Go to Sleep Mess
This syrupy Floridian act present folk-pop of the Sub Pop variety (specifically sounding far too similar to Fleet Foxes at times), released on Small Plates Records. They do so about six years too late. Day Joy crafts tunes for the aged northwestern hip crowd – the Paste magazine subscribers. I can already hear a track like the first offering, ‘Animal Noise,’ strumming away in the background of some predictable, grotesquely twee indie film starring the likes of Aubrey Plaza or Jessie Eisenberg. The production on Go to Sleep Mess is top-notch and it was just a matter of time before folk banjos were backed by this level of synth employment, noise reduction, and enough layered tech to make one’s head spin. With Fleet Foxes the guitars were crafty and the vocal harmonies exceptional. Day Joy is just too glossy, hyper-produced, and clean. As such, it comes off as polished mimicry in the vein of Mumford & Sons. Well, not quite that awful. A few tracks defy this and shine through the overflowing glitz: ‘Talks of Terror’ and the title track.
Umberto, pseudonym of American Matt Hill, fashions angular electronics inspired by 70s and 80s horror soundtracks (great music for driving at night). Think of John Carpenter and Italo-disco, analog synths that trickle in precise droplets over moody dance beats, and whip-crack spacious snares that reverberate through gaping soundscapes. Umberto captures the neon 80s Miami nightlife, adds a dash of Equinoxe-era Jean Michel Jarre, a handful of Giorgio Moroder, and the bristling atmospherics of soundtracks like 1982’s Halloween III: Season of the Witch. In short, Confrontations is deftly-crafted sinister instrumental horror disco. Highly recommended.
Backed by thicker accompaniment and more strings on this release than the raw acoustic approach of 2008’s excellent Oh! Mighty Engine LP, Halstead, an original member of Slowdive and one of Britain’s great folk singer/songwriters, certainly delivers the goods once more but employs a darker, more contemplative tone this round. The tempos here are slower than those of the hits featured on Oh! Mighty Engine and as the album artwork suggests, these offerings are more brooding. In the past, Halstead has always had a nice mix of summery, upbeat numbers packing kick, and slower, more traditionally folk balladry. This release is certainly weighted towards the latter. ‘Wittgenstein’s Arm’ has almost a tinge of Bruce Hornsby, oddly, and the lyrics of ‘Hey Daydreamer’ just aren’t well crafted. Nevertheless, ‘Digging Shelters’ and ‘Bad Drugs’… are great numbers. I recommend the Oh! Mighty Engine LP over this one. Just listen to the tracks ‘Witless or Wise’ and ‘Elevenses’ to hear Halstead at his best.