Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Massive Amounts of Sub Pop!
To say that Sub Pop has had one heck of a track record would be an understatement. From essentially creating the genre of grunge to signing everyone from Foals to Wolf Parade, the label is pretty much the definition of perfection. 2010 sees this tradition sees this tradition continue with a slew of top releases that do not disappoint. Below you'll find a quick run down of the stack of CD's which showed up on my desk. It's an epic amount of music, but listening to it all had to be done and while it was a dirty job I had to do it.
First up is the ever wondrous Album Leaf, their new album A Chorus of Storytellersis a hauntingly beautiful downtempo trip into the ether. Hazy beats, ambient textures and a wispy voice populate each song creating an atmospheric world of shimmery airy delight. The album is a beautiful record that's stirring, lush, and almost to rich to listen to in one setting. I just saw these guys live and they miraculously pull of every sound with exacting science. Album Leaf are perfectionists and you can hear it in every one of the dreamy tunes that make up A Chorus of Storytellers. Thoroughly enjoyable every song is the soundtrack to a dream or a day staring up at the sky and looking at clouds. This is a stunning record that's as gorgeous as the sun rising and as calming as the sun setting. Beautiful stuff indeed.
On the other end of the spectrum, Avi Buffalo's self titled album is charming bed-sit indie pop that sounds as shy and awkward as a group of introverted high school kids. Oddly enough, that's pretty much what Avi Buffalo is...a group of kids who met at high school, formed a band, and who are currently stumbling through early adulthood. Needless to say with all that stumbling, bumbling, and teenage melodrama, Avi Buffalo is far from being a auto-tuned, polished gem. Instead, this diamond in the rough is loaded with jangly lo-fi stuff that will remind you of The Shins sun-drenched melodies and haunting songs. It's heartwarming stuff that's shambolic, fragile, sounds as though it might just all fall apart with in second and seems as though it was recorded in a closet. Despite all these things that might seem to drag this record down, Avi Bufflo instead, creates something that's innocently beautiful and revels in the joy of being young. Fragility and the joys of teenage life is what Avi Buffalo is all about and it's almost enough to make you feel old.
Beach House's latest album Teen Dream continues to see the band embrace West Coast Pop with open arms but add a bit of folky magic to the mix. The result is an album slathered in melodic joys but just intimate enough to make it almost seem depressing. In fact, Teen Dream almost sounds like a Brian Wilson come down in a sand box. It's a woozy, slightly hung over record that's dreamy and a bit ethereal. The songs kind of stretch their way through the motions and as a result at times it seems as though this record might not ever end. That's not really a bad thing, but in listening to Beach House you kind of just wish they'd put a bit more jive in their step. Teen Dream remains a fantastic record despite it wanting to stay in bed most of the day; throw in a DVD of videos for each and every song here and you have a good reason not to get out of bed. The perfect Sunday morning album, Teen Dream is like something out of a dream albeit it a weird and slightly depressing one.
Coming out of the dreamy vision of Beach House it seems only appropriate that we stumble into the oddly strange magic folk of Blitzen Trapper. Looking like something that belongs in the metal section but sounding something Jethro Tull without the flute, Blitzen Trapper weaves a strange spell with a modern twist on Destroyer of the Void. Modern in the sense that much of this record is orchestral, widescreen, and imaginative, Blitzen Trapper create a world that seems to fill the void that they seek to destroy. With love, magic, emotions, and a sense that these guys seriously want to jam throughout, Destroyer of the Voidmakes for some fun listening. This is like late 60's psychedelic folk rock stuck in the 80's and left to ponder its existence while trying to find a way back to their own realm. In other words, it's all a bit magical. In listening to this record you can't help but picture this band decked out in corduroy flares, facial hair, oil projections on the wall and the heavy scent of incense burning everywhere while the play for days. If more folk music was like this, I'd probably be a fan. I mean anyone that sings about dragons, trees, love and hate, heaven and earth is either Dio or one heck of a band and that's where Blitzen Trapper come in.
The Dum Dum Girls on the other hand, haven't left their garage in forty years, or at least sound like it judging by their album, I Will Be. With a rawness like sushi and a sound that brings to mind Nico, The Flatmates, Primitives, etc, this is a c86 band beamed to the future from the pages of NME. I Will Be is punky, noisy, garage rock-pop that's jumpy, nervous, and has a strong desire to pogo all over the place. It's an awesome album that's rooted in the past but blasts itself into the here and now like a LOST flash sideways. These girls are possessed by the ghost of rock and roll and their songs reflect this over and over again and that's why I Will Beis such an enjoyable record. Easily one of the best records of 2010, this little record has enough fuzzed out guitars, syrupy sweet melodies, and songs that you can never forget to last a life time. Dum Dum Girls are love.
Judging by the cover of Coco Rosie's new album, Grey Oceansit looks like they've never spent a day in a garage but rather have been trapped in a travelling renaissance festival for decades. This most bizarre duo are clearly one of the scariest groups in all of musicdom and they create some of the strangest sounds and songs on the planet. Sounding like a cross between a disembodied spirit, a broken hip hop record, and some form of electro that hasn't been named yet, Coco Rosie clearly do not think like the rest of us. This is a group who finds songs in the places you'd never think to look and would almost be afraid to. Grey Oceanssounds like a Bjork record if it were played backwards and sideways with broken beats, yodels, sighs, strange language, and probably the winning lottery numbers as well. Strange, haunting, and something you don't want to listen to in a dark room, Grey Oceans is a bizarre record you'll have a difficult time turning away from and you might just need a priest to get rid of. Should you seek this record out? Most definitely...but with spiritual guidance and a handful of talismans.
Wrapping up this overwhelming amount of Sub Pop is UK based Male Bonding. A band that probably wouldn't have sounded too far out of place on the label nearly 20 years ago. While not a grunge band, there are enough lo-fi, raw, noisy, clanky moments on their album Nothing Hurtsthat makes you think of the labels past...albeit it with a pop edge. They don't spend their entire time sounding like a flannel loving grunge band but rather mix it up with some pretty cool 80's British Pop moments that will have you reaching for your Cherry Red albums with haste. Male Bonding tend to create lo-fi sheets of noise that serve as teenage symphonies to god and sound as though the Polvo and Jesus and Mary Chain put a gun to their head and made them record songs in their image. It's sweetly cacophonous stuff that sounds like pop probably should. One of the better debut's coming out of a bedroom/front room or wherever this was recorded this year.
So there you have it...a slew of fantastic releases that you pretty much need in you life. Since we don't really have a record store in this town (unless you're in St. Augustine), visit subpop.com and pick them all up!