Archive for January, 2010

iamamiwhoami // “Prelude…”

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

For those keeping count, this is video #3 that the mysterious iamamiwhoami has released in the past month or so. My take on who it is — no idea, but I like the mystery…

[UPDATE]: Chris from Gorilla vs. Bear informed me via e-mail that this “new” video is in fact a re-release of the first one made back in Decemeber with the “goat birthing scene” taken out due to a copyright infringement issue. I never caught the first video when it came out, so sorry for the re-post.

Erykah Badu ft. Lil Wayne // “Jump Up In the Air (And Stay There)”

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

A teaser video for a new Erykah Badu track entitled “Jump Up in the Air (And Stay There)” was posted this weekend on her website only to be removed by the time I checked it out today. As usual though, youtube pulled through and I was able to catch the song (see below). It’s not what was promised by Badu on her twitter page, but this track, left off her upcoming New Amerykah Part Two: Return Of The Ankh album, makes you wonder how good the stuff that made the cut is.

Although the line “jump up in the air and stay there” is straight-up taken from the Parliment-Funkadelic song “Hydraulic Pump” (I guess ripping George Clinton stuff seems to be an ongoing trend), Badu makes it her own by somehow slowing the pace while keeping the cadence of the original in tact. Effortlessly rolling over a smooth stringed bass line, Badu’s sultriness is tangible — eking out every last drop of “sexy” in a minimal amount of words. Wayne provides another one of his killer laid-back verses à la “Barry Bonds”, even making similar pronunciation mistakes (“when you’re this high everyone else is bellow / oops I meant below”). Although impending trials and jail terms is on his mind, Weezy keeps it lighthearted and fun, making ridiculous sounding lines like “I go nuts like a Danish / then vanish” tight as hell.

You can check out the track below, but I can’t guarantee how long it will be up for:

The Knife // Tomorrow, In a Year

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

I can’t say I was completely surprised when I first heard the news in late 2008 that Swedish electronic musicians The Knife were going to score an opera in collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock based on “the world seen through the eyes of Charles Darwin”. The brother/sister duo of Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olaf Andersson had already penned a successful soundtrack for the poorly received Swedish drama Hannah med H in 2003, so a step up to the stage seemed not entirely unlikely. Choosing to do an opera, however, is no easy task and without the aid of visual stimuli it makes for an incredibly difficult task to translate the energy of performance art onto an audio-only CD.

By releasing the wonderfully constructed (and most accessible) track “Colouring of Pigeons”, expectations were extraordinarily high for the two-disk album, leaving Pitchfork to posture on their Best New Music review that “is there a possibility that ‘Colouring of Pigeons’ is not even the best song on [the album]?” No doubt the buzz surrounding the track was enormous, however, both the record label and the producers of the opera had to know there was a likely chance it would come crashing down once the difficult-to-swallow work became available — a calculated risk that, when factoring in the fickleness and ADD attention span of music bloggers, proved to be unsuccessful.

Maybe it’s a reflection on the state of music critics of this modern age, but Tomorrow, In a Year is unjustly getting a bad rap by amateur writers who most likely never took the time to read the informative one-page concept behind the opera before passing judgement, yet alone do any serious research into the topic of Charles Darwin and his theories. No doubt, judged solely on a casual non-headphone listen, the soundtrack is equal parts disturbing, discordant, and difficult to comprehend; however, when inspecting further, even superficially, gems of understanding sparkle in unexpected places.

Take the construction of opera itself as explained by the Hotel Pro Forma production team:

The first part of the performance is exploratory. It concentrates on observing the underlying sequences and relationships between image, narrative, movement and music used in the performance. The second part is a synthesis of the material. A completed image and totality emerge, before the performance again mutates and passes into new forms, as happens over time with all things.

This concept of evolution in threes carries over to the singers themselves, as the opera only makes use of mezzo soprano singer Kristina Wahlin, actress Laerke Winther, and Swedish pop sensation Jonathan Johansson (with Karen Dreijer participating only on “Colouring of Pigeons”) representing the transition from classical to modern vocalists. Keeping this idea of evolution in mind, a lot of information is gleaned from the tracks themselves.

The first impression of the album is the appropriately entitled “Intro” which is unique in its weirdness as well as its lack of instrumentation. Something akin to what life must have been like in the primordial soup, only little flecks of sharp electronic bloops & bleeps appear sporadically with a rumbling thunderstorm hovering in the background whose symbolism is rather obvious. The next track “Epochs” continues this “something is brewing” idea by seamlessly transitioning from “Intro” while giving the since of lengthy elapsed time with its inclusion of spaceship warp-speed noises. The first track marked with any singing (this time by the mezzo soprano Wahlin), its entrance is timed with undulating electronic bass, serving to represent the heartbeat of early life.

Now that life seems to have begun, the next grouping of songs, “Geology” up to and including parts of “Variation of Birds”, incorporates relatively uncomplicated earthy sounds (albeit electronically generated) mimicking the low-level transformations occurring at the dawn of life. Sparse instrumentation and competing dual pitch shifts in “Geology” seems very representative of the slow-moving cyclical nature of Earth itself while “Upheaved” and “Ebb Tide Explorer”‘s strong use of whole notes on perpetual fermatas with sprinklings of activity hear and there address the metamorphosis of life more clearly. I’m quite aware that some might say I am reading too much into these tracks, however I wouldn’t put it past The Knife and Hotel Pro Forma to extensively use allegories in forming this modern day opera.

No doubt the most easy on the ears section is the third. Marked by more complex and polished pieces such as “Annie’s Box”, “Colouring of Pigeons”, and “Seeds” it seems like evolution has caught up to the present day. “Seeds” is interesting in that it is the only track which I thought could be found outside the realm of this concept album. With electronic thuds and augmented mallet instruments providing the locomotion and pop singer Jonathan Johansson giving the vocals, this track could easily have wound up on a regular electro-pop album, finding it’s way onto dance floors all across Europe (normalcy seems to equate to uniqueness with Tomorrow, In a Year). My favorite track, however, isn’t the popular “Pigeons” but rather the second helping of “Annie’s Box” with vocals provided by The Knife rather than opera singer Wahlin in the production version. With no special effects to modulate with, Karen Dreijer’s natural voice is bleak making it a perfect compliment to Hildur Guðnadóttir sorrowful cello playing in this alternative take — truly beautiful stuff.

After listening through the album for the second time, I couldn’t help but compare it to the current works of former pop icon turn experimentalist Scott Walker. It seems with more listens, something new and exciting crops up and rays of meaning slowly show themselves. Although at superficial level it’s a composition about Darwin, I can’t help but feel how the questions of more significant importance, like “who were are” and “how we came to be”, are lying there just under the surface waiting to be addressed. And just like Walker, I’d imagine that this piece will be initially branded as a failure and shunned by the majority of “music lovers” only to be rediscovered years later and hailed as decades ahead of its time.

The Knife // Colouring of Pigeons

The Knife // Annie’s Box (w/ The Knife vocals)

Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk // “Jeremy Irons Couple Skate”

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

No doubt in the running for most long-winded band name of the decade, Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk passed along an interesting new track from their upcoming release entitled Skeletor & Me. I think the most apt description of them comes from their artist’s page on their label’s website: “born in the belly of a whale, discovered by the kool-aid man.” Certainly from the likes of some of their songs it would be fair to say they are a pleasant surprise from the cookie-cutter “indie” musicians these days.

Recorded in their aunt’s basement here in Oregon, as expected, the track oozes with lo-fi goodness filled with reverb effects giving it a bit of an off-kilter feel. When listening to “Jeremy Irons Couple Skate” I can’t help but think it’s a perfect soundtrack to one of those movies that cut between scenic landscapes during the opening credits and, if filmed a couple of years earlier, would have been the second choice behind The White Stripes’ “We Are Going to be Friends” for the beginning scene of Napoleon Dynamite. As pointed out by others, the track certainly conjures up a feeling of travel which the band will be intimately familiar with while on their upcoming extensive US tour. I can’t wait to catch their February 11 Portland date and see them live and in all their glory.

You can check out “Jeremey Irons Couple Skate” as well as a track off their prior Eek Shriek Beak EP below:

Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk // Jeremy Irons Couple Skate

Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk // Our Girls [Via: IGIF]

Radio Reddit // Online Stream

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

In this day and age of where pretty much everything you could ever want to know is a few keystrokes away, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of stuff that’s at your instant disposal. Although social media has made the world a lot smaller place, it’s tough not to get lost in the crowd among the millions of registered users in the facebooks and twitters of the world. Thankfully, the good folks down at reddit.com have found a way to bring back the community of the online world by connecting you with like minded people through their use of subreddits — or smaller categories pertaining to specific areas of interest. If you have a passion for something, whether it be gardening, physics, or photography, there is no doubt a subreddit awaiting you.

Obviously the subreddits I find most interesting are music related, with my being a frequent contributor to the Music one (denoted by /r/Music). In fact, if you recall I setup a little bit of a social experiment trying to find out /r/Music’s favorite albums of 2009 which generated a pretty good response. Well another subreddit has recently gotten my attention by providing an avenue for musical redditors to get exposure through an online radio station appropriately dubbed Radio Reddit.

One of the many spin-offs from Reddit that isn’t in any way affiliated with the site itself, Radio Reddit shows how industrious some of the users have become by turning ideas tossed around in the subreddits and turning them into reality. No doubt inspired by the volume of music made by redditors and submitted to the site for free download, Radio Radio provides an easy way to listen to, judge, and offer constructive criticism for undiscovered bands. Although still in its relative infancy, the online station has gotten quite a following with over 500 members to both its facebook page and subreddit and over 700 tracks housed in its library.

In fact, it’s quite astonishing how many features the site already offers. Besides the necessities of an embedded stream and a seamless way for artists to upload tracks (even allowing them to select the option for it to be downloadable), users have the ability to approve/disapprove individual tracks by giving it an upvote or a downvote — standard commands that anybody who frequents reddit is familiar with. In fact after a track gets voted upon, a post is created in /r/radioreddit allowing for subscribers to gauge the popular tracks and artists to see how their song is being received.

In addition, Radio Reddit is in the process of developing a lot of improvements for the site, the first of which is setting up a regular schedule of genre-specific pre-program playlists. This eliminates the shuffle aspect of the station that can be a turn-off for some listeners (folk lovers won’t have to sit through metal tracks and vice versa) while setting the stage for eventual DJ curated shows. Also in the works are downloadable podcasts for each playlist so that users can listen to their favorites offline (iPhone users, they have you covered as well).

Certainly there are some issues with the site that will eventually need to be addressed (for one, the aesthetics), but the station has already done most of the heavy lifting streaming music sites require. Although it will most likely never reach the popularity of Pandora, it’s nice to see creative ideas unfold before your eyes while simultaneously reaffirming the potential social media possesses. Long live Radio Reddit!

Slipped Through the Cracks // Nosaj Thing

Friday, January 29th, 2010

The newest installment in a series highlighting albums of 2009 that I unfortunately didn’t get around to listening to until just now.

Not listening more closely to Nosaj Thing‘s Drift is probably the greatest tragedy of all the left behind albums of 2009. No doubt this would have been high up on my Top Albums of 2009 list if I paid a little more attention to it rather than skirting it off to the side after a superficial listen. Apparently others didn’t make the same mistake as me, but fortunately I came around to it.

Times like these when trying to describe electronic music albums I realize how inadequate my vocabulary of musical terms is. Most of the time I end up comparing elements of the group with other sounds that you might be more familiar with and no doubt Drift has a lot of parts where the “I think I heard this from somewhere” light flickers on. Taking cues from hipster favorites Ratatat and Daft Punk as well as from Billboard Top 40 artists Beastie Boys and Linkin Park (gag), there are ample comparisons to made. Instead of publishing a long-winded article using adjectives that, let’s me honest, still fail at appropriately describing the music, I’ve decided to just write-up my notes on a track-by-track basis when I attentively listened through the album:

  • Quest — Great opener which seemlessly transitions into my personal favorite “Fog”. One of those “scare the living shit out of trick-or-treaters” song.
  • Fog — A great 1-2 punch with “Quest” that Mike Tyson would be proud of. Head nodding stuff with a rolling synth line lurking in the background. You expect it to bubble up to the cauldron’s surface but it just manages a slow simmer
  • Coat of Arms — Fuzzed out bass line that has to be ripped from a DDR song with quick cuts from sustained vocal notes that gets annoying at times. Probably the worst track in the bunch.
  • IOIO — Has a Daft Punk “Robot Rock” feel to it before going into the Ratatat swells reminiscent of “Montanita”.
  • 1865Bach — Great Space Invaders sounds fluttering in and out of frame.
  • Caves — Electro tribal drum beats intro before a sharp melody that sounds straight from Beastie Boys’ “Time to Build” and hen spaceship take-off noises start whizzing by. In the later stages, dizzying swarm of bees buzzing around round fading in and out.
  • Light 1 — Sustained whole note intro sounds like the start to the horrendous Black Eye Pea song “Boom Boom Pow”. The electro church organ breakdown midway through before picking back up with rapid fire electronic lines.
  • Light 2 — Soundtrack to urban life in 2150 where robots are on the cusp of taking over. He just mashes together so much stuff into a single track, but somehow winds up with something that works.
  • 2222 — Not going to lie, the fast pace cuts throughout the song sound like that shit Linkin Park does. The whistling effect sounds super creepy, like something a child molester uses to lure little kids.
  • Us — The “sunlight shines through the thunderstorm clouds” type song. Atmospheric and airy repetitive chords over darker bass lines — you know Mount Eerie type stuff.
  • Voices — Slowest paced song on the album. Very industrial sounding with sparse machine drum beats.
  • Lords – Great track. Takes the typical sonorous church choir and flips it on its head, adds some head banging claps and muddy melodic lines; hooks you almost immediately. What an awesome closer!

Here are a couple of tracks from the album as well as a sweet remix he did of The xx’s “Islands”:

Nosaj Thing // Fog

Nosaj Thing // IOIO

The xx // Islands (Nosaj Thing remix)

jj // Rarity Tracks

Friday, January 29th, 2010

No doubt my love affair with the mysterious Swedish act jj is borderline obsessive. Even though the duo of Joakim Benon and vocalist Elin Kastlander seem to put out free mp3s every other week through their equally cryptic label Sincerely Yours, it never satiates my appetite for their music. Below is a collection of oddball tracks that they’ve done which have cropped up online. Some miss the mark (“Troublemaker” for example) while others I can’t believe were left off of their proper releases — but all make for pretty good listens. Enjoy!

Bed för Mig // Avner (jj edit)

Welcome Back // jj (Welcome Back Kotter cover)

5 Minuter med jj // jj

My Life, My Swag // jj

Pure Shores // jj

Troublemaker // jj (Akon cover)

Pearl Harbor // Calistonia Dreamin’ EP

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Back before their Something About the Chaparrals 12″ EP sold-out — even at the sky-high price of $20 Mexican Summer is notorious for — and prior to them becoming a household name in the Californian lo-fi scene with fellow acts Best Coast, Wavves, and of course No Age, Pearl Harbor was Pearl Harbour. During this time with the no-doubt trademark infringing name (why else would they drop an awesomely superfluous ‘u’ ?) they self-released a pretty good CD-R entitled Calistonia Dreamin’.

Although there were only four tracks containing a paltry 17+ minutes of music on the burned disc, the CD-R caught my attention and had me eagerly awaiting a proper follow-up. 2010 seems to be the year for their big breakout as they already have four projects slated for release (including a 7” on Dean Spunt’s PPM label and a 12” on the absurdly named Art Fag). Hell, they’ve already garner a lot of attention for their new dream-pop track “Hubbsian Lament”, so they are prime for a takeover.

However, with Calistonia Dreamin’ you find a band still trying to figure out their sound but nevertheless on the brink of creating something lasting. A lot noisier than any of their new tracks (possibly due to the bedroom recording or them being caught up with the resurgence of reverb the winter of ’09 brought), the songs are more about dabbling around with ideas than solidifying “their sound”. The lead track “Sunburn” sounds more like an improv jam session with the twinkling guitar line moving more at the whim of the guitarist than reproducing notes on sheet music.

Unsurprisingly drugs play a large role in Pearl Harbor’s music. Besides blatantly acknowledging the use of banned substances in their lyrics à la jj, tracks like “High Road” and “Vapor Girlss” certainly seem like they were recorded lazily after a smoke-out. With varying tempos and melodies that don’t exactly line up with the beat, PH seem to exemplify the uncaring attitude most lo-fiers profess but are unable to show in their music — a sort of talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk.

No doubt the hit track of the set is the last one on the EP: “Lost @ Sea”. With an enchanting melody acting as a life-preserver, carrying the listener through the otherwise murky waters of the song, it’s tough not to hum this one over-and-over at the bus stop. A sort-of precursor to their wildly popular “Luv Goon“, “Lost @ Sea” shows the dream-pop direction the band has been heading towards as of late.

Here are mp3s for the tracks “Sunburn” and “Lost @ Sea” for your listening pleasure:

Pearl Harbor // Sunburn

Pearl Harbor // Lost @ Sea

Videos for the Veekend // 1|29 – 1|31

Friday, January 29th, 2010

This past week was a good one for me, so let’s start off with something happy: little kids dancing to Best Coast’s “When I’m With You”.

Canadian singer/songwriter Basia Bulat‘s latest LP Heart of My Own has been creeping into my rotation more and more with each day. I don’t know, maybe I’m a sucker for interesting female vocalists (Marissa Nadler, Tiny Vipers, Joanna Newsom, etc…), but sometimes there is just nothing better. Filmed nearly two years ago by Yours Truly and kept secret until her latest album release, here is the track “The Shore”:

Another funny clip, this one is taken from an old episode of the British version of “The Office” with David Brent (aka Ricky Gervais) interrupting a team building exercise to play some music:

One of the saddest days of my life was when I learned that the British group Electrelane was going on indefinite hiatus. Here is a video of their song “In Berlin” that I think best captures the essence of the group:

The next video is from one of my favorite up and coming bands Local Natives, whom I have You Ain’t No Picasso to thank for exposing me to:


Airplanes

Local Natives | MySpace Music Videos

The last video is by the Danish group Efterklang for their track “Modern Drift” which made me very nostalgic as it is composed of footage of Dyrehaven (or “Deer Park”) from the 1970s. When I was studying in Copenhagen, I would often ride my bicycle through the picturesque park, eventually winding up on the even more picturesque coast. Paired with the song, this just might be my favorite video of the year [NSFW for 20 seconds at the 1 minute mark (naked girl in woods = artistic)]:

Christmas Island // Nineteen | Twenty-Nine 7”

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Without a doubt, Captured Tracks is most responsible for my downfall into poverty. Arguably the best label of 2009 (and unquestionably if fellow NY label Woodsist wasn’t around), C/T has been blazing a trail with their stellar 7” releases which I seem to be eating up like candy. My recent purchase, which I have to admit was due to the awesome cover, is from the San Diego garage indie-rock band Christmas Island.

Combining the titles of both sides, you wind up with a topic I’ve already covered, however each track is meant to be taken separately — lamenting the problems encountered at the ages of nineteen and twenty-nine. The younger A-side certainly expounds upon the Wavves’ “So Bored” feeling of not having anything to do while a teenager. The opening lines “growing up in a small town / nothing every happens / spend your time hanging around / nothing every happens” sets the mood of the track, giving the sense that Christmas Islands formed as a band more from a blasé attitude the members all shared than a common music appreciation. Similar to Nathan Williams’s seemingly paradoxical description of boredom using high-energy driving beats, “Nineteen” isn’t a sorrowful woe-is-me type song, but rather a fast-moving “call to action” type track.

The B-side “Twenty-Nine” has a more laid-back vibe to it chiefly due to the surf-y guitar line which certainly echoes the “everything is out of my control” feeling one has when you get older. Another theme expressed throughout is the sense of no accomplishment even at a relatively young age. Unless you are going for a Fields Medal, there’s no reason to feel a strain of not making your mark on the world when you’re twenty-nine; however, it’s natural to do so — and the song represents well this illogical worrisome.

Here’s a track from the 7” (which you can buy here):

Christmas Island // Twenty-Nine