Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Thee Oh Sees, Fresh & Onlys, Doe Eye

“Flood’s New Light”
* * * 1/2

On last year’s epic Carrion Crawler/The Dream, Thee Oh Sees sounded like an extremely tight garage band mining catchy melodic ideas out of sprawling jam sessions.  However, “Flood’s New Light,” the first single from Thee Oh Sees’ upcoming album Putrifiers II, is nothing more or less than a pop song.  It’s two and a half minutes, has a “ba ba ba ba” chorus, and finds John Dwyer singing in a surprisingly flexible falsetto.  And it’s not a bad song either by any means--the chorus is ridiculously catchy.  Yet by Thee Oh Sees standards, it’s unusually pedestrian, recalling something Sonny & the Sunsets might record.  A whole album of this sort of music might be fun, but given how well Thee Oh Sees balance weirdness and hookiness, it would almost be a shame for them to make a whole record of songs like this one.

“Presence Of Mind”
* * *

“Presence of Mind” has a xylophone-like-instrument on it, which completely makes the song--without it, this song would probably lose at least half a star.  It also shows that the Fresh & Onlys haven’t lost the ability to balance sonic exploration and spartan garage-rock aesthetic, a concern I developed after hearing the disappointingly bland “Yes Or No.”  But as a song, it’s honestly not that much different from “Yes Or No,” and they’re still milking the same spy-movie-lead/spacious-rhythm-guitar formula they patented on their year-and-a-half-old Secret Walls EP.  I'm starting to miss the days when Bay Area garage-rock bands would put out a new album every five minutes.

“Hotel Fire”
* * *

The title track of Doe Eye’s upcoming Hotel Fire EP sounds very much like a fire.  The rhythm track is obscured by a smoky cloud of distortion, the drums crack and splinter like a building’s supports giving way, and panicked yet melancholy strings blare in the foreground like distant alarms.  But Doe Eye mastermind Maryam Qudus sounds caught in the center of it all, crooning calmly as everything burns around her.  The contrasts between the instruments define “Hotel Fire” and make it an eerie and interesting expansion on the stark, ethereal indie-pop sound she honed on her earlier work.  However, this song is a bit more of a mess than it needs to be--the drums often sound like they’re trying to imitate a trap beat, albeit poorly, and unless a hippie started the fire with a lit joint, the ‘60s rock n’ soul rhythm guitars certainly don’t need to be there.

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