Thursday — “Common Existence”
Review by David Nicolas
New Brunswick, NJ’s Thursday is a band that rose from the post-hardcore and screamo ashes of the early 2000s and, intentionally or unintentionally, separated itself from its kindred spirits.
Thursday’s second and arguably best album, “Full Collapse,” progresses in a hypnotic mid-tempo crunch where listeners are invited into lead vocalist Geoff Rickly’s troubled past. The record is full of the band’s relentless angst against the traumas of the deaths of friends and relatives, and the imposing grip of capitalism and artificial dreams.
The band’s third studio release, “War All the Time” pummels listeners with guitar build-ups and breakdowns. You never see where the music is going to turn. This effort also seems to emphasize isolation and mourning through music that is stuck in a constant breakdown.
The band leaves behind its last album “A City By the Light Divided,” a work rooted in calculated song structures and pop melodies, with its most recent effort “Common Existence,” on independent label Epitaph records.
In “Existence,” the band not only roars back with an effort similar to its heavier past, it shows that it’s capable of reserving a scream for more than five seconds.
The record erupts with drummer Tucker Rule, who never seems to allow for any empty space. The guitars intertwine in a frenzy as Rickly’s voice becomes stuck in between a scream and chant, begging, “Ambulance let me in / Don’t let me stay here.” The track later breaks into a pulsating rhythm, mimicking the song’s victim.
“As He Climbed the Dark Mountain” follows in this hypnotic whirlwind of busy drum work and double-guitar attacks. Rickly reminds fans that the band is able to withold a shout for the right moment, which doesn’t take away from Thursday’s identity but shows that it can and is willing to refine itself.
Thursday continues its break from the familiar with “Beyond the Visible Spectrum,” in which the band follows a dizzying violin loop. Unfortunately, Rickly seems listless and the band trudges along in a languid fashion. The band grabs hold of the listener’s attention with a crescendo march, introducing “Unintended Long Term Effects.” The organ is faint but repeats harrowingly. The song, disappointingly, eventually fizzles into something too familiar and could be a b-side on “War All the Time.”
The biggest successes appear when the band decides to turn the volume down and slow its mostly erratic pace. “Time’s Arrow” comes appropriately as limitless crash cymbals, and Tom Keeley and Steve Pedulla’s maniacal styles, have battered the listener so far. Here, Rickly ditches the quick screams and, for the first time, is the main attraction in the song. The track moves steadily, and even rushes backwards at one point without taking away from the gravity of the song.
Before “You Were the Cancer,” the record’s macabre and epic concluding track, Thursday again impresses with the subdued “Love Has Led Us Astray.” The track seems to almost be a new-school ’80s ballad; Rickly’s high pitch is deceptively soothing given the subject matter.
Despite many familiar sounds that come out of “Common Existence,” it’s still invigorating and rarely tiring. Thursday may be trying to run from its identity, but it doesn’t have to.
4AD — “Dark Was The Night”
Review by Ashley Soo
If merely hearing the breathtaking lineup of the 4AD release of “Dark Was The Night” isn’t enough to send shivers through your body, listening through the double album once should be enough to do the trick. Produced by Aaron and Bryce Dessner of The National, “Dark Was The Night” boasts 31 exclusive tracks from powerhouse bands of the indie-folk scene such as Beirut, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Spoon, Grizzly Bear, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, The New Pornographers, Feist and others. It’s easy to see why there was such a frantic energy buzzing about the album before its release, and luckily, the energy was well-deserved.
The reason behind such an impressive compilation is to benefit the Red Hot Organization, an international charity devoted to raising awareness about HIV and AIDS, and which uses pop culture as a means to do so. This year is the organization’s 20th year in progress and consequently, “Dark Was The Night” is the organization’s 20th compilation release.
While dropping so many critically acclaimed bands onto compilation albums can usually turn out to be nothing but a mishmash of throwaway b-sides and forgotten extras, this is not the case with “Dark Was The Night,” which contains songs catchy and innovative enough to be singles.
Arcade Fire’s “Lenin” and Beirut’s “Mimizan,” for example, are highlights of not just the album, but arguably highlights of their work as a whole; both songs feel fresh and new without losing the comfortable feel of their respective styles. “Lenin” is packed with sharp piano power chords and strong male-female duets typical of an Arcade Fire song, while “Mimizan” starts off with a burst of accordion and the familiar somber crooning that is associated so well with Zach Condon, Beirut’s singer.
Likewise, Grizzly Bear’s “Deep Blue Sea” contains poignant and drawn-out vocals backed with a slow, semi-haunting tune that is quintessential Grizzly Bear. Feist’s collaboration with Ben Gibbard in a cover of “Train Song” is also a notable track, where both voices complement each other effortlessly and are assisted only by a soft acoustic guitar. Because “Train Song” combines the efforts of two big indie names, it will most likely become the album’s most popular song.
Inevitably the album contains duds such as Buck 65’s “Blood, Pt. 2.” As a rap song, it clashes with the rest of the line-up and ruins the album’s overall low-fi feel. “Love vs. Porn,” by Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, and “Amazing Grace” by Cat Power and Dirty Delta Blues also feel flat and unoriginal, dragging out much longer than necessary.
Still, the album feels well-compiled and cohesive. There are stand-outs such as Yeasayer’s “Tightrope,” which borders more on an experimental-psychedelic sound, and Spoon’s “Well-Alright,” which tends to feel too bouncy and fast-paced for the album’s overall mellow and slow-tempo feel. But most of the bands in “Dark Was The Night” intersect gracefully and help the album feel polished. Though this album only narrows in on a small section of the enormity of indie rock genres, it is an essential for anybody in a musical rut, or those who are waiting patiently between the album releases of “Dark Was The Night” artists who haven’t produced anything lately.