Archive for December, 2009

Grass Widow // S/T LP

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

Adding another tally mark to the growing list of great bands that call San Francisco home, the all-girl Golden Gate garage group (inadvertent alliteration, I promise) composed of Hannah Lew, Raven Mahon, and Lillian Maring — aka Grass Widow — are the latest to invade my auditory canal. With some kick-ass tunes that will draw the inevitable comparisons to recently broken-up British alt. rockers Electrelane from some people (myself included), this trio of talented musicians are already making splashes outside their hometown. With a debut LP (whose cover looks a bit familiar), a 12” EP on label-of-the-year candidate Captured Tracks, and a couple of East/West Coast tours under their belt, they have already started building up a groundswell which, in my opinion, will lead to a big breaking-out moment in 2010.

Now I haven’t received a copy of their EP yet and I’ve only just recently purchased their full-length, but even with such little exposure to their music they have already won me over. Their debut, released on Make A Mess Records, is composed of nine-tracks of some of the best art-punk in recent memory.

(courtesy: alandickson)

The record opens strongly with “To Where” which features the three girls combining their forces vocally to create intricate harmonies while fast-paced finger picking bass (courtesy of Ms. Lew) bounces effortlessly around, giving the song the necessary locomotion. Thinking that you may have hit a ballad with their third track “Green Screen”, the song swiftly transitions from a capella to full-steam-ahead melodic rock — reminiscent of Electrelane’s “Bells” — in a span of a couple of measures. The A-side closes with the instrumental “Long Walk to the Beach” which, at times, could be the soundtrack to any video game that features a hero vs. boss level.

The B-side keeps up its share of the bargain by continuing the lo-fi garage punk feel established by its A counterpoint — showcasing spidery guitars on the waltz-y “Time Could Bend” and Le Tigre-like shouts (a la “What’s Yr Take On Cassavetes”) on “Cut It Out”. The record closes out with “Rattled Call”, which is arguably my album highlight. Rapidly switching between dreamy dulcet vocals and neck-breaking moshable percussion, the song is sure to keep you on your toes with every listen.

To give you a sample of what Grass Widow is all about, you can listen to an mp3 of “Green Screen” and, if you like what you hear, you can buy the record digitally from the website (unfortunately, the vinyl is sold out). Also, if you live in Portland, they will be playing The Artistry on January 7.

Grass Widow // Green Screen

PT Music’s Holiday Gift // Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 25th, 2009

My gift to you! Merry Christmas!!

Delicious Scopitone // Best of 2009 Compilation

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Now I’m going to get all meta with this post and blog about a blog because my e-friend Emmanuel down at the Delicious Scopitone has put together an awesome compilation chronicling some of his favorite found tracks of 2009. Now if you are one of the unfortunate people who haven’t heard about this French blog, the brief rundown is that it’s a website whose chief priority is to discover new talent on a daily basis — regardless of the location or the obscurity of the band. With mp3s or video samples accompanying each post, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t be checking them out right now. Now I know what you’re going to say, “but Bryant, there are PLENTY of sites like that”. While that might be the case, where the Delicious Scopitone is different is that it doesn’t suck, and I’m not the only one to notice this.

Emmanuel’s twenty-song mix, going by the quasi-Latin title of Ecliptic Odious One, features a different Scopitone-unearthed artist for each track. Certainly there are some duds in the bunch (but even the less talented bands have charming characteristics that make them better than about 90% of the acts out there), but the compilation as a whole is a wonderful listen that would make for a great spin at the next get-together with your friends.

While the compilation opens up nicely (the Grizzly Bear/Fleet Foxes sounding “All Packed Up” by Lexington’s Idiot Glee especially), it doesn’t really start getting the ball rolling until the fifth track, the beautiful constructed “The Watcher”, gets to the plate. Sounding like some sort of incantation full of repetitive Gregorian-like chants and isolated drums, Fielded is able to slowly gain momentum and reach a satisfying climax using only layered vocals and scant instrumentation — something that few bands are successfully able to pull off. In similiar haunting fashion, Michigan’s Creepy Crawl’s “Pretty Tendrils” starts off with a sound akin to a Grouper and Burial crossbreed — dark and, as the band name would suggest, definitely creepy — however, when vocals are entered into the equation, the song morphs into an interestingly bizarre track reminiscent of Gang Gang Dance’s “Afoot”.

The mix also features the Washington-based band Pill Wonder, whom I’ve had the ability to see live when they played alongside Real Estate back in November. The song chosen, the animalistic “What We Know”, certainly was a set highlight from that night, causing a slight stir in the form of some “hipster head-nodding” that broke the ice off of the typically motionless crowd.

Now I don’t know if Emanuel or his partner-in-crime Leslie, who has put out an awesome mix of her own, trudges the deep dark depths of the myspace graveyard to find these acts (most have under 50,000 profile views which, for a band, is not that much) or if they happen upon them by chance. One thing’s for certain though, at the rate their going you’re going to be seeing a lot more [via: Delicious Scopitone] credits on your favorite blogs in 2010.

You can hear a sample of the compilation with the mp3s below and, if you like what you hear, you can download Emanuel’s mix here.

Mason Lindahl // Serrated Man Sound [via]

Fielded // The Watcher [via]

PT Music’s Time-Out // Holiday Break

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Although British Airlines tried to put a kink in my plans, it looks like I will in fact be able to visit my future in-laws in Aberdeen, Scotland this Christmas. As a result, PT Music will be running on fumes the next couple of days and will be on a one week break starting around New Year’s Eve. (Note: The break might be longer if I get hit in the face with a giant fireball during my New Year’s celebration). Anyways, have a happy holidays and I’ll catch you back on a more regular basis come 2010!

Vince Guaraldi Trio // Christmas Time Is Here (Charlie Brown song)

Crocodiles + Dum Dum Girls // Merry Christmas, Baby (Please Don’t Die)

The Knife // New Year’s Eve

Asobi Seksu // New Years

Can’t Get Enough of… // The Raveonettes

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

It’s getting close to Christmas time, so if you haven’t gotten the tree up, your presents bought, and eggnog isn’t sitting in the refrigerator, I would recommend doing that now. Another thing I would suggest is checking out The Raveonettes fantastic Christmas song appropriately titled “The Christmas Song”, which may be the greatest holiday tune I’ve heard in a long time. Although bizarrely released on the TV show The OC’s Xmas album, “The Christmas Song” features all the best things about The Raveonettes: amazing guitar work, great airy harmonies, sing-along lyrics, and a little pizazz thrown in for the finale.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Xmas tune is great, but it’s chump change compared to what The Raveonettes have done in their career. Releasing some of my favorite albums of the latter half of the decade, this Danish duo has got the “60s with a twist” act down pat, providing noisy renditions of timeless pop melodies. Their latest effort, In and Out of Control, is arguably their best release, but unfortunately it has gone unnoticed in the blogosphere (but, ironically enough, not on Gossip Girls which has featured two of their tracks on the show).

Taking the strategy of composing a full-length from a string of 45s that their golden-oldies predecessors mastered, every track on In and Out — from the beginning bombastic “Bang!” to the wonderfully peaceful “Wine” conclusion — could serve as an attractable single. Although the album consists of only 11-tracks which, when combined, can barely outlast an episode of Seinfeld, The Raveonettes provide no throw-away or “filler” songs that so many bands seem to be using these days. In and Out is one-hundred percent pure noisy indie-pop gold.

After taking a cursory glance at the track titles (“Oh I Buried You Today”, “D.R.U.G.S.”, etc…), one would expect either heavy metal or hard-core emo oozing from every poor of this band, and this musical chiaroscuro of lighthearted instrumentals with dark lyrical content is exactly what makes this band so great. It’s easy for anyone to love what’s coming out of Sune Rose Wagner’s guitar on tracks like “Suicide”, but it’s tough to swallow the narratives evinced in the verses (“Your boyfriend’s mean / and your mom’s a bitch / little runaway girl / do it again do it again”). Even though the song is strongly against taking your own life (the line “lick your lips / and fuck suicide” is more than enough to determine this), it’s still not particularly a choice topic to accompany such a poppy song. An even more flagrant example of this dark lyrical undercurrent is the song “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)” — which somehow made it onto the conservative-leaning NPR Song of the Day. Although I wholeheartedly agree with the anti-rape message, it’s just shocking to hear it sung in such sweet harmony.

To better check out their style, here are a band released mp3 and an acoustic rendition (+ interview) of their song “Breaking Into Cars”:

The Raveonettes // Suicide

North Korean Music // Pyongyang Metro Station

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Other than a Vice video series, a handful of youtube videos, and a really cool blog about an Austrian who took a train there, I don’t know much about North Korea. — and when it comes to music, I know absolutely zilch. Well after stumbling onto this site, now I can raise that 0% figure up a few hundredths of a percentage point.

Presented by the link are a couple of songs played in and around the two-line subway system in Pyongyang. Now I don’t speak North Korean so I can’t say this for sure, but, taking the bloggers words into consideration, these songs certainly sound a lot like old Russian propaganda tunes. Grandiose and bombastic, the track entitled “No Motherland Without You” chronicles the alleged superpowers of Supreme Leader Kim John Il. However, the track “Reunification Rainbow” is entirely different — more Rainbow Bright than military march music.

Unfortunately, the site discourages the hosting of the mp3 files (and I’m one for not doing anything that pisses off the North Koreans), so you’ll have to go directly to their site to check out the entertaining tunes. To whet your appetite, here is a youtube video of “The Ode to Kim Il Sung” performed by North Korean Army Choir (duh!):

Slipped Through the Cracks // Swedes Do It Better

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

For the critics, listening to CDs and mp3s is a year round job, so they’re able to keep up with the massive amounts of monthly releases without even batting an eye. However, for us casual fans it’s more difficult to keep tabs of the daily happenings of the music industry, and some great albums are bound to go undetected. This is the second installment of a reoccurring feature highlighting those albums that may have slipped through the cracks when initially released but have since been resurrected from the dead.

(Courtesy: ubiquity_zh)

As attested by the map detailing where the musicians of my favorite albums of 2009 are from, I love Swedish artists more than any other country not named The United States. There must be something in the water over there in Scandinavia (or most likely the lack thereof since it’s probably glacial H2O), because, for a population of just over nine million, they certainly churn out a disproportionate amount of great musicians. Just to name a few off the top of my head: José González, El Perro del Mar, Jens Lekman, Studio, Air France, and The Tough Alliance — and that’s just from Göteborg (pop: 500,000)! So when I saw on iTunes a compilation album released this past summer put out by Labrador Records featuring some of the freshest talent this country has to offer, I knew I had to get it!

Featuring only a handful of tracks from well-known artists Stateside (Sambassadeur, The Mary Onettes, and The Legends are the only three I recognize), part of the appeal of the album is that you’re given a chance to discover some music few people in the US are aware of (call it the “hipster draw”). Also, the potential for exposure affects the artists as they are more inclined to put out some of their better tunes to take full advantage of this opportunity to reach a worldwide audience. Although I usually only listen to compilations once just to get a feel of the type of music a particular label puts out, Swedes Do It Better is so chalk-full of great indie-pop that it’s tough for it to not seep into my regular rotation.

The 20-track double LP features sixteen artists, each with their own endearing style; however, in the interest of not writing a review that could rival most dissertations in length, I’ll just cut to some of my favorites. Although Suburban Kids With Biblical Names take there name from a Silver Jews lyric, after hearing their track Phoenix-ly titled “1999″, I think it’s safe to say that’s the only thing they share in common with David Berman & Co. With brightly played keyboard and a voice sounding like a less draggy/more upbeat Jens Lekman, SKWBN is probably the best music to play to keep your case of the Mondays at bay.

I have to say, my expectations were high after I dug up this gem-of-an-album-cover researching Stockholm’s Acid House Kings. Fortunately, I was not disappointed with their song “This Heart is a Stone” which is sugary enough to give you multiple cavities. Fluffed up by incessant jingle bells, vocalist Julia Lannerheim — with her candy-coated sound — has a hard time convincing us the calloused nature of the song’s protagonist as revealed by the track’s title. Regardless, the Acid House Kings pull out one of sweetest sounding “love is tough” diddies since The Pipettes “It Hurts to See You Dance So Well”.

However out of all the songs, the one I get most giddy about is [ingenting]‘s “Halleluja!” (yes, with brackets). One of the few sung in Swedish, [ingenting] certainly have that Dungen allure to them. With a wall of sound that would make Spector’s hair stand on end and a one-word sing-along chorus (hmm, I wonder which word…), I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a stadium anthem in their home country. Wait, let me check youtube — well close enough.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because I spent over a year in Copenhagen and traveled extensively throughout the Nordic region, but I think there is something to be said — something great — about Scandinavian music. Maybe it’s their more carefree lifestyle or their prevailing sense of happiness, but whatever it is, the whole world has them to thank for their extraordinary musical exports.

To give you taste, here are two label-released mp3s mentioned in this article:

[ingenting] // Halleluja!

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names // 1999

Also, you can download another Labrador sampler featuring most of the artists in this compilation for free from the pirate bay (don’t worry it’s legal). [via: It's A Trap]

Jóvenes y Sexys // Bruno EP

Monday, December 21st, 2009

With a name that’s translates from Spanish as “Young and Sexy”, you might expect more of a smooth tropicália-inspired DJ than a honeysuckle sweet singer/songwriter duo. Hailing from Caracas, Jóvenes y Sexys channels some of that coastal South American relaxation-vibe with their latest EP entitled Bruno and provides a nice alternative to all that overexposed chill-wave stuff for your next beach trip.

Call me old fashioned (or maybe it’s the result of being confined too long in my freezing cold apartment watching the never-ending Portland drizzle), but there’s not much I can think of right now that would beat a springtime park walk with some pleasantly strummed guitars and delightfully candy-coated vocals playing in the headphones — and that’s exactly what you get from this Venezuelan group. Opening up the four song EP is “El Reloj” which, if Google Translate can be trusted, is an appropriate title for a song featuring a Cuckoo clock acting as a background metronome. Lightly sung in that restrained fashion I like so much, vocalist Loocila rarely ventures outside an octave range, making “El Reloj” an easy Spanish sing-along for us musically handicapped folk. One of the two tracks featuring English lyrics, JyS cover of the Breeder’s “Divine Hammer” is an album highlight for me. With Loocila’s slight Spanish-accented rendition of Kim Deal’s lyrics “I’m just looking for the / for the one divine hammer / I’ll bang it all day / Oh the carpenter goes bang” (maybe Thao can help her out) recorded over a much more mellower guitar line than the original, there’s not much to dislike about this charming cover.

Now these song’s aren’t going to appeal to the listeners who solely like boundary pushing bands (you know, the Animal Collectives, the Deerhoofs and the Xiu Xius – who, ironically, are all listed as influences), but there is something to be said for listenable tunes that you can enjoy just as much as your children.

To give you a sample, you can listen to “El Reloj” below and, if you like it, you can download the full EP from their myspace page.

Jóvenes y Sexys // El Reloj

Artist Map // Top Albums of 2009

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Taking a page from NPR, I decided to map the locations of the musicians included in my Top Albums of 2009 list. Here are the results:

View Part-Time Music’s Top Albums of 2009 (Artists) in a larger map

If you zoom in where the clumps of pins are, you’ll notice some interesting features:

  • Other than The Flaming Lips, there is no other act in the central part of the United States.
  • If you’re a musician that lives in New York state, you live in Brooklyn.
  • Everyone from New Jersey doesn’t have a hometown.
  • My two-year stint in Scandinavia might have influenced my selection.
  • Only one act from outside North America and Europe, and that was a compilation album.

Some interesting results indeed that makes me want to question my Western-centric music preferences…

Danger Mouse + James Mercer // “The High Road”

Monday, December 21st, 2009

Now Danger Mouse isn’t one to shy away from unusual projects, and his most recent one, going by the name of Broken Bells, is no exception. Collaborating with breathy Shins vocalist and polarizing figure James Mercer, Danger Mouse is certainly taking a risk, however calculated it may be.

Well Mercer & Mouse just posted their first single, entitled “The High Road”, from their upcoming March released as-yet untitled LP. Like Cinderella, at the stroke of midnight you could receive a download link at just the cost of an e-mail address. Hopefully Columbia has enough bandwidth so they don’t pull a Moonface and have their crash before 8:00am…

As for the track itself, it opens with a soulful keyboard line that sounds like it’s straight from a default garage-band midi file. It doesn’t take long until Mercer chimes in with some near-monotone vocals detailing the plight of some sort of lost-soul female character — and the chorus with its “the high road / is hard to find” certainly illustrates this point. Unlike Gnarls Barkley’s number one (both in order of release and in chart position) single “Crazy”, “The High Road” doesn’t have that WOW-factor that ropes you in and gets you pumped for the full album. With the exception of the jazzy feel of the chorus which includes some interesting Danger Mouse “power-up” arcade surges, most of the track is ho-hum in my opinion. Don’t take my word for it, check out the mp3 below:

Broken Bells // The High Road

And if you like it enough, you can pre-order the LP at the Sony Music Store now. Personally, I’m going to hold off a little later for a couple of tracks before I make the decision to buy.