jump to navigation

2013 Top Albums February 9, 2014

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Arbutus, Best of 2013, Don Giovanni, Fat Possum, Joyful Noise, Labels, Lists, Lovely Sorts of Death, Matador Records, Merge Records, Morr Music, Music, Mythryl, Pau Wau, Reviews, Videos, XL Recordings.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

In my tradition of February sharing my favorite and most earwormy albums of the prior year, I give you the 2013 list.

partygoing

10. Party Going by Future Bible Heroes

Stephin Merritt et. al. at his finest.  Underrated but pure pop.

“John Waters soirée we spun the Warhol” and “At Mink Stole’s birthday in gay Provincetown I came to DJ and left with the clown”

How can you go wrong?

Along with this release there was a vinyl release of all the Future Bible Heroes releases that was a joy to revisit.

Blue-Hawaii-Untogether9. Untogether by Blue Hawaii

Something was lost in the last Braids album, I don’t know what it was, but it just didn’t stick like their debut did.

The good news is that Raphaelle Standell-Preston put all her genius in her duo with Alexander Cowan on the Blue Hawaii release.

The vocal + electronic manipulations are mind-bendy, especially at high-volumes.   She’s channels Karin Oliver dreamy-ness to the n-th degree.

altthumb8. Flowers by Sin Fang

Mr. Seabear returns with another album as Sin Fang (shortened from Sin Fang Bous).

An intricate melding between organic and electronic sounds that the Icelanders are so well-known.

Along with the Half Dreams EP from the year prior — the two seem like a pair — they secure a footing in the woodsy-spacy-folksy orchestral pop.

Bonus from Half Dreams:

ole-1034-majical-cloudz-impersonator-537x537-13687140697. Impersonator by Majical Cloudz

I am reminded of Branden Perry’s The Carnival Is Over.

Sometimes when I hear Delvon Welsh sing, he’s like a ghost from a great band’s past.

The sparsity of his loops and the grandness of his song played over it is imbued with an assertive significance.

The first three songs alone are difficult from keeping on a tight repeat.

“If this is all that I have / If this song is the last thing I do I feel so good / That I sang it”

a3548728279_106. Lanterns by Son Lux

After being challenged by NPR to produce a full album in the 4-weeks of February, when he spent 4 years on his debut album, it could have been an impossible task.

One that he was ultimately successful, built with a patchwork of lyrics that upon repeating gain a undeniable spirituality.

Bonus:  His beats have an almost trip-hop effect.

“Easy, easy / Pull out your heart / To make the being alone”

Bill Baird - Spring Break of the Soul5. Spring Break of the Soul by Bill Baird

I’m happy to say that Bill Baird, out from behind his {{{SUNSET}}} moniker, still makes just plain good music.

He’s so prolific, never sacrificing quality or cheek.  Don’t let his esthetic in the videos trick you, he’s not lofi.

The songs are fun + clever pop, experimental, surfy (in fact each side of this album spells S-U-R-F), have moody marimbas, properly executed feedback, and understated vocals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjfZz1iUM-8

Bonus: Chris Christopherson sad covers FTW.

vw-13666577354. Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend

It doesn’t surprise me this album won best Alternative Album of the Year, it surprises me that the Grammy’s and I agree on anything.  Only a matter of time before the reached critical mass appeal.

Despite them, after VW’s meh Contra rested on their laurels from their debut and the worst use of autotune since Bon Iver, with their 3rd album they didn’t fall in the same trap.

Inevitably, their words and their sound is Vampire Weekend, diplomats and currency and communist revolution from the Upper East Side.

“A gardener told me some plants move / But I could not believe it / Til me and Hannah Hunt / Saw crawling vines and weeping willows”

Waxahatchee_cerulean_salt_cover3. Cerulean Salt by Waxahatchee

Channelling the best parts of Kim Deal and Liz Phair, Katie Crutchfield lands into my top three easily on her own two feet.

Messy and ethereal and, like all clouds must be, lonely:

“The atmosphere is fucking tired it brings us nothing / If you think that I’ll stay forever you are right and,
I’ll give you everything you wanted when I can”

Bonus: Pod-love

1386331137_cover-32. The Time Has Come to Shoot You Down…What a Sound by The Flaming Lips and Various Artists

A late entry into my top-10, one that is so perfect in its reconception of The Stone Roses eponymous debut I’m forced to go back to the original and reconsider the bright sun-shine psychodelia.

Part of what makes this album so great is HOTT MT’s presence on several tracks including the divine jewel that is Waterfall.  My only complaint was how great Fool’s Gold was the first time around, it just doesn’t hold up here.

One of those 500 super-extra-limited edition RSD releases (if you have one to sell that is much less than $300, let me know), you can hear the full album on Soundcloud.

I Wanna Be Adored:

Waterfall:

e62eaf251. Wondrous Bughouse by Youth Lagoon

This album came out early in the year, I felt I’ve had to hold on to it, returning to it, listening to the greatness of it, to make sure it didn’t get overshadowed by novelty.

A carnival-ride, with so many layers and back alleys, this album represents the fruition of Youth Lagoons debut.  Like looking through a lens, if given the production time and equipment, it makes you wonder what what the fragility of The Year of Hibernations may have transformed into.

Who knew this 4-track wonder would become so psychedelic and anthemic.

“You’ll never die / You’ll never die”

Bonus:  Through the Mind and Back / Mute

Advertisements

I Coulda Been a Contender 2008 March 8, 2009

Posted by reidmix in Album Reviews, Best of 2008, Free MP3, I Coulda Been a Contender, Indie, K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Labels, Lists, Merge Records, Music, Reviews, Series, SubPop, Warp.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Well after 9 months since I first started this post, I decided I should finish it before the year is out.  As I’m wrapping up the 2009 songs in my queue, I look back to the coulda-beens of 2008 and how much happiness each band / album gave me.

I love this series as it gives me the off the path list of great bands that you may not have heard of from year-end lists.  This list is in no particular order and each album occupied my focus for some time during 2008.

Bright Blue Dream

This Glowing City

Bright Blue Dream / The Glowing City by {{{SUNSET}}}
I’m a big fan of Bill Baird’s moustache-y named {{{SUNSET}}} and I feel he produces pop gems that are smart and clearly underrated.  Plus, who can’t deny the magic of weaving steel drums with wailing guitars and jaunty piano into an indie song. Autobus is generous and gives us many samples from the two albums that they produced in 2008.  It’s a little bit country, a little bit folk, throw in some noise and it takes up lots of space.  Baird sings with an intimacy and conviction of an addict. Enjoy.
Buy Bright Blue Dream AutobusInsound
Buy The Glowing City AutobusInsound

Crystal Castles

Crystal Castles by Crystal Castles
In retrospect, I had no idea the kids were crazy over Crystal Castles, and Crystal Castles are just plain crazy.  You can see me taking pix on SPINs website (I’m the one over 30 in red).  But when they hit their first song of ROM-core based electronica (like Space Invaders in Air War), the acid musta hit cuz the boys and girls went fucking nuts and Alice Glass leaned into the crowd.  Despite the terror I felt during the show, the album is hard hitting, screaming, surprising (Tell Me What To Swallow sounds like HIIYH HNIA), and if produced in the 70s or 80s I know Crystal Castles woulda been a big metal-hair band.  This is not your mopey goth synths, it’s full of rock and pop, and catchy hooks and ambience.
Buy Crystal Castle
s Last Gang, Insound

Microcastle

Weird Era Cont.

Microcastle / Weird Era Cont. by Deerhunter
Another album that is wonderful in retrospect considering Bradford Cox’s solo effort Atlas Sound’s album this year.  Granted I know this “double” album was on the top 10 of many indie boys and girls last year. It clearly improved upon the potential of Cryptograms pushing the shoegaze-y envelope. Deerhunter are experts at fuzzing the line between indie guitar pop and electronica. Sometimes unstructured and sometimes the poppiest of pop, the album runs the whole gamut.  There’s strangely not a lot of mp3s to find off the album to share but plenty of music can be found on the prolific Deerhunter blog.
Buy
Deerhunter 4AD, Insound

Mountain Battles

Mountain Battles by The Breeders
I’m happy to say The Breeders are still rocking.  After a few duds, I feel like Mountain Battles put them back on the map and they are reaching back to their roots. Sure it’s no Pod or Safari, but it’s approximating those albums.  The title track has that raggaeton rock push that The Breeders like to toy with, you can hear it on “Bang On”.  Kim’s beautiful vox is again the starring role nestled with some fun guitar licks and melodies.  Most songs have the space in between notes that make me most think of songs like “Doe” and “Iris”, the only thing missing may be Tonya Donneley.  But The Breeders persevere, and I think this album may have been greatly underated last year and has a lot to offer if you give it a many listens.
Buy The Breeders Beggars Group / 4AD, Insound

Alegranza

Alegranza by El Guincho
You may have heard “Spanish Animal Collective” and labels are quick to wear and fall off even faster.  El Guincho has a psychedelic samba that keeps you rolling through his songs.  If the album cover, a party-parrot with spiderlike 8-irises, give you any indication, each song is a romp of Spanish whispers and South American electronics from el barrio.  There are plenty of samples to wonder at and regardless of the language or the roots that comprise this album, the songs are fresh and exciting, transcending genres just as their labels may maintain.  Discos Compulsivos made his first CDr, Folías, available for free.
Buy El Guincho Beggars Group / XL, Insound

We Brave Bee Stings and All

We Brave Bee Stings and All by Thao
I’m very excited for Thao Nguyen, this years album put her smartly on XMU. Who knew that her and the Get Down Stay Down’s second album would elevate their status in the indiesphere? But last year, I could not stop listening to the strange phrasings of “Beat (Health, Life, and Fire)” and her slight accent shining through the “Bag of Hammers.”  What makes Thao special is what sets her music apart, it sounds different, like nothing on the radio, surely folk and punk influences are there, but they are incorporated into her song structures and smart lyrics full of lush imagery and experience.  And who doesn’t love a banjo?
Buy Thao
Kill Rock Stars, Insound

Verbs

Verbs by Au
Oh Au (pronounced “Aye-You”) is the symbol for gold. Verbs is this years’ Ruby Suns. A worldly folk (yes, the freaky kind, if you must) that goes from one song to the next without missing a beat or a pause to distinguish them.  “Are Animals” is lush, full of whoops and yowls and somehow hook-y and addicting by the time the fast-paced bass kicks in below the synth-y saxes.  I have to say I listened to this album over and over on my way home on the Metro and barely became wary of it.  Sweet vocals and boy-girl harmonies both can take second place to the sound-scape and also be elemental to the structure itself.  The songs have epic Act I, II, and III structures that keep things interesting, weird and circus-like, and wonderful.
Buy Au Aagoo and on cool vinylInsound

Swimming

Swimming by French Kicks
Anthemic, one of the my favorite words to describe a band, album, song.  Abandon is an anthem in its approach.  I remember reading posts where everyone was whining about how Swimming wasn’t like French Kick’s first punk-inspired album. I say, “That’s progress, they become better musicians, they grow up, they produce something wonderful, why not go along for the ride?”  I could listen to Abandon without abandon and the songs that follow with melodic guitars, soft drums, hushed lyrics.  Their approach is more subtle now, but all the more captivating and, yes, they can crank out a good effin anthem.
Buy French Kicks Vagrant, Insound

The Rhumb Line

The Rhumb Line by Ra Ra Riot
Typically I love covers, but Kate Bush covers typically suck.  Ra Ra Riot’s deeply sacred cover of “Suspended in Gaffa” either makes me want to listen to more of The Rhumb Line or break out The Dreaming depending on my mood.  Both are good outcomes.  I’ve read that Ra Ra Riot were contemporaries of Vampire Weekend until the unfortunate death of their drummer put their debut on hold.  To me their songs remind me more of Spent than Vampire Weekend, and that is a pretty good thing too.  They are softer, have rich strings and sweet vocals, deeply sad and introspective lyrics: “And if you were here, winter would not pass so slow.”  I couldn’t agree more.
Buy Ra Ra Riot Barsuk, Insound

Kontpab

Kontpab by Mahjongg
Mahjongg makes electronic music that breathes.  Kontpab is organic, dark, fun.  Over their discography, each album builds upon the last and this last one hits the mark.  I love how they are on krecs, proving the record label should not be categorized easily — granted much great music in the great northwest has come from K.  Kontpab easily crosses the line back and forth between sparkly electronic music and punk-revival, each song an independent statement in sound and often was my dishwashing music to keep me moving-moving and dancing-washing.
Buy Mahjongg K Records, Insound

Drippers

Drippers by Black Moth Super Rainbow
I have a soft spot for Black Moth Super Rainbow.  Their vocoder and cloyingly-sweet music-box sound doesn’t bother me one bit and is certainly the charm of the band.  The Drippers EP is a collection of rarities, remixes and unreleased tracks from pre-BMSR 1999 on thru to the present.  The songs are uniquely unified and construct a great expression of what the band is and what kind of music they create.  “Zodiac Girls” starts off right where the kaleidoscopic works of Dandelion Gum left off, deep synths, girl vox and Tabacco’s vocoder. My favorite is the Mark E. Smith inspired “I Saw Brown” repeating “I open my eyes / was that brown?” over and over in different variations.
Buy Black Moth Super Rainbow Graveface, Insound

Red Yellow & Blue

Red Yellow & Blue by Born Ruffians
Ever since “This Sentence Will Ruin / Save Your Life” came out I’ve been a nascent Born Ruffians fan waiting for their debut LP.  Red Yellow & Blue is an excellent start with great songs like “Hummingbird”, “Foxes Mate for Life”, and “Little Garçon”.  Not to mention the best Grizzly Bear cover on Stereogum during the same era.  Born Ruffians create lovely indie tunes and harmonies without becoming too twee or straying from their punk underpinnings.  They may be compared to the 3rd wave prepped-up ska ala Vampire Weekend, I’d say they have more akin to the Clash in their song structure and sound.
Buy Born Ruffians Warp, Insound

That sums up my 12 contenders for 2008, a day before I begin working on my 2009 list!

Top 10 Albums of 2008 March 5, 2009

Posted by reidmix in 4AD, Album Reviews, Best of 2008, Free MP3, Indie, Labels, Lists, Music, Reviews, Slender Means, SubPop, Tomlab.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
2 comments

Forgive me for I am late — so so late — but here is my top 10 albums of 2008!  I really struggled with this list because I felt very confident with my top 10, but the order I rearranged over and over, struggling with what I loved in CD-R form, what I loved earlier in the year, and what I love now.

Some choices were released in 2007, which surprised me and I will start a new series: Hey You! Last Year.  Even though I keep this list within 2008, one selection (Bon Iver) was “technically” released in vinyl form in 2007.

Last year I looked forward to good things to come based on singles, EPs, and CD-Rs but I’ve never put those in my top 10.  This year I have two EPs in my top 10 and I really do believe this was the year of the EP.  In once case (High Places), I have a compilation of singles and rarities.

There are no rules to albums you really love.

Entanglements

10. Entanglements by Parenthetical Girls
I really looked forward to this album and anxiously trolled Zac’s site for updates.  News of a Tomlab release made me happy — one of my favorite labels as of late — and then a peek at an OMD cover had me swooning.
Entanglements is a vast, orchestral siege.  It is not the twee little confections that were the panic pop of albums past.  The glockenspiel is still there but it’s now only a single voice amongst the movements of full symphony in each song.
What make most of the songs impenetrable are the lyrics.  Gone are the dirty little vignettes that made the cast of “Love Connection” or “I Was the Dancer.”   Those lyrics took a little tinkering to get the essence and (with great glee) the perverse irony out of them.  Conversely, the words that make up the songs of Entanglements are subconscious, delivered in secret language or with dream-time meaning that are tongue in cheek and full of innuendo and rhyme: “his legs gave way like pages / from a pop-up book / and i had to look.”  In the end, you derive your own message from each song, and with each song a mood that is meticulously crafted by Pennington & Co.  On the whole, the album cannot be easily cast aside.  Much care was put into the production and its soul is too sincere.  You are left wanting more, to know more, to be entrenched more, and with any album what more can you ask?
Buy Entaglements
: Slender Means, Tomlab, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Chunk of Change

09. Chunk of Change by Passion Pit
The first EP of the list, Passion Pit is Bee Gees for the Indie world.  I say this with the highest regard to Michael Angelakos and his Gibb-like falsetto that graces each song on Chunk of Change.  Sure there may be room for improvement, but here is a set that is more interesting than most full length LPs I listened to in 2008.
The songs are sticky sweet, multilayered candy.  The recipe may be full of synthpop, but there is enough playfulness and exploration of melody and percussion to keep things fun and surprising. Each song is dancible with the gold lamé of disco and the pathos of every great 70s love song.  In the title track, “Live to Tell the Tale,” the poetry goes: “Whatever happens to me / I hope that I’ll fall asleep / Knowing that you’ll always be / The story with no ending”
I must talk about “Sleepyhead” which was most of our introduction to Passion Pit and recorded later than the rest of the songs on the EP.  Here’s our departure from the love note of an album and for me, shows what we can expect.  Big beats that shake through the song while holding onto its playfulness, M.I.A.-like in its worldliness, more confident in its falsetto-ness. The melody is adept and smooth and the song is just too short.  This EP has enough going for it to last until the full-length release in early 2009.
Buy Chunk of Change: Frenchkiss, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

In Ear Park

08. In Ear Park by Department of Eagles
I have mixed feelings about In Ear Park.  It is certainly good enough to be in my Top 10.  The songs are strong, especially in the first half of the album, and are worthy of all the praise the album has garnered.  I love the lyrics as epistles to Rossen’s recently passed father, they often hold a perspicacious view on life and how we live it.  The delivery approaches what McCartney and Lennon gave us in the late 60s, and what makes them pop gems are the repetition and variations on questions and phrases.  In “Phantom Other” the lyrics ask “What would it take? / What would it take to make you leave? / What would it take? / What would it take to make you listen? / My God, in heaven / What were we thinking?”
There are other musical nods — like on “Teenagers,” I imagine to the Dion and The Belmonts — hints of 50s AM radio doo-wop over jingly guitars.  But the Achilles heal of the album for me is how close to Grizzly Bear it sounds, and my first reaction was that it sounded half-of-that-band.  And certainly, if In Ear Park is Rossen’s farewell letter, I have rationalized that may be why what Fred Nicolaus brings to the table has taken a lesser role.  The exceptions is “Around the Bay” (my favorite song) and “Classical Records” which are full on Mothersbaugh percussive elements, bangs, clunks, doorslams, noisemakers, cello strings and blips to create a microhouse symphony standing mere inches behind Rossen’s vocal harmonies. The album is a thing of stark beauty and gothic-folk, but I still want all the cylinders roaring on that Beta Band trip-hop that fueled the first album.
Buy In Ear Park: 4AD, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Nouns

07. Nouns by No Age
I’m a big fan of No Age and their tongue-in-cheek noise-pop sensibilities.  Last year their compilation of singles ranked #4 on my Top 10.  Their full-length debut was another album I looked forward to in the spring and was stuck on repeat in my car in the summer.   The funny thing is that Nouns didn’t stick like Weirdo Rippers did.  Perhaps the sound was too polished, the edges a little too smoothed out.  Well I don’t care, every album has a halflife, I just may have burned through Nouns a little too quickly, not the fault of No Age!
The album first catches hold on “Teen Creeps” in a guitar and fuzz-off and has lyrics that read like adolescent anthems: “I hate you more I hate this place / I know why I feel this way / Teen creeps please don’t leave me dead, dead this way.”  The elastic sounds of “Things I Did When I Was Dead” has both a intimacy and a rawness that makes me wonder if Steve Albini recorded the track in the same vein as my early 90s faves like PJ Harvey or Pixies / The Breeders.  Other times, I feel like the songs like “Cappo” and “Keechie” are a nod to their experimental progenitor, Sonic Youth, with wide open spaces full of chutzpah and guitar.  Nouns gives us something a little more laid back, having less to prove, nonetheless with a lot of care. In the instrumental “Impossible Bouquet,” you feel their sense of joy in the making of their brand of rock that is quite beautiful.
Buy Nouns: SubPop, Insound, Amazon, iTunes

In Ghost Colours

06. In Ghost Colours by Cut Copy
In Ghost Colours, I feel like I’m cheating you at #6, please forgive me! You are one of the ones who’ve snuck up the charts in the writing of this list (you may glare at #1, if you dare).  I’ve asked before, how can a band so young throw-back to the best of the 80s synthpop and yet sound so new?  In Ghost Colours is not a hodgepodge of the great underground dance tracks, New Order, or nods to Top 40 connundrums like Fleetwood Mac, but a neat a holistic album where each song flows naturally from one song to the next.  The movement to each song is surprising and not forced, like the intro into “Lights & Magic” where you don’t realize the switch between songs is a fade but register it as a progression, and the full movement of the song doesn’t occur until you hit the chorus.
Unlike much electronic based music, In Ghost Colours remains organic through role of fine vocals and libral use of guitars. Even in the most Big Beat moments, they are connected with a sincerety in lyrics and composition between the spaces which keeps the album real and accessible. Cut Copy is not a one-note wonder, tripping genres and ripping rifts right off bands like the Pixies’ “Break My Body” like they do in “So Haunted” all the while danceable, moshable, thrashable, whatever works to keep your body moving with each song.  To fill out their sound, plenty of sound samples, tape loops, blips and the best of glitch to keep your ears entertained.   There is so much good on this album, it’s hard to believe we’re halfway through this list!

Buy In Ghost Colours: Modular Interscope, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Spectrum, 14th Century05. Spectrum, 14th Century by Final Fantasy
I adore Spectrum and Final Fantasy’s EP almost took top honors for me this year.  The 5 songs about this imaginary land that lives somewhere betweeen the mind of Owen Palette and the production of Beirut’s Zach Condon make up one of the most perfect EPs.  Begin with “Oh Spectrum,” where we entranced by the chirps of outdoor creatures to a build that reminds me of the bright horns in a West Side Story showdown (Hello, I’m talking Bernstein and Sondheim here!)  Somehow this song flows into a steeldrum masterpiece “Blue Imelda” with horns and heavenly chorus betray the words of a farmer, who works both the soil and his plow.
The lyrics are priceless and crafted with anachronism that make up songs like “The Butcher”  to tell the tale of a preacher at the end of days: “Every morning I listen to confessional / Couldn’t give a shit ’bout the bulk of it / Still I keep it professional” all the while in the same song to quote the great internet meme: “All your bases belong to us!”  The music is gorgeous, full of strings, and piano, against the backdrop of the outdoor bugs and birds forever present.  The wordplay is key against the castanets we learn of the “Cocktrice” in a self-referential song about self-existentialism before entering, I believe, the finest medieval lyrics about a gay bar “But I’ve seen them in the commons with their kerchiefs and tattoos” and “They are fathers without sons or daughters” and homophobia: “And a bunch of those together / Can only do the Devil’s work, and it’s the Devil’s work they do.”  A thing of genius!
Buy Spectrum, 14th Century: Books Recording Club, Amazon, iTunes

Vampire Weekend04. Vampire Weekend by Vampire Weekend
I love me some Vampire Weekend and read on eMusic a quote that put them into context: “Third-wave ska goes prep, with enormous results.” (Would this be another wave? Who’s counting?) I’ve had love affairs with The English Beat, Madness, and saw Mighty Mighty Bosstones play the same set twice because they had so few songs.  I can say that 90s mainstream didn’t do ska much good for me.
Ok, to go “prep” means for me, those cardigans of the 80s, those thin ties, raybans and the sweet music of Ezra Koenig’s “Upper West Side Soweto.”  There isn’t much new to say about Vampire Weekend other than to thank Stereogum/KEXP for getting me in at the ground floor and scoffing up those early 45s and finding the CD-R.  The XL release is remastered, fuller in sound and quality, some of the songs got renamed, but the sequence is the same.  The lyrics are fresh and full of fun cultural references, “Cape Code Kwassa Kwassa” still being my favorite: “As a young girl, Louis Vuitton / With your mother, on the sandy lawn / As a sophomore, with reggaeton / And the linens you’re sittin’ on.” I feel fortunate I got to see the band twice, once at the Echo upstairs, certainly one of the busiest nights I’ve seen for a Monday, and full of a much more varied agéd crowd that made me conclude that I was amongst the true earlier adopters of music greats that are my peers.  Even though I may have listened to the songs off this album ad nauseum even before it debuted, I look forward to what comes next.
Buy Vampire Weekend
: Direct, XL Recordings, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

For Emma, Forever Ago

03. For Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver
This unsuspecting, spare album will arrest your velocity and place you firmly in it’s orbit.  Justin Vernon’s falsetto harmonies are startling, full of so much emotive quality, he puts most singer / songwriters in a lower class.  The creation of For Emma is equally entrancing, recorded over several winter months in Wisconsin alone in a cabin after a breakup.  And you can almost infer those origins simply by listening to it.
Even with that said, you might feel the album is cold, self-indulgent but Bon Iver provides the warmth in each song, wailing on a song like on “Skinny Love” with enough ire to not take himself too seriously: “I told you to be patient / I told you to be fine / I told you to be balanced / I told you to be kind.”  These are glorious creatures that reach upward to the sky and the sun, despite their current predicament or where the may have come from.
You can get lost in the melodies and rhythms and a subtle crescendo in several songs that sneaks up on you.  I personally love “Re: Stacks,” a sort of final resolution of the album after the title song, a way out of it’s inner depths, “It’s hard to find it when you knew it / When your money’s gone / And you’re drunk as hell” but you find that “It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away / Your love will be safe with me.”  And with For Emma, Forever Ago you believe it’s true with a self-realization you did not possess before.
Buy For Emma, Forever Ago: 4AD, Jagjaguwar, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

03/07 - 09/07

02. 03/07 – 09/07 by High Places
High Places makes music with so many of the elements that I love in music and have loved for many many years now.   Boy-girl vocals, music-box melodies, odd sound creations and sampling, electronic in its creation but organic in sound, sweet (twee) lyrics that are so precious you want to squish their little eyes out.  They compose songs in a way I loved most about HNIA and has so much character and psyche rock to keep it interesting over months and months of listening.
Here is an eMusic collection of rarities that some how come-off as more coherent than their full length that was released later in the year.  What binds them together is an exestentialism like in “Cosmonaut” that wonders: “And we’re all full of questions / And we would like to know just exactly where we came from /And exactly where we’ll go” and considers that “I’ve read a lot of books about the future of the sun / And how my great-great-great-great-grandfather might have been a monkey’s son.”
These songs have a joy of life, humor, and innocence about them and are the epitome of what keep me so interested in new, independent music and remind me where I’ve come from and why I spend so much time online keeping my ears wide open.
Buy 03/07 – 09/07: Thrill Jockey, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Skeletal Lamping01. Skeletal Lamping by of Montreal
Of Montreal has been on my music periphery for the past several years, but never landed square in the middle of it nevermind the top of it. Each release capturing my attention more and more, I believed that Hissing Fauna would come the closest. When Skeletal Lamping arrived, I read many posts about its schizophrenia, it’s lack of focus and direction, it’s cringe-worthy lyrics.  Wrong.  It’s simple, they didn’t stick around to get to the meat of this amazing album. Fuck’em if they cannot handle the ride.
I had a friend who’s defense mechanism when first meeting him was to repeat in oh-so-many ways, “I’m gay! Gay! Gay gay gay, I’m gay!” And boy was he!  But after you got used to his fey qualities and need to prove his queeritude, there was a real person kicking around in there, complex and deeply sensitive.  Skeletal Lamping is this friend and the more you listen, the more you want to hear his story.
Sure, it’s about Kevin Barnes’ Ziggy-esque alter ego. “I’m just a black she-male / And I don’t know what you people are all about” but what’s more interesting is that “I’m a motherfucking headliner, bitch you don’t even know it!” exclaims Georgie Fruit with an attitude that’s all Hedwig.  For every song that may have put off cautionary reviewers, there’s something going on under the surface.  Sure, “We can do it softcore if you want, but I take it both ways,” but later Georgie confesses, “The mutual conclusion was I’m not worth knowing because I’m probably dead.”  It’s both sad and wonderful, an album of cinematic quality, full of vignettes and unexpected turns down dirty alleyways and into backdoors of Studio 54s.
The music is exquisite, perfectly crafted, unique and with a purpose.  Because each song shifts and turns doesn’t make it erratic, it’s theatrics and the headliner may be fucking with you (“Don’t be afraid Lille Venn of violence / I’m only poisoning you, not going to stab you”), may be fucking you (“I want you to be my pleasure puss / I want to know what it’s like to be inside you”), may be getting real with you (“He’s the kind of guy who would leave you in a k-hole / To go play Halo in the other room, remember?”), may be regarding a mood (“Plotting midnight raids on the Swedish plum trees”), or may be questioning his existence (“Why am I so damaged, girl?”)
You’ve got to listen carefully because I know Skeletal Lamping will be remembered when Of Montreal raised the stakes.
Buy Skeletal Lamping: Polyvinyl, Insound, Amazon, eMusic, iTunes

Thanks for hanging in to the end, please let me know what you think.