Saturday, March 31, 2012

Jam of the Day: Jai Paul - "Jasmine"



Jai Paul sprung out of nowhere last year with Internet buzzed single "BTSU" and then seemingly dropped out of sight. He is now back with a new single "Jasmine" that is sure to be buzzed about as well.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 13 Days! We Were Promised Jetpacks - "Quiet Little Voices"



Can't wait to see these guys tonight in Atlanta and at Coachella.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Video: Niki & The Dove - "Tomorrow"



More Swedish pop goodness from Niki & The Dove.

New: Dirty Projectors - "Gun Has No Trigger"


First taste from the new Dirty Projectors album.

Album Review - THEESatisfaction: awE naturalE


THEESatisfaction
awE naturalE
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Female duo THEESatisfaction, partners Stasia "Stas" Irons and Catherine "Cat" Harris-White, have been creating buzz recently with 2 EP released on-line, a noted collaboration with Shabazz Palaces, and now the release of their debut album awE naturalE. The album is a smooth, spacey, jazzy, and hip exploration of retro-modern R&B and hip-hop, recalling Erykah Badu and Digable Planets equally. As former Digable Planets member Butterfly is in Shabazz Palaces, it makes more sense, and his influence permeates the record. While there are correlations with the Digable Planets' sound, awE naturalE is not merely Stas and Cat singing/rapping over Digable Planets-style tracks; it is more of a feeling or a mood. Lyrically, the album is difficult to pin down, as there is nothing very overt here, mainly stream-of-conscious/impressionistic lyrics and raps that evoke more than they implicitly spell things out. The topics span everything from feminism, racism, class warfare, and religion. Cat, the singer, has a lovely voice, throaty and muscular, while Stas, the rapper, provides a militantly rigid style that seems to suit the music well; each complimenting as well creating an interesting tension between each other.

While the women are each individually talented in their own rights, the songs where the two carefully mesh their styles together are the highlights of awE naturalE. "Needs," a slinky, slick track has Cat singing the lyrics while Stas flows in and out of the verses, switching halfway to where Cat punctuates the rapped verses with snippets of vocals. This dual approach takes over the trip-hop leaning "Deeper" which motors along on a head bobbing throb of bass, skittering drums, and organ drones. The clipped delivery of Stas on the rapped verses becomes almost claustrophobic, until the earthy tones of Cat's vocals take over, providing relief. Best track "Enchantruss" loops the women's vocals into an element of the music, creating a hallucinatory effect accentuated by the military-like drumming. The push and pull of the rapping and singing adding to the mix, with some contrast from a guest rap turn from Shabazz Palaces' Ishmael Butler.



Several tracks go for a looser, jazzier feel. The charming "Existinct" marries loops with sparkling piano fills and a subtle vocal turn from Cat. "God," featuring another rap cameo from Ishmael Butler, floats along a whimsical piano motif, Cat's voice fluttering along the surface while Stas pops in and out of the mix. Cat and Stas seem restlessly creative on the album, never sticking to any one style or genre for long, choosing to stretch their vision in different ways. The smooth horn-driven funk of "Sweat" is a good detour from the sometimes overly dense, harder tracks. While the laid-back flow and roll of "QueenS" creates a perfect summery groove, the women imploring everyone to "turn off the swag/check your bag/whatever you do/don't funk with my groove."



At 30 minutes, awE naturalE feels and is short. Marring the flow of the record, there are too many short instrumental passages that don't truly add anything to the experience, and some tracks, like "Bitch" have a nice swagger and attitude to them, but at 1:24 never really goes anywhere. Without these superfluous tracks, THEESatisfaction would have had one killer EP on their hands, but, unfortunately, with them we are left with merely a promising full length album.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Jam of the Day: Bjork - "Crystalline (Current Value Remix)"



I'm really digging this Current Value remix of one of my favorite tracks from Bjork's Biophilia.

Video: Orbital - "Wonky"



Title track from their new album gets a crazy video.

Videos of the Week

Here is a roundup of videos that popped my cherry:



More luscious R&B from The-Dream.



Stark and haunting imagery in this Shearwater video.



The visuals in this clip work perfectly with the music.



Cute, animated clip for the Belle And Sebastian cover of The Primitives "Crash."



Intense clip from the always in-your-face Death Grips.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 14 Days! Snoop Dogg - "Sensual Seduction"



This song and video are a great laid back Friday vibe.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Jam of the Day: Cloud Nothings - "Our Plans"



This song kicks ass.

Album Review - Clark: Iradelphic


Clark
Iradelphic
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Starting with the icy IDM experiments on his debut Clarence Park, through his twisted, beat heavy compositions on Body Riddle, Turning Dragon, and Totems Flare, Clark (a.k.a. Chris Clark) has always attempted to balance the tension between the organic and synthetic. Clark's use of live drum samples has been key in the development of his sound; his beats seeming real yet not quite of this world. It's been three years since the release of Totems Flare, and now finds Clark releasing his latest opus, Iradelphic, which finds him at a bit of a crossroads. For those expecting the almost impenetrable soundscapes of his previous albums, there are hints of that on the album, but the album finds itself frequently seeking less computer based territory. In fact, Iradelphic features almost more acoustic instrumentation than electronic. When the opening track "Henderson Wrench" unfolded I first thought I got the wrong pressing of the release. Layers of acoustic guitars twist and turn through each other, with only vague wisps of electronic percussion in the background, the organic reverie interrupted only at the end with some booming drum flourishes.



Which leads into first single "Com Touch" which takes its time building, starting with old analog synths emulating classical motifs before segueing into a typical Clark-ian beat frenzy. The blurting bass synths bumping and pushing against the furious waves of keyboards.



And that is the intriguing as well as the confounding thing about Iradelphic, that you never get the sense that this is a Clark record. You know in your heart it is, his name is on the label, and there are Clarkesque elements throughout, however, as a complete work, it feels curiously scattershot and difficult to pin down. If you were to hit random on the CD itself you would swear you were listening to different artists. There are two tracks with Martina Topley-Bird which function as an almost acoustic, trip-hop duet. "Open" leading the charge with a requisite hazy vocal turn from Topley-Bird leading into "Secret" which acts as an almost coda to "Open."





There really is no indication from these collaborations that it is Clark, not that it is necessarily a bad thing, it is just difficult to assimilate them within the confines of this record. Clark is more successful when he merges the acoustic with the electronically more fluidly. The ambitious three part, ten minute long "The Pining" is a master class in sequencing and pacing. Over rising keyboard drones and steel drum pads, Pt. 1 moves into a cloud of swirling guitars, percussion, and electronic effects, before getting more intense and jazzy with admirable bass work, then pausing for a drum breakdown, where the elements of the earlier motif flows back to the forefront. Pt. 2 is more frantic, featuring a skittering beat platform, with echoes of the dense bass synths and guitar work from earlier, adding layered vocal samples underneath. The final part adapts the melody to a choir of bell synths before fading out with calm analog ambiance.



Which would have been a good ending point, however, Clark throws in a final ambient closing track, the Boards of Canada-lite "Broken Kite Footage," which is a lovely droning piece but seems superfluous after the ambitious "The Pining." Which is another nagging issue with the record, the pieces themselves individually are almost across the board interesting great tracks but as a collective whole, don't appear to have a lot of connection to one another. The pastoral IDM of "Tooth Moves" bumps into the blurting and burbling "Skyward Bruise/Descent," whose atonality rubs wrong against the Topley-Bird tracks. The scraping guitars and meandering atmospherics of "Ghosted" slap abruptly into the gorgeous piano meditation of "Black Stone." The variety of tracks, as well as their sequencing, creates more confusion than tension, and would have benefited either from some better transitions, or a more homogeneous palate.

These issues I have with the record don't ultimately derail the enjoyment of most of these pieces. There is just a bigger learning curve in getting into the whiplash flow of the songs. Admirably, Iradelphic is a transitional record that finds Clark trying to not be pigeon holed with a certain sound, looking to expand on his prior work while still honoring it. At this stage, it is stretched a little too far, coming across less cohesive than it should. There is a interesting seed planted here though, one that hopefully will bear fruit.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 15 Days! Godspeed You! Black Emperor - "Antennas To Heaven"



Gorgeous post-rock from Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Video: Frankie Rose - "Night Swim"



Bizarre underwater video for the new Frankie Rose single.

Jam of the Day: Clark - "Com Touch"



I cannot get this track out of my head. It is the perfect mix of past sounds and future textures, and a slamming track to boot.

Video: SBTRKT - "Hold On"


Strange, suspenseful video for the SBTRKT song "Hold On."

Album Review - Kindness: World, You Need A Change Of Mind


Kindness
World, You Need A Change Of Mind
Rating: Grrrr

Kindness, the solo project of UK/Berlin based auteur Adam Bainbridge, obviously has a penchant for 80s funk pop and slick R&B, tossing in equal amounts Prince and Janet Jackson along with other 80s pop acts that utilized R&B shadings, such as China Crisis, The Blue Nile, Scritti Politti, and even Bryan Ferry. He has been causing a slight Internet buzz with his MySpace page, releasing random singles, from the odd cover of The Replacements' "Swingin' Party," an almost monumentally epic Krautrock cover of Cerrone's disco classic "Supernature," and tracks from Neil Young and The Byrds. World, You Need A Change Of Mind, Kindness' debut album, gets a jump from this buzz, offering many tracks that get under your skin with their retro funk and smooth grooves, and only falters when the archness of the concept gets a little too close to irony for comfort.

Lead single "Swingin' Party" trades the alt-country sweep of the original with a plaintive beat, subtle keyboards, and a hauntingly morose vocal.



"SEOD" could be from a lost Boys & Girls demo from Bryan Ferry,beginning with a lengthy intro of cavernous drums, treated guitars, and a lovely bed of icy cold synths, before evolving into a sultry synth pop number.



"Gee Up" is a slick 2 minute slice of white boy funk.



"That's Alright" builds on dense drum programming, rising synths, funk guitar swirls, and ecstatic vocal samples that is equal measure Chic and LCD Soundsystem.



"Cyan" is slick, futuristic R&B, floating on a twinkling beat and pillows of soft keyboards.



And goes all out disco-funk on final track "Doigsong" punishing a slap bass and killer beat.



Thankfully these high points overshadow the two glaring mistakes on the album. A cover of the theme song to Eastenders, "Anyone Can Fall In Love," is the height of treacly banality, while "Bombastic" reads as an embarrassing lounge lizard karaoke act.



Based on his output prior to releasing this album, plus the sequencing of the album itself, it can, at times, come across a bit scattered. Bainbridge appears to be fairly restless in his musical interests which, while keeping things quite interesting, can make for a less than cohesive listen. Despite this small flaw, World, You Need A Change Of Mind is a wonderful pop album that recalls the best of 80s and 90s styles, yet makes it fully modern and his own.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 16 Days! The Horrors - "Sheena Is A Parasite"



I am thrilled to finally see The Horrors, as they are one of my favorite bands that I have yet to see live. Although they have changed direction considerably since their first album, I do love this song. And the video, directed by Chris Cunningham, is pretty brilliant.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New: The Men - "A Minor"


The Men are about to head out on tour, and for Record Store Day the band provided the previously un-released 8 minute epic "A Minor" for label Sacred Bones' compilation Todo Muere Volume 2.



Pic via brooklynvegan.com

Video: Death Grips - "The Fever (Aye Aye)"



More sonic brutality from punk-rappers Death Grips.

Jam of the Day: Kill The Noise - "Deal With It (KOAN Sound Remix)"



In honor of seeing the Feed Me show tonight, here is a slamming remix of a track from opener Kill The Noise.

Album Review - Mouse On Mars: Parastrophics


Mouse On Mars
Parastrophics
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

I will admit to not being a huge Mouse on Mars fan. Throughout their career, they have been one of those bands I have appreciated much more than I have loved. Something about their almost difficult for difficult sake's approach to post-techno has kept me at a distance; their only saving grace being a sense of humor that always tends to bob its head up and down every so often during their dense tracks. It has been about 6 years since their last release, and the electronic music landscape has changed dramatically. You can tell from the opening tracks of Parastrophics that they have obviously been listening to a lot of the Beat Music acts like Flying Lotus, adopting fractured beats, found sounds, and clipped vocal samples, and also 2-Step/wonky artists like Rustie, utilizing euphoric synths and beats. Mouse on Mars even attempt to mix everything together at some point, succeeding almost despite themselves. Has their slightly updated sound changed my opinion of them? Honestly, not really. They seem less obtuse on this record, but many times I am still held back by some of the more clinical aspects of their tracks. Again, my head wraps around it and I "get it," but my heart just sits there stoically removed from the experience.

Contrary to my usual preference, the tracks that work best on Parastrophics are the more streamlined tracks that one or two ideas to come to fruition, rather than allowing the mix to overwhelm. "They Know Your Name" trades off video game synths and wonky bass over a slapping beat.



"Baku Hipster"'s robotic vocals mesh well with the thundering proto-industrial beats and pinging electronics, beat into submission by some low end bass.



"Seaqz" slams some banging electro down, spurting buzzing synth chords over pounding drum programming.



Somehow "Metrotopy" avoids being overwhelming, even though it mixes some wonky synths with a more beat heavy backing track. There is focus on this track that is missing from the other attempts at stretching their sound. Too often, that reach gets a bit too cumbersome for their own good. "Chordblocker, Cinnamon Toasted," is buried under its own ambition. Psychedelic synths pulse over glitch-hop drums, old 70s organ drones, and some uninspired samples.



"Cricket" sounds like a Speak and Spell burning up and disintegrating in a fire. "Gearknot Cherry" allows the promising beat to get trapped with a messy mix of too many competing elements. Single "Polaroyced" walks the line closely, but ends up succeeding based on force of will alone, its funky undertones coming right to the forefront.



Technically, the album is almost perfect; the doe really know their way around the studio. But for all that technical proficiency, there still lacks that emotional element that would tie everything together. There are seeds here for a quite brilliant album, and more often than not, the songs do in fact work. However, I found myself skipping over too many tracks to get to the ones I wanted to listen to again. I would rather have them try for too much then coast by on the tried and true though, so for that I will give them accolades. I will say, I was never once bored listening to this album, and it has got me interested in hearing where they go from here.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 17 Days! Feed Me ft. Tasha Baxter - "Strange Behaviour"



Looking forward to catching Feed Me tonight here in Atlanta, and checking him again at Coachella.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Video: Simian Mobile Disco - "Cerulean"



Really cool, calming video for the song "Cerulean" from Simian Mobile Disco's new album Unpatterns. The video reminds me of old Atari games.

Jam of the Day: Kindness - "Swingin' Party" (Replacements Cover)



Gorgeous cover of the Replacements ballad "Swingin' Party." Kindness is the alias of Adam Bainbridge.

New: Sigur Rós - “Ekki Múkk”


Sigur Rós return in May with their new album Valtari. First song to be heard from it is “Ekki Múkk.”

Album Review - Madonna: MDNA


Madonna
MDNA
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

I think I have written the opening to this review about a thousand times, and have deleted every single one of my attempts. There has almost been too much written about this record, about how old Madonna is, whether she is still relevant, whether this will vanquish her rivals, etc. etc., with little actually said about the actual songs. I suppose at this stage of her career it has become irrelevant to discuss her in terms of music solely; what you get is the whole persona dissected and critiqued. There are far better qualified people to evaluated an assess her cultural significance and how MDNA figures into that, so I will humbly back off and just talk about the album. Madonna, for me, has always been about the singles. Ray of Light and Music are her only records that truly feel like they were conceived of as "albums" and not just a couple of great singles and some filler. MDNA falls more into the Madonna records of the past and the more recent past. She aligns herself with some of the latest producers (in this case, Benny Bennassi, David Guetta, and Martin Solveig) and latest singers (Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.), and basically does a throw everything at the wall and see what sticks approach to recording. So you end up with a mix of really fun, catchy singles, and a lot of tracks that sound better on paper than in actuality. But in the end, you have a typical Madonna record, it is not great, it is not horrid, it is exactly what you want if you are a Madonna fan, and is exactly what you will detest if you are not.

The best tracks on MDNA are the less flashy songs that rely more on melody and not all the latest EDM flourishes. "Love Spent," one of the many tracks on MDMA that skewer her ex-husband Guy Ritchie, is one of the few tracks where her voice is not overly slathered in studio effects, with the mid-tempo dance beats and keyboards working in sync with her voice and not against it.



"Falling Free" is a gorgeous, piano and strings driven ballad, featuring one of Madonna's best vocals ever. For once they aren't making her sound like she has hay fever.



And even her Golden Globe winning ballad "Masterpiece," while not her best ballad ever, is a lovely Latin-tinged affair, complementing a delicate vocal turn from Madonna.



With regards to the dance floor tracks, the simpler she keeps the tracks the better they work. "I'm Addicted" has a delicious bass-heavy throb that keeps the swirling synths and thumping beats in check.



"Turn up the Radio" is a classic house track from Madonna.



While even some of the more lyrically banal tracks, like "Girl Gone Wild" and "Gang Bang" still succeed by sheer force of will from Madonna. Even when her material is not her best, the woman knows how to sell it. "Girl Gone Wild" just seems a little too juvenile with its talk of getting drunk on Tanqueray and losing her inhibitions, but the track has a pleasant house beat and drive, and "Gang Bang," another track about her ex, has a dense, throbbing pulse underneath its dark synth touches, but goes off the rails at the end with a very strange coda.



But the remainder of MDNA is a pretty mixed bag of lazy attempts to join the ranks of the Katy Perrys of the pop world ("Give Me All Your Luvin'"), attempts at edgy electro ("Some Girls"), or another one of her misguided attempts at rap-singing ("I Don't Give A"). Oddly, some of her best tracks were not included on the regular release of the album. On the deluxe version, "Beautiful Killer" recalls her best work with William Orbit, sounding like an update of "Beautiful Stranger." "I Fucked Up" marries some buzzy synths and glitchy drums with strings and acoustic guitars.



And "Best Friend," which appears to be a olive branch to her ex, after the brutal lyrics of the other tracks on the record. Here, the processing on her vocals fits well with the fractured electronics.



MDNA is a decent record for Madonna fans. It will likely sell well and fill the arenas for her upcoming tour, but, for me, the worst thing about it is that it is predictable. It follows a fairly by-the-numbers pattern that, at this stage in her career, is disappointing. It would be fun to see her really make an "out-there" record with producers you would never expect her to work with. It's all just a dream, but could you imagine if she had really gone out on the ledge, what she possibly could have come up with?

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and piques one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 18 Days! Arctic Monkeys - "I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor"



I will have to admit I really only like the first Arctic Monkeys album, but damn, it was a good album.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012

Jam of the Day: Santigold - "Disparate Youth (2 Bears Remix)"



2 Bears add a slightly dark house vibe to the new Santigold track "Disparate Youth." I like it.

Album Review - Monolake: Ghosts


Monolake
Ghosts
Rating: Grrrr

Over the course of 7 albums, Robert Henke, one of the fathers of pioneering music software Ableton Live, has painstakingly assembled a catalog of some of the most detailed and challenging techno music. Slowly, his sound has been tinkering more with the collusion between minimal techno and bass music, creating cavernous soundscapes that are so dense to almost be tactile. Ghosts, the follow up to Silence (and middle album in a proposed trilogy), strikes a nice balance between beat heavy techno tracks and evocatively creepy instrumental experiments. Indeed, Ghosts could easily soundtrack some very high-tech Japanese horror movie. The more beatless tracks are filled with lots of found sounds, echoing clatter, and vast silences that draw you into the dark world within. The more beat heavy tracks are calming in comparison, however, the tricky time signatures and clattering percussion also tend to keep one on edge.

The album begins on a creepy note, the stark beats, guttural bass, and hissing keyboards of title track "Ghosts" would be unnerving enough without the scary voice sample intoning "You do not exist." It is not a track to be listened to at night in the dark.



Which immediately seeps into the claustrophobic emptiness of "Toku" which approximates the feeling of being in a strange place, in the dark, with unexplained sounds and noises all around you.



Henke obviously enjoys concentrating on all the details of a track; where each element is strategically placed for effect, and where the use of silence can create tension. The world of Ghosts is not inviting, and not meant to be; the songs challenge and bewilder as often as they intrigue. Even the more "normal" tracks have a subtle not of unease lurking beneath the surface. The almost tribal beats of "Discontinuity" become glitchier as the track unfolds, with eerie, almost silent earworms of synths burrow underneath.



The arrhythmic percussive elements fracture and upend the drum and bass of "Lilith," with low bass rumbles churning along the mix.



Old school horror movie organ drones and creaking floorboard sounds punctuate the subtle throb of "Aligning The Daemon."



"Foreign Object," which was apparently composed and recorded on the fly hours before the album was sent off for mastering, is another echo laden foray into fun house horror territory. Haunting voice samples linger in a hazy fog as the beats whip around the track, made even more off kilter by wobbly bass.



Much like its album cover of a clear yet stark treeline and the haunting fog soaked forest behind it, Ghosts seems like it is all harsh, yet visible surfaces, while behind it lurks increasing levels of danger and darkness. It will seep effortlessly into your mind and body, and will refuse to give up its hold. Ghosts' challenging nature is at once intoxicating and horrifying.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Videos of the Week

Another roundup of videos that made my week:



Fun, video game inspired video from Rye Rye.



Trippy video from Paul Weller.



Cute, animated video from Modeselektor.



New video from Madonna, which recalls a lot of her earlier videos.



Languid black and white video from Lana Del Rey.



NSFW video from Spiritualized.



Tanlines have slowly grown on me. Here is a video from their really solid debut album Mixed Emotions.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 21 Days! Flux Pavilion - "I Can't Stop"



Smooth dubstep from Flux Pavilion.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Video: Rye Rye - "Boom Boom"



Colorful video game inspired clip for the sassy Baltimore babe Rye Rye.

Jam of the Day: Nero - "Must Be The Feeling (Delta Heavy Remix)"



Kurt turned me on to this remix. Pretty damn hot.

Album Review - Paul Weller: Sonik Kicks


Paul Weller
Sonik Kicks
Rating: Grrrr

Paul Weller's storied career has run the gamut from the punk mod stylings of The Jam, the slick jazz/R&B/pop hybrid of The Style Council, and the varied genres he's tackled as a solo act. His solo career has had its highs (Wild Wood, Heavy Soul) and its lows (Stanley Road, Illumination), but you can never truly count him out. In the past few years Weller has had a bit of a creative Renaissance, releasing two of his most eclectic and diverse collections; the bizarre compendium of 21 tracks on the sprawling masterpiece 22 Dreams, and the relatively concise and buzzy guitar tracks of Wake Up The Nation. These two albums showed Weller still willing to experiment and challenge himself. No longer considered just a heady nostalgia act, Weller is setting the bar again for where rock and pop can go. His latest album Sonik Kicks, while not has eye opening as the previous two albums, still shows Weller has a ton of tricks under his sleeves, and is another solid album in his vast catalog.

Unlike the brisk tracks on Wake Up The Nation, Weller allows several tracks here room to breathe and meander about. And stylistically, it is all over the place, moving from the krautrock of "Green," with its insistent beat and psychedelic guitar flourishes,



gorgeous Britpop of "The Attic,"



through dub experiment "Study In Blue,"



and even to passionate acoustic numbers like "By The Waters," with Weller's still emotive and strong voice being showcased.



The striking thing about Sonik Kicks is the muscularity and pulse that flows through its 14 tracks. Weller spikes many tracks with driving beats and basslines. "Dragonfly" practically flies out of the speakers.



"Around the Lake" ricochets around the room with machine gun blasts of drums and a squalling wave of guitars and organ.



"That Dangerous Age" bobs and weaves with a Bowie-esque swagger like an updated "Golden Years."



There are relatively few missteps on Sonick Kicks. The polka on steroids of "Kling I Klang" starts in confusion and never seems to really go anywhere, and final track "Be Happy Children" is a treacly mess of a ballad that sticks out like a sore thumb.



But overall, Sonik Kicks is a surprisingly vital album for Weller, demonstrating that he is still a strong songwriter and can pump up his music to new levels when he is feeling the creative muse. Over the last three albums, his creativity has been shooting off the charts. An excellent new record, and hopefully he will continue with many more.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 22 Days! The Rapture - "How Deep Is Your Love?"



I'm hoping to check these guys out. Not a huge fan of the new album, but hoping the songs are transformed when played live.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Video: Modeselektor with Miss Platinum - "Berlin"



Cute animated video from Modeselektor.

Jam of the Day: Florence + The Machine - "Never Let Me Go (Clams Casino Remix)"


While listening to the new Florence + The Machine album Ceremonials, I always thought it had the bones of a great record, but was overdone by ostentatious and overly fussy arrangements, but that it would benefit from some skilled remixing. Clams Casino adds his lush, cinematic approach to the track "Never Let Me Go" and elevates the track from its rather middling original mix.



Here is the original mix, for comparison purposes.

Album Review - Miike Snow: Happy To You


Miike Snow
Happy To You
Rating: Woof Daddy

Miike Snow, the indie-electronic trio comprised of the production team of Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg (also known as Bloodshy & Avant) and singer Andrew Wyatt, released their debut album back in 2009 and it was a surprise success considering how strange the album was. It was thought originally that Karlsson and Winnberg, who had produced for Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, and Madonna, would create a fairly traditional pop album in the mold of those artists, yet confounded everyone with the quirky nature of their tracks. It was an album that, while having several immediate sounding singles, still took a long time to grow on me, having to earn its spot among my most listened to records. Since that album, they have toured extensively and have released some one-off singles here and there, never really giving much indication what direction they would be heading in. Over the past few months, through viral video and ad campaigns they have been teasing the new album Happy To You, most notably through a very bizarre series of videos featuring the "perfect man" named Jean Noel Mustonen. This search for and attempts at perfection are littered through the lyrics of the album, the characters always undone by their faults and imperfections. Despite some of the jauntiest and brightest musical backing, there is an intense sense of loneliness and melancholy throughout the record. It is pop music as soul diving exploration.

The most noticeable thing about Happy To You, is how musically insane it all is, as if mad geniuses have taken over the studio. All of the tracks are positively bursting with strange instruments, samples, vocal tweaks, and basically everything but the kitchen sink. "Enter The Joker's Lair" starts things off as a base camp and introduction to the insanity that will come forth. It's almost circus-like patterns of rolling keyboards a perfect start to the chaos within. Leading into new single "The Wave"'s martial drumming and bold piano chords, a haunting track about being led into battle (whether it be war, love, success, or other) and realizing you are basically screwed. The narrator being led to his demise: "You can hear them/You can hear them banging on the tin/But my love won’t be saved/We’ll all be staring at the wave."



Stunning first single "Devil's Work" charges forward on dense patterned drums, more stark piano chords, and a swirling cloud of horns and strings. The song about realizing it is an easy slide over to the dark side: "You don't need to sell your shirt/To do the devil's work/You finally found your place/You know it always works."



These epiphanies appear throughout the album, the characters seemingly aware of their limitations and striving to correct them, yet somehow are fated to always wind up back where they started. The divorcee of "God Help This Divorce" losing his wife by holding her back due to his crippling insecurities, looking upon people walking down the street and seeing "so many beautiful faces that don’t need me." And the husband in "Pretender" goes through the motions of his life realizing in the morning "I didn’t wanna wake up/But then I felt your touch/Now I notice that I drink too much."



Or the narrator of "Bavarian #1 (Say You Will)" who despite his assurances to his love that he will faithful and true, "I can’t be trusted/To wait on hard times/I’d rather run out/And be caught behind the lines."



All of these tracks have the most diverse backgrounds, from the countrified/orchestral ache of "Divorce," the skittering beats and funk horns of "Pretender," to the martial drumming and military feel of "Bavarian," which equates love as war.

For lyrical themes as heavy as these, you would think the album would be a downer, but the musical accompaniment is frequently joyous and mercurial, belying the pain and suffering going on. "Archipelago" floats on a jaunty, bouncy cloud of burbling bass synths, twinkling keyboards, rushing drums, and rolls of pianos, all while the narrator bemoans the loss of his lover. Or the whirlygig weirdness of "Paddling Out" and its whooshing keyboards and disco drums backing a track about getting away from the herd.



And the breezy tropicalia of "No Starry World" and its haunting realization you can't go through life with rose colored glasses, asking "sell me no/starry world/but I tried."

Miike Snow have really stretched themselves musically this go around. There are many musical touchstones that pass through the songs linking them together, from the martial drumming, strident piano chords, and subtle use of horns. Happy To You finds the band being bold and adventurous with their sound, even when it might not sit well with fans of their poppier material. High profile collaboration with Lykke Li, "Black Tin Box," is perhaps the darkest, most unusual track they have ever written. Manipulated vocals intone bleakly over burbling electronics, eclectic percussion touches, theremin, and delicate steel drum pads.



This bold, insightful, haunting, and catchy as hell record is a stunning light years jump ahead for Miike Snow, vaulting them into the upper echelons of indie pop royalty. To say that each listen draws you in further to the record, unearthing new and interesting aspects each time, is a vast understatement. There is going to be an epic battle at the end of the year for album of the year, and right now, Miike Snow's Happy To You is king of the heap.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.


Video: Madonna - "Girl Gone Wild"



While I am still not feeling any of the singles Madonna has released so far off MDNA, this is a typically well-shot video, that does a good job of accentuating the track.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 23 Days! Azealia Banks (ft. 77Klash) - "P-U-S-S-Y"



Azealia is going to knock that mutha out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Video: Odd Future - "Oldie"



Terry Richardson photo shoot turned into an impromptu video shoot.

Jam of the Day: Clock Opera - "Belongings"



Clock Opera's debut album Ways To Forget finally gets its US release next month. I love their anthemic synth-rock a lot. This song is a quieter song from them, but has a nice build and ending.

Album Review - Tanlines: Mixed Emotions


Tanlines
Mixed Emotions
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Brooklyn duo Tanlines, comprised of Jesse Cohen and Eric Emm, don't sound like the majority of their borough dance music brethren )such as LCD Soundsystem or The Rapture), forsaking angular guitar oriented grooves for more of a European/Balearic/Tropicalia infected synth-pop, recalling acts like The Tough Alliance, Delorean, and Air France. Their first EP Settings was a perfectly acceptable blend of synth heavy pop songs, lighted by a colorful brightness and breeziness. Some critics and fans have even likened their sound to the chillwave genre, however, the music to me is more overt and less hazy than anyone pegged in that group. Their debut album Mixed Emotions doesn't stray too far from the sound of Settings; focusing on lush synths, upbeat choruses, and lots of world music touches. The songwriting is tighter and more polished, and the production values have certainly increased.

Mixed Emotions is a grower for sure. It took several listens to really get the charms of the record. I think the pacing and sequencing are the main problem, with the album starting out so low key as to almost suffer from excessive blandness. Lead track "Brothers" floats along a bed of pillowy synths and muted drum programming, with Emm's nasally baritone under-emoting. The song is saved by a delicate building of elements that subtly take over the song, raising it up several levels.



Which picks up a little with the pop throb of "All of Me," a mix of buzzy keyboards, handclaps, chanted backup vocals, and chiming guitars.



However, "Green Grass" sounds like a Killers demo, the grinding guitars never really making much of an impression, while "Abby" is all smooth surfaces; albeit some gorgeous surfaces. "Yes Way" restarts the album, bouncing along on marimbas and a tropical vibe.



Which leads into the back half of the record where the songs just get better and better. Album highlight "Not the Same," carries forward on an impassioned vocal from Emm, the synths rising to meet him.



"Real Life" is a euphoric blend of analog keyboards and Latin percussion.



"Rain Delay" makes good use of sparkling guitars and tinny sounding drum machines, creating a template for a perfect pop song, while "Cactus" again corners the market on the whole Tropicalia/Balearic sound, with light, breezy percussion, trills of guitars, and deep beds of warm synths. The album ends on a melancholy note, with the lush ballad "Nonesuch."

Mixed Emotions is a solid set of tracks from Tanlines. With a little better sequencing of the tracks it would make the experience even better. As it is though, it is a subtle grower that might take several listens to get accustomed to, but these songs will find their way back into your mind.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.



Coachella 2012 Countdown: 24 Days! Keep Shelly In Athens - "Our Own Dream"



I'm not sure how their downtempo electronica will play in the hot desert heat, however, I do like their sound. So, barring any conflicts, I would like to check them out.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Jam of the Day: Excision - "Brutal"



Hard guitar riffs take over this rough dubstep track from Excision.

Video: Spiritualized - "Hey Jane" NSFW



First single and video from Spiritualized's upcoming album Sweet Heart, Sweet Light, is a gritty day in the life look at a drag queen/hooker. It features some violence, nudity, and sexual situations, so is likely NSFW.

Album Review - The Shins: Port of Morrow


The Shins
Port of Morrow
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

There are many bands that are truly made up of a single person, and the sound of the band rises and falls at their direction, regardless of who is in the band at the time. Mark E. Smith is The Fall, Jarvis Cocker is Pulp, and Jamie Stewart is Xiu Xiu. Other bands are so collectively a whole, one member's absence is glaringly obvious. R.E.M. suffered from the loss of Bill Berry, Graham Coxon was sorely missed from Blur on Think Tank, and Suede just never had that same sense of swagger after Bernard Butler left. James Mercer, the leader of The Shins, sort of falls in the middle of these groups. After releasing three albums of witty, jangly indie pop, Mercer fired the remaining band members, stating in a 2009 interview with Pitchfork that "I started to have production ideas that basically required some other people." For Port of Morrow, Mercer brought in producer Greg Kurstin, who has worked with artists as diverse as Peaches, Lily Allen, Kylie Minogue, Ke$ha, and even Britney Spears. This switch to a more pop leaning producer, coupled with the jettisoning of the former band members, I was expecting there to be a huge difference in sound and direction. Honestly, it sounds like a Shins record, with the only noticeable change being the production values, as the charming looseness of previous records makes way for the high buff and shiny gloss of the new. This is not necessarily a negative thing as the record itself sounds great, it just has a different feel to it.

For me, the songs that work the best on Port of Morrow are the tracks that use this glossy production to best advantage, letting all the oddities in the mix come out. "The Rifle's Spiral," for example, combines pristine guitar jangles with spiky bursts, while what sounds like decaying ham radio transmissions burbles underneath.



Title track "Port of Morrow" has a lonely, meandering feel. Soft percussion, delicate pianos, and Mercer's haunting falsetto transform into a brilliant song about "the bitter mechanics of life."



The bossa nova-esque "Bait and Switch" travels on wisps of organ, slide guitar, and a breezy vibe, gathering in strength and punch as it moves forward.



And the gorgeous production shines through on the melancholy "40 Mark Strasse," which reads almost like a retelling of The Virgin Suicides, the narrator recalling a strange, lovely girl he used to watch over:

"You had to know I wanted
Something from you then
Too young to know just what it was
Something more than a friend
Is that you at the end"



What keeps Port of Morrow earth bound for me is that too often the production overshadows the songs, the buff and polish Silkwood showering the songs into non-descriptness. "It's Only Life" saddles one of Mercer's loveliest melodies with a lumbering backing track.



I could easily hear an American Idol contestant sing the radio ready "No Way Down."



And "Fall of '82" has an odd 70s AOR vibe that doesn't feel sincere.



And these missteps are more glaring when they are coming up against great tracks like "Simple Song," which show Mercer is still really in control of great song writing and strong melodies.



I'm not one of those people that demand bands stick to what made them popular in the first place, but honestly, with Port of Morrow, I longed for the more quirky aspects of The Shins. What we get is a very professional pop record from Mercer that quietly announces that it wants to be very successful. The spit shined production, for me at any rate, holds me back at arms length, not allowing me to truly experience something intimate with him. Even so, Mercer is such a brilliant songwriter that it overcomes these limitations.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Video: Lana Del Rey - "Blue Jeans"



Languid black and white clip for one of the standout tracks off Lana Del Rey's debut album Born To Die.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 25 Days! Neon Indian - "Polish Girl"



Really looking forward to seeing them; a lot of fun.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Video - BigBang: "Fantastic Baby"



Wow, this is so bad it is awesome.

Jam of the Day: Hot Chip - "Flutes"



I like the lonely dreaminess of this track. The video, however, is nausea inducing.

(Relatively) New Massive Attack Demo


I just discovered (through Prefix Magazine) this new Massive Attack demo that was leaked last November. It is a pretty great track, full of their requisite dark synths and moody percussion. Apparently they have been seen working with Damon Albarn on the new record. No date set for release yet, so we all just have to await it anxiously. Photo credit: Wiki

Album Review - Kaiser Chiefs: Start The Revolution Without Me


Kaiser Chiefs
Start The Revolution Without Me
Rating: Meh

British quintet Kaiser Chiefs came of age around the same time as UK contemporaries Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys, Franz Ferdinand, and Kasabian but, despite initial success, has suffered from a distinct lack of personality. Their first album Employment hit all the marks for a mix of new-wave, punk, and post-punk, but subsequent albums have felt rather flat and lifeless. Last year in the UK they released 20 songs to the Internet and allowed fans to pick and choose ten songs to make their own album. The band eventually released their own selection of 12 tracks in the UK under the title The Future Is Medieval, which was not released in the US. Here, they have released Start The Revolution Without Me, which contains a few songs from Medieval, some from the online release, as well as a new track, all in a completely different running order. This ramshackle way of putting the album together has made for quite the schizophrenic listening experience, with the album feeling more like a collection of random tracks than anything thematically or musically linked. The songs run the gamut from stadium ready anthems to edgy post-punk guitar numbers to slinky synthpop riffs. There is no real intro into this record, you are basically thrown in and it is sink or swim.

Oddly, the tracks that stand out the most are the least "Kaiser Chiefs" sounding, like the bizarre 80s new wave ripping synth-rock of "Heard It Break," which adds a slight reggae tinge to the bridge.



The Bowie-aping jagged funk of "Things Change" sticks a little too close to the melody of "Fame," but is refreshing change from the generic anthem rock of the majority of other tracks.



"Man On Mars," produced by Bowie producer Tony Visconti, while not sounding specifically Bowie-esque, has an epic feel to it, without feeling labored or tossed off.



And I enjoyed the spiky guitars and driving rhythm of the pop-punk "Problem Solved."



But aside from a couple of glimmers of life on Start The Revolution Without Me, the album is surprisingly inert. Several times I thought my iPod switched over to random and I was hearing the same track again. "Child of the Jago," "Starts With Nothing," and "Cousin In The Bronx" feature similar vocal melodies that cause a bit of confusion. And the fact that the tracks musical accompaniment have little to know character to distinguish them makes for difficult listening.

The remaining tracks are vaguely entertaining Britpop, like the poppy "On The Run,"



pub crawl sing-a-log "Kinda Girl You Are,"



and fuzzy, ragged guitar pop of "Can't Mind My Own Business."



But as a whole, none of these tracks really come together as a cohesive statement; something to bring you back to experience something new each time. What you hear is what you get and, unfortunately, it fades away after each listen.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.


Videos of the Week

Hot damn it's Friday and here at the videos that bumped uglies with me:



Continuing the weirdness that was the video for "Paddling Out," the plastic surgery men continue their journey across the desert.



Trippy video from The Horrors.



A stuffed lion has a hedonistic night on the town in this clip for the new Orbital track.



Booty shaking clip from Diplo.



Jake Gyllenhall pulls a Patrick Bateman in this bizarre and gory clip for The Shoes' "Time to Dance."



Gorgeous video for a gorgeous song.

Coachella 2012 Countdown: 28 Days! Miike Snow - "The Wave'



I am ridiculously excited to see Miike Snow again. Their new album Happy To You is brilliant.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Jam of the Day: Little Jinder - "Keep On Dreaming (Radio Edit)"



Last week I posted the Starkey remix, which was awesome. Now, here is the original version. Sounds like a dubstep Annie. I have no problem with that.

Video - Orbital ft. Zola Jesus - "New France"



Electronica legends Orbital return this year with Wonky, their first album in over 8 years. First single "New France" with go-to chanteuse Zola Jesus now gets its video, featuring a cute stuffed lion having a hedonistic night out on the town.

New Garbage Song - "Blood For Poppies"



Song from their upcoming album Not Your Kind of People. After a 7 year hiatus, the song sounds remarkably like Garbage.

New Video - The Horrors: "Changing The Rain"



Trippy, hallucinogenic animated clip from The Horrors.

Album Review - Xiu Xiu: Always


Xiu Xiu
Always
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

At this point, you kind of know what to expect from a Xiu Xiu record. Jamie Stewart and his revolving cast of band members will provide the requisite harrowing, confessional lyrics meant to shock, the barely contained vocal paranoia, and music that alternately draws one in and also alienates. Of course, over the years, the production values have gotten better and the sound is larger and denser, but the essence of Xiu Xiu remains. The point is that there is nothing really new here that will pull in the unconvinced or chase away the converted. With that noted, however, Always is one of their stronger, most consistent releases, even if it doesn't stand out like Fabulous Muscles or Knife Play. Probably the most striking thing about the album is how much better Xiu Xiu works when Stewart allows the songs to have a more traditional pop sound. Xiu Xiu can do the strident/discordant thing in their sleep, so when you hear them fighting that urge, the sense of tension creates something fresh and new for them.

Opener "Hi" features a surprising electropop feel. The driving beats punctuated by squiggly synths provide the background for Stewart's examination of loneliness and misery.



"Joey's Song," a track about a traumatic time in Stewart's brother's life, is notable for the restraint in the music backing, adopting a gauzy, shoegaze haze.



"Honey Suckle," which is the first Xiu Xiu song not written by Stewart, is a relatively straight-forward pop duet with Angela Seo (who wrote the track). And it is probably the first time anyone can ever say that a Xiu Xiu song is sweet, at least musically. The lyrics of course are mired in despair over the difficulties of every day living.



But it woud not be a Xiu Xiu album without the required electro/industrial/synth freakouts. "I Luv Abortion," a harrowing account of a friend's agonizing decision to have an abortion, has a particularly intense, almost atonal sound.



"Gul Mudin" engages twitchy electronics with spikes of guitars and industrial percussion to comment on an Afghani boy murdered for sport by US Army men.



While "Beauty Towne," an addenda of sorts to the song "Clowne Towne" off of Fabulous Muscles, recalls a time when Stewart lived in a communal house (with Perfume Genius' Mike Hadreas) whose residents all had destructive relationships and lives. The song, a jittery, thumping track, tells of how even though they have moved on from that time, the experiences will always haunt and stay with them.



The remaining songs fall in the middle of these two extremes. "The Oldness" is an impressionistic track led by stark piano, synth strings, and Stewart's gaunt voice.



"Smear the Queen," a duet with Carla Bozulich, whips and slaps odd keyboard noises underneath their dueling vocal tics. The song would not be out of place on a Some Bizarre compilation from the 80s.



And "Chimney's Afire (Mickensian Suicide)" marches to military like drum fills, with a vast array of instrumentation fighting against each other for prominence in the mix.



Always is a solid, if not revolutionary Xiu Xiu album. At this stage in his career, Stewart has almost exhausted the whole "shock for shock's sake" angle he's been doing, and it would be more interesting to see/hear him tone it back into something almost pop. His confessional and blunt lyrics and themes would be ever more subversive.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.



Coachella 2012 Countdown: 29 Days! Yuck - "Suicide Policeman"



I'm really looking forward to seeing Yuck, as I have somehow missed them coming through Atlanta 3 times now.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New Miike Snow Video: "The Wave"


I guess this is Miike Snow day here at MBWST. Here is the latest bizarre video from the trio.

Jam of the Day: Miike Snow - "Devil's Work (Alex Metric Remix)"



I love this track off the new, brilliantly weird Miike Snow album Happy To You, and the remix just takes it into glorious new territory with the rising house piano chords.

VCMG: Ssss - Album Review


VCMG
Ssss
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

In their extensive catalog, Depeche Mode's 1981 debut album Speak & Spell is a bit of an anomaly; relatively bright electropop with only slight hints at the darker tone the band would later take to and exploit. The only album Vince Clarke appeared on, he left the band shortly after, hinting that he was not happy with the direction the band was taking. Of course, both Clarke and the continuing members of Depeche Mode went on to very successful separate careers. Clarke with Yaz, The Assembly, and Erasure, taking on a more overt pop tone, and Depeche Mode continuing their exploration of the darker spectrum of synthpop, evolving into the stadium-filling behemoths in their later years. When listening to Speak & Spell, there is a tension and edge to these competing sounds, which is very exciting, and something that was lost when the Clarke parted company with the band. Not to say that Speak & Spell is some brilliant album (it's not), it is frequently clumsy and dated, but nonetheless, you can feel the friction between the two musical directions. Whether this could have continued or not within the band will never be known as both took their own paths and made great music from it. When it was announced that Clarke and Martin Gore were going to collaborate on a techno album I was very intrigued, but also worried that their two different approaches could end up fighting for attention and not gelling together cohesively. For those expecting a Depeche Mode-like album, you will likely be disappointed. This is a 100% techno album, with no pop songs, no vocals, and no apologies for being so. At this point in both of their careers, there really is no need for them to prove anything anymore, it is just two old friends getting together and making a record of the music they want to play. You will not hear any nods to dubstep or any other current dance trends, you will just get ten solid techno tracks. You do get a sense of a slight push and pull between Clarke's pop instincts and Gore's more darker shadings. It reminded me so much of that first Depeche Mode album.

The best tracks on Ssss exploit this tension well; working sleek rhythms, minimal synth lines, and dancefloor grooves. "Skip This Track" whips the beats around a thumping bassline and blurs of keyboards.



"Bendy Bass" rubs wobbly bass against a variety of intertwined keyboard riffs.



"Spock" throbs and bobs with minimal beats, percolating basslines, a rising hum of buzzing synths.



"Flux" begins minimally, increasing with ever denser layers of keyboards, getting harsher and harsher.



The less successful tracks tend to meander a little too long or never really achieve lift off, lacking the tension of the other tracks. First track "Lowly" ascends on a Detroit techno vibe but gets lost with an irritating synth line that sounds like an alarm clock going off in another room.



"Windup Robot" harks back to Kraftwerk with its insistent, motorik rhythm, yet sort of spins in one place too long. Minimal techno is taken to its extreme with "Aftermaths," featuring a synth line that sounds like a telephone busy signal on the fritz. But these missteps are generally few and far between. And thankfully they are spread within the album so there is not a long slog before hitting another good track. Where "Windup Robot" blew its Kraftwerk influence, "Recycle" more than makes up for it with a steely "We Are The Robots" mechanized groove. While "Single Blip" grows slowly into a edgy monster, the layers of keyboards providing tension while never quite giving release.



Ssss is a solid set of techno tracks from two electronic music legends. While it is far from revolutionary, it gets the job done, and even sometimes is almost too good for what it does. Ssss is just the sound of two long time friends having a blast making music, letting no one sound or influence dominate, and sharing the spotlight. That these two men (both in their 50s) can still throw out bangers like "Skip This Track" and "Bendy Bass" shows that they still have the chops and younger artists can still learn a lot from these masters.

Rating Scale:

Chilfos: masterpiece; coolest thing I've heard in ages.

Woof Daddy: excellent; just a hair away from being a masterpiece.

Grrrr: very good; will definitely be considered for my top releases of the year.

Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It: good; definitely invites further listens and peaks one's interest for more material.

Meh: not horrible, but certainly not great; could have either been polished, trimmed, or re-thought.

Jeez Lady: what the hell happened? Just plain bad. They should hang their heads in shame and be forced to listen to Lady Gaga ad nauseam as penance.

Tragicistani: so bad, armed villagers with pitchforks and torches should run the artist out of the country for inflicting this abomination on the human race.

Coachella 2012 Countdown! 30 Days! The Shins - "Simple Song"



While I am not a huge Shins fan, I do like a lot of their songs. This new one is kinda catchy, and I love the video.