Recently, I began writing for Amplifier Magazine, an online publication that specializes in concise (~200 word), substance-focused reviews of independent music. I’ll be posting some of my reviews here, especially those that are overwhelmingly positive. Check out my (somewhat brief) thoughts on White Denim’s excellent Exposion, along with a couple of mp3s, after the jump.
I’ll fess up… before listening to White Denim’s upcoming Exposion, I’d heard a lot about them, but little of their actual music. In the substantial hype surrounding this band, they’ve been ascribed labels like “psychedelic”, “garage rock”, and “math rock”, while their songs have been characterized as “clattering juggernauts” and their overall sound as “effortless sorcery”. These phrases may help pinpoint aspects of their sound, but it quickly becomes apparent that, like just about any band that is doing something interesting, it’s impossible to convey the totality of White Denim with only a few words.
Opening track “Don’t Look That Way At It” kicks the album off pretty incredibly; it’s well-crafted pacing is punctuated with surging, energetic outbursts, relentless flourishes of bass, as well as James Petralli’s wailing vocals and layered, infectious guitar riffs. They may drift into mathy territory here (though perhaps not as heavily as on “Migration Wind”), but White Denim harness technical prowess as a decidedly supplemental element, never losing focus on melody, coherent structure, or accessibility. On what might be called the other end of the White Denim spectrum – which is probably more Venn diagram than two-point continuum – we find the sporadic shouts, driving rhythms, surf-inspired drum-gallops, and psych-guitar bends of raucous garage-jams like “Shake Shake Shake”, or the gritty guitar-pop of “Sitting”, which closes the album with relatively tranquil crescendos. And yet, in any given song on this record, virtually all of these elements are present on some level, but become more or less prevalent from one track (or even one moment) to the next.
While all of that would be impressive enough to carry most albums, you can’t listen to Exposion and not get the sense that there’s more at work than just the overt components of their songcraft. A lot of what makes it so strong is nearly intangible, or at least far more subtle than simply utilizing great riffs, catchy melodies, and dynamic energy. White Denim has crafted an album that is defined by its complex collision of influences and utter rawness, delicately balanced between familiar and refreshing, cohesive and messy, technical and accessible. You’ve gotta give ‘em credit: for a record of such seemingly simple tunes, there sure is a lot to unpack.
Download: White Denim – Don’t Look That Way At It