It's 1221

cd review: choir of young believers: this is for the white in your eyes
10 October, 2009, 10:11 PM
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Reviewed on Friday, October 02, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on
4.5 Stars

This Is for the White in Your Eyes couldn’t come at a more propitious time. Whereas most bands and labels would prefer to release an album in the fall, the Choir of Young Believers deliver an end-of-summer sensation; the album is the last gasp of summer’s warmth and beauty, intimacy and liberation just as the flowers hold on for a few moments before giving way to the changing seasons.

And this is an album that defies time. Jannis Makrigiannis arranges orchestral, ethereal impressions of songs passing in slow motion. The Danish group was nominated for six Grammys in Denmark, and the propensity for excellent music from the Nordic countries swells with this release. Makrigiannis started working on solo material in 2006 in Greece after his former band withered away. Once back in Copenhagen, he planted the seeds for a new collective to flourish on this mournful and majestic album.

“Next Summer,” the first single, is an eloquent serenade until the soaring chorus, Next summer I will return, I’ll be back, I’ll break your heart belies Makrigiannis’ dark desires. Picking up the pace is “Action/Reaction,” a blithe love song in such harmony with its downpour of percussions and voice parts. An innate songwriter, Makrigiannis’ talent shines on introspective tracks like “Claustrophobia,” where he unburdens his soul without weighing down his words. Each track sounds crisp and distinct, the mark of excellence in a sea of mediocrity.

Winner of the “Best New Act” award at the Danish Grammys, Choir of Young Believers’ debut is like summer itself—over too soon, but a tremendous joy.


cd review: a place to bury strangers: exploding head
10 October, 2009, 10:05 PM
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Reviewed on Thursday, October 08, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on
4 stars

A Place to Bury Strangers is a worthy challenger to the noise-rock kings of Los Angeles, aka HEALTH. With their second album, Exploding Head, the New York-based trio delivers an experimental album of ambient tones woven together with shoegaze textures with enough force to induce whiplash.

What makes APTBS more than a bunch of kids making ear-splitting jams is their approach: it’s quite clear that Oliver Ackermann is an aesthete and diligently works through the tracks until he achieves a sweet spot amidst all the cacophony. The finesse demonstrated on “Keeping Slipping Away,” “It Is Nothing” and “Deadbeat” goes beyond reiterations of The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine or Talking Heads; they have skills and creativity to make their music relevant and standout.

“Ego Death” is the most HEALTH-esque track, fueled by the eerie interplay of brooding lyrics and aggressive instrumentation. Whereas HEALTH is rough around the edges, APTBS is velvety smooth, each track adding to the album’s merits. Exploding Head is a movement deftly capturing atmospheric exuberance.

cd review: health: get color
21 September, 2009, 1:00 PM
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Reviewed on Monday, September 14, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on; Summer 2009 URB
Lovepump United
4.5 Stars

Fresh from touring with Nine Inch Nails, Crystal Antlers, and Of Montreal, HEALTH set about producing their sophomore album, Get Color, straight onto 2 inch tape to amp up their already magnificent auditory experience. Citing a rich array of artists from the post-punk, new wave and early indie eras as influences, HEALTH layers richly constructed noise in a brazen explosion of talent and distortion to offer an exquisite and weird sophomore album.

One-two-punch album opener “In Heat” kicks off a collection of tracks featuring killer harmonizing and a riveting juxtaposition of otherworldly vocals and hypnotizing instrumentation. If their self-titled album was a colossal wall of sound, Get Color is an ocean with increased depth, variety, and ambition. Each song boasts enhanced cohesion, achieved mostly by strengthening their repetitions and loops, while the bombardment of drums and distortion is more powerful than ever before.

The four-piece continue their fierce DIY aesthetic, working without a producer for the second time around. And if their self-titled debut sometimes sounded like a learning experience, this time around, the sound is more assured, even if the vocals are softer, more ethereal.

Also newly added is the band’s own version of the ballad, two of which “We Are Water” and “In Violet” delicately close Get Color. For some, HEALTH will still be written off as noise, but for fans, it sounds like the quartet tapped into its groove.

cd review: richard hawley: truelove’s gutter
21 September, 2009, 12:52 PM
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Reviewed on Thursday, September 17, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on
4 Stars

Some folks take the dark and melancholy route so literally that the listener is expired by the final track, but not so for Richard Hawley on Truelove’s Gutter. While this is the time to defend the album and say that it’s not about being down in the dumps, it definitely spends time there, but the title is an actual forgotten swab of land in his hometown of Sheffield, England. It seems like the perfect setting for Hawley’s sixth studio album.

What immediately comes across is a reflective record draped in subtle tones and minimal ornamentation. “You’re the thorn/You’re the crown/Baby, don’t get hung up in your soul/Don’t let them make your heart cold,” Hawley offers on “Don’t Get Hung Up on Your Soul.” Tugging at the sadness living within, “Soldier On” with its majestic culmination enveloping the words he has “longed to say” as a testament to his love, is the album’s centerpiece and encapsulates the scope of Gutter.

“Don’t You Cry” shakes the album with its eerie opening measures and a tragic sense of beauty and decay, it might as well be a Poe poem dreamed to life. The antique instruments Hawley and his band used imbue an element of whimsy and character that slick production or modern-day instruments cannot compete with.

Hawley wanted to take a new direction with this album and his label offered him the go-ahead to cultivate the album he always wanted. Challenging himself to be more revealing in his writing, seems to have increased his confidence as a musician, recording his guitar solo on “Remorse Code” in one take makes the case. Truelove’s Gutter collects real and raw emotions and transforms them into a delicate symphony.

Hawley’s albums have been lauded in the international press, by the likes of R.E.M. and Radiohead, and he’s recorded with Elbow and Arctic Monkeys—the young lads admitted Hawley was “robbed” when they won the 2006 Mercury Prize instead. Still, that doesn’t matter because Truelove’s Gutter is a winner for his fans.

cd review: zizek: zzk sound vol. 2
21 September, 2009, 12:45 PM
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Reviewed on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on
Nacional Records
5 Stars

International dignitaries pose as trendsetters on ZZK Sound Vol. 2, delivering a kaleidoscopic array of electronica, dancehall, and cumbia. Come prepared.

After a dismal 2004 club fire, officials in Buenos Aires all but squeezed the life out of the once flourishing underground music scene. “No Dancing” signs haunted the city’s revelers, and Zizek’s founders El G and Nim would be the answer to the plague. Under the guiding light of resident DJ Villa Diamante, Zizek became the place for restless musical imaginations to wander into and dance their way to nirvana.

The compilation is a party favor with something for everyone with its range of nationalities and styles represented. “Brooklyn Cumbia” seems like an innocent enough opener beckoning a listen; then “Piolaboy (featuring Fauna)” launches into a tropitronica cocktail; and Frikstailers mash it up on “Cumbia Kamisama.” Changing gears is Chancha via Circuito’s “Prima,” which is an ambient electronic track with a runaway crescendo. Things get sensual with floorboard busting track “Soloina (Pastnerak Remix),” and if that was for the ladies, Axel Krygier’s “Cumbia Tucumana” wraps hip-hop over cumbia and dancehall for the chicos.

It’s nothing short of ironic that this collective of DJs and producers is making a global splash because this crew decidedly lives in their own world without rules and categories. Soak in the hues and tints of Vol. 2, subtle as it is audacious, breathy as it is aggressive; it’s a wicked trip to another place.

cd review: sally shapiro: my guilty pleasure
21 September, 2009, 12:42 PM
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Reviewed on Wednesday, September 09, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on
Paper Bag Records
2.5 Stars

My Guilty Pleasure doesn’t live up to its alluring title. With a handful of good moments, and one standout track, this sophomore effort by one Sally Shapiro and her producer Johan Agebjörn, is mediocre.

The Swedish duo’s follow-up to 2007’s Disco Romance, which garnered a nod as one of Pitchfork’s Top 50 Albums of the year, lacks the drunken dance grooves and blissed-out sonic booms crossing the Atlantic to our shores. My Guilty Pleasure struggles with lyrics and sounds particularly bland.

The blogs fueled the initial round of success and supported two remix albums with the Junior Boys and the Juan MacLean lending a hand, plus scoring a song on Felix da Housecat’s 2008 mix. But My Guilty Pleasure can’t push the envelope and it sounds like it holds back; whereas, some other albums transform that tension into excitement, My Guilty Pleasure falls short. With all it’s dreamy packaging and song titles like “Miracle” and “Moonlight Dance,” it’s really more like a bleary-eyed Sunday morning album that fades into the background.

“Looking at the Stars” can’t hold up the entire album, though it makes a bold attempt. Following that track is “Love in July, which is more of the same easy, romantic lyrics but with so much stellar music coming from Nordic land, Sally’s nine flimsy tracks can’t catch a break.

cd review: bomba estereo: blow up
21 September, 2009, 12:38 PM
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Reviewed on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 by Areti Sakellaris
Published on
Nacional Records
4 Stars

Bomba Estéreo is a funky underground talent revealing a genre-busting, linguistics-defying release with Blow Up. The Colombian group rolls out an original mix of electronica, dub, hip-hop, champeta and cumbia for the Nacional label, which has been recently garnering extra attention for their pan-Latino sound.

Lead vocalist Liliana Saumet’s wildly playful lyrics explode when in contact with Simon Mejia’s guitar and synths. Saumet’s sultry style is a hybridization of Nelly Furtado with the precision and attitude of M.I.A. “Fuego introduced the world to Bomba’s Technicolor world. “La Nina Rica is as mind-blowing as it is steamy. Dedicated to the “people dancing in the street” is the anthemic party track “Feelin,”” which weaves English and Spanish with Diego Cadavid’s percussion and Kike Egurrola’s drums. “Raza wraps the album and includes a shout-out to Saumet’s hometown of Santa Marta. This is a group comfortable with their heritage and eager to share it with fans the world over.

Mejia started in 2005 and released an album of instrumental work, and hooking up with Saumet brought out the fire and organic influences of Colombia’s colorful coast and musical traditions. Together, they produced an inclusive record, managing to get the non-Spanish speakers in the crowd up on their feet.

With Saumet’s thrilling voice, Mejia’s brilliant feel for the music, and their wanton exuberance, keep a jug of water handy.