in my head there’s a city at night

Wolf Parade’s At Mount Zoomer is weird and nuanced and filled with bizarre energy. For the most part this works for them, but occasionally it works against.

At Mount Zoomer starts strong with the synth-accented 3/4 swirl of “Soldier’s Grin”, which builds to an impassioned release. The skipping piano march and hollowed-out vocals of “Call It A Ritual” continue to please. Zoomer also ends strong with the reigned-in 80s vibe of “Fine Young Cannibals” that would do Hall & Oates proud, and the grandiose epic that is “Kissing the Beehive”.

Though their quirkiness is part of their charm, Wolf Parade gets a bit too weird for the less-adventurous listener. Misplaced pop (“The Grey Estates”), a lengthly retro organ jam (“California Dreamer”), and an odd dance (“Bang Your Drum”) work together to make the middle of the album a little off-putting for the more sober among us.

This murky ground can be ignored, however, by the inclusion of “Language City” – a track that is earnest, stark at points, but still teeming with movement and warmth – and “An Animal in Your Care”, which begins relaxed and pretty but grows into a fierce declaration.

At Mount Zoomer dropped 06/17/08.
Get downloads and more from Wolf Parade’s Sub Pop page.

i need an infantry to get the symphony out of my head

Rilo Kiley. Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s. Arcade Fire. Elliott Smith. Bright Eyes. These are the artists that come to mind when listening to John Ralston’s sophomore LP, Sorry Vampire.

Live, John Ralston and his band are straight rock and roll, an amped up singer/songwriter outfit. Though excellent, the live show doesn’t even begin to compare with the genius Ralston achieves on this release.

The laundry list of instruments appearing on the album are actually put to good use, contributing to the overall sound and feel of the album as opposed to merely lending themselves to spectacle.

Kicking off the album is “Fragile”, an excellent track featuring gritty electronics, strings, and fantastically catchy hand claps. Staccato strings help make “The Only Evidence” a memorable track. A clipped drum beat and angelic chorus spice up the generally sparse “I Guess I Wasted My Summer Now”, while “A Small Clearing” fluctuates between ascending video-game-like electropop and classic piano.

Also of note are Ralston’s colorful lyrics.  Whether straightforward (“if I lean in too close, it’s to kiss or confess”) or somewhat obscure (“Still, dead air in the pinwheel lungs / Baby birds are weak and dumb”), they provide unexpectedly vivid imagery.

Sorry Vampire is quite an impressive outing from this Florida native. Each track is complex and unique but come together to form a cohesive album. You can catch John Ralston on tour through mid-November.

Sorry Vampire dropped 10/02/07.

Check out John Ralston’s official site.