Monday, March 31, 2008

Shows This Week

Tonight (03/31), haughty white collared hipsters Vampire Weekend will be playing to a sold out crowd along side party rocker Yacht at In the Venue. For all the hype, this better be the equivalent to John Lennon being resurrected and reuniting with the Beatles for a reunion tour. Seriously.

Vampire Weekend - "Mansard Roof"

Yacht - "See A Penny (Pick It Up)"

Thursday (04/03), Cryptacize, AKA Chris Cohen (Curtains, Ex-Deerhoof), Nedelle (AKA Nedelle) and percussionist Michael Carreira will put their skewed, awkward pop on display along with locals Kid Madusa, Ol’ Blue and Gardensleeper. Quaint, charming indie pop for the whole family at Kilby Court!

Cryptacize - "Cosmic Sing-A-Long"

Thursday (04/03), the legend himself, Daniel Johnston, will be playing In The Venue along with local alt country heroes Band of Annuals. A rare appearance that should not be missed by anyone even vaguely familiar with the downtrodden genius. FG live pick of the week.

Daniel Johnston - "Silly Love"

The Fun Years - Life-Sized Psychoses

The Fun Years
Life-Sized Psychoses
(04.2007, Barge)
Verdict = A Personal Favourite

Good experimental sound artists are successful by being able to capture a mood with the sound they create. The music is often described as cinematic because the ambiance of the tracks evokes a certain emotion that seems to be kin to a hypothetical scene straight off of some lost movie reel. Great sound artists however move beyond creating just simple scenes; the best musicians turn their albums into imaginary films set in entirely new worlds that must be digested from the very first second to the very last. Recently, under some scrutiny and hours of ridiculous introspection I strived to create a list of my personal favourite albums of all time. For the most part it was far too difficult to arrange this top twenty-five into ranking, but there were some definitive favourites that if I would have forced myself to create rankings would most certainly have landed themselves into my top five. I think my number one and two spots would have to be awarded to The Kallikak Family’s May 23rd 2007 and Microphones Mount Eerie albums. Both albums create a world entirely their own and create a composition that when listened to as a whole becomes much more than the sum of its parts. The Fun Years’ Life-Sized Psychoses is one of these kind of albums and given a little bit of time beyond infinite plays I have already awarded it, I’m am sure it can go head-to-head and likely bump off the slightly embarrassing but necessary inclusion of Deftones’ White Pony album slipping in at number twenty five. So how about some description of the album (though when albums are this good words feel inane)? The Fun Years is an American duo of turntablist Isaac Sparks and guitarist Ben Recht. The sound of their debut, Life-Sized Psychoses, is something of a magical, crackly, all consuming particle ocean of sound. While that description could probably be applied to numerous, worthy recipients (apt comparisons to The Fun Life could probably be leveled at all the favourites: Philip Jeck, Jasper Tx, Fennesz, Eluvium, Tim Hecker, etcetera, etcetera), somehow Life-Sized Psychoses manages that rare feat of hitting every note and mood perfectly. I’m not sure why I didn’t hear more about this album last year. I mean I noticed it in a couple minute places but in my view this album has been terribly under looked. I think, in retrospect, this could have definitely topped my 2007 top 50. I guess in the personal audience that is my schizophrenic brain ,it will now have to battle it out for a spot on my top 25 of all time. I hope that is a suitable compliment for an incredible piece of music.

-Mr. Thistle

The Fun Years

Friday, March 28, 2008

Hanne Hukkelberg - RykestraBe 68

Hanne Hukkelberg
RykestraBe 68
(04.2007/03.2008, Nettwerk)
Verdict: Experimental sugar pop easy listening

Norwegian singer Hanne Hukkelberg has put out a sophomore release which really was released almost a year ago as an import, under a different cover and a two letter difference in the title, but as far as I can tell no difference in the tunes or track listing. Both albums or should I say, the album is full of odd little flourishes that set it apart from other syrupy voiced female singer/songwriters. In fact, RykestraBe 68 is quite undefinable, with traceable elements of about every genre. As I read other reviews to see what other critics classified it as I found ambient, chamberpop, experimental, jazz, electronic, and many more, but the fact is, RykestraBe 68 doesn't really fit into any of those genres. It has elements of them, but isn't them. Overall, Hukkelberg delivers a playfully soothing quirky album that is awfully easy to listen to. Maybe I'll label it as easy listening. "Fourteen" is a strange arrangement of found sounds, and cut up clips of Hukkelberg's singing played over a renaissance sounding little melody. It's a hauntingly strange track that is appealing, but gave my dog nightmares. Hukkelberg also covers Pixie's "Break My Body" and gives it a yearning and powerfully dramatic appeal, but it's somehow strange and unsettling to hear her innocent yet seductive voice sing "I'm a horny loser." RykestraBe 68's oddities both lyrically and musically make it an essential album for those easy listening moments.


Navigator - Loop Dreams

Loop Dreams
(02.2008, Magic Goat)
Verdict = Reverby, Loop Based Navigator

The second release on the downloadable-for-free-quasi-web-label, Magic Goat, comes from the Magic Goat mastermind himself, Navigator. In the short 6 song foray on Loop Dreams, Navigator moves away from the humble, lo-fi acoustics that appeared on his wonderful debut LP, Throwing Tongues, and into more experimental (but no less satisfying) territory. With his loop pedal in tow, Navigator somehow pulls out a bag of short, engaging sonic messes that translate something like Times New Viking via Mt. Eerie/Microphones . The Mt. Eerie/Microphones reference is apt seeing as how the closing track is a major chord translation of Phil Elverum's "Headless Horseman." Navigator also cover's local blues troubadour, Aye Aye's, "Change" for his opener. Both covers are tasteful, inventive recreations that manage to accomplish what the best covers were always meant to accomplish: to become a completely new song as filtered through the ideas of the artist covering them. As a whole Loop Dreams is a successful (free, AKA you should be downloading this right now) outing and a wonderful display of chameleon depth from Navigator. Here is hoping that the energy of this translates into another wonderful full length album in 2008.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Show In Review

The Alligators, David Williams, Headlights and Evangelicals at Kilby Court 3/26/08

The Alligators

Local Utah openers, The Alligators caught me off guard. They looked like old LoFi Cafe fans, complete with the hippest apparel and ultra styled hair cuts, attracting high school scenesters from all corners of the state. Then they played, and somehow I had heard their opening song from somewhere. I am still trying to figure out where that could have been. Anyways, what we heard was sugar coated upbeat pop that had infectious beats and forced an honest smile from my critically hardened lips. It wasn't amazing music, but it was enjoyable, and really sometimes that is all a band needs to put on a fantastic show.

David Williams
David Williams has surprisingly decided to go electric! His little folk tunes have taken on new life as of late in his live performances and have rocked the house down. It's the same great songwriting you have come to accept from Williams but with an little more pizazz.

Recorded Headlights are all right, but have failed to keep my interest long enough for me to want to make it through a full album. The forced hazy male vocals just kill me. Most the crowd was there to see Headlights and seemed to be enjoying their simplicity. I thought they would be fun enough live, but I was ultimately bored and couldn't wait for them to get off stage after about 3 pleasant syrup songs so that I could hear the real reason I came to the show.

After about three fourths of the crowd left, a lengthy set up, a broken monitor and an exploding light bulb, Evangelicals raped the Kilby stage and left the remaining fourth of the audience unable to do anything but rock out in live music satisfaction to the fullest. If anyone deserves to act like rock stars it's these fellas, but they only brought the swagger on stage and left it on stage once they were done playing. They were very humble, very nice, and soooo glam! Just imagine eyeliner, glitter, strobe lights, fog machines, capes, nail paint, walking on the drum set, hanging on the rafters, wailing on the guitar so hard it brought them to their knees rock and roll! The Evening Descends is one of the most amazing albums, if not the most amazing album of 2008 thus far and was given complete justice and then some performed live. Everyone who left - What were you thinking!?


Samamidon - All Is Well

All Is Well
(02.2008, Bedroom Community)
Verdict = Simple Atmospheric Folk

Samamidon is known by his parents as Sam Amidon but I doubt you could judge the audible difference judging by Amidon’s slurry vocal delivery on his third release, All Is Well. Pitched with an atmospheric Americana, All Is Well flows like a tiny backwoods river floating lazily under cover of forest tangle. The ride is lethargic and seems to be an audible muscle relaxer. There is a warmth of production on All Is Well reminiscent of Vetiver or Hem. With its immaculate production, All Is Well doesn’t contain even the slightest crackling distraction from the lush instrumentation which carries the mood of the album. It is as if each copy of the album comes with its' own personal chamber orchestra to play along. It is with this lonely personalized touch that Amidon’s minor key ballads sink in like a knife, cutting your heart strings clear. From start to finish an air of waterlogged, Midwestern hopelessness floods your heart. Amidon’s numb vocals add to that backwater feel and can take a bit of time to warm up to. It is beautiful though and there are a couple songs like “Fall On My Knees” and “Little Satchel” after the midway mark that ease the dreariness. Overall, All Is Well is a charmingly elegant album that is worth a spin.

-Mr. Thistle

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-la-la Band - 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons

Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La-Band
13 Blues for Thirteen Moons
(03.2008, Constellation)
Verdict: Mt. Zion's best album yet.

I have a slight suspicion that the Silver Mt. Zion crew hates Steve Jobs. I mean take a look at your IPod artist listings. We got like six slightly different names for the same group. Geez! Anywho, despite all the name switch ups, these guys have held a special place in my musical heart for some time now. And with 13 Blues for Thirteen Moons, Mt. Zion find themselves at the peak (pun intended) of their game. Their last LP Horses in the Sky found the group opting for more vocal driven songs over their usual unusual brand of chamber music. 13 Blues continues the vocal driven theme but ups the rock factor to the max. After almost four minutes of subdued vocals and light plucking, the opening song (starting at track 13) "1,000,000 Died To Make This Sound" bursts into a repetitive distorted guitar riff backed by equally rocking strings and percussion. The album maintains this level of rock for the majority of the album and finds some more chaotic moments during "Black Waters Blowed/Engine Broke Blues." Mt. Zion take time to relax for a bit on the closer "Blindblindblind" which I find to be one of the prettier tunes the group has graced us with to date. It slowly builds up to epic rock out proportions leaving us with an a cappella chant of "Some hearts are true". Despite being more lyric based and more "band" sounding 13 Blues is still distinctly Mt. Zion and I'd be surprised if it brings any new fans into the camp. But ya, if you're already in the camp you'll be glad you stuck around.

-Wooly Mammal

Silver Mt. Zion on Myspace

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

High Places - 03/07-09/07

High Places
(2008, eMusic)
Verdict = Pleasant Experimental Pop

In preparation for their highly anticipated debut, eMusic has exclusively released a compilation of already staggering highlights from the Pitchfork approved High Places. Usually I would try and act all high and mighty with a reference to “the devil’s website,” but I honestly would have had no clue who these guys were without that review, and yes I read Pitchfork daily (pause for gossipy whispers). Anywho, this isn’t a forum for arguing about ridiculous hipster posturing or anything like unto it, this is however a place to talk about note worthy music and High Places is definitely note worthy. Filled with bouncy, left field electronics and cutesy vocals, High Places is simple and satisfying. There is something about the bands music that is reminiscent of preschool, fruit, candy, crayons and cake. I don’t know exactly how to equate that except to say that there is absolutely no pretense here. High Places seem genuinely innocent and simply excited to make minimalistic booty-shakers topped with ethereal, childlike vocals. Think Black Dice meets Sesame Street. Just the thought makes me laugh. That would be a funny dance party. 03/07-09/07 is all of that and a bag of greasy Lays brand potato chips. With a promise of good things to come, High Places eMusic exclusive is already one of the most enjoyable releases so far this year.

-Mr. Thstle

High Places on Myspace

Monday, March 24, 2008

Shows This Week

Monday (today), Explosions In the Sky are bringing their Texas bred, cinematic post rock to In the Venue accompanied by TV On the Radio/90 Day Men conspirator Lichens. Explosions In the Sky have lost a few points due to involvement with Friday Night Lights, however, I am sure we can forgive the slip up by now because these guys are epic live and then there is the awe inspiring Lichens = this is a must see.


Lichens Live

Wednesday (03.26), Evangelicals will be co-headlining with Headlights with support from The Alligators and David Williams all at Kilby Court. This is undoubtedly FG’s pick of the week seeing as how Evangelicals have dropped one of the most rulingest albums of 2008 with Evening Descends. The thing begs to be transformed live. And hey add Headlights and you have an instant party!



Saturday (03.29), theatrical folk weirdoes Faun Fables will run amuck at The Urban Lounge with their near legendary SLC shows. Hit this show up, you will not fail to be entertained…


Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull

The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull
(02.2008, Southern Lord)
Verdict = Dusty, Doomy, Sluggish Instrumentals

Time to delve into the hype. Earth has been around almost as long as I have been alive scorching the way for the recently peaking doom metal scene. It seems that with their pedigree it is high time for some the band to be in the spotlight. Following suit with Wooly Mammal’s recent review of last year’s Hibernaculum, I decided to take on the newest beast from the burgeoning psych doom juggernauts. I don’t think it will be surprising to those who have already heard the record, but my initial reaction was confusing. After a 9-minute-plus opening track of recycling instrumental desert rock that moved at the pace of drugged brontosaurus (which I am going to assume is very slow) I was starting to feel a little slow myself. First of all, this is not doom metal. Obviously through 20 years of evolution the band is a bit beyond that. It still is kind of doomy though. There is a kick of dustiness that is at work in the cogs here. The album is essentially the crackle of said dust rotating infinitely to the repetitive riffs and aimless fills that accompany them ad infinitum. These are long, plodding songs that drift into the horizon with little evolution and no climax. As I’m sure the description will assert the tracks are not for everyone, but there is something in these ostensibly senseless Americana exorcisms that begins surface like bubbling oil; something almost transcendent. It is hard to put a finger on and it is even harder to convince anyone else of but it’s there. The question you will have to ask yourself is whether it is worth the journey.

-Mr. Thistle

Earth on Myspace

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thao Nguyen - We Brave Bee Stings and All

Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down
We Brave Bee Stings and All
1.2008 Kill Rock Stars
Verdict: Super charming western infused pop.

Halloween, it's pretty cool. You dress up like Donatello, arm yourself with a pillowcase and get hoards of candy from strangers. That night you eat about three fourths of your candy, get sick and forget about the rest of it till you find the stash under your bed around Easter. And so it is with loads of sugary sweet pop music. It's so delightful that you overplay it than end up hating it and or forgetting about it. Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down play this type of sugary sweet pop music with a western flair. So it is to my surprise that I've been popping' this album down like a bag of peanut butter M&M's for a month now and there's not a tummy ache in site. Thao's sophomore album is full of catchy hooks, folk strums, banjo runs, and the occasional horn ensemble. Her song writing brings to mind an early Laura Veirs. However, to my ears Thao is far more consistent and far more rewarding. Lyrically, Thao tackles the feelings of becoming an adult while hanging on to the wonder of bright eyed youth. Crooning the lines "We brave bee stings and all, and we don't dive we cannonball, and we splash our eyes full of chemicals, just so there's none left for little girls." Occasionally these types of lyrics can seem a bit cheesy, but her voice is so captivating that it doesn't really matter. We Brave Bee Stings and All is the most pleasant surprise of the year thus far and the album is sure to find a secure spot on my year end list. It's super cute.

-Wooly Mammal

Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down - "Swimming Pools"

Valet - Naked Acid

Naked Acid
(03.2008, Kranky)
Verdict = Druggy, Gritty, Catty Psych

Back with a quick follow up to last years wonderful Blood Is Clean, Portland Oregon’s Honey Owens follow the same line of reason that produced her debut: stark, moody experimentalism waffling between druggy, drifty psych and gritty, drony no wave. Having been involved in several different experimental projects before starting her solo recording project as Valet, Owens has developed depth in a field of artists who often retread the same idea endlessly like they were chained to a treadmill. Naked Acid on the other hand (along with Blood Is Clean) is a dynamic, impressively multifaceted record that is always moving forward into new, murky waters creating a wonderfully cohesive ride. Consistency aside, Naked Acid never seems to reach quite as high as its predecessor. There is something indefinable that leaves portions of the album flat and ineffective as a whole. Perhaps a tint or three darker than her debut, Naked Acid’s morose, alienating grit seems to kind of grind a bit too deep. For some that may be preferable, but I found it a bit tiring. Regardless, Valet has given us a fair sophomore effort that demands that we keep an eye on Miss Owens.

-Mr. Thistle

Valet - "Kehaar"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Destroyer - Trouble In Dreams

Trouble In Dreams
(03.2008, Merge)
Verdict = Odd Literate Pop = Indie Rock

I like Dan Bejar quite a bit. He seems to embody the music that he plays well. Wearing dark curly hair like an explosion of twisty, tangly yarn atop his pale, stringy, adjunct-professor-like posture, it’s like Bejar can’t sidestep making wonderfully odd rock splashed with backwards literacy. On Trouble In Dreams, my favourite New Pornographer scores again with his umpteenth solo record as the glorious Destroyer. Following up Destroyer’s Rubies, Trouble In Dreams doesn’t make any stark jumps in style, but instead maintains the same level of consistency that made his last album so great. Bejar’s version of pop or rock or whatever, has always stayed pretty safe with small flourishes of some proggy guitars rising in the mix from time to time and a piano line showing through here and there. That is all pleasant and well, but it’s not really the reason you listen to Destroyer. There is no avoiding the fact that Bejar’s voice and lyricism is center stage here. All else is flowers and streamers and decorative bedding. There is something about Bejar’s theatrical talk-singing that is so satisfying. However there are definitely moments when the lack of interesting instrumentation tends to leave portions of the album dry. For instance, the nearly 8 minute “Shooting Rockets (From the Desk of Night’s Ape)” starts to drag in its last half. For the most part, however, Bejar spins his tales masterfully and Trouble In Dreams has come away as a high point in a lengthy back catalog.

-Mr. Thistle

Destroyer - "Foam Hands"

4 Bonjour Parties - Pigments Drift Down to the Brook

4 Bonjour’s Parties
Pigments Drift Down to the Brook
(12.2007, Mush)
Verdict = Cutsy, Experimental Japanese Pop

Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet, the tiny sub genres of the world have grown increasingly deeper. It is hard not to laugh at the fact that “cutesy, experimental Japanese pop” seems as viable and deep a genre label as the now all encompassing (thanks to the oft hilarious iTunes labeling system) alternative/punk label was fifteen years ago. Similarly, in a musical landscape that formerly would have found a band like 4 Bonjour’s Parties as an exciting crème de la crème import, the band is now relegated to a tooth and nail barrel for any recognition whatsoever, recognition I believe they’ve earned. They can quickly be cross-referenced between Efterklang, Mum, Shugo Tokumaru and Miki Odagiri, who are all undoubtedly worthwhile listens. The production is full. The alternating female and male Japanese vocals are always cute and never irritating and the instrumentation is lush and detailed. The question is whether anyone is willing to sift through the rest of the cute little sad, puppied-eyed albums that Pigments Drift Down to the Brook sits among in order to find them. I’d urge you to take a chance, they’re worth it.

-Mr. Thistle

4 Bonjour Parties - "Satelite"

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Ruby Suns - Sea Lion

The Ruby Suns
Sea Lion
(03.2008, Sub Pop)
Verdict = Sunny Experimental Folk

I’m pretty hip to smiling and to tropical vacations so it has been pretty easy for me to fall for The Ruby Suns’ Sea Lion. Sporting an addictive, island folk/pop with sublime major chord progressions, the band’s second album and Sub Pop debut is a wonderful treat. The band is bursting with melodies and unique song structures as if they had discovered a secret treasure trove of awesomeness. My immediate impression was to compare The Ruby Suns to The Annuals, and while Sea Lion has much of the spirit of The Annuals debut it also dips into much more psychedelic territory in the vein of Caribou and Animal Collective. Those comparisons are probably running rampant by now. They are good ones though. As much as I hate to compare bands, being in the company of Caribou, Animal Collective and The Annuals is a big time compliment. And as with the afore mentioned bands, The Ruby Suns maintain a signature sound that is all their own. Breezy acoustic guitars, island chorals, bouncy synths, tinkering bells and kitchen sink drums come together in a delicious pot of steamy, world infected pop. The record feels absolutely celebratory and is perfectly suited for ushering in the sun in even the most hopeless of weather situations. With absolutely no funds for a worthwhile spring break, listening to Sea Lion is the only substitute.

-Mr. Thistle

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rings - Black Habit

Black Habit
(01.2008, Paw Tracks)
Verdict: I want to love this album, it's just impossible

Rings is an all girl noise outfit out to blow your mind. Only problem is, although the intentions are apparent, they never quite get to mind blowing capacity. They flirt with groundbreaking, hold hands with progressive, and possibly peck the forehead of genius, but this babe just can't seem to score. Black Habit is a spooky swirly patchwork of primal drumming, resonating guitars, slight keyboards and a heavy layer or chanting or sparse timid and piercingly annoying vocals that seem incredibly forced. The album is mastered strangely which makes the whole of it seem a little empty and bewitching. I would have liked a more full sound occasionally, particularly after tense dark electric and drum buildups. There are so many promising aspects of this album, but I can't say I enjoy it. It leaves me hoping for more. Possibly if we see a sophomore release from Rings at some point in time it will accomplish what Black Habit set out to do and relieve me in my wanton wishes.


Rings - "Mom Dance"

Balmorhea - River Arms

River Arms
(02.2008, Western Vinyl)
Verdict = Solid Plaintive Instrumentals

Balmorhea’s River Arms is undeniably beautiful. Made up of cinematic, neo classical compositions embedded with classical, post rock and Americana influences; Rivers Arms is filled to the brim with emotional musical motifs that seem bent on tugging at your heart strings. There are two challenges to composing this type of music. First, the album is competing in a market that is already saturated with numerous artists with ambitions to accomplish the exact same thing. Second, amongst the throng of instrumental piano/violin/acoustic guitar/etcetera crowd it can be difficult to create music that is truly emotive without coming off as, simply, emo. The cure to both problems requires taking risks in writing and playing that few attempt and even fewer are able to pull off. On Rivers Arms, Balmorhea stops short of even attempting anything unique and in doing so has relegated a very beautiful album to becoming background music. The album, while very pretty, is not head turning nor memorable and while it may be good music for breaking up with your girlfriend, you probably will forget that you even own it and miss the chance all together. I respect the group’s efforts here, but feel that Balmorhea will have to bring something much more interesting to the table before they can be mentioned notably among independent chamber/classical legends such as Rachels or Max Richter.

-Mr. Thistle

Balmorhea on Myspace

Monday, March 17, 2008

Shows This Week

Tuesday (3/18), Zion I will fill out The Urban Lounge as has been the case with a lot of the hip hop shows around here lately. Accompanied by Mistah Fab, this show should nuts.

Zion I

Thursday (3/20), for anyone who witnessed The Helio Sequences insanely high quality set and Kilby Court last week there will be no question as to why I am posting this show as the duo make their rounds down in Provo territory. For anyone who missed the Kilby show, make the drive, thank me later.

Helio Sequence

Friday (3/21), there is sure to be a billow of haze that enters Kilby Court about the same time Beach House takes the stage. Touring for their sophomore effort, Devotion, be prepared for dreamy other worldliness. With supporting sets by The Papercuts and Lord Mandrake this is a no brainer for FG show pick of the week.

Beach House

Saturday (3/22), Jose Gonzales and Mia Doi Todd are set to play at the Olpin Union Ballroom at the University of Utah. Shucks, should be downright charming regardless of the size of the ballroom and the capacity of the crowd.

Jose Gonzales

Saturday (3/22), as an alternative to morose acoustic guitars, Tokyo Police Club will downright charm on the basis of energetic Canadian pop. So, for those looking to rock/dance, hit up Kilby for your Saturday night.

Tokyo Police Club

3/24 – Explosions in the Sky, Lichens, Black Moth Super Rainbow – In the Venue
3/24 – Aloha, Georgie James – Urban Lounge
3/26 – Headlights, Evangelicals – Kilby Court
3/31 – Vampire Weekend, Yacht – In The Venue
4/03 – Cryptacize – Kilby Court
4/07 – KRS-One – The Hotel
4/12 – Why? – Urban Lounge
4/14 – RJD2 – Urban Lounge
4/15 – Blitzen Trapper, Calico – Urban Lounge
4/16 – Enon, The Joggers – Urban Lounge
4/21 – Man Man, Yeasayer – In The Venue
4/22 – Islands – In The Venue
4/23 – Saul Williams – Kilby Court
4/25 – Norfolk & Western, Weinland, Deadhorse Point – Urban Lounge
5/02 – Black Kids, Cut Copy – Urban Lounge
5/02 – Dark Meat, Kid Theodore – Kilby Court
5/07 – Efterklang – Urban Lounge
5/12 – Subtle – Urban Lounge
5/15 – Dead Meadow, The Furs – Kilby Court
5/16 – Atmosphere – In The Venue
5/16 – Destroyer – Urban Lounge
5/16 – Tapes & Tapes, White Denim – In The Venue
5/30 – David Bazan – Kilby Court
5/30 – Joan of Arc, Future of the Ghost, Vile Blue Shades – Urban Lounge
5/30 – White Rabbits – Monk’s House of Jazz
6/02 – Ladytron, Datarock – In The Venue
6/23 – Wolf Eyes – The Urban Lounge
7/15 – Low, TaughtMe – In The Venue
7/16 – King Khan & The Shrines, Jacuzzi Boys – The Urban Lounge

Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass

Aesop Rock
None Shall Pass
(08.2007, Definitive Jux)
Verdict = Back To Making the Best Sense Out of Nonsense

For many, Aesop Rock’s 2001 release, Labor Days, was one of the best hip hop records to ever sneak out of the underground. I’m definitely in that crowd. The subsequent years have left admirers scrambling to come to terms with the reality of that album’s singularity. Albums like Labor Days don’t get replicated and that has to be irritating for Aesop. He will now permanently deal with an army of listeners that will constantly beg for his “return to form.” While this has to be annoying, with None Shall Pass, Aesop Rock has finally created an album to appease his carnivorous fans. The album is his first since Labor Days that is once again both lyrically mind boggling and fun. On None Shall Pass, Aesop Rock maintains the title of the weirdest, most awesome lyricist on the underground hip hop landscape. His flow is wholly unique and shows no signs of growing stale, even after so many years. The beauty of None Shall Pass is that it is simply much easier to digest and is a welcome addition to the much beloved emcee’s catalog. Tracks like lead single and album namesake “None Shall Pass” are simply impossible not to repeat. I suspect the track sits right next to “Daylight” as an unsolicited request from overly exited fans at his live shows. This isn’t all though, Aesop has a whole albums worth of consistency here. Additional highlights here include El-P cameo-ed “Guns For the Whole Family,” album opener “Keep Off The Lawn,” and the jazzy, Labor Days era “Bring Back Pluto”. Welcome back to critical acceptance Aesop, maybe by the next album you won’t have to read about Labor Days again.

-Mr. Thistle

Friday, March 14, 2008

Why? - Alopecia

(03.2008, Anticon)
Verdict = Awesome Music, Awkward Lyrics

For those familiar, Why?, the rapper turned band is the apex of indie pop fused with left field hip hop. On Alopecia, the bands third LP, Why? has moved divisively between being simultaneously more accessible and less. Musically, Alopecia is absolutely amazing. Gorgeous, downbeat indie pop anchored by a powerful rhythm section. Instrumentally Why? is better than ever with a record that is impossible not to nod to. The improvement on an already good thing was likely influenced by guest band members Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson borrowed from Fog. Even the vocals (whose lyrics I’ll address shortly) by lyricist Yoni Wolf have the perfect tenor and flow to match the lush backdrop. Tonally, Alopecia is pitch-perfect. Lyrically, Why? has always been odd but somehow kept from becoming uncomfortably bizarre. On Alopecia that has changed. First off, Wolf seems super depressed with multiple allusions to death and suicide. It seems with this tongue in cheek desperation he has also caused a dropped guard on some otherwise awkward lyrics. About on level with some of the jarringly descriptive lyrics you would find on a Xiu Xiu album, some of the phrasing seems unnecessarily leaning towards shock art. Personally this has created quite a bit of confusion because, while being absolutely elated with the album otherwise, reoccurring verses seem to pop out and kind of taint their songs. Perhaps such verses were purposely placed to sift out the wusses (yeah, totally me), but I can’t help but wish that I could be a wuss and still like Why? I mean I do ‘still like Why?,’ it’s just…you know, awkward.

-Mr. Thistle

Why? on Myspace

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The North Sea - Exquisite Idols

The North Sea
Exquisite Idols
(03.2007, Type)
Verdict = Perfectly Baked Free Folk

You have to expect that the first few months of any given year is going to be catch up time for any music missed the previous year. It seems that these early months have been particularly fruitful in this regard for me and The North Sea's Exquisite Idols is no exception. The most accessible album yet from free folk fixture Brad Rose is also his best. The songs are most often a convoluted mess of guitars buzzing, organs humming, bells tinkling and samples twittering and who knows what else doing any and everything, but this apparent confusion is always held together by some type supernatural glue that carries the happy chaos into some gorgeous territory. The album also contains a type of eastern twang that has become familiar in recordings from similar artists like Six Organs of Admittance or Sir Richard Bishop. Underneath the brush of soft noise, Rose's vocals emerge like an echo carried by the wind. Never fully connecting but always present, the heartfelt tone of the vocals feels hazy and dreamlike. The North Sea does a perfect job of varying between the more free free folk tracks and the more anchored songs creating a dynamic, full listening experience on Exquisite Idols. It's a year old now but just as vibrant and worthwhile as ever.

-Mr. Thistle

The North Sea on Myspace

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Amplive - Radiohead Rainydayz Remixes

Radiohead Rainydayz Remixes
(02.2008, Self Released)
Verdict = Amusing But Little To Sustain

Radiohead are untouchable. The band has created a celestial aura that causes teeny bopper frenzies among their fans which are by a large majority not teenagers. I mean, could Jonny Greenwood or Thom Yorke be anymore godlike in their indie rock stardom? This is probably the reason that albums like Radiohead Rainydayz Remixes came into existence. Amplive, like many of us, is so obsessed with the band that he just compulsively started creating an album remixing their perennial In Rainbows. Apparently he forgot to tell the band and once word got out there was some confusion as to what to do with the release. Fortunately, the cool dudes that they are, Radiohead conceded to allow Amplive’s remixes a free online release. Unfortunately, the tracks are a bit lacking. Initially it is kind of fun to hear bits of In Rainbows cut up into hip hop beats with some notable rappers rhyming on top (most notably, personal faves Del the Funkee Homosapien and Chali2na). However, the tracks quickly wear thin as Amplive fails to manipulate his source material into anything interesting. The end result comes off as a slightly better than average fan remix, which is essentially what it is so, uh, mission accomplished. It’s a fun novelty though and it’s free so there is no reason not to let your curiosity get the best of you.

-Mr. Thistle

Download Radiohead Rainydayz Remixes

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Little Dragon - Self Titled

Little Dragon
Little Dragon
(11.2007, Peacefrog)
Verdict = Swedish Soul Music

This review is going to end up being pretty short because I definitely have no clue what I’m talking about when it comes to R&B. However, Little Dragon is a breath of fresh, soulful air that is worth some attention. Tight jazz drums and sparse electronics are the bedding for indie diva Yukimi Nagano’s warm vocals. The music may come from Sweden, but it may as well have been birthed from, uh, wherever R&B was birthed because the music has got some serious grooves and Nagano’s perfectly eccentric vocals are well suited for the smoky sexiness of the tracks. Ha, I apologize, writing sexiness is somehow funny to me, I apologize. Regardless of my immaturity this is certainly sexy music and a perfect alternative to the current Beyonce drivel that is blaring on the radios. Essentially, Little Dragon is just a great crossover record, making modern soulful, jazzy R&B accessible to the modern hipster. A great debut album that harkens back to golden days of your old Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu records. Good stuff.

-Mr. Thistle

Monday, March 10, 2008

Shows This Week

Tonight (Monday, 3/10), The Helio Sequence will be headlining Kilby Court with Patter Stats and Kid Madusa in tow. Should be a dreamy, pop obsessed mess of goodness there.

The Helio Sequence - "Everyone Knows Everyone"

Later Tonight (Monday, 3/10), The glorious Xiu Xiu will be wreaking experimental rock havoc at The Urban Lounge. In addition Xiu Xiu has brought a special treat from Kill Rock Stars named Thao Nguyen whose debut CD released last month is spectacular. The show will also include locals Palce of Buddies. (21+)

Xiu Xiu - "Boy Soprano"

Thao Nguyen - "Bag of Hammers"

Thursday (3/13), indie rock royalty Travis Morrison of the unparalleled and now defunct Dismemberment Plan, will be playing along with his Hellfighters with Nathan Spenser and The Auto Pirates at Kilby Court.

Travis Morrison Live @ Fort Reno

Friday (3/14), Leslie & The Ly’s are playing Kilby Court. Friday night Leslie & The Ly’s are playing Kilby Court!!! Oh boy, this should be a show of the mellenia let alone a show of the week. Playing with Nolens Volens and MC Danger Mouth, this is expected to be the funnest live experience you’ll be likely to see in your lifetime. FG pick of the week, fo sho!

Lesli and the Ly's - "Zombie Killer Revisited"

XBXRX - Sounds

(08.2007, Important)
Verdict = Above Par Noise Rock Improvisations

Hanging up their spazz rock blitzkrieg momentarily, Sounds documents XBXRX dipping their toes into noisy improvisation. Wholly instrumental, Sounds follows the band as they burn through seven tracks of deafening squalor, enhancing the depth of their already toothy bite. I guess I should retract my opening statement. This is definitely spazzy and most certainly rock, however, gone is the structure that could once allow their tracks to be differentiated as “Songs.” Now, a new level of drug induced jazz has been added to the mix, so while it may be immediately recognizable as XBXRX, it is still perfectly conceivable that it a product of their making. The whole experiment is anchored on its incredible percussion. The drums flow forth like a waterfall of drum sticks, cymbals and drum sets all crashing together as they plunge into a sea of instruments below. Swelling, subduing and then swelling again, the album avoids some of the pitfalls of similarly cacophonous free noise rock albums by allowing you periods with which to breathe. Even so, this isn’t a crossover album by any means and would probably fail to be a necessary staple for most. For me however, in light of a recent push to avoid the sterility of the avant, the album still holds sway. There is enough rock among the smattering schizophrenic garble to insight repeat listens for purposes beyond anything intellectual. Which is to say: if you’re not moving to this record, you are listening to it wrong.

-Mr. Thistle

XBXRX - "Infancy of Millions Pt. 1"

Friday, March 7, 2008

A Faulty Chromosome - As An Ex-Anorexic's Six Sicks Exit, ...

A Faulty Chromosome
As An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit, …
(02.2008, Self Released)
Verdict = The Best Band You Never Heard Of

I think A Faulty Chromosome’s debut, As An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit, …, should be the soundtrack to heaven by which I mean the soundtrack to eternal joy. Sound outlandish? Fine, if you don’t like it, go to hell and see how long you can endure that most recent Mammal record. In contrast, Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit is infinitesimally replayable and immediately enjoyable. There is simply no end to which the album can be appreciated. So let’s run through some quick reference points because A Faulty Chromosome seemed to materialize straight out of thin air. Imagine the deep production and general joy of Evangelicals’ The Evening Descends coupled with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s general low key slackery and Blonde Redhead’s kind of daydream pop achieved on last year’s 23; then add to that the awesome techno that Steve Zissou pipes into his diving suit in Life Aquatic and I think you are just about there. In reality, I could use any number of indie rock and pop standards to make comparisons to A Faulty Chromosome, however, In the end they are going to come up short because there is an x factor here that is so subtle, if you blink you’ll miss it. A Faulty Chromosome aren’t here to bash you over the head with their pop perfect enthusiasm, on the contrary, on As An Ex Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit the band is that geeky, soft spoken kid at the party who is kind of half dancing in the corner of the room and though no one at the party knows it, he is the kid who is going to end up getting the girl; he’s the coolest one in the room. Yep, humble, layered, shoe gazing indie pop/rock; not a revelation in the Moses and the burning bush sense, but more like the general realization that you’re smiling and you didn’t even know it. With A Faulty Chromosome life doesn’t seem that bad and you know what? While it isn’t the only album up there, it is definitely on the playlist in heaven. I don’t know if I can give this a higher recommendation - get this album…you’ll be glad you did.

-Mr. Thistle

Thursday, March 6, 2008

El Guincho - Alegranza!

El Guincho
(03.2008 Discoteca Oceano)
Verdict: Holla

-Wooley Mammal

El Guincho - "Kalise"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ned Collette - Future Suture

Ned Collette
Future Suture
(09.2007, Dot Dash)
Verdict = Solid Folk Rock Grower

Ned Collette’s brand of psych tinged folk rock isn’t ground breaking by any means. Picking through ruminative songs on acoustic guitar, Collette is easy to dismiss in a sea of singer songwriters doing exactly the same thing. Fortunately for those who find Future Suture, Collette becomes much more than your standard folk rock troubadour. It took me some time to discover this myself. Failing to sit through the whole record on various occasions, I was content to label the record as a B rate folk excursion that would be nice enough if it popped up on shuffle on my IPod but probably wasn’t a record that I would continue to go back to and that would eventually be removed from my little MP3 player in order to make room for more exciting newcomers. I honestly don’t know what part of me decided that this conclusion wasn’t enough and that I wasn’t going to do him the disservice of having a short attention span. After a few more listens, tracks like “The Country With A Smile” and “Ned’s Dream” popped out as undeniably beautiful and definitely mixtape worthy. A few more listens brought attention to the subtly powerful string and wind arrangements that bolstered tracks like “Forty Children” and “Lost And Found.” In fact, the more familiar I became with Future Suture the more giving it became revealing layer after meticulous layer of ingenious song-smithery and making me want to list off all nine tracks for their individual merits. So, with a little bit of effort, Collette’s sophomore effort has secured itself as a permanent feature on my IPod and one of those special albums that you want to listen too over and over again without ever skipping a track.

-Mr. Thistle

Ned Collette on Myspace

Belong - Colorloss Record EP

Colorloss Record EP
(02.2008, St. Ives)
Verdict = Gorgeous Gauzy Pop

Belong’s 2006 debut October Language is an essential in the field of ambient drone. It was emotive as well as orchestral in its movements. It was distinctly and beautifully textured, and it was memorable. In a single, powerful swipe the duo practically erased any distance between themselves as newcomers and much more historied and adorned acts from which they descended like Fennesz, Tim Hecker and Eluvium. However, above all else, Belong’s October Language was incredible because while being able to fit into tags like experimental, ambient, classical and drone, the album was also emphatically pop. Now, in their first proper release since their debut, Belong has provided more insight into just why their magical static tapestries bridged the gap from Fennesz to My Bloody Valentine. With the extremely limited release of the Colorloss Record EP (300 copies on vinyl; fortunately there are opening up the release for download on iTunes and eMusic as well), Belong have taken to covering four 60’s era psych pop gems ("Late Night" by Syd Barrett, "Beeside" by Tintern Abbey, "Girl From New York" by Billy Nicholls and "My Clown" by July). In a stroke of genius, the duo has wrapped their thick wave of gauzy perfection around these tracks and transformed them into something that is distinctly Belong’s. With fluttering vocals lilting beneath the muscular current of melodic friction, Belong’s Colorloss Record is a striking advancement for the duo and a perfect addition to any music library. Let's hope the band can keep up its momentum with its full length scheduled for release later this year.

-Mr. Thistle

Belong - "My Clown"

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

These Are Powers - Terrific Seasons

These are Powers
Terrific Seasons
(10.2007, Hoss Records)
Verdict: I think I have a new favorite band, and I got like a crush on the guitar player.

In their press release These are Powers describe themselves as "ghost punk." Now, this isn’t some downer ghost of Jacob Marley mumbo jumbo. This is like those three crazy ghosts from the Casper movie with Christina Ricci. Ya know, Fatso Stinky and Stretch? Man those ghosts were some bad dudes. Well, These are Powers give those ghosts a run for their money. Wreaking havoc across 43 minutes of super rad tribal beats, distorted bass, repetitive guitar hooks, screeches, squeals, drones and some of the most effective bad booty guy/girl vocals a genre like ghost punk could offer. The album starts out with a dance your socks off train wreck with no hope of survival. While the whole album doesn’t maintain this level of danceablity, it for sure keeps the no survival train wreck vibe. Man, I’m listening to track 4 as I write this; I can’t even think straight, sooo good. The way rad thing about this album is amidst the shorter ghost rockin’ jams we (the listener) are rewarded with the 20 minute epic "Pizza Master Ice Cream Palace." I mean can you imagine what a Pizza Master Ice Cream Palace would be like? I bet it would have a lot of cool arcade games like Bucky O’ Hare and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. Now if most bands of the train wreck experimental dance post punk rockin’ persuasion were in this Pizza Master Ice Cream Palace, they’d probably be trying to eat like 3 slices of extra meat combo at a time and end up getting sick within ten minutes. But These are Powers don’t over indulge with all the extra toppings, creating one of the most satisfying jam sessions my ears have heard in a while. Without even a stomach ache, they’re that good. On a side note, just like Mr. Thistle, my mind was completely blown by their Kilby "pwning" set. Best live show I’ve seen since Black Eyes came to town in 2003. I don’t know how to end this review, get their album; it’s got like a screen printed fish on the D side.

-Wooly Mammal

These Are Powers - "Little Sisters of Beijing"

Monday, March 3, 2008

Shows This Week

Tomorrow, Tuesday (3/04), Austin’s indie hype machine White Denim are playing Urban Lounge in the first of two shows they have scheduled in SLC (also on 5/16 with Tapes & Tapes). Word is these dudes rock the jams live (we all ready know they do so on record) and they will be playing along side Static of the Gods and Purr Bats so why not go?

White Denim

Thursday (3/06), cussily named electronic noise rock group Holy Fuck will be playing with devastating 90’s fuzz revivalists A Place To Bury Strangers who have oft been sited as the “loudest band in New York” which must have been some task to achieve. True or not, a chance to see either of these amazing groups is an absolute treat and not something to be missed. FG’s pick for show of the week fo’ Sho’!

Holy Fuck video illustrated by Chad Van Gaalen

A Place To Bury Strangers

Saturday (3/08), Portugal. The Man will be playing at club NVO in Logan? Um, we certainly love the band but are not sure if we’ll be able to make it up to Aggie country. But surely, for those who make the drive, it will be well worth it.

Portugal. The Man

Atlas Sound - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel

Atlas Sound
Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel
(02.2008, Kranky)
Verdict = Fantastic Ghostly Pop

After a year of making repeated waves with his involvement in the blooming art punk of Deerhunter in 2007, lead man Bradford Cox turns the corner into 2008 with an absolutely mind blowing solo excursion with Atlas Sound. First off, if you liked Deerhunter you will love Atlas Sound. However, the projects are not quite synonymous. With Atlas Sound Cox has created a shimmering, ghostly record that sits like a glowing mist. In fact I think ghostly is the key here. Opening the album with the sample of a child’s story of a ghost named Charlie, the introductions charming yet slightly creepy ghost vibe permeates through to the very end of Let the Blind Lead. The album is scrupulously layered with textures that wash over the top of the songs, muting the melodies and vocals into a hazy state. The effect is soothing and, again, ghostly in an oddly comfortable way that allows the record to float as if you weren’t sure it was there at all. I think the glory of the record is how easy it is to listen to. Cox isn't making any rash statements here. With Atlas Sound he is simply providing the low key spectral pop that seems to be his strongest card and playing it consistently. This will definitely end up as one of the best albums of 2008.

-Mr. Thistle

Atlas Sound - "River Card"