Darren's Musical Radar (2014 - Part 1)
Darren's commentary on everything he's heard so far in 2014
So while I started the year off with the idea that I’d discuss my bizarre listening schedule that involves slowly re-listening to all of the music in my collections, it kind of got hard to keep up with and it isn’t exactly “timely” when an indie snob is writing about classic rock or albums that came out a decade ago. Instead, here are my thoughts on all of the albums that have come out this year, including ones I’ve written full reviews for. I’ll try to repeat this feature again in the summer, the fall, and the end of 2014 just so nothing falls totally off the radar.
Bibio – The Green EP: I had heard the name “Bibio” tossed around a lot in indie circles, particularly in discussions of low key folk and even post-rock groups. I decided to give them (him? – I mean it’s a one-man project) a listen with this album, which might not have been the best introduction. First track “Dye The Water Green” is a nice, lo-fi folk song, but the rest of the EP consists of ambient tracks best left as background noise. The Green EP was released January 27, 2014.
The Gaslight Anthem – The B-Sides: While I’ve really liked everything The Gaslight Anthem has put out, this compilation of B-Sides honestly might be my least favorite of their releases. The B-Sides and EP tracks I had heard up to this point had been exceptionally solid, especially those on the Señor and the Queen EP, and I heard great things about the bonus tracks from Handwritten. Unfortunately, this compilation includes neither of these things, and is mostly acoustic versions of their own songs and covers. I’d recommend it for only die-hard fans of the band. The B-Sides was released January 28, 2014.
Beck – Morning Phase: Beck returned to his acoustic and serious self this year. It went okay. I did a full review here. Morning Phase was released February 21, 2014.
Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow: I’ve always kind of thought Bombay Bicycle Club to be like a decaffeinated version of Two Door Cinema Club with a nerdier lead singer, but this album really made me respect them more. Sure, it rides the trend of indie rock getting more electronic and incorporating more world music influences, but it actually does it really well. Some tracks like “Eyes Off You” and “Luna” are a little too mellow for my tastes, but otherwise it’s a good, subtle album. So Long, See You Tomorrow was released February 3, 2014.
Chiodos – Devil: “Wait a minute. Darren the indie snob is including a screamo album? This must be a joke!” I can hear you say. Well, no, truthfully I never totally ditched the emo and screamo stuff I listened to in high school and early college, and now listen to it when exercising and as a guilty pleasure (beats top 40!). Anyway, I’m really glad they brought back vocalist Craig Owens for this album, since his vocals were 80% of the reason I listened to the band. They still have the juxtaposition of dramatic, grandiose music and soprano vocals going into metal-style riffs with screaming, which I can’t get enough of. Sure there’s a few pop-style emo songs on the album and I find the vocals harder to relate to as I get older, but as a guilty pleasure listen I’m pretty pleased. Devil is released April 1, 2014.
Foster The People – Supermodel: I really liked their first album Torches, but wasn’t thrilled that this album took a totally different direction. I explain myself more on that here. Supermodel was released March 14, 2014.
Maxïmo Park – Too Much Information: If someone wanted to hear an example of what British indie rock generally sounds like, Maxïmo Park would be a great band to point them to. Unfortunately, this is also their downfall – a lot of their music sounds kind of the same and can get formulaic. Some of Too Much Information fits this bill, but they promisingly do show some signs of experimentation. The band subtly introduced some electronic elements and toned down the jangly guitars on the tracks, making it one of the more distinctive albums in Maxïmo Park’s discography. Too Much Information was released February 3, 2014.
Metronomy – Love Letters: This kind-of-60s-kind-of-not electronic album has its moments, but also seems to hold itself back. You can read a lengthy review here. Love Letters was released March 10, 2014.
Mogwai – Rave Tapes: It’s a so-so mostly instrumental album. Post-rock is hard to review, but I tried my hand at it here. Rave Tapes was released January 20, 2014.
Real Estate – Atlas: Alright, this album has received a decent amount of hype, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t get it. It’s not a bad album, and its songs by themselves are all fairly enjoyable. But the album as a whole is 10 mid-tempo indie rock songs that vaguely sound like Yo La Tengo and kind of blend together. Atlas was released March 4, 2014.
St. Vincent – St. Vincent: I admit my only exposure to St. Vincent before this album was her guest spot on the Andrew Bird song “Lusitania,” but I’m glad I finally heard more since this is one of the better albums I’ve heard this year. While it’s hard for Annie Clark’s voice not to take center stage, the instrumental parts are an interesting mix of rock, hip-hop, and electronica that complement her vocals exceptionally well and make every song seem lively. St. Vincent was released February 24, 2014.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags: Straightforward, but pretty good! Read a fuller review here. Wig Out At Jagbags was released January 7, 2014.
Taking Back Sunday – Happiness Is: Okay, see Chiodos above for my disclaimer above musical guilty pleasures. Also I’m originally from Long Island, so there’s some residual connection to Taking Back Sunday there. Despite Taking Back Sunday having their original lineup on this album, I’m having more trouble getting into it more than their other releases. It doesn’t have choppy guitar playing or that kind-of-‘punk’ sound at all, and everything seems almost too polished. I might need to give it more time, but right now it’s almost hard to justify as a guilty pleasure. Happiness Is was released March 18, 2014.
Tokyo Police Club – Forcefield: For their latest studio album since 2010, the garage rock and post-punk band Tokyo Police Club…made a pop-fuelled record. It’s not as bad as it sounds, and you can read more on that here. Forcefield was released March 25, 2014.
We Are Scientists – TV en Français: We Are Scientists are a pretty unique band for me. I love seeing them live, and find all of their videos really entertaining and funny. Yet with the exception of their debut, I think a lot of their music is so-so. This album is (again) a collection of catchy indie pop songs that don’t have a ton of substance. Sure some songs like “Dumb Luck” and “Coruage” stick out, but I continue to like the band mostly for their antics and attitudes. TV en Français was released March 3, 2014.