Explosions in the Sky – All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone
The Texas crew stays true to their roots but broadens their instrumental horizons, incorporating piano, mandolin and even some electronic ambience. Almost an inverse of their previous work, Birth and Death of the Day starts with a grumbling guitar fanfare and migrates into their signature sonic minimalism. Some melodies are consistent with previous efforts – both bittersweet and uplifting, others are grungier, distorted and darker (Welcome Ghosts). Still, I can’t think of a more appropriate soundtrack for a long drive through the stark white and grey of blizzard-bashed New England.
Modest Mouse – We Sere Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Isaac Brock and company (now including Smith’s guitarist, Johnny Marr) are back. The depressive empty angst of the earlier works (Lonesome Crowded West, Moon & Antarctica) has been completely subsumed by Good News’s energetic rage. Dashboard is admittedly the leaked single, pretty much Float On dressed in new aural clothing. Parting the Sensory rides on Brock’s unique science-spiritual worldview, explicating death in the blunt scream: “Some day you will die and someone or something will steal your carbon.” Spitting Venom is another highlight, opening as a pared down acoustic grunt, Brock in full-form vocals, then lengthening out in Marr’s guitar work. It’ll be tough to ever top their legendary early works, but We Were Dead is a fun fifth release from the Mouse.
Bloc Party – Weekend in the City
Silent Alarm was one of the best releases of 2005, matching Brit post-punk guitar work, danceable percussion and Kele Okereke’s unique vocals. Weekend in the City branches out musically – drums are strong but not as agile, taking a backseat to amped guitars. Hunting for Witches closely resembles Silent Alarm’s aesthetic (with the addition of electronica intro). Waiting for the 7:18 has a gentle xylophone melody, perhaps attempting to show off Bloc Party’s softer side (This modern love, So Here we Are), but the vocals seem a bit off, although “On” regains the footing. The Prayer, Uniform and Where is Home are other solid songs. The band seems a little unsure of themselves – stick with punk influenced tempos and melodies? Incorporate more dance percussion and electronica? Or throw out sappy pop-love songs (I Still Remember)? Falls short of Silent Alarm, but there are some solid tunes here.
Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
In Neon Bible, Arcade Fire tries to channel the spiritual ecstasy of a Pentecostal revival. And judging from their SNL performance, with oddball outfits and haircuts, they’d fit right in with some southern gothic tent preacher (although they’re Canadian). The real draw of Arcade Fire (evidenced in Funeral), is the integration of driving percussions and folksy instrumentation and lyrics. Keep the Car Running might just be Neighborhood #3 (just add strings). No Cars Go and Windowsill are other top tracks, the right amount of catchy pop-rock and indie style. Intervention is a grand cathartic anthem complete with pipe organ – if it’s the sermon, My Body is a Cage is the confession, closing out the record with a mournful dirge. Then the organ returns, with it a pounding snaredrum triplet and the lyrics “set my body free”, the spiritual journey is complete – a solid sophomore record.