Thursday, May 27, 2010

Beach Fossils - Beach Fossils

Beach Fossils
Beach Fossils
(2010, Captured Tracks/Woodsist)
RIYL = A Faulty Chromosome, Real Estate, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Beach Fossils is the summer of 2010. Or maybe the summer of 1980. Or even the summer of 1960. It’s kinda timeless like that. Like a melting ice cream cone. Like The Sandlot (1993). (Like early eighties New Order.) So Beach Fossils is, simply, summer. And for that it is wholly appropriate (I would’ve posted about it earlier this week, but felt like the appearance of snow in Salt Lake City was a sign to forbear). Beach Fossils is straight laced indie rock. It’s as simple as that. And with that understanding you might be tempted to yawn, flip your pillow to its cooler side and fall back to sleep. But you’d be making a mistake. Listening to Beach Fossils is far more comfortable/relaxing/rejuvenating than a Saturday nap. And more consistant too (you never wake up with that disorienting, "What? It's already 6PM?" feeling). Eleven straight tracks goodness - no filler. With their jangly guitars and understated-yet-powerful hooks (so Brooklyn right now!), Beach Fossils have turned out one of the best pop albums of the year. There is not much more that one can say than that, right? Nope, not much.


Forest Swords - Dagger Paths

Forest Swords
Dagger Paths
(2010, Olde English Spelling Bee)
RIYL = Gang Gang Dance, Talk Talk/Portishead trudging through a backwater swamp

The tonal ecstasy of Forest Swords debut LP, Dagger Paths, is elusive. I missed it on my first listen by too quickly assuming Forest Swords to be another in the constant strain of weirdo noise-drone-krautrock that seems to have potential but then ends up going nowhere. I don’t want you to make the same mistake. Forest Swords is different. Dagger Paths isn’t some random collection of drugged-out improvisations, its heavy mood is achieved through careful layering and structured arcs. Dagger Paths is beguiling in the way in which it causes you to let your guard down. The music’s heavy, luxurious tones sink you into the ground before you know what’s become of your body from the neck down. The album requires (and deserves) your attention, meandering languorously in mid-ankle muck and grime. Some damp forest. The lounging low end bass, and jangling loops are a front. You feel isolated, but the reality is you’re surrounded by natives, their pulsing drums, and they want your skull. Forest Swords is deadly efficient and muggy blissful. A seriously wonderful, lurking record that adds hints of dub into the world of psych noise with amazingly satisfying results. So good.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Caddywhompus - Remainder

(2010, Community Records)
RIYL = Tiny Hawks, The Mae Shi, Deerhoof

I’ve recently looked back and realized that, not even halfway into 2010, this year is simply one of the best I’ve ever experienced in terms of established acts making great records (or simply not making terrible records) and discovering absolutely fantastic new acts; i.e. 2010 has been one of the best in terms of music, period. Add Caddywhompus to the reasons why 2010 has started off this new decade with a clatterous bang. The band, a guitar and drums duo, contains one member who’s solo disc is also one of the reasons that 2010 rocks. However, Remainder is much different from Salivary Stones, though no less accomplished in its own sphere. What we have here with Chris Rehm and Sean Hart is a frantic, soaring blast of anthemic post-punk shrapnel - oh and is it ever so so delicious. I mean this stuff has been running from the edges of my mouth for weeks. Simply serendipitous. It’s everything one could want out of a band of this ilk: taught riffage, machine gun drum ballistics, breakneck time/motif changes, and lickable, swimming upturns into smiled, noise-entrenched hooks. It’s lo-fi, but not gag-worthy lo-fi. It’s arty but not pretentious. And it’s smart smart smart along with being an utterly physical workhorse of spasms and sunny carnage. What a mess of words. If you’re looking for a one word description of Remainder, look no farther than the band name. Caddywhompus is about as self descriptive as it gets. And thankfully so. You know, I’m going to hate mentioning this, because I know that many out there are strictly haters of the band, but Japandroids...Japandroids could learn something from Caddywhompus. Caddywhompus is like Japandroids but awesome. Like Japandroids if they knew how to write interesting, engaging songs that evolved and burned. In that sense, Remainder is a rain of ashes. It’s lovely really. Sean, Chris, thanks for this. Really, Remainder is rounding everything out for me this year. 2010, while already amazing, just wouldn’t be quite the same without Caddywhompus.


The band has made this album downloadable for free, just recognize that after you taste of its goodness you will not be able to stop yourself from buying it on vinyl...check it here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid

Janelle Monáe
The ArchAndroid
(2010, Bad Boy Entertainment)
RIYL = Andre 3000, Michael Jackson, P-Funk, pop
Beloved Reader,
Just a note to check in, see how you’re doing (did you get my last message?), and tell you about a new thing you might benefit from. How are you? Has your summer started yet? How’re the dogs?
Okay, honey, I’ll cut to the chase: have you listened to The ArchAndroid yet? I know, I know, the album doesn’t need this nudge… I’m pretty sure that legiterally every critic in the entire nation has fawned over it already – but that’s actually why I thought it might be a good idea for us to talk a little about it.
Reader, I feel that, sometimes, you’re probably a bit like me. We share some similar tastes, and use some of the same outlets to help find fulfillment of those tastes. And one thing that I sometimes do when everyone in the entire world is talking about an album, and particularly, gushing over an album, is never ever listen to it ever. I try not to be reactionary like this. I pride myself on being a great accepter of music, of giving everything its fair chance. But sometimes, I guess, I don’t know… I like being able to stand outside the influence of others, and say, “Nope, haven’t listened to that.” Anyway, if you know what I’m talking about, well, that’s why I’m writing:
Don’t let ArchAndroid be that album for you right now.
The only person getting hurt is you, and it kills me to see you this way.
I’ll try not to contribute to the issue: I won’t sit here and extol all the virtues of the album, its complexities, its genre-blasting, its disparate and wonderful influences, its high-flying concept. Heck, I’ll even give you negative criticism: The of Montreal song is stupid and sucks and makes me so angry I almost get shaky, it’s so out of place and poor and should never ever ever have been included on this otherwise beautifully of-a-piece work. Just delete it from your iTunes.
But, okay, if I’m afraid of scaring you away with positive analysis, I’ll leave you only with this: The ArchAndroid will make you happy. It is blissful, smart, fresh, pure pop music. You need not analyze. Don’t do what the critics have done; don’t diagram, don’t treat this like the undisputed-album-of-the-year or the-album-to-finally-push-pop-forward or whatever. Just listen. Monáe kills it, kills it, kills it, and listening will make you smile. You might feel a little energetic. You might want to dance. You might want to build a spaceship and fly it into the sun. It’s cool.
So baby, please try it. Please? For me?
Thanks and love –

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Boy Fruit - Repulsive

Boy Fruit
(2010, Never Come Down Records)
RIYL = Excepter, Black Dice, The First Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth

And there we are, in the middle of a pack of retarded elephants. There is a single drunken one stumbling about from left to right, trumpeting elephant-like. Not quite what you’d get from an actual stable elephant. That’s how Boy fruit starts things out on Repulsive. And things dip from there. Everything simply becomes more and more inebriated, more and more ridiculous, more and more “special.” More layers, more stumbling, lots of falling and plenty of confusion. I didn’t realize until I listened to Repulsive from Boy Fruit that even robots can become a drunken mess. Some type of miswired mainframe wound-up and let loose in a small pool of molasses, slogging slowly but relentlessly. I can't keep from thinking that perhaps Repulsion is a more accurate documentation of what the island of misfit toys would be like. A bit horrific. And we’re all stuck, anchored by the chewing gum under our sneakers. There’s no escape. Simply a whirlwind of handicapped colours swirling, mesmerizing, retarding. Yeah, Repulsive makes you stupider. You listen to this album and your synapses stop firing, thoughts start melting into one another: it’s the death of the brain. An overload of sorts. You might ask yourself, “do I really want to go brain dead listening to the music of retarded elephants, drunken robots and misfit toys?” The answer is yes, yes you do. Good job Boy Fruit, you win.


Boy Fruit on MySpace

Monday, May 17, 2010

Little Women - Throat

Little Women
(2010, Aum Fidelity)
RIYL = Zs, Talibam!, MoHa!

Wait, what did I say about Zs and New Slaves? Oh yeah, that it was absolutely enormously monstrously terrific, or something, and that you weren’t likely to hear anything like it this year. While that remains largely true, Throat, the debut album from Little Women (which proceeded New Slaves in terms of release dates) is, well, lets call it a, um, lets call it the only album with an internal weighting system (un)balanced enough and the exterior costuming belligerent and malevolent enough to have a chance at breaching New Slaves to crumble its internal organs to the floor. Surely Little Women and Zs are like minded enough in their crunching aesthetic to be friends in the real world – they’re certainly contemporaries – but what is this music of not an assault? Its cantankerous tones battle absurdly like the razor pronged talons of an industrial garage cock fight. But if I must compare, if Throat demands to be slotted up next to the very best albums released so far this year (which it undeniably does), know that, straying from the consistently demonic New Slaves, Little Women also offer valleys of beautiful reprieve, sections classy enough to share breathe with Joanna Newsom’s immaculate Have One On Me. I suppose that is the key here. Little Women present a jaw dropping dynamic of primal explosiveness in step with elegance and melody, structure even. There is a fluidity from one end of spectrum to the other that proves Little Women are beyond gifted in their ability to both hone in on the essence of their instruments, turning out a cordial listening experience, and likewise to allow their instruments to own them and burst forth in animal bits of terror. Because Throat is an animal. A birdlike creature really. Dual headed, represented by byzantine squawk and purr of alto and tenor sax, the creature patters about maniacally crashing into any and everything in its path. The bone structure and legs of the creature (of which there is approximately five – legs, that is) are represented by the maverick drumming, and the body as a whole, a static glitching façade, by the constantly contorting guitar work. It’s a new breed with very few reference points. Sure, there is a beak, but two of them, and legs, but five. And the fact that it is never clearly concrete, almost a hologram, is equally troubling. What is it? Jazz? Rock? Noise? Yes, yes, yes and no. I’m having a difficult time dialing back my enthusiasm about the one actually, so just know that it was really hard for my not to preemptively anoint Little Women’s Throat as the best album of the decade and we’ll call it even.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shugo Tokumaru - Port Entropy

Shugo Tokumaru
Port Entropy
(2010, P Vine Records)
RIYL = Colourmusic, Adem, Sufjan Stevens

Consider this a plea to begin or quicken any and all plans pertaining to the stateside distribution of Shugo Tokumaru’s 4th full length album, Port Entropy. I have long wanted to visit Tokumaru’s homeland of Japan just to sip of the water running through their pipes, that Japanese water, to see if I felt as a result some odd tingling in my fingers and toes, heard that pleasant, polyphonic buzz, saw the wondrous spread of vibrant colors that seem to be constantly beaming from that wonderful nation. I seem unable to separate my experience with Japanese culture from the hyper-imaginative films of Hayao Miyazaki, the absurdist whimsicality of the Katamari Damacy gaming series and the bright flutter of instrumentation that works its way through Shugo Tokumaru’s blissful pop. Port Entropy is simply another notch of pop perfection in Tokumaru’s already well notched belt. The guy is a brilliant, consistent and infinitely creative. A true artist, I say. And Port Entropy, his latest opus, may well be a high water mark in terms of his ability to intelligently express childlike joyousness. When listening to the album its difficult not grin wide and hard. Sure, I don’t understand a lick of the Japanese that Tokumaru sings, but the delicate tone of his voice simply can’t be mistaken. It also helps that Tokumaru is a master multi-instrumentalist (something we already knew). I don’t know, I don’t know. Port Entropy feels to me like that invisible wiring that raises the sun in the morning, that spreads the clouds wide and opens up the skies in order to warm the earth. I’m just happy to be caught in it all. Hopefully the distribution of Port Entropy becomes more widely available soon because you won’t experience summer the same way without it.


the Port Entropy website

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Gultskra Artikler - Galaktika

Gultskra Artikler
(2010, Other Electricities)
RIYL = Ekkehard Ehlers, Anduin, White Rainbow

Gultskra Artikler is Alexey Devyanin is Russian is historied in magitronics. In 2010 Gultskra Artikler is Galaktika is an aircraft or a free floating system of electronics is jumbled variously with mud and roots is short on lighting is dark is brooding is permeated with ambient dirt, with grayish mist is in a jar with bugs, electric bugs, sputtering, buzzing, winged electric bugs is contained in nine jars is an exhibit of containment is crosspollination between soil and keyboards, synthesizers in said containment system, said jars is Galaktika. “Nanorobot,” for instance, is Galaktika jar number three is good and full with those bugs is also filled/full of echoes is lifting at the end is at the top of the jar is part of the mist is spooky/scary is in orbit. “Saturn,” then, is Galaktika jar number four is Artiler is “Nanorobot” layered/evolved is spectral lasers is spacial history is trickling caves is Fraggle Rock for insane asylums is the hum is the hum, ecetera. Galaktika is nine jars afloat is the expanse of space is hypersensitive to repetition, to the sorting of clutter is the missing colors in the light is the ambience of outer horror contained, multiplied, exhibited on the kitchen counter, dripping from the lids, seeping is Gultskra Artikler is the ghosts of electricity is Galaktika.


Stream of Galaktika

Monday, May 10, 2010

Zs - New Slaves

New Slaves
(2010, Social Registry)
RIYL = Aufgehoben, Kingdom Shore, Steve Reich

Zs is a unit of irregulars trained for piloting costumes of beastliness. New Slaves, their grand opera. It is the documentation of three costumings, mechanized, and of particular weight, with various sub-beastly machinery in tow. Part 1: “Concert Black” to “Masonry” – the first five installments find the troupes operating a web of interconnected brutes, partly organic, partly motorized, five dirge missives, jaws agape, wide shoulders and variously noisy purrs. This is the infantry. A list of monstrousness. Tattered with ballistics gone awry, but still functional, with a limp. “Acres of Skin” is perhaps the lead puppet in this procession, trailing bones of all the animals of Noah. Propelled, percussive. Part one is the initial assault to crumble the walls, the larger buildings, to set metal into the dirt and rearrange the livestock. Part 2: “New Slaves” – a single animal. Twenty minutes in length and height and width. The toil of Zs. Perhaps taller and lengthier than its timeframe. The engine. “New Slaves” is a series of multilateral parts pumping in conjunction, the bulldoze, correcting and reassembling part 1. Smoke is high in the air now, seen from miles. “New Slaves” is that new grind. Count the number of arms, the number of legs, tracks of tanks. An evolutionary force, part 2 is the flex and return, the new homemaking of charred marrow and bits of yellowed grass. Perhaps increasingly mechanized, but a distortion of mechanics. A perfunctory loop of mock celebrations and their loud wrist watches. The certain death and the certain intelligence of a cricked neck. Part 3: “Black Crow Ceremony,” parts one and two – the aftermath. These costumes tend more towards linens and ropes, lettuce, twigs, all in gallons of gasoline. Twin burnouts for the ghostly set, a mix of specters and the dismembered arms part 2. A milky ambience for the regiment of red-eyed drunkenness. Loosens the blood, though not without the fleshy mandibles and teeth of goats. Minotaurs circle these creatures warily. Two sentinel the after-Zs. Prepared by the shifts in the air. Part 3 is the shifts in the air that lift from the chaos. Collect your things. It’s time to go. The imperfect triptych, an immaculate corpse of sorts. Though not remotely similar to anything else you’ll hear this year, New Slaves is among the very best that sound has to offer this year, this new decade, this past century? The most concentrated aural workout I’ve had since, since…


Zs - "Acres of Skin"

Careful about motion sickness for this one:

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hanoi Janes - Year Of Panic

Hanoi Janes
Year of Panic
(2010, Captured Tracks)
RIYL = The Fresh & Onlys, Blank Dogs, Thomas Function

Listening to Hanoi Janes I can’t get the image out of my head of some frail pack of boys with broken wrists and broken ankles. Haha. I don’t know that says about Year of Panic, the band’s (or, more accurately, Oliver Scharf's) debut LP, but I like it. I really like it. The guitar strings on this album have been wrapped up in pulleys to lift up the sun in the morning, I’ll tell ya. I want to say infinite hooks, and then I want to say white washed to oblivion, and then I want to talk about how the guitars spew glitter, rainbows and flower petals. Is that sufficient? This is music for blasting from your 1988 Ferrari Testarossa convertible (as soon as I can get $64,900, this is exactly what I’m going to do). But, don’t worry, you don’t really need a Ferrari to enjoy this wonky, time worn gem. All you need is an 11 dial on your volume control and some shakin' hips. Seriously, I have nothing to say about this album except that it is the summer of 2010 and why not? I’m ready for some warmth and faded blue skies. Alright, let’s get to the nuts and bolts: Year of Panic - fifteen beautifully wonderfully smiling garage pop gems that musically bedazzle your life, I kid you not.


not on the album, but you'll get the idea...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Aaron Martin - Worried About the Fire

Aaron Martin
Worried About the Fire
(2010, Experimedia)
RIYL = Max Richter, Rachels, Sean McCann

In the most recent Listed feature from Dusted Magazine, Julianna Barwick said that she was pretty sure that “13 Angels Standing Guard ‘Round the Side of Your Bed” by A Silver Mt, Zion was “the most beautiful song [she’s] ever heard.” I have a hard time disagreeing with statement because, one, it’s an opinion based on her personal experience, and two, I pretty much agree. That is provides an odd segue into this album review, I know, but Aaron Martin’s latest album, Worried About the Fire, feels like a dozen pop sized chamber burners of that same beautiful timber found in “13 Angels…” Martin’s work has always been a heavy favourite of mine. His debut, Almond, sat just one tick short of making my end of decade list. On this most recent full length, Worried About the Fire, Martin doesn’t set out to do the same things that he accomplished with his first albums, opting instead to rework his existing catalog of recordings into twelve pop sized (2 to 4 minutes) musings on the pangs of minor key gorgeousness. The results are compelling, displaying minute gestures via cello layering, chamber orchestration and avante garde texturing. While Worried About the Fire may not involve the 13 angels enlisted by A Silver Mt. Zion, it’s difficult not to imagine the 12 tracks on the album each standing in for a particularly angelic seraph. Another beautiful outing, Worried About the Fire confirms my opinion that Aaron Martin is perhaps the most compelling post classical composer/musician working today.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Frog Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph

Frog Eyes
Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph
(2010, Dead Oceans)
RIYL = Sunset Rubdown, Xiu Xiu, Tom Waits

This happens: Carey Mercer and Co. unwittingly find a tomb, it’s Paul’s tomb. Probably not the Paul you’re thinking of, but then again, yes, yes it is. A resurrection takes place, Paul stands forth, wiping the sweat of resurrection from his brow. Mercer and his bandmates exchange toiled grins, exhausted but satisfied with their success. He, Paul, wobbles forward, bracing himself on the frame of the tomb door. Decades and centuries have thinned him into a tight sack of leathery bones. It’s not the sight you expect. Resurrections aren’t quite what you thought they were. So, it’s a triumph, sure, but it's now the responsibility of the band to rid the world of this weary figure whose head holds only a few disparate patches of lengthy death-grown hair. It happens with shovels. Lots of smashing and cleanly shattered marrow. Little blood. And so it is that the new Frog Eyes album collapses upon itself in a heap of shovels, all thunderous and clanging, the perfect companion to Tears of the Valedictorian, an album which has steadily sounded better and better every day since its initial release. The same is true of Paul’s Tomb, and, honestly, this album is a whole hell of a lot better than most of these warm-but-not-quite-ecstatic reviews have been painting it (and how can I not be wholly disaffected by the blunder of Pitchfork?). This is it. I don’t know if this is my favourite album of the year yet, but it is starting very high on the list, and if my past experience with Frog Eyes is any indicator, Paul’s Tomb will indeed be triumphant. Priceless.


Frog Eyes - "A Flower In a Glove"
Frog Eyes - "Lear in Love"

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sightings - City of Straw

City of Straw
(2010, Jagjaguwar)
RIYL = Mouthus, Skaters, Wolf Eyes

Following up Through The Panama, what most will consider as Sightings’ magnum post-noise opus, was never going to be an easy task. The guttural blast of that record still haunts me with its overt, menacing grind. However, in their move to Jagjaguwar, Sightings have created a contentious, noise addled rift in the music landscape that is equal to its predecessor. You might consider City of Straw the Amnesiac in this equation if Through The Panama is Kid A. A companion piece of sorts that is definitely equal in measure of austerity and grating aural dryness. Sightings are standing upon the peak of post-no wave noise, or something. In any case, it’s a sound with few reference points and garbage bins full of possibility. While categorization may be difficult, City of Straw is, at its core, really just punk music (is there any song more punk rock than “Saccharine Traps”?). And when I say punk music, I mean the spirit of what that term was originally intended to imply. Sightings are creating in the gaping jaws of their atonal sound fissures that anti statement statement which has become ever more elusive in our culture of hyper marketing madness. In terms of tonality, there isn't much that's filthier than City of Straw? Sightings are on the fore front of the stately blur between music and non music. City of Straw is that impervious straddle, hanging limp in the teeth of a trash compactor, threaten some type of reverse compacting: the apathetic compactor of trash compactors. City of Straw cannibalizes it all. And, for the record, personally I prefer it to Through The Panama.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Scott Tuma - Dandelion

Scott Tuma
(2010, Digitalis)
RIYL = Aaron Martin, Box Ensemble, Peter Broderick

Oh boy, it’s good to be back. There is so much good stuff to relay and folks, I have been sitting on this new Scott Tuma LP for far too long. First off, I’m pretty sure this is Tuma’s first solo album on wax, so that there is a pretty good reason for snatching this thing up quick (because if it’s not gone already, it will be). The second reason, which should really be the first, is it's Scott Tuma making the music. And yep, Mr. Tuma is in blessed form, ever the torch bearer for consistency and beautifully skeletal folk majesty. Dandelion is full up to every cobwebbed nook an cranny with Tuma’s elegant guitars and banjos pinging gently over the top of one another, laying a subtle hay strewn groundwork for lurching organ melodies and airy field samples. If you are familiar with Tuma, these types of descriptors are pretty standard. Tuma has pretty much mastered the art of phantasmically gorgeous folk. However, this time around, in addition to ghostly gorgeous, is the frenzied spooky. Dandelion is intermingled with a couple heavy slabs of tin rumbling drone to mix things up and add an extra layer of crystal jingling depth to his already hyper layered formula. It is, at turns, a bit darker, but no less evocative, and amidst this low rumbling hums, the flecks of carefree nostalgia float even higher. It’s a beautifully nuanced give and take. Seriously wonderful stuff, as always, from this perennial FG favourite.


Scott Tuma on MySpace