John Legend & The Roots (courtesy of VH1)
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John Legend & The Roots (courtesy of VH1)
Sometime during their year-long hiatus, it seems, TV on the Radio reached middle age. On their new album Nine Types of Light, they’ve left behind much of their scorching passion and lyrical venom for a sense of quiet romanticism. Though the mood is somewhat melancholic, the album is neither anemic nor listless. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe has shed his trademark anguished howls for quiet contemplation, which feels like natural evolution for a band that has earned the right to some mid-life reflection.
Welsh indie rockers the Joy Formidable released critically acclaimed debut LP The Big Roar in January, and will perform at the Duke Coffeehouse tonight with the Lonely Forest and Mona. Recess staff writer Jeff Shi spoke with bassist Rhydian Dafydd about their new album, their touring schedule and the songwriting process.
For a band with such a strong distaste for the musical press, Radiohead seem to inevitably attract its spotlight. Just like with 2007’s In Rainbows, this year’s The King Of Limbs was announced less than a week before release—and then promptly leaked a day early by the band themselves. Thankfully, like its predecessor, this album manages to stand as a musical statement of its own, apart from the suffocating scrutiny and hype that inevitably accompany any Radiohead album, much less one so unconventionally released.
Perhaps all Will Weisenfeld needed was a new moniker. Under the pseudonym Baths, his 2010 debut LP, Cerulean, garnered critical acclaim for its blissful, ethereal electro-pop, drawing comparisons to artists as diverse as chillwaver Toro Y Moi and fellow southern Californian producer Flying Lotus. Tonight, Wiesenfeld brings his Baths project to Duke Coffeehouse, along with Canadian experimental rock outfit Braids.
For nearly two decades, Will Oldham has produced his unique brand of folk music. Though he has rotated through backing bands and multiple monikers repeatedly, his music has always been thematically enigmatic and descriptively ineffable. This Saturday, he brings his talents to Reynolds Theater, in support of his 2010 release The Wonder Show of the World, performing as his longtime pseudonym Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Both this weekend’s show and the album pair Oldham with the talents of Emmett Kelly’s Cairo Gang.
As a girl group, it’s difficult for the Pipettes to avoid accusations of being a cheap gimmick. Had they released just a rehash of their first album, We Are the Pipettes, the charge may have stuck. With Earth vs. the Pipettes, however, the English band shows that it is at least willing to evolve its sound. Of course, part of the reason may be the fact that their current lineup has none of the original members. Regardless, their second LP is, thankfully, less nauseatingly saccharine and trades power-pop for disco and synth-pop.
Sufjan Stevens’ The Age of Adz recalls the debut of Radiohead’s Kid A exactly a decade ago—it is that much of a dramatic stylistic shift and is equally broad in scope as the seminal 2000 release. It is unclear whether this record foreshadows a permanent change in direction or a brief experiment for Stevens; regardless, it is a towering accomplishment that stands alone in the folk artist’s considerable discography.
For a while, it appeared that KT Tunstall was going to be yet another busker with a record deal (albeit a highly talented one).
Superchunk has been a fixture in the indie-rock scene for almost two decades. The release of Majesty Shredding ends their longest hiatus yet, nearly a full half of their existence.
Many bands find themselves struggling to juggle the competing demands of innovation and marketability. Far too many albums are dragged down by this weight, losing the energy and drive that debuts often have. In their sophomore effort, Ra Ra Riot maintains glimpses of their original ineffable energy, but not enough to sustain the entire record.
Ratatat’s music has always been easily identifiable—debuting six years ago with a unique take on electronic rock. On the simply titled LP4, however, their once-fresh style is beginning to sound like a band on autopilot. While the band’s blend of dance-infused house and heavily synthesized rock shows hints of new life, one has to wonder how long the same basic formula can last.
LCD Soundsystem follows up on 2007’s highly successful Sound of Silver with their (supposedly) final album, This Is Happening. All of their trademarks are present: the fusion between infectious dance music and punk-influenced rock, pervasive drum machine and James Murphy’s sharp wit. It may not be as immediately accessible and dance-ready as the band’s previous albums, but this is truly the group’s masterpiece.
Erykah Badu follows through on the promise of her 2008 album New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War with the release of Pt. 2: Return of the Ankh. It may be billed as a musical sequel, but Pt. 2 is a refreshing step back from its politically inclined predecessor. Return of the Ankh is a more personal, introspective work that puts the soul and emotion back into Badu’s songs. The music is as seductive and laid back as only the best soul and R&B, distinguished by Badu’s unique voice.
Broken Bells’ self-titled debut arrives with much fanfare—it is the collaboration between producer and multi-instrumentalist Danger Mouse and the Shins’ frontman James Mercer. Though the pair settles for a quiet, almost complacent mediation between their two styles, they’ve produced a cohesive album heavily influenced by psychedelia and acid rock.
Dear God, I Hate Myself is not an album for everyone. Xiu Xiu seems almost deliberately alienating, making music that is disquieting and claustrophobic. The lyrics wander awkwardly from the nonsensical to the perverse. The angst-filled title polarizes, yet the album represents an entire spectrum of emotions, from joy to dark introspection. Sometimes, this results in an incomprehensible and confusing work. But at other moments, Dear God, I Hate Myself delights with tongue-in-cheek humor and unabashed, unbridled innovation.
Twelve years after their last group effort, trip-hop progenitors Massive Attack have returned to the scene with Heligoland. No, I haven’t forgotten 2003’s 100th Window, though I would like to, but that was effectively a solo project from frontman Robert “3D” Del Naja.