March 03, 2010
Sorry it's been so long! we'll be back on the weekly schedule here at the music department. SXSW in two weeks! full report here as well...
Titus Andronicus – “A More Perfect Union” – The Monitor
The first track off the Civil War themed Titus album starts with a quote from Abraham Lincoln and immediately drops a Bruce ref AND a Billy Brag ref in the first verses…woah. There’s a lot to say about this new album. Early comparisons to Conor Oberst/Bright Eyes were more right on than I gave them credit for. The melodies are classic. The guitar riffs were made for air guitar. The lyrics are dense. This album doesn’t let up.
Seabear – “Wolfboy” – We Built a Fire
Described as “Sufjan Stevens meets an unplugged Arcade Fire” by some critic who has only listened to someone’s top albums list of 2008, Seabear hail from Iceland’s small but thriving music scene. To the unnamed critics’ credit, the anthemic quality of Wolfboy does fit the comparison as well as the hushed vocals of the singer. Perhaps it’s comparison bias, but I can see the clear blue of Iceland’s pools in the music.
Twin Tigers – “Everyday” – Gray Waves
In a scene dominated by strange folk and indie rock, Twin Tigers explosive wall of shoegaze is surprising. The popular local band from Athens is releasing its debut on Old Flame Records. Echoes of Jesus and Mary Chain bounce through the record as well as new-comers A Place to Bury Strangers.
The Ruby Suns – “Cranberry” – Fight Softly
The New Zealand bands first release on Subpop is a long jump from the venerable Lil’ Chief Records in distane and sound. Subpop’s second acquisition from Lil’ Chief (The Brunettes were first) will hopefully be more successful. The album has a world feel like El Guinco remixing Animal Collective. Throw some Hot Chip synth in there for good measure too.
Golden Triangle – “Jinx” – Double Jointer
Brooklyn band of three dudes and three chicks signed to Subpop sister label Hardly Art for their debut album. Jinx is a hooky pop song with cavernous vocals. Take your favorite indie pop song, put a bunch of reverb on it, throw in some catchy chants and yelps and dance.
Fang Island – “Life Coach” – Fang Island
Formed at RISD, Fang Island describes its sound as “everyone high-fiving everyone.” Sweet. The album features lots of guitar work and a generally sparing use of vocals. More effective due to the infrequency, the gang vocals sound like great shouts at a concert. “Life Coach” is a bit out of the mold but better as a result as it marries the classic rock solo guitars with some contemporary vocal styles.
December 23, 2009
Air Waves – “Sweetness” – Golden Hour Box Set
Ok so I know I already made this point, but 2009 is the year of surf rock. Air Waves are another awesome Underwater Peoples band doing cool stuff down in the city. “Sweetness” follows a simple two chord structure with a melody that sounds like a Moldy Peaches sing-by-numbers songbook. Breathy vocals recall the lazy days of Irish and Scottish pop of The Thrills and Trashcan Sinatras.
Solid Gold – “Matter of Time” – Matter of Time
Opening like a remix of the Shins by MGMT, Solid Gold’s hooky electronics could fit in with The Gorillaz on this heavily remixable first single follow up for their critically acclaimed album Bodies of Water. Expect more dreamy synth pop next year from this Minneapolis group.
Pants Yell! – “Got to Stop” – Received Pronunciation
Clever posters Pants Yell! have dropped most of the horns from their last release and turned inward to the core sound of their trio. Hailing from Cambridge, MA and signed to the venerable (and now 20 years old!) Slumberland records, they are substantially less fuzzy than most of Slumberland’s active roster. Pants Yell! are proving that you don’t have to hide your catchy factor behind lo-fi fuzz.
Drink up Buttercup – “Even Think” – Even Think
Another lead single teaser for a 2010 release, “Even Think” follows a cheerleader melody through an 8-bit, Zelda dungeon growl. The Philadelphia psych rock quartet has signed to Yep Roc for an album in early 2010.
December 16, 2009
Real Estate – “Beach Comber” – Real Estate
2009, yes, it is the year of surf rock (in case you were wondering) and one of the bands leading the charge is Real Estate. Part of the New Jersey collective Underwater Peoples that also boasts Ducktails, Family Portrait, and Air Waves, Real Estate is riding the proverbial wave across the country with fellow bliss purveyors, San Fran’s Girls. Lay back and let the sun warm your skin in this four minute sand castle.
Middle East – “Blood” – The Recordings of the Middle East
Arriving in America shortly after they reconvened, The Middle East come not from their namesake but the warmth of Australia. Kind of like a cross between Anathallo and Architecture in Helsinki, “Blood” builds with crystal clear vocals over whistle and glockenspiel hinting at the triumphant conclusion.
The William Blakes – “On Fire” - Wayne Coyne
Yep, they really named their album Wayne Coyne. But it’s just homage to a hero…like naming your cat after Coyne I guess. Thankfully, they didn’t try to write any love songs for/to him (he is married I think) or otherwise send him a message. In fact, the album doesn’t really have much to do with him besides the cover that superimposes his face on a painting of William Blake. “On Fire” is a carnival ride that gets lost on its way through a railroad tunnel and eventually crashes (“We’re all lost in this tunnel” screams singer Kristian Leth). The album actually came out in 2008 in the band’s home country of Denmark.
White Denim – “Everybody Somebody” – Fits
Another odd signing for Downtown records, the Austin garage duo belts out catchy shout choruses to Black Keys blues guitar. Hard to classify, the only consistent element in their song writing seems to be a blues base. Famed for high energy, explosive live shows in their hometown, the band received national attention at the 2008 SXSW festival. Fits is their first album on Downtown.
The King of Rocksprings – “How to be a Stalker” – The Milkman vs. The Postman Problem
King of Rocksprings is the project of Scott Sosebee an artist and musician recently transplanted from Athens to New York. Helped on backing vocals by LD Beghtol of 69 Love Songs fame, it’s not hard to see what drew him to this project. Sosebee’s vocal timbre and deft ability for rhyme practically ooze of Stephen Merritt. Apparently, this EP is the first of many to come…sounds good to me!
Robert Francis – “Keep Running” – Before Nightfall
Barely 22 years under his belt and you’d never know it. Writing with the confidence of Springsteen in his prime, Francis builds dark soundscapes with repressed urgency that boils under both the most sinister bass lines and bright organ tags. Hints of Ryan Adams and other cherished alt-country voices dot the album of a surely rising star.
Gemma Ray – “100 mph (In 2nd Gear)” – Lights out Zoltar!
Gemma Ray just invented a new genre. It’s called apocalyptic waltz. The UK songstress, aptly named “queen of noir,” is now signed to Bronzerat who have released her album number two. Dancing in velvet against the cool metal of warring robots, Gemma’s sultry voice sparkles with orange fire. The lava on the cover of the album says it all.
December 09, 2009
Alec Ounsworth – “This is not my Home (after Bruegel)” – Mo Beauty
Opening with a New Orleans funeral break-beat into a descending chorale that turns upward with the introduction of Ounsworth’s haunted vocals, this song does away with the groove oriented Clap Your Hands Say Yeah style that Ounsworth exhibited with that group. Instead the beat moves through a kaleidoscope, half and double time from hip hop to 80’s hair metal. Ounsworth’s voice compliments the windsurfing horns with ease.
Yeasayer – “Ambling Alp” – Single
The lead track from Yeasayer’s sophomore release and first on Secretly Canadian is being made available as a 12” vinyl with two remixes right off the bat. Unfortunately the best remix by Memory Tapes isn’t included, but you can find that online. It’s not hard to see why it’s already popular to remix, the track sounds like a minced chocolate bar with slivers of goodness melting into the marbled, tribal drums. At the horn breakdown, check out all the levels of vocals. That part will probably mow people over live.
Devendra Banhart – “16th and Valencia Roxy Music” – What Will We Be
The diamond in the rough on Devendra’s major label debut is the simple two step “16th and Valencia”. It sounds bit like Devendra’s cover of the title track from Islands’ Vapours. Short and sweet, it’s easily the standout among the rest of the Jim Morrison-esqe sleepers on the album. It draws more from Devendra’s style under the Megapuss moniker than from anything he’s done under his own name lately.
Julian Casablancas – “11th Dimension” – Phrazes for the Young
Casablancas’ first solo album fills in the gaps between his boyhood and the strokes. Songs from points scattered throughout the last five years find themselves a home on this album. Recorded in LA then finished in Nebraska with Mike Mogis, Phrazes circles the rock genre chart. From the banjo solo on “Ludlow St.” to the 80’s glam and exceedingly technical Guitar Hero solo in Glass, the album is all over the map. “11th Dimension” spits bleeps and boops like an old Nintendo while rocking out.
Devries – “Black Thursday Repeat” – Death to God
Travis DeVries of Northwest psych-rock regulars The Turn-ons took some songs he wrote and formed a new band with Turn-ons member Erik Blood. Mastered by Kramer (Sufjan Stevens, Galaxy 500) in Brooklyn, the tunes have a brit-rock twist that cuts out the psych-wall of the style of the Turn-ons. Think Stone Roses burping up Luna.
Tegan and Sara – “The Ocean” – Sainthood
Chris Walla’s solo album sounded a lot like Tegan and Sara. Maybe that’s why they asked him to produce this new album. Or maybe it’s because he has some crazy talent for making any old pop song sound like genius. Tegan and Sara’s clean as a whistle style fits his production exactly. “The Ocean” is about finding trust in a relationship across distances - these girls have pop-rock down.
December 02, 2009
BOAT – “Prince of Tacoma” – Setting the Paces
I love this band so much. There is nothing more adept at turning around my mood than a bunch of BOAT songs. “Prince of Tacoma” is one of a set of more racous but insanely catchy new tunes on BOAT’s third LP, the package of which is hand drawn with endearing illustrations from D. Crane (vocals). Even though it looks like all the other BOAT albums there’s something special about this one. Somehow the sloppiness is still there but it’s more of a mature Pavement sloppiness that makes you giddy like chewing the first chews of some bubblegum.
Brazos - “Kid” – Phosphorescent Blues
Austin natives Brazos, popular in their region, are taking their first steps out to the whole country. “Kid” is a pleasant drawled jingle that airs out on fuzzy beats. “I’ll make myself go mad” crows Martin Crane, drilling holes in skulls each repetition. They’re on tour with White Denim now. Check them out especially if you’re a fan of Califone
The Ghost is Dancing – “Battles On” – Battles On
Toronto upstarts, while pretty much unrelated to the Broken Social Scene/Stars etc. group, have the Toronto indie rock sound down to a science. Like the mess in your gagrage of Tullycraft-twee and The Rural Alberta Advantage heart, The Ghost is Dancing are a budding leaf on a dead branch. (Granted that’s kind of a stupid line)
Lissie Trullie – “She Said” – Self-Taught Learner
On the sticker for this album it says that this is what would happen if Joan Jett and Vampire Weekend had a baby. While that analogy may be true, I think that there are a fair few better ways to explain that Lissie is poppy and rocky at the same time. Try “like eating pop rocks that peep like Ezra Koenig when chewed” or “Like chewing JoanJettChip cookies baked with love by Ezra Koenig’s grandmother”. So yeah, that’s what it sounds like.
The Mary Onettes – “Dare” – Islands
Oh sweet sweet 80’s pop, do you ever get old? I mean, yeah you do…but only if it was actually made in the 80’s. The Mary Onettes are signed to the king of Swedish pop labels, Labrador Records. In between the Tough Alliance and New Order, their sound is as much throwback as it is timeless.
Spiral Stairs – “ Maltese T” – The Real Feel
This song is so instantly familiar that even the first time you hear it you kind of want to sing along in a real stupid way. (the theme of this new music grouping is “stupid” is you haven’t noticed). Anyway, Scott Kannberg is an original member of Pavement and this is his band/alter ego. They recorded a song for a Australian publication called The Lifted Brow last year on the small island I grew up on! I’m not sure if any of this album was recorded there…but I hope so.