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

Best bets • 08.26.11

Friday 08.26

Don’t rec yourself
After completing the new member clinics on playing volleyball, virgin recreation level players in DIVA will put everything they learn to the test Friday night. Sure it’s nerve wracking to come into a new sport and have balls fly at you at so many miles per hour, but once that’s done, the rest of the season is a blast.

DEETS: Texas Advantage Sports, 4302 Buckingham Road, Fort Worth. 7:30 p.m. DivaDallas.org.

…………………

Sunday 08.28

What’s your identity?
Identity Festival, the first-ever exclusively electronic music tour, hits the Big D including queer faves Hercules and Love Affair, pictured, the neo-disco project from New York backed by gay DJ Andy Butler. Steve Aoki, The Crystal Method and Nervo also perform at the all-day event.

DEETS:  Gexa Energy Pavilion, 1818 First Ave. 1 p.m. $35. Ticketmaster.com..

………………..

Thursday 09.01

Theater king
TITAS brings in Broadway leading man Brian Stokes Mitchell for a one-night engagement. The Tony Award winner performs a night of songs proving he can carry a show well on his own.

DEETS: Winspear Opera House, 2403 Flora St. 8 p.m. $12–$200. TITAS.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Augus

—  Michael Stephens