Thursday, January 31, 2013
The fact that The Men's Open Your Heart made was number two on my Top 25 Album of 2012 list, and "Ex-Dreams" off it made number two on my Top 40 Songs of 2012 list, should be decent enough hints to the fact that I hold The Men in high regard. So it should be no surprise that I am little beyond excited for their new album New Moon when it arrives in March. The preview I got of the album when I saw the band in June is a bit of a blur, but an exhilarating blur from what I recall. At the very least "Electric", the first single off the album, is just as powerful in its recorded form as it was in person. An even cleaner take on the stylistic shift they created on Open Your Heart, the vocals actually crisp and clear and the riffs feel almost pulled from some a classic punk record playing a 45 rpm. Not that their punk intensity has been discard completely; the fury behind the drum kit is still kept well intact as it crashes throughout "Electric", and the small shift of urgency that hits with the chorus unleashes a certain intensity the track manages to keep locked up until that precious moment. Also, did I mention the guitar riffs on this track because they are certainly incredible; a speed up, distorted Buzzcock jangle that roars at just the right moments. The Men might have a new level of sheen, but that does not in anyway diminish their ability to make an utterly killer, rocking tune.
The Men's Website
Pre-order New Moon here, from Sacred Bones Records
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Merchandise have been crafting some of the best goth songs of the past few years, creating long, sprawling tune of depression and static, perfecting implementing the hardcore and noise rock backgrounds of their members through the filter of moody, modern darkwave. I became aware of all this through their debut (Strange Songs) In the Dark, and everyone else became aware of their glory through Children of Desire. "Anxiety's Door", of their upcoming Totale Night EP, is a near seven minute spiral of a song, that balances the monotonic intensity that Wesley Eisold brings in Cold Cave, while at the same time sounding like a perfect, long forgotten Disintegration era Cure song. "Anxiety's Door" builds perfectly, entering at a low volume, almost like an eerie radio broadcast with the pounding drum machine and background vocals, before kicking into focus with an utterly cheesy guitar riff yanked straight from the '80s, but placed here it becomes heavenly and darkly beautiful. The song progress more, its intensity building without you realizing the song is completely saturated in dark, distorted guitar and desperate, longing vocals at its final third. Then the song fades to just the lyrics and acoustic guitar you didn't notice playing in the background, before turning off and leaving you there stunned.
Get the Totale Night EP soon here, from Night People
Monday, January 28, 2013
Dead Gaze AKA Cole Furlow was one of my favorite artists of a few years ago, releasing ridiculously addictive and warm lo-fi tunes on cassettes and singles for whatever label would let him. After his 10" on Group Tightener, Furlow went quiet on the Dead Gaze side of things, though he did help his bud Dent May in his touring band and as well as helping out with Cats Purring. However, that all changed today, Furlow announced the first Dead Gaze album in May. The self-titled affair will be a mix of old tunes from Dead Gaze's discography, plus new tunes to fill out the album. "I Found the Ending" is a taste of one of those new tunes, a more hi-fi take of the Dead Gaze, especially in Furlow's vocals, despite the usual fuzzy distortion all over the song as well. That, though, just helps to bring out the warmth contained within the track, despite the apathetic tone Furlow sets with the lyrics.
Dead Gaze's Facebook
Pre-order Dead Gaze here, from Palmist Records
Milk Music came out with the very awesome Beyond Living EP back in 2010, which was six tracks of utterly excellent, yanked from the '80s underground indie rock. Being a self-released affair within their small, Olympia scene, the EP initially went unnoticed. However, after about two and half years of touring, a live cassette EP, along with Pitchfork and New York Times articles, Milk Music have finally emerged with their debut album. Cruise Your Illusion will be released on Fat Possum, though the band is keeping some DIY ethic by self-releasing the LP themsleves. All that though is building to the best news; "I've Got a Wild Feeling", the first cut from the album.
"I've Got a Wild Feeling" is pure, classic style indie rock. Probably what have happened had Hüsker Dü and Dinosaur Jr. had been merged together into one band from some evil, but wonderful science experiment. The guitar chug and stutter, full of distorted glory, the two channels pumping equally wonder and distinct guitar lines that weave together like a more lo-fi Television. Lead singer/shredder Alex Coxen's vocals are less feral and more wirey and pained on "I've Got a Wild Feeling" than they were on Beyond Living. However, that works to the the tracks more earnest tone, amplifing the emotions Coxen has on display, just like every other instrument on the track.
Milk Music's Website
Pre-order Cruise Your Illusion here, from Fat Possum
Friday, January 25, 2013
Every year for about the past five years, at one point or another some publication will releases an article talking about the "death of the album as we know it". And every year since those articles have begun to appear, bands worldwide have continued to put out thought-out, cohesive, 40-80 suites of music designed to be listened as a unit. Here now, a little after 2012 and looking back at the year, there were some truly incredible albums released during those 366 days. No trends, no requirements: just 25 really excellent albums that everyone should have gotten last year.
25. Gap Dream-Gap Dream: I want to call Gap Dream’s debut simple, but that feels like it is doing it a disservice somehow. Gap Dream feels like it’s from another era, 10 cuts of AM Gold influenced, burnt out psych from the mind of Gabe Fulvimar. It’s hazy in nearly every aspect, from the production, to the mood, to even the cover art itself. Still, it manages to claw its shimmering hooks inside the brain, its demented take on the genre(s) so well-crafted in the likes of “58th St. Fingers” or “Leather” that it feels like the album was actually plucked from the ‘70s, albeit an alternate dimension version of the decade.
24. Born Gold-Little Sleepwalker: Reinventions are nothing new with electronic artists, but rarely are they as much of a flip as Little Sleepwalker was with Born Gold. Completely stepping away from the creative bombast of Bodysong, Born Gold fully embrace mainstream pop, Burial style dubstep, and cut up synthpop, to craft a deeply twitched and new sound on Little Sleepwalker. Born Gold goes so far as to shift his vocals several octaves higher to change his sound even more. However, as current as Little Sleepwalker sounds, it is still a Born Gold, meaning that no matter what root Born Gold starts from, the end result is more off-kilter, more different, and more creative than where he started from. And that is no different with the ethereal Little Sleepwalker.
23. Royal Headache-Royal Headache: It seems so simple and so stupid at the same time; craft honest, genuine soul songs and have them backed by a garage-punk band. It could have easily turned out horrible, but Royal Headache’s self-titled debut instead turned out sort of really great. Shogun’s vocals are powerful, and well, deeply soulful, while the album’s clean production lets every instrument shine through, while still retaining more than enough energy to give every track a small, rough-around-the-edges quality. If this is what soul-punk is, less than three minute blasts sharply articulated of love and life, than I’m all for it.
22. Andrew Bird-Break it Yourself: I feel like Andrew Bird has never gotten the credit he deserves for his past few records, despite how solid each of his releases has been since The Mysterious Production of Eggs. Break it Yourself is another album to add to that cannon of quality works, a more cohesive album than expected that allows Bird to stretch out his legs sonically. Only two of the fourteen tracks are under four minutes, yet nothing feels unnecessarily long or forced. Instead, Break it Yourself is just as breezy as its predecessors, its hour length passing in the blink of an eye. Brilliantly constructed and intelligent indie-folk that feels instantly timeless. But what’s new for Andrew Bird?
21. Divine Fits-A Thing Called Divine Fits: Super groups, indie or not, will always get the short end of the stick with music history, not only having to create music of merit, but also having that music stand in the shadow of each member’s other musical accomplishments too. This is nothing new with music, or any musician who starts a new band after their initial one breaks up. Still, I feel it was that perspective that robbed people from fully appreciating A Thing Called Divine Fits. A deeply moody record that nicely balances Dan Boeckner synthier style to Britt Daniel’s bare-bones indie rock, ego doesn't prevail with Divine Fits but substance does. The pure intensity of “What Gets You Alone”, the sparse dance-rock of “Like Ice Cream”, the pitch perfect, and near haunting rendition of “Shiver”; if A Thing Called Divine Fits was nothing but the leftover scrapes from Boeckner and Daniel, they were more than substantial.
20. Dan Deacon-America: If America is what Dan Deacon sounds like grown-up, I do not mind him growing old at all. The shift is noticeable from the very beginning with “Guilford Avenue Bridge”, a track that begins with Deacon’s usual sonic barrage but instead tempers out to something more digestible half way through. Then there is the new found lyricism of “True Thrush” and the minimal, electronic burst (for Deacon) of “Lots”. Though what clenches Deacon’s stylistic shift is the epic, four part “USA” suite that ends the album. In those four tracks that can only be seen as a whole, Deacon creates something truly poetic and memorizing that he has never managed to accomplish before. America is a beautiful, chaotic, beep-filled sprawl, much like the thing it’s named after.
Friday, January 18, 2013
Looking at this incredibly long list, it sort of makes me happy. As generically "indie" and standard it probably will appear to most people, this is probably the most diverse amount of music I have ever listened to. There are tracks on here that two years ago I would not have been caught dead listening to. And the fact I can fully enjoy them now is something I'm glad about. However, if there is something I missed (and trust me, I know I missed quite a lot), or I gave too much credit to some songs, let me know. I want to learn, I want to discover. Really.
40. King Tuff-Bad Thing: Garage infused power pop perfection is the name of the game with “Bad Thing”, but how many people haven’t already said that about King Tuff in some fashion? But so many people saying something doesn’t make it any less true. In less than two and a half minutes, King Tuff makes one of the most additive guitar rockers of the year, an ear worm of the most evil and enjoyable form. It’s right there in the title and lyrics, but I doubt Tuffy was struggling with guilt when he made something this good.
39. Thee Oh Sees-Flood’s New Light: Thee Oh Sees doing straight up normal and catchy together is a rare thing, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it. See “Flood’s New Light” for proof. Still filled with the same weird flourishes (John Dwyer’s falsetoo, off-kilter instrumentation), but the band manages to conform their sound in such a way that with “Flood’s New Light” that the song is a lot more straightforwardly approachable. The bouncy, tambourine filled drum work, the “bah bah bahs” that form the song’s chorus, the magnetic horn work; all work together to make one twisted garage gem.
38. Born Gold-Sky Bicycle: A complete flip on the aggressive, full body, intensive work Cecil Frena had been making for a while, “Sky Bicycle” showed Born Gold in a completely reconstructed, much more cerebral light. Good thing he pulled it off so well, otherwise there might have been problems. “Sky Bicycle” invokes its name; airy and bouncy, yet very tactile, with the production of the track feeling very real. Frena’s vocals have been twisted several octaves into the stratosphere, yet with his new sound it fits snuggly with everything to creative an off-kilter, but cohesive tune.
37. Electrician-All is Lost in the Light: Despite a year where we got two Mount Eerie albums, one of the best post-Mount Eerie tracks came from a solo project called Electrician. Simple strumming begets simple, pulsating percussion which begets powerful but pained paired together vocals which begets soft, subtle brass. All of which begets one very amazingly powerful song.
37. Royal Headache-Psychotic Episode: The manic, soulful wonder of Royal Headache’s debut album was no more prominent than on “Psychotic Episode”. The tormented content of the song is amplified by front man Shogun’s increasingly strained vocals, but at the same time nearly masked by the seam-bursting rhyme section and punk jangle of the guitar. Never claiming to reinvent the wheel, but making a damn fine wheel none the less.
35. Andrew Bird-Eyeoneye: Mr. Bird can do introspective, detached folk very well, but he can craft his own version of an indie rock bashers on occasion. That is exactly what “Eyeoneye” is and it is lovely. From the excellently piercing violin that plays throughout, to elegant, loose guitar chords, and extended science metaphor for relations, it is a distilled form everything that makes Andrew Bird’s music so captivating. All cobbled together and rising before exploding in the song’s final moments.
34. Cloud Nothings-Stay Useless: Cloud Nothing’s shift to grunge filled aggression is still something I am processing and will probably continue to process. However, if there was something to help show me that Cloud Nothings could dive into a more aggressive sound while still embracing their hooky past, it was “Stay Useless”. More powerful than anything Cloud Nothings wrote in the past, from the thick hooks that play in both the verse and chorus, and front man Dylan Baldi’s vocals which in their own scrappy way are in full force in “Stay Useless”. Not bad for a track about unabashedly collapsing into apathy.
34. Lambchop-Gone Tomorrow: Pained nostalgia and sadness are nothing new for Lambchop, but that doesn’t mean they can’t weave magic from those emotions still. See “Gone Tomorrow” for key proof. Simple acoustics coupled with lovely strings as Kurt Wagner recounts an abstract story of parting people. It’s the song’s outro, a looping, electronic gazed, quiet instrumental free-for-all ambiance that winds up being longer than the “traditional” part of the track, which not only cements the emotions of the track, but the wonder of the track itself.
32. Eternal Summers-Millions: It’s hard to conflate the Eternal Summers of the past with the Eternal Summers who made “Millions”. The chasm between the two on the indie pop spectrum is huge; one crafted simple, post C86 pop to hyper energetic, buzzing guitar pop being made now. But thank god it happened because the world deserves indie pop as great as “Millions”. From the top notch production that improves the track, front women Nicole Yun’s gorgeous and sharp vocals, and the hefty guitar jangle, “Millions” just comes together to form one of the best pop songs of the year.
31. Butter the Children- Lupus: “Lupus” feels brand new and classic at the same time. It feels like you’re hearing this music for the first time, even though the blurred together indie rock and shoegaze sounds are clearly there. All those factors just show how excellent of a track “Lupus” is. Jagged yet shimmering guitars over the crashing drums and front women’s Inna Mkrtycheva just soaring vocals come together to form something that is just refreshingly awesome.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
The seven inch will always hold a special place in my heart. It is the perfect introduction to a band, an affordable way to acquire new music, and it’s a format that still manages to hold my attention span despite its rapid decrease thanks to modern life. This year’s crop for the most part either emerged from a darker area or pushed the artist into a darker path, though there are more than enough releases on here to contradict that thesis as well. My one rule was that every single must have been physically released in some fashion, so a few very worthy digital singles were unfortunately disqualified.
Pale Lights-EP: There are few things as wonderful a perfect pop single, and Pale Lights' EP was that in strides. Simple but oh so elegant airy pop from a handful of indie-pop veterans who haven’t lost their passion for the craft. Singles like this are almost a dime a dozen, but when done right as Pale Lights did, they just worm their way into the ear and heart and never leave.
King Tuff-"Wild Desire" 7": It is a testament to King Tuff that he could release a single as great as “Screaming Skull” and it could still come in second to another one of his singles. But the “Wild Desire” 7” is just that good. An exemplification of all of King Tuffs’ most addictive qualities (ungodly infectious jangly guitar lines, simple yet honest lyrics, and power-pop, garage, and pop-punk energy fused together), there was not one person (myself included) who was not singing along to this single after one listen.
WAR/VÅR-"At War for Youth" 7”: How many people were caught off guard when this synth project was announced, fronted by the two front men of Iceage and Sexdrome? How many people were caught off guard of how great it was? A single that was not only three tracks of very creative and intelligent lo-fi synth work, but introduced me to a whole genre of music that I wasn't really listening to beforehand. For that reason alone, it should be commended.
Heaven’s Gate-High Riser EP: Heaven’s Gate’s debut, just from the warped cover art alone gives you a solid hint of the distortion inside. Seven slices of decidedly modern shoegaze crammed onto one lathe, all but one song shorter than two minutes. High Riser twists and contorts, stops when you least expect it, screams and shouts out you over its sixteen minute duration. In other words, just utterly awesome indie rock.
Superchunk-"This Summer" 7”: Superchunk are a perfect single band in the sense that every time they decide to release a seven inch, it always winds up being a near indie rock classic (if it doesn't wind up being just a flat out indie rock classic). Case in point with the “This Summer” 7”; two tracks, one a upbeat yet melancholy infused yelper, the other a Bananarama cover of “Cruel Summer”. And not only do the two tracks complement each other perfectly, but I guarantee this single will be spinning every summer for years to come.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
These days, there are just as many music blogs as there are actual bands to cover. There are so many in fact, that not one, but two different semi-aggregating music websites have popped up in the last year to allow for some sort filtering of all the music these sites talk about. And yet, there still manages to be blogs that are over-looked, or just under visited. Blogs that week by week manage to intelligently and sharply introduce new music, unknown bands, and shiny new seven inches/cassettes/LPs to the whole Internet. The following blogs (in no particular order) are five of the best, and in my mind highly under appreciated, blogs who not only introduced me to so much new music throughout 2012, but also made me want to be a better blogger as well:
The Finest Kiss-The Finest Kiss master mind Toby does not care about your trends. He does not care about the latest genre. He does not care about what’s cool, what’s popular, what everyone on Tumblr is finding interesting. No, all Toby cares about is finding perfect garage/indie pop/indie rock songs and sharing them with everyone. Add to that a commitment to supporting his hometown scene of Seattle and one of the few people to best me in jangle pop love; it all adds up to one of the best blogs on the web.
Defining Post: Toby’s mini-breakdown of all the great, unknown Australian garage and indie-rock bands is very, very stellar.
Stadiums & Shrines-Stadiums & Shrines has been around for a while now, but what they are doing now really ups the bar for what a music blog can and should do, period. Besides a very nice graphic update, Stadiums and Shrines’ posts these days forgo the usual info and mp3 formula. What they do instead is attach a custom piece of prose or illustration to more creatively express the music. And it works, not only escaping the monotony of usual blog posts, but pretension as well. Seriously, when you are able to make your year-end list a short story, you are really making strides in the form.
Defining Post: Their year-end list. Really, just read it.
Decoder-From the ashes of the great Get Off the Coast, Jheri Evans and his friends Dwight and Liz Palovic (along with a bunch of cohorts) have given birth to the even better Decoder. Full disclosure, Evans is a bud of mine, but even if that wasn’t true that won’t stop how great Decoder is. Averaging something along the lines of three posts a day of the most awesome and unknown bands you’ve never heard of, this is on top of festival coverage, video posts, myriad of different columns and thought pieces, along with running the awesome tape label Crash Symbols, and you one of the most prolific blogs on the net. For crying out loud, they just started posting short stories and have the first copy of their magazine coming out soon.
Defining Post(s): Hard to say as not one aspect defines Decoder, but these three posts should give you a proper view as to what Decoder is all about.
Everybody Taste-What is it about Everybody Taste that is so awesome? Is it the pretension free way Matt Car approaches blogging? All the hidden garage jams he manages to find that I would never even notice if not for him? His willingness to post about late ‘70s and ‘80s gems just because they’re great songs? The routinely great mix tapes? The awesome logo? What ever it is, Car manages to make Everybody Taste is just a superb, no frills indie blog (along with running the spectacular music label Analog Edition as well).
Defining Post: Doing a year end list of your top 11 music labels is just awesome, and showcases how Car both writes so well about what you already know about along with seamlessly introducing you to what you don't.
Stereo/Pirate-Stereo/Pirate does not post as often as I wish he would, but when he does it is well worth the wait. Each post is like a mini-essay, a wall of text to accompany whatever vinyl treasure Jon was able to find. Passion for all the music he talks about just flows from every word. Not to mention there is Stereo/Pirate itself; a sharp and gorgeous looking blog that is over flowing past the brim with all the different bands that Jon loves, album reviews, and even the occasional video recording of a band stopping through. It's a tad sporadic, but that just makes it all the better when it finally comes.
Defining Post: Jon's writing on the first S O H N release is a great example of the passion and excite he has for music.
Monday, January 7, 2013
After getting a chance to see Iceage live at Chaos in Tejas last year, and in turn get to hear about six brand new tracks, I was beyond excited for how their new album was shaping up. When the announcement came that it was coming out on Matador and would be dubbed You're Nothing, my blood sped up even faster. Now that the first taste has come in the form of "Coalition" I am grateful I have not suffered a heart attack from pure joy.
"Coalition" is the perfect next step for Iceage. The track is mildly, mildly brighter than anything present on New Brigade, with the guitars particularly losing most of their brittle, metallic edge that defined them. However, they are no less a driving force, tunneling and barreling through out the song, especially placed next to the utterly excellent drum work contained within the track. However, any missing intensity is made up by front man Elias Bender Rønnenfelt's vocals. While no slouch in vocal delivery previously, on "Coalition" he just comes to life, equal parts snotty, jagged, and angry. His howl of "EXCESS" that makes up the band's minimalist chorus is spine tingling. "Coalition" is two minutes of pure post-punk fury, uncoiled and unleashed.
Pre-order You're Nothing here, from Matador Records