Bon Iver - Bon Iver (4/5) American indie/folk band Bon Iver's critically acclaimed debut For Emma, Forever Ago was praised for its capitalization on sheer sensitivity. It was indeed a beautifully constructed set--heartfelt and endearing--rigorously tugging on an emotional melancholic chord, further showcased with its minimalist approach to folk; disquieting guitar strings, hollow drums patterns and Justin Vernon's delicate vocal. Following it up, without replicating, would always be a difficult task--Bon Iver seems to counteract the bands knack for intimate, stripped-down folk. The sounds, while still subdued, seems more fulfilled with a wider range of backing instruments further pushing the dynamic. It's certainly not as disheartening. Opening track "Perth" introduces a sweet melody, with gentle guitar chords and an underpinning hush hush military drum. "Minnesota, WI" is delightfully subtle; twiddling acoustic guitars, layers of soft synths and swooning horns. Its subtlety is echoed throughout the album, maybe save for "Hinnom, TX" which sonically seems to verge on the harsher, with its persistent, pulsing synth-keyboard tones and piercing falsetto which then segues into "Wash." backed by only strings and poignant piano keys, is the album at its disquieting peak. As a whole, this can sound a little bland but on the other hand works more apparently as a beautiful, wonderfully-composed and restraint piece of work. And also a nice follow-up to is predecessor. Best: Perth, Minnesota WI, Wash, Calgary, Towers, Michicant
Gillian Welch - The Harrow & The Harvest (4/5) Similar to Bon Iver, there is a distinct sensitivity in American bluegrass/folk singer Gillian Welch's fourth album The Harrow & The Harvest that seems to tug on an emotional chord--exuding a sense of heartbreak, desperation and emptiness, mimicked by the minimalist matching of acoustic guitars, drums, percussion and Welch's dejected vocal. Lovelorn "DarkTurn of Mind" painfully illustrates the contemplative awkwardness that love poses in a relationship, while opening track "Scarlet Town" hangs on a vengeful thread. "The Way It Goes" a mid-tempo about companionship turned sour, has a classic old-fashioned, folkish aura--it wouldn't sound out of place in the '60s. The album closes on the somber "The Way the Whole Thing Ends," a bluesy approach to folk, that hits all of the right notes. I'm not in love with it, maybe I just tire of the same sound over and over again but The Harrow & The Harvest is a good album, especially lyrically, it's awesome in that perspective. Best: Dark Turn of Mind, The Way It Goes, Scarlet Town, The Way the Whole Thing Ends.
Taking Back Sunday - Taking Back Sunday (3.5/5) American rock band Taking Back Sunday release their fifth album. It's my first exposure to the band (this was a recommendation from a friend). I was expecting an All Time Low approach to rock, but this is heavier, much heavier, although maybe not as hard going as maybe Creed or Avenged Sevenfold. First track "El Paso" features a band of screeching vocal, gouging electronic guitar chords and heavy drums. Fortunately (at least for the mainstream listener) things to do lighten up, "Faith (When I Let You Down)" re-introduces a possibly more accessible, familiar rock/pop although with still quite a punchy chorus. Same goes for "Best Place to Be a Mom" which reminds me a lot of British rock band You Me at Six. As enjoyable as some of the songs are, the album does seem to battle between the more heavier and softer rock sounds throughout which can get a little overbearing, until closing track "Call Me In the Morning" which is a more restraint rock ballad. Best: Call Me In the Morning, Best Place to Be a Mom, Faith (When I Let You Down), Who Are You Anyway?