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Arts in Review

SoundBites (Future Islands, Ben Lee, The Bats, Gauntlet Hair)

Reviews for the latest releases from Future Islands, Ben Lee, The Bats, and Gauntlet Hair



Date Posted: October 21, 2011
Print Edition: October 19, 2011

Future Islands
On The Water

On the Water is the new album by Future Islands, an American synthpop band based out of Baltimore, Maryland. It boasts catchy riffs, which when combined with the singer’s unique gravelly baritone voice, are quite stirring. This is their third album. The music is simple, yet full of emotion and wonderment, and stays resonant in the mind of the listener long after the stereo has been shut off.

The titular track “On the Water” is particularly memorable, in which the lead singer, one Mr. Samuel T. Herring, showcases his vocal talents to brilliant effect. The track is a very visual piece of music, painting a mental portrait with many vivid colours – a testament to the ability possessed by Future Islands to write quality music.

The lyrics, also written by Herring, are haunting and affecting. The melodies are straightforward and without pretense, lending a refreshing tone of sincerity to the album. All in all: a very good record.


Ben Lee
Deeper Into Dream

Ben Lee is fascinated with the unconscious mind. So much so that the 33-year-old Australian singer/song writer’s eighth solo LP, Deeper into Dream, seeks to reconstruct that experience. A tall order for a pop record. Lee divides his latest project into three sections introduced by spoken word recordings of friends and relatives describing their wildest dreams, sometimes in person, sometimes over the phone. As when recounting a particularly vivid dream to your bored cubicle buddy, it is almost impossible to effectively communicate the essential feeling without getting lost in the details. Unfortunately, that is precisely what happens here. The album is too busy, bogged down by a thick layer of overdubs that more often smother Lee’s impeccable pop song writing than complement it. That said, Lee’s approach does work fairly well in small doses. “Indian Myna,” might be the perfect fit for that October playlist you’re working on. But does the record work as a whole? Dream on.


The Bats
Free All The Monsters

Over the past decade, a music scene from the 1980s has slowly made its way to the ears of indie rock fans worldwide. Dubbed the Dunedin Sound, bands hailing from the quaint and isolated New Zealand, particularly those on Flying Nun Records, presented music of such quality and depth, prophesying the pure pop music that was to come from the 90s indie rock scene in the United States. One of the most critically acclaimed acts to come out of this scene, The Bats, are back by popular demand with their eighth album in almost 30 years, Free All The Monsters. Although the band’s latest lacks the consistency of their best work such as 1987’s Daddy’s Highway, little has changed in the world of the Bats. Their trademark earnest but mild-mannered pop music remains a thing of wonder that never gets tiresome. In fact, these melancholic songs only get better with repeated listens.


Gauntlet Hair
Gauntlet Hair

There are some bands I enjoy against my better judgement and Gauntlet Hair is definitely one of them. It’s such an odd mash of ideas that it somehow works. The whole album sounds as though it was recorded in a swimming centre – a reverb-y, echo-y effect permeates every song. This is the kind of thing that generally goes terribly, terribly wrong, but somehow they make it work – and who knows – maybe it was recorded in a swimming centre.

Then there’s the nearly gratuitous use of cymbals, the way the vocals switch from tenor to bass in an instant, and electro-techno beats – all told, these things should work against each other, but somehow Gauntlet Hair pulls it together in an inexplicably cohesive whole. It’s understandably hard to stick in a genre, but it’s so engaging that you’ll play the whole album through without realizing it.


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