Print Edition: June 5, 2013
Once I Was an Eagle
Music critics love to write about musicians who have “old souls.” Neil Young was credited as having maturity beyond his age with his early work; same with Cat Power, and the 23-year-old Marling has gotten similar praise. Based solely on her voice, Marling is indeed an old soul through and through. You can almost smell the cigarettes that coat her voice wafting through the speakers on every track. Her candid and personal lyrics have always made it easy to track her maturity level, and Once I Was An Eagle is a record that firmly establishes Marling as an songwriter of great talent, imagination and vision. At a time where folk music is quite popular on college campuses, with inoffensive and generic folk bands beginning to make headway on the pop charts, Marling transcends this glut of boring folk bands in the scene with Eagle. Even if folk music is a genre you usually don’t touch with a 10-foot pole, the album is worth a listen just to hear Marling do her best Nicki Minaj impression on “Master Hunter” about 35 seconds in. Seriously.
Holo Pleasures, the newest release from Elvis Depressedly (aka Mat Cothran), is a stolid and gloomy, low fidelity slacker rock album that crackles with mono tape warmth and understated but infectious bass and vocal melodies. Elvis Depressedly channels the ramshackle production of early Guided By Voices albums, particularly noticeable in the combination of sparse, but maximal instrumentation and the double-tracked vocals. Where Elvis Depressedly noticeably diverges from GBV is his gruff, low-register pipes, inclusion of synths and inclination towards ethereal song cycles rather than the sound of garage rockers. Running times rarely exceed two minutes, keeping each track brief and to the point, no riff or melody ever outstaying its welcome. The crisply-plucked guitar work and ooo-ing beach-side refrain on “Inside You” and the beautifully cascading melody on closer “Thinning Out” make these tracks sighing highlights on the bummer of the summer.
While not quite as new to the music scene in their United Kingdom home, Bastille has just released their first extended play targeting North America in Haunt. And what’s almost certain to be noticed first is the English accent that radiates terrifically through each track. First is “Pompeii” which can be seen from two perspectives. With lyrics like “In the city that we love great clouds roll over the hills bringing darkness from above,” it’s the Roman city destroyed by Mount Vesuvius. On another level the song plays into a story of a person starting out in life whose attempts to be meaningful continue to crumble. This is all driven with a warm rhythmic backing intonation, a sound close to Lord Huron’s. “Overjoyed” follows and is a much more emotive and slower song. And, while I wouldn’t consider it a bad sign, they do again borrow from another band – in this case Snow Patrol. Following that is “Bad Blood,” a track with heavy ‘80s influences. It’s quite enjoyable but also the most forgettable. Finally, while each of these first three tracks can be found on the band’s full length UK release from April, this EP’s title track, “Haunt,” is new material. It’s a story of youth making uncertain decisions in life and love. A slower track, it beats with trembling reverbed harmonies.
Random Access Memories
Three albums in a row now, Daft Punk’s music can be heard, but through the screen of allegations “this doesn’t sound like Daft Punk” (the critically underrated electro-rock Human After All, the Zimmer-aided soundtrack to TRON Legacy, and Random Access Memories) and the everpresent critique of commercial means of production. An onslaught of advertisements have attempted to finish critical discussion of the album, forcing the narrative of mysterious collaboration and electronics juxtaposed with emotion, but Random Access Memories, for all its determined datedness, has very little about it that is different from the Daft Punk of the past. The magic of scarcity makes the disco bass of Nile Rodgers and emotional maximalism of Paul Williams stand out, and there’s a stronger emphasis on lyrics, still repetitive and unabashedly simple, but there are enough familiar touches after the NASA transmissions and Moroder intros to bring perspective closer to the strains of beloved indulgence heard from “Revolution 909” to “Make Love.” Contrary to the group’s lyrics’ mantra-like insistence, this is unhurried, relaxed dance music that takes its time in being as affective (“Touch”), miserable (“The Game of Love”), exulting (“Lose Yourself to Dance”), and technically clear (“Motherboard”) as it wants to be.