on 7 April 2007
To be direct and clear, Blonde Redhead's 7th LP, "23", is exactly at the cross of Emiliana Torrini's "Love In The Time Of Science", Mercury Rev's "All Is Dream" and My Bloody Valentine's "Loveless" (Alan Moulder, engineer for that last record, has mixed two tracks of the present item, and that's saying something). And yes, it's THAT good.
I don't wanna quote any song "in particular" (private joke, when you get me...), as each of the ten here are absolute gems. But to fans of the previous two albums, namely "Melody Of Certain Damaged Lemons" (2000) and follow-up "Misery Is A Butterfly" (2004, and their 4AD debut), be warned that "23" is a work that might not appeal on first listen. To be more accurate, the production is far less "organic" than Guy Picciotto's job on these masterpieces, as the trio seems to have oriented their sound towards both a much poppier and etherial approach (ranking this LP alongside earlier 4AD releases, like Cocteau Twins's "Treasure"), while also deciding to produce it themselves, to obtain a more hypnotic feel to most of the material featured here.
Anyhow, if their first four Lps showcased an obvious Sonic Youth-oriented sound, it took them the last 8 years and an awful lot of time getting their act together to stand, eventually, among American's Alternative Music Scene's best acts at a unique place: a band as much treasured for the universality of their melodies as for the way they find out how best to carve these marvels deep inside our hearts, bodies and souls.
A strong contender for album of the year, NO LESS.
on 14 July 2007
Blonde Redhead's breathtaking album combines the sonic intensity of shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine with the dream pop of Cocteau Twins and Lush. Despite the stylistic conceits, they overwhelm the listener with the strength of the songwriting and dazzling, dizzying soundscapes. Like contemporaries Asobi Seksu (check out their stunning single 'Thursday'), they mine a territory between some of the aforementioned bands but somehow create something greater than a sum of their influences.
Opener '23' gallops out of the speakers at a white-knuckle velocity, Kazu Makino's vocals soaring and diving in melodic layers over frenetic guitars and heavy-doses of Kevin Shields-style reverb. 'Dr Strangeluv' is gentler, redolent of Cocteau Twins circa 'Heaven or Las Vegas', while the icy, ethereal 'Dress' could from Goldrapp's 'Felt Mountain'. 'SW' is more daringly original, part-Radiohead, part-Sigur Ros, part-M83, it features a male vocal lead, a propulsive breakbeat and weird Sergeant Pepper-style brass arrangements. 'Spring And By Summer Fall' keeps up the ferocious pace with Black Sabbath style vocals in a call and response with guitars echoing the vocal hook.
'Silently' is lovely ethereal pop in the mold of Elizabeth Fraser and Kate Bush, while 'Publisher' and 'Heroine' feature vocal manipulations for something more drifting and otherworldly, the latter owing a debt to early Goldfrapp in particular. 'Top Ranking' is more conventionally song orientated, but given bite by a crunching, rolling beat and other sonic emphemera. 'My Impure Hair' is underpinned by a wonderfullly discordant country tinge, a somnabulant merry-go-round finale.
The album is packed with ideas but never feels top heavy, blurring all the studio trickery into its technicolour swirl. One of the albums of the year; if you like this you might like M83's 'Lost Cities, Read Seas and Lost Ghosts', Asobi Seksu, Cocteau Twins, Goldfrapp and My Bloody Valentine, or even the Lost in Translation soundtrack.
on 23 May 2007
I had never heard of Blonde Redhead until I listened to their latest album in my local Fopp store. Wow! I was instantly taken aback by their sound and decided to purchase the CD. Not a bad decision at all in hindesight.
The female singer has, as a previous reviewer said a ghostly and quite unique voice which immediately caught my attention. I especially like the opening track '23', 'Heroine' and the stunning 'Silently' (my favourite) sung by her. I like other tracks by the male members of the group 'Spring and by summer fall' a really energetic and slightly rocky number which effectively varies the tone of the album.
I have played this album a lot and I'm not bored yet. A real find! I will now have to investigate their other albums. Album of the year for me so far.
on 21 July 2012
Opens with the passionate '23' and the spell is cast with Kazu providing another magical performance, about how in 23 seconds so much can happen to change a life, and the number 23 chosen because of its enigmatic theories "23 magic, if you change the name of love". Kazu continues the brilliance with 'Dr. Strangeluv' with so many beautiful sounds & vocals...another melodic winner with Amedeo creating the guitar fills. Then emerges the best track (so far) in 'The Dress' with Kazu's strange vocals "Horse loves you when you move with him...people hate you when you're changing"....& the Japanese sounding keyboard backing heightens the atmosphere. Now it's the turn of Amedeo via 'S.W.' and his vocal interpretation reaches Kazu's and is a powerful sound of high emotion. Amedeo follows up with the wonderful 'Spring And By Summer Fall' with its steady urgent drumming (Simone as always doing superb drums). Kazu with 'Silently' probably the most commercial here & reminds a little of Supremes 'Baby Love'. 'Publisher' a gloomy sounding effort with synth dominating "Say what you say, say it like a cat Say it to my face and say what you know everyone says". 'Heroine' a pretty piece which is seemingly about a friend Roland committing suicide. 'Top Ranking' "I take my ceder to where the mountain is high" as Kazu takes us up there via beautiful sounds, a catchy refrain & is apparently about the horrors of the Vietnam war (yes this is not party music). Final track is the weird 'My Impure Hair' which is perhaps the weakest here.. Perhaps not as strong or beautiful as previous LP 'Misery Is A Butterfly' but nevertheless essential & a display of passion brilliance & magic.
Blonde Redhead has really softened over the years -- you won't find angular melodies and jagged guitars in "23."
In fact, it's not really rock at all. Instead the New York band spins out full-blown, sensual melodies out of smooth keyboard and gently cycling riffs. They try out all kinds of pop sounds here, but never lose the delicate dreampop edge.
It opens with a few echoing, ringing chords.... before bursting into a strong, swirling dreampop melody, which would sound ghostly if it weren't so vibrant. Then Kazu Makino's ethereal voice murmurs, "23 seconds, all things we love will die/23 magic, if you can change your life/Your tainted heart, my tainted love, repent now..."
That song is the springboard for the rest of the album, which balances out between guitars and shimmery synth. It's full of driving guitarpop with a trippy edge, delicate pop ditties, blurry trip-hop, shimmering dreampop, and quirky fusion songs like the overstuffed spring ditty "Spring and By Summer Fall."
It's a pretty big change from their last album "Misery is a Butterfly," which was sort of soft indie-rock, and an even bigger change from the albums before it. But if you're going to depart from an old sound, then make it worthwhile -- and fortunately, they have.
Musically, it's all heavy on guitars and synth, which get mingled together into one big shimmering mass. The guitars can ring and chime, then can kick itno a driving rock riff, while the keyboard is almost as versatile -- it can buzz, shimmer, sweep and ripple over the guitarpop melodies.
The blurrier songs like "Publisher," are perhaps the only problem, actually, since they sound less refined and more lo-fi. They don't fit in well.
Makino's voice is almost painfully ethereal; she sounds positively ghostly at times. The songs she sings don't hurt the impression -- they're full of pain, loneliness, and even when you're happy, it can't last. "The glow you see on my face, you do have something to do with/Fear starts creeping up when you have so much to lose/Your love wait you while you're cheating/Lighting strikes you when you're moving..."
This is not quite the same Blonde Redhead as in their prior albums, but they're as good at exquisite shimmering pop as they are at indie-rock.
on 11 April 2008
I've listened to Blonde Redhead on and off for a few years, starting with the first song of theirs I heard: 'I still get rocks off'. A rocking ditty with desperately screamed vocals by Makinosan combined with the stabilizing voice of Amedeo. I was always into their stuff of this ilk, even if I didn't find every song of theirs agreeable. Starting with the amazing 'Melody of certain damaged lemons' it has been noted that their sound has mellowed, and a live version of 'Elephant woman' of 'Misery is a butterfly' replaced them as favourite band, hitherto a place occupied by fellow Swedes of Honey is Cool.
'23' simply takes it a step even further. Amazing melodies, amazing sound, amazing emotions...and disturbing lyrics, hehehe...
I've seen other people say that '23' sounds like My Bloody Valentine, but I can't agree. I was exposed to MBV before I heard Blonde Redhead, but it just didn't impress me. I forget which CD of theirs I actually own, haven't listened to it in about a decade, but I do remember finding it very bland and uninteresting (well, that should earn me a blasting from MBV fans, hehehe) and all I can say is that '23' is about everything that MBV record is not: emotional, catchy, disturbing, amazing, brilliant, loud.
I must say that Kazu's lyrics are disturbing to me. They seem so raw and honest, but I fear for their [Kazu and Amedeo] relationship everytime I listen to them: 'The Dress': "Tears you see on my face, you do have something to do with", 'Signs along the path': "It's up to you to leave me", 'My Impure Hair': "Maybe I live again, but would I lose again my virginity?"...I mean, it's pretty clear who she is singing about...Amedeo seems more subtle about it...
The absolutely best of all the amazing songs on '23' is sadly only included on the Japanese edition: "(We are a real team)Harry & I'. A near 10-minute wonder that is simply mind-blowing. Search youtube for a live version that had my jaw dropping to the floor, despite the quirky title. It was the first time I heard it (don't have the Japanese CD) and it had me jump immediately to 4AD's website and buy me a digital copy...
on 7 September 2012
23 is one of the most powerfull LPs that i have ever owned. You can listen to the entire album over and over without having the need to skip a song. The songs flow, following each other offering a great music experience. To my opinion, apart from the excelent production the singers voice is unique-amazing. Preview any song and if you like it you will surely love the entire album.