ALBUM REVIEW: Of Montreal, Seal, The Twilight Sad, Metallica, Ultra Dance 13

Pop falters while rock and folk ascend to strong releases

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Of Montreal
Paralytic Stalks
Polyvinyl Records

Kevin Barnes and company get off to a wobbly start with “Geld Ascent” in OM’s new release. If static and feedback had a child, this would be it. It feels more like a shock move to explode the opening, but they fall back into the more familiar sound with second track “Spiteful Intervention.”
I never know what OM sings about, but they know how to create a song that’s feel good in sound and yet it’s never, ever dumbed down. They don’t write lyrics as much as they create eclectic odes set to music in tracks like “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” or “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission.” I wanna ask what the hell that means, but then I’m entertained to the point of forgetting my complaint and just want to groove along.

The thing is, it’s nothing new. OM delivers the energy, just more of the same. Quirky lyrics, falsetto breaks and confetti like puffs of music are much like what they’ve done in 2010’s False Priest or 2008’s Skeletal Lamping. I don’t want them to change their personality, but they’ve gone so off the chart with obscurity, they sound like they’ve gotten stuck there.

Two and half stars (out of five).

Seal
Soul 2
Reprise Records

The former Mr. Heidi Klum proves his voice is topnotch as he revisits soul classics again.. His voice is complementary to the covering of tracks by predecessors such as Gaye, Green and Pendergrass. The real question is why?

Seal’s voice is like comfort food. It’s easy to relish in and this sound works for him, but for a set of soul classics, the album is on automatic pilot. There’s nothing quite wrong with his rendition of “Love T.K.O.,” but he never sounded present in it.
There was also an immediate safeness to the album. The track selections are obvious like “Let’s Stay Together” or “What’s Going On” that plays uninspired.

He’s basically following the Rod Stewart reinvention strategy, but I’d rather hear Seal get back to his original stuff that was always an edgy alternative to contemporary pop.

Two and half stars.

The Twilight Sad
No One Can Ever Know
Fatcat Records

In their third full-release (six overall), these Scottish indie rockers deliver a grand episode of shoegazing. Singer James Graham’s thick accent is a character in itself, but strangely inviting. They head into darker territory, but opener “Alphabet” sets an inviting tone off the bat.

The move to a slightly harder sound is a wise one. They thrive with pumped up energy but don’t neglect their folkish sensibilities. Instead, it’s smartly elevated with these additional layers of sound.

Titles like “Sick,” “Dead City” and “Kill it in the Morning” sound depressing, but there is a wealth of strongly structured tunes that are engaging and cohesive. Even when they veer into Smiths territory with the dreamy “Don’t Look at Me,” they keep a strong sense of self and pull off a killer album.

Three and half stars.

Metallica
Beyond Magnetic EP
Warner Bros. Records

Released as an accompaniment to their 30thh anniversary concerts, this EP is a set of four songs recorded during their 2008 album sessions for Death Magnetic and is intentionally released in a more session style rather than high production value.
With signature guitar and drum rampages, Metallica doesn’t falter with first track, “Hate Train,” and its force is like a fist to the face. That’s a good thing. Skip over the annoying repetition of “Just a Bullet Away” (or listen to it below), but soak in and worship the muscularity of their chord action in “Hell and Back.” If this song were on Scruff, he’d be a haggard-faced muscle daddy still worthy of a “woof.”

Final track “Rebel Babylon” closes out this small chapter with Herculean strength and Hetfield just pushes his gritty vocals to the max and the band lays down the rock that requires either a head banging or a fist pumping — or maybe both at the same time.

Three stars.

Various Artists
Ultra Dance 13
Ultra

The grooves are in overdrive in this 13th volume of the popular dance compilation. Big names like Gaga, Britney Spears and Pitbull are placed next to budding dance DJ/producer tracks by Avicii and Calvin Harris. However, it left me asking, “Where’s the party?”

Remixes of Jason Derulo’s “It Girl” and Lady Gaga’s “You and I” never find their right footing and Danny Verde’s Gaga mix of her ballad stuck her vocals in peanut butter while the beat has left it behind.

The label was good to leave Spears’ “Til the World Ends” alone as it has enough weight to be a great party song and that chant alone needs no help. Such restraint is barely held through the rest of the album — and there are 24 tracks. Alexandra Stan’s “Mr. Saxobeat” doesn’t suffer much from its extended mix and is a fine listen that doesn’t beat into your head like a jackhammer.

Steve Aoki’s “Earthquakey People (The Sequel)” is absolute torture without remix, but it’s also representative of the album — soulless and pumped up without reason.

The other barely saving grace for this bit is deadmau5’s entry at the very end. “Raise Your Weapon” doesn’t rape your ears with a sonic force. It calms the energy but still goes into erratic directions that are fascinating. Otherwise, create your own dance mix if you need a party.

One and half stars.

(NOTE:This is a slightly longer version of the mix than on the album.)

—  Rich Lopez

MUSIC NEWS: Duffy, Natasha Bedingfield, Erasure, Hercules and Love Affair, Kylie Minogue, Daft Punk, ABBA, Deadmau5, plus five free mp3′s

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GuestbloggerMODERN TONIC

Modern Tonic — a free daily email delivering gay-approved pop culture gems before they get co-opted by everyone else — presents a weekly music update here on Towleroad.

RoadTODAY’S FEATURED NEW RELEASES:
 
EndlesslyAfter winning a Grammy® for her retro-fabulous debut Rockferry, Welsh singer Duffy doesn't stray far from her hit-making template on her follow-up Endlessly. Yet why should she? The highlights of her debut — the aching title track, the London tube-station inspired "Warwick Avenue," and the soul sparking "Mercy" — were guided with expert ears by the formed London Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. For Endlessly, Duffy recruited Albert Hammond of "It Never Rains in Southern California" fame (he's also the proud papa of the Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr.). Hammond brings Duffy's blue-eyed Motown soul into the early 70's and mines her sensitive vibrato for a gritty AM-radio vibe. The premiere single "Well, Well, Well," with backing from the Roots, could fit perfectly between Al Green's "Let’s Stay Together" and the Staple Singers' "I'll Take You There" on a 1972 radiocast. "My Boy" harkens to the danceable soft rock that predated disco. And the title track is a gorgeous ballad as languid and warm as a long summer's day. The Euro-disco of "Lovestruck" sounds like it floated over from Kylie Minogue's Aphrodite; a baffling misstep that mars an otherwise pristine collection.   
 
Natasha As good as Natasha Bedingfield's songs can be, she's always seemed a bit anonymous, one in a line of solid but undistinguished pop singers. But her third album, Strip Me, might change all that — not only does it play like a non-stop singles machine, it's infused with more personality than ever before. First single "Touch" — produced and co-written by veteran Steve Kipner (Christina's "Genie In a Bottle") — is a bottom-heavy pop rave with crossover club potential. The title track, co-written with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, has a mid-tempo beat so slinky you're likely to start removing your clothes before the end of the first chorus. And Swedish beat-master Andreas Kleerup steps out of his dance-friendly comfort zone to offer up the airy synth ballad "Break Thru." Bedingfield’s in great voice throughout — clear and gritty; if this is her stripped, we wouldn't mind if she got naked more often.


Towleroad December 7, 2010 by moderntonic.com

RoadMUSIC NEWS:
 
ErasureRoad Erasure has re-recorded "A Little Respect" with the youth chorus from the Hetrick-Martin Institute as a fundraiser for both the Institute (home of the Harvey Milk High School) and Cyndi Lauper's True Colors Fund. It's available now at digital outlets.

Road The worst album covers of 2010.

Road No U.S. release date for Hercules and Love Affair's sophomore album Blue Songs yet (it's out in Europe January 31). Listen to the album's lead single, "My House," here.

Road An early review of Michael Jackson's posthumous Michael, out next week: "Not as terrible as you may think. I mean, we're not saying it's good, but…"

Road Kylie Minogue has released a digital bundle featuring her cover of "Santa Baby" from a few years back, plus a brand new recording of "Let It Snow." Stream the new track in our player above.

Road Katy Perry joined Glee hottie Darren Criss for a few lines of "Teenage Dream" during a live a cappella performance (with the Warblers!) at a Trevor Project fundraiser in L.A. Sunday.

Tinadico Road MPFREE: We've got a great collection of free mp3's in our player today. In order: "Synchronize" by Discodeine (aka French producers Pentile and Pilooski) featuring vocals from Brit-pop legend Jarvis Cocker, out today on DFA Records; Album track "Love All Around" from songstress Tina Dico's seventh studio album, Welcome Back Colour (a collection of greatest hits and new acoustic recordings), out February 1; "Cover Your Tracks," the new single from Canadian indie rock/ethereal pop band Young Galaxy; and a cheerful slice of holiday pop called "California Christmas" from NYC-based Sleepy Rebels off their new album Bah! Humbug!; the Razor N Guido Bango mix of Austin, Texas dance siren Zayra's "Baby Likes To Bang" off her EP of the same name.

Road Adam Lambert on his Grammy nomination and the American Idol "stigma."

Road MORE NEW RELEASES:
 
Tron The dancing French robots of Daft Punk return for their sinister, bleak and ambient soundtrack to — mais oui!Tron: Legacy.

A hybrid documentary, Feist's Look At What the Light Did Now (DVD/CD) follows the journey of her Grammy®-nominated release The Reminder and includes live footage, videos and more.

ABBA — the Swedish Beatles — offer a remastered edition of Gold, including 19 classic hits and a DVD's worth of remastered videos for all the dancing queens on your holiday list. (Play an ABBA quiz here.)
 
Deadmau5 Though a giant mousehead is involved, it's not Disney World when Deadmau5 returns with 4×4=12, eleven fresh dance tracks that prove that it must be hard to multiply inside a hot and sweaty mask.

RoadMUSIC VIDEOS:

Sufjan Stevens — "Too Much"
To go with the experimental orchestral folksiness of his latest The Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens offers this pixilated, eye-popping video.

Darwin Deez — "DNA"
A couple dances through the end of their love from the kitchen to the outdoors to the bottom of a pool in New Yorker Darwin Deez's jumpy tune.

Edei — "Loved"
Twenty two-year-old Londoner Edei pines in her U.K. bedsit on this sweetly longing single — featuring the bass line from Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" — from her forthcoming, hotly anticipated 2011 debut.

Hurts — "All I Want for Christmas Is New Year's Day"
The dour Manchester duo Hurts forgoes the holiday blues by yearning for a bad year to end and a happy new one to begin. Lots of snow, a graveyard, an open grave, and a very Gothic vibe is attained.








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