Sunday, January 11, 2009

Album Review, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

"How did Scottish people ever have sex before the existence of Franz Ferdinand? " That's how Spin magazine opens its review of Franz's third album. Well, I'm not Scottish but right now it's hard to imagine how I was able to enjoy music before these guys... It's not necessary to talk here about how good their first two albums are and how anticipated 'Tonight' was, specially after all the buzz over their live concerts in the last year, where a lot of new songs were exaustively tested. I'll just say that my expectations were pretty high because Franz Ferdinand has been one of my favourite bands in the last months and I actually went to one of their concerts and saw how good the new stuff is live. Because of that, I was a little worried, worried to be disapointed, worried that they could have fucked up some of the songs that I already loved, etc... For that, my first sentiment over the new album was relief. This pretty much lives to all my expectations and may be even better than I was expecting, may be even their best album! 

'Tonight: Franz Ferdinand' is a fast album, an album to hear before going out, like Alex Kapranos described it months ago. But I'd say more than that. It's the kind of record that you can put in a danceclub without remixes and that's pretty fucking awesome! There are a lot of synthetizers and the eletronic feeling is much stronger now. Anyone with legs will dance hearing this record. It's not a lot different than their previous records, but there are new directions, like Lucid Dreams, now with almost 8 minutes! In some points, they seem inspired by acts like Justice and this may not please everyone, but for me it is more than enough. If there is anything to be criticized, it is that it feels too short. But so, are the best things in life... Below, I give a track by track review. 

Ulysses: The record opens with Ulysses, the lead single. The synths are strong here, a good indication of what awaits you. They also have a chorus with the already classic 'la la la' and I simply love it! Grade: 9.5

Turn It On: There were huge expectations about this one, labeled by many the new 'Take me out'. If that will be case, I don't know, but right now I can hardly think of a better way to spend 2:21 minutes... Grade: 10 

No, You Girls Never Know: This was previously called 'Katherine kiss me' and this was the first new song that I heard months ago. The studio version has more synths and it really feels better than the live version. Grade: 8.5 

Send Him Away: One of the best surprises, I didn't know this one. The pace slows down a little bit here, but just enough to get your breath back and the chorus is very nice. Grade: 8

Twilight Omens: This reminds me of The Beatles but without losing the Franz's appeal. It's one of my favourites. Grade: 9

Bite Hard: It starts slowly and suddenly gets really fast, more or less like 'Jacqueline'. Again, the synths and the dance feel are very strong. Grade: 9 

What She Came For: This was one of my favourite songs even before hearing the studio version. Now I can safely say that the album version rocks. For the first three minutes or so, we see Franz at their best: electric pace, killer chorus... In the end, a surprisingly good sequence, with heavier guitars. Fantastic!! Grade: 10

Live Alone: Another pretty good song. It will not be a single, just because this album is so damn good, but it will get a lot of airplay.. from me, at least. Grade: 8

Can't Stop Feeling: The beginning is a little bit weird and at first I thought the synths were too strong. Now I love them. It's better than the demo version. Grade: 8.5

Lucid Dreams: Probably the most controversial song of the album. Not only it lasts almost 8 minutes (!) but it is also very different than the demo version that everybody knows. A lot of fans seem to be pissed of by this, but I'm loving it. Specially the last three minutes, where it feels like Justice in their best moments. Amazing! Grade: 9.5

Dream Again: Ok, no record is perfect. This feels out of place. Too slow for me... Grade: 5

Katherine Kiss Me: This has the same lyrics as 'No, you girls never know', but with a slow pace. Nobody can say that they were not ambitious... Grade: 7

Most of the time it's hard to review an album track by track because rarely you find a record where more than, say, 3 or 4 songs are really good and this has 10 great songs (!). What a killer way to start 2009. 'Tonight' is Franz Ferdinand's statement that they are the best indie band of the planet. Very well done, guys! 

Grade: 9.5

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The 10 best albums of 2008!

After a crazy end of year (details later...), I'm back with another 'best of' list. If 2008 was a bad year for me in general, musically the year was pretty positive. A lot of shows and a more mature taste made 2008 the best music year of my life.
The new metal and emo bands lost a lot of space, specially with blockbusters like Paramore and Linkin Park not releasing new material. Metal bands also lost ground. No Angra and almost no Nightwish this year. But Metallica really won me with Death Magnetic, possibly one of my 5 favourite metal albums of all time. But relax, I won't say here (again!) that they came back to the good, old times prior to 'The Black Album', because I'm not a big fan of their 80's stuff anyway. But it's a kick ass album, and it's good to see them answering critics in such a great way... 
Speaking of comebacks, how satisfying is it to see Britney Spears releasing such a great album? Circus almost made my top 10, I would consider it number 11. Other pop acts, such as Katy Perry, Pink and Rihanna also impressed me a lot and they could be in my list if the year wasn't so good for indie rock. Yeah, 'indie', whatever that means, is where my heart really is and this will be clear below. Finally, there are three Brooklyn bands in my list and that really makes me feel good about living in New York. That also makes me consider leaving Manhattan and moving to Williamsburg, but that's another story... Anyway, here comes my list.

10. Kaiser Chiefs, Off With Their Heads: At first I hated it because it is so similar to their other albums, but now I love it. Yes, the Chiefs are not going to change your life like TV On The Radio (I'm being sarcastic...) and they are not going to be U2-big like The Killers (I love irony...). Kaiser Chiefs is just a band to dance to and have fun with. That's more than enough for me.  Best song: Never Miss a Beat.

9. Black Kids, Partie Traumatic: The lead singer's voice is very similar to Steve Bay's (from Hot Hot Heat) and we all know that that band is basically nothing after Franz Ferdinand. Not only the voice, but the songs structure is also similar. How could they succeed with that? With female backing vocals that are cute and sexy at the same time, of course. After all, Franz doesn't have girls singing. Come to think of it, it's a very smart yet simple trick. Hot Hot Heat should consider that in the future...  Best song: Partie Traumatic.

8. Chairlift, Does You Inspire You?: Two Brooklyn bands seem to be everyone's favourites to be '2009's MGMT'. One of them is Amazing Baby, which still doesn't have an album out. The other one is Chairlift. Even thought they are in practice a 2009's band, they already have an ipod commercial's hit song-Bruises-and a surprisingly polite and clean album. Think about cute music a la Feist, but with tons of Bjork. Interesting? You bet your sweet ass it is! Best song: Garbage.

7. Metallica, Death Magnetic: No more wood drums, no more seemingly unfinished songs, no more flirts with new metal. Death Magnetic is Metallica's statement that St. Anger was an accident and that they totally deserve to be considered 'THE metal band'. Best song: The Unforgiven III.

6. The Kills, Midnight Boom: Most of the time It sounds  as a combination of The White Stripes with Garbage. I can hardly think of a more exciting mix. Can you?. Best song: Last Day Of Magic.

5. Crystal Castles, Crystal Castles: Probably the most original debut of the year. When you sample 8-bit videogame sounds and have a girl screaming, most of the time senseless words, and call that music, the bet is high. If something goes wrong, not only you will not sell, but also the critics will kill you. Fortunately for these guys, everything went right. Their album was well received by critics, they have a cult fan base (I'm including myself here...), Alice Glass is NME's coolest person of 2008 and 'Alice Practice' is a huge success in indie dance floors. Forget about Justice, Crystal Castles is the new supercool electronic band!  Best song: Alice Practice.

4. The Subways, All Or Nothing: This album is similar to their debut and there's nothing revolutionary about it. We are talking about straightforward pop rock here, executed almost with perfection, an improvement over their (very good!) debut. Songs like 'Turn around', 'Kalifornia' and 'Shake! Shake!' are instant pleasures, but it was only after I realized the power of songs like 'Obssession' and 'All Or Nothing' that I saw how amazing this album is. It is the number one album in my and that's really really something because I listened to a lot of music this year. Best song: Shake! Shake!

3. The Ting Tings, We Started Nothing: The perfect combination of pop a la Kylie Minogue, and indie rock, this caught my attention in the first listen. Like The Subways's All Or Nothing, it has some of the best singles of the year, but it's more homogeneous than that album. Basically, every song is good! Also, I went to their concert three times last year, and all of them were pretty decent: The live experience feels like a very good party, the kind that you never want to leave. Best songs: Great DJ, Keep your head. 

2. Vampire Weekend, Vampire Weekend: At first, I didn't see what was special about them and the african beats seemed a little weird. I remember thinking: "Oh god, this sucks". Thank god I was patient and listened to them a few times before giving up. I really don't know which band I like better, this or The Ting Tings, so I flipped a coin (haha, more or less) and they are number two... Best songs: Walcott, The Kids Don't Stand a Chance.

1. MGMT, Oracular Spectacular: If you're into indie rock, you're probably tired of hearing about the career-making singles 'Kids', 'Time To Pretend' and 'Electric Feel'. But MGMT is much more than that. Take, 'The Handshake' for example. It starts slowly and becomes faster progressively in a nicer and nicer way. And the lyrics? Are they about fearing to sell out to a big label?  Or is the song about manipulating someone in a relationship? Every time I hear this song I think about it and I still  can't reach a definite conclusion. The fact that this happens with pretty much all the songs in this album already puts it above the rest. Also, 'Kids' is the best song that I heard in a long time, to say the least, and that puts MGMT's debut easily among the best albums of this decade. Regarding this band, the comparison should be with Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand and The Strokes. The standards are pretty fucking high...  Best songs: Kids, The Handshake.