Album: Mirage Rock
Artist: Band of Horses
Author: Tina Cody
Mirage Rock marks Band of Horses’ fourth studio album, and sadly continues the decline that began with their previous record, Infinite Arms. With Mirage Rock, Band of Horses tries to forage into the realm of pop music. Unfortunately, their distinct twang does not seem to fit this genre as the group attempts to create catchy tunes, which infuse a medley of musical styles.
Band of Horses find themselves unsuccessfully straddling the borders of rock, country, and pop. In many instances it appears as if they are floundering, attempting to assert their musical style while also confused about their exact stance. Their songs no longer seem to ebb and flow, instead they remain still and monotonous, lacking a certain degree of intimacy.
By the end of the album, Birdwell’s honeyed vocals and meticulous strumming grow tiring, and the record’s tunes seem to follow some generic formula. “Electric Music” and “Everything’s Gonna Be Undone” offer some respite, proving to be unique songs among the mess of sameness. In no way can Mirage Rock hold a candle to the group’s previous work. In my opinion, Band of Horses fans should treat this album as a mirage, a mere figment of their imagination.
Album: The 2nd Law
Author: Brody Weld
Shortly after they hit the studio in September of 2011 to begin working on The 2nd Law (the sixth Muse album to date), they warned us that it would be “radically different.” That’s a hell of an understatement.
Don’t get me wrong; this is a solid album, but if you’ve been onboard the Muse train from the moment it left the station, you’re going to be baffled by the eclectic collage of styles. They’ve easily covered three decades of genres with this release. The first track, “Supremacy,” is one huge crescendo of gorgeous distorted falsettos and orchestra strikes. Don’t get comfortable with the thickly textured atmosphere though, it isn’t consistent throughout the album. Tracks like “Explorers,” “Animals,” and “Madness” are more traditionally minimalistic, while the groovy funk sound of “Panic Station” (slightly reminiscent of “Undisclosed Desires” from the last album) will have you wondering if you’re listening to the same band.
Album: Will Happiness Find Me?
Artist: Maria Minerva
Author: Justin Baird
Maria Minerva’s sophomore LP Will Happiness Find Me? is not the most usual listen, although not particularly abstract.
Songs sometimes break up to change pace or overall sound and direction. Vocals are often processed with delay and reverb, creating a dizzying vocal track. Looping samples create the entire beat for one track, which is perhaps the best of the LP. However, the album has a structure that supports this sort of dissociative style without being too conceptual.
Not easily described as the most exciting music, the overall tone is quite pleasant. Although not exactly a notable change in style from her first album (which is a good thing), she’s certainly developed, as she incorporates bits of various themes to construct more of an eclectic sound. If you don’t like one song, that doesn’t necessarily mean you wont like the next, as there’s rarely a similar theme in two songs, without straying too far from her own style. Overall, it’s truly a creative album that deserves a listen for it’s strange lack of press coverage and it’s ability to cover a lot of musical bases without being a novelty.
Artist: Grizzly Bear
Author: Michael Skinnider
Grizzly Bear has always had a tendency to get stuck: on a particular instrument, as with "Two Weeks"' piano or on a lyrical motif, as in "Colorado"'s eponymous refrain. Shields, in this context, feels propulsive: even its poppiest songs make a concerted effort to avoid embracing a particular atmosphere. "Yet Again," the album's lushest song, closes with a minute of strident guitar squalls, and choruses have a tendency to drop out into nothingness midway through.
The band itself has emphasized the influence of democracy in the recording process, and indeed, Shields explores subtleties of tone and texture, combinations of each member's musical vocabulary that stand in contrast to Veckatimest's vocal-centric baroque pop. Perhaps this is why Shields is also the most grandiose record in Grizzly Bear's canon. Nothing in their discography comes close to the aggressive, orchestral tension of "Half-Gate," whose strings are sheer, Sun Ra-esque blasts of sound.
Shields doesn't really have an obvious entry point, and as a result, is a more challenging record than anything they've put out since Ed Droste's debut, quasi-solo album Horn of Plenty, but its intimacy and intricacy are just as rewarding.
Artist: Mumford and Sons
Author: Michael Skinnider
Following up a hit album can be difficult. Just ask Mumford and Sons, whose album Sigh No More was both commercially successful and critically acclaimed. Perhaps wisely then, they chose not to fix what wasn’t broken. Babel features many of the same qualities that made Sigh No More so successful. Folky song structures, lovely harmonies, lively banjo, and of course Marcus Mumford’s distinctive growl, are all alive and well on the album. There is a familiar balance between jaunty, up tempo blasts, and more intimate moments.
The album does come up short in a few areas however. Fans looking for serious stylistic progression will come away disappointed. That being said, there is a lot to like about Babel. It may not break the mould, but there is no doubt that the sound is distinctly, and uniquely, their own.
It proves that their first album was no fluke, and it affirms that Mumford and Sons will continue to be serious players in today’s folk rock scene for a very long time to come.
Game: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Author: Jason Scherer
Countless hours - bloodshot eyes - one more red bull - must reach max level! This expansion has put the breath of life back into World of Warcraft. Here are some new features that make Pandaria truly epic.
Cross realm servers solve low population server issues as well as shine a new light on PVP for those ready to get back to the roots of faction warfare. Now you can group up with friends from any server. However, there will be fewer enemies to kill for quests, more crowded areas, and less resources to ore. This is compensated for with fast re-spawn times.
Keeping true to the new eastern theme of Mists of Pandaria, a new playable race of characters has been made available to players. In MoP you will be able to crush enemies on either faction with the neutral Pandarens. For the first time, World of Warcraft has introduced a race which can be played as alliance or horde.
After countless hours of playing the new expansion, I can confidently say that gamers are in for a sick experience. It feels good to explore new areas and participate in the annihilation of the alliance. See you all in Pandaria!