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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Apples in Stereo
New Magnetic Wonder
Yep Roc

Rating: 9.4/10 ?


September 18, 2007
You know what the best feeling in the world is, for a music critic anyway? When a band you admire steadily puts out album after album, each one better than the last, before pausing for a five-year sabbatical and ultimately returning with the best album of their lives.

Seriously, I get no more satisfaction than when a good band becomes a great band, especially when the current inconsistent musical climate has plenty of good bands falling off or losing the plot every year. Reliability is nice, but rare; someone should propose a pension plan for indie-pop. James Mercer kind of fumbled the ball earlier this year trying to take the Shins to the grandiose next step, and the result was a mite stillborn, with great songs peeking out of the yolk in flecks and all sorts of half-realized compressions and phase-shiftings pooling all around it. The New Pornographers are merely sick of hooks, or at least trying to write them.

And then we have these somewhat forgotten troopers, once hip enough to snag a bit of Cartoon Network time while gracefully playing second fiddle to Elephant 6's more beloved Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. Well, here we are in 2007, where consistency is still consistency, and the dust has now settled on two reigns of psychedelia in indieland (first Elephant 6, then freak-folk). And the troopers are still making great records. Scaling back the woolly distorto-rush of their last record, Velocity of Sound, and downplaying early hippie-ish influences more than ever, Apples In Stereo present us with a neat trick: a big, conceptual-looking record that tricks you into believing it has pretensions. It certainly looks important, from the vital-appearing title (New! Wonder!) to the whopping 24-song tracklist to bandleader Robert Schnieder's jaw-dropping music theory breakthrough, a cycle of pitches and half-pitches the inventor calls the "Non-Pythagorean Scale." But the best part is that none of these things actually have to do with the record itself or why it's great. It's merely a bit of fun mythology to remember it by in a marketplace where slightly tripped-out indie-poppers are a dime a dozen. Not even the two dozen songs here… anyone scared off by the "length" should note that about ten of those are minute-or-less doodles, and even those are quite astonishing in themselves (especially the gorgeous vocoded plea, "Joanie Don't U Worry").

That leaves about 14 real tunes, all great, and none deviating from Apples' proven formula of four chords and hooks, even if they're more layered than previous releases with a bit more rock to push them over the hump and sizzling production that makes wonderful use of incorporated robot-voice harmonies, leading some to ELO comparisons. "Can You Feel It?," "Skyway," and "Sunndal Song" are the best of the processed machine-rockers, full with swooshing backup vocals and synthesized strings, while "Play Tough" and "Energy" are acoustic boogie-ballads so obvious you swear you could've written them. The plentiful interludes don't disturb and rather improve the flow of pure sugar, separating the album into glistening jellies rather than one sickening stream of syrup.

And where Velocity of Sound closed with its two best moments, New Magnetic Wonder generously distributes them throughout, opting for some second-half grandiloquence these guys have earned after more than a decade of timidly-adorned jingles in "Open Eyes" and the four part suite "Beautiful Machine." The kindly lyrics ponder a lot with a little: "And the world is made of energy/ and there's a light inside of you/ and there's a light inside of me," and "The moonlight lingers softly in the air/ and to the moon's delight/ it shimmers slightly dancing in your hair," are typical junctions of science and romance sung with an ease Death Cab For Cutie haven't settled into just yet.

So while it's a little scary that the finest song is the most cynical ("We're going backwards now!" cheerfully wilts our robot friend), the loveliest song promises to keep its promises: "When you're down I'll lift you up/ I'll be the one who's always sure of where you are." And by doing so, they remind us that reliability is love. And I can't think of many records this year I love more than this. Don't make me wait another five, love.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss

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