Tuesday, March 31, 2009

DM Stith - Heavy Ghost

DM Stith
Heavy Ghost
(03.2009, Asthmatic Kitty)
RIYL = The Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, David Thomas Broughton

I don’t know why, but I have had a hard time getting my footing on this debut record, Heavy Ghost by DM Stith. I have listened to the record at least a dozen times over this past weekend (and plan on listening to it dozens and dozens of more times in the very near future) and just can’t quite get my head all the way around it. That, by the way, has been a very good thing. DM Stith has done something fantastic here, something brimming with magic; and oh, that voice! I hope you recognize by the RIYLs above that Stith’s voice is among the master class crooners of our generation. Completely unique in its tenor and, more importantly, its various melodic uses on Heavy Ghost. I’ve been mulling over this record in my head, trying to come to terms with it because I’ve just been plain eager to get something written and onto the interweb for display. This is one of those records that you immediately want to share just because it’s that good. So, aside from my wandering mumbling here, there very best thing you can do is click play on that YouTube player down there and take a listen for yourself. Anyway, I’ve just been thinking to myself “Heavy Ghost, Heavy Ghost,” and upin this reflection I have come to the realization that this is the perfect title. As an admission, I haven’t delved super deeply into Stith’s lyrics yet, but Heavy Ghost feels like the perfect title for this record in terms of aural ambience. There is just something weighty and otherworldly going on here that I’ve had the hardest time putting my finger on. It is not until I just gave up and gave in that I settled with Heavy Ghost, the album title, as the simple explanation for the lush darkness the broods throughout this little masterpiece here. I have noticed a couple comparisons to Grizzly Bear as a similar artist when reading reviews on Heavy Ghost. I agree with the comparison, there are some parallel lines of thought here, but just for the record: Heavy Ghost is just about ten times better than Veckatimest. Mmmm, there is just so much to love here and it is so consistently exultant. Stith places his vocals all over this thing like little ghostly haunts appearing as a cloud of mist behind his lead vocal lines. The orchestration here is incredible as well. Heavy Ghost is fleshed out fully, centered mostly on guitars but accompanied with al manner of brass, strings supplementation. It is al placed perfectly too. Nothing is overdone or underdone; it has all been managed with the perfect restraint. Heavy Ghost is a theater of baroque specters that have been bedded with the perfect balance of indulgence and restraint. For those who know me this will be the recommendation that is of most worth: DM Stith is an album that you must purchase on vinyl. It is that good. Something you will want to have on your shelf (and the album art is delicious as well), something you will want to drown out your nights. This is one of those debuts that mark the emergence of a truly bright new artist. DM Stith is one with which you will want to keep tabs on.

-Lil' Thistle

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bell Orchestre - As Seen Through Windows

Bell Orchestre
As Seen Through Windows
(03.2009, Arts & Crafts)
RIYL = Rachel’s, The Arcade Fire, Tortoise

It’s too bad that Montreal’s Bell Orchestre has to drag around the ball-n’-chain of “sharing members with the Arcade Fire.” Now, of course I like the Arcade Fire. Funeral, as everyone should know by now, is one of the best albums to be released this decade. It’s not that. It also isn’t that I can’t see certain Arcade Fire-isms in the Bell Orchestre’s particular brand of instrumental post rock. It’s just that, especially with this new record, As Seen Through Windows, the Bell Orchestre is a fully formed musical entity of its own merits and nuances; merits and nuances that deserve to stand on their own because their because the have the strength to. I am going to have a hard time categorizing the Bell Orchestre, mostly because my musical jargon pretty much amounts to statements like: “Oh, did you here those cool horns beeping at the end of track two and those little squiggly, what do you call them?…Violins?” Yeah I’m not very equipped when it comes to recognizing chord progressions, time signatures and fine instrumental distinctions, which is a shame because it is very apparent that the Bell Orchestre is familiar with all this technical “music” stuff. But, what do they expect of me? Really, it’s not like this is a music blog…ahem. Anywho, categorization, on this their second record, the Bell Orchestre continue to dig out some of the ideas that were present on their quality debut, Recording a Tape the Colour of the Light. They still have that baroque indie rock take on post rock with flourishes of jazz, blues and classical, but this time things just seem to gel more and the melodic bliss just seems more consistent. You also have to respect the group for not falling into the overdramatic power crescendos of their forbearers. There are no apocalyptic overtones, no recorded monologues from street preachers and no moments of intensely depressive string arrangements. On As Seen Through Windows, things are much more imaginative, pulsing with life and a gorge of ideas that continually shines under repeated scrutiny. Bell Orchestre have simply accomplished the difficult task of creating an engaging instrumental album, and one that can’t be easily categorized despite its familiar parts. It’s quite a beautiful thing. So, while I may not be able to term every technical musical motif that comes to pass in the duration of As Seen Through Windows, I am still very much able to sit back, relax and submerge myself in something that I can identify, without any hesitation, as skillfully creative, wholly satisfying music.

-Lil' Thistle

Bell Orchestre on MySpace

Friday, March 27, 2009

Hannu - Harhailua

(02.2009, Kesh)
RIYL = Lau Nau, Colleen, Deaf Center

Now here is a glistening beam of pure, beautiful oddness - and I mean that in only the most Scandinavian way. Yeah, that’s right; it’s one of those. Harhailua is the miniature follow up to Hannu’s debut album Worms In My Piano. I never got around to the debut (though I will claim cool points by having it on my list of things to check out – sorry, need all the cool points I can) and Harhailua has just assured me that this was a mistake. I will surely be backpedaling with this group. Reason being that this, the follow up, is bri-lli-ant! Gots to separate those syllables on this one folks. Composed of seven cumbersome tracks, Hannu deals with the oddities of northern European splendor in terms of analog electronics mixed with vintage classical instrumentation: you know, harps and glockenspiels and music boxes, pretty much all the stuff that is buried in dust of your long lost dead Scandinavian aunt’s attic; Hannu has stolen it. It is ok though, once you’ve heard Harhailua you will be happy that they did. Add to this a bevy of succulent sound samples from the frost bitten wild hinted at on the cover and you’ve got yourself Harhailua. It is atmospheric like you wouldn’t believe and with a resonance that must have been achieved through only the most studied sound engineering. Gorgeous gorgeous stuff. Anyway, sorry for the little gap in coverage as of late, Sass and I have been in the hospital tending to the newest addition to the FG roster. We’ll have post up by him soon. In the meantime, revel in this for it is most mightily wondrous, like a journey into an enchanted forest or something.

-Lil' Thistle

Stream of Harhailua

Millipede - Sand & Surf

Sand & Surf
(2009, Install)
RIYL = Yellow Swans, Geoff Mullen, Mouthus

For anyone who found the super incredible Death Mountain (the Millipede full length released earlier this year) a little too brief, Millipede and his cohorts at the Install label have teamed up once again to provide us with a little supplemental listening. Sand & Surf is not really directly related to Death Mountain, but it is still pure Millipede, which translates to earth shattering feedback via guitars and pedals. Sand & Surf is being toted as a digital 7”, so things are still pretty brief; however, the four songs here are al up to snuff with Millipede’s previous work. In fact, amongst these four mosaics of tone destruction, Millipede sound tip toes into some new area with the non-destructive prettiness of “Sand,” offering a short respite from the gluttonous malingering of its sandwiching tracks. All and all, there isn’t a lot to say that hasn’t already been said about Millipede’s previous releases here on FG. And we are still awaiting the release of a new full length that is in the works and should also be due out later this year. Millipede is keeping himself busy, that’s for sure. Oh wait, I almost forgot. Millipede and Install are giving this gorgeous “seven inch” away for free. Check the link below, enjoy and destroy!

- Lil' Thistle

Millipede - Sand & Surf

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Swan Lake - Enemy Mine

Swan Lake
Enemy Mine
(03.2009, Jagjaguwar)
RIYL = Canadian indie rock

Why is it that Canada is so successful at breeding smart, insanely talented indie rock geniuses? Not only that, but all their indie rock stars are like best buds and have no qualms about combining their powers for purposes of world domination. Well, as of now, consider me dominated. Swan Lake feels like my very own quintessential indie rock super group. When I first overheard the little birds outside my bedroom window chirping on about this accumulation of mass talent I could barely contain myself. Just to kind of pinch ourselves, we’d better get to the obligatory name checking and auxiliary band correlations: Exhibit A - Daniel Bejar, AKA the engine of hyper-literary classic/indie rock contortionist Destroyer, AKA my favourite component of the illustrious New Pornographers, AKA the token frog-voiced (not frog-eyed) Jew with circular meta lyricism to infinity. Dan, are you really Jewish? Exhibit B – Spencer Krug, AKA one half (in my opinion, the much better half) of indie rock stalwarts Wolf Parade, AKA instigator of the wondrous and artful solo guise of Sunset Rubdown, AKA my openly admitted indie rock boy crush; is there any song on which Krug doesn’t slay? Exhibit C – Carey Mercer, AKA the torch bearer of the enigmatic I’ve-heard-of-them-but-never-heard-them--well-you-really-really-should-hear-them Frog Eyes, AKA “I’ve already struck gold in 2009 with my 2nd Blackout Beach solo album”, AKA the legitimate illegitimate godfather of Spencer Krug and Daniel Bejar. Now, back to 2006: so, I hear those first little tweets of the emergence of Swan Lake and proceed to faint in fan-boy star overload. After coming to, Beast Moans, the group's debut, turned out to be as frustrating as it was enjoyable; a wondrous conundrum that has me simply itching for more. Not a false start, but a curve ball born of, perhaps, not knowing how to control so much indie rock muscle: a testing ground. I was deterred. No, I was intrigued and satisfied. Subsequently, I was hit with Destroyer’s Rubies (a little late, mind you), Sunset Rubdown’s Random Spirit Lover (my #1 of 2007) and Frog Eye’s Tears of the Valedictorian (holla!). Whew. Once the new Swan Lake was announced, my expectations had jumped up a notch. Well, three notches, at least. And here it is: Enemy Mine is the first legitimate contender for the title Merriweather Post Pavilion is itching for. On the sophomore release from these seasoned indie rock graduates things have become a bit more democratic and, as is noted on the band's page at Jagjaguwar, more structured. The nine songs have been divided evenly between the group, each heading off three songs with a good deal of visible help from their band mates on choruses, back up vocals and climaxes (and oh, the climaxes). First things second, every song is a minor masterpiece; however, it is impossible amongst the three to not recognize Carey Mercer’s emergence as the powerhouse of the trio (well, a powerhouse amongst powerhouses (I still love you Spencer…)). Mercer’s tracks bookend Enemy Mine concisely and the addition of his baritone theatrics to any track on the album is inevitably the highlight. Even when Spencer Krug goes for the jugular on the absolutely amazing ballad, “A Hand At Dusk,” it is Mercer’s eerie vocal interruption at the apex that really sends the song over the top in terms of amazing. Mercer similarly steals the spotlight in the climax of Bejar’s, “Ballad of Swan Lake, Or, Daniel’s Song.” That is not to say that Krug and Bejar don’t hold their own. They most certainly do. Krug and Bejar play at the very peak of their talent, devoting everything to Swan Lake as if it was their most important creative outlet. Enemy Mine has bewitched me. Jagjaguwar referenced the Krug lyric, “There’s architecture here,” but I think it is just as important to mold the context of the subsequent line of that same song, “and there are mountain peaks.” The songs are not only built with a mind for structure, but also with a heart and ear for aural peaks. In fact, each tracks plays out like a little mini-drama with the most contagious climactic avalanches about 3/4ths to 4/4ths the way in. I think it is pretty safe to say that these guys are rockin’ it with their A-game on this one. I have undoubtedly listened to this thing at least 10 times more than Animal Collective this year and I’ve listened to Animal Collective at least 10 times more than anything else, so it’s an exponential addiction to be sure…and it never gets old. These songs are strong. Enemy Mine is astounding. Good work Canada, you never fail to brighten my musical horizons.

-Lil' Thistle

Swan Lake - "A Hand At Dusk"

Monday, March 16, 2009

Long Legged Woman - Nobody Knows This Is Nowhere

Long Legged Woman
Nobody Knows This is Nowhere
(01.2009, Pollen Season)
RIYL = The Hospitals, The Hunches, Thee Oh Sees, "the(e) rock n’ roll”

Hello Long Legged Woman! You are currently entering a pretty crowded market of like-minded noise rockers, but there is something about you that I really like. But hey, you know what? I don’t really want to start this off so I’m going to pass to my crew American noise rock crew, starting with Randy first:

Randy: Yo dog. You know what I like about this LP? The rock n’ roll swagger baby. Y’all gots enough swagger to bust the chops of the rest of these lo-fi pop princesses out here that are trying to be all cutsy while simultaneously turning it to eleven. I’m not feelin' that kind of pop noise crap, but you guys, you guys definitely got that rock n’ roll sound that I can really dig. I think we are going to be seeing you around for some time man.

The New Girl: Yeah, what Randy said.

Paula: Whjafh9 awfn9afn4u9, afbun9an, ajsefsdfjkh askjhsfwu ahw9fhaw alkwjfhe. 43qf43f9h!HH!!!!!!!!!!!n alof34nf 4n3fqn8 fnq993q8. anf3an38984h afn489 anfwuifwniuesweet spiritQNFUUN$U!!!!!

Simon: You know what Paula? For once I think I can agree with you. Nobody Knows This is Nowhere, is just a blitzkrieg of thick, noisy garage rock that reminds me a lot of some of our previous favourites like The Hospitals last year but with a bit more of a sleazy rock edge. Those arrangements are awful good and simply littered with the analog crunch that a lot of similar bands are just a bit weak on. Honestly, I think you all got the perfect amount. You really muscle through that feedback without tipping into the wussier white noise that is so common. Good stuff.

Well there you have it. Long Legged Women is have wowed the judges. It is only a matter of time before this limited edition LP is out of stock so you'd better log on to Pollen Season’s website a grab Nobody Knows This is Nowhere now!

-Lil' Thistle

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mountains - Mountains, Mountains, Mountains

Mountains, Mountains, Mountains
(10.2008, Catsup Plate)
RIYL = Belong, Tim Hecker, amplified butterfly wings?

I know that Mountains have already followed up this limited edition LP with another full length on Thrill Jockey, but just hold your horses – I’m only just getting into this Mountains album. And it’s a good one too. For the uninitiated, Mountains dwell in the realm of drone music marked by warmth and beauty; the realm filled with textures that glitter like poorly hidden treasures amidst a sea of…well, slightly less vibrant treasures. Yep, with Mountains it’s pretty much all treasure, like taking a tin scoop to your favourite candy bins at the grocer’s. On Mountains cubed, Catsup Plate makes a home for four delicious tracks of Mountains goodness that’s euphoric from the beginning of side A to the end of side B. There is no room for any meandering here, no room for playful filler, only thick layers of the trenchant feedback of amped butterfly wings. Wow: that right there was one of my most ridiculous descriptions to date (and that is saying something, coming from me). We’ll let it ride though, because Mountains, Mountains, Mountains is that ridiculous in its gooey, treasurey goodness. There are only four tracks, so lets go one by one. Side A starts with “The Whale Years,” a infinitely layered 12+ minute track that reels in various pitches of white noise that are cluttered with electronic chirps and laconic guitars. While the mood stays fairly consistent and dreamy, the opening track never fails to evolve, slowly panning a vivid, rolling seascape. The following track, “Nest,” is about half the length of its predecessor and anchors itself to a repetitive acoustic guitar motif that reminiscent of a James Blackshaw Piece. The guitar is backed by additional layers that bring an understated tension to the track as it drifts forward. Side B follows the pattern of song lengths in reverse: the shorter track, “Millions of Time,” starts things off with a much deeper drone loop that sounds like a recording made during a steamy, midsummer rain shower on some tropical island. From there Mountains push Jurassic synthetic swells into the mix to pine out a melodic direction that is just far enough away as to not impose. Then the closer, “Hive,” turns everything up a notch with an extended drone that is much more cluttered and nervous, fluttering by until it breaks down into a series of hallow notes surrounded by a swirl of static wind. Definitely a but more apocalyptic then the previous pieces, if I can even use the term ‘apocalyptic’ in conjunction with Mountains sound. So yeah, Choral is out now as well, and it is great, but if you find yourself with Mountains, Mountains, Mountains in your hands, don’t hesitate to snatch it as quickly as possible.

-Lil' Thistle

Mountains on Myspace

Teeth Mountain - Teaath Mountain tour EP

Teeth Mountain
Teeth Mountain tour EP
(2008, self released)
RIYL = Raccoo-oo-oon, Kemialliset Ystavat, tribal wierdos!

Oh man, I love Baltimore. I’ve never actually been there, but they sure do have a pretty resilient music scene. In all honesty, I’m not that big into their poster-boy, Dan Deacon, but WZT Hearts! Sheesh, that band’s miniature legacy alone will cement the city with a permanent status of awesomeness in my book. And then you got Beach House and Thank You and others. Whatever. Good stuff. Well, it’s time to add another cog to the music-awesomeness machinery that is Baltimore’s. Teeth Mountain have been kicking up dust this past year with a slew of releases spanning cassette tape to LP in addition to this here compact disc. A tour EP that was coincidentally sold on their tour (who knew?), this thing is fantastic. The band’s sound is weird, which is a plus. In fact they kind fill in the massive gap that Raccoo-oo-oon has left with their demise quite nicely. The EP is filled with a lot of shorter to mid range tracks that are propelled by propulsive, tribal drumming and then bamboozled with a glut of ridiculous electronics that pull and contort within the confines of the rhythm. The beauty about the band in comparison to the mighty Raccoo-oo-oon (at least on this release) is that they never get lost in the frantic mess that they are creating. Sure, the wander off into bizarre fields, but it always comes off as fun or mesmerizing and never flat and tired. This may be helped by the fact that the compositions are a bit shorter, lending themselves to the perfect running time necessary for complete fulfillment. It is music that is characterized by the mess it makes rather than the structures it creates, which is fun. However, I think the fun factor also deceives you into thinking that making a really worthwhile mess is easy. It’s not. Anyone can bang a rhythm into a drum and go crazy on an instrument. That doesn’t necessarily mean I want to listen to it though. Teeth Mountain, on the other hand, are professional mess makers. I mean, you know these guys have been destroying song structures for a long time by how wonderfully their messiness gels into something so cohesive and satisfying. Definitely an awesome band to watch in 2009.

- Lil' Thistle

This isn't from the EP, but whatever, it's still good:

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Here We Go Magic- Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic
Here We Go Magic
(02.2008, Western Vinyl)
Verdict: Paul Simon, Vampire Weekend minus the prep stars, real magic

I have been meaning to write a review for this for over three weeks now, but have been letting my laziness get in the way. However, do not let my procrastination fool you into thinking I am not way super in love with and excited about Here We Go Magic. I love the afro-beat influences that have been creeping into indie music over the last two or three years, and this album capitalizes on afro-beat better than anyone I have heard since Paul Simon. I know I have compared other albums to Simon's Rhythm of the Saints album (which is his best in my opinion) but Here We Go Magic is more like unto it than anything before, in a really good and non-copy-cat way. Luke Temple even sounds like Simon, which I never noticed until this album. Temple is one of my favorite vocalists to emerge over the last few years and his singer/songwriter loneliness and soul is not put to waste as one might have thought it would be by adding multi-layered instrumentals and loops into his new project. His vocals works wonderfully and eerily as always, quietly gracing the percussive beat driven rhythms of half the tracks on the album, while the other half are vocal free and drone based. Now, if you know me, you know that drone is a very touchy subject with me and that I am incredibly particular about the drone I find tolerable, so this next sentence should blow your socks off. I love every song on this album, drone and all. If that doesn't sell you, I don't know what will.

-Lil' Sass

Monday, March 9, 2009

Animal Hospital - Memory

Animal Hospital
(03.2009, Barge)
RIYL = Scott Tuma, The Fun Years, Ben Frost

I think that the very best new music being produced is often the kind that is near impossible to define. You know, the kind of music that avoids easy categorization and somehow overturns all preconceived notions about what an album should be. Animal Hospital’s Memory is shining example of that kind of album. However, I think I would do it a disservice to stop there - to simply say, “This is some of the best new music I’ve heard and you’ll only understand once you’ve listened to it.” While that statement would be true, it’s just more fun to risk embarrassment by trying to define something that is this good. I think the first and safest way to approach Memory is in terms of Barge. What I mean here, is in terms of the label which has presented this fine recording. The first thing that you should know is that Barge Records does not put simply ‘good music.’ In fact, the label seems to avoid even ‘great music.’ Nope, with only a couple releases seeping out a year, Barge only has time to spend their energy on the very best new music being produced in the realms of forward thinking experimental music. This couldn’t be more evident than in last year’s glorious sophomore release from The Fun Years, Baby, It's Cold Inside. With Memory, Barge has just upped the ante. Animal Hospital is one Kevin Micka and Memory is pretty much the coolest experimental record I’ve heard, probably since that Fun Years record. Micka is a multi-instrumentalist of the highest quality and in the years proceeding Memory has honed his skills in a live setting by playing and looping his instruments into effervescent concoctions that sound like the work produced by a four piece band (and a talented one at that). Memory continues this aesthetic, using a looping pedal at a much more sophisticated level than I’ve heard in the past. However, even with his obvious relationship with loops, Memory provides so much more. The album’s seven tracks range from 2 minutes to 17 minutes in length and in the course of the album’s stretch, make some unexpected turns that extend the realm Animal Hospital’s sound into mythic territory. The opener starts things of peaceful, contemplative and clear with a tinkering music box and crystal guitar lines. This is followed by the epic stroke of “His Belly Burst,” a gorgeous and lengthy track built up Cello work contributed by Jonah Sacks. The work morphs and bleeds into "2nd Anniversary," a transitional track filled with swelling drones that are punctuated by resonant staccato guitar plucks that pierce the atmosphere of the song. All this builds up slowly to the centerpiece of the album, “…and ever.” I almost feel like I should put up a spoiler alert here because it might be better if you were blindsided by this track without being previously tipped off. Consider yourself warned: after laying an elegant foundation, Micka sends Memory in to astral territory. “...and ever” is announced by a thick base line that is quickly layered with a series of guitars and then punctuated by a griffin slaying guitar line that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Boris record. As the structure heaves, Micka’s briefly adds vocals into the mix and then continues to send the structure heavenward. The track continues to build until the building fades into the sky and the clouds become the building and the building becomes the clouds. It is kind of what you would expect to accompany an onslaught led by Zeus or something. As the dust of construction clears, a heart beat emerges along with a clutter of loops and again, that throbbing bass. I don’t know exactly how this here Animal Hospital works, but the entrance of Micka’s wordless vocals and comforting guitar line on “a safe place” makes me feel like the previous destruction/construction was simply the cleansing agent necessary for some poor animals full recovery. Once “Nostalgia” sets in, everything feels perfect and resolved, but this brief beachside sojourn is simply a daydream setting up the final sixteen plus minutes of the title track. I won’t completely destroy the sequencing by revealing the ending, suffice it to say – it is good, really really good. So yeah, there's not a specific defining thread that I can tie the whole thing together with, but Memory is all the better for it. I don’t imagine that there is any other way to move from Scott Tuma to Godspeed! to Mogwai to Boris to Tortoise to The Fun Years and still make a cohesive and wholly individual record. After you hear Memory, it will all make sense. I guess I can only say this: Thank you Animal Hospital and thank you Barge!

- Lil' Thistle

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Antlers - Hospice

The Antlers
(03.2009, self released)
RIYL = Jeff Buckley, The Velvet Teen, Have a Nice Life

Hmm, how to do justice to this album? Since the invention of the home-based/portable studio, everyone who has a computer or laptop has had access to the basic tools necessary to make a professional grade recording and it seems like just about everyone has. In this post-Myspace age, who doesn’t have a music profile (or 4)? This influx of recording, while breeding an ever larger group of relevant, talented musicians/artists, has also created a monstrous sea of soulless crap that dwarfs the talent influx 100 fold. Sure, searching for music is much more exciting with the prospect of being the first to stumble upon some genius band (why do we want to "first?"). However, it has become a much more arduous, monotonous prospect having to sift through the trucks loads of not-so-worthy titles that are so liberally touted by the garrulous PR machines as well. It is hard to get through the first three tracks of an album without feeling the like you have to make a decision as to the products worthwhile. I guess that is what these stupid blogs are for, right? I mean, at least that’s what we tell ourselves. So, in an effort to delude myself from the self indulgent reality that is “Forest Gospel,” I offer Hospice as a peace offering. And, oh boy, is this ever a shining example of why we keep listening to all these crappy self produced promos. Hospice is the real deal. What The Antlers have created in this, their 3rd album, is unmitigated beauty. Where most artists, even talented ones, offer only infatuation, The Antlers provide true romance. Where does this all come from? I think the principle culprit is the ultra-emotive vocals. I wanted to avoid this, but there really no reason to: Antlers mastermind and vocalist, Peter Silberman, more than reminds me of Jeff Buckley. It is not so much that Silnerman’s voice sound the same as Buckley’s as it is that his vocals on Hospice carry the same enormous weight as Buckley’s. It is a weird, awesome thing. However, the vocals aren’t the only story – song structure, instrumentation and production all come off pitch perfect. The Antlers have really created an epic aural space for themselves with this album which feels carved out of a mountain. And then there are the lyrics, whose solid narrative pull immediately sinks you into the Hospice like Alice down the rabbit hole, its just that The Antlers rabbit hole is much less whimsical and much more much more affecting. Hospice is simply the complete package. It reminds me of the time when I first realized that there was something beyond the radio, that music was more than some passing pop fixture and that I was doomed to forever enslave myself to its seductive enchantments. Oh, and apparently NPR likes it, so it is possibly all you old fogies can dig this too. :)

-Lil' Thistle

PS, Sassigrass is 8 months and 3 weeks preggers so I’m dedicating the song below to her. Good luck sweety.

The Antlers - "Bear"

I'm really loving this. The Antlers have a bunch of MP3s and previous EPs for download on their site, some of which I'm reposting below:

The Antlers - New York Hospitals EP
The Antlers - "Apple Orchard" (Beach House cover)
The Antlers - "When You Sleep" (My Bloody Valentine cover)

Tim Hecker - An Imaginary Country

Tim Hecker
An Imaginary Country
(03.2009, Kranky)
RIYL = Fennesz, Belong, Axolotl

Tim Hecker is among the forefathers of the second generation ambient tug, and with good reason. The back catalog under his own name and as Jetone is pretty much spotless. I know I didn’t necessarily gush over his 2008 album with Aidan Baker, but you have to understand that Mr. Hecker’s works have to stand up to a much higher standard than most artists of his ilk. And even with that self created standard, Fantasma Parastasie was still good. On An Imaginary Country, Hecker recaptures that slightly loftier grandeur that was missing from Fanatasma. In fact, I think it is heaps better. It is weird, I have already read a couple reviews on this album and people seem to be taking the exact opposite approach on these two releases, lauding the Aidan Baker collaboration and calling An Imaginary Country just ‘pretty good.’ Naw man, this thing absolutely kills it! Sure, Harmony in Ultraviolet is still his current high point, but this new album hits on something pretty close. The glacial heft isn’t quite so hefty, but there is an incredible pop presence here that makes An Imaginary Country perhaps more listenable than anything in his back catalog, and that is a very, very good thing. And in terms of comparison with other granular-ambient elder statesmen, I am liking this much more than Fennesz’s album last year. So much for meaningful reviews huh? “I just like it.” Right… But seriously, I don’t know quite what else to say about the album. It’s all classic Tim Hecker, anchored with a frosty electronic pulse and built with swaths and swaths of warm feedback. One thing to note that I don’t think I have consciously appreciated in his past releases is the thick, muted bass tones that permeate An Imaginary Country. I mean, if you can’t hear the same indefinable spiritual/emotional weight with An Imaginary Country (which you should) you can at least feel that aural weight. Simply put, An Imaginary Country is super solid and endlessly replayable. If you have any inclination towards textured ambient/experimental music, this is a must.

-Lil' Thistle

Tim Hecker - "200 Years Ago"

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

DJ Olive - Triage

DJ Olive
(01.2009, Room 40)
RIYL = Keith Fullerton Whitman, Stars of the Lid, The Fun Years

DJ Olive works in epic territory. He has been for some time now and with Triage, the third piece in his sleep triptych (a serious of albums specially made as an ode/aid to sleeplessness), DJ Olive has secured a spot among the ambient elite. For some readers, this may seem like a late assertion, but for little old me, the constant latecomer, Triage is an eye opening, mind expanding experience. Along with being a succulent slab of drone-based dreamscapery, DJ Olive’s latest marks a wonderful accomplishment in being received as an installation in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. I was at the Biennial in 2006 and it was superb, one of the best art experiences of my life, so it is a pretty hefty honor to be chosen as a participating artist. I was just checking the album information and Olive can now name check Mr. Christian Fennesz as well, who assisted in the production on Triage. That is never a bad thing, right? Yeah, definite plus. However, these are just auxiliary talking points - associative buzz. What is really wonderful about Triage surpasses the talking points. The work DJ Olive has put forth here enters another realm, a semi-spiritual space that is equal parts gorgeous and grave. Like his previous entries in the sleep series, Triage embarks on a journey via one lengthy track that clocks in at just under an hour. As a work associated specifically with sleeping, active listening requires patience and results in transcendence. Approaching Triage as an album is kind of like approaching the Pacific ocean (or any ocean for that matter), all you can see is the blue skyline. It’s endless appearance seems daunting. However, once submerged, Triage is anything but monotonous. DJ Olive has come into his own on this one, employing a barrage of vintage effects and utilizing a variety of musicians in order to create a perpetually forward moving animal that is constantly entering new, enchanting areas of sound and space. Sleep seems quite fleeting for me as of late (and even more so for Sassigrass), but even if Triage isn’t aiding my slumber, listening to it is just as rejuvenating as good eight hours of shut eye.

- Lil' Thistle

DJ Olive - Triage (exerpt)

The London Apartments - Signals & Cities Are Forever

The London Apartments
Signals & Cities Are Forever
(01.2009, self-released)
RIYL = My Bloody Valentine, Sigur Ros, A Place To Bury Strangers

The London Apartments carry some pretty ominous touchstones. As a music reviewer (even an unpaid, independent one) I am contractually obligated to deliver you, the music review reader, with the musical lineage from which this sound has been procured. And, unfortunately, this is going to read as a blanket statement for all meandering shoegazy post-rock played with fuzzy guitars: The London Apartments are descendents of My Bloody Valentine. It’s dumb, but it is true and to add additional weight to the glass ceiling these guys are playing under, there is a measured dose of Sigur Ros in there as well. After listening to Signals & Cities Are Forever, you could have spouted those musical references just as well as I. It is unfortunate, because the necessity of the name-check will virtually obliterate any chances of The London Apartments getting a fresh listen from readers who aren’t particularly fond of those bands or who have heard their plentiful share of knock-offs and derivatives. The unfortunate part of it isn’t that The London Apartments are particularly unique under the umbrella of the mighty MBV, but that as disciples of the guitars-via-static-laden-televisions crowd, The London Apartments are actually quite good at what they do. That may not make them the most relevant of musical innovators, but I assure you that among the hordes of MBV and Sigur Ros aping bands that litter your little iPods, The London Apartments are better. In fact, if all the hype and anticipation for the follow up to Loveless turned into Signals & Cities Are Forever, I wouldn’t be disappointed. The London Apartments aren’t looking to hide their influences, they have them hanging proudly on their sleeves, but the beauty is that they know how to take those influences and learn from them; how to push off and make something new without tainting the glory of their predecessors. For that The London Apartments must be respected, and for that respect the band has actually provided you with an exceptional gift – Signals & Cities Are Forever is available for free on the bands website. Sounds like a gimmick, and usually free albums tend to reveal the reason they cost nothing, but with The London Apartments, this is certainly not the case. Check the link below.

- Lil' Thistle

Donwload Signals & Cities Are Forever

Monday, March 2, 2009

Blackout Beach - Skin of Evil

Blackout Beach
Skin of Evil
(01.2009, Soft Abuse)
RIYL = Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, nervous breakdowns

If you are not familiar with Carey Mercer’s frantic, maniacal vocal delivery yet, you’re missing out. Something about the urgency of his street preacher poetry reminds me of the lunatics recorded off the street on old Godspeed You Black Emperor albums. True; Mercer may not be as overtly interested in the destructive wake of capitalism, but he can in no way be accused of being any less impassioned about his subject matter. On Skin of Evil, Mercer’s second solo album under the pseudonym Blackout Beach, the subject matter is a ‘Donna.’ Yeah, the whole album is about this one girl and her relationships. It’s always kind of great to see an artist put out such a focused statement, a piece that stays on track with what it sets out to do and Mercer accomplishes it wonderfully. Sonically, Skin of Evil feels oddly hollow and ominous. The frantic pace of his main gig with Frog Eyes is gone, replaced by an odd mix of electronic beats, walking guitars and vocals on top of vocals backed by additional vocals. It is a little disorienting at first (especially if you have already fallen head over heels for Mercer’s previous works), but on repeated listens Skin of Evil burrows deep under your skin (of Evil!!! Ahem - sorry) propelling you through the record again and again. The thing I am most worried about is that the austerity of Mercer’s theatrics will prove too impenetrable on a listener’s first spin leaving them wandering off to other more easily digestible stables. Please young listener, don’t go! I promise with the weight of all that I have in musical taste as is here documented on this blog that this, Skin of Evil, is not something you would want to handle so lightly. For those willing to go deeper into the woods, to get lost and intentionally disoriented, Skin of Evil will prove an enduring masterpiece. I was only introduced to Mercer through the first Swan Lake’s album (ooh, the new one is so amazing!), then Tears of the Valedictorian, after which I backpedaled into older Frog Eyes territory and I have become a thorough believer of Mercer’s deathly urgent pop sensibilities. Skin of Evil is the last glorious tract in that conversion – So good.

-Lil' Thistle

Blackout Beach - "Cloud of Evil"

Ribbons - Royals

(12.2008, Osaka Records)
RIYL = good music, Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Au

You’re going to like Ribbons. Usually albums with such wonderfully designed, colorful album art are covering up for some type of musical lacking, but not Ribbons. No no, Ribbons (aka, one Jherek Bischoff) has created a creative album filled with glib pop innovation. Arriving late last year, Royals has been majorly overlooked by a majority of the indie rock hype engine – and I’m telling ya, Royals is deserving of some hype. This could easily a Best New Music on Pitchfork or 4+ dot on Tiny Mix Tapes. Even a stingy rag like Cokemachineglow (which we love 'em for) should be giving Royals above 80%. It’s a good record. Why is it so good you ask? Pfft, like I can say. I’m not really any good at writing about music, especially pop music (but I do it anyway). However, as pop music, Royals is some of that grade A stuff, the kind that makes you smile rather than yawn. It’s high quality too. Bischoff, the man behind the magic, knows what he is doing. Royals is immaculately produced and filled with some seriously vibrant tones. The vocals are divine and multi tracked to gorgeous harmonic ends remeniscent of Grizzly Bear. Turns our Bischoff is not only an efficient producer and singer, but an apt programmer and a killer multi-instrumentalist. Ribbons succeeds in knowing the breadth and boundaries of its sound and visiting every area within that arena to keep things moving along interestingly. No two tracks are wholly the same, but each works within the framework of 'Royals' as an album. Bischoff rocks some skuzzy, bombastic drum machine loops, some baroque orchestral flourishes and bits of standard indie guitar string work. Each element works toward a composite sketch of what well produced contemporary pop can be and should be. Nowadays, everyone has the tools to make good music, Bischoff simply shows how we all should be using them tools. If your any type of fan of modern indie pop, Royals is a must. I know I made a pact only a couple reviews back to avoid hyperboles and the like in my reviews, but Royals is certainly worthy of any adulation that has slipped past or those present herein. Definitely ranking high on the best albums I missed in 2008. But it is still only like 3 months old, this stuff is fresh and ripe for the picking!

- Lil' Thistle

Ribbons on Myspace