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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
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The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
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No Age - Everything in Between
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Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Different Days

Rating: 9/10 ?

February 7, 2005
Before writing this review, I needed to witness L'Altra perform their third full-length, Different Days, live, in order to substantiate what I think about it.

After hearing them play Different Days on stage in their current hometown of Chicago, I'm convinced: barely days into 2005, L'Altra has released what may be remembered as the finest record of this year - a genre-bowing indie masterpiece as gorgeous as anything released since Sigur Rós' ( ).

Operating under the philosophy that loudness does not necessarily create tension, producer Joshua Eustis (Telefon Tel Aviv) - who also co-produced last year's airy classic, The Race's If You Can - permits Joseph Costa and Lindsay Anderson to create friction amid sprawling, sparse electronics, baring themselves by vocal interplay and dazzling guitar and piano melodies. A few string sections, horns, crackles, booms, sparks and blips try to intrude each track's space, but no interloper succeeds in breaking the confessions of real-life ex-lovers Costa and Anderson.

With hardly a tempo change among the ten songs, balance becomes key to L'Altra's success.

Neither voice has more to say than the other. Electronic elements don't outweigh the acoustic elements - with the exception of the over-the-top tinkering of the title track, which sounds like Low-meets-Cornelius-meets-El Guapo. Like Sigur Rós's ( ), there is a chill in the air of Different Days but also plenty of warmth to make this an album worth revisiting, perhaps even daily.

L'Altra's forte, much like fellow Chicago contemporaries The Race, is in generating anti-crescendos, or tantric instances in songs when, rather than relieve tension with noise or surprise, a musical artist creates intensity by way or repeating or draining a melody or hook. The pause and Tim Kinsella-esque guitar playing that follows the breathy whisper of "So smile/and say/and wave/goodbye/all at the same time," winding down "Better Than Bleeding," is a fine example.

The album unfolds like a stunning anti-climax of its own, each song building and deflating in intensity only to peak in the closing moments of "Morning Disaster" when 'Na-Na-Na's lead a chorus of instruments, among them a trumpet that bursts through the melancholy like sun on a gloomy day (or other blown "tantric instruments" on any day, for that matter).

Upon relief of "Morning Disaster," not surprisingly the song L'Altra ends their live set with, "A Day Between" has the same effect on the close of Different Days as a film's exit music does on the scenes that preceded it - you may want to keep the lights dimmed for those two in the back row, though.

Reviewed by Brian Sutherland
The last we heard, Brian Sutherland lived in Chicago. He\'s a friend of Sarah Peters. That is about all we know about him.

See other reviews by Brian Sutherland



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