Tuesday, July 28, 2009

MZ Mona Mars

Raws (whenever.09, Killer Buds/We're Petrified!)

Byline: Lost in Hyphy-Space

For: The bass lines to Usher's "Love in this Club" or Lil' John's "Snap yo Fingers, JJ, Clark

Grab your neon colored stunner shades. Put on that jumpsuit. We're going to Ghost Ride the Millenium Falcon all the way to the hottest dance party in the galaxy hosted by MZ Mona Mars. Synth heavy dance music in a galaxy far, far away. T-Pain vs. Logan's Run. Well, anyway. I could go on. But you kind of get the point right? Totally spaced buzzing synths, scuzzy low end bass hits, a whole Rapman cache of special effects piled into a gloriously catchy back beat. Space Crunk? Whatever you call it, MZ Mona Mars has got it going on in spades. Just try not to listen to the pitch shifted vocals on "Eagle/Evil Eyes" without getting giddy. The rest of the 22 minutes of the album are just as exciting, until I recently overdosed on Isis, Raws was playing non stop in my house, on my i pod. They remind me of a way less hyped Holy F*word, if that one song "Lovely Allen" wasn't on the LP. Brilliant programming and timing, just when one line gets comfortable, bam, switch yo' style up and MZ Mona Mars is rolling on a new tempo. This is so 3008. MZ Mona Mars is a mysterious product of a mysterious SLC collective of gloriously skewed pop musicians, who when together, form a Voltron-like musical entity known as We're Petrified! They are playing a show on the 31st at the Woodshed, and all this has made me curious enough to check it out. I may just have to skip my 1,000th Silver Antlers show, which is a bummer in itself. The great thing about this album is that it is straight up free! Please do yourself a favor and jam to this with the few days of 100 degrees we have left.

Ryan H.


Gather, Form & Fly (Hometapes 2009)

Byline: What is this thing called “banjo?”

For: Akron/Family, Espers, Magic Hour

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of playing in and attending the 9th annual Denver Post Underground Music Showcase where I saw perhaps one of the most earth-shattering performances of my career as a music geek and lover: Kingdom of Magic. Kingdom is about the most powerful power trio I’ve heard in years - a tour-de-force of spectacular metal riffs. It’s the kind of band that puts five pound weights into your fists and tells you to have at it, no apologies, no excuses. This is only significant to my review of Megafaun’s newest record, Gather, Form & Fly, in that previous to attending the day’s festivities which were capped off by Kingdom’s blistering set, I was indulging in Harvey Milk’s latest offering. It occurred to me during Kingdom’s performance that since Led Zeppelin, through the likes of Nirvana, Harvey Milk and now countless others, “hard rock” as we know it has its’ own unique, formulaic style in place: heavy, unison lines between a bass and treble guitar voice, often delivered in harmonious parallel 4ths and 5ths, and doubly-accented by the bass and snare drum nearly note-for-note. Though Kingdom’s take on this basic formula was appropriately modernized for today’s metal fanatic, the idea is there: no matter what, there will always be a place for hard rock in popular music culture, and we will always be able to recognize it when we hear it. It’s a good thing.

The point is this: “revolutionary” is something we critics look for almost too often in new music. If it doesn’t break all the rules, it doesn’t cut it. Bullshit, right? It’s just an excuse to get bored with the stuff that’s surrounding us every day, and to ignore major progress in musical areas with which we were once comfortable. Concepts of a “style” or “genre” are not outdated - they are building blocks - reference points from which to expand the language with new colloquialisms, quirks, and accents. Case in point - Americana, meet Megafuan. Here’s a band that farms the fertile grounds of America’s folk music heritage for most (if not all) its inspiration. The music is light, predominantly major in key, employs plenty of banjo and acoustic guitar. There are call and response forms here, soft and gentle balladry, swinging, foot-stomping hootenannies, plenty of “blue” notes, beautiful vocal harmonies and raucous unison whoops/hollers alike. Where the band has previously stretched the possibilities of these more traditional tricks of the trade (see 2008’s Bury the Square), they continue to do so again here, however more tactfully and successfully. Computer programming is allowed to glaze a song's ending in a hazy fuzz or mellow drone, rather than dominate the track - a trap Megafaun has previously fallen into. “Darkest Hour” flips this recipe on its head, opening with sampled drips and drops and wooden percussion evoking a sense of nature mixed with electronics and distant vocals that sound sampled, warping everything awkwardly into a tornado of noise before morphing the mix gracefully into a semblance of structure: the last minute or so is the actual “song.” Either way, Gather beckons a welcome pecking order of song first, experiment second. There’s also some nice arranging to boot, which nicely fills out the band’s sound - strings, horns, even help from a female vocalist, making the trio into more of a family sound.

Although Gather, Form & Fly is easily the best Megafaun release to date, it still only scratches the surface of what these guys are capable of live. The drums on the album come off as interesting clitter-clatter, what with the woodblocks and bells peppered into the afro-couban and zydeco-inspired grooves - but live they seem so much more profesh: calculated and rehearsed, tight as a drum (so to speak) and blasting with the energy of Elvin Jones. In a word: awesome - something missing in the recording. It’s also a sight to see the trio harmonize together live, going unplugged more than once to dramatize the intimacy of some of the more touching numbers. I was fortunate enough to catch their set at the UMS this past weekend in addition to Kingdom of Magic. Whether it’s metal or folk - these styles or genres still exist and are going strong. With a little ingenuity and musicianship, these forms aren’t merely means to an end - they’re means to an infinity. It’s a path Megafaun is faithfully plotting out, hopefully for many records to come.

--Craw(not•the•lord) 7/28/2009

Stream some songs and stuff

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love

Feels, Feathers, Bogs and Bees (soon.09, Other Electricities)

For: Megafaun, Red Stars Theory, The Elected

A few years ago a friend and I drove all night to visit some friends in a small college town in South Eastern Idaho. We arrived around 5 in the morning before the sleepy town had awoken. Neither of us could sleep and nothing was open so we decided to drive around the sprawling fields of freshly plowed farmland. As we drove the sun rose behind us and began to burn off some of the fog still clinging to the ground. The whole scene was otherworldly. We crested a hill and then we saw it, standing in the middle of the road looking straight at us was a full grown male moose. As we drove up beside it, it began to trot and then gallop beside our car, we matched it's pace for awhile and then drove behind it for about a mile before it turned and lost us through the fields. Needless to say that was one of the most singular experiences of my life, being in the presence of that animal was humbling, that thing was so massive. I wish I was listening to Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love during that experience. There is something about this album that is seeped in an otherworldly quality that is as massive as it is organic. Were were you 3 years ago?

I am going to, for the sake of brevity, refer to Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love as Lx9. That is the last time I am writing that freaking name. Lx9 are an ever evolving folk outfit from across the pond, who seem to have experimental folk-rock down pat. The opener "Document 19" opens with a repeating, minimal guitar and violin line that opens up gradually until the sound swallows you whole. Is that tremolo picking electric guitar in a folk song? Yes it is, and it just owned you. Feels, Feathers, Bog and Bees is full of such surprises. Where other bands of the same ilk would be content with existing as a sepia tinted novelty throwback to a nostalgic past that never really existed, Lx9 aren't afraid to be as expansive and experimental as they are reverential. Their third album has something a lot of folk bands don't have, bite, and by bite I mean an edge to them. They aren't afraid to throw in some loving distortion over their beautiful vocal harmonies and mix power chords with intricately picked guitars. The album ebbs music box frailty and flows crescendo drumming. Feels, Feathers, Bog and Bees recalls a time when an indie rock band that wasn't exactly heavy and wasn't exactly soft inhabited a mysterious space that was utterly unclassifiable. Like the Red Stars Theory, I wouldn't call Lx9 folk, I would just call them awesome. I thank Lx9 for doing this, I don't feel like I have to listen to a Sunn0))) album after I play this because I feel bleached white from a lack of danger and experimentation. This embrace of the rock side of folk-rock has been a welcome addition in an age full of tuxedo-vested, mustachioed, crooners who seem content to follow Fleet Foxes in a pied piper line into the lands of musical irrelevancy and VH1's "I love 2008". Kudos to Lx9 for putting out a beautiful record, full of mystery and wonder, but who don't forget that if you have beards, you should sound like a rock band.

Low Low Low La La La Love Love Love - "Blackbird 3" from Other Electricities on Vimeo.

A New Addition to Team Tome to the Weather Machine: Crawford Philleo!

This is a news flash to welcome a new member to the Tome to the Weather Machine Family. Crawford Philleo brings his musical expertise and regional flavor (Denver) to the Tome. Crawf's writing has been featured in the Denver Post, his own blog www.craw-not-the-lord.blogspot.com, and Hot Congress. Now he's bringing the heat and his love of awesome music live and direct to you. Big things happening here at the Tome. Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Grand Hallway

Promenade (06.09, Self-Released)

Byline: lush barogue pop from the wooded hills and green marshes of Seattle.

For: Shugo Tokumaru, Tobias Froberg, Fanfarlo

I would like to think of Seattle as my second home. Out of the 6 years I have spent away from home a little more that 3 of them have been spent in Seattle. My wife is from there. My dad is from a town 30 minutes south, my grandmother lives there, friends, etc... The Pacific Northwest and I have have a special sort of connection, which in drawn even more closer when the average day in Salt Lake City has been an average of 102 degrees. I pine for the mild summers, spf 50 cloud cover and the high dive at Green lake. I feel a nostalgic wave come over me when I hear a lush, orchestral folk band from the Emerald City awash in unapologetic sense of romantic lyricism and nakedly beautiful chamber pop. Grand Hallway, I suppose, shares a template with a lot of bands that are putting out music today. Folk influences, you know, with banjoes, steel guitars, choirs, shuffling 4/4 tempos, etc, matched with the urgency and brimming energy of obvious touchstones of Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens. The guilty pleasures that take you hook line and sinker every time with the huge swells and over the top melodies. Yeah, it's that. But Grand Hallway seems a lot more restrained, the ballads have ample space to breathe and outnumber the bombastic money-makers on this glorious little record. Band leader and vocalist Tomo Nakayama, the sensitive soul with the vocal charisma that helps you overlook some of the strained climaxes and emoting that goes on, seems obsessed with squeezing every little drop of lyrical beauty out of (count em) 24 contributing musicians. With all that is going on, nothing feels fabricated or rushed. There is probably a narrative thread through this album (there usually is) but I am too caught up in the lyrical imagery of nature and sweet little scenes of careful observation and bottomless instrumentation Did I mention it is beautiful. It is. The contributing members really make this album much more the sum of its parts. Combing through some of the coolest Seattle bands, Mr. Nakayama has enlisted quite the A-Team here (including a member of Sleepy Eyes of Death - my first review!).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why I Must Be Careful

Syllabic (2009, Self-Released)

Byline: The Jackson Pollack of dub-heavy post-Jazz

For: Tortoise, Lymbyc Systym, Mouse on Mars

Most people's first reaction to Ornette Coleman and the concept of free jazz is to say something like "that's not music!", and it is safe to say most people at some point have seen a Jackson Pollack painting and said, "I could paint that". I once had an art teacher who would counter such critics by saying, "fine, do it". Since then that has been my pat answer in arguments about art vs. non-art. Why I Must Be Careful at first blush needs some defending. The first 30 seconds of the 18 minute long Syllabic are mostly improvised jazz scales and pounding drums that have no rhyme or reason. This, I believe, is simply a warning about what you are about to get into, you know, this is why you must be careful. Why I Must Be Careful is a Portland duo consisting of John Niekrasz on drums and Seth Browne on the Rhodes piano. Together they make some of the noisiest dub influenced post-rock (by way of Tortoise) this side of Chicago. What starts as collective improvisation leads to a highly structured foray into dub, free-jazz, John Cage inspired piano, and otherworldly Magma-like prog virtuosity. Each movement is spaced with liberal amounts of airy jamming and improvisation before moving into a tight dub groove or 8-bit Castlevanyia chord progressions. In all 18 minutes they remain relatable and listenable, which is a tough tight rope to walk in this genre. So, if at first listen you think, "I could do this", I would say, first, "no you couldn't" and then probably "try it", and then, well, you probably still couldn't. So, big props to Why I Must Be Careful.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mario Kart/Braden J. McKenna

Independence Day/Gigantic Monster Cave (07.09, Magic Goat)

Byline: Twin offering from Mr. Mckenna.

For: Navigator, Microphones, 2009 lo-fi pop-punk

Mario Kart: Summer jams. Bah-humbug. That's cool that it's 100 degrees outside and being recession proof means working a ridiculous amount of hours as a waiter on top of the three hours of school a night.
But if you guys want to do drugs and hang out a non-existent beach in your ray-bans, by all means Rainbow Bridge, Crocodiles, Wavves, Real Estate, etc.. is your soundtrack to a totally awesome summer. For those of us who only feel the effects of the sweet summer sun only when it is pounding in our faces as we wait for the bus, we have Mario Kart. Mario Kart is Braden J Mckenna of well, Braden J. Mckenna, Navigator, and Wylde Wyzyrds and Stephen Walter. Mario Kart is 13 track 20 minute tornado of self aware lo-fi fuzz pop-punk ripping through a trailer park of a stale musical trend that has been running for the past 2 years. Mario Kart seems bent on proving that anyone who can play 3 chords, has access to crappy recording equipment, can bang out songs that Pitchfork and any unassuming wavves clone would go nuts over. I'm talking tin can drumming, the indistinguishible vocals over/under surf/blues guitar riffs, you know the uush. I am not coming out and saying this is a parody of young bands cashing in on an unsustainable sound, but I think it is a little early for an homage. Mario Kart is an embrace of all the cringe worhy elements of lo-fi pop punk that make this whole craze a lot of fun. And it is free!
Download 4th of July Here!
Braden J. McKenna: Stepping out from behind the wall of tape hiss of Mario Kart and the latest Navigator album, Braden McKenna drops one of the most endearing acoustic albums of the year. 2009 has already been a prolific year for Braden, Bad Children, Mario Kart, and Wylde Wyzyrds all inhabit a different space in the McKenna-verse, however Gigantic Monster Cave sounds like Braden playing Braden. Multi-tracked, strummed guitars and his affable warble steps beyond the pale of his previous projects in stark transparency. Listening to Gigantic Monster Cave has a sense of intimacy and immediacy as if you were in the bedroom that Braden recorded this in, watching as each idea was reproduced in the form of short-mini tracks, a "Paprika"-like parade of pitch-shifted character voices, and a sense of child like wonder present in each song. The stand out track by far is deep into the album, "The Parade of the Monster Cave" has the same kind of looped-harmony haziness that made Person Pitch such an exciting album. It is exciting to see what else Braden will put out this year, great stuff. And it is all free! Check out the link below.
Download Gigantic Monster Cave Here!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Brian Grainger/German Sheperd/Millipede/MOTH

Traveling (2009, Imperfect Music)

Byline: 4 Ramblin' men lay down 15 minute odes to the road.

For: Mmm, Brian Grainger, German Shepard, Millipede, MOTH

There is something about the concept of traveling that produces great art. From Kraftwerk to Lindstrom, William Least Heat-Moon to John Steinbeck, Dennis Hopper to Jim Jarmusch; the open road is an giant open void in which to hurl your greatest fears and perceptions into. Traveling is an hour long opus of four top-notch experimental/noise artists to add to this growing canon of wandering troubadours. The concept is simple enough 4 musicians from 4 different parts of the country get 15 minutes each to lay down a composition that loosely adheres to the theme of traveling, and then 50 words to accompany the piece. While trying to convince someone that an experimental/noise piece has any type of compositional value is a tough sell, taking four musicians from disparate ends of the noise/experimental spectrum and convincing someone that each track shares a narrative undertone is even harder. Given these limitations each musician performs admirably. 3/4 musicians were unknown to me before the first listen, the only exception being Millipede, so I guess I will start from the top. Brian Grainger has it going on. Gloriously thick and beautiful washes of guitar and synth feedback processed through some beautiful oscillator that smoothes out each tone like a million-year-old-river-rocks. All the edges have been polished off and we are left with layers and layers of lush noise, incredible stuff here. German Sheperd, quite possibly my favorite compositions on here. German Sheperd spaces his 15 minutes between 3 tracks of loose, minimal acoustic guitar drones on top of muted tape fuzz and buried in the ground distortion. German Sheperd's guitar parts fade in and out of being the prominent vehicle of the song to parts of the general corpus of surging noise. Beautiful stuff. The third and perhaps most prominent is the Hyrulian guitar slayer, Millipede, whose combination of My Bloody Valentine layered guitar distortion and harsh noise has as many detractors as admirers. I have never been able to fully embrace Millipede, I have always been kept at arms length by his generous use of ear scathing tones and a perceived enjoyment for giving me headaches. But getting past some of the unpleasantness I can say I generally enjoyed his tracks on this compilation and look forward to giving his previous albums another go over. I was finally able to pick out the underlying guitar parts (and a beautiful piano piece!) that propped up each song rather than being turned off because I thought my ears may bleed. The final artist, MOTH, compresses his short tracks into one 15 minute mixtape of Grouper inspired vocals buried underneath distortion and tape fuzz to some generally out there vocal samples and repeating guitar lines. While not my favorite track(s), MOTH certainly feels the most fresh out of all 4 artists, all the contributers sound pretty comfortable sounding like themselves and inhabiting their little niche within the bigger canopy of experimental/noise artists. MOTH sounds like the little brother to these 3 luminaries who is willing to try anything to get noticed, the result works and certainly the most memorable on the album. So, if you are interested in any of these artists or looking to expand your palette in the experimental/noise scene, please track down this album. It is like 4 limited run CD-R's in one! But actually listenable!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cass McCombs

Catacombs (07.09, Domino)

Byline: You saved my opinion of singer-songwriters.

For: Townes Van Zandt, Virgil Shaw, Early Ryan Adams

You know this good because the video (below) single-handedly prompted me to buy this album on a whim, displacing the new Sunset Rubdown for another month. Sorry, Spencer Krug, I promise I'll get around to it! Seriously, the video for "You Saved My Life" is stuff my dreams are made of. A pretty uneventful first 3 minutes, and then POW! You are straight up kicked in the face with one of the most visually jaw dropping displays of unabashed art for arts sake ever. Needless to say, Cass McCombs follows a similar pattern. On first listen you are lulled into a false sense of security. "Ok, this is one of those nice folksy, country singer songwriter types." A type of plebeian every-man who inhabits every darkly lit bar from here to Reno. But another listen comes and you realize something very strange is happening under the surface. Cass McCombs is hands down one of the most cerebral songwriters I have ever listened to. There is just something disconcerting about a song titled "The Executioners Song" in which Cass pens a touching ode to the joy of having a job that gives a sense of security and self worth with the lines "there is work/there is play/there is play that is work/and play that is play/and work that is work/and in only one of these lies happiness/I'm a pretty lucky guy I love you and I love my job". There are moments like these that leave your jaw on the floor. "Don't Vote" has a shuffling tempo that drives a tale of an unsure 18 year old who is faced with the tension between disillusionment and civil responsibility. Aside from the slippery philosophical Kyons and heady codas, there comes another sense of awe. And that comes from the very big heart in every song. Love songs abound through Catacombs most prominently the minor key opener "Dreams-Come-True-Girl" which contains the line "You're not my dream girl/You're not my Reality Girl/You're my Dreams-Come-True-Girl". I want to embroider this on a pillow and give it to my wife. There are moments when Cass's soft country-tinged croon drifts into the upper key slightly out of tune while the slide guitar and sparse hit on the snare punctuate a perfect moment of silence. Seriously. And I don't care if "You Saved My Life" becomes the song that plays during the climactic prom-dance scene on a WB teen show or whatever, I will love this song and video until the day I die. Top 10 material for sure.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Conifer Rock

Exploded Views (02.09, Squareroot)

Byline: Marriage between guitars and drum machines. Legalize it!

For: The Sea and Cake, NEU!, Kode 9

Somewhere, in an abandoned laboratory or military establishment, a drum machine is spitting out fractured beats in code. Somewhere in Michigan is a kid playing jagged post-punk riffs and fuzzed out guitar drones while softly singing into a 4-track recording machine. These two meet up and... An unlikely romance a la Harold and Maude? The romantic comedy hit of the summer? Or a new record by Conifer Rock? Conifer Rock A.K.A Trevor Edmunds (why can't his name really be Conifer Rock?) is the sum of several different parts, that in theory sound irreconcilable, but in practice sound completely natural. Guitars in Exploded Views take a prominent role, from the staccato, Bow-Wow-Wow influenced, start-stop strumming in "Young Professionals" to the Can inspired freak out of the opener "Sure Fire". The album's closing track, "Rocket Pops", has a guitar drone that does it for me every time. It sounds like Wylde Wyzards backing Kevin Drew, a magical last song that I find myself coming back to over and over. The percussion ranges from the metronomical, Motorik percussion of electronic pioneers NEU! and Kraftwerk to the cut-up patchwork of todays dubstep. Edmunds breathy voice recalls Chicago's own Sam Prekop, who like Edmunds has a voice that is once instantly recognizable but never demands center stage. Pile on a generous amount of Shoegazey effects pedals and heavy synths and you have a marriage made in heaven. Exploded Views is confidently steered in the hands of Conifer Rock as he switches his style up from one track to the next, and if they hate then let 'em hate and let the praises from music blogs pile up.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Black Feather

Silhouette (07.09, Other Electricities)

Byline: Less Arcade Fire more Tripping Daisy.

For: Mercury Rev, Spiritualized, a louder Ester Drang

When it comes to touchstones for bombastic, anthemic rock songs I appreciate Black Feather's insistence on looking beyond 2004 for influences. Silhouette is much more Jesus Hits Like the Atom Bomb than Funeral. The whole album seems to be a meditation on a time when bands like Mercury Rev, Spiritualized, Flaming Lips, and Tripping Daisy were making beautifully orchestrated, drug-hazed, and ultimately powerful and uplifting albums. If you haven't heard of Black Feather you are not alone. Black Feather is essentially Harald Froland, former guitarist of Norwegian jazz pioneers Jaga Jazzist. After two years of label shuffling and hard drive failures, Silhouette finally found a home on Portland's Other Electricities label. The album will see the light of day sometime this fall. Like Mercury Rev, Black Feather marries the towering possibilities of the standard power chord, verse/chorus change up with a sense of child-like exploration and experimentation. Hidden beneath the surface, a tide pool of beautiful anti-rock instrumentation of woodwinds, brass, strings, etc... clamber over layered synths and skittering electronics. It seems like bands these days are trying to make songs with a climax that makes time stop, that is so completely overwhelming that it is easy to mistake for some kind of mystical or religious experience. "Razor Blade" is the only song that has done that in a long time. The pummeling percussion and simple lyrics completely crushes me like "Sonic Bloom" does every time I hear it. It takes a lot of guts to cram that much optimism in a song and still sound legit. Froland's deadpan vocals aren't faking it one bit, they carry the metaphysical weight of each song to each dizzying plateau. There is no filler in this album, every song stands alone as a type of anthem or requiem to a sense of hope either lost, found, or on its way getting there.

Black Feather: Razor Blade

Not Black Feather: But I can see how they can be confused

Friday, July 10, 2009

Dirty Projectors

Bitte Orca (06.09, Domino)

Byline: On top of every mountain/There was a great longing/For another, even higher mountain.

For: Talking Heads, Beyonce, Tim Buckley, Grizzly Bear, Merriweather Post-Pavilion

I am going to start this review by stating my unrequited love for Bitte Orca and my inability as a writer to fully do this album justice. Bitte Orca is a powerful record, a perfect pop album in a bizarro universe. Beyonce with her P.H.D in African Musical Studies belting out "Stillness Is the Move" to a packed stadium. Kids starting doo-wop groups so they can harmonize like Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. This world does not exist, but we do have an artifact. A remnant of a better time. And I have no idea what the album title means. The first exposure I had to the Dirty Projectors was 2007's Rise Above, a collection of completely gutted and rebuilt Black Flag songs played from memory. The complete dismissal of any type of rock sensibilities from each song from the legendary hardcore bands songs left them wide open, displaying a sense of sensitivity, hopefulness, and breathing room that Henry Rollins feigned from in every performance. Then came their legendary pairing with David Byrne on the Dark Was the Night compilation which showed that with some sort of anchor tying them into the world of American popular music they could do just about anything. Then, lo and behold we have a masterpiece on our hands. David Longstreth's compositions, whose origins start completely in the nosebleeds make their way down to the ball field, standing a few inches from the foul line in left field. Bitte Orca takes its cues equally from African polyrythmic god-father Fela Kuti, eccentric 60's folk icon Tim Buckley, modern R & B, and the experimental pop sensibilities of The Talking Heads and TV on the Radio. One great thing about getting married is the sharing of musical tastes, Addy loves Beyonce and Mariah. If it wasn't for a forced exposure I could never have appreciated their musical geniuses and how much they have an impact this album. Longstreth's extensive vocal vamping, which has been a stumbling block to some in the past, is reigned in a little bit. His voice completely dissects what most people are comfortable with in standard tone and pitch. His warble hit several octaves in pitch in the time it takes most singers to deliver a crooned word or two. His voice can turn the most implausible of lines into mantras for living "this is a storm that I don't need no shelter from". Even lines like "What hits the spot, yeah, like Gatorade? You and me baby. Hitting the spot. All night" are completely compelling, but sound laughable out of context. The shared/backing vocals of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian have a certain diva-like quality that provide the coup de grace of the whole experience. Their expertly harmonized, and at times totally disparate vocals, fill in where a cymbal should be, or a bass line, or whatever standard trope we have learned to identify with pop music. Then, the guitar, man, Dirty Projectors can shred. Like Eddie Van Halen style shred. Like the return of the guitar solo shred. Like, I want to rewind that and listen to it again type shred. Whew. I love this album, totally one the most rewarding experiences I have had all summer. 2009 is a year where previously unrelateable bands (to the general populous) have embraced pop music and shown us how powerful an embrace of our musical culture can be.


Songs for Stem Cells (07.09, Self-Released/Hot Congress)

Byline: One giant leap

For: Besnard Lakes, Sonic Youth, A less boring Blonde Redhead

A quality that American culture severely lacks is a fearless embrace of the rewind/record button on the VCR. Sure, Wes Craven's movies were scary when you were 10 but do "Nightmare on Elm Street" and "People Under the Stairs" really warrant a "re-imagining"? Crosby-Stills-Nash and Young were cool in the seventies but do Fleet Foxes really deserve best album of the year by Pitchfork? I can't tell if this re-packaging of old ideas is a sign of a pre-apocolyptic scarcity of resources or a post-modern act of nostalgia, a.k.a L-A-Z-Y. In a society obsessed with it's shared history and content with producing anything if it works, it takes a lot of courage to rip it up and start again. Songs for Stem Cells is a fitting title for an album that wipes the slate clean of all previous musical attempts. SFASC is a tabula rosa, an unformed mass of cells quivering with a sense of potential, a blank slate of devoid of expectation or previous life. This is certainly how I felt when I listened to this album, I viewed it as a completely new organism. Although blogging compresses time to a fraction, see 2 posts below, Vitamins are light years beyond what they thought they could be. I had no idea listening to the happy-go-lucky, a little goofy, somewhat disperate 2008 Calliope that the same Vitamins that produced that could turn into such blistering, shimmering, mass of energy in 2009. The slate is clean. The guitars are murkier, heavier, much more distorted, with riffs that feel like someone is standing on your chest thanks to new addition of guitarist Matt Daniels. There is a bass line in "Sequined Dress" that is about as heavy and, I almost shudder to say it, as funky as I have heard in a while. What is even more exciting is the wad of unrestrained distortion bubbling way beneath the surface. SFaSC is a truly cohesive effort with each member giving equal amounts of input, not one song steps out of the new aesthetic or strays back into familiar territory. Something wonderful happens when an adjective is begging to be used, not because of its crucial referentiality but because of its obvious transparency. Lizzy Allan's voice is epherial, floating in and out of each coda with same delicacy as Elizabeth Fraser. In a culture bent on referentiality it takes a band with a lot of ambition to forget their past and move unfettered into brand new territory. Vitamins will be coming back into SLC on the 17th, let's find a venue for them!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Another Year/L'Enfant Coma (04.09, Square Root)

Byline: Autechre Remixing Joy Division

For: New Order, Antarctica, Autechre

I just kind of gave away the punch line and the climax in the part of the review that is supposed to be a teaser, piquing interest just enough to read below. If Autechre remixing Joy Division sound pretty rad just stop here, my thoughts don't go much beyond that. But the fact of the matter is, something sounding like Autechre remixing Joy Division is pretty rad! All the songs on both EPs seem to be centred around the central theme of the second track "Take it or leave it". Pulsing synths mixed with head banging dub both prop up and skitter in and out of the track leaving space for a killer guitar lick that permeates the entire record. McKinney's monotone voice is muddled somewhere in the mix as if the ghost of Peter Murphy was trapped inside a sequencer. The persistent guitar overlay with liberal use of delay and fuzzed out high register bass recall the guitar work of Swervedriver or Slowdive, and the monotone uniformity is reminiscent of Ian Curtis's iconic drollness. Far from being a languished post-goth album Another Year/L' Enfant Coma has a very human emotional centre that hold everything contained within its robotic heart. The rest of the songs of the EPs are fantastic but very much in the same vein. Either more guitars or less synths, less guitars more synths. Centre is a charming accompaniment to a mood that requires something steady, restrained and intensely focused. Like building a bookcase. Or fixing a bike tire.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Chaz Prymek

Lake Mary (07.09, Self-Released)

Byline: Lake Mary

For: Peter Walker, James Blackshaw, Very Secretary

I read a note once that said in order to fly you just have to aim for the ground and miss. The trick is you have to be totally distracted in order to completely miss your mark. Chaz Prymek's Lake Mary is full of those wonderful distractions that let the album soar over any previous bench marks or musical styles that Mr. Prymek has hitherto aimed for. It once seemed as though Chaz would be SLC's resident Kaki King or Micheal Hedges or some other insanely talented guitar virtuoso. Lake Mary completely destroys the notion of a solo acoustic guitar albums being all about prefunctory, ego satsifying finger tapping and cluster notes. Lake Mary is a complete entity unto itself. Philip Glass minimalism, complete with repeating vocal lines, saxophones, and trumpets, augment textured guitar musing that ooze a certain aural lucidity. An electric guitar even finds its way onto In the Valley of the Devil Whale. There is even a charming sung track on the album, what a difference a little difference can make. The slower arrangements on this album remind me of music coming out of Champaign-Urbana around the late nineties, post-emo bands like Very Secretary, American Football, and Joan of Arc that have a sort of vintage sound that remind of fall afternoons or summer nights. Lake Mary contains two completely reworked songs off of Bicycles and Breakfast. 2009 has been a watershed year for New Weird Utah with incredible albums from Silver Antlers and Navigator. This could be the year that Utah broke. Catch Chaz Prymek and James Miska on their West Coast Bicycle tour starting this month.