Thursday, May 31, 2012
Bleeding Knees Club are not a roughed up thuggy hip hop group but rather a bunch of caffeinated suburban skate punks who have apparently fell one too many times. Sweet, fizzy, and full of energy this club is all about youthful innocence, teenage love, and hooks the size of California. Their album Nothing To Do is a masterpiece of garagey effervescent indie pop channeled through The Drums and a lexicon of surf rock. It's a mighty fine record to say the least.
With short but sweet songs and no more than three chords holding them together things are kept simple and stupendously catchy. There's nothing complicated about Nothing To Do and it doesn't even try to be remotely intricate. In fact Bleeding Knees Club, you suspect, would rather be doing 720 Olly's than rehearse so why make things incredibly difficult? My guess is that recording went something like plugging in, cranking it up, churning it out and then skate or die. Nothing To Do nonetheless is incredibly charming because its fizzy riffs, innocent sense of youth, and simplistic but effective approach. Think of it this way, if the Vivian Girls were teenage boys, they would be Bleeding Knees Club.
Nothing To Do is easily one of the coolest records I've heard this year. It's punky lack of effort and it's indie pop vocals combine to create a beast of a little record that's over faster than a Napalm Death album, Short, spunky, and spectacular one hopes that Bleeding Knees Club never grows up and that they always have Nothing To Do.
The Mowgli's are a California band who sounds remarkably like a west coast pop group similar to say someone like The Tyde. Bright, sunshiny, and brimming with optimistic pop hooks on a slightly laid back tip, The Mowgli's are living that Californian life. It's really no surprise then that their latest seven inch is titled San Francisco and while that's a bit more urban than their sound that sonic sentiment still pulsates through every song here.
Beautifully bright and incredibly catchy, San Francisco is an indie pop treat as big as the city itself. Complete with horns, piano, and sugary sweet melodies that are so laid back they're half asleep The Mowgli's still manage to leave you humming what you just heard and craving for more. With two upbeat tunes and one tender folky track San Francisco is like a perfect day capped off with a beautiful California sunset viewed from the Bay Area. San Francisco is a fantastic single and it's jangly, jolly pop will leave you itching for more from The Mowgli's and my guess is that's just the way they wanted it.
Sleep Maps album Fiction Makes The Future is anything but sleepy or mapped out. Instead this sprawling forty minute EP is a metallic, grindy, post rock excursion into the world of science, sound, and the apocalypse. It's an amazing array of riffs, future forecasts, atmospherics, and an overwhelming sense of power all smashed together via musical fission. The songs that make up Fiction Makes The Future are epic in nature and technically brilliant in construction and so set up for your imagination it's exciting to just sit and listen.
With the average song clocking in at well over six minutes the band have so much space in which to let the riffs flow Fiction Makes The Future has the potential to go on forever. Quite honestly, that's ok because these guys can play and play so well that listening to ten hours of these guys just going nuts would be freaking awesome. Sleep Maps are the real deal and they've shown what you can do when you take metallic riff assaults and mix it with post rock atmospherics. Fiction Makes The Future is a stunning look into the future and it's the sort of thing that's imaginative, technically proficient, and widescreen in it's scope. Sleep Maps have built an impressive record here and if you're a musician of any kind you need to pick this record up and just analyze the heck out of it.
From moody, dark, nearly ambient stuff to psychedelic jams, The Black Seeds are clearly pushing the boundaries of the genre throughout Dust and Dirt and they do so with such style and skill that at times you forget what’s going on. In fact, two or three songs into Dust and Dirt I was considering that the press release included with the CD was wrong. The Black Seeds have such an intriguing un-reggae approach to reggae that it’s truly something you have to hear to believe. But I guess that's to be expected because The Black Seeds hail not from the Caribbean, not even the UK, but rather the south western side of the Pacific ocean...way down in New Zealand. Their take on the genre is totally refreshing, challenging, and musically brilliant. They take the framework of reggae and then start tacking things on to it to give it additional depth. A bass wobble here, a trippy ambient passage there it's all fair game to these guys and what Dust and Dirt ends up sounding like is a reggae album for people who appreciate music more than they should. At times sounding like old Chili Peppers lost in the streets of Jamaica via New Zealand, Dust and Dirt is so far out there that it just mesmerizes.
Dust and Dirt proves that reggae can be just as diverse a musical form as anything else. While its foundation hasn't changed in eons, it's what is tacked on to it that gives the genre it's uniqueness and without a doubt The Black Seeds add so much to it that it's barely recognizable. These guys are amazing at what they do and they've pushed the genre forward decades through their reckless experimentation and downright funky jams. Not bad for a bunch of guys so far away from the Caribbean it's hard to think about.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Taking elements of dubstep, proper reggae, dub sounds, glitchy electronics, and loads of bass Sunmonx worship at the chapel of the slow motion dance floor and seem quite content to reside there for eternity. Power Salad is a thoroughly enjoyable album of deep dubbed out grooves, wobbly basslines, and sonic vistas that seemingly go on for ages. Sure the overwhelming influence of reggae shines through in just about every song here, but this is far, far away from being a reggae album; Power Salad has too much going on to be limited to just one genre. Tripped out, lost in the haze, and so laid back its hypnotic this is the kind of record that melts stress away.
Sunmonx are worthy of worship. Their soundscapes are epic and their record is amazing. Shaped by bass and dub, Power Salad is a cross continental, cultural, and musical exploration that stretches beyond time and space. I've heard the future, ladies and gentleman and it's played by monx...Sunmonx.
Is there anything that Numero can't do? I've been following this label from the get go and it has constantly delivered priceless rarities of the highest order. Where they find the records they reissue or how they find them is beyond me, I'm just glad they do. While there have been some diversions into folk territory, and other genres they built their reputation on their soul reissues and truth be told they are worth more than their weight in gold. The latest of these reissues is Lou Ragland's I Travel Alone box set.
I Travel Alone is a four record set that's caught between decades and crossovers. This is a series of recordings that's smack dab in the middle of soul music giving way to funk and Lou Ragland as a result jumps between genres as if he were playing hopscotch. While this might hinder some artists, Ragland is undaunted and does so with style and ease whether it's on his own or with his group Hot Chocolate (no...not that one). I Travel Alone is an amazing journey of classic soul sounds that will remind you of any host of classic soul singers (Otis, Sam, Sam & Dave & uh..Lou) and then just for the funk of it, Ragland occasionally gets down with his bad self. And you know what? I Travel Alone never suffers because of it. This is an awesome box set of soulful ballads, funky grooves, and classic soul sounds (that weren't really classic when this was recorded) that's all sung and played with so much heart, so much purity, and so much honesty it's impossible for it to be bad. This is amazing stuff that's so essential it's worth giving up water for...seriously.
At an incredible four records (or three CD's) I Travel Alone is an amazing document of one of Cleveland's long lost soul heroes. It's a journey from his early days as a member of Hot Chocolate to his solo career that never quite took off in the way it should have. Ragland is an American treasure that deserves to be unearthed and revered. This set attempts (and succeeds) at doing just that. His work is awesome, his voice pure and his songs are fantastic. I Travel Alone is an incredible story committed to vinyl and anyone who considers themselves a fan of soul music should pick this up immediately. Lou deserves it.
Behold brothers and sisters for the Funk Ark has come ashore! Not quite a religious experience this Washington DC group of jazz musicians create super tight jams that are packed with action, drama, and a sense of style that's glaringly brilliant. Their latest album High Noon is a groovy record filled with perpetual movement and endless musicality and it's come to rescue us all from a sea of boring yuppie jazz.
High Noon is such a well played album that the band can barely contain themselves on each of the songs here. There's so much going on, so many sounds, so many vibes, and so many grooves that it's almost impossible to keep track of. The Funk Ark never stops playing and each song on High Noon is packed with enough kinetic energy that it could quite potentially solve our nation’s energy crisis. Horns blare out bright, brassy stabs while a variety of percussive instruments carry these sounds along its tidal wave of movement and melody. How is this done? Through the use of an incredible horn section and a ridiculously good percussion section The Funk Ark lay it all down with an overwhelming sense of urgency and more importantly fun.
High Noon rocks and whether it's the groups funk influences, Latin influences, or jazz influences the band allows them all to permeate each song here and the result is a vibrant percussion and horn laden exploration of the groove. The Funk Ark is simply amazing at what they do and the energy and talent they bring to High Noon is incredible. This is one heck of a record and if you like anything jazz funk related you'll find this record a mandatory listening experience.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The history of grunge sort of officially starts here...and it doesn't even start in Seattle. Feedtime stumbled into the Australian scene long before Green River were even an idea and inadvertently became one of the most important bands to ever come from the Land Down Under. Unfortunately, so few people outside of Australia knew or know who they were that their credentials and records weren't appreciated or even heard until now. Thanks to the fine folks at Sub Pop the Aberrant Records era of this highly influential band is now available.
Consisting of four reissues from 1982-1989, the Aberrant years sees Feedtime cranking out the muddy punk metal influenced sounds that would make them a blueprint for things to come. Rough, raw, and stomping it's way through each of the reissues the band sound so far behind but so far ahead of the time it's frightening. It's all a bit shambolic and chaotic but amidst all that craziness is melodies, horns, and a pop sensibility that permeates itself in every song. This might sound like a train engine about to die, but it sounds like one with harmonies and hooks that make the ruckus memorable. For example, "Ever Again," from the suction LP is a raw, simple tune that's elevated with a little horn riff that's hard to get out of your head; it totally makes the song. And stuff like that is the joy of these reissues. There's nothing complicated here, it's just three guys out there making a racket and having fun doing it.
Feedtime pummel their way through the four albums that have been reissued and anyone with a desire to know more about what grunge was like before it was grunge or what the Australian scene was like before Jet came along would be wise to check this set of records out. Re-mastered from the original tapes and including rare single and compilation tracks as well as color booklets these reissues are something to treasure. Sub Pop has once again rescued something that was a hidden treasure and made it available to everyone. Nice work guys.
Hailing from South Africa, Spoek Mathambo is one of the more original hip hop/electronic artists on the planet and utilizes his local environment and desire for global reach to influence his sounds. His second album, Father Creeper has recently been issued and shows Spoek taking on a whole host of sounds and fusing them together into a heady brew of world music, electronic, hip hop, and rock smashed together. This is the sound of an open mind let run rampant and it's a pretty intriguing listen.
To say that Father Creeper is an out of the ordinary record would be an understatement. This record is so confused in all the best ways that it’s as if Spoek was being pulled in thirty different directions all at once. It literally can't make up its mind if it wants to be a straight hip hop record, a wobbly work, a world music record, or a rock album. Guitars clash with bass waves, keyboards mingle with traditional sounds, vocals tag team between angry to angelic and the whole thing is a dizzying array of well written songs that are compelling and interesting. Spoek in the course of eleven songs demonstrates with skill and talent why being open minded towards music gives you a broader palette to play with, experiment with, and construct songs with. He's a fantastic chemist in this regard and you can hear it on just about every song here.
Spoek Mathambo might come from South Africa but his sound is far reaching well beyond his home country. This inventive and fascinating artist easily fuses anything he sees fit into his already enormous arsenal. As a result Father Creeper has something for everyone and this is the sort of record that crosses borders, genres and cultures all in the name of a good tune. If you have an open mind and seek something out of the ordinary than Father Creeper is bound to find its way into your collection.
Kiyomi is a Japanese American singer songwriter whose name means pure beauty and whose music is a reflection of that. In fact, her album is a literal interpretation of the Japanese word ongaku, which means sound fun or comfort. That's pretty much Child In Me from the get go. As one might guess by that title Kiyomi's album is anything but a downtrodden walk through the dark side of her New York home.
Child In Me is a wondrous exploration of Kiyomi's youthful and playful side and see's her taking on songs from in all directions. From jazzy arrangements to crunchy rock and roll tunes and everything in between Kiyomi does it all. Thankfully, her voice is strong enough to allow her to carry the tunes no matter the direction she chooses to take them. I find she has a special quality with the more jazzy arrangements on Child In Me and her voice shines throughout each of these songs. In fact, it almost seems as though she was made to sing these kind of tunes as her voice soars in all the right places and hits all the high notes perfectly. It's gorgeous stuff that would fit perfectly in an intimate and dimly lit environment.
Child In Me is a really good record from a fantastically diverse vocalist that's able to take on anything that comes her way. Kiyomi has the vocal chops to pretty much tackle anything she wants to and while my personal preference is her jazzier side of things, she'd succeed anywhere her voice carried her. If you like breezy, upbeat, music with a bit of vocal fireworks you'll find Child In Me an entertaining record from an artist who has learned that an open minded singer songwriter is a successful one.
So what do you suppose a guy who writes music for Television, movies, and the like gets up to when writing music outside of his day job? Metal, jazz, classical? Oh no...He writes thematic music for an unscripted movie. The Elkcloner as he's known here does exactly that. Filip Mitrovic, to his friends, lets his imagination run rampant on the streets of Gotham and results of those rampages have become his album, The Elkcloner.
Expansive, experimental and a showcase of The Elkcloner's talents as a composer The Elkcloner is an incredible album that swerves between genres like a high performance auto. It's atmospheric and ambient one moment, jazzy and poppy the next. This is an album that's got more plot twists than a David Lynch movie and might even be more exciting. Inventive and out of the ordinary, The Elkcloner takes all that he knows from his career and uses it to his advantage on this album. Whether it's dramatic pauses or instrumentation, twisted vocals, or ethereal guitars Mitrovic doesn't turn anything away and his record is better because of it. Listening to this record one can't help but see how he would use these songs in a TV show or movie and if you let your own imagination run free you'll be taken on one heck of an adventure.
Original, strange, slightly demented and one of the most imaginative records to come across my desk in a while The Elkcloner answers the question what kind of pop music would a composer write if given half the chance. The Elkcloner tries everything here and succeeds in most instances. Honestly, that’s really nothing unusual because composers must be diverse in their approach to writing especially if it's for something visually oriented. Intriguing and atmospheric, The Elkcloner is a thrilling listen that needs a movie to go along its soundtrack.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
With a flair for the dramatic and a sound that harks back to vintage country and girl group pop Tristen is yet another artist who has redefined what it means to be a singer songwriter. While her album, Charlatans At The Garden Gate is clearly focused on her, the album itself is far richer than just girl with a guitar and some backing instrumentation. In fact, Tristen sounds something like Zooey Deschanel if she lived in Nashville, Tennessee and was raised on a steady diet of Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton records. \
Charlatans At The Garden Gate is a classic sounding record that had I not read it myself would have believed it was from a much earlier time. With a certain rustic backwoods feel and production to match the record is packed with homey textures, pastoral scenes, and simple hooks. It's all very folksy kind of stuff that's sweet, adorable, and very listenable. While this is undoubtedly the solo project of Tristen, she allows her band to shine throughout the recording and their flourishes, instrumental touches, and homespun melodies really help to flush out Charlatans At The Garden Gate. In fact, I think it's safe to say that a lot of what makes Charlatans At The Garden Gate tolerable is the fact that her band has a pop sensibility about it and the ability to be creative throughout the record.
Tristen has come up with a poignant and fascinating record that is at no loss for ideas and unique approaches to making folk listenable. Charlatans At The Garden Gate is a breathtaking, well rounded, and rural record that's well worth a listen or three. From the lilting arrangements to the dramatic strummy guitars, and the twangy nearly heartbroken vocals Charlatans At The Garden Gate is the kind of folk record it's ok to like. And for me to say that...it must be good.
Despite having one of the most questionable names in all of indie-dom Coke Weed are not as bad as their name would seemingly imply. Far from being neither a nuisance that cannot be killed nor a narcotic that's illegal (or a sugary soft-drink) this band is far too dusty and dreary to be anything of the sort. Their album Nice Dreams is a shuffly, rustic, nearly acoustic affair that at times will remind you of Mazzy Star at their most countrified and the Velvet Underground at their most rural.
Nice Dreams is a twangy, hazy, odd folk record that just discovered electricity and is learning what it's all about. This is a rustic kind of record that's simple in its pleasures but rich in it's songs. Featuring the bare minimum of instrumentation required for a band and enough boy-girl vocal melodies to make it almost seem like a conversation Coke Weed muddle their way through Nice Dreams is beautiful fashion. This is an uncomplicated record that relies on its songs and harmonies to charm you and it works perfectly.
The pastoral and austere sounds that make up Nice Dreams weave a tapestry of folk inspired tales that sound as picturesque as they do wonderful. They might have a rather bizarre name but Coke Weed have a solidly simplistic and countrified sound that's something to behold. Nice Dreams is an excellent album that would make Hope Sandoval blush and it's nice to know that dusty and dear music can still sound so honest, pure, and good.
In an age where the attention span of the average music listener is one song it's nice to see that some artists have not given up on the idea of the full album. House producer Beni is one such person. His latest album Someone Just Like You is a sprawling dance floor devouring monster of house music that could essentially be released as ten solid singles.
Taking a whole series of vocalists, influences, samples, and just about everything else Beni inserts them into the massive House-a-tron 3000 MK II and creates tunes that are so ridiculously catchy and so unavoidably dancey that how he's not selling a million records a day is beyond me. Someone Just Like You is a solid album the whole way through; that's a rarity in dance music as most albums have two or three decent tunes and then tons of filler or crap remixes. Not Someone Just Like You, this is full on ten tunes a cranking. Mixing early Chicago house, Detroit techno, enough British and French electronics to add some spice the whole thing sounds like a round trip voyage through house music from the late 80’s through today. It's awesome.
Beni has proven that artist created albums are not dead within the dance music universe. Someone Just Like You is pretty much the definition of a perfect house album. It' slowly builds to a frenzy and then gently brings you back to earth. The grooves are deep, the hooks massive and Beni's production is second to none. Why listen to EDM when you can listen to something that's seductive, sexy, and easier on the ears? Beni answers that for you...because house is a feeling and Someone Just Like You is loaded with them.
How do you make something that's already pretty good better? Well, you have it remixed of course! And that's exactly what Metronomy has done with their mega popular and fantastic English Riviera album. With thirteen remixes of tracks appearing from that record, English Riviera Unreleased Remixes pretty much reworks the original into an even sweatier workout on the dance floor.
While remix albums are generally seen as either a cop out or a total hit and miss kind of affair, English Riviera Unreleased Remixes dodges those bullets like a super hero. For the most part English Riviera Unreleased Remixes is almost better than the original album. This is an album after all that is designed to make you move and make you move it does. The grooves come in from all directions and all varieties and it's a sweaty 50 minutes before you can catch your breath from everything you just encountered. What I'm wondering is why was Metronomy sitting on so many of these remixes? These aren't throwaway kind of tunes but full on peak time dance floor devouring beasts from the planet BPM. Whatever the reason, whatever the bribe was, I'm just glad that someone convinced (or paid) the band to release this record because it's darn well near essential listening.
From house to electro and the outer fringes of dub it's all here and packed neatly and tightly into one compact disc. English Riviera Unreleased Remixes is far from a write off. If you enjoyed the original version of English Riviera you'll find these thirteen remixes a necessary companion. DJ's, collectors, and electronic music aficionado’s will find English Riviera Unreleased Remixes a fantastic record packed to the rafters with awesome reworks of classics in the making. Produced to perfection and with enough electronic battle weaponry to conquer the globe Metronomy are once again poised to rule the floor.
Elias' new album Fossils is the kind of record that the word epic was made for. Some pop is big, some is small, some is happy, some is introspective and some take all that and craft it into something that truly is all encompassing and that's where Elias comes into play. Fossils is such a sprawling and varied record that it manages to absorb anything that gets near it and make it its own.
With a sound put together by famed producer Jeff Dawson (Marcy Playground) and the ability to take the familiar and make it sound unique, Elias clearly knows what to do to make pop songs sound utterly inescapable. Fossils is a great record that could very well give someone like Coldplay a run for their money. The songs are gigantic, far reaching, and emotionally charged and so easily remembered they make ABC's look like a doctoral thesis. Their guitars chime, their vocals soar and the rhythm section drives it all home with precision. Fossils is packed with ten of these anthemic and massive tunes and quite honestly there's not a bad one amongst the bunch.
Balancing the light with the dark, the introspective and the epic, Elias has tapped into some sort of masterful songwriting gift and made Fossils fantastic. This is a great record that makes no bones about its influences and its desire to be all conquering. This is an honest record that absorbs everything and makes it its own. Fossils is a master class on how to create the big rock song and then amp it up a notch; it’s the kind of class so many bands could benefit from.
The latest single from Voltaire Twins, is a discotastic dance floor monster. Residing somewhere between Ladyhawke, Club 8, and St. Etienne Voltaire Twins so effortlessly combines a strong pop sensibility with the ability to create grooves it's almost criminal. Their latest EP, Young Adult is extremely catchy, sensual, and opulent to the point where the songs are nearly blinding.
Unfortunately short at just four songs Young Adult is just about perfect and will leave you craving for more. With angelic vocals hovering over the candy coated synthetic grooves, the whole thing has a sweet, heartwarming, ethereal and otherworldly feel to it. In fact, it might just be that Young Adult is the soundtrack to the great big indie disco in the sky.
Deliciously danceable and delectably divine Young Adult is an absolutely brilliant record that you must hear and hear again. Voltaire Twins have done a fantastic job at whetting our appetites here, let’s just hope the next record fulfills our hunger.
Monday, May 7, 2012
There's classically influenced metal and then there's Classical music influenced by metal and that seems to be where the appropriately named Silent Opera fall. This symphonically melodic and operatic band cranks up the riffs and shatters glass like Maria Callas on a rampage. Their album Immortal Beauty is a soaring epic of aria's set to walls of distortion and chaos. It’s interesting stuff to say the least.
With vocals that almost belong on the classical stage Silent Opera truly sounds like it's something straight out of the 19th century. We're not talking high pitched, but we’re thinking full on contralto vocals here. This is amazing stuff that truly needs to be heard to be believed..it’s like Leonard Bernstein conducting the orchestra of the damned. While I'm not a fan of opera at all (classical yes...opera no) this is simply mesmerizing stuff that's hard to ignore. When you take those vocals and throw it in front of a wall of crunchy driving metallic guitars and drums the combination is just too bizarre to turn away from. I'm not sure I can handle too much of Immortal Beauty at one time but for short durations this is some pretty heady stuff.
Immortal Beauty is not your run of the mill metal album nor is it a run of the mill symphonic record. It's classical crossover in a whole new way and it's one way to get folks who never would have paid attention to the form interested in it. Silent Opera are anything but...this is one powerful wailing behemoth of a band and it's loud and powerful. Immortal Beauty is an acquired taste for sure, but certainly something worth checking out if just to hear how Silent Opera pull it all off.
If you're old like me you totally remember Mickey's illegitimate non-Disney created super hero brother, Mighty Mouse. While I wasn't old enough to be around for the original run of the 'toon I do remember it as a kid and his ever famous saying, "Mighty Mouse is here to save the day!" Well that saying would seem to hold true for the producer who uses the same moniker as Mickey's brother. This superstar DJ loves to blend a bit of discotastic house with a bit of a psychedelic edge in his tunes in order to achieve regular chart appearances. With chart positions in hand and floor filling tunes in hand, Mighty Mouse aims to rescue us from a dull and meaningless musical life, he should succeed thanks to his just unleashed Disco Circus Volume Three.
Obviously the follow up to the first two volumes, Disco Circus Volume Three picks up right where he left off and packs as many slow motion disco, house, and whatever else he can find tunes on to two solid CD's. Clocking in at over two hours Disco Circus Volume Three is an epic disco journey down the river of sparkly, shiny, chilled beats, deep house grooves, and weird sounds that flow seamlessly together into the river of time and the dance floor of eternity. This is a fusion of disco past, present and future and it's fantastic.
Slowly building things up over the course of the mix, Mighty Mouse takes us on a journey through the space time continuum that will have you working the floor with reckless abandon. He's an awesome mixmaster and the thirty tunes he's selected for Disco Circus Volume Three are all big hitters, peak time performers and total tunes. Disco Circus Volume Three is an amazing mix and Mr. Mouse lives up to his motto of saving the day because he saves the listener from a perpetual dubstep nightmare. Disco Circus Volume Three is seductive, sensual, and stupendously good disco house mixed to perfection. In a world corrupted by tuneless dance music, it's nice to see Mighty Mouse bringing back the flavours of what made it all so good in the first place.
Dubbed party rap by just about everyone Ninjasonik's new EP, No Swords Or Masks is essentially like listening to a series of un-released recordings from N.E.R.D. or So Solid Crew. Edgy, smart alecky, and laced with humor this is a record that's kind of designed as much for club play as it is for head phones. This is the sort of thing that sounds fantastic at 200 dB's or 20 and you can hear the subtly at work here if you actually sit and listen. It's pretty good stuff to say the least.
Ninjasonik throws pop culture references faster than a Nolan Ryan fastball and crunches beats together like an accountant on a tax deadline. It's feisty unusual sounding stuff that's close enough to Top 40 rap to latch on to but independent enough that it stays outside of the mainstream. Ninjasonik has found the perfect balance here and No Swords Or Masks benefits as a result. This is a record with all the frills of huge chart ruling rap but edgy enough to not let those frills kill the beats and keep the songs humorous and just dark enough to be deadly. One thing's for sure, this EP might serve as an introduction to the world of Ninjasonki but it hints at something sinister and stupendous yet to come.
There's rock and roll and then there's RAWK. Rawk is heavy, distorted chaos that cannot be contained and that's exactly what Cairo Knife Fight is all about...mayhem. These Kiwis crank up the amps up to twelve, churn out massive power chords and destroy everything in their path. Their new EP, II is a brutal attack of doom enriched guitars and driving drums that sound like an Abrams tank out of control.
Bringing to mind bands like Black Sabbath, Kyuss, and the like Cairo Knife Fight know the way to true power is by slowly grinding everything into bits by utilizing a pulverizing musical attack. They manage to level everything over the course of II as it's riffs grind on and on in an unrelenting manner until you reach the end where Cairo Knife Fight see fit to just put you out of your misery.
Cairo Knife Fight has unleashed a demon of a record here. II is an awesome and somewhat vulgar display of power. This is a record so heavy it can't even lift itself; it's rooted in classic doom and is so powerful it generates nuclear fusion. If you wanted to hear the sound of the apocalypse before it actually happens pick up a copy of II listen to it and repeat the process until the world ends.
Although The Roommates were a band that were supposed to exist as a limited proposition with extremely rare and limited records that no one would ever hear something went wrong along the way. Stumbling their way onto Slumberland Records, The Roommates, who literally were roomies, did the exact opposite and became a real band. The band piled the four songs they recorded rather ramshackle onto a seven inch for the label and have just released it. The Winnifred EP is a short but sweet record of garagey indie rock that teeters close to being power pop mod revival stuff but is just a little to brash and raw to fall into either of those camps.
That's ok though, because it doesn't matter, the Winnifred EP is still a fantastic little treat. While it might not exactly be a secret anymore, or a limited proposition its fare from mainstream pop success. This is rough around the edges, jangly, crunchy, pop-tastic rock and roll that's ridiculously catchy. Unfortunately short at just four songs (really two that take the four and cram them together) this is something to treasure and to thank The Roommates for because lord knows if we'll ever hear anything else from them again...or if they have their way anything we'll be able to find out about.
Despite the name, Alcoholic Faith Mission are not a group of drunken missionaries who play music on the side. Oh no, these Danes play woozy, hazy dream pop that's so delicate and fragile that the very sound of themselves could destroy every song they've written. They are tuneful, beautiful, and intimate and they are the very sound of lovelorn sleep. In fact, AFM songs sweep in and out of consciousness like a dose of Ambien induced sleep and their album; Ask Me This is like something out of a never ending dream.
Ask Me This is a touching, gorgeous record that floats gently by in an almost ghost-like fashion. Its songs sound as if they are being whispered into your ear and when they're over your heart and your ears can't help but yearn for more. AFM have done an amazing job at putting together songs that reach into your soul and never let it go. By using a sparse and atmospheric blend of acoustic instrumentation and pop music, they create a space in which your mind may roam. Strings, multi-part harmonies, accordions, and everything in between can be found here; it’s all over the place in all the best ways. The songs are potentially depressing to the point where they may or may not actually be life affirming but darn it if they don’t sound wispy and wonderful. AFM come off as being the best combination of being happy and sad at the same time and truth be told, it doesn't matter what they are, because in the end they're pretty amazing.
Ask Me This is such a well crafted piece of ethereal orchestrated pop that it's hard to believe that a mission sized band isn't making it happen. Fragile, quiet, and sounding sad, Ask Me This is the sort of record that you want to give a hug to and hope for one back. Ask Me This capitalizes on its minimal approach to create the kind of atmosphere that makes this cuddly feeling happen. Wafting in and out like a breeze, the songs scattered throughout this record hint at their beauty with small impressions of sound. AFM do a wonderful job of weaving these tapestries of sound into something that's stunning and comes quite highly recommended. Not bad for a bunch of drunk missionaries then.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
For those of you who have been around a while, when you see the name Pond in relation to music you more than likely think of the legendary band that released several albums for Sub Pop during the 90's. Well get that thought out of your head because that's not who this Pond is. This Pond isn't even American in fact this Pond came from the land down under and brought it's rock and roll with them. While sonically there might be some overlap between the two Pond's this new Pond came ready to rock and they do just that on their debut album Beard, Wives, Denim.
Beard, Wives, Denim is pure unadulterated rock and roll that kicks butt and takes names later. Pond clearly knows how to write classic rock and roll tunes and they do so in massive quantities here. Huge riffs leap out at you, choruses level you into submission and the whole thing sounds like it was recorded in 1974. This is classic rock that's about forty years too late to the party and that's to say that this thing RAWK'S. This is a great record through and through and if you're a worshipper of power chords, pseudo mysticism, prog rock, and distortion you'll love Beard, Wives, Denim.
Pond have released something here that is like listening to some sort of rockier version of ELO meets Zeppelin meets Jet in a Doctor Who continuum collision. Beard, Wives, Denim is lost and time and is in no hurry to figure out how to find their way home. This is a huge rock and roll record that's trippy, ethereal, packed with massive jams, and almost too heavy for the compact disc format. Beard, Wives, Denim is an excellent debut and Pond does the name justice here. If you dig the rock and roll the way it used to be played you'll find that this is one Pond worth setting up camp around. It doesn't get much better than this and let’s just hope they never figure out how to fix the space time continuum.
Ok, let’s just get this out of the way right up front; Charlene Kaye is a singer/songwriter but she's not what you’re thinking. Taking her folk roots and jazzing them up and then sugar coating with a layer of pop Kaye makes music that crosses genre's with ease and steers far away from being a cliche. Her album, Animal Love is a tour de force of Kaye's songwriting talents and her voice.
To say that Charlene Kaye can sing would be an understatement. The girl can belt out notes and melodies so well that it will leave you in awe. She's all over the place on Animal Love and displays her range from jazzy arrangements, electro floor fillers, folky mellowness and everything in between. I mean within the first two songs alone she's hitting peaks and valleys most vocalists would only dream of and it's awesome.
When you ad in the fact that Animal Love's songs are as diverse as her vocal range, the whole experience is something to just sit and listen to. Animal Love is a complete package; from top notch production, to catchy songs, and of course that voice it's all here and it's the sort of thing that deserves to be gargantuan. In a world with overblown American Idol nonsense Charlene Kaye could very well be America's Best Kept Secret. I suspect that she's ok with that because it allows her to explore her songwriting talent as well as her expansive voice.
Animal Love is a fantastically diverse record that frames what Charlene Kaye can do so well that it's almost like a work of art. This is a record that jumps from genre to genre with ease, lets Kaye's vocals carry it and keeps you enthralled throughout. She may enjoy being America's Best Kept Secret but it can't last forever. Kaye is a brilliant musician with one heck of an album and it's only a matter of time before the rest of the world finds out about her. It's inevitable.
Anchorsong's album Chapters is so appropriately titled that it should either come with a book to go along with it or have a movie constructed around it. Residing somewhere between chilled house, acid jazz, and cop theme music Anchorsong create mini epics with each song they unleash and allow them to spread far and wide in their quest to set a mood. Mostly instrumental and filled with enough mysterious chilled grooves to make your imagination run wild, Chapters is a thoroughly enjoyable ride.
Chapters is an atmospheric thing of beauty that's intriguing, expansive, and well crafted. With song titles setting the stage Anchorsong set sail for adventure on every tune here and they crash through waves, sail quietly in the breeze, and arrive at a port of call called Mystery. From strings, lush synths, jazzy drums, deep basslines and not a vocal in tow Anchorsong relies on their diverse instrumentation to carry Chapters along. With highs and lows, ebbs and flows this is a record that uses everything at its disposal to create a unique sound collage that's as upbeat as it is downtempo and as lavish as it is breezy.
Chapters is a great work of imaginative music. Now all that needs to happen is to have it put to use on a bigger stage. Hollywood...we're looking at you. This is the perfect soundtrack to a movie not yet made. Anchorsong's ability to create ambient textures, compelling instrumentation and intriguing songs should make finding a Silver Screen home easy. Let's just hope it happens soon.
Simian Ghost might not necessarily be the best name for a band on the planet but thankfully this band of merry Swedes has the songs to back up their unusual name. Their album Youth is pop music as only a power trio of Swedes could play it; amazingly optimistic, bright, and exceptionally catchy. I'm not sure how it happens, but the Swedes are just able to crank out vintage sounding, brilliantly bright pop music in an almost assembly line fashion. Is there a template for this stuff that the rest of the world doesn’t know about? Do they take a class in school where every kid learns how to perfect the three minute pop song? Who outside of Sweden knows...maybe that is what the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy was really about?
Anyway, despite coming from someplace so frigid, bleak, and sparse Simian Ghost makes Youth incredibly upbeat, airy, jangly and expansive. This is a beauty of a record that's uncomplicated by excessive technology, production, or musical theories. Youth is seemingly three guys getting together, cranking up the tape machine and just having a right, good jangle. This is pop music girls frivolously skip to and the tunes the sun rises to...it's warm, inviting, and hypnotizing. With plenty of British and Garfunkelian (yeah...that's a word???) influences taken and made their own Simian Ghost have done their darndest to hone their skills to a deadly point. They pretty much succeed because even at its most sparse the record is still beguilingly brilliant.
Youth proves ten times over that Simian Ghost have mastered writing songs that hit you square between the ears. This record is a pop feast of epic proportions and it never ceases being great. They might have a questionable name but let us never question their ability to create a good song because they've proven themselves worthy here. This is the sort of album that will give you a lift when you need it, get you on your way, and make you think positive thoughts and in this day and age...what more could you ask from a record?
Allo Darlin's latest album Europe is a sparkly gem of anorak wearing indie pop of the highest order. With jangly guitars, Byrdsian like influences, and vocals that are so adorably cute you'll want to hug them Allo Darlin have perfected the art and skill of being twee. Like a combination of Camera Obscura and Roger McGuinn this boy/girl band write heartbreakingly awesome pop tunes as if it were second nature to them.
Europe is a jolly, frivolous record that skips its way across the songs that make it up. From Neil Armstrong to Capricorn to love gone wrong and love gone right it's all here and it's so incredibly good that if it doesn't put a smile on your face you should probably seek some help. This is the soundtrack of spring and summer, it's bright, carefree, and laced with sunshine and the band sees fit to keep the jangle quotient high throughout the record. This is a record rooted in 60's pop but modernized in an AM Stereo kind of way. Europe like the continent itself might have its troubles but is ultimately brilliant.
Allo Darlin are awesome at what they do. They can write heartwarming adorable pop music at the drop of a hat. Their songs jangle, jump, and warm the cockles of your heart. Europe is a fantastic record that never loses sight of the fact that all the best albums are reaffirming and fun. Allo Darlin has quite possibly written our feel good hit of the Spring and we couldn't be happier.
Bishop Morocco isn't actually a man but a Toronto based band that are seemingly influenced by the sound of Joy Division and the Stone Roses records. Their latest EP Old Boys is a sparse slightly ethereal record that's quite obviously rooted in late 80's British pop and is filled with enough introspection and contemplation to make me want to seek therapy. Slightly depressed but nonetheless fantastic, Bishop Morocco have fully embraced the aesthetic and approach of their heroes and created something that's as much of a homage as it is something their own.
At six songs the band has a little bit more room to explore their sound then they would on a single and this is a benefit to everyone because Bishop Morrocco is bloody fantastic. Old Boys is an airy minimalistic work of pop genius that's filled with vintage guitar textures, calculating vocals and a blast of jangly goodness that should never end. From the pre-shoegazing swirl of the title track to the downtempo ebb of, "City Island," Bishop Morocco has tapped into something so pure and so good that it makes Old Boys a mandatory repeat listen.
U.V.A.'s latest EP MVMNT is a dreamy electronic wonderland that sounds as though it were recorded at the exact moment between being awake and falling asleep. The group has created a fresh batch of synth pop from the great beyond and its awe inspiring stuff. With wondrous synths, vocals that are reminiscent of Ian Brown at his Roses best, and bubbling beats MVMNT is a lush record whose four songs are not enough quench your thirst.
From sleepy ballads ("Cassidy,") to more upbeat tunes ("Typical Queen,") MVMNT's ethereal and dreamy sounds are something to behold. This is like listening to a classic Creation or 4ad record from the early 90's that never got released. It's absolutely awesome stuff that's lost in a synthetic haze that's opulent and unearthly and U.V.A. have created something that's as close to being a goose bump moment as humanly being possible in music. MVMNT is a synth pop symphony of seductive and sensual sounds that's as lost in the haze as it is found as asleep as it is awake and as amazing as it is unreal; excellent stuff then.
I'm not sure whatever happened to (International) Noise Conspiracy but I suspect that Portland based band Paradise might have taken care of them. While they may not dress as sharp as INC did and they may not be from the same punk/hardcore background as them but Paradise sure as heck sound exactly like them. It's almost frightening how close the similarities are...from a female farfisa player to the same garage rock grooves one might think that Paradise is INC in disguise. It's eerily similar stuff and their album Diary Of An Old Soul only serves to offer circumstantial evidence indicating that this may indeed be the case.
Firmly tapping into their inner Mod's Paradise creates farfisa driven garage rock that's groovy. Diary Of An Old Soul is loud, brash, energetic and really freaking good. The record is so rooted in 60's garage rock and sounds so authentic that if these guys aren't really INC they might just be the Sonics, Troggs, or something else that crawled out from a suburban garage circa 1964. Diary Of An Old Soul is a raw uncompromising but ridiculously fun record that shakes and shimmies it's way across it's eight songs. Garage rock doesn't get much better than this and listening to Diary Of An Old Soul is like spending a day in rock and roll Paradise.
Thoroughly modern, groovy, and rooted in the past Diary Of An Old Soul is a rough and tumble ride through the garage rock underground. Paradise kills it here and rock with a never-ending level of energy that's hard to slow down. These guys are awesome at what they do and they write such brilliant songs that it's almost like hearing a 60's utopian vision for what rock and roll should be. If it's not utopia at least it's paradise.
Sounding so much like the famous Swede's you'd swear they were them, Paradise have tapped into their inner Mod and come up with something so stupendously good it could only be a Diary Of An Old Soul.
When one names their band, I Am The Avalanche it's usually safe to assume that jazz, rhythm & blues, or classical music is not being played. However, if you were to assume punk rock you'd be exactly right. This grip it and rip it three chord pop punk band cranks up the amps, grinds out the riffs and screams its lungs out on its latest album Avalanche United.
Despite being cranked up to 11 and sounding as if their heads are about to explode I Am The Avalanche spew out enough melodies to sugar coat it all and make Avalanche United sound like a lot of fun. With a strong pop sensibility, a wry sense of humour, and an absolute mastery of writing short punchy tunes I Am The Avalanche invade your subconscious like a blitzkrieg. This is a rush of energy, a quadruple shot of caffeine straight to the heart and something that will leave you torn up, sweaty and exhausted but with a smile on your face.
These guys are exceptionally good at what they do. They take something as simple as a three chord punk rock song make the thing sound like every Epitaph band ever, Blink 182, and a sugar rush all at the same time. Avalanche United is a rollercoaster ride of riffs, screams, laughs, melodies, and songs that you can't forget. It's everything that pop punk should be and more. Avalanche United is such fun to listen to and so upbeat that if you don't start moshing in your living room and screaming along there's something the matter with you.
The odd thing about the band Races and the first thing you notice upon listening to them is that they don't seem to be much in a hurry to get anywhere. This Los Angeles sextet (yep...six members) creates pop that's slow going, dramatic, and ultimately uplifting. Their album Year of the Witch is firmly in touch with its inner Coldplay and Flaming Lips and its songs are so gigantic that they could potentially fill a stadium. These guys know what it means to write a big song and they're not afraid to show it.
While Year of the Witch is ridiculously huge in its aspirations it still has a foot in the weird and wacky world of psychedelic pop and when it's not reaching for the stars it tends to be reaching for something else that may or may not be headed for the outer reaches of the galaxy. Just weird enough and just noisy enough to make things interesting Races write songs that come in at a skewed angle but still, thanks to a keen pop sensibility, are good enough for you to never forget. These guys make strange seem dramatic and exotic and in the end that's half of Races charm; their quirkiness and ability to pull it all together.
Optimism seems to be another quality this band has oodles of. Even at it's slowest and potentially most depressing (see "Living Cruel & Rude") the band still has enough hope left to pick itself up and get on with it. It's impressive and allows the band to make things even more dramatic and sweeping while keep all the other qualities in check. As a result of all this Year of the Witch is an intriguing and emotional rollercoaster that's fairly introspective but resides just outside of the norm.
From weird guitar sounds, ghostlike choruses, chirpy organs, and detached vocals it all seems a bit odd but when you listen to it repeatedly the pieces fall into place. Year of the Witch is a spooky record that has enough oddities, quirks, and strange things that set it apart but they work alongside the bands undeniable ability to write a good pop song. Races might not be in a hurry but the journey they're on is by far one of the more fascinating one's you're likely to hear or experience.
I have to admit, I don't know a single thing about Devin Therriault. I’ve never heard of him and no idea where he came from, but then his album Romancing came across my desk and I was blown back about twelve feet. Wow. Devin is one heck of a power pop star. Fully embracing garage rock, the entire Supergrass discography, and 80's era power pop Devin Therriault dispenses high energy tunes as if he were a rock and roll pill mill.
Romancing is a spiky, melodic, jumpy treat whose guitar riffs are like bolts of lightning that fire out of Devin's fingers and hit you square between the eyes. So charged and so amped is this record that it's a whirl of activity, dance floor action and melodic mayhem all rolled into one. Every song here is played with massive hooks in tow, infectious guitars blazing, and drums that plough through it all at breakneck speed. It's truly fantastic groovy garage pop. At times Romancing sounds so much like Supergrass one can't help but wonder if Gaz isn't actually Devin Therriault in disguise. I mean, I've never seen the two together and it's like magic that Devin showed up. It makes you wonder.
Speedy, spiky, and addictive Romancing embraces power pop, 60's garage rock, and perhaps Gaz a little bit more than it probably should. Regardless, Devin Therriault has written a stupendously good record that rocks and rolls and moves your soul. This is how rock and roll should be played; with reckless abandon and nothing to lose. Edgy, fun, and so infectious you'll need a shot to recover from it, Romancing is the sound of power pop in the 21st century and it's in fine health.
Miike Snow offers an interesting proposition on album number two. Rather than dwell in the past and continue to crank out the slacker meets electro tunes they became famous for, the band essentially went to sleep per chance to dream. And dream they did. Now rather than sounding like a bunch of mindless 20 something’s lacking motivation, they've departed upon Ambien fueled excursions into the heavens. They’ve taken dream pop and so successfully fused it with electro, house, and all kinds of trippy electronic sounds that they should serve as the poster children for what sleeping via medication can do for you.
Happy To You is the sort of record that slowly drifts into the heavens and sees no point in hurrying to get back…ever. At times sounding like the unofficial soundtrack to Jack Horkheimer's Star Gazer or something like the space disco at the end of the universe, Miike Snow is so creative on how they shape songs, craft hooks and use atmospherics to set the tone for each song. It’s impressive stuff. Sure many of these songs are ridiculously danceable, but they offer so much more than a series of banged out beats in repetition. This stuff is deep, beautiful, and so well crafted that Happy To You is as close to perfect as you can get without actually being perfect.
Unusual in it's approach, crafty in it's creation and brilliant in it's brainwashing, Happy To You is a unique sounding electronic record that takes everything Miike Snow loves and pulls the covers over it. Piano house sidles up to horn sections, swirly pop cuddles with bubbly synths and the whole thing leaves you satisfyingly stupefied. Miike Snow pushes things forward by using its imagination and the results are stunning.
Happy To You is a record that grows on you faster than penicillin grows in a petri dish. If any record right now was destined to be an Ipod commercial Happy To You would be it. Happy To You might be a little bit chancy but that's what makes it such a special record. These guys simply have a way to make his songs sound weird, dreamy and cool all at the same time.
Mati Zundel is a bit of a trailblazer. Along with his label, ZZK, they've been experimenting with the dance music template and taking things in all kinds of unpredictable directions for ages. Fusing soca, dancehall, baile funk, dubstep, house, electro, and just about anything else they can think of Mati Zundel is bound and determined to make people move in one way or another. Mati's album Amazonico Gravitante is a snarly, sizzling synthetic through the streets of Buenos Aires.
Sounding as if it were Carnivale music for robots, Amazonico Gravitante is an electronic street party with loads of banging beats, seductive grooves, and synthetic rhythms to last an eternity. If you were to take modern recording technology and send it on vacation I would guess that this is the sort of thing it would send back. Amazonico Gravitante is an electronic post card that's laid back, diverse, entertaining, and globally aware. Unafraid of any sound, experiment, or idea Mati Zundel allows his imagination to run wild and the results truly are stunning.
Mati Zundel has created a party that we're all invited to regardless of nationality. Amazonico Gravitante is a tropical paradise carved out South American influences, electronic equipment and a global dance floor. While firmly rooted down south Amazonico Gravitante has world wide appeal with its dance floor filling capabilities and is the kind of record everyone needs to hear if not own.
Lee Ranaldo is a bit of a legend. Having been part of Sonic Youth since it's inception, Ranaldo has pretty much seen, done, and invented it all and it's no wonder then that Rolling Stone has ranked him as one of the 35 greatest guitarists ever. The guy can play, can write, and believe it or not, can even sing. On his latest solo project, Between The Times and The Tides Ranaldo shows no signs of letting up.
Residing somewhere between classic indie rock, a sonic cathedral, twangy alt-pop, and a bit of the blues Between The Times and The Tides is appropriately named. Fusing it all together and doing so with a bit of a Sonic Youth slant Ranaldo keeps things a bit familiar while venturing into non-Sonic Youth territory. It's a diverse and good record that sees Lee Ranaldo continuing to learn as a player and unafraid to try new things while doing it. A bit dreary and slightly downtrodden at times, Between The Times and The Tides isn't exactly the happiest record on the planet, but those emotions fuel Lee's creative fire and allow him venture into cool places throughout which ultimately makes the thing very good.
Between The Times and The Tides is a mature record played by one of the greatest indie rock guitarists ever. Lee Ranaldo might have been doing this forever, but he still has the chops and apparently has tons of tunes rummaging around in his head. Between The Times and The Tides is a fascinating and focused look into Ranaldo's solo efforts and paints a rather cool and colorful picture of him. With an endless reservoir of guitar licks and songs Between The Times and The Tides is just another fantastic notch in the career of Mr. Ranaldo.
The New Cassettes are a British pop band that have just enough post punk edge, indie dance grooves, and power pop punch to make their album Winterhead stand out like a sore thumb. Winterhead is an energetic record that pogos all over the place, jumps into walls, brings down the roof and then gets back up and does it all over again. Energetic to the point of needing medical attention to slow down, The New Cassettes perpetuate their vintage feel and retro-tastic name into something thoroughly modern and propulsive. This is an impressive unit that has tapped into the fine art of brilliant British pop.
Spiky, speedy, and stupendously catchy listening to Winterhead is like listening to Bloc Party, bits of blur, and maybe even the Futureheads all at the same time in complete harmony. Jagged guitars slice and dice riffs at a lightning quick pace while hooks, melodies, and lyrics are miraculously placed over it all with precision. This is a record that's not for the faint of heart or anyone seeking something mellow. The New Cassettes clearly do not have time to waste on being lackadaisical...they have twelve songs to get through and no time to do it in. Thankfully, they manage to do it all with a strong pop sensibility and great songs in tow.
The New Cassettes are a fantastic band and the fact that they are able to play with such potency and vigor while still maintaining a sense of urgency and what makes a strong pop song is impressive. Winterhead is nearly perfect; it's memorable, energetic, and well written and one of my favorite records thus far this year. British pop is alive and well and it's got enough energy to last a lifetime. Nice work guys.