Sunday, September 30, 2012

The xx - "Sunset" (Live on Jools Holland)



Amazing live version of one of the standout tracks on their album Coexist.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Videos of the Week

Friday. Last day of vacation. Sad face:



Sad video for the brilliant Grizzly Bear single.



Another video from Miike Snow featuring their bizarre "perfect man" Jean Noel.



Disturbing Crystal Castles video.



Lush video from Azealia Banks.



Gorgeous, dense synth pop from Sun Airway.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jam of the Day: I Was A Teenage Satan Worshipper - "The World"



Love this shoegazey track.

Album Review: Deadmau5 - album title goes here


Deadmau5
> album title goes here <
Rating: Jeez Lady

After blasting Madonna recently for her appearance at Ultra Music Festival to his bold claim that artists such as David Guetta and Skrillex do nothing but press play on their iPods, Canadian producer/DJ Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, really needs to put out some music to back his ass up. After listening to his latest record > album title goes here < he is going to have to do much better. Basically a compilation of tracks that he's had out for over two years, tweaked and spruced up for the release, it is a surprisingly lazy grouping of dated sounding genre exercises. If ever the term "on auto-pilot" needed a definition, one would only have to point to this album.

Opener "Subliminal" is all beats and no hook, coasting on a tired bass wobble.



Collaboration with Wolfgang Gartner "Channel 42" is a murky four to the floor banger that hardly does enough to warrant the high-profile nature of them working together.



Even the other collaborations come across half-assed or even phoned in. "Professional Griefers" with Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance sounds like he's channeling a bored Marilyn Manson over tired house beats,



while "Failbait," a head-shaking work with Cypress Hill (???) is basically rap 101, with Cypress Hill barely able to muster energy to get their verses out.



The rest of > album title goes here < is rote, EDM by the numbers, touching on trance ("The Veldt"), bland EDM ("Maths"), and generic house ("October"). Only a couple of times does he shake things up a bit, and point into a direction that might have made much more of an impact. When he slows things down and takes a breather he can actually make some emotional music. "Sleepless" is a melancholy, down tempo track with an interesting use of samples,

"Closer" takes reference from the notes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and wraps them in swirl of synths and driving beats,



while the menacing "Take Care of the Proper Paperwork" is by far the most interesting thing Zimmerman has ever done, using lots of different textures and sounds to create a wonderful sonic template, pushing the track through several movements, ending on a sad, auto-tuned vocal that is surprisingly moving.



Aside from these brief moments of clarity, > album title goes here < is basically a toothless compendium of slightly rehashed work that does nothing to make Deadmau5 stand out in an already crowded field. Based on this tired record, Guetta and Skrillex have no need to worry about Deadmau5 eclipsing him. They can just press play on their iPods and come up with something far more interesting.

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.

Video: Tame Impala - "Elephant"



Trippy clip from the Aussie band.

Video: Atl-J - "Something Good"



Exquisitely shot video for one of the standout tracks from their debut album An Awesome Wave.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Jam of the Day: Pink - "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)"



Just an insanely catchy song from Pink. I am digging the sort of Two Door Cinema Club indie-pop vibe during the verses, and the pop punk fuzzy chorus.

Album Review: Tame Impala - Lonerism


Tame Impala
Lonerism
Rating: Woof Daddy

Tame Impala's debut album Innerspeaker was a pleasant surprise when it hit in 2010. A potent mix of sixties psychedelia, Brit pop reverence, and chugging riffage all washing over you like waves. While it wore its influences on its sleeve, Innerspeaker was a surprisingly modern take on the styles, and transcended any claims of being mere copy-cats. Sophomore album Lonerism is still a Tame Impala record but the sonic palate has definitely been forced wide open, sounding bigger and more expansive, and bursting at the seams with new ideas and sounds.

According to Kevin Parker, Lonerism is a darker, melancholy record about general themes of isolation and introspection, which are more subtle than overt throughout the tracks. There is density to these tracks, but the analog instrumentation is mostly warm and inviting. You feel more risks being taken from the start, leading off with "Be Above It" a track full of pounding drums, eerie electronics, and a chorus of multitracked vocals. It is an off-kilter production that recalls Todd Rungren, one of the band's named influences for this record.



First single and teaser track "Elephant" has an old-school Tame Impala sound, thick and buzzy, but adds more of a stomp to the proceedings with choppier vocal delivery which forces the track to lurch rather than to glide.



There are a lot more uses of synthesizers and keyboards this go around, giving the record a swirly, psychedelic feel. "Apocalypse Dreams" bounces on chirpy keys and swooning analog synths, all held in place by Parker's airy vocals and a steady backbeat,



"Keep On Lying" features beds of analog synths and mellotron to create a wondrous kaleidoscopic world that is only slightly broken up by some fractured guitar and samples, while 60s sci-fi synths hover around the dreamy tug of "Why Won't They Talk To Me?"



That is not to say that guitars are forgotten on the record. There are still plenty of raveups to be found. Instead of letting the guitars wash over you though, Parker and Co. are far more direct this go around, choosing to let them be more of a force. Fuzzy riffs push Parker's vocals along on the gritty "Mind Mischief," guitars and spacey keyboards slide around each other on "Music to Walk Home By," and flanged guitars create an airy space around the druggy haze of "Endors Toi."

But definitely there is more attention to keyboards this time around, and elevates Tame Impala's sound ten fold, allowing their songs to have more heft and weight to them. Several of the tracks off Innerspeaker were all swirly haze and nothing of much substance to hold them down. Lonerism feels tangible and the work of a band that wants to push where their sound goes. While Innerspeaker was a really good record, Lonerism is Tame Impala's first foray into great territory.

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.

Video: Jessie Ware - "Night Light"



Arty black and white clip from Brit chanteuse Jessie Ware.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Classic Jam: Grizzly Bear - "Two Weeks"



I can't hear this song without smiling.

Jam of the Day: Ruby Goe - "Sq1"


Sexy R&B jam from the British soul singer.

Album Review: Pink - The Truth About Love


Pink
The Truth About Love
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

I've always liked Pink. She has just the right amount of attitude and pop smarts, but there is always that pull with her between wanting to be a pop star and her wanting to remain somewhat edgy. For the most part, this tension creates some amazing music, but far often than not, she gets timid and retreats back into tired and worn pop constructions that don't play to her strengths. Her latest record The Truth About Love doesn't really solve this conundrum with her though, and still has no idea what to do with her most of the time. There are no shortage of golden pop hits here, mixing her mainstream likability with punk-pop hooks, but she is still mining the same territory of being the woman scorned, and it can get a little tired at times. And more alarming is the penchant for trying to force her into way more mainstream direction than she can pull off, and it comes across as clumsy and ill-conceived.

But the good thing is that there are plenty of radio-friendly pop punk hits off this record that make up for any poor judgments in trajectory. "Slut Like You" is another infectious tongue-firmly-in-cheek track that only Pink seems to be able get away with.



Crunchy guitars and spiky attitude coupled with a wicked sense of humor mark "Walk of Shame."



Sort of a new tack for Pink is the almost Two Door Cinema Club-esque "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" which is a more poppier sound for her, but still has a slight edge to it, and is one of her most potent tracks.



Other tracks that either stretch or stick within her wheel well are the grinding opener "Are Well All We Are,"



hooky "Truelove,"



and the quirky strut of title track "The Truth About Love."



But there are too many tracks that come across as dated or just not right for Pink's outsized persona. Biggest misstep is "Here Comes The Weekend" with some rap verses from Eminem, that would have been more cool about 10 years ago but just comes across sludgy and tired.



Her producers also try to shoe horn her into more ballad and mid-tempo territory that ends up making her sound generic and slow the album down to a crawl. Mid tempo number "Try" feels like a Kelly Clarkson B-side,



"Just Give Me A Reason," a duet with fun.'s Nate Ruess is about as shlocky a ballad out there right now,



and treacly closer "The Great Escape" does highlight Pink's softer side, but ultimately ends things too subtly.



So really what we end up with her on The Truth About Love is another good Pink record with lots of infectious and hooky tracks, but also saddled with a lot of filler that seems calculated to pander to the widest demographics out there. It's records like this that frustrate me because you can see where the artist's strengths lie, but there are those record label/high profile producer cords that keep pulling them in another direction. Some day, I hope Pink allows some edgier producer to just take her under their wings and let her really shine.

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.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Jam of the Day: Halls - "Roses for the Dead"



Simply gorgeous.

New: Christina Aguilera - "Your Body"



Not bad clubby track from Xtina. Better than most of her recent output.

Album Review: The Killers - Battle Born


The Killers
Battle Born
Rating: Meh

The Killers 2004 album Hot Fuss was a guilty pleasure of 80s synths and 90s Brit pop affectations that made up for in pure hookiness what it lacked in intelligence. Of course, the band, like a lot of acts that feel pure pop music is not taken seriously, tried to become the next great American guitar band on the follow up Sam's Town, which found The Killer's thinking they had been possessed by the spirit of Bruce Springsteen. Thankfully, beneath all the bombast and shlocky attempts to reach the cheap seats, the album actually was a pretty stunning (almost) train wreck that somehow was able to give out enough pop goodness to save itself. After being taken down a peg or two, Brandon Flowers and Co., returned with 2008's Day & Age which sought to merge the two albums into one, and while it had some really fun pop tracks, it was weighed down by two many attempts at making "important" music. After 4 years, The Killers latest record Battle Born finds the band back in the Sam's Town mode, going for an epic sound that just doesn't really suit them, and instead of going for a singular Springsteen-like sound, they are all over the map here, borrowing from everyone from U2, Coldplay, Garth Brooks, to Elton John, and never fully set into a groove on the record. Too often the songs just sound calculated to evoke an emotional response that is just not earned. The record works best when it stops trying to be so important and just lets the hooks speak for themselves.

Lead track "Flesh and Blood" uses skyscraping synth lines and a rousing chorus that elevate the song to another classic Killers track; of course it helps to try and ignore the silly lyrics. "Runaways," while basically another cribbed track from Springsteen, has the decency to wear its influence on its sleeve.



On "Deadlines and Commitments" locks into a nice groove early, with subtle synth lines, and a kept in check vocal from Flowers, growing into a forceful chorus.



Even "Heart of Girl," a collaboration with Daniel Lanois, and sounds exactly like an outtake from The Joshua Tree, is such a gorgeous track full of interesting sonic embellishments, it transcends its copycat qualities.



The only time that The Killers step outside their comfort zone is the achingly beautiful ballad "Be Still." Flowers stretches his voice to amazing levels of emotion, pulling a performance out of himself I never expected. While the song threatens to fall over the line into treacly territory, his voice just powers through it.

But for most of the record, there is just too many tracks trying too hard to be something they are not. Where artists like Springsteen sung about going out on the town, or hitting the road, there was always a deeper social/economic context going on that elevated them from mere party tracks. Here, The Killers mistake thinking their lyrics are profound but are merely cliche ridden. Despite an interesting keyboard opening "The Rising Tide" becomes just another lackluster guitar track with silly lyrics like "let's go out tonight/there's a mystery underneath the neon light." "The Way It Was" is a trite boy in a fight with his girl take that lacks any sort of new revelations; "Miss Atomic Bomb," an apparent homage to Elton John, again gets mired in cliched lyrics about dust clouds settling, looking back on neon nights, and racing shadows in the moonlight; while things get completely embarrassing on the country-rock hybrid "From Here On Out" which is practically unlistenable.

Battle Born is a curiously un-fun record, lacking the goofy smarts of Hot Fuss, the over the top silliness of Sam's Town, or even the spacey disco vibe of Day & Age. It just sounds like a retread of better ideas and songs from other bands and artists. Funny that the two bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition of the record show more spunk and verve than the remaining songs on the official tracklist. Sometimes bands just need to know that we like them for their strengths, and The Killers' strengths are pure pop songs. They should stick to them.

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.

Videos of the Week

Bring it!:



Dreamy clip from The Raveonettes.

ALT-J "Fitzpleasure" from COSA on Vimeo.


Amazing video from the recent Mercury Prize nominees.

Hospitality - Eighth Avenue from Merge Records on Vimeo.


Don't mess with this woman.



NSFW clip from Icky Blossoms that cuts together lots of vintage porn shots together.



Gorgeous animated clip from Hundred Waters.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jam of the Day: The Twilight Sad - "Nil (Liars Remix)"


Liars remix the track "Nil" off The Twilight Sad's latest brilliant album No One Can Ever Know, and replace the tightly coiled tension with glitchy electronics, thumping beats, and cut up vocal samples. It is off the upcoming No One Can Ever Know remix album.

Album Review: Menomena - Moms


Menomena
Moms
Rating: Woof Daddy

That we even have a new Menomena album is a miracle in and of itself. During the recording sessions for their last album Mines, Danny Seim and Brent Knopf had just gone through divorces, and Justin Harris was immersed in therapy, but somehow they were able to put together their most concise and well, rather "pop" album. Of course, what came out on record did not show what was going on behind the scenes, with little to no communication going on between the band members. After the release and during the supporting tour, Knopf finally left the band, leaving Seim and Harris to continue on as a duo. The pair decided to come up with a thematic thrust for the new record that, while not a concept record per se, stems from each others relationships with their mothers; Seim's mother having died many years prior, and Harris essentially being raised by his mother alone. Moms is more about the results of their respective childhoods, and there are haunting passages of loneliness and searching despair, desperation and resentment, and overall melancholy. It is a difficult record to get through at times, but making up for the thematic bleakness is the music which is their most aggressive and harshest in ages, twisting, pushing, throttling, and strangling the songs forward, trying to make sense of how to get out of the dark hole that's been dug.

With lyrics like "now I'm a failure/cursed with male genitalia/a parasitic fuck/with no clue as to what men do/impossible to love" ("Pique"), "heavy are the branches/
hanging from my fucked up family tree" ("Heavy Is As Heavy Does"), and "Hail Mary/is this golden ticket all that you've left me/for the therapist to pawn off and retire off the proceeds ("Baton"), you realize fairly quickly that this is not going to be your average odes to my mother type of album. They dig pretty deep into how they've turned out as men, and it is full of uncomfortable discoveries, but always done with thick, gallows humor. Only Menomena could get away with lyrics about moving to more self-awareness by singing they no longer feel like "the nervous random stranger at the glory hole," on the blistering "Capsule."



"Baton" is a dark reflection of waking up one day realizing you could have been someone different: "I wish that co-dependence could sustain us through the years/I wish that wrecking fantasies could pass for a career."



"Tantalus" returns to childhood as a tourist (the name referring to the street Seim grew up on Hawaii), and almost to a former sound of the band, with lots of samples and odd percussion, looking at former things that filled him with wonder, and only now depress him.



While "Heavy Is As Heavy Does" is a somber, piano-led track concerning the push and pull between a love and hate relationship between father and son, the narrator hating that he is turning into something he hates: "as prideful as a man he was/proud my father never was of me/I did it for survival/but I looked like the asshole anyway."



Musically, Moms is a very heavy, dense set of sounds, as if they are trying to compensate for the loss of member Knopf. "Skintercourse" shuffles on dirty guitar lines before rising to the levels of a church revival sing-a-long, with juke style pianos, squealing guitars, tambourines, and almost preached vocals;



on "Giftshoppe" sawed guitars swoop and wash over a dense groove;



But there are still moments of stunning restraint and beauty. Closing track "One Horse" is another Menomena track that is full of epic drama. Slowly building from a gorgeous intro of aching strings and stark pianos into a stunning swirl of rising strings and analog synths, before a psychedelic mid-section takes over. It is a bitter, defeatist track, the narrator despairing "I know the ending/Yet I'm faking suspense/We're fertilizer for the trees."



While Moms is thematically bleak and melancholy, it is not a slog to get through. Menomena always keep the tracks moving along with odd time signatures, weird samples, and clever turns of phrase, that it is not really until you start getting deep into the record do you notice how dark it is. They say tension and stress and conflicts within bands can lead to some amazing work, and with Moms, you can easily hear it in the finished product how it led to another brilliant 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.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Jam of the Day: The Presets - "Ghosts"



Amazing track from The Preset's new record Pacifica that combines sea shanty vocals with skittering beats and atmospheric electronics.

Album Review: The Raveonettes - Observator


The Raveonettes
Observator
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

The Danish duo The Raveonettes have always been a gimmicky band, starting their career off with a fuzzy, Jesus & Mary Chain feedback laden style, married to 50s and 60s style harmonies. They even used to set rigid parameters on their recordings, choosing to stick to recording their first album all in B-flat minor, limited to three chords, and three minute lengths. Eventually they lightened up on the recording rules and embraced a fuller sound, employing more traditional songwriting, and even dipping into shoegaze and dream-pop textures. What has been frustrating about the duo is that they always put out good/not great records that just don't seem to have a lot of distinctive personality. You can get any of their records and be content with it. Last year's Raven In The Grave, disliked by many, was the first album for me that showed them being a little more willing to go outside their comfort zone. While it was not a complete success, it was definitely more memorable for that approach. New record Observator sort of refines that approach and comes up with a far more consistent set of tracks, but still hasn't set out a distinctive sound for them.

The first two tracks hint at a new approach, subtly incorporating some interesting piano notes. "Young and Cold" drifts on fuzzy guitar lines and deep harmonies from Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, recalling their early Everly Brothers-esque leanings, but adds some delicate piano lines to the mix, and faces out on a haunting coda.



"Observations" brings the pianos to the forefront, with only slight trails of reverbed guitars, as Wagner and Foo's breathy vocals take over the mix.



This apparently was a bait and switch as the piano based tracks pretty much fade from memory and the rest of the album sort of ping pongs between more aggressively feedback heavy tracks and more shoegazey/jangly textures. "Sinking With The Sun" pushes along on a haze, while the fuzzy, poppy "Downtown" is a perfect pop confection,



and closer "Till The End" opens with a fog of angelic guitars before scuzzing things up for the remainder.



Of course, I am more partial to their dreamier, shoegaze inspired tracks. Standout for me is the gorgeous "Curse The Night" with a delicious backbeat and melancholy guitar leads, as Foo's voice hovers over the track like a lonely soul.



"The Enemy" features some lovely guitar work, directing the song into dream pop territory.



While tracks like "You Hit Me(I'm Down)" and "She Owns The Streets" soften things with airy, blissed out guitars and muted vocals.



Observator is a well crafted record whose only real fault is that it is almost too pleasant. While there are some edgier tracks, there is an abundance of more ethereal textures at play. And it still has an air of a band trying to push their sound in some new directions but afraid to go too far out from what is known. As it stands, it is a lovely pop record that just stands too much in the middle of the pack.

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.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jam of the Day: Star Slinger - "Take This Up"


Whirly-gig single from producer Star Slinger.

Album Review: The Presets - Pacifica


The Presets
Pacifica
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

Aussie electro-pop duo The Presets have a very distinctive sound that you are either predisposed to love or hate. There is something about Julian Hamilton's deep, booming vocals and Kim Moyes' dark, electro beats and riffs that can effectively polarize any audience. For me, I am one of the few people who are on the fence with them. When they are on, as on Apocalypso's "If I Know You" and "This Boy's In Love," they are pretty much pop perfection, but too often they take things in a more chanty/robotic direction and verge on annoying. So far, their first two studio albums haven't been able to find the right mix of tracks and have been wildly uneven. Third record Pacifica seems to be their attempt again to bridge the gap again between more overtly pop numbers and their more experimental tendencies. While there are still some odd lyrical tendencies and vocal deliveries, this record is by far The Preset's most consistent release.

When they stick to their strengths, the tracks on the album are catchy and fun blasts of electro-rock. Lead track and single "Youth In Trouble" is 6 minutes of Nitzer Ebb synth pulse ecstasy,



"Promises" could easily fit on any Erasure album, a gorgeous bit of melodic synth-pop, "Fall" pushes trance synths higher and higher, and the elegant throb of "Surrender" easily overcomes some bizarre lyrics.

And even when they do try and stretch their sound higher, it can lead to some interesting avenues. "Ghosts" is probably their best song ever, a light base of rising keyboards balances Hamilton's sea-shanty singing, before taking off into a swirling mass of echoed synths, skittering percussion, and choruses of chanted voices.



But too often it leads to some misguided messes. "Push" features one of Hamilton's annoying clipped and choppy vocal turns that, against a clanging mix of pots and pans percussion, deep bass lines, and shrieking synths, becomes aggressively unappealing. And the puzzling "A.O." almost defies description. Odd vocal effects, chanted vocals, yelps, yells, and surreal instrumentation are replaced by sections of gorgeous piano work and melodic vocals. The two parts of the track, which interplay off one another, have no real connection to each other and the tension between the two is more irritating than interesting.

Thankfully, The Presets don't go off the map too much on Pacifica. They swiftly return to more accessible tracks, like gorgeous closing ballad "Fail Epic" and subtle, haunting "It's Cool" which recalls the icy gorgeousness of "If I Know You."



Pacifica is not going to change anyone's mind about whether they like The Presets or not. If you like them, you will like most of this album. If you dislike them, it won't make you like them anymore. I'm still on the fence with them, because when they get it right, which is more often than not, they make some pretty killer, catchy electro-pop. But when they head in other directions and discount their strengths, they just make me shake my head.

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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jam of the Day: NZCA/LINES - "Airlock"


Slinky bit of futuristic pop/R&B from producer Michael Lovett, a.k.a. NZCA/LINES.

Album Review: The xx - Coexist


The xx
Coexist
Rating: Grrrr

The xx sort of appeared out of nowhere back in 2009; their debut album almost fully formed and perfect, filling a void that we never knew existed. Bridging the gap between UK bass music, minimal post-punk guitar bands, and Aaliyah-esque cyber soul, The xx, though not wholly original in its sound, still felt like you were listening to something exotic and new. It was such an intimate record, full of hushed vocals, alienating silences, drifting guitar lines, and intricate, yet subtle beats from producer Jamie xx. After several years of touring behind the record, and with Jamie xx becoming one of the most sought after young producers, The xx were challenged to follow up one of the most heralded debut albums of all time. The question is though, where do they go with their at once distinctive sound? Based on Jamie xx's recent production work and singles, I imagined the album would be a more beat heavy affair. Oddly, the first listen Coexist the main thing you notice is the lack of beats. If possible, The xx have gotten even more minimal than on their debut; guitars are starker, vocals more hushed, the beats are few and when they are present they are not as insistent as before. It is a but off-putting at first as you keep expecting the record to take off at some point, but it remains curiously low-key and even flowed throughout. But there is a pull here that keeps you coming back to the record. There are snippets of lyrics that are so haunting and so real, you cannot ignore them, the haunting trails of guitar washing over you, and the beautiful interplay between the vocals of guitarist Romy Madley Croft and bassist Oliver Sim.

The songs on Coexist are still dealing with relationships; mostly concerning themselves with issues of intimacy, love lost, heartbreak, and the loneliness of the aftermath. It has a sad air to it, but is never depressing; more wistful and knowing. First track and lead single "Angels" details the minute details in the mind of someone almost trying to convince themselves they are in love.



In "Try" the focus is on the failure of a relationship, both sides incriminating the other; "Now it's dead and gone/You say what you would have done/You would've been there, I wish you'd been there/I needed you there."



A gorgeous Burial-like two step beat braces the haunting tale of former lovers that no longer even acknowledge each other on "Sunset." The narrator lamenting "I felt like you really knew me/Now it feels like you see through me."



On album standout "Unfold," The xx take minimal to a whole new level. Under achingly austere guitar lines, Sim and Croft's vocals intertwine together in a sad tale of a love unrequited, "out of sight out of mind/it doesn't mean you're not mind/the feeling goes on and on and on." While in "Reunion," a couple ruminates over their failed relationship, "if I wait too long I lose you from my sight/maybe tonight I could stop dreaming/and start believing in forever and ever and ever again."



But within all the melancholy there are brief moments that remind us why we all go through the pain and heartache to find love. In "Swept Away" the lovers are all consumed with each other, "I'm soothed by you/You take it all away/Surrendered at the start of it,"



and closing track "Our Song" is a lovely, shimmering ballad with the gorgeous lines "There is no one else/That knows me/The way you do/All I've done you've done."

There are already a lot of complaints about Coexist, that it is too similar to The xx but yet not the same, that there are not enough faster, beat-driven tracks, or that The xx do little to really expand on their sound. I think all of those claims are valid to a certain extent, but at the same time overlook the fact that no one really was going to be completely satisfied by any new material. I think The xx did what they wanted to, which was make the record that appealed to them. Yes, it is quieter and more intimate, but this is very subtle music that you have to invest time in. I think Coexist is one of those records that will end up standing by itself in the long run, as it is too well written and produced to be ignored.

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.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Jam of the Day: The Ravonettes - "Curse The Night"



Lovely dream pop track from the duo's upcoming album Observator.

Album Review: Deerhoof - Breakup Song


Deerhoof
Breakup Song
Rating: Grrrr

As my good friend Matthew will attest, I do not like Deerhoof. On more than one occasion he has tried to slip some of their music past me and every time I know its them and make him stop. There is just something about their herky-jerky music that does not speak to me. Earlier albums to me sound like 8 bands competing to be heard over one another, turning into a cacophonous mess. So with heavy brow and intense reluctance, I loaded the new Deerhoof record Breakup Song into my player and, shockingly, I wasn't immediately repulsed. In fact, I was almost immediately drawn in. While it was still bordering on cacophony, there was a control and balance there I had never heard from them before. While the title of the record Breakup Song sounds like it would refer to a cycle of breakup songs, in fact, it more or less describes the sound of the record perfectly. Each track feels like it is on the verge of disintegrating into chaos, but somehow, for the most part, the record stays on course. This tension makes for some amazingly fucked up pop songs.

Over a tight 11 songs and 30 minute run time, Breakup Song doesn't saunter and meander at all. Kicking off with the sludgy beats and crunchy guitars of title track "Breakup Songs" it sounds like a punkier Cibo Matto, with singer Satomi Matsuzaki's sing-song vocals and chants over the not quite chaotic mesh. Leading into the brisk art-funk of "There's That Grin" with the simple lyrics of "there's that grin/don't make me/fall/in love with you again," as the glass shattering guitars pepper shots all over the tight groove.

In fact, the front of the album is just pitch perfect (and some might say, front loaded). The skittering beats and dreamy keyboards of "Bad Kids To The Front" recall Stereolab on acid. While album highlight "Zero Seconds Pause" is a dense pool of pounding beats, fuzzy beats, and air raid siren synths.



Smmooth, jazzy organs and funk guitars rave up "Flower" while "Fete Adieu" is almost the most mainstream sounding track Deerhoof has ever made, and could easily be heard on more progressive pop stations.



The only complaints I have with the record are mainly with the back half, which has a noticeable drop off in quality from the almost perfect first half. Bombastic "To Fly Or Not To Fly" can't seem to find its path, veering from almost doom metal guitar riffs to synth freakout to discoey synth pop and back again, all in the brief span of 2 minutes; "We Do Parties" bops along on a poppy synth bass, horseshoe clops, and Matsuki's laconic vocals with spiky bursts of surf guitar; while "The Trouble With Candyhands" has a fun marimba style melodic line that is upended by a fairly pedestrian pop chorus.



Breakup Song does nothing to make me change my mind about their earlier output (sorry Matthew), but was a complete and utter surprise to me that (a) I actually liked it at all, and (b) that I liked it as much as I do. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be saying that a Deerhoof album was likely to be included in my best of lists for the end of the year. I guess pigs are flying and hell is chilly.

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.

Videos of the Week

Why do short work weeks always feel the longest? Oh well, it's Friday, lets do it:



Amazing track off the DIIV album.



Gorgeous, shoegazy track from Mount Eerie with an equally impressionistic video.



Amazing live performance from Swans.



Beautiful lyric video from Cassettes Won't Listen.



Seizure inducing video from Stockholm punks Holograms.



One of the highlight singles on the new Deerhoof record.



First video from the fruitful collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Jam of the Day: MS MR - "Bones"


Bones from MS MR on Vimeo.


Icy song from the mysterious NYC duo.

Album Review: Bob Mould - Silver Age


Bob Mould
Silver Age
Rating: Grrrr

Bob Mould's latest record Silver Age shows him in fine form once again, and putting out his most confident set of tracks since his work with Sugar. Foregoing the somber musings of his early solo output and his more recent forays into electronica, Silver Age is primarily 10 smoking hard edged pop tracks that are a smack down to all that have drawn influence from the master, from elder statesman like Foo Fighters and Green Day, down to new upstarts like No Age, Cloud Nothings, and Japandroids, showing who the real boss is. There is almost no fat on these tracks, getting the point quickly and directly, hooky as hell, as simply full of energy.

From the dark, driving opener "Star Machine,"



blistering title track "Silver Age," and through first single "The Descent,"



the album starts off strongly and rarely falters. Tracks like "Fugue State" and "Briefest Moment" carry a dark, melodious edge to them, that never gets heavy-handed or morose, focusing solely on the hook. The only songs that tend to slow the proceedings down are tracks like the mid-tempo squall of "Steam of Hercules," and bland rocker "Angels Rearrange."

But when Mould turns back to the harder edged, more pulsing tracks, Silver Age really kicks off. Rough and ready "Keep Believing" storms out of the gates, while "Round the City Square" sounds like a punkier, early R.E.M. While the final track "First Time Joy" feels like it wants to take things out on a more subdued note, it builds into an insistent guitar driven attack with subtle keyboard accents and a gorgeously restrained vocal from Mould.

While Silver Age could do with a broader palate at times (too many of the tracks utilize a similar guitar haze), the sheer power of the hooks and the joy in which Mould attacks them is simply too strong for it to matter much. After coming out publicly, writing his memoir, curating the re-release of the Sugar records, Mould is easing into middle age with a new found passion for his music. Let's hope Silver Age is merely the beginning of a new phase in Mould's storied career.

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.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Jam of the Day: Deerhoof - "Zero Seconds Pause"



Hell must have frozen over if I am putting a Deerhoof song up as Jam of the Day.

Album Review: Grizzly Bear - Shields


Grizzly Bear
Shields
Rating: Woof Daddy

Grizzly Bear's last record Veckatimest wasn't so much their breakthrough album as it was a light-year leap ahead sonically and creatively. It was a dense, challenging listen that still held up as one of the great pop albums of this century. I will admit that when I got the follow up Shields in my inbox I was hesitant to even load it on my iPod for fear it would end up being horribly disappointing or at worst, merely ok. Thankfully, the two teaser tracks "Sleeping Ute" and "Yet Again" were classic Grizzly Bear and made me less apprehensive about diving into their first new music in years. In comparison with Veckatimest, Shields is a more streamlined record, less complex and more direct; not to say that Grizzly Bear have become The xx or anything, there is just more economy at play. As with the new record from The xx, the retreat to a more minimal palate seems and feels right here, as if the band knew that taking things in the opposite direction would have been a step backward. In fact, I am actually willing to say that, while Shields lacks the amazing impact Veckatimest made, Shields has a better flow and pace. As brilliant as Veckatimest is, there is a noticeable lull in the middle of the record that took me awhile to break through, whereas Shields does not have that same issue.

Shields opens strongly with "Sleeping Ute" with amazing interplay between vaguely psychedelic guitars, blasts of organs and keyboards, and the amazing rhythm section of Chris Taylor on bass and Christopher Bear on drums. There is a brilliant tension at play in the track, all held together by Daniel Rossen's haunting vocals.



"Yet Again" also highlights the more direct nature of the record. Under jaunty guitars and delicate harmonies, the track builds steadily into a late guitar freak out.



But while there are moments of chaos, the album is all about control, and how masterfully the band works together. From the gorgeous restraint of album highlight "Gun-Shy" which incorporates more subtle electronic elements,



the pounding drums and pianos of the lilting "A Simple Answer," and the rollicking "Speak In Rounds,"



Shields shows how the band works effortlessly at catchy, orchestral pop. But what I really liked about the album was that it wasn't just Veckatimest 2, there is subtle, yet real growth here. Though I doubt it is overt, there seems to be a slightly jazzy feel to the tracks, and a willingness to open up and let them go where they need to go. I even detect a late period Talk Talk influence running through the record, although more controlled and less ambient. Tracks like "What's Wrong" drift and wander through breathy harmonies, subtle percussion, and rising strings. The brilliant "Half Gate" begins quietly with gentle guitars over military drums, before almost collapsing in a swirl of multitracked vocals and horns and strings,



while the elegantly melancholy "The Hunt" glides along decaying pianos, creaking guitars, and whispered horns, and closer "Sun In Your Eyes" is an epic seven minutes of rising/falling crescendos of horns and swooping strings, with moments of tender beauty.

Ultimately, Shields stands on its own in the Grizzly Bear canon as its own beast. It definitely sounds like and is a Grizzly Bear album, but indicates that the band knows what they want to do with and in what direction they want to take their sound. From the folky warmth of Yellow House to the insane cacophonous brilliance of Veckatimest, to now the measured chaos and control of Shields, Grizzly Bear reasserts their claim to being one of the most exciting and creative rock bands in the world.

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.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Jam of the Day: Grizzly Bear - "Gun-Shy"


Amazing track from their outstanding follow up to Veckatimest.

Album Review: Stars - The North


Stars
The North
Rating: Yeah Daddy Make Me Want It

For me, Toronto's Stars always seem to be in the shadow of other Canadian bands like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, sharing a similar set up and similar theatrical, slightly over-the-top sound, tailor made for large venues. Widely considered their masterpiece Set Yourself On Fire struck the right balance between bombast and control, and was a set of tracks that just felt like tried and true classics upon first listen. The follow ups to that record were not quite as successful; from the pretentious and dour In Our Bedroom After The War and the hopelessly muddled The Five Ghosts, it seemed Stars' ambitions had grown faster than their ability to realize them. Thus, it comes as a pleasant surprise how enjoyable The North turned out, finding the band playing things loose and free and sounding enervated once again. Toning down the bombast and arty excursions, Stars mostly gets back to basics, putting together a tight set of tracks that focuses on song craft and melody, with only a few missteps into grandiosity.

Right from the start you can feel a sense of energy returning with the handclaps and silly analog synths bursting at the seams in opener "The Theory Of Relativity."



These types of rushing, synth driven tracks on The North are definite highlights of the record and give the album needed pace and push. The soaring "Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It" rises on beds of lush synths and bouncy synth bass,



the poppy "Progress" bops along brisk drum programming and sparkling keyboards,



while "The Loose Ends Will Make Knots" shimmers and shines under and blinding array of electronics.



The North is not all synth reverential, there are plenty of more organic oriented tracks. Buzzy guitars bounce around the catchy pop track "Backlines,"



acoustic guitars blur into a driving force of electric guitars on the chorus of the gorgeous "Through The Mines,"



while ringing guitars sing out against a buzzy bassline on the stirring "A Song As A Weapon."



The only tracks that strive for more than they can deliver are the melodramatic "Do You Want To Die Together," and closer "Walls" attempts to end things on an epic Arcade Fire-esque moment but just sort of spins its wheels. Where it does work is when their ambitions go for a more muted tone, as on the absolutely stunning "The 400" which is built on a base of stark piano, treated guitars, and burbling electronics, featuring a haunting vocal turn.



The North is not the masterpiece that Set Yourself On Fire is, but doesn't seem to want to be, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Their ambitions following that record almost got the better of them, making them into something they really weren't. This is definitely a step in the right direction for the band, their joy is readily apparent throughout, and it is pretty infectious.

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.