Tuesday, June 26, 2012
His album Fear Fun is a swooning, crooning, heartbreaking trawl through his musical psyche. It's fascinating stuff that alternates between sounding like Chris Isaak, Lyle Lovett, and country ballads. With a bit of twang, long drawn out notes and a musical direction that would make someone like David Lynch think this guy is awesome Father John Misty is a unique talent. Fear Fun isn't necessarily a feel good hit, but it is the sort of album that even if you don't like the genre you can help but sit there and just listen to what he's done.
Fear Fun is like a folkified, countrified, broken hearted lounge singer's journey into depression. It's an intimate, rustic, lonely record that long's to feel the arms of someone around it but never quite gets to. It’s quiet, unobtrusive, and looking for attention. With that being said it's thoroughly enjoyable stuff even if it's a bit too twanged out for me. Countrification and twanginess aside you should give praise to Father John Misty for he preaches the gospel of love unlike anybody you'll ever hear in your life.
Remember when Of Montreal used to be really good? Remember back 1999-2001 when they were nearly twee, in love with the Kinks, and weren't so far off the deep end they could write a pop hit with their eyes closed? If you can remember those days and enjoyed them you'll absolutely love Miniature Tigers. Seemingly trapped in a Kevin Barnes dream that he has yet to wake up from, their latest album Mia Pharaoh is what Of Montreal should still sound like but never will.
A fantastic indie pop album Mia Pharaoh touches on psychedelic pop, twee pop, broken hearts, sunshiny days, and even laying it down on the dance floor for a night on the tiles. It's a brilliant pop record that's incredibly catchy, fragile, and hanging on for dear life but somehow, someway keeps an optimistic attitude throughout. Miniature Tigers do a great job here of taking their quirky and somewhat disturbing sense of humor and channeling it into songs that if you don't listen to carefully you'll miss the punchline. It's slightly pervy stuff (kind of like Of Montreal) that would make a crossed dressed Kevin Barnes blush. That being said all this is cleverly disguised in massive sugar rushes of hooks and riffs that are impossible to get out of your head. The first song on Mia Pharaoh ("Sex On The Regular") is so easy to remember that I was humming it in my sleep last night. These guys clearly know how to write a huge infectious pop song and have done exceptional job at planting them throughout the ten songs here.
Mia Pharaoh is an indie pop triumph that should make Of Montreal embarrassed. Miniature Tigers have pieced together a gem of a record that's at home at the local indie dive as must as it is wandering the streets at night in love. Mia Pharaoh is an excited, tender, but lovely record that shows Miniature Tigers turning into an indie pop juggernaut. Let's just hope that they don't fall off the deep end like their peers did...that would be tragic.
As you undoubtedly know, Kitsune is a French label who have made quite a name for themselves over the last five or six years for releasing mind numbingly good electro from around Europe and occasionally the States. And while they've released all these tunes from all over, they've never concentrated on one area directly until now. Sensing that the Americans are finally falling in love with electronic music, Kitsune has set a trail forward by releasing their first Kitsune America compilation dedicated to all the stuff coming out on this side of the Atlantic.
It's pretty much common knowledge while most of what we take for granted dance music wise was originally invented here in the States, we shipped it overseas where it went nuts and forgot about it. Now, thirty years after that groundwork was laid by the likes of Derrick May, the youth of America have latched on to the dance floor and don't seem to want to let it go. This compilation firmly proves that. Kitsune America is a fourteen track exploration of North Americans who know how to boogie and write some darn fine songs while they're at it. This is a ridiculously amazing record and quite honestly there isn't one duff track on this album. From St. Lucia, DWNTWN, Childish Gambino, Heartsrevolution, Poindexter, Giraffage and loads of others this is pure dance floor gold spun with magic, glitter, and amazing beats. Whether it's chill wave, house, electro, it's all here and it's ready to go.
The fine folks at Kitsune have pieced Kitsune America together with love, dedication, and quality control. There's a reason why the label is nearly legendary and it's because they love this stuff and refuse to settle for anything second best. This record is perfect. It's your Saturday night planned out for you without you knowing it. The tunes are packed with infectious melodies and mesmerizing beats and it's a hot, sweaty, summer night spent on the dance floor and right now that's like the best thing ever. Seriously. Cheers to Kitsune for bringing their quality to the States now it's up to America to reciprocate by buying tons of records!
Despite the group’s name being Afrolicious isn't at all what you might think they would be. The thing is so not what's expected that even the cover is deceiving. You can't help but look at this thing and think, "Ah, Afrolicious cool name for a reggae band." Holy miscalculations Batman...it's so much more than what you think. Their second EP Pleasuretime is undoubtedly influenced by dub and reggae but it’s not either. Rather, this record is a chilled out, deep house vacation into the haze of your mind.
All that being said, Pleasuretime is a brilliant EP. With an endless groove that's pretty much established within the first minute or two of the record, Pleasuretime digs deep into the chilled tropical vibes and comes up being as Balearic as Ibiza on a summer Saturday. Afrolicious have released on heck of a little record here and its hyrbid use of dance, dub, reggae, and jazz is just about unforgettable. After two super impressive EP's that takes deep house to the beach, it's time for Afrolicious to release a full length of new material. I'm sure when that day comes the record will be massive but until that day, enjoy Pleasuretime.
Sounding at times like MJ Cole meets Diplo on vacation in Kingston, Rusko clearly gets the idea that good songs revolve around sequencing enough hooks, and in the case of dubstep, enough earth crushing basslines to destroy the world. The songs seem to be constructed around each bassline and layers upon layers of sounds, squiggles, and wobbles are then worked in to make the tunes here sound so thick that they physically weigh a ton. This is some heavy stuff in the best way possible and it's quite potentially the most punishing record you'll hear all year long. And yet despite that or because of it, Songs is a fantastically upbeat record that literally is all over the place, and as much as that's its strength it's also its one weakness. Songs literally heads off in twenty different directions and really wants to be everything to everyone. Some might see this as this records downfall but it's lack of a cohesive direction allows the record to spread it's wings and touch upon some of dubstep's greatest influences; see dub, garage, drum n' bass, and house. It might lack overall cohesion and sound like a bunch of potential singles crammed together rather than a consistent album, but when the songs are this good and this jittery it more than makes up for it.
From the piano house vibe of, "Somebody to Love," to the atmospheric washes of, "M357," Songs never loses sight of the dance floor. In fact, Songs is so upbeat and so high-energy that it will wear you down and wear you out. Brilliant, bombastic, diverse, and powerful, Rusko has created a classic, essential, must have, legendary dubstep album that once again shows that Rusko is dubstep royalty.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Ane Brun reminds me a bit of Stina Nordenstam. Singing with a childlike sense of wonder and the most fragile vocal chords I've heard in a long while, Ane Brune sounds like she's either nine years old or about to cry for a very long time. She's a delicate vocalist who approaches songs as minimalist pieces that are quietly held together by every word she sings. Her latest album, It All Starts With One, is appropriately titled because so much of the record features one voice (hers) above all else.
It All Starts With One is an artsy and atmospheric record that features strings, woodwinds, percussion and almost symphonic arrangements operating unobtrusively behind Brun's childish vocals. She reminds me of Stina simply because they both sound like children singing over sweeping and dramatic arrangements and the fragility associated with all that. She, like Stina, sounds like she's going to fall apart in a ball of misery. All that being said, It All Starts With One is a very pretty record whose exquisite sounds are mesmerizing and impossible to walk away from. Pop music this is not, but it's still incredibly enthralling stuff that's probably more beautiful than 90% of the music out there today.
Ane Brune's It All Starts With One is a subdued work of beauty. It's quiet power and muted sounds make the whole thing sound otherworldly and unique. It's an enjoyable work of ethereal winsomeness that's strange fascination with minimalism and frailness makes for some fine songs. If you like the sound of depression, heartbreak, and being alone remember It All Starts With One.
Same Sun Shines is far more than an album with a girl and her guitar. Heck there's so much pop going on here that at times it almost sounds like the guitar solos are played on kazoos. This is cute stuff that makes you want to give Sara Radle a hug. While I generally don't like singer-songwriter albums (as you undoubtedly know) this has enough of that 90's throwback feel to it that I found myself enjoying this record. The songs, even at their slowest, are still enthralling enough to keep you glued to your ear buds and when Sara gets a bit jumpy she's energetic and truly at her best.
Like a long lost record from when alternative broke, this is an edgy, emotional, and slightly rebellious affair. Same Sun Shines is packed with bits and bobs of spikiness, Veruca Salt like vocals, and adorable melodies you won't soon forget. Sara Radle is a singer songwriter it's ok to like and like her you should. Oh, and her cover of "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys," is worth the price of the album alone; seriously.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Beirut after all these years continues to be at the forefront of the folk music movement. We're not talking moaney vocals and acoustic guitars; we're talking about globally authentic folk music that's traditional and very good. Zach Condon has been taking these elements of traditional folk music and bringing them into his own little world for well over a decade now. His songs reflect their influence over him and are all over the hauntingly beautiful and heartfelt The Rip Tide.
Beirut use so many instruments to enhance their pallet of sounds that anything they do sounds rich and textural and feels as original as possible despite being rooted in a rich tradition of songwriting. Featuring all kinds of horns, guitars, strings, percussion and just about anything else the band could get their hands on The Rip Tide feels and sounds like a trip through the past as if led by gypsies roaming continental Europe. It's an album that emits such a feeling of simpler and better times one can't help but yearn to hear more.
Beirut is a truly special band and even if they skirt around the idea of pop music while gently embracing it and they still have the ability to hypnotize the listener and transport them to another place and another time with relative ease. They are truly a band not made for these times. Their heart collectively is not in the 21st century, but somewhere in the early part of the 20th and it’s written into every song here. The Rip Tide is gorgeous, lovelorn, and perhaps one of Beirut's more accessible works. This is an entrancing record whose majesty resides in its simplicity, lush arrangements, and heartbreaking horn play. Over the last decade they've perfected their sound and become such a seminal band. There really is nothing that Beirut can do wrong and The Rip Tide proves that.
The three songs, "Murder 1," "Happy Endings," and "Walk All Night" are all potential hits but of the three, "Walk All Night," seems to be my favorite. With darkly delicious boy/girl vocal trade-offs and a huge synth riff carrying it on...it's an instant dance floor smash. In fact, that's really all three songs...just with varying degrees of darkness and spikyness permeating each. Wazu have clearly tapped into something here and while there are only three songs on this EP it illustrates the massive potential these guys have and the need for far more songs.
Loot is an open minded record that's political, globally aware, forward thinking, active, and laden with deep, but devastating grooves. With a variety of vocals, samples, and sounds the record sounds like a mish-mash of culture spliced together in rhythmic bliss. As Filastine himself says, "Someone had to fill a niche for polyrhythmic compositions to make something less cold and quantitative, using more gritty acoustic input(s)." That's pretty much what he's done here with the addition of broken beats, sub bass, brutal bass lines, and enough sampledelic snippets to keep you guessing for ages. This is a record that takes dubstep and gives it an education. It's tolerable and listenable because it's not infested with tuneless noise that just doesn't make sense. There's melody here as well as powerful woofer blowing mechanics and when combined the record is an eye opening electronic experience of global significance.
Filastine is awesome at what he does and Loot is the kind of dubstep/bass record I wish there were more of. Loot is the product of a wide array of influences and a global melting pot of sounds melded into one colossus of an album. Brilliant, open minded, and two steps ahead Filastine's Loot has raised the bar for not only world music but bass music as well and you have to respect that.
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Noisy, ramshackle, and torn to shreds Tempest is a fine album of guitar wrangling, droned out vocals, slashing drums and songs that seemed ripped apart for our benefit. If you can imagine Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine producing Sonic Youth in an ancient analog studio you are on the right track as to how Broken Water sound when they're playing. Tempest at times sounds warped, distorted beyond comprehension, and so lost in its own miasma it doesn't know how to get out. It's really quite good stuff that brings classic noise pop and indie rock into a head on collision with post shoegazing haze. Broken Water are exceptionally efficient at duct taping this whole thing together and making it sound as if Sonic Youth had possessed their souls and were having their way with them.
Cacophonous, chaotic and crazy good, Tempest is a fine record from a band who may or may not include Thurston Moore as one of its members. Regardless of its make-up the band manage to do things to their instruments that may or may not be legal in the upper 48. This is a record that sounds like it was recorded on a tape machine that whose heads were magnetized and scrambled parts of the recording around inadvertently. In other words it sounds amazing and one of the coolest and swaggertastic noise records to come out this year.
Pelican's new EP Ataraxia/Taraxis is of such colossal metallic and rifftastic proportions that how they kept the whole thing under a half hour and on one CD is beyond me. Pelican have churned out so many seminal post rock metal influenced records, like this one, I lost count somewhere around 2003. They just seem to have this innate ability to turn on, crank it all up to 11 and just go. And go they do at a disappointingly short four songs Pelican waste no time in slaughtering everything in their path with downtuned guitars, sludgy riffs, pounding drums and a sense of impending doom.
Ataraxia/Taraxis is a ridiculous statement of power riffs gone mad. Pelican are so good at what they do and create such intricate massive tunes that it's really kind of hard to believe they can reign in their guitar workouts to under five or six minutes. This is post rock for post-metal fans and contains so many chords, tempos, and melodies often at one time that it's amazing these guys don't have carpel tunnel syndrome. Ataraxia/Taraxis is awesome stuff and the kind of thing no self-respecting fan should be without.
This out of the ordinary and empirical record is like a walk through Cornershop front man's Tjinder Singh's head. Sound and ideas are everywhere and everything is a source of musical inspiration. The littlest things can be made into something cool and that's exactly what Cornership do on Urban Turban. Consisting of eleven different vocalists ranging from the Castle Hill Primary School Choir to Kay Kwong to Bollywood vocals from Amar and everything in between Cornershop tackle it all with finesse and passion. This is an awesome record that's far from stagnant and old; Born For The Seventh Time part 6 this is not. Oh no, this is an enterprising record that mixes indie pop, funk, hip hop, electro, Bollywood with such ease and Cornershop blur the lines so well that it's hard to find them anywhere on this album.
Urban Turban is a brilliant record that shows Cornershop to be as fresh today as they were on a Brimful of Asha. The songs are creative and catchy and Tjinder still has the knack for writing ridiculously good pop songs that cross genres and borders as if they never existed. Easily one of my faves of 2012, Cornershop continue to be one of my perpetual top 25 groups of all time.
Instantly accessible and mind numbingly memorable Glass Half Empty is the sort of song that doesn't want to leave your skull. With warped samples, dancehall-ish calls, gargantuan grooves, and a hook the size of the planet Glass Half Empty is the kind of record that's all conquering, all charting, and absolutely massive. Taking genres from every direction imaginable and mashing them all up together to create this electronic candy is exactly what Archeo is all about. With hip hop influences, Afro-pop influences, pure sugary sweet pop, and electronica all working together at the same time the record is a miracle of modern science.
Clearly destined for big things Archeo has introduced himself in fine fashion with Glass Half Empty. With no less than seven tracks making up the single the thing is epic in its scope. And while some of the Arveene & MISK remixes seem to be really similar versions of other remixes the whole thing is a like a jolt of dance floor caffeine. Archeo loves pop and you can hear that all over Glass Half Empty.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Attractive Sin is kind of a laid back, chilled, west coast kind of thing that has east coast touches all over it thanks to production from Parallel Thought. The record as a whole is kind of a throwback to his 90's efforts while looking forward to the future thanks to PT's sheen. While he may be older and wiser and may have been around the block a few times Del’s flow and language are still as spiky as ever and he lays it down like butter on bread; smooth and creamy. This record is awesome and Del's rhymes are funny at times, positive at others, and aggressive when they need to be. He's been telling it like it is for 20 years and it works, so why change now?
In an age where hip hop has become a cliché of itself, it's nice to see living legends and new talent remember how things used to be and pay tribute to it. Del is indeed the Funky Homosapien and Attractive Sin is a brilliant record that's a classic in the making. From the chilled out summer-like production and beats of Parallel Thought to the never-ending lyrical know-how of Del, this is one team up that's destined for legendary status.
Both Lights is a twisted dream that has many ins and outs and many scenes with in it and AU wander through each of them giving the dark recesses of your mind music to go along with it all. Could this band use some form of psychotherapy? Yeah, more than likely but one would imagine if they did get therapy they wouldn't be the same band and their records certainly wouldn’t sound like Both Lights. Whether or not I like this is up for debate. It's a bit too chaotic and a bit too noisy for me. I appreciate some of the more ambient passages but songs that sound like guitars being shredded into oblivion, detached ghostlike vocals reverberating over sheets of aluminum, mysterious sounds that can’t be placed all seem to be more like performance art than something I'd want to listen to.
AU is without a doubt in a league of their own. With noise that at times qualifies itself as being musical and at others just being something in the background clanging aimlessly AU almost sound like miners at work. As for Both Lights whether or not you'll like it will totally depend on your tolerance for the odd and unusual. Right now...I don't have much tolerance for either.
Taking surf rock, twee pop, and jangly indie and giving it a bit of a Rocky Mountain High Sauna create music that's shy, shuffly, and so young at heart it should have a curfew. Teen Angst Tape at times sounds like a Dum Dum Girls collaboration with the Beat Happening recorded in Calvin Johnson's garage. It is fantastic youthful and exuberant stuff and Sauna have done a fantastic job of creating retro-tinged indie pop that's sounds far older than the band actually is. This is fun stuff despite the obvious youthful slant on angst, longing, and frustration.
Teen Angst Tape is a short and sweet introduction to one of the most promising bands around. The only problem with all that is, Sauna are so young and so much of their life has yet to really start...how long will they be around for? College could very well see the end of this group before they even release another record. Here's hoping they stick together because it would be fun to watch Sauna grow up with a clutch of albums and hits underneath their arms. Until then revel in their Teen Angst Tape and be glad you’re not in high school anymore!
Parastrophics is weird, let’s just get that out of the way right off the bad. Mouse On Mars don't do things in your bog standard 4/4 time signatures. In fact, I'm willing to say that they don't even use time signatures when constructing songs. While some do bounce along w/a steady beat in some sort of time, most of their tunes do not. Sounds, beats, and samples come from all over the place and click on click off, get strung together, bounce into one another and the result is musical string theory that makes no rhyme or reason. It's intriguingly odd stuff that at times seems like a bunch of old analog tapes spliced together in random patters. It's abstract, complex, and unusual but that's Mouse On Mars.
Far from making sense and far from being something you'd find on a pop chart, Parastrophics is one of the weirder records to come across my desk in a while. It's a fantastic listen of strange sounds, ideas, and collages put together in a completely unpredictable manner. If ever there was a headphones record Parastrophics would be it. Mouse On Mars are, to this day, innovators in glitch and they've done this for so long and eeked out such a great career doing it, it's hard not appreciate everything they do. Parastrophics is just the latest in a long line of electronic accomplishments that will dazzle and amaze you.
Love At The Bottom of the Sea is a beautiful indie pop record that oozes with sweetness, humor, tweeness, and a sense of innocence. It's a whimsical record that tinkers along at it's own pace with a multitude of vocalists, including Merritt, sighing, skipping, and singing their way across the songs here. Its indie pop gold that has got that plinky plonky lo-fi synthpop sound that's so Magnetic Fields that it should probably be trademarked. Put it this way, Love At The Bottom of the Sea is the sort of thing that you know is a Magnetic Fields record before you even know it's a Magnetic Fields record. It's got everything you'd expect from a Stephin Merritt record and carries on the legacy of the group perfectly. In fact, it's really easy to say that Love At The Bottom of the Sea is perfect. Every song is hooky, quirky, and so good the songs sparkle with a lo-fi din that stands out like a sore thumb. Its synth pop made with love (and toys) and it's amazing.
The Magnetic Fields have been around longer that some of you have been alive and they've been charmed by the highway, taken a holiday, written 69 love songs, and now found love at the bottom of the sea and that makes total sense. Love At The Bottom of the Sea is brilliant, bright, poppy, lovelorn, funny, and the kind of record that you want to listen to repeatedly for days on end. Love At The Bottom of the Sea is subtle but sharp and quirky but cool and that's exactly what you expect the Magnetic Fields and you get it by the truckloads here. This is easily one of our Top 25 Records of 2012.
Taking a percussive form of dance music, dubstep, and then mixing it in with Native American drum circles A Tribe Called Red has this primal instinct about them that permeates everything they do. It all sounds so primitively modern and so unusual that you kind of just have to sit there and let it all wash over you. I'm not really a hundred percent sure that I like it but it does intrigue me. It's just a little too odd and doesn't always seem to mesh at times. In a time when dubstep has reached mainstream acceptance it's up to producers to find new ways to separate themselves from the pack, so, I totally appreciate wheat A Tribe Called Red are trying to do. I just don't think the experiment works out to well sometimes.
A Tribe Called Red gets kudos for being different. No one is doing what they're doing and my guess is with some refinement they can really tap into something unique and rock it. For now though, they seem to be in an experimental stage with hit and miss results.
Mrs. Magician are a band so lost in a time warp you'd swear that they had either flown around the sun one too many times or tour in a Tardis. This garage rock band sound so much like they've come straight from the late 60's that it's hard not to picture them in slim fit suits and mop top haircuts. Their album Strange Heaven is an absolutely brilliant record that sees the band picking up the torch left by bands like the Caesars and running with it (full speed around the sun). This is the sound of the past magically appearing in the present and rocking the heck out.
Strange Heaven is a jangly Mersey Beat influenced, surf sounding, garage rock record that kicks so much butt it's hard for it not to kick yours. Guitars jangle, twang, and echo all over the place, the back beat of the band push things at a danceable pace, and the vocals sound so melodically vintage that someone needs to check these guys’ birth certificates. If the Drums were less indie and the Caesars were a tad less rough and they both combined in a Transformer's kind of way they would become Mrs. Magician and that's one spell you'd like to see cast.
Mrs. Magician has come up with a melodic, groovy, raw rock and roll treat that's catchy and has an old soul. This is the 60's brought to the 10's via some sort of magical form of transport that the band are obviously keeping secret. It's no wonder these guys have the word Magician in their name; they work musical magic, transport it through time and allow Strange Heaven to be the best record that was made in 1966 but never released. Sonic perfection is what being trapped in Mrs. Magician's Strange Heaven is all about and I for one am glad to be stuck there.
Friday, June 8, 2012
Ok here's a strange one for you, Danish band Pinknoizu, while undoubtedly European is actually named after two Japanese words that mean pink noise. How they came up with that is beyond me, but it's kind of cool in a cross cultural global community sort of way. Their record, Peep, is really anything but pink noise. In fact, Peep is actually a better description of the record than the band probably realize.
While Peep obviously has some noisy elements within its realm, most of the album is minimalistic, muffled and rather distant. If Spiritualized were depressed this is pretty much what they would sound like. That might sound gripping but it isn’t. While some of the material on Peep is intriguing I was a little underwhelmed by the record overall. The record is unabashedly atmospheric and the guitars and vocals seem to waft in like waves of smoke. Its wispy stuff that lingers on and on and on and with many of the songs crossing the six minute mark, it's easy to see why. It's expansive exploratory stuff that seems lost in it's own little world. As I mentioned Peep seems to be an appropriate name for this record because there's so little noise or ruckus to be found on this record.
Peep is a record worth listening to. It's noodling and airy nature is fascinating and at times the keyboard and guitar interplay is intriguingly cool but most of this record just quietly ebbs and flows without you even noticing it. Whether or not Peep is worthy of repeated listening will come down to your tolerance for strange post rock experiments in the great beyond. Pinknoizu aren't bad but with that name I was really expecting all kinds of guitar wrangling and musical fireworks and not ambient post rock vistas. I feel kind of let down.
Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 is so raw, so pure and honest you can almost hear the ideas coming to life on every one of these songs. They're not the sparkling productions that we associate with today's soul and dance but rough, under produced songs that were out to try new things and test the limitations of the technology and the listener. Honestly, about half the songs here aren't that great but the other half are cool, original, and groovy. Synths gurgle along to solid basslines and subtle notes of funk run through each tune as various vocalists attempt to lay it down with varying degrees of swagger. At times sounding like long lost Isaac Hayes tunes and at others sounding like Radio Shack Electronic Experiment Kits, Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 is a fascinating glimpse back at how electronics began to take more and more of a role in getting people to boogie.
Good, bad, and ugly it's all worth listening to here and you can't help but respect every track gathered on Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 because all played a part in the development of the genres we hold dear today. Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 is the sort of record that no discerning fan of soul, funk, r&b, or electronica should be without. This is a historical document that features seventeen important tracks that more than likely got your parents to dance long before you were born!
Mixing post rock atmospherics with an almost ghostlike series of vocals, the band creates this sort of unearthly, detached, dark realm that's difficult to walk away from. With swirly guitars, Dave's creative drumming, and those lackadaisically angelic vocals Kitsune sounds like a long lost 4ad record that Ivo never got around to releasing. It's artful, expansive, trippy, heavy, and hypnotic stuff that can barely contain itself on one CD. As a whole the record has this ominous sense of foreboding throughout that's a result of several excursions into heavy, tuned down, almost prog-like instrumentals. Let there be no doubt, Marriages can play and drone on with the best of them and as a result Kitsune is a record that rocks and rocks hard.
Ghostly atmospherics and haunting vocals aside Marriages have enough massive chord progressions to get your head banging and your imagination flying. Kitsune may only be six songs and 25 minutes or so long, but one gets the sense that given half the chance Marriages could play forever lost in their own instrumental miasma. These guys play so well together and whether it's their "day job," or this journey into the vastness of the unknown their chemistry is nearly deadly. Kitsune is an amazing effort from three of the best musicians and artists on the planet and as a result it's pretty essential listening.
Musically speaking nine years is like five generations of your peers going by. If you think about what was popular in indie circles way back then and what's popular now it's kind of shocking and one has to wonder how Scout would fit amongst all of it. I'm proud to report that Scout fit back in the fray amazingly well and All Those Relays is an exceptionally strong album that would make someone like Rilo Kiley blush. While there's an undoubtedly singer songwriter slant to this record, it's what Ashen Keilyn does with those songs that makes them un-singer songwritery. All Those Relays is crafted as a mellowish indie rock record with the odd flare up, power pop tune, and even a guitar solo or two. Moany and depressing this is not.
Ashen has a great voice and it's highlighted by her band who frame it perfectly with a fantastic blend of quirky, ethereal, acoustic instrumentation, as well good old fashioned rock and roll. All Those Relays is a gorgeous record that wafts in and out like a warm summer breeze and the songs linger like the smell of a thunderstorm long after their gone. This is a refreshed and vivacious band that's excited to be playing and you can hear that in every song here. The songs are catchy, bright, and energetic and show that this is a band that has only gotten better during its absence.
All Those Relays is the sound of a band picking up exactly where they left off and doing something better. Scout sound better than ever and the maturity of the band is evident on every song here. This is a great effort all around and it's only a matter of time before all the accolades start pouring in again. Let's just hope it's not another nine years before their next album.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Ed Schraeder's Music Beat clearly marches to the beat of it's own drum or a really different drummer. Their latest album Jazz Mind is a demented excursion into the world of nightmares coming to life, of minimalism gone wrong, of migraines set to music and the sound of the wheels coming off all at the same time. Ed Schrader's Music Beat have created one of the more unusual and downtrodden records you're likely to ever hear and it's the sort of thing that makes Joy Division sound like happy go lucky guys.
Jazz Mind sounds like it was recorded in the abyss on like a five dollar budget and sounds as though the whole band and recording are about to fall apart. It's ramshackle, lo-fi, and sounds like it was edited with duct tape but that's half of this thing's charm believe it or not. There's absolutely no concern for quality here because there is none. It's crazy stuff that takes a minimalist approach but then thrashes it about crushing everything within a mosh pit. It's noisy, weird, and really not all the great. It is true punk rock that's dark, out there, and as raw as sushi.
Intriguingly weird and disturbingly bad in a good way, Ed Schrader's Music Beat clearly knows how to make a racket and make it they do over the course of twenty minutes. While the Music Beat might have a Jazz Mind there's nothing at all about this record that would tip you off to that. This is punk rock, raw and furious and without a care in the world. If you like the sound of paranoia and a psychotic attack set to music you'll find Jazz Mind an indispensible addition to your collection.
Proving that emo crosses all sorts of stereotypes and images, Go Radio are not a band in love with angular haircuts, black hair dye and skinny jeans. In fact, it's probably safe to say that Go Radio is perfect for radio if you catch my drift. This is a good thing because rather than concentrating heavily on their looks, Go Radio concentrates on their music and you can hear the results of this on their album Lucky Street.
Lucky Street is a melodic platter of epic proportions. So much of this record is centered on an abundance of harmony that it's almost impossible to keep track of. From guitars which seem to be perfectly in tune with the vocals to the soaring voices of Jason Lancaster and Alex Reed this record is sweeter on the ears than chocolate is to your taste buds. Go Radio have figured out a way to perfectly blend these two elements that when driven by the bass lines and drums take the songs on Lucky Street to the sky. This is epic enormodone pop that makes girls swoon and their hearts ache. Its huge stuff that cannot be kept back and Go Radio do an excellent job of laying it all down on top of each other. The stuff is so well done in an emotionally overwhelming way that it's almost too much to handle.
Go Radio might look like they belong on radio and they clearly have the songs that are perfect for radio, but their destiny lies elsewhere. From massive power ballads to piano ballads to power pop tunes Go Radio have got it all and they've got it in stock ready to ship out. These guys should be huge...they've just got too much in their favor not to be. And when you live on Lucky Street good things have to happen to you, right?
With a six year history, a smattering of EP's, and even an album behind them Dark Room Notes have been very quietly amassing a catalogue of awesome tunes, accolades, movie credits, and fans. Not bad for an Irish band that doesn't sound like U2 or The Cranberries and refuses to even entertain the thought. Instead, Dark Room Notes head off in the exact opposite direction and create gauzy, synth pop noir that's as poppy as it is Goth. Their latest album, the oddly titled Dark Room Notes sees the band taking things in a most welcomed, more electronic direction than previous efforts.
With smoky synths, angelic washes, barely there vocals, punchy guitars and tunes that reach for your ears in an effort to posses them Dark Room Notes is a force to reckon with. Dark Room Notes construct this sort of darker version of New Order that's mixed with just enough gothic overtones where you can imagine these guys lost in dry ice surrounded by banks and banks of keyboards. That being said, Dark Room Notes are not Goths, rather they are a dark synth pop group who revel in the darkness but have enough of a pop sensibility about them to realize that the light must balance out the dark. Dark Room Notes is pure indie dance floor gold that's got enough crossover appeal, much in the same way that someone like Depeche Mode does, to make the songs here unstoppable electronic battle weapons.
With multi-part harmonies sighing their way through choruses and the band's widescreen approach to writing synth lines and guitar riffs the songs spread their wings and soar. This is ridiculously good stuff whose gorgeous electronic ambience and mystical noir-ish like qualities make the songs a joy to listen on repeat. Dark Room Notes is just about perfect. In fact, it's very hard to find fault with anything here; the songs are solid and the production is sparkling. This is the kind of record I wish I had hundreds of but I'm thankful I have at least one. So take note, Dark Room Notes is something you need in your life.
It's always fun to hear how bands develop over the course of a couple of records. It's interesting to see how they learn to explore their sound, find new ways to make it unique, experiment with things they never thought of and then attempt to put it all down on record. It's fun as a listener to hear all this and see what direction the band head off in after they get their debut album out of the way. Nine times out of ten it usually results in several mediocre albums or the breaking up of the band. In the case of White Rabbits, though, it’s seen the band perfecting their sound while expanding it to new vistas.
Their new album, Milk Famous, is a further expansion of the band's eclectic musical backgrounds and sound. While the record is undoubtedly textured and rich in sound, it's the way that the band have chosen to do this that makes Milk Famous so good. Utilizing an arsenal of sounds including more pedals than you could shake a stick at, pianos tinkling, off center guitar riffs, processed vocals, strange rhythms, and just about anything else that came their way White Rabbits super glued all this together to create some darn fine ethereal pop. At times sounding like a cooler Cold War Kids, Spoon, or Ben Folds if he were on acid, Milk Famous is an ethereal and strange record that's just a little off kilter; it's perfect.
Three albums into their career and White Rabbits have come a long way from their debut Fort Nightly. This is a band that's matured, developed their sound, and honed their songs to a sharp point. Milk Famous as a result is easily the best thing they've recorded. The songs have strange hooks in odd places, awesome choruses, quirky guitars, and the whole thing sounds like the best hazy Sunday morning ever; it's unforgettable stuff. Still sounding fresh but wise beyond their years White Rabbits have created one of the best records of 2012 in Milk Famous.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Wow, lost somewhere between old Sarah records, old Creation records and old Summershine records lies Finland's Paperfangs. Sounding so authentically early nineties or late eighties the group weave a weary, lazy, beautiful kind of synthpop that would make Alan McGee jump for joy or inspire Stephen Meritt to write fifty new Magnetic Fields songs. Their album AAVVAV is a chilly, strung out indie dance record that's so stunningly perfect I've had to listen to it five times in a row.
Paperfang take a sort of sparse approach to putting their songs together and it seems only after the basics have been laid down that they go back and give each song more depth and Finnish charm. The result is this sort of detached and indifferent kind of synthpop that cares deeply but is just too shy to express it in an external fashion. The stuff is gorgeous, twee, catchy, and perfect for losing yourself in on an indie dance floor somewhere. The songs are like spells being cast by the band and when they hit you they take you over and you feel the emotion and introspection that are running through each song. It's truly magical stuff and I've not heard something this spot on since I was buying all those old Creation/Summershine/Sarah compilations.
AAVVAV is a perfect indie dance record. It's the summation of two decades of music that yearned to be big but never quite got there. Riddled with hits that will never be, Paperfangs have created an incredible record for everyone who dreamed of pop stardom but never got there. Hooky, twee, introspective, and dancey you couldn't ask for anything more from this band and should Magnetic Fields hang up their toys for good, Paperfangs would be a nice replacement...not that we would want that to happen...but it would work.
Quitting your job in the middle of the nation's second worst economic climate is probably not the best idea in the world, but that's exactly what Nick Drum and Jon McNeill did. Why did they do it? Well to purse a life in rock and roll which of course, as we all know, is the wisest of career choices. But they made that choice and after just one jam session together the guys formed Brave Chandeliers. The rest as they say is history...much like their 401(k)'s.
Anyway, Brave Chandeliers consider themselves a soulful power pop band but in all honesty I'm kind of struggling with that description. While you can most definitely hear elements of Elvis Costello and even Squeeze pulsating through the songs on their album 11 Escapes the band seem a bit more middle of the road rock than anything else. They're excellent at what they do, for a lawyer and an ethnographer these guys have tapped into their inner rock gods and written a series of songs that are impressive. Switching off between soulful ballads and mid-paced rockers Brave Chandeliers dish out catchy songs as if they worked in a soup kitchen. They just keep coming and coming on 11 Escapes and they don't seem to want to stop which if you like this sort of rock and roll is perfection.
Life is all about choices and some of those choices are risky. To say that Nick and Jon didn't take a giant leap in pursuing their rock and roll dreams is insane. These guys put it all on the line and broke away to pursue the freedom of rock and roll. Thankfully, somehow, some way they tapped into a fine songwriting skill set and delivered a pretty good record. 11 Escapes is the sort of thing that could give radio fits and the mainstream rock community a panic attack...and if not they'll just sue you and then write about the cultural significance of it.
White Rainbow's The Making of Star Wars 7" is a dubbed out treat that sounds like a couple of long lost Gorillaz tracks that Damon Albarn had stuffed underneath his bed. Like a slow motion disco of expansive grooves and echoic sounds the record slowly meanders from side to side in no particular hurry.
The Making of Star Wars 7" is good catchy and simple stuff that makes no fuss about anything complicated. This is just bottom dollar grooves laid out on the table for you to enjoy. What this all has to do with the making of Star Wars or the making of Thriller (the b-side) I have no idea...but after listening to this records hypnotic and tight grooves I feel compelled to have a Star Wars marathon. May the Force Be With You.
After a ten year hiatus that sounds more like a forty year one, The Sugarman Three apparently did not get the memo that we're now in the 21st century. Thank God. Sounding like a long lost Booker T and the MG's record, What The World Needs Now is a brilliant throwback to a time when instrumental records of all your favorites were just as good as the vocal versions. Crossing rock and roll as well as soul borders, The Sugarman Three crank up their Hammond organ, put on their suits and rock the heck out.
What The World Needs Now is exactly that...what we need right now. This is the classic 60's sound with so many classic 60's songs reworked for instrumental versions it's like being stuck in the best elevator on the planet. From The Standell to "But It's Alright," to their material the Hammond fueled grooves flow like an endless waterfall of soul. The songs are arranged to perfection played stupendously well and all have unique flourishes which make them brilliant. From horns blaring to hand claps to deep grooves and everything in between it's all here and it's dressed up to the nines and ready to dance. This is a Mod party soundtrack that would blow Paul Weller's mind.
It might be 2012, but in the minds of The Sugarman Three it is still 1968 and Motown and Stax rule the world. What The World Needs Now proves that. It's an absolutely amazing record of instrumental tunes that would make Booker T & The MG's proud. From stunning covers to their own original tunes, The Sugarman Three are so authentic you might wonder if they're Timelords or not. What The World Needs Now is an essential record for anyone who likes classic soul, rhythm and blues, or Hammond organ grooves. If the 60's were the 10's this would be the soundtrack.
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Similar to Bay Area veterans, Bayonics, Bang Data create music that's so unbound by genre's or pigeon holes it's hard to even come up with a way to describe them. If you can imagine a giant musical melting pot of sounds and ideas you kind of have an idea of where Bang Data are coming from. Their album La Sopa is a chaotic cocktail of international flavors that will keep you guessing, keep your ears perked up, and your feet doing all kinds of things. You don't get much more original than these guys and that's their strength that they use in every song.
Bang Data are intriguing because they refuse to be placed into neat musical containers. Their sound is highly influenced by classic Latin sounds but in addition the band manage to use Baille funk, moombahton, reggaeton, hip hop, metal, rhythm and blues, pure pop and just about everything else. La Sopa is a true mish mash of sounds and an amalgamation of ideas that when pieced together work like a charm. It's frenzied, energetic, groove oriented stuff that never backs down and it’s good stuff.
La Sopa is a reflection of San Francisco's diversity and pulse. With distorted guitars, synthesizers, deep grooves, horns, English and Spanish lyrics, massive pop hooks and anything else they could find Bang Data consistently throw you curve balls through La Sopa. One minute the band will be knee deep in a radio friendly pop tune and then the next they'll turn it up to eleven and just go insane. This is why La Sopa is entertaining...there's not an ounce of predictability to it.
With a melting pot of sounds and ideas Bang Data are a modern day reflection of what America is and will become...a diverse never ending sea of ideas and cultures all standing next to each other in harmony. With a bilingual approach and a multi-cultural feel La Sopa is a little bit of internationality in your living room or your ear buds and that's never a bad thing. So take a trip with Bang Data, enjoy the future and while you're at it have a bowl of soup.
Congo Sanchez is the backbeat of the Washington D.C. party scene. As a master instrumentalist his skills and sounds are favored around the capital by electronic and world music producers and his magic touch can be heard on records from Thievery Corporation, The Empresarios, and the recently reviewed Funk Ark. With such high demand and such cool friends it only seemed logical that Congo take the big plunge and release his own material. And so he has, Volume 1 is Congo Sanchez's debut and it's a reflection of all the work he's done in the past, his influences, and where he's headed in the future and I have to tell you its pretty cool stuff.
With a chilled out vibe and a strong Latin influence Volume 1 is a brilliant, sunshiny, groovy little record that puts Congo's chops on full display. With genres bending and merging into others Congo Sanchez likes it all and uses it to his advantage. Jazzy guitar riffs give way to Latin percussion, spacey synths wash into brassy horn sections and the whole thing together is melodic bliss of the highest order. In listening to Volume 1 it is easy to see why Congo Sanchez is the backbeat of the D.C. scene...his productions are flawless, his sound is unique to him, and his songs are simply fascinating. Volume 1 is a masterful four track EP and after listening to this introduction it's hard not to see this guy as one of the most prolific world music producers on the east coast.
Tender Forever's mini LP Where We Are From is like the best thing that Bjork has never recorded. Sounding like a tripped out folk/world music excursion into the dark recesses of your imagination Tender Forever create downtempo and unusual songs that will haunt your soul and make your mind wander. Beautiful, worldly, and filled with all kinds of musical oddities, Where We Are From is the sort of album that requires multiple listens and total attention to discover its many layers. It's time well spent because Tender Forever have come up with something completely unusual and intriguingly listenable.
With loads of percussion, fragile vocals, and songs that seem to pulsate on every beat Where We Are From is something that someone like Bat For Lashes would kill to have in her repertoire. This is a darkly alluring record whose stark arrangements, percussive instrumentation of dramatically gorgeous vocals will keep you entranced and captivated. From Melanie Valera's tender ghost-like vocals to the constant use of what sounds like bamboo this is not your usual indie pop record. Using electronics as a base, layering the strange percussive elements on top and then allowing Valera's voice to carry it all, Where We Are From weaves its spell with so little that it's hard to believe.
Tender Forever is indeed a fragile proposition. Where We Are From is such a charming record whose enchanting sound collages create an unseen and unheard world in which we all free to roam. This is an artistic statement from a band that refuses to conform to any sort of regularity, parameters or ideal of what their music should be. From its unusual arrangements, strange sounds, and worldly atmospherics this is an indie record for the imagination and it's something that will be tender forever.
The Pine Hill Haints are a rustic low-fi accumulation of musicians who keep things simple and pure and the results are a little bit country a little bit indie and a whole lot of lo-fi. Their single, Tales Of Crime is a woodsy little sing along of a record that sounds as if it were recorded in a cave somewhere under Pine Hill, wherever that may be.
Consisting of just two songs, the A-side is twangy and a little too drunk on moonshine. It's rural, countrified pop with a big angry heart. On the flip The Pine Hill Haints take things in an almost Twin Peaksian direction and tune things down, turn out the lights and let Bob do the singing. It's a total lo-fi romp through the band's garage and ends so suddenly you half wonder if something didn't happen to the band.
In the end this is a fascinating single that makes you wonder if The Pine Hill Haints don't have a few more Tales Of Crime to share.
Monday, June 4, 2012
The Hive Dwellers are the latest project of legendary K Records founder Calvin Johnson. Calvin is in so many bands and records so much that he must have a secretary specifically to keep track of it all. The dude is prolific in his efforts and the second you hear his baritone croon you know that Calvin's on a record. Seriously...the guy has this drawn out deep voice that's so unique that even people who have never heard him know it’s him.
Anyway, The Hive Dwellers latest seven inch record, Lynch The Swan is a throbbing moody little record that's minimal in its approach but cool enough to leave you wanting more. Slightly dubbed out and just trippy enough to make it interesting the two songs that make this single up are cool laid back jams that allow Calvin's croon to spread its wings. It's awesome indie pop stuff with a dash of darkness for good measure and if you're a fan of K Records, Calvin, Beat Happening or just collect everything this guy does then you need this slim slice of superior pop. Here's hoping that this new record mushrooms into an album because that would be pretty much amazing.
Lake's new single, Gravel isn't really all that new. The original version of this tune appeared on Lake's second album Let's Build A Roof but after returning from an epic tour the tune had a newfound soulful feel to it which eventually became the record's A-side. Mellow, minimal, and slightly moody the song isn't as rough as gravel but rather has a rather gentle feel to it. With multi-part harmonies gently wafting in and deep bass lines moving the song forward like a crest of a wave the tune is as calm as a glassy lake.
On the flip, Calvin (yeah him again), takes the song in a dubbed out trippy direction in a pristine and cool Selector Dub Narcotic remix that makes the song all instrumentally cool and chilled out. It's pretty good stuff that takes something already downtempo and makes it even more downtempo.
All around Gravel is a cool slightly less indie pop single than you'd expect from Lake but fantastic none-the-less in a moody kind of way.
Let’s just admit this right up front...dubstep has pretty much destroyed dance music. Dance music used to be about melody, hooks, basslines, and rhythm; everything that grabs hold of your ears and never lets go. Now, thanks to dubstep all those things have been seemingly chucked out the window in favor of tuneless noises, seemingly broken synths, wobbly sub-basslines and generally the sense that drum and bass was just too fast. Now slowed down so even the most inept of dancers can throw themselves along to the pace, dubstep has become incredibly mainstream and among the leaders of that pack is Nero.
Nero, unlike Skrillex, actually seems to understand that a melody and possessing a pop sensibility is a good thing. Their album Welcome Reality is the unnerving meshing between dubstep, "electro house," and drum and bass. The record for the most part sounds like the first Justice album slowed down to half pace and then run through the Wobbletron 10,000 for good measure. Despite it's many tuneless misgivings Nero do manage to give this record a feel, that although the impending apocalypse is upon us, we might as well have a catchy tune to die by. And so Welcome Reality unburies the idea of a tune dusts it off and gives it a small inkling of life. Complete with guitar solos, pulsating synths, seductive vocals, devastating bass, and the weight of the universe Welcome Reality seems destined to flatten everything in its path. While I have no problems with such things, (I did after all used to listen to a lot of Death Metal and Darkcore) if it's done with an actual tunefulness about it, it can be even more devastating. This is where Nero seems torn.
Nero is somewhere in the middle ground in the war between the darkness and light. I suspect they've been lured to the darkness because so much of dubstep is unimaginative and tuneless and thus easy to produce. However, I suspect the light, or their drum n' bass roots, keep them anchored to the idea that a good song is still important no matter how brutal the bassline. While much of Welcome Reality is listenable especially when they get all atmospheric, this is a group that will have to make a choice...between a Welcome Reality and an unwelcome one. Let’s hope that they pick the right one. Until then leave dubstep for fratboys and hipster wannabes.
Clearly one of the best band names ever, That's A Negative on The Leapfrog, Captain America is a band that must have a hard time putting it's logo on t-shirts much less album covers but here they are with their even odder named album Vetracyn Arc Materializer. Spatial issues aside, to say this album and band are unusual would be an understatement as That's A Neagative seem to be the victims of one too many alien abductions and are missing so much time, their songs sound like montages of what they've missed. Vetracyn Arc Materializer is an atmospheric garage excursion into the dark recesses of your mind and it's so unusual and so potentially chaotic that you might live long enough to return.
Vetracyn Arc Materializer is the sort of record that headphones were built for. Whether it's the garage rock that's been fed through the alien production hardware they use or the spacey post rock ambiance they create there is so much going on in these songs that you'll not want to miss a single thing. Bizarre, twisted, psychedelic, and excellently played Vetracyn Arc Materializer is the kind of strangeness musicians will love. From fuzzed out guitars to goats to songs about pitch and yaw That's A Negative attack music from so far out in left field it might not even be fair to call it a field. Listening to Vetracyn Arc Materializer can't help but make me wonder if during one of their, obviously many, alien abductions they resurrected Syd Barrett. This has his imagination written all over it.
Somewhere way outside of the mainstream is where That's A Negative comes from. They create rock and roll that's been lost in space for millennia. It's rough, raw, epic, widescreen, technical, strange, and a host of other adjectives it would take me all day to list. Needless to say Vetracyn Arc Materializer is an intriguing and good listen. If you like things way out...like way out...you'll find That's A Negative the sort of group you can open up wormholes to...and if you don’t believe me it looks like they’ve done just that on their cover.