Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Best Buy Gift Card Poll Results

You voted and I will listen (and review)! Arcade Fire's Funeral blew away the competition for the album you want me to review! Tomorrow I will be purchasing Funeral on vinyl with my Best Buy gift card, and will have a review of the vinyl edition of the album up in the coming days! So stay tuned!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wolf Parade - Expo 86

  • Gatefold
  • Lyrics included

  • Album Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
  • Sound Quality: 4/5 (Great)
  • Packaging: 4/5 (Great)

Wolf Parade's third studio album, Expo 86, was released in 2010 to very positive critical acclaim and about as much commercial success as is possible for a slightly off kilter indie rock band such as Wolf Parade. Wolf Parade is graced with not one, but two fantastic songwriters; Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner alternate songwriting/vocal duties in a Lennon/McCartney fashion.

Expo 86 is a shining example of great indie rock; it's quirky and charming in all the right places while still being supported by the excellent musicianship of the band. Standout tracks include "What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way)" and "Ghost Pressure". "Yulia" tells the tale of a Russian cosmonaut that was allegedly lost in space after a failed mission to the Moon. This is of course only an urban legend, but Wolf Parade's interpretation is uncharacteristically heartfelt, displaying a side to the band that has yet to be seen.

The album comes on two heavy pieces of wax and sounds great. The vinyl brings out the many different soundscapes created by the band wonderfully.

Expo 86 is packaged in a full-color gatefold jacket. It features lyrics and credits on the backs of the two inner sleeves.

Purchase Expo 86 on vinyl here (Amazon): EXPO 86

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bear In Heaven - Beast Rest Forth Mouth

  • Non-gatefold
  • Red or blue vinyl
  • Lyrics included

  • Album Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)
  • Sound Quality: 4/5 (Great)
  • Packaging: 3.5/5 (Good)

Brooklyn-based experimental rock band, Bear In Heaven released their second album, Beast Rest Forth Mouth in 2009, garnering mostly positive critical reception including being awarded the honor of "Best New Music" by Pitchfork.

Utilizing electronically distorted instruments and a few instances of tribal drum beats, it is hard to classify Beast Rest Forth Mouth into an exact genre. It's certainly psychedelic enough, incorporating elements of Kraut rock, making for a fairly unique, and very fresh sounding record. Standout tracks include "Beast In Peace", "Wholehearted Mess", and "You Do You".

The LP is pressed on an equal number of translucent red and blue colored vinyl. It has a very warm, inviting sound to it and should not be missed if you're a fan of the band.

The red vinyl edition is packaged in a blue cover, while the blue vinyl edition is packaged in a red cover. Both versions feature the same artwork. Lyrics and credits are displayed on a large newspaper foldout.

 Purchase Beast Rest Forth Mouth on vinyl here (Amazon): Beast Rest Forth Mouth [Vinyl]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Aloha - Home Acres

  • Gatefold
  • Lyrics included

  • Album Rating: 3/5 (Good)
  • Sound Quality: 4/5 (Great)
  • Packaging: 4/5 (Great)

Aloha has a long history of releases stretching back to 1999. With their latest LP, Home Acres, Aloha is back in full form with more insanely catchy tunes and guaranteed fun times.

The songs on this album are upbeat and playful, with Cale Park's signature drumming driving the melodies ever onward. Standout tracks include "Moonless March", and my personal favorite on the album, "Blackout". Both songs are fast paced and exciting, displaying the energy that the band seemingly puts forth so easily.

The vinyl sounds great, especially the drums. It is pressed on black vinyl and also translucent maroon vinyl (pictured) that is limited to 700 copies. Both versions are 180 gram.

The packaging is nicely done. It comes in a gatefold jacket with lyrics included on the inner sleeve. If you order from Polyvinyl Records, a poster and an Air Heads candy is also included!

Purchase Home Acres on vinyl here (Amazon): Home Acres (2 LP) [Vinyl]
*Note: There is actually only one LP, not two.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues

  • Gatefold
  • Lyrics included

  • Album Rating: 4.5/5 (Excellent)
  • Sound Quality: 5/5 (Perfect)
  • Packaging: 4.5/5 (Excellent)

Fleet Foxes have done it again! It's been slightly less than three years since the group released their self-titled debut album that garnered overwhelmingly positive reception and showed the world that 60's era folk-rock isn't dead yet.

With their sophomore full-length, Helplessness Blues, the Seattle-based indie giants haven't altered their formula much since 2008; maintaining a steady balance of folksy, playful instrumentation and sweeping, Simon and Garfunkel-esque harmonies. While all the simple charm of the first album is present on the new one, the track "The Shrine/An Argument" shows an untapped potential that we have yet to see from the Fleet Foxes. This epic, 8 minute song with tempo-changes abound introduces a stranger side to frontman Robin Pecknold's songwriting. Incorporating an odd blend of dissonant strings and horns reminiscent of Bitches Brew era Miles Davis; a far cry from Fleet Foxes' usual sound.

Tracks such as "Helplessness Blues" and "Someone You'd Admire" return to the folksy style we've come to know and love from the Fleet Foxes. Simple, catchy melodies and acoustic guitar-driven songs dominate the album, but an underlying ambition is evident from start to finish; something that sets Fleet Foxes apart from other indie-folk acts of today.

The vinyl sounds incredible, showcasing the powerful harmonies and musicianship astoundingly well. If you're only opting for the mp3s of Helplessness Blues, you're missing out on what is sure to be one of the best sounding records of the year.

The two heavy pieces of wax are packaged in a gatefold jacket that feels nice and solid. On the inside of the gatefold are the lyrics to each song. My version also came with two posters and a sticker. I am unsure whether these come with every release or are just goodies thrown in by pre-ordering from Sub Pop.

Purchase Helplessness Blues on vinyl here (Amazon): Helplessness Blues

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Head And The Heart - The Head And The Heart

  • Gatefold
  • Lyrics included

  • Album Rating: 4/5 (Great)
  • Sound Quality: 4/5 (Great)
  • Packaging: 4.5/5 (Excellent)

A newcomer to the indie scene, Seattle based band The Head And The Heart are already making their way into the hearts (and the heads) of music lovers around the world.

The Head And The Heart's self-titled debut album features unpretentious folk-tinged indie rock in its purest form. Every song is as catchy as the last and there's not a filler track to be found, making for a beautiful and cohesive (albeit short. ~35 minutes) debut album.

Originally released in 2010, The Head and the Heart was later re-released on vinyl in April of 2011 after signing on with Sub Pop. The wax feels heavy and sounds very good; giving new life to the beautiful harmonies and instrumentation.

The album is packaged in a heavy-duty gatefold jacket and includes a booklet with pictures, lyrics, and credits inside. If you pre-ordered the vinyl from Sub Pop, a limited edition photo scrapbook compiled by the band is also included.

Purchase The Head and the Heart on vinyl here (Amazon): The Head & the Heart

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Queens Of The Stone Age - In My Head 7"

  • Picture disc
  • Import

  • Album Rating: 4/5 (Great)
  • Sound Quality: 0.5/5 (Atrocious)
  • Packaging: 3/5 (Average)

The second single off of Queens Of The Stone Age's 2005 stoner-rock album, Lullabies to Paralyze; "In My Head" is one of many songs that shows off the softer side of QotSA.

One of my favorite QotSA songs, "In My Head" delivers a catchy, guitar oriented melody and haunting vocals by frontman Josh Homme. Unfortunately, this 7" picture disc does not do the song justice by any stretch of the imagination.

Although picture discs are cool to look at, the sound quality on them is typically less than average. This one, however, is downright atrocious. And it's not just the normal pops and crackles either - the song sounds like it was recorded underwater - you're likely to find higher fidelity from a Last.fm preview.

On side B is a live version of "I Think I Lost My Headache", the last track off QotSA's 2000 masterpiece, Rated R. Strangely enough, this song works much better with the unbelievably bad sound quality, giving it a grungier, dirtier feel that makes it slightly more acceptable.

It is packaged in a standard clear-plastic sleeve, and the pictures themselves do look good (even if they ruin the sound quality). This is a limited release, although I'm not sure how many actually exist. All in all, you should really only get this 7" for the novelty of it.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Interpol - Turn On The Bright Lights

  • Non-gatefold
  • No lyrics

  • Album Rating: 4/5 (Great)
  • Sound Quality: 4/5 (Great)
  • Packaging: 3/5 (Average)

Arguably one of the best debut albums of the 00's, Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights captivated it's audience with catchy melodies, sonic atmospheres, and a post-punk sound that has grown to define them over the last decade.

Starting off on a strong note with one of my personal favorite opening tracks on any album, the somewhat ironically titled "Untitled" sets up the rest of the album perfectly. Bright Lights maintains a perfect balance of pacing throughout the album; it never feels rushed and never slows down too much, contributing to it's integrity as a solid album, especially for a debut.

The vinyl version of Bright Lights makes for a very different listening experience than its MP3 and CD counterparts. It is warm and full of color; the pops and crackles adding to the album's charm. The re-release is featured on 180 gram vinyl or the less expensive 120 gram vinyl.

The packaging is a standard, non-gatefold sleeve that does not include lyrics. However, it does feel like a solid package, presented on a nice glossy paper.

Purchase the Turn on the Bright Lights LP here (120 gram) (Amazon): Turn On The Bright Lights