Review: Guided by Voices – Let’s Go Eat the Factory

The latest in a series of reformed bands, Guided by Voices return to their roots. Still hanging onto their garage echoes and short but sweet pop tunes, they give us another overwhelming array of songs that go by too quick. Like all their previous albums, there are songs that I just don’t understand and probably should have been omitted and then ones you wish would last just a little longer.

The lineup from their heyday has reconvened with just a few more wrinkles and nothing to show for it. Robert Pollard’s aging voice is about the only thing that has changed for these guys over the past 20 years. There are a lot more slow and morose ballads but they all end up sounding the same. The jumpy rhythms are still present. The crazy guitar sounds and overall weirdness stills pours sweet indie goodness down your throat. The album as a whole is an inconsistent bowl of lumpy mashed potatoes that’s only good with lots of salt and butter. There are a few great songs that are still worth hearing but it takes a lot of weeding through lumps.

Any vintage indie hipster or 90s indie connoisseur will love the similarities to their classic albums like Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes but there is no progression. They merely picked up where they left off but unfortunately the world moved on. There is no more need for their thoughtful feel good jaunts. Our musical brains need a different kind of nourishment now and these guys might any tricks up their sleeve.

Rating: 3 Stars
Standout Track: Doughnut for a Snowman


Review: If This Is a Man – Random Acts of Kindness Have Saved Lives

A somber reel of psychedelic guitar strings is cast into the pond of the soul. Tiny ripples break the surface and cascade outward, sending a solemn vibration to the senses. The sound waves lure positive organisms to the air and repel all negativity, creating a submerged cocoon of safety.

If This Is a Man are giving new definition to the word slowcore. They learned from the masters like Low and Red House Painters and added shoegaze influences to send us down a swirling vortex of beautiful sound. Subtle echos and kaleidoscopic guitar manipulations flutter about the brain, breaking the emotional dams we have built for ourselves. The vocals are soothing and consolatory but at times they become obtrusive and too present. When this happens a barrier is put between the mind and the music and you do not get the full experience.

Random Acts of Kindness Have Saved Lives
. The title is very fitting. This album is a bandage for the broken heart, a blanket for a frozen body. Listen to this when your soul is ready to scream and give up and somewhere among the guitar strums and piano strikes you will find the strength to keep going.

Standout Track: Nostalgic
Rating: 4 stars

Review: Low – C’mon

Label: Sub Pop
Catalog No: SP905

Low have always been a band for the moper in all of us. Their depressing lyrics and slowcore music style have always been a welcome friend on those dark and lonely nights. After the political statements and alienation of Drums and Guns, it seemed as if they collapsed into a dark and heavy abyss, never to return to our world again.

This was the case for four years until C’mon emerged from the thawing lakeside city of Duluth. A shimmer of optimism gleams from their ninth album. Melancholy stills hangs overhead though its bleakness is nowhere near as asphyxiating. It provides a small message to all of us hiding under our beds, afraid of the big bad world. This is Low telling us to make our appearance known and join the fight towards making the world better for all. It will be an arduous task full of setbacks and heartache, but we must strive forth. Never give up until you are happy and everyone else around you is just as happy.

As the title suggests, come on. It’s about time we finally do.

Standout track: Majesty / Magic
Rating: 4.5 stars

Review: Braids – Native Speaker

Label: Kanine
Catalog No: KR622

If this is the future of pop music, bring it on. I can definitely get used to hearing this on a regular basis. This album sums up the past decade of music. By weeding out all the insipid crap that indie music has put out recently, Braids have been able to fuse together a compendium of good sounds and make it their own.

Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s voice is dreamy punk vibratos bouncing in between swirls of ambient synths and quaint guitars. She is a trusted chauffeur, guiding you seamlessly through blissful songs of pure emotion, never missing a turn. Every breath she emits flows above the music and into a special dormitory inside the soul. She is able to make you feel euphoria and rage at the same time. Few singers are able to do that.

The music is an electronic uproar, exploding with manipulation that crashes into waves of ambiance. They pair up to form an instrumental tour de force that compliment the vocals superbly. Adding the normalcy of drums and bass to the mix make these unique sounds more approachable. You can tell they took time crafting these songs and the organic flow of the album shows that all time was not in vain. This is a stunning debut from a band that will hopefully keep the new sounds coming.

Standout track: Lammicken
Rating: 4.5 stars