Thursday, August 14, 2014
Holy cow! I'm not sure what Lust For Youth ingested before the recording of their latest album International but I'm certainly glad they did. Wow, this is such a different record than previous Lust For Youth efforts that I'm half convinced that this isn't them. Frontman Hannes Norrvide's previous efforts were the very definition of cold and dark but International feels damn near energetic.
Apparently listening to a lot of Cure records during the making of International had an irreparable affect on the band and Norrvide is clearly embracing his inner Robert Smith. International feels like a Cure record, it's gauzy and slightly dark but laced with a pop edge to it and you can pull rope, sway, or even dance to the thing. Shock, horror, I know, but it's really quite good. This is easily the best thing Lust For Youth have ever done and it's darkness and torment is so endearing it's hard to stop listening to it. Crossing synth pop with the angularity of post punk and throwing in Norrvide's dark tendencies gives each song this awkward goodness that reverberates and throbs through the dry ice clouds that envelope you as you listen.
International is a wonderfully poppy goth record that sounds more Cure than the Cure does now. Each of the ten songs of this excursion into murkiness is laden with pop hooks, cloudy atmospheres, and a sense of, dare I say it, hope. I love this thing, it's just such a cool record for these guys and I really hope Lust For Youth keep this clove inspired musical trip up. Probably one of my favorite albums of 2014.
Sometimes an album just gives you goosebumps. It's the sort of thing that hits just right and makes everything all tingly and emotionally charged. Brooklyn Shanti's new album Bedstuyle is one of those albums. It creates a sense of exhilaration that's somewhere between chill out and heartache and just wraps itself around your heart, soul, and ears and refuses to let go.
Brooklyn Shanti takes us on a journey throughout Bedstulye, from downtempo to reggae to folk and all stops in between; this record has it all. Brooklyn Shanti fears no genre and puts it all into the pot to create the awe inspiring atmosphere that makes up this experience This by all accounts shouldn't work, there's just too much cross pollination, to many genre's bouncing off of each other, but Bedstuyle manages to give you chills as each new song rolls on by no matter the approach. The range of emotions this record plays with is staggering, from homesickness to love and everything else within reach Bedstuyle plays them all as if they were your own and I think that's really why this record is so successful. From fun in the sun to wishing you were back home it's all here and it's done with such feeling and precision that each of the twelve songs are powerful enough in their own right.
From the atmospheric opener, "Midnight In Paris," to the party vibe of, "This Feeling," Bedstuyle is a roller-coaster ride of building emotions and cascading musical influences. There's really nothing bad you can say about this album. Bedstuyle stopped me in my tracks and just blew me away. Chill out/downtempo stuff is so cliche at this point it's painful...but every once and a while something is much greater than the sum of it's parts and Bedstuyle proves that a fearless approach to music combined with an emotional outpouring can make for one heck of an experience. Stop what you're doing and get this, seriously, you won't regret it.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Singer songwriter Monica Giraldo is an artist with her feet firmly planted on two continents. One foot is deeply rooted in the the North American folk music approach to writing songs. Her other foot is constantly exploring her native land of Columbia and its musical influences and roots. The result of this is Que Venga La Vida which brings a Latin flavor to American folk and American folk to Colombian music.
With a pastoral approach to writing songs sung in Spanish, Giraldo creates this intercontinental soundworld that's both dusty and rustic while being exotic and exciting. This is not your usual folk pop record, it's might sound like it at times, but its not because her depth of field and her exploratory nature allows her songs to breathe and slowly and gently pull at your heart strings. This is an honest and beautiful record that brings something to each of the tables Giraldo sits at. Her guitar playing is gorgeous and rustic, her voice tender and mesmerizing, and her songs are intimate and rooted in tradition.
With Colombian rhythms, gently strummed guitars and a lovely voice Monica Giraldo casts a spell on Que Venga La Vida. From the unusual rhythms of "Asi Lo Canto Yo," and "Deja," to the catchy and majestic "Dulce Boca," Monica Giraldo proves over and over she's a fantastic artist no matter where or how she writes songs. Singer songwriter albums are a dime a dozen these days and it's rare that one stands out as a glaring example of what the genre can be...Que Venga La Vida is one of those examples.
The oddly named and impossible to search for S is a spin off project from one of the founding members of Carissa's Weird. While some of the other members of this legendary band went off and formed Band of Horses, Jenn Ghetto retreated to her bedroom with a guitar and a four track recorder. While she may not be as successful as Band of Horses, S is pure and simple and interesting. Three albums into her bedsit exile S is emerging from her bedroom once again with Cool Choices and that's a good thing because it's, quite honestly, better than anything Carissa's Weird ever recorded.
Cool Choices is a fascinating record that hovers between folk music, synthpop and mathy indie rock. What makes this record stick is that there are complex rhythms smack dab next to and quiet acoustic moments and they both work together. There's moments of danceability and moments of introspection and fragility and when combined together S creates a whirlwind of hypnotizing songs that are hard to get away from. While the acoustic tenderness is tolerable, I much prefer her synth'd out tunes and she shows a real knack for creating these dark tinged indie dance hits when the synths come out. "Tell Me," for example takes Cat Power's, "Cross Bones Style," and expands it into a dance floor destroyer. There are hits here tucked neatly between moments of sensitivity and they serve as a constant sense of discovery when you uncover them.
Cool Choices is a fantastic third effort and with the help of Death Cab's Chris Walla behind the scenes it's been polished into something almost cheery. It's the little record that can made by someone who's honest and deeply cares about music even if she occasionally gives it up. For those reasons I think that's why I made the Cool Choice and decided I like this record quite a bit.
A decade into their career, Seattle's Bad Things are still one of the city's best kept musical secrets. While the word Seattle conjures some obvious musical images, The Bad Things are happily not one of them. This gang of outcasts celebrate their uniqueness and outsider status with a fairly interesting approach to music that has more in common with Beirut than with Nirvana. Their latest album, After The Inferno is a tribute to their standing within the coffee capital's musical community.
Sounding like something from a different century, Bad Things have old world charm by the bucket load. They sound aged, traditional, unusual, and most importantly...cool. There are polka rhythms, accordion songs, horns, chants and a worldly approach to writing a song and not an ounce of flannel in sight. After The Inferno is unusually brilliant because it's pure and honest and different. It's just not modern in a 21st century way and I love how the band have found this neat little niche in which to explore old musical styles that often aren't heard. The Bad Things ability to mix folk, traditional country, Eastern European, Western European, and quirky pop influences into something so mesmerizing makes it almost impossible to turn away from much less dislike.
After The Inferno is the kind of record you'd hear on a steam ship, river boat, or expedition. It's an exploratory and rootsy record that keeps traditional sounds close to it's heart. The Bad Things are honest and awesome musicians and their name is a complete misnomer, because their albums are far from being Bad Things. Seriously awesome old timey music that even your parents and grand parents will like After The Inferno is highly recommended.
The cover of Luluc's album Passer By pretty much sums up to what this record will do to you...lull you to sleep. Passer By is an unexciting, unergetic record that lilts its way gently across 10 songs barely raising its voice and unobtrusively going about its business. The problem with all this of course is that Passer By is incredibly boring...it does nothing. It just exists.
I've said it for years and I'll say it again...I just don't get folk music. Luluc's Passer By doesn't give me or my ears anything to latch onto. Its just a quiet record that serves its purpose as white noise but does nothing more or nothing less. It just sort of sits there and rumbles along. I'm sorry guys...but I really am just a passer by...quickly moving on to the next record and hoping it wakes me up.
Unicycle Loves You have trolled through pop music history over the course of three albums in search of inspiration and great songs. Thus far they've covered everything from jangly pop, post-new wave, and garage rock. But as is their MO, they're always on the hunt for something new. On their fourth album, The Dead Age, they've left the garage and have headed toward the sturm and drang of noise pop with reckless abandon.
The Dead Age is a slice out of the Sonic Youth book of how to lose your hearing in twelve easy steps. Sounding like a more melodic and less pretentious take on Daydream Nation, ULY cranks up the amps, processes the heck out of everything and comes up with an album that's melodically brilliant and noisily ear numbing. Sheets of guitar noise reverberate off of each other creating a wall of distortion and chaos that's only held together by the rather distantly recorded melodies of Jim Carroll. This is unrefined, raw, and pure pop music stripped down and laid bare. The Dead Age is the sound of a band purposely dismantling itself and then duct taping it all back together rather shoddily. That might sound like a bad idea, but ULY are a strong enough band to pull it off and make it sound good. The Dead Age is a rather enjoyable romp through a minefield of guitars exploding, wrangling and shredding themselves.
To say ULY have been around the block a few times would be an understatement; four albums and four approaches is pretty impressive. If there's a sound that tickles their fancy, they're all over it and their latest excursion into their never ending search for The Tune is migraine inducing fun. I'm left wondering what's next for these guys? Dubstep? Symphonic arrangements? I have no idea, but I can't wait.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Leticia Rodriguez Garza's latest record is a beautiful little EP by the name of Saguita al Bate. Inspired by family, the record features the songs of her aunt Eva who happened to be one of the first bilingual artists to have mainstream success. In fact, the title track of the record was one of her aunt's greatest hits and Leticia has made it a beautiful tribute to her and her legacy.
Saguita al Bate is a gorgeous and lush record of laid back cumbia/salsa vibes with other Latin flourishes finding there way into the songs throughout. From horns and masterful accordion work to jazzy piano runs and virtuosic guitar playing the record is littered with stunning musicianship and the sultry singing of Leticia layered on top. Saguita al Bate is a tapas sized entry of tunes that's the perfect holdover until Leticia can complete work on her next album due in 2015.
Spoonboy is the alter-identity of musician David Combs and was started as a creative outlet for him when he wasn't working with his normal job The Max Levine Ensemble. A decade into his alter-identity and he's released two solo albums and now a series of split records with Martha, Colour Me Wednesday, and The Goodbye Party all of which are tiny slices of power pop heaven.
Fully embracing the term power pop, Spoonboy play enthusiastic, frenetic pop music with huge riffs and even bigger hooks. The nine songs that make up the three split records are all top notch spiky pop tunes that are energetically played and are catchy as the flu. Massive melodies are in abundance and his ability to turn a phrase into something you can't forget no matter how depressing the content is a true sign of Combs' talent.
He might not be the happiest guy on the planet, but his voice and his songs would seemingly convince you otherwise. Combs is an excellent songwriter and he's able to cram so much within the span of three minutes that it's remarkable. I love the energy of these songs and I love the fact that at times he's rather direct in his approach. I'm not sure which of the nine songs are on which spilt record, so I can't recommend a specific split over the others so I'll just recommend you hunt down all three of them and bask in their frenzied & quirky glory.
Peter Matthew Bauer, as some of you might know, is a founding member of the legendary Walkmen and for those of you who don't...he is. Well with some time away from the band he decided to forget about his day job and record a solo album. Liberation! is that record and what's cool about it is that it's from Peter Matthew Bauer from the Walkmen, what's bad about it though is that it's from Peter Matthew Bauer of the Walkmen.
Liberation! has it's moments of greatness but it's hard to not want to hear this album sound like a Walkmen record with a personal touch. That's kind of where the problem arises, it's not and it doesn't have that grandeur and that sense of "drama," that the Walkmen always seem to have. Liberation! seems to be a raw, rather underproduced recording that sounds more like Bauer enjoys tinkering with the odd song or two than anything really cohesive. Like I said there are some stellar moments here and he finds a little bit of his pop sensibility, see, "You Are The Chapel, " and "Fortune Tellers," but a vast majority of this record sounds like it was recorded in a garage on a 1/4" boombox tape deck as just something to do. I was really hoping for more and to be blown away, but instead I'm mildly content with the record simply because I know who Bauer is and those aforementioned strokes of pop cool.
Liberation! may be Bauer being free from the chains of band life...but I think I prefer the confinement of the Walkmen. This isn't a bad effort it's just that my bar was raised much higher than this record was able to achieve. If you're a die hard Walkmen fan, you'll love this record and hate me for saying all that stuff, but for the casual listener, there are far better lo-fi indie rock records out there that are far more, um, liberating.
Druthers & Drips latest single is an interesting little electronic battle weapon. If you've ever wondered what hip hop or an amen break would sound like if it got lost in a chill wave Hit Em aims to answer that question. This slow moving, churning, bass intensive single seems to be like something out of a 1980's Miami Basswaves tape. In fact, it's so Miami sounding that you can hear traffic on Brickell Ave.cruising past in your Celica GT if you listen closely.
Featuring loads of 80's-like rap production sounds and techniques, the thing sounds like 2 Live Crew moved on to dance music and left being as nasty as they want to be to Poison Clan. The single is so rooted in hip hop and early drum and bass production that it seemingly includes built in trunk rattle. Things thump, rattle, and roll all the while found samples like samurai clangs, chanting, and vocal snippets whizz by with repeated regularity. While I'm not too sure of the dance floor action this single will inspire, I'm pretty sure that it will blow the doors and 12" woofers off of your 1985 Mustang 5.0 cruising down Ocean Drive on Friday night.
Okay...Everytime I see the name Jan Helsing, I can't help but think of Van Helsing. It just happens. Anyway, Jan Helsing are not warriors from Underworld but rather an Estonian dream pop band. Their single, Sunnipaev is a cascading wash of jangly guitars, angelic vocals and gorgeous hooks. Depressingly short at only two songs (an instrumental version and the title track), the single just isn't enough to satisfy the hunger Jan Helsing leaves your with (even if you're not undead).
In any case, Sunnipaev is a dream well worth getting lost in. Unfortunately, until their album comes out on Seksound later this summer, Sunnipaev will have to do.
Monday, August 11, 2014
I think the bio of Alvvays sums them up best: two women, three men, a crate of C-86 tapes and a love of jingle jangle. That folks is Alvvays(I just say always because that's the optical illusion) in a nutshell and their self-titled album is the best thing to come from the legendary NME c-86 compilation that actually was never part of it. So rooted in that classic era of perfect indie pop, Alvvays feel, sound, and probably look like they stepped out of a NME created wormhole.
Alvvays is a sunshiny, summery slice of pop perfection that has oodles and oodles of jangly guitars, twee girly melodies, and a sense of yearning that's almost overwhelming. Even at it's darkest death centered moments the record still seems brimming with rays of sunshine and hope. These guys are perpetually happy and seemingly positive and nothing manages to get in their way of creating perfect slices of indie pop deliciousness. What more could you ask for in a record?
I must admit as a sucker for anything related to twee, indie or C-86 I fell hard for this record. It's lilting melodies, fizzy guitars, and joyous attitude makes it easy to leave on repeat for days. Alvvays is easily one of the best indie pop records of 2014 even if they can't spell always correctly...like me.
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve listened to a Godflesh record. I’d hazard a guess it’s been almost 20 years since I broke out Pure and blew out my speakers. I used to love these guys because while they were on Earache records they so weren’t part of the scene that made Earache Records what they were. I mean they were heavy, ridiculously heavy, but they were an industrial band…not death metal or grindcore. And to this day that’s why I’ve always admired them because they were heavy in a totally different way than everyone else. Flash forward twenty years and these guys are still plugging away and doing things different.
They’re new EP, Decline & Fall is a welcome return to form and sees the band maintaining their incredible intensity. The four songs on the record are the sound of a carpet bombing campaign from a fleet of B-52 Stratofortresses; it’s wave after wave of aural destruction laid down on vinyl. With riffs so heavy that Atlas couldn’t carry them on his shoulder and a sound still so punishing it’s the stuff of nightmares, Godflesh prove that they’ve still got it. There just isn’t anything heavier than these guys and Decline & Fall is absolutely hellishly perfect in its brutality.
They might be pensioners at this point and they might be twenty years wiser but the power and severity of Godflesh remains strong. Decline & Fall is anything but…it’s a rise to glory.
If George Orwell was more like The Orwells, 1984 wouldn't be something to be terrified about, but something to be embraced and over indulged in. Unlike Big Brother stalking in the background this power pop group from Chicago is overly energetic, raucous, and in your face. This spunk and hyperactivity bleeds through every song of their debut album, Disgraceland.
With a bit of Strokesian cool, Pixies like noise and Parquet Courtsian sloppiness The Orwells crank it up to 11 and kick out the jams. And what jams they are. The kinetic nature of these guys is hard to keep up with and they fire out songs at such a rapid rate that Disgraceland is almost over before it started. Sure they slow it down for a few minutes here and there but even their "ballads," feel like out of breath shots of heartache; I love it. Disgraceland is a fun and uber catchy record whose enthusiasm is infectious and almost overbearing. I really like how the band channels power pop through this lively filter that involves churning out raw riff after riff in a machine gun like spray of notes that hits everything it comes across.
Disgraceland churns and burns and dashes and sprints across songs. It has a classic feel despite being brand new and songs like, "Let It Burn," "Southern Comfort," and "Gotta Get Down," sum up Disgraceland perfectly. Slightly chaotic, always noisy, and filled with great songs Disgraceland is a statement as to the current state of power pop and it's current state is awesome.
Oprah's empire is vast; from television to books to magazines her depth of power is nearly limitless...but music? Oh, wait, this isn't Oprah it's Doprah? Ok, Doprah apparently are a dynamic duo as far away from Oprah's grip as humanly possible; Christchurch, New Zealand. Having released numerous singles in the land of Mordor the band have had number one hits and even opened for Lorde, but have never had anything available Stateside. That's all changed with their five song self-titled EP.
Doprah (not Oprah) is a lush and subdued take on the whole chilled out/chillwave thing mixed with equal parts of Bjorkian quirkiness and Target-like pop hooks. With synthesized atmospheres and washes, ghostlike vocals, and a clever pop sensibility Doprah is quite the mesmerizing little record. Vocalist Indira Force coos her way through each of the songs here and her voice is so hypnotic that your eyes are likely to get all googly as she seduces your ears. Even when the band intentionally uses auto-tune to chop her voice up it still sounds good. Steven Marr, the other half of the duo, wisely produces this ambrosial soundworld by enveloping Force's voice with aural beauty and luxurious textures. The whole thing has a sheen and style to it that's simply riveting and while it might be cliche for something to be chillwave in this day and age, Doprah aren't and they manipulate it with a level of precision that makes it a genre all their own. Doprah might never be as popular as Oprah but they are ridiculously good and worthy of your time even if they don't have their talk show.
Dead Dream's four song EP is proof that the dream of shoegazing's glory days is far from dead or even drifting away. These guys are so wrapped up in keeping the spirit of 1992 alive you'd swear that they were actually from 1992. Embracing washed out guitars, waves of noise, whispered vocals, and the whole idea that spiritual enlightenment can be achieved through distortion pedals Dead Dream's EP is a ethereal slice of heaven.
Depressingly short at just four songs, the record harks back to better times when the scene that celebrated itself was busy celebrating itself. Dead Dream do a fantastic job of taking past influences and modernizing them for today's hipstertastic ears. The songs here plod along at a slow to moderate pace while whispers and sighs burrow their way through the cascading sheets of guitars. "Sleepwalker," is a brilliant tune that you'd swear was produced by Robin Guthrie while "Fireworks," is an instrumental work out that might just be played by Robin Guthrie. All in all, it's four songs are all endearing and wonderfully angelic. Since the press release I got with this didn't have any information, fans of shoegazing would be advised to email the band at email@example.com to find out how to get this slice of heaven.
Saturday, August 9, 2014
Alt-country is such an abused musical term in this day and age. Think about it, it seems like anyone that's slightly off kilter but has a country edge is immediately labeled alt-country. But then again, the whole genre of country is a total misnomer when you think about it. I mean, is Taylor Swift and Toby Keith real country? Not really. Anyway, one of the more legitimate alt-country artists out there are the Felice Brothers. These guys have been rocking out in a country stylee for as long as I can remember. They're practically legendary and it's all well deserved as they've consistently brought the goods.
Their latest album Favorite Waitress is yet another notch of excellence in their ever expanding catalog. Taking country roots and folk and giving it a strong dose of indie rock the band find a happy medium between traditional and modern influences. The result is a fantastic record that's as rustic as it is rocking. It just feels dusty and homey and even with what sounds like synths washing over it the Felice Brothers are able to convey a feeling of pastoral cool. Be it guitars, piano, or banjo Favorite Waitress lilt's and twangs and uses everything under the sun to create that homespun atmosphere.
Truly an alternative form of country Favorite Waitress takes a different path to un-swept musical trails and likes both types country and western. The Felice Brothers, reassuringly, still have the ability to do this without being cliche and Favorite Waitress is a great listen. From broken ballads to indie rock outs Favorite Waitress has it all with a bit of dust and grit thrown in for good measure.
Beginning as a long distance collaboration between past members of Barbaras, Magic Kids, Boston Chinks, Alex Gates and Billy Hayes, and the mysterious Big Muff Radio the Cretin Stompers eventually came together in various pieces and parts to make their album Looking Forward To Being Attacked. Apparently, recorded in each members garage and slapped together with masking tape, Looking Forward To Being Attacked is a primitive stomp through pseudo psychedelic garage rock. It's raw, rough, and totally underproduced but that's what makes the Cretin Stompers so stomptastic.
Musically, this band is amazing. Chugging riffs, bashed drums, lo-fi aesthetics and a sense of the impending apocalypse fuel every song. It's speedy, sloppy, and totally rock and roll. If this record was nothing but two minute rock and roll instrumentals it would be a garage rock masterpiece but someone out of the 350 members that apparently make up this band decided that it would be a good idea to include vocals on this record. And while some of the vocals fit the songs, an overwhelming falsetto bleeds itself over the majority of Looking Forward To Being Attacked . It is absolutely annoying to the point of distraction; it's so weird, so high, and so off key that it overpowers every song it appears on making it difficult to tolerate the record as a whole. It truly is unfortunate because when these guys chug away and add vocals that fit the songs the Cretin Stompers are fantastic...but the second you hear that wailing din you want to reach for earplugs.
Looking Forward To Being Attacked has a ton of potential as a simplistic and raw rock and roll record, unfortunately the vocals that overpower some of the songs that appear here squash that potential and make it nearly un-listenable. For those of you with high tolerance levels or are unable hear high pitched noises, in the dog whistle range, you'll find some good songs worthy of listening to. Outside of that, it should be noted that putting what sounds like a four year old singing on top of your songs is probably not a good idea. Just saying.
Connecticut's Wolves At Bay have released their latest EP, Postvention with a good cause in mind. This new record featuring new versions of two old songs and two cover tunes is released as a name your own price, but donations given are being turned over to Prevent Suicide CT. Great tunes for a great cause, if you ask me.
The EP itself is a four song blast of post-hardcore/pseudo-emo stuff with soaring vocal climaxes, guttural growls and chugging riffs; the whole package. From a heaviness standpoint, "Bedside Manner (reprise)," is the heaviest tune here. It's a crunchy short blast of fire that sets the EP off in fine fashion and when it kicks in, it kicks hard. "Know Why," is a brooding alternative to the original that kind of plods along a bit darkly and almost comes off as a sort of acoustic version. The two covers on the record, "Mother Mary," (a Far cover) and "Rudderless," (a Lemonheads cover) are a lot of fun. I like the fact that they're all over the map here and both versions of these songs are fun and fairly well done; I like, "Rudderless,"the best as it's almost a bit true to the original.
With a good cause in mind and good tunes on record Postvention is well worth a donation and getting karma on your side. Head over to the band's site for details.
Brooklyn band Modern Rivals don't really sound like the rest of the scene in Hipster Central. Honestly, Modern Rivals sound like they've been stuck in an 80's time warp trapped over the Pacific somewhere between New Zealand and the UK. Sounding a bit like Lilac Time meets The Chills in the middle of a vast ocean Modern Rivals have a sound that I've not heard in ages.
A bit fey, wispy, and dreamy Modern Rivals really do seem out of touch with what's going on musically at the moment and that's bloody fantastic. Their album, Cemetery Dares, is a Nigel Godrich produced work of dream pop that's as weightless as it is jangly. Filled with rays of sunshine and sparkles, Cemetery Dares glistens at every turn. The guitars throughout much of this record spin candy floss riffs from sugar spun synths and gossamer-like vocals and it's light as air approach makes this record stand out like a beacon in the night. The whole thing sounds overjoyed as newlyweds and as twee as a hop, skip, and a jump in a park.
Cemetery Dares is a wondrously wonderful record that harks back to a less pretentious time when pop music was simply about great tunes that were impossible to forget. It's nice to know that somebody still loves fey and ethereal pop music and that you don't always need walls of distortion to get lost in a dream. Modern Rivals may not necessarily be modern per se, but there's no doubt they have no rival.
The Luxembourg Signal while being a new band on paper really aren't and features members that have been playing for years if not decades under other guises. From Aberdeen to Fonda to Trembling Blue Stars and who knows what in between the members of Luxembourg Signal have spent some time in the indie pop trenches and learned a thing or two about writing a great pop song. As if to prove that point that's where Luxembourg Signal's debut single comes into play.
Distant Drive is a gorgeous two song slice of indie pop pie that tastes like a bit of Siouxsie and the Banshees, "Hong Kong Garden," blissed out on Robin Guthrie and then mixed with The Heartthrobs early output. Confused? Don't be, the single is dreamy, lush, and ethereal. Guitars swirl, synths wash over you and vocals sigh gently into your ears all the while implanting hooks into your brain that hypnotize you into pop submission. The whole thing is warm and fuzzy and ridiculously good and with Luxembourg Signal's pedigree how could it not be? This is dream pop re-born and while I love all the bands that the Luxembourg Signal have been in, something just grabs me about them this time around that gives me goosebumps. These guys are great and for a debut single, they've just about knocked it out of the ballpark.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
Oddly named band, Bastards of Fate set out to make the darkest pop album of all time with their latest release Vampires Are Real And Palpable. I'm not sure if they made the darkest pop album of all time, but they did make one un-listenable racket. Geez, Vampires Are Real And Palpable is horrible. It's like what would have happened had David Bowie been wasted the entire decade of the 70's and forced to record in a suburban flat in Sheffield.
Vampires Are Real And Palpable is a mess of disjointed melodies, broken songs, and a whole lot of atonal noise. I'm not really sure what this record wants to be or what the Bastards of Fate were hoping to convey here except that aspirin might be necessary to make it through. For every ten or twenty seconds you give this record a chance of redeeming itself there are three to four minutes of dissonance. Vampires may be real but after listening to this record they'll be begging you to drive many, many stakes through their hearts.
Sorry guys maybe I don't get the joke...but listening to Vampires Are Real And Palpable is a fate worse than death.
St. Louis DJ Gene Siewing has apparently sailed the Mississippi all the way out to the Atlantic and ridden the Gulf Stream to Germany. Now making waves in Berlin this DJ turned producer has just released his second single on his new imprint Intent Recordings. The single, Drastic Measures, is a sweet slice of sexy deep house goodness that pulsates with sensuality and chilled vibes. Each of the four tracks here, "Drastic Measures," "Hold On," "Divine Presence," and the Davenport Filtration mix of the title track are all total floor fillers that takes the late 90's house phenomenon and brings it into the 21st century.
Complete with odd vocal samples, huge hooks, chilled vibes and a tempo that's somewhere around perfect the tunes on Drastic Measures wash over you in a groove laden shower of sensuality. Tech house flourishes and atmospheric grooves are evident throughout but the overwhelming feel of this record is deep going deeper. It's fantastic stuff that harks back to an age when house truly was a feeling that was hard to shake (something EDM lost in the aggression). Drastic Measures is essential stuff.
The Deleted Scenes are an interesting band that involves people from all aspects of regular non-musical lives. From the singer being a stay at home dad to the bass player having a PHD in bio medical engineering this band pretty much have life covered. With so many bases covered, and so many potential influences and stories the songs these guys come up with are a direct reflection of the regularity of existence; kind of ironic that regularity can lead to inspiration don't you think?
Their third album, Lithium Burn is a mathy little record that sounds like an emotional Ben Folds lost in an chemical equation. The record is complicated and jumpy and makes a few sudden and quick musical left turns over the course of it's performance. With time signature changes, angular guitar work, and an emotional outpouring of lyrics Lithium Burn keeps itself algebraic in it's approach and yet somehow human. There aren't really verse/chorus/verse songs here per se. Rather, Lithium Burn is a series of nervous jitters set to music that at any second could change paths and head of somewhere else. It's unpredictable and exciting and the emotions that Deleted Scenes are playing with make it all sound sentimental and inviting. It's not the easiest record to get into and there are probably a zillion separate riffs here but if you're at all musically inclined this record will fascinate and make sense.
Lithium Burn is a very good record from a technical sense; it's chock full of riffs, complicated swerves and turns and features a bunch of guys who clearly love playing. It's also a beautiful record because buried within all this technicality and music theory are some emotionally touching and gorgeous moments. It's truly cool to hear these guys play their hearts out and then just let their emotions run rampant within a song. From lush slow songs to churning rifferamas Lithium Burn is far from a Deleted Scene or a bonus feature...it's a starring role.
I have no problems at all saying that Louisville, Kentucky's White Reaper are the best thing to come out of that state since KFC and Jack Daniels were introduced to the world. Seriously, White Reaper are just as tasty if not more so and their EP White Reaper is a perfect six song slice of chaotic indie rock the way it was meant to be played. White Reaper is loud, raw, super speedy, and ridiculously catchy. Taking it's cue from surf rock, indie pop, hand clapping, and melodies fueled by Lucky Charms this is a short but sweet record that bores it's way into your brain and never lets go.
One listen to the first song on the EP and you'll be bouncing off the walls with saccharine sweet choruses, thrashy riffs, sloppy guitars and bass lines robbed from the Ramones back catalog. There's nothing extremely complicated about these songs, there's no over production, no sheen, no nothing and that's why it's amazing; it's pure and honest. White Reaper are three guys who plug in, bash out tunes, and have one heck of a good time doing it and their energy powers its way through your speakers and lifts you up as well. I love this EP and it's easily one of the highlights of the summer of 2014 if not the year and I'm going to have one heck of time not listening to this on repeat.
Inventions, a side project from Matthew Cooper of Eluvium and Mark T. Smith of Explosions in the Sky, take the best elements of each band's respective worlds and elevates them into super group status with their self-titled album. The Inventions album is an ambient soundworld that consists of expansive textures, washes of musical beauty, and atmospherics that puts this record somewhere just to the right of otherworldly. The album is an instrumental work of awe that sees these two label-mates meshing so well together they might just want to consider making Inventions more than a one off side project.
With a minimal but vast approach to constructing these pieces, Matthew and Mark sculpt seemingly infinite soundscapes where sounds drone on for eternity only occasionally taking shape into something that nears a song. There are no singles, no hits, no discernible words but this work none-the-less is inspiring. It's ethereality and ambient environment is peaceful and serene and could easily lull a listener into a deep meditative state with very little effort.
I quite like records like this. There's nothing complicated about listening to it, Inventions just washes over you in a warm woolen blanket of ambient sounds. New age it's not, but it's definitely a serene attempt at musical bliss that reaches Nirvana.
Wednesday, August 6, 2014
Shade Themes from Kairos is a continuation of a soundtrack project created by Belgian filmaker Alexis Destoop and musicians Oren Ambarchi, Randall Dunn and Stephen O'malley . The album, strangely enough, plays out like a soundtrack and is a textural, expansive journey into the imaginations of it's creators. Mostly ambient with broad strokes of guitar trickery, atmospheric rhythms and strange found sounds the record is as fascinating as it is creepy.
Shade Themes from Kairos is epic in scope and seemingly rolls on for days with all sorts of atmospheric sounds co-mingling to create this abstract and weird soundworld where Ambarchi, O'malley and Dunn reside. The record is a twisted peek into their musical psyche's and how moving images and ideas from a movie environment can steer their musical creativity in several directions at once. Minimal at it's most expansive and barely there at others, the record plays out in a wondrous yet disturbing way that could possibly drone on for an eternity. With organic sounds colliding with synthetic ones and ambiance washing over it all in cascading waves of hypnotizing rhythms the record is a fine example of modern minimalistic composition.
Strange, coarse and a work of ambient brilliance, Shade Themes from Kairos is the kind of record that you play in a dark room and hope that the supernatural doesn't get involved. It's a beautiful work of never ending soundscapes and musical modernism. The feel good hit of the year it is not, but Ambarchi, O'malley and Dunn have created a intriguing listen worth getting lost in.
Sometimes being obnoxious can work to your advantage. It certainly does for Eureka California who's album Crunch is an energetic explosion of spazztic indie rock riffage and their second album in less than two years. Seemingly unable to stop making music, Eureka California can't slow down and that inability to control themselves is reflected within the sounds of Crunch. Sounding like a long lost artifact unearthed from 1994, this record is loud, raw, unrefined and about as sloppy as the best Pavement record.
Crunch is a hyper, jumpy, caffeine fueled journey through eleven songs in twenty five minutes. It's such a fantastic mess that the whole thing sounds like it was pieced together with chewing gum and duct tape and recorded on a broken boom box found their parents garage. It's exuberant and simple and almost impossible not to love. Guitars jangle, wrangle, distort and sound like they're tearing themselves apart while drums bash and bang and the vocals strain, scream, and snap vocal chords. Crunch is one giant wall of indie rock noise that should really suck but miraculously doesn't. It's proper indie rawk and it's relentless in the pursuit of the two minute noisy pop song.
Crunch on paper isn't much to write home about, it's an uncomplicated, noisy and brash mess. But listening to the thing makes it all worthwhile. This is what indie rock is supposed to be like; it's honest, raw, and pure and contains zero percent posturing. As their bio notes Eureka California are often torn between rocking out and giving up. How can you not love that? That's the kind of rock and roll I want to listen to...bands with a suicidal lust to just kick butt and rock out or chuck in the towel and go home.
Kentucky’s Young Windows are a mess. This is a chaotic, troubled band that has all sorts of attitudinal problems that make for nearly painful listening. This is a good thing. Having consistently dirtied things up this is a band that has progressively taken their urgent and unclean sound and morphed it into lethal machine of sonic destruction. Their latest album Easy Pain has been cranked up and refined to deadly perfection and the eight buck shots of post grunge Armageddon are the loudest things you'll hear this year.
Easily described as the sound the world will make when it all comes to an end, this is like listening to an old Godflesh record, Bleach era Nirvana, and the Jesus Lizard all at the same time on the same set of headphones. While their previous albums may have sounded chaotic and slightly rough, Easy Pain sounds as rusty, brutal and as deadly as a two handed sword. It's all battered riffs, churning rhythms, tortured screams and the feeling that Apocalypse is one sour note away. This is an epic record of discord, pain and misery, but boy this kind of heaviness has never sounded so good.
Each of the eight songs here are essentially the sound of an eighteen wheeler crushing your puny Toyota Prius. This album is ridiculously heavy and punishing that it will test the pain tolerance of you and your stereo. This is a band that has no problems de-tuning guitars, cranking out slow motion grooves, and letting riffs expand to the size of the galaxy all in an attempt to bring you to your knees and beg for mercy.
While grunge may have been dead and buried for well over a decade, it's nice to see that a few bands still feel like kicking the corpse of it around now and again and taking the sound that sold a million Doc Marten's back to its roots. The Young Widows have done an exceptional job of that on Easy Pain and while people often hate opening old wounds this is one that's certainly worth doing over and over again.
It's hard to believe that Ingrid Michaelson is on her fifth album. It's crazy as I remember her as a wee lass (ok maybe not), but this singer songwriter has managed to survive and embrace her unique approach to the genre and make it sustainable. While she's become popular through the "Targetization," of her music, her style and ability to switch between sentimentality and a good pop hook is what she should really be recognized for.
Lights Out, her latest album, is an effort that takes the best bits of Tori Amos and Marina & The Diamonds and smashes them together. The results are a sweeping pop record that bounces from clever uses of electronics to sad, intimate ballads within in a single bound. Whichever style she uses she's exceptionally transparent and personal. You can almost hear the pain in her voice at times or feel the exuberance coming through on her more upbeat moments. I'm not really the biggest fan of the genre, but she definitely has the knack for writing a quirky pop song and when she does her pop sensibility is sharper than a razor blade. Lights Out is a fun listen that grows on you with repeated spins.
Whether it's a minimal use of instrumentation or a layered production of sugary sweet pop hooks, Ingrid Michaelson grabs hold of your ears and refuses to let go. She's quirky, she's cool, and she can write a good song with the best of them. Her album might be called Lights Out but after spending some time with this record it's obvious that her career five albums in is anything but lights out. In fact it's on a trajectory that's hard to keep pace with or turn off.
Another day, another stellar compilation from Numero. This time around, we're not in the Capital City but we're still Way Out! For this latest compilation the fine folks at Numero uncovered a ton of blinding soul burners from Cleveland's home of soul: Way Out Recordings. Fueled in part by Jim Brown the label offered rogue soul men, rust belt vocal ensembles and trial by fire producers a home and a place to record. Sure the recordings coming out of the label were rough but they were pure and stunning none the less.
As the liner notes say, all sorts of people and groups were beckoned to the wrong side of the tracks to mint masterpieces for the Sensations, Volcanic Eruption and a handful of others. Spread out over three LP's or two CD's this retrospective once again proves that good soul music can come from anywhere as long as it's honest. Way Out were a special label and it's hard to find fault with any of the 40 tracks on this compilation. This is deep 60's soul that's like a Northern Soul collectors dream come true. So many great tracks are spread throughout this compilation and the rebel spirit that went into making each of these songs make this yet another essential Eccentric collection. Way Out wasn't Motown and didn't want to be, it was it's own unique take on soul music and the treasures Numero have unearthed are priceless.
The musicianship on this set is top notch, the vocals are emotional, the hooks are huge and the ballads are stirring across the board. It's hit after hit here and no matter the group or vocalist you're guaranteed a tune of fantastic quality to rival the big boys. Numero packages all that classicism in gorgeous artwork and includes a 7000 word dissertation on the label. That alone says all you need to know about how good and how important Way Out really was. Essential stuff.
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Fifteen years ago, Polyvinyl Records released one of the most important and most beloved records in their catalog. American Football was released with an idea that things should be different. Focusing on odd time signatures and sincere lyrics the record developed a deep connection with a very loyal following thanks to Mike Kinsella, Steve Lamos, and Steve Holmes unique approach. Now after all this time, Polyvinyl has reissued the record with a host of bonus tracks, deluxe packaging and a massive helping of nostalgia.
While undoubtedly most of us already know the influence the first edition of this record had, I figured I'd take a look at the bonus tracks that are included with this issue. If you're not familiar with American Football, it basically founded the whole "Polyvinyl Indie," sub genre of melodic angular indie rock that teeters somewhere between post punk, emo, and jazz. The bonus material included in this package consists of ten tracks that give a behind the scenes look at how the album came together. From live tracks, demo's, and unreleased stuff it's all here in raw un-tampered form. While there's nothing really out of the ordinary or life changing for anyone but stalwart and dedicated American Football fans what is particularly interesting is that each of these bonus tracks is an instrumental peek into the construction of the band and album. The tracks are raw, unrefined, and at times loose. It all sounds like a free flowing jam session in which the band is just creating ideas as they go. In and of itself the ten tracks are a pretty cool "post rock" record that just happens to be a bit of inside information about a pretty seminal album.
No one can doubt the vitality and seminal qualities of American Football and the respect Polyvinyl is paying it. But, for those just stumbling across the band for this time this set might be a bit much and it might be better to find a non-special edition. However, for those dedicated loyalists this is a very cool set of tunes piled on top of a very cool set of tunes. It's a well put together package that gives listeners a glimpse into the minds of how the guys put all this pseudo indie jazz together and just why American Football became such a great record.
Remember when TransAm were good, like really good. Remember how cold, calculating, and almost robotic their instrumental tracks were. Remember how they took post rock to the furthest reaches of the galaxy and left it there. Well, Hot Victory never forgot that. In fact, they went into space searching for where TransAm left post rock, found it, and moved it to the moon where they reside.
Hot Victory sound like what would happen if a series of Terminator T-1000's knew, or cared to know, how to play music. The band's self-titled album is as cold as clinical steel and as mechanically harsh as a tank rolling over you. The record is heavy, ominous, brooding, evil, and amazing. It's heaviness and spirit crushing electronic riffage will break you psychologically while samples and odd sounds bore deep into your psyche. This is a twisted, atmospheric slice of hell and it's riveting. Hot Victory is a stupendous example of just how songs without words can be as powerful or even more powerful at conveying a message.
Hot Victory erect a minimal and stark world punctured by these sounds of doom. It's the sound of a black hole swallowing the galaxy and spitting it out on the other side. It's machine driven precision and strangeness will keep you gripped and instill fear in your ears. Hot Victory is the ultimate rock and roll album and it's been brought back from deep space to terrorize all who listen to it.
Dawn Golden is a Diplo protege, has released his new album on Downtown/Mad Decent and amazingly sounds nothing like anything related to either of those things. Still Life is electronic, but it's potentially the most emotionally draining record you're hear all year and is so full of melancholic brilliance it could make your therapist rich. If you could take chillwave as a genre and sandwich it between an r&b quiet storm you'd have the soundworld that Dawn Golden inhabits.
Still Life is a slow moving journey through an emotional treasure trove that feels like it was recorded in a dream by dreamers for dreamers. It's minimal beats, massive washes, detached vocals, and atmospheric vibe feels like it's not even real. The whole record sounds like the noise you hear when you are somewhere between drifting off into unconsciousness and cracking your eyes open. It's an aural horizon that never seems to end and that's ok. Dawn Golden has come up with something that's tender, fragile and almost too intimate for personal consumption. None the less, Still Life is a lovely effort that's endearing because it's so far gone.
Containing not one summer pop hit Still Life instead wins you over by overwhelming your senses with a veritable blanket of sound. Dawn Golden's ability to create intimate atmospheres that stretch into eternity is remarkable. The whole thing should just put you to sleep or bore you to death but it's so odd, so well done and so riveting that I couldn't help but listen to it four times back to back.