Friday, October 26, 2007

#23: The Forms>The Forms>Follow Function

Artist : The Forms
Album : The Forms (2nd Domestic LP)
Release : 10.23.07
Year Founded : 2003
Label Name : Threespheres
Catalog # : 0115
Packaging Type : Single-Disc Digipak
Members : Brendan Kenny, Jackson Kenny, Alex Tween, Matt Walsh
Runtime : 29:44
Area Tour Dates : None at time of publication
Sound Season : Autumn, Winter
iTunes Worthy Tracks : Knowledge in Hand, Red Gun, Bones, Blue Whale
Sounds Like : Bats & Mice Believe it Mammals
Rating : B+

Truthfully, the only reason The Forms' new album stood out to me from amongst all the crap promos that come our way is because of the 'recorded by Steve Albini' note on the inside cover. Now, Mr. Albini is not infallible, and, last I heard, he still will record anyone's album provided they wait their turn. But, 75 percent of what he touches is typically worth seriously listening to. I also immediately noticed that Matt Talbott of Hum gets a credit as an 'additional engineer.' That sealed the deal.

Well, what really sealed the deal was playing the record. I was unable to have any preconceived notions about this band. Their name does not immediately give away their sound and, as I said, Steve Albini has worked with everyone from The Frames to Mindless Self Indulgence, so that isn't giving anything away. Neither does the nondescript album art or the label to which they belong. With nothing to go on, the vocals hit me first.

Alex Tween has a vocal sound similar to Aqueduct's David Terry. He sound like he might be your wiseass best friend who just started a band to prove that he could. More striking than that though is the way the vocals stick right to the guitar melody, or vice versa, which is a feat in itself considering "Knowledge in Hand"'s disjointed rhythm. Tween's desperate yell is a perfect counterpoint to the decorum of his casual, matter-of-factness.

Brendan Kenny plays guitar as if his hand is glued to the fretboard. Everything is a slide or a bend ("Blue Whale") or a Möbius strip ("Focus") and there are little or no moments without notes. And there is something distinctly 90's about this band. There is a simplicity and a naïve innocence about them that calls to mind that time when major labels were scrambling to sign bands even the underground hadn't heard of in hopes of finding the next Nirvana. They're catchy, but not poppy. They're a little dark, a little sinister, but not out to scare anyone. They sound like they have ideals.

The one thing missing from the album is variety. All the songs sound pretty similar. That phenomenon fades a bit as you listen and become more familiar, but it remains at least in part after repeated listening. The tone of the instruments never change. If the album were longer, it may have turned into a fatiguing listen, no matter how satisfying each song might have been on its own.

Friday, October 5, 2007

#22: Junior Senior>Hey Hey My My Yo Yo>Somebody's been snorting pixie dust

Artist : Junior Senior
Album : Hey Hey My My Yo Yo (2nd Domestic LP)
Release : 08.31.07
Year Founded : 2003
Label Name : Ryko
Catalog # : 10927
Packaging Type : Dual-Disc Digi-Pak
Members : Jeppe Breum Laursen, Jesper Mortensen
Runtime : 34:19
Area Tour Dates : None at time of publication
Sound Season :
iTunes Worthy Tracks : Hip Hop a Lula, Can I Get Get Get
Sounds Like :
Rating : B

Junior Senior are pretty creepy. One of them looks like he's about to gather up the Lost Boys and fly off to fight Captain Hook and the other kind of looks like a kid toucher who lives in a van behind Savers — a frightening combination if you ask me. If you can make it past that though, they do kick out some jams that despite (or perhaps due to) their incredible flamingness are pretty catchy and really fun.

Hey Hey My My Yo Yo starts with "Hello," which is just that — a cordial 'hello!' from the band followed by an invitation to 'put on your pants ... because you might want to dance.' They sound eerily and hilariously just like the famous Mario Twins. Coming straight off that intro is "Hip Hop a Lula," which is very reminiscent of something off of the recently released Go! Team's album. It's got a very bass drum/snare drum dependent verse with a surging stop-start cut up synth that takes the place of a scratching DJ followed by a party chorus with guitar and horns and handclaps. Lots and lots of handclaps.

The album takes a marked nu-disco turn at "Can I Get Get Get" that persists through "We 'R the Handclaps." If the Scissor Sisters are a hybrid of the Bee Gees and Elton John, then Junior Senior and special guests Cindy Wilson and Kate Pierson (of the B-52's) are a cross between their Scandinavian ancestors Abba and Kool and the Gang on "Take My Time." (Le Tigre and the Velvelettes also hold guest spots on the record.)

The album takes yet another turn at "I Like Music (W.O.S.B.)." This time though, it's something closer to a very poppy Motown. The basslines get less funky and the guitar and vocal harmonies come closer to the front, eliminating most if not all of Senior's role in the affair. Something like "No No No's" comes close to sounding like Elliot Smith's only most positive and airy efforts. This block of songs isn't particularly bad, but doesn't really fit in and ends up feeling like filler. Hey Hey My My Yo Yo and Senior return in the end to the nu-disco/hip-hop combination with the final "Happy Rap."

Junior Senior are all about being positive about life and music and having fun. In pursuit of that end they end up being at least a little creepy and — this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone — very very faggy. But sometimes, if you want to have real no inhibitions who gives a fuck fun, you have to just accept that you're going to look like a homo.