Thursday, June 26, 2014

Listen up: Voices by Phantogram

Big beats and big guitars. You can't get much better than that. Phantogram is an electro-rock duo from New York state, and they produce a big sound for only two people. Sarah Barthel handles the vocals, and she does so with power. While two other tracks initially caught my attention (Howling at the Moon and Bad Dreams), their single Fall In Love is catchy and completely exemplary of the band's sound, so if you like this single, you'll enjoy the entire album. Phantogram remind me of M83, with their fairly seamless integration of electronic elements. Also one of their tracks is titled Bill Murray - so there's that in their favor. It's a good one for listening to in the car, loudly.

Voices by Phantogram
Find it in the catalog!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Audio Obsession: Lost in the Dream by the War on Drugs

Lost in the Dream by the War on Drugs (2014).
Find it in the catalog!

This album has been on permanent repeat in my car since it came out in March.  I’ve been a fan of the War on Drugs since their 2011 album, Slave Ambient.  The band has a dreamy, sprawling sound that makes for excellent road music.  Additionally, I’m a huge sucker for break-up albums, which Lost in the Dream sort of is.  However, singer Adam Granduciel’s lyrical angst and anxiety span far beyond just the fate of one relationship.

A mixture of shoegaze and classic rock (think: Springsteen and Dylan), the War on Drugs has a sound that is familiar, but more expansive and distinctive.  Sort of like comfort food listening for the perpetually anxious.  Philadelphia guitarist Kurt Vile used to be a member of the band, and he’s probably the best touchstone for their sound.  However, Vile’s solo albums tend to be less complex and more upbeat.  Lost in the Dream incorporates a variety of sounds (synth riffs, horn blasts, discordant noise) into its guitar and drum driven propulsion forward.  Adam Granduciel’s voice is noticeably less Dylanesque here than on the band’s two previous album; which as much as I adore Dylan, is a nice change.  It makes his voice less distracting and blends-in better with the sound of the band’s music.

Overall, this is definitely my favorite album by the War on Drugs to date, and my favorite album of the year so far.  Stand out tracks for me include: “An Ocean Between the Waves,” “Suffering,”  the titular track “Lost in the Dream” and closer “In Reverse.”  Though all of the tracks on the album are enjoyable.  If you are planning on going on a road trip this summer, this album (or really anything by the War on Drugs) would make an excellent soundtrack!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Must-See Miniseries: The Hour

The Hour (2011).  
The Hour. Season 2 (2013). 

If you are looking for something new to watch now that most of the network TV shows have ended for the summer, check out the BBC miniseries The Hour.  Set in mid-1950s in London The Hour is about the creation of an current affairs news show for the BBC.   Hardscrabble journalist Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) is tired of his job covering entertainment news (which he views as beneath him).  Lucky for him, his best friend/ creative partner Bel Rowley (Romola Garai) is recruited by their mentor Clarence Fendley (Anton Lesser) to help produce a brand new news program called The Hour.  Clarence decides on the upper-class, handsome news anchor Hector Madden (Dominic West aka. McNulty from the Wire) to host the program. 

The Hour is full of Cold War paranoia and intrigue, yet the stories covered have clear parallels to modern day.  As a huge Broadcast News fan,  I really enjoyed the love triangle plot between Freddie, Bel, and Hector.  There's definitely a clearer choice here than in Broadcast News, but it was nice to see a more sympathetic portrayal of the Aaron Altman character.  Garai, Whishaw and West all give excellent performances. I particularly enjoyed the chemistry between Garai and Whishaw as friends in the first season.  It was interesting to see West with his native British accent, since my main exposure to him was on the Wire.  He definitely comes off as far more gentlemanly than Jimmy McNulty.  I was also interested in the 1950s fashion aspect of the show.  Whishaw looks even cuter than usual in his tweed business wear, and Garai's wardrobe had me perusing Boden USA for similar styles of dresses.  Check it out!