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
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.
(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
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.