Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Sunderland's wunderkinds Field Music have been busy over the last year. Since 2011 they've been working on their new album Plumb as well constructing their new studio in which they eventually recorded said album in. So between construction projects and writing songs the band found themselves heading back to a more angular, quirky and odd timed style of play. Plumb will remind long time listeners of their first couple of albums as opposed to the sprawling Measure that opened things wide up for Field Music.
While Plumb harks back to Field Music's classic sound the band filtered these songs through the influence of 20th century film music (not field music) and allowed their songs to be shaped by it. The results are strange off kilter tunes that touch on Bowie like sounds while maintaining a post-post punk yet orchestrated approach. It's all right angles, questionable synth stabs, half attempts at string arrangements and rhythms that even Neal Peart would find unusual. This is pop music if it was processed through analog calculators from the 70's and it's rather entertaining.
Guitars ricochet off synths and beats stumble their way along as Plumb tries to maintain a controlled version of musical chaos. Not a lot of what they're doing here makes sense in a pop way, and in fact it would be most difficult to find a hit single on this record. For every moment of clarity there are three obtuse ones and Plumb is anything but catchy. Yet it's that strange approach and it’s skittering around pop music that makes this record so good. Field Music have clearly set off on a path that's all their own and whether it's sprawling songs or Plumb's mathematical equations set to music following them down that path is sure to be a worthwhile and intelligent venture.
We Are The Works In Progress is a fourteen song tribute album dedicated to Japan and it's ongoing efforts to heal itself post tsunami. Put together by Blonde Redhead's Kazu Makino and released on her own label, Asa Wa Kuru, the album is designed to support Kazu's homeland in it's ongoing time of need. With an incredible response to the idea and a massive number of artists who wanted to contribute one suspects the difficulty in putting this compilation together was witling it down to one CD.
Surprisingly, and unlike most other charity albums, We Are The Works In Progress is a cohesive album that seems to flow perfectly together from one song to the next. Call it luck or artistry, but the simple fact that the fourteen artists here all sound remarkably well together is pretty cool. Featuring a whole host of ambient and atmospheric tracks the album seems to reflect the nature of what transpired on that fateful day last year. Cloudy, moody and yet dangerously beautiful the tracks seem to haunt while leaving you mesmerized. From Four Tet to Terry Riley to Blonde Redheard to Pantha Du Prince, Liars to Deerhunter to David Sylvian and even Interpol they all contribute to this album and offer up worthy tracks.
Done for a great cause and containing enough soul stirring emotional ambience to last a lifetime, We Are The Works In Progress is truly a beautiful album with a deeply seeded message. Even though the earthquake and tsunami were last year the needs of the citizens of the coastal community still exist and if this helps them out even in a minor way it's all been worth it. Ambient music doesn't get much better than this and We Are The Works In Progress is an album that's worthy of your attention and even more worthy of your possession.
Francis Harris is a Brooklyn based producer who usually goes by the name of Adultnapper. But, unlike his alias, Francis Harris the man composes tunes that are deep, introspective, reflective, and emotional that while generally chilled out is still dance floor friendly. His latest album as himself, Leland is a requiem to his father which I can tell you from personal experience is truly awesome.
Deeply personal and thoughtful Leland is a beautiful sparsely arranged album that features minimal instrumentation, chilled out vibes, and lush soundscapes. It's a mesmerizing effort and Francis Harris knocks it out of the park with his wandering synths that are occasionally accompanied by cellos, trumpets, pianos, guitar and even the odd vocal or two. This is an album of ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys and is so well constructed that it's the sort of thing that washes over you and cleanses your aural palette. Harris' mixture of ambient landscapes, deep grooves, and textural mastery truly makes Leland an awesome album. Chill out doesn't get much better than this.
Truly magnificent and lovingly crafted, Francis Harris has created a fitting tribute to his father. Leland is a lasting testament to his dad and the musicianship and songs contained herein would undoubtedly make him proud. Nice job Francis.
If you're a huge fan of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons and you want to let the world know just how big of fans you are what do you do? Well if you're The Unthanks you pay tribute to them in the best way possible, you play their songs and record them for the world to hear. And that’s exactly what they did. Rachel and Becky Unthank recorded The Songs of Robert Wyatt & Antony & The Johnsons Live From The Union Chapel London one rather quiet night in 2010 where they played these songs live and now two years later have just released these recordings.
The Songs of Robert Wyatt & Antony & The Johnsons Live From The Union Chapel London defines what it means to be intimate. These songs are so quietly played and so sparsely arranged that it sounds as if The Unthanks are playing in front of you. The sisters take songs that are already ridiculously fragile and make them even more so. The songs are held together by piano strings, vocal chords, love, and not much else. It's an incredibly moving recording and the emotion that pours out of these girls is stunning.
This is one heck of a live recording and is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Rachel and Becky got nods from the artists they paid tribute to and in fact Robert Wyatt helped prepare the sisters to play his songs. You can tell this as the songs are brilliantly orchestrated and even though there's only two of them with some accompaniment the album sounds louder than bombs.
I'm generally not a fan of quiet music but there's just something so riveting about The Unthanks and about the tales they weave between songs, how they play these songs, and how genuinely affectionate they are towards them that reels you in. While I might not listen to this every day, it's definitely the sort of thing for a cold lonely winter afternoon. The Songs of Robert Wyatt & Antony & The Johnsons Live From The Union Chapel London as played by The Unthanks is required listening for fans of all the artists involved or anyone that likes a good cry.
Seeker Lover Keeper is a new band featuring Sally Seltmann, Sarah Blasko, and Holly Throsby. These three songwriters have come together after being on their own and/or writing songs for other people for years. Sally for example is the co-writer of Feist’s, "1234," which alone should perk everyone’s interest. Now, with Seeker Lover Keeper their primary focus, these three voices have teamed up together and put together their self-titled debut album which finally sees the light of day here in North America.
Seeker Lover Keeper is a wispy, fragile, and intimate recording that takes all the knowledge these three folk divas possess and combines it into a series of heart breaking songs. Obvious references to Feist and the like can be made, but Seeker Lover Keeper truly has their own voice. In fact, they have three voices that when combined is syrupy rich and sounds like velvet. These guys can harmonize and make no doubt about it, they do; constantly. In fact, there's so much of it going on here that it's hard to keep track of who's singing what.
Utilizing pianos, guitars, handclaps, sparse instrumentation, seductively sweet vocals and those harmonies Seeker Lover Keeper becomes something more than just a folk album. That's good, because if it were those things I don't think I'd have listened all the way through. Anyway, if you love fragile, tender music with a heart of gold and the voices of angels leading the journey then Seeker Lover Keeper is something you need in your life. Seeker Lover Keeper is a beautiful tender record that will pull at your heartstrings until it wins you over and breaks you down. Seriously.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Toronto's Hand's and Teeth aren't scraping by using those human instruments but rather instruments of the musical kind. Two years in the making their debut album, Hunting Season is a reflection of the hard work and years of live playing that the band have put in since their debut EP was released in 2010. Now honed to a sharp point, their sound is a refined form of boy-girl indie pop with a dash of 90's indie rock thrown in for good measure.
Complete with soaring harmonies, jangly guitars, and bit of 90's alternative faves Tribe flowing through them the band have created a series of powerful songs that are a throwback to the golden age of alternative music. It's art pop with a post-modern flair that's a reflection of not only their influences but their combined energies. Hand's and Teeth approach is the result of each member coming from other bands and projects and together all these ex-band members have fused together their influences and ideas into one ethereal dreamy indie band that's easily far greater than all their other efforts combined. Call it serendipity, fate, or one heck of a coordinated effort to get together but Hand's and Teeth have set the past beside them and created on heck of band that’s got its future lying in front of it.
Hunting Season is a well produced, well written, clever record that mixes boy-girl melodies, chunky and jangly guitars, angular drums and ethereal atmospherics to get heavenly results. Hand's and Teeth are adept, skilled, and shrewd when it comes to writing and you can hear this throughout the album. Hunting Season is a great record that rises and falls on the melodies and angularities the band employs. Thankfully they're plentiful and hit in all the right places. While maybe not instantly graspable, once Hand's and Teeth latch on it's open season on your ears...Hunting Season or not.
Australia's latest export isn't a new version of Foster's Lager or Paul Hogan but rather another fine rock and roll band. Keeping in tune with the long line of well respected rock and roll bands from Australia, The Strange Boys have come to conquer America. Pitched as a good ol' fashioned rock in roll band that's blues based and steeped in honky tonk the characters that make the band up seem to have a lot in common with their British cousins the Libertines and The Rolling Stones than Jet or AC/DC.
Their album Live Music is in fact, not live at all, but rather a fine studio exposition exploring the fun one can have with guitars, harmonicas, and copious amounts of whiskey. Rough, raw, and a bit sloppy The Strange Boys create jangly bluesy rock tunes that stumble their way across the platter in a stupor of epic proportions. Live Music’s songs are made up of all the usual stuff; love gone wrong, crazy nights, and a lot of fun. Live Music is a fun record that takes its Libertine nature pretty seriously without trying to actually be The Libertines. Filled with bluesy harmonica, gurgled vocals, and shambolic guitars that sound as if they’re about to become de-strung it really sounds as if The Strange Boys might just black out at some point. If you can imagine the ol' "How Dry I Am," song played with a swingin' back beat you've got these guys nailed down.
Nothing terribly new or original, The Strange Boys prove there's just something about Ozzy rock and roll that's so good. I’m not sure how or why but rock and roll seems to thrive Down Under; it must be in the water or the liquor down there. Reckless, self-destructive, and a hell of a lot of fun Live Music is a rough and tumble ride through the Australian outback in a 68 Camaro at 130 mph. The Strange Boys don't do anything complicated, but they do what they do incredibly well and that's why I really like this record and I bet Pete Doherty does as well. Viva La Rock and Roll!
Somewhere out there in the spiral arms of the galaxy is where 120 Days reside. This Norwegian band creates interstellar techno prog rock that combines the best of our world and worlds far, far away. Over the course of their two albums the band has seen fit to get lost in space and beam their music back to us. Their latest album Osaka is a strangely titled exploration of deep space that's likely to never see them return back to our galaxy.
Osaka is a proggy, strange, and epic record that taps into its inner Georgio Moroder while cranking up the hyperdrive on the starship 120 Days. This is a band that creates deep, textural and expansive electronic explorations of the galaxy through the hypnotic and trance inducing use of keyboards, sequencers, and beats. In other words, Osaka in a word is amazing. This is like listening to Ozric Tentacles if they packed up their caravan's, took a shower, bought a spaceship, and went all dance music. Think trippy sounds, oozing synths, never ending bass lines and driving beats and you kind of have an idea of where 120 Days are coming from.
120 Days our one four piece band that are not of this earth and they're unafraid to show it. Alien soundscapes haunt the discos of the future and Osaka is the soundtrack to every one of them. In the year 2525 120 Days will rule the multiverse and we will all be subject to their musical winds. Why not get 413 years ahead of the game and pick up Osaka and then succumb to their majesty.
Holy double shot of Sci-Fi soundscapes. If 120 Days are from another Galaxy then it's only fair to say that legendary musicians Steve Moore and Majeure are from another planet. Composing more widescreen expansive landscapes that legally allowed by musical theory and law this dynamic duo have created one heck of an album on Brainstorm.
Sounding like the soundtrack to Total Recall 2, this is the sound of the sun’s long distance rays penetrating the red sands of Mars. Sweeping songs are carried by astral winds as vintage sounding keyboards wash over the Martian landscapes and the red planet slowly revolves around the sun. This is epic stuff that seemingly stretches into infinity. Utilizing nothing but electronics, Moore & Majeure create a world that's desolate, cold, and lonely with lost souls wandering across the Martian plains in search of something. It's awesome stuff.
Imaginative, absolutely massive, and sounding like it took forty years to get here Brainstorm is the soundtrack to the Blade Runner that never was. Moore & Majeure so effortlessly create ambient soundscapes for alien worlds that NASA should be jumping at the chance to be part of these songs. While your imaginations can no longer be transported into space by the Space Shuttle, thanks to Moore & Majeure's songs it still can be.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
There are exceptions to every rule. The Mountain Goats are one of them for me. Being from the anti-folk/alt-country/singer songwriter camp I always have a difficult time dealing with intimate, quiet, and acoustic music but there's just something about the Mountain Goats that grabs me between the ears. While I didn't really like their first album, from the second until now I've been gripped by them and I don’t foresee their spell ending any time soon. All Eternals Deck is a rich, deeply emotional, and orchestrated work that just happens to be acoustic.
All Eternals Deck is the sort of record that's so intimate and sounds so personal that it's as if the Mountain Goats had recorded it in my living room. This is a dramatic sounding record that really never raises its voice but instead creates volume through arrangements, instrumentation and lyrics. There's something about John Darnielle's voice that's hypnotic and soothing no matter how somber the tone or the tale. I could listen to him rattle off the phone book and be mesmerized by his intonations and that’s probably why I’m drawn to this band so much.
Anyway, All Eternals Deck is a fantastic album that's imaginative, haunting, and cinematic in its approach. Darnielle doesn't disappoint here and his expressive turn of phrase is simply awesome. As always he's written an intriguing album worth spending quality time with. In a long line of quality albums this one is no different; all good and all worth owning.
You can see and hear how good The Mountain Goats are this Friday (January 27th) at Cafe 11. For more information check out visit http://originalcafe11.com/
James Morrison is everywhere right now. The guy has appeared on more TV shows than Lana Del Rey could ever hope to mess up. Originally bursting on to the scene back in 2006, he became a household name over night in his native UK. Five years later he’s sold truckloads of records and only stands to sell more with his third album The Awakening.
Looking remarkably like Coldplay's Chris Martin and sounding like the white Stevie Wonder it almost seems impossible that this guy could fail. Judging by the songs on The Awakening I don't think failure is an option. With his soulful voice and orchestrated productions, the songs are a throwback to a time when Stevie and music such as this was king. These are absolutely massive songs, produced with hi-gloss and with gargantuan hooks. They are unstoppable emotional outpourings that will have women swooning and their hearts melting.
The Awakening is destined for massive amounts of radio play and should be in anyone's record collection that is over the age of 30. It's the perfect album for fans of adult alternative and soul music alike...it’s the perfect, dare I say it, crossover album. In fact, that's so much the case it's easy to declare Morrison as the new king of Triple A and neo-soul. His alternative soul sound is the perfect fit for anyone wanting to have vintage cool mixed with modern songs. The Awakening is good stuff and it's easy to see why he's as huge as he is...his voice alone is worth a million bucks and his songs are worth even more.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Most of you should know by now who Mark Lanegan is. The former front man of Screaming Trees has had a long and winding road of a career that went from being a star of grunge to a solo artist who's worked with the queen of twee, Isobel Campbell. Over the years, Lanegan's voice and songs have only gotten stronger and his latest album, Blues Funeral is no different.
Now known as The Mark Lanegan Band, Lanegan and his cohorts have created a record that's dark, heavy and even a bit electronic. This, ladies and gentleman, isn't the Screaming Trees. Blues Funeral is amazing. Lanegan's voice is deep, raspy, spot on and it carries the album through each of the songs here. Lanegan makes this a Blues Funeral by creating a dingy, moody atmosphere with nothing but his pipes. When you throw in the garagey guitars, raw drums, and what sounds like analogue recording equipment the album sounds like something the White Stripes always hoped to record.
Then there are the electronics. The Mark Lanegan Band occasionally takes a sharp right turn and rather then head to the bar loaded on whiskey, they head to the club. The results are broody throbbing synthpop songs that sound so far away from a Blues Funeral they might just have you scratching your head. If the songs weren't so darn good that would be justified, but they're catchy, deep, and very well done. I admit, I was surprised but in all the best ways.
Blues Funeral is an awesome album and shows that Lanegan and his band are still in their prime. This record is just about perfect. Blues Funeral is the sort of record that helps you forget that this guy was once the frontrunner of the late grunge movement. It's moody, weighty, filled with awesome songs that will move you in one way or another be it the club or the bar.
Holy confusion Batman, Po Po are one band that literally has no idea where they're going, how they're going to get there or why they're even going. Their album, Dope By Magic is amongst the strangest things you're likely to hear in 2012 and it's such a bizarre amalgamation of sounds it's like listening to three records at the same time. Taking electronics, post grunge, chill wave, glitch, indie, and the sound of broken instruments Po Po combine them all together super glue them and make something approaching music out of it all.
This by any logical means should not work. Honestly, Dope By Magic is one messed up record that starts in one direction and ends turned back around in a completely different one. Starting off as some sort of lo fi post-grunge indie rock menace the record slowly dissolves into a glitchy minimal electronic record that sounds like someone kidnapped Po Po and recorded different songs over theirs. It's all very messy, shambolic, and a bit chaotic and it almost gave me a headache by the end, but I couldn't walk away from it.
Hypnotizing you against your will seems to be Po Po's aim and with Dope By Magic in hand they might just achieve their goals. This is one band that's so open minded and so unorganized that they write music that just doesn't make sense. Dope By Magic isn't bad it just takes an equally open mind and a sense of adventure to get through it. If you don't have that...you'll be reaching for Excedrin. Top 40 this is not...a distorted musical choose your own adventure? Quite possibly.
Bill Fox began making music in the mid 80's as the front man for somewhat famous rock and rollers The Mice. Releasing one album, an EP, and a single over the course of the band's career Bill slowly grew beyond their influences and eventually he walked away from the Mice in 1988. From there he continued to write songs and eventually showed up in another band called Radio Flyers, then released a single on Scat Records in the mid 90's followed by an album and then he found himself on legendary indie label Spin Art by 1998. His latest album One Thought Revealed is his first material released since then.
Fourteen years in the making and with a lot of time to compose that one thought, Bill Fox has toned things down a bit from his rock and roll days back in the 80's. Now sounding a bit like Bob Dylan and fully embracing his inner folky he's written intimate songs that are seemingly composed simply for guitar and organ. And while his songs are good, it’s the organ that follows Bill's lead that really intrigues me here. It lends each of the songs it appears on One Thought Revealed depth and soul and takes them away from being just another folk tune and transforms them into something greater. It's almost as if these songs were R&B without the rhythm.
One Thought Revealed is an intriguing listen. It's interesting to hear how Bill has matured as a musician and how he's channeled all that energy that used to permeate his music outwardly, inwardly. The results are gripping and you can't help but sit and listen to each of Bill's songs here no matter your feelings toward the genre. While I wish that the organ was a more central part of his arrangements (as opposed to the guitar), I enjoyed the songs none the less. One Thought Revealed is a revealing look into the soul of a musician who has just about seen and done it all and come to grips with everything. It's nice work.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
If you're acoustic guitar wunderkind's Rodrigo Y Gabriela how do you improve your songs and make them better? Why you add more instrumentation to them...in a foreign country (Pretty obvious if you ask me.). And as fate would have it that is exactly what they've done on their new album Area 52. Taking nine of their own songs, re-arranging them, and recording them in Cuba with producer Peter Asher and a 13 piece Cuban orchestra has given this dynamic duo a whole different dimension. While that might seem like a hard thing to do, they've actually topped perfection here and created one stunning album with Area 52.
While there can be no doubt that Rodrigo y Gabriela are beyond talented but being just guitarists puts a limit on how organic your sound can be. Now with the help of the orchestra and Asher, this duo sound absolutely massive. Area 52 as a result is a Cuban wonderland of Latin influences, grooves, and emotions. A beautiful record through and through the strength of Rodrigo Y Gabriela's songwriting ability is highlighted and the new arrangements that they've come up with allow the new versions of the songs to shine like the Havana sunshine.
Taking a bit of a backseat to the orchestra, Rodrigo Y Gabriela allows all the musicians to shine giving their ability and chops the chance to take center stage. The orchestra is fricking amazing to say the least. Their playing, along with the songs will have you leaping out of your chair with a strong desire to salsa. Area 52 is simply amazing. Every song, every run, every riff, every bit of the horn section, piano, everything will leave you in awe. This is proof that music is the universal language and that no matter what political philosophy you believe in music can unify people and uplift them and everyone around them. If you love music, you should own this record, period.
Somewhere and sometime away from the rock in which I live underneath Built To Spill released There Is No Enemy. BACK IN 2009. Where I was and what I was doing during that year that would have caused me to miss this album I have no idea. But I did. That was just dumb.
Well, Built to Spill's most current album is There Is No Enemy and they're preparing a tour behind it, so I'm going to use that as my excuse to review it...three years late. It should be said however that Built To Spill needs to record like a new album NOW...rather than tour. At least I can save face and be somewhat current.
Anyway, There Is No Enemy is the bands 500th album and like 480th for Warner Brothers and as they've gotten older the songs they seem to write seem to be less shambolic and RAWKish. Instead they've extended the length of many songs by several minutes and allowed them to become far more complicated or emotional. The songs here are like mini-epics with odd verse chorus verse structures, twangy influences, and a rather sedated vibes. There are no "Carry the Zero's," here but there are several thought provoking songs that challenges the notion of how indie RAWK has to be and makes you wonder if Built To Spill are ok.
For the most part There Is No Enemy is a pretty good record. A bit slow at times, the band seems to have decided that playing fast and reckless is no longer the way to go. And yet for every song that lags a little in the catchy department there are songs that will perk up your ears. "Good Ol Boredom," for example exceeds the six minute mark and brings back hints of the old Built To Spill. Far from boring, the song kind of rolls along and drives across its twangy six minute soundscape with a nice burst of guitar energy.
They may not be recording 12 songs that sound like "Sidewalk," anymore but with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes better written songs and There Is No Enemy is full of them. A dense and mature record, There Is No Enemy takes a bit of time to latch on to, but it does eventually click into place and you're rewarded with a rich album. There Is No Enemy is the perfect album title for Built To Spill because when you are at the top of the food chain like they are (still), there really is no enemy.
Be sure to catch them on tour...anywhere but Florida as the band isn't coming here. That means then, that I'm going to crawl back under my rock until their new album is released. Cya.
If you listen to indie/electro/dance etc, you more than likely know who Yuksek is. This strangely named Frenchman has been making floor filling remixes for years now and has just about remixed everyone under the sun including yours truly. With all that and one album of Daft Punk influenced house/electro under his belt it was time for him to expand his horizons a bit. While Yuksek didn't start writing country songs he did take his music in a more pop direction and the results are stunning.
Entitled, Living On The Edge Of Time, Yuksek's sophomore album is the first great dance music album of 2012. With a massive pop sensibility and a set of songs that are anthemic in their approach there's very little wrong with Living On The Edge Of Time. While things are far more pop oriented and vocally centered than previous efforts Yuksek doesn't miss a step here. The songs are filled with massive hooks and choruses that lure you in as if they were Sirens.
Now armed with a band, yes a band, Yuksek's possibilities are endless and he takes advantage of it. While the songs are still undoubtedly dance oriented, they're not just blinding bangers but actual songs you can sing along to. Along with Digitalism, Cut Copy, and Hot Chip Yuksek proves that you can create a banger AND have a chorus to sing along to. In listening to Living On The Edge Of Time it's as if Yuksek, while wanting to go a smidgen more commercial, decided he had to up his game tenfold to make it work. He does, and it does.
Living On The Edge Of Time is an upbeat, infectious, anthemic record that takes pop, psychedelia, and indie to the underground and lets it run wild. Yuksek has produced a spectacular album here with phenomenal songs that will work in any environment. It's the sort of thing I'm going to have difficulty not listening to. Proving electro is alive and well in a world littered with dubstep, and noise Living On The Edge Of Time is a massively essential record. It’s so good it is already in the running for album of the year.
The original motion soundtrack to the film Bellflower isn't at all what I expected. Composed and scored by Jonathan Keevil, the album is a slow moving walk through a folk wonderland and not an ambient one. A strange choice for music when you know that the film centers around a friendship whose characters shift from building V8 Interceptors similar to Mad Max's to a destructive journey of love. While I’ve not seen the actual film quiet introspective music seemingly wouldn’t work for this kind of movie.
But here Keevil is crafting bedroom recordings, lo-fi songs, moany folk and things that just sound so depressing it'll make you cry. This is one soundtrack that's almost too sad and to lo-fi for it's own good. Apparently the songs came from Keevil's personal stash of songs recorded on Garageband during the editing process. You can tell this because so many of the songs sound like they were recorded poorly, cheaply and intimately in a side room somewhere. Put it this way, the songs are so lo-fi that you almost expect to hear dogs barking in the background.
While I'm most definitely intrigued by the film...it just sounds cool. The soundtrack is difficult for me to listen to. I, as you know, can't stand acoustic music and this is nothing but. This is one soundtrack that's a bit much and a bit too sad to listen to...even if the movie offers no glimmer of hope for the characters one would hope that these songs would.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Nedry are a trio by way of London, Osaka and Bristol whose distillation of advanced rhythmic structures, low frequencies and raw human tones stand uniquely at a fascinating sonic crux of leftfield, club and indie juncture. In other words they're all over the map and create a beautiful amalgamation of sounds that when combined become hypnotic and mind warping. Their new album, In Dim Light illuminates the widescreen world in which the sounds and textures Nedry create live.
A bit chillwave, a bit abstract, and totally sounding like something from the Warp back catalog, Nedry seem to compose songs that are weird but likeable. Perhaps a bit Bjorkian in her vocal stylings Ayu Okakita takes thing in an unusual direction throughout the band's songs. She sighs, she coo's she grabs your ears and never lets them go. It's wondrous stuff that rolls on by, lifts you up, and takes you along for the ride. Between her otherworldly vocals, the ambient synths, and mesmerizing beats In Dim Light is a heavenly delight of post trip hop sounds.
Gothy, dreamy, ambient, haunting, stunning. Those are all words that can be used to describe Nedry's In Dim Light. This is an abstract textured record that pings and bleeps its way across a widescreen that stretches on to infinity. This is the perfect album for the winter days and nights as there's something about it that's as pure as the driven snow. While it obviously doesn't snow here in Florida this is a record that is absolutely brilliant and best listened to...in dim light.
Rick Colado is a star. As Rickolus he's a superstar. This homegrown talent has, over the last decade or so, quietly created some of the best emotional, heart string pulling indie rock the world hasn't heard. It's a shame really because the guy can write one heck of a tune and his songs deserve to be heard. The last Julius Airwave album is a masterpiece and his two previous solo albums as Rickolus are genius; just listen. With a new record in hand, Rick had returned with a bookend to his last album Youngster. Entitled Coyote & Mule it seems to be filled with tone poems, aural sketches, and some interesting ideas that have been flushed out into awkwardly cool songs.
Utilizing a minimal amount of instrumentation and playing it all by himself he has essentially produced what could be affectionately called his "acoustic record." A bit lo-fi and a bit bedsit pop, Rick experiments with a whole host of approaches and sounds here to come up with the songs on Coyote & Mule. Think distorted vocals, minimal guitar work, folk music, sad songs, and happy ones. For the most part all of them work and work well proving that the guy really can do no wrong.
Rick has a subtlety and shyness about him that almost makes him seem a bit too twee for his own good. While that might be a detriment to some, I think that's really half of his charm; Rick sounds like a nerdy kid that just happens to know how to write a fine pop song as well as play World or Warcraft. He uses that to his advantage constantly. Coyote & Mule continues Ricks tradition of writing fantastic shy, shuffly, indie rock that's bound to break big at some point. It has to. His ability to make the girls swoon and the guys jealous is a credit to his songwriting ability and his star power. Rickolus proves that nice guys can finish first and it's about time the rest of the world realized it to.
What happens when you have a German and an American appearing on a UK label? Perfection that's what. Just ask the dynamic duo of Oliver $ and Gene Siewing AKA Chubby Dubz. Their latest 12" entitled Direct Experience (album sampler #1) is a scorcher of deep chilled house record that's bound to be a hit.
Featuring three original tunes (Direct Experience, Led to Believe, Spirit) and the Art Bleek remix of the title track, Direct Experience (album sampler #1) is a record that's so deep that if it were a hole it would have dug itself to China and back again. Lush synths swath the beats in velvety goodness that push the four songs here to even deeper realms. The occasional squiggle vocal sample, poking organ lines, and bass lines that ride the wave home only heighten the experience.
Seductive, sweet, and chilled to perfection house music like this proves why it will always buck the trends and remain essential. Direct Experience (album sampler #1) hints at what's in store for Chubby Dubz album and judging by the four tracks here...it's going to be amazing. An essential release that proves time and time again...house is a feeling.
Whether or not El Paso band The D.A. are actually made up of district attorneys is up to some conjecture. What is known is that this group has been around Texas for the last four years and has slowly been building a solid audience and setting dance floors alight down there. After releasing an EP in 2009, the band headed back to the studio to begin work on their album. That’s essentially where they’ve been until now. You Kids! is the result of those efforts and it's a doozy.
You Kids! is a punk funk danceable delight that would sit perfectly next to The Rapture, Radio 4, and maybe even Vampire Weekend on a good day. Angular guitars, rolling drums, textured synths, groovy bass lines, jazzy horns, and obtuse vocals steer the band across the dance floor in all sorts of awkward directions. Energetic to say the least, the band contort their songs to slightly weird movements and arrangements and instrumentation all in the hopes of generating some energy in return. You Kids! does just that; it's youthful exasperation and wry sense of humor help seal the deal by forcing you to remember the words and angles The D.A. use.
The D.A. is a propulsive band and they drive that home with The Kids! Filled with dynamic and animated songs, this is a record that doesn't know how to slow down. Designed to make you move, The Kids! is exhausting to listen to in all the best ways, this is one album that's best handled in small doses unless you can keep up. They may not be lawyers or even know what D.A. stands for but The D.A. has clearly laid down the law here and it's fantastic.
Friday, January 20, 2012
Hailing from former hot bed of British pop, Sunderland, Frankie and the Heartstrings bring a classic British sound to their own vision of what indie should be. Sounding something like Orange Juice (no surprise then that Edwyn Collins produced this) with a flair for the dramatic, Frankie will pull and potentially yank out your heartstrings in an effort to get you to listen. And you should listen, because this is one heck of a band that has tapped into 80's British pop and given it a modern spin that sounds completely fresh.
Mixing jangly and spiky guitars, with well enunciated vocals, punk funk drums, and witty lyricism Hunger is proper indie the finest tradition. Perhaps a bit like fellow Sunderlander's The Futureheads but with a bit more twang than punk, Frankie and the Heartstrings embrace that Orange Juice vibe and even find room to mix in a bit of rockabilly for good measure. The end result of all this is Hunger being ridiculously danceable, incredibly fetching, and rather great.
It may have taken forever for Frankie and the Heartstrings to come to the states, but it's been well worth the wait. Hunger is a fantastically strong debut whose British influences power this record and steer it to pop Babylon in fine fashion. It's so good that it's the sort of thing you need more of...it's the kind of record that will leave you hunger(ing) for more.
Apparently inspired by the beachy environment of Soft Swells surroundings, the band is the coming together of east and west coast sounds. Founding member Tim Williams put the band together with Phonograph mainstay, Matt Welsh which kind of makes them a super group. Both members have had successful careers outside of Soft Swells, so this band feels like a meeting of the minds and the ideal place to collaborate on musical ideas that they share. Their self-titled debut album was recorded across the pond in Lewes UK and was produced by Dave Lynch...not that one.
Sounding like a byproduct of more recent Modest Mouse albums and Clap Your Hands & Say Yeah, Soft Swells come off like a Great Northwest indie rock band. That's kind of amazing when you consider they're from a coastal California community and originally came from Brooklyn. Anyway, Soft Swells is an excellent album of dramatic indie rock that's sweeping, soaring, and filled with songs that hinge on Tim's inflective vocals. Utilizing a toolbox of sounds, the band mixes pianos, xylophones, multipart harmonies, jangly guitars and that voice to create the world in which their music swells a bit more than softly. Soft Swells songs will echo and reverberate around your head long after they've gone simply because the experience of Tim and Matt allow them to create hypnotic songs that keep you riveted.
A tidal wave of sounds with crescendos of drama and emotion, Soft Swells are a band that will sweep you off your feet. Dynamic, melodic, and structurally sound, Soft Swells is a classic album in the making and shows that this is one collaboration that is greater than the sum of its parts. If you've ever dabbled in that Northwest indie rock sound, you'll find Soft Swells and essential purchase and if you haven't what a better time to catch the wave. Order the album HERE
Thursday, January 19, 2012
When one thinks of Australia one generally thinks of Melbourne and Sydney, but very rarely does someone mention the WEST coast of Down Under. Yet it's out there big, massive, and teaming with life. Well that's where San Cisco comes into play. This rather quirky pop group comes to us from the less than bustling area known as Fremantle Western Australia.
Taking their own path (and a bit of a roundabout one at that) to pop stardom the band has developed a natural chemistry that has helped shaped their second record, Awkward. Quirky, fun, and good the band are quickly developing into something bigger than the frontier of their hometown.
Penned in the studio one afternoon, lead single "Awkward" is an unmistakable pop gem featuring the vocal talents of both Jordi Davieson and drummer, Scarlett Stevens. It's a sugary pop thrill that's unforgettable and as I sit here and type this I can still hear the chorus ringing in my ears. Now imagine four more just like that and you have, Awkward in a nutshell. The EP is packed with indie pop goodness, showcasing Jordi’s turn of phrase and Josh Biondillo’s varied influences and together they sound a bit like a poppier version of The Subways or rockier version of Mates of State. In its entirety Awkard is anything but, but it is an eclectic mix of indie pop with dashes of rock and slashes of synth that's well worth multiple listens.
The Viper Creek Club is a project that's headed up by musical mastermind Mat Wisner. Originally an idea in one of Wisner's demo songs for a previous project, VCC served to combine everything he was working on and then taking all that and blending it into some sort of pop. After some experimentation the results of this recipe for musical tastiness became the Hot Lights EP.
Consisting of six songs the Hot Lights EP takes most forms of electronic pop and fuses them together to create a sugar rush of synth pop goodness. With electro, chill out, chill wave, ambient, indie dance, and everything in between influencing Wisner's songs he ends up sounding something like Cobra Starship fighting with Crystal Castles for control of his mind. The songs are addictively structured with choruses that even at their vocoded best are easy to sing back. It's fantastic stuff that simply ends too soon.
The Viper Creek Club are beasts at what they do. From the mind numbingly catchy, "Your Body," to the pro tools auto tuned breaks of "Now You're In the Mirror," Hot Lights EP is kinetic energy that can't be stopped. At six songs this record is too short and one hopes that Mat Wisner hurries up and fuses more ideas together so that there's an album worth of material. The Viper Creek Club is one club worth joining...by any means necessary.
Zomby is a fairly well known British based producer that unleashed an electronic fury back in 2008 with his debut album Where Were U In 92 and then, surprisingly, quietly retreated to the background. He then released Dedication a somber work that took two years to complete because of personal events outside of music. Now, he's back once again and seems motivated here in 2012. His latest effort serves as a sort of a middle ground between the two albums or a companion piece to Dedication. Entitled Nothing, this piece sees him continuing to pay tribute to the past but pushing things forward ever so slightly.
While not exactly an upfront dance record, Nothing is a spooky, minimalist affair that harks back to classic sounds from the 90's, glicthtronica from today, and grooves that are timeless. It's very good stuff that’s starkness and slightly cold nature is oddly easy to listen to. To make something that wafts along with a minimalist approach AND make it memorable is the sign of a truly awesome producer and Zomby is exactly that. Serving as a bridge, a companion, and a breather from the world of wobble Nothing is all that but it's also so much more. Nothing is a fantastic nearly ambient single that's proof that this Zomby is far from dead.
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Big Sir isn't as big as Big Sur...but they could be. This dynamic duo made up of Lisa Papineau and Juan Alderete (of Mars Volta) has explored a stunning amount of sounds and textures using both electronic and analog beats over their three album career. Their latest album, Before Gardens After Gardens is no different and continues this tradition of audio exploration.
Sounding a bit like Sarah McLachlan if she went totally electronic, Big Sir creates songs that while danceable are undoubtedly haunting and intimate. Taking electro into nearly ethereal directions Before Gardens After Gardens is a chilled out, beautiful record that soars on the voice of Papineau and floats along on the beats created by Alderete. For a band that creates songs via laptops and the internet, Big Sir have created an album that sounds so rich, so produced, and so texturally intense that it sounds like a million dollars. Chalk it up to technology or their songwriting ability it doesn't matter, Before Gardens After Gardens remains a brilliant record.
After twelve years of working together and two previous albums Big Sir have so completely jelled as a band that their ability to write songs as good as they are is like second nature to them. Before Gardens After Gardens is a strong effort that's as radiant and ravishing as it is memorable and unearthly. Filled with chilled out grooves and heavenly vocals this is the soundtrack to the afterlife on a rainy day and it's awesome.
Despite it being impossible, do you wish that Donna Summer and Georgio Moroder would work together once again? Well say hello to Escort...they're your new disco buddies. No other band I've heard recently embraces that dynamic duo better than these guys. Writing songs as if it were still 1980, Escort have a retro-futurist sound that feels like it came from the great big dance floor in the sky.
Escort is a seventeen-member “disco orchestra”, founded by producers Eugene Cho and Dan Balis, and fronted by lead singer Adeline Michèle. The group features an incredible cast of musicians who have played with everyone from indie-rock titans Arcade Fire to avant-classical luminaries Alarm Will Sound and everyone in between. Their sound is so incomprehensibly funky that George Clinton has decided to just give up rather than try and compete with these guys. Just about every song is so rooted in late 70's early 80's funk, disco, or soul music that you can almost smell the musk coming through your speakers.
Escort is a phenomenal album that explodes out of the gate and never looks back. Each of the eleven songs here is a floor filler and is infectiously impossible to escape from. Covered in glitter and polyester this is the sound of the Studio 54 if it were still around today. And while some of the lyrics are just downright cheesy, "Cocaine Blues," for example, the grooves just overpower the cheese and body slam you on the dance floor.
Awesome stuff from beginning to end, this is an album and a band firing on all cylinders. They know how to make you move and while they might be thoroughly modern in every other sense, this is one band that undoubtedly has it's heart in the discotheques of the 70's and 80's. If you like to dance, put on your boogie shoes and dance the night away with your new Escort.
Should electro and rockabilly ever mingle together? Most people would probably say no. They are two forms of music that in a sense are diametrically opposed to one another. It's like the rockers vs. the mods...they just don't get along. Well someone sure didn't tell Bosco Delrey that because this New Jersey via Memphis musician has taken fist pumping and twang and mixed them into a strange brew of groovy chilled out goodness.
With doo wop influences, ambient sounds, chilled grooves, and a keen pop sensibility about him, Bosco Delrey has constructed one heck of a record with Everybody Wah. Sounding like something out of a David Lynchian dream Everybody Wah is a bewitching effort that shouldn't work in any way shape or form but does. Unafraid to throw anything into the already confusing mix Bosco Delrey even finds room to add a bit of dancehall and drum and bass. If you were to look up the phrase, “all over the map," you would see a picture of Bosco standing next to its definition.
Everybody Wah is confusingly good and constantly throws musical left hooks throughout the duration of its songs. Just when you think you've settled into a groove, out comes some drum and bass . When that's settled down here comes the doo wop. It's awesome stuff whose songs act like a genre scouting roadmap through the pop music lexicon. Influenced by everything and refusing to be cliché Bosco Delrey and Everybody Wah is a giant gumbo of musical ideas that come together in fine fashion. This is what being open minded is all about and I love it.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
For the last couple of years the British Isles have been a hot bed of activity for the neo-soul movement. From Duffy to Amy, to Sharleen, and everyone in between Britain re-discovered the joys of Motown, Stax, and Northern Soul and ran with it. Down south a few thousand miles, Nneka was doing the same thing...except in addition to Motown she surrounded herself with reggae, hip hop, and just about anything else with a groove. Her debut album, Concrete Jungle introduced the world to her vision of soul music and now her latest album, Soul Is Heavy seeks to establish her as a household name for the movement.
That shouldn't be that difficult because Soul Is Heavy is an open minded, soulful, beautiful record. Blending with ease, trip hop beats, reggae vibes, velvety vocals and a sense of positivity it almost seems impossible that Nneka's soul could be heavy. This is the sound of Motown in the 21st century; open minded, all over the place, and of course really quite good.
Nneka's voice carries the record and it fits every song like a glove. She's able to switch emphasis and emotion at the drop of hat depending on what the song calls for. It's truly impressive stuff; just sit and list to her give each song the right feel with the utterance of a few words and you to will be impressed. One listen to, "Shining Star," will illustrate this point perfectly; a soulful ballad with just enough groove she taps into her inner Staple Singers and nails it. The girl is good and every song here is a playground for her voice.
Soul Is Heavy is a good record because of its diversity, it's ability to embrace and utilize different sounds and Nneka's voice. If more soul music was like this the world would be a better place. Uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable, Nneka's Soul Is Heavy is worth its weight in gold.
In this day and age of dubstep and “electro house,” it seems that good old fashioned proper house and garage music have disappeared. As fate would have it, that's not the case at all, it's just that media and blogosphere have forgotten how seductive these sounds are and stopped covering it. 2 Bears a London production duo made up of Joe Goddard of Hot Chip and Raf Daddy have thrown on a couple of bear suits, dug out all their favorite 80's and 90's Chicago house records and made one heck of a tribute to it on their new album Be Strong.
An album laden with incessant mind numbingly sexy grooves, Be Strong harks back to the days when dancing was fun and when dance music was about energy and movement not excessive noise and wobble. While influenced by the Chicago and New York scenes, the album is most definitely rooted in the London underground scene and you can tell. Ridiculously deep at times and so upfront at others this is a record that weaves and bobs around sub genres faster than an Intercity 125. Garage, electro, piano house, disco house, deep house, it's all here and represented so well that you can't help but throw your hands up in the air and just move.
In addition to the ridiculously addictive grooves that are so persistent the album works because the 2 Bears are able to write instantly memorable lyrics that pump along to the rhythm and drill themselves into your subconscious. Even at their deepest and most chilled moments Be Strong remains, um, strong. Pretty much the party album of 2012 thus far, the 2 Bears have brought proper house, electro, and garage back and pumped it up a few notches. This record is so flawless and so filled with banger after banger that it couldn't not fill a dancefloor if it tried. Essential.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Someone should really tell Morrissey that he doesn’t need to be in another band. I mean seriously, he's already been in the Smiths and he has his solo career to worry about so why in the world is he in The Holiday Crowd? What? You mean that isn't Morrissey? Holy heck...well whoever it is has made The Holiday Crowd sound like the best Smithsian tribute band with original tunes on the planet. Seriously.
The Holiday Crowd's album, Over The Bluffs is so possessed by the spirit of the Smiths that somewhere right now Morrissey and Marr are consulting lawyers for being a little too close for comfort. Jangly, dramatic, and frickin' amazing, Over The Bluffs is the best record from 1986 recorded in 2012 that you will hear this year. With sweeping vocals soaring to the heavens, jangly guitars lilting across songs with a bit of depression, and melodies so memorable you'll swear you've heard every one of these songs before this album is a seven song blast of indie pop the way it was meant to be played.
The sheer moodiness of the songs, the potential for collapsing and crying, the dreamy guitars and vocals all add up to one awesome little record. There simply is not one bad song here and the songs are so well written and so well sung and played that it's hard to find fault with anything. It's just not possible. While undoubtedly the Holiday Crowd would like to be recognized for their own merits, it's going to be impossible to ignore the Smiths-like similarities between the two bands. My suggestion is embrace it and run with it. Hell, the band should buy some gladiolas and put them in their back pockets when the play live.
Far from the maddening crowd of bog standard indie, The Holiday Crowd bring the sound of 80's jangle back and it warms the cockles of our hearts. Over The Bluffs is perfect and so essential you should sacrifice eating so you can buy it!
Hailing from that great university town known as Los Angeles, Princeton the band have seemingly been studying musical theory for ages and channeled it into their music. Whether or not that is actually true I do not know. But it would seem to be judging by their sound. The band, not the university, are a minimalist indie band who seek to create dramatic and artistic songs through avant garde ideas. Their latest album Remembrance Of Things To Come plays more like a classical music piece than a Pavement record and shows the band developing into something artistically intriguing and musically challenging.
Remembrance Of Things To Come is a multifaceted album that takes the idea of chamber pop literally and actually utilizes the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble to help flush out ideas on the record. Orchestral, sweeping, and lush Remembrance Of Things To Come is a beautiful pop record that's so hypnotizingly listenable you'll find it difficult to walk away. With eclectic guitar work, the aforementioned string work, electronic flourishes, falsetto vocals, and an ethereal vibe about it much of Princeton's music seems to float by like a gentle breeze. Remembrance Of Things To Come is the sound of the wind and its dynamic shifts from orchestrated pop to electronic pop and back again is seamless, much like a change in the wind's direction.
Far from a sophomore slump, Princeton's Remembrance Of Things To Come is an intricate and complicated record that is as light as air and easy on the ears. The dynamic nature of everything here from lyrics to music is what drives the band forward and it's beautiful artistically plotted out songs are simply stunning to listen to. Remembrance Of Things To Come is a sincere, wispy, heavenly record that sees Princeton exceeding it's own expectations and blowing me away.
Friday, January 13, 2012
Liturgy are not a bunch of Catholic balladeers nor are they a bunch of scholars who have studied biblical texts for insight into life. Oh no, this band of black metallers come from the opposite end of the spectrum, which you might be able to tell by the cover image above. Evil yes...good no. What's most odd about this band is that they appear on the leading label of post indie rock in the United States. When one thinks of metal one does not think of Thrill Jockey Records but of Nuclear Blast; yet here they are in all their unholy glory wailing like a banshee set free on the same label that brought us Bonnie Prince Billy.
Liturgy's new album, Aesthetica is a chaotic wall of metallic noise that sounds like it was delivered from the pits of hell via an echo chamber. I guess that's why they're a black metal band as opposed to just normal death metal...that unholy chaos that reigns over this record that sounds like the undead screaming for vengeance. While there are moments spread throughout this album that could fit into a very broad definition of post rock, ambient, drone and the like (droney guitars, sheets of noise, etc) the album retains a heaviness and lack of good production that keeps it firmly in the black metal camp. With strained vocals, guitar harmonizing, tinny drums being bashed, and a general sense of the apocalypse the band do a good job of convincing us that despite being on Thrill Jockey they are most definitely metal.
Aesthetica is an extreme metal album that for the most part lacks the catchiness, hooks, and the melodic nature of pure death metal. That’s really nothing new for the genre. This is the sound of hell unleashed and after spending forty five minutes with Liturgy I was reminded why black metal caught on in the nineties; the sheer raw mayhem. Liturgy are not bad at what they do and Aesthetica is evil incarnate let free to cause a wave of metallic destruction.
If you've ever wanted to see what this looks like live you'll have your chance on February 9th as the band will storm Freebird Cafe w/Sleigh Bells and Diplo...yeah how that one got worked out is beyond me.
You would think with a band name like Asteroid Galaxy Tour you'd be set up to listen to mighty space jams from the far reaches of space. If I were to judge a book by its name then by all means I should be listening to prog rock of epic proportions right now and not slightly weird Scandinavian indie pop. Yes, it's true the Asteroid Galaxy Tour do not have one ounce of prog rock flowing in their veins...but they do have a severe sense of what makes quirkily good indie pop and they have the pumping throughout their system. Their album, Out of Frequency is amongst the more unusual amalgamations of pop music to come across my desk in quite some time.
Out of Frequency takes 60's pop, Barbarella, modern indie pop, Sneaker Pimps, rock and roll, and just about everything else except the kitchen sink and smashes it all together to create something that's so energetic, uppity, and saccharine sweet that it's impossible not to fall for. The Asteroid Galaxy Tour, led by Mette Lindberg, are so hip shakingly cool and so easily slide genres next to other genres and sounds next to sounds that the pop hooks come and clobber you on the head whether you want them to or not. With lots of 60's flower power, pseudo psychedelia, organ jams, hyper rhythms and Mette's rather unique high pitched voice Out of Frequency constantly hypnotizes as it entertains.
The 60's hasn't sounded this cool since, well um, the 60's and Asteroids Galaxy Tour's ability to fuse modern sounds and make them sound fashionably vintage is awesome. Out of Frequency is a fantastic groovy pop album that would almost make the members of St. Etienne blush for its sheer gall to try and sound old. While this is no Foxbase Alpha it is a darn good indie pop record and anyone who likes cute cuddly vocals, swingin' songs, and groovy vibes will love this record, much like I do.
The Nombres are yet another treasure unearthed by the fine folks from the Numero Group. Formed in the suburbs of Ohio, this multi-cultural band of Puerto Ricans embraced rock and roll and soul with vigor and struggled for years to have their voices heard outside of their home state. Now nearly forty years later they're destined to be heard everywhere as their album Nombres has been re-mastered and re-released giving this band of brothers and friends their due.
Nombres is filled with Latin flavor and allows the rock and soul they created to have a slightly jazzy and soulful feel to it. Full of jam session vibes and mellow come downs Nombres is a groovy treat that sounds as if the band had so much fun creating music they couldn't quite stop making it. With organ solos, wah guitar solos, fuzzy bass lines, and just about everything else under the sun, The Nombres get the funk out and then some all the while adding tropical flavors and sunshine to every song. This is a great record that sounds so far ahead of it's time; think about it the quantity of Latin soul/rock artists in America in the late 60's early/mid 70's was pretty much limited to, um, Santana.
The Nombres are an awesome band and they rip it up throughout Nombres. As Diego Martinez would say, "You might outplay us, but you couldn't out entertain us." Listening to this album I'd have to agree. The fun these guys are having here just oozes out of every song and they are so good at what they do how could they not? It's truly a shame that the band never got the respect and popularity it should have because these guys were such stellar musicians and songwriters it seems unjust.
Filled with grooves, soul, rock and roll spirit, Latin influences and just about everything else The Nombres were and are one heck of a band. It's pretty awesome that Numero found this record and has given it the respect it's owed. If you like vintage rocky soul funk, Like most Numero albums, The Nombres re-release is pretty much essential.
Punks Jump Up have swerved away from the trends in dance music over the last year or so and continued to create dance music their own way and this is especially evident on their latest single, Get Down. With not a single drop of dubstep or Justice post hardcore techno like structure on any note here, this new single is pure house/electro gold.
With a keyboard run that will linger in your head for ages and beats that threaten to level sound systems, Punks Jump Up have created a tune that is hands in the air good. Disco influences, Latin vibes, a bit of Miami Sound Machine, and enough sugary sweet hooks to make the addiction easier, Get Down will force you to do just that; get down! With not one, not two, but five remixes coming from JBAG, Alex Gopher, Fare Soldi, Zero Cash, and Deadstock 33s the single is packed to the edges with face melting tech house electro goodness.
Punks Jump Up are in a word; awesome. They've continually set dance floors alight with mind numbing electro work outs that may not be the sound du jour but they're still so amazing that they buck the trends and rise to the top anyway. Get Down is no different and only proves that Punks Jump Up are one heck of a team.
Prinzhorn Dance School is not a school of dance but rather a band. In fact they’re so inept at dance instruction and their album Clay Class is such an angular guitar attack that it might not actually know how to dance at all. They might spasm a bit and jerk around but full on dancing, I think not.
Taking the template of the Gang of Four and taking it back to 1981 this post punk band paint pictures of life in modern Britain through a vintage lens that while slightly optimistic doesn't sound pretty. Jerky, angular, and almost un-melodic Prinzhorn Dance School manage to take rhythms and turn them sideways. It's a very nervous sounding record that feels as if it might rip itself apart at any point and that’s ok. Jagged to the point of being pointed and deadly Clay Class manages to make itself brilliant by being so perfectly post everything and so against the grain.
While there are moments of delicacy and intimacy (see the fourth track) most of the album attacks itself from every which way in an effort to generate some sort of movement. In a sense, it’s killing itself atonally to live rhythmically. Clay Class is a great record because of this and the fact that no one really sounds like this anymore and it's skewed rhythms, bass lines, riffs, and vocals sound completely fresh. This is the sort of record that Gang of Four probably sits at home and listens to thinking that they're influence and legacy within the pop music lexicon is secure. It is and thanks to Prinzhorn Dance School their aesthetic and approach will live on.
Clay Class is an essential post punk record that fans of the genre will rejoice in. Angular and staggered pop music doesn't get much better than this and Prinzhorn Dance School might not dance but they certainly educate.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Numero Records are easily the coolest reissue label in the world. Rooting around the basements and recording studios like the cast of American Pickers these guys fine music that's important but forgotten about. Through research and painstaking restoration the label brings to light and to the forefront these lost classics for everyone to enjoy. Their latest release in their Eccentric Soul series is the Nickel and Penny Labels.
Composed of twenty four tracks, Nickel and Penny Labels represents a lot of work, a lot of music, and a lot of fantastic soul music that very few people outside of Chicago ever got to hear. Nickel and Penny Labels is downright amazing and is packed to the gills with Northern Soul sounds, classic soul grooves, and enough melodies to last a lifetime. From girl groups to crooners it's all her and it's sparkly, restored and sounds brand new.
Founded by Richard Pegue, the Nickel and Penny Labels featured here are twin sides of the same eccentric coin, Pegue himself. He was the writer, arranger, and producer of so many potential classics it's nearly impossible to keep track of. The problem with Pegue's work is that all the records went out of print weeks after being released. Such is the life of the small independent label in the 60's and 70's but that's where Numero comes in. Preserving Pegue's legacy as a true talent who could do it all; from writing a soul hit to corny jingles.
From the girl groups harmonies of Voices' "Fall In Love Again," to the floor filling potential Wigan Pier classic, "You Are My Sunshine," by Jerry Townes Nickel and Penny Labels truly has it all. Nickel and Penny Labels is soul music and classic soul music at that. If you love the Motown Sound and Stax Records you owe it to yourself to listen to these brilliant tunes. This is the sound of Chicago Soul and it's bloody brilliant.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
The Brothers Goldman want to get Fonky. Yes, that's right...not funky but fonky. What the heck is fonk? Well that's a good question and one I'm not sure that I'm qualified to answer but I'll try. Take a bit of funk, a bit of jazz, and a whole lot of blues and you have something that's fonky and that's exactly what Fonkology is all about.
Sounding like some sort of Mississippi Delta Blues run through the jazz clubs in New Orleans and give a dash of funk for good measure, Fonkology is an album that's rooted in the groove. While not completely funky in a Parliament kind of way, the album is packed with enough boogietastic rhythms that you're feet will have a hard time sitting still. It's rather nice stuff that's perfect background music for the weekends.
With Hammond organs blaring, guitars jamming, and jumpy basslines driving it all, Fonkology never really slows down. Whether it's a vocal track or an instrumental one the Brothers Goldman get down with their badselves and just let it rip. This is one album with jam after jam and that's probably it's biggest strength is it's musicianship. The Brothers Goldman are amazing musicians and each one of these tracks proves it. While not a big fan of the blues, several of the songs here reminded me of stuff that could have been done by Booker T & The MG's 40 years ago and that's never a bad thing.
When you name your band Liftoff, you kind of give yourself away a little bit. One could assume by the name that the band is either fascinated by psychedelic pop or airy atmospherics. In the case of this band it's actually a bit of both. Liftoff combines psychedelia, indie, chill out, and those spacey atmospherics to help define Sunday Morning Airplay as an album that is perfect for just that.
Utilizing lush atmospheric synth work, swathes of sound, sighed vocals, and a bit of funky beats Liftoff create one heck of a record that literally is perfect for Sunday mornings. This is the sound of 60's light rock if it were enhanced with electronics and taken into space and beamed back to earth. Sunday Morning Airplay is a gorgeous record that breezes on by whether its with vocals of ambient passages, scitars or beats. This is an album that washes over you and soothes your mind as it progresses through each of its thirteen songs.
Impressive and exapansive soundscapes, trippy vibes, and a diverse sound palette all contribute to making Liftoff's Sunday Morning Airplay a great record. A perfectly named band with a perfectly named album; it's almost as if this was all supposed to happen. Very listenable and very good, Liftoff's Sunday Morning Airplay is one record you'll need for this weekend...and more specifically this Sunday
The latest compilation from Kitsune, Parisien II, is nothing short of perfect. That's nothing new for this French label who over the last five or so years have defined what quality electro, indie dance, and the like represents. This latest compilation highlights the latest from emerging talent from the vibrant Parisian scene and beyond. Packed with fourteen tracks, the compilation covers all it's bases in fine fashion.
The compilation is so forward thinking and so up front that unless you live in Paris you've probably not heard of anything or anybody on this record. Parisien II features house, electro, chill-wave, indie dance and just about everything in between. From the seductive opening track from Tomorrow's World to the angular synth punk funk of Juveniles, it's all here and all geared at getting you to dance...a lot. That should be expected because, after all, that's what Kitsune has been doing from the get go.
While compilations such as Parisien II are generally hit and miss I'm proud to report that nothing on this record misses. This is a pretty much perfect record from the get go and serves as an educational tool as to what's moving people in the Parisian indie/dance scenes. Kitsune knows to to find talent and their list of success stories is longer than the track listing on this album. Parisien II is almost like a laundry list of what makes a brilliant electro record in whatever style you want. Sexy, slinky, and packed with tasty danceable treats there's really nothing bad about this record. This is yet another essential release from an essential label at the center of the electro scene. Say what you will about the French but they love to dance and they know how to get the world dancing along with them and this compilation proves it.
I just finished reading an article about legendary record label Creation Records and how the relationship between label and fan had changed where labels like Creation would have difficulties existing nowadays. For the most part I think that's true as "the kids," just don't care about labels anymore or the art and process behind running them. It's just more about where you can get the tunes, and how little you have to pay for them. There are exceptions however, and I think Edible Onion is one such label. A quick look at the new release from Br'er demonstrates this as the level of craftsmanship involved in this project is far greater than anything a stupid mp3 could ever hope to convey.
With a hand made sleeve and a gatefold cover the new Br'er album is set up before you even start listening to it. City of Ice is given a "pre-show," if you will before you encounter the music actually on the disc. It's a beautiful stage in which to set up the album and it makes an impression. Once you start listening to City of Ice the package becomes complete as Br'er's stark sonic landscapes come to life and aurally create the picture of a city of ice. It's minimal, slightly atonal, chill stuff that's spooky, haunting, and a bit scary. That being said much of City of Ice is gloriously pretty. From clanged instruments to ghostlike vocals, this is a record where minimalism is maximized and sculpted into something artistically amazing.
With a host of instrumentation that ranges from what sounds like harps to pots and pans and everything in between to the hand made album cover Br'er's album makes an impact in it's physical format that it could never hope to do as digital release. Sometimes, if not most times, the old ways are the best. Music is an experience...not a three minute throwaway piece of collateral. Br'er and Edible Onion have obviously realized this and reward fans with a complete audio and visual experience that's stunning.
The Coastals are a power pop / pop punk juggernaut who have mastered the art of the sugary sweet chorus, the three chord riff, and writing songs that sound like a broken heart. Not particularly complicated or even trying to pretend to be something they are not, The Coastals have pretty much mastered the art of spiky pop music. Their album Burn White Hot is a display of how you can make things simple but still ridiculously good.
With that characteristic pop punk sound that bands like Blink 182 made famous, The Coastals don't stray to far from the coast with their sound excursions. A risk taking and experimental work this is not. What it is though is a straight ahead plug in, tune in and let her rip kind of album. Burn White Hot has no over dubs, no pro-tools, no digital editing just three chords played by three people with a sweet as candy delivery. They are very good at what they do and Burn White Hot is a great record for what it is.
Originality isn't something Burn White Hot has a lot of, but it does have some infectiously good songs that are written so well they are nigh impossible to forget. See, "Stormy Weather," or the slightly hilarious "Rich Kid At The Bar," for examples of just how good these guys can manipulate a few chords into something new and good. Enjoyable through and through Burn White Hot is far from a disappointment and shows that The Coastals are one or two steps away from knocking off Blink 182 as masters of pop punk.
Sophia Knapp is a singer/songwriter. Sophia Knapp does not write singer/songwriter music. Sophia Knapp has spent a great amount of time, however, listening to Stevie Nicks and Carpenters records. Her album Into The Waves is a jaw dropping tribute to female fronted rock from the 70s and 80's with a bit of 21st century thrown in.
The Waves is a fantastic record of cool pop that would not have sounded out of place on the radio 30 or 40 years ago. The songs here are dominated by Sophia's voice and her lyrics and she's created a world in which the sounds that surround them are ethereal, mystical, and cast a spell over the listener. In fact it's so magical, one can't help but think of Sophia Knapp doing all this in black bo-ho clothing and holding seance's during the production of this record. With the spell cast her songs sound contemporary, mature, and about as un-singer songwritery as one could get.
More in touch with the 70's and 80's that current trends, everything about this record seems retro infused. From the production, to the songs, to the rather faery like feel of the record. If you didn't know better you really would swear you were listening to Stevie Nicks or some version of Fleetwood Mack here. Sophia has clearly nailed it and come up with an album that's cool, shady, romantic, and relaxed. It's a very pretty record that transports us to another time when female artists dominated the charts and whose albums still reverberate today. Every Waking Moment is impressive stuff that will appeal to anyone to anyone who loves traveling back in time.
It's been a while since I've heard anything from legendary hardcore label, Equal Vision, so when the Dear and Departed showed up on my desk I figured it was going to be some sort of post hardcore, screamo band. Damn, was I wrong. Not only was I wrong about Equal Vision but I was completely wrong about the Dear and Departed. Fronted by Los Angeles tattoo artist Dan Smith (of reality TV fame), The Dear And Departed are anything but hardcore, post hardcore, or screamo. While they might have some emo tendencies, I think that would be a disservice to the band as they have so much more going on than most emo bands on the planet.
Their album, Every Waking Moment is a sweeping soaring affair that's burdened with a heavy heart and the songs to match. Vocals hit high octaves, riffs get ethereal, synths wash over it all and the songs become as light as air. It's uplifting at times and overwrought with emotions at others and Every Waking Moment is almost like some sort of post emo-Coldplay-Cure hybrid where depression is relieved through songs that fly on the wings of hope. It's all very emotional stuff and while that might sound a bit lame, it really isn't because The Dear & Departed write such great songs that they hide all this stuff within catchy choruses, rolling rhythms, and memorable guitar work.
Every Waking Moment was a pleasant surprise and somehow I feel like I came out ahead on this one. I went in with an idea of what all this was going to be about and I was so completely wrong I ended up being blown away. The Dear and Departed are an impressive unit and despite having Hollywood connections they have very well written songs and an album that's modern, melodic, and potentially massive. This record is so good you'll want to listen to Every Waking Moment of it!
Rebecca Zapen is from Jacksonville and was born into a musical family here. While growing up in Jacksonville she was raised on Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart. When she went to FSU on a musical scholarship she filled her time with opera, chamber music and jazz. After graduation and moving to the west coast, Zapen expanded he repertoire to include swing, classical, klezmer, country, folk, and rock. If you were lucky enough to see her during her many performances and appearances with other bands you knew then what the rest of the world is finding out now; that Rebecca is one heck of a talent.
Her latest album, Nest is kind of a true life tale of her and her husband building their nest and the pregnancy that went along with it. Taking nearly 13 months after a break for the birth of her son Zapen got back into the swing of things and dedicated herself to finish the album and burning the midnight oil to get it done. 20 months is how long the whole process took and you can hear that reflected in the quality of the songs and the album as a whole. Nest is a true labor of love and it shows that Rebecca is a diverse songwriter who is anything but a one trick pony.
From violin to acoustic guitar, orchestrations to Robert Palmer Nest really does have it all. This is a gorgeous folksy album that sounds as if Rebecca was in your living room playing it. It's a cozy album; the kind you put on with a roaring fire on a cold night. Her voice is silky smooth and seductively sweet and the musicianship she brings to the table is no different. The girl has so much talent that she's able to switch gears at the drop of a hat. Her ability to be a folk singer one second and jazz singer the next is truly impressive. Just listen to the songs, "Peace," and "Ledge," and you'll see what I mean.
Listening to this record is a treat because I vaguely remember her playing Borders a lot when I worked there. So to hear this album come to fruition and for it to be so good is like coming full circle. Nest is a great record from a local artist whose destined for big things; be it family life or being a singer/songwriter. Rebecca Zapen is an immense talent who can croon w/the best of them, sigh so sweetly, tap into her inner Suzanne Vega, play the violin, write songs that belong in Lemony Snicket and do one hell of a bossa nova lite version of, "Addicted to Love." Nest has it all under one roof and it's an entertaining listen that any resident of Jacksonville should be proud to own.