Music Review: Mikkel Hess, Dirty Projectors + Bjork, and Feist

posted on Nov.08, 2011

WTSR’s music directors have new reviews for you.  Continue reading for information about Hess Is More’s Creation Keeps the Devil Away, Dirty Projectors + Bjork’s collaboration Mount Wittenburg Orcas, Feist’s album Metals.

Release Number: 4th
Hailing From: Amherst, Nova Scotia
Genre: Baroque Pop
Label: Cherrytree/Interscope


It’s been four years since Leslie Fiest released her previous album, The Reminder. Now, she’s making a triumphant return with her fourth album, Metals.

Feist hasn’t lost a step over the past four years, she still has the ability to craft incredibly beautiful music. This album also sees Feist collaborating with a few other artists like, Valgier Sigurrosson, Chilly Gonzales, Mocky, and Vanessa Carlton (of Marina and the Diamonds) on some of the tracks. However, Feist is still the centerpiece here, her powerful, but softer and sometimes faltering, voice conveys plenty of emotion and maintains steadfast among the crashing instrumentation around her. The actual music is full of cacophonous climaxes, full of percussion, strings, with brass backing it up and is found on songs like “A Commotion.” However, she does beauty just as well. The slow melodious “Bittersweet Melodies” is an emotional song prominently featuring a piano and much more subdued drums.

Fiest has always made good music, whether on her own or with the indie supergroup Broken Social Scene and this album is no different. Metals is accessible, beautiful, melodic, and haunting.

Focus Tracks: “A Commotion”, “Bittersweet Melodies”, “The Bad In Each Other”

–Matthew Jannetti, Music Director

Dirty Projectors + Björk
“Mount Wittenberg Orca”
Hailing From: Brooklyn, NY and Reykhavík, Iceland
Release Number: Debut
Genre: Experimental
Label: Domino Record Co.


It seems like an unlikely duo, but together the Dirty Projectors and Björk really do bring music composition to new and artistic heights. Dave Longstreth, founding member of the Dirty Projectors, and Björk first came together at a New York Stereogum benefit concert in 2009 and decided to collaborate on a new album.

A short time after, Amber (Coffman) of the Dirty Projectors spent some time observing whales off the coast of Mount Wittenberg in California. As a group, the decision was made to make an album and send 100% of the proceeds to marine conservation charities, and Mount Wittenberg Orca was born. The music on this album is no less than magical; it features the angelic vocals of the female DP members, the eerily smooth voice of Björk, all of which blend to form such sounds as whale noises and crashing waves. The clever lyrics feature Mom and Baby whales as the speaking voices, expressing their frustrations with current environmental issues.

Although the music as a whole is somewhat awkward, which can be expected with this vocal combination, there is a certain artistic elegance in that awkwardness which sets it apart from other music of the same genre. Not to mention, the philanthropic spirit of this album is undoubtedly something to be admired.

Focus Tracks: “On and ever onward”, “Beautiful mother”, “No embrace”, “All we are”

– Shannon Junior, Assistant Music Director

Hess Is More
“Creation Keeps the Devil Away”
Release Number: 4th
Hailing From: Copenhagen, Denmark
Genre: Slow Experimental Electronic
Label: This Is Care Of


Mikkel Hess has a fairly expansive music history, but unfortunately he mostly dwells in obscurity, even in indie circles. His brand of sometimes poppy, sometimes experimental slower electronic music deserves plenty of recognition and Creation Keeps the Devil Away may just be the album that gives it to him.

The album begins with the minimalist, overture like “Twelve Bells” but then moves into the poppy and catchy “What’s On The Second Floor.” These types of transitions are pretty common on the album but they are pulled off with a very unexpected grace. Their Talking Heads influence is apparent throughout the album, but is especially evident on the song “Burn,” an homage to the song “Burning Down the House.” The songs also walk a very fine line, avoiding the two extremes that modern electronic music drift toward. Their tracks are neither dancey to nor dark and haunting, but something in between laced with surprisingly lighthearted lyrics.

This is album is a little tough to describe on paper; however, in practice, it is simply excellent. From start to finish Creation Keeps the Devil Away is intricate and provides a sound that you won’t find anywhere else.

Focus Tracks: “What’s On The Second Floor,” “Burn,” “Creation Keeps The Devil Away”

-Matthew Jannetti, Music Director

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