#51

October 1, 2010

The Fiery FurnacesWidow City
experimental-rock, indie-pop
2007

The Fiery Furnaces - Widow CityCall it Blueberry Boat’s slightly less accomplished little sibling, if you want. While the classic-rock influences and somewhat retro-focused approach certainly infuse Widow City with an identity all of its own amongst the Fiery’s body of work, it definitely stands as the release most similar in style to the duo’s breakout second album. The sprawling, genre-hopping, relentless creativity of Blueberry Boat is in full-force here, meaning that the album covers an awful lot of ground during its lengthy runtime – Eleanor makes her first attempt at old-school hip-hop, juxtaposed against blazing noise-rock and flourishes of harp, on “Automatic Husband”; the group’s trademark narrative-based story-songs are delivered on “The Philadelphia Grand Jury”, “My Egyptian Grammar”, “Cabaret of the Seven Devils” and a few more tracks besides, and they’re just as engrossing, unique and highly unusual as ever before; “Clear Signal From Cairo” is a hard-rock track that’s heavier than anything the Friedberger’s have created before or since; “Wicker Whatnots” features some subterranean basslines and drums so skittish they border on Squarepusher; and the title-track is perhaps the strangest of all, being made up of fractured bursts of upright piano and fluttering effects-filtered percussion. Importantly, there are a number of more accessible, relatively straightforward cuts to offset all this mayhem, with tunes like “Duplexes of the Dead” (which features some great wah-wah), “Ex-Guru”, “Right By Conquest” and “Pricked in the Heart” keeping proceedings from getting too out of hand. All this makes Widow City an incredibly charming effort, with enough great songs and clever ideas packed into its sixteen tracks to thoroughly satisfy any fan of exciting, forward-thinking rock music.

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#91

July 8, 2010

of Montreal – Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?
indie-pop, psych-pop
2007

At the time of its release, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? really surprised the hell out of me. of Montreal were a band I’d come to consider reliable for releasing solid, “B+” albums year after year, so for them to drop such an awesome album this far into their career was something I would never have expected. Kevin Barnes has earned a place amongst this decade’s best songwriters, with a conceptual magnum opus of depression, fear, confusion, anxiety and post-relationship meltdown, expressed through witty, striking lyricism and of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?bouncing-off-the-walls vocal delivery. The switch to a jittery electro-pop aesthetic was another surprise, and the group deserve kudos for creating their best work under the risk of a major stylistic shift. Sprawling centrepiece “The Past is a Grotesque Animal” is deserving of special mention – the 11 minute cathartic outpouring is easily the most ambitious song the group have ever recorded, and it’s arguably their best.