Archive for January, 2009

SXSW Preview #2 // Deichkind

Friday, January 30th, 2009

It used to be that if you wanted to get a copy of the “What’s Hot in Music” list from other countries, you would have to travel there and scout it out yourself. Nowadays where myspace and youtube are synonymous with “easy access” when it comes to anything musical, you can listen in on African rap to traditional Bulgarian tunes — and anything in between — at the click of a mouse. Unfortunately this easy access does come at a price. International acts are almost forced into speaking English (usually their non-native tongue) in order to become popular or suffer from being categorized under “world music” and shelved at the back of the record shop. Now there are some bands who couldn’t give a shit about pleasing their English speaking audience. Deichkind is certainly one of those acts.

Hailing from Hamburg, Germany, Deichkind is the only non-Berlin act to make their way to Austin this year for SXSW. According to their page, they are also known as Die Electric Super Dance Band, which is more of a label of their music than a band name. As a whole, Deichkind offers more of an insight into the German music scene than probably most Germans would like to admit. Always having been known as an electronic music hub since Kraftwerk broke on the scene in the 70s, Germany has a strong slate of digital masters that will be adequately on display at SXSW. Where Deichkind is unique is its ability to interweave these electro-beats with the new genre du jour in their native homeland: hip-hop.

As a language, German is probably one of the easier languages to make rhymes with — hell, it seems every other word ends in a sh sound — and German artists certainly know how to use this to its full potential. I can’t even understand a single phrase being uttered, yet I am always in awe whenever I hear a track from German hip-hop great Bushido (no matter how corny the song title is). Contrary to most typical Deutsch rap, Deichkind eliminates the seriousness and twists it from “bounce your hand in the air” to “go crazy on the dance floor.”

And by go crazy, I mean GO CRAZY. Where there is so much emphasis of minimalist sound in Berlin electronic music, Deichkind isn’t afraid of layering multiple pounding bass beats with some quirky digital lines. You can easily imagine going nuts to the fuzzy bass line on the MTV ready Arbeit Nervt or bumpin’ to the beat of 23 Dohlen. So in the clusterfuck that is SXSW, do yourself a favor and check out their set one night — you’re guaranteed to leave just as happy as you are sweaty.

Deichkind // Arbeit Nervt

Deichkind // Over the Top

Deichkind // 23 Dohlen

The Return of Muxtape…

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

…sort-of. If you head over to the now infamous site, the same interface is there, the logo is there, the lack of banner ads are there — it’s just the content that isn’t quite there yet. For those who don’t know, Muxtape was an amazing mixtape producing site. Users could upload their own mp3s or get some authorized songs from the Muxtape library and — after a few clicks and some internet magic — could produce a mixtape sans cassette that you could share with friends and, if you wanted, the world. It was a great way to find songs that correspond to certain moods as well as discovering the abundance of unknown talent that’s out there.

However, it was inevitable that it would not last; the fall coming just as swiftly as the rise. As expected, with the soaring popularity on a daily basis (nearly 100K registered users in the first month!), record companies and the bureaucratic thugs at the RIAA were not happy and almost immediately sent their “cease and desist” letters when they got wind of the site.

Well, as the abridged story goes, Muxtape went offline but was actively working with the record labels to somehow promote content in a legal way and serve as an alternative to the cluttered and mostly unseemly myspace. Now in its infancy version 2.0, Muxtape is trying hard to attract well-known bands to join the cause. Boasting a present line-up of Girl Talk, of Montreal, and Amanda Palmer, and a call to duty for other bands to join the cause in the coming weeks, Muxtape is looking up. Until then, I’ll stick with Opentape (unfortunately). For my latest opentape mixtape of, ironically, remixed tracks check it out below:

Part-Time Music’s Opentape Mix

Overlooked in ’08 // Shearwater – Rook

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Shearwater is one of the bands that I really don’t know why I didn’t listen to them all of last year. It’s not like I didn’t hear about them, it’s more that it completely slipped my mind that I had their records. It’s unfortunate because they would have definitely made it into at least the top ten of my year-end album list.

I first heard about them through the glowing review NPR All Songs Producer Robin Hilton gave when they first broke through the scene as a side project of Okkervil River’s Jonathan Meiburg and Will Sheff. Their early stuff was fine, but since it has been a full time project of Meiburg’s (Sheff left the group to go back to Okkervil), it has really blossomed into something special.

Championed first and foremost by Meiburg’s vocals, Shearwater has the ability to wax and wane intensity solely by the amount of air he wants to exhale into the microphone. In songs like On the Death of the Waters, a whispering voice brings the song to a crawl while in Century Eyes a powerful and confident delivery gives the song it’s momentum. Although it is easy to gravitate to the singing and lyrics in each song, it should be noted that it would be nothing with out the beautifully composed instrumentals. Take the two songs mentioned prior; On the Death… would be nothing with out the delicate piano line and periodic harp arpeggios while Century Eyes wouldn’t have near enough energy without the rocking electric guitar and driving percussions (hell, even the soft horn accents give it a little ‘umph’).

One thing that Shearwater is able to do so much better than any of the other indie folk-rock acts out there is that they reach some sort of a triumphant climax with every single song regardless of its magnitude. Case in point, the instrumentally reserved song Leviathan Bound casualty builds with each stanza in the most minimal of increments, unbeknown to the listener, until the song erupts with Meiburg’s chants of “still is racing.” But just when that moment hits, the song begins to taper off into the quasi-a capella ending. Absolutely perfect. And that is how the rest of the album transpires — a musical equivalent of the tide rolling in and out that will have you pressing repeat as soon as the last note dissolves.

Shearwater // Leviathan Bound

Shearwater // Rooks

Shearwater // The Snow Leopard

SXSW Preview #1 // Shout Out Out Out Out

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Our first installment of covering some of the better unknown acts listed as playing in the mega-festival that is SXSW highlights Canada’s own Shout Out Out Out. Dishing up some of the best electro-dance music north of 50 degree latitude mark without an å, ö, ø in their name, Shout Out Out Out Out seem to have found the answer to surviving the harsh Edmonton winters — dance, Dance, DANCE!

Similar to most electronic groups, they rely heavily on the Mac Books, analog synths, and robotic vocals (described on their site as “more Kraftwerk than T-Pain”) to produce the necessary bloops-and-bleeps to make you want to finish off your beer as fast as you can so that you can return to the dance floor among the sweaty herd. However, they don’t shed the skin of live instrumentation completely. Equipped with two drummers, FOUR bass players (!), and a line-up of keyboards that would make a Yamaha store jealous, their live set is more spectacle than concert. Fronted by a lead “singer” who has truly mastered the art of performance, you are guaranteed to have fun from start to finish. Even the down time from changing instrumentation is filled with some of the best banter I’ve heard at a show!

Because of the tight space, SOOOO have no problem expanding the stage to include the dance floor, the rafters, and pretty much anything in between. I caught their set at a IHEARTCOMIX party at SXSW two years back, and although they were just the opening act, they produced a more energetic crowd than the later acts of Matt & Kim and the The Presets combined. I guess when you go completely ape-shit and start beating on snare drums after climbing on top of the audio equipment surrounding the stage while still being able to crank out a dance-able tune you’ve earned the right to a raucous audience! So if you see them listed on the bill at anytime or any place, be sure to check them out. To hold you over, here are few mp3s, but keep in mind context is key with this band:

Shout Out Out Out Out // Dude You Feel Electric

Shout Out Out Out Out // Self Loathing Rulez (Malente Remix)

Shout Out Out Out Out // Tiiiired

R.I.P. Silver Jews

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

In a very out-of-nowhere move, lead singer David Berman posted on the Silver Jews forum site that the band is dismantling, in a post entitled “Silver Jews End — Lead Singer Bids His Well-Wishers Adieu”. Although the break-up is a sad event, Berman is able to keep his patented wit throughout the message.

I always said we would stop before we got bad. If I continue to record I might accidentally write the answer song to Shiny Happy People.

Being an avid Silver Jews fan for a long time, this is quite a shock to me because I thought the new material was great. In fact, I was one of the few people to list their latest (and evidently last) LP as one of the Top of 2008 (#27), but Berman, now 42, wants to continue his various writing pursuits. I guess twenty years and six excellent albums is the definition of a good run. So in remembrance of one of my favorite bands, here are some of my highlights from their career:

Silver Jews // Random Rules \\ American Water LP

Silver Jews // Trains Across the Sea \\ Starlite Walker LP

Silver Jews // Strange Victory Strange Defeat \\ Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea LP

Silver Jews // Sleeping Is the Only Love \\ Tanglewood Numbers LP

Spiritualized // Older Stuff

Sunday, January 25th, 2009

As if enjoying the hell out of their most recent LP A&E wasn’t enough, I stumbled across some treasures of Spiritualized hiding in the dark regions of some website archives. The first is an acoustic set lead singer and band founder J. Spaceman did when he stopped by the KEXP building in Seattle back in 2003. Going even further, I found an awesome performance of their live set from the Roskilde Festival held in Denmark from 1998 — a good year after they released their third studio album, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, and was riding high from UK popularity. Oh those were the days…

The two sets really show the two sides of the Spiritualized coin. On one hand you have the soft and deeply emotional singer/songwriter who seems more vulnerable musician than powerful artist, while on the other hand you have the reckless amphetamine driven rock star with a don’t-give-a-fuck attitude. This dichotomy is also apparent in Spaceman’s music. Folk ballads are juxtaposed with distorted noise rock songs to create music that can best be described as listener epilepsy — jolting you out of the auditory status quo with every track.

Spiritualized // Stop Your Crying (Live at KEXP)

Spiritualized // Hold On (Live at KEXP)

Spiritualized // Electricity (Live at Roskilde Festival)

Spiritualized // No God Only Religion (Live at Roskilde Festival)

Team Love’s Library Card // Free Downloads

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

The good guys down from Conor Oberst’s “other” record label, Team Love, have really taken a hold of the digital revolution and the impending demise of the “typical” music selling business model by offering free downloads of entire LPs when you sign up for their Library Card Program. They’ve been doing this for a little over a month now and have slowly added titles to their every growing on-line collection. For just the cost of a valid e-mail address you can have these popular selections without having to find other unsavory means of getting them (or forking over the $15): Jenny Lewis and The Watson Twins’ superb Rabbit Fur Coat, Tilly & the Wall’s tap-infused Wild Like Children, and David Dondero’s folky-but-not-hokey Simple Love, plus about a half-dozen others.

Like with most libraries, some CDs have a limited shelf life — however, in this case it isn’t due to the librarians misunderstanding the dewey decimal system — so strike while the iron’s hot and get as much as you can before the disks get rotated out. Here are just a sample of songs I found (and enjoyed):

David Dondero // Rothko Chapel

Tilly and the Wall // Night of the Living Dead

Tilly and the Wall // Beat Control (La Lepus Remix)

of Montreal // Covers Extravaganza!

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

I remember the first time I saw of Montreal in concert the day before the release of Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer where they blew me away with not only their music but their stage production. As anyone who has seen them live can attest to, Kevin Barnes & Co. know how to put on a show that’s half art and half w-t-f with homemade props straight up from their time at arts and crafts. Anyways, one of the highlights of their show was the cover of Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up by Love is All.

Why am I telling you all this? Well it seems like of Montreal loves covers A LOT. You Ain’t No Picasso has a collection of covers from the band that seems to increase by the week (83 and counting) — as if remembering how to play all the material from the enormous discography isn’t enough! Anyways, check it out and you’ll probably find some of your favorite songs nicely reworked! Here are some of my favorites:

of Montreal // Make Out, Fall Out, Make Up (Love is All Cover)

of Montreal // Jimmy (M.I.A. Cover)

of Montreal // Ever Fallen in Love (Buzzcocks Cover)

of Montreal // Rapper’s Delight (Sugarhill Gang Cover)

Fever Ray (Karin Dreijer from The Knife) // If I Had a Heart + Remix

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Two years removed from my favorite album of 2006, Karin Dreijer (half of The Knife) has put out a self-titled solo album under the moniker Fever Ray. As excited as I am about hearing new material from her, I can’t say that her first single If I Had a Heart bowled me over. The song certainly creeps along, but the build-up and eventual climax left me a little unfulfilled. The video to the single, however, is AMAZING. It got me thinking that maybe the song fits better as part of a soundtrack to a movie than an LP. Regardless, the Fuck Buttons did a great job remixing the song adding in their patented fuzz and distortion with the throbbing bass line taking the song to new dynamic heights. You can check out both tracks below:

Fever Ray // If I Had a Heart

Fever Ray // If I Had a Heart (Fuck Buttons Remix)

Killer Compilation // Dark Was the Night

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

So between recording new material for The National, guitarist (and brothers) Aaron and Bryce Dessner have put together an insane compilation with proceeds going to aid the Red Hot Organization which raises awareness about AIDS and HIV. And by insane, I mean INSANE: Dirty Projectors + David Byrne, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst, and plenty more with all 31 tracks featuring a well known artist performing original work. So head over to their myspace page to check out a new stream every day for the next month or so and be sure to get the album when it comes out February 16th to help a good cause!

Dirty Projectors + David Bryne // Knotty Pine