The Weekly Jive

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Posted September 24, 2008 in Music

Holy Sons—Decline of the West (Partisan)

There’s something about cats who do organic basement recordings that has them reaching for capitulatory bliss—it’s a giddy thing to brush-up against absolute zero, apparently. Former Grails drummer Emil Amos dabbled for a few years in recording Decline of the West as Holy Sons; here’s a melodic, richly layered and thoroughly resigned self album with plenty of theological sloughing, momentous acoustic thrum and microphoned conscience. The arrangements are pharmaceutical in nature, the result of synching dial-changing static and evangelical radio backdrops; Amos’ voice has a sleepy delivery, and what he’s saying is impossibly enunciated and truly curious—”claustrophobic magic spirals sickens and swirls/can’t you feel the failure that I felt with the girl.” Just as Say Hi’s Eric Elbogen, who shut-up in a Brooklyn bedroom with recording equipment and myriad instruments at his disposal, treated ennui with the utmost delicacy, so does Amos—better yet, he also sings about androids, and his are satanic. For once, the song titles tell you exactly what you’re in for: “Bleakest Picture,” “Evil Falls,” “Saccharine Trust,” “Gnostic Device,” the aforementioned “Satanic Androids”—you get the picture. All these songs are cathartic midnight tussles, and it’s the kind of great indie-folk stuff that comes from the forgotten fun of idling. (Chuck Mindenhall)

 

Plain White T’S—Big Bad World (Hollywood/Fearless Records)
Launching as a poor man’s perfectly executed Jimmy Eat World in the earlier part of the decade, the Plain White T’s have gradually reinvented themselves throughout the years into a pop machine that’s musically polished and prettied beyond belief. But with Big Bad World, it looks like pretty’s all that’s left. The brains are gone—those terrific, introspective JEW-inspired compositions that we really liked have all but disappeared—and what’s left is an image of an act performing brittle sing-alongs (really, just scope some of those flimsy lyrics) for the throngs that also file PWT’s MP3s next to the latest Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers downloads. And we’re not hating on success either: While it’s still just as pleasing as ever to see a band from the underground command the mainstream with accolades and the like, it’s not entirely thrilling to watch that same band deviate from their course so greatly, they’re almost ripping off Maroon 5. Jimmy Eat World should not be too stoked about that. (Waleed Rashidi)

 

The Stills—Oceans Will Rise (Arts & Crafts) 

Montreal has become a hotbed for exciting indie rock talent since the mid-2000s, with Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Stars and The Dears all gaining high profile attention. Then there’s The Stills, whose haunting 2003 debut Logic Will Break Your Heart drew comparisons to Echo & the Bunnymen and Joy Division. The band shook up the formula for organic sophomore effort Without Feathers in 2006. Everything had a decidedly ‘70s vibe and contributions from fellow Canucks Sam Roberts and Broken Social Scene. Now the quintet returns with an even stronger album, Oceans Will Rise. The subtle ska rhythm on opener “Don’t Talk Down” might have longtime fans scratching their heads, but it works. Lead singer/guitarist Tim Fletcher’s interest in environmental concerns shows through the picturesque lyrics. On the lovely “Snow in California,” propelled by ringing guitars and squealing synths, he sings “the world is changing/so rally up your friends.” The ominous “Panic,” with circuitous guitars leading the charge, contains the lines “another landslide/a Polar bear falls through the ice.” Later, Fletcher intones about “crumbling earth” and “I see the sky clouding over/wild acid peaking.” The songs aren’t bleak though—in fact, just the opposite. A glorious U2-styled scope envelops the life affirming “Being Here,” singalong acoustic rocker “I’m With You” and crackling “Hands on Fire.” Moody, Peter Gabriel-esque “Everything I Build” slowly increases intensity until it gets to the surprising bridge. One of the year’s best albums so far. (George A. Paul) 

 

 


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