Dirty Beaches
Badlands


3.5
great

Review

by Conrad Tao EMERITUS
April 5th, 2011 | 18 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Dirty Beaches' debut possesses a very fluid sense of time and place, and it's all the better for it.

Alex Zhang Hungtai's music is notable for its sense of displacement. His debut full-length as Dirty Beaches, Badlands, is many things, but it is never settled. On the one hand, this is due to Hungtai's dark and scuzzy production, which buries vocals, guitars, and tape loops underneath reverb and clouded distortion. On the other, there's the restless natures of the songs themselves; the propulsive loops and urgent, breathy vocals of the record's first half come to mind. Even Badlands' most laid-back moments have a distinctly depressive tone; the prettiest track, "Lord Knows Best", finds Hungtai singing ruefully, "You know well that I don't give a damn." The song is oddly alienating in the best way possible, possessing a palpable space between the artist and listener. It's as if Hungtai is playing mid-century rock cassettes in the room next door, and we're listening in through the wall.

It's this distant quality that helps Badlands distinguish itself as being much more than just another fashionable lo-fi nostalgia trip. "Sweet 17" and "A Hundred Highways" are rooted in '50s rock tradition, yet in their new environments, they take on a haunting quality that echoes the spooky ambience of David Lynch, who Hungtai has cited as an influence, as well as the markedly isolated tone of the Terrence Malick film from which Badlands takes its name. Even when his songs lack a strong anchor for the ear to latch onto, as in the stagnant pool of sound that is "Black Nylon", the aura that permeates every second of Badlands' 26-minute runtime keeps things compelling. Such atmosphere-driven music runs the risk of sounding stale at album length, but Hungtai mostly avoids the compositional nothingness that plagues his closest sonic relatives. Badlands is far from a perfect record, but it is an impressive, cogent artistic statement that hints at greater things to come.



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user ratings (62)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Sam Feldman's Rating (4)
...

danielsfrebirth (4)
Alex Zhang Hungtai will run you off the speedway and watch you writhe in flames in the abyss below...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
conradtao
Emeritus
April 5th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Haven't written a review this short since Small Black way back in October! It feels kind of nice, actually.

cvlts
April 5th 2011


8967 Comments


and it is nice. short reviews are whats up now

sounds like something i'd like.

conradtao
Emeritus
April 5th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Here's a taste: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1npX5-CP0A

cvlts
April 5th 2011


8967 Comments


gettin like a beatles vibe from it. but im sold

cbmartinez
April 5th 2011


2525 Comments


sometimes i think this is really sweet suicide sounding stuff, sometimes i think it's generic chillwave bs, i liked lord only knows a lot, sweet 16 is good too

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 5th 2011


15050 Comments


blank dogs v2 eurgh

gaslightanthem
April 5th 2011


5209 Comments


i like blank dogs so i'll probably like this

iFghtffyrdmns
April 5th 2011


7047 Comments


nice write-up conrad.
I'll add this to the list of downloads, sounds like something i'd dig.

conradtao
Emeritus
April 5th 2011


2090 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

blank dogs v2 eurgh

Well, I like Blank Dogs, so

Take what you will from that

joshuatree
Emeritus
May 27th 2011


3742 Comments


this is great

liledman
December 7th 2011


3826 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

so... obviously nobody picked up on this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyxB-pSYEKc

fuckthatnoise
December 24th 2011


1479 Comments


can't say i've heard anything like this all year.

DeafMetal
January 15th 2012


8588 Comments


album is brilliant

chambered69
May 6th 2012


1253 Comments


forgot how much i love this

chambered49
May 26th 2012


1727 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

this album has a mystery to it. such a sick late night open highway 50's vibe goin on here so good

chambered99
January 17th 2013


812 Comments


still in love with this

sicktransitbro
September 29th 2013


55 Comments


this reads a lot like the p4k review hmm

Phlegm
September 16th 2014


5091 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

oooo



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