art rock

The Dream: Album Review

When I was in the midst of previewing Coachella and almost ready to head out for the second leg of my Mexico adventure in February, alt-J dropped their fourth full length album The Dream. The band also recently embarked on a North American tour with Portugal. The Man in support of their latest with more dates planned for this year worldwide. The Dream is their first album in five years since 2017’s Relaxer. Overall, alt-j’s latest album maintains their unique indie rock style of sound that is prevalent throughout their first three records with a slightly more Americanized rock sound.

The album much like it’s title is very dreamy. It’s very chill and sometimes somber indie rock with minimal bops. It’s the perfect soundtrack for a long scenic drive in my opinion. “Hard Drive Gold” is the “Left Hand Free”, “Breezeblocks”, or “In Cold Blood” of The Dream. I feel like each alt-j album so far has one of those and “Hard Drive Gold”, the song about crypto, is that hit of their latest release. “U&Me”, “Get Better”, & “Happier When You’re Gone” are solid tracks reminiscent of that classic alt-J sound as well. The main difference from this album compared to their first three is that alt-j’s sound has steered from the Middle Eastern sounds found in their earlier music. It’s more rock heavy yet the vocals are still smooth and distinguishable as alt-J tracks.

I don’t think this is alt-J’s best work, but the album does have a good handful of quality tracks that will stick around on set lists in the future. I feel like any time a band slightly strays from their original sound this tends to happen. It’s worth listening to as an alt-J fan though and is probably worth adding to your music collection too. I added it to mine on vinyl yesterday and I’m stoked to listen to it on this rainy spring weekend. If you haven’t already, check it out on a chill day or when you need a good soundtrack for a long drive. It’s quality new alt-J ∆.

Coachella Band Preview: St. Vincent

February is finally almost over. It seems like winter tends to drag on because life moves slower. It does for me at least. There are less shows, barely any festivals, and the snow sucks. Thankfully, Coachella and the rest of festival season is inching closer and closer. This week to prep for the Coachella Valley’s finest I’m previewing an artist who goes by the name of St. Vincent.

Anne “Annie” Erin Clark, better known to the world as St. Vincent, began her music career as a member of the choral rock band the Polyphonic Spree, after attending the Berklee College of Music for 3 years. Before starting her own group in 2006, she was a member of Sufjan Stevens touring band too. During her childhood, Clark began playing guitar at the age of 12 and was a roadie for her aunt and uncle, jazz duo Tuck & Patti. She got her stage name of St. Vincent from a lyric in Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ song “There She Goes, My Beautiful World”.

In 2007, St. Vincent released her debut album Marry Me. After extensive touring for the album over that year, Clark began her second album in 2008. The album, Actor, was then released on May 5, 2009. It was more well received than her debut as it peaked at 90 on the Billboard 200 Chart as well as 9 on the Independent Albums Chart and 5 on the Tastemaker Albums Chart.

Strange Mercy, St. Vincent’s third album, was released on September 13, 2011 receiving tons of critical acclaim and peaking at 19 on the Billboard 200. Clark toured worldwide through 2012 then it was back to the studio to work on her next album. In 2012 she also released a collaborative album with with former Talking Heads lead guitarist and vocalist and fellow Coachella 2018 performer David Byrne.

Her fourth album, St. Vincent, was released in February of 2014. A few months prior she announced a world tour in 2014 and released two singles in anticipation of the self-titled album. Again the album was well received and ranked highly in multiple publications. The album earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album which she subsequently won. Her touring for the album continued into 2015.

Her most recent album to date, Masseduction, was released on October 13, 2017. It was Clark’s first album to peak in the top 10 of Billboard’s 200 Chart upon release. It reached the 10 spot. It also sold close to 30,000 copies in the first week of its release with 25,000 of those being traditional album sales.

St. Vincent has a very unique music style. You may classify it as indie rock, but the sound often uses complex arrangements and an array of instruments. Sometimes it sounds pretty wild and almost like music in the background of a horror movie. It’s music in a true artistic form and complemented by lyrics that often diverge into madness. Clark’s voice is that of a former choir girl and adds beauty to the mixture of sound.

I first heard of St. Vincent while reading one of the Pretty Little Liars novels. In the book, it mentioned one of the girls on a drive listening to St. Vincent’s “Actor Out of Work” and singing it at the top of her lungs. I decided to listen to the song after reading that part of the book since I had never listened to St. Vincent before then. I really liked it and decided to download it. Since then I had only downloaded “Digital Witness” after hearing it in 2014. I never really got into Clark’s music as a whole, but for some reason, I began listening to the singles released for her most recent album “New York” and “Los Ageless” over the summer. At the end of November, I worked one of her shows on her “Fear the Future” Tour. I was also able to listen in on some of her VIP  Q & A and stay for most of the show after I finished work. I always appreciate a Q & A because I feel like you get to learn a bit about band or artist. This was no exception. I developed an appreciation for St. Vincent and Annie Clark. Not to mention, I had recently purchased Masseduction. The show was overcrowded though. I couldn’t see much from where I was standing and I ended up leaving a little over halfway through to make it home. I did enjoy it though and would love to see her again if I had the opportunity.

Coachella would be the perfect opportunity if I was attending this year. She would definitely be on my must-see list for Friday. She’s listed as a highly billed act this year so I would expect a late afternoon-evening set. If you’ve never seen her or listened to her music before, it’s pretty artistic. I think that element alone can make people curious to hear her and/or see her live. She also has plenty of visuals during her performance that add to the artistic nature of her music. To get you prepped for her third Coachella performance here’s a few staples you should check out:

  1. Digital Witness
  2. Cruel
  3. New York
  4. Masseduction
  5. Actor Out of Work
  6. Marry Me
  7. Cheerleader
  8. Birth in Reverse
  9. Los Ageless
  10. Surgeon