Friday, April 25, 2008

Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell

Tokyo Police Club’s EP A Lesson In Crime is still one of the first pieces of music I put my hands on when I just feel the need for a good time. There is just something about short songs that have so much energy in them that they are like caffeine in musical format. Their latest release (and first full length album released on Saddle Creek) follows quickly in its footsteps. The best part about Elephant Shell is the clear growth that has come along with the band, while not losing the pop that sucked me in at the start.

With Josh Hook laying guitar riffs that sound like they were lifted straight out of Albert Hammond, Jr’s mind, the bright guitar is sort of like that junior high school friend you had that you lost touch with for a while but quickly remember why you were friends in the first place. These fast pace guitar riffs coexist with the continued motif of thick bass lines and heavy drum beats that bounce you to and fro. Keyboards provide a texture to the sound helping it exist in the context of where Indie Pop is today. All of this is layered with Dave Monks high pitched and distinct vocals that really give the sound the edge it needs to stand out.

The album as a whole moves fast. As soon as you start it, it seems to end all too suddenly. This wholly makes sense when you take a second and look at the track length listings. While the album contains a full helping of 11 tracks, only one clocks in at over 3 minutes long. Luckily enough, this happens to be one of the best tracks on the album “Your English is Good.” On this track, TPC go back to the choral type chant that appeared on A Lesson In Crime. Once sucked in by the chanting of “Oh, give us your vote / give us your vote / if you know / what’s good for you” over a simple click of drum sticks and bouncing keyboard lines, the full song comes in true TPC style. With lyrics like “And until the tramp finds Christ / Injustice is my middle name,” you have to sit and wonder how something that has you dancing so gleefully can also exist with a dark side.

The only unfortunate piece of Tokyo Police Club’s latest work is the Limited Edition Bonus Remix Disc that came with it. It seems hard to imagine that an original song that would make you want to dance could be remixed into a song that makes you want to press stop. Maybe its just this hipster alone, but I don’t see where they were going with these, and are thankful they came on a separate disc from the actual album.

MP3: Your English is Good

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hallelujah The Hills - Prepare To Qualify

Occasionally, you come across a band that you feel has something truly special. Then you as soon as you found it that music is torn from you. You sulk. You cry (ok, maybe not everyone does). And you continue your search. Once in rare blue moon, that music comes back, though maybe not with the same name or band members, but the magic is still there. You rejoice.

This epic trial was exactly how my relationship with Hallelujah the Hills began. In the summer of 2005, I stumbled upon a band out of Boston called The Stairs. After surviving a week off of the limited songs I could find online, I purchased their album. The album lived in my cd player. Song after song, On Sleep Lab became a piece in the standard rotation of my life. Then it came, the obituary clipping via a bulletin online, telling me my new found staple would be closing up shop, just shortly after I had discovered them. And yes, I sulked, I cried, and I told everyone who could care less about my loss. I continued to listen to the album, but it was not the same

Then sometime later, I received another online bulletin from Hallelujah the Hills. Who? I did not know this band. Glancing over their information, it quickly became clearer. My heart raced. I rejoiced. HALLELUJAH! The Stairs had returned, or should I say Hallelujah the Hills had been born. The new songs grabbed me, and held me tighter than before. I ordered their full length freshman effort Collective Psychosis Begone. Track by track I discovered that HtH had surpassed what I could have expected. With the conglomeration of instruments, carefully crafted clever lyrics, and pop sense with an edge, songs such as "Wave Backwards To Massachusetts" and "Hallelujah The Hills" made it on mix cds for everyone I thought would care, and some I didn't think would.

HtH's latest release is an interesting one. A band that has gained so much regional success and making the push to become national players have just released Prepare to Qualify for free. Though only an EP, it is still a special piece. After a few solid listen throughs, the song that grabs me like much previously mentioned tracks do is "Nurses 5 Float Past." The clever lyrics still exist throughout, instruments still enter songs at just the right moment and leave in the same graceful fashion as before. This is a great pop Indie album, the kind of album you can put on a party where no one else had heard of them and everyone catches on, without out it sounding too familiar.

Be sure to grab your digital copy of this free EP, and prepare yourself for an adventure that will remind you of road trips as a child with your family - familiarity of your little brothers chatter in a new context, road noise as cars pass that change the usual patterns, and those quirky sayings from the off the wall gas station worker that seems to be in every town you stop - all wrapped up in a musical package that does more than deliver; it steers the ship.

MP3: Nurses 5 Float Past