Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Ok, I have to admit this was not the Ceremony I was expecting. With a name like that I was thinking Ceremony would be some sort of synth pop band based loosely on New Order. I mean Ceremony is a record by New Order so I guess that was an easy leap for me to make. Whoops, I messed up. What Ceremony are, is nothing like New Order. Oh no, Ceremony are a loud and brash rock and roll band with elements of Epitaph-ish punk rock running through every song.
Thrashy, raw, sloppy, and all over the place at the same time Ceremony's album Zoo sounds like being chased in one by a series of lions, tigers, and crazed llamas. Zoo is noisy three chorded stuff that sounds like it has been ripped from the strings of their guitars against its will. This is a grip it and rip it kind of record where no expense was spared because it sounds as if there was no expense. It's uncontrollable stuff that runs wild across twelve songs and starts all kinds of trouble along the way.
With an under produced DIY sound and enough three chord punk rock to last a life time Ceremony blast through Zoo as if they were kicking a series of doors down; one right after another. Zoo is slightly controlled chaos that only slows down for breathers and to assess the damage. This is garage punk the way it was meant to be played; loud, fast, and hard. Zoo isn't the most revolutionary record in the world and it's unlikely to establish a New Order but it is likely to kick your skull in.
CFCF over the last couple of years has made a pretty legendary career out of remixing others and as an aside made one heck of a name for himself. He's done a fine job of getting bodies in motion, reworking tracks, and generally making a living getting groovy. So obviously when his Exercises mini-LP came across my desk I was expecting a full on bangertastic record. Boy was I wrong.
Exercises is a strange ambient work that sounds like something that Bill Nelson would have released in the mid-80's. CFCF sounds like he's conducting electronic experiments with banks and banks of synthesizers and letting his fingers and his imagination run wild over them. The results of this are a pseudo-new age wonderland with songs that meander about and seem to flow freely from the mind of the artist. With the odd beat here and there, a wandering vocal, and the occasional hint of a melody CFCF keeps things interesting but mostly Exercises is a instrumental soundtrack to a never ending dream.
Lush, experimental, and fascinating Exercises is a surprising release from an artist more known for getting booties to shake. CFCF has thrown a curve ball here and while I was expecting something a little more banging, I thoroughly enjoyed this and even managed to align my chakras while I was at it. I wouldn't say this is an essential release but if you are a fan of CFCF this is a worthy addition to your collection.
Frankie Rose's sophomore album Interstellar couldn't be more appropriately titled if it tried. Blasting off from space in a wave of post-gazing dream pop from heaven, Frankie takes her songs and drapes them in sheets of noise, distortion, harmony, and strange effects to achieve this atmospheric delight. This is an epic and expansive record whose songs drift and float by in pillowy clouds of guitar work, adorable vocals, and melodies that are spun with such sugary sweetness you can almost taste them.
Interstellar is stellar for sure. Frankie’s adorably detached vocals, the spaced out guitars, the ambient synth sounding washes, and the nearly not there feeling of this record makes it sound absolutely gorgeous. Ms. Rose has taken her love of noise and effects and manipulated them into something that will envelope your ears and surround them with lovely sounds from the outer reaches of the Spiral Arm. This is a truly beautiful effort that's spacious, spacial, and special. Frankie Rose has unleashed a widescreen atmospheric pop epic here that spreads its sounds wide and far and it's all encompassing in its reach.
Frankie Rose has swerved clear of any sophomore slump here. In fact she's bested her debut. Interstellar takes everything she's learned in the past, processes it through the International Space Station and then loads it on the Voyager as it reaches toward the outer reaches of our galaxy. Interstellar is a stunning record that drifts in a never ending sea of beautiful sounds and songs.
Nova Social has apparently been a major influence on New York City's underground pop scene for the best part of a decade. Having already recorded two albums it's truly amazing that they're still underground and more importantly I'm wondering why the heck I've not heard of them until now. Their third album For Any Inconvenience should finally see them rise above ground and show the world what they've (and apparently me) been missing...delectably danceable synth pop.
For Any Inconvenience is a polished, tight, well focused record that sounds like Depeche Mode, The Pet Shop Boys, and Hot Chip in a post electro party of epic proportions. This is an incredibly infectious record and its hooks are so far from subtle they might as well be giant clubs that bash you over the head. This is an awesome album that's got its tongue firmly in cheek and its feet firmly planted on the dance floor. In touch with it's inner goth as much as it's inner scenester the album crosses genre's easily and mixes dark flourishes with light touches as if by second nature. It's an album of contrasts and colors, humor and seriousness and I think that's why I like it so much.
For Any Inconvenience is a high gloss well produced production that’s going to be hard to keep a secret or be kept underground. This is high-art that's glossy, shiny, and so good that it can't be held back any longer. This is the album that sees these New Yorkers break out. Nova Social are awesome masters of post synth pop and their lush songs, witty lyrics, and seductive beats will keep your ears ringing and your feet shuffling. For Any Inconvenience isn't any inconvenience at all but a sheer joy to listen to.
Monday, March 26, 2012
Most of you probably already know who La Sera is without actually knowing who La Sera is. La Sera for those of you who don't know is Katy Goodman, who you may know from her day job in The Vivian Girls. Purveyors of all things garage-like and twee, it only makes sense that some of the Vivian Girls if not all of it rubbed off on La Sera's sophomore album. Entitled Sees The Light the album leaves no doubt that Katy is guided by the divine hand of rock and roll and it points her in all the right directions.
Fizzed out, fuzzed out and filled with awesome songs Sees The Light is an indie pop treat that's utteryly fantastic. Katy has a keen ability to write peppy garage flavored indie pop that's as sweet as it is sour and as soft as it is edgy. Her songs are bristling with energy, punky basslines, three chord riffs, and huggable melodies. If there's one thing La Sera is...it's awesome.
Elements of surf guitar, twee pop, her day job, Big Muff pedals, and power pop pulsate through the each of songs here. While those influences are undeniable Sees The Light has a huge heart and sounds as if it's been broken a few times. Sees The Light is a sweet record; the kind you want to give a hug to and the kind of record you walk away from with a crush on it.
Whether it's The Vivian Girls or La Sera, Katy Goodman is one heck of a musician and all of her projects reflect that. La Sera is just the latest and greatest and like the album title says, you should see the light and pick up this rather fine and fuzzy indie pop gem.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Stripped and Chewed is a new record label that was born in The Second City and is a reflection of its musical heritage. To say Chicago hasn't had an influence over dance music would be a huge mistake as house music was essentially born here and it continues to thrive here as Stripped and Chewed is determined to show us. Their compilation EP, Livin For The City is a seven track slice of house music that circles the globe but makes itself at home in the Windy City.
From Paris to Chicago the label selected the very finest and freshest voices to introduce themselves to the world. They've done an absolutely incredible job as this EP is stunning. Filled with sexy, seductive, and sunshiny tunes this record is like the exact opposite of everything going on in the dubstep community. With garage and pure house taking center stage this record’s grooves are all upbeat, energetic and they never stop coming. This is a solid record of floor burners from SCR, The Black Madonna, Alec Carlsson, Broke One, JNL, Maxime F., and Ridney and they all belong in the big room at peak time. These songs are all anthems in the making and would have fit in perfectly in sets by someone like Eric Morillo at Ministry circa 1997-98.
The grooves don't get any better than this and whether it's JNL's slow and funky, "Beausejour," or the two step flavours of SCR's, "Tiger Motel," this is one massive record. If Livin For The City were to be a report card for the state of house music, there would be seven A's across the board revealing the health of the genre to be strong and well studied. Stripped and Chewed may be new on the scene but with Livin For The City it sounds as if they've been around forever. This is one young label worth keeping up with and Livin For The City is one record you need to have in your collection.
Oliver Tank's Dreams Remixed is an aptly titled name for his remix album. Not only is it quite literally eight remixes of Oliver Tank's Dreams EP it also sounds like a series of long wandering dreams set to music. Featuring a whole host of remixes from Silver White, Sleepyhands, to Baske and MONAS the Dreams Remixed album is an aural journey into deep thought, REM sleep, and potential nightmares. Taking ambient music and crashing it into chill wave Oliver Tank's cohorts have created a soundtrack for eight hours of deep sleep.
Dreams Remixed is gorgeous stuff and with more layers of synth than humanly possible. The songs as a result, are texturally rich, lush, and so opulent they almost glow in the dark. Oliver Tank and his remix partners have created one heck of a record here that moves ever so slowly with subtle grooves and beats that gently convey the rhythms of the original versions. It's all very subdued and subtle stuff and in the end rather unobtrusive. This is the sort of record where if you're not careful it will float on by and you won't even realize it.
Composed of eight remixes just about everyone of the artists who worked on Dreams Remixed brought something unique and worthwhile to the table. That being said the reworks are all complex, sumptuous and palatial in their efforts. Dreams Remixed is a fantastic record that sounds ridiculous on a good set of headphones and allows you to drift off into the ethereal world that Oliver Tank and the remixers have created. Dreams Remixed is the sound of your best dream ever put to music and if you've ever wanted to relive it, now, thanks to Oliver Tank you can. I know I'm headed back to sleep with this in my ears, mind, and subconscious.
No one's ever really replaced the gap left by Mazzy Star. Their twangy, rustic, lovelorn pop is the stuff of legends and for whatever reason no one has ever tried to fit in the space left by them. That is until now. I think I've found a suitable replacement for Hope Sandoval and her name is Sharon Von Etten. Her album Tramp sounds as if it were blown across my desk like tumbleweed and it's got that same lovelorn dreariness that made Mazzy Star such a great band.
With a dramatic, hazy, and perpetually sad sounding voice, Von Etten's songs sound as if they were held together by her heartstrings and given too much stress might just all fall apart. Tramp is exceptionally fragile stuff and while not quite as dreamy as Mazzy Star, the haunting melodies this album contains would probably fascinate Hope Sandoval endlessly. Tramp is ghostly wondrous stuff that slowly sweeps you off your feet and penetrates your dreams. It's a delicate intricately woven album whose drama and fragility make the album well worth a listen.
Softly strummed guitars, barely there drumming, and Von Etten's unearthly vocals create the fragile atmospherics this album thrives on. This isn't the feel good album of the year and one gets the feeling that it never wanted to be. Introspective, spooky, beautiful, and fascinating Tramp is the kind of record you just sit and listen to. Sharon Von Etten has a done a fantastic job of conveying the exquisite and graceful nature of her songs and does a wonderful job of making lovelorn music sound tolerable a lot like Mazzy Star.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Bondi Blaster is a group that originated thanks to Argentine slang. You see, Bondi in Argentinian slang means bus and if you can picture a bus as a gigantic boom box, you kind of have the idea where Argentine born, Bay Area bred DJ Juan Data is coming from with his latest project. Apparently, the Bondi is often responsible for the propagation of cumbia music and other kitsch expressions of low-brow pop culture throughout South America by literally blasting music everywhere so it only made sense for DJ Juan, who has never driven a motorized vehicle, to name his project after this unique way of finding new music.
Bondi Blaster's EP Lo' Juimo! is made up of five original songs and a handful of remixes, alternative versions and instrumentals and they're all fantastic. Utilizing electronics, samples, wobbly basslines, traditional cumbia sounds, hip hop and just about everything in between the record is a diverse effort that never stops moving. It only makes sense then that the record is called Lo' Juimo! which translates into, "Let’s Go!" And go this record does. In fact, this record never stops, with loads of grooves, samples, a sense of humor, and the ability to make even the most rhythmically challenged individuals try to dance.
Lo' Juimo! is a fun record that should be played at maximum volume in a Bondi Blaster. The tropical vibes, cumbia influences, and never ending energy makes this a perfect record to welcome warmer weather to, dance to, or just sit back and enjoy a tall drink to. So, Let's Go and enjoy Bondi Blaster...because we deserve it.
I'm not the biggest fan of Dubstep. To me, it's dance music for people who can't handle more than 100 beats per minute. It's slow, grinding, noisy and pretty much tuneless. It's the exact opposite of proper house music, it's not as good as drum and bass, it's about as sexy as plywood and it's seemingly the only UK dance music export America has figured out.
While Skrillex is the unfortunate face of the genre over here there are other artists around the world who aren't like the Nickelback of dance music and actually are attempting to do something different within the genre. Amongst those artists is Brooklyn's Break Science. The duo brings more than just stretched out bass waves and slow beats to create their own brand of brutal dance floor numbers. Break Science's EP Monolith Code is a six track swath of electronic destruction that mixes dubstep, abstract hip hop, drum n' bass, and even a sprinkle or two of house. It's a dark, shadowy big beat kind of record whose basslines wobble, whose beats bash, and whose hooks are murderous.
Monolith Code is absolutely gargantuan in size...its songs are sprawling, mysterious and surprisingly good. If more dubstep was like this I think I could actually appreciate the genre. For two kids from Brooklyn they've got a sound that could easily shake the planet and perhaps rip it out of orbit. They are awesome at what they do and they're open minded enough to realize that you can go outside of the lines and still make quality tunes. They've done that six times over on Monolith Code and proved that theirs is one code worth cracking.
Easily one of the most intriguing groups to come across my desk in a long while, Sagapool is not at all what I thought or what I expected. The story is that they are a group that came to be after a jam session not between guitarists but between an accordionist and clarinetist who together ran through The Godfather theme. After having fun w/that tune and after that session they knew exactly what they had to do...start a klezmer band and that's exactly when Sagapool was born.
Sagapool the album, is a well arranged, phenomenally played record that sounds so classic and so perfect that it's awe inspiring. The interplay between band members and instruments is awesome with both clarinet and accordion taking center stage. Arranged and recorded with a full band in tow much of Sagapool's album is mysterious and vintage sounding despite it only being released within the last year. With mischievous songs of lament, whimsical songs, and songs inspired by Eastern European and Gypsy music Sagapool is a whirlwind of old world sounds modernized.
This is a fantastic record that takes old world charm and polishes it, hones it, and brings it bang up to date. The songs here are alluring and intriguing and one can't help but think what would have happened if Sagapool's founders had never played The Godfather theme together. It's a depressing thought and one not to dwell upon as you listen to this cosmopolitan classic in the making.
Magic Wands are a tag team known as Chris and Dexy Valentine who together creates sensual downtempo beat driven dream pop. Since their initial release Magic, Love & Dreams the band have slowly built up their live reputation and their songwriting prowess and are now poised to take over the world of downtempo. Their new album Aloha Moon is a lush, gorgeous affair that harks back to early Goldfrapp and UK trip hoppers Mono.
Self-dubbed as lovewave, Magic Wands cast a spell over the listener with layered synths, sinfully seductive vocals, and songs that are incredibly catchy. The ten songs here all tug at your ear drums with deep hooks and deep grooves. Aloha Moon is as chilled as it is good and as close to being a combo of trip hop and chill out without it actually being chill out or trip hop. It's just beautiful stuff that's sung with such beguiling presence that it's hypnotizing. Aloha Moon, as a result, is just about perfect in every way.
This is a magnetic and engaging album that charms all who take the time to listen to it. Magic Wands slow motion disco and tripped out chill wave is absolutely stunning and Aloha Moon succeeds as a result. Albums like this are rare nowadays; excellent the whole way through and ridiculously consistent. Call it lovewave, call it chill wave, call it downtempo call it whatever you want just call it good.
The album is due for release on April 24th. You more than likely can pre-order it from Amazon now. Do it.
Despite their rather technological sounding name, Command V are not raging dub steppers, hardcore techno boffins, or anything even close. On no, taking a left field approach to making chilled out pop Command V take downtempo vibes, sedated vocals, and creative license to toy with and create sound. Their self-titled album is a smoky, seductive, slightly strange record that's drawn out, lackadaisical and at times reminds me of early Morcheeba.
Soulful and slowed down the songs have twinges of funk, slight grooves, and so much atmosphere they almost provide oxygen. It's interesting stuff that at times is more soulful than downtempo, more atmospheric than song oriented and more background music than something upfront. Command V is really not a very catchy record, instead, it relies on the ambiance of it's instrumentation to often get you hooked. Sometimes it works, but the songs occasionally just seem a bit too strange for their own good. It's kind of weird; the band will establish a groove or something that works and works well and then tweak it just enough to make it weird and un-wonderful. Even with soulful vocals and solid arrangements the album builds up enough steam and then seems to lose it all.
Command V are clearly onto something with Command V and when they're spot on they're very good, it's just that they seem to want to constantly tweak their template and corrupt perfectly great songs. If they can conquer their desire to add things that don't need to be added or weird out things that don't need to be weirded out they'd be so much more listenable. Until then, I'm afraid Command V will be an anomaly of downtempo that's just a bit to off center for me too like.
Are you a child of the 80's and early 90's? Did you smoke Clove cigarettes? Did you wear a lot of black? Were trench coats a big staple of your high school and college wardrobe? If you can answer yes to any of these questions have I got a record for you. Trevor Jackson presents Metal Dance is an indispensible rundown of the songs that more than likely shaped your social life, dance floor politics, and very existence during high school and or college.
Featuring a who's who of industrial, post punk, EBM and containing more than 20 classics and rarities from such bands as Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo, Neon, Pete Shelley, DAF, Jah Wobble and more this is pretty much the most essential reissue collection of 2012. This is a record that harks back to the day when there was an actual alternative to the mainstream of dance music. This was music that was dark, devilish, and delicious but still had a danceable beat. This is a record that's so in touch with it's 80's heritage and inner goth you can almost see the dry ice coming from the packaging. This is nu-beat before it even had a name. It's spiky, it's spooky, it's lush, it's packed with eerie vocals and hooks and it's downright addictive. Every song here is incredible, every song here (rarity or not) is a classic and every artist here has left their mark on the dance scene of today. In fact, it's not difficult to say that electro, electroclash, witch house, chill wave and the like would not exist if artists like SPK and Fini-Tribe didn't exist. These guys were doing this stuff thirty years before hipsters latched onto it and quite honestly did a better job with less technology.
If you buy one compilation of dance music this year, you should definitely include Trevor Jackson presents Metal Dance on your short list. As someone who grew up around this stuff this is a flashback I don't want to come back from. These songs are fantastic, this record is brilliant, and Trevor Jackson has proven himself worthy of sainthood. Trevor Jackson presents Metal Dance is essential listening...period.
Coming straight from left field, out of nowhere, armed with more samples, and records than they can carry comes Left Channel. This duo simply known as Anthony and Stuart create music utilizing turntables, samplers, tape recordings, and found sound. The result of their efforts is the Giantland EP which is a sliced, diced, chopped, and spliced record that's pieced together with random sounds and samples from everywhere. The whole thing sounds like a nightmare come to fruition and there's enough sound weaving in and out of your speakers to almost give you a migraine.
Giantland is crazy stuff that's not really too song oriented but more sample centered. The sounds and samples shape everything Left Channel does and it's a crazy head trip that probably sounds amazing in a set of headphones. This is abstract experimental music that might strain the tolerance of some while fascinating others. If you like strange sounds and even weirder songs, then tune in to the Left Channel and have a walk around Giantland.
Dustin Wong's new album Dreams Say, View, Create is a classic in the making. This instrumentalist harks back to the days of musicians exploring their instrument and finding sounds that normally wouldn't be made with their respective instrument. The results were often wondrous, expansive records that were imaginative, pastoral, and utterly gorgeous. The same can be said of Dreams Say, View, Create.
Dreams Say, View, Create is a sprawling, epic record that's sixteen songs long and whose songs are inspired by actual dreams and the imagination that secretly goes into every one. Using a whole host of sounds, effects, and techniques Wong creates songs that will remind many of old Robert Fripp and David Sylvian albums. Dreams Say, View, Create is artistically creative, technically proficient, and ridiculously pretty sounding. Wong's craftsmanship and ability to play his guitar in a variety of ways allows this record to literally spread out all over the place. His delicate riffs, strange sounds, and manipulation of his guitar is truly impressive and a far cry from his other work in indie rock.
Dreams Say, View, Create is beyond impressive. Dustin Wong has created a playground for his guitar and his mind and he allows both to run free on Dreams Say, View, Create. This is an ambient masterwork that's not too far shy of some of the more impressive works in the genre. His ability to create an atmosphere while still utilizing song structures is impressive and Dreams Say, View, Create succeeds as a result. Dreams Say, View, Create is a vast record that's perfect for a sunrise or falling asleep too and it's a wondrous work of what a guitar can do.
Cultfever are not a group of radical religious fanatics with strange beliefs. They’re nothing that complicated. In all actuality, Cultfever are a dynamic duo of Manhattan-ites who should probably have a cult following them. With two distinct voices and an incredible sound J. Peter Durniak and Tamara Jafar have created a post-electroclash pop record for the ages. Channeling a host of influences and ideals into each song, the band creates a dizzying array of smart, level headed atmospheric electronic music that's as fantastic on the dance floor as it is in your headphones.
Cultfever is a beat ridden ethereal trip through the stratosphere that's as gorgeous as it's danceable and as catchy as it is intelligent. This is a record that truly attempts to have it all and for the most part it succeeds. Cultfever are so crafty about their songwriting that they weave everything together so tightly and so brilliantly that nothing escapes them. Chillwave, shoegazing, dream pop, trip hop it's all here in bits and pieces and when it's smashed together on Cultfever the results are fantastic. Songs clap, shuffle, swirl around and cast this inescapable hypnotizing spell over your ears. It's all very infectious and easy to latch on to and once it has its hooks in you it doesn’t want to let go.
Durniak & Jafar have created a gauzy, hazy, electronic pop album in Cultfever. The nine songs here are so far from imperfect that the records nearly blindingly brilliant. For just two people, Cultfever, have created a record that's much greater than the sum of their parts and so irresistible I challenge anyone to listen to Cultfever just once. I'd hazard a guess it's probably one of the better records you'll hear all year so it’s easy to say that this is highly recommended.
There's abstract hip hop and there's ambient music and never shall the two meet...until now. Evian Christ is a very unique artist who takes atmospheric soundscapes and combines them with hip hop verse to come up with something that's so blindingly confusing and so incredibly intriguing you'll find yourself gripped. His album, Kings and Them collects a series of songs he’ released on YouTube over the last several months. It might be hard to believe but this 22 year old producer just started to upload tunes in December and became an instantaneous internet star.
Upon listening to Kings and Them it's easy to understand why. Evian's strange and minimalistic approach to hip hop is stunning and it's so out of the ordinary that it shouldn't really work at all. Listening to this album like taking DJ Shadow's early work and slowing it down to a snail's pace and just letting it roll. Even at its most wordy, the songs of Kings and Them still manage to be barely there. Kings and Them is a slow, expansive, airy kind of record that utilizes rhymes sporadically and sparse thumping beats in an effort to let the atmosphere he creates permeate itself. It's all rather gorgeous stuff that chucks the rule book out the window, washes in and out, and floats on by.
While Evian insists that Kings and Them isn't an album but a collection of free songs, the record flows perfectly and ebbs and flows with a grace rarely found in hip hop. Kings and Them is an eccentric and unique album that challenges the notions of what hip hop is and what ambient should be. For these reasons and the fact that it sounds amazing Kings and Them is a pretty essential record.
Straight out of Chattanooga, Tennessee comes the most un-southern sounding band around...Moonlight Bride. Sounding as if they were dumped out of a time warp from 1992 into the heart of the Bible Belt, Moonlight Bride embrace their inner Brit(as one would do) and turn up the distortion pedals to shoegaze overdrive. Sounding like Swervedriver with a bit of an American accent, this power trio is clearly a fish out of water.
Their latest EP Twin Lakes is a quiet/loud affair with guitars constantly being rang, choked, and played to their maximum while distortion clouds the band's songs and creates a sheet of joyful noise around them. Twin Lakes is awesome stuff that fully embraces the gazing aesthetic and shuffles along while relying on distortion to carry the band to poptopian heights. Thankfully, the band also realizes that all the distorted bliss in the world can't compare to a good song and as a result they tap into a reservoir of pop sensibility that allows the five songs here to stick with you.
Unfortunately short at just five songs Twin Lakes is a very good post-gazing retro-futurist blast of noise. Moonlight Bride bear hugs the quiet/loud dynamic and rides it like waves across each song. Mellow parts give rise to loud guitar wipeouts while whispers become loud melodies. It's all very good stuff and this is one bride you don't want to have cold feet with...Moonlight Bride is worth the commitment.
Picture Book are brothers Dario Darnell and Lorne Ashley who were born in New York City but were raised in Manchester UK. They also just happen to be the son of legendary August Darnell who was the leader singer for the seminal Kid Creole & the Coconuts. With that kind of pedigree and cross Atlantic upbringing it really is no surprise that the music these brothers create is diverse and absolutely amazing.
Picture Book's latest single At Last is a housed up, electro, dance floor monster with enough sparkly sheen and slick production to be seen (and heard) from space. Cranking up the Popmusictron5000 to 11, inviting diva in the making Greta Svabo Bech to let her voice dominate the tracks, and then giving their songs just enough room to breathe on the dance floor Picture Book have slam dunked it here. This is a Friday night wrapped up in one fell swoop with four scorching songs. From the stormer that is "Sunshine," to the chilled out, "Terminally In Love," this is the sort of record that ends up being played everywhere from Ibiza to the local supermarket; it’s got that kind of appeal. Picture Book has a hit on their hands here and that's not too shabby for their first commercially available single.
After kind of withdrawing from music around 2007, Photek kind of kept to himself and essentially disappeared off of our collective radar. His new album for K7 DJ Kicks marks a return for the masterful Drum and Bass/House artist and what a return it is. His DJ Kicks appearance is like nothing he's ever recorded. Rather, his turn behind the decks for the series is an atmospheric journey that goes through peaks and valleys and is apparently inspired by the mix tapes that LTJ Bukem issued twenty years ago.
Packed to the gills with essential and exclusive tracks this is a downtempo, chilled out vision of heaven that's stunning, awe inspiring and a joy to listen to many, many times. While Photek will always be known for his klangy obtuse drum and bass and his thumping massive house jams, his DJ Kicks album heads in the exact opposite direction. This record creates expansive worlds with a variety of sounds and a sense of harmony that his older material tended to lack. Photek is obviously older and wiser and you can hear that maturity coming through the sounds here. This is a record that's more about the journey than the destination and all the soundscapes that go by along the way. This is a ride that's filled with wide open vistas, sparse beats, and lush synths all coming together to create a massive record. While the material isn't necessarily his, it's all pieced together flawlessly and allows Photek to show off a bit; I love it.
Photek's DJ Kicks is a more than welcome jump back into the fray. After five years on hiatus, Photek has returned and done so in a big way. Irregardless of whether or not he makes another drum and bass track or another Robert Owens anthem he can always fall back to downtempo and abstract beats because through this record he's demonstrated he's clearly got a knack for the stuff. Windswept, exotic, and absolutely incredible Photek has clearly gotten his kicks off of this record and I think after one listen so will you.
Straight out of California comes the band lost within a time warp; Neverever. Their latest EP Shake-A-Baby is a throwback kind of record that brings to mind classic 50's pop that's sweeping, dramatic and heartbroken and hints of early rock n' roll and rockabilly. It's all very vintage and lush sounding and vocalist Jihae sounds so much like Doris Day at times you'd swear it was her. If you can imagine Doris Day fronting the Raveonettes you kind of have a vague idea of where Neverever are coming from.
Consisting of five songs their latest EP, Shake-A-Baby is a retro-tinged pop record that's filled with swingin' rhythms, soaring vocals, and melodies that are hard to forget. They don't make pop music like this much anymore and it's fantastic that Neverever plan on never ever forgetting the sounds of past while reshaping them for the future. If you like your songs with a bit of an oldies vibe and just enough rock and roll you'll love Neverever and everything they do. The past hasn't sounded this good since 1958.
Originally known as Whispertown 2000, Whispertown has not only changed it's name but changed it's leaning's as well. As the saying goes out with old and in with the new, and gone is Whispertown2000's folk pop sound only to be replaced by Whispertown's turn toward bed-sit lo-fitronica. Their new record Parallel is a fun spunky record that takes the best bits of Whispertown2000 and modernizes it through the use of electronics.
Parallel at times sounds like a series of Feist recordings that never made it on The Reminder. It's all very shy, shuffly, kind of folky, kind of dancey, ridiculously catchy and the kind of pop record that's guaranteed to uplift the lowest of the low. Vocalist and head Whisperer Morgan Nagler has an absolutely adorable voice that's so easy on the ears and so easy to fall for you can't help but just sit and listen to her breathe out the words to her songs. She's got the quintessential indie pop drawl, if you will, and she leads Whispertown on this heartfelt journey across Parallel.
While I much prefer Whispertown's more upbeat and/or electronic direction, I appreciate the fragile delicate moments that dot Parallel as well. Morgan's voice holds it all together and keeps Whispertown consistently charming. Parallel is an impressive indie pop record that has a big heart and big songs and that's nothing to whisper about.
Talk Less Say More may sound like an emo band, but this group is far from black hair dye and comb overs. Residing somewhere between Fischerspooner and Figurine, Talk Less Say More offer a stark, distant synth pop like sound that's theatrical, minimal, groove laden and ridiculously good. Their album England Without Rain is a minimal post pop opus that pays tribute to a whole host of influences.
Covering everything from Asian sounds to god-like guitar solos England Without Rain takes synth pop on a grand circle tour around the musical map. At times sounding like David Bowie at others like a long lost electro-clash group Talk Less Say More cover it all and do so with a glossy, retro, and futurist sheen that's simply fantastic. England Without Rain is a slightly theatrical, slick affair whose drama is carried out with detached vocals and a whole host of synthetic sounds that span time and space. This is the future of pop music envisioned by everyone in 1983.
England Without Rain is a great record packed with track after track of pop minimalism that shines brighter than a 1000 suns. With an incredible pop sensibility and sense of futurism Talk Less Say More create a synthetic robotic world where pop music is created by machines and perfected by mathematical formulae. It appears to be a cold world but underneath it all is an overwhelming sense of positivity. In a world of overly serious dance music, Talk Less Say More look to the future with a vision of minimalism and fun and create a record that's very good.
Young Magic's cover (see above) is an obtuse, out of focus image that's a swirl of a cover. That cover pretty much sums up Melt perfectly; a picture truly is worth a thousand words. The band takes a dizzying array of sounds and somehow, someway, smashes them all together to come up with this warped palette of songs that sound like water colors on acid, a bad dream coming to life, and warping through hyperspace without any oxygen. It's a twisted and a peculiar record that if your not careful will give you a headache.
Melt is exactly as it says a melting pot of instrumentation and ideas that come together in a collision of sounds. At times so annoying you'll want to turn it off (see "Youth With Air,") and at times so beautiful you'll wonder if it's the same band. Young Magic cast all kinds of spells over their songs and the results are a confusing amalgamation of things that don't always make sense. Swirly atmospherics mix alongside raps, driving beats beat down synthetic rhythms, vocals fade in and out and by the end of the thing you're left wondering if what you just listened to wasn't a psychotic episode. This is a trippy record and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. When it's on it, it's on it and Melt is magnificent but when they go off the deep end the record just gets to be too noisy and weird to be any good.
Melt has a ton of great ideas buzzing around it and as much as that's a strength it's also it's weakness as it simply has to much going on for your ears to latch on to anything. This is chillwave that's got an identity crisis. The beats tend to be good, but what envelopes them at times is just too much for your ears to process. With some efficient editing and perhaps some medication for ADHD Youth Magic can cast spells as powerful as Harry Potter but right now they're about as good as a young Neville Longbottom.
Unless you live under a rock you should know who Peter Hook is. His legendary bass lines and playing style are known the world over as some of the most influential in modern pop music. Hookie has been a busy guy the last couple of years with various projects, tours and the like and his latest project is a team up with Happy Monday's back up vocalist Rowetta. Known as The Light he and Rowetta have taken a few classic Joy Division anthems and even completed an unfinished work for their EP 1102/2011.
While the original versions of each of the three complete Joy Division songs could never be beat, Rowetta's vocals give each of the covers a sense of drama and near operatic presence that the originals didn't have. I prefer to think of them as completely different interpretations of the songs rather than a tribute. While musically they sound similar, Rowetta's vocals really make them completely different and take them in a far darker and moodier direction, if that's even possible. Her soaring vocals cast a shadow over the songs which allow them to be grimmer than the originals.
Perhaps the biggest draw of this EP though is the unearthed and unreleased track, "Pictures In My Mind." Essentially a spiky, jumpy post punk tune Peter Hook finished the tune off by thrashing it out a bit, making it a bit rambunctious and less atmospheric than other Joy Division songs. Whether or not it could have ever been an A-side to a single is up for debate as it even appears as track two here. It is a good song though and like the punky energy that's been brought to it. Hookie has done a good job of flushing it all out and the vocalist who sings the tune so successfully taps into his inner Ian it had me wondering whether or not the vocals were actually pre-recorded.
If you're a Madchester fan, a Joy Division fan, or a Monday's fan you'll find 1102/2011 a worthy investment. Featuring a communal vibe and new material what Joy Division fan wouldn't want this? Here's hoping that if The Light continues maybe they'll develop some new material not tied to either band...lord knows they've got the talent to pull it off.
Those Lavender Whales are a group of South Caroline-ans who create music for lazy rivers, sunshiny days, spring mornings, and long walks. Their album Tomahawk of Praise is a indie pop gem that takes rustic influences and cheers them up a bit. It's a shy and relatively fragile record that sounds as if it were so delicately assembled and so bashfully played that it's as if Those Lavender Whales were hiding when they recorded it.
All that being said, Tomahawk of Praise, is quite worthy of praise. It's a fantastic record of jangly indie pop that utilizes banjos, pianos, and boy/girl harmonies so well that it's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It may be shy and fragile, but the record is ridiculously upbeat and adorable. This is such a huggable record that the arms on the record cover could probably reach out and give you one...and if they can't they should. If ever a record was twee and cute this would be it. The innocence, the apprehension, and timidity that permeate every song make Tomahawk of Praise incredibly likeable. This is a humble little record wants to be your friend and Those Lavender Whales really want to share it's whimsy with you.
Tomahawk of Praise is a great record. Those Lavender Whales have created a syrupy sweet record that's so sugary and so good that you'll find yourself wanting it near at all times. This is the kind of record that could put a smile on even the most bitter of individuals. Happy, modest, rustic, quirky, jangly, and most importantly, fun there's really nothing bad you can say about Tomahawk of Praise. It's fragility and constant upbeat nature makes it worthy of heaping praise up on it and it's fantastic and catchy songs make it worthy of many, many listens.
The Estrogen Highs are not a group of girls who get per-menstrual with their guitars,oh no, this is actually a bunch of guys who aren't even on HRT but somehow have come up with a most feminine name. The band, in all seriousness, is a garage punk outfit who detune their guitars, amp up their riffs, and throw out songs like yesterday's trash. Their album Irrelevant Future is a raw, under produced stumble through a three chord neighborhood where technicality is replaced by never ending energy.
They may not be jazz musicians or even know who Miles Davis is, but Estrogen Highs have a level of rambunctiousness and honesty that powers them through any musical difficulties they might have. They've got the three chord thing down pat and they beat the heck out of every three chords they play with the result being a twisted heap of punk rock that's spiky, catchy, and a bit sentimental. Irrelevant Future might seem to have a depressing overtone to it, but the music keeps things upbeat, speedy, and a lot of fun. This is raw rock and roll unleashed on the world and let alone to run rampant.
Irrelevant Future is an enjoyable listen of sloppy, spazzy, jangly, aggressive pop music that sounds as if it were recorded in a living room with a Tascam four track. It's great stuff whose purity and honesty is a refreshing change of pace. There's no posturing, no hipster preening; it's just pure energetic rock and roll and it might just kill you. Estrogen Highs might have a confusing name but they write easy to figure out stuff and it's done so well that it's impossible not to like. They may think they have an Irrelevant Future but the actuality of it all is that their future is looking pretty bright.
The name Coast Jumper has all sorts of suicidal connotations attached to it. It sounds like a grim name if you ask me, but the weird thing about that is that it's about the darkest thing about the band. Combining ethereal guitar work, distortion, and a sense of being off center, Coast Jumper create a strange sort of worldy indie surf rock vibe. It essentially sounds like the sun rising over the California coastline and then crashing into the sea. Their album Grand Opening is a study in quiet loud fluctuations, lush harmonics vs wrangled guitars, and strange songs that are wispy and noisy.
Grand Opening is an intriguing listen because of Coast Jumper's strange band dynamics. This is a band who for the most part sound as if they're asleep and only occasionally wake up in a startled fit of guitar pyrotechnics and noise. It's all good though because whether loud or muted the songs here are hazy and gauzy delights. This is a Sunday morning set to music with a dose of panic thrown in to make it all a bit exciting. Guitars seemingly wind their way through songs, vocals sigh their way through and drums seem brushed and barely played. It's only when the band goes into a fit that things get rambunctious and chaotic; at that point it's like a sheet of distortion falling on top of you.
Coast Jumper is a nice album of contrasting sounds and styles battling for control. Ethereal or distorted, quiet vs. loud, peace vs. chaos it's an endless struggle on Grand Opening as both seem to come to a draw. For the most part Grand Opening is a pretty good record of jumpy, strange, whacked out indie rock that may or may not be suffering from continual nightmares. If you like a jumble sale of a record then Coast Jumper have created the ideal recording with Grand Opening; it's a roller coaster ride of loud and soft gone off the deep end.
Rhye is a band that I know little about. Sometimes things come across your desk and you don't really pay attention and then when you listen to them you're like, "Wow. Who the heck is this? Where have you been my entire life?" That would be Rhye in a nutshell. I'm still not sure who they are but I'm glad they're in my life and their debut EP is an absolutely gorgeous surprise that nearly blew me away.
In an age where no one has seen hide nor hare of Everything But The Girl, Rhye has happily moved into their space and released a lush, chilled, housey EP that would make Tracy Thorn blush. Chilled vibes cascade over beautiful vocals, while sumptuous synths layer themselves together to create a sensual atmosphere that's opulent and cool. This is the sort of stuff the world needs more of; it's lavish sounds are a mood changer and a de-stresser and lord knows that's a good thing.
Pop music doesn't get more luxuriant than this and it's as simple as that. Rhye may have come out of nowhere but they deserve to be everywhere. For a debut EP, they've knocked it out of the ball park here and if this EP is any hint of what's in store for their debut album we're in for a treat. As it stands now the Rhye EP has got to be one of the best single's I've heard in 2012 and will leave you breathless wishing for more.
The Just Barelys are a Canadian outfit who consist of just two members; Stephen Kelly & Eleanor King. This dynamic duo write jumpy indie pop that brings to mind memories of classic Teen Beat records from the mid to late 90's. Focused on charming boy / girl harmonies, jangly and jumpy guitars, and danceable beats the band have tapped into their inner jangle pop gods and created one heck of a record with Mad Bits.
Far from mad but close to being perfect Mad Bits is a fizzy pop treat that's kind of like Mates of State if Kory played guitar in stead of keyboards. The record is all sunshine and happiness despite their slanted lyrics and it's about as catchy as SARS. The Just Barelys are an awesome band and their effervescence is so contagious that if you're not grinning from ear to ear by the end of the record you should probably go see a doctor. With just two members and just two instruments the fact that they are able to pull this off and do it so well is a tribute to their heart and their ability.
Constantly upbeat, consistently catchy, ridiculously jangly and about as light as air Mad Bits is indie pop brilliance put on repeat. The Just Barelys are far from barely being good, in fact I think it's easy to say that Stephen and Eleanor are just about as good as you can get. Simple, to the point, fun, and just quirky enough to seem odd The Just Barely's are a duo worthy of praise. Mad Bits is a smile the size of Texas, it's a jolly romp through a field of classic indie pop sounds and quite honestly one of my favorite records this year.
Canadian singer songwriter Louise Burns harks back to a time with singer songwriters had a spring in their step and female indie rocker's were everywhere. Whether intentional or not, if you can imagine someone like Juliana Hatfield or Kristen Hersh in like 1995 you have idea of where Louise Burns is coming from. Her latest album, Mellow Drama, is a jangly, poppy affair that has more sassyness and spunk than most of her contemporaries combined.
Mellow Drama is a bit personal and introspective but far from being down, negative, slow, or depressing. Oh no, Mellow Drama isn't even really mellow, rather, it's an upbeat sounding record that was pretty much put together by Louise herself. While Louise might label herself as a singer songwriter, nothing about Mellow Drama would indicate this. The songs here are rich, feature loads of sounds, and stays about as far away from being folk music as the distance from Vancouver to Florida. As a result, this is far from a boring album and the fact that she embraces her inner 90's girl so well is awesome.
Complete with piano, strings, brushed drums, spooky songs, jangly pop, introspective lyrics, jumpy guitars, and tons of originality Louise Burns has created a singer songwriter album that it's more than OK to like. Mellow Drama is a rich tapestry of sound and creativity and the fact that Louise played this all by herself is a testament to the fact that she's more than just a girl with a guitar. If there's one singer songwriter album you buy this year, I'd invest some money in Louise Burns' Mellow Drama.