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Recent Release Round-Up: Willy Moon, Kadavar, Beacon, PacificUV

June 14, 2013

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More recent release reviews at THIS PAGE.

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Willy Moon: Here’s Willy Moon

Probably the most ridiculous album I’ve heard in a long while. In a good way. Post-modern rock’n’roll in the true, bigger-than-life, spirit of the ’80s. This isn’t any kind of arty, too-cool-for-school, post-punk revivalism. This is another kind of monster altogether. There’s not a grain of subtlety or artifice anywhere near this record. Not to say is a mature, personal, singer-songwriter album where Willy Moon lays his soul bare… No, no, this is pure superficial teenage rock’n’roll mayhem—but it’s shockingly sincere pure superficial teenage rock’n’roll mayhem.

In a way that makes you realize how everything you’ve been listening to is complete poser bullshit. Part ’60s garage-rock, part ’80s pychobilly, part ’90s sampledelic and all filtered through a contemporary pop strainer, probably the most surprising thing about Willy Moon’s debut is how abrasive and raw everything sounds. Judged on the material (and Willy’s sleek visage) alone, you’d expect a slick radio-friendly approach like Rick Astley meets Jive Bunny.

Which wouldn’t be an entirely inaccurate comparison in certain respects. The Ctrl-C/ Ctrl-V nature of Moon’s lyrics (play a spot the reference drinking game and see how long you last) and the retro-swing horn riffs aren’t all that different than Jive Bunny’s original mash-up “Swing The Mood“. But instead of being a reverent nostalgia kick, Here’s Willy Moon sounds like it was recorded in some kind of computerized juke-joint on the outskirts of a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Yet it’s a really fun juke-joint where you dance ecstatically while the city burns, oblivious—or in spite of—the desolation outside.

Like I said, the true spirit of the ’80s.

5 Rick Astley from Hells out of 5 Sigue Sigue Screamin’ Jay Transvision Sputniks

Kadavar: Abra Kadavar

I might have to take the “album title of the year award” back from Valleys and give it to Kadavar. Also any award I would have given Purson for proto-metal revivalism. That Purson record is still great, but Kadavar not only have both the nuances of the on lock, but they rock the shit out of it. Yet, despite being able to spot influences from early ZeppelinSabbath and Priest to Deep Purple and The Who, they’re not entirely without an original flavour—no easy trick when you summon the magic of yesteryear to raise the desiccated corpse of rock’n’roll.

4.5 Led Sabbaths out of 5 Black Zeppelins

Beacon: The Ways We Separate

Is 2013 the year we can coin the term thomyorkecore? That’s a bit ponderous so how about erasercore? Because I can’t help feeling this record wouldn’t exist without Kid A or The Eraser. That’s not a criticism. How many classic records wouldn’t exist without Sgt. Peppers? Still, the skittery rhythms and bloopy basslines of the Nigel Godrich/Thom Yorke production team are all over these tracks like white on rice. You can’t exactly ignore it. Not that those guys have a monopoly on IDM textures, but the way in which Beacon combines them with a warm, emotional, humanistic approach is classic Yorke (though without the dirty menace and crushing bleakness). The Ways We Separate is sort of like a boy-Grimes, or a more intimate Hot Chip, or even a more abstract, less pop-oriented Ruby Suns. As far as atmospherics go, Beacon knocks it out of the park. But none of the tracks leave you with much to hang on to. It’s a bit of a directionless journey into a strange, nondescript, marshmallow world. Very soft, cozy and sweet, but not very filling. That said, repeat listens do reward and what you might originally take for vagueness, reveals itself to be subtlety. Love this one a little more with each spin.

4 Fluffy clouds out of 5 Something or others, sorry, it’s all a bit hazy inside this pillow

PacificUV: After The Dream You Are Awake 

The title of PacificUV‘s latest album, After The Dream You Are Awake, is a perfect example of the rhetorical device Daniel Dennett calls “deepities” — a proposition that seems both important and true – and profound – but that achieves this effect by being ambiguous. On one reading, it is manifestly false, but it would be earth-shaking if it were true; on the other reading, it is true but trivial.  He said, “Yeah, dude, like, after the dream you are awake,” then she said, “Whoa, that’s deep, man.” Anyway, the music itself is a bit of a deepity too.

At first blush After The Dream seems like a pretty strong, confident indie-pop record with some decently original melodies. But then it slowly reveals itself as mostly being a retro repackaging (à la Naked Eyes) of songs by The XX. Specifically “I Wanna Be You” which I think might potentially be the basis for a lawsuit.  Also, “I Think It’s Coming” wholesale cops the melody and chord progression from Komputer‘s “Like a Bird“. While they don’t directly cut’n’paste all of Komputer’s embellishments, they do manage to add all of The XX’s trademark ambient/minimalist surf textures. Meanwhile, lyrically, instead of the original song’s incisive, existential ennui, PacificUV choose to wax ambiguous on the transient nature of love instead (deepities abound).

Then there’s the somewhat half-assed, yet oddly faithful cover of Billy Idol‘s “Eyes Without A Face“. Whatever you think about Idol’s music, Rebel Yell was a meticulous work of New Wave studio mastery. So this cover is a bit like doing “Bohemian Rhapsody” on a cassette 4-track. A lot of what makes the song is the recording, so recording it with less attention to detail (at the very least they should have tried to recreate those giant hand claps!) is simply baffling.

But, and this is a big bolded, underlined, all-caps BUT, there’s a solid EP’s worth of good material on After The Dream. “American Lovers” is a top-shelf maudlin synth-pop tune and “Russians” is better chilly, mechanical retro-futurist rock than Ladytron have done in a while.  Ultimately, it’s your standard pop record with all the pluses and minuses that come with the territory (it’s just that the minuses are almost deal-breakers).

2.75 Sad-sack synth-pop duos out of 5 New orders for naked eyes from the yazoo pet shop

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