THE END OF THE WORLD: French Exit [Flameshovel]

End Of The World singer/drummer Stefan Marolachakis sounds so much like the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser that you’d be forgiven for wondering if they’ve ever been seen together in the same New York bar. Like Leithauser, Marolachakis elongates his vowels, often past the end of a line, and he likes to shift and slur into his upper register in the middle of a word. It’s a sound simultaneously sober and drunken, and it’s effective coming from both vocalists. French Exit is the second album from Marolachakis and guitarist Benjamin Smith (they’ve lost several bandmates since 2006’s You’re Making It Come Alive, which might explain the new album’s title, a term that means leaving without saying goodbye). It would be too easy, and unjust, to dismiss French Exit as ersatz Walkmen: Once the shock of similarity passes, the solid songwriting and anthemic performances stand on their own merits. While the sound is big and favors layers of reverberating chords and tumbling, martial drums on “Jody” and “Railroad Living,” French Exit also ventures into punk rock on “Section House,” helping the End Of The World to avoid sounding pretentious or bloated. Walkmen-like? Definitely. Walkmen-lite? Not at all. []

—Steve Klinge

ROY HARPER: Flat Baroque And Berserk [Science Friction] / ROY HARPER: Stormcock [Science Friction] / ROY HARPER AND JIMMY PAGE: Jugula [Science Friction]

Ask for Englishman Roy Harper’s references and you’ll get pages of popular and semi-popular names that span decades. Led Zeppelin sang a song about him, and Pink Floyd had him sing one of theirs; Kate Bush, Pete Townshend and Jim O’Rourke have given him a public thumbs-up. Even so, after a 43-year career, the man is a cult figure, partly because his authenticity is the sort that makes people uncomfortable. Harper is an uncompromising social critic, quite willing to follow his muse to places people really don’t want to go; for a taste, visit the May 2006 entry in his online diary and read his thoughts on organized religion. His unswerving devotion to driving his point home manifests in songs such as “I Hate The White Man” (from Flat Baroque And Berserk), which holds England accountable for the racism that was the flip side of what was then a still much-missed empire, and “Twentieth Century Man” (from Jugula), which is an explicitly detailed chronicle of carnality vanquishing civility.

Continue reading “ROY HARPER: Flat Baroque And Berserk [Science Friction] / ROY HARPER: Stormcock [Science Friction] / ROY HARPER AND JIMMY PAGE: Jugula [Science Friction]”

DEERHUNTER: Microcastle [Kranky]

After the breakout success of 2007’s Cryptograms, Deerhunter has expanded its sonic palette without sacrificing the innovation or excitement that’s polarized a small cross-section of the listening public. Building upon the melodic leanings of the Fluorescent Grey EP (also from 2007), the sweeping soundscapes on Microcastle show the Atlanta band embracing its grandiose ambitions, although never to the extent of being overstuffed or ostentatious. Rather, Deerhunter creates intimate moments that swell into something that feels much larger. “Agoraphobia” finds its narrator in a panic, whispering desperate pleas for a salvation that won’t ever come. Rather than accentuate paranoia and confusion with rage, singer/wunderkind Bradford Cox bellows his appeals with a detachment that’s equal parts ennui and hopelessness. Cox has utilized a similarly ethereal, stream-of-consciousness delivery under his Atlas Sound moniker, burying soft melodies in a bedroom aesthetic of hazy tape loops and samples. The constant fluidity here makes the album’s unpredictability seem grounded and cohesive instead of erratic. Here’s hoping Microcastle is the sound of a band just scratching the surface. []

Matt Siblo

VIVIAN GIRLS: Vivian Girls [In The Red] / CRYSTAL STILTS: Alight Of Night [Slumberland]

The Velvet Underground’s first album ranks among the most plagiarized of all time: Its strident melodies, dark subject matter and cloaks of reverb have crept into songs by Patti Smith, Television and Sonic Youth. The fact that those three called New York home is also no coincidence since Gotham continues to inspire crisp, anxious, lo-fi rock ensembles, each unabashedly paying homage to the Velvets. Brooklyn’s Vivian Girls are most conspicuously the product of their claimed influences: the Wipers, Nirvana and the Shangri-Las. More appropriate, though, the jangling guitars and charmingly off-key vocals traipsing through the female trio’s self-titled debut would’ve fit perfectly between post-punk titans like the Raincoats and Delta 5 on a Rough Trade compilation. And like their English ancestors, the Girls deal almost exclusively in exuberance and wonderment, making found squalls and rattles sound like their own. But that might have more to do with the copious amounts of reverb echoing through the album’s best songs (the ponderous “Where Do You Run To,” the punky “Never See Me Again”). They would noisily fall apart were it not for a steady beat. Continue reading “VIVIAN GIRLS: Vivian Girls [In The Red] / CRYSTAL STILTS: Alight Of Night [Slumberland]”

ARIEL ABSHIRE: Exclamation Love [Darla]

Female singer/songwriters are an easily maligned bunch. It is nothing, after all, to lump one in with two dozen others and think of them en masse as nothing much. There are people who defy that pigeonholing—Jenny Lewis and Martha Wainwright, to name two contemporary examples—and Ariel Abshire could fall on either side of the great divide. On Exclamation Love, Abshire wails and croons like a far less embattled Wainwright (their voices are quite alike) while relying, at times, too much on the saccharine and repetitive, as in the chorus of the title track. The saving grace, and the thing that will make the album that follows Exclamation Love a watershed moment for Abshire, is that she has an undeniable cleverness running through her songs. “Goddamn New Mexico,” with its expletive-laden disdain of geography’s questionable effect on the goodness or badness of people, “I Didn’t Know People Could Do That” and “Thin Skin” are lyrically satisfying, witty and endearing. But other tracks, such as “Unknown Encounter,” fight the bigger demons of Exclamation Love with the better angels of Abshire’s songwriting, and it’s a constant struggle where neither comes out victorious. Abshire’s lyrical wit and unadorned-yet-beautiful voice, though, compel the ears to like Exclamation Love more for what it suggests about her future than her present. []

—Pat Hipp

EAGLES OF DEATH METAL: Heart On [Downtown]

For every Eagles Of Death Metal devotee letting loose the devil horns, there’s usually a dumbfounded friend using those same digits to scratch his head. What’s so polarizing about a pair of sex-obsessed, former high-school pals getting their teenage garage-rocks off, anyway? Perhaps it has something to do with the notion that one of said pals, drummer Josh Homme, saves his “real” art for Queens Of The Stone Age. Or maybe it’s the sheer audacity of singer/guitarist Jesse Hughes’ porn-star mustache. Nevertheless, the duo’s third LP won’t reconcile the two camps; in fact, Heart On may be the first EODM album to really make the detractors’ case. Chugging riffs and falsetto vocals abound on these 12 tracks, but instead of indulging whatever black magic that kept 2004’s Peace Love Death Metal and 2006’s Death By Sexy from devolving into jokey karaoke, Hughes and Homme decide to play it mostly straight. The one stab at reclaimed cock rock, “High Voltage,” can’t get it up, while “Now I’m A Fool,” with its ooh-la-la-la harmonies and salient solos, verges on the balladic. It’s obvious that these Eagles don’t care to be thought of as a mere novelty act. Less obvious is whether they should aim to be anything more. []

—Noah Bonaparte Pais

Punny Lane

It did not escape our notice that MAGNET #80 contains interviews with both Ringo Starr (you know, from the Beatles) and Ringo Deathstarr (the shoegaze band from Austin). If only we’d been aware of this earlier, we’d have also scheduled coverage of Gringo Star. Hm, maybe not.

Missed opportunity: Really should’ve squeezed a profile of the Deathray Davies (what is it with Austin bands and puns?) into the previous issue with Ray Davies on the cover.

But back to Ringo Starr for a moment—no doubt many of you read about or watched this clip of his earnest plea to fans, urging them to stop sending him fan mail and autograph requests:

We kind of get it. You can imagine that diehard Beatles fans are as annoying and persistent as Omaha Steaks when it comes to clogging your mailbox. Still, we’re with the great Tom Scharpling on this one: Ringo is the guy who came after “and” in the Beatles. Get over it.

Inbox of Doom

Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 09:45:19 -0400

Hello Matt –

Quickly about myself, I am a tour publicist basically and have handled bands from Tantric to Sebastian Bach to Candlebox to lesser knowns like Cinder Road and Suburban Legends. I love a challenge with baby bands.

I am also the nephew through marriage to Frankie Valli who is my father-in-law’s brother.

I wanted to let you know of several bands that I am currently handling and one that I co-manage that may create some interest for you at Magnet Magazine as I have been trying for some time to get any of the artists I handled in print with you.

Continue reading “Inbox of Doom”

PARTS & LABOR: Receivers [Jagjaguwar]

If 2007’s Mapmaker was created a palpable buzz for Parts & Labor, Receivers should raise the noise to a distorted howl. The Brooklyn band’s sound has been deftly evolving with each release, with Mapmaker its first to directly embrace its current predilection for bombastic anthems buried beneath the rubble of screeching synthesizer. Receivers has the same sonic hallmarks: twitchy, knob-turning electronics amid lumbering distortion and lyrics foretelling vague apocalyptic threats. The difference here can be found in the sequencing, which at only eight tracks makes the songs feel more fluid and less cumbersome than its predecessor, whose full-steam approach petered out toward its end. The band allows most songs to careen past five minutes, often times longer, indulging every swelling melody in the process. The album’s title nods to Parts & Labor’s semi-novel approach of conducting an open call for audio samples and field recordings, all of which are said to be found somewhere within Receivers. While Parts & Labor’s grinding wall of noise seems to invite this kind of egalitarianism, the experiment never seems gimmicky or extraneous. Instead, it becomes virtually impossible to distinguish what sounds do or do not belong. It all comes together in one glorious racket. []

—Matt Siblo