Too Many Zeros – Dave’s Review

For the last fortnight we have been listening to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros self-titled album, released on Rough Trade last summer.

The album has clear influences of the mid-sixties. The whimsical pop of the Beatles and the Kinks can be heard on When You’re Young and If I Were Free, while They Were Wrong is a convincing Johnny Cash impression.

Despite some nice songs scattered throughout the album, such as the opener Better Days, I struggled to really get into it. Let’s Get High is an awful, overly silly song which musically sounds like the theme tune to a cartoon about a dancing frog, whilst the lyrics suggest all the world’s problems can be solved by being marched alongside by a jamboree.

The highlights for me come on the songs featuring the female vocalist, Jade Castrinos. Two is a nice duet and Remember to Remember has a Dusty Springfield soul feel about it and is sung with real passion. Life Is Hard is also a good song with a simple message.

Posted in Indie Folk, Reviews | 1 Comment

Edward Sharpe and the Impersonation Machine – Fran’s Review

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ self-titled third album starts with two strong tracks. The optimistic Better Days is followed by bouncy country song Let’s Get High, although the latter ends with a downbeat three minutes of repetitive singing about love. Track three is the first time we really get to hear female vocalist Jane Castrinos, and the duet between her and lead singer Alex Ebert is pleasant if a little simplistic.

It’s probably around track four that the switched on listener will start to feel like they’ve heard it all before… There are a lot of moments on the album that bring other artists quite forcefully to mind. On Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros I heard Pink Floyd, James Brown, the Animal Collective, Arcade Fire and more. This is not necessarily a problem, but I don’t feel like this album has broken any new ground.

This is a fairly enjoyable album, but the whole thing is a bit soppy, with pretty much every song being a call to love. It’s quite appropriate then that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ final impersonation is of the king of overrated soppiness, Sir Paul McCartney. The shouty call and response and twee vocals on When You Were Young mean the album goes out on a slightly annoying fizzle.

★★★☆☆

PS- This week’s musical adventure review comes to you from a boat.

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Stoked for Nu Folk

Following on from last fortnight’s minimal electronic extravaganza, my pick for this fortnight has a different take on the psychedelic theme. Until Sunday 6th April Dave and I are listening to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros’ eponymous third album. This is a band that two separate friends recommended when I asked for new music suggestions, and as someone who has completely missed the Folk revival of the last couple of years (Mumford & Sons, Noah and the Whale etc.) I am looking forward to seeing what all the fuss is about.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros was released in 2013, and continues in the Folk/Psychedelia style of the band’s first two albums. In the proud tradition of Nu Folk, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros has a staggering 11 members, plus endless additional touring and recording musicians. You can catch the whole crowd at one of their gigs in Australia or North America this summer, or listen along with us over the next fortnight here.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

Each fortnight Fran and Dave choose a new album to listen to. We write about the genre or artist during the fortnight, and post our reviews on Sunday. Want to join the musical adventure? Subscribe by clicking the link in the sidebar to get an email every time there’s a new post.
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Something Something Something Darkside – Fran’s review

Initially I was quite unimpressed by Darkside‘s Psychic, but as the fortnight progressed it definitely grew on me. A major factor in its initial failure to please is the incredibly slow start to opener Golden Arrow. This was so frustrating for the first few listens that it took me a long time to appreciate how good the track is when it finally kicks in. However at the half way point of the track the fading bassy synth and static pulsing suddenly gives way to a really nice slow-paced staccato electronic track with very atmospheric echoey vocals.

Throughout the album this pattern continues, with tracks fading in and out, and plenty of pauses. There are a lot of interesting sounds going on though, and the quiet overall tone means the smallest motifs can make a large impact, like the bells towards the end of highlight Freak Go Home.

This is an understated album, but it sounds better each time you listen. After a fortnight of Psychic I can even appreciate the slow build up in Golden Arrow. At least a little.

★★★☆☆

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The Dark Side of the Jaar – Dave’s Review

Psychic by Nicolas Jaar’s latest project, Darkside, is an album that improves with each listen.

Darkside perform with the Joshua Light Show

Darkside perform live with the Joshua Light Show

The eleven minute opening track, Golden Arrow, is a bold start, but it sets the tone well for this slow-paced, psychedelic-electronic album. After four and a half minutes of almost nothing, the song finds its groove and you can see how the guitar of Dave Harrington and the electronic mastery of Nicolas Jaar work together.

Darkside seem to be greatly influenced by the experimental German bands of the late 1960′s, bands like Can, Tangerine Dream, Neu! and Faust, while there are also nods to more psychedelic bands that emerged in the same period, such as The Grateful Dead, 13 Floor Elevators and Pink Floyd.

Much of the album has a haunting and eerie sound, most prominent on the ghostly interlude Greek Light. If there is a beat, it will be slow and clap-like, accompanied by scatters of sounds – the occasional guitar riff or bassline, the tinkering a few melancholic piano keys, electronic ticks and clicks – all sounding as if recorded in a cold, dark room. There is little singing, more occasional distant wailing, but there are moments of distorted verse or chanting.

The album feels like a series of waves, seamlessly washing in and out. Songs fade in at the beginning and out at the end, and sometimes in the middle too. When the beat does become danceable, as on the The Only Shrine I’ve Seen, it is often not allowed to be sustained for long periods, pausing every so often to remind you this is a dark and serious piece of art.

The highlight of the album is the excellent Freak, Go Home. A steady, simple beat is danced around by a swirl of noises that move in and out. Three minutes in, everything settles and the song prepares itself. A voice enters with a whisper followed a while later by a distant shout. The inaudible, echoing voice grows louder and louder, noises all come crashing together as the song builds to a frenzy, completed by the line “Go home!” before the song exits through a prolonged fade out, the same way it came in.

Whilst I can see that Psychic won’t be to everyone’s tastes, I find it a fascinating listen. It’s slow and dark with a good structure, a smooth flow and some great moments, especially in the second half.

★★★★★

Posted in Electronic, Psychedelia, Reviews | 3 Comments

Welcome to the Darkside

As festival lineups are being announced for this summer and I am working out which to attend, I thought we would listen to a name that appears on several I am interested in: Psychic by Darkside, released in October 2013.

Darkside - Psychic

Darkside – Psychic

Darkside is a collaboration between Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington, based in New York. The duo met as students at Brown University and Harrington joined Jaar to tour his solo album, Space Is Only Noise, released in 2011. Darkside first formed whilst on tour in Berlin where their converter plug popped, filling their hotel room with smoke and forcing them to finish writing a song in the hallway on a laptop.

Why not listen along with us or catch Darkside on tour.

Each fortnight Fran and Dave choose a new album to listen to. We write about the genre or artist during the fortnight, and post our reviews on Sunday. Want to join the musical adventure? Subscribe by clicking the link in the sidebar to get an email every time there’s a new post.
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