LCD Soundsystem “American Dream” Album Review + Music Videos…

LCD Soundsystem

American Dream – Cassette // CD // DD // Vinyl

Colombia // DFA Records – released September 1, 2017

Reviewed by Zachary “+Norway+” Turner

 

Lineup:
James Murphy – Vocals & almost everything except…
Pat Mahoney – drums (tracks 5, 9), vocals (track 9)
Nancy Whang – vocals (track 2)
Tyler Pope – bass guitar (track 4)

Al Doyle – piano (tracks 3, 9, 10), Korg PS-3100 (tracks 3, 9), guitar (tracks 6, 7), vocals (tracks 7, 8), Yamaha CS01 (track 3), snake guitar (track 4), cello (track 5), bowed mandolin (track 5), congas (track 5), Synare (track 6), vocoder controller (track 6), Roland SH-5 (track 6), Korg Delta (track 7), Oberheim OB-3 (track 8),
Gavin Rayna Russom – arpeggiated Roland Jupiter-4 (track 5), Korg MS-20 (track 9), Oberheim SEM (track 9), vocals (track 9)
Matt Thornley
Korey Richey – vocals (tracks 2, 7–9), snaps (track 8)
Matt Shaw – Yamaha CS-60 (track 1)
Riley MacIntyre – snaps (track 8)

Tracklist:
“Oh Baby” 5:49
“Other Voices” 6:43
“I Used To” 5:32
“Change Yr Mind” 4:57
“How Do You Sleep?” 9:12
“Tonite” 5:47
“Call the Police” 6:58
“American Dream” 6:06
“Emotional Haircut” 5:29
“Black Screen” 12:05
Japanese edition and digital re-release bonus track
“Pulse (v.1)” 13:42

History:
“American Dream” is LCD’s first studio album in seven years. (The last was 2010’s This is Happening.) This is also a reunion album after the split in April of 2011 after their farewell concert at Madison Square Garden.

LCD Soundsystem Live at Madison Square Garden, NYC in 2011

American Dream is the second longest studio album by the band. It is also the most polished sounding of the band’s releases. “The album’s lyrics deal with depression, social issues, fear, and ending of friendship and love.” The sound is also is a mix of Dance, Disco, New Wave, Punk, Synthpop, and Rock. (Like a mix of their past albums with a refinement of the sound mixture that James has since made his own)

Track-by-track:

“Oh Baby” – Starts off with a constant metallic clang and layers are slowly added in, like drums and a bass synth, after a minute we get the first words. “Oh Baby” despite up tempo beats the song becomes melancholy. He asked to be awakened by his lover.

“Other Voices” – This track is very Talking Heads-y; the bass line is very funky. “Your still a pushover for passionate people” is one of the phrases that is repeated throughout the track

“I Used To” – Is another Talking heads sounding song.

“Change Yr Mind” – A strange mix of some industrial sounding beats a dance bass, the bellowing of an out-of-tune guitar tones and post-punk vocal delivery.

“How Do You Sleep?” – A drum pattern and arpeggiated synth make this song a dreamscape with the vocals a little more drawn out with an almost loud howling from the distance.  This track has a different vocal cadence and that is varied from James Murphy’s normal flow.  As the track progresses so do the layers build to another dance freak-out.

“Tonite” (My favorite song) – Now for the Grammy winning song… We get an 80s bass synth. The song has a very Giorgio Moroder sound.

“Call the Police” – This has a dream pop feel to it and it was also the first single.

“American Dream” – This also has a dream pop feel to it.

“Emotional Haircut” – Has a post-punk feel to it.

“Black Screen” – Is a mostly ambient track with vocoded vocals.

“Pulse (v.1)” – Is an instrumental that wouldn’t sound out of place on 45:33

Live Band Pic

Final Thoughts:

This album is my favorite from the band. It is a mixture of everything James has done in past albums and polished it to what I feel is the perfect example of what LCD Soundsystem is… Everything is here, the rhythms, the hits, the experimentation, heartfelt lyrics. So if this is your first exposure to the band this album is a great place to start.

Links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dream_(LCD_Soundsystem_album)
https://www.facebook.com/lcdsoundsystem/


New Album Review – Alastor “Black Magic”

Alastor

Black Magic – CD / DD

Twin Earth Records – March 18th 2017

 

There’s a bit of mystery surrounding the “Southern Swedish” band Alastor.  They never actually specify where exactly in Southern Sweden they’re from, and they only list a single capital letter as credits for who is playing what.  That’s okay, I can roll with that.  I love a good mystery, and it’s rather indicative of their overall aesthetic.  With an album title like this and a sigillistic logo, you damn well better believe that they’re singing about the occult mysteries, for better or for worse.

Why do I say for better or for worse?  Well….everyone sings about and is steeped in occult imagery these days, especially in doom circles.  Sure, there are rumors and allegations that I myself dabble in or have extensive knowledge of the occult, though that’s not something that I talk about or flaunt much, is it?  I’ll just say this – I do believe that the more recurrent occult themes are utilized, the more ubiquitous they become, the more they lose their unique power.  With that in mind, let’s talk Black Magic.  Alastor’s cauldron is full to the brim with your typical brew: one part fuzz-splattered, feedback laden guitar, one part reverb-drenched, so wet they’re dripping female vocals, one part groovin’ subsonic bass that swings like a hangman’s noose, and one part thundering drums.  Add some psychedelic and atmospheric flourishes, tune down and turn up accordingly, and voila!! Simmer and serve.

 

Live Band Shot

 

I’m going to address what’s a bit atypical – the vocals are pretty buried, and this sounded a bit strange to me on first listen.  They’re coated in delay and caked with reverb, though otherwise they’re relatively clean.  Still, it’s hard to decipher the lyrics, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing given the band’s flair for the mysterious.  It works with their overall vibe, and once I’d fallen under the spell of their second song, it all seemed natural.  Black Magic clocks in at 34 minutes, and consists of just three epic length tracks.  That’s pretty good for a debut; they come in, cast their choral curses, then leave you begging for more.  I can appreciate that approach.  The songwriting is pretty straight forward; opener “Enemy” begins with a barrage of feedback and sub-bass, then breaks into a menacing, staggering riff as the guitars boil and bubble in your ears.  This isn’t just a metaphor, there’s a lot of undulation and overtones going on in the drawn these drawn out chords, which really adds to the aesthetic atmosphere.  Eventually the song picks up to a more mid tempo groove, and the vocals kick in.  Around the 8 minute mark, it breaks down into feedback and allows the rhythm section to shine through the glorious haze, eventually morphing into a barrage of minimalistic yet psychedelic lead guitars until the song’s conclusion.

“Nothing To Fear” fades in with feedback and then launches right into a barrage of blistering riffs.  It’s simplistic yet effective, like a doll poked full of pins and needles.  The vocals come in soon after, and the song alternates between some verse and chorus riffs. At around the five and a half minute mark, it switches things up from this straightforward power groove into a more shuffling swing, there’s a bit more singing, some wah drenched soloing, and then it ends just as it began, with a bi-tonal blast of dual guitar feedback fading into nothingness.  The title track, “Black Magic” also starts with some feedback before establishing its main theme, a slow burning, sinister melody that morphs into more active riffs between the vocals, which are noticeably more menacing throughout.  I like this song a lot, it’s like the perfect culmination of Electric Wizard and Acid King, with the vocals alternating between a lower pitched delivery over the main riff, then switching to a higher register over a more melodic chord progression.   Once again, the song breaks down around the 8 minute mark into simply a slow rolling bass line drifting between the wash of echoed noise and the iconic hum of a cranked tube amplifier.  This gives way to some subtle drum work before the album collapses and climaxes into a doomy ode to the dark arts, complete with harmonized vocals that seems to add more layers each time their barely decipherable spell.

 

Frontman_ Live Shot

 

Fans of Windhand should eat this up, it’s the same sort of sound with its own twists on the style.  Like I mentioned above, this is a great debut, as it’s short and to the point, a statement of intent that leaves plenty of room for a young band to grow and develop.  If they’re going to distinguish themselves within an over-saturated scene of Black Sabbath worshiping Weedians, they will need to do just that, as this is obviously not the most original sounding album in the world.  I’d like to see them take some more chances with their songwriting and incorporate other influences on future releases, and I’d also like to hear them put the vocals up a bit more at the forefront, as they’re a strong point when they’re allowed some breathing room.  For now though, this hits the spot on for me on a gloomy Sunday morning.  I was raised Catholic, and I still to this day firmly believe in keeping holy the Sabbath.

Reviewed By Andy “YUM Dinger” Beresky