Dat Rosa Mel Apibus
While New York's White Magic is not a "Christian band," Dat Rosa Mel Apibus is a very religious record. Songwriter and lead vocalist Mira Billotte is fascinated with the mysticism involved in early and medieval Christianity, and this record is filled with imagery referencing such. But Dat Rosa Mel Apibus is able to convey religion in a personal way that is not offensive to the atheist listener (unlike many corporate Christian bands)—you are not expected to testify to it, but just enjoy its beauty. A lyric from "All the World Wept" reads, "Creation/Look smart turn me on well/The earth is well/What you want is an irradiation war." There is a God, but that God is devoted to peace and showing himself in unusual ways.
Billotte has one of my favorite voices in music. She has Kate Bush qualities of range and timbre differences—if you are unfamiliar with her style, you might not think she is the only one singing. Her unconventional melodies resonate all through the minimalist, but powerful, arrangements. Douglas Shaw's guitar is played almost classically, exploring the same regions as the lyrics in a way that sounds Byzantine and Western, ancient and inventive at the same time. There are gongs, sitars, and clay pots being played, but it doesn't sound like anyone is being kooky—the mysticism comes easily and only adds to the curiosity of Billotte's voice. White Magic is one of the best bands to emerge from this nouveau-folk movement (they are included on Golden Apples of the Sun, the standard compilation for beginners) and this record is creative and haunting proof of that fact. ARI SPOOL
When I first caught wind of Beast Moans, the forthcoming album from Swan Lake—the new collaboration between Destroyer's Dan Bejar, Wolf Parade's Spencer Krug, and Frog Eyes' Carey Mercer—surely, I thought to myself, this Canadian supergroup must be the Traveling Wilburys of my generation!
Hopes be damned, though. Yes, upon first listen, I was utterly crestfallen. Beast Moans was nothing like I had imagined; the album appeared devoid of all the bombast and melodrama that I expected. Perhaps it was my initial ecstasy that set me up for my big disappointment. However, I soon realized my unrelenting Bejar idolatry was only part of the problem.
Every track on Beast Moans sounds as if it's simmering in a vat of reverb. It's actually quite difficult to discern what's happening on songs like "City Calls" and "Pleasure Vessels," as the clanky, disorienting echoes that cling to the vocals and guitar are excruciatingly difficult to overcome. But after eventually forcing my ears to get beyond the noise, I soon determined that this disagreeable haze beneath each song was the beast's moan.
While each of the three superstars claims individual songwriting credit—it is fair to say "The Freedom" sounds like a Destroyer song and "The Pollenated Girls" sounds like a Frog Eyes tune—this bestial din that courses throughout is the tie that binds. I then began to see the album in a new light—the melodies now peeked out from behind the heavy keys and tambourine on songs like "Petersburg, Liberty Theater, 1914," and the entire record now seemed very well groomed, from the intro, "Widow's Walk," to the cathartic climax of "Shooting Rockets." While not the best work of any of the three artists, beneath its initial deception, Beast Moans is definitely not a letdown. STEVEN SAWADA
If one considers that, in the world of postmodern popular culture, a potential star's greatest asset is their harnessing and manipulation of the legacies of others, then the Game could well be considered a high-art genius. He is an ultramodern rap star in that he has basically never had to write songs about anything; his songs have served more the purpose of preemptive legacy development, defining historical significance, "the war to be a rap legend," etc. That said, it is increasingly difficult to tell with every unfolding track of this, his follow-up to the quintuple platinum The Documentary, whether he is a subversive pomo cultural scientist or more stunningly oblivious than one can easily conceive. The sheer gall and insanity of his record being called Doctor's Advocate when there is, in fact, no Dr. Dre contribution of any kind, is chief among these confusing, intentional-weirdness-or-sheer-dunderheadedness quandaries, and the content of the entire record follows suit. He is frequently and flagrantly contradictory, and the lyrics relating to his interpersonal and business situations with former collaborators Dre and 50 Cent (of which there are many) are sometimes aggressively obscure and sometimes, as on the verge-of-tears title track, bluntly forthright.
Iconographic debris of the history of West Coast rap repeats endlessly; chronic smoke, '64 Impalas and, of course, Dr. Dre are referenced on basically every song on the album, and the record's near exact replication of his debut's cover (with different color scheme) lends it all even more of an air of pop art. It is a record that is utterly, and terribly, engrossing in its potential for sheer conceptual analysis. It will truly keep your head ringin'. SAM MICKENS