Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Electrician-The Ground Moves

Electrician, the solo work of one Neil Campau, caught my ear last year with "All is lost in the light", a wonderful slice of dark, electric folk that owed so much to Mount Eerie in the best possible ways. Now he has returned with "The Ground Moves", another a track that actually expands upon their sound without losing its intimacy. While still maintaining its sparseness, "The Ground Moves" opens half way through the track, the drumming becoming more frantic and erratic, as well as the female vocals taking over and repeating the title again and again. At times "The Ground Moves" is even more emotional than "All is lost in the light"; Campau's delivery is awkward, enforced by the factored prose of the lyrics and his audible voice cracks. Then there is the darkness of the lyrics as well. Not that Electrician have shied away from darkness; they previously commented about burning down churches without remorse. However, here the opening lines deal with treating to kill someone else's parents to affirm one's connection to them. Despite all the bleakness and blackness that surrounds "The Ground Moves", there is an almost childlike earnestness to it, making larger than life claims and forging commitments through references to spit. "The Ground Moves" is as electric as the band name itself, pulling raw emotion from the darkest of depths and the simplest of arrangements.


Electrician's Website

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cassette: Julia Brown-to be close to you

Julia Brown is not a person, but a band. A band that makes lo-fi indie-pop tunes. A band who just put out their debut release, an eight track cassette called to be close to you. And Julia Brown make aboslutly WONDERFUL music. It fills me with the same immense amount of joy and happiness that I got when I discovered the R.L. Kelly tape a little while. It has a surface level of pure sweetness and simplicity that are more than enough to make me listen to it over and over again. However, those repeated listens are what help reveal the potency this little release contains inside.

The chorus of boy/girl vocals that trade off as much as they intertwine. The arrangements that sound scrappy on the surface, but manage to pack so much more of a punch to them, swelling and swirling in their lo-fi warmth. The heavenly viola that helps to flesh out the arrangements so much. Then there is melancholy and mixed emotions that hangs around the entire cassette that makes everything feel ever so more powerful, like the quiet sadness that decorates "i was my own favorite tv show the summer my tv broke", or the teenage confusion of lust and drugs in "how i spent my summer". Even the upbeat tracks like the pure indie bliss that is "library" have deeper, sadder emotions running through them that show themselves after repeated listening. All this is made all the more impressive due to the bands tendency to use the fewest lyrics possible, and of those choice selections, envelop them in purposefully vague contexts. All this makes to be close to you a little treasure, the type of tape that you spend hours pouring over long forgotten internet forums and backrooms of old record stores to find. Julia Brown make the type of unselfconscious indie-pop that would have/should have been on K Records circa 1987, but instead get to grace our ears now.


Julia Brown's Facebook
Buy to be close to you here, from Birdtapes

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Video: Majical Cloudz-Childhood's End

"Childhood's End", the first single off Impersonator, Majical Cloudz's first proper album, is haunting. Ungodly haunting. There really is no other way to put it. It gives nothing away, slowly building tinkering piano lines and thick, wobbly beats that create and capture the atmosphere of the track instantly. Then everything snaps into focus once Devon Welsh's vocals kick in, his "not-quite-but-almost" croon the perfect tool to convey the intensity of the subject matter, a confused and almost heartbreaking meditation on trying to understand life and death. His final cries of "Won’t someone come?", over and over again are so powerful that they echo in the mind for days, inexplicable anguish over trying to comprehend something.

Then there is the video. A stark, black and white portrait of an old man's last few moments, it paints an almost Henry Darger picture of someone living a secluded life and finding solace in their own, secret art. The final act of him finding release and actual happiness in death is both chilling and powerful, made all the more potent that it was Welsh's actual father portraying all of this. Everything about "Childhood's End", from the song to video it now soundtracks, is an emotional sucker punch, the type of music that makes the chest swell and causes chills to go down the spine. Listening to it now, I take back my opening statements slightly. There is one other way to describe "Childhood's End": absolutely incredible.


Majical Cloudz's Tumblr
Pre-order Impersonator here, from Matador Records

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

EP Review: Merchandise-Totale Nite

On its surface, Totale Nite doesn't seem radically different from Merchandise's previous material. And that is perfectly fine. Two albums and several cassettes/singles into what was intended to be just a one-off side project, Merchandise have become one of the best neo-goth/goth bands out there, creating incredibly captivating, noisy, sprawling pieces of melancholy pop that anyone who listens long enough to will just fall into the bleak world of broken hearts and despair it creates. And if all they did was create five more songs that just extended that world, I would be perfectly content with that in every way.

However, Merchandise have decided to use the opportunity of creating Totale Nite to stretch their legs a little bit and expand their sound, though through intentionally subtle means so it feels as natural as possible. It’s almost obvious from the opening track “Who Are You?”, with its bluesy harmonica that sets the stage for the disjointed waltz of a track, while noisy guitar and other effects detonate in the background. However, like many Merchandise intro tracks, it’s the shortest song here, and so its difference in style is forgotten quickly as the more true to form “Anxiety’s Door” kicks in. “Anxiety’s Door” is an incredible song, a gorgeous, upbeat, near seven minute blast of Cure worship through a shoegaze filter. Yet “Anxiety’s Door” has its own shifts in sound as well. The drum machine that forms the core of many of Merchandise’s songs is less scrappy then it usually is, giving the song an added oomph. Not to mention the noise, while present on the song, is reduced, which gives both Dave Vassalotti’s guitar a wonderful ‘80s sheen to it (especially during the solos), as well as making Carson Cox’s vocals much more prominent and powerful, their beauty and elegance obscured by nothing and thus that much better.

This cleaner sound and higher production continues throughout the record with the likes of “I’ll Be Gone”, which almost forgoes noise completely and instead concentrates on creating a sweeping ballad out of twang guitar, slow drums, and Cox’s voice. It’s the emotional core of the album, and its length gives the song the time to build up its presence and potency to the right degrees. Of course, that entire mood is completely thrown out the window once the title track kicks in. A nine minutes fury that brings their experimentation to ahead, good portions of it are built around uncharacteristic angular guitar riffs and no wave saxophone blasts. All of which, though eventually gives way to the scorching blurry choruses which somehow focus all the chaos that surrounds them, though the final might have made the song a touch more manageable. Closer “Winter’s Dream” helps to bring back the drearier mood; the closest the band has gotten to dream-pop, with sparkling synths at its outer edges, the slow groove of the bass, drums, and vocal delivery, and the ringing chime added to the sparse, guitar chords. Of course, this is all undercut in a typical fashion as the lyrics concentrate on (metaphorically?) killing those who would change you, and the sharp blast of static at the end, as yelling at the listener the band’s belief that beauty cannot exist without noise, and vice versa.

Totale Night could have been a messy affair, with the band trying too many things and muddling their sound. Instead, the brevity of the track list (though not of the tracks themselves), as well as Sonic Boom's production, don't allow for necessarily a completely cohesive release, but one that definitely stands as a  solid collection, and creates something more with its songs. It's a new step for a band that never really was locked into any sound in the first place; one that will be very interesting to see where it takes the band. In the mean time, the sprawl, and twisted nighttime of Totale Night is more than enough to cement Merchandise's prowess. If not convinced, listen to "Anxiety's Door" again because not enough words can be written about how incredible that track is.


Merchandise's Website
Buy Totale Nite here, from Night People

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lower-Another Life

The last time Lower's were making music it was on "Someone's Got It In For Me/But There Has To Be More" 7", which showed them moving to a more gothic, drawn out sound that worked with their noisy-post hardcord sound and morose lyrics. However, that seems to have been only a phase because their new song "Another Life" is a massive kick of intense, bleak post-hardcore. It doesn't hit the same level of intensity that they did with the Walk On Heads EP, but that is intentional. "Another Life" is meant to draw from both dynamics of the band; it contains the same claustrophobic and murky post-hardcord instrumentation (which just the slightest hint of an added layer of melody), while giving Adrian Toubro's vocals and lyrics more room to deliver their cold and nihilistic message. "Another Life" is a dark and almost evil song, directed with intensity and anger to the person on the other end, but like their pals Iceage, there is nothing cartoonish or two dimensional about it. Instead, it feels real and visceral, something the band had no control over unleashing, and now can only channel as powerfully as possible.


Lower's Website

Monday, April 22, 2013

Andrew Cedermark-Canis Major

Describing music as "nostalgic", or that it invokes "a deeply nostalgic feeling" can be the type of thing that stops someone from listening to a track instantly. It's understandable to a certain degree; why listen to something that is built around false emotions, a track that causing longing for something that usually was never really there in the first place? But I think the power of Andrew Cedermark's music, and anyone who listened to Moon Deluxe when it came out can contest to this, is his ability to make those notions of nostalgia and longing for almost abstract elements of the past seem like the most powerful things in the world. "Canis Major", from his upcoming second album Home Life, is a perfect representation of all this. Built around a rolling, alt-country lick that would have made the Silver Jews proud, Cedermark recounts love lost that he knew would be lost anyway, and the things we long even when they are there in the first place. "Canis Major" has less of the crashing crescendos that were present on the songs on Moon Deluxe, instead holding a steady jaunt with just the right burst of cymbals crashing and guitars distorting. It also helps to shift the song from the cold winter winds that use to envelop Cedermark's songs to the burnt, humid, and drunk summer nights that now seem to color his world. "Canis Major" is a slow burning slice of indie rock and Americana at the perfect cross hairs, something that perfectly paints the picture of a past that is no longer there, and are not sure you want to return in the first place. But with this as the soundtrack, it's nice knowing it was there at all.


Andrew Cedermark's Facebook
Pre-order Home Life here, from Underwater Peoples

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Juan MacLean-You Are My Destiny

I've never listened to house music. This probably isn't an uncommon thing for an indie rock nerd to be say, and personally I thought I would go a steady portion of my life without activity indulging in the genre. Not that there is anything wrong with the genre per se, but the brief snippets I had heard over time trigger the same response in me is akin to how a lot of people probably feel about American dubstep; it's a blur intense, repetitive, noisy beats that have no form or distinction. A deeply ignorant view I know, and something that was shattered with one listen to The Juan MacLean's "You Are My Destiny".

The beat that introduces the song is perfect, this wonderful thick "thump" that is intense and grows, but never starts bashing your skull in. It holds steady through out the build, before it drops to let the watery and grimy synths take over the song, giving it an almost sparse, floating feel to it. Then the final piece kicks in that cements "You Are My Destiny"'s greatness; Nancy Whang's vocals, which were chopped and spread through out the track, emerge fully formed and delivered with a robotic intensity that brings the track to life. It sprawls from there, like any good dance song, and you just get lost in the faded neon world it creates. Maybe I'm drawn to "You Are My Destiny" because it exhibits so many traits that are not usually irregular to house music. Even if that's true though, I know "You Are My Destiny" is a stunner of a track, one that doesn't escape the brain and will forever cause my body to start twitching when I hear it.


The Juan MacLean's Website
Buy the "You Are My Destiny" 12" here, from DFA Records

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The National-Don't Swallow the Cap

I stand by the statements I made about The National in my write-up about "Demons"; how The National will keep making quieter and more introspective tunes that mine deeper into the High Violet rather than returning to their Alligator bombast per se. And to a certain degree, "Don't Swallow the Cap" evokes all those things to a tee. The track is based around the multitude of different piano lines that ping-pong across the track, the guitar is barely audible until the end, and Matt Berninger's vocals never swell or scream, instead uttered in a quiet, knowing cool.

And yet "Don't Swallow the Cap" is a massive pick-up when placed next to "Demons". The drums practically jump out of the song, they have such a precise intensity to them. The pianos has just the right groove to it, all the different layers in exact synchronicity with one another that it is constantly moving the track up. Berninger's vocals flow perfectly with all this, especially when the chorus hits and they not only interlock with gorgeous guest female vocals, but start a background call and response that makes the track. Not to mention the lyrics themselves, which are wink at the listener just as much as in "Demons"; what other band would have the line "And if you want to see me cry/Play "Let it Be" or "Nevermind"? Yet at the same time, the chest-swelling sadness that makes The National The National is there, buried but present. This is the song that would perfectly soundtrack the movie version of "Less than Zero", if John Hughes had directed it. "Don't Swallow the Cap" has this wonderful cinematic quality to it that powers it to the greatest of heights.


The National's Website
Pre-order Trouble Will Find Me here, from 4AD

R.L. Kelly-Life's a Bummer EP

Listening to R.L. Kelly’s (aka Rachel Levi) debut EP, you realize how uncommon lyrical honesty and directness is in modern indie music. Bands hide everything under extensive metaphors or hope the tone in the song accurately grasps the mood that they are aiming for. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I think that standard is what makes R.L. Kelly’s music hit the way it does. Over six quiet, deeply intimate songs, with little more than a guitar, a keyboard, a drum machine, and the occasional distortion pedal, Levi creates these wonderful capsules of depression and self-loathing.

“You’re Not the Only Monster from Hell”, the EP’s most complete track especially once the distorted keyboard kicks in for the chorus, sets the tone perfectly as well as demonstrating to create incredible hooks out of seemingly nothing. The EP spirals down even further, from the less than two minute heartbreak of “Familiar Haunt” to the almost anti-Yohuna like sparseness of “Woke Up Feeling Sad”. By the time you reach the title track, Levi goes straight for her own jugular, and just paints just a sad picture of the culmination of apathy and self-anguishes. And yet, Life’s a Bummer never overwhelms the listener with the emotions it wears proudly on its sleeve. Levi has just the knack for making the tracks heartening and emotional rather than mopey, much like Casiotone for the Painfully Alone before her or her buddy Coma Cinema. Life's a Bummer is one of those perfect little indie gems that hits right in the little pocket where my soul lies.


R.L. Kelly's Bandcamp
Buy/download Life's a Bummer here, from Orchid Tapes

Friday, April 12, 2013

Album Review: Wax Idols-Discipline & Desire

Discipline and Desire shouldn’t be as surprising as it is. Anyone who heard Wax Idol’s “Schadenfreude” 7” (and I did) would know they were already shifting their sound to something darker and fleshed out then the scrappy punk of No Future. Despite that precursor though, Discipline and Desire is a completely different beast, an excellent expansion of the band’s darker qualities that pushes them into the goth and post-punk realm, and are all the better for it.

All this become immediate to anyone listening once the tight and taught whiplash of opener “Stare Back” kicks in. The guitar riffs, now distortion and reverb coated, fill up nearly the entire track before everything drops as frontmen Heather Fortune’s vocals, now fuller, more pronounced, and a tad more evil, trade off with drum smacks as the bass holds steady in the background to create just the right level of tension. Then everything bursts into these amazing, bursts of noise post-punk. It serves as the perfect opener, not necessarily in style but in tone and the more experimental bent Wax Idol take here compared to No Future. There is “Echo and the Bunnymen if they tried to be the Jesus and Mary Chain” clamor of “Sound of the Void”. The “Dum Dum Girls on speed, playing shoegaze” swirl of “The Cartoonist”. Or the intense, goth band chime of “Dethrone”. Everything on the album is sharper, more personal and haunting, as if Fortune dipped each track into a newly blacked part of her soul before recording them.

More so there is the band’s willingness to showcase atmosphere on the songs. It’s felt throughout the entire album, in large part thanks to the wonderful production that somehow manages to make the band more polished while simultaneously giving everything on the album a murky, hollow quality. But tracks like the icy-queen, goth trance of “Scent of Love” or the banshee like howl and echo of “Elegua”, capture a bleek, gothic air and quality that would never have been imagined on No Future. This is best represented by the band’s centerpiece, the blistering dissonance and euphoria of “AD RE: IAN”. It is the one point of the album were Fortune vocals aren’t tinted by anger or intensity, instead dropping to a near whisper for the verses to communicate the sadness trapped within the track before exploding into a burst of noise (tempered by woodwinds and strings) and collapsing into the emotionally anguish and some of the catchiest hooks on the album. “AD RE: IAN” embodies everything Discipline and Desire is aiming for with this album, and how it can work so well because despite the multiple different directions this song takes, it still wind up being thee catchiest and best song on the album.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few people who pick up Discipline and Desire and hate it. Those going into the record expecting the same modern, ‘70s punk style that Heather Fortune and co. presented on their debut No Future, and getting instead this dark, twisted reinterpretation of ‘80s post-punk, goth, and new wave instead. Those people are fools. Discipline and Desire is deeper, more powerful step forward for the band. A demonstration to how a shift and expansion of a band’s sound can pay off dividends and create something richer and everlasting, despite the well-crafted gloom all the songs are cast under. Discipline and Desire communicates its focus to making a much more intense and personal statement as clear as glass, and is all the greater for it.


Wax Idol's Tumblr
Buy Discipline & Desire here, from Slumberland Records

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Holograms-Flesh and Bone

Holograms sort of popped out of nowhere last year to release of the best, and most under appreciated (myself included), albums of last year, their self-titled debut. It was one of the best meldings of post-punk and coldwave, a detached but intense body of songs can Joy Division comparisons in the best sense possible. However, "Flesh and Bone", from their just announced second album Forever, might blow everything they've done out of the water. It is a perfect crystallization of every great aspect of the band, from the made-of-water like bass line that opens the track, the dark synth lines adding to the atmosphere rather than overpowering the song, and the guitar just the right degree of trebled jangle to give it the perfect subtle but jagged punch that it cements at "Flesh and Bone"'s core. Towering above all else are Andreas Lagerström's vocals, a dark, detached monster that imparts deeply desolate prose about life crushing every bit of hope around you. Comparisons to Iceage will be unavoidable, as deserving as a band like Holograms are of them, but Holograms have more in common with Lower, if Lower had decided to go for a maximalist sound instead of a minimalist one. However, that should not take away from the fact that Holograms may have perfect their sound with Forever, and that "Flesh and Bone" is one of the most wonderful bleak and great post-punk songs I've heard all year.


Holograms' Website
Pre-order Forever soon here, from Captured Tracks

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Vår-The World Fell

The way Vår has evolved over their years as a band has truly been striking. Originally content to create the murkiest, most lo-fi, electronica imaginable, their newest single "The World Fell" is absolutely anything but, and it is equally as wonderful. "The World Fell" sets Vår as the dance band they are, however warped of an approach they have to that genre, from its opening moments. The hefty kick drum that opens the track serves both as its beat and core, its sparse reverb serving in sharp contrast to the band's blurry past. Nothing is obscured, from the lovely, bubbly synth lines that dance through out the track to the guitar scrapes that add to the tracks intensity. Most striking are Loke Rahbek's lyrics, which bring this heavy intensity and emotional weight to the track; every word being clearly emoted and even coated in a cool anger. Not that anything less is expected from a track that uses the Apocalypse as a metaphor for one's (love) life. And yet, as clear and intense "The World Fell" and Vår's new sound is (and to be clear, it has always been pretty intense), there is an underlying loveliness to the track, something that sets it apart from just intense electronica to something more. It's that dicotamy, as unbalanced as it maybe, that leads to "The World Fell" sounding so incredible.


Pre-order No One Dances Quite Like My Brother here, from Sacred Bones Records

Monday, April 8, 2013

The National-Demons

I will be completely honest, when I first heard the new National song, I didn't enjoy it, at least as not immediately as I usually do for everything the band creates. However, this was at 4 o'clock in the morning, and lack of sleep can have negative effects on the brain, such as not realizing how gorgeous of a track named "Demons" can be.

I think The National are following a similar trend that The Walkmen use in crafting their newer albums; instead of trying to recreate the blitz and climax of their previous records, they instead create something lighter and moodier while still retaining their their bleak, whiskey soaked emotional intensity. "Demons" is deeply sparse, an obvious extension of the quiet intensity of High Violet. The heavy piano lines, bouncy drum work, and heavily manipulated guitar all swirl around Matt Berninger still stunningly thick vocals. "Demons" never reaches an apex, instead swirling around, the only noticeable shift being when the guitars being ever so more jagged and ring further. Rather, "Demons" sits in its sound, with only Berninger's dark and self-referential humor within the lyrics keeping the song afloat. But that tension that it rests on is the type of thing National songs are made out of.


The National's Website
Pre-order Trouble Will Find Me here, from 4AD

New Cassette: Clubhouse Split

Releases like Clubhouse are the reason I am so, so happy that a cassette resurgence happened in some form. I don't think a release like this could exist in any other format. A project undertaken by bedroom-pop priestess Emily Reo, she gathered material from her cohorts and friends, along with her own music, to create a mini-showcase out all of them. What effectively is a four-way split becomes something much more seamless because each of these artists operate in a similar style--something that lays right between dreary, electronic-but-not bedroom pop & the lightest of dream pop--but all have their own, crafted sound so that nothing winds up blurring.

Bedroom Bread crafts the most eclectic mix of songs, with the warbled patch work of samples and mnemonic tone that serve as the background to the her cave like chants on "Sister" laying in direct contrast to the more straight forward build-up and stomp of "Moths". MoonLasso creates the closest thing to dream-pop on Clubhouse, her simple guitar playing popping in contrast to the electronics that swell around the rest of the song; both "Vibrasonics" & "Skies All Around" have these wonderful left turns to their sound that add so much dimension to them. Yohuna, possibly one of my favorite artists of right now (if only she would make more songs), creates two of the wonderful echo-pop songs to grace the ears; tracks that build and build, not to a boom, but to a point that they are immersing everything around them. There's a reason "Westerlies" was chosen to close out this tape. Then there are Emily Reo's songs themselves; silky, glowing blobs of gorgeous electronic pop, from the sparse, tropical flare of "Peaches", to the darker, more experimental twist of the appropriately named mini-sprawl "Metal".  

Clubhouse is such a simple concept, but executed so well that it rises above being just a showcase or sampler of some sort. Clubhouse is eight wonderful tracks of outsider pop, by four distinct artists, all contained in one lovely cassette.


Buy Clubhouse here, from Crash Symbols
Emily Reo's Website
Yohuna's Facebook
MoonLasso's Facebook
Brown Bread's Facebook

Friday, April 5, 2013


While no one in their right mind would ever call DSTVV’s music organic, “Crusher” seems to demonstrate they have the ability to make it increasingly more natural. The song is just as bombastic as anything that was on the Molly Soda EP, possibly more so from the (mildly) notched up production. However, there is an evolution here buried beneath all the pseudo-intensity. The song has a dance, almost rave like flare to it thanks to the increased utilization of the drum machine, which the band approaches in a much more creative fashion. The club like mentality they create serve as the perfect contrast to the vocal breaks in the song, which feel just as lonesome and alienated as ever. “Crusher” feels like it is recreating the feelings off feeling completely alienated in a massive social situation, complete with sense overloading blasts of sound in the form of chiptune processed shoegaze. It's saturated and noisy as all hell, along with being laying just at the edge of pure insensarity, but that all adds to the world "Crusher" is trying to make, and demonstrates that DSTVV can still make some utterly brainbashingly good music as well.


DSTVV's Tumblr
Pre-order the Underground Product cassette here, from the Wormhole Records

Thursday, April 4, 2013


For a band who's first introduction for many people was the howling & blistering noise-pop of "Coma Summer", it's sort of incredible that Weekend of reached a point like "Mirror", just by their second album alone. Sure, their Hazel EP showed off a more refined fined sound, one that wasn't encased within pure, near brutal distortion, but their jagged balance was still present nonetheless. "Mirror", however, feels like an almost completely different band. It can be felt from the intro, which is so much gauzier than their previous material. When the guitar kicks in, it's like bursts of static rather than the usual assault that is expected from the band. The guitar is almost treated like an abstract, the way it cuts in just to instantly fade out makes it feel more like something that is suppose to haunt the track then be a part of it. Everything on the track feels restrained, ready to burst at the seems, from the track's intense but steady drum work to frontman Shaun Durkan's spacy vocals, but never really outside of select moments that serve to emphasis rather than kickstart. More than anything "Mirror" is trying to capture a mood, one fueled by anguish and inner turmoil. In other words, Weekend have crafted an excellent, modern goth song, almost completely divorced from their noise-pop past, but still just as engulfing as those tracks were.


Weekend's Facebook
Pre-order Jinx soon here, from Slumberland Records

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Part of the power of "Monomania", from the soon to be released album of the same name, is what came before it. Halcyon Digest was Deerhunter's cleanest, sparsest, and most straight forward to date. It wasn't necessarily a surprise, due to how the band had progressed over the years, along with factoring in the influence of Bradford Cox's and Lockett Pundt's Atlas Sound and Louts Plaza projects respectively. It was a dark and murky almost dream-pop that seemed at times to be the realization of Deerhunter's sound.

It's nice to see "Monomania" come in and completely rip that theory to shreds. "Monomania" pulls but is also removed from their past, feeling like a lost Microcastle track at times,  while feeling like a brand new band at the same time. The song twists every musical aspect it touches in the greatest way possible, from the lo-fi garage stomp that makes up the song's core to the rock star swagger that Cox channels, hauntingly, in his vocals, but which are underpinned by an intense pain of falling apart and wanting to escape. Then all those parts are twisted by the song's second half, a looser and looser psych damaged freakout with Cox chanting, then screaming the title over and over and over again. The song spirals and spirals, crashing, collapsing, and completely chaotic, but also happening to be mind utterly, disorientingly hypnotic in every way possible. It is the Rolling Stones playing an Electric Eels song's while on meth and acid at the same time, and it is awesome.   


Deerhunter's Blog
Pre-order Monomania here, from 4AD

Album Review: Youth Lagoon: Wondrous Bughouse

There was such a degree of intimacy to Youth Lagoon’s debut The Year of Hibernation, it was almost overwhelming at times. Over the album’s eight songs, bandmaster mind Trevor Power painted sonic landscapes that at times felt like you were peering into his journal and soul; hushed coos of pain or sadness that gave way every song to floods of aching emotion and bombast. There was such a poignancy and intimacy to the songs one had to ask how Power would be able to capture that again.

With Wondrous Bughouse, Youth Lagoon succeeds by not even attempting to do that. The album is not so much a “next step” as it is a complete rehaul of the band in terms of not only sound but scope. The hum and buzz of the intro track “Through Mind and Back” should be the first warning, but one isn’t given enough time to get lost in it before the album bursts, not builds, to life with “Mute”. “Mute” lays the foundation for the rest of Wondrous Bughouse; it’s a sprawling slice of experimental pop, filled with dense production and piano & effects that just pop in and out, making the music instantly much more fleshed out than most of the tracks on Hibernation. Power’s vocals are now no longer the quite whisper they once were. While not necessarily “powerful”, they are no longer buried, and are treated like the expressive tool they can be. In fact, the few songs that do mimic Youth Lagoon’s old style, like the acid-tinged trudge of “The Bath”, are still warped and twisted in their sound (like the echo-drenched vocal effects) so they don’t feel detached from the rest of the album.

Animal Collective also seems to cast a large, positive shadow over the album. How else to explain the off-kilter hop-scotch that is “Attic Doctor”, with its staccato piano lines and myriad of seemingly random samples that fill every crack of the song. Or the cascading builds and falls of “Sleeping Paralysis”? Elsewhere the influence is less prominent and direct, but still leads to the same effect; Power’s is truly experimenting with his sound, and it leads Wondrous Bughouse down some kooky and sublime roads. I doubt something as bizarre or wonderful as the prog-like build and climax in “Pelican Man”, which doubles as the album’s center as well, could have been imagined to exist on any Youth Lagoon album ever, but here it makes perfect sense. Same goes for “Third Dystopia” and its swelling brand of fuzzy, indie pop, or the fractured and dark psych-swirl of album closer "Daisyphobia". Every track defeats a previous expectation of what was expected from a Youth Lagoon song, and show the true scope of the album. The fact that nearly all of the work in the weird, askew ways is just all the better.

If The Year of Hibernation was like a blanket to wrap yourself with, then Wondrous Bughouse is the album for when you open the door and step back into the world. In an alternate reality, the album would be the soundtrack to a more adult-version of the Alice in Wonderland cartoon. Wondrous Bughouse is an album you fall into, one that swirls around you and takes hold of every senses. The damaged psychosis is felt, from the new instrumentation to the cover art, but just as the album title exclaims, there can be something great within that as well. And Youth Lagoon truly found it here.


Youth Lagoon's Facebook
Buy Wondrous Bughouse here, from Fat Possum

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mikal Cronin-Weight

There's a wonderful, fuzzy guitar that kicks in about a quarter of the way into Mikal Cronin's "Weight" and pops up during the rest song here and there, but it's mostly for show. The guitar never lasts more than a minute, and is always mixed so the rest of the instruments and sounds of "Weight" can be heard. The tinkering piano, the subtle but swelling string work, the twangy, other guitar chords that plays throughout; all the elements that truly define the "Weight". All of which comes together to construct the backbone for a very emotionally fraught song. For someone who was just singing about understanding apathy last album, the Mikal Cronin here is desperately trying to cling to the now, asking, no begging for time to stop, for the next week/day/moment not to come, knowing how unready he is for whatever is next. Cronin's lyrics jump up an octave during his final plea, almost imitating a wolf in his cry. "Weight" is beyond perfect power-pop, the type of music I've always wanted from Smith Westerns and never got.   


Mikal Cronin's bandcamp
Pre-order MCII here, from Merge Records

Monday, April 1, 2013

SXSW 2013: Saturday (Part 2)

The Stargazer Lilies @ The Velveeta Room

The Stargazer Lilies for whatever wonderful reason have decided to fulfill their name, projecting serine video clips of flower filled fields and decorating the stage with their namesake flower. All this was done to enhance the moodiness and atmosphere of their music, which they might have pulled off even better than Experimental Aircraft. Each song built before cascading into pure, swirling, shoegaze bliss. As intact as that atmosphere started out with, the band shattered it as they become progressively noisier and noisier, so much that by the end of it the guitarist was smashing himself into his amp with his guitar to produce the right level of noise. Needless to say, Stargazer Lilies was absolutely wonderful hearing damaging goodness.

Dosh @ The Velveeta Room

Dosh's set should have halted the entire flow of the shoegaze fulled showcase, but instead he sort of served as the perfect palette cleanser. A after bring what looked like the main components of a recording studio onto the stage, Dosh procededs to create some of the loveliest loop music in the world. Augmented by a bassist and guitarist who seemed new to the situation but where nonetheless on point as hell, it was a feat to behold as Dosh jumping from his drum kit, a metal fish skeleton like hammered dulcimer, and switch board to splice everything together as the songs grew and grew. There were only four songs played, but each was still an amazingly captivating sprawl to behold. How music that meticulous could feel so improvised I'll never know.

Nothing @ The Velveeta Room

Death by shoegaze is realm true event that can happen, and I came as close as I've ever come to it when Nothing took the stage. Looking like a bunch of grizzled, hardcore guys who had walked in from an adjacent bar, they proceeded to produce some of the most powerful, intense, ear-bursting, and emotional shoegaze I've heard in a long, LONG time. It was blur, a cyclone of guitar fury that was something akin to the most heavenly piercing demonic screams right in your ear as the rhythm section constantly battered your skull into the ground. When Nothing started to play the void opened up, you fell in, and no one escaped until their 25 minutes had passed. It passed in the blink in the eye, but god if that moment wasn't just unimaginably incredible. And that was it. My hearing was shot, my knees, after four long days, were finally buckling, and I knew nothing would possibly be able to top Nothing. I closed out my South by Southwest 2013 experience with possibly the most intense musical experience of the fest; and it was glorious.

SXSW 2013: Saturday (Part 1)

METZ @ The Mohawk

My last day of SXSW started with the loudest bang possible in the form of METZ. They were one of the top bands I wanted to catch at SXSW above all else, and they did not fucking disappoint. The same monstorous noise rock was in full form at the Mohawk, despite the fact they more than likely had played a billion other shows over the past four days. However, there they stood grinning massively just for getting to play, in between screaming the lyrics until their throats started to shred and pounding their instuments so hard I thought they might shatter at a moment's notice. Frontman Alex Edkins was particularly impressive in his ability flail around and yet create the most headache inducing ruckus I've heard in a long time. No joke, I literally had a headache after METZ's set, and I mean that as the greatest complement possible. The only complaint of the set wasn't with METZ's themselves, but with the audience, who refused to budge an inch during the entire set. I know it was 2:00 P.M. on the last day of SXSW, but it was still doesn't excuse some part of your body should be slamming into someone else's when METZ are on stage. That's just common courtesy.

Toxie @ The Yellow Jacket Social Club

Toxie's set was one of those just pure unlucky circumstances of SXSW. After an hour delay, they got on stage to a tiny crowd and their vocals at a near whisper compared to the rest of the instruments. Worse, the sound guy in charge of it all basically just walked off after their set began, giving the band no chance of repairing their sound or improving their set. Which is a real shame because you could tell Toxie has some wonderful pop tunes under their belt, fully formed for a band that has just one single under their belt. But for anyone who was watching them here, they only got half the experience.

Dreamend @ The Velveeta Room

Dreamend’s records are dense, highly layered pieces of fuzz-folk that swell and burst almost like an orchestra at times. So it was a wonder to me as to how they would recreate that experience in a live setting. And in a possibly very smart move, they didn’t. Reduced to just a guitar and drum duo, the band just bashed on the instruments, with the only allusion to their usual sound being a handmade microphone mask that frontman Ryan Graveface donned to recreate the albums' spooky vocals and semi-creepy vibes. What was still present though, was the amount of catharsis in the music. As distorted as the music and vocals were, the emotions came out crystal clear; anguish, turmoil, sadness, and tiniest hint of rising above all of it. I'll never understand why they decided to only play for 22 minutes; I'm sure they could have gone on for hours.

Experimental Aircraft @ The Velveeta Room

Experimental Aircraft are an old '90s shoegaze band I had never heard of before playing the Graveface showcase. They definitely pulled from the more atmospheric elements of the genre, concentrating on builds and slow songs just as much as the distortion bursts, pushing them more into the post-shoegaze realm. There was a moment near the end of the set where the frontwomen even sat down and started playing an electric autoharp, more than confirming their view on mood vs. intensity. However, they still sound great, especially when they decided to start really utilizing the guitar they had at hand and started blasting int blistering 7 minute sprawls of songs that never let up on their energy. More so, the band set the stage for the dreamy, ear shattering bliss that was going to take over the showcase.