Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New releases: Of Montreal & Beats Antique

Of Montreal and I more or less amicably parted ways a few albums back. I feel like they've gotten a lot less dynamic and interesting as the music's become more overwhelmingly electronic and the lyrics more introspective and overtly perversely sexual. But Kevin Barnes is undoubtedly a bit of a genius, and I can't help but appreciate his songwriting and bouncy, overloaded, off-the-wall style. The band is served very well this time (as anyone would be) by some studio assistance from Jon Brion. Sonically, those overloaded elements are arranged more successfully so that they don't hinder the overall experience of the song. I find the album's highlights to be the tracks featuring Janelle Monáe ("Our Riotous Defects" and "Enemy Gene") and Solange Knowles ("Sex Karma"). The closing track, "You Do Mutilate?", is also fairly epic and gloriously weird, but I recommend getting there via the rest of the album. I'm offering "Like a Tourist", a crunchy number that features some of the discofied Of Montreal basslines and guitar riffs I've always loved.

Of Montreal - Like a Tourist [mp3] (Polyvinyl)

They've also embarked on what is likely to be a pretty interesting tour with Ms. Monáe, whose performance will apparently be integrated with that of the band. I'm considering checking out the show in NYC on Saturday night.

Sept 14 / Washington, DC / 9:30 Club
Sept 15 / Philadelphia, PA / Electric Factory
Sept 16 / Boston, MA / House of Blues
Sept 17 / New York, NY / Terminal 5
Sept 18 / New York, NY / Terminal 5
Sept 19 / Buffalo, NY / Town Ballroom
Sept 20 / Royal Oak, MI / Royal Oak Music Theatre
Sept 21 / Covington, KY / Madison Theater
Sept 22 / Urbana, IL / Pygmalion Music Festival @ Canopy Club
Sept 23 / Minneapolis, MN / First Avenue
Sept 24 / Milwaukee, WI / Pabst Theater

Beats Antique definitely knows how to strike a harmonic balance between acoustic instruments and electronics, and I think their new album is their best yet. It's not a bold new direction by any means, but more cohesive, energetic and fun. Like the Of Montreal record, it makes good and sparing use of featured artists: "Rising Tide" featuring Lynx is, to a certain extent, a bona fide traditional pop song, and a very good one at that; and "There Ya Go" features some sweet harmonica work from none other than John Popper. Nominal album closer "Merry Go Round" also has a straighter hip-hop vibe than usual, which is a welcome development. But I've chosen to include "Daze" below, which is a more traditional, instrumental and completely solid Beats Antique track.

Beats Antique - Daze [mp3] (CD Baby)

A couple of sidenotes:

(1) This Sunday I watched the MTV Video Music Awards live, in its entirety, for the first time in many years. I was painfully regretting that decision until the last five minutes, when Aziz Ansari introduced Kanye West's performance of "Runaway". It might have been the contrast with the endless, soulless spectacle that preceded it, but I just think this is the greatest thing ever. Let's have a toast for the douchebags.

(2) Puppet Playlist is "a bi-monthly evening of puppetry and music by some of New York's most interesting puppeteers and singer-songwriters." I've never witnessed this before, but if you're in the area, this week seems like a good time to check it out, since they're taking on Stop Making Sense by the Talking Heads. There are three performances, two tomorrow (Wednesday) evening and one on Thursday evening, followed by a bit of an afterparty at a bar around the corner.

Puppet Playlist #8: Talking Heads
The Tank
354 W 45th St, btwn 8th & 9th Ave
$7 advance / $8 at the door

Wed, Sept 15 @ 7:30pm & 9:30pm
Thu, Sept 16 @ 7:30pm

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