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The Strokes – Room On Fire

For now, we have The Strokes. It is a breath of fresh air. The album seems to depend on reductionist theory. That is, incorporating nothing in any degree of excess.

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There are many rarities nowadays such as honest politicians, nice guys, fully clothed pop stars and alarm clocks that can get me up in the morning. Among the rarest are “up and coming” bands who live up to their mainstream hype and expectations. Thankfully, this breed has not become extinct yet. For now, we have The Strokes. It is a breath of fresh air. The album seems to depend on reductionist theory. That is, incorporating nothing in any degree of excess. The result is a short, thirty-three minute, album that blows you away. Perhaps, “blows you away” is too cliché, dramatic and is an exaggeration but it pulls your mind in the right direction. The album is surprisingly good. The drum patterns and guitar riffs are not as harsh, repetitive and annoying as those of The White Stripes. Yet, they are not as unique, progressive, and schizophrenic-like as those of The Mars Volta.

I know there are those of you, don’t try to deny it because I know all, who want to hate The Strokes just because they are The Strokes. There is an innate aversion for the Rolling Stone cover boys. You decided to dislike them and avoid any contact with them for the sake of going against the new wave of mainstream music crashing into the shores of the twenty-first century. Perhaps, you thought that this wave would merely wash up at your feet like those before. Leaving you, unlike others, standing on the shore with the sun glaring down, making your skin glow, the wind in your soft, disheveled hair, a smirk on your face watching in amusement as others drown in the wave of over hyped music. Although this is the case much of the time for other “upcoming bands”, those music listeners who have been swept up by the water are far from drowning. In fact, they are floating in ecstasy and delight, while you watch on with your feet dug in the coarse sand. Soon enough, my friend, The Strokes will pull you in as well. Believe me, it is all for the better. Who would have thought that five boys could keep a promise?

(RCA Records)

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Hatchie – Keepsake

Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars

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Hatchie Keepsake

Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.

There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.

However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.

The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.

(Heavenly Recordings)

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