Music to Your Ears – Wolf Parade, Cults and Marilyn Manson

Now that we’re heading into fall, hoping the unseasonable warmth evicts itself from our lives, let’s dive into what the music world has for us:

Cults – Offering

Cults literally saved my life in 2011. No, I didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd and discover how to be true to myself or any of that bullshit. The synthpop duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion formed earlier the year before in New York City subsequently dropped a bomb on my heart, in the form of their self-titled debut. Songs like “Go Outside,” “Oh My God” and especially “You Know What I Mean” broke me down and formed the person I would soon become, self-loathing and bittersweet rolled into a ball of complicated neuroses and overfeeling idosyncracies. Anyway, enough about me – the band helped me through a lot of personal distress and move on from it, empowered. So my hopes were real high on their second album, Static, which debuted in 2013. Obviously I would be a little let down after the first album had rapidly become one of my favorite all-time records, but Static was still more from the same band I’d fallen in love with, albeit a bit dull. The whole thing felt a bit rushed, and only one or two tracks still find themselves in my rotation. Now that some time has passed, the group is back with their latest, Offering. While it is again more of the same sound, the work is a linear piece, like one long song. Some may find that detrimental, and I expect to mostly want to listen to this in one sitting rather than include songs in playlists, I think it works well (and better than Static). Follin warbles further feelings such as “Drifting through the silence/ Searching for guarantees” and continues the hopeful nature of the previous two albums by claiming we all have the answers within us. For me, it’s a welcome relief to know they’ve continued to manage such affectations and maybe more fans will turn up to discover the fuzz-pop wonder within this cult of sound.

Key Tracks: Recovery / Natural State / Clear From Far Away

Liam Gallagher – As You Were

The former frontman for Oasis has thrived after leaving brother Noel behind – first forming the group Beady Eye, and then striking out on his own as a solo artist. The enigmatic character has come out with another dynamic record, this one containing several toned down guitar riffs, making it one of his more personal sounding pieces. In “Paper Crown” Gallagher laments ‘Halfway down the road and ain’t it / Funny how the ghosts, they fade and suddenly appear’. It isn’t all drowning in sorrows, of course, as he still finds a way to thrill us with his master guitar skills, with particularly dazzling breaks in “Universal Gleam” and “You Better Run”. Fans of Gallagher’s and all his previous efforts will want to check this out – he’s still at the top of the British musical food chain.

Key Tracks: Bold / For What It’s Worth / Chinatown

Marilyn Manson – Heaven Upside Down

I’ve always been on the fringe of Manson’s fandom, never truly dipping my toe in the bacchanalial glam rock that he produces. Industrial music to me has typically felt too harsh, though I’ve always enjoyed it when friends have played it. Nine Inch Nails, Orgy and personally Mindless Self Indulgence have really been the bands I’ve extended to (though the latter is more electro-hardcore). I’ve always been impressed with Manson’s talents, and his penchant for not giving a fuck what people thought of him. I almost always thought of him more as an influential icon than a great rock star, someone all the disaffected teens could look up to. I never bought into the incrimination that he was detrimental to society, he was just another reckless alternative. If you’re observant, just listen to his lyrics and absorb the edginess that drips from lines like “Just smile like a rifle/Hard metal in the setting sun” from “Saturnalia”. Manson’s growl lures you in and the guitars of Tyler Bates hammer down the warped instrumentals. If you’ve always been curious, this is a good stepping stone to his back catalogue.

Key Tracks: We Know Where You Fucking Live / Saturnalia / Kill4Me

Wolf Parade – Cry Cry Cry

A solid edition of well-crafted indie pop, Cry Cry Cry is the latest from Wolf Parade, a project by Spencer Krug (Sunset Rubdown, Moonface, Swan Lake) and Dan Boeckner (Divine Fits, Handsome Furs, Operators). The pair have jumped from band to band, but with this Canadian based outfit, joined by Arlen Thompson and former Hot Hot Heat guitarist Dante DeCaro. I’ve always loved their high-timbred wails, set to lengthy lyrics of longing and deafening drum beats. The post-punk dance beats that Thompson could lay down would thrill me as I’d drive back and forth to school in the mid-2000s. They took an indefinite hiatus after their last full-lenth, 2011’s Apologies to the Queen Mary, which was one of my favorites from that year. Much like several other indie groups that returned this year (Broken Social Scene, Arcade Fire) they have ably proven they can still rock with the best of them, because they are. Check out the opening track “Lazarus Online” where the driving force is Boeckner’s guitar. They lull you in one “You’re Dreaming” but drive home the power under Krug’s keyboards and DeCaro’s bass in “Weaponized.” If you’re in need of some heavenly pick-me-up rock, you’ll do no better than finding yourself listening to this.

Key Tracks: Incantation / Who Are Ya / You’re Dreaming

Poppy – Poppy.Computer

I hesitate before I think I’m aging myself out of this new-fangled music the kids these days are listening to. I can see the trend of popular music heading in the direction that this new album from Youtube star Poppy wants to lead us. Born , the reculsive singer describes herself as a “kawaii Barbie” type of girl. Her music reminds me a lot of video game music that you would find in Mushroom Kingdom or a Japanese dance challenge. In fact, others have described her as hoping to bring J-pop and K-pop sounds to America. While I’d rather stars from those countries find popularity themselves, my hope is that Poppy might lend a bridge to Americans discovering more like her. While this isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I found myself tapping along to the beats, however generic. Guitars and synths hide behind the pops and whistles of her computer sounds, and I can admit that she certainly knows exactly how to manipulate electropop grooves. It’s a bit simplistic, but maybe that’s what we need to break down to as we move on to a new generation of music. If this is where we’re heading, I’m fine with it. It may be pop, but I think I like it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I watched some of the strange videos she has on her channel and I officially am an old man who doesn’t get what the kids are into these days.

Key Tracks: Pop Music / Fuzzy / Moshi Moshi

 

Carla Bruni – French Touch

I did not expect the former First Lady of France to come out with an English-language cover album, but here we are. The lovely Carla Bruni has released an equally lovely collection of renditions personally cultivated, including but not limited to Bruni’s ex Mick Jagger (Miss You) to Tammy Wynette (Stand By Your Man). There are a few oddities, as a less reserved version of Lou Reed’s “Perfect Day” sounds a touch off, while AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” is a pleasant surprise, a mismatch of melodic melody over classicly rougher lyrics. It’s interesting to hear Bruni hum a few bars in English, as she has typically released mostly French originals, but she still has an enchanting voice. The strange thing here isn’t the langauge, but the affectation, as songs like ABBA’s “The Winner Takes All” ends up so subdued, it’s as if Bruni has removed any passion. Strange, yet mesmerizing.

Key Tracks: Miss You / Highway to Hell / Enjoy the Silence


I gotta admit, I didn’t expect I would review half of these – I was planning on covering L.A. Guns’ newest, The Missing Peace and maybe checking out Gwen Stefani’s Christmas album…but that seems more appropriate in two months, so check that out later this year. As for next week, we have new albums from Beck, Stars, St. Vincent, Pink and even Robert Plant! Stay tuned for yet another Music to Your Ears…

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