Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Great Northwest - The Widespread Reign of the Great Northwest

The Great Northwest
The Widespread Reign of The Great Northwest
(07.2008, Kora Records)
Verdict = Did The Besnard Lakes just get out-Besnard-Laked?

I’ve kind of been all over the place genre-wise lately with my reviews with the likes of Black Pus being immediately followed by Sawako and then Lullatone. I always wonder what the divide is among FG readers as far as that is concerned. Do some of you tune in just for the sleepy drone stuff, some for the bizarro pop stuff and others for the violently destructive stuff? Either way, I like it all. What does The Great Northwestern have to do with my personal, mostly irrelevant inner questions? Well, aside from being different musical category than the three mentioned above, The Great Northwest is the kind of band that should have appeal to just about anyone. That isn’t to say that there is anything remotely violent, overtly pop or intensely droney about the music, it’s just that good. In fact, it appears that The Great Northwest may know this themselves considering the title to their debut record, The Widespread Reign of The Great Northwest. The band follows in line of similarly nuanced slow-core indie bands like The Besnard Lakes, Sun Kil Moon or label mates Gregor Samsa. So, while they aren’t breaking any particularly new ground among their colleagues, The Great Northwest is making that particular brand of lush, syrupy, slow rock better than the anyone else right now (providing a healthy dethroning of Mr. Kozelek). The production is part of what elevates The Widespread Reign above the rest of the crowd. The sound produced here is luxurious. That sound coupled with some gorgeously arranged, perfectly paced songs and what you have, my friend, is an absolutely delicious album to spin while letting the fire die down at the end of the night. Simply majestic.

-Mr. Thistle

The Great Northwest on Myspace

Lullaton - The Bedtime Beat

The Bedtime Beat
(03.2008, Someone Good)
Verdict = Visions of indie Japanese children’s pop

I can’t help but find Lullatone’s latest minimalist glitch/pop outing, The Bedtime Beat, absolutely hilarious. That may come off as negative, but I assure you that it is an absolutely positive effect of what has turned out to be one of the most awesome, surprising releases of 2008. When I initially scanned through the album earlier this year I hastily passed over it as a novelty, but upon returning to The Bedtime Beat it has become glaringly obvious how wrong my first impression was. I think what caught me off guard initially and what now has revealed itself as the genius of the album is the innocent nature that pervades it. The Bedtime Beat sounds like songs made for toddlers (I actually have not ruled out this as a serious demographic for the album), which at first glance may seem to be a demeaning description, but in reality this honest, simple approach to pop music is gloriously appropriate, revealing endless charm and sincerely terrific tunes. I don’t know if I am doing Lullatone any justice in this explination, but this is also why The Bedtime Beat can be dually hilarious and precious. The opening track, “The Bathtime Beat,” is a perfect example of everything that is great about the album. The song finds the duo exploring sparse, tiny beats coupled with literal water splashing to back the hushed vocals of Japanese songstress Yoshimi Tomida as she sings about…duh, bathtime! I tell you what, if Sesame Street was rocking these type of songs I would still be watching today (in honest admission, I still YouTube some of the music from the show that was broadcast in its early years). The album continues simply incorporating snoring samples for songs about bedtime and a cappella beats for lyrics about dreaming of Biz Markie. It is perfect really; super twee extremely brief for those short childish attention spans (just over twenty minutes!). I guess a good amalgamation of the band (if you’ll let me mention Sesame Street again) would be something like the aforementioned childrens television show mixed with early Architecture In Helsinki and Deerhoof. How can you argue with that?

-Mr. Thistle

Lullatone on virb

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sawako - Bitter Sweet

Bitter Sweet
(05.2008, 12K)
Verdict = A gorgeous soundtrack to forgotten ponds

The last time we heard from Sawako around these parts was on last year’s astoundingly beautiful release under the Anticipate banner, Madoromi. Now after only a brief break Sawako is back, releasing her fourth album, Bitter Sweet, back on the equally wonderful 12K label (also the home of her debut). Despite the label shuffling, Sawako maintains an aural consistency that has moments of both gorgeous relaxation and intelligent tension. The album opens with borderline atonal droning on “Wind Shower Particle” that sounds somewhat metallic with a deeply buried percussive layer that eventually breaks with the emergence of some well placed acoustic notes that sound like a stand up bass played from the basement. The track segues into “April – From Sea Shell” where, with the assistance of Radiosonde, Sawako allows a gorgeous lilting guitar melody to float over the top of her signature field recordings and embedded ambience. The transitions in mood and flow between these two tracks are telling of the entire album which seems bent on a perfect restraint and paced structure that requires a patient ear from its listener. While the ADD among us may find difficulty focusing on these pieces of music, those who give Bitter Sweet an honest effort will be aptly rewarded. Sawako seems to have subtly enhanced her methods this time around as well. Where Madoromi had a bit of a more glitchy electronic component to it, Bitter Sweet seems a bit more polished and smooth. The addition of some more palpably identifiable instrumental motifs also adds to Sawako’s palette. Still, restraint is the key here and the motifs often fade out as quickly as they arrived leaving a powerful ripple throughout her songs. Bitter Sweet is an glowing release by an artist of greatly understated creativity and talent.

-Mr. Thistle

Sawako - April-From Sea Shell (w/ Radiosonde)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Nat Baldwin and Spenking Show Tonight

Hello fellow Forest Gosplitarians,

Sorry for the recent lack of local show updates lately (seriously, I am super sorry if you missed Boris and Torche last weekend). To be honest, I just got tired of doing them. But, there is a semi-updated list of live shows over there on the left column that should keep locals updated. Anyway, in related news, for the very first time I actually found use for logging into Facebook! That's right, the ridiculously purposeless social networking site has alerted FG headquarters of a Provo house show featuring the wonderful talent Spencer Kingman (Spenking) and that of FG featured/favourite Nat Baldwin whose recently released album, MVP, is definitely one of the best of the year. So, Hannah, whomever you are, we appreciate your hosting of this show and hope you don't mind the extra press: Show starts at 9 PM at 621 West 100, uh, Provo

Black Pus: Black Pus 4: All Aboard The Magic Pus

Black Pus
Black Pus 4: All Aboard the Magic Pus
(2008, Diarreah)
Verdict = Unbridled Lightning Bolt/Mindflayer pop (as if Lightning Bolt had a bridle to begin with or Mindflayer could ever be pop or that it could ever be both at the same time)

The opening track for Lightning Bolt/Mindflayer drummer, Brian Chippendale's 4th solo album, Black Pus 4: All Aboard the Magic Pus, sounds like Chippendale threw his latest records with both Lightning Bolt and Mindflayer into a blender and recorded the carnage. It is a beautiful opening to what turns out to be the drummer's "poppiest" record to date. I relegated pop to quotes because by most standards Black Pus 4 wouldn't be considered pop. However, for those familiar with Chippendale's previous work, it would be hard to argue that All Aboard the Magic Pus didn't have a greater pop influence. I mean, this is an actual pack of songs he's made here with verses and choruses and occasionally decipherable vocals! I guess the most formidable argument to Black Pus as pop would have to be the great lengths to which Chippendale applies pure atonal grime. And I'm not talking a tiny bit of decorative feedback (sorry to be such a hater lately, but I'm looking at you Nouns); on Black Pus 4 Chippendale must have completely destroyed more than a couple recording systems in order to lay these tracks to tape because the audio attack here has some literal dangers to it. Don't worry though; if you go deaf in the process of ingesting Black Pus 4 things will go silent in the midst of the most brazenly glorious clatter imaginable. This stuff is comparable to The Goslings in heft and yet still manages to be nimble with the assault of Chippendale's furious drumming. It took me a bit to be able to listen to Black Pus 4 all the way through without taking a breather, but the conditioning has been worth it because the album is certainly one of my new favourites and seems to have a mind to make everything else in this new, trendy noise-rock scene just now blooming feel completely wussy by comparison.

-Mr. Thistle

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Box - Studio 1

Studio 1
(01.2008, Rune Grammofon)
Verdict = Rockous, jazzy, proggy improve

I’m not a big jazz guy. As far as the classics go I’m pretty much beyond oblivious to the history of it and its stepping stone albums and what not. That isn’t to say that I don’t like it. I mean, jazz is pretty cool right? Well, in the case of the scandanavian Rune Grammafon label I simply can’t get enough of whatever micro sub-genre of jazz the collective routinely produces. Probably the most significant and well known of their electro prog improvisational troupes is Supersilent, which if you are familiar with them is probably a good starting point when approaching Box. Not only does the band share a band member with Supersilent, but they have also borrowed from their purposely obscure titling and design (seriously, couldn’t you guys provide packaging that makes a physical copy desirable?). I’m actually behind on my Rune Grammafon releases. I am still preparing for the latest from Scorch Trio (out since February) and the recent Elephant9 release. Well, I think this release has ties with Scorch Trio as well, but I’m done looking up stuff – every band on Rune Grammafon shares members with at least two others usually. This particular outing is the product of a weekend spent corralling all the energy of the universe, compacting it and packaging it into a little audio explosive. For all its atonal energy and randomly spewed grunge, Studio 1 is actually a pretty catchy rock album. That is probably a misleading statement, but in light of the afore mentioned facts you would be well to consider this one of the most accessible and rocking of the electro rock blitzkriegs being produced in Scandinavia. The drums are just insane, the squelching electronics are nuts and the bass lines are jazzy. The tracks seemed to be numbered by order of the specific take they were recorded and pick and choose between the 3rd to the 13th take within the six tracks. Ultimately, Box has provided an adventure for the ears. I don’t know if there is any better way to explain it. I guess the question is if your ears are up to it? If so, I promise they won’t be disappointed.

=Mr. Thistle

Box on MySpace

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Women - Women

(07.2008, Flemish Eye)
Verdict = Sunny oscillation from Canada

Sassigrass actually had dibs on this review. I think that Wooly Mammal had his eyes on typing something up on this band as well, but I’ve decided to sneak it away from both of them, for better or worse. It is not that I feel that I will be able to do some exceptional justice to the album, it’s just that I am way too excited about it and literally couldn’t last another day without it adorned on our little blog. Sorry guys. I personally feel that 2008 has been blossoming exceptionally as of late with albums from Aufgehoben, The Fun Years, Navigator and now this (along with some reviews to come), it seems like every genre is getting rocked with some sort of awesomeness. Women actually fall into the somewhat trendy “poorly-recorded-hook-laden-art-rock-with-token-bits-of-textured-ambience” crowd. Catch that? I’m talking the about No Age, Times New Viking and the endless troupe of conspirators coming out of the Siltbreeze label (lets throw Deerhunter in there as well, just for fun!). Yeah, Women could rightly be compared to all of them, but that comparison is also somewhat lazy because Women are pretty much way freaking better in my personal opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Times New Viking and think Nouns is alright, but by golly, Women is just pristine. So what makes this brand of art rock so much better than the rest? Well, for starters, while Women may have found similar joy in the beauties of low fidelity recording (thanks, in part, to the awesomeness of Chad VanGaalen who produced it) they don’t over do it or rely on the recording aesthetic to save them from poor songwriting. By that I think I mean that Women (who, for the record, are actually men) seem authentic; there is no artsy pretensions here, just great songs executed with passion and enthusiasm. Oh, and there is the charm. I guess one of the major differences between Women and their previously cited contemporaries is their mining of left-field 60’s pop. Women straddle the line between the modern analog grit and The Velvet Underground, The Kinks and The Zombies - and they do it well. With their self titled debut Women have managed an Album with a capital A. Ten tracks of glorious tape hiss married to sunny pop and endangered rock. So, my apologies in being competitive, Women just have better hooks, better textures, better influences and better songs. If there is one thing that I know for sure it’s that you will not want to miss this album; sheer pop destru/perfe-ction!

-Mr. Thistle

Women - Black Rice

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jamie Lidell - Jim

Jamie Lidell
(04.2008, Warp)
Verdict: Full of summer jam anthems sure to get you moving.

Jamie Lidell's 2005 release, Multiply sparked my interest for sure. His scratchy but syrupy voice was contagious, but the album was slightly too hyper funk for me. In fact, I don't think I ever got through the album in one sitting. It was just too much to swallow. In contrast, I can't even count how many times I have listened the this years' release, Jim, from song one to ten, then one to ten, then one to ten again. It's infectious to say the least, and cheerful too. His voice somehow sounds even more like Stevie Wonder's this time around, and for me, that is a great thing. There are still a few tracks that border too closely on funk for me. I prefer the more soulful jams. Overall, Jim is a more matured and solid album, and I can't stop loving track nine, "Where D'You Go." That song is a jam and a half with very interesting and fun vocal melodies. The song's lyrics are very repetitive, but Lidell sings them with a slight twist each time so that no line is sung the same. Grab whoever is next to you, kick off your shoes, snap your fingers, crank that jam and go dance outside in the grass.


Jamie Lidell "Another Day"

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Fun Years - Baby, It's Cold Inside

The Fun Years
Baby, It’s Cold Inside
(07.2008, Barge)
Verdict = You may need to skip the first 200 words or so before you actually start reading anything resembling a review…

For the record, this is the third time that I have re-written this review. And I’m not talking about my average under-300-words reviews either. I’ve scrapped some pretty lengthy pieces on this thing. “Why all the effort?” you ask? That’s a good question. By now, if you’ve become familiar with us Forest Gosplitarians, you’ll have noticed that we have absolutely no problem publishing a hasty first draft full of descriptive vagaries and scattered with grammatical and spelling errors. To be honest, I can’t promise much more in reference to this review, but the conscious effort with which I attempt to overcome my intrinsic incapacities this time is not a random turn of heart in favor of the dignity of the English language, it’s an impassioned effort to do justice to what may very well be one of the most important records I have heard in years. I apologize for the dramatics. I actually have a well worn list of these important records (I think the last time I mentioned this list was in the review of this band’s previous album; coincidence?). I like to reference them and check on them and relive them over and over in the most respectable fashion possible. It is something of a distressing obsession for those who are most familiar with me, but alas, personal honesty is policy here. OK, I’ll stop trying to delay this: recently I stumbled across an album called Life-Sized Psychoses by The Fun Years, an experimental guitar/ turntable duo. The album was a late, inspired discovery of what is now one of my favourite albums to have been released in 2007 (well documented in both its review and the recent recap of my favourite albums that I missed from last year). So, I was certainly surprised when, after having only had few short months with their Barge debut, I received news from that wonderful label that The Fun Years were already finishing up their follow up titled, Baby, It’s Cold Inside. It snuck up so quick I barely had time to even think, let alone get excited. Well, regardless of the timing of its arrival, consider me completely floored. As hypnotic and pristine as I thought their debut was I would have never imagined that I would be able to, with complete honesty, crown Baby, It’s Cold Inside as such a massive improvement. The reason being, to me, Life-Sized Psychoses stood shoulder to shoulder with peak releases of everyone in the genre from William Basinski to Jan Jelinek to Tim Hecker to, well, everyone (we’re talking experimental ambient here); it’s that good. The difficulty I’m having is explaining why. The inherent vagaries built into minimalistic, drone based music make it hard enough to just describe what it is, let alone to make comparisons and even more, to explain why it is good. Heaven knows there is an immutable sea of ambient drone records out there that are, to put it simply, a waste of time. However, if you compared the description of an album from that middling sea and one from the afore to mentioned masters of the form the report would probably look close to identical and in some cases would only separated by the verdict of whether it was incredible or simply just there. Well, whatever that special ingredient is, The Fun Years have it and they must have used every last drop on Baby, It’s Cold Inside. The building blocks this time around are the same with Ben Recht on guitar and Isaac Sparks on turntables. Together they’ve produced another radiant, waterlogged mirage of warped vinyl and gentle guitars. Perhaps, one subtle difference between Baby, It’s Cold Inside and its predecessor is an injection of more recognizable composition. Undoubtedly, both albums have been meticulously composed, but something about the undercurrent pushing The Fun Years’ new record feels more controlled or mastered and elicits a greater sense of euphoria in its slow variations. And for those foreign to drone music, it’s accessible! This is pop ambience if I’ve ever heard it. There is no greater entry way into the genre if you have been wary of its investments in the past; just beware, you may never find anything this good again once you’ve been initiated. It simply must be heard to be believed; absolutely magical, just listen to the track below...

-Mr. Thistle

The Fun Years - "Auto Show Day of the Dead"

Friday, July 18, 2008

Navigator - Songs for Mei and Satsuki

Songs for Mei and Satsuki
(07.2008, Magic Goat)
Verdict = gritty, wide-eyed pop nuggets pushing into the red

I think as a reader you deserve an admission from me on this one. I love Hayao Miyazaki films. Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro (with the original dubbing or Japanese voice overs) are among my favourite films of all time. That may seem like an odd admission in preface to an album review, however, Navigator’s latest outing, Songs for Mei and Satsuki, compiles 10 tracks in ode to the legendary Anime director’s various films. The concept is an utterly geeky and obsessive one to be sure, but the result at the hand of Navigator mastermind, Braden J. McKenna, is nothing short of humble adoration turned into wide-eyed brilliance. I guess it might be good to assure people who haven’t seen a Miyazaki film that it isn’t necessary to enjoy this album (though recommended based solely on their merit as film). Even those who have no particular affinity for the films (I don’t think this is possible, but it just may be) will find that the there is no real necessity of caring any way whatsoever about the director's legacy to become enthralled with Songs for Mei and Satsuki. So, enough about the inspiration/gimmick, the music stands on its own creative legs very sturdily. You know what, lets just get all of the technical stuff out of the way up front, I think that McKenna is marketing this thing as a full length album, but the album is super brief at just under twenty minutes in length. And, again, for the record, this may seem like mark in the negative for Navigator, but it isn’t - the work actually holds up pretty nicely as a “full length” in the breadth of its ideas and movement of its sequenced tracks. Eventually, you’ll become so addicted that you’ll have to burn the album three times over onto a separate CDr in order to take as little time possible skipping back to the beginning. So what is this incredible music I speak of that seems completely unhindered by general standards of length and concept? Being that Navigator is pretty much still a virtual unknown some cheap comparisons might be good. The album is kind of like Microphones/Mt. Eerie filtered through Times New Viking’s pedals and recording equipment or perhaps a poppier, major chord version of the Meneguar side-project Woods. I make those comparisons specifically to the album because Navigator has proved himself as something of a shape shifter between this release, his freely downloadable loop based Ep and his much loved debut album from last year, the lo-fi folk spiritual, Throwing Tongues. The progression has been in long strides and the results have been nothing short of exhilarating. With Songs for Mei and Satsuki, Navigator has pretty much secured our permanent attention to anything with the Navigator tag. You simply can’t burn this one out no matter how many times in a row you play it. The hooks and melodies are platinum strength with the ability to withstand any amount of hypothetical radio play or popular acceptance (regardless of how far fetched). Seriously, if I over heard my mainstream hip hop obsessed sister listening to this I would still have no grounds for denying its genius. My final gasp of utter adoration and praise is this, and it is directed to you Mr. McKenna: how do you create a modern pop opus - about cartoons - in just under twenty minutes?

-Mr. Thistle

Navigator on Virb

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Erykah Badu - New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War

Erykah Badu
New Amerykah, Pt. 1: 4th World War
(02.2008, Motown)
Verdict = Well, if CMG likes it…

Yeah, that verdict is pretty cheap. I mean how many people actually know that acronym anyway (CokeMachineGlow)? Well, briefly, the online music “magazine” is an uber literary, slowly updated site that seems, despite the great lengths to which their reviews extend and the great lengths at which they seem to apply heavy handed literary devices and philosophies, to be quite focused and stringent in its search and appraisal of worthwhile music; popular, indie or otherwise. So when the CMG crew cumulatively gushed (it’s a CMG rarity, but when the gush, they gush!) about the new Erykah Badu, I pretty much forced myself to listen. So, I am approaching Erykah Badu as rhythm & blues virgin and a pick-and-choose hip hop lover…and this is my first Badu record. Lets see what happens, right? Well, the first track wasn’t super impressionable. I am pretty much predisposed to hate “skits” and other generally ridiculous hip hop interludes and Badu’s first track was pretty much four minutes of that. To be honest, with the funk backing and some of the vocals, it wasn’t as big a knee jerk reaction as I would’ve expected, but it definitely wasn’t impressive. However, the following track (the first actual song), “The Healer/Hip Hop,” was utterly arresting. Now I am not going to go into the same 1700+ word evaluation that The Glow did, but as a piece of minimalistic hip hop awesomeness, “The Healer/Hip Hop” is amazing. The following eight songs (and the “bonus”/outro track tagged onto the end – I got to get this off my chest, how can it be a bonus track if it is on every copy of the album? Are we just supposed to disregard it if we don’t like it?) are fair; even above average. However, the album never quite hits the highs of track two again (“Soldier” gets closest). Fortunately, Badu is enough of a chameleon throughout the remaining songs to keep things interesting all the way through regardless of whether you are a fan of the R&B that much of Badu’s vocals are derived from. It is definitely a crossover type album for the genre, but not necessarily the messiah of 2008 musical output. Part 2 should be out pretty soon, though. Maybe the second time around Badu will hit it out of the park rather than the satisfactory double. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed = CMG has pretty good taste.

-Mr. Thistle

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sparks & Spools - Three Cups of Sea Water

Sparks & Spools
Three Cups of Sea Water
(07.2008, Cavern Sounds)
Verdict = Clatter organized into folk

It is always nice to go into a listening experience with virtually no information or expectations and come out the other side with an absolute gem. Sparks & Spools’ Three Cups of Sea Water provides just such an experience. We received an email about the humble little release not too long ago and have been smitten ever since. Sparks & Spools is the musical alter ego of Salt Lake City resident Taylor Christensen. Christensen’s project emanates the quaint beauty of music created at home, employing everything within arms reach. Alternating between purely instrumental tracks and shy balladry, Sparks & Spools might be most easily categorized as folk, but to leave it at that would be something of an unfortunate over-generalization because Christensen does just about everything but follow conventions. Each song on Three Cups of Sea Water beams with childlike wonder and instrumentation ranging from a standard acoustic guitar to recordings of doors shutting and coins clattering (notable on the aptly titled track “coin”). In fact, Christensen seems to use just about everything he could within the confines of his recording space in order to evoke the melodic or percussive tendencies of every dust mite dwelling within the cobwebs of his songs. It is a bustling clatter to be sure, but at the hands of Christensen it is something of a home brewed orchestra that is an absolute wonder to hear. Trust me, after listening to this thing a dozen times over you will still be searching through these songs curiously identifying the individual instrumental cogs that make the songs work. That’s something that is important as well – these songs work; there is never a feeling of experimentation for experimentation’s sake. Every component feels absolutely necessary as if without it the whole album would collapse into a dusty rubble. There is also a playfulness here that bring to mind like minded instrumental rubble from FG favourites like Miki Odagiri, Shugo Tokumaru or The Books. If you’re a fan of any of the afore mentioned artists, Sparks & Spools’ latest will enter your record collection comfortably and notably. Three Cups of Sea Water is simply a timeless document of why music is so charming in the first place. Oh, and I almost forgot the best part, Christensen is giving this thing away for free online (check the link below) so you don’t even have to move from where your sitting in order to experience what is surely one of the best releases of the year.

-Mr. Thistle

Sparks & Spools - Three Cups of Sea Water

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Beck - Modern Guilt

Modern Guilt
(07.2008, Interscope)
Verdict - Wear your old Beck shirt with pride

If you have decided not to download the latest from Beck for fear of disappointment, it is time to reconsider. Since the release of Attack & Release I felt like I caught the vision of having Danger Mouse cast his spells on an experienced artist. The production and direction Danger Mouse gave both of these 2008 releases has vigor and soul. The jump, however, from a gritty Black Keys blues/rock album to a polished LP is less of a stretch than Beck fans will endure. I would like to be clear; this is not a new Beck. This is like having your favorite pillow cleaned and fluffed. This is the same fun loving Beck from Midnight Vultures. The “Soul Suckin’ Jerk” has been washed, but not hung out to dry. Modern Guilt is ten tracks that add up to a thick and punchy thirty minutes (half the length of The Information). What it may lack in length it pays back in a no filler, no frills fashion. So give it a spin and join me in being proud to say, “Yeah, but I also like his new stuff.”

-King Cotton

Beck on Myspace

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shows This Week

After a bit of laziness and a bit of a shows slump we are back to highlighting upcoming shows for the week in Salt Lake City.

Tuesday (7.15), the one and only Low will be performing their murderous, slow rock with TaughtMe at Kilby Court. An absolutely awesome venue to see these indie legends. You won’t want to miss this.

Wednesday (7.16), King Khan & The Shrines should fit right in at The Urban Lounge where they will be rocking out with their own version of bluesy, retro rock.

Thursday (7.17), the Salt Lake Arts Council hits another home run (after last week’s show with The Roots) on their summer music series with live, free music from the immaculate Andrew Bird at the Gallivan Center. Forest Gospel Pick for the week.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Notwist - The Devil, You + Me

The Notwist
The Devil, You + Me
(06.08, Domino)
Verdict: Welcome back

Remember that great German indie rock meets gorgeous electronica album; Neon Golden? Yes, we all liked it. Well, now you can blow the electronic dust off your iTunes catalogue to prep yourself for a great follow up. The Notwist’s long awaited release entitled The Devil, You + Me picks up where Neon Golden stopped six years ago and begs the listener’s ear to pay more attention to the subtle genius that made us fall in love with Neon Golden. It is catchy and rhythmic and pretty as ever. The tasteful mixture of electronic and orchestral paints a canvas of dark foreboding colors like a good William Turner. The songs (there are eleven) aren’t based on many peaks and valleys. Singer Markus Acher keeps a poker face throughout that feels like a good friend talking softly through the telephone. He doesn’t call a lot of attention to himself rather he compliments his surroundings and lets the chips fall where they may. I suppose what I mean to say is that they are catchy not because of his vocals. The songs bounce around in your head because of the instrumentation. The title track may be my personal favorite, but that is a quick judgment and could easily change over time. It sounds like a song that Wilco should have made. I also found the track “Alphabet” really interesting. Markus sings “I won’t sing you algebra, I won’t sing anything” over some really awesome drum samples and sleigh bells. And the main groove on “On Planet Off” reminds me of a Dust Brothers background. Every track has something special to offer and forms a very polished and complete whole. The Notwist is has given us all another invitation to fall back in love with them.

-King Cotton

The Notwist - "Good Lies"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Meho Plaza - Self Titled

Meho Plaza
Meho Plaza
(05.08, Better Looking)
Verdict: Listen to this one!

L.A.'s Meho Plaza is labeled as electro punk, but their sound experiments much deeper than that limiting genre with pop melodies and explosions of lo-fi noise riots bursting violently from pedal laden guitars and a steady up beat rhythm being layed out precisely underneath a full albums' excursion into the world of loud and commanding jams. It's dreamy intense sound has gotten them compared to HEALTH, and NoAge, but I feel a parallel in this album with slightly older, less hot off the press albums that rocked the house, like Autolux's Future Perfect, and a little bit of Sonic Youth. Meho Plaza has perfectly executed the lo-fi, but polished playing sound that will rock your earphones this summer. This is most definitely year end material and comes at my highest recommendation. I have nothing else to write about it, just listen to it!


Meho Plaza on Myspace

Aufgehoben - Khora

(06.2008, Holy Mountain)
Verdict = Pure sonic violence

There is pretty much no end to the wildly invented expletives that played through my head as astounded exclamations while listening to Aufgehoben’s latest piece of complete aural destruction, Khora. I mean, there are some pretty messed up, ridiculously extreme noise records being churned out nowadays, but let me assure you that no one holds a candle to the calculated, grizzled, muscular audio behemoth that lies in the wake of the UK’s Aufgehoben. I am not a regular listener to recordings with the potential of permanent physical damage, both hearing and otherwise, but I have definitely tested the waters with more than a few in the realms of doom, blackness, hardcore, and analog feedback alike and despite the cacophonous depths to which many have mined, Aufgehoben are most certainly the undisputed champions of brutality in sound. 2006’s Messidor was proof enough of that. Khora, Messidor’s “sister” album, is something of a an uncompromised completion of the perfections rendered by its predecessor. Where Messidor spent contained its beats within caged time frames for concentrated carnage, Khora proceeds to let its beast loose, but a little bit more on that in a moment. Khora is separated into four tracks. The opener, “Innocence Oblivion Contempt,” is probably the most concise piece of ferociousness that most people will likely hear in their whole lives. Just over four minutes in length, the track hurdles forth with hellacious guitar squalor and electronic deconstruction pampered with deafening dual drumming. It is a masterpiece in noise and an uncertain mission statement in its potentials. The track flows into “Annex Organon” and “A Bastard Reasoning,” three and ten minutes in length respectively. The first delineates into a swirl of mic’d oddities (shopping cart, bricks) while the second, though still as gruesome as you might expect, shows the largest amount of restraint and minimalism amongst they tracks. The final track, “Jederfursich,” is when the beasts are let loose. Nearing 27 minutes, the track is a single, unedited take of pure, destruction and utter chaos. It is a fairly jaw dropping experience. Taking every ounce of energy imaginable, the band members dive into the piece with unrelenting energy. To try and dissect it would be like attempting to disassemble the metal and limbs tangled together in a 1,000 car pileup. I won’t attempt it here; just recognize that it needs to be heard to be believed. The reason that I find Aufgehoben so attractive, despite its obvious alienating, repellent qualities, has something to do with their method and the heightened air of their recordings. On Khora, you won’t find the more common, uninspiring touchstones of unrelenting, pedal bent feedback or caustic, wretched screaming (no vocals here whatsoever). Aufgehoben are able to create an apocalypse without cheap tricks. Khora presents dignified noise splattered with the purity of jazz and punk and rock. No one ever asked for such a thing, but thank goodness to Aufgehoben for providing – the gold standard of anything that can be considered loud.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Stag Hare - Black Medicine Music

Stag Hare
Black Medicine Music
(06.2008, A. Star)
Verdict = Hotly cooked, droning ragas

It is always nice to see an artist on the attack with a creative, poised follow up. Stag Hare came onto the scene last year with his debut CDr, Ahspen, a single track built on tribal drums and hippy drones that wandered pleasantly and rewarded bountifully. It was a strong release with loads of potential, but sometimes unexpected initial successes can breed the all too common “sophomore slump.” Stag Hare has destroyed all notions of such a slump with his follow up, Black Medicine Music, a more focused, dynamic and varied realization of his debut’s strengths. For the few who were able to snag a copy of Ahspen and dug it, there is nothing to fear here. Stag Hare is still the crystal worshipping, percussion rattling free spirit that we first met when his debut came out in a manila envelope with a hand painted feather, even if his latest comes shrink wrapped with an actual CD. The melodic, humming drones are still intact, the primal drums still puttering along throughout like tracks under a train and the slow building euphoria of each song is still spot on. What’s new is the shorter (though, with only five tracks, they’re all still a fair length) songs that find more transcendent peaks among a multitude of additional ideas and movements within the songs themselves. The vocals are also a more predominant feature this time around with some of the lyrics almost surfacing to a decipherable level. As far as comparisons go here, Stag Hare stands strong along side Kranky artists Bird Show or White Rainbow (Adam Forkner actually mastered the album), though he is definitely working at carving out his own nitch. Black Medicine Music is a beautiful, glowing mark on map of Salt Lake City experimental music, even without the incense.

-Mr. Thistle

Stag Hare on Virb

Vetiver - Thing of the Past

Thing of the Past
(05.2008, GNOMONSONG)
Verdict = Cozy folk oldies resurrected

When I heard the news of a new Vetiver album on the horizon earlier this year I was absolutely elated. When I heard the subsequent news that this album would be filled with covers I was admittedly disappointed. Of course the news was followed with the promise of a full length of new material next year, but still, my excitement was a bit deflated. I suppose this is the reason it has taken a couple of months to warm up to an album that has been pretty much catching dust particles since I got it ( I guess it has only been a month or two, right?). Anywho, my trepidation was totally unwarranted. I should have assumed/guessed/known that Andy Cabic’s serene vocals and the band’s lush folk rock instrumentation could bowl me over regardless of the songs to which their talents were applied. In fact, for the most part I am probably unfamiliar with the source material here so I decided not to even try looking it up or referencing it. The result was that same soothing, satisfying feeling that I have come to expect from Cabic and company. Under the command of the Vetiver moniker, each track is a beautifully wistful and graciously satisfying in a way that is uniquely Vetiver’s. It is honestly a strong release, though I must admit to not being as fully enthralled as I was with To Find Me Gone or hope to be with their upcoming full length in 2009. Even so, that is just a small complaint. Overall, Thing of the Past is as pleasant a traditional folk rumination as your likely hear anywhere and a perfect soundtrack to lemonade and a porch swing.

-Mr. Thistle

Vetiver on Myspace

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

Sigur Ros
Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
(06.08, Beggars Xl Recordings)
Verdict: Deserving of the praise

I thought it would be funny to use my censoring skills again on the cover art of the new Sigur Ros, but then, on second thought, I am pretty sick of all the mean comments people leave us, and it would make me late for work, so all you can just stare at these four butts all day for all I care. I recently read a review that said the album cover fit the music perfectly, but I don't necessarily agree that naked dudes in a field is really what comes to mind when listen to its' majesty, and let me assure you, this is not a stinky album. In fact, it opposite of stinks. It's like bathing in a million colorful, silky flower petals. There is something more raw and inviting on the new Sigur Ros that is unlike their past albums. Don't expect anything incredibly different, it's still the lush dramaticism we have all come to know and love. The only song where the band's sound changes drastically is opener "Gobbledigook" which sounds like a Sigur Ros, Animal Collective love child. The other tracks set themselves apart by being looser and less pristinely untouchable than older work. The tracks are still extraordinarily triumphant, like "Ara Batur" which had 90 people playing at the same time during recording, those people including a full orchestra and the London Oratory Boys Choir. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust translates to "With a buzz in our ears we play endlessly," but may as well translate into "With a buzz in our ears we listen endlessly" because this album is just another absolutely solid and crowning achievement to add to their pile of other incredible solid achievements rendering the band once again a tour de force in the world of music.


I don't have a YouTube account and users have flagged the new video as "inappropriate" so I am unable to post the real video. See, not everyone likes butts. Here are some stills from the video, but you can watch the full thing at

Monday, July 7, 2008

Flying Lotus - Los Angeles

Flying Lotus
Los Angeles
(06.2008, Warp)
Verdict = electronic hip hop instrumentals that aren’t boring

Last year I got super excited for the new Prefuse 73 album that came out later in 2007. Already a big fan, I grabbed some of Prefuse’s less lauded releases that I had slept on and found them much more enjoyable than other critics had led me to believe. However, once Preparations came out I just couldn’t lock in and listen. Maybe I had Prefuse 73-ed myself out for the year by listening to everything I picked up in advance to the release, maybe the record was really as blah as some said, I’m not ready to say just yet. Alls I know is that the inner part of me that can only be satisfied by left field sampling and heavy hitting, jazz intoned hip hop beats was left wanting. Enter Flying Lotus: following up his debut, 1983, Alice Coltrane descendant Steven Ellison (AKA Flying Lotus, AKA FlyLo) scores again (from what I understand, this is my first FL album) with a flurry of textures and samples surrounding one of the best instrumental hip hop/electronica albums I have heard in a long time. Instrumental hip hop is a tricky genre to be successful in. It takes a meticulous ear to sort through the beats and samples in order to create something that’s more than just a backdrop for an emcee; something that demands the whole of your attention. Fortunately Flying Lotus is well adept at creating engaging beats with the perfect amount of headphone candy to keep your intellect’s attention while your head absent-mindedly nods to the beat. Bustling with cracked beats and bustling analog destruction, FlyLo hits all the right pleasure points and, as with any hip hop producer worth his salt, never stagnates too long on a beat before moving on to the next. Los Angeles is an essential listen for the backpacker crowd. I beginning to wonder why I even mentioned Prefuse - long love FlyLo!

-Mr. Thistle

Flying Lotus on Myspace

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Half of 2008

Always being ready to prematurely anoint the next "It" album and be as trendy in the blogosphere as possible, or whatever, we here at FG head quarters never pass up a legitimate opportunity to list some of our current faves, no shame attached. Working together, Sassigrass and Mr. Thistle have come up with 20 albums that have rocked them in 2008 in every way possible. So here in no particular order are...

Wolf ParadeAt Mount Zoomer

We pulled the trigger on this review a bit early on this album and it looks like our gushing had some sort of universally luke warm backlash. It’s no matter though. We (I at least) still am absolutely in love with this record more than any other. So good. Stop semi-hating fence sitting haters!


Handicap bedroom pop doesn’t get any grittier or more enjoyable than this. Not that Pumice main man Stephan Neville is handicap, just his songs. For some reason throwing a wrench in the spokes just sounds better sometimes. Quo is perfect evidence of that.

Kurt Weisman
Spiritual Sci-fi

Pure ear candy on every level, Weisman’s beautifully strange debut solo outing is both spiritual and scientific making it the owner of the most applicable album title on the list. Let Spiritual-Sci fi transport you to an alternate universe’s heaven. Also, Sassigrass nominates it for worst album art OF ALL TIME!


Avant pop hip hoppers, Subtle managed their most complex and commercial album at the same time with ExitingARM. There are not very many musical acts today that could pull off something so amazing on so many levels.

A Faulty Chromosome
- As An Ex-Anorexic’s Six Sicks Exit, …

The sleeper hit of sleeper hits. For the ease with which A Faulty Chromosome goes down it is crazy that this band’s debut hasn’t raked in more mainstream indie credibility. The most sugary sweet geeked out shoegazing indie rock this side of the universe.

No Kids
Come Into My House

Formed out of the ashes of inspired but spotty P:ano, No Kids’ Come Into My House is the fully formed album that P:ano was always trying for. Absolutely blissful, booty shaking sun shine packaged with indie pop genius. Sassigrass can't stop rocking this one.

Nat Baldwin
Most Valuable Player

Nat Baldwin has always had the ability of making “pop songs” feel more like precious diamonds than quickly consumed bite-sized candy bars. On Most Valuable Player Baldwin one-ups himself by coating his diamonds with gourmet chocolate. Mmm, delicious!

The Evening Descends

A theatrical, psychedelic, psychotic plunge into glammy indie rock, The Evening Descends was the musical fix that was first to insured that 2008 wouldn’t disappoint and The Evangelicals sophomore album has shown no signs of letting up on that promise. Classic.

Peter Broderick

Perhaps the most beautiful set of recordings to be released so far this year and definitely the most delicate, Peter Broderick has created a modern classical masterpiece in Float.

The Raveonettes
Lust, Lust, Lust

A ragged buzzing mess of gorgeous pop, Lust, Lust, Lust is The Raveonettes’ unexpected return to form, both in grittiness and consistency. A perfect entry point, Lust, Lust, Lust is the bands best album to date (or the only one that Mr. Thistle is familiar with.)

Scott Tuma
Not For Nobody

Scott Tuma’s mangled take on instrumental Americana is probably the most viable contender Broderick’s Float for most beautiful album so far this year. Somehow Tuma’s hazy, disjointed compositions fumble lazily into the most satisfyingly resolute pieces of music you can remember. Not For Nobody sees Tuma pushing his aesthetic farther than ever before with awe-inspiring results

Beach House

The most fitting descriptor I can think of for Beach House’s sophomore release, Devotion, is grandeur. Something about the thick syrupy female vocals and muddled guitar and organ lines soothes as if the band was sucking inspiration through a straw dangling from heaven.

The Goslings

As haunting as it is deafening, on Occasion The Goslings have secured their rightful place as the royal heirs to the apocalypse. I don’t know if anything else so austere that has managed to sound so enticing.

- Laulu Laakson Kukista

An ethereal mad house of lilting, ghostly beauty, fractured field recordings and pummeling electronics among other things, Paavoharju’s follow up to the astounding Yha Hamaraa is nothing less than pure magic.

Jim Noir
Jim Noir

Bringing back the 60’s in the best possible way, Jim Noir’s self titled sophomore outing perfects and expands everything that made those blissful psychedelics of yesteryear so great. A colorful album packed with sunny adventure and beachside satisfaction.

Vampire Weekend
Vampire Weekend

The hype typhoon for Vampire Weekend has been pretty much unavoidable. First a tidal wave of adulation, then an expected backlash tidal wave, it seems we are just barely getting to the point where we can listen to this album without some else’s opinion butting into our heads. Well, preppy pricks or not, Vampire Weekend’s self titled debut is still absolutely delicious.

El Guincho

Released last year, but hitting US shores in March of this year, El Guincho’s Alegranza is a multi-colored loop dream filled to the brim with samples stretching all around the world. We have attempted to put our words into pictures here at FG, but the album cover pretty much speaks for itself.


Head nodding doesn’t get any more enthusiastic or dramatic than when the FG staff are blasting Alopecia out the windows. It is pretty much impossible to hear Why? latest avant-indie-hip hop conglomeration and not feel like some quasi thug/hipster while cruisin’ the boulevard. As infectious as it is lyrically uncomfortable, Alopecia is the most enjoyable slice of ridiculousness we’ve listened to so far this year.

Times New Viking
Rip It Off

For those who love sloppy, loud pop with more grit than a Middle Eastern sand storm, Times New Viking pretty much require that your stereo be turned to 11. It is going to sound like it is regardless of what volume level you set your speakers to anyway. Audio destruction has never sounded more glorious or fun.

Some Beasts
Some Beasts

From out nowhere, Some Beasts slowly made its case as an album that required repeat listens – many many repeat listens. Subsequently, the breezy mix of instrumental styles harkening folk, jazz, rock and a healthy dash of the avant-garde has turned Some Beasts into one of the most durable and always satisfying albums we heard so far in 2008; local or otherwise.