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Arts in Review

Soundbites: mini album reviews

Mini album reviews for Bombay Bicycle Club, Guided by Voices, New Bums, and Hockey.

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Print Edition: March 5, 2014

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Bombay Bicycle Club    

So Long, See You Tomorrow

The British four-piece alternative band Bombay Bicycle Club have been indie darlings since their first release I Had the Blues and I Shook Them Loose in 2008. Their newest release So Long, See You Tomorrow is the group’s fourth studio album and is their most complex and eclectic output to date. The album’s 10 tracks take influence from multiple genres and contain a plethora of sounds, many of which aren’t usually applied to North American music (best heard on the songs “Feel” and “Overdone”). Lead vocalist Jack Steadman plays the role of tour guide through this ever-changing landscape of sound. Steadman’s voice, (occasionally accompanied by fellow British artist Lucy Rose) floats over of each song, tying the varying musical styles together through his soft and subtle vocal delivery. Though So Long, See You Tomorrow can be hard to take in at times due to the incredibly dense musical layers, it’s hard to deny the record contains hooks and rhythms that will be stuck in your head for weeks on end.

JEFFERY TRAINOR

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Guided by Voices 

Motivational Jumpsuit 

The process of transferring a melody or an idea for a tune into an actual song can often times be a long process. For someone like myself, that process can take a few months per song. On the other hand, Robert Pollard, lead singer of the prolific Guided By Voices, has proved time and time again that he can pump out a whole album in that same amount of time. Pollard retains his charming songwriting on Motivational Jumpsuit, with tracks like the tongue-in-cheek “Writer’s Bloc (Psycho all the Time).” He seems to have to no filter when it comes to output, releasing hundreds upon hundreds of songs every decade, leaving it up to the fans to pinpoint their favourite tracks and construct playlists. Motivational Jumpsuit is the fifth studio album released by GBV since their 2011 reunion, and its frenzied pace and short tracks makes it an manageable entry point for anyone who’s curious about the band’s reputation of arena rock tropes with lo-fi production. This 20-song collection (running only 37 minutes from start to finish) is by far their best output since reuniting, and demonstrates the heights this band can achieve.

TIM UBELS

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New Bums 

Voices in a Rented Room

Voices In a Rented Room is the finished product of a psych-folk collaboration between Ben Chasny from Six Organs of Admittance and Donovan Quinn from Sykgreen Leopards. Under the moniker New Bums, Chasny and Quinn form a simple Americana style of songwriting, with striking lyrics about the end of the world interwoven with beautifully crooked melodies. The duo opts for a Simon and Garfunkel approach, with Quinn harmonizing over Chasny’s lead vocals on almost every track, instead of trading lead vocals back and forth. It’s disarmingly loose and off-the-cuff with its sparse instrumentation, but has an intricate attention to detail. Voices includes a number of dizzy ballads like “Black Bough” and “Mother’s Favorite Hated Son” but also pays tribute to the acoustic singer/songwriters of late 1970s. Whether it’s the repeated guitar riff of “You’re Bullshit” conjuring the ghost of Marc Bolan or the implosion of “Sometimes You Crash” invoking the disheveled and pristine atmosphere Alex Chilton managed to balance for the entirety of Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers, New Bums have found a relatively untouched niche sound for themselves. Voices is an impressive collaboration, and is hopefully the first of many records from the duo, not just another of Chasny’s many side projects.

TIM UBELS

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Hockey

Wyeth Is

Unlike all those other bands out there with unique names, there is one that calls itself Hockey. Even if it were just for their name, I would be legitimately interested. Hockey infuses their indie rock sound with tricks from the ‘80s, but too much of a great thing sometimes becomes  detrimental, and that’s the case here with their sophomore release, Wyeth Is. This album is a departure from their first release, the sophomore slump common to many indie bands attempting to show their breadth. While Hockey’s first album was excellent with a lot of contemporary pop, Wyeth Is has many similarities to The Police, which should be amazing. But Wyeth Is becomes difficult to continue to listen to after just one play through. To put a finger on it, I would attribute this to a lack of differentiation between songs. On its own though, an individual Hockey song can be great. The first half contains the majority of those. If I had to choose just one, it’d be “Thought I Was Changing.”

JOE JOHNSON

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