Music Box

 |  March 3, 2014

Yellow Fang – The Greatest

Guitarist and vocalist Pimporn Metchanun, bassist Piyamas Muenprasartdee, and drummer Praewa Chirapravati Na Ayudhya make up one of Bangkok’s most loved indie rock bands of the last several years, but if you’ve never heard of them, it may be because this is their first full-length album. All of the tracks within have actually been previously released one-by-one online since 2007, but finally Yellow Fang were aable to re-record them last year and package them together. With post-production help from Josh Bonati, who’d previously worked with Mac DeMarco, Wild Nothing, and Zola Jesus, The Greatest feels like a singular statement, rather than a collection of singles. The girls’ mix of 90s shoegaze rock and power pop is fun and immediate, with dreamy melodies and noisy guitar lines. The approach is minimalist instrumentally, but there’s a wide range of expression and exceptional vocal work. Highly recommended on its own, as well as a good starting point for those looking to explore the Thai rock scene.

Broken Bells – After The Disco

While 2010’s self-titled debut from The Shins’ James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse didn’t master the space-rock album, it had loads of exciting moments that proved the ponderous pairing was more than just a side project. The second time around, however, the elements that gave the group their effortless sense of cool have largely gone missing. What was once a warm, psychedelic sound with tasteful electronic touches has turned into a cold, overly fussed over motif with alternating slickness and misplaced raw edges. Nearly half the songs, including the admittedly catchy title track, feature programmed beats, heavy synth lines, and Mercer doing his best falsetto. This works to varying degrees, but it never amounts to anything unique, much less danceable. Meanwhile, the best tunes are slow burners that start promisingly but quickly get drenched in important sounding strings that make you wish Danger Mouse would reel it back a little. A disappointment.

Various Artists – Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini-Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds 1960-1978

Billed as the first internationally available exploration of the Caribbean nation’s numerous musical styles, Haiti Direct is another lovingly compiled document from the UK’s Strut Records. The revelation that such a variety of sounds could come from such a small country and the way it’s presented over two full discs make this album a must-have for world music lovers. Fans of zouk, salsa, and calypso will find much to love in compas direct, a 1950s modernisation of meringue that features a driving beat, punchy horns, and gnarly guitars. Also represented here is mini-jazz, a style for smaller groups with more of a rock influence that developed in the 1970s, and twoubadou (derived from “troubadour”), characterised by songs about the difficulties and humour of love (not unlike Thai morlam). All of the tracks have been beautifully remastered, but the rawness and live-in-studio quality of the original recordings remain.