Looking for new music? DJs at student-run radio station WVAU share their thoughts on a range of recent releases.
Family of Love EP
It’s easy to understand why people love to hate DOM. The band’s signature whiny vocals, elementary lyrics and generally obnoxious public presentation (see the WVAU website interview-trolling for a taste) can be alienating to even the most tolerant listener. But despite their best efforts to appear nonchalant and unapologetic, on their new Family of Love EP, DOM demonstrates their growth from blog band jokesters to relatively mature pop musicians.
Gone is the scrappy, lo-fi production, instead replaced by polished, clean tones and dense textures. The band layers playful synthesizers over multiple guitar tracks to great effect, utilizing producer Nicholas Vernhes’s (Bjork, Animal Collective) mixing genius. The record is straightforward pop to the core, with each bubblegum melody bouncing off of the next and sticking in your head for hours. All this is tied together by DOM’s signature snarky, sarcastic vocals, as lead singer Dom continues to wear his narcissism on his sleeve. “I don’t care about anyone else!” he sings in a shout-along chorus.
So while DOM still may be recording his music with a self-aware smirk on his face, the “Family of Love EP” is a perfectly crafted indie-pop masterpiece that is nothing to smirk about.
Recommended if you like: Ariel Pink, Army Navy, STRFKR
— Maxwell Tani
THE WAR ON DRUGS
The War on Drugs’s sophomore album comes in at an opportune time to make us remember that Americana is not dead. With “Slave Ambient,” this rapidly evolving band brings in some transcending guitar tunes and ambient sounds which are combined with lead singer Adam Granduciel’s enticing voice — bringing us right back to the Dylan/Springsteen times.
Although the band now consists of only three people, ex-member Kurt Vile’s influence remains very much present into this album as the synth, melodica and harmonica fuse together to accompany us through this nostalgic voyage. Shoegaze’s influence lingers, but it is the mixture of the band’s incisive songs and theme of new beginnings seen with “Best Night” and “It’s Your Destiny” that gives this album a refreshing sound.
Recommended if you like: Bruce Springsteen, Kurt Vile, Bob Dylan
— Carlo Fiorio
Veronica Falls (Slumberland)
It’s impossible to write any review of Veronica Falls without including the word “twee” about a hundred times. As if right off of the famous “C86” mixtape, this London-based quartet shows a penchant for jangly 1980s British indie pop, with a hint of ’60s garage rock and girl group harmonies. Each song follows the same lo-fi guitar, bass, minimal drums and guy-girl vocal approach with little deviation save the occasional distortion-heavy gallop displayed on the group’s first single “Come On Over.”
However, while this format may seem fairly overdone, the key to the band’s success lies in the simple, yet interesting songwriting. Each song is romantic and earnest, relying mostly on the strength of the vocal melodies to carry the songs. The group doesn’t do anything to reinvent the wheel here, but their solid debut promises more to come with time.
Recommended if you like: Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Vivian Girls, The Pastels
— Maxwell Tani
Dreams Come True
I blame Department of Eagles for misleading me into thinking that every Grizzly Bear side project sounded a lot like Grizzly Bear. This certainly not true for genius Producer (Morning Benders, Dirty Projectors, Twin Shadow) and Record Label Owner Chris Taylor’s debut solo album under the moniker CANT. Instead, “Dreams Come True” is a wave of dark, atmospheric haze and programmed electronic doom. The album, which is almost entirely programmed, is a complex arrangement of danceable beats, dystopian synths and harsh, distorted electronic soundscapes. And while its lightest moments are almost trancelike, the album is much more of a bad Radiohead trip or a nightmare soundtrack to Katheryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days.” Its brooding and darkly melodic synths are layered over dissonant bass reverb-steeped vocals. If you were expecting “Two Weeks” or “Excuses,” I would stay as far away from this record as possible. But if you are curious about what the year’s darkest, densest art-pop record of the year sounds like, give it a spin. Recommended if you like: Twin Shadow, (dark) Radiohead, Nicholas Jaar — maxwell tani
Out of Love
An indie supergroup featuring members of Islands, Man Man and Modest Mouse, Mister Heavenly have labeled themselves as “doom-wop,” a genre that explores ominous love songs with doo-wop harmonies. As Ryan Kattner and Nicholas Thornburn trade off vocals, the whole thing feels very natural and fun – It’s the definite sound of a few friends who really wanted to make a record together. Opener “Bronx Sniper” features a stomping riff derived from Neil Young’s “Southern Man,” while “Reggae Pie” rides a groove that could be mistaken for a Sublime B-side. Most memorable, however, are the pure pop tunes: “I Am a Hologram” is a mid-tempo rocker that piles on hook after hook, while “Pineapple Girl” features swirling organ and the best back-and-forth vocals of the album. Let’s hope this isn’t a one-time-only project. Recommended if you like: Islands, Telekinesis — Cameron Meindl
Earth Division EP (Slumberland)For any person that thinks post-rock is an easy genre to exhaust, listen to this EP and stare at your wall in contemplation for a few minutes. Although this EP takes on a similar feel and formula of other post-rock groups, there are several characteristics that make it distinct. Though the EP was basically the runoff from their most recent album, “Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will,” it takes on a distinct, strikingly dramatic personality. Strings and pianos are everywhere, layered with heavy fuzz and yet more subdued guitar riffs and lyrics. It’s not entirely a departure from the most recent album, but is more explorative in form and instrumentation. Recommended if you like: Explosions in the Sky, Do Make Say Think, A Silver Mount Zion — Clare Teeling