Saturday, December 31, 2011
Loney Dear's path to the creation of their new album Hall Music has been an interesting one. After returning home from touring the United States Loney Dear's Emil Svanangen began to play shows with chamber orchestras throughout his homeland. The experience was an important moment in the career of Loney Dear as it pointed him/them in the direction that eventually led to the recording of the appropriately titled Hall Music.
Intimate and yet expansive, Hall Music's quiet sounds almost sound symphonic in their approach. Slowly building in structure, the songs develop their power as the songs progress...it's almost as if each song is a movement in a bigger piece. While still retaining enough of a pop sensibility about them, the songs that make up Hall Music are lushly crafted with airy guitars, wispy vocals, and an ethereal arctic feel to them; it is as if they were echoing down the hallway of life and just happened to find you in their way.
Hall Music is angelic stuff that's delicate and barely there. It's as if Emil has constructed a record that's the soundtrack of big open rooms with nothing in them. That quiet sense of expansive spaces is what this record is all about. And yet, despite that scale, Loney Dear seem so unobtrusive in their approach that if you're not careful you will have listened to them and never have known it (almost like they were hidden in that big empty room tucked in a closet). If that were to happen that would be unfortunate as Hall Music is a beautiful record that should be listened to in a room of any size.
Mike Kinsella is a bit of an indie rock legend. This former member of Cap'n Jazz has had such a long and successful solo career as Owen that it's almost hard to remember his old band. With six albums underneath his belt, he's truly come into his own as a songwriter developing initially from a sparse acoustic player to something almost at the other end of the spectrum. His latest album, and seventh in his discography, Ghost Town continues to see Owen grow in richness and texture and develop lush arrangements that exhibit is maturity.
While still intimate after all these years, Owen manages to wrap that intimacy in a blanket of warm sounds that are comforting and gorgeous. Yes, this is mellow stuff for the most part but it's so deep in it's breadth and construction that it's almost orchestral in it's approach. Listening to Ghost Town is kind of like receiving an aural hug. It's strangely familiar and soothing to listen to. I can't help but wish that more singer songwriters adopted Kinsella's lush and homey approach to writing...it would be a different world.
Ghost Town is a gorgeous album that's mellow and endearing. Owen goes for your heartstrings and pulls them in an attempt to listen and you can't but be engrossed while Kinsella wrangles lyrical apparitions. In listening to Ghost Town you can almost sense that Owen (aka Kinsella) is ready to move on to the next chapter of his life which may or may not include his band. Let's hope that Owen carries on.
A bit past its sell by date, but impressive none-the-less, the New Zealand @ CMJ 2011 is packed to the gills with Kiwi pop bands from all over the proverbial genre map. This fifteen track collection contains a bit of everything from indie rock, indie pop, electronic, and even sorta gothy stuff. What surprised me about this compilation is that I knew about half of these bands already but had no idea that they were from New Zealand.
Always a fertile ground for indie, New Zealand cemented it's place in the indie lexicon long ago with records from bands like The Chills and labels like Flying Nun. Recently the island nation has seen a re-birth as a hub for independently spirited music and that's where New Zealand @ CMJ 2011 comes in. Highlighting this year's crop of stars, the compilation includes tracks from Cut Off Your Hands, Princess Chelsea, Mulchzoid, Pikachunes, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Street Chant, The Golden Awesome, Popstrangers, She's So Rad, Two Cartoons, Evil Twins, Tiny Ruins, Parallel Dance Ensemble, Andrew Keoghan, and Cairo Knife Fight who proudly carry on the Kiwi tradition. The whole album is ridiculously good and there's not one single duff track amongst the bunch proving just how fantastic the New Zealand scene is.
Of the fifteen tracks my favorites would have to be...the jangle pop goodness of Cut Off Your Hands', "Fooling No One," the quirkiness of Princess Chelsea's, "Frack," Pikachunes electro tinged pop, Street Chant's American influenced indie rock on, "Scream Walk,", and the dark swirling post grunge of Popstrangers', "Happy Accidents." It's a fantastic album that I have no idea how to get hold of since it seems as though it was a promo handed out during a CMJ showcase. But, if you can find it on the interwebs or something, I'd highly suggest picking it up, downloading it, streaming it, or whatever...it's that good.
With a name like Eight Bit Tiger you'd expect the band to be something like a midi-Commodore 64 pop band obsessed with Mario Brothers covers. Well, if you're like me you'd be expecting the wrong thing when you pop on their album, Parallel Synchronized Randomness. While there is an undoubtedly electronic angle to their music, Eight Bit Tiger are more like 64 Bit Tiger than anything so lo-res.
Super slick, polished and as deadly as saran gas, Eight Bit Tiger make disco punk that takes everything Radio 4 perfected back in 2003 and turns it up to 11. Machine loaded with hooks and vacuum packed with massive songs, Parallel Synchronized Randomness is the exact opposite of it's title. Rather than sounding completely scattershot and random, much of Eight Bit Tiger's album seems calculated to perfection; it's as if the record was run through the Einstein Popmatic Production Machine. While this might sound like it makes the band come off as cold and almost over produced, it's not the case as Parallel Synchronized Randomness song's are so ridiculously infectious that a flu-shot might be required prior to listening.
With dazzling synths, funky guitar riffs, tight, crisp beats and vocals that hover somewhere between Phoenix and Jamiroquai the record is a funky dance floor weapon of destruction. This is the kind of record giggly girls get drunk to and fall over themselves for and trust me I know this. Parallel Synchronized Randomness is such a huge disco punk pop record that if it were released in 1983 it would have clobbered Duran Duran out of the charts. Incredibly fun, sugary sweet, and stupendously good there's almost nothing to dislike about these guys. Sure it's slicker than the Gulf oil spill, but this is one record that's easy to recommend because it's just so good.
Little Red are in fact not little nor red but they are very good. Sounding something like a Vampire Weekend mixed with Coldplay and maybe even a bit of Arcade Fire or Modest Mouse this worldly indie pop band have embraced their inner Paul Simon's and created an album that's light, airy, and easy to latch on to. Entitled, Midnight Remember, the album is ironic in the sense that it is difficult to forget.
With multi-part harmonies taking the hooks heavenward, jangly guitars creating the breezy atmosphere and sweeping arrangements making the songs breathtaking the band seem to excel at writing lush songs that are sentimental and even a bit heartbreaking. It's all very easy to latch onto and Little Red seem only to happy to have you along for the ride. With a tendency to sound like Christopher Cross if he was writing songs for Coldplay, the band seem to be caught between the moon and New York City (see "Slow Motion."). At other times, the band are quite intent on writing an indie anthem and they succeed on a song like "Rock It," which is a shuffly little pop song with an irresistible groove.
Midnight Remember is not a bombastic indie pop record. Rather, it's a catchy mid paced record that makes it's presence known with it's accessibility, ridiculously sweet harmonies, and sheer likability. Little Red have created a great record that's quietly going to conquer the world whether you know it or not.
If you're Electric Cowbell Records and you've released one of the best compilations of the year, 101 Things To Do In Bongolia, what do you do next? Why you immediately start releasing a batch of limited edition 7" records featuring a slew of artists including Debo Band, Sway Machinery and newcomers Karthala 72. Essential to say the least, each of the seven inch records offers a different take on the rather large umbrella of world music. From brassed off tunes, to tribal Afropop Electric Cowbell continually searches the world over and then releases records that take the genre of world music and turn it upside down.
Sway Machinery & Khaira Arby team up to create an Afropop record that gets down. The two songs that make up this seven inch "Gawad Teriamou" and "Youba" take tribal sounds and make them funky. I would challenge anyone not to move during the boogie breakdowns that pulsate through, "Youba;" it's just not possible.
A bit more traditional in it's approach but still spectacular comes Cheick Hamala Diabate. A West African historian and master of traditional Malian instrument, ngoni, Cheick combines the ancient rhythms and ideas of his ancestors with a bit of an American slant; living in D.C. will do that to ya. Anyway, the results are two songs that are intricate, intimate, and absolutely beautiful. Cheick has done his ancestors proud and has taken something ancient and made it seem modern.
Os Magrelos almost seem like a world music influenced jazz band complete with organs, horns, and downtempo drums. The three songs that make up this seven inch sound like some sort of Mad Men Brasil 66 team up. It's gorgeous, sexy, seductive stuff that will remind you of 60's jazz beatniks who hang out with Burt Bacharach. In other words, vintage awesomeness abounds here and this is a fantastic record.
Continuing that beatnik vibe, Karthala 72 offer up two tracks of tribal psychedelic influenced fusion that gets funky and rocky at the same time and seems headed to somewhere just outside of our galaxy. It's trippy vintage sounding stuff that at times seems almost primal and rough in its efforts but just freaked out enough to keep things moving along. Both tracks are pretty good listening.
On the exact opposite end of the universe comes No BsiBrass who for some strange reason have done an all brass version of Aha's, "Take On Me." As bizarre as it sounds it's almost like listening to some sort of 80's high school marching band in your living room...it's amazing. On the flip, the band amp up the tuba and go to town w/getting funky. Chuck Mangione these guys are not, but they are a lot of fun and I'd love to see these guys live w/the Florida A&M Rattler band!
Little Shalimar wraps things up here with two songs that are the least world music sounding of the bunch. In fact Little Shalimar is an indie rock band whose members are Lebanese, Jewish, and white Anglo Saxon Protestant all at the same time. Little Shalimar writes extremely hooky tunes that incorporate funk, rock, and kazoos into the mix and almost sound like Electric Company songs from the 70's. This is a fun seven inch record that's got an incredible back beat and hooks so large they could round up a whale shark.
So there you have it...the Electric Cowbell Records seven inch frenzy; it's one heck of a follow up to the awesome Bongolia compilation and if you even remotely like global grooves you should do yourself a favor and pick up this collection. Check out Electric Cowbell at www.electric-cowbell.com
Most people who know of Dntel know of him because of him being one half of the Postal Service. What most people don't know, is that Dntel has had a long career of making electronic music that stretches over several albums, bands, and projects. His somewhat classic, Life Is Full Of Possibilities was originally issued in 2001 right before the Postal Service became bigger than sliced bread. Eventually overshadowed by that project's success, Life Is Full Of Possibilities never quite got the fair shake it deserved until now. Recently reissued by Sub Pop, the album has been expanded and gate-folded into an absolutely massive two CD set that gives this record it's due.
Life Is Full Of Possibilities is a glitchy, whispery, mostly ambient work that kind of gently thumps its way along. At times sounding like Mum or even a more adventurous Radiohead, Dntel is like an electronic music explorer using his keys, sequencer, and beats as a way to create new territory and new sounds by any means necessary. It's an unobtrusive but beautiful record that lets its imagination run wild and feels like the sound of electric sheep jumping over fences in your dreams. Life Is Full Of Possibilities is truly magical, mystical stuff that through the use of sparse arrangements, vocals, and beats creates a world that's serene and sublime and that's just disc one.
Disc two of Life Is Full Of Possibilities not only sees some obscurities and b-sides but also sees remixers and reworkers get there hands on the record and work some magic of their own. The results of this are tons of glitchy obscuro electronica that's less ambient and a bit more accessible for shuffling along to. For the most part the songs are still sparsely arranged, but done so in such a way where there's actually a bit more structure than the originals. If you think of the original album (disc 1) as yin, then the remix disc (disc 2) is it's yang; it's quiet and loud, energetic and serene, like night and day.
Life Is Full Of Possibilities is an amazing album that's finally getting the respect it was owed. This super sized version with all the remixes and bonus tracks is just about essential. Dntel created a definitive vision of what glitch pop mixed with ambient should sound like and this is it. Creative, fragile, and imaginative Life Is Full Of Possibilities is just that full of possibilities.
Carlos Paredes is one of the greatest Portuguese guitarists, composers, and ambassadors of his country's culture. This legendary guitarist through his many albums has brought a deeper understanding of le guitarra Portuguesa and it's intricate and intimate sound. The instrument, which was created several hundred years ago, is a short necked, wide-bodied instrument that has twelve strings in six courses comprised of two strings each. Paredes mastery of said instrument is no small feat, but you can hear his understanding and his ability on the recently re-released album, Guitarra Portuguesa.
A beautiful sounding instrument, the album lends itself to a certain degree of romanticism and beauty that is truly unique amongst stringed instruments. It's an intriguing instrument that at times almost sounds like a harpsichord. Generally a bit more high-pitched than other guitars, Paredes still manages to find a way to make his compositions sound warm and rich while giving them a rustic and almost folky feel. Guitarra Portuguesa is an awesome record of guitarra fireworks and shows that Paredes was an absolute beast on this instrument. While Eddie Van Halen wasn't quite old enough to play yet, Carlos Paredes was creating Portuguese-like "Eruption's," on a medieval instrument!
Guitarra Portuguesa is an incredible album of traditional sounding Portuguese music that will open your mind and ears. Carlos Paredes was an incredible talent and you can hear it throughout this record. The guy could clearly play the heck out of the Portuguese guitar and his fingers worked magic throughout each one of his songs as if he were a great wizard. The re-release of this album and his sophomore effort, Movimento Perpetuo are simply essential records and long overdue.
You know me...if you're a singer / songwriter there's like a 98% chance I'm not going to like you. The sound of moany vocals and acoustic guitars are like nails on a chalk board to me. But there are exceptions to every rule and I'm proud to report that Rebekah Higgs is one of those exceptions. With a voice that's similar to fellow Canadian, Feist, Higgs has just enough quirk and tweeness in her voice to make you want to hug her instead of run away from her. Her appropriately named album Odd Fellowship lives up to it's name thanks to off centered songs and a strange pop sensibility.
Odd Fellowship might have been written by a singer / songwriter, but it's anything but a singer / songwriter album. Sounding rich in sound and packed with great ideas, the album takes the idea of a singer / songwriter and tosses it out a window. This is a big album with all kinds of instruments, ideas, vocal tricks, and hooks and it's those things that keep you listening. Odd Fellowship will make you wonder if Rebekah isn't a long lost sister of Feist because both vocalists have that oddly keyed vocal style that seems a bit off but is so endearing. Rebekah's voice much like Odd Fellowship is so ridiculously charming and adorable, that you can't help but like her and her work.
Sure there are intimate moments throughout the record, and she does embrace her inner singer / songwriter, but even during these moments she's got enough of a pop sensibility about her to not let the ballad get the best of her. With hand claps, horns, electric guitars, reverb, the sound of ghosts, and all sorts of sticky sweet choruses, Rebekah Higgs has taken her songs and her band off the beaten path and blazed her own trail. I thoroughly enjoyed Odd Fellowship's fun take on a tired genre and Rebekah Higgs has proven herself to be a quirky talent worth paying attention to.
Remember Bonde Do Rolle? Yeah, neither to a lot of other people but they used to play this Baille Funk, electro, dance hybrid that was darn near amazing. While they've kind of faded into obscurity, Buraka Som Sistema have happily picked up the baton left by Bonde and run away with it. Their album, Komba, is a tribal rhythmic blast of electronic pop that so packed with banger's that it should have just been called Banger.
Fusing tribal rhythm's, Latin influences, and enough grooves to last a lifetime, Komba, is a global rave that's gotten out of control. Squiggles, bass lines, ritualistic clangs all carry the songs into the club never to return. It's just about impossible to resist the primal sounds that Buraka Som Sistema play and Komba is so ridiculously good, you won't want to. Komba is the sound of Carnivale come to your living room and if you don't move to this record that you're just plain dead.
Exploring the borders between life and death (hence the giant skull on the cover), Buraka Som Sistema give their songs a bit of dark tint, but never lose sight of living every day like it's the last. That really explains the kinetic energy behind Komba and why the album ceases to sit still. After listening to Komba I'm quite convinced that Buraka Som Sistema want to die happily in a dark club on the dance floor in an avalanche of bass waves collapsing upon them. Komba is an amazing electronic record that brings the vibe and feel of Carnivale home, tints it with some voodoo and lets it go on the dance floor to wreak havoc. It does a good job of this and that's why Komba is fun to listen to.
The world of Princess Chelsea is a magic one filled with a childlike sense of wonder that's dark and fascinating. Her latest album, Lil Golden Book, looks just like it's name sake and is as curious as those books were when you were growing up. Sounding like a the Cranes with a Kiwi accent, Princess Chelsea weaves a haunting spell of bewilderment and uses her tinkly, twinkly, piano sounds to charm you into musical submission.
While Lil Golden Book sounds like it's children's music, but it's most definitely not. In fact, think of Lil Golden Book as an adult audio version of the entire collection gone wrong. Ridiculously twee, incredibly innocent sounding, and quirky in all the best ways, Princess Chelsea is awesome at what she does. Writing witty and wry songs with a voice that sounds like a 12 year old, Listening to Lil Golden Book is like listening to a Lil Golden Book.
Princess Chelsea creates a fantasy world in which we're allowed to roam around in. It's a strange, haunted world that's theatrical, full of make believe, and a high concept production. From the album looking like a Lil Golden Book to Princess Chelsea sounding like Shirley Temple lost in Wonderland Lil Golden Book is so weird it's wonderful. I'm glad she lets us hang out with her in her world because it's a fantastic place that's filled with enough oddities and strangeness to make you want to return over and over again.
Pikachunes is not a Pok e Mon character. No, Pickachunes is the solo recording project of Miles McDougall. After suffering a fractured ulna, this music major had some time on his hands during recovery and used it as well as his love of digital production to create his alter identity and the Pickachunes album.
A first person account of moving to a new city and building a name as a musician, the record has a certain degree of glumness to it, but it's the struggle to achieve those things that moves this record forward. A rather good synthpop record, Pickachunes takes on hints of Magnetic Fields, early OMD, modern electro, and maybe even a bit of unfeeling German techno. The beats are cold and harsh, the synths minimal, and McDougall's vocals detached to the point of not even wanting to be there. And yet despite it's apparent lack of feeling or even caring the album is ridiculously catchy and very, very good.
Pickachunes sound as if it just walked out of a time capsule with it's analog synths in hand. Calculating, sparse, and almost harsh, Pickachunes are so 1981 they might just make OMD jealous. McDougall should probably injure himself more often because his output during his injury time out has been stunning. Minimalism hasn't sounded this good since Kraftwerk stumbled on to the Autobahn all those years ago.
Tradition. It's all about tradition with Alan Lomax & Alasdair Roberts. In 1951 Alan Lomax made his first trip to the Scottish Lowlands and recorded traditional Scottish folk music that included the ballads from farm laborers, fishwives, and Scottish Traveling folk. For the next six years, Lomax continued to record these songs. But until this year, these recordings were never heard on record. Now thanks to guidance of Alasdair Roberts and the Alan Lomax Archive Global Jukebox Label, Lomax's recordings can now be heard by all on compact disc and mp3 under the name of Whaur the Pig Gaed on the Spree.
Un-produced, raw, and so sincere you can hear the spirit in every song, Whaur the Pig Gaed on the Spree is the sound of the Scottish Lowlands brought to life. Much of Whaur the Pig Gaed on the Spree sounds nearly ancient and you can feel the age of each of these songs as they've been passed on from generation to generation. There's history, tradition, and stories to each of the verses here and that's what makes this album so amazing; to hear these tales sung with all the heartbreak, hilarity, and heart in tact is stunning.
While most people will think of bagpipes when they think of Scottish folk music, Whaur the Pig Gaed on the Spree illustrates quite clearly that there's so much more to this musical form. With barely any instrumentation at all the singers and artists who appear on this album will keep you gripped by their tales, songs, and voices. It's wondrous and beautiful stuff that makes me miss Dundee, Stirling, Edinburgh, and Glasgow immensely. Bonnie Scotland is honored to the highest order on Whaur the Pig Gaed on the Spree and it's something to behold and sit with a bottle of whiskey and enjoy.
I miss Miami. Having been born and raised there it's hard not to miss it. There's three things you can always count on down there...sun, lack of seasons, and bass. Lots of bass. Without Miami, bass would have never really been anything else but a low end frequency. But in Miami, it's an art form and it should come as no surprise that a lot of hip hop artists idolize the classic Miami bass sound. Spank Rock is one such artist.
Spank Rock pays such a tribute to that Miami sound that it might make 2 Live Crew blush. With a sound that sounds like my high school parking lot did way back in the day, Spank's album Everything Is Boring will take you back to little cars with HUGE speakers! If you have a 1987 Toyota Celica with 2 14" woofers in your back seat instead of a back seat then you know what I'm talking about.
This is music to cruise Ocean Drive to. You're car will rattle, you're ears will fall off and every dance floor on South Beach will be packed to the sounds of Spank Rock. Easily one of the best Miami (non-Miami) sounding things you're likely to hear, if you've ever had a fascination with bass then you need this record.
While undoubtedly modernized and sounding a bit New Yorkish at times, the Miami influence on this record is huge. Even at it's slowest moments Everything Is Boring is rude, crude, and filled with enough noise to shake anyone within a 50 foot radius. The bass waves and foul language gush out of speakers like a geyser. It's the kind of thing that would make parents recoil in horror and that's why it's amazing.
And yet, what's really great about Spank Rock though, is that even though he's so in love with bass he's married to it, the guy has this adventuresome streak that allows him to write songs like, "The Dance," a song that's so no wave you'd swear he was a long lost member of Suicide. Then as if to ram home the point that he's not a cursing one trick pony, he breaks out his inner Green Velvet and unleashes, "#1 Hit." It's fantastic stuff that guarantees that if the bass and rhymes don't get you on Everything Is Boring the hooks and diversity will.
Everything Is Boring is far from being boring. It's an edgy, nasty, challenging record that takes what made Miami famous and gives it all sorts of bad drugs and then lets it run rampant through NE 2nd Ave at 2am. Spank Rock has created a rough, raw and brilliant record that spurts out rhymes, blows out speakers, destroys synths, and obliterates dance floors. It's just about perfect and has essentially made me homesick. Awesome stuff.
Friday, December 30, 2011
If there's one thing Cubic Zirconia is not, it's fake. This dynamic New York based band mixes elements of wobble, house, proper electro, and experimental electronics into a sexy stew of dance floor devastation that's as beatastic as it is seductive. Their album Follow Your Heart is packed to the rafters with bangers that pulsate with a diverse approach that will keep you guessing as much as it will keep your booty shakin'.
Follow Your Heart almost seems like it's the mantra for Cubic Zirconia. From releasing several DIY videos and singles and now taking their album in all kinds of directions the band seems to perpetually follow their heart into new realms. It works for these guys and works well. Follow Your Heart is as up-tempo as much as it is down tempo and as up front as it is left field. It's an awesome record that brings back classic electronic sounds, thumping basslines, and sexy as hell vocals to lure you in and then never release you.
Sort of experimental, definitely dance floor oriented; wherever Cubic Zirconia roam the party and beats are sure to follow (Just listen to "Darko," to see why.). Able to turn a banger in a minute and then take it down several notches and work you over slowly, Cubic Zirconia prove their mettle time after time throughout Follow Your Heart. Are the Zirconia's Fake? Are you kidding? These guys are so real they should have been called Hope Diamond.
What happens when you get Ben out of Six Organs of Admittance and Elisa out of Magic Markers? A whole lot of folk; 200 years worth as a matter of fact. Well, maybe not that much, but that's the name that this dynamic duo goes under and their latest self titled album is most definitely a long trek through the acoustic world of music.
Unfortunately, that's enough for me not to enjoy this record. While Elisa's voice is seemingly beautiful and the gently plucked guitars guide her voice through the centuries that make up their name, the album itself is just a wee bit boring. With just guitar and voice, they chart a course over the span of the album, but I wasn't able to make it all the way through as it was to slow paced and unobtrusive for me to stay focused on it.
I wanted to like this record, but it's just a little too meandering and quiet for my taste. Sorry guys.
Unfortunately, that's enough for me not to enjoy this record. While Elisa's voice is seemingly beautiful and the gently plucked guitars guide her voice through the centuries that make up their name, the album itself is just a wee bit boring. With just guitar and voice, they chart a course over the span of the album, but I wasn't able to make it all the way through as it was to slow paced and unobtrusive for me to stay focused on it.
I wanted to like this record, but it's just a little too meandering and quiet for my taste. Sorry guys.
Evidence, the producer/MC who was a member of the godlike rapping geniuses known as Dilated Peoples has just released his sophomore effort and it does not disappoint. Entitled, Cats & Dogs, Evidence takes his legacy and his current status and elevates them one notch higher through this record by providing crisp, edgy rhymes with beats so tight that air cannot escape them. Taking the hip hop world and making it all his own, Evidence is clearly unafraid to leave traces of his presence wherever he goes.
In typical Rhymesayers fashion, Cats & Dogs is a top notch record that's so well produced and put together that it stands head and shoulders above most rap records. That's just on the outside...a quick listen on the inside reveals a record that's angsty, edgy, and flows like Niagara Falls. Evidence throws out rhymes like a conveyor belt of nouns and verbs and when he teams up with the numerous special guests (Raekwon, Prodigy, Aesop Rock, Slug to name a few) his game is elevated even further. Wordsmith seems to be a bit of an understatement when talking about this guy and whether he's mad as hell or searching his heart the guy can turn a phrase in a millisecond.
Cats & Dogs is a fine second album from a guy who knows how to make darn good hip hop records and has done so for ages. With this record safely under his belt, I'm pretty sure that Evidence's legacy is secure. Evidence is LA and LA is Evidence and all you need is proof is to listen to Cats & Dogs.
Somewhere between being undead, being trapped in an X-file, and riding a chill wave is apparently where Warm Ghost lies. This atmospheric, wispy synthetic band create songs that sound as if clairvoyants called them into being and forced them to write songs from another world. Warm Ghost's album Narrows is an old fashioned, 80's synth pop record that's been so addicted to clove cigarettes and so in touch with its inner-goth that you can almost smell the patchouli coming through the speakers.
While Warm Ghost will undoubtedly be lumped in with the chill wave movement, the band brings so much more to the table than just incredibly slow electronic music and ethereal vocals. Approaching near ambient realms that bring to mind the works of Bill Nelson and Brian Eno and the layering synths over synths and then detaching vocals entirely from this mortal world, Warm Ghost create something far more intriguing than just chilled electronics. Narrows is the soundtrack to a séance, a soundtrack to a long dream, and the soundtrack to the expansion of the universe; it's epic stuff.
Narrows is lush, catatonic, and amazing. The haunting vocals and wandering synths make this album so ridiculously beautiful it's difficult to not be enchanted by its songs. Warm Ghost might not be ghosts but after listening to this album and knowing their name, one can't help but wonder if they really wouldn’t mind being them.
The John Steel Singers sounds like the name of a 70's easy listening combo that sings the hits of Ray Conniff, Andy Williams, and Tony Bennett in a leisure suit kind of way. While that may sound like what they play, in all actuality The John Steel Singers are an indie pop band that sound like they were once part of the eclectic Elephant Six collective. Taking jangly indie pop infusing it with an AM radio sensibility, horns, and the thought that a day without sunshine is a bad thing, the band are simply awesome at what they do. Their latest album, the oddly named Tangalooma is a fantastic pop record that's a melodic treat of epic proportions.
In an age where everything is electronically based, inspired, and created, The John Steel Singers seems to have gone back to the 70's and while not making easy listening album they have sought to make a pop record that's large in it's scope and sound. Tangalooma at times will remind you of Apples In Stereo, Elf Power, and Of Montreal. It's the sound of Athens outside of Athens and it's absolutely brilliant. Lush, orchestral, baroque-ish, and ridiculously catchy these Singers have created a record that's easy to listen to.
The John Steel Singers have made a great record here that's as rooted in the past as it is the present and their apparent love for all things AM Pop, Elephant 6, analog, and just good music guides Tangalooma into the promised land. I love indie pop like this. Tangalooma is quirky, light hearted and just plain fun. How can you not like something like that?
Still Corners seems to be an apt name for this dynamic duo. As the story goes, it was a dark and foggy night when the two members (Greg & Tessa) ran into each other and it was as if the musical fates had not only brought them together but gave them direction in the middle of that fog. Hardly a band with a frenetic pace or sense of urgency, their latest album and second overall, Creatures of an Hour also seems like a perfect name for a band that seemingly spend loads of time regularly hiding in the shadows just after darkness falls.
Creatures of an Hour is so quiet and so cinematic that it almost seems like it enjoys being the soundtrack to the world around it. Playing out with ambient textures, disengaged vocals and a barely there kind of attitude it's almost as if Still Corners are ghosts who were sent back to haunt our dreams and lives with beautiful sounds. Creatures of an Hour is truly gorgeous stuff that takes the wispy sounds that inspire them, process it through the odd distortion pedal, and then filter it through a ghostoscope. It's all like stillness and shadows here and it's as if the band follows you around whispering the songs into your ear.
A more atmospheric post shoegazing ghostlike band you are unlikely to find. Their otherworldly charm and ability to harness distortion and curb it to their every whim allows Still Corners to do things to their songs that make them awesome. Creatures of an Hour is the soundtrack of the Sandman and the dreams you have at night and whether they're nightmares or not Still Corners silently plays along to them.
The Dum Dum Girls latest album, Only In Dreams, is yet another burst of garage rock sunshine that further proves these guys are the greatest combination of The Flatmates and the Mary Chain to ever come along. Having created more swirly, jangly, lo-fi sounds than I can count, the band has cemented themselves as the pre-eminent female C-86 revival band on the planet. They're brand of fuzzy pop is about as close to perfect as you're going to get.
Only In Dreams is a natural musical high of distorted guitar bliss, lo-fi production, and addictive choruses that you can't shake. Simplistic in it's approach, huge on it's use of hooks, and brilliant with a sense of nostalgia the Dum Dum Girls have a genius sense of what makes great pop music. They may not be overly complicated or technical, but the songs have so much heart that they hit you right between the ears and it hurts so good. The band works their magic so quickly and so easily that Only In Dreams could you hope to escape their clutches.
The Dum Dum Girls have continued their streak of creating perfect records. Only In Dreams is a fizzy pop treat that'll give you a sugar high and then break your heart. 60's influenced C-86 pop has sounded this good since 1986.
Somewhere between a broken heart and a nervous breakdown The Asteroid Shop is hurtling towards shuffling off it's mortal coil. Downtrodden, downbeat, and lingering somewhere between garage rock, shoegazing, and sad core, the band have released a document of their emotional trauma that goes by the name of Asteroid Shop. Believe it or not, this record is rather stunning and beautiful despite sounding like it was recorded completely on Ambien.
If you can imagine a more drugged out Spacemen 3 or a hyper Low, you can kind of picture where The Asteroid Shop is hurtling from. With what seems like banks of echo chambers, pedals, effects, and a heavy heart the band constructs its unearthly songs as if their lives depended on it. The album is absolutely massive and rockets toward the outer galaxies with its reverby, echoy riffs and vocals. Had this record been released in 1993 they could have challenged someone like Medicine or even Spiritualized for drug induced space jam of the year.
Asteroid Shop is an amazing record that's from another time and another place. It's a spiritual, dreamy, hazy, and ethereal while finding melodies and emotions in the strangest places. The Asteroid Shop has created a fantastic post-shoegazing album of sad core delights. Psychedelic and slightly destitute Asteroid Shop is one amazing record worth seeing a psychiatrist about.
I do not actually know if Husband is married or not, but I do know that's the moniker that Australian Michael Paolino goes under. Sounding a bit like his fellow countryman, Nick Cave, Husband croons his way across songs intensely and with style. His new EP, simply entitled Husband, is a dramatic and slightly orchestral record that gets in touch with its inner goth and then lets itself get a bit broody.
Husband is truly nice stuff that's dark and impassioned. At times ethereal and at others lush and orchestrated, Husband creates dense songs with layers of texture that must be heard to peel away. It's only after many listens that you begin to realize how rich the four songs on this EP really are. Disappointingly short but highly consuming and dramatic, Husband is a brief glimpse into the life of someone that could give Nick Cave a run for his money.
Ariel Rubin is an Interesting singer/songwriter. Far from being just another girl with a guitar, Rubin creates songs with her trusty ukulele in hand and a vintage crooning voice from a time long since past. The result is a diverse range of music that's as orchestral as it is sweeping. Her EP, The Big Spoon is her second recording and sees her continuing to develop a sound that's completely her own.
The Big Spoon is a beautifully fragile three song affair that will make your heart soar and then break, yearn and then feel fulfilled. It's sweeping stuff that's very good and Rubin's voice is simply fantastic as it hits all the right highs and lows and carries the song back to a time when songs like these were oh so seductive. From the guitary swing of, "I'm a Sinner," to the gently plucked title track, The Big Spoon illustrates Ariel Rubin's ever diverse and growing talent in three too short songs.
Light FM are not a radio station. Light FM do not play easy listening music for your parents to enjoy. Light FM do play indie rock with hints of Britpop, post punk, and power pop. Light FM are very good at what they do and their album Buzz Kill City is anything but a buzz kill.
A band loaded with opposites, Light FM are a fuzzy, fizzy, jumpy band whose synths, distortion pedals, and almost Weezer like pop mingle with heartfelt lyrics that will find themselves lingering around your frontal lobes for ages. If ever a band had sunshine coursing through their veins, Light FM would be that band. Buzz Kill City is so uppity sounding it seems weird that they would name their album something so down trodden.
Buzz Kill City is loaded with soaring choruses, huge riffs, and a brilliant pop sensibility about it that allows it to stay focused on staying good. Every song here is just about perfect and you can almost taste the sugary sweetness of the tasty pop Light FM play. They’re a band of contrasts and contradictions and it steers them to stay up when they apparently want to be down.
From "Homeless Love Anthem,” to, "Mercy," Buzz Kill City is a brisk and chipper record that shows Light FM to be one heck of a record. More likely to give you a buzz than kill one, Light FM create a sugar rush of epic proportions that you want to end.
Paul Wolinski of mathematical geniuses 65 Days of Static has recently taken it upon himself to unleash a solo album of material that just didn’t fit into their equation. Under the guise of Polinski, Wolinski has crafted a more electronic alter ego that creates sci-fi melodies with electro beats. How he finds time to do this in the middle of the exacting calculations of his day job is beyond me, but we as a society seem to gain from this Horcruxing of musical talent.
Creating Labyrinths seems to be done the same way that the 65 Days of Static gang writes songs; algorithms, computers, and very large calculators. The results of these calculations are then fed into the technocreatorbot which then churns the numbers and equations into polyphonic danceable rhythms that are punishingly blinding trance anthems in which humans get lost in. Labyrinths is a twisty, clever, and technologically brilliant dance album whose songs glisten with a robotic sheen that amazingly still has enough human touch involved to prove that Polinski (and 65 Days of Static for that matter) are not robots with musical talent.
With or without 65 Days, Paul Wolinski is a musical monster. Whether it's a guitar or a sequencer this master of technology can create a calculus based song as if it were second nature. The dude’s talent is like the universe, expanding at a rapid rate into infinity and as a result Labyrinths is an awesome record. Trance, techno, post rock, whatever anything Polinski, Wolinski, or 65 Days touches is like the Holy Grail of technical based music...awe inspiring and essential.
British post rock band 65 Days of Static have returned with their latest album We Were Exploding Anyway, and I'm happy to report there isn't one second, much less day of static on this record. What there is though is absolutely mind numbing electronic fused post rock that might very well explode. Imagine if you will a world in which Radiohead is a 300 pound guerilla on steroids that knows how to make intricate noodly music and you kind of have an idea where 65 Days of Static are coming from. We Were Exploding Anyway is epic uber complex stuff that's earth shatteringly brutal and amazing.
So few bands are able to pull off the kind of music that 65 Days are attempting to and with good reason; it's just too much music for the average person to play. This is the sound of a Stephen Hawking lecture put to music with enough formulae, numbers, calculations and riffs to stun the average musician, much less listener. Frenetic, technical, ridiculously catchy and believe it or not danceable, We Were Exploding Anyway is such an excellent album because it fuses the science of the groove with music theory so well. And if that kind of technical prowess wasn't enough to make your jaw drop...how about an appearance by the gothfather himself, Robert Smith? Yep, the man himself appears on the album and does a bang up job on the soaring, "Come to Me."
We Were Exploding Anyway is an amazing album that does not slow down. The title is apt for these guys as 65 Days essentially explode out of the gate at light speed and then make .5 past it. 65 Days of static are so proficient at creating mind warping mathematical equations that translate into musical notes they might just win the Nobel Prize for math and physics. Until the awards are presented next year, do yourself a favor, break out your old trigonometry book brush up on it and then purchase We Were Exploding Anyway you won't be disappointed and you might just be able to keep up.
Taking a lo-fi approach to recording but never quite getting there, Icarus Himself makes music that's indie rock but with some identity issues. His album Career Culture is a mix and match affair that sounds like it was recorded on a shoestring budget with broken instruments in a guest bedroom somewhere. It really shouldn't be good but somehow Icarus Himself manages to salvage something endearing out of this rather under produced recording.
Career Culture is as mixed up as the cut and paste artwork on the cover and it almost seems as if Icarus Himself cut and pasted bits of ideas together to create the record. Teetering between full on depression and a complete Superchunk rock out jam, Icarus Himself flip flops more than either a political party. Obviously, I much prefer the frenetic moments on the record as the more mellow ones seem to get lost in Career Culture's lack of production.
Not overly complicated or produced, Career Culture is a record recorded by a band who simply plugged in played their songs and went home. No fancy overdubbing is here, no auto-tuning is present, heck...not tuning at all. Career Culture is a mess but it's a mess with a heart that wins you over with it's downtrodden do it yourself attitude. You won't find a more honest record than this one and that's probably why I enjoyed it so much; attitude overcoming obstacles.
M+A is an Italian synth pop group named after its members Michele Ducci and Alessandro Anigioli (M+A get it). Together these two pizanos put together some of the coolest synth pop to emerge out of Italy since Georgio Moroder dominated (nay created) electronic music. Their album, Things. Yes is a fun, laid back pop record that at times will remind you of the Postal Service, Figurine, and maybe even Tahiti 80.
Things. Yes is a Trans European Express of pop grooves that are like rays of winter sunshine; sure to lighten up any room they're played in and plaster a smile on your face no matter what. Made completely in M+A's respective homes and not in a studio, the album surprisingly doesn't have a lo-fi, or bedroom pop feel but rather a big room, modern, and slick sheen that's a credit to their ability to will their computers into doing things that they probably shouldn't. This is DIY that sounds high street and it's the sound of two friends who seemingly have psychic abilities when it comes to songwriting; each knowing what their songs need to sound amazing.
As a result of their unerring partnership, Things. Yes is a fun record that has a sense of wonderment and whimsy about it. Sure, it's completely danceable and polished but at the same time it's got this playful feel to it that comes from their DIY spirit and ongoing friendship. M+A are very good at what they do and Things. Yes is a marvelous record of bedroom synth pop that's so much more than a bunch of blips recorded on a cassette tape.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Khatib's album, Will The Guns Come Out, is a raw under produced expression of pure rock and roll unleashed. It is awesome stuff that sounds like the last sixty years of rock and roll rolled up and recorded into one convenient package. The stuff is so classic sounding, by the end of Will The Guns Come Out, you'll be reaching for the Brill cream and a motorcycle jacket. At times Khatib channels his inner White Stripes and gets all raw and bluesy while at other times he finds his inner pop sensibility and writes something that's almost like a long lost doo-wop hit from 1954.
Will The Guns Come Out is so lo-fi and so coarse that it almost sounds as if Khatib recorded this a few decades back and then dug it out of an attic somewhere. The apparent lo-quality doesn't take away from the record though, in fact, it really gives it an air of authenticity and a patina that's keeps it all cool. Hanni El Khatib might have an unusual name for a rock and roller, but the power of rock and roll runs through his veins and you can hear that on every song here. As a result, Will The Guns Come Out is flawed, basic, and brilliant!
I have no idea what the Mungolian Jetset are on but it must be good because I don't think there have been a more hyper, cheeky bunch of producers in all of dance music. As their bio states, "Here is the undiluted Mung, neatly naked wrapped behind a pair of strobotastic glasses." Yeah I have no idea either, and let’s face it, when you name your album Schlungs you're clearly not thinking straight. This odd ball thinking is carried over into the bands original compositions which deal with alien abductions, transvestites and just about everything else.
Schlungs, one would think, would be quite cheesy with all that baggage, but it's not. In fact, Schlungs is a fantastic disco house album that's so packed out with glittery grooves you can almost smell the polyester and cheap cologne (wait...are the Jersey Shore idiots here?). What truly is shocking about Schlungs is that this is their first album of all original compositions. It's crazy to think that the Mung, who for so long, have remixed everyone including your mom have never, actually took the time to write and compose their own songs.
Thankfully, the Mung took the time out of their crazy (literally) schedules, took enough medication, found a way into the studio and were able to piece together something that's so loaded with bangers that it should have been called that instead of Schlungs. Filled with sparkly grooves, minimal techno overtones, dark disco vibes, and a sense of things not being perfectly sane, The Mung have put together a time spanning house record that shows just how versatile these guys are. It's an awesome record that's so movement oriented that it's practically exhausting to listen to. And really isn't that how a dance music record should be?
Weird and wonderful, Mungolian Jetset is blazing a trail forward that no one would dare follow. Schlungs is an impressive record that shows these guys to be creative, diverse, and good enough to slaughter dance floors in their mind and at the club.
Stephen Malkmus is a bit of a legend...from Pavement to his solo career his status as the king of slacker indie has made him nearly saint-like. Thankfully, he's always had the tunes to back up his claim to the throne and his latest album, Mirror Traffic, only solidifies that claim. Truly an awesome record of lazy, unmotivated indie rock Mirror Traffic sees Malkmus and his Jicks almost sound like Pavement at their nearly unconscious best.
Mirror Traffic is a lackadaisical pop record that kind of floats through the course of the fifteen songs only occasionally lifting a finger of energy to turn the odd quick paced riff. Rather than expending loads of energy it seems as if the band recorded most of Mirror Traffic while either on vacation in a pool or in bed at home. There are some exceptions, "Spazz," for example is exactly as its name implies and is a frenetic work out of broken guitar strings and screamy vocals. For the most part though, much of Mirror Traffic sounds like my early mornings that is as if they were my personal alarm clock.
After all these years it's nice to know that Mr. Malkmus can still write great songs and that he together with the Jicks can create classic albums with such lackadaisical effort. Mirror Traffic is another great record in the long line of great records that he and his bands have created. Where it stacks up to past efforts is a judgment that must be made on a personal basis, but it deserves to be somewhere near the top if you ask me.
After a slew of albums why Minneapolis rappers Atmosphere aren't household names yet is just bizarre and quite honestly criminal. Atmosphere may not be all about bling and junk like that but that's not to say they aren't good because you see they are good; in fact, they're so good they're probably the premier indie-hop group in North America.
This is a group whose intelligence and gritty realism about everyday life is what makes them as outstanding as they are. In a sense, you could think of Atmosphere as the thinking man's rap group. Unafraid to use jazz, rock, or anything else that tickles their fancy this is a band that is influenced by modern music as much as modern society and every song on The Family Sign is a reflection of that.
The Family Sign sees Atmosphere growing as songwriters and shows the group continuing to blaze a trail toward something that is far more sophisticated than most of their contemporaries. Just check out the introspective "Who I'll Never Be," and the father gone wrong in "Bad Bad Daddy for examples of how mature and knowledgeable this group is.
Atmosphere has come up with an excellent album in The Family Sign; it is intelligent, occasionally humorous, and brilliantly produced. Why more hip hop isn't like this is beyond me. After listening to this record you'll think and you might find yourself having to listen to it again just to check what they were on about, but something tells me that's exactly the way Atmosphere want it to be.
Holy fish out of water Batman! When one thinks of country music one generally thinks of cowboys, dusty roads, twangy guitars and things like that...not reggae, tropical breezes, and island vibes. Well thanks to the fine folks at Elektra Nashville and the legendary VP Records, the strangest crossover ever has become a reality. Country Goes Reggae is the teaming up of reggae stars, country stars, and country songs that even I knew to create what has to be one of the more unlikely compilation records in recent memory.
Consisting of thirteen classic country hits from everyone from Crystal Gale, Patsy Cline, Alabama, Kenny Rogers, and Roger Miller Country Goes Reggae puts a chilled vibe on so many songs that I never knew I knew. Whether or not you'll find this ragga versions sacrilege will depend on your feelings toward each artist but quite honestly they do each song justice. To me, so many of the songs here seemed to be left intact for the most part except instead of pedal steel the guitar has become all reggae.
Country Goes Reggae is a chilled cross genre trip that shouldn't work but does. While it might take some time to get used to the idea of hearing, "Crazy," with a reggae beat you do get used to it. All the artists involved have overcome the differences between genres and have done a great job of taking these classics, refreshing them and doing them justice and that's a tribute to the nature of the songs and all involved.
I don't know the first thing about The Hundred Days except to say that they are one heck of a great band. Fusing New York cool with British angularity, the band have a sound that's like Interpol if they came from Manchester circa 1996. Their album, Really? is a fantastic indie disco punk record that's a jittery delight that simply can't sit still.
With danceable riffs, shuffly drums, and dramatic vocals the band take a moody approach to writing addictive songs that verge on being so huge they can't contain themselves. Almost sounding like a more polished Editors, the band have a certain degree of depression about them that steers their songs into some murkily cool directions. It might sound like that's too much, but it works for these guys and Really? is spectacularly good. It's angular riffs and danceable rhythms are just too well done to be bad and the vast majority of the ten songs here are so good, you'll be able to sing them back after two listens.
The Hundred Days sound might be slightly past its sell by point, but Really? is such a great moody and angular record that, that's easy to over look. With no less than eight ridiculously good songs, Really? is a record firing on all cylinders from a band who have turned broodiness and awkwardness into an art form. Well done guys.
Marilyn Carino has a voice. Lord does she have a voice. Like a torch singer lost within James Bond's world Carino brings a level of seduction to her songs that's far too easy to fall for. Her album, Little Genius is a sly slinky record that soars on the wings of her voice and takes us to the heavens.
Taking a trip hop vibe and jazzing it up, Little Genius, is the sound of a rainy night in the big city, hearts breaking, life being cruel, and the world not caring. Marilyn embraces jazz and these ideas with both arms and makes love to it here as if her passionate affair with it was about to end. Her voice is priceless and the songs gently wrap themselves around your heart and reel you in. This is what Amy Winehouse would have sounded like if she took voice lessons from Shirley Bassey.
Marilyn Carino sinks a lot of soul, heart, and emotion into Little Genius and it shows in every song. This rather beguiling record is bewitching and magnetic and as a result it's impossible to walk away from it. One suspects that Marilyn Carino likes it that way!
Norway's Casio Kids are not a group of calculator wielding nerds crossing the globe solving the worlds math problems. Nor are they pre-teens wielding keyboards playing Justin Bieber covers. No...This group of Norwegians plays extremely infectious, fun, uppity pop music that, in fact, uses the little keyboard that could. Rapidly gaining success and popularity in their native country and the rest of Europe, the band have found themselves primed to bring a Nordic invasion to our shores. Casio Kids latest album, Aabenbaringen over Aaskammen picks up where there last untranslatable album left off and should have even fewer problems winning over the indie masses who so easily fell for the likes of fellow countrymen Datarock and Annie.
Aabenbaringen over Aaskammen is once again, sung in the band's native tongue which might be a bit hard for us Yanks to sing along to, but thankfully their tunes are so infectious and musically easily to latch on that any communication gap is soon easily overcome. Combining some sort of chillwave with indie pop and synthpop the band have this incessant need to move and they do so throughout this record. While perhaps a bit more subdued then their last release, Aabenbaringen over Aaskammen is still a dance floor motivator and at times sounds like Norwegian Tahiti 80 or Figurine lost in a daze.
Perhaps a bit more experimental and less straight forward then previous releases, Casiokids seem to be intrigued by the music they make and want to change the way they do things. While this might sound like a bad idea, you'll barely take notice as the band's Norwegian pop hooks still manage to envelope you and smother you with fun. Aabenbaringen over Aaskammen is a chipper, moderately paced record that sounds incredibly happy and it's easy to enjoy no matter what language it's in.
As winter approaches and the days grow shorter this is the kind of record that we should all be listening to. Casio Kids have created an electronic, Afrobeat, indie, Norwegian, indie pop monster here that's so unashamedly up for it that it's bursting.
There's math rock, there's post rock and then there's string theory rock and that's where Noxious Foxes come into play. This frenetic duo takes music, applies a turbo charger to it, speeds it up some more and then lets it run rampant. Their newest album, Legs, is like taking the entire Oxes discography and playing it all at the same time while running around circles on amphetamines. To say this record is crazy would be an understatement and one kind of guesses that's exactly what these dudes are hoping for; you to think they’re crazy.
With rocket powered jazz riffs, power chords, time changes, drumming with four hands, and just two people Noxious Foxes are a study in chaos theory come to life. How they create such strange music that collides at the speed of light and creates musical fission is beyond me. But, one guesses that with so much going on, the reason why there isn't one word on this album is that they just don't have time to include it. Why sing when you can throw in 20 more time changes or chord progressions in a song?
This is complicated Rocket Scientist kind of rock and roll that ploughs you over with its sheer technicality, hyperactivity, and volume of riffs. It's such a busy record that the faint of heart might just die listening to this record because their feeble brains stand no chance of processing what's going on here. Truth be told, none of us might be able to understand what exactly the Noxious Foxes are all about or what they're even on...but who cares because Legs is like the sound of the apocalypse if it was caused by algebraic equations. Death by math...now that's a bad way to go.
The Nocturnes are a spin off project of the ever cool band Red Sparowes. Put together by the Sparowes guitarist, Emma Ruth prior to her joining that bad, the band have created mystical folk music from the mists of time since 2007. Their latest album, the oddly titled Aokigahara, takes more of an airy, ethereal, post folk approach compared to their previous efforts.
With otherworldly vocals that sound like disembodied voices, gently plucked guitars, reverbed out guitars, plodding drums, and an atmospheric approach the band manage to create the soundtrack to our dreams.
Aokigahara is gorgeous stuff that floats along like a lost cloud formation, meandering in a large never-ending sky. A textural record filled with post rock breadth and hidden emotion, Aokigahara hypnotizes as it floats from song to song. Aokigahara is a fantastic, enigmatical record that has layers of music that work their way into your sub consciousness and never let go. It's strange and haunting stuff that takes folk music and puts it on a heavy course of sedatives...and as a result makes it worth listening to.
When one thinks of reggae, one thinks of tropical islands, ganja, and Jamaica. Well sometimes music comes from the most unusual places. In the case of The Green this is especially true. The Green have the tropical thing down, I'm not sure about the ganja, and they’re definitely not Jamaican...they're not even from the Caribbean but the Pacific. The Green, you see, are Hawaiian.
Taking a completely different kind of tropical direction The Green mix traditional reggae vibes with hip hop, r&b grooves, and hanging loose to arrive at their special blend of reggae. Their album, Ways and Means is a pretty good record despite coming from, what some might say is the wrong side of the world. I say that jokingly because unless someone was to tell you that they were Hawaiian you would never know.
Modern with a bit of that island spirit running through it, Ways and Means is a sensationally well produced record that's ridiculously catchy and unafraid to try things. From the R&B sounding, "Decisions," to the traditional sounds of the title track, Ways and Means is an impressive record. Truly proving music is a universal language and reggae is about one love, The Green demonstrate that it doesn't matter where you come from or who you are but what's in your heart that matters and isn't that the message Mr. Marley sang about years ago?
Echorev's EP Find North is more like an album because it features eight songs and lasts 30 plus minutes. Diverse in its approach and its sound, Find North is an atmospheric, airy, and moody record that sounds like a more stable Radiohead. Blending hooks with moods and quiet riffs with dance beats, Echorev manage to make songs out of things that shouldn't really be songs.
Debating whether or not to head to the stars or stay grounded seems to be a conundrum for Echorev. They seem to want to do both and sometimes at the same time. Thankfully, it works to their advantage because Find North sounds so unique in its direction and contains songs that are mesmerizing. "The Light," for example slowly builds from a gentle breeze to a full on horn driven pop hurricane; it's epic pop to say the least.
Far from short and sweet Find North is one heck of an atmospheric pop record that goes a long way towards defining what makes temperamental and epic pop what it is. This is emotionally weighty and gorgeous sounding stuff. Find North is highly recommended for wintery nights, blustery days, and anyone that's had a bad day; so most of us then.
The soundtrack to the motion picture, Another Earth pretty much represents the film to a tee. The music, composed by Fall On Your Sword, is an ambient otherworldly wonderland that paints a crystal picture of, dare I say it, another earth. As the Director of Another Earth states, "Fall On Your Sword somehow mastered the very delicate musical balance of organic gentle warmth and aggressive forward moving cool."
Another Earth is a lush, tense, and dramatic soundscape that sets and creates each scene perfectly. The images your mind creates as the soundtrack progresses will develop along with the songs into something spectacular. This is clearly music created to get set a mood, create a feeling, and set the scene for the movie and it does this excellently. This is deeply thought out stuff that remains organic enough and large enough to give each song room to breathe.
Fall On Your Sword have composed a fantastic soundtrack to a seriously intriguing film. Without having seen the film, I get the sense that this is a seriously moving, dramatic flick that sits somewhere on the border of sci-fi and drama. That sounds good to me...kind of like the soundtrack to Another Earth.
Chris Letcher's new release Spectroscope sees him picking up right where he left off four years after releasing his critically acclaimed debut album. He’s produced one heck of a sweeping pop record that might even be better than his debut. It's fantastic stuff that's loaded with horns, strings, piano's, vintage synths and just about everything in between. Sounding something like a dramatic Modest Mouse, Letcher chops his pop up and makes it jumpy and atmospheric.
As a result of this Spectroscope is an eclectic record that's filled with drama, rays of sunshine, and songs that are mesmerizing. It's obvious, having listened to Spectroscope, why this record took four years to make; the attention to detail and sound is stunning and the production on this record is awesome. Dreamy, lush, and intriguing this is a record that you have to sit down and listen to in an effort to make sure you don't miss anything. Spectroscope is so packed with details and interesting flourishes that command your attention that straying from it will result in the loss of valuable music and that would be a crime.
Spectroscope is a perfect name for this album as it covers a range of sounds and environments like the colors of the rainbow. Having listened to this it would be ashamed if we had to wait another four years for another record. And while I know his songs need that much time to grow, Letcher's stuff is just too good to wait for.
Cleveland "Clevie" Brown and Wycliffe "Steely" Johnson are two legendary names in Reggae circles. These production masterminds have worked on so many reggae records it would take me days to list them all, but suffice it to say they're catalog extends back years and years. So it was a devastating event when Clevie lost his partner in crime in 2009. The loss of someone who was such a huge part of Clevie's career could have meant the end of him working on records. But after soul searching and motivation Clevie has decided to carry on.
His first effort on his own, Memories is a DVD CD set that compiles fourteen tracks and includes a documentary on the memories of his career. The set is awesome and gives us, the listener, an inside look at one of the most influential production teams in not only reggae but music in general. From the fourteen laid back jammin tunes to the fascinating look back this is an entertaining set that doesn't disappoint.
While Steely will undoubtedly be missed by everyone, Clevie has proven his ability to go at it alone. And while things may never be the same, they're going to ok. Memories is a perfect introduction to the world of Clevie and Steely and something any true reggae fan should own.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The Ultimate Soca Gold Collection is pretty much truth in advertising. This is an absolutely massive three CD set featuring thirty three of the hottest tropical tunes under the sun coming from every corner of the Caribbean. Designed to pack out a dance floor and then some, The Ultimate Soca Gold Collection is a rump shaking experience from the first note of disc one to the final note of the mega mixed disc three.
It might be getting cooler at night here in Jacksonville, but down in the Caribbean the heat never dissipates and this album proves it. The Ultimate Soca Gold Collection is the sound of an endless summer and the sound of Carnivale year round. With something for everyone and from so many different artists, The Ultimate Soca Gold Collection is impossible not to like even if you have no idea what Soca even is.
From Rupee's, "Blame It (On De Music)," to Nigel Lewis', "Respond," this is a record that never stops moving and is overloaded with Afro-Caribbean and South American flavors; in fact it's bursting with tropical flavor. Awesome in every aspect of the word this gargantuan record of grooves is the sound of the paradise on repeat. With winter just a stone’s throw away, there's no better way to raise the temperature than with The Ultimate Soca Gold Collection.
Talk about tales worthy of many, many songs. William Michael Dillon spent nearly 28 years in prison. Framed for murder in 1981 and exonerated through DNA testing in 2008, Dillon has seen a lot more than he ever wanted to or imagined. He's now taken those tales and experiences and put them to song that will leave you gripped.
His debut album, Black Robes and Lawyers is an cathartic experience that sees Dillon coming to grips with all that he's been through and his new found freedom. Mixing country, roots, rock and even blues, Dillon paints a vivid picture in each of his songs. This is an epic record that's been a dream come true for Dillon. Captivating and tragic all at the same time, you can help but sit and listen to every word Dillon has to say because he's seen so much over the last three decades.
Black Robes and Lawyers is stunning stuff that's surprisingly good bluesy stuff and you'd never guess that this is Dillon's debut album. Sounding like a veteran artist in his prime, Dillon crafts songs with ease from the wealth of material at his disposal and thanks to producer Jim Tullio he brings those songs to life with such professionalism you'd never know that this record was 28 years in the making.
Some records are good because they make you move, some records are good because they make you think and ponder the world around you and Black Robes and Lawyers is one of those records. Bluesy rock has never sounded better and for Dillon that's a dream come true worth celebrating.
Ok...I have to admit that when The Moor first came across my desk all I could think about was Seinfeld and the "Bubble Boy" episode. In that episode, George gets in a fight w/a "bubble boy," over a trivia question where the answer is the moors but because of a printing error the game has the shows, “moops.” As you might expect, hilarity ensues.
Anyway, The Moor are not the moops nor the Moors. They are, however, a dreamy dramatic indie pop band from Los Angeles. With a childlike innocence and a sound that's like some sort of Victorian dream, the band creates lullabies to haunt your soul. Their self-titled album is a lush fantasy-like experience that seems like it wouldn't be out of place in the Secret Garden. It's really all quite strange but in a strangely beautiful way...this is the sound of sleep put to music.
If for some reason, you still sleep in a crib and have problems falling to sleep at night, The Moor's lullabies will send you off to dreamland in fine fashion. Who needs a sleeping pill when you can listen to this? Candid, hypnotic, and fanciful the Moor is easily one of the most interesting records to come along in 2011 and that's not trivial at all.
FOPS is a band that have clearly been buried in their old collection of 4ad, Cherry Red, and Blanco y Negro Records a bit longer than is recommended. Their album For Centuries is a strange amalgamation of gothy overtones, distorted melodies, found sounds, and classic 80's disturbo pop. Sounding like some X-Mal Deutschland lost in the netherworld, the band seem to be disembodied musicians wondering the 9th plane of hell. For Centuries is so disturbed it might scare the living heck out of you simply because living musicians couldn't make music like this if they tried.
Jumping between strange nearly atonal synth pop, guitar wipe outs of the broken kind, and pseudo-hooks buried in places you would never think to look, For Centuries hypnotizes you like a vampiric musical entity granting you eternal life in exchange for devotion to it's strange left-field Armageddon pop. This is the sound of foggy landscapes and cloudy mornings of Halloween's that never end (just listen to the 20 minute "Ronald Wilson Regan," for an example of this). For Centuries is a great listen simply because of how darkly disturbing this record really is while somehow maintaining a small respectable amount of pop sensibility that if you can find you can latch on to.
This is not your typical goth record nor is it your bog standard art pop recrod, instead FOPS have created a cross genre monster that lurks in the shadows hoping to possess unsuspecting listeners. Once FOPS has you, they've won because For Centuries will cast its dark charms over you in a swirly, noisy, and riveting blast of pop that's not been heard since Xmal Deutchland walked the earth.
Someone, anyone, please tell Jason and the Scorchers that their legacy is safe for the fine folks that make up Dodd Ferrelle's band have secured it for them. It's been a long time coming and after a decade of slogging away everywhere under the sun and then some, the band has pretty much taken the countrified roots rock thing and perfected it. Dodd's new album, Hide The World is Americana that's been roughed up, beaten down, and rocked out. Its rustic rock with an edge and a heart and just like Jason and his Scorchers, Dodd and his band are unafraid to cross genre borders illegally.
Hide The World is emotive, twangy, and a bit down on it's luck and it's all of these things combined that make this record enjoyable. So many people do Americana and rustic folk rock but Dodd and his band take an eclectic back road to arrive at their brand of pop music and it's as if they all broke their hearts getting there.
Firmly in touch with its country roots the band is able to write tear jerker’s like, "Half Broken," as if it were second nature to them. It's seriously tragic stuff that could make a grown man cry. Thankfully, they also know how to kick up a little dust and rock out and for every weepy moment on Hide The World there's a good rocker to lift your spirits up. It's all a bit rollercoastery but it's ok because the songs work well together and keep you listening.
Countrified, eclectic and unafraid to rock and roll Dodd Ferrelle has carved out a notch for himself. Hide The World is the sort of record that doesn't need to be hidden, but played and played often for it's the kind of Americana, country rock it's ok to like.
Richmond, Virginia is the last place in the world you'd expect to find a world class super star salsa band, but for the folks in Bio Ritmo, they've always gone about things differently. Originally, started by two misplaced Puerto Ricans and a punk rock drummer 20 years ago, Bio Ritmo has slowly evolved into one of the most impressive salsa bands on the planet. Bio Ritmo's sound, dubbed post-salsa, pushes the envelope of the genre by expanding the sound palette that's normally accustom with the genre.
While this ten member band is heavily influenced by classic salsa, their latest album La Verdad fuses modern electronics, rock and roll, jazz, and even punk into the mix. From horns, to timbale's, to drums and guitars it's all here in droves. The results of all this cross pollination will have you cha cha-ing across the floor in a multi-cultural dance of epic proportions. One guesses that's the general idea here and it’s easy to say having spent some time with this record that La Verdad is a stunningly impressive album. I, unfortunately, don't know how to salsa despite living in Miami for 20+ years, but after listening to La Verdad I want to learn now.
The sound of the Caribbean via Richmond, VA is what Bio Ritmo is all about. No other band from the state of Virginia or maybe even the country can bring the sunshine, the Latin flavor and enough Latin percussion to last a lifetime then these guys. This is a diverse, cultural melting pot sort of record that makes me miss Miami and Calle Ocho that much more and next time I head down south, it's a pretty sure bet that La Verdad will be the soundtrack of my journey. Diversity has never sounded so good.
With loads of twangy guitars, banjos, and drawn-out vocals this is country music for the hipster set. You can almost picture kids with trucker hats, cowboy shirts, and vintage cowboy boots shuffling along to this record endlessly at some dive bar. And quite honestly, that's the perfect place for Blitzen Trapper. They're not country enough for Nashville and certainly not rock and roll enough for the classic rock crowd, but they do reinvigorate that classic country rock sound for a new generation and it works well for them.
American Goldwing is a rustic record that's so much so, the grit and backwoods scent almost comes through the speakers. Blitzen Trapper so successfully writes heartbroken, yearning songs that not only have they made a career of it, but one can't help but wonder if they're ok. I mean just read the song titles, "Love The Way You Walk Away," "Your Crying Eyes," and "Taking It Easy Too Long," they're not the most upbeat optimistic lot of tunes you'll hear. Yet, miraculously they put one heck of a veneer on them all. The result? Well that’s an album that strums and shuffles its way into your brain and subliminally has you wanting to hear lots of pedal steel and move to the country. You might hate country music, folk, and Americana (like me) but I challenge you not to like this record. It's that good.