In like a lion and out like a lamb
By Eva Bowering
The name “March” comes from ancient Rome’s God of War. It’s Women’s History Month; its flower is a daffodil; its birthstone is aquamarine. (I was also born in it, 23 years ago.) March, supposedly the start of spring, is known for its unpredictable ways, and we have certainly seen more of that than ever this year. Coming to the end of it, without seeing any spring-like weather at all, we have no choice but to remain stuck inside, with nothing better to do than listen to records. Could be worse, I suppose.
Neon Neon is the collaboration between Gruff Rhys (from the Super Furry Animals) and hip hop producer Boom Bip (aka Bryan Hollon). They first collaborated in 2005 on a Boom Bip project and then began recording their debut in 2006, though it wasn’t released until this year. The album was originally meant to revolve around the life of car maker John DeLorean. Somehow, it pulls it off, even with the hip hop orientation. It specifically reminisces early 80s new wave: it definitely reminds me of The Cars’ debut or Candy-O. Even a modern day Flock Of Seagulls, without the horrible hair cuts. Stainless Style follows suit with obligatory use of chrome and car porn on the cover. It replicates the sound so startlingly well, I bet most people could confuse this as a record from that era. Songs such as “Steel Your Girl,” “I Told Her On Alderran,” “Dream Girls,” and “Raquel” seem like experiments in mixing nostalgia and modernism. I adore the combination of Gruff Rhys’ experimental pop and the sharp-worded hip hop of Boom Bip. It’s obvious where the two styles separate, but overall they meld so incredibly well together. Stainless Style most definitely focuses on the superficiality of the ’80s, but as well as that highlights the shallowness of the era we’re living in now.
Andrew Butler began DJing at leather bars in his teens. Upon moving to New York, he immersed himself in club culture, the style of which is evident on his debut as Hercules and Love Affair. The album features great vocals by Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons) as well as Kim Ann Foxman and CocoRosie’s Nomi. This album takes the cake as best dance album thus far. It is highly disco-fueled; despite a couple more serious tracks, it is pure dance. The opener “Hercules Theme” will no doubt be spun overtime. My favorite is the first released single, “Blind,” which primarily focuses on Antony’s wavering vocals. It is funky and implausibly glamourous. No doubt something you could picture emitting from the ’70s. Like Neon Neon, Hercules and Love Affair have the amazing ability to mimic and recalculate an era most of us didn’t have the opportunity to live through (for better or worse). They’ve mastered the ability to transform these sounds and refashion the music of that time to now. This time we have the opportunity to love the sound as something fresh, not dusty.
Dodos formed originally in 2006 as Dodobird by Meric Long, a multi-instrumentalist based out of San Francisco. Soon after, a west coast artist named Logan Kroeber arrived, and they stuck together as Dodos. Whereas the original solo artists provided dance pop, Dodos offers an array of something else entirely: a blend of folk, rock, and noise. The easy comparisons include the Animal Collective — though I’m not an Animal Collective fan, which gets me some harsh reactions. But no more, because after trying wholeheartedly to like Animal Collective, I was rewarded with stumbling across the shining light that is Dodos.
Instead of being over-the-top, they never seem to try too hard. The focus is obviously on the drumming and instrumental guitar work of the two. Synths, horns, and other ghostly vocals take place throughout the record. Some may consider them too toned down, and perhaps somewhere they’re holding back, but I personally find perfection in their style. They manage to find a balance in their work: the ability to climax at certain points in their music, instead of so often that it becomes overbearing.
Lastly, I’ve come to my least favourite release of the month, that being Dan Bejar’s prolific endurance as Destroyer. Still reflecting his previous work, Destroyer’s Rubies, Bejar continues in full force to entertain with his intense vocal talents. I do love Dan’s voice; there is absolutely nothing like it. I was very much amused with Destroyer’s Rubies, as well as his work with Spencer Krug as Swan Lake. There is also a huge portion of myself that wants to love Destroyer, due to his mammoth amount of creativity and authenticity. And this really isn’t a bad album, but in my opinion, it is mediocre.
It’s the same route he always takes, only with even more nonsensical lyrics than before. The main problem is the fact that he always takes it a step too far, making it too unbelievable. There is some part of you that can’t help but laugh a bit at Dan Bejar going overboard. He overacts, to the point of ultimate obscurity. He ends up coming across as a goofy Bob Dylan. I just have this feeling that he could offer so much, music-wise, but he never truly gets his point across. If he stayed on track we would see sheer brilliance. There are touches of that everywhere in his music, but only for limited periods of time. There are points where you think to yourself, “This is astonishing.” But then he turns off that path and takes it down a dirty alleyway. He is definitely unpredictable. There’s no doubt in my mind that he could very well show us all up, but here we are, still waiting.