Album Picks: Atlas Sound, Blouse, Tom Waits

Posted by Billy Gil, November 9, 2011 02:00pm | Post a Comment
My favorite releases of the past few weeks, although I've also been spinning Era Extraña by Neon Indian nonstop lately, get that shite if you haven't yet!

atlas sound parallaxAtlas Sound - Parallax

“Found money and fame/But I found them really lame” Atlas Sound's Bradford Cox says at the outset of his latest release, Parallax. As an ambient-minded artist who also supplies his talents to a more overarching rock band (Deerhunter), Atlas Sound is usually an outlet for Cox's more spectral, less effusive leanings. But, judging by that line, the album cover depicting him as some rockabilly crooner and the still very pop-structured songs on Parallax, Cox doesn't hide his personality behind noise and indechipherable vocals, as some of his contemporaries do. Rather, Atlas Sound seems to be a venue for Cox to try out difference guises — the electro-calypso of “Te Amo,” the, okay yes, croony and swoony “Mona Lisa” and the voiceless but not persona-free ambience of tracks like “Quark Part 1” and “Part 2,” which close out the album on dreamy notes of fluttering piano and gurgling synths, creating a sort of auditory representation of a beautiful aquatic landscape. But mostly, Parallax sounds very much like Cox, with his trademark three-to-four-chord choruses and ability to sneak in clever lines and noisey details where you least expect them.

Blouse - Blouse

Blouse's self-titled debut is a codeine-wrapped post-punk delicacy. Their influences lie between the dour goth of early Cure and pop smarts of Berlin, fitting alongside swoony electro-pop bands like College, Puro Instinct and The XX (single “Into Black” is a darker cousin to that band), but with more of an air of coolness, and less preciousness. “Firestarter” may share its name with a Prodigy song, but its swaying melody and spare electronics make for a melancholic affair. Meanwhile, the band picks things up for “Time Travel,” a new wave jam that strongly vibes The Cure's “A Forest,” and especially “Videotapes,” a bleary-eyed love song with the best distorted synths this side of Ariel Pink.

tom waits bad as meTom Waits - Bad as Me

Tom Waits is back with an album as devilishly, perversely entertaining as to stand with his strongest work, his best since 1999's Mule Variations. Now nearly 62 and on his 17th album, time hasn't mellowed Waits at all; even the slower songs here, like “Talking at the Same Time,” have a certain wicked menace that Waits clearly is thrilled to be employing once again after years off from releasing an album. His throaty woof still can make the most mundane phrase (“Get Lost's” refrain “Think about what you're gonna tell your boss!” sounds like a death threat), and his band kicks up noirish, midnight-cabaret Americana with mean, tight fury, muscling through tough jams like the title track and prickly ballads like fireside come-on “Kiss Me” (in which Waits croons through his teeth “kiss me like a stranger once again”) with equal abandon.

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Tom Waits (16), Blouse (9), Atlas Sound (6), Neon Indian (8), Album Picks (146)