KSUA 91.5 Notes: Comedown Machine, Overgrown and Mala Reviewed
Brady Gross/Sun Star Columnist
April 16, 2013
This was coming and absolutely inevitable; “Comedown Machine,” the last effort of a five-album deal with RCA – is a mess. I saw it coming and wasn’t looking forward to writing about it. News that the Strokes had no plans to tour this album, announced weeks before the album ever hit stores, was the big clue. Then the promo copy hit my desk, and I tried, I really tried. I’ve listened to “Comedown Machine” at least 20 times over the last week, and I can’t do it. There is no concentrated effort to make “Comedown” seem careless like Julian Casablancas can make anything seem. The Strokes brought cool back to rock in 2001 and truly didn’t give a shit about it. They sounded happily lethargic, and we all wanted to smell as bad as the beer stains that coated Casablancas hair, shirt and ripped up Chucks. Here though, I just don’t know whom I’m listening to. Casablancas doesn’t even sound truly himself until “Chances” – track nine. In all seriousness, the songs are boring and all the wrong lengths for the wrong ambitions. Now granted, that is a tough sell – saying the Strokes sound boring, can seem, well, like flabbergast. That’s what the Stokes do, sound bored. But here it’s just different. “Comedown” is essentially the scraps left on the studio floor at RCA. The more you listen, the more it becomes apparent Julian and the Strokes crew are happy to move on with their lives away from RCA and a 12-year deal that forced a lot of musicianship that probably wasn’t fully wanting or ready to be showcased.
Just “OK” Tracks: “All The Time”
James Blake has taken jazz and gospel influences and successfully blended them with modern electronic R
&B. Blake’s vocal pitch varies from one syllable to another and drives an emotional response that is completely enthralling. “Overgrown” should be more aptly named “Perfectlygrown.” There isn’t one track on this sophomore release that doesn’t challenge but also remind of Blake’s previous work. Blake has appropriately progressed to another level in a genre that he’s curated all on his own. Repetitious melodies and varying textures excite songs that make you forget where you started and where you’re going.
Essential Tracks: “Life Round Here” “Retrograde” and “Overgrown”
Sometimes I forget that what may seem like a pretty “known
“ artist in certain ways, can still always be a first time listen for others. So here, we’ve got Banhart, who spent most of his years growing up between Venezuela and California. Banhart has spent the later half of ten years releasing albums under the genre, ‘freak-folk.’ Banhart has always strayed from anything conventional concerning lyrical subject matter, compositional standards and overall musical objectivity. Banhart directs his music under his own misplaced compass and sometimes it falls short, but usually he succeeds unexpectedly well. That all said, here on “Mala,” Banhart does just that, he succeeds extremely well keeping his musical personality in check. He also has “calmed” down a little, opening avenues to certain audiences even wider than Banhart’s usual tunnels allow. Prop up a lounge chair, get a drink with a little umbrella in it, and soak in these sun-drenched melodies.
Essential Tracks: “Golden Girls” and “Your Fine Petting Duck”