Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Waggers Over The Station - Upekkha

Waggers Over The Station
(2010, self released)
RIYL = The Microphones’ Mt. Eerie, Paavoharju, Chris Rehm, Green Gerry

The factual soundness concerning information about Waggers Over The Station being indeed the sole individual, Casey Shew (that impervious wreck), is an illusion. Many invisibles contributed here, and that Mr. Shew would even consider shutting out their mouths and fingers from the paint-black thread lining every crease in this album is, in and of itself, a travesty. Credit to hooded malefactors brimming with alcohol, tied to the tracks and humming their death hum; credit to light fissures that bursted maniacal into the seams of Shew’s pockets and socks; credit to the wind (what Casey, do you own the wind?!); credit wooden cogs pumping water, sloshing and creaking properly under balloons of liquid weight; credit to the heartless metal gods tricked into patient vibration – and that’s just for opening track. Truth be truth, Upekkha carries forward, barreling, like a catatonic train – its metallic chugga chugga as it trollies down the track –shifting and contorting, dog-faced ambivalent, a tigerbelly carriage roaring all the way until the slowed point of the next stop; stops that flutter, and fritz gorgeously, bursting out in equal parts Isaac Brock and Phil Elverum (at least on “I Stand on the Hilltop. Light Falling on the Grass”). Upekkha devours all, carnivorously chompcrunching the bones of its forbearers (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Animal Collective, Natural Snow Buildings, etc.) and bleeding the remains out into this wholly new construction, fully organic, completely mechanized, rooted and branched, the whole atmosphere, deep deep deep, thick, immersive and soul-sucking. The whole of the world will crumble around you in imaginative verve, soil and leaf, sunk to the pit. And you, Mr. Shew, seek to take the recognition, to aggrandize yourself as thee wagger, to loom heavy over the station all by your lonesome. Your ribs can’t shadow it. Your thin fingers couldn’t grip it if they tried. Upekkha is bigger than you…bigger than all of us. But not so big, perhaps, even as it disassembles matter around us, that the songs seeping through won't tug righteous at the tiniest heart strings left wafting. (Thanks Casey.)


PS - album of the year contender

Place. The Light Falling on the Cabin by Waggers
I Stand on the Hilltop. The Light Falling on the Grass by Waggers

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mark Templeton - Ballads EP

Mark Templeton
(2010, self released)
RIYL = Tim Hecker, The Field, Belong

I’m not much for EPs. Maybe you’ve noticed, all one bajillion of you who have sent me your debut EPs without a response. Forgive me, really. I don’t know what stops me from being able to commit myself to downloading and listening to something of that length. It should be easier right? (Don’t give up, send me your full lengths.) Yet, I do take exception for some. Enter Mark Templeton’s Ballads. While I genuinely loved his collaboration with aA. Munson on Acre Loss, I think I forced myself to enjoy his sophomore album, Inland. It wasn’t bad by any means, but not near as good as Standing On A Hummingbird either. It almost kept me from immersing myself in his latest EP. However, Ballads marks a return to his previously achieved, outstanding form. The concept for Ballads is a brief, but rich suite of tracks derived from the one-and-only Lionel Richie. The opening track, “February 23rd,” is quick to find the Richie’s single, “Hello,” bleeding through the guitars and static. It’s a plunderphonic dream that you never knew you had and now, in its earshot, can’t help but slip away into again and again. The closer, "Drowning in Memories," thickens things up a bit and provides ample evidence of the man's expertise in sound collage. Looks like Mr. Templeton is back on top and Ballads definitely has me interested in what’s coming next from the textured Canadian soundsmith.


Mark Templeton - "Fabruary 23rd"
Mark Templeton's website

Polar Bear - Peepers

Polar Bear
(2010, Leaf)
RIYL = Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis

What do I know about jazz? I mean real jazz with all of its genre specific denotations and in-crowd posturing? Nothing. Absolutely. But, one thing I know is that I love it regardless. So, in reviewing this, Polar Bear’s fourth or fifth or whatever album, Peepers, I am here to simply assert that, yes, I like it. I like it a lot. That’s pretty plain right? I mean normally I find it pretty easy, when reviewing the abstract stuff, to just drift off into meaninglessness; it’s effortless. But here, no. Peepers cannot be solely understood/passed-off on the basis of my mind bent in its direction. That said, this is what I know: 1 – Polar Bear’s got funk. Things open up kicking on “Happy For You,” and “Bap Bap Bap.” However, “Bap Bap Bap” is dual natured and a transition piece with that. Which brings me to 2 – Polar Bear’s got soul. That deep, sucking mass that hits you low and drags you down like an anchor. 3 – Polar Bear’s got imagination. Honestly, a lot of what Peepers presents feels like the classic jazz of those late greats, which is a total compliment to its fluidity and pulse, but that doesn’t mean that Polar Bear doesn’t break into some shifty, cranky, avant garde territory. “Drunken Pharaoh” dabbles expertly, straddling the line between that standard funk and falling apart. And that’s just three tracks in. Peepers is comprehensive, slick and choppy in all the right places, and quintessential for jazz fanboys and casual listeners alike. It’s an indie crossover for suresies.


High Wolf - Ascension

High Wolf
(2010, Not Not Fun)
RIYL = Stag Hare, Niagara Falls, Mountains

That old Indian drum. The dangling dream catcher. The hollow breeze drifting. It’s not an unfamiliar song at this point in the game. The fact that it can be revitalized is something of a miracle though. I mean how many blazed-to-high-heaven hippy jamdrones does one need in their personal collection? It’s a bit played I think. Still, High Wolf, being that almighty champion of the form, their silken musk pulsing, have conjured a Lamanite dreamspace of resonance and distinction. Things float dusty through to “Diego,” where the soil-gravity-lift is scissored through with electronics, beams of green and blue projected into the thick air. This is when I think to myself: yes, yes, I can handle another album extracted from the blood of this land, from its original inhabitants and their horse’s skulls. As the album progresses, the level of play is consistently elevated. In five pieces High Wolf manages the straight-forward mission statement embedded in his album title and proves himself complicit with the objects of ascension. I feel like, in listening to the album, my body is weighted down into a cross-legged slump beneath a headdress of a thousand feathers crushing me into a higher plane.


High Wolf on MySpace

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Samamidon - I See The Sign

I See The Sign
(2010, Bedroom Community)
RIYL = Bill Calahan, Nick Drake, Sun Kil Moon

Sam Amidon’s I See The Sign is one of the most delicate pieces of music I’ve heard in a long, long time. There may be no other way to state it. It floats fragile, like a paper boat, pushed and pulled in the soft eddies and simple current of a forest creek. A member of the tight knit Bedroom Community, Sam Amidon has enlisted the talents of fellow Bedromm Community members like Valgeir Sigurdsson and Nico Muhly (in addition to others) to assist him in perfecting his beautifully lush, awe-inspiring folk. While they aren’t the same tonally, there is an honesty in Amidon’s voice, a subtle, rootsy drawl, reminiscent of Bill Calahan. This rural air is probably also lifted from much of the old source material and lyrics Amidon has transformed and transplanted into I See The Sign. In addition, orchestral flourishes throughout are applied with perfect restraint, reminiscent of Joanna Newsom’s watershed album, Ys. Characterized by a quaint reverence and lyrical repetition, I See The Sign is the kind of album that will kill you peacefully, fold you up, and lay you to rest. Seriously, folk music doesn’t get more intelligent or more gorgeous than this.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Pigeons - SI Faustine

Si Faustine
(2010, Olde English Spelling Bee)
RIYL = Broadcast, Forest Swords, Green Gerry

Olde English Spelling Bee is cranking it up a notch this year, delivering heavy on the serpentine murk. They already dropped that illustrious Forest Swords LP, and the new Julian Lynch is psych-pop wonderful, and this…this. Following their namesake, Pigeons are beautifully feathered and dirty. A lilting flutter of female vocals twisting and harmonizing up towards the clouds, occasionally taking roost upon mucky windowsills and oily industrial silos. That’s where Pigeons fly. Si Faustine, the group’s debut (I think? Lazy), is a sort of psych-folk animal, not necessarily a carnivore, but certainly untamed, free roaming entity with a heartbeat and a collapsed lung. Si Faustine carries pastoral guitars in one moment, like an animal caught in the frame of a National Geographic camera lens, and off into caterwauling horned dirges, digging through an alley dumpster the next. Though, still, everything is framed artistically, gorgeous in its white, black and brown hues. Oh, and red. This has been one of the biggest surprises for me this year. So much depth and diversity twisted up in a praline dropped on the ground and dusted off. It’s too good not to devour again and again.


Harlem - Hippies

(2010, Matador)
RIYL = Girls, The Strokes, Hanoi Janes

I just realized that I haven’t written up Hippies. Well, let me go ahead and present this formal recommendation. Hippies is bread and butter. The ingredients aren’t new, but it is super delicious and, similar to actual occassions I've had with bread and butter, Harlem’s version just so happens to be that one time when this simplified recipe seems to hit the spot just that much harder. The band’s sound is strongly reminiscent of Girls’ breakthrough, Album, last year; however, whereas that album left me only slightly peaked and then patently bored, Hippes has me all warm and excited. The lyrics are as crisp as the instrumentation. The whole aesthetic hits squarely, and what more can you ask for than that when pumping some blissful revivalist garage tunes. Harlem plays music for convertibles and road trips (something we got around to at about 2AM on our way to Minneapolis). And that’s about it. This is your summer bread and butter.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Skullflower - Strange Keys to Untune Gods' Firmament

Strange Keys to Untune Gods’ Firmament
(2010, Neurot)
RIYL =Yellow Swans, Kevin Drumm, Millipede

The album title sums it up quite beautifully, actually. This double disc Skullflower outing offers just that, strange keys melted into the sky, contorting divinity into some alternate realm of existence, some abstract blackness that, though dark and menacing, finds beauty that only a deity can. Of course, this isn’t a wholly new idea from the likes of Matthew Bower, the long time noisesmith. Even so, Strange Keys is all-consuming and absolutely enthralling. Bower, through his various pseudonyms and collaborations, over the course of his historied and expansive career, has obviously learned a thing or two about the disintegration of sound at high volumes. Strange Keys offers just that, the meticulous corruption of a guitar and all its inherently noisy textures, through mountains of pedals and rows of clenched teeth. It can be suitably considered harsh. However, Bower knows that harshness alone won’t cut it, that there is a necessity of some deep rooted beauty. Or perhaps I’m just demented enough to hear such a thing when listening to Strange Keys. I imagine that it is only a small few of us who agree on this. Still, for those with internal wiring eccentric enough to endure this kind of thing, walls of sound thicker than a mile wide moat of decaying corpses, it is indeed beautiful. I’ve read complaints or puzzlement over the need for two discs on a release like this. One that, despite the recognizable variations from one track to another, is essentially a body of like-minded textures that travel to the same destination. It puzzles me, at least slightly. If you don’t feel the need to rummage through both discs, don’t. I for one find more in this circumstance, is more. Strange Keys to Untune Gods’ Firmament is definitely a pillar of an already astounding year in terms of its offerings in experimental and noise music.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Moonhearts - Moonhearts

(2010, Tic Tac Totally!)
RIYL = Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Woven Bones

Oh bliss! Look at my fried & scrambled brains, all hissing and popping, steaming, served up on a dirty diner's plate. Thank you Moonhearts, oh thank you thank you! I know it wasn’t much of a week or so ago when I was discussing the Moonhearts (formally Charlie and the Moonhearts) and their garage rock superiority with the 2008 tape/CD, Thunderbeast. Well, they’ve dropped Charlie, though I hope not literally. Even if they did, this self titled outing under the shinyfresh Moonhearts moniker is absolutely the bee’s friggin’ knee caps. Oh me oh my, is it delicious! Better than Thunderbeast, better than any other brick-toothed garage rock album that I can think of. Moonhearts has erased all of that; those memories. This is that type of coiled, manic, liquor-doused rock n’ roll that burns your lungs and exalts your ears. Hooks mudded and tangled in barbed wire, guitars strung out like ripped tendons, drums mashed flat like potatoes, it’s all here and noisy like Boise. Hmm hmm, I feel like I should be spiraling off into some alternate dimension of description, but I’ll leave it short and tight, just like the album.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Green Gerry - Odd Tymes

Green Gerry
Odd Tymes
(2010, Self Released)
RIYL = Julian Lynch, Grouper, Ducktails

Have you ever, in the midst of a fishing trip upon that open lake – the lake lined with sentinel trees, each slung to the next with hammocks and lit up alright with lanterns – fallen into the water-ether and was surprised, while floating amongst the underwater greenery, that the cricket-silence present at the surface, on the rowboat, was juxtaposed so gorgeously with the ear disorienting vibrations swinging below, and there, submerged and sinking, decided that drowning was the best option, because you wanted to eek out a couple more minutes of the blessedly soggy tunes you’d newly discovered and never wanted to let go of? I imagine it is a common experience among us, though, if you’re reading this it is likely that, though you slipped into the sleepy depths unconscious, a boat mate or shore observer (or school of fish) managed to float you ashore an revive your breathing, thinking and (most importantly) hearing capacities. Thus, here you are, remembering that lost experience like it was just a figment of your imagination. Wondering, with your dissolving memory, what exactly those tones were that you’d experienced, that voice. Fortunately for us all, Green Gerry (the pseudonym of one Gerry Green) has produced (with only Garage Band and the internal mic on his computer) that most glorious, layered, submerged paradise and set it to tape so that it might kiss our ears freely while our lungs expand and retract. I promise you, by the axe of Thor, that Odd Tymes, this most honestly gorgeous, intensely atmospheric, odd and timely out-folk album, is indeed that sooty savior you’ve been seeking. And, of course, just like the cost to sink low in that open lake – the lake lined with sentinel trees, each slung to the next with hammocks and lit up alright with lanterns – was yours, Green Gerry in his most generous, throaty way and understanding, humbly of course, of the sheer essentiality of Odd Tymes, something created very much with forces beyond his own, has it propped up on his Bandcamp page using the pay-what-you-want model. It’s worth much more than $0, of that I assure you. So bloody, drowningly good.


Green Gerry on Bandcamp


(2010. Self Released)
RIYL = Pantha du Prince, Burial, Eluvium

It’s only July and already RxRy is breathing down our necks with another full length slab of super-beautiful, minimalist electronica. If you read my review of his self titled debut LP earlier this year, you’ll know that I’m super psyched on this kid. Mixing a knack for shimmering, emotive drones with an expertise at slow building beat-centric perfection, RxRy has matched his debut with an equally elated, equally life affirming, perhaps better album of pure headphone bliss. VAEIOUWLS ebbs and flows spiritually through its ten tracks and, though it is separated into separate suites, there is no reason during the course of the album that you will ever want to stray. It’s a complete structure from beginning to end and, even in its inherent simplicity, quite an achievement of mood construction. Remember those electronic chill compilations? The ones that mixed some of your favourite downbeat electronic artists with a mix of mediocre ones? The ones with the bikini’d babes slapped on the cover? If you remove the marketing aspect of those albums and access the desire for a perfect mix of moody electronic transportation, what’s being sought there is presented here in VAEIOUWLS at is most primal and evocative. Man, I feel bad for even bringing up those old comps. They do not belong in comparison with this record. Even still, that perfectly isolating, interior assemblage of digital mind destruction, it’s here. And, since the record labels RxRy’s pursuing haven’t seemed to catch on to the sheer genius of this stuff, it is available for free. Plan on seeing RxRy twice on my year end list.


and, if track 7 doesn't work for you, click here.

UUAII - RxRy - VAEIOUWLS LP (2010) from Rx Ry on Vimeo.

EUUIO - RxRy - VAEIOUWLS LP (2010) from Rx Ry on Vimeo.

AAIEI - RxRy - VAEIOUWLS LP (2010) from Rx Ry on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Halfway Point: End-of-Decade revisions

This is a list of could've/would've/should've revisions to my End-of-Decade list I posted earlier this year for 2000-2009. Sorry, new record reviews from 2010 on the horizon. You'll just have to induldge me for now...or wait, or whatever, blahblahblah.



The "could’ve" section. These are albums that, depending on the day, could have been interchangeable with many of the albums that made the final list, though, most likely in the latter ranks. I’m adding these mostly to complete the whole could’ve/would’ve/should’ve trilogy. Still, I have no problem blurbing about albums that I love, of which these qualify.

Juana Molina
Un Dia
(Domino, 2008)

Who at Domino thought that it would be a bad idea to put this album on vinyl? That’s what I want to know. I mean, people are aware of Juana Molina, right? And Domino isn’t exactly a petty label. And Un Dia is absolutely and completely, unequivocally, her best album, looped to bizarrely wonderful and always organic realms of wonder and mysticism. So, why?

Internal Wrangler
(Domino, 2000)

A pretty standard decade-end listmaker, and for good reason. Internal Wrangler is claustrophobically tight, brooding little art rock record of purity and distinction. Oh how I would love for Clinic to reach these heights again. They’ve another new record set for this year, so here’s to hoping.

Avey Tare & Kria Brekkan
Pullhair Rubeye
(Paw Tracks, 2007)

This album is most notorious, to me at least, for receiving a 1.0 rating from Pitchfork. Which is ridiculous. The album is, I suppose (based on such reviews), frustrating because the entire thing was released in reverse: all instruments and lyrics playing backwards. Some have been savvy enough to correct this reversal by reversing it to its original composition, but I have avoided this. Pullhair Rubeye is just too wonderful the way it is, I wouldn’t want to dampen my listening experience by constantly having to refer to the forward playing version whenever I hear it. Really, one of the most beautiful albums of this past decade, there is no doubt. The only reason I omitted it was because I was already feeling guilty for all the Animal Collective albums I listed. Yet, this is a wholly unique venture and deserves a second attention, one divorced from attention deficit critics. So, so good.

Haha Sound
(Warp, 2003)

Gorgeous electropop bliss tempered with ample moments of crumbling electronic breakdowns and nuanced sound fissures, Haha Sound maintains a pitch perfect tone throughout. Mandatory listening for My Bloody Valentine apologists, with a pleasant twist that distances the band from any accusations of a watered down retread. An album (not to mention, a band) which has constantly been on my list of things to get to, but, of which, I never quite got around to until now.



This is a listing of albums that I came to way too late in the game, and that would have, given the proper timing, been most certainly counted among my favourite albums of this past decade. It’s a category, I expect, will continue to grow over the course of this new decade. Each is worthy, without question, of being listed in any best of the decade listing for 2000-2009.

Fire Show
Saint The Fire Show
(Perishable, 2002)

Saint The Fire Show is one of those completely off-the-charts-unique, slightly grating albums that spins in a universe all its own and, eventually, with repeated listens, turns into something astounding and permanently scarring (an experience reminiscent of Talk Talk’s Laughing Stock or Slint’s Spiderland). Post-rock experimentalism at its most crooked and awry.

Sean McCann
Midnight Orchard
(2009, Roll Over Rover)

I’ve already written this up here.

The Skygreen Leopards
One Thousand Bird Ceremony
(Soft Abuse, 2003)

The pastoral, patchwork folk of The Skygreen Leopards was never so disassembled and airy, pristine and sunlight twinkling, as gorgeous as it is on their debut for Soft Abuse. Why I waited so long to listen to the boys on their debut after so thoroughly enjoying their now more pop oriented psych folk, is beyond me. Don’t let it happen to you. No wait, you knew better. Loveliness.

Peter Kolovos
New Bodies
(Thin Wrist, 2009)

Did I mention that the vinyl packaging for New Bodies is absolutely deluxe? So is everything on Thin Wrist. Of course, I just reviewed this thing last week, but have been listening to it for a good enough amount of time to know that it will imprint on this past decade most solidly. Essential.



These are the incredible albums that I cannot deny knowing about and still, by some force I have not yet identified, neglected to list among my favourite albums for this past decade. If I did it all over again, each of these would find a spot on the list, without question. Essentially: my bad.

One-Way Ticket to Candyland
(Rune Grammofon, 2008)

What I feel was my largest omission, the biggest hole in my ragged end-of-decade list, was the masterwork of noise and confusion that is MoHa!’s One-Way Ticket to Candyland. Corralling their freejazz noise splatter into tighter, more structured bursts of hardcore punk fury, this album should have sunk deep into the top 50 of my list. I know that I thought of it during my deliberations. The band’s tonal attack must have dislodged a memory circuit or something. They'll do that.

Fantastic Damage
(Def Jux, 2002)

With production as crumbled and noisy and paranoid as anything on The Cold Vein (of course, you already knew that those are his fingerprints on them beats too, right?) and with a thick cadence and lyricism that constantly informs any attempts I make at poetry/lyrical-fiction, how could I throw Fantastic Damage under the bus? Forever repentant.

(Matador, 2004)

I like Interpol better than Joy Division and I like Antics better than Turn On The Bright Lights (which is a fairly recent development). Sue me. Then sue me again for not listing this the first go around.

(Tomlab, 2008)

An underappreciated (even by me, apparently) avant funk trip, Money is a crowning achievement of hybrid indie rock aesthetics. Jazzy, rocking, bluesy and all that. Skeletons, as the constantly shifting moniker of genius musician Matt Mehlan and his cronies, has never been more vibrant, colorful, dark and enveloping as on this album. That the group will find commonalities with The Dirty Projectors doesn’t mean that they aren’t unique; also, Money is way better than Bitte Orca (IMHO).


Friday, July 2, 2010

The Halfway Point: Best Missed Albums of 2009, Part 2

Part two of the best albums that I missed in 2009. I wanted to add a couple more, but I got lazy. Sorry. Also, there is a 2007 and 2008 review. Lame. In addition to these, sometime later next week, I’m going to finish up this halfway point nonsense with an amendment to my end-of-decade list posted in January. So that’s that. Yeah. Cool. Sure.

Peter Kolovos - New Bodies

Peter Kolovos
New Bodies
(2009, Thin Wrist)
RIYL = Kevin Drumm, John Wiese, Derek Bailey

Peter Kolovos plays the guitar like John Wiese works a circuit board, his guitar squawking and scribbling out its beautiful spit and grit – its malfunction – all over the place. And New Bodies, New Bodies is the best album I missed last year. How good? Well, I would probably place it somewhere in my top 3 albums of 2009. Possibly number one. Which makes it an obvious mention for one of the best albums of this past decade. I understand that Kolovos’s experimental, hard glitching guitar work, like the spastic blues of Bill Orcutt (probably the other best album I missed from 2009), is a descendent of the all mighty Derek Bailey, but nothing from that man mangles me in quite the same way as New Bodies does. It’s as if, in his improvisations, in these obvious new tones, that Kolovos’s intuition knows perfectly the position and placement of each dotted note, each puncturing slice and every extended wall of garbage laced crunch. The album is, simply, perfect in its deconstruction, its balance, its weight and kill. Do not underestimate this. New Bodies is what a guitar was meant to sound like. It has simply taken all these hundreds of years to perfect it. Mind blowing.


LSD March - Under Milk Wood

LSD March
Under Milk Wood
(2009, Important)
RIYL = Boris, Ghost, Acid Mother Temple

LSD March has, apparently, been a longtime psych rock import from Japan. I never knew, and as a result I seem to be a much lesser person than I otherwise could’ve been. So this, Under Milk Wood, with its black and white visual palate and its broken down psych folk branches, its beautiful, haunting Japanese cadence, is simply contorting me into another world completely. Some place with a rain of crows and crows’ feathers. A blackened air backlit by a white, hot sun. It’s a desert type atmosphere, arid and austere, mangled leafless trees perched about and barbed wire fencing, rusted and bent. When they pull out the electric guitar, let it buzz hard into the air, everything burns slow and flat. It’s simply an experience. An enveloping, Jimi Hendrix screwed and twisted into a Japanese horror film, or something. Whatever it is, I’m loving it.


Harlem Shakes - Technicolor Health

Harlem Shakes
Technicolor Health
(2009, Gigantic)
RIYL = The Shins, The Evangelicals,

A bright, hook infused pop band with well written lyrics and the sweet, pure sound of hope. Dash it all, they’ve imploded and are no longer. But this remains: Technicolor Health, a perfect indie rock/pop album on par with the “life changing” stylings of a band like The Shins. My FG compatriots seem to think that Technicolor Health was killed by overly active blog hype, but I never noticed any of that. Maybe that’s why I’m able to receive this with such utter joy. You should too.


Estesombelo - Oppida Von Ataraxia

Oppida Von Ataraxia
(2007, self released)
RIYL = Stars of the Lid, Eluvium, The Fun Years

For some reason I thought this was a 2009 release when it was actually a 2007 release. Whatever, I already wrote a review: Estesombelo makes sound of the richest variety. It’s like melting gold into your ears. That may not sound super pleasing – hot, popping gold slipping into and swimming in your ear canals – but rest assured, the image (minus the heat) is spot on. Oppida Von Ataraxia is smooth, glistening and rich with aesthetically appeasing sound. Out of Chicago, the group, currently a trio, create glistening, dreamlike, ambient washes that immerse you, body and soul. And, in terms of droning bliss, Estesombelo manage the near impossible task of maintaining a perfectly beautiful tone register throughout: always satisfying, never boring (though super similar to Stars of the Lid). The soft puncture of blips and dots, the slow tide of guitars and synths, and whatever is all in this gently lapping sound, is like the perfectly temperate paradise of a nighttime beach. Timeless and gorgeous beyond the simplicity of my vocabulary.


Estesombelo on MySpace

Charlie & The Moonhearts - Thunderbeast

Charlie & the Moonhearts
(2008, Telephone Explosion)
RIYL = The Von Bondies, Smith Westerns, Women

Alright, this isn’t a 2009 release, but I wrote for the same reason last year and never posted it, so I thought I’d sneak it in: The band name "Moonhearts" kinda sounds like the name of a pack horses that Rainbow Bright and her cohorts would ride; however, in context of Charlie, the apparent leader of this troupe, Moonhearts are actually hardened, gritty rock purveyors of the extremely dirty variety. And heaven knows, boys like dirt, not ponies. Thunderbeast, now that is a name that more aptly conveys the mood of this album. And, literally, this album is a blissful garage rock beast. I really have no qualms with the surge of straight forward retro garage rockers that have been emerging in the latter portion of this decade. Girls, The Fresh and Onlys, The Yolks: all of them are solid and all have a good batch of hook worthy tunes. All of them are also just a little bit stale (though, in the wonderful saltine cracker kind of way that allows you to eat more and more regardless). Charlie & the Moonhearts, on the other hand, somehow avoid this stale-crackerness. The unfortunate thing about this is I can’t quite put my finger on why. I’m not sure why Charlie & the Moonhearts is striving to rank on my decade end list while the rest of these groups don’t stand an inkling of a chance. I don’t know exactly why Thunderbeast is so much more enjoyable and authentic feeling. The guitars are better, the songs more distinctive, the urgency more palatable, the tunes more groovy. I guess it just comes down to my feeling that Charlie & the Moonhearts are a better band. Better bands just make better music.


Charlie and the Moonhearts (now just "Moonhearts") on MySpace