AM - June 2015

- 657 words -

Last week I prefaced my reintroduction of AM saying that I was content with the music in my collection. In the advent of Apple Music and freedom from curricular responsibilities - an alignment of stars, in a way - I’m now able to discover new artists and albums qualitatively. One of these is the album Comedown Machine, The Strokes’ latest album.

The Strokes is, unfortunately, one of the artists that’ve been filtered out of my consciousness when establishing my music collection. Fairly ironic considering that my band, Livewire, have covered plenty of Strokes songs over the years. Maybe it’s the album Angles, the first album of theirs I listened to in full, that’s stigmatised the band for me. Listening to Comedown Machine made me realise the grave error in my judgement of them.

The album opens with the track Tap Out. Like many opening tracks, it does a good job setting the tone for the rest of the album - with that said, the rest of the album does have a lo-fi, indie feel, as many modern rock albums do. However, Tap Out is more than that: within are incomprehensible yet dreamy vocals (signature of lead singer Julian Casablancas, as I hear) backed by digestible, if not yet infectious, melodies. Further listening reveals the genius that is the meticulous instrumentation and layering of said instrumentation, making Tap Out a standout track in its own right. Three tracks later comes my favourite from the album: Welcome to Japan. Few tracks have a beautifully executed groove that grasps me every time - Maroon 5’s Makes Me Wonder comes to mind.

The album slows down a bit by the middle third with tracks like 50/50, Slow Animals, and Chances. Each track has a shoegaze, trance-inducing element to them - 50/50 and Chances in their instrumentation; Slow Animals and Chances in the vocal melodies; and generally softer dynamics in all three tracks. More on this later…

The pace picks itself back up with another standout track, Partners in Crime. I say ‘standout’ for good reason - it starts with a weird, almost unsettling riff that seems not to know what it’s crescendoing to, before introducing a happy-go-lucky vibe that lingers through to the chorus. The bridge breaks into a Beatles-like extravaganza of sorts backed by cheery tambourines and a thumpy bassline that might as well have been written by McCartney himself.

Next comes the track Happy Ending, which is a part-solemn, part-dancey disco track - another odd combination. As with Partners in Crime, I don’t know how to react to this one emotionally (especially around the half-tempo bridge) yet it makes me want to feel something. It makes for a pleasant listen in itself which you can also sing along to thanks to more infectious vocals - all of which aren't uncommon in the album so far.

The album ends peculiarly with… straight-up elevator music, in the song Call It Fate, Call It Karma. Lo-fi is turned up to 11, with mostly sluggish instrumentation that can put any baby to sleep… until, of course (wait for it)… the vocals. They soar out of the blue, instantly putting the listener in a dreamlike-state, reminiscent of the album’s middle third and the guitars in the verses of the second track, All The Time. In this case, the old-timey feel makes it almost nightmarish, in the best possible way. Probably doesn’t belong on this album, though, let alone as the closer.

Verdict

This is an album I’ve probably listened ten times over without fail. It can lull in the background, yet isn’t afraid to show off what its got every once in a while. Looking forward to listening to more Strokes.

 

8 / 10

 

Tracks I play most: First four tracks, Chances

Tracks I play moderately: Partners in Crime, Happy Ending

Tracks I skip: 80's Comedown Machine, 50/50, Slow Animals, Call It Fate, Call It Karma