You Know What to Do
The Shivas = Dr. Dog + The Ventures + The Black Angels
Releasing their fourth LP, The Shivas are back with an album that will surely get you shakin’. From beginning to end, You Know What To Do delivers at all tempos, pumping me up and then slowing things down. With the surf vibe’s strong presence, the album’s opener and title track starts with a familiar riff and quickly progresses into a groovy, upbeat tune. The upbeat melody continues halfway through the album, until “Beach Heads” comes on and gives your neck a break from nodding to the beat. With the exception of this track and maybe one other, the album keeps quite the pace and a great rhythm. The last track softly brings it to an end, but left me wanting more of that Shivas sound. Bravo, I say, bravo. –Dylan Evans
The Cairo Gang
The Cairo Gang = The Brian Jonestown Massacre + The Church
Where should I start? The Cairo Gang’s Goes Missing features a splendid array of music. To start, the group’s ever talented singer, Emmett Kelly, has a vocal range similar to Michael Hutchence (INXS), and the band can pick up the pace just as well as they slow it down. The lead track sounds like a Church song with those soothingly deep vocals, yet it’s directly followed by a more groovy, upbeat tune—like something from The Byrds! The album loosely follows that pattern throughout, constantly surprising with varying vibes in each track. “Some Other Time” takes a soft approach to crooning, backed with an upright bass and nothing else. The track precedes another Church-esque song—and I’m all right with that. From soft ballads to groovy licks, Cairo Gang’s got you covered—I can tell you that. –Dylan Evans
I’ll be honest: I could not get into this album. Peacers’ self-titled album was a bit too on-and-off for me. With the exception of a few tracks, I just never heard that catchy beat. Sure, there are some decent tunes on the album, but too often, it lacked rhythm. “Kick on the Plane” rocks and brings a nice upbeat rhythm. However, the somewhat aimless tracks outweigh the good ones for me. If you’re into that Animal Collective, all-over-the-place type of sound, you may dig this album—nonetheless, these dudes are talented. –Dylan Evans
Gold Class = Danzig + Fugazi
Gold Class’ It’s You comes in hot with powerful tunes. The singer has a voice like Danzig and is backed with a damn steady drum beat. The guitar and its strong riffs in “Life as a Gun” battle said vocals for the spotlight, and they both win—the drums a close second. Rocking tunes aside, the band really knows when to speed things up and when to slow things down, as “Shingles (Stay A While)” closes out the album softly with some light piano and words to match. Everything in between surely won’t disappoint, but don’t take my word for it—see for yourself! One more thing about the drums—you know how they say a band is only as good as its drummer? Well, such is the case with Gold Class—killer drummer, killer band. –Dylan Evans
The Agent Intellect
Protomartyr = The Fall + Interpol
With the machine-like drumming style of Stephen Morris (Joy Division/New Order), Protomartyr’s third album got off to a good start with me. At first listen, I didn’t dig the vocals all that much, but as the album progressed, singer Joe Casey’s voice grew on me. There’s a good variety of tracks, too, each of them as cool and melodic as the next. “Pontiac 87” is by far my favorite song on the album—I knew that from the opening guitar riff. What I like about The Agent Intellect is that it doesn’t short the listener. It’s got 12 tracks, the lengthy ones outnumbering the shorter. The bridge in each of those tracks have a lot of contrast—to the point where you almost forget how the song started before you are quickly reminded. Anything with a post-punk feel is all right with me, and Protomartyr have got it. –Dylan Evans
Vertical Slump = Joy Division + Wire
With the screeching sounds and pounding drums of the first track, I recalled Joy Division’s “Atrocity Exhibition,” but in a matter of seconds, Vertical Slump quickly established their own sound with my favorite song of the album. Alternating between a post-punk–esque verse and upbeat chorus, “Tether” has been stuck in my head for a week. The following tracks hit hard with more of that post-punk feel, droning vocals and abrupt song endings that create excitement for the next tune. Despite the album’s four short tracks, Ruined Value does what some albums can’t do in 10 tracks: leave the listener wanting more! Take my word and get this album—it’s that simple. –Dylan Evans
Is the Is Are
DIIV = Beach Fossils + The Cure (1979)
I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting to write this review. Well, I suppose I could—I’ve been waiting well over a year to write this damn thing. Accordingly, I had set my hopes quite high for Is the Is Are. And I’ll set shit straight right now: The album met my hopes, if not exceeded them. I kind of saw it coming when I saw DIIV live last October. They played a good mix of old and new material, and I really liked what I heard from the new album. Then, I gave their new album a solid listen, and goddamn, was I stoked.
Right off the bat, Is the Is Are stands apart from DIIV’s debut album, Oshin. The overall sound has improved, but more importantly, there are plenty of vocals. Normally, I’m a fan of nearly vocal-free tunes, and that’s what I’ve always liked about Oshin. The vocals were absent in a few of those songs and sparse in the others. Yet, this new album includes vocals on every track, and they all sound great—and quite melodic. Hell, I didn’t think Zachary Cole Smith had a voice like that. He nails it.
In addition to the improved and more constant vocals, their songs are a bit lengthier this time around, and the whole album is well-composed. Simply put: DIIV just sound better. Each song is well spread out, with nice lead-ins and swirling effects across the board—not to mention the dark and sometimes melancholic guitar riffs throughout, but that’s just my style. That brings me to my next point: This album gets into some dark shit—I mean, kind of.
Smith had hinted that their second album would be a lot darker than the first. So maybe I was listening for it, but I picked up on that pretty quick. Don’t get me wrong—the album has some slightly (and I mean slightly) more upbeat tunes. Although, I will tell you, there’s a lyric in there that goes something like, “Now I’m fucked to die in a world of shit.” I feel you there, man. I’d say that’s about as dark as the album gets. The album’s tone is definitely gloomier than Oshin is, as I always thought Oshin had that West-Coast beach sound. DIIV have set themselves apart in terms of sound with Is the Is Are, however.
Some of the best songs on the album are the darker ones. They all have a distinct sound. The vocals in “Valentine” exhibit somewhat quick verses with no breaks between lines. “Dust” contains similar vocals over a sporadic, screeching guitar. Despite the number of dark tracks, DIIV did a decent job mixing that up throughout Is the Is Are. While the album is, for the most part, dismal, the tracks vary from quick and lighthearted to slow and somber.
With all this talk about how great their new album is, I’m starting to understand why DIIV took a bit longer to release it. You can tell they took their time with the entire album. Honestly, Is the Is Are has everything Oshin didn’t: lengthy songs, plenty of vocals and better composition. You DIIV fans are in for a real treat.
Sonny & the Sunsets
Talent Night at the Ashram
Sonny & the Sunsets = Mac DeMarco + Beach Fossils
Surprisingly enough, I was quite unfamiliar with Sonny Smith and his Sunsets, and I’m quite disappointed by that. When I first saw the name Sonny & the Sunsets I was intrigued. With a name like that, I thought, “It’s got to have that doo-wop sound.” I wasn’t far off. The album perfectly mixes a New Age take with a classic sound. With tracks seemingly influenced by ’50s malt-shop rock and the California band’s own beach vibe (not to mention slightly hypnotic vocals), Talent Night at the Ashram is a must-have album. –Dylan Evans