Thursday, February 15, 2007

Let's Go Eclectic

I don't pretend to know a whole lot about electronic, techno, house, et al. Usually, I hear something randomly and I either think it's crap and don't understand its appeal, or end up liking something because it's easily accessible. Neither of those things really apply in the case of The Knife's Silent Shout - widely considered one of the best albums of 2006.

I was skeptical from the beginning about this record. I downloaded it after seeing it's high rating on Pitchfork and it sat in iTunes unplayed for months. I need the mood to strike, and how would I even know what that mood was when I had no idea what this album would sound like. The brother and sister duo (Olof and Karin Dreijer) from Stockholm, Sweden "take inspiration from vintage synth pop and forward-thinking electronic music, crafting a sound that is equally unsettling, playful, and beautiful." From what I understand the previous work of this duo is much easier to get into and has poppier tendencies.

I found that after a few listening sessions I enjoyed Silent Shout more and more. It took a couple times through for my ear to adjust and tune into the various layers of sound produced by The Knife. Karin's vocals are unique - to say the least. Not only does she sound unlike any female singer (outside of Bjork) her voice is "treated as another instrument in the arrangements, they're layered, pitch-shifted, and tweaked until there's almost nothing left but tones and emotions." If you want quick hits listen to "Silent Shout," "We Share Our Mother's Health," "Marble House," and "Like A Pen."

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Kooks Ain't So Kooky

The Kooks single "Naive" is nice and catchy till you've heard it a few hundred times on Indie 103.1 like I have here in L.A. What's maybe even more surprising is the fact that the whole album is quite good. Listening to it all the way through, I kept waiting to here the "Naive" so I could skip to the next track. Normally the single is towards the front of the track list, but you won't find "Naive" till track 9. So, while I'm waiting to skip the track I've already heard I tune my ears into The Kooks brand of Indie Pop Rock.

From the first notes of "Seaside" I know that this band could be more than ordinary. The first track eases you into the record with its simple acoustic sing-songy approach. It's a song that could have been written in an afternoon sitting on deck overlooking the ocean. It's earnest, simple and gives a quick glimpse to guitarist/vocalist Luke Pritchard's range and style. It's playful, yet confidant. The second track "See the World" is where things shift to the Rock/Pop I was referring to. As it begins with a reverb riff that sounds like a sporting event chant of "Let's Go Blah Blah Blah..." if you follow. Either way, it brings the energy and really jump starts the album. It's worth mentioning that there is only one track longer than 3:40, and it's the worst song on the album "Time Awaits."

The Kooks are amazingly well-formed for a band that has only been together for a couple years. Their energy and passion come through when they're whipping through songs in 2-3 minutes. The good tracks are like lightning in a bottle. Short bursts of Pop Rock that keeps your attention for just the right amount of time and then ready to enjoy again. The tracks that really standout are "Eddie's Gun," "Ooh La," "If Only," and "Jackie Big Tits." These are just a few, and I'd say the majority of the tracks would fit on the radio, but clearly "Naive" is the most radio-ready.

If I had to compare the band to another current one I suppose it would be Arctic Monkeys for their energy, but that is almost like an insult to The Kooks. One of the things I like most about the album is the way they alternate between acoustic and electric guitars depending on what they want for the song. The twin acoustic approach isn't something you hear a lot at the moment from bands and it's refreshing and really makes you appreciate the guitar playing technique and acumen. Overall, this album was only surprising because the single currently playing on the radio had such a quick rise to popularity.