Five Quality Tracks: August 2017

 

1. Grizzly Bear: “Mourning Sound”

The kind of indie rock that was popular from about 2007 to 2011 has fallen out of favor with a lot of music critics nowadays, and the new Grizzly Bear album, Painted Ruins is the latest to fall prey to a lukewarm reception. That’s a shame, because Painted Ruins is a gorgeous work of art, beautiful in its many intricacies. The record as a whole takes some time to reveal itself, but the most immediate track of the bunch is “Mourning Sound.” The song relies on a nice, plodding, round bass line, with countless other instruments adorning it. I wouldn’t be able to name all the instruments on here if my life depended on it — definitely a bunch of different types of synths and guitars, but is that a harp? A harpsichord? Flutes? It’s hard to tell, but they all weave together to form a tapestry of beautiful (mourning) sound.

 
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Five Quality Tracks: March 2016

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It’s an indie rock/pop kind of month! Except for Kendrick.

1. Car Seat Headrest: “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”

Car Seat Headrest is my current obsession. The band’s mastermind, Will Toledo, has been making home-recorded music since 2010, but after almost 6 years, he’s finally getting some much-deserved attention. Last year’s Teens of Style was #17 on my Best Albums of 2015 list, but after listening to it a lot over the past month or so, I regret placing it so low. In retrospect, it was one of the 5 best albums of last year. Despite the record’s lo-fi, muddled production, Toledo’s songwriting ability and knack for melody still shone through (especially on “Times to Die”).

In May, Car Seat Headrest will release Teens of Denial, the follow-up to Teens of Style, and I can’t freaking wait. With recognition comes access to a real recording studio, and Toledo is taking full advantage on his new singles. He first released the 8-minute epic “Vincent”, but then topped it with “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales.” It’s a sobering song that compares drunk drivers to, you guessed it, killer whales, but it doesn’t do so in any kind of preachy way. Toledo makes his faults and rationalizations abundantly clear, but advocates the song’s subject to listen to the voice in your head: “But you know he loves you, and he doesn’t mean to cause you pain. Please listen to him, it’s not too late. Turn off the engine, get out of the car, and start to walk.” The music itself is powerful — it’s pretty by-the-book indie rock, but so well-executed, paced perfectly, and with an excellent melody. Toledo’s voice is like a cross between Julian Casablancas of the Strokes and Ray Davies of the Kinks. With some people, you can instantly tell whether they have that certain songwriting “spark” — the spark that takes what could be “good” songs to “great, stay-in-your-head” type songs. Toledo has that spark.

 
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