By: Joseph Kathmann
JOSEPH: CHVRCHES has a tall order to fulfill. Their previous (and debut) album, The Bones of What You Believe, is one of my favorite albums of the decade thus far. So, how do you follow up something as great as that album? I sure don't know, but the two singles CHVRCHES has dropped ahead of the release of their sophomore album, Every Open Eye, are sure a good start. "Never Ending Circles" is an evolution of their distinctly indie synth-pop sound, featuring a wonderfully original instrumental hook from Martin Doherty, the band's synthesizer player. Singer Lauren Mayberry is also mastering how to use her voice as an instrument, as her interactions with the synthesizer's hook are some of my favorite moments of any CHVRCHES song to date. So far, the band is certainly 2 for 2 when it comes to following up their debut album.
By: The Busted Amp Staff
JOSEPH: This album is an interesting one. First off, I'm not ok with this being called an LP. It is an EP. And I think asking any consumer to spend $11 on 23-minutes of content is too much. Now, you may disagree with me if you really like it, but I get this notion from my video game side, where I've watched big budget video games decide it's ok to ask for $60 for a game that only lasts the length of a $10 film. But I still think that asking for $11 for a 23 minute "LP" is too much. But fortunately, we live in a world where nobody pays for music anymore so that point doesn't really matter to most. It matters to me, but nowadays I'm in the minority.
What about the album though? I thought the album was....interesting. Mac DeMarco really has a creative and unique mind, one which he really lets run wild in this mini-album, taking us through a somewhat effective musical experiment which ends with a song that is just the sound of water and some chords and DeMarco handing out his home address to the listener and inviting them over. Yup. It's that kind of album. And that's cool! I think a lot of people will appreciate that. Unfortunately, I'm (kinda) not one of them. This album....lacks the punch I like to hear in my music. And the experiment isn't memorable enough for me to really appreciate it like I did on something like Perfume Genius's album Too Bright, or Susanne Sundør's Ten Love Songs. So, ultimately, this album is fine. I can really respect DeMarco for allowing us inside his mind in just 23 minutes, but there's just not enough here for me to really be able to appreciate the experience. Now, I don't have a problem with short albums. I actually like them more than an album that's 70 minutes long but has a lot of filler songs. But if you're gonna be short, you better deliver some quality songs. And ultimately, I just didn't hear the quality I was expecting to hear on this.
My Number: 5/10
Derek: Mac DeMarco is the everyday slacker's god. His kooky personality and refusal to take anything too seriously has cemented him in the "chill" zone. This musical space, where stoners and summer picnics with family collide, has catapulted him into the spotlight and he continues to slow waltz his way to the top on his third "LP" Another One. As Joseph said above, the album is only 23 minutes, but that's just his style (2014's Salad Days was only 34 minutes). I don't knock him for cutting out the nonsense; in fact, I respect him for it. I would even argue that this album is more focused than Salad Days and benefits from the even shorter length. Musically, the songs aren't drawn out and none of them feel cut too short either, and this is from an album where only two songs break the 3 minute mark. Instead, DeMarco thrives on capturing the brief, often fleeting thoughts that enter his mind, and if we were to peer through the signature gap in his front teeth and into his head, we'd see a quiet confidence that allows him to do whatever the hell he wants. Just watch the video for "Another One" for an idea of what I mean.
There's nothing on this album that's abrasive, no punch, no angst. There are some emotional topics like uncertain love, but it's masked by his lovable hippie-hobo tone. But that's the point. When he gives out his actual address on the closing song of the album, it's the encapsulation of his entire persona. I, like so many of his fans, want to have a cup of coffee with him at his house. I want to hang out at the beach and see what nutty thing he does next...or nothing at all. That's the joy of it. In an industry that likes to take itself a little too seriously sometimes, it refreshing to hear an artist that goes against that grain.
Do yourself a favor. Pick a nice sunny day, pop this album on your favorite portable music device, and take an easy stroll through your neighborhood. Don't be surprised if you find yourself smiling incessantly, waving at neighbors you usually hate, and petting their stupid but lovable dog.
My Number: 7/10
Final Verdict: 6/10
By: Derek Jung
The Decemberists have been one of the most consistent bands of the past decade. From folk rock focused albums like their previous LP The King is Dead to their rock opera classic Hazards of Love, Colin Meloy and company have released solid album after solid album. I've always admired Meloy's literary approach to songwriting, making references that even the English majors in the crowd might miss if they aren't paying attention. I had the pleasure of seeing them this summer at Bunbury Music Festival in Cincinnati and Meloy did not waste the opportunity to ask the crowd if the festival's name was a reference to Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest.
On What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World, the group takes a more straightforward approach to songwriting. Gone are many of the deep literary allusions, and this certainly isn't the Hazards of Love Part 2. Instead, I would argue that this is the most pop influenced album from the group to date, a middle ground from The King is Dead, Picaresque, and Hazards of Love. Meloy doesn't depart completely from his distinctive songwriting style, in fact, his style is still firmly in place, but it's taken in a different direction. From some of the first lines of the album opener, "The Singer Addresses His Audience," he sings "We know you threw your arms around us/In the hopes we wouldn't change/But we had to change some/ You know, to belong to you." Instead of blown up narratives, Meloy takes things introspective lyrically and the mood of the album follows.
The first single "Make You Better" is a perfect example of Meloy's approach on the album. In the past, instead of writing about how love cannot solve your own problems within, he'd have masked it in an epic tale of mythological monsters and maidens in distress. But here, Meloy is laid bare, and it's a great change. The song starts with just electric guitar and Meloy before slowly building to a powerful refrain. By the time the final refrain reaches its peak, the song is epic not because of its lyrical subject matter, but in and of itself.
But where "Make You Better" was successful, some of the other songs on the album drag under Meloy's new-found approach. There's something to be said for songs like "The Mariner's Revenge Song" or "16 Military Wives" from albums past, that bombastic attitude and fascination for the literary and the nerdy, and that something is missed on the latter half of this album. "Better Not Wake The Baby" gives a quick glimpse of the sea shanty styling of old, but there's an X-factor on the rest of the album that leaves me unsatisfied and yearning for more. The lone bright spot is the final song on the album, ironically titled "A Beginning Song".
It will be interesting to see if Meloy and the band decide to stay the course for the next album or if we see a "revival" of his old songwriting habits. For now, I'll have to read a few books to be prepared to understand them.
My Number: 6/10
Joseph: We pretty much agree on this album 100%. The only thing I want to add is an emphasis on "Better Not Wake The Baby." For me, as I was listening to this album it was really starting to drag at that point, with the single "Make You Better" long over, but I was completely reinvigorated by this song. Now one of my favorite songs of the year, "Better Not Wake The Baby" is exactly what I was hoping for on every song when I started this album. Which makes it all the worse because it's only 1:45 long. This song is a return to old, and so I really hope in the future that's what we return to. The album does feel like a Decemberists album, but at best it is a hollow feeling. Go out and get 'em next time, boys.
My Number: 6/10
PS-I know this is an album review, but check out that video for "Make You Better." It is easily one of the best music videos I've seen all year.
Who are we?
Derek Jung and Joseph Kathmann -- Just two ordinary guys that love talking about music. You can read more about us here.