Music July 6, 2012 By Thomas Beckwith

pomcover Pomegranatespomegranates
If Heaven is any indication, the members of Pomegranates play an average of eight instruments each. You can pick them out in a kind of parlor game for music geeks: there goes the razzy, feedback- heavy guitar solo, there go the bells, there go the rollicking drum lines and plinky cadenzas on piano. There goes a singer whose syrupy falsetto makes you wonder if he studied with Antony. There go three anthems – “Pass Away,” “Sister” and “Ezekiel” – whose brashness barely connects with the syrupy ballads that follow. Given this variety, you wonder if the band, which takes great pains to use every part of their buffalo, is eclectic or just indecisive. By cobbling together the hallmarks of a hundred different song structures, they managed to create an album that’s less a statement than a showcase. In that light, it’s best to look at Heaven as a kind of musical sample platter – one that, for better or worse, eschews the needs of a narrative.


Music April 3, 2012 By Thomas Beckwith

AMandMARpost Amadou and Mariamheader2 Amadou and Mariam
At this point in their career, seven albums in, Amadou and Mariam have mastered a particular sort of contrast. Their lyrics touch on difficult political matters, usually issues concerning their native Mali, while their music is consistently joyful, catchy and infectious. At first listen, the juxtaposition between their words and peppy rhythms is jarring, but eventually the two elements integrate to form a new kind of protest music. The blind couple from Mali is rousing their listeners to action, urging them to carry the flame. To their contemporaries, the message seems to have gotten through, as many of them make appearances on their latest, Folila. “Dougou Badia” takes advantage of the crooning power of Santigold, while “Wily Kataso” gets a hand from TV on the Radio. Even Jake Shears, of the Scissor Sisters, sings backup on the soothing “Metemya,” as good a distillation of the band’s appeal as anything from Welcome to Mali. It’s fair to say that Folila, despite its lineup, sounds largely the same as its predecessors, but it’s also fair to say that’s a good thing. There aren’t many bands that know who they are as well as these two, and even fewer who can maintain such quality.
filler29 Amadou and Mariam

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Music March 1, 2012 By Thomas Beckwith

piana 400 Gregory Rogove piana title Gregory Rogove
Instrumental albums tend to fall into one of two categories. The first is the hourlong symphony, in which a composer, usually a person used to working with a much smaller band, records a suite of songs with the aid of a roomful of musicians. The second is the medley of solo pieces, which depends on the composer’s ability to work well with economy and spareness. The first solo album by Gregory Rogove, Piana, sits firmly in the latter category. A collection of piano pieces written by Rogove and played ably by John Medeski (of Medeski, Martin and Wood), Piana fuses together a number of disparate song structures, each of which adds to a dominant mood of regret laced with hope for redemption. Veering deftly from tempo to tempo, from dirge to bolero to elegy, the album tracks the thoughts of a melancholic man who wants to know how to bury his mistakes. Upbeat tracks like “Jackyl” lend a manic edge to his musings, while eight-minute closer “Young Mountain” suggests his eventual resignation. All in all, it speaks to Rogove’s talents as a songwriter that Piana, despite its variety, communicates a singular loss.


Music January 16, 2012 By Thomas Beckwith

eos 1 The Weekndweeknd title The Weeknd
On the first two entries in his mixtape trilogy, the native Torontoan Abel Tesfaye turned the meaning of R & B on its head. In place of the easy nostrums and tear-the-house-down melismas given precedence by his forebears, Tesfaye wrote confessions of his menace, letting anyone who dared to think well of his lifestyle understand how degraded it can be. His capstone, Echoes of Silence, is the trilogy’s dark apotheosis – at times, you wonder if songs like “Initiation” are grounds for criminal charges. Lyrics like “I love it when your eyes are red” and “You probably went and fucked the world” betray his true intentions, while the work of his producer, Illangelo, obscures them with somnolent synth lines. It’s tempting to label him the Antichrist of R & B, but that undersells his accomplishment. As a heretic of modern nightlife, The Weeknd is making his own genre.

Music December 28, 2011 By Thomas Beckwith

cover6 The Antlersantlers title1 The Antlers
Calling a new Antlers record “mournful” is a bit misleading, if only because it implies that a listener might expect something different. On the 2008 LP that made their name, Hospice, the band made regret their M.O., turning strings of haunting chimes and vocals of hewn crystal into slow-cookers worthy of a send-off. Since then, they’ve honed their aesthetic, taking steps to make their latest, Burst Apart, a cleaner album than its forebear. Spritelier tracks like “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” and “French Exit” are leavened with a newfound optimism, the flipside of Hospice-era dirges like “Atrophy” and “Thirteen.” Uptick tempos and backing drum rolls lend a funk-laden snap to the bass lines, while the singer, Peter Silbermann, croons where he warbled in the past. None of these changes quite lift the album from its dominant mood of sorrow, but they do pepper the runtime with strategic moments of levity. You get the impression that whatever Silbermann’s lost, he knows he can win it back.
filler29 The Antlers

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Music December 8, 2011 By Thomas Beckwith

Boris Cover2 Boristitle75 Boris
Though hard-edged rock is what Boris is known for, their latest LP, Attention Please, is anything but abrasive. After making their name with sixteen albums of party anthems and head bangers, the Japanese trio have filed their edges and sought out a gentler aesthetic. They’ve promoted their willowy guitarist, Wata, to the position of lead singer, and they’ve used her ethereal vocals to form the backdrop to meditative fuzz. They’ve softened their guitars so they ring like choral voices, giving fare like “Aileron” and “Hope” the resonance of Pink Floyd melodies. Throughout the album, the quietest moments thrum with hints of menace, as though the band, after years of aggression, have stumbled upon melancholy and fear. But their roots are still intact – on throwbacks like “Tokyo Wonderland,” they rush like impatient teenagers. It’s tempting at times to fault the album for its lack of unity, but its chaos suggests that’s the point. Nothing says you’re versatile like showcasing two warring sounds.