Movement 2012

Music Reviews

May 24, 2011

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Written by: mispy_admin
RateIt.Fleet Foxes. PhotoBySean Pecknold

Artist: Atmosphere
Album: The Family Sign
Tower Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Review by Aimee Mandle

Breaking away from formulaic traditions can be a tricky endeavor in the music world. The risk and reaction from fans and critics alike is largely unknown until the very end. In this case, Minneapolis-based hip hop duo Atmosphere put it all on the line with “The Family Sign.” The album is by far the biggest departure from MC Slug and producer Ant’s previous work lyrically and musically. No longer is Slug spitting out caustic humor about doomed relationships and his partying habits, layered between Ant’s soul-sampled beats. Instead, this album verges on something entirely different.

From start to finish, the 14 track journey is a marriage between guitar riffs, somber piano melodies and even softer beats. Woven in-between are Slug’s poetic storylines of the rise and fall of complex interpersonal relationships. For the most part, the album embraces a darker depth than ever before—and it pays off. Highlights include the metaphorical downfall of a friend in “Became,” the mellow but devastating telling of spousal abuse in “The Last to Say,” and the piano-driven rap about a fatal car crash in “If You Could Save Me Now.”

In contrast to the intimate sincerity of the whole album, Atmosphere includes tracks that are reminiscent of earlier work, such as “Bad Bad Daddy” with its lazy guitar riffs that come across like a drug-induced fuzz, “She’s Enough,” featuring a upbeat ode to a significant other, and “Millennium Dodo,” which focuses on bad choices and minimalistic rhythm. Though some of the tracks align with Atmosphere’s preceding themes, they come across as imitations that are trying too hard to reclaim their old glory days. But as an encompassing whole, the album shows that the duo is continually growing in their craft and producing music that shows their wisdom and evolution.

Despite the backlash that has come from purists and longtime fans of Atmosphere’s work, “The Family Sign” illustrates just how far the duo has come since their debut and offers something new to the masses. Slug’s cocky attitude and sarcastic lyrics have been traded in for maturity and insight into life, love and familial themes. While his smartass bite is noticeably absent from the album, it is still clear that he hasn’t lost his ability to eloquently narrate his personal experiences.
Whether or not the album resonates with critics and fans all depends entirely on what the listener is looking for. Those who have grown alongside Atmosphere over the last decade may be prepared to take the next steps in whatever direction the duo has chosen, and for those who are searching for heavy-hitting tracks featuring Slug’s mocking approach and Ant’s slick beats, previous albums are in abundance.

Artist: Fleet Foxes
Album: Helplessness Blues
Tower Rating: 5 out of 5
Review by Paul Kitti

There are only a few things you should know about Fleet Foxes: they are an indie folk band from Seattle, they now have two nearly perfect albums under their belt, and they are possibly the purest sound in modern folk music.

Their 2008 self-titled debut had a humble, natural quality and was a collection of rustic sounds intricately arranged and prone to transport listeners to a mystical woodland or some deep, mountainous valley. Upon accruing widespread critical praise and a loyal following extending throughout Europe, Fleet Foxes quietly set about crafting a follow-up that would be deeper, richer, and even more rewarding than their refreshingly brilliant debut.

Fleet Foxes’ overall sound on “Helplessness Blues” remains largely unchanged, with elements of folk and classic rock blended smoothly and layered beneath harmonious gang vocal arrangements, which have come to act as the band’s most distinct instrument. Lead singer Robin Pecknold has a voice that could very well exist for the sole purpose of combining language and emotion with folk instrumentation; he sounds considerably weathered and more introspective than when we last heard him, but his voice merely steers the music in the right direction without ever threatening to overwhelm it. Fiddles and mandolins and acoustic guitars breezily contribute to the depth of sound as carefully restrained percussion adds bounce and vigor when needed. The album eerily sounds like a musical extension of nature itself, a sound that most true folk bands aspire to but few reach.

“Helplessness Blues” is most profoundly distinguished from its predecessor in its lyrical depth and thematic unity. Pecknold begins posing questions in album opener “Montezuma,” singing “So now I am older than my mother and father when they had their daughter/ Now, what does that say about me?” The album finds him wrestling with questions about identifying purpose and coping with age, all the while communicating an impression that he is trying to force a complicated soul into the simple, beautiful world of the music he is creating. Pecknold embraces the subject matter encapsulated in the album’s title, yet thrives off an undercurrent of positive feeling that is present at all times throughout the album. He doesn’t discover the answers to most of the questions he poses, but takes comfort in the dreams and distractions he finds along the way. “If I had an orchard, I’d work till I’m sore,” he daydreams on the album’s self-titled single.

Neither a repeat of nor a departure from their debut, “Helplessness Blues” is a glorious extension that finds the band embracing their talents while exploring the depth of their craft. This is a haunting and strangely uplifting work, one that will establish Fleet Foxes as the standard of modern folk music only two albums into their journey.

Artist: The Gorillaz
Album: The Fall
Tower Rating: 2.5 out of 5
Review by: Amanda Slater

Perhaps the Gorillaz’s sneakiest full-length album-release, “The Fall” dropped without as much as a healthy dose of pre-release buzz. And, for a band that simultaneously thrives on mystery and attention-grabbing stunts, that might seem somewhat strange …or completely expected.

“The Fall” makes it clear that Damon Albarn is trying something new. Gone is the evidence of the group’s former hip-hop sensibilities. Instead, the album takes the Gorillaz even farther into the electronic arena than ever before. (The opening track, “Phoner to Arizona,” is something that could easily have been dreamt up by the Chemical Brothers, for instance.) “The Fall” also diverts from the Gorillaz’s typical star-studded guest lineup, as this album’s only noted guest appearance comes from Bobby Womack on the track “Bobby in Phoenix.”

Recorded almost entirely on an iPad during the Gorillaz’s last U.S. tour (which is reflected in the album’s many U.S. city-inspired track titles), “The Fall” is a somewhat puzzling mix of electronic beats, spacey sounds and unexpected additions (ranging from yodeling in “Seattle Yodel” to the sleepy, country/western beat in “The Parish of Space Dust”). While the track “Revolving Doors” delivers some of the more melodic aspects of what audiences have come to expect from the Gorillaz, it is also one of the album’s only tracks that includes a complete set of vocals and lyrics, as many are mostly or entirely instrumental.

While “The Fall” has its enjoyable moments, it comes across as somewhat scattered and is definitely a far cry from the catchy hip-hop and dance rhythms that fueled the Gorillaz’s past momentum.

Artist: The Antlers
Album: Burst Apart
Tower Rating: 4 out of 5
Review by Paul Kitti

When singer/guitarist Peter Silberman recruited multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci and drummer Michael Lerner for the production of 2009’s “Hospice,” I can’t imagine he anticipated the admiration and recognition his new trio would receive upon the album’s release. It was a refreshingly personal and emotionally devastating concept album that found an appreciative audience, one that has been waiting two years to see what The Antlers’ next move would be.

That next move comes in the form of “Burst Apart,” a forty-minute statement consisting of ten cohesive tracks that present a vibrant and confident sound. While “Hospice” drew its power from the narrative it was bound to, “Burst Apart” allows The Antlers to exercise more freedom lyrically and musically, resulting in an album that is less emotionally affecting but more accessible and demonstrative of what the band is capable of.

“Burst Apart” employs a variety of electronic elements while still giving preference to more natural instrumentation, and every song carries with it a dark, atmospheric quality. Continuing a staple of their style, The Antlers occasionally raise the noise level in sudden and brief tantrums rather than adopting more progressive song structures, which makes the album all the more varied and captivating. Every so often Silberman lets his voice loose, creating tiny moments of painful energy, but even at his most modest and subdued, he communicates sincerity behind every word. He moves back and forth between anguished and hopeful, like he’s sorting through his options without achieving an answer. There are traces of nervousness and paranoia in both Silberman’s voice and the instrumentation, characteristics of “Hospice” that have leaked modestly into the new material.

The majority of these songs are directed towards an unnamed romantic partner, as was the entirety of “Hospice,” but the tone has turned from sympathetic and weary to defensive and authoritative. Emphatic opener “I Don’t Want Love” communicates an attitude of resolve that didn’t surface until about midway through their last album. Most of the lyrics focus on a desire for intimacy and the complications that arise from relational dependence, with the haunting “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” acting as the thematic backbone of the album (“we lost our chance to run/ now the door’s too hot to touch/ we should hold our breath with mouths together now”).

“Burst Apart” doesn’t match the emotional power of its predecessor, but I don’t think that’s what The Antlers were trying to accomplish here. “Hospice” was a tough album to follow, but they have come through with an offering that is tight and focused, and, in many ways, more revealing of their intentions as a talented and quickly emerging indie rock group.

Film: Bridesmades
Director: Paul Feig
Tower Rating: 4 out of 5
Review by Aimee Mandle

Despite what you have heard, “Bridesmades” is not the female version of “The Hangover,” nor is it another wedding themed rom-com. This smart (but incredibly raunchy) comedy ventures into new territory by putting female comediennes in the forefront while not falling into stereotyping traps. Directed by Paul Feig, produced by Judd Apatow, and co-written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig, “Bridesmaids” focuses on the zany, comedic aspects of friendship.

When we meet Annie (Kristen Wiig), her life is falling apart. After the bakery she had opened went under and her boyfriend left her, she finds herself sleeping with a self-centered jerk, living with a couple of odd, albino-looking siblings and barely making ends meet at a jewelry store. To top it off, her best friend, Lillian, (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and has asked Annie to be her maid of honor. From there, Annie leads a band of misfit bridesmaids through a series of wedding traditions, while battling for best friend status with rich and snooty Helen (Rose Byrne).  However, Annie’s ability to successfully carry out her maid of honor duties rapidly decreases as she begins to lose control of her life.

Instead of launching into the conventional elements of female-driven films, “Bridesmaids” utilizes gross-out humor, hilarious dialogue, and bizarre, but believable, situations in each of the events that lead up to the big day. These are also the reasons why the film doesn’t sink into merely becoming a depressing stretch of wrong turns and bad choices on Annie’s part.

To be honest, there were a few cringe-worthy scenes that were hard to stomach, such as the food poisoning scene. It was almost as if these were thrown in to make the film fit the Apatow mold. While they were funny, it seemed as if scenes like this were trying to prove that the film wasn’t just for the female population. Nonetheless, it added to the gross-out, comedic effect that makes “Bridesmaids” different from other female-driven comedies.

While Wiig and the supporting cast were entertaining in their roles, it was Melissa McCarthy who stole the show. McCarthy was exceptional as Megan, Lillian’s future sister-in-law, whose bachelorette party theme of choice is a female version of fight-club. Her overall crassness in each scene and delightfully blunt lines are gut-busting laughter inducing, which is largely due to the outrageous and shameless nature of her dialogue.

Overall, with its outstanding cast and uproarious hijinks, “Bridesmaids” is a step in the right direction for female-led comedies.

Film: Scream 4
Directed by: Wes Craven
Starring: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette
Tower Rating: 3 out of 5 Towers
Review by Joseph Stromski II

Ten years after her last encounter with Ghostface, Sidney Prescott returns to Woodsboro to promote her self-help book, “Out of Darkness,” in “Scream 4.” While in town, Prescott is reunited with survivors Dewey Riley and Gale Weathers-Riley. And, of course, Ghostface.

“Scream 4” starts just as you would imagine — the same exact way the first three films did. But then again, just as you would imagine, “Scream 4” also follows the same story line as the first three films, which, if you don’t remember or are one of the few people raised in the 1990’s who missed out on this slasher-series, goes a little something like this:

A telephone rings.

“Hello,” asks the blonde high school-hottie, who has larger than average breasts.

“What’s your favorite scary movie?” asks a person disguising his or her voice.

The blonde thinks it’s a prank call, hangs up and is then stabbed to death by Ghostface.

From there on out, just hit repeat as this sort of thing continues for an hour-and-a-half, with nothing other than the victims being different from the film’s previous installments.

That being the case, I don’t have much to say about “Scream 4” other than it entertained me for a bit and let me know that actress Neve Campbell is still alive.

What I did appreciate about this film, however, was how wonderfully it disguised downtown Northville, Mich., as good ole’ Anytown, USA. The only Northville storefront I was able to recognize was The Bees Knees, which is located on East Main St.

Other than that, Northville, to me at least (thanks to Hollywood magic), was nonexistent. I did, however, really enjoy seeing the “Filmed in Michigan” line near the end of the credits.

(It’s too bad that line is going to be appearing less and less in the future. Thanks, Rick…)

In short, if you’re a “Scream” fanatic, I’d recommend this film, but, if not, you’re not missing anything if you skip it.

About the Author

Tim is the publisher of iSPY and co-founder of Pakmode Media + Marketing. He's a social, vegetarian geek who recently welcomed a beautiful baby girl into his family. For any questions or suggestions in regards to design, ad sales, web, content or anything at all related to iSPY, Tim's your guy.

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