Friday, January 30, 2009

Bon Iver - Blood Bank

Bon Iver
Blood Bank EP
(01.2009, Jagjaguwar)
Verdict: An extension of For Emma

I can't think of many more beloved of 2008 than Justin Vernon, aka Bon Iver. For Emma Forever Ago left half of indiedom smitten and swooning, myself and Thistle included. It has been a while since his intial self-release-turned-label-released victory, and Thistle has since declared himself "over" Bon Iver, bored of his voice and drawling melodies. I, however have not turned my back, but I have lost a lot of the initial warm fuzzies. I still think For Emma is an incredible album, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I want to listen to it forever. I personally think artists should morph and grow from release to release, cause no one wants to listen to the same album over and over again. Blood Bank feels like sad extension to the heartbreak that was For Emma. Justin, you can't still be that heartbroken can you? I am being a little harsh considering it is only a four track EP, and I will admit it gave me quite a few enjoyable listens, but I am already ready to move on. That really isn't surprising considering Blood Bank's length, I'm just saying, don't get too excited all you Vernon worshippers. You will enjoy it, but it isn't as promising a release as you would hope it to be, and definitely just an EP.

Chihei Hatakeyama - Dedication

Chihei Hatakeyama
(09.2008, Magic Book Records)
Verdict = Marvelous

Dedication is the second solo outing of Japanese soundsmith Chihei Hatakeyama and possibly one of the most beautifully magical releases I’ve heard…ever? It certainly makes a case for that type of a statement. Anyone who heard his debut album, Minima Moralia on Kranky, must have surely noticed the already incredible talent of Mr’ Hatakeyama. On that release Hatakeyama seemed to be subtly carving himself out a unique place in the widening spectrum of ambient sound. Utilizing spare acoustic guitar lines above lush, tonal drones, Hatakeyama’s sound might aptly be described as folk-ambient; sharing ground with equally wonderful artists like Sawako and Scott Tuma. While Minima Moralia set Hatakeyama apart, Dedication cements his status as an indispensible talent. This time around Hatakeyama ups the delicacy, smoothing out the bumps and polishing them. The warmth and fragility of Hatakeyama’s tones are pretty much happiness incarnate. That is actually a little too vague. “Happiness” means a lot of different things in a lot of different contexts. The gorgeousness of Hatakeyama’s work on Dedication is absolutely euphoric. There is a purity, unhindered by sadness or uncertainty, a guiltless contentedness that is interwoven in every nook and cranny of Dedication that sparkles with soft spoken wonderment. Hatakeyama’s guitar seems to flow organically with soothing wispy tones surrounding it. It plays out like a golden field lightly brushed by a breeze. Hatakeyama also reaches a career highpoint with the accompanying violin work by Masahiro Konayashi on “Illusion of Memory I.” The cloud like suspension of Dedication is punctuated by a granular shift on the final (and title) track, “Dedication.” Gathering grey clouds, the layered Fenneszian tones of the last track signal rain, but in no less beautiful a manner than in Dedication's consistently elated beginnings.

-Mr. Thistle

Chihei Hatakeyama on Myspace

2008 Round Up Pt. 3

Three more releases that require a closer look.

Thee Oh Sees
The Master’s Bedroom Is Worth Spending a Night In
(04.2008, Tomlab)

I blame this 2008 omission on Wooly Mammal. After listening to the record, his basic sentiment was ‘meh’ and you know what? I listen to way too much music to be bogged down by some meh-worthy album. However, I kept seeing the record lauded all over the place and finally decided that I needed to find out for myself and thank goodness I did. The Master’s Bedroom is a garage psych bliss fest! Awesome hooks underscored by a generally bombastic guitars the twist and warp like vibrant specter. Thee Oh Sees got weighed down a little too much by lo-fi tag; no, this is pure, adulterated rock music at its grimy best.

Love Is All
A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night
(11.2008, What’s Your Rupture?)

A perfect return to form after a three year hiatus, Love Is All delivers their second album filled with the same sugary Swedish charm that we fell for with their debut. It only took a couple plays before the anthemic, hook-heavy nature of A Hundred Things Keep Me Up At Night was vying for my soul (just like any good pop album). So, yeah, beware because there is a good chance that you won’t be able shake this album once you’ve heard it, AKA, the album provokes binge listening and will most likely end with a call to a local addiction hotline. Pure audio candy.

Sic Alps
U.S. Ez
(07.2008, Siltbreeze)

Sharing members with my adorably effed up lo-fi troupe of 2008, The Hospitals, Sic Alps produced an album that inhabited the lighter end of the Siltbreeze’s feedback-conscious community and turned out stronger for it. On U.S. Ez, Sic Alps must’ve busted out large portions the ceiling they were recording in because there’s plenty of sunshine shining through these tracks. Sure, there are some squealing amps and light fuzz that crops up here and there, but U.S. Ez is more interested in untainted song craft. That is the heart of the album – a collection of beautifully left-of-center pop songs to relax and sip lemonade to. It would be interesting to see if a more celebrated lo-fi band like Times New Viking would sound even close to this good if they stripped back their songs like this. Whether successful or not, there isn’t a chance it could be as good as U.S. Ez.

-Mr. Thistle

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Angil + Hiddntracks - Oulipo Saliva

Angil + Hiddntracks
Oulipo Saliva
(11.2008, Chemikal Underground)
Verdict = A rare concept album that is as enjoyable as it is intelligent

You simply can’t talk about Oulipo Saliva without talking about the concept behind the album, so let me get that out of the way up front. ‘Oulipo’ is a French term that, according to Wikipedia, roughly translates to “workshop of potential literature.” The word was used by a group of writers and mathematicians who conducted constrained writing experiments in an effort to expand their understanding of and create new literary forms. In adopting this general aesthetic, Angil and instrumental group Hiddentracks have created an album entirely devoid of the letter E (rendering Hiddentracks, ‘Hiddntracks’). That means in addition to losing all lyrics containing the letter E there are no E chords. The weight of choosing the letter E is pretty hefty in and of itself since E turns out to be the most used letter in the English language, finding itself in over 12% of all English words. I was actually planning on writing this entire review E-less, but quickly abandoned the prospect after I could only get as far as a couple of sentences (note: I’ve already used 86 E’s in this review thus far). The wonderful part about Oulipo Saliva is that it isn’t just a great concept, it is a genuinely awesome album. I’ve seen quite a few reviews that have variously compared Angil’s vocals to Robert Wyatt and Why? leader Yoni Wolf. I think there is a bit of merit to either comparison, but I’m sure you can assume by the relative disparity between the two options that Angil voice inhabits its own unique poetic ground. Hiddntracks probably doesn’t assist in dispelling the previous comparisons either by providing a sort of avant-jazz/hip hop back drop that accentuates Angil’s delivery perfectly. If there is anything that I would stress with Oulipo Saliva it is repeat listens. My first impressions of the album were felt somewhat awkward - mostly because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into - but each repeat listen has brought a greater appreciation and greater satisfaction to the point that I have become certifiably obsessive. Oulipo Saliva has definitely emerged as one the most creatively satisfying albums I have heard in a long time.

-Mr. Thistle

Possessed by Paul James - Cold and Blind

Possessed by Paul James
Cold & Blind
(2008, Voodoo Rhythm)
File Under = Intensely soulful blues/folk

While the rest of us content ourselves on oxygen, Konrad Wert seems to be sustained by coals and lighter fluid because as Possessed by Paul James, Wert breathes flames. I don’t mean that as any kind of exaggeration either, it only takes a single spin of Cold and Blind to feel the heat bleeding through the speakers. Wert’s pseudonym suits him well. ‘Possessed’ is definitely adjective I’d use to describe Wert’s maniacal delivery, though who Paul James is, I’m not sure. According to Wikipedia Paul James could be anything from gardner to a sportscaster to (most likely) a Canadian blues guitarist. Cold and Blind is a deeply rooted blues album soaked in a heavy batch of nostalgia. Wert takes on guitar, banjo and violin all with the percussion at his feet and also all by his lonesome. However, where similarly multitasking musicians tend to slow up to juggle their instruments, Wert blazes forward like an obsessed demon, spitting and hollering all along the way. Often coming off as Tourettes patient, Wert’s spontaneous outbursts only serve to underscore the immediacy of Cold and Blue's songs which are often punctuated by the applause of a live audience. The record sounds like it was recorded on Skip James’ back porch, filled to the brim with the ghosts of past blues luminaries. Wert’s voice and guitar never fails to stretch the recordings to their limits, pushing and pulling against the equipment as if the sound intended to break free of the speakers its played on. It is really quite an experience. Amongst the knee slappin’ there is heavy dose of folk balladry that cuts you straight to the core. Possessed by Paul James is nothing if not emotive. A magical, transportative record; Cold and Blind feels like some ancient unearthed genius that’s aged in a way that makes it all the more vibrant and contemporary. I feel like I'm all over the place here but that is the nature of the record I guess - definitely a keeper.

-Mr. Thistle

Possessed by Paul James - "Loves Disease"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tolchock Trio - Abalone Skeletone

Tolchock Trio
Abalone Skeletone
(2008, Exumbrella Records)
Verdict = In a perfect world, this record would have shown up on 2008 top ten lists across the country.

Lately I have had a major itch for guitars. Not just any guitars, mind you – electric guitars! My listening habits have been almost solely devote to some of my old indie rock favourites: Fugazi, Daydream Nation, Jawbox, Dismemberment Plan, Wowee Zowee, At the Drive-in: basically anything that would send me into spontaneous air-guitar riffage while perked in my swiveling office chair; anything “angular,” slightly atonal and undyingly catchy. During my little expedition I began to wonder if I had listened to anything lately that had that same type of deliciousness. Then on a whim I picked up Abalone Skeletone. For those who don’t live on the Wasatch Front this album holds no name recognition, but for anyone with even the slightest inclination towards homegrown Salt Lake City rock, Tolchock Trio is it. I didn’t used to believe that. In fact, I didn’t used to have any interest in this band whatsoever, but somehow, by some act of inspiration I decided to rethink my unfounded disinterest and offer Abalone Skeletone a fair chance. Tolchock Trio has been around for quite sometime. In fact, I think there was a time that they were an actual trio; however, the insert in Skeletone displays the picture of five apparent band members (so, it should be Tolchock “Quintet”?). Anywho, all trivialities aside, here is the verdict (er, second verdict): Abalone Skeletone is incredible. This is indie rock done right. This is that classic, timeless indie rock of old that I have been pining for weeks. I never imagined that it would pop up in my own sleepy backyard, but alas Tolchock Trio is the real deal. Tolchock Trio achieve more than the sum over their parts on this one, pushing guitars bass, drums and vocals from discordant beginnings addictively harmonious ends We don’t really do local favors around these parts and, to be honest, I don’t even have a clue who the members of Tolchock Trio are, but to call Abalone Skeletone anything less than one of the best albums from 2008 would be sinful.

-Mr. Thistle

Tolchock Trio on Myspace

Thursday, January 22, 2009

2008 Round Up Pt. 2

More shotgun blasts of worthy releases from last year that we never got around to when they were initially released, but are all most definitely worth your time.

Birchville Cat Motel
Four Freckled Constellation
(02.2008, Conspiracy Records)

Now that Birchville Cat Motel has moved beyond his beloved moniker to analog only recordings as Our Love Will Destroy The World, Four Freckled Constellation stands as one of the few releases by the New Zealander pressed on wax. Separated into six wonderfully varied slabs of textured, noisy drone that range from beautiful to monstrous to creepy, Four Freckled Constellation definitely honors its format and stands out as one of his best works as BCM. I liked this release quite a bit more than his other 2008 full length, Gunpowder Temple of Heaven. In fact, listening to it again I am wondering how I left it off my 2008 top 50…

(02.2008, Editions Mego)

The third full length from Angel, Kalmukia is filled with meandering, ethereal blues wrapped in splayed electrical chords that are set ablaze atop a writhing, low-end reverberating mass. It is that deep bellied, low-end mass permeating all corners of Kalmukia that provides the air of doom and apocalyptic (if not the antithesis) of an otherwise banal artistic pseudonym. However, the trio of Angel doesn’t stop at blues; laying a lonely cello atop barren stretches of static-pulsing desert, Kalmukia feels at periods like doom chamber ensemble. Just don’t forget the doom; there is a reason Angel gets compared with Earth and Sunn O))).

Dino Felipe
No Fun Demo
(06.2008, No Fun)

I haven’t listened to any of Dino Felipe’s previous work in the realms of electronic noise, but this supposed demo is pristine weirdo pop genius. Building on a lo-fi aesthetic that is removed from more of the faddish stuff that dominated most of 2008, Felipe fills like an odd mix of Kurt Weisman and Blank Dogs which equates to the use of drum machines, a little new/no wave action, generally bizarre vocals and killer pop instincts. Felipe is all over the map on the fourteen tracks collected here, but never far from a central core that makes this No Fun Demo both fun and, well, it still sounds like a demo, but in a good way. Makes you wonder what Felipe could do if he really set his mind to something that didn’t require the demo tag, because I would kill to make music this good. This is another curious omission from our lists in 2008.

-Mr. Thistle

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

Andrew Bird
Noble Beast
(01.2008, Fat Possum)
Verdict: You already know it's good

Who, in the world of music blog readers isn't already familiar with the beautifully voiced troubadour Andrew Bird? And who in the world of music appreciators doesn't enjoy giving any one of Mr Bird's wonderfully tracked albums a spin from time to time? With those questions in place, I ask a third and final question? Why am I even bothering to review this? I guess, it's because I want Noble Beast to have a sweet little spot on the Forest Gospel scrolling blog page. There is nothing new or enlightening that I can say about Noble Beast. For the most part it is what was expected and similar to all Bird's release. There are no new surprising twists or turns necessarily, just another super solid album to add to his already impeccable back catalog. Saying there is nothing new or surprising is not a bad thing. I still can't get enough of his gorgeous songwriting. The more songs the merrier. I am happy to say that Noble Beast has already burrowed itself into a fairly comfortable spot in my heart.

The Hunches - Exit Dreams

The Hunches
Exit Dreams
(01.2009, In the Red)
Verdict = First great surprise of 2009

I have a knack for catching great bands on their deathbed. Apparently, The Hunches have been around for awhile despite their sparse back catalog; however, Exit Dreams is indeed the bands final effort. I’d never heard of them so that didn’t mean anything to me until I gave Exit Dreams a good few spins. Sure every band must die, but it is pretty bittersweet when you’ve just been introduced; just getting those first giddy butterflies and then – boom – they’re supposedly gone. Well, in any case, they couldn’t have gone out on a better note because Exit Dreams is super dreamy. At first I just figured it was a continuation of the lo-fi mainstream kick started last year but that was a sore understatement for the dimension of this record. The Hunches are equal parts punk fervor and pop genius harkening back to the early nineties when lo-fi wasn’t necessarily intentional but still harnessed into a glorious musical weapon. The Hunches also have this little nineties alt-rock undercurrent that pits them shoulder to shoulder with Pavement, The Pixies and early Weezer as quickly as it does with like minded contemporaries like Women, Iran and The Hospitals. I don’t know why I always get stuck comparing bands (ok, I do, I’m just not very good at describing music), but The Hunches are strong enough to be their own reference. The bottom line is that Exit Dreams has no weak tracks, just robust punk informed indie rock jams with a little extra umph in the form of grainy riffs, lockjaw drums and tuneless vocals. It’s all pretty sweet and definitely a must listen, even this early in the year. It is too bad that it is their swan song, but by the sounds of it, Exit Dreams was destined to by listened to with an air of sentimental yearning for the golden years of indie rock.

-Mr. Thistle

The Hunches - "Your Sick Blooms"

2008 Round Up Pt. 1

There was a lot of good stuff that came out last year that I’ve listened to and loved but never got around to writing about. Sometimes it was writers block, other times the albums got trampled by other releases, but mostly I just had too much school and work. Either way, here is a late, brief shotgun style tribute to some pretty great albums that I know I would never get around to otherwise.

(09.2008, Kemado)

Swedish rock band Dungen seems to be frozen in an era of classic 70’s psych rock and lush folk. Even before bursting into the indie mainstream with the success of Ta Det Lugnt, the band had always had a retro fitted swagger. So, even though things haven’t changed drastically from the band’s beginnings and 4 is still satisfies with its muted drums, fuzzy guitars, smooth vocals.

James Blackshaw
Litany of Echoes
(06.2008, Tompkins Square)

Finally getting distance from some of those Fahey comparisons, on Litany of Echoes, Blackshaw sounds more like a disciple of Steve Reich. Though not quite as good as 2007’s The Cloud of Unknowing, Blackshaw’s latest builds and invents upon his previous works and promises only good things to come.

(10.2008, Agriculture)

Seems like dub has become a pretty fashionable genre in the last year or two, marked by plenty of reissues of dub classics, dub compilations and the introduction of dub aesthetics to hip hop and indie rock alike. And you know what? For the most part I’m not a big fan. On Uproot, Dj/Rupture has provided the perfect entry point with an eclectic mix that proves that there aren’t many Djs at working at Rupture’s standard.

-Mr. Thistle

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Kingdom Shore - ...and all the dogs to shark

Kingdom Shore
…and all the dogs to shark.
(04.2007, Blackbough)
Verdict = A literal mind melter.

Like, Whoa! I don’t mean to get all ditsy on y’all but this record is INSANE! As you’ll notice by checking the release date, I’m pretty tardy on this one. In fact, I only heard about it last year (along with everyone else it seems), and even then the information was sparse. Well, I jotted down the band and album name (just like I always do when something peaks my interest) and set out to find more information to pick the record up. Turns out getting a copy of this thing isn’t the easiest thing in the world. In fact, after the album had remained on my list for much longer than the average sitting time I resolved to hunker down and figure out how to order the thing through the labels only US distributor for my birthday. It was kind of a maze going through their website, but alas, I finally have the 180 gram vinyl atop my turntable. So anyway, back to the insanity, it is no wonder that for those who’ve taken notice this debut record by Kingdom Shore is still making waves well after its initial release date in 2007. And all the dogs to shark is doesn’t just take your breath away, it mugs it from you. However, don’t let the violence of that statement fool you, Kingdom Shore isn’t all doom and gloom. In fact, I hear a heavy bit of comedy in these recordings, granted it’s of the blacker-than-black variety; the kind that has you laughing just to keep from crying mostly. From what I’ve gathered the whole project is the vision of one Mark Molnar. This isn’t some bedroom confessional though. Molnar’s genius/madness is manufactured through an arsenal of violins, double-bass and cello that belittle the invention of the electric guitar and punk rock in general. There aren’t really any specific swipes here, but what Kingdom Shore has done with these archaic classical instruments makes the explicit edginess of modern punk and hardcore sound like the music you might hear featured along side The Jonas Brothers (and do to some extent – what an age!). There really is no one like Kingdom Shore either. The most logical parallel I can conjure involves ultra-heavy noise/jazz mega-behemoths, Aufgehoben, but even that comparison requires far too many preconditions. I mean, Kingdom Shore’s instrumentation is fully acoustic for heavens sake! And I’m trying to draw parallels with Aufgehoben? That’s how flustered and utterly fascinated with this album I am. Possibly the most ridiculously tense, flutteringly mad album I have ever heard. I mean, that right there is a statement: ‘ever.’ It is certainly avant-garde, but to noisy to be termed as neo classical and too compositionally intense to be simply marked as noise. And all the dogs shark is just, is just…is just a stroke of horror comedy genius that must be experienced, if only endured once.

-Mr. Thistle

MP3 samples at

Kurt Vile - Constant Hitmaker

Kurt Vile
Constant Hitmaker
(03.2008, Gulcher)
Verdict = It’s true; he’s constantly making hits!

Keep an eye on Kurt Vile. Just as his debut album title coyly suggests, Vile knows how to make a good song. We should probably make that plural: Vile knows how to make good songs, and of every suit too. Vile puts on just about every singer songwriter hat possible, from the Tom Petty-esque electric pop of “Breathin’ Out” to the unassuming lo-fi charm of “Don’t Get Cute” to the droney outsider weirdo ballad of “Freeway” to the plucked acoustic splendor of “Slow Talkers.” And that’s just the first four tracks! Sitting somewhere between Chad VanGaalen, Blank Dogs, The Tallest Man Alive and David Thomas Broughton; Kurt Vile has carved himself out a wonderful little spot with this surprising first album. The great part about Vile’s ability to inhabit so many different styles is that, within each, he sounds completely genuine. On Constant Hitmaker, each veritable “hit” feels (and is, I assume) wholly authentic. Because of the relative divergence in style from track to track, the album plays kind of like a greatest hits album. That isn’t to say that Constant Hitmaker isn’t cohesive, it plays kind of like one of those classic greatest hits albums that works so well that it kind of turns into an album in its own right (kind of like Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits album, if I can reference him again). Vile has a knack for fully constructing each song with just the right balance of craft and recklessness to allow it to stand on its own two feet and live an honest, though slightly corrupted life. Constant and consistent, Vile’s Hitmaker is one of the most assured and promising debuts I have heard in a long time. Highly recommended.

-Mr Thistle

Kurt Vile on Myspace

Friday, January 9, 2009

Millipede - Death Mountain

Death Mountain
(12.2008/01.2009, Install)
Verdict = Merriweather Post Pavilion and now this!? I think I could sleep through the rest of 2009 and be just fine.

Though part of a marginally larger edition than his Hyrule cassette (30 copies), Death Mountain is still a criminally limited edition at only 50 copies. The concept for Millipede this time around is the same: Zelda + My Bloody Valentine = monolithic cathedrals of towering guitar feedback that somehow instills a depressing beauty amidst the swirling chaos. Think Fennesz, if he was performing an exorcism gone horribly wrong (but at the same time - horribly right!). I don’t know why the labels that are putting this stuff out (and they’re great labels to be putting it out at all, that’s for sure) aren’t placing more stock into it because Millipede’s brand of melodic guitar feedback is devastatingly good. Let me be the first to request that someone put this stuff on wax at an edition of 500 or something because once someone notable finds out about this stuff, it’ll be gone in no time. But then again, I’m just a lowly music blogger, the scum of the music world, what do I know? Well, if nothing else, I know that Death Mountain is noise done right. This is the kind of stuff that us odd, experimental leaning folk devour after wading through pools of the BS noise releases that everyone else and their little sisters have cranked out on CDR. This is one of those holy grail type records that make wading through the crap a bearable means to an end. And let me just say this so that I can be the first (why else blog about music?): If Millipede keeps this up, there will be a day when his moniker will be uttered in company with noise stalwarts like Yellow Swans, Axolotl, Earth and Sunn O))). His stuff is that good. Don’t sleep on Death Mountain on the basis of its limited edition status or its peculiar Nintendo associations – this ain’t no lame, glitched out NES cover band. Death Mountain is transcendent, apocalyptic, magnificent and searingly beautiful; a true work of art. As you could imagine, I could probably go on all day. However, I’d rather give my full attention back to Millipede and Death Mountain. Sample below for the unbelievers…

-Mr. Thistle

Sample of "Daphnes Nohansen"

Ezekiel Honig - Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band

Ezekiel Honig
Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band
(10.2008, Anticipate)
File Under = Moody Electronics

I think it is pretty safe to say that Anticipate Recordings is on the short list of my very favorite record labels. Since it’s inception in early 2007, the label has passed along a steady stream of utterly immaculate and pristinely artful releases that have built up an aesthetic of organic beauty embedded in spare electronic soundscapes. Credit for this meticulous curation has to fall upon label-head Ezekiel Honig and it seemed only a matter of time before Honig added his own work to the Anticipate catalog. Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band follows the Anticipate mission with masterful precision as Honig beds muted electronic beats with a variety of found sounds and samples. The result is a frigid pulse tinged with austerity like a deserted industrial space station whose mechanical remains shuffle around nervously. However, Honig doesn’t leave us to wallow without relief, a couple tracks like “Displacement,” which appears in the middle of the album lets the light in just long enough to maintain sanity. Surfaces of a Broken Marching Band is defined by its textures. While the beats and synths glide by smoothly, Honig’s sound samples feel like they have dragged through the trenches of some long forgotten war. Like audio shrapnel, Honig lets these recordings mangle his tracks into a sound collage that is both darkly penetrating and uniquely satisfying. With Surfaces, Honig reveals himself as the master of the Anticipate aesthetic and that is just about the best thing we could ask for.

-Mr. Thistle

Ezekiel Honig on Myspace

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion
(01.2009, Domino)
Verdict = The greatest working band alive

Remember how Feels was Animal Collective’s “pop” album? And then Strawberry Jam was AC’s “pop” album? And now Merriweather Post Pavilion. I think it is about time that we recognize that Animal Collective have always made “pop” music, granted their version of pop music is decidedly, um…how to put this – unique. It’s by no means the type of pop music you’ll find buddying up to Britney Spears any time soon. However, yes, of course it’s pop. I don’t know if the band has really become that much more accessible either. I just think that the general indie public has become more accustomed to AC’s idiosyncrasies over time and therefore increasingly accepting of their particular brand of mutant pop. It’s not just that though. It seems that ever since the success and utter genius of Sung Tongs, little Animal Collectivisms have permeated the landscape of modern pop, stretching it to its outer most bounds. Even so, Animal Collective is a singular beast that will never be duplicated. The only other active band that I am aware of who have maintained such a high level of creative output over such a long period of time is Radiohead. And so it is that we here at (the appropriately named) Forest Gospel have drooled incessantly over the news of this most recent and definitely most hyped Animal Collective album the band has ever released. I would like to note that my ears remained virgin to any Animal Collective sound attributed to MPP until the needle of my turntable properly touched down on the delicious 2LP I purchased yesterday. That means, for better or worse, that no leaked singles or Christmas rips once caught my ears to prepare me for the ensuing rapture. Rapture indeed! Not that we didn’t already know, but it bears stating that we here at Forest Gospel (most likely unanimously) agree that Animal Collective is most definitely the greatest working band in all of music today if not in the last twenty years. That’s right, bring on the backlash because there is nothing that can dissuade me from this sentiment. The thing I don’t understand is those people I see posting on message boards and what not that are all: “I don’t get Animal Collective, there is just no melody” or “it just sounds like noise to me” or “how can people even call this music.” I’ve seen quite a few likeminded comments lately and all I can think to myself is that these people have absolutely no idea what music is if they can’t hear the melodies, harmonies, time signatures and appreciate the utter magnificence that comes to bare in Animal Collective’s song structures. I realize that I am starting to come off like a belligerent fanboy, but seriously, it doesn’t make any sense. This is pop music people, it’s not that difficult. Anyway [soapbox descended], MPP: this thing has already been and will for a long time in the future be dissected song by song and instrument by instrument within said songs; so I’ll be relatively brief and properly incoherent. It’s like: shazam – bass! And: move over Beach Boys, Animal Collective is vocal harmonies. Or: was that a Person Pitch b-side with unicorns shooting rainbow lasers out of their ears? And also: welcome back vocal effects, we’ve missed you. Plus: Avey Bear and Panda Tare are great, aren’t they? Conclusion: Animal Collective sure know what the kids like, AKA, metaphysical Navaho raves must be something like this. Anyway, it’s just going to be hard to focus for the rest of 2009 knowing that I’ve already heard the best album of the year and we’re only 7 days in. I guess that’s what you get with a “9.6.”

-Mr. Thistle

"My Girls" live at Coachella 08'

Hammock - Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow

Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow
(05.2008, Darla Records)
File Under = Ambient quilting (see review for details)

Hammock. Looks like they’ve been around for a few records now, but Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow is the first time I’ve heard the band and I must admit that I am a better person for it. I’ve become more patient, even-tempered and beautiful (in a general sense). I guess that is just Hammock’s strong points rubbing off on me though. The band consists of Marc Byrd and Andrew Thompson and if I didn’t know better I could have sworn these were the guys from Stars of the Lid. I don’t intend to mow Hammock, but seriously, this follows SotL’s recipe step by step. Fortunately, the recipe is a good one and Hammock has followed it properly because Maybe They Will Sing for Us Tomorrow is utterly gorgeous. Full of glowing guitars and stoic strings, each track has a wonderful sense of calm. Like the most vibrant dreams, Hammock has created a vibrant patchwork of emotions that transport you beyond the present and into some alternate heavenly reality. MTWSFUT is just too easy too fall in love with. It is all soft edges and inviting tones. This is music that heals wounds, grows plants and calms seas. Hammock is working in ambience the same way your grandma works on quilts: with love embedded in each thread. I’m definitely going to have to run through these guys’ back catalog because this release is magnificence incarnate. Oh, and about the SotL reference – scratch that. Hammock now owns this sound and SotL will need to produce something pretty astounding to win it back.

-Mr. Thistle

Hammock's Website

Cantilever - Idalis/Hadalis

(2008, Square Root Records)
File Under = Glitch/IDM

The cringe worthy IDM tag! I actually don’t mind it too much. Intelligent dance music as a genre tag has always provoked thoughts of microscopic neurons boogying down as my brainwaves proceed to pulse rhythmically like a beat ridden jump rope. Electronic engineer, Cantilever’s Idalis/Hadalis produces (literally) that same effect, so, IDM is the tag. Idalis/Hadalis is basically two ten minute tracks named “Idalis” and “Hadalis” followed by two additional ten minute tracks with these first ones variously folded atop one another. The compositions are compacted thickly with a barrage of various percussive clicks, ticks and tocks and propelled by warm, synthesized melodies throughout. Assessed simply, Idalis/Hadalis is perfect electronic ear candy for traversing through any modern city. In fact, it sounds kind of like what you would imagine after seeing transit - whether pedestrian or by car – that’s been videoed from a still shot and then fast-forwarded. I love it. It’s super solid stuff in the vein of Morr Music before they started dipping their toes into more pop oriented pools. I’m thinking Mum when they released Yesterday Is Dramatic - Today Is OK. It’s pretty straight-forward, heady, brain exhilarating electronica.

-Mr. Thistle

Cantilever Myspace

I Heart Lung - Interoceans

I Heart Lung
(09.2008, Asthmatic Kitty)
Verdict = I heart Interoceans

I discovered I Heart Lung after hearing guitarist Chris Schlarb’s amazing solo debut, Twilight & Ghost Stories. The beauty of that release promised that anything Schlarb was involved with would definitely be a noteworthy endeavor. Interoceans proves that assumption correct. I Heart Lung is an improvisational duo consisting of Schlarb and drummer Tom Steck. Together as team I Heart Lung, the two create expansive, textured, improv based compositions that are a little bit jazzy and a little bit proggy and a lot bit immersive and beautiful. Everything on Interoceans feels like it has been stretched and laid over a cool droney undercurrent. In four long tracks, I Heart Lung achieve everything you might imagine from an album with “oceans” in its title. There are serene, expansive moments, cluttered wavy moments and deep ominous moments that flow throughout the album. I hate to throw in the organic tag, but there is something distinctly organic about the feel of this record which is dissimilar to anything else I have ever thought was “organic” sounding before. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something about the mood of Interoceans that is wholly unique and a real pleasure to get lost in. Schlarb and Steck have obviously developed a pretty fluid musical chemistry because Interoceans feels note perfect despite its improvisational aesthetics. For those unaccustomed to the more open ended side of composition Interoceans will require some perseverance, but it will undoubtedly be time well spent.

-Mr. Thistle

I Heart Lung on Myspace