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May 03, 2011 - Image 9

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2011-05-03

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

19

Jessie J corrupts
vocal gymnastics
By JOE DIMUZIO adopting Christina Aguilera's
Daily Arts Writer National Anthem at Super Bowl
XLV as holy word.
Jessie J would like to have Jessie's lack of character is
it both ways, but ends up with colored in with songs that every-
neither. The 23-year old Brit- one else has done better. So she
ish singer plays ketchup, laying it on as
songwriter ** thick as possible to obscure the
(who's openly lack of any original flavor. On
bisexual, take Jessie I "Do It Like A Dude" she's all
that Middle . posture, no swag; opting to "do
America) has it like a brotha / do it like a dude
her fingers Universal/Republic / grab my crotch / wear my hat
in so many low like you" mistaking aggres-
pies on debut sion for empowerment. She calls
album Who You Are that she B.O.B. in for a hit single on "Price
never has the balance, restraint Tag," a tailor-made recession
or taste to answer her own inter- four chord like "Halo" or "Bleed-
rogative. ing Love," proclaiming "it's not
If time is forgiving and has about the money, we don't need
a sense of humor to match, this your money / we just wanna
album has the fate of a cult clas- make the world dance / forget
sic. It's shambolic pop at best and about the price tag." It's $1.29
earnestly chart-targeted plati- on iTunes. "Abracadabra" is Dr.
tudes from a cloying, spoiled girl Luke on jury duty, trying "Teen-
at worst. It's practically thrilling age Dream" on for a palette
in its consistent crash-n-burn. swap, "Mamma Knows Best"
Who You Are gives the impres- dresses retro-soul with tedium,
sion that little gold-hearted Jes- written-in-the-hospital-acoustic
sie's lying to herself in new and "Big White Room" would like to
exciting ways on every tune. be Tracy Chapman but comes off
It's perfunctory to praise Adam Sandler.
Writhing around this playpen
is talent strangled by apprehen-
sion, scraping the walls of sin-
cerity as if posing for a picture
us how you every minute. She says she can
"do it all." She can't do any of it.
Burlesque Chatting with The Daily Mail a
month ago, Jessie claimed "I'm
not afraid to say I'm very com-
fortable with who I am," which
her voice in the same way that is fine, darling, we believe you.
Katy Perry and Gaga deserve it;
she's got range and heft, but hoo
boy, she should have listened to
Janet.
Because the most incredible
(and by that I mean unbeliev-
able) is Jessie's lack or sheer dis-
regard of control. Every single a
song is manhandled by Jessie's
vocal gymnastics for vocal gym- A
nastics' sake. Jessie transcends
trying too hard - it's in her
bloodstream. Every single space,
every chorus, intro, outro, bal-
lad, bridge and banger has more
riffs than Slayer. One comes

Don't be fooled: They're not a boy band.
'Blues' hits temark

Fleet Foxes' second
album masters the art
of helplessness
By JOSHUA BAYER
Daily Arts Writer
To call the Fleet Foxes a "renais-
sance band" would not be far off
the mark. The

Foxes' stately
blend of folk jam-
mery (complete
with jaw-drop-
ping, four-part
harmonies) cer-
tainly reads as
a throwback to
the golden days
of late-'60s folk-

Fleet Foxes
Helpless-
ness Blues
Sub Pop

Shrine/An Argument" shifts from
acoustic reverie to surging crash
cymbal-ridden anthem to plaintive
pseudo-acapella to abrasive free-
jazz noise outro that will likely
scare the crap out of you the first
time you hear it.
While the rest of the record is
decidedly less epic (save for action-
packed five-minute suite "The
Plains/Bitter Dancer"), the free-
wheeling aesthetic is prominent
throughout. "Sim Sala Bim" fronts
as a sparse rainy-day folk number,
before abruptly piling on a deluge
of Herculean strings, deciding
two minutes in to drop the vocals
entirely and storm out with a brisk
shuffle of unplugged guitar calis-
thenics. Centerpiece "Helplessness
Blues" bucks verse-chorus-verse in
a less jittery fashion, literally pick-
ing up electricity halfway through
as it melts away into an aching
three-guitar whorl.
As a result, the band's sec-
ond studio album feels inevita-
bly heavier than its predecessor.
Where Fleet Foxes succeeded as
an airtight collection of retro-
chic pop powerhouses, Blues suc-
ceeds as a breathtaking series of
sonic adventures. Vocal-less "The
Cascades," with its progressively
plucked arpeggios and cavernous
tambourine rattles, feels more akin
to the score of a pirate film than to
anything off the band's debut. Even
"Battery Kinzie," the record's most
straightforward pop offering, feels
compelled to open with the lyrics,
"I woke up one morning / all my
fingers rotten / I woke up a dying
man without a chance."

While Blues may lack the rela-
tively sunny-side-up pulse of Foxes,
its baroque melodies retain the
same heart-stopping gorgeousness.
"Bedouin Dress" and "Lorelai" are
perfect examples of how the Foxes
have expanded upon their signa-
ture sound without remotely for-
saking it. The former folds a Celtic
fiddle riff seamlessly into its buoy-
ant hop while the latter summons
jazzy vibraphone tinkles to flesh
out its aquatically rippling texture.
Both songs exemplify the band's
ability to channel its experimen-
tal impulses toward atmospheric
enhancement rather than spacey
indulgence.
Just for good measure, the group
throws in a handful of relatively
understated songs. Opener "Mont-
ezuma" sets the record's tone per-
fectly with its gently submerged
beauty, showcasing the Foxes' eerie
ability to craft a sound that is full-
er than that of virtually any other
indie band out there with little
more than a couple of guitars and
melt-in-your-mouth vocal harmo-
nies. And "Someone You'd Admire"
and "Blue Spotted Tail" both spin
pure ear candy from the no-frills
troubadour template, the latter
even ditching the reverb complete-
ly for a refreshing moment of vul-
nerability.
Helplessness Blues undeniably
takes a few listens to settle in, but
when it does, the experience is
borderline religious. While it cer-
tainly isn't going to be the feel-
good record of 2011, it's the closest
thing to a masterpiece we've seen
all year.

pop. But the band is incalculably
more than the sum of its nostal-
gia-drenched influences. Laden
with oodles of requisite reverb and
prickling with Gen-Y ennui, the
band's sound is unquestionably a
product of the 21st century. While
the Foxes' rustic guitar balladry
may radiate with a sunny naivete,
an uncanny sense of ghostly intro-
spection seeps through the cracks.
With the aptly titled Helpless-
ness Blues, the band further devel-
ops the foreboding undertones
that bubbled beneath the surface
of its largely sanguine debut (Fleet
Foxes). The tracks are grander and
more ornate, circling melancholi-
cally around their emotional and
melodic centers rather than shoot-
ing straight to the point. Over the
course of eight minutes, "The

to love the silence in between
tracks, as they are theonly ref-
uge from the sound of a thou-
sand American Idol auditions

cOURTESY OF ISLANDUNIVERSAL
"Peace out, good music!"

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