Tag Archives: music of 2013

#26: Chvrches – The Bones of What You Believe

(Glassnote, 2013)

chvrches_the_bones_of_what_you_believe

(Image from soundstagedirect.com)

I came upon Chvrches via another of my channels for discovering new music: Jian Ghomeshi’s Q on CBC Radio (other discoveries from there include two of my now favourite bands: Austra and Elbow). It’s through there that I gain exposure to most of the new Canadian bands I listen to and has me paying close attention to the candidates in the running for the prestigious Polaris Music Prize that Canada awards to its top album of every year. Chvrches, however, being the hottest thing to come out of Glasgow since Franz Ferdinand, is sadly not eligible for that award.

What is demonstrated on The Bones of What You Believe is the modern power trio working at its finest. Yes, admittedly, the whole trio sound has been replaced by machines – by and large, synths fill in for both guitar and bass (though the guitar makes a cameo appearance in a couple of tracks, it knows its place on this album) and drum machines take over the tireless job on all but two of the tracks – but this still rocks! The songs very much resemble arena rock anthems, but reduced in scale and put in a cube. Every one of Lauren Mayberry’s melodies are instantly memorable and singable – reaching, but not straining and very affecting. The synth riffs that back many of the big choruses here – were they a tad slower and played on guitar – easily fulfill that emotional, fist-pumping, energetic feeling that a good ol’ riff oughtta give you. The backbeat pounds incessantly to the beat of your foot stomping on the ground and the big tom splashes on “Science/Visions” get you psyched for the impending chorus. Every element is already there to energize you and get your head to bangin’.

But there’s no need to change a thing. New forms of music will always take their cues from the old, and this is no different – all the pieces are there, they are just in a different place (I know synth pop is hardly old, but its status of rock-usurper is still coming into being). In place of edginess, there is relentless peppiness (though the synth sounds of “Under the Tide” will have you convinced the synths themselves are trying to stage a bloody coup). The palette of vocal instrumentation is expanded as the vocals weave in, out and between the synth lines (the bouncing loop of vocals that opens the album on “The Mother We Share”, or the punctuated sighs and shouts in the background of “Lies”) – there’s no lack of emotion or gut feeling. Unlike the wave of synth popularity, there is no sense that the synths are being used to replace another, ‘real’ instrument – we’ve come to terms with the synth’s identity as itself, and Chvrches have embraced that attitude with aplomb.

This album is a fantastic chronicle of synthpop’s rise to power and an excellent collection of songs to just get you pumped -the overall energy is fantastic and the melodies hit all the heights you want them to without sounding forced or belaboured. Produced with just the right balance of slickness and space so that you get caught up without getting overwhelmed, The Bones of What You Believe is another fully-formed debut LP that both makes a great musical statement and promise for the future.

9/10

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#25: Lorde – Pure Heroine

(Universal, 2013)

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(Image from recordstore.co.uk)

It’s very rare that I listen to an album blind (deaf?) anymore. I will usually sample a track or so before committing to purchase – don’t want to a spoil a majority of the experience. Even if I’ve yet to even hear a track on the album, the reputation of the particular band/album will have gotten to my ears in one way or another, making me feel justified. So when an album appears in front of my eyes with an austere cover (seen above) that registers zero information in my brain, my eyebrows will begin to arch even as that sneaking suspicion passes through the back of my brain: “what if it’s crap?” I tried to use all the clues available: prominently available on its own rack, on sale, so there’s probably quite a marketing push behind it. Had a sticker advertising “Tennis Court” and “Royals” as being on it, meaning it must be getting some kind of airplay. Could be good, could just be another pop album. I let the idea of ecstasy at getting a completely foreign album to me die and quickly look the album up on Wikipedia on my phone. Praise! Bought.

It’s not that my tastes are necessarily dictated by critics on the internet – though it’s hard to argue that that is how my ears are pointed to a lot of recent releases – but there is often overlap, and is nice to be able to participate in what quickly becomes codified as cultural cache. I have seldom been steered wrong by a general critical consensus.* Rather than confining my listening, that practice has gotten me into listening to more music than I would not have normally listened to than anything else and opened up my mind to more and more from disparate genres.

Lorde is 16-year-old New Zealander Ella Yelich-O’Connor attempting to carve herself a piece of the ample pop pie. She has a fantastic voice, and her melodies are all solid tunes (and often earworms, especially in the case of lead single “Royals”). The main thing that caught my attention going through the album, though, is something which a lot pop these days seems to lack but Pure Heroine seems to have in spades: space. There is room from every song to breathe here – no huge waves of synthesizer and incensed four-on-the-floor beats. Her voice is free to wheedle as it will (layered with her own harmonies), with only a couple of instrumental accessories – a strong array of electronic beats and some synthesizer (mostly filling in the bass and a few chords). There is nothing to distract the ear from the melody here – just a bare but sturdy framework to hold it up.

The content of the lyrics on the album do not belie Yelich-O’Connor’s youth, but the distance and hindsight with which they are written do: “I’m kinda over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air” she sings on “Team,” commenting as a consumer of the same musical arena in which she’s dropped this album, and pushing her pop peers aside at the same time. Nothing she sings about seems to be beyond the scope of what she’s experienced in her life so far, but it’s striking the amount of disillusionment she has having set in already at sixteen – “I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies” she croons in “Royals”, hitting right to the heart of and laying by the wayside the marketing/culture feedback loop impressed upon teen girls. Later in “Royals”, she uses the language of the songs and culture she’s satirizing to list off various accolades and possessions worth bragging about that she says everyone’s all about just to reject them afterwards.

At ten songs and 37 minutes, Pure Heroine is perfect album length – not a huge investment of time, but enough to get an idea of Lorde’s songwriting style and to already get excited about whatever her next project is. This is a masterfully formed debut album one only wonders how her music will develop if this is what she’s capable of now.

9/10

*This is why a majority of my entries are positive reviews – I review every album I listen to in full during the year, but the albums are usually vetted beforehand before I listen to the whole thing. The ones I pick are ones I feel I am likely to enjoy.

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#24: Raine Maida – We All Get Lighter

(Kingnoise Records, 2013)

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(Image from confrontmagazine.com)

It’s been a long road. Our Lady Peace was one of my favourite bands in high school, and my fondness for their first four albums has never really diminished. It was after Spiritual Machines that the change started (new guitarist, new producer, no falsetto!?), and Healthy in Paranoid Times when I parted company with the band. I would listen to the occasional single and then turn back around, disappointed. Their most recent, Curve, caught my ear and kept me there. It wasn’t a matter of ‘returning’ to an earlier period in the band’s life as was promised quite a few times. Can’t step in the same river twice and all that. It was more as if both they and I were more comfortable with the band that they had become. It only does so good to stamp your foot and say ‘where’s the falsetto?’ and ‘where are the sweet riffs?’ because you’re not going to find them. The band has ten plus years of time put in since then, and they have all, obviously, matured. And, in a way, it got me ready for this album.

I bypassed Maida’s first solo album, The Hunter’s Lullaby, as I was still not ready to accept the fact that the band I loved had changed; hearing their lead singer doing singer-songwriter material was NOT going to help with that. Having enjoyed the approach on Curve, however, and hearing the lead single from the album (the brass-tinger folk of “Montreal”), I decided to make the leap.

The instrumentation is the first thing that struck me, as the first track on the album (the provocatively titled “How to Kill A Man”) begins with a sharp violin tremolo and female backup singers beautifully harmonizing on the chorus; the aforementioned “Montreal” has a jaunty horn line adorning the hook; both “Rising Tide” and “Numbers” employ drum machines, which I never imagined I’d hear paired with Maida’s voice. It’s fun to hear all different kinds of instruments being drawn on to fill out and suit each track (the anarchic, jazzy trumpet on “Rising Tide” is not something I expected to hear! It almost sounds like a brass line from Radiohead’s “The National Anthem) – it makes each song stand out more. This is especially true after being used to mostly hearing him front a guitar-bass-drum trio for so long. The album sounds quite lush as a result. It’s sparse when it needs to be, but the range of frequencies is filled out quite nicely as each track progresses.

Maida has managed to find a second somewhat unique voice after dropping his down post-Spiritual Machines. His assured baritone carries the melodies he’s written quite nicely, though it feels as if its timbre is lending the proceedings a more melancholic air – even the joyous-sounding “Montreal” feels bittersweet because of it. The best example on the album is probably the appropriately sombre “How to Kill A Man.” The melody is ponderous, as I have found they have been on the last couple of OLP releases, but not in the least bit boring (he commits a brief brush with his old falsetto during the verses) – the multiple Maida vocal tracks move smoothly with the backing vocals and manage to hit just the right peaks to create a haunting effect on “bury your heart with this guilt and regret/it’s the surest way there is to kill a man.”

At only eight tracks and 32 minutes, this is one of the shortest modern albums I’ve seen, not that I begrudge Raine Maida for being selective with his track choices – I’d rather have a fantastic short album than a decent longer one. And this one falls somewhere in between. Each track stands on its own quite easily, though the two singles (“Montreal” and “SOS”) are apparent, being the only ones that have notable hooks. The orchestral arrangements are a fantastic compliment to Maida’s voice, and I hope there are more of them in the future. My one complaint would perhaps be that the arrangements are at certain points more interesting than the melodies themselves! Nevertheless, a quite good collection of songs worth hearing, especially if you’re in a calm, introspective mood.

7.5/10

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#22: Locrian – Return to Annihilation

(Relapse, 2013)

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(Image from relapse.com)

My mental journey from hearing about to sitting down and listening to this album was a tumultuous one, and one that starts me thinking about both the rampant, unchecked categorization of today’s music, and the passing of that categorization as commodity among fans of any particular genre.

Discovering the existence of the album came, as it often does, from browsing my favourite music review sites to see a) which bands/albums had cool names/artwork and b) were highly rated. Locrian hit me immediately as being a shorthand for “complex musical writing” as it is the last and weirdest of the modes and Return to Annihilation, while seeming a little on the blatantly dark side, combined with the whitewashed, foggy, desolate looking cover of an empty parking lot, which suggested an abandoned world. I was in.

I sampled myself a track, and found it fit the exact mood I had expected based on seeing the album – scratching, growling, drawling stretches of noise and feedback (but not irritating or ear-stabbing), punctuated with drums; meandering, melancholy guitar and various short loops. The instruments would flit in and out, leaving the message of noise strongly with me, which perfectly matched the atmosphere created by the cover – an atmosphere I wanted to experience in full. Definitely a priority purchase.

The album being lesser-known by most brick-and-mortar music store standards, I waited until I had the opportunity to go to the big HMV in Toronto.  casually looked through Pop/Rock, laughing and knowingly shaking my head at not finding it there. Scratching my brain, I next tried Electronic, thinking maybe I didn’t catch the all electronic elements that could have been there. No dice. I was just about to resign myself  to the fact that this store might not even have it, checking Punk out of desperation. Nothin’. I flipped open my phone and decided to look up the band on Wikipedia, hoping it would provide a clue as to where I should look. It did. Past the other categorizations, the words Black Metal lasered themselves into my brain as I numbly trundled over to the Metal section and swiftly found the album.

Black metal, are you KIDDING ME!? Double bass drums going a thousand miles per hour? A dude with death mask make-up screaming unintelligibly!? Black metal is, unfortunately, nowhere near my bag. My face fell. A blurb on the CD used the words again and I found myself wondering if this was going to be worth it. What if the track I heard was a one-off? Looking again at the title of the album in that light made me nervous. I steeled my resolve, however, and trusted my ears over my brain.

And I was right to do so.

From that noise, that instrumental yawp, the whole album is created. Some turn into sweeping, grand performances piece by piece (“Return to Annihilation”), and some begin with quiet picking and descend into a maddening din (“Two Moons”). The album very much sounds, both literally and figuratively like “Obsolete Elegies”, the title of the final, 15-minute-long track. These are songs pieced together in the underground, trying to be heard above the roar of the machines keeping everything in place. Low, scraping, drawn bows across basses and fuzzed out synths provide the crawling sense of doom which pervades the album, and the few vocals that do occur ARE screamed metal vocals, but the context has been completely changed. They are buried under layers of noise, and sound quite distant – a last gasp of raw humanity trying to survive.

This is a very assured album – not trying to prove anything, just presenting it. Nothing is overblown, nor is anything typical. Beyond just being ‘noisy’, it rewards close listening, as the songs never find themselves in the same place for very long – they move, they build and they collapse again. Glad to see that a) my fears were for naught and b) categorization only works in so far as people can hear a thing they find familiar from somewhere else, as a shorthand – it does not boxpress the music itself.

9/10

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#20: New History Warfare Vol. 3: To See More Light – Colin Stetson

(Constellation, 2013)

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(Image from inyourspeakers.com)

Nothing beats the roar of an instrument giving a complete solo performance. No lattice to string notes between, no safety nets to pad the sound – the noise just curls and undulates out in space. At least it would if Colin Stetson said it was okay. Though there are a few extended drone-like passages, Stetson uses flurries of clustered notes in order to build his houses of horror and redemption. Not to mention the incessant clack of the keys and occasional deep-throated scream which has no tongue to articulate it.

Now on the third album in what, thus far, is a trilogy entitled New History Warfare, Colin Stetson takes his bass and other assorted saxophones up once again to construct entire soundscapes with. The effect is mesmerizing. Wave after wave of flitting, honking, scronking notes texture each piece, while the mic’ed up keys give it rhythm and Stetson’s throat-screams lend the occasional ragged melody. Despite the astonishing diversity of sound at no point does it feel like an attempt to simulate the pieces of an actual band – it’s still one man emoting feverishly in every direction he can muster. To see more light.

To counterpoint Laurie Anderson’s narrative appearance on the previous volume, recent collaborative darling Justin Vernon of Bon Iver (on whose doubly eponymous album Stetson appeared on in 2011) lends his high haunting vocals to the proceedings this time, with ghostly wails on “High Above A Grey Green Sea” and a very surprising turn into deathmetal growls on the album’s visceral apex, the stunning, aggressive “Brute”. On “Who the Waves Are Roaring For (Hunted II)”, Stetson briefly considers taking the back seat as Vernon attempts to stretch coherent melodies over top of the jagged architecture, taking each phrase as a new melodic hill to climb. On “What Are They Doing in Heaven Today?”, that arrangement is set more firmly, as Vernon’s multitracked vocals take precedence and Stetson’s wailing reigns in ever so slightly to allow some harmony to accompany Vernon’s lead. This is the only moment on the album that feels restrained, and provides sharp contrast to the unbound quality of the rest of the tracks.

Between the latter two tracks comes the finest demonstration of the album’s boundless nature, the title track, “To See More Light”. At 15 minutes, by far the longest track on the album and the longest in Stetson’s oeuvre, he has the time to set out for the goal stated in the track title. Lines build and build throughout, the energy never ceasing, never tiring, always grasping with no view towards cessation. This is where Stetson, no pun intended, shines. With a wider scope set around all of the manifestations of his wild muse, the picture comes into sharper focus and each mad tangent finds its own place within the sonic narrative.

Absolutely unlike anything else I’ve heard (save for Stetson’s previous outings), To See More Light expands what was built upon earlier in the trilogy and gives some new angles and fantastic payoffs, all rooted in the single instrument put in front of his face.

9/10

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#19: Olympia – Austra

(Paper Bag Records, 2013)

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(Image from dominorecordco.us)

I’d been waiting for this one for a long time. Austra’s 2011 debut, Feel It Break, was my favourite album of the year. The claustrophobic soundscape; the layered, operatic vocals and clinical rhythms added up to a fantastic atmospheric and pessimistic experience. Never had new wave been so comfortable in the shadows. In the process of touring for that album, the trio picked up three more members to flesh out their touring band – Sari and Romy Lightman of Tasseomancy on backing vocals and Ryan Wonsiak to help realize some of frontwoman Katie Stelmanis’ layered keyboard parts. Those members seem to now be a permanent fixture of the band – this album is the result of a collaboration between the six of them.

The bent-over, wide-eyed fear of the encroaching darkness has waned slightly in the intervening time between albums – gone is the sense of despair. Instead, Olympia takes the tricks used last time and attempts to push them slightly more into the light. There’s a little more space within the textures of the songs – a little room to breathe, contemplate. Figures that seemed scary in the darkness turn out to be tamer than initially thought. On “Sleep”, the recurring square synth line running through the whole song and the quietly shuffling beat manage to disarm the menace and provide more balance to the considerable gravity of Stelmanis’ vocals, which so heavily dominated the first album.

It’s not so much that the style of songwriting has even changed – more has just been added. The songs sound ‘safer’, with more evident beats and more active instrumental parts – less like a shroud for the vocals, and more of a structure to build them upon. Sound effects and wider drum machine palettes are employed regularly throughout, as well as more burbly and brighter-sounding synths. The effect produces what was available, but not entirely evident last time around – a dance album, sounding at times similar to their label mates, Young Galaxy . The lyrics, which remain dark, become an option for experiencing the song, rather than a portal – the layers of percussion and occasional synth firework now function independently as a groove to get down on, which subverts a lot of the darkness available for consumption here. And quite good grooves, too.

I can’t help but feel disappointed, however. Where Feel It Break consumed you and didn’t let you out of its overcast world until it was finished with you, Olympia feels like something you could leave and come back to – it doesn’t have the same sense of urgency and unremitting bleakness that made the first album stand out so well. I hate to harp so hard on the differences between the two, but, being as this is only their second album, my only basis for comparison is the first. There’s no doubt that Olympia provides some fine moments, but you are now sharing the room with seventy other people, rather than having a one-on-one conversation.

7.5/10

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#17: Nanobots – They Might Be Giants

(Idlewild, 2013)

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(Image from theymightbegiants.com)

It’s always nice to hear from They Might Be Giants. For nearly thirty years now, the quirky duo of Brooklyn Johns have been putting out the highest quality music that you’re embarrassed to tell your friends that you listen to. Yeah, they’ve heard “Particle Man” and a more than a few people will confess a fondness for “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)”, but if only they knew “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” or “Lie Still, Little Bottle”. If only they had been there to share your outrage when they ‘sold out’, dropped the drum machine and acquired a real band on John Henry.If only they noticed that copy of Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) you have sitting on your shelf.

I’ve been a fan of TMBG after picking up Apollo 18 on a whim and loving the hell out of every quirky track (particularly “The Statue Got Me High”), including the enigmatic “Fingertips”, which comprises 20 tracks of the album, with each track only lasting about 5-10 seconds. It gave the effect, at the time, of flipping down the dial on a radio and each station being equally goofy as the last. This is the most evident touchstone for their 2013 effort, Nanobots. With 9 tracks lasting under a minute and a couple only a few seconds long, the rush to get the hook and the meaning in in that time gives a little thrill and so rears the ugly head of the realization that they are attempting to recreate/recapture the feeling of x album (as opposed to the idea that a band working constantly over a span of thirty years is bound to sound like itself at some point). Fingertips, however, was more of a structured experiment. The short tracks (in this case, I reject the term ‘throwaway’) on Nanobots is simply the band playing its game of chicken with the listener and losing. TMBG have always been a band willing to and almost needing to experiment on just about every release that they make. On this album, for the first time, there is a sense of not what will work and what will not, but for how long it will work for.

On “Sleep” (my favourite of the sub-minute tracks), the song is interrupted every line by a wordless, harmonized “ahhhh” (as in every other instrument stops to allow this to happen). If this were to go on for three minutes, the charm would be lost – but at a svelte 43 seconds, it’s memorable, hilarious and even a little bit catchy. Similarly, the 16-second “Destroy the Past” paints a fantastic and horrifying picture with its sole lyrics comprised of the couplet “Let’s go backwards and destroy the past/How long will your oxygen last?” Any more information would ruin the story. The closer “Didn’t Kill Me” with John Flansbergh singing acapella I found reminiscent of “Her Majesty”, the unexpected closer for the Beatles’ Abbey Road.

The album doesn’t float on its gimmick, however. Excise all of the short songs, and you would still have a solid collection of quirky and, at times, complex tunes. The Johns have always been solid songwriters, belied quite hard by their funny lyrics or instrumental tricks. Their palette feels like it’s expanding even more in recent years, with John Linnell’s surprisingly deft turn on the bass clarinet on Join Us’ “Cloisonne”, or the layered saxes on the same album’s “The Lady and the Tiger” (my favourite track of 2011). The brass and winds are sprinkled liberally  throughout Nanobots, but the blowaway moment is the entrancing “The Darlings of Lumberland”. Fuzzed out percussion lays the bed for a rip-roaring interlocking melange of flutes, saxes and clarinets (and accordion) that fits together with shocking precision, each instrument a staircase in Escher’s Relativity. This sits in stark contrast to the incredibly hip drum and bass (not Drum n Bass) verses. A beautifully cut jewel that serves as a stark reminder of the power TMBG can unleash is they keep their faces a little sterner.

Even the knowing way they deliver their lines can change the shape of a song entirely. On the title track, the backing vocals delivered with a monotony (and a blocky harmony) that somehow gives it a slightly reggae flavour nails the feel of the song as it waves from straight-laced to exuberant. The sound of John Linnell’s tongue wrapping around the line “what is that certain je ne sais QUOI?” on “Stone Cold Coup d’Etat” with such glee moves the song that much more to get the grin plastered onto your own face.

Check this album out. This is a couple of mature songwriters writing fun as hell music that is funny if you listen to the lyrics or satisfying musically if you don’t. They have yet to rest on their laurels.

10/10

In addition to my review, I had a conversation with longtime friend, fellow blogger and TMBG enthusiast Nick Zacharewicz about the band and about Nanobots:

MCJ: So Nick, you’re an avowed, nearly lifelong TMBG fan. What keeps you coming back to the fold?

NZ: My love of everything strange and wonderful, certainly. Though I must admit that Nanobots completely slipped under my radar. I guess because I though the band was too busy touring in the States.

MCJ: Yes. In the States exclusively, I might add. When you did come around it, what did you find strange and wonderful in Nanobots?

NZ: Well, as you mentioned in your review, “Sleep” is definitely a standout track because of what it does with sampling. But overall, the whole album really reminds me of their early stuff. It’s a collection of songs from various musical styles that all tell a story. Plus, I’d never thought that I’d hear TMBG do a song with the sort of surf sound that “Call You Mom” has.

MCJ: It sort of beggars belief, the amount of styles they’ve co-opted over the years and felt comfortable enough to turn into their own brand of amusing little song.

NZ: Definitely. I think that’s really their best quality. And, really Nanobots has just about every style they’ve ever played with covered: from Reggae to Jazz. I don’t think they’ve done much with Funk, though.

MCJ: They’ve switched to using a lot of horns, but nah, I don’t think they’ve ever gone quite funky. It’s got to only be a matter of time, though. How did you react to the presence of the ‘short’ songs on this album?

NZ: Oh, the short songs. After hearing about all of the theories for “Fingertips” on Apollo 18, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was any meaning to them here.

MCJ: As far as I know, it was simply a matter of the band stopping when they didn’t see anymore to write of the song. Though I’d be interested to see how people attempt to weave “There” into any sort of narrative.

NZ: It’s disappointing that the band hasn’t come out and said that there’s any meaning to them, but that’s never stopped fans before. I think there’s something about them, though, even “There,” which is suspiciously placed after “Nouns.”

MCJ: I think they [the band] just get a kernel of an idea, and then run with it, leaving the fans to fill in all the gaps, which they do quite amply. Has a favourite track emerged for you?

NZ: The fans definitely do, myself included. On my first batch of listenings “Circular Karate Chop” really stood out for me. I liked its fun pace, and the goofy spoken bit in the middle of the song sounds like something from ‘They Might Be Giants’ or ‘Lincoln.’ But then, I started to get into the second half of the album, since I can’t help but hear a break after the clump of short songs running from tracks 13-16. So, now the standout track for me is the jazzier “Replicant.”

MCJ: Yeah, there is definitely a sort of side break – a musical sorbet of short little songs that get you over to the material on the other side and make you question how invested you should get into each song.

MCJ: “Replicant” is an excellent song, and probably one of the best genre switches on the whole album. The “do do do dos” really sell the mellow swinging jazzy feel. Also, I believe it’s the forebear to “The Darlings of Lumberland”, which is a track that, correct me if I’m wrong, doesn’t sound like anything they’ve done before. Those tracks usually end up being my favourites.

NZ: Yes, “Replicant” comes in before “Darlings,” making for a curious transition. “Darlings of Lumberland” is a weird song. It doesn’t sound like anything they’ve done before (it has the same sort of ghoulish atmosphere as “The Edison Museum” from ‘Long Tall Weekend’), but it definitely sounds like TMBG.

NZ: And, even though they’ve never really done much with swing/jazz, it’s like they ventured from unfamiliar territory into an absolutely uncharted place moving from “Replicant” to “Darlings.”

MCJ: Diving off the edge of the world, so to speak.

NZ: Definitely.

NZ: Can you describe what you like about it?

MCJ: It’s crazy – coming at you from every angle. You have a bunch of different woodwind instruments, each playing fairly complex passages but layering over each other and interlocking perfectly. Not what you would assume of the writers of “Particle Man”.

NZ: That’s very true. A lot of their songs have gotten more complex since their drum machine days, but it’s good to see that they haven’t lost their quirkiness.

NZ: Actually, you mentioned in your review that they’ve experimented with their own playing before (Linnel on the bass clarinet on “Cloisonne”), do you think that they’d be making the same sort of music if they’d never added a band to their line up?

MCJ: Nope. A band offers a completely different angle. I’m sure there are a few tracks that came from a groove the band made or whathaveyou. I can’t say which tracks, and the Johns are certainly leading the charge, but they would not have been able to be nearly as versatile, genre-wise, if they didn’t have the band.

NZ: Maybe they would have gone into seclusion for a while, but I wonder if they would’ve just come out with fully digital stuff along the same lines of what they’re putting out now. There must be some high fidelity Garage Band-like program available to musicians of their calibre.

MCJ: There’s no telling what they would have come up with. They’ve certainly been paving their own way ever since the technology barely existed for them to be able to do so. But we never would have gotten “Marty Beller Mask”.

NZ: (laughs) Good point!

MCJ: Nick, where can we find you on the internet?

NZ: You can find me at my video game and book review blog Going Box by Box (at http://goboxbox.blogspot.ca) and my dead language translation blog Tongues in Jars (http://tonguejar.blogspot.ca). Or you can follow me on Twitter, I’m @the_penmin.

MCJ: I will remind any readers reading that Going Box by Box is updated twice DAILY. Thanks for the chat, Nick!

NZ: Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, Malachi! I’m always happy to talk about TMBG.

And there you have it. Be sure to check out Nick’s tireless blog efforts!

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