LCD Soundsystem blurs genres with sophomore album

By Amy Shaunette

The music world is ridden with, and some may say plagued by, genres. Whether your musical menu sticks to underground rap, Britney and Beyonc, or a strict diet of indie rock, you still need some beats you can dance to, and that’s where James Murphy, working under the name LCD Soundsystem, comes in. The electronic-rock infusion Murphy creates bridges the gap between rock and electronica, offering accessible dance music to anyone who’s interested. And when it comes to LCD Soundsystem, most people are.There are many layers in the world of electronic music. At the heart of everything is the DJs, but before the DJs there was Kraftwerk, disco, and the new wave bands of the 1980s. Electronic music is influenced by just about everything, and it’s almost an impermeable genre. Electronic music includes a wide array of various subgenres – acid house, trance, techno, ambient, electro-pop; the list goes on. Mixes and remixes come out nearly everyday, it seems, and there’s a lot to weed through – a lot of names to know, and at least eight different versions of all the best songs.

But there’s hope for those who wish to only skim the surface. Electronica for normal people comes in the form of Daft Punk, and now LCD Soundsystem is picking up where they left off, delivering a kind of electronic music so infused with rock and indie sensibilities that it almost defies genre.

“Sound of Silver,” LCD Soundsystem’s second studio album released March 20 on Murphy’s own DFA Records, doesn’t depart from the sound Murphy laid out in 2005’s self-titled debut. Low-key but energetic, with vocals that balance the techno beats, LCD Soundsystem really is electronic music for people who love acoustic guitars. Yet, Murphy understands what makes dance music good, extending his appeal to true electronica fans as well. “Sound of Silver” consists of nine songs so different that’s it’s hard to talk about the album as a whole, but somehow the album still flows. You can dance to it, but you to also can listen it while you do homework. It’s got the guitars, it’s got surprisingly good piano riffs, and most importantly, it’s got the synthesizers. The album clearly shows Murphy’s progress and musical maturation. The loose ends are tied, with the sound ending up much cleaner and more developed than what we heard on the first LCD album.

LCD Soundsystem often gets compared to other bands, a reviewing tactic that is questionable but effective, and with “Sound of Silver,” I find it impossible not to make connections. “Get Innocuous!” is the most danceable song on the album, featuring circling house beats similar to Daft Punk circa “Homework” and dark, deep Depeche Mode-esque vocals. But comparisons aside, it’s a great song, and a good example of Murphy’s versatility. Some songs echo acts like !!!, Eagles of Death Metal, The Rapture or David Bowie. On the title track “Sound of Silver,” Murphy is almost flat-out copying producers-turned-performers Booka Shade with his low, rumbling, almost steel drum-like backbeat. But as always, Murphy manages to put his unique stamp on every song, reminding us that here is a band that encompasses everything different genres have to offer.

And at the end of the day, I have to let the comparisons drop and respect Murphy as an individual composer who is breaking new ground. “Someone Great” is the most memorable song on “Sound of Silver,” yet it’s the least likely to filter through speakers at dance clubs. The song is, in a word, pretty, with a steady, rolling beat that escalates with grace as Murphy’s vocals intensify. Electronic music often fails to tell the stories indie rock songs do, but Murphy manages to insert seemingly autobiographical lyrics between technologic beeps and dings, showcasing not only his mixing talent but his impressive songwriting. In “Someone Great,” Murphy says, “I wish that we could talk about it/but there, that’s the problem/With someone new I could have started/too late, for beginnings.” He masters the art of repetition as he echoes the line “when someone great is gone” over and over and laces the song with repeated verses and rhythms. Poetic lyrics and a flawless sound combine to make “Someone Great” a song with staying power. Put simply, it haunts.

As an album, “Sound of Silver” has that same effect. It gets into your head and it doesn’t go away. Murphy has made an album that will prove its worth with each listen. It’s more than a dance party playlist. It’s good music.