Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cut Chemist's Outro

It's been a long time since I've heard anything from Cut Chemist. In fact, it has been six years since anyone has heard anything from Mr. Chemist. Well, after a long, long wait, he's back and has just released his comeback single Outro (Revisited). It's a welcome return that might have you scratching your head a little bit but one suspect’s that is exactly the way Cut Chemist likes it.

Outro (Revisited) is intriguing because it sounds like a Revco or Ministry like production with a few scattered hip hop samples thrown it. Not what I was expecting at all. Anyway, the song is thrashy, metallic, and pretty angry and kind of ploughs its way through the two minutes it's around. As per usual the song is littered with samples, scratches, squiggles, and vocal riffs; mixed together the whole thing sounds a bit apocalyptic. It's good stuff that's a bit short and direct but reaffirms your belief in Cut Chemist and his ability to remain open minded and fresh. Outro (Revisited) is short and heavy and is a nice peak into Cut Chemist’s recording though process as he works toward completing and releasing his next album, Die Cut.

Empires of Eden Channel The Infinite

Empires of Eden defines what it means to be heavy metal. I'm not talking hair metal here; I'm talking foot on the monitor wailing away METAL! Their most recent album Channeling The Infinite is quite possibly the best proper metal album I've heard since Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. Yes, it's that good, so don your leather and denim and let’s rock.

Empire of Eden are the kind of band who crank up the amps to eleven, tune the guitars down, speed things up and just go. There's no slow build up, no drama, no fluff just face melting guitar heroics, speedy and precise drums, Steve Harris like bass playing and vocals from a variety of singers that can and should probably be shattering glass. Channeling The Infinite is power metal the way it was meant to be played and it is amazing. The songs here are tighter than a fat guy in skinny jeans, they've got more riffs in them than most bands do in their discography and when it's all blended together this is the next best thing to having Bruce Dickinson and Eddie over for dinner. Using a variety of vocalists throughout may seem a bit disjointed and a potential disaster but it works for Empires of Eden because it allows the rest of the band to vary their approach, speed, and style for each howler. Nothing on Channeling The Infinite doesn't work, period. The bevy of vocalists gives the band more power and the vocalists themselves give the songs a furious wrath of epic proportions.

Channeling The Infinite is an awesome record. There's simply not one thing wrong with this album. Even the fact that the band is all over the place with regards to a vocalist cannot stop the onslaught of metallic power this band possesses. If you love hook laden guitar slaughtering, vocal gymnastics, and a lot of songs about time, the end of the world, and monarchies struggling for control Empires of Eden may have just written you favorite new album for the next twenty years. Simply put Channeling The Infinite is a classic in the making.

Ume Deals With Its Phantoms

Ume is one heck of a band. I've not heard a band that so successfully mixes electro, shoegazing, and post punk than this band does. Their album Phantoms is a blindingly good mix of modern sounds that crystallize together to form stylistically cool and angular tunes that you can shuffle around to. Despite their use of what I call scene imagery the band still manages to steer away from those clichés musically and come up with something that might not be pretty to look at (pink skulls anyone?) but is most definitely worth listening to.

Phantoms sounds like Metric if they used less electronics and more delay pedals and they attacked the resulting sounds with an axe. It is post shoe punk gazing that loses itself in a sheet of noise that's almost similar to the imagery on the cover. This is awesome stuff that's loud, distorted and washes over you so readily that it's impossible not to be hypnotized by vocalist/guitarist Lauren Larson's caresses. Lauren and her band construct these abstract tunes that rebound off one another in an almost atomic reaction that eventually sees riffs and sounds explode into melodic musicality. It's awesome stuff and while Ume is undoubtedly noisy they still find room for a pop hook or twenty which hovers over the chaos in the background as if by magic and makes the whole thing stick to your brain.

Phantoms is an impressive effort from Ume. Channeling angularity, aggressiveness, and mysticism all at the same time, Ume creates a beguiling sound that's beautiful no matter how noisy it gets. It might look a little weird and it might sound like a freight train but Phantoms is one of my favorite albums this year and if you give it half a chance it will be yours too.

Bob Reuter's Ally Ghost

Bob Reuter is an old master of rock and roll and his latest album as part of Alley Ghost demonstrates that. Born There is an old time romp through the history of rock and roll up until about 1969. It's garage rock the way it's meant to be played with a bit of spit and polish and it’s done with a band that looks half his age; it’s as if he's teaching them on the way rock and roll should be played which is pretty darn cool.

With a range that covers everything from twangy countrified rock to the Stones to stuff that sounds like Lou Reed fronting the VU, Reuter and Alley Ghost truly cover all their bases. The songs are energetic, rambunctious and fresh no matter how rooted they are in the past. Born There is packed with enough harmonica playing, bluesy guitar solos, noisy drums, and roughshod vocals to make you wonder if this whole thing wasn't actually recorded forty or so years ago. From the Stones rhythm and blues rock of, "Cheap Infatuation," to the boogietastic, "Berta," this is a record that's so packed with vintage vibes it can barely contain itself.

Born There is a classic of sorts. With songs clearly influenced by the past and founder, Bob Reuter's forty year career in rock and roll how could it not be? Thanks to his backing band of youngsters the songs are given a modern edge to them without losing their character or old patina. Alley Ghost is the genuine article and Born There only stands to add to Bob Reuter's legacy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Niyaz Mixes Traditional With Modern

Niyaz, which means yearning in Persian and Urdu, was formed in 2005 by Ali, Loga, and Carmen. Together the band takes its cue from historic influences within Middle Eastern culture, from poets and music, while exploring the sounds that make them up and then modernize it into something that's globally aware while remaining exploratory. Their third album Sumud is a beautiful mixture of just that; it's a stunningly gorgeous ancient sounding recording that's thoroughly modern in it's approach and construction.

Using struggle as a launching point the band explores the steadfastness and resilience of peoples who have been put into situations simply because of religion or ethnicity. While I have no idea what's being sung you get the sense of resiliency built into each song and although it's awash in stunning vocals and instrumentation the message remains. Sumud is an awesome record that finds source material through the Middle East region and latches onto the struggle for those minority groups to maintain their identity. The struggle doesn't sound downtrodden but brimming with beauty and positivity and that pressing on is the only way and that's what Niyaz conveys and plays throughout Sumud.

Minimal by nature and nearly ambient at times the record is sparse and fascinating. With instrumentation coming from a feast of traditional instruments including Kamaan, Robab, Santour, Lafta, Viol listening to Sumud is like listening to to a Blue Planet guide to the Middle East. It's filled with adventure, mysteries, and things that provoke your mind. Sumud is a great record and the thought and musicianship that has gone into this truly reflects upon Niyaz as being one of the most important bands playing traditionally influenced Middle Eastern music outside of the region. Truly something every citizen of the world should own.

In The Mix: Dancepop Anthems

The worlds of indie and dance music have intermingled for decades but it's only been recently that the two have become accepted by the mainstream on a global scale. It's been a long road but the genres are now as well known as sliced bread and the cross pollination of the two have made big waves the last couple of years. Everyone from Target to Apple has used artists that have crossed over the lines and help sell heaps of records for folks like Martin Solveig and David Guetta. Now, as if by magic there's a compilation gathering all the biggest hits together on one hand dandy compilation.

In The Mix Dancepop Anthems is a mish mash of styles and loops that at times are spot on and at others are downright annoying. When things get more "modern" and go all electro house the songs are just incredibly unmelodic; see Arcade Eastsides sped up version of "Written In The Stars," as a prime example of headache inducing music. The stuff just is bad. It should be called HDM instead of EDM. That being said there are a couple moments of pure gold on this record. The ridiculously catchy, "Hello," which saw French mega-talent Martin Solveig team up Canadian gods Dragonette and Duck Sauce's mega 2011 hit, "Barbara Streisand," are worth 500 or so listens.

Like any compilation there are hits and misses and songs that are fantastic and songs that should never have been included. In The Mix Dancepop Anthems is just like that and it's really up to you to determine how good or bad it really is. As it stands though In The Mix Dancepop Anthems is an excellent overview of songs that have been driving the kids crazy over the last year or so and packing the dance floors at clubs around the world. This for better or worse, is the future of music; some of it bright and some of it grim but anthemic none-the-less.

Belleruche's Rollerchain

Belleruche are an interesting study in dynamics. This is a group who has no problems dipping their indie into a side dish of trip hop and then running the whole thing through a European accent of some sort while speeding up and slowing tempos on mere whims. As its name implies, the bands album Rollerchain is one album that's gone off the chain and is so good that one listen to it simply isn't good enough.

Rollerchain is seductive as all heck and vocalist Kathrin deBoer is so incredibly sexy that this record verges on being explicit. The way she whispers the lyrics as the beats roll on behind her is just an emotional avalanche that's hard to overcome. If you want sexual tension in your music Belleruche have it spades here and it works so well for them that it will leave you breathless. When you're heart isn't melting or racing Belleruche finds other ways to keep you occupied. From upbeat tempos to soulful bluesy indie rock, the band tries it all and for the most part succeeds 100% of the time. Why? Well, Belleruche manage to keep things simple and allow the bass lines and beats to carry deBoer's vocals to the Promised Land. The band is really at their best, however, when they do their best Portishead and sound like some continental version of the British band; there's just something about Rollerchain that's incredible when it gets all dark and moody.

An impressive album from start to end Belleruche remind us that Portishead and the Sneaker Pimps were really good bands. Rollerchain is a fitting tribute that brings Belleruche's own interpretation of the genre to the trip hop table and cleans up. They've really done a good job here and whether it's deBoer's vocal seduction or the breaks and beats that steer them the whole thing is addictively refreshing. Trip hop might be an old genre at this point but Belleruche have no problems reminding us that it's still a great form of electronic music.

The Good Natured Are Watching You

This is a totally biased review as The Good Natured are one of my favorite bands at the moment. This British power trio is energetic, dark, and are incredible songwriters. Mixing Missing Persons like synth pop with a bit of edginess with a bit of lovelorness the The Good Natured writes odes to love that may make your heart race a bit or creep you out. Enter their latest EP Video Voyeur.

As the name would imply this is a stalkertastic kind of tune that so effortlessly mixes electro, synthpop and indie that the results are a single that's more infectious than ebola and as easy to remember as your abc's. The original mix is a slice of pop perfection that's impossible not to move around to in some form or another. It's driving beat, synths, and Sarah McIntosh's seductively sweet vocals are too much to ignore. Throw in four remixes to the already perfect original and you have an EP that will leave you sweaty and worn out. Featuring Adrian Lux, Cruelty, and Now Ceremony the single heads off in three directions at once. The Adrian Lux remix is by far the best of the bunch taking things in a bit more of an electro direction while still keeping Sarah's vocals up front. The Cruelty Remix takes things in a bit of a deeper direction and oddly enough attempts to turn Sarah's voice into this weird altered to protect the innocent male voice. It's bizarre to say the least. The No Ceremony Remix wraps things up with a chillwave/witch house remix that drags the whole song out and makes something already spooky even spookier.

Overall this thing is amazing. Video Voyeur hints at the greatness that's sure to follow on their debut album. That album is something I cannot wait for as these guys are just so impressive that whenever it comes out it will be my album of the year. As it stands now Video Voyeur is easily one of my Top 25 singles of the year.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Circle Is In The Middle

Having a name such as Circle for your band makes Googling really difficult and so as a result when their album came across my desk I wasn't able to find out a lot about them. In fact, I know next to nothing except for the fact that they are on Monday Records and that their new album is called The Middle. As for everything else, I have no idea. I do know that I've enjoyed listening to The Middle and that their feyish indie pop is graceful, tender, fragile, and a bit twee.

At times reminding me of Belle and Sebastian and at others like a lovelorn folk band, Circle kind of alternate between the two worlds of indie pop and folk as if they were one and the same. While normally this would drive me crazy, their songs hark back to the sunny sundae smiles of Sarah Records and bands like the Sugargliders and I think that's why I like these guys. It's all very sweet and heart achingly cool pop music that isn't afraid to get in touch with it's sensitive side. Guitars gently jangle, boy/girl vocals harmonize and the whole thing sounds like a crush set to music.

The Middle would seem to indicate something average or middle of the road, but this record is anything but. It's a wonderful melodic indie pop treat whose songs are delectably delicious and whose emotions are worn on its sleeve. This is a happy/sad kind of record that's like an old friend that you can tell anything to. It's comfortable and reassuring and it'll always be there for you. You can't ask much more from a pop band and Circle deliver all that and a whole lot of sweetness on top of it all.

You'll Love This Theme Park

I love theme parks. I've been an annual passholder at Walt Disney World since I was twelve years old and have also become a passholder at Universal…But Wax was the first thing I've heard from this Theme Park and I have to admit I was impressed. Their five song EP has a remarkable similarity to the more mellow Franz Ferdinand moments and I swear that their singer could very well be Alex Kapranos. The dude has such a similarity to Alex that it can't help but make you wonder. Anyway, if you can imagine his baritone voice hovering over atmospheric and angular pop music you kind of get where this Theme Park are coming from and where they’re headed.

Wax is a really good EP and the more I listen to it the more I find myself liking it. The record has this kind of worldly feel to it with enough 80's revivalism and all sorts of other sounds pulsating throughout to make it arty, catchy, and intriguing. I'm sure it's all done with keyboards but the songs just sound cool and with hints of steel drums popping up now and again it's like Theme Park recorded this record while on holiday…In a theme park. The four originals that appear here all hint at a band on the verge of something unique and fun while the Kitsune remix that wraps the whole thing up sets the dance floor alight with an indie dance smash hit waiting to be unleashed. If this Theme Park had an annual pass I'd pick it up because I enjoyed my stay and hope to return again soon.

Captain Of The Swedish Team Is Nuts

As the Captain of the Swedish Team one would think it would be their responsibility to control the chaotic nature of their team, however after listening to Brand New Skinny Ghost they seem to have lost the control altogether. This band of muso nutters are about the furthest thing away from control or organization as one could get. Instead they take math rock run it through a post rock calculator and come up with something that sounds like their instruments being pulled apart at the same time.

Brand New Skinny Ghost is essentially two tracks book ended by an intro and outro that aren't much more than just that. The actual two tracks are prime examples of making guitars do things they're not supposed to be able to do while they drone on. They're steered through this minefield of chaos by bashed drums and the odd vocals that attach themselves and plod along. It's all very noisy and reckless stuff that sounds destructive and all over the place. It might not be the catchiest thing you'll hear but to just listen to Captain of the Swedish Team do what they do is intriguing and makes Brand New Skinny Ghost well worth a listen...with ear plugs.

The Raveonettes Head Into The Night

I've been following The Raveonettes since their Ghost Rider EP was first released and I can honestly say that in that time I don't think I've ever heard a bad song by these guys. They've personified what it means to be a garage pop band and have taken influences from Jesus and Mary Chain to groups like the Challengers and made their sounds an important part of theirs. Their latest single Into the Night is no different. In fact it's just about as perfect of a representation of surfy indie pop as you're going to get today. Perhaps a bit more like The Primitives than past efforts, Into The Night is a fizzy, buzzy single that's an ode to the letdowns of lost love.

Effervescent, distorted, and heartbroken Into the Night is distorted indie pop bliss. With syrupy sweet harmonies coming from both Sharin Foo and Sune Rose Wagner and a wall of sound that would make Phil Spector blush the band lay on the broken heart aspect of the songs thick here. The result of all this is four romantic songs for the thoroughly depressed. These songs hide their tears behind the fuzzed out guitars and their wall of noise; it’s a clever disguise to say the least. Into the Night is an awesome record that once again proves The Ravenoettes are on top of their game. While there's nothing really new about these songs from the sound department, the band still manage to create lovelorn, infectious pop songs that are so charming you can't help but succumb to them.

The New Cassettes Arrive With Winterhead

The New Cassettes aren't really new or even new sounding. In fact they might be a little late to the whole disco punk party but at least they finally made it here. Their album Winterhead would have been a massive success had it been released around 2005 with bands like Bloc Party and The Futureheads. But at a measly seven years late, they've managed to dodge overwhelming success while still managing to release one heck of a record.

Creating choppy disco punk inflected power pop New Cassettes write songs at 45 degree angles and fly their way through each song as if they were in a hurry to be somewhere else. The songs cut left, cut right, jump up and down and flood the dance floor with intense guitar work outs and memorable choruses. It's obvious after a few songs that New Cassettes clearly know how to write a danceable indie rock song that's unforgettable. They carry that on through the entire album, even when they slow things down a bit and try to get sentimental. I truly enjoy how their guitars slice their way through songs and are particularly aggressive while the rest of the band stays melodic; it's a nice dynamic that works well for these guys.

In the end, Winterhead is an absorbing and jittery record that's a thoroughly enjoyable listen. Its angularity might be a little past the sell by date, but the band overcomes that with striking song writing, huge hooks, and great guitar work. It's clear New Cassettes are very good at what they do and they're ability to mix tension with harmony is something worth hearing many, many times. Disco punk has come a long way since it's revival at the turn of the century and New Cassettes are blazing the trail forward...well at least until the new Bloc Party album comes out.

Scuola Furano Is On Fire

Probably the hardest thing to understand about Scuola Furano's latest single is how to pronounce Scuola Furano. That's a name, let me tell you. Anyway, as for his single On Fire it's an absolute mind warping experience. On Fire is pure piano driven house music that is about as perfect as perfect can be. This is the sort of single that throwing your hands up in the air as if you didn't care was designed for.

Euphoric, atmospheric and loaded with piano build ups, diva vocals, and 4/4 beats this is an absolute masterpiece of discofied Italiano house. The song is slinky, sexy, moving and is the sort of thing that's impossible not to move to. With the original mix leading the way, the single is backed up by a ridiculously amazing rework by the Glimmers that takes piano house to heaven and back. Herr Styler on the other hand chills the tune out, dubs it up, and makes it sound like something completely different in a near ethno-techno kind of way. And finally, the 303 Dub gives it this electro-ish, echo laden dubbed out disco odyssey that inserts squiggles and acid house inflections instead of blatant piano stabs; it works out pretty well and is the longest track here.

Scuola Furana is truly On Fire here. He's blown me away here so much so, I need to hear everything this guy has done and play an hour set of just his tunes. On Fire is house goodness that's just about one of the best things I've heard this year.

Fabric 63 Features Levon Vincent

Wow. I have no idea where I've been but I've apparently missed, a mind numbing 45 installments of the legendary DJ mix series Fabric Live. Now up to number 63 the things are outpacing the NOW series with the number of releases in their catalog. The difference here is that you'll want to own every Fabric Live CD ever released because they put the spotlight on the world’s greatest DJ talent and let them go nuts like the night is theirs at Fabric.

The sixty third installment of this series is handled by Levon Vincent who takes us on a sound excursion of bass, dub, and crazy rhythms. It's quite the excursion as the album is all over the place. Levon doesn't sit still for very long and over the course of 49 songs here he manages to mash so many genres and sounds together it's like mashed potatoes by the end. This is a hyper, skittish, yet excellently mixed record that keeps you guessing and keeps you moving. You never really get to settle into one sort of groove before Levon takes a sharp left and heads down another direction. It's truly awesome to behold because the song selection is great and his ability to slice and dice genres is impressive while still maintaining the flow at a constant level of energy.

From drum and bass to soul to everything in between Levon drops a song or two from each and slices it like a food processor into something else. It really shouldn't work, but Levon has enough skill to make it work and it's a fantastic listen. Sixty-three volumes in and Fabric Live proves why it's become such a long running franchise: the quality of the DJing is second to none. This series gives you a taste of what nights in London are like at the legendary club and at sixty three volumes that's a lot of dancing to experience if you can't make it over.

Punks Jump Up Are Working Overtime

Punks Jump Up are back again and this time they're working overtime. The pan-European duo that make up Punks Jump Up have been on a roll for the last six years and their latest single Mr. Overtime is no let down. As per usual the Punks take electro and house and make something so poptastic out of them both that their songs become completely irresistible on the floor or behind the decks.

What's different this go around? Well, this time rather than handling the vocal duties themselves or even using them they bring in Mr. Chromeo himself, Dave 1, and let him run rampant. The result is a tune that sounds like an instant classic from the Chromeo camp and something that should have been on Business Casual. It almost makes sense then that the single is called Mr. Overtime. While it all reads very business oriented, it's not; trust me. Seductive, funky, and soulful grooves create enough dance floor action to keep your feet moving and when you throw in the steel drums, Dave's vocals, and the house inflected synths you have yet another slice of Punks Jump Up perfection. With a few b-sides and what not, the package is worth more than its weight in gold. At this point it is easy to say that these guys are amazing and that's because like Mr. Overtime...they're always working.

Bad Veins Make Messes

Normally when I have blood drawn for whatever reason the nurse always compliments me on how good my veins are. I really never know how to take it as it's just kind of gross all the way around but at least she's not saying I have bad veins. Well, truth be told, I do have Bad Veins. Not in the traditional sense but in the musical one. This two piece band with assistance from a tape machine create music that might be bad for you but darn it if it doesn't sound great. I've got their latest album The Mess We Made and it's like the best thing that The Feelings never released.

Slighty sappy, uber melodic, and syrupy sweet this is a record that sounds bigger than its two members should be able to make. This is an upbeat record that has no problems laying in the strings on top of strings, adding multipart harmonies, and then creating hooks the size of Texas. These guys sound like a million bucks despite costing about 1000. Honestly, The Mess We Made is anything but a mess. In fact, it's a brilliant slice of melodic indie rock that no matter how widescreen or orchestral it tries to be it never loses sight of its pop sensibility.

For just a duo, Bad Veins have a sound that's so much larger than they are it's hard to comprehend. How two people (and a tape machine) can create such charming, alluring, and large sounding songs is beyond me but they do and do such a good job of it, you'd never know it was just a duo. The Mess We Made is a great record that is epic in scope and huge in melody; it's a record that has it all and has more than that just because. This is music to swoon to and music to fall in love to; it's heartwarming and fun and no matter how big the mess Bad Veins make it's totally worth it when it's this good.

Fanfic Are Maneuvering Around Awkwardness

Fanfic's debut album Maneuvering Around Awkwardness attempts to do just that. Yet, this dark wave synth pop inflected record is the sort of thing that you would find in the dark corner of a club dressed in a trench coat mad at the world. Firmly in touch with it's inner goth but finding rays of hope in pop music the band construct songs that Joy Division wish they wrote, OMD would have written in 1982, and VNV Nation would dance to now. This is utterly gorgeous stuff that's so depressingly good and so darkly lit that if you're not careful you'll look right over them.

With lush, murky synths and baritone vocals that just sound lost and detached Fanfic so easily create atmospheric songs that while obviously rooted in the shadows have glimmers of light and the choruses to match. This is music to pull rope to, smoke clove cigarettes to, get lost in dry ice with; it's got a heart of darkness but a soul in love and it's got truly amazing songs. I always find stuff like this a study in dynamics, because on one had you have this grim like feeling permeating every song but at the same time the songs are so overwhelmingly good that the grimness becomes overshadowed by what's actually being played..Something good to shine against the “evil.”

Fanfic can write great songs that's the short of it. They wrap their amazing songs in shades of darkness, depression, and hopelessness but much like Darth Vader there is good in them...and it eventually wins out. Maneuvering Around Awkwardness is a great record because of this constant struggle between darkness and light. The songs bristle with easy to latch onto rhythms and lyrics but the murkiness and haze that surrounds them give the songs an edge. Fanfic are awesome at what they do and I'm totally a fan of Maneuvering Around Awkwardness both musically and in reality.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tyburn Saints, You, and I In Heaven

Tyburn Saint's single You & I In Heaven is a dramatic sweeping affair that's filled with ethereal riffs, baritone vocals, broken hearts and a feeling that life is hard. And yet despite sounding like White Lies if they were more depressed, the songs here are incredibly beautiful. You & I In Heaven is like listening to the most depressing yet uplifting thing you've ever heard. These are the sort of songs that will make you weep in your hands and then dust yourself off and move on because you have to. It's a dose of tough love in the form of pop music and it's fabulous.

Tyburn Saints so easily create sweeping, soaring guitar riffs that they would seem to be processed through every pedal Robin Guthrie owns. The songs are then driven home with solid drumming and those deep resounding vocals that lie somewhere between Peter Murphy and heaven. It's a rarity to hear something that's this dramatic and it not be goofy, but Tyburn Saints tap into some fantastic songwriting and elevate the songs skywards. There are only four tracks here but to be honest I don't think I'm ready to handle eight or ten so You & I In Heaven is ok by me being what it is. Fully in touch with its inner goth while having an affair with post shoegazing guitar dynamics and a desire to reach the pearly gates, Tyburn Saints are onto something magical and beautiful and it's the sort of thing that cries out to be heard and it should be.

Next Men

JD Samson & MEN have been so consistently good since their inception I really feel like they've eclipsed Le Tigre as a band. Their debut album was in my Top 25 for 2011 and they've continually issued material that's just as good if not better than that album. Their latest single, Next EP, is no different.

While not quite as bangertastic as their album, the Next EP still packs a danceable punch. JD clearly has the knack for writing indie punk dance anthems and the three songs that make this record up are all instant hits. They might be a bit rough around the edges and a bit raw but they are driving electro beasts with devilish beats that more than make up for any lo-fidelity or tarnished edged found here. Next EP is three songs of sweaty fun that have a message with regards to the economy, apathy, protest, and hope; that’s a lot in under 15 minutes. You get all this action and a message? Why yes you do! It's as if it's fashionable and functional and that's awesome.

Four years in and a heap of records later MEN have truly made a name for themselves and stepped out from the shadow of Le Tigre. That's fantastic. And speaking of fantastic the Next EP is good synthy punk pop that probably will wind up again in my Top 25 this year.

Junkie XL Are Off The Dancefloor

Junkie XL has come a long, long way since that Elvis song. Quite honestly, that's such a good thing it's almost worth celebrating alone. While it's unquestionable that the song allowed Junkie XL to up his productions and do what he wanted it was just so all conquering that it became a cliché of itself. But that was a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Junkie's latest single Off The Dancefloor proves that rather quickly.

An absolute mind numbing assault on your memory, Off The Dancefloor is a throbbing mass of electronic battle weaponry that cannot be stopped. Taking house adding some commercial accessibility to it and then running it through a hip hop filter the song bounces, screams, and attacks you until you're just beaten to a pulp by its stompy rhythms. And that, that's just the album version. Throw in three ridiculously good techno inspired throbby beasts of remixes and you have a package that proves Junkie XL is way more than a one trick pony. From the big room house vibes of the NT89's rework to the absolute corker of the Deniz Koyu Remix and the original this is thirty minutes of high energy mayhem that you need in your life on a Friday night.

Literature Writes Classics

Literature are a book smart band from Austin, Texas who sound like they come from a long line of artists who have embraced jangly, jumpy pop generations before them and beyond. With influences ranging from obvious ones like The Strokes, to less obvious ones like the Stiff Records catalog, the band clearly know how to write strong, memorable songs that are straight out of the garage and into your frontal lobe. Their album Arab Spring kind of looks like an old Darling Buds single but sounds like reckless abandon recorded to tape.

With rumbling bass lines, driving drums, jangly, distorted, and whacked out guitars the band plough through songs as if their lives depended on writing power pop and classic alternative songs in rapid succession. Arab Spring is so classic sounding you'd swear it was secretly recorded in 1987 and that Literature are really 55 years old. This sounds like so many classic 80's British indie records it’s got me confused. I can hear all sorts of classics running through my aural inventory and it impresses me that someone, unbeknownst to them, has stumbled onto so something that's so good. Arab Spring is a nervous, jittery, energetic record that's fun. This is carefree slightly angsty pop music that's so pure and honest it’s hard to no listen to it.

Folks, it's time to get buried in a good work of Literature and I've found it for you in Arab Spring. Like all the best page turners this record will keep you gripped, it'll make you smile, it'll make you jittery, and it might even make you cry; it's that good. They don't make bands, much less records, like this anymore, so to stumble across a band that so readily embraces a sound and runs with is awesome. I've seen the future of music...and it involved, um, Literature.

Bam Spacey Slides Away

Bam Spacey's single Vi Delar Samma Grav is a mouthful just to say so thank the lord it's such a brilliant and easy single to latch on to. This super deep, uber chilled house single is an exploratory and atmospheric journey into the joys of minimalism. With elements of ambient, dub, techno, microhouse and straight up chill out Bam Spacey constructs ethereal, dreamy tunes that float on clouds and elevate listeners into a higher state of consciousness.

The four songs that make up Vi Delar Samma Grav are optimistic, relaxed, and utterly gorgeous and there's not a duff moment amongst them all. In fact, it's nearly a spiritual experience as gentle voices waft in and out while synth washes overtake you and the chilled vibes slowly slide you away on a groove into eternity. It's truly awesome stuff. Exploratory, hopeful, and opulent Vi Delar Samma Grav is a stroke of genius that will be on my turntable for ages.

Maya Jane Coles Gets Her DJ Kicks

Maya Jane Coles is a DJ/producer you might not have heard of but she is someone you need to have heard of. This East Ender has just unleashed the latest in the K7 DJ Kicks series and I've got to tell you it is an awesome mix that's got top notch tunes that even includes two of Maya's own. Having spent some time driving around with this record, it’s obvious that the girl knows tech/house almost too well and then just for the heck of it even finds a way to mix in a few garage vibes on top of it all. The result is a nonstop booming mix that's energetic, up front, and very, very good.

Featuring twenty-two tracks in a non-stop expertly mixed frenzy of peak hour tunes, this is the sound of tech house coming straight out of the clubs into your living room. Her selection is flawless and the tunes are gigantic. This is one DJ Kicks album that's worth many, many listens and is so enthusiastically blended to perfection, that it's no wonder fans have been clamoring for it for months. Even her two original tracks are banger's and shows Maya's ability both behind and in front of the decks. About the only negative thing you could say about this record is that she should have spent less time behind the decks and more time in the studio producing more original material; that’s what we really want!

As it stands though, Maya Jane Coles turn behind the DJ Kicks helm is phenomenal. She's a star and you can hear why on each of the 22 tracks on this record. This is your next party soundtracked to suit your every need. Now, if Maya could just find her way into the studio to give us 22 tracks of her own that would be some serious DJ Kicks!

Stereofunk Get Down

You know, you should never judge a book by its cover and thank heavens I didn't when it came to the rather tritely named Stereofunk. Despite their uber-generic name the band pack a huge electro punch that kills and had I just skipped over this (because of their name) I would have missed out on this electronic battle weapon of epic proportions. As it turns out, Stereofunk's album Radio Robotic is a series of hits strung together in rapid succession that are so infectious you'll need to talk two Tylenol and call your doctor in the morning after listening to it.

Radio Robotic harks back to when electro, synth pop, and house were first intermingling. Think Daft Punkish tunes on a bit of a pop slant and you have an idea of where Stereofunk are coming from. They write absolutely gargantuan tunes with hooks that are even bigger and they come at you at such speed that your ears can barely keep up. The synths are lush, with squiggles, loops, stabs and sounds ricocheting all around you to create an atmospheric layer with beats that are solid and four to the floor. Throw in the occasional hip hop vibe, trance hook, or commercial banger and you have Radio Robotic wrapped up in a neat little package. With eleven tracks and eleven potential singles this is a non-stop dance off where the only test is whether or not you'll have enough energy to make it to the end.

With an exhausting and diverse array of influences and sounds Stereofunk throw aside their name and create songs that are guaranteed floor fillers and the kind of thing that could bail out any DJ in any situation. How? Well Radio Robotic is packed with tunes that move and it's nigh impossible to resist their ability to make you do that. It's rare to hear a dance music album where every tune is incredibly good, but Stereofunk have created one and it's apparent they've sunk an enormous amount of energy, creativity, and grooves into every song on Radio Robotic. This is a fantastic record that awaits anyone who manages to get over their name.

Infiction Can Fly

Los Angeles based electronic music producers Infiction are back yet again with another single that's packed with enough mind numbing progressive house to destroy a dance floor and then some. The single, entitled You Can Fly, is the sort of thing you'll believe you can actually do after letting the single hypnotize you into submission. This is a huge tune in the truest sense in the word and has so much big room potential that it’s impossible to calculate. The song is so large that if you were to look up huge tune in the Penguin Guide to Bangers you'd see Infiction listed next to the definition; and that's just the A-side.

B-side, "I Need You," is just as epic as the A-Side except that it's a little darker with a detached diva vocal leading the way. A tad more atmospheric than the positivity and groove that lifts the title track it’s still very good stuff. These guys so easily combine commercial house influences with an underground vibe that the results are songs that are inescapably catchy and undeniably danceable. Perhaps a bit like Moby circa, "Go," You Can Fly has that big room deep vibe that's uplifting, euphoric but still slightly edgy. It's excellent stuff all around and leaves you wanting more. If Infiction could just put aside their lucrative soundtracking projects for a year they could write and record and album and subsequently rule the progressive house world.

Grass Widow Use Internal Logic

Remember how The Cribs used to go on about "proper Indie?" Well if you ever wondered what "proper Indie," is/was/or will be you should probably hang out with Grass Widow who not only knows the answer to that question, they have experience because they're living it. This three piece girl group is like The Flatmates or Shop Assistants if they were from San Francisco or the Vivian Girls if they were British. Their latest album Internal Logic defies it by turning back the clocks and cranking out the latest in c-86 revivalism.

Shambolic, post punky and spiky Grass Widow are a power trio with a pop song in their heart and an angularity in their guitars. Raw unfiltered bass lines carry the band into pop oblivion as guitar riffs angle their way in and Internal Logic sounds a bit like a garage rock indie pop record raised on surf tunes and Brian Wilson harmonies. It is shuffly stuff that's constantly jumping around and the spiky riffs that the Grass Widow's produce keep your ears perked up throughout. While there might not be an overwhelming amount of choruses to latch onto the guitar work really helps steer the songs along and makes them memorable. The raw unfiltered sound that this band generates while still keeping things poppy is truly impressive.

Internal Logic is an awesome record that's the most British thing that isn't British to come out of America this year. Sounding like a throwback to the days when Melody Maker, Sounds, and NME competed for readers Grass Widow sound as though they've been trapped in their garage for nearly 30 years. From "Milo Minute," to "Advice," and everything between this is proper indie and it's fantastic.

Turing Machine Know The Meaning

Ever wondered what the engine of your car sounded like underneath the hood as you go 130 mph across any great open space? I think I've discovered the sound and it just happens to be created by the oddly appropriately named Turing Machine. This group of instrumentalists crank out the jams that will get your motor running, your brain pumped and you lead foot planted firmly on the ground. Their album What Is The Meaning is a hefty forty minute workout of down tuned guitars, distortion pedals, driving rhythms and a touch of the impending apocalypse.

Turing Machine is like Trans Am if they didn't go all Miami Vice or turn into complete robots. Like their counterparts, Turing Machine use electronics, guitars, anything available to them to convey the atmosphere the band is hoping to achieve with each song. Some songs sound like a drag race others sound like a Dalek patrol on a mission to exterminate The Doctor. Its awesome cold, harsh, and epic stuff that's perfect for your imagination to create tales of science fiction to. From throbbing synths, godly guitar solos, danceable beats and bass lines that pound your head into the ground Turing Machine has it all. They take all that and then combine it into this Voltron like instrumental concoction which pulsates with precision and a coolness that's practically lethal.

They may not use a single vocal to convey their message, but Turing Machine doesn't have to because their vistas, landscapes, and panorama's paint a perfect picture for your mind’s eye. What Is The Meaning is the sound of the end. If the Mayan's(and Cancerman) were correct then December 2012 has it's UFO invasion soundtrack..And it's awesome music to save our planet to. Turing Machine may sound like an engine humming at the peak of performance because it has to...saving the planet on the run or playing in a chaotic band isn't an easy job.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Alec Carlsson Knows House Is A Feeling

Alec Carlsson's new single Doux Vour is a deeply chilled, sexy, slinky tech house package that's so deep and so amazingly good I think I've listened to it about fifty times. In an age where dubstep is the norm, and bass bin shattering tunes have pushed out proper house music it's nice to see someone out there who still makes it and makes it well. Doux Vour is a filled with lush synths, echoing organ stabs, nearly two step beats, and samples buried underneath it all. It truly is magnificent stuff that's like the plushest night out/morning in you've ever had.

Doux Vour is a masterwork. This is deep tech house the way it was meant to be made. It's seductive and sensuous, gorgeous and opulent and steeped to perfection. I don't really know much about Alec Carlsson but after listening to this, I feel the need to own everything he's ever done; the guy just knows his way around a dance floor (and studio) and crafts tunes as a reflection of that. If you're looking for something inviting and provocative that understands that house music is a feeling you need a bit of Doux Vour in your life.

She Makes War Wages Little Battles

She Makes War is another example of what one person can do, given enough time, creativity, and savvy. This one woman band headed up by Laura Kidd isn't as aggressive as the name would suggest but rather will remind some of more recent works by PJ Harvey. Her album Little Battles was recorded shortly after the Hackney Riots in London last year and is a tense record that protests quietly while finding beauty in unusual places. It is a very cool record and features as much melancholy as it does genius.

Little Battles at times reminds me of classic 90's girl fronted alternative bands like Goya Dress, Echobelly, and the aforementioned PJ. She Makes War creates this very arty, diverse, and intriguing landscape in which her songs roam. The songs are most definitely indie spirited but diverse enough to included loads of quirky instrumentation like Uke, autoharp, melodica, recorders, saxophone and even field recordings. Laura Kidd displays a level of artful pop prowess that very rarely makes an appearance in today's scene and that alone is reason enough to like her. Little Battles is a thought provoking study in contrasts and mixes the dark with the light, beauty with ugly, heavy with light. It's fun to listen to and Kidd's voice has this classic feel to it that reminds me of so many great artists that it makes me think she'll someday soon be part of that crowd.

Little Battles was recorded at a dark point in British society and yet it offers a glimmer of hope. Its songs are delicate yet tough, ethereal yet solid and Laura Kidd does and excellent job of constructing these songs. This is a classic girl fronted indie record that leans towards being ingenious and resourceful. And how can it not be, She Makes War is Laura Kidd at her best. Optimistically looking back at the past She Makes War’s Little Battles is truly an album for our time.

White Fence Loves His Family Perfume

What would have happened if Of Montreal never turned into the coked up glam synth monsters they've become but instead regressed into a world of lo-fi, cheap psychedelia, and spitting out records like an assembly line? I'm not sure I know the answer but one man band White Fence might have a good idea as that seems to be what Mr. Fence secretly desires. His double album Family Perfume 1&2 is a sprawling messy, pieced together patchwork of lo-fi, buzzy, indie pop songs that half the time are average at best and stellar at others.

Family Perfume 1&2 is packed to the edges with fuzzy guitars, 60's influences, no production, and a sense that the recording device used to make this record was about to break apart into a million pieces. Tim Presley, White Fence's founder, knows how to write a good tune it's just that it seems like he's lost in his own miasma and haze to bother to try. When, however, he comes out of his haze he has this ability to create little psychedelic indie pop symphonies that linger in your ears forever. Why he doesn’t do more of this is beyond me. In fact, if someone were to give White Fence a real studio and a big budget this guy could probably make a record that would make Brian Wilson envious.

Family Perfume 1&2 seems to be about tinkering and playing around with ideas and then recording them all. I mean how else can you explain the fact that this double record is a total of twenty-nine tracks? It's a mess and it sounds disorganized but within that chaos lays some serious fizzy pop gems just waiting to be heard. And they should be heard and their effervescence should be exposed because they deserve to be. This is a pure and simple indie pop recorded with heart and not much else and yet Family Perfume 1&2 still smells and sounds pretty darn cool.

Chinua Hawk Leads A Beautifully Complicated Life

Chinua Hawk is a busy man. He's a singer, a songwriter, an entrepreneur and who knows what else. He's the kind of artist that has a million projects going all at once and when he’s not doing that, he's working with Wyclef Jean and Kanye West. Amongst that massive list of activity Chinua has managed to find time to record his own album entitled A Beautifully Complicated Life and it illustrates just what a dynamic singer, songwriter, and performer he is.

Taking a jazzy base and then layering R&B above it, Chinua Hawk's songs are as smooth as silk and he has the vocal chops that you'd expect to go along with it all. The guy can sing, and he's so good he could make Barry White blush at his ability to make the lady’s hearts melt. His version of "Careless Whisper," is total seduction, it's the kind of thing that candles, rose petals, and champagne were made for; it’s that good. A Beautifully Complicated Life is romantic and filled with so much passion it's almost uncontainable. Even Chinua's original material is moving stuff. The guy clearly knows how to write vocal jazz and R&B jams as if his heart depended on it. As an illustration of all of this A Beautifully Complicated Life is an impressive display of Chinua's vocal prowess, and songwriting ability.

It may not be Valentine’s Day, but this is the sort of thing that would be perfect for it. A Beautifully Complicated Life sets a mood and creates an atmosphere of love and no matter how complicated Chinua's life may be there always seems to be time for love. This is a mature (in more than one way) record that shows the passion and dedication Chinua Hawk has towards everything he does.

Oberhofer Packs Time Capsules

Oberhofer despite having a rather Germanic name does not play dubstep polkas for a new generation. Oh no, this band founded by 21 year old Brad Oberhofer is far to chipper and his album Time Capsules II is a raucous rumble through pop music. It's all ramshackle, rambunctious, jolly, and jangly stuff that finds inspiration in Brian Wilson's brain and Descartes works on philosophy. This is a bold and intelligent record that's been brought to life by someone barely old enough drink.

Time Capsules II doesn't feel nor sounds like a debut album. Rather this is a work that sounds like it's the second or third album of a prolific artist. This is deeply personal stuff that comes from the belief that you spend your life looking for the socially aware version of the five year old you. It's a philosophical and thought inducing, yet extremely catchy and frivolous, pop music. The guy clearly has a brain on his head and knows how to write a darn good song to boot. Time Capsules II as a result is a perpetually rewarding experience of energetic and thoughtful gems.

With seemingly multi-part harmonies, a degree of tweeness, a bit of shyness, a deep rooted quest for meaning and songs that have enough of oohing and ahhing to last a lifetime, Time Capsules II fires on all cylinders and never lets the listener down. Oberhofer has created an impressive debut that's in love with pop music as much as it is with youth. It's warm and fun and despite some of the weighty lyrics that permeate it, it's brimming with sunshine. This is the sort of record that should be placed in a time capsule to remind us decades from now that no matter how bad things got, there was still great music being made.

Mati Zundel's Amazonico Gravitante

Picking up exactly where the Future Sound of Buenos Aires left off, Mati Zundel has released his solo album and much like the compilation he utilizes a rich sound palette to create a modern sound that's informed by the past as much as it is the present. Amazonico Gravitante is a lush, open minded work that mixes electronics and traditional sounds so well that the lines are blurred and the sounds difficult to detect. Amazonico Gravitante is a fascinating album from one of the most fascinating musicians on the world music stage.

Deftly blending traditions together with electronics the record takes on this totally summery chilled vibe that makes you just want to relax and enjoy life. Something that’s obviously a big part of Brazilian life? This is a lush record that barely utters a word but conveys such a strong message and such a cool set of grooves you'll find it difficult to not to enjoy it. With samples, sounds, and beats coming from every age and angle, the thing is as spread out as the continent of South America and just as mesmerizing as well. There may not be a lot of catchy tunes on this record but the unique sounds that Zundel creates are riveting and as I said earlier this is perfectly chilled world music.

Whether it's at Carnivale or in a bustling metropolis, Mati Zundel has a sound for any situation and he's filled Amazonico Gravitante with tons of them. The result is a relaxed record that never strays from your attention. If you love the idea of shabby chic even in music you'll think Mati Zundel is a genius because no else meshes old with new as well as he does on Amazonico Gravitante.

Welcome To The Future Sound of Buenos Aires

In a land where dancing in the streets in normal, where movement and footwork are essential components of life Brazil is a country constantly in a state of movement. As if to prove that point, Waxploitation Records and ZZK Records have combined forces to unleash the Future Sound of Buenos Aires. This compilation of electronic music takes the traditional sounds of Buenos Aires and then brings it bang up to date with techno, baille funk, hip hop, dub and just about everything else that squiggles or beeps. Consisting of twelve tracks the album seeks to cover all its bases through a grand circle tour of the city and a whole host of producers.

With loads of underground producers including Chancha Via Circuito, Mati Zundel, Frikstailers, Super Gauchin, King Coya the record is a smorgasbord of sounds and Latin influences that are all distinctive, unique, and very, very good. Future Sound of Buenos Aires is an excellent record and there's so little filler here you'll barely have time to breathe. From traditional sounds mixed into a heady mix of electronic noodling to techno squiggles with pounding beats most of this record will sound as if Carnivale has shown up miraculously in your living room. Why not join in the celebration and dance along to the rolling tropical beats?

From the near dubstep destruction of Daleduro's "La Poli," to the funky Frikstailers, "Guacha," Future Sound of Buenos Aires never stops it's frenetic dance of delight. This is a gorgeous record that's like listening to ancient and modern Brazil melding into something greater than the sum of its parts. After listening to this record a few times, flying down to Buenos Aires, eating heaps of Brazilian food and enjoying the whole experience it's fair to say that The Future Sound of Buenos Aires is darn near blindingly brilliant.

Kraak and Smaak Keep Runnin'

The rather hilariously named Kraak & Smaak are known for setting dance floors alight with their disco house grooves. Their latest single Runnin' is really be no different. At times reminding me of classic Blockster tunes, K&S lay down funky grooves with a driving house beat that wouldn't sound out of place on one of a zillion Hed Kandi comps from the late 90's or playing in the bachelor pad of someone like Alex Gopher. This is potentially classic stuff delivered with high gloss and a sheen of disco goodness.

Runnin' consists of three incredibly catchy, and more importantly, funky tracks that are so perfectly fined tuned to set that glammy, housed up vibe that Cream should have these guys as permanent residents. While the tracks differ on the level of deepness ("This Feeling," being a bit more deep and atmospheric than "Runnin'") they all are simply amazing in whatever manner you play them. An impressive single all the way through, Kraak & Smaak prove that disco house is alive and well and apparently living it up in style.

Proof I Exist Live In Suburban Sci-Fi

Proof I Exist answers the question if I'm a solo artist and I make record by myself do I exist? Well Suburban Sci-Fi would seem to answer that question with a resounding yes. Proof I Exist is Paul Kulis who single handedly and painstakingly pieced this record together in his basement using all live instrumentation and a bit of computer magic. The results are a fun filled record that taps into its inner indie popper and then sings an ode to the joys of DIY.

Sounding at times like Neutral Milk Hotel and at others like a bit of a twee pop band, Proof I Exist are a jangly, jolly, frivolous, and whimsical band that sounds much larger than the sum of its parts. Suburban Sci-Fi fully embraces its bedsit /basement pop roots and runs with it. This is a record that embraces the honesty and purity of every song here and the craft of making each of these tunes really helps this thing succeed. It's not flash, it's not huge, it's not overly produced it's just an honest to goodness power pop record that's filled with great choruses, quirky hooks and songs that will have you pogoing around.

By the conclusion of this record, Kulis has proven he exists and done a darn good job of it. Suburban Sci-Fi is a well rounded effort that shows Proof I Exist can do it all and do it well without the aid of anyone. Who needs a band when you've got a basement, time, and the ability to play everything? Not Proof I Exist, that’s for sure.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Chains Of Love Are Hard To Break

The Chains of Love are a hard bond to break; wrapped up in your arms and twisted in your thoughts, they're almost inescapable. Oh...and so is the band of the same name. This garage, retro tinged group write songs as if they were the Pipettes in a fight with Vivian Girls on a beach in California. Their latest EP Strange Grey Days is a surfy, jangly, twangy gorgeous record that's so poptastic you can almost feel the handclaps across your face. The songs on this short but sweet record are loaded with organ riffs, echoey guitars, soaring heartbroken vocals, and twisterella-like grooves. It's all heavenly pop that is broken hearted as any band with the name of Chains of Love should be.

Despite the name Strange Grey Days is the sound of summer. This record is the sound of puppy love, days at the beach, car chases through the mountains, life in the 50's or 60's, going back to school and knowing that it's all going to come crashing to an end. It's awesome stuff and I'm thankful that we get seven songs of this brilliant twangy stuff to fall in love with because as I said, breaking the chains of love is tough but after listening to Strange Grey Days why would you ever want to?

Sleeping In The Aviary and Cheap Hotels

I believe when you name your record Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel you're kind of setting yourself up for a certain degree of scrutiny. Whether or not that scrutiny is deserved should really be left up to whether or not the music is any good and in the case of Sleeping In The Aviary it's kind of a tossup. This indie freak folk band is a kind of twisted, shambolic, noisy wreck of a group that somehow manages to keep itself together through each of the eleven songs here despite sounding as if they're being ripped apart at the seams.

Sleeping In The Aviary is a mess and they sound like it. Songs seem to have no production value, no direction and aren't all that great and yet when they manage to focus they can write a pretty decent song here. When they do, it's a bit of classic indie rock in a Modest Mouse/Archers of Loaf kind of thing. It's rough, raw, and under produced stuff. It's not great but Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel has it's moments and those moments are worth listening to. With strummy guitars, lo-fi vocals, barely audible percussion and a sense that the whole thing was recorded on 1/4 inch tape, Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel has a level of honesty and purity about it, that despite it's recklessness is appealing.

If ever there was a band keeping it real, Sleeping In The Aviary would be it. They play things as if they've just bought their instruments, they sound like a bunch of hung-over geeks, and when it comes down to it they're not even that great but Expensive Vomit In A Cheap Hotel, like it's name implies, is a study in contrasts. If you like messy indie rock or folk music with a kick, you'll more than likely enjoy Sleeping In The Aviary's crazy tunes.

Radiation City's Hands Take You

Radiation City are the latest artists to emerge from the Tender Loving Empire in Oregon. These arty, dreamy, atmospheric popsters are as misty as the Oregonian landscape and their album The Hands That Take You is a perfect Northwestern indie rock record with an Oregonian slant. Part fun and part torch songs The Hands That Take You is a woozy trip into the bands subconscious that you'll find difficult to return from.

With a minimal amount of fuss and instrumentation Radiation City cast spells with beguiling sounds, breezy choruses, and instrumentation that seems to float on an Ambien fueled pillow. This truly is dream pop because about half of The Hands That Take You sounds like it was recorded in that zone just before you drift off into never, never land. And for all its wooziness and half awareness, the record still maintains this hypnotizing affect. The nearly jazzy vocals of Lizzy Ellison hovers somewhere between Julie Cruise and an angel; she's just got a pretty voice that wafts on by as the band struggle to keep themselves awake. It’s something to be enraptured by, like most of this album.

The Hands That Take You is a sleeper of a hit...literally. This is slackerific, hazy, post shoegazing pop that's impossible not to like. It's a subtle record whose mark is left upon you long after you've stopped listening. It won't be obvious, but this record will remain with you. Radiation City has written a lucid dream set to music and its great stuff. After listening to The Hands That Take You sleeping will never be the same.

Behold Evans The Death

The simple joys of C86 lives on twenty five years after its origin thanks to bands like Evans The Death. Despite having a rather wonky name taken from Dylan Thomas, this group of young Brits have listened to enough Flatmates records and Tallulah Gosh singles to come up with something, while obviously invested in past pop glory is, blazing a new trail into the future. Their self titled album is a fizzy, jangly, noisy indie pop treat that's like the best thing that never came out in 1987.

With a unique vocal style that's somewhere between Nico, proper singing and a shyness that is criminally vulgar, Katherine Whitaker gives each song a beautiful arty slant that's a joy to listen to. In fact, most of Evans of Death is a joy to listen to. The albums effervescence, noisy guitars, and gorgeous vocals make for one heck of a summer record. This is proper indie pop music that had me digging through my old records looking for classics when I finished with it. This is like the Vivian Girls if they were British or your Sarah Records collection smashed together...it's shy, shuffly, and frenetic and very good.

They might be younger than the actual C86 cassette tape but you'd never know it. Evans The Death are lost in time but somehow found their way to 2012. This is a good thing as the record they've released is an instant fizzy pop classic. They don't make them like this anymore or least not much and we have Evans The Death for keeping the torch lit and burning brightly. Easily one of my faves of the year, Evans The Death is brilliant pop music every self respecting indie kid should own.

The Bombay Royale, You, Me, Bullets, Love

The Bombay Royale are awesome. Period. If Quentin Taratino were to ever do a Bollywood-like film, I’m fairly confident that they would be the Chief Music Supervisors. No other band I've heard takes Bollywood energy, sixties surf rock, and modern day production values to come up with something so amazingly cool that you'll want to run off to India to be part of the action. Their album You Me Bullets Love even sounds like a movie.

With horns, spy funk, twangy surf guitars, Indian mysticism and a sense that the world is out to get you The Bombay Royale create tunes that play out like scenes in a thrilling movie. There's action, drama, love, musical plot twists, and everything you'd expect in something like a Tarantino flick. This is awesome stuff that mixes instrumental atmospherics, vocal seduction, and a flair for the dramatic to make its point and makes it, it does. You Me Bullets Love is amazing. It's brash, energetic, creative, and diverse. I mean think about it...the band sound as if they're in the heart of India one second then the scene changes and they're in 60's California. Wow...they're good.

You Me Bullets Love simply needs to find its way into the hands of Tarantino. This is perfect for him. Such an action packed record deserves to have a movie made around it. All the leg work is done; it just needs dialogue and choreography. Heck even the cover looks like a thriller come to life. If you love action, drama, love, and mayhem all in a record then The Bombay Royale has conveniently placed that all on You Me Bullets Love. If you're a director looking for a soundtrack, I'm sure there are licensing opportunities available. You Me Bullets Love is masterful, end of story.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Time For A Little Illdotlogic

Having never been satisfied with the status quo, Illdotlogic defies the last word of his name. This Jacksonvillian doesn't seem to know what the word genre means and apparently refuses to learn it. His album Dreams In Stereo is a non-stop genre bending exploration of beats, guitars, lyrical play, and the ability to take songs where you least expect them. Recording of his album began here in 2009 but relocated to Atlanta in 2010 where he wound up finishing the recording. Utilizing folks from Duval for hip hop influences as well as Paul Lipinski, whose worked with Yellowcard, the album has Duuuuval stamped all over it.

While that might be a detriment, Illdot turns it into a strength as Dreams In Stereo is literally all over the place. Mixing indie with electro, hip hop, big beat and anything else that tickles his fancy, Illdot uses sounds as a palette to paint a picture that's moving and emotionally invested. Dreams In Stereo is melodic and incredibly catchy. He might blend genres in a blender but it all goes down smooth and it all works. Dreams In Stereo is a tasty electronic exploration that's guaranteed to get hearts racing and feet shuffling.

With a diverse instrumental palette, a variety of melodic approaches, and no fear when writing songs, Illdotlogic creates songs that weave around ballads, club bangers, rock and roll, atmospheric jams, and hip hop beats. Dreams In Stereo might be dreaming, but it's a lucid and active dream that refuses to stop thinking. This is an album and an artist who has a treasure trove of ideas and repeated listens reveals more and more. Dreams In Stereo is more than a hip hop record, it's an exploration of sound and I think that's why I'm a fan of IlldotLogic. While everyone knows who Astronautilis is and who The Black Kids were, IlldotLogic might just be Jax's best kept secret.

Eastbound & Down Get Soundtracked

Easily one of the funniest and, uh, rudest TV shows right now is Eastbound and Down. The show is rude, crude, and funny as heck but who knew there was a soundtrack to it? I certainly didn't, but thanks to the fine folks at the show and Fat Possum Records there is and it features not one but two discs of garage rock, hip hop, and enough dialogue to make you feel like you're listening to the show.

The set is ridiculously good and in fact I might say that it's upended the show as being the better of the two. While the show is funny and raunchy, the soundtrack is pure gold featuring lots of unheard of, unearthed jams, and songs that just generally kick a little butt. This is awesome stuff all around and half the fun of listening to this thing is imagining the scenes from the show that involve the tracks or should involve the tracks.

From The Black Keys, to Lil' Whyte to The Animals and MC5 there's such a treasure trove of tunes that it will take some time to sort through it all but it’s worth it trust me. HBO and Fat Possum have knocked it out of the ball park here with this soundtrack. What a great companion piece to an already great show. While most soundtrack albums are just a lot of fluff, Eastbound and Down spares no expense at digging out classics from blues, garage, rock and roll, and hip hop. This is an essential record even if you don't like the show or have never watched it, the music is fantastic and as I've said...it might just be better than the actual show itself.

Kitty Clementine Is Strong

During the golden age of female singer songwriting artists folks like Kitty Clementine dominated the airwaves, charts, and record stores. But as time moved on, so did many of the artists, their fans and the genre's popularity. As of late, however, there's been resurgence in strong feminine artists. From Amy Winehouse and Duffy to the re-emergence of Fiona Apple the girls with something to say are storming back and somewhere within that resurgence is Kitty Clementine.

Sounding like a cross between Dresden Dolls, Fiona Apple and Amy Winehouse, Kitty Clementine is one heck of a songwriter, one heck of a strong woman, and has one heck of a voice. On her self-titled album she belts out songs like her life depended on it. At times a bit campy, at others theatrical and others sensitive, Kitty Clementine has all her bases covered and then some. Her voice fluctuates from being totally dramatic to something intimate and sensitive and her songs follow her voice to a tee. When she’s at her energetic best there's no denying Kitty's prowess and her band's ability to create the big tune; see "The Green Eye," as a perfect example.

With a host of instrumentation, a never ending flexibility with her voice and the ability to create songs seemingly on a whim there's a lot to like about Kitty Clementine. The girl can sing, she can write, she can just about do it all and what's truly scary about all that...is while the first generation of angsty feminine artists were one trick ponies, Kitty seems to have an arsenal of ideas at her disposal. Kitty's album is a good listen, and entertaining listen, and the sort of thing that everybody would enjoy. Nice work.

Ragga Ragga Ragga!

In Notting Hill this time of the year, it's time for Carnival and it's almost assured that the soundtrack to that massive gathering will include several, if not all, of the tunes that appear on Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2012. This massive two disc set of raw dancehall might be British by nature but its sound is most definitely from the Caribbean. Absolutely awesome in every possible way, this is a tropical paradise set to rough beats and vocals that are designed to get people moving either in the streets or the club.

Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2012. features 20 of the latest dancehall tracks plus a DVD detailing the UK's hottest dancehall personalities. Listening to this is like listening and then watching a documentary to the bristling dancehall scene from London and beyond. It's truly amazing how this tropical sound has made itself at home in one of the world’s greatest cities. With ruff and ragged sounds, raw and raunchy beats, hooks that catch you off guard and dancehall vocals that are simply amazing Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2012 is absolutely essential listening.

There's just something about the vocal style of dancehall artists that have always appealed to me and there's so much here on this album and now with the aid of technology they all sound crisper, cooler, and even better. I think that's one reason why I've always gravitated more toward dancehall rather than reggae...it's just a more jagged, dubby, clubby sound. It's far more energetic and groove oriented that reggae and there's no doubt that Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2012 has no shortage of either.
If you like dancehall, love carnival, or are currently living in Notting Hill then Ragga Ragga Ragga! 2012 is an essential record. VP Records have done a fine job of putting this whole thing together and it's well over an hour and a half of entertainment, dancing, and beats that will keep you moving. This is the sound of summer without a doubt.

The Right Now Gets Over You

The Right Now apparently did not get the memo that it's 2012. Apparently, this Chicago septet is lost in the late 60’s and early 70’s and has the soulful, R&B classics to prove it. Their latest album Gets Over You is a classic soul album forty years too late...but that being said this is one excellent record. These guys have got it down and they're ridiculously good at embracing old Motown and Stax records and turning them into something so retro-cool that it nearly hurts.

Gets Over You is hard to get over because the record is so good and so cool that it's the sort of thing you want to listen to over and over again. The Right Now have clearly studied folks like Booker T and the MG's and mimicked their style musically. The band establishes grooves with ease, lets the Hammond do the talking, and gets lost in deep R&B grooves while vocalist Stefanie Berecz is like the best combination of The Staples Singers and Arehta I've ever heard. Smoky, sultry, and filled with soul Stefanie belts it out song after song. As a result of all this Gets Over You never ceases to amaze. Each listen reveals more coolness and enhances the experience this record offers. It's amazing stuff.

Gets Over You is the sort of record that comes along every once and a while and is triumphant the whole way through. There's not one song here that either shouldn't be released as a single or be listened to multiple times. If you love Northern Soul, the Motown Sound or anything of the like then you need to find Gets Over You like...um...Right Now.

When The Lights Go Out On Scarlet Soho

The first thing that I thought of when I heard Scarlet Soho's latest single When The Lights Go Out is just how much about the first minute sounds like Denice Williams' "Lets Hear It For The Boy." Wow...it's a crazy comparison I know...but musically it was 1984 all over again. After that blast from the past the single exploded into a New Order like synth frenzy. After catching my breath and catching back up to modern times, I realized that When The Lights Go Out is one heck of a single.

Taking synth pop back a couple of decades and getting all dark with it, Scarlet Soho manage to find the perfect balance between retro-cool, futurism, and camp. With pop hooks in hand (as I've mentioned) and a smoky, slightly gothy approach the whole thing comes off as some of the more intriguing Depcehe Mode moments put to record. From the depressing, "What You Need," to the jumpy, "Retail Therapy," and the remix of WTLGO by Tokytron this single has a bit of electronic darkness to suit every taste. A dance floor destroyer waiting to be unleashed, Scarlet Soho stands to conquer the world When The Lights Go Out.

Romain Virgo Masters The System

Romain Virgo within the credits of his latest album The System states that he chooses to do positive music for the people. Undoubtedly a rarity now days, Romain's positive attitude toward music and life shines through every song on The System and makes it a worthwhile listen. This is reggae music with sunshine and positive vibrations layered on top of positive vibrations and it's the sort of thing that's destined to lift spirits wherever it is played.

Taking a more laid back approach to reggae, Romain Virgo lets the groove take us away and allows his vocals to steer the story of every song with a unique enunciation that makes the whole thing just sound cool. The System is a strong record filled with songs about love, knowing better, and not falling into cliches. Romain seems to be a good guy and his songs reflect an attitude that quite honestly is refreshing to hear.

Firmly in touch with pop influences, Romain Virgo creates reggae that's easy on the ears, huge on hooks, and almost like a more tropical version of R&B. The System is chilled out stuff that's as bright and beautiful as Jamaica itself. If you're not singing the nearly acapella title track after one listen there might be something wrong with you...it's that catchy and to think it's just Romain Virgo and his voice is amazing.

The System is a very good record and Romain Virgo is a unique talent. From his voice to his approach the guy clearly is in love with love and reggae and every song here illustrates that passion.

Irene Jacob Melts Hearts

Irene Jacob should be known to many of you as an acclaimed French Actress but did you know she's also a singer as well? Teaming up with guitarist Francis Jacob the two sat down by the sea and began to write song. This is nothing new for the pair as they've known each other for decades as siblings, and lifelong friends who've shared apartments, games, and an intense love of jazz, film, and philosophy. It only made sense then that the pair took their love of all that and channeled it into something musical.

Known as Je Sais Nager the Jacob's together create a intimate, gentle, airy album that's a bit chanson, a bit jazz, and a bit folk music. Quiet and serene, the album is chilled to perfection and so utterly gorgeous that Irene may just be slightly prettier than the songs she's written. Je Sais Nager, which translated into English means I know how to swim, is mostly acoustic with just Francis strumming guitar along to Irene's fragile voice. Its beautiful stuff that's alluring and hypnotizing and Irene's vocals are so pretty you can't just help but be mesmerized by every word of French she says. For someone who has spent most of her career acting, it's nice to know that she's got an activity that will see her through retirement.

Je Sais Nager is a minimal work of exquisite songwriting. With slight vocals and guitar work to match, siblings Irene and Francis create a work of delicate pop that's easy on the ears and heart. You might not know what Irene is singing about, but as Eddie Murphy once pointed out, "everything in French sounds romantic." These could all be songs about the plague...but in Irene's hands they all sound beautiful and warm hearted. Je Sais Nager is a fantastic record that's alluring, seductive, and an absolute joy to listen to.