Friday, September 28, 2012

Codeine Gets The Numero Treatement

What more can you really say about Codeine that hasn't already been said over the course of their three album career and the decades since then. They pretty much invented sadcore, became one of the more influential bands on Sub Pop, and then called it quits before it all got too boring. As time moves on so do record labels and these precious documents of the band slowly slid away into the dark recesses of pop history. But now, thanks to the fine folks at Numero, they're back and all three of Codeine’s albums have been restored to their proper place in the pop canon.

Gathered together under the name of When I See the Sun, Numero has pieced together all three albums into one deluxe two LP+CD or Box set. It's epic stuff and some of the most depressingly essential recordings ever put to tape. Needless to say, we're glad that Numero took a break from releasing soul records to put this out and they deserve kudos for taking the time to make it so perfect. This is an awesome set that leaves nothing out and preserves the classic nature of all three albums: Frigid Stars, White Birch, and Barely Real. In addition, each album has been restored and is accompanied with a ton of bonus material including singles, demos, live recordings and even Peel Sessions.

This stuff is so good and so ahead of it's time that it will leave you in tears. As if to prove the point Codeine's cover of Joy Division's, "Atmosphere," is even more depressingly beautiful than the original and would probably make Ian weep. This is a set to fall in love to, it's something to treasure and it's and most importantly a document from era long since past. If you ever wanted to know where bands like Low got their start from...just listen to these records. Absolutely essential, When I See the Sun is easily one of the best re-issues of the year.

Maga Bo Loves Ancient And Modern

Maga Bo's Quilobo Do Futuro is a journey into the deep dark recesses of afro-Brazilian music that fuses the modern with the old and ragga with samba. It's a rhythmic tour de force that doesn't stop moving during its entire thirty eight minute duration and is the sort of thing that will leave you fascinated. There is all sorts of tribal drums, call and response vocals, Latin tinged vibes, simplistic arrangements and just about everything else under the Brazilian sun. Quilobo Do Futuro is a fascinating listen that keeps you gripped with its cultural study of all things afro-Brazilian.

Working with celebrated musicians, BNegao, Gaspar, Lucas Santtana as well as up and comers like Funkero, Maga Bo was able to mix and match sounds, time periods, and ideas to come up with this fascinating fusion of musical influences. In the span of twelve songs Maga Bo creates an afro-Brazilian village of musical open mindedness. It's really cool stuff to just sit and listen to the cultural significance of all this coming together and revel in its beauty.

Named after an autonomous fugitive settlement founded by ex-slaves and others in colonial Brazil, the Quilobo Do Futuro is a gorgeous statement of global cultural resistance. Created and fortified by a international community of musicians the record is proof that music is a global uniting phenomenon and sounds from wherever can unite to tell the tales of it's people no matter what stands in it's way. Maga Bo has brought this ideal to his music and it pulsates through the tribal and primitive rhythms that make up Quilobo Do Futuro . Listen to it and open your mind.

The Spy From Cairo Mixes Cultures On Arabadub

Imagine if you will the Middle East and Jamaica colliding in a musical sound clash of epic proportions. If you can imagine that event in your mind’s eye then you have an idea where the Spy From Cairo are coming from. Under the name of Arabadub this intriguingly spytastic record is mysteriously brilliant and features dubbed out sounds from the heart of the Middle East.

With traditional Middle East instrumentation mingling with echoed out influences Arabadub has a trans-oceanic plan to it. And honestly it should, because you see, The Spy From Cairo is Italian by birth, Gypsy by heritage and New Yorker by residence he's one artist that has his hands in the world music and dance music cookie jars. The dude clearly has talent and his ability to program, play, and produce it all himself is awesome. As a result of all of this, The Spy From Cairo has created a mysterious, intriguing, and alluring record that creates mental images of belly dancers, cafe's, and car chases through the bustling city of Cairo. It's awesome stuff that's imaginative and original and the fact that two polar opposites of music meet and work together so well is fantastic.

Arabadub is one of the more original world music albums I've heard this year. Its culture/sound clash works to a tee...if there's such a thing as a world music mash up Arabadub would be it. This is a trippy audacious record that never gets dull. It's modern and ancient sounds work so well together that you'll wish you were The Spy From Cairo.

The Lovely Few & The Orionoids

The Lovely Few are an indietronic group from Columbia, South Carolina who sound as if they've been floating along in Ambien fueled dreams for their entire career. Their latest record, The Orionoids is an alien soundscape in a galaxy far, far away. It's lethargic and snoozy pop that floats overhead with hypnotic use of horns, synths, and whispered vocals. It's almost to the point of being the electronic equivalent of sad core but doesn't quite reach the depressing proportions involved.

The Orionoids is beautiful stuff that crawls slowly through the five songs that make it up. Only once during the course of the record does the band raise its voice and it's during that tune that the band ventures into this darker Radiohead territory that’s kind of cool. It's all very mystical, woozy sort of stuff that even when it builds up enough energy still sounds like it's in a funk. It's all very enjoyable stuff if that sort of drifts off to sleep kind of way. There's nothing up front about this stuff but it is nicely played gorgeously strung together, and sounds wonderful. This is the soundtrack to your next nap and perfectly paced at just 15 minutes!

194 Recordings Lauches

194 Recordings sampler is a four track run through four very different bands that hark back to the old Fierce Panda comps from the 90's where bands would come from every direction imaginable and appear on a seven inch. On this sampler we get four very different bands united on one convenient little record.

Leading off the record is Beast Make Bomb and their female fronted spiky punky pop that sounds something like Kenickie meets Tampasam in a great collision of 1997 bands on the run. It's particularly good, slightly angsty stuff that's catchy as the flu.

Following it up is a swaying breeze of a ballad from Kate Buchanan it's all heartache, slow guitars and singer songwriter vocals. Nothing too terribly bad but nothing particularly fantastic either.

Rioux hesitantly wake up just in time to record their contribution. “Everything You Need,” is sleepy, lazy, and slightly catatonic and pretty cool. It's not particularly energetic, but I suspect that's the point its dream pop...quite literally.

Brian Parker wraps up the whole thing with a beat filled Ian Brown-ish pop frenzy that harks back the King Monkey's first album. It's raw, a bit unpolished and just danceable enough to get your feet shuffling about. Its good stuff and the second best tune here.

Four songs, four approaches and four differing results. After the whole thing, I'd love to hear more of Brian Parker and see what he could do w/a drum machine and some quality production time.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Mount Eerie Is Lost In A Clear Moon

Talk about busy; Mount Eerie is the definition of busy. No content with recording just one album, Clear Moon is the first of two albums Mount Eerie plans on releasing this year. Picking up where he left off with Wind's Poem this album sees Phil Elverum's legendary quiet intimacy spread its wings and soar. Clear Moon is an acoustic record with depth, thought, and the kinds of songs that even people who dislike the genre can enjoy.

Taking atmospheric pop and mixing it into a heady cocktail with quiet singer songwriter moments gives Mount Eerie a sense of depth, scope, and focus and the songs as a result seem expansive yet alone. This is quietly brooding stuff here that's lost deep in thought and searching for an end. Clear Moon however has no end; it continues to stretch beyond the horizon and just as you think you're about to reach continues. If you can imagine Red House Painters or Magnolia Electric Company lost in a post rock haze you have an idea of where Mt. Eerie is located. Scaling the heights of this mountain though is a difficult but beautiful challenge and Elverum has done an excellent job of creating his own little world in which his songs are left to their own devices.

With barely there vocals, washes of ambience, hints of beats, and just an acoustic guitar Mount Eerie sets off on an expedition with Clear Moon. This is the beginning stages of the journey and it's the scenic route that takes in all kinds of sounds, environments and ideas. Where the journey winds up is beyond our imagination and hopefully will be answered with Clear Moon’s companion piece. In the meantime feel free to get lost in this record that sounds as chilly and isolated as the group’s name; beautifully brilliant.

I Break Horses Breaks Hearts

You know you've gotten old when the music that you listened to in your twenties is now the basis for every indie band on the planet. Who would have thought way back in 1992 that the shoegazing records I listened to would influence so many 20 something’s and the bands they’re in? It's amazing how they've convinced so many into picking up a guitar, a load of effects pedals and to completely idolize the scene that celebrated itself. Unsurprisingly, that's exactly what I Break Horses have done with their album Hearts.

Hearts is a post-shoegazing journey back through time with stops along all the major sites; My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Pale Saints and just about everyone in between. It's a very good record that's so in touch with its inner 90's you'd almost swear that it was 1993. They dreamily weave cascades of sound with guitars shifting, synths washing, drums driving, and vocals whispering. It's all very gauzy, very indulgent stuff and it's marvelous. These guys have so hit the nail on the head with their retro-futurism that it gave me Goosebumps. To think there are twelve songs of such indulgences is almost coronary inducing. Sure, anyone can plug in a bunch of pedals and make a lot of racket but only a few can make something memorable and that's just what I Break Horses have done here.

In a day and age where everyone has a sustain pedal and calls themselves dream pop only few succeed in actually making it. I Break Horses is one such band. Hearts is an album firmly rooted in the past but optimistic enough about the future to push things forward. They’re songs are spectacular, their musicianship top notch, and they may break horses but they'll probably break your heart. Hearts is an essential release for anyone who has caught themselves staring down at their shoes in a wash of noise and getting lost within it all.

Lemondade's Diver Down

Nothing says summer like Lemonade! Tasty and refreshing it's delicious...and so is the band of the same name. This dubby chilled out trio creates synth pop that's so laid back it's half asleep. Their album Diver is a sumptuous affair that's lush and a tad bit indulgent but always focused on a hook.

Dreamy, synthetically seductive and at times more Cut Copy than Cut Copy Lemonade are awesome at what they do. These guys’ craft songs that float lazily by, get lost in your dreams, and cling to your souls. With rolling beats, synth washes, and strung out vocals nothing about Diver is tense or excitable. In fact, this album is like being under hypnosis and slowly slipping into a state of unconsciousness. If ever there was a transcendental pop record Diver would be it.

Beautiful, unobtrusive and yet mesmerizing Lemonade's Diver is a deep record well worth getting your feet wet for. Like a dream of the great beyond, this is a record of moving on and getting lost in oneself and potentially never coming back. Lemonade have made a synth classic without exerting any energy at all and Diver is one of the coolest records to come out of the whole chillwave scene since its creation. So take the dive and pick up some won't be disappointed.

Green Machine & Obscene Robots

S*** Robot's new single Green Machine is a sci-fi futuristic techno pill munching monster from the year 2323. Green Machine is so futuristic that it sounds as if it were two secret tracks hidden on the Blade Runner soundtrack.  It's cold, calculated, and technologically terrifying and not surprisingly just about perfect.  The two tracks "Teenage Bass," and "Space Race," are churning, pounding tunes that have a relentless pursuit of all things futuristic.  Dance floor friendly yet highly atmospheric Green Machine is the sort of thing that works well in the club or your headphones.

A bit different than the Robot's album From the Cradle to The Rave, Green Machine is a tad more Krautish than I expected but still very, very good.  As the man himself said, "I just wanted to go back to my roots and make some dance 12's.  Music for people to get drunk and jump around to."  He’s done just that and the stuff is so out there that you might need a space suit to accomplish said good hop.  Green Machine is excellent and a fine return to form.  After spending some time with this record and floating off to space, I can't wait to hear more from this resurrected Robot.  I can’t wait to return again to his roots and come up with another brilliant pill munching self destructive single as Green Machine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Stanleys Are Always On

Australia's The Stanley's not only embraces the island continent’s legendary pop history but North America's as well and they turn it up to 11 and just go on their new record. Their latest single, Always, is a jumpy power pop affair that had it been released on Stiff Records in 1984 would have been huge. This is classic stuff that's filled with massive chords, cheery choruses, and an energy level that results from far too much espresso.

The four songs that make up Always are all top notch tunes that don't let you down. The title track alone is so sugary sweet that I have to visit my dentist tomorrow. Riffs chug, drums bash, and the vocals harmonize perfectly and the whole thing leaves you tingly. The Stanley's haven't reinvented the wheel here but they have taken that wheel polished it up and made it look and sound like new. Always is an impressive effort that as the press release says has one eye on the girl and the other on the car.

Ridiculously fun and super catchy Always is a classic in the making. Stiff Records might not be around anymore, but should they come back...they should sign these guys immediately.

JBM's Stray Ashes

JBM is a one man band better known as Jesse Marchant. His latest album Stray Ashes came about after feeling absolutely drained from a year of touring and wanting to take a much deserved break. Retreating to a cabin in the Catskills he began the process of relaxing and putting together his Stray Ashes. Experimenting with loops of guitar melodies on electric guitar and drums he slowly pieced it all together. Eventually coming together with a few trips into the "real" world and adding John Congleton and a few other friends to help with the project Stray Ashes eventually was finished.

Sounding remarkably like a Jason Molina project or early Early Day Miners, JBM creates minimal sparse and never-ending songs. The riffs and instrumentation that he uses is barely there and at times almost hard to hear but he creates a certain kind of depressingly beautiful aesthetic that's mesmerizing to listen to. You really can't help but think of folks like Magnolia Electric Company while listening to Stray Ashes and Marchant does a great job of out Molina-ing Jason Molina. This record is a meager but gorgeous affair that relies on its hypnotizing atmospherics and aesthetics to cast its spell over you.

Stray Ashes was written after being exhausted and you can hear that on every song here. The disconnection, the withdrawn sounds, the intense intimate feeling it all works to make JBM sound like a closed off song writer. Closed off he may be, but Stray Ashes is impressive stuff that will leave you drained and potentially depressed and something tells me that's kind of what JBM was after here. In other words you can hear and feel his pain.

Put On Your WhiteJacket For Hollows & Rounds

Apples In Stereo's main moog man has been busy since his departure from his normal day job as an Apple. Since that public event, Mr. McDuffie has been preparing and recording his debut solo album under the name of Whitejacket. Known as Hollows & Rounds the record is obviously influenced by Apple’s like melodies but fully channeling McDuffie's inner Kevin Barnes (ofMontreal) and Beatles to come up with something that's completely rooted in jangly guitars, Beatles-like productions and total 60's pop love.

Hollows & Rounds is fantastic indie pop that's slightly psychedelic, sunshiny and so in love with the classic pop sounds of the mid-60's it's hard to believe that this record was recorded in the last year. McDuffie is an awesome song writer and the guy could write an indie pop hit at the drop of a hat. In fact, that's kind of what he does through much of Hollows & Rounds; this thing is the definition of sunshiny sparkly pop. If you remember and adore the days when Elephant Six ruled the world, you'll absolutely love this record. With horns, keys, multi-part harmonies stacked on top of multi-part harmonies, and then all processed through the Vingtagetron 2000, the whole thing would make John Lennon smile and someone like The Association just give up.

Whitejacket have come up with something here that's obviously been influenced by its peers and its heroes. Rather than sounding just like them though, Whitejacket takes all that and personalizes it into something that's clearly their own. Hollows & Rounds is a frivolous and whimsical pop record that's guaranteed to put a smile on your face. They don't make records like this anymore and after listening to Hollows & Rounds a few times you'll wonder why...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Feorm Expand Their Minds

Feorm's self-titled album is an expansive textural landscape that seems to go on forever in all directions at once. An instrumental album that teeters somewhere between post rock and ambient soundscapes, the record sculpts its own vistas and views with the use of guitars, windswept synths and a surprising degree of grooviness.

Sure, this thing is predominantly ambient but the record still manages to find a degree of catchiness to it. At times sounding like mechanical wonkiness set to a backbeat Feorm's music kind of tinkers with the idea of machines, grooves, and a tad bit of pop sensibility. Expanses are still wide and open but they have this nature to them that while they're being laid out it's as if the band was driving crazily through them. The whole thing is intriguing and musically fascinating as the band so easily and readily switches from washed out sounds to desert grooves and everything between. This is the sort of record that musicians sit down to study and listeners lose their minds in. It's fun stuff that isn't terribly complex it's just texturally brilliant and gargantuan in scope.

Feorm is a cool post rock/ambient band that throws the conventions of those genres out the window and creates their own path. They fear nothing and carve out their own existence creatively. Their self-titled album is an expansive journey through plateaus, dreams, and valleys somewhere deep into your mind. It's a contemplative and adventuresome record that's fun to just sit and drift away to...and that's a pretty good recommendation if I do say so myself.

The Dig for Midnight Flowers

So, in my organized little world I usually have a bio/press release to go along with each CD I review. However, for The Dig, I somehow forgot to pull that information and set it aside and as a result I know next to nothing about this band except to say that they're quite good at what they do. Their new album Midnight Flowers is an atmospheric, angular, and dramatic pop record that's moody in all the best ways.

Utilizing enough pedals, textures, and tones to last a life lifetime The Dig swirl and mix riffs around your ears in a dizzying array of dynamics that sure to mesmerize. At times sounding like Editors and at others maybe a little bit like Interpol it has to be said that The Dig have the dark, disturbed pop thing down pat. And yet, despite all the atmospherics and moodiness the songs are still incredibly well put together, memorable, and sound poppy. They're clearly, very good at mixing the dark with the light and winding up with something grey and not grim.

Midnight Flowers is an excellent album whose mysteries and charms are obscured by grey. It's only after listening to this record several times that The Dig reveals its secrets. I really enjoyed this record, despite me not knowing a thing about them. Their ability to be moody and pop oriented is cool and their swirly sounds are hyptonizingly catchy. This is a record for a rainy day and as it's pouring outside right now, I'm totally digging The Dig.

Sonny and the Sunsets Are Your Longtime Companion

Sonny & the Sunsets are a group who sound like they've ridden off into a few sunsets in their day. What does that mean? Well, this rustic group adds a whole bunch of twang, dusty country lyrics and a backwoods feeling to their album Longtime Companion. The result isn't alt-country but pretty much the closest thing to traditional country that you're going to get these days. While I normally can't stand alt-country and the like this thing is so rooted in traditional and classic sounds that you can't help but like it for its retro feel. Put it this way, if Hank Williams Sr. were still around, my hunch is he would be a fan of Sonny.

Well how country is Longtime Companion? Let's just say that this little rural jaunt is far more country than anything that's come out of Nashville in the last five to ten years. Taylor Swift is Disney Pop compared to this stuff. Sonny & the Sunsets are pretty darn authentic and their simplicity to recording, writing, and playing makes Longtime Companion so honest and so good that you'll be screaming, "Yeeee-haw," in no time flat. The songs are downtrodden, broken hearted, and beat up and you can almost hear these guy’s hearts being torn apart on every song. It's depressing as all heck but isn't all good country music?

Twangy, simple, rustic, and lost Longtime Companion serves as just that to Sonny & the Sunsets; a companion. There's nothing complicated about this record, it's pure and honest and that's what makes it good. These guys might be from Detroit for all I know, but judging by Longtime Companion they sound like they were born and raised in the plains of the heartland and left their hearts there eons ago. If you miss the days of leaving tears in your bears and gettin' whooped over love than you need this Longtime Companion in your life because it’ll help you bring those feelings back.

The Secret Love Parade Marches On

The Secret Love Parade isn't the super secret version of the now defunct German rave fest. No, The Secret Love Parade isn't even close; rather this group of Dutchmen plays sumptuous and slightly twee indie pop. Their album, Mary Looking Ready is a sweetly seductive pop record that's fragile, fey, and fantastic and after spending some time with these guys you'll wonder just how long this little love parade will be a secret.

Utilizing chilled out electronics, trip hop atmospherics, the odd jangly guitar and vocals that will melt your heart Mary Looking Ready is a completely huggable and loveable record. Heck even the cover is kind of adorable so you kind of know what you’re getting before you get it. The Secret Love Parade sigh, saunter, and slink their way across each of the twelve songs here in a way that's not too far off from someone like The Knife if they were depressingly in love. It's utterly gorgeous stuff that washes over your ears and give you Goosebumps. It's chilly, cool, fragile and so sly about its hooks and choruses that you have to be careful otherwise they will catch you off guard.

The Secret Love Parade are so good at creating an atmospheric world in which their glacially cool but delicate pop songs reside that The Victorians Are Here is like a whisper from a dream. Mary Looking Ready is an awesome record. Its tweeness, chilliness, and sparse arrangements are quite mesmerizing and thoroughly enjoyable.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beetnik Is Lost In Wonderland

The first thing I have to say about Beetnik's new single Gallus In Wonderland is that I hope the Walt Disney Company never sees this cover. If they do...Beetnik will face the wrath of the Mouse and there is nothing worse than Mickey when he's angry. Ok, now that we have that out of the way, Gallus In Wonderland is a crazy robotic path of destruction caused by keyboards, drum machines and what feels like a wave generator. This is a chaotic throbby roller-coaster of a ride through the high seas of techno and it will leave you dizzy and drained.

With enough repetitive loops, jumpy stabs, and rolling synths to make you black out the whole thing seems like a washing machine that's spun off its mounts and is attacking everything in its path. It's noisy, clangy and could be used as an aural weapon against enemies of the state. There's not much to latch onto in the way of melodies or a tune but as an electronic battle weapon Gallus In Wonderland is unstoppable. If you like the current wave of clangers and so-called electro house tunes out there you'll love this Beetnik. The question remains though...what does Mickey think?

Robbers On High Street Know Anything Can Happen

Robbers Oh High Street have always been a band lurking in the background. Whether or not lurking like that is a good thing or not is open for debate. But over the years the band has slowly but surely acquired a bunch of fans, released consistently awesome records, and written fantastic indie rock tunes. Their latest single Anything Can Happen is no different as this short but sweet record seriously kicks butt.

Consisting of four fuzzed out, rambunctious tunes Anything Can Happen has a vintage feel to it that hinges on psychedelia and beat pop. It's super cool stuff that's got a fair amount in common with power pop, The Beatles and whatever magic George Martin would weave for the boys. Anything Can Happen has horns, multi-part harmonies, ragtime piano bits, jangly guitars, jumpy drums, choruses that are instantaneously memorable and four songs that are all hits. Robbers On High Street have done a bang up job here and Anything Can Happen is the sort of record that looks lovingly at the past while leap frogging forward.

How these guys aren't huge is beyond me, I'm just glad I stumbled upon them years ago and have managed to keep track of them all this time. Anything Can Happen is the epitome of cool and whether it's pogotastic power pop or Rubber Soul-like psychedelia Robbers On High Street take it all and make it their own.

Ben Browning Is In Love Motion

If the name Ben Browning sounds familiar, it should because you know him as the bassist of Australian electro megastars Cut Copy. While the band are hard at work on the follow up to Zonoscope Mr. Browning had some time to kill and decided to write a few songs. Those sketches were composed and put together with friends Gus Franklin & Haima Marriott and eventually became the Love Motion EP.

The EP is a nice, tidy, synth pop record that mixes the obvious Cut Copy influence with some ambient washes, jangly pop and slow motion disco vibes. The result is a record that's cheery, lush, and a lot of fun to listen to. Love Motion EP does it's best to avoid sounding like a Cut Copy record and while not a 100% successful the record easily stands on it's own two feet. It's all a bit poppier than the more club oriented jams of Cut Copy and the record takes on this kind of New Order like feel that while very danceable is still rooted in pop music with sugary sweet hooks. It's fantastic stuff all around so much so that even the instrumental stuff is worthy of a listen or two.

Ben Browning might be a member of Cut Copy but should things go pear shaped, the guy clearly has a future as a solo artist. Love Motion EP is the sound of the world in motion and it's a lovely sound. It might be a while before another Cut Copy record so this (and hopefully more) single is a nice substitute.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Three Fields Opens Up

Three Fields is as expansive as a name like that would seem to imply. Consisting of men and machines that have been embarking on instrumental electronic journeys into the mind’s eye for nearly thirty years, Three Fields is the sort of thing that would make Mike Oldfield nervous. The groups latest album Cambridge Blue is a textural wonderland of analog and digital sources that combine into a wondrous tapestry of sound that's illusionary and beautiful at the same time.

At times sounding like missing tracks from the Twin Peaks soundtracks and at other times sounding pastoral and organic Cambridge Blue is a rich and otherworldly soundscape that never ceases to make you wonder. Utilizing a whole host of electronics and more synthesized sounds than Yanni could shake a stick at the songs are constructed carefully and meticulously. As a result Cambridge Blue is a well thought out and arranged series of pieces that while sparse at times is lush beyond compare throughout. This record, simply put, is utterly gorgeous and so otherworldly that most of its sounds wash over you without you even noticing. It's epically beautiful stuff.

Three Fields is awesome at creating never-ending rolling landscapes and visas that seem to get lost in eternity. Cambridge Blue is an example of their architectural skills and while the songs aren't necessarily complicated they are amazing and imaginative. There's a reason why Three Fields have been making music as long as they have and you can hear why throughout Cambridge Blue. It's nice to have a good ambient record to latch on to every now and again and this is my pick for the year’s best.

All Of Us Together With Teen Daze

Teen Daze is just like it says...they are total truth in advertising and their album All Of Us Together is like something out of a dream. Consisting of lush synths reverberating the sides of your skull while you drift off into the netherworld this is an album about interpretation, REM sleep, and getting lost in your mind. Teen Daze have constructed an electronic fantasy world in which synths wash over you, beats move you along, and the lack of vocals allows your mind’s eye to travel endlessly.

Having just re-watched Blade Runner for the zillionth time I'm almost convinced that All Of Us Together could make a suitable substitution for Vangelis' masterwork. The songs are futuristic, lush, and eerie at times, beautiful at others and most of all consistently good throughout. All Of Us Together is a fantastic album of instrumental synth pop that caresses your ears and cleanses your mind. It's absolutely gorgeous stuff that's creatively brilliant and musically stunning. There's really not a lot that's bad about this album, in fact, I don't think there's anything except for the fact that I wouldn't have minded some sort of sensual vocal arrangements to go along with the songs more than the buried moans in the background...but that's just nitpicking.

All Of Us Together is a futuristic record that belongs amongst a city in the clouds. It's sumptuous, opulent, and not of this earth. If there's a soundtrack to heavenly rain, this is it folks. Teen Daze might not be teenagers but they construct songs that will most definitely leave you in a daze. This is one highly recommended record.

If Only Nouela Chants

Nouela is the latest in the long, long, long line of singer songwriter/folk revival/acoustic whatever musicians who try so hard to not be boring by just strumming their way through songs. They give it the ol' college try but the end results are the same; another record that just doesn't have anything I seek in a tune. They try their darndest on Chants, they really do, but it’s just that it all sounds like the twenty other people, groups, and artists that pre-ceded them.

Chants really wants to come from that left-field edge where Bat For Lashes resides but it just doesn't have that quirkiness or sharpness to it. In order to be part of that club you have to have something off about you and it really doesn't sound like Nouela does. I mean don't get me wrong, they can play and they do come up with some good ideas but it all just sounds exactly the same. Folk music is tapped out, it's done, it's boring, and on the point of being a cliche of itself. And while Nouela try and take things in a different direction the songs are still unexciting.

Sorry guys, I'm just that not into you or the whole sound. I've already got enough quirkiness in my life and really there's always Bjork for that if I want it in mass quantities.

Smoke Fairies Don't Speak

I have to be completely honest here...I'm not sure you could find a more accurate name for the Smoke Fairies than that. You see these folkies create fantastical meandering acoustic music that sounds like it came from those mythical creatures of the same name. Their latest album Blood Speaks is frail, fragile, and small and barely raises its voice throughout the ten songs that make it up.

Blood Speaks is a quiet and intimate record that's almost a little too quiet and too intimate to be listenable. It's strummy, atmospheric folk stuff that kind of wanders around in an almost ghostly like way with no solid form or direction. There's no doubt these girls can play and write songs, it's just that they're too folky and too quiet for me to be interested in them. While they try to liven things up with bits and bobs of instrumentation and the album has a bit more depth to it than most of its peers it's still a moaning and unobtrusive record that seems to suck the energy right out of your soul.

You know my feelings on folk, you know I can't stand acoustic guitars and moaning vocals and unfortunately no matter how hard they try, everything Smoke Fairies does boils back down to that. Blood Speaks barely speaks enough and I think that's why I had a hard time listening to this, it just doesn't speak to me in any way, shape, or form.

Tedeschi Trucks Leaves Everybody Talkin

"So Mr. Pop I want an album that's bluesy, jazzy, and filled with rock and roll...what should I listen to?" Well, how about a little Tedeschi Trucks Band? If you like bluesy rock and roll with jazz flourishes you can't get much better than these guys and their live album Everybody's Talkin.

Filled with enough boogie blues, traditional instrumentation, jazzy touches, and rock and roll overtones to last a lifetime Everybody’s Talkin gives you more bang for the buck. The songs that make up Everybody's Talkin crackle to life as a live recording and the energy and musicianship of the band is undeniable. These guys can play and sing and they do it all with a level of enthusiasm that's impressive. Listening to Everybody's Talkin almost feels like a community jam session amongst friends...they're clearly having too much fun to be just another band. Everybody's Talkin is an impressive live recording and is packed onto two discs that kind of allows you to pace yourself and give yourself an intermission.

Everybody's Talkin is the perfect recreation of a festival night. The recording has that vibe and energy and you can tell by just listening to the audience and band interactions this is one heck of a show. This recording is so good that even if you don't like bluesy rock and roll you'll find yourself gripped by the songs that are contained here-in. So there you go Mr. Reader, Everybody's Talkin will leave you talkin' and listening and impressed by the talent and songmanship of Tesdeschi Trucks.

The Wonder Years Get Stoked

The Wonder Years have recently remixed and re-released their Get Stoked On It! album and whether or not it actually has made an impact is beyond me as I've never heard the original. That being said Get Stoked On It! is a cool pop punk emo record that's dripping with angst, young love, and fun. At times reminiscent of The Anniversary and at others like more mainstream emo, the band smartly use synths, boy/girl vocals, thrashy guitars, and enough yearning to last a lifetime. This is the sort of stuff that's happy/sad and so effective at wrangling melodies out of huge power chords and thrashy crunchy riffs that you’ll be left in amazement; it's quite impressive stuff.

Get Stoked On It! is filled with short bursts of sugary sweet angsty pop that skitter around, get nervous, feel awkward but ultimately soar skywards. It's remarkably catchy stuff that's hard not to enjoy simply because the songs are so surgically precise w/their hooks and melodies. It's pure science that works. And just when you think the sugar rush is at its peak, The Wonder Years get all misty eyed and sentimental and break just about every girls heart that listens. It's massively sappy stuff that could not be better.

From power chords to breakups to broken hearts and everything in between, The Wonder Years are a wonder. They're precise, sharp, and focused on conquering your ears and it's truly amazing that they're generally able to do this in less than three minutes. Get Stoked On It! is emo stuff it's ok to like because it's a rush, it's a flashback to the days of your youth, it's fun and hopeful no matter how much angst pulsates throughout it. The Wonder Years are right to ask you to Get Stoked On It! because you should.

Vanity Thief Has The Right Amount of Distance

Vanity Thief’s Right Amount of Distance EP is a slick six song slice of new waveish pop that's edgy, angular, and slinky in all the best ways. The four girls that make up this group tap into their inner Missing Persons and Blondie and come up with a record that's sassy, smart, and packed to the rafters with melodies that are just about unforgettable. If you were take a bit of Missing Persons' LA glam, mix it up with a bit of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's grit and Blondie's attitude and then add in some Lady Ga Ga sass for good measure you kind of have an idea of where these girls are coming from. Their songs are immediate, extremely catchy, and ready to dominate wherever they are played.

From the choppy jumpy spiky post punk pop of, "Your Move" to the seductive brilliance of the "Ego," this seven shot blast of pop/rock will leave you clamoring for more and I suspect that's the very purpose of this new EP; to tempt you. And tempt us they do...we want albums not EPs! Dangling like a carrot, the record is irresistible, seductive, and completely memorizable in a sexy stylish synth frenzy. Terry Bozzio would be happy and while Vanity Thief might not steal your vanity, but they'll steal your ears if you're not careful.

Giraffage Lose It

Ok...I know I always rave about how Kitsune is consistently one of the best electro labels on the planet and they still are...but I think they may have dropped the ball with Giraffage's new single Even Though. Why's that you say? Well for some strange reason Giraffage decides to make the vocal on this record sound like Alvin and the Chipmunks on LSD. It's just plain annoying and quite honestly I have no idea how this sort of thing has wiggled its way into dance music; it’s horrible. I'd much rather has a wailing diva with laryngitis than a pack of chipmunks squeaking away.

Needless to say, Even Though might be the worst thing I've heard on Kitsune in the last five or six years. Even the remixes can't elevate the tune to tolerable levels without removing the vocals altogether. The Teen Daze remix tries and fails, Slow Magic does the same through various methodologies and while there are some cool beats and synth washes the vocal sample just kills this tune. Reid comes close with his remix and actually almost leaves off the vocal altogether while the single is saved from complete failture by the downtempo masterpiece of One AM Radio who revert the vocal to a normal pitch and make the song a Balearic classic waiting to be found.

Even Though isn't much to get excited about. It's just too annoying for that. If I were you, I'd just pick up the One AM Radio remix and be happy...because that's the best you're going to get.

Arsenal Plays Melvin

Despite being named after a London football team of exception quality, Arsenal are actually electronic producers from across the channel in Belgium. While not necessarily known too well outside of their native home, their latest single Melvin should go a long way to changing that.

Melvin is a lush, chilled, deep house inflected pop tune that features soulful vocals, euphoric synths, and an absolutely inescapable hook. The single is simply staggering and the vocals of Pigeonhead’s Shawn Smith take the tune over the top. The main original mix is then complimented with a series of remixes that come from Compuphonic, Bok Bok, and Diskjokke. Compuphonic does something to the song that essentially robs it of its seductiveness and instead makes the tune a haunting sparse nearly Tron-like piece. I'm not too sure of that remix, but the Bok Bok is a bit better and makes the tune all downtempo, dark, and awesome. It's still chilled but it's as if a dark cloud moved over the tunes euphoric rises. Perhaps the best remix of the bunch is Diskjokke’s who turns the thing into a disco anthem of epic proportions and keeps all the best elements of the original while slathering it in a glam overwrap that will set the dance floor alight.

Melvin is perfect introduction to Arsenal for everyone outside of Belgium and the remixes here only ram home the point further that these guys are good. That all being said, it's only a matter of time before the world knows who Arsenal is and this is where the recognition begins!

Apollo Ghosts Find A Landmark

Canada's Apollo Ghosts are far to chipper to be members of the undead or be disembodied and on their third album Landmark you can hear why. Armed with jangly guitars, jumpy pop songs, and Saccharine-ish vocals these guys are a ray of summer sunshine in the Great White North. The band claims that Landmark is the most domestic and personal album they have ever recorded and I guess that's to be expected when you lock yourself away in a cabin. Isolation aside the question remains is the album any good?

Landmark is good stuff and it's packed with so much effervescence and spunk that it can barely contain itself. And yet despite all the joy and fun, the band find time to occasionally restrain themselves from jumping out of the picture and slow things down with atmospheric tracks and near ballads. For what it’s worth, it's those tracks that give Landmark extra added depth and prevent the whole record from being fifteen minutes long. For the most part, however, Apollo Ghosts speed their way through Landmark with most songs clocking in at under 2:30 and go by so fast that the band seemingly reach the end the record out of breath. This is pop music in a hurry and it's quite good, energetic stuff that's almost too hard to keep up with.

With vocals that hark back to 80's Britpop legends, jangly and fizzy guitars everywhere, a sense of urgency and sharp pop hooks Landmark makes an impact rather quickly. It's short, sticky, and sweet and it's the kind of thing you want repeat servings of. So go ahead take another taste and I guarantee you, you won't forget this Landmark.

The Darcys Do Aja

In a strange twist of musicality, The Darcys have pulled one out of their collective hat and done something not usually done; they've taken an album, totally reinterpreted it, and essentially made it something different and unique to them. So what album did they do this to? Why no less than one of the most famous classic rock albums of all time...Aja. I know what you're thinking. "How could they? Why would they?" Well as it turns out the band had kind of hit a wall while trying to record their sophomore album and that's when the idea sprung to mind. As the band says it, "We did it because we could and because we thought we couldn't."

So while this might be sacrilegious to some Aja is about as far away from the Steely Dan version as possible. It's so far away in fact that Aja is about the closest thing to a dream that I've ever heard. The Darcys have reshaped the entire record as if they were drifting on willowy riffs seemingly created in a cloud and with vocals that seem as they were sung under hypnosis. If ever a record was strung out in heaven this would be it.

Fusing math rock technicality, dream post shoegazing ideals, and versions that seem to meander without any real similarity to the originals about them this whole thing sounds like a tolerable Radiohead album. The Darcys truly have made Aja their own here and while they may have been unsure that they could pull it off, I think by about the fourth or fifth song it becomes clear that they have. Sure the stuff is atmospheric and lost in a sea of post-rock but the melodies are still the same even if they’re lost amongst the swirls of guitar interplay. This is a mesmerizing effort that had someone not told you this was an entire album of covers you may never have known.

The Darcys are brave. The Darcys are good. When you combine those two factors with a legendary record something magical or tragic is going to happen. Thankfully, magic occurred and they renewed Aja's legendary status for another generation. One can't help but listen to this record and it's re-interpretation's and wonder if Steely Dan has hear them and if they have what they think of them?

King Tuff Gets Tough

Despite looking like the old Alternative Tentacles Records logo, King Tuff do not play extremely heavy post everything. Rather this cleverly disguised band sound like an amalgamation of the Apples In Stereo and a tipsy garage rock band in love with twangy guitar. Their self titled album is a throwback to the days of Elephant Six records and indie pop with a tarnished edge. It's rambunctiously good stuff that's a bit simple but so darn catchy it's impossible to forget.

With fizzy guitars, childlike vocals, and lo-fi hooks that claw their way into your sub consciousness King Tuff is the sort of record that would have made Olivia Tremor Control blush. This is twee-ish, sugary sweet stuff that's extremely danceable, stupidly fun, and so in love with being young that you can't help but look at the cover and think, "Well played King Tuff. Well played." There's simply nothing tuff about this record...unless you try to not be swayed by its indie pop powers. If you can imagine your favorite twee pop band with a bunch of Big Muff guitar pedals and amps turned up to 11 you know exactly where King Tuff are coming from. Fuzzy and fizzy pop doesn't get much better than this and King Tuff is a blindingly good blast of sunshine and fun.

Clearly a book, or a record, you can't judge by its cover I'd love to see the faces on people who bought this thinking it was going to be heavy only to uncover this pop treat. King Tuff are awesome at what they do, they're songs aren't overly complicated, they're sweetly addictive and a whole heck of a lot of fun to listen to. This is the perfect indie pop cap to the summer as it's packed with enough sunshine to blind a man. King Tuff may not be tough...but they are very good.

We Were Evergreen Love The Baby Blues

We Were Evergreen are not a group of conifers but rather a power trio who love electronics, indie pop, and frivolity. The band’s latest single Baby Blue could very well be the feel good hit of the summer as both the a-side and b-side are jolly jaunts through jangly, fun, and playful territory.

Baby Blue is a whimsical record that utilizes the power of electronics, the gentle nature of guitars, and enough sugary sweet boy/girl vocals to melt your heart and win you over. The single is an indie pop gem that much like an Evergreen will live forever. These guys are the kind of band that you suspect Stephin Merritt listens to when he's not playing with his own electronic box of toys and if it’s good enough for’s most certainly good enough for us.

Thoroughly enjoyable, but depressingly short, Baby Blue is a very, very good single and is the sort of thing that’s well worth looking for.

Moby Gets Remixed

At this point in his career, I'm pretty sure that even your grandmother even knows who Moby is. The guy went from being an underground sensation to being the first proper techno superstar. He's seen it all, played it all, and done it all. He was among the first to realize that licensing songs was a quick and easy way to get material out to people who wouldn't normally hear it and make money of top of it all. Remember Play? Everybody does. While his worldwide fame has simmered down his productions have not. If you follow him at all you might remember that Destroyed was a return to form and as if by magic he's recently assembled Destroyed Remixed.

Ok, let’s just get this out of the way very quickly. If you like Moby then you most definitely need Destroyed Remixed. This thing is HUGE in the very truest sense of the word. There's so much material on this set that it's impossible to keep up with. If you were to try and burn it all to disc, you'd need no fewer than FIVE cd's to contain it all. How's that for a remix album? Exactly. Album filler this is not. This is a massive project that contains so much dance music so much earth shattering beat pounding that your feet will fall off. Everyone from Ferry Corsten to your mom makes an appearance here and does a heck of a job while they’re at it. Techno, house, trance, it's all here and in stock and it's almost too much to handle.

Destroyed Remixed is essential it's like a week of night outs all under one roof. If you like to dance, like Moby, or just like massive records then this is the collection for you. The phrase all killer and no filler seems a bit underwhelming when it comes to describing Destroyed Remixed but it would seem to apply. Go get this thing now.

Ladyhawke Has No Anxiety

It’s been a while since Ladyhawke released her rather impressive debut record. The world has changed a lot since 2008 back when she was princess of the scene. Ladyhawke (AKA Pip) seems to have changed a bit too. While her debut album was firmly rooted in 80’s revivalism (weren’t they all in 2008?) Anxiety, her latest, take a leap forward in time and ends up sounding like something from the mid-90’s in that Lilith Fair with a beat kind of way.

Don’t get me wrong Anxiety will not give you its namesake. This is far from a bad record, in fact I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that it might just be better than her debut. The songs here are huge, the choruses are gigantic and mind numbing and the songs are so laser sharp that they could slice to diamond. If you had to make a comparison imagine Garbage in a mix up with Goldfrapp and an FM Radio program director and you have what Anxiety is all about. It’s a bit aggressive, loaded with sugary sweet choruses that repeat into infinity, and a vocal style that would make Alison Goldfrapp blush. While there’s no, “Paris Is Burning,” to light the dance floor on fire, she doesn’t really need that this time around as every song is solidly written and instantly memorable. Pip has grown here quite a bit and you can hear her maturing into a beast of a songwriter on every song here and that’s impressive.

Ladyhawke is slowly becoming a monster of an artist. From electro pop to classic alternative and everything in between Pip embraces it all and is able to write anything around any of it. She’s blossomed into something more than a one trick pony and while diehard scenesters might have some Anxiety in the direction she’s headed the rest of us can thoroughly enjoy her journey.