Welcome to another edition of Sound Bites, our economy-sized album reviews. This week, Nick Hall weighs in on recent releases from Grand Archives, Yo La Tengo, The Big Pink, Girls and Taken By Trees after the jump.
Grand Archives, Keep in Mind Frankenstein (Sub Pop). With Keep in Mind Frankenstein, Grand Archives has created an album of blissful yet sedate folk pop that hints at sunny melodies yet never comes fully out of the darkness, creating beautiful patterns of dappled light and living shadow. Multi-part vocals flit through each track, adding texture to the staid proceedings.
Yo La Tengo, Popular Songs (Matador). Likely the perfect document of a near perfect band, this album does more than most to reveal the amazingly flexible musicianship that defines YLT. Funky soul, crooning R&B gems, contemplative adult pop, and a bit of skronky bliss just offer a few highlights from a band that knows music so well that its entire oeuvre listens like a living fakebook.
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The Big Pink, A History of Love (4AD). Vaguely lo-fi yet triumphantly anthemic shoegaze with one hell of a pulse, from a couple of Brit-Pop apologists hell bent on proving the movement wasn't as vapid and anemic as rock history would have us believe. Tracks like the simple and simply brilliant "Dominos" write that revisionist history exceptionally well.
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Girls, Album (True Panther Sounds). Bay Area rockers Girls have found a suitable moniker for their mushily emotional sunshine pop, which chimes brightly enough to make you forget how damn fey the lyrics can be. The ultimate vibe is uplifting and breathless, even though many of the tracks seem like they must have been written immediately after a series of truly bad breakups.
Taken by Trees, East of Eden (Rough Trade US). Recorded in Pakistan, Taken by Trees' second full length bears the exotic mark of its locale. At once surprising and comforting, Bergsman incorporates the influence of her surroundings with the restrained folk pop she perfected on Open Field. Unbearably lush and hauntingly sparse by turns, it makes its Pakistani influence seem more immediate and recognizable, even while its more traditional elements become almost alienating.