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Reviews

Liars
Mess - MUTE
FILTER Grade: 82%

By Marty Sartini Garner on March 25, 2014

 

Liars

After 13 years and six increasingly dissimilar records, the most surprising thing Liars could possibly do would be to repeat themselves. And so they have. Mess, their seventh, unfolds within the same inky-black cyberpunk world the now-LA- based trio forged with 2012’s WIXIW; synths moan and shudder in agony, fake hands clap in perfect time, shrill organs sit down at the top of the mix and drip into the album’s gears, and it’s all tempered by the same ambiguously aimed menace that has become the group’s defining aesthetic mood. But where WIXIW was the intricately ordered product of a hundred thousand small decisions, Mess is a sloppy, outward-turned—and, it has to be said,...

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Future Islands
Singles - 4AD
FILTER Grade: 85%

By Breanna Murphy on March 24, 2014

 

Future Islands

There is simply no voice in music today quite like Samuel T. Herring’s. Absolutely untraditional and perpetually in conflict with itself, calling his vocals “beautiful” does not seem right, but again and again they—low, monotone wickedness that erupt into high, warbly mania—weirdly cannot be described as anything less than. Equal to Herring’s unparalleled vocal performances are bassist/guitarist William Cashion and electronic multi-instrumentalist Gerrit Welmers, who fuel Future Islands with an alluring sound that masters thoughtfully gentle and sorrowful songs as skillfully as triumphantly ecstatic and unrestrained ones. On Singles, their first for 4AD, the band perfect the persuasive...

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Hauschka
Abandoned City - TEMPORARY RESIDENCE
FILTER Grade: 83%

By Kathy Iandoli on March 21, 2014

 

Hauschka

The rumbling keys in Hauschka’s opener “Elizabeth Bay” indicate that his 11th studio album isn’t for the faint of heart. The composer deconstructs electronic rhythms, gingerly sliding makeshift sound effects into the mix. From the creaks of “Pripyat” to 88-keys mimicking synths on “Agdam,” Hauschka carefully crafts a complex soundbed of nine lengthy tracks. Like most of Hauschka’s works, Abandoned City could have easily scored a Stanley Kubrick film—the haunting scene in “Who Lived Here?” builds into a depressing symphony while “Craco” embarks on a sad note and maintains the sentiment until the end. It’s not all downtempo, though, as “Barkersville” and “Thames Town” harbor distinct...

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Guided By Voices
Motivational Jumpsuit - GBV INC.
FILTER Grade: 83%

By Kurt Orzeck on March 20, 2014

 

Guided By Voices

“Writer’s Block” isn’t the strongest song on the fifth album by the so-called “new era GBV,” but its title is the most sardonic. It encapsulates what some music reviewers (cough, cough) suffer from when reviewing GBV albums—because, really, what hasn’t been said about this band by now?—and also references a condition from which Mr. Robert Pollard has apparently never suffered. On this typically value-packed, 20-song LP, the band emphasizes the power over the pop (“Bulletin Borders,” “Child Activist,” “Planet Score”) and even flirts with politics (“Difficult Outburst and Breakthrough,” “Calling Up Washington,” “Vote For Me, Dummy”) without being overtly partisan. The throwaways are in the...

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Foster the People
Supermodel - COLUMBIA
FILTER Grade: 76%

By Katrina Nattress on March 20, 2014

 

Foster the People

When Foster the People released Torches in 2011, their fame quickly soared to its peak. “Pumped Up Kicks” played on every radio station, and as overplayed as it became, it was hard not to sing along. Since then, the indie-poppers have been hard at work writing more catchy, dance-infused songs...or so we assumed. But where Torches is playful, their long-awaited sophomore album Supermodel is heady, trading in electronics for guitars. The band experiments with world music (“Are You What You Want To Be?”) and psychedelia (“Pseudologia Fantastic,” “A Beginner’s Guide To Destroying The Moon”) but falls short. This drastic change seems to be a product of FTP’s quick rise to fame. “I’ve been...

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Tycho
Awake - GHOSTLY INTERNATIONAL
FILTER Grade: 85%

By Kenny S. McGuane on March 19, 2014

 

Tycho

San Francisco–based graphic designer and electronic music wizard Scott Hansen has been wowing IDM nerds for a decade. His acclaimed 2011 Ghostly International debut Dive solidified him as one of a handful of ambient music superstars, in as much as there even is such a thing. Awake, Tycho’s competent follow-up, features real, live musicians: Zac Brown (bass, guitar) and Rory O’Connor (drums) are both awake and alive on these eight tracks and the result is a sound that’s distinctly more human. Silky, swirly synths still abound on Awake, but the groove of live bass, guitar and drums advance Tycho’s sound and put the songs right into the proverbial pocket. Shit, it actually sounds like these...

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Kevin Drew
Darlings - ARTS & CRAFTS
FILTER Grade: 85%

By Zachary Sniderman on March 18, 2014

 

Kevin Drew

Darlings is a sunny little album of love and loss arriving to usher out a long winter of polar vortexes. It’s also the long-overdue second album from Kevin Drew, band leader and lead songwriter of Broken Social Scene, the Toronto collective of off-kilter folk musicians that defined the city’s sound through the early ’00s. Fortunately, Drew has carried over some of his friends for guest spots and contributor credits. And Darlings feels like a family album. Even single “Good Sex” feels more lovely than raunchy. Drew and his band fam have mastered a sort of pleasant dissonance of detuned pianos and mismatched major chords, and those hallmarks pepper Darlings with a musical lightness that...

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Black Lips
Underneath the Rainbow - VICE
FILTER Grade: 82%

By Robert Rea on March 18, 2014

 

Black Lips

With their seventh album, the Black Lips once again assert their place at the forefront of garage-rock. All the familiar signifiers from their best work can be heard here: the Phil Spector sheen, the participatory handclaps, the happy-go-lucky whistling. “Waiting” is cut from the same cloth as raucous party jams like “Raw Meat” and “New Direction” from 2011’s Arabia Mountain. What steers the new record into uncharted territory is their seasoned approach. Make no mistake, the Black Lips still give zero fucks, but the bratty punks from Atlanta branch out by looking deeper into their musical heritage. “Boys in the Wood,” for one, uses a chugging blues progression to deliver a backwoods tale...

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The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream - SECRETLY CANADIAN
FILTER Grade: 84%

By Adam Valeiras on March 17, 2014

 

The War on Drugs

Back in the days of their first LP, 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, The War on Drugs offered “Arms Like Boulders” and “Buenos Aires Beach”—poetic storms in the vein of Dylan and his ceaseless, ever-significant ramblings; there, the rhythms’ main purpose seemed to be to provide a foundational support for Adam Granduciel’s lengthy, effortlessly-delivered lyrics. Since then, the formula’s been reversed with subtly distorted vocals; patterned, endlessly layered guitars; and steady percussion taking the forefront as melodies existing in a suspended, consistent ambience—never feeling like they have an end. On Lost in the Dream, like the preceding Slave Ambient, frontman Granduciel carries the album...

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Solids
Blame Confusion - FAT POSSUM
FILTER Grade: 80%

By Robert Rea on March 14, 2014

 

Solids

On their debut, Montreal duo Solids come out swinging and never let up. Back to front, Blame Confusion consists of balls-to-the-wall bangers. When the pace slows down, it isn’t by much.To occasionally offset the breakneck speed, a heavy dose of distortion and feedback complements their single-hook formula, filling the space behind each basic three-chord structure. The title track accelerates through the steady beat of Louis Guillemette’s kick drum before reaching a fist-pumping crescendo that smashes into a reverberating wall of noise. Looking for the perfect anthem to piss off your neighbors while throwing a house party? Open all the doors and blast “Traces” at full volume. “Just let the...

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