Music Box: 4/17

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Cloud Nothings, “Here and Nowhere Else”

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“Here and Nowhere Else” is Cloud Nothing’s third studio album and fourth LP released on April 1, 2014 by Carpark Records.
In comparison to their second album “Attack On Memory”, this album can be described as a bit noisier and less melodic, with some songs sounding similar to Wire’s earlier work.
Overall this album has a very raw sound with its recurring combination of dirty guitar and unclean vocals.
“Here and Nowhere Else” is also fast paced—with the exception of “Psychic Trauma”, which starts off slow and steady and balances out the album’s overall fast pace, but quickly picks up tempo to keep up with the rest of the tracks. “Here and Nowhere Else” can also have a catchy sound, like in “Now Hear In” with the chorus, “I can feel your pain, and I feel alright about it.”
It’s refreshing to hear this album’s garage band sound, though it can be a bit overwhelming when the sound starts to compete with the vocals. For instance, in “Now Hear In” vocalist Dylan Baldi seems to be competing and being slowly conquered by the barrage of drums and guitar. First time listeners and lyric analysts be warned.
I also appreciate that this album isn’t too guitar-heavy and lets drummer Jayson Gerycz have his say, rather than always being in the background. “Pattern Walks” gives Gerycz a change to showcase his talents with a solo roughly halfway through.
Though many of the songs appear to be dominated by instrumentals, this album’s lyrics should not be overlooked. For instance, “I’m Not Part of Me” is about the difficulties that arise when you focus on the past because you’re unhappy with the present. The song ends with the revelation, “I’m learning to be here and nowhere else / How to focus on what I can do myself,” meaning the past doesn’t have to dictate the future and the importance of letting go.
I’d recommend the first song on the album, “Now Hear In,” as a starting point for first-time listeners. The track’s that garage rock sound prepares you for the rest of the album, while the catchy hook is enough get you to keep listening.
This album only has eight songs—though by the end you’ll be wishing it was longer. All in all, “Here and Nowhere Else” is by far one of the best albums I’ve heard in a long time.

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The Afghan Whigs, “Do to the Beast”

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Sixteen years after the release of “1965” and several reformations later, The Afghan Whigs returned to the studio for their seventh album, “Do to the Beast,” a mix bag of ‘90s alternative, classic soul and ‘00s gloss.
Now, the band has been known to incorporate various influences into its signature sound(s), but this album just doesn’t have a clear focus; each song could be confused for a different artist.
The opening track, “Parked Outside” has ‘90s alternative and blues mashed together to make a powerhouse head-bobber of a song. Distorted guitars combined with a 12/8 rhythm and wailing vocals courtesy of founding member Greg Dulli create a dark, seductive aura.
“It Kills” is an alt- breakup ballad that incorporates ‘00s pop-punk and ‘70s soul with a lo-fi sound. Evolving from simple piano rhythms and straight-eight guitar strums, the song crescendos with vocal harmonies (check out Dulli’s inner diva) and power chords. However, the song comes up short with no definite peak. Imagine climbing a mountain and just not making it over; that’s the feel of “It Kills.”
“Algiers” has an acoustic country-western feel, being dominated by acoustic and twangy electric guitars, and using castanets in the rhythm. Dulli’s airy, echoey vocals resemble an Arctic Monkeys song, especially from “AM.”
“Lost in the Woods” incorporates piano, string arrangements and jingle bells to make an adult contemporary sound. But with Dulli’s rough vocals over the soft atmosphere, it’s almost like listening to Roger Waters sing a Pink Floyd song, charming yet uneasy.
“I Am Fire,” (which segues from “Royal Cream”) features tribal drum beats like you’d find at a football game. Soft guitars and string arrangements fill the background as the drums and Dulli’s vocals (which make a commendable attempt at imitating Bruno Mars) dominate the song.
The Afghan Whigs had a slew of guitarists play on the album to fill the void left by original guitarist Rick McCollum, and ultimately it fails here. Each song seems to have a different genre attached to them, creating a pick-and-choose situation.
Similar to Patrick Stump’s “Soul Punk” in terms of being a mix bag, “Do to the Beast” just has no real sense of direction; it’s experimentation. Not the strongest comeback album by any means from a returning band, but a modest attempt to say the least.

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Band of Skulls, “Himalayan”

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Indie rock is a genre quickly losing its edge behind the emergence of pop-oriented, mainstream-minded bands such as The Lumineers, Of Mice and Men and Grouplove, just to name a few.  Where have the days of uninhibited, enthrallingly creative, independent rock music gone?  Are fans of such groups as Dinosaur Jr., Fugazi and White Stripes doomed to wallow in the glory of what was?
Hope is not lost, you indie rocker, you.  Listening to Band of Skulls’ latest LP “Himalayan” is akin to peering into the looking glass and catching a glimpse of the early, glory days of indie rock; a product brimming with unencumbered originality and catchiness.
The album bursts out of the gate with a funky fervor with “Asleep at the Wheel.”  With a resounding, measured beat you can feel in the pit of your stomach, coupled with the uninhibited vocal styling of lead singer Russell Marsden, “Asleep at the Wheel” is a tour de force of the marriage between the grittiness of garage rock and the ingenuity of indie music.  There’s a reason BOS named “Asleep at the Wheel” the album’s lead single, for here they’ve constructed a tune that could bridge the gap between indie obscurity and mainstream success.
“Himalayan” is at once both recognizable and enigmatic. There are tidbits of ‘70s groove infused seamlessly with unapologetic back-alley rock at every turn.  The listener is left at the band’s whim throughout and forcefully dragged through a labyrinth of finely crafted tunes that resound with a sense of nostalgia while maintaining a feeling of unpredictability.
Nowhere is this mixture of familiarity and capriciousness more apparent than on the eponymous second track of “Himalayan.”  Don your blue sued shoes and prepare to groove out to a tune that will simultaneously remind your parents of the Age of Disco, all the while satiating your own yearning for catchy indie rock, tinged with a shadowy aftertaste.
In short, “Himalayan” is a redefinition of what it means to be an indie rock band circa 2014; down to earth, inventive and stock full of easily graspable and repayable tunes that should dominate your “Alt. Rock” playlist for years to come.

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