Portugal. The Man – In the Mountain, In the Cloud
In an age when music is at its most accessible and at its most abundant, in an age when more complain that there is “no goodmusic these days,” I present to you – again, Portugal. The Man. The only band on the planet that have released an album every year since 2006 and have only got better with each release. Even with a monster tour schedule as theirs they still manage to make some of the best music any ear can love. The band’s latest, In the Mountain, In the Cloud is their Atlantic Records debut and finds them at their most lush and textured release to date. The band, which follows up last years bestrecord – American Ghetto, with this release shows they can take the spot for album of the year again, two years in a row. Portugal. The Man provide magnificent hooks, beautiful melodies and clever lyrics in such a polished way it creates a psychedelic trip of sound and sonic style through the listeners imagination. Aside from being a magnificent band, they are also the perfect students, taking their love of The Beatles and George Martin’s perfect production and adapting it to their own unique blend. As I have said before in our latest live review of the band when they arrived in New York City in early June, with them signing to Atlantic Records, the labels late founder, Ahmet Ertegun is smiling down on his staff for acquiring such a cutting edge band and a band that cements Ertegun’s philosophy of attaining the best in the business. Portugal. The Man are not only the best young band in the business, they are the best band in America right now and will be the best for years to come, I havea sneaky feeling we are only seeing the beginning.
FINAL GRADE: A+
The Horrors – Skying
The moody Brit rockers return with their third album and it is their best achievement to date. We have seen the evolution of The Horrors through the years in their music, from their bizarre 2007 debut, Strange House to 2009’s mind altering Primary Colours to this years release, Skying, which shows the band transcend a certain strain of Goth Rock or Cold Wave sound they have been known to create through the years to a more straightforward new wave 80’s sound. The album is not as dark as we have come to know of the band, it is a brighter lullaby of gorgeous hooks and melodies that will have us looking into what they will do for years to come.
FINAL GRADE: A
Friendly Fires – Pala
The British bouncy electro-rockers come again and bring the sunshine. Friendly Fires fire back with an essential summer album of what it means to have fun in the sun and long after it goes down. Pala is a multilayered and textured cornucopia of noise that is so well put together it will be hard to sit still listening to any song on this album.
FINAL GRADE: A-
Japanese Popstars – Controlling Your Allegiance
Northern Ireland’s party starters return with album number two and bring along a few friends for the ride. For the techno trio of Japanese Popstars, life begins at 3am and the party does not start until sometime around noon the next day, Controlling Your Allegiance is an ode to that lifestyle and they are not the onlys ones that belive in that idea. With vocal contributions from Robert Smith, Tom Smith of Editors, Jon Spencer, Lisa Hannigan, Morgan Kibby of M83 and others, Japanese Popstars show that having fun is not just their job, but also a way of life.
FINAL GRADE: B
Scream – Complete Control Session EP
The band that Dave Grohl got his start in return with a seven song EP recorded in Grohl’s home studio. The hardcore hero’s recorded the EP live at the Grohl residence and picks up where they left off. The EP is a fast and furious explosion of punk that grabs your immediate attention right from the first note.
FINAL GRADE: B
The much hyped and talked about New York buzz band arrive with their debut and live up to the hype. The duo of Brian Oblivion and Madeline Follin started their career in their dorm room of NYU last year, they released the single “Go Outside” last summer and they took the city then soon the blogosphere by storm. Here they are with their self-titled debut and show they were much more than just a duo with one very catchy hit, they are a duo with an abundance of catchy hits!
FINAL GRADE: B
Life Size Maps – Magnifier EP
From the dorms of NYU to the uptown dorms of Columbia, New York’s new rock rumpus give out their debut EP for free and delight new listeners and surprise many more. Magnifier is a well put together EP that displays the band’s unique style of rock and roll, from distorted guitars with cellos backed by pounding drums, Life Size Maps are one of the more curious bands to come from the University in quite a while. We featured the band in as our January Rising Artist in an exclusive interview, get to know the band HERE and understand what the soon-to-be fuss will all be about.
FINAL GRADE: B-
The Front Bottoms
New Jersey new rockers turn up with their self-titled debut and have a ton of fun on arrival. The Front Bottoms are the type of band that can appeal to anyone – from pop-punkers to singer/songwriters to those who just do not want to think about what they are hearing. A very catchy band with basic programming, acoustic guitars, furious drumming and basic basslines but find a way to blend everything so well. It lays heavily on the bands rather obtuse lyrics that anyone that grew up in the suburbs can relate to.
FINAL GRADE: B-
The Black Ships – Kurofune EP
After the fall of The Verve (again) in 2008, Simon Tong and Nick McCabe formed The Black Ships in 2010 and have been keeping a rather low profile ever since. The band has been an enigma since their conception and finally released a small EP that is an introduction as to what they are and what their sound truly is. McCabe and Tong were the musical centerpiece of The Verve and fail to reconnect their brilliant and one of a kind sound with this new outfit, but maybe that is the whole purpose.
FINAL GRADE: C+
Phillip Selway – Running Blind EP
Radiohead’s drummer returns with a second solo outing of small material but fails to deliver big on his latest EP. Selway seems to want to take the lo-fi singer/songwriter approach with his own material and after releasing a forgettable debut last year, his latest collection of songs fails to catch on as well.
FINAL GRADE: C-
Incubus – If Not Now, When?
The SoCal rockers return with their seventh album and it falls flat, very flat. After a five years absence from the scene, numerous solo projects, Incubus return with a mature and mellow effort of forgettable songs that travel through no space and time. Though the band is known for their driving tracks that can amplify the emotion of any crowd, If Not Now, When? lacks those songs and that is fine, however, the band fail to capitalize on the idea the songs they did create for the record are not very exciting. It is one thing to mature, get older, evolve and adapt to various genres and scenes but this album is full of misses and full of uninteresting songs. What saves the record from being a total disappointment is Brandon Boyd still proves to be a human dictionary and thesaurus and still writes beautiful lyrics but the production and music of the rest of the band fail to back up his talents.
FINAL GRADE: D+