Band of Horses find universal balance, and Tool ushers in an apocalypse, The Black Keys remember the blues and Editors proffer nostalgia
Band of Horses
The Black Keys
Band of Horses
The addictively energetic track, “Funeral,” makes you want to blow out your eardrums, cranking its delicate expansiveness with a desperation you haven’t felt since you first heard MMJ’s “Dancefloors.” Despite, or perhaps because of its bleak theme, “Funerals” manages to push its soaring guitar wandering and wailing vocals to an awe-inspiring level of glory. Then the drums crash into the melody and push the intensity just that much further. It’s both puzzling and heartening, the way this band seems to tinker with the elements until everything is ironically balanced; the theme of the song being the exact inverse of the mood it demands. Trust me, you’ll be hitting repeat a lot.
Then you’ll discover the other songs, like “The Great Salt Lake,” which cradles its series of crescendoing hooks in a pretty slow-bleeding melody. And the sleepier songs, such as “The First Song” and “I Go To The Barn Because I Like The,” balance a lacey frailty with a flammable emotional heat—communicated through the combination of Bridwill’s unrelenting sincerity and lush instrumental equilibrium.
Editors, a four-piece from Birmingham, England, has a corner on the market; singer Tom Smith’s brooding, wide-screen voice could give Ian Curtis’ a run for its money, and intense-but-danceable beats glisten with a near-translucent pop sheen.
The band’s debut, The Back Room , took its sweet time rafting across the pond, but upon arrival, it was greeted with a warm welcome. The album opens with an epic clatter, and by the time the second track, “Munich,” shuffles into place, the hook is securely fastened. Lyrics are spontaneous and contradictory: “People are fragile things, you should know by now / You’ll speak when you’re spoken to,” Smith sings in a commanding voice atop Joy Division-style synthesizer loops. It’s an album full of punctuation—mark-the-spot melodies, calculated reverb and driving rhythms—and the exacto-knife mentality doesn’t let up throughout its duration.
Then again, there’s the question of how much is too much (i.e. is this world big enough for Editors and the Killers?), and where to draw the line between rehashing the past and circumnavigating the future. Editors makes a sturdy case for creative nostalgia.
The Black Keys
But Kimbrough was all about the blues. And The Black Keys, with their own strange Ohio-meets-Mississippi-delta bluesy style, have done the man a great service with their newest album, Chulahoma , which is a pitch-perfect tribute to an original master bluesman. They capture the velouté of Junior’s guitarwork, while Dan Auerbach belts out raw, painful lyrics with the selfsame resonate yawp that made Kimbrough’s moanings so memorable, edifying the original delta-trance sound to the nth degree.
Imitation is flattering, but what The Black Keys do on this record is beyond flattery, keeping the memory of Junior Kimbrough alive, and painfully soulful, the way blues is supposed to be played.