Album Picks: Daniel Rossen, Julia Holter, The Men, Tanlines

Posted by Billy Gil, March 20, 2012 02:20pm | Post a Comment

daniel rossen silent hour/golden mileDaniel Rossen’s Silent Hour/Golden Mile EP came out today, and true to form for Grizzly Bear’s Rossen, it doesn’t disappoint. Though he’s perhaps the lesser-known entity of Grizzly Bear (the other being gravy-voiced Ed Droste), everything Rossen has released to this point, both within the band (his gorgeous “Deep Blue Sea," for instance”) or without it (as part of Department of Eagles) has born an unmistakable stamp. It’s a tribute to his talent that you can say that without being able to describe just what that stamp is. It’s a certain mysteriousness that is part of what makes Grizzly Bear so alluring, where you’re very much hearing folk-rock with a kind of doo-wop vocal delivery — sounds simple enough — but everything is curiously out of reach. Lyrics are more suggestive than descriptive, intimating nostalgia and loss without really being forthright about it, and arrangements tend to spiral out rather than circle back to where they’ve started. Silent Hour/Golden Mile is actually more direct than some of Rossen’s other work. “Up On High” wouldn’t be out of place on a Grizzly Bear album, while “Silent Song” and “Golden Mile” are relatively straightforward rock songs that still spin off from typical construction, with spindly guitars and high, cooing vocals that remind me a bit of mid-period Radiohead without actually sounding anything like that. Both songs also benefit from hummable moments — not something Rossen is always known for — as well as the kind of high, lap steel guitar lines found famously in Santo & Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” or George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord.” At five songs, Silent Hour/Golden Mile leaves you wanting for much more, which I’m guessing we’ll get in the form of the next Grizzly Bear or Department of Eagles album, but the EP is far from a departure or indulgence. It’s more like a treat, an appetizer for something bigger.

the men open your heartThe Men’s Open Your Heart is really a lot of fun, a fast-paced post-hardcore album for people who don’t really care much for/about hardcore (i.e. me). It builds on the promise of last year’s Leave Home and adds more beatific instrumental passages like “Country Song” (super tremoloed guitars and reverbed out Southern Rock riffs, I guess that could qualify as “country”) and “Oscillation,” which flirts hard with shoegaze and krautrock before moving into a heavy ass hardcore bridge with spoken word vocals lain overhead. But those moments are the minority to tons of catchy riffage — the power-pop of “Turn It Around,” growling punk of “Animal” and Isn’t Anything era My Bloody Valentine (there’s that shoegaze again!) of “Please Don’t Go Away.” Like Fucked Up now or … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead before them, The Men refuse to be pigeonholed but delivery something a lot of us need to hear now and then — fast, hard rock ‘n’ roll.

Julia Holter EkstasisOn a completely different note, L.A. artist Julia Holter’s Ekstasis satisfies the other part of the brain, delivering brainy bedroom pop that isn’t as concerned with the typical notion of “pop,” shaking you into submission with hooks. It’s actually rather insidious, as Holter’s melodies crawl over one another and beat through your bloodstream. Every listen to Ekstasis produces new footholds to appreciate these songs on a purely guttural level — her lovely, hot-and-cold voice, a rich array of keys and synths a la cohort Ariel Pink, and melodies that you struggle to place in terms of precedence, from Kate Bush-style theatricality (“Marienbad”) to vaguely Asiatic dream-pop (“Our Sorrows,” “In the Same Room”). Even when you think she’ll go easy and deliver a four-minute indie pop song — “In the Same Room” certainly starts in the same realm as any number of 4AD artists — she veers off into a more experimental field — in the case of this song, everything gets deconstructed, sans its one-two beat, where her singsongy melodies suddenly become alien and unsettling. The thought of perhaps deliberately intellectual pop with no easy RIYL artists to pinpoint — Laurie Anderson comes up more in concept, and because of those mechanical “ah ahs” in “Marienbad” definitely are reminiscent of “O Superman” — might scare off some. But stick with it and Ekstasis is a rewardingly rich and detailed listen that ends up as addictive as any number of easier-to-digest artists. Check her out at Amoeba Hollywood tonight at 7 p.m. and check back with PST for an interview with Holter.

Tanlines Mixed EmotionsSometimes, though, you just need to eat a whole bag of gummy bears, which is exactly what TanlinesMixed Emotions, out today, is like. From lo-fi post-punk goodness (“Green Grass”) to the kind of adult love songs with tribal underpinnings (“Abby”) and afro-pop-inspired tunes (“Yes Way”) that Vampire Weekend, Phoenix and Cut Copy do so well, Mixed Emotions manages to sound like a lot of music you like while sounding less like a rehash and more like another angle at similar influences. Good luck getting “All of Me” out of your head.

Relevant Tags

Ariel Pink (32), Kate Bush (20), Julia Holter (22), Fucked Up (7), My Bloody Valentine (33), The Men (2), Department Of Eagles (1), Daniel Rossen (1), Grizzly Bear (7), Tanlines (9), Vampire Weekend (13), Phoenix (6), Cut Copy (5)