Saturday, February 28, 2009

Past Lives

Strange Symmetry (8.08, Suicide Squeeze)

Byline: The non-earsplitting, nightmare causing half of Blood Brothers.

For: Hot Snakes, Unwound, Drive Like Jehu

The Blood Brothers, love them or hate them, were undeniably talented. When these unlikely torchbearers broke up the reverberation around the music community was felt deeply. Although 10 years deep, The Blood Brothers still felt like a band in their prime, Young Machetes was an exciting step with more focus on percussion with their trademark math time signatures and Jordan Billie and Johnny Whitney's dueling vocals. Then, the blood ran cold, Johnny Whitney and Cody Voltalato formed Jaguar Love and Jordan Billie and his camp headed into the studio and recorded Strange Symmetry. Past Lives borrows heavily from their Seattle elders borrowing equal parts shouted vocals and crazy time signatures of Unwound and the sonic ferocity of hardcore experimentalists Botch. I listened to this EP 4 times today and each time found myself enjoying it more and more. I kept on bracing myself for Johnny Whitney's impossibly high pitched voice to shriek at me during one of the pummeling time change ups or choruses, when it didn't happen I held my head up high, excited for a worthy post-Blood Brothers successor. Long live Past Lives.

"Chrome Life" at the Capitol Hill Block Party 2008. A Set I sadly missed.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Appleseed Cast

Sagarmatha (Vagrant Records/Milita Group, 2.09)

Byline: Ed Rose is back!! Yes. Yes. Yes and Yes.

For: Explosions in the Sky, Yume Bitsu, Ed Rose produced Appleseed Cast

This album marks the first of what I like to call the Triple Convergence: three of my favorite bands from my formative years, Appleseed Cast, Thursday, ....And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, have all released new albums hailed as their "comeback" after two mediocre albums. Appleseed Cast have reached a mythical status in my mind. I would lie awake at night in high school playing Mare Vitalis and Low Level Owl over and over again. There was something unmistakably magical about those albums. There was a hypnotic beauty that I could never put my finger on, the swirling guitar parts, the affected percussion, the buried vocals, both albums were an escape to a world completely imagined in sound. Then something happened, Appleseed Cast shifted their dynamic the straight forward pop hooks on songs like "Forever Longing the Golden Sunsets" and "Blind Man's Arrow" were pushed to the front, Chris Crisci's raspy vocals were pushed to the front of the mix, everything was, just, different. One could argue that these missteps were a result of losing their producer Ed Rose, responsible for shaping the subtle soundscapes of their previous albums or a band coming off the staggering success of creating a genre transcending album trying to find their footing. The good news is Ed Rose is back, the drums once again take center stage, Chris Crisci's vocals serve as another instrument, and most of the songs clock over the 6 minute mark. This is all great news for Appleseed Cast fans. The album is gorgeous every element of the AC glory days are intact, however, there are a few new tricks I could take or leave. The electronics explored in the previous album Peregrine show up every once and awhile, stick around a little bit to be distracting, and then disappear into another signature crescendo. Pianos and glockenspiels are buried around every corner, a nice reward for repeated listening, and... AC prove that they can actually write a decent pop song with "The Summer Before". Heres hoping the final 2 bands in the Triple Convergence can deliver.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Abe Vigoda

Reviver (PPM/Touch and Go, 2.09)

Byline: Young art punks take their energy down to 11.

For: A Certain Ratio, No Age, Wolf Parade

Emerging from L.A's all ages circuit with much deserved critical praise, Abe Vigoda are poised to take over 2009; take that post-high school malaise! While barely in their twenties Abe Vigoda has toured with legendary noise makers XBXRX, No Age and most recently M.I.A beat maestro Diplo. Coming off 2008's noise/caribbean/shoegaze/angular art pop punk masterpiece Skeleton that Vampire Weekend wished they made, the gentlemen from Chino tone down their frentic energy for the 5 song EP Reviver. As Abe Vigoda step out from the the whirlwind of destruction a.ka. Skeleton they emerge with a tighter bass section that actually drives the songs and a new focus on vocals (I had to check if they have a new singer, is that Jamie Stewart?) The result is a more groove heavy dynamic that still keep shoegaze guitar noise freak outs in check and post-everything thrown in a blender. I am waiting with baited breath for the Abe Vigoda full length that is going to destroy 2009.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Inca Ore

Birthday of Bless You (4.08, Not Not Fun)

Byline:  Something about meditation on the feminine creation of the sun. Anyway, it's gorgeous.

For: William Basinski, Valet, Grouper

It is difficult to write about an album that centers it's creative focus on the act of creation.  Ore describes describes this album as "my meditation on feminine sacred invention, on sun worship in the moments before earth disintegration, on the proud miracle of creation in a trash-proliferation era." Figure out that means and you will figure out this album. Needless to say I still a little perplexed by it. This is not to say that I do not find Birthday of Bless You beautiful and at times transcendental. I just don't really know why. The sense of intimacy of this album is the most beguiling aspect, it retains the bedroom tape manipulation of Basinski's Disintegration Tapes yet steps out of the bedroom and into the expanse of nature. The vocals are buried under trance inducing washes of electronically manipulated drones of noise and toy keyboard sci fi sounds, yet the process seems to exist outside of the bedroom, like Ore is recording in a wooded glenn or a hilltop rather than a dingy basement or a pedal strewn apartment. A radical departure from the meditative pace of Birthday is the track "Infant Ra" where screech violins compete with nails on a chalk board as Inca shouts about discovery in oyster shells and pearls. In it's overarching theme, Ore attempts to recreate the impulse that leads to discovery through the spontaneous act of creation, or something like that.  Did I mention she covers a Merle Haggard song? All of this is very mysterious.

Dark Was The Night

Dark was the Night (1.09, Redhot/4AD)

Byline: AIDS = horrible global epidemic. Benefit compilation for eradication of AIDS = Awesome!

For: Fans of all of the artists listed below.

Kudos to the Dressner twins of The National for making such a great enough album in 2007 that they have enough clout to compile the biggest superstars in indie rock into this stellar collection. There isn't enough space to do justice to the sheer amount of  music on this compilation. So I will simply list the contributing artists followed by an exclamation mark.

Dirty Projectors + David Byrne! The Books + Jose Gonzales (covering Nick Drake)! Feist + Ben Gibbard (covering Vashti Bunyan)! Bon Iver! Grizzly Bear! The National + Nico Muhly! Yeasayer! My Brightest Diamond! Kronos Quartet! Antony (covering Dylan)! Justin Vernon + Aaron Dressner! The Decemberists! Iron & Wine! Grizzly Bear + Feist! Sufjan Stevens!
Spoon! Arcade Fire! Beirut! Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings! Dave Sitek (of TV on the Radio)! Buck 65 + Sufjan! New Pornographers! Yo La Tengo! Stuart Murdoch! Riceboy Sleeps (Sigur Ros side project!)! Cat Power! Andrew Bird! Conor Oberest + Gillian Welch! Blonde Redhead + Devastations! Kevin Drew! 

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bird Names

Open Relationship (unsound, 04.08)

Byline: 2008 Psychedelia that celebrates everything but it's own aesthetic.

For: Unicorn era Mark Bolan, Chad Vangaalen, Love

So, the official commodifaction of what used be known as Indie Rock happened right under my nose. As pop punk and mall-core bowed out of the pre pubescent arena, the jocks that wore Saves the Day T shirts and listened to Taking Back Sunday took off their sweatbands and donned expensive jeans and collared shirts. They got in touch with their emotions, broke up with their girl friends and started listening to "real music". They ate up Ben Gibbard's pithy non sequiters like communion, pretended to like Bob Dylan, complained Coldplay "sold out" and generally talked about how cool "indie rock" is. Pardon my dangling modifier, how cool indie rock was. It was the day the music died. But with an endless supply of options of bands that all sound the same where was one to turn to be cool? With all the merchandise in the front window where are all the supplies? Answer: Even music that was once inaccessible is being commodified by a music industry ready to unload it's products. Now, even the trendy "lo-fi revolution", despite itself , is flowing into this era of demand side economics. With bands like No Age showing up in commercials, and Wavves getting major downloads on itunes, unlistenability is the new chic. 

Fortunately there are bands like Chicago's Bird Names. Bird Names is the opposite side of the coin from the Velvet Underground too cool to care posturing of their Lo-fi counterparts, Bird Names just want to make love and make babies. The recording is not a gimmick, tape hiss is barely a factor. What you do hear is happy sing alongs, catchy gang shouted choruses, swirling multi instrumental that push and pull and procreate just under the surface. There is just so much going on this album that the giddiness just blasts out of the speakers. Psychedelic song cycles and campfire folk sing alongs are barely held together by a cohesive partnership of love and getting down. Pick this up before neo-psychedelic folk becomes a generally used adjective at hot topic.

Happy Valentines Day Addy

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Video for Schuman's Resonance by Chaz Prymek!

Here's the new video I made for Chaz Prymek's upcoming album. Dig.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Odd Nosdam

Level Live Wires (08.07, anticon)

Byline: hazy drones, pretty strings, chopped up beats = Gangsta Shoegaze?

For: cLOUDEAD, Belong, the best of anticon production 

To say that Odd Nosdam occupies a unique place within the anticon universe is a misnomer. Nosdam, the one time director of the anticon collective, is arguably THE anticon sound. From his first experiments into dense, droning soundscapes that owe as much to Terminator X as they do to My Bloody Valentine to his genre defying work with cLOUDEAD, Odd Nosdam has done more to craft the post-hip hop sound of anticon than anyone else. On Level Live Wires, which totally unbeknownst to me at the time of writing this was released late 2007, is the most cohesive and best output by mr. Nosdam. Thick drones of multi tracked dubs, grimy studio noise, ambient field recordings, and multi textured synthesizers, shoegazey guitars, and screwed and chopped percussion are punctuated, quite literally, with gunshot bursts of unexpected muscianship. The guest list is staggering but never feels like a name dropping party, in fact only a long study of the liner notes reveals who lends their talents to the fray, Yoni Wolf and Douglas McDiarmid from Why?, Tunde Andebimpe from TV on the Radio along with fellow anticon family members Thee More Shallows and Hood. As beguiling as it is pretty, Level Live Wires is peppered with a field recording of a drive by shooting (recorded right outside Madson's Oakland house) to spoken word pieces by Wolf and Andebimpe, droning guitar from Thee More Shallows as well as multi layered sampling. "Burner" seems to be Madson's attempt to overcome bad memories of a terrible situation in Oakland, from the opening recording of a driveby the song heads fully into a stuttering, halting, haze where synths, samples, and percussion punctuate the song like gunshots while droning guitars stacked on top of each other hold the fragile thing together. Listening to the song is a real cerebral experience. I have to say though, gangsta shoegaze is not my own, thanks XLR8R!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Antony and the Johnsons

The Crying Light (1.09, Secretly Canadian)

byline: Antony + Nico Muhly = that's what's up.

For: Jeff Buckley, Lou Reed, Nico Muhly

Following up I am a Bird Now is no easy task. I'm not sure I have ever been struck so immediately by a singular feeling of melancholy running through the vein of an album. However, I felt the subject matter of gender identity and metamorphosis that I am a Bird Now took on was a little too insular and distant for me. On The Crying Light, However, Antony tackles the more universal themes of "nature and the future" and produces an album that is as universally applicable as it is personal. While I am a Bird Now featured the vocal talents of some of the biggest names in LGBT community such as Rufus Wainwright, Boy George and the always sexually ambiguous Lou Reed and Devendra Banhart, The Crying Light shifts it's focus to production. The tracks co-written by the most name dropped golden boy in Neo-Classical music, Nico Muhly, have a distinct rise and swell that utilizes 12 musicians playing discreet pieces. I must admit when I first heard about this collaboration I got a little weak in the knees, Antony's vocals on Nico's Speaks Volumes are fantastic and I was excited to see what direction this would take. True to form, Antony's signature vibrato and warble are fixed in place, but there is a distinct edge that rises above the melancholy on tracks like "Aeon" and "Kiss my Name". His voice swells and belts and does anything but croon, there is a power underneath his statements of universal solidarity and hope. The closer, "Everglade", co-written by Muhly is by far the stand out collaboration between the two. Like I am a Bird Now, this album takes me places, but this time it is somewhere I want to go.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blue Sky Black Death

Late Night Cinema (4.08, Baby Grande)

Byline: Instrumental Hip Hop? Yes please.

For: DJ Shadow, Flying Lotus, Alias

I am not really sure I know what instrumental Hip Hop is. I have been told that artists I like very much such as Prefuse 73, Flying Lotus, DJ Shadow, Alias, and J Dilla are instrumental hip hop. I am still not sure if a boundary line exists between the general corpus of electronic music and producers who compose music for rappers and remix songs. Ok, put down the scalpel and let's talk about Blue Sky Black Death. Positioned somewhere between DJ Shadow and Kanye West the ominously named BSBD (named after a skydiving term) combines textured strings and piano lines of DJ Shadow with the keyed up left-field soul sampless of Mr. West. A trademark of BSBD is their surprisingly organic rhythm section, programmed beats skitter everywhere while anchored to relevance by live drumming and instrumentation. The vocal samples are choice, ranging from the left field soul samples of Donny Hathaway, Ray Charles and Funkadelic to the stunning vocal contribution of Yes Alexander on "Shoot you Dead". The vocals are allowed to flow freely in and out of the mix while beautifully orchestrated strings and minimalist piano lines drive the piece to a euphoric climax. Remember how cool Jay Z was for sampling those kids singing "Hard Knock Life"? "Legacy to Fuel" will utterly floor you. Highly recommended.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sleepy Eyes of Death

Sleepy Eyes of Death
Dark Signals (1.09, Sleep Capsule)

byline: Not "Before the Dawn Heals Us" but very close.

For: M83, late era Mogwai, This Will Destroy You

Moving from Salt Lake City to Seattle I heard comments like "Seattle has the best music scene", "There are so many great bands in Seattle", "My friend is in a band in Seattle". Since my relocation I can really only say the latter is true. Everyone is in a band, everyone's friend is in a band. So, with Seattle recently being dubbed "Seattle: Music City", where is the great music? Granted this city has birthed incredible musicians, entire genres, sub genres, and Sub-Pop, but it seems as though Seattle has gone from genre defining to just trying to keep up. I found everything there was in Salt Lake but on a much bigger scale here; flannel shirted indie-folk bands, brooding post rock, hipster novelty hip hop, and of course the ever pubescent indie pop bands. I miss SLC.
Sleepy Eyes of Death, however, are a glimmer of hope. If you are familiar with the byline mentioned artists SEOD don't offer anything terribly original, but what they do they do very well. Swirling synths layered underneath mammoth crescendos numbered among some of the most memorable in recent post rock history.   Like M83, SEOD create an immediate sense of urgency or danger by repeating lines of pulsating synthesizers before giving way into a soul searing cacophony of ascending chord patterns and sheer speaker destroying noise. Autotuned vocals float in and out adding to the futuristic aesthetic of Dark Signals.  Also, like their french contemporaries I doubt SEOD would cringe at the word cinematic being used to describe the mood of their music.  It makes sense that SEOD are all employees at Scarecrow video and probably started this band in hopes to score the remake of the robo cult classic Robot Jox or Blade Runner.

the albums

1. Women "Women"
2. Grouper "Dragging a Dead Deer up a Hill"
3. The Fun Years "Baby, It's Cold Inside"
4. Beach House "Devotion"
5. Peter Broderick "Float"
6. Alias "Resurgram"
7. Pyramids "Pyramids"
8. Subtle "ExistingARM"
9. Times New Viking "Rip it Off"
10. Okkervil River "The Stand Ins"

tome to the weather machine

Another disco tempo cliche intro -

According to Thomas Friedman a new blog is being created every 7 seconds. I created this blog for two reasons: First, to sift through and make sense of the amount of music I digest on a daily basis. The second reason is to provide friends a quick and easy response to the question "what have you been listening to?" Instead of rambling incoherently about the aspect of the newest album or band I love, I can direct them to this blog that will have a concise, pithy, and detailed review of said album/band. Leave it to technology to replace a thoughtful conversation with a link to a blog.  Thanks friends!