Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods ★★★★★

It’s not often that you find your album of the year in the first four weeks of the year. I believe I’ve found something similar to this in Neil Cicierega’s Mouth Moods, the most endlessly entertaining, hilarious and zany pop mashup of meme music ever.

You might not know, Neil Cicierega, but you might have already experienced some of his work already. Most commonly known for his “Harry Potter Puppet Pals” sketches on Youtube, he has gone from strength to strength since then under the Lemon Demon name, releasing Spirit Phone only last year to critical acclaim.

Taking samples from the entire history of popular music, Neil weaves unlikely song combinations expertly, like the lyrics of Back In Black to the tune of Making My Way Downtown, or a remix of the Ghostbusters theme tune. It’s so nice to hear an album that doesn’t take itself seriously, yet can still be as good and a pleasure as guilty as Mouth Moods. I can definitely see myself returning to this album over and over again in the future, because its just so effortlessly enjoyable and has a very endearing feel-good touch with all the songs. I highly recommend Mouth Moods if you enjoy things like smiling.

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The xx – I See You ★★☆☆☆

I never saw the xx as a project with much of a shelf life. While their self-titled debut was rather good, it didn’t seem like they could really try much else in musical terms.

The xx were formed in London in 2005, and are comprised of vocalists and guitarists Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim, and production is handled by Jamie “xx” Smith.

While Coexist seemed like a natural albeit flawed progression from their debut, I See You feels slightly forced. The minimalistic, washed out electronic sounds worked in the band’s favour previously, but the more UK garage trappings of especially the front end of this effort seem to be at war with the vocalists. The duo are known to give soft and nuanced performances, and the production on this album really doesn’t complement their voices, especially on the track “Dangerous”, where they are almost drowned out. I was almost offended by the song “On Hold”, which features a shockingly bad Daft Punk style droning chorus, which makes this track really stick out like a sore thumb in the record.

There are more atmospheric and quieter cuts also, the string orchestration working in the band’s favour, making “Performance” one of the highlights on the album, mostly because Jamie xx left most of it alone.

This album completely failed to win me over, but I feel in the minority on this one, as it seems to be quite well received across the board.

Foxygen – Hang ★★★☆☆

Hey, haven’t I heard this before?

I can’t say I’ve ever had more than a passing interest for L.A. based progressive pop outfit Foxygen’s music; the only album that impressed me in their discography was 2011’s Take the Kids Off Broadway, but I couldn’t help but feel some kind of anticipation when vocalist Sam France promised an album with a 40-piece orchestra, not to mention contributions from Flaming Lips’ Steven Drozd. They seemed to be taking the same direction that Unknown Mortal Orchestra took with their last album – echoing 60s psychedelia with a quirky twist.

However, on hearing the album, I couldn’t help feeling that the music sounded awfully familiar, and this train of thought ran through my mind more than once while listening to Foxygen’s newest release, because the band has made their sonic influences abundantly clear on Hang, most notably 70’s soul infused pop and classic swing. I liked the utilisation of the orchestral sections, which really bring out a colour and personality to the music, even if the vocals struggle at times to come up to par.

Unfortunately, wearing your influences on your sleeve only works out for Foxygen half the time, and runs the danger of reminding the listener of other songs, like on the track “Follow the Leader”, where I was more focused on trying to figure out what the band was referencing than listening to the music itself.

Despite all this, I can’t help but enjoy this effort just a little bit. Listen to this if you enjoy modern psychedelic pop, or just love orchestras. But let’s just call it an homage instead of recycling old ideas, shall we?