Fang Island, Major
Fang Island makes happy music. They make thoughtful music. They make music that’s just obscure enough to provide you with indie cred. Their latest album, Major, came out in late July and was my first exposure to the Brooklyn-based trio. It’s the Fall Out Boy that I’m comfortable listening to in public. Major’s first track is like a sunny introduction to a new friend. Like the opening of M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the album builds slowly, its angelic synth building to a full chorus. What follows is chock full of cheerful piano, satisfying crescendos and some especially delicious electric guitar. It’s punchy and summery, the kind of music I imagine driving to long into the fall. --Lauren Feilich
Japandroids, Celebration Rock
Japandroids’ dynamic sophomore LP Celebration Rock was the soundtrack to my summer. The British Columbia natives produce a more polished and captivating sound than found on their debut Post-Nothing, capturing the spirit of the summer from the leadoff track “The Nights of Wine and Roses.” An anthem to those endless summer nights where libations flow like water and nothing can slow your roll, the noise rock duo sets off on an electric journey of propulsive riffs, odes to past loves, ecstatic evocations of revelry and the thrills of life.
The album is filled with standout tracks. The aforementioned “The Nights of Wine and Roses,” “Younger Us,” “The House That Heaven Built” and the climactic closer “Continuous Thunder” showcase the band’s increasing lyrical and instrumental confidence. They are no longer the band that was on the brink of oblivion before their explosive debut catapulted them into indie notoriety. Naturally raucous and entertaining, this record is the perfect pick for those debauched after-hours get-togethers. --Derek Saffe
The Antlers, Undersea
The choice adjectives commonly used for the Antlers’ albums only hint at the talent of the Brooklyn phenomenon. Without exaggeration, each of their three LPs either drain me or send me floating. The newest release by the trio is a four-song EP Undersea, which, at only twenty-two minutes, stands much shorter than earlier works. Yet, if, as frontman Peter Silberman claimed, the group’s goal was to create a work with far more impact than its runtime betrays, they have succeeded. Undersea lacks the emotional disembowlment of Hospice and the polished simplicity of Burst Apart, but it retains and amplifies the Antler’s dreamy groove. The opening track, “Drift Dive,” croons with the recklessness that has become Silberman’s trademark, and it’s backed by glistening horns and electro-noise. Even the iciest listener will be sent on a ghostly voyage by “Endless Ladder,” my favorite track. The finished product plays like a gorgeous dream – neither lachrymose nor overblown—the kind of somnambulistic stroll that only the trio could provide. As the main character proclaims in the final track, “We’re not awake yet!” For me, the feeling is mutual. --Adarsh Dave
Moonrise Kingdom Soundtrack
Fans of Wes Anderson have come to expect quality soundtracks, and Moonrise Kingdom has delivered, hitting the Number 1 spot on Billboard’s classical chart this summer. At the heart of the album lies an original suite by Alexander Desplat, “The Heroic Weather-Conditions of the Universe,” which features a wide array of instruments marching past like animals into Noah’s Ark throughout the meteorological drama. A light and repetitive harp line holds suspense as the bells, strings and woodwinds saunter in before eventually giving way to the brass and bass drums of the impending tempest. In the mix, Desplat makes use of every instrument from B3-organ to ukulele, vibraphone to 16 baritone-base singers. The absence of a theremin was never so strongly felt. In addition to Desplat’s instrumental zoo, much of the album’s strength comes from its variety. The soundtrack features three deconstructive pieces that break down the components of a “big piece of music,” including the finale to Desplat’s suite. Hank Williams’ repeat appearances add a distinctive flare of country, while Françoise Hardy’s “Le Temps de l’Amour” offers the soundtrack’s only pop-rock. Yet their inclusion does more than represent their respective genres: it helps document the history of music that flows throughout the work.
For those familiar with Anderson’s film, the soundtrack captures all of the American pioneering spirit, the essence of the modern retelling of Noah’s Ark and the movie’s memorable moments. For those who haven’t seen the film, the album is valuable for anyone interested in the history of music. --Mike Myers
Bloc Party, Four
Four British men—an often-shirtless Asian, a queer black, a skinny emo boy and softly-spoken rocker—joined forces in late 2003 to create Bloc Party, a band whose sound is as diverse as the makeup of its members. The four men have spent the past four years working on their newest LP, Four—appropriately titled as they’ve appended a fourth sound to their repertoire.
Four brings something sinister that the band hadn’t yet realized in their first three albums. It’s both sexy and scary. Russel Lissack’s and Gordon Moakes’ heavy guitar and bass lines thrice meander into cutesy-metal territory. Frontman Kele Okereke, whose fantasies and frustrations are the anchor of Four, alternately moans “no” and “yes,” but submits to crooning, “my mind is open, and my body is yours” two tracks later—all the while in his beautiful, thickly-accented Brit-voice. Four is an unsmooth listen. The smart-alec-y pretty boy punk in “Kettling” is immediately followed by the band’s familiar pretty boy poetry and melody in “Day Four,” respectively invoking their first two albums Silent Alarm and A Weekend in the City. “3x3” and “Team A” work to remind the listener of the otherworldly rock-electronica of Intimacy. A chopped salad of experimental ingredients and their previous works, Four, chronicles the growing up of Bloc Party. Both the band and listener reflect on the arc of their work. The message is urgent and potent—Bloc Party is aware of its talents and has delivered its most complete bundle of guitars, drums and wailing yet. --Jack Mercola