Some of the albums we’ve heard recently have left us feeling a little underwhelmed – and that’s perfectly ok. As you’re about to see, sometimes an album is worth persevering with, but sometimes it just flat-out sucks, and your cynicism is 100% justified.
White Denim: Stiff
White denim’s 7th album is an energized, simple rock setup. It has influences from the early 80s: straightforward guitars and drums, in addition to the happy-go-lucky and satisfied mentality of the era. They haven’t strayed too far from the classic rock they’ve been making for the last few years, and that’s the problem. Its background happy music for people who haven’t experienced music’s ability to make you feel.
They’ve got some groovy songs, such as ‘Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)’, but you get the jist of the track as soon as you see the song title. The lyrics are just vapid: (“be yourself, try and have a good time, ha ha ha ha yeah.”) There are catchy tunes, but it all seems to faze into the same song, the same style, and the same progressions. Maybe that was their intention: a Grateful Dead “jamming” feel, but it doesn’t work for me. It’s been done so many times before, and I can’t seem to find anything that makes this album stand out on its own from the coalescent mass of classic rock already out there, besides the slight twang of psychedelic rock (which is just as popular now). It doesn’t do anything, it doesn’t go anywhere or explore anything. The simplicity of it all some would deem its resounding strength, but it’s just as much the group’s limitation.
Triangle consists of twenty-one songs (which makes up about 70 minutes, since Susanna likes a lot of her songs unconventionally short) of intensely expressive, sweeping music, probing lyrics, spacious electronic beats, and spirals of synth. You could call these layers of voice, electronics, and effects enchanting, or you could just call it noise. Personally, I’m leaning towards the latter.
To be honest, the Norwegian Susanna is a terribly interesting artist. She is known for personal interpretations of songs for example Joy Division, Leonard Cohen and AC/DC, and she has created her own fascinating musical expression and set up many collaborations and projects with other Norwegian and international artists. Triangle, her eleventh album, definitely shows her experience in creating unique songs and music. However, they do call for a very engaged listener. The album should feel intimate, as Susanna sings in a confessional mode and confronts existential themes, such as the reflective monologue ‘Hole’ about slipping into mental darkness. But I experience the opposite: most of the songs are so complex they feel alienating or push me away. It’s too much.
If you like Björk or other spiritual music, please give this a listen. If you’re not into that, please don’t cause yourself to suffer.
I’ll admit to being more occupied with The World Is A Beautiful Place’s Whenever, If Ever when Foxing’s debut album – The Albatross – came out last year. I thought it was forgettable and didn’t return to it after a handful of listens. This background made listening to Dealer all the more pleasantly surprising. Yes, it does still descend into a general I’m-sad-because-of-something-trite aesthetic every now and then but otherwise signals a successful progression for the band.
Foxing seem to be acutely aware of the shortcomings of The Albatross, with the leading song ‘Weave’ being described as trying to “put The Albatross to bed” by the band. The refined use of falsetto such as on ‘Glass Coughs’, ‘Eiffel’ and ‘Three on a Match’ and horns on ‘Laundered’ and ‘Indica’ make Foxing stand out in the emo revival genre. Foxing’s experimentation has definitely paid off on this album, with these unique qualities carving out a niche for the band and setting them on a bar with emo bands such as Empire! Empire! and early Death Cab for Cutie. Absolutely worth a listen.