This post is a translation of the second part in a series of music reviews by my best friend Vũ Lâm Đại (Ki) and his friend Syka Lê Vy (Ka) on their Facebook accounts.
Original review in Vietnamese by Vu Lam Dai, English translation by Mai.
Instruction: turn UP the volume.
Link to Youtube Playlist (Length: 14 tracks – 1:00:48)
James Blake – I Never Learnt To Share [James Blake (2011)]: definitely a must-play of the year. After a series of applauded EPs last year, this young man seems to never run out of ideas. The vocal is pushed to the center, not too showy but voluptuous, and carefully autotuned to perfection. The lyrics, the flesh and skin coating the musical frame, is also minimized. I Never Learnt To Share is a focus of the album. It’d be hard to find another social pop track that can capture the audience for a full 5 minutes with merely 2 sentences.
Lykke Li – Jerome [Wounded Rhymes (2011)]: our little lady from Sweden has cast off her sweet image in Youth Novels to become more strident and emotional. The former shy, gutteral voice, which reminds much of the fellow Swedish Stina Nordenstamm, has turned more straightforward and attractive than ever. The album also shows Li’s rich creativity that reflects different aspects of love, sex, and pain in a beautiful personality. To those who favor Duffy or Adele, Lykke Li will be a tasteful change.
John Maus – Quantum Leap [We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves (2011)]: a single in the third album by John Maus, who once cooperated with Panda Bear and Ariel Pink. A mix between the austere bass and the vocal, the song is an earthy but enchanting pop work.
Planningtorock – Doorway : an impressive song belonging to the dark electronic category to remind one of Fever Ray or The Knife with the album Silent Shout. Could it be that Janine Rostron, aka Planningtorock, has been affected by last year’s collaboration with The Knife?
Nicolas Jaar – Too Many Kids Finding Rain In The Dust [Space Is Only Noise (2011)]: an electronic album with ambient air, a laden soul and flashing mysteries that brings to mind the sex thrillers of the early 90s, like „Keep Me There“. Too Many Kids, like the other tracks in the album, is not an electronic sound circus overloaded with effects. It might even be too modest. But the listeners will always be able to see something new each time they reload the tune.
Kurt Vile – Jesus Fever [Smoke Ring For My Halo (2011)]: this type of psych-folk from Kurt will bring up visions of Polaroid photographs seemingly glossed by a layer of cigarette smoke. Some people might be allergic to Kurt’s viscous voice at first, but it will grow on you, and above all, it blends harmoniously into the musical ambiance he creates. Jesus Fever is just one of the many pleasant tracks in this album.
Solar Bears – Cub [(Keep Shelly in Athens Remix (2011)]: a dramatic, fulfilling remix, not quite club dance material. It’d be more appropriate to shut your eyes and let the tunes blanket your senses.
Thao & Mirah feat. tUnE-YarDs – Eleven [Thao & Mirah (2011)]: this is a collaboration between a Vietnamese girl, Thao Nguyen, and a Jewish girl, Mirah. Eleven is loud, messy, cheerful, with tUnE-YarDs’ signature beat, promising an upcoming album in April filled with livelihood and summer breeze.
Burial, Four Tet & Thom Yorke* – Mirror [Ego-Mirror 12“ (2011)]: those who like British electronic would jump in joy at this rare combination. Each individual’s fingerprint is distinguishable: the beat by Burial, the samples by Four Tet, and of course, the vocal by Yorke; but instead of a stuffy feeling, the combination of these elements gives its audience plenty of room to blend into 6 minutes of solid and satisfying harmony. (*For those who don’t know, Thom Yorke is the frontman of the famous British band Radiohead.)
Bibio – Lovers’ Carvings [Ambivalence Avenue (2009)]: possibly the ear candy of this month’s mixtape, the song opens with a swinging guitar tune like a lullaby, then shifts into a bit of percussion, vocal and hand clapping. Not too climatic but sugary. Bibio’s new album, Mind Bokeh, will hit the market at the end of March.
The Dodos – Going Under [No Color (2011)]: after the pop-ified Time to Die hurriedly released in 2009, The Dodos has retrieved their vigor with No Color. Not a breakthrough like The Visiter (2008), this album is still more than enough to please the ears with loud, hearty, lively rhythms. Hardly any band these days could play folk with such fire.
Gold Panda – Marriage [Lucky Shiner (2010)]: Although British electronic as a whole is taking shape as a distinctive genre, each electronic artist is still seeking his own path. Some of them, like Gold Panda and Star Slinger, choose not to break through but follow instead the more familiar, friendlier notes with new elements woven in. At first, Lucky Shiner might sound too ordinary, but sometimes when we need to relax our muscles and dangle to a tune, this album shines.
Panda Bear – Last Night At The Jetty [Tomboy (2011)]: yet another panda bear. When you think of psychedelic pop in its literal sense, you will think of Panda Bear and his band, Animal Collective, also my favorite. His new album, Tomboy, will be released in April. Yay for not having to wait for too much longer.
The Radio Dept. – Where Damage Isn’t Already Done [Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 (2011)]: It’s a pity that an indie pop band like The Radio Dept. has not attained the proper fame it deserves after 15 active years. But anyone who has seen Marie Antoinette by Sophia Coppola has surely heard their songs: Pulling Our Weight and Keen On Boys to name a few. Where Damage Isn’t Already Done is a good little track to give us a vignette of the unchanging but un-aging style of the band in its last ten years.
After listening three times, the top four go to:
1. Jerome by Lykke Li
2. Going Under by The Dodos
3. Quantum Leap by John Maus, and Marriage by Gold Panda
Ka’s Picks of March are more crystalline and upbeat than Ki’s Picks, with the exception of Cub. Ki’s Picks have turned louder over the years, but still a bit messy; the emotions are cast around too frivolously to abut the ears. To which Dai replied, “it’s the emotion of someone who just finished one month and a half of exams, my dear.”