i don’t want to make you interested, i just want to make you the only one

Do you remember being about thirteen and “discovering” The Clash and Elvis Costello and T. Rex and all those other bands that had been around long before you came into the world and hearing them and obsessing over them and letting them consume nearly every aspect of your life? That seemingly just happened to Peter Bjorn & John, and the result is Gimme Some.

An explosion of high energy, the songs on Gimme Some make no bones about playing off their influences, whether they be intentional or not. “Eyes” embraces the trend of beach jams while putting down roots in the 80s with a drumbeat that’s strikingly similar to that of “Footloose”. “(Don’t Let Them) Cool Off” is borne out of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down a Dream”. The happily bopping “Dig A Little Deeper” is where Paul Simon and They Might Be Giants meet, worldbeat pairing with quirky a-ha lyrics – “all art has been contemporary.”

Lead single “Second Chance” is incredibly catchy for not being all that poppy. While it’s not quite the unstoppable ear worm that “Young Folks” was, it’s their most memorable output since.

The most surprising track on Gimme Some is “May Seem Macabre”. The combination of new-wavey instrumentals, charmingly wonky ESL lyrics, and the should-be-from-the-title-but-not-at-all-expected subject matter makes one want to go back and do an aural double-take. The lyrics appear fairly standard at first, maybe depicting a lazy morning of laying in the sheets. Then comes the  line “they’ve done their best to make us go in style.” It takes a second for it to click, and then you realize the whole first verse is about being prepared for burial. The dark twistiness of it all is tempered by the sweet hopefulness of the music and ends up being a standout track.

Gimme Some drops 03.29.11.
Check out their website here.

it’s a chemical reaction based upon attraction

For Telekinesis’s second full-length release, 12 Desperate Straight Lines, frontman Michael Benjamin Lerner has again teamed up with producer Chris Walla for another stellar album. Where a long-distance relationship and quick production inspired Telekinesis!, 12 Desperate Straight Lines was borne of separation and discontent. Don’t let the surrounding circumstances scare you off, though – the album is highly listenable and has all the catchy hooks of its predecessor.

In addition to reuniting with Walla, Lerner brought back the players from interim EP Parallel Seismic Conspiracies – Cody Votolato [Blood Brothers] and Jason Narducy [Robert Pollard Band]. The songs are still recorded to tape, but the sound is a little richer, namely due to Lerner’s new love of fuzz-heavy bass.

12 Desperate Straight Lines is an all-around solid album, weaving lovable lyrics through the changing sounds, threading together beachy distortion (imagine Nirvana had been cast in a 60s-beach-party-movie remake for “Palm of Your Hand”) with ethereal, echoing “Patterns” and the aggressive “Fever Chill”. The first three songs, though, are the ones you won’t be able to stop listening to on repeat.

“You Turn Clear in the Sun” starts off with just Lerner’s voice and an acoustic guitar, but things quickly pick up with fuzzy bass, drums, bells and other sonic flourishes. Lerner is quick to air the dirty laundry – “I never loved you, I’ve never loved anyone,”  but despite the bummer the relationship turned out to be it’s an upper of a song. Telekinesis channels The Cure with track two’s guitars, and before long you’ll be dancing like the orange-shirted Peanuts kid and reveling in the sentiment of “you’ve got the salt / and I’ve got the wound / but all you got to do is ask.” Topping out the first quarter of the album is “50 Ways”, one of the best songs to emerge of late. Nodding to Paul Simon, Lerner calls him out by name and Telekinesis mimics Simon’s track in structure, but takes things in a darker direction. The interplay of plucked guitar and the grungy grind of the chorus is perfectly balanced and leaves listeners happy to wallow in their own obsessions of lovers who left – “I try to focus on anything else, but I keep on hearing your name.”

12 Desperate Straight Lines drops 02.15.11.
Get more info on Telekinesis here.
Download “Car Crash“.

half of me is the gasoline and the other half’s the surf

Somehow while reviewing Vampire Weekend’s debut album, I managed to avoid explicitly comparing them to Paul Simon – a feat which I didn’t remember accomplishing until re-reading the post two minutes ago and one that must have been done through sheer force of will because they are inexorably linked in my mind. In any case, Contra still cozies up to Simon’s influence, but pulls in so much more.

Contra‘s first half delivers a continuation of the island swing and tribal rhythms explored on Vampire Weekend. Broadening the sound is a base built on synthesized and electronic elements. Like VW, punk informs the band’s sound without actually the final product sounding like punk at all. Though the first half is highly enjoyable, the second half is really where things take off and show growth.

“Cousins” is tight and upbeat, and “I Think UR A Contra” provides a contrast with airy, flitting guitars, wafting piano, jazzy undertones, and orchestral swells. “Diplomat’s Son” drags at first, seeming like it will be far too long and repetitive at 6:01, but halfway through it dramatically breaks down. The song returns to its original theme fairly quickly, but with some added embellishments. Though somewhat interesting, after a couple listens I still can’t decide if it’s going to grow on me or if I’ll grow bored now that I know what’s coming.

Two of the songs on Contra have already lodged themselves in my brain – “Run” and “Giving Up the Gun”. “Run” is a delightfully sap-free love song, complete with an instrumental chorus of joyous abandon.  “Giving Up the Gun” has the potential to be a club hit with some pumped up bass, and thus a complete departure from anything Vampire Weekend has thrown our way before. Even singer Ezra Koenig’s voice has taken on a different quality. Too-cool kids may dismiss the track as too poppy or mainstream, but there’s no doubt they’ll be blasting it in their bedrooms as they get ready to go out for the evening.

Contra drops January 12, 2010.
Stream the entire album at www.vampireweekend.com.