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In Review: Music
In Review: Music

In Review: Music

January 15th

When the Philadelphia-based Free Energy released their debut album in 2010, they came across as an almost preposterously feel good throwback to ’70s good-time rock that somehow—perhaps courtesy of producer James Murphy, of LCD Soundsystem fame—teetered on just the right side of parody. If the band has progressed in any way over the past three years, it is only slightly: Where Free Energy’s debut could’ve been released in 1976, their new album might have come out in 1979. Their producer this time around is John Agnello, who’s worked with Johns Cougar Mellencamp and Waite. Here, Agnello has bestowed a hazy, sunny glow on an album that probably should, by dint of its aural obsessions, be described as a “record.” Love Sign starts audaciously with “Electric Fever,” a song that keeps threatening to segue into Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.” Singer Paul Sprangers sounds joyous, like a man who can’t quite believe his own luck—while simultaneously hoping that BTO are either no longer alive or not willing to pursue legal action. The good vibes keep coming throughout the next nine tracks, each bereft of depth but full of melody, uplift, and life—an uncomplicated life at that. Sounding this likeable isn’t as easy as it seems, but Free Energy have got it down to a T. Likeable’s good. NICK DUERDEN

January 11th

After several years of what has seemed like an occasionally enforced ’70s, then ’80s renaissance, it is only right and proper—inevitable, really, a musical osmosis—that, for 2013, we now fast forward a decade on our endless quest for sonic nostalgia. Midnight Spin are an artfully dishevelled five-piece hailing from the same place every other band on the planet by law hails from these days (Brooklyn), and their debut album, Don’t Let Me Sleep, is highly redolent of five individuals that came of age just as the 1990s was finding its feet. It all revolves around the vocal histrionics of singer Michael Corbett, a man who clearly considers understatement a troublesome straitjacket. He possesses the kind of voice (beef-flavoured, if you had to label it) that strains for every note with demented fervour. And while he does his best tortured rock impersonation, all about him the music broods and grumbles during tentative introductory verses before exploding in both volume and intent for the choruses. Grunge unfolded in a largely similar way. Essentially, then, Midnight Spin bring precious little new to the table, but if what Don’t Let Me Sleep offers is ultimately second-hand, at least it’s good second-hand. Produced by Justin Gerrish (The Strokes, Weezer), it’s pretty commanding stuff, and occasionally even riveting, never more so than on “Mission Beach,” which sounds like the imaginary soundtrack to the scene in Apocalypse Now where Martin Sheen loses the plot in his hotel room, and kills a full-length mirror. By its climax, swirling Hammond organ crashing repeatedly into the drumkits’ cymbals, Corbett sounds like he’s on his knees with head in hands, veins throbbing. A little overindulgent? Definitely. Self-fulfilling artifice? Perhaps. But it makes a lot of the right noises. ND

January 22nd 

Hyped in their homeland as 2013’s Great White Hope, Peace are a bunch of noiseniks from Birmingham, U.K., who have already labeled themselves purveyors of “music to fuck you in the heart.” It’s something of a hollow boast, though: The heart remains largely unmolested over the course of their four-song debut EP. With its twitchy, jerky rhythms and African guitar, “Bloodshake” sounds like Vampire Weekend by way of Foals. But Vampire Weekend, frankly, do this sort of thing far better, and so do Foals. What is impressive about the quartet—whose singer, Harrison Koisser, has a readymade rock star name—is a tendency to experiment. The closing number, “Binary Finary,” is a 10-minute psychedelic wigout that suggests these guys might just be able to dance, too. A bit of rhythm injected into standard indie is never a bad thing, which is why “Oceans Eye” makes for a pretty arresting opener; it’s a sinewy, fluid two-minute thing that wants to be The Doors by way of The Verve back when they were still called Verve. Peace have got the ambition and the self-delusion. Now they need to work on transcending mere variations on what we’ve already heard before. ND

January 1st 

There must be something in the water in Copenhagen. A city which was once recognized almost exclusively for jazz and black metal has seen a recent explosion of punk, neo-psychedelia and, now the world’s newest lo-fi oddity, Younolovebunny. The moniker of Claus Frøhlich, Younolovebunny is a bizarre and frantically productive project from the artist based in Copenhagen’s farm country who’s reportedly written and recorded over 700 songs—enough material for 40 albums. For his debut EP, Happy Nation II is a tongue-pressed-firmly-in-cheek title referencing the sequel to Ace of Base’s 1993 single). The five tracks scour a number of genres—none of which happen to be dance pop. Opening track “Ozonomio” sounds like The Strokes covered a Wire B-side in a closet. “Attention” reaches a lo-fi middle-ground between The Ventures’ surf rock and Violent Femmes’ New Wave. The cleaving guitars of “My Life” are sweetened by the twee pop sentiment of “You said to me, you like me a lot/ And I said to you, ‘I like you a lot too/ We can play together all day long.’” Like lo-fi masters before him, Younolovebunny manages to be charming in spite of his own popular music self-sabotage. He challenges his listeners’ concept of traditional pop by burying catchy hooks or recognizable progressions in underproduction and discordant samples. Happy Nation II is a mere snippet of Frøhlich’s work, but it’s clear given his extensive portfolio that he won’t be a blip on the 4-track radar. EVAN BROWN