Sunday, August 8, 2010

Currents: Wavves, Best Coast, Taken By Trees

Wavves: King of the Beach
[Fat Possum 2010]

Wavves' breakthrough second album Wavvves was highly divisive for the audacity of its production: ridiculously bare, ugly lo-fi. It was grating, rude, and, in my mind, actually pretty interesting.  Under the impression that Nathan Williams will do what he wants regardless of the haters, it's no surprise that King of the Beach is also divisive, but for a different reason: an embrace of snappy pop punk. King of the Beach is significantly more cleaned up and user-friendly than prior releases and much more focused on catchy hooks that still punch with punk sneer and fuzzy flourishes.  That said, while songs like "Post-Acid" and "Super Soaker" are propulsive hits, many of the album's hooks actually don't have much staying power and the album feels awkwardly ordered between tight punk and looser atmospheric noise rock.  King of the Beach still sounds pretty good blaring with the windows down in its native summer/beach habitat, but those seeking a more enduring revolution in Wavves' progression will have to wait longer.


Best Coast: Crazy For You
[Mexican Summer 2010]

Bethany Cosentino keeps it simple: summer, love, lovesickness, weed, and her cat form the conceptual crux of her droll, easy-going surf pop. Rising artists since last year after releasing a number of catchy '60s-girl-group-inflected singles (including the as yet un-topped "Sun Was High (So Was I)"), Best Coast (Cosentino and Bobb Bruno) have finally released their first highly anticipated LP Crazy For You.  Their hooks still hold the melodic charm and sunny innocence of their earlier, more lo-fi tracks, but as before, Cosentino's punky SoCal demeanor and Bruno's fuzzed out guitar lend a not-so-innocent underbelly to the surfy aesthetic. The format is consistently engaging and pleasantly accessible, although the base level simplicity of her lyrics can make Crazy For You a drag at times.  But simplicity is a powerful thing in music, and when it's as happy and catchy as Crazy For You, it's hard not too like.

"When the Sun Don't Shine":

Taken By Trees: East of Eden
[Rough Trade 2009]

The world is rapidly shrinking and "world music" (the term and the common idea) doesn't cut it anymore. For the modern discerning indie music community, influences are pinpointed and appraised for authenticity and creative contributions, not the fact that "African" drums and Latin influences are thrown into a mix to let listeners be passive globe-trekkers.  I think these critical listeners would welcome Victoria Bergsman's second solo album East of Eden as Taken By Trees.  Bergsman (The Concretes, "Young Folks") traveled from her native Sweden to Pakistan to record her new album and in working with local artists, the results are immersed in qawwali instrumentals and a decidedly South Asian bent.  She keeps one foot in the West, however, singing in Swedish on "Tidens Gång" and producing a easy-going cover of Animal Collective's "My Girls" (it's "My Boys" here).  Her graceful melodies and delicate vocals allow the West-meets-Pakistan fusion to feel seamless, with the only downside being the too-short 30 minute run time.  Finding this beautiful inspiration in such an unexpected place is a credit to Bergsman's abounding creativity and already builds anticipation for where it will take her next.

"Watch the Waves":

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