Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Japandroids - Celebration Rock

I wrote the following for LEO Weekly.

“Young Hearts Spark Fire,” the burning anthem that catapulted David Prowse and Brian King into the hearts of thousands, maybe millions, of young punks on debut album Post-Nothing has been reincarnated. The relentless drum fills, scorching guitar, and shout-along choruses fill “The House That Heaven Built” with an unspeakable passion that offers listeners just one more reason to feel alive. The guys behind Japandroids aren’t subtle – they literally begin and end the album with the sound of fireworks. And the music in between is the breed that makes the heart pound with the same excitement a young kid feels running through the yard with a sparkler. Reckless abandon fills all eight songs on Celebration Rock, Japandroids’ second full-length excuse to melt the world under the power of their amplifiers. Hold on to your seat, they’re on fire. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012


The last time I listened to Japandroids full time is when I was working part time and interning for free. The world was hostile, I couldn’t find my way out of my post-college slump, and I needed music to scream along to. I would run circles around the cul-de-sac where I grew up, where I was living, miserably with my parents. Stuck in what seemed like an endless cycle of unsuccess, I was young and I was mad. Japandroids made me long for the endless college nights of reckless behavior and unpredictable friendships. Instead, I was stuck in suburbia.

I still love Post-Nothing, but I don’t listen to it on a typical day. I found a new job and a new home, and for the most part, I found happiness. I don’t long for a different life anymore. So the purpose, the crutch that I used Japandroids for has been filled.

Celebration Rock doesn’t hold a significance for me like their debut album did. It’s not that I don’t love it. After all, these are still the sort of raging rock and roll songs that move the body and spirit. But I find myself longing instead for folksy, sunny songs that I can blast while I’m basking in sunshine in my backyard. It’s been a difficult process reviewing this new record because it doesn’t touch me like the last one did. Not for lack of quality, but because I’ve changed. The line between panning an album because you “don’t feel it” and because it’s a shitty album is stark. So how do I stay true to myself and also true to the band?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Looking back at Post Post-Nothing

I wrote a preview article of the upcoming Japandroids album, Celebration Rock, for Under the Radar more than a year ago. The much anticipated album comes out June 5th. Let's review what David Prowse told me about it back then.

When David Prowse gets behind a drum kit and Brian King straps on a guitar, and they are in a room full of amplifiers, the energy level automatically multiplies. The two Vancouver natives behind Japandroids aren’t so much in the game to geek out with music gear or mess around with production—they play to make hearts race and crowds shout along.
Japandroids were unknowns when their debut album ­Post-Nothing came out in early 2009. Prowse and King wanted to put out a record that they could give to friends and play live around their hometown. After a couple hundred shows and insanely enthusiastic reviews of Post-Nothing, the pair is finally coming to terms with the fact that they are a real band.
On their first hiatus from touring in a year and a half, the two are piecing together riffs and ideas for their sophomore album, which they will begin recording in March. With the new material, they have more time to think about the content and decide just how “weird” they want it to be.
“Now we’re slightly older, slightly wiser. Barely wiser,” Prowse cracks, “and hopefully we can add a bit more complexity to the way the record sounds.”
Post-Nothing was heavy on songs that captured the ecstatic joy of being young. Hazy, lo-fi fuzz takes over, the guitar blares like a siren, and the lyrics—about girls, long nights with friends—are shouted messily. It’s easy to get lost in the sensation of recklessness. Think nights of no sleep, drinking and puking and just not caring. Think spontaneity. Think ringing ears.
“I think we’ve learned that kind of model of songwriting, even from a lyrical standpoint, so well that it’s easy to write songs like that to a large extent,” Prowse says. “At the same time, I think we are different from the guys who wrote those songs and put out that record. It was a good couple years ago. I think we need to strike some sort of a balance between the things that we still feel are true to us about the songwriting and lyrical content of Post-Nothing and how we feel now. I wouldn’t expect another ‘Wet Hair.’”
They want to remain true to their recording style, which Prowse says “sounds like you basically just came to one of our shows and just threw a microphone up in the back of the room,” so they are sticking with The Hive, a studio in Vancouver where they recorded Post-Nothing and a collection of singles they released last year. Instead of keeping a consistent vocal pattern and drum sound throughout a whole album, like they did on Post-Nothing, they want each song to sound unique.
“On Post-Nothing, we’re trying to play as fast and hard as possible,” Prowse explains. “I’m trying to do as many drum fills as I can in a four-minute period. It’s really fun, and obviously, I think we both love playing those songs, but I think we both want to explore writing great songs and not necessarily just like spazzing for four minutes straight.”

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Best Coast - The Only Place

Well folks, she’s all grown up. Bethany Cosentino, the California-based, sun-loving songwriter best known for her songs about cats, boys, and weed, is taking her sophomore release to the next level of maturity. Except she’s still singing about mood swings and gossip (“Better Girl”) and goofing off at the beach (“The Only Place”). Ok, ok, so her lyrics are still shallow, but Cosentino’s grand ability to write insanely catchy melodies is only enhanced with the help of producer Jon Brion (Fiona Apple, Kanye West). Cosentino and bassist/drummer Bobb Bruno sound clear and present, a sort of in-your-face pop mastery that gets better with each listen. But with Cosentino’s attempted maturation, we’re stuck with a few duds, like “Do You Still Love Me Like You Used To,” which isn’t only tedious and grating, but like a nagging partner, is annoying as hell.

Taka Black - Pure Imagination: The Mixtape

It takes boldness to sample a song as square as Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” on your first mixtape. Granted, Taka Black, born Ansel Wright III, is also taking cues from Rihanna and Adele on his follow up to Pure Imagination: The Prelude, a seven-song set that introduced the world to his music. From the free-and-easy flow of “Best Man” to the electronic club beat of “The Warm-up,” the Cleveland native is sharing his own slice of reality. The name Taka Black comes from a Japanese proverb that he considers a metaphor for “a special child coming from a not so special background.” Wright dealt with challenges growing up, from foster care to getting his clothes from the school lost and found. He addresses these struggles on tracks like “Too Hard,” with rhymes like “You ain’t never met an underdog that’s hotter than me/Couldn’t be close if he was up under my family tree.” It’s not all woe-is-me status, though; one of the better takeaways can be found on “Gimme,” where Wright mocks braggery with lines like "Damn, you da man/How many hoes you got?/Many." Bold, yes. Worthwhile, definitely.