Arcade Fire Review Royale: Reflektor

The Arcade Fire
Reflektor

Arcade Fire Reflektor album cover art

The Arcade Fire are a band that have universally been lauded by critics and hipsters alike, but the Montreal arena rock band have left the other two LxL contributors a bit cold, and while I myself would call myself a fan, I don’t bow at the knee of Win Butler and company like many music fans. I had particular intrigue with their latest album, Reflektor, though considering it being produced by LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy in his first big project after LCD Soundsystem broke up. Reflektor contains some of the magnetic dance hooks that Murphy once brought to LCD Soundsystem, mixed in with big, guitar-driven Arcade Fire sound to make a good album that just falls a bit short of anything special, leaving me a bit cold yet again.

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Paul McCartney Review Royale: New

Paul McCartney
New

paul mccartney new, album cover

Wes’ Thoughts

Sir Paul got lambasted last year on this blog for his dreadful valentine album, Kisses On The Bottom, landing as our biggest disappointment of 2012. But the most enduring singer rock history doesn’t rest on his laurels, but instead hit the road last year, with fellow LxLer Todd and I seeing a show of a lifetime this summer as MACCA headlined Bonnaroo. Now, the legendary Beatle releases New, an album giving new modern twists on McCartney’s tried and true musical strengths, my favorite album from Paul since the early 70’s (not that I was alive then, or have heard every album in between).

What makes New so fresh is a combination of Paul playing to his strengths and challenging himself with new sounds. With the help of Mark Ronson, title track “New” toys around with jaunty Beatles sounds from songs like “Penny Lane” and “We Can Work It Out” with a little more buzz and reverb to make this a fresh take on a nostalgic sound.  “Queenie Eye” takes Paul’s famous sound of heavily punctuated piano pop and adds an air of mystery and a growing symphony of sound. On songs like “I Can Bet” and “Everybody Out There”, Sir Paul sounds 40 years younger, full of energy swinging along some folk-tinged pop with a funky edge. “Turned Out” is reminiscent of the best Traveling Wilbury’s tunes, except Paul doesn’t need three other legends: his charismatic presence fills the room plenty. “Get Me Out Of Here” is Paul doing his old playful lonely dog blues.

Giles Martin, longstanding Beatles producer George Martin’s son, produced the lion’s share of these songs, and it’s clear that he understands what it takes to Paul to step out of his shell but still get the most of what has made him the most enduring artist of all-time. Remove “On My To Work” and “Road” which are minor letdowns, this album his remarkably consistent and memorable for a 71 year old, or even a 31 year old for that matter. For a guy that has accomplished everything under the sun, it’s wonderful to see such a legend continue to push himself artistically.

9/11
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Kings of Leon Review Royale: Mechanical Bull

Kings of Leon

Mechanical Bull

Kings of Leon Mechanical Bull album cover art

Wes’ Take

Southern rock family Kings of Leon was once a band loved and cherished by all three of us at LxL, but the band spoiled quickly following their commercial breakout Only By The Night, even landing our #4 slot on our Bands Breaking Bad list. Their last album Come Around Sundown was a full-on nosedive, and now they return for the first time in 3 years with Mechanical Bull, an album that marks a bit of a return to their original driving rock ‘n’ roll sound, but with middling songs and a posture as if the band is going through the motions.
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MGMT Review Royale: MGMT

MGMT
MGMT

MGMT, album cover art

Wes’s Thoughts

We talked last week about our hatred for the dreaded mid-career self-titled reinvention album, and while MGMT’s latest fits the description, it does for a very different reason than most bands. While many bands try  to set the stage for a major label debut or try to reinvent themselves after a misstep usually going for a more commercial sound, the Brooklyn duo finds itself actually trying to brush off their commercial fame from their smash debut Oracular Spectacular and go for the sound they love: psychedelic, experimental rock reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. While I always commend a band for doing what they want rather than falling the whims of their audience, you need to at least be able to do what you want well, which MGMT fails miserably at.
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Nine Inch Nails Review Royale: Hesitation Marks

Nine Inch Nails

Hesitation Marks

nine inch nails, nin, hesitation marks, album, cover, art

Austin’s Take

If I were to sit down and make two lists, one featuring my favorite studio artists and one featuring my favorite live artists, I doubt there would be much crossover.  One band that would certainly make both lists is Nine Inch Nails, my favorite live show and easily one of my top five studio artists.  Understandably, I was pumped to find out Trent Reznor and co. would be releasing a new studio album and embarking on a massive world tour this year.  But as with most high profile releases, Hesitation Marks carried lofty expectations most records can’t hope to fulfill.  So while NIN’s latest doesn’t break the mold on the artist, popular music, or anything really, I’m happy to say that at least it is a good album that shows no break in the attention to detail, quality songwriting, and emotional intensity we have come to expect from Reznor.
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Kanye West Review Royale: Yeezus

Kanye West

Yeezus

Kanye West Yeezus album cover art

Beyond comparing oneself to God, Kanye’s latest shows Kanye has more than a little bit in common with John Lennon. Both are undoubtedly musical visionaries, even if it’s annoying to hear Kanye call himself one: it’s true.  Both have an ongoing controversial relationship with the media, think quite highly of themselves, are very idealistic yet live very contradictory lifestyles: John being all about peace and love but being the most combative of all the Beatles, and Kanye talking about believing and following God in the same breath as his prideful, greedy, and misogynistic comments. This contradictory lifestyle is part of what makes Kanye so appealing though: we all to some degree live contradictory lifestyles, Kanye is just bold enough to wear it on his sleeve. Yeezus is Kanye’s Plastic Ono Band: a 21st century primal scream album stripped down to its simplest rawest form, with Kanye bearing his soul on relationships and race. While with John this lead to some very heartbreakingly honest and gut-wrenching moments, Kanye errs a little too often on the side of senselessness, even if the music is brilliantly groundbreaking.
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Daft Punk Review Royale: Random Access Memories

Daft Punk
Random Access Memories

daft punk, random access memories, album, cover, art

Austin’s Take

Random Access Memories is one of those records where it is hard to separate the immense hype and expectations from the eventual finished product.  What we ended up with is an album with perfectly executed promotion without the deep satisfaction that we expected.  The album reminds me most of a microbrewery releasing a trendy new beer with slick packaging, and finding the flavors don’t mesh into the clean finish you would hope for.  In the same way, Daft Punk combines disco-era sounds with their electronic home base and even what I would call plain old adult contemporary to create a most confusing brew.

Daft Punk , cheers, beer, brew
Mmmmmm, Daft beer!

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