics here— “I could ask you, ‘Are you dead like me?'” and “..And that’s exactly why I’d rather live in dreams, and I’d rather die.” Expertly crafted, heavily memorable melodies are attached to such straight-forward texts, and the result is not only pure charm, but instant affection.

Additional blasts of lo-fi alt-pop ecstasy abound in following tracks “O Lilac” and “Chinatown.” The first of the two is a synthy, boppy anthem, propelled by Shins-like guitar techniques and blessed with a regretful tune; the second is an especially reverb-heavy trance with masterfully arranged percussion tactics, both parts collectively riding the border between melancholy and anxious.

Finale “Gemini” is an outer space-sized culmination, darkening the previously-stated themes and reaffirming the nostalgic uncertainty that the album is based upon. And it’s a really solid way to bid the lister adieu.

Not all tracks here are diamonds in the rough, as the mumbling redundancy of “Drifter” or the maddening dissonance in “Summer Holiday” will tell you. But each and every track on Gemini benefits from progressive familiarity, and the low-points are no exceptions.

Lo-fi nuts, rejoice! Wild Nothing is a wild something to be lauded.

81.5% / B-