My Dear Disco – DanceThink LP
The first time I tried to get some words down about Ann Arbor's dance-pop-odyssey septet, My Dear Disco, it took immersing the ol' melon between a pair of headphones, with the volume up, before I was properly swooning, whirling and bobbing to these propulsive beats, shimmery electro cascades and anthemic ceiling rattling belted balladry. There's no scraping a spoonful off the top with this sound and style, you have to dive in, completely. Adroitly arranged structures allows each member space to strut: be it the dueling guitars or the complimenting synth storm/moog mingling aesthetic or those coaxing bass grooves or the Off-The-Wall drums. The philosophy behind this self-produced album is "DanceThink," – cerebral fun, pensive release, contemplative escapism – which may be asking much from the top 40 Pussycat Dolls crowd, but the healthy symptom of DanceThink is that it angles the house/rave lights-n-music, glitz-n-grind sensibility to more of a daring experimentalist realm, still having that fun embrace of dance but with less self-destructive excess. What shines here is their strength and chemistry as a unit. Some of the effects and kitschy accoutrements can ring close to (predictable by title) disco revivalism, and each being music school grads means the meticulous aim-for-an-A+ construction of each song is palpable. Still, filled to the brim with energy and great grooves.
Fields of Industry - Two Dogs, A Television (arts vs entertainment)
This Lansing quintet shows a strong grasp of tone and aesthetic, utilizing long, lingering notes from soft fuzzy organs and surfy sunset guitars that wrap up the listener in lush cocoons and meditative sways…with such warm tones radiating through the speakers from their shimmery picks-ups, it's like that first time you toss the jacket off on Spring's first melting day. Many note the sparseness of their sound, but it feels like each song is blossoming, starting from just guitars and reserved percussion and growing, enveloping, rising…the tender nonchalance stripped r&b of late-Velvet Underground, with Brian Wilson's ear for pop construction and Spacemen 3 or Yo La Tengo's penchant for demure shoegaze-tinged folk.
Farewell Republic – Bridges
Intense, theatrical, guitar shredding, visceral indie-rock blasting over the mountaintops and reigning down on the complacent suburbia below…Ann Arbor quartet Farewell Republic open things up with an intricate prog-rock jazz groove instrumental then quickly flex their muscles for explosive pedal pulsed atmospheric and fiery guitar-heavy rockers ("In the Night") with vocals equaling the pained cathartic burn of the guitars and rolling drums. Centerpieces "This Lie" and "Revival" flesh out their more neo-world post-rock arty-Eno leanings, with histrionic guitar whirls and intricate percussion – a hazy space-rock with undeniable flares of post-punk edge; each song averages 5 minutes, with rewardingly varying structures.
Vivian Girls S /T IN THE RED
I wasted two mornings, pacing in front of my computer, pushing myself to finish the annual autumn mix compilation; overreaching with the awkward bumps and uneasy flow of too many new releases from bands I may never hear of or return to again…Then this record hits me and I think, why bother over-packing the mix with newness. Return! Return to what works! The Vivian Girls, an all-female trio from Brooklyn, know this all too well – guitars so fuzzed and clangy with feedback that you almost have to squint, riffs so steady and bristly you almost see the old coca-cola filled fridge in the gutted-out garage; this is the shimmery shoegaze and off-kilter romanticism of Jesus and Mary Chain, or the steady one-two-left-right inter-dimensional doo-wop beachside pop of Beat Happening. It reaches back not just to the roots of girl-groups or the simple driving rock thrills of garage rock, but also to the roots of indie and lo-fi styles born from the early and mid-80's…the genesis of those shaggy skater-looking, aloof K Records and Ecstatic Sunshine types…you can find even the more sugary sides of My Bloody Valentine or the sweet endearment of more obscure groups like Heavenly. The point is, it's done well – and that's what's winning people over…yes, it's full of heart and full of charm, but it takes you back, while still sounding fresh.