WIUX Picks – Week of November 26, 2018
After our Thanksgiving hiatus, WIUX Music Committee is back to deliver new music to keep you from the post-vacation slumps.
Xuan – Have Some Fun
It takes a little bit for this album get into its own rhythm. While the album does have a unifying sound – a very beachy, light-hearted and bouncy feel – in certain tracks, especially early on, that becomes a bit bland. It’s when this album adds a bit more into that formula – such as the island-y beat of “Last I Heard,” or the guitar groove of “Sheila” that this album starts to shine. Towards the end, more rock-like elements begin showing up more frequently, which was a nice touch to add interest to the style. I particularly like “Break this Heart Again” and the final track, “Shut it Down,” for this element. Overall, the album is a nice one if you need something happy and fun to get you into a good mood. – Gillian Paxton
Peach Pit – Being So Normal
Being So Normal is a departure from the previously established Peach Pit we know from their earlier releases. However, they still manage to maintain their core sound while immersing themselves in a more somber, almost depressed feeling. They take cues from many other genres and groups on this album, without ever sounding derivative (“Not Me” reminds me of what you’d get if you mixed “Frontline” with “Paralyzer” and some xans). This album is a story of heartbreak, the struggle to get over that girl, the person whose presence sticks with you no matter how hard you try to get rid of it. The tug of war back and forth between dejection and struggle is well represented with an alternation between high energy shredding guitars and slow, heavy hitting, muddled beats. Every track tells a part of a larger story and although a couple of the songs lacked a little luster in comparison with the others, that’s hardly a criticism to keep anyone from at least giving this thing a listen. Being So Normal is a melancholy struggle from start to finish. If you’re hoping for a happy ending, you’ll be sorely disappointed. At first, “Tommy’s Party” felt to me like an underwhelming conclusion, but it serves the main thesis of the album very well. It trails off wistfully. The protagonist is more or less where he started, with a long road still ahead of him. For me, “Hot Knifer” is the standout favorite. Neal Smith really bears his heart for all of us to see with his performance. I wholeheartedly recommend this album to anyone for whom the above story of love and struggle sounds familiar… Or anyone who’s ever tried to quit smoking – same difference. – Joey Conway
Dire Wolves – Paradisical Mind
This album is absolutely perfect for people who love the sound of an orchestra tuning up for 8 years. Most of the songs have a few good elements, but I think they are muddled behind a wall of other sounds, rhythms, and voices. This is an instrumental album mostly, with monk-like chanting in ‘Just Live Your Life Behind Your Eyes’. Yet, without any musicality building, or general feel that can be associated with the music, that song and many others fall to the wayside of barely listenable. I think that the only real playable song is ‘In and Out of the Den Garten He Goes’ although I wouldn’t recommend it before the witching hour, and 3 shots of absinthe. I fear that I have made it sound too cool, but really it is one of the only songs on the album with some sense of balance and build. – Marisa Bryans
Grapetooth – Grapetooth
Grapetooth’s self-titled, full-length debut was an intriguing listen. The individual elements of how they play their music aren’t what makes their sound necessarily, it’s how they utilize those elements together in their mixings and arrangements. They skillfully shuffle light piano, guitar, synth, and solid beats around like they’re putting together an intricate jigsaw puzzle. It’s a solid first project but it’s not without its missteps truth be told. A lot of this album sounds like half of The Smiths and half of The Violent Femmes broke into Duran Duran’s storage unit and played a show together with all of the shit they stole. That in of itself is not a bad thing. They’re a synth-heavy group, it works as a unique and self-sufficient project. The way the all of those layers work together really makes the album what it is. But honestly, I thought “Imagine On” and “Hangover Sq.” just kind of sound like punched up Smith’s songs; they lack a lot of the complexity that I enjoyed in the rest of this LP.
Clay and Chris’ voices work well together in the same, nearly dissonant way the rest of the instrumentation on this album does: violent, soulful highs-obtuse, up close lows. Personally, that’s what makes Grapetooth, Grapetooth for me. Some of these tracks might seem a bit repetitive under a microscope, while others seem meandering. That said, I never ever found myself wondering how long they were or when they were going to be over. Every cut held my attention for its full length. Hallelujah was probably my personal favorite, and although I really liked “Trouble,” when I read it was their first single, I wasn’t surprised. Not because it wasn’t good, but because it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the album. If I’m allowed to return to the puzzle analogy for a second… “Trouble” is a piece that, while it almost meshes, had to be forced.
All in all, I see a lot of promise, and I’m going to be keeping my eye on Grapetooth for some real bops in the future. I definitely heard potential for some great stuff that wasn’t totally realized. That, in addition with a few of the other hiccups on this album, keep me from really loving it like I wanted to. – Joey Conway