Archive for January, 2010

Two for Tuesday // Future Islands (Spin-Offs)

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Two tracks I absolutely can’t get out of my head this past week both have something indirectly to do with Baltimore synth poppers Future Islands.

The first, which you may remember from being on a recent mix of mine, is a Future Islands remix by the simply named Jones which features the female half of Beach House, Victoria Legrand. Still present are the soft keyboard sounds both Future Islands and Legrand are known for, but Jones adds a throbbing bass line to give the track more locomotion and a couple of more industrial layers to beef up the minimalist instrumentals of the original. Although the cut-ups of “My Little Dreamer” towards the end is a bit “DJ hokey”, it doesn’t take away that much from the overall brilliance of the track.

The second song is from the solo-effort of Future Island’s keyboardist Gerrit Welmers which goes by the name of Moss of Aura. Interesting enough, I found out about them from a Beach House tweet urging fellow tweeters (or twitter-ers?) to listen to some of his new material. The most gripping song from the new bunch in my opinion is “Tidal”. Simply constructed, Welmers ditches some of the Dan Deacon-esque electro lines he makes for Future Islands, and replaces them with gripping slow-moving melodies reminiscent of a more powerful version of Neon Indian’s “(If I Knew, I’d Tell You)”.

You can check out both tracks below:

Little Dream // Future Islands (Jones Remix ft. Victoria Legrand)

Moss of Aura // Tidal

[UPDATE] From Welmers: “Right now I am finishing a new album that is way different than the others and I am way psyched about it. It will be finished within the week. Also, the Remix album will be out very soon.” AWESOME!

Grouper // Portland // January 24, 2010

Monday, January 25th, 2010

The good folks down at Holocene put together an awesome Haiti Benefit show yesterday that rivaled other efforts across town. With all of the money from the $10 tickets and bar profits going to Mercy Corps, the event, entitled “L’Union Fair La Force”, certainly generated thousands of dollars for a good cause. And hey, it didn’t hurt that the attendees got their money’s worthy from a bill including local-studs Grouper and Pyramiddd (formerly known as the less eloquent Starfucker).

I only caught the Grouper set because, well, I knew that all the other acts would pale in comparison to her performance (plus I had some Wire to watch). Like always, Liz Harris puts on a show not meant for musical entertaining but spiritual awakening. With cassettes of pre-made eerie sounds specifically designed for each song, Harris records, loops, and layers guitar and vocals lines and places them on top of the tapes’ creepy noises — kind of like a more haunting Imogen Heap.

To be honest, I don’t know how Harris draws enough courage to go up on stage for live performances. Her music isn’t particularly conducive to casual listening, requiring complete silence from the audience in order to fully experience it. In a town where casual listening is the norm and crowd chatter drowns out even popular acts, if I was Harris I would pull a Sally Shapiro and just let the records speak for themselves and stay away from the stage whenever possible. Thankfully for us true fans, she braved the inevitable disruptions and stage fright associated with solo performing and gave us a gift with her music while helping the people of Haiti at the same time.

Here is “Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping”, one of my favorite tracks from her hit album Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill that she unfortunately didn’t perform last night, and a new track entitled “Hold the Way” off of her new split EP with Roy Montgomery which she did play:

Grouper // Heavy Water/I’d Rather Be Sleeping

Grouper // Hold the Way

Slipped Through the Cracks // Dawes

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

It took another similarly titled article to remind me that, other than a brief live show review, I never got around to talking much about Dawes‘s awesome debut album North Hills. Garnering some attention from some pretty established sites as well as fellow tour-mates, these L.A. alt-country rockers have been slowly building a solid fan base from their killer shows. I was fortunate enough to catch their act in both Lubbock, Texas and Montreal, Quebec (cultural antipodes, I know), and each time I felt that they outshined the headliner Deer Tick. Although their album falls a bit short of capturing the energy of their live set, North Hills still makes for a great listen.

In a year when country was lacking in my opinion, North Hills stands out not because of its inventiveness but because of its return-to-the-roots feel — something that you can’t get from a Wilco album nowadays. Out of the eleven tracks on the LP, you would be hard pressed to find one song that warrants the skip button to be hit, and, if listened to continuously, the album makes for a perfect Sunday afternoon pick-me-up (not unlike Timothy Cushing’s album). Not to imply that easy-listening equates to boring — there are plenty of tracks like “When You Call My Name” and “My Girl to Me” that feature romping melodies — but the LP never begs to be shut-off and, just like Pringles, once you listen to a single song you can’t stop.

No doubt the album highlight is the much revered track “When My Time Comes”. Anchored by repetitive guitar & bass triplets that are sure to make you do some foot tapping, the song is instantly catchy. No doubt helping the track’s popularity is that sing-along appeal which singer/guitarist Taylor Goldsmith nails when the first “Whennnnn My Time Comes…” bubbles up to the surface. Trust me, it’s impossible to not belt out that line with Goldsmith in successive choruses.

If Dawes fell in the one-hit wonder category, no doubt all other tracks would pale in comparison. Fortunately (for us as well as for them), they surround their hit with equally stellar songs. The lead in to “When My Time Comes”, “Give Me Time” is a pleasant listen full of harmonizing vocals and delicate guitar strums, guaranteeing it airtime at a lot of proms in the Southern states, while the follower “God Rest My Soul” is arguably just as catchy as its predecessor.

I could go on and on about the album — like how “That Western Skyline” is an amazing acoustic track or “Peace in the Valley” is a perfect closer — but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just leave you with these two songs to try to convert you:

Dawes // When My Time Comes (Daytrotter Session)

Videos for the Veekend // 1|22 – 1|24

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Here is another weekly wrap-up of some of my favorite music related videos I stumbled across in the past seven days:

If you don’t have a good half hour of time, then I suggest you skip this first video. Temporary Copenhagen: An Experiment on a New Danish Scene is the work of videographer Vincent Moon. I’ll let him go ahead and describe it:

This is a 30min piece we created on the spot. 9 local bands, only 3 i knew, 2 hours to organise something before the audience arrives, and the objective to create a unique sound piece, a collaborative concert which would be moving in an intimate space. Only one take, no cuts, loads of tension, maybe an interesting talk between cinema and music where each one feeds the other one. And a certain idea of a document on a city and its creative life.

Some of the Danish groups participating in the project range from the widely popular Efterklang and Slaraffenland to up-and-comers Choir of Young Believers and Murder. Check it out below:

One of my favorite live videos from this past week was a Vivian Girls a cappella rendition of “He’s Gone”. Although the video isn’t particularly great, the audio is what makes it worth it:

I don’t know where the people at Delicious Scopitone find some of their stuff! Their latest post on Seams’ video for the track “Glytch” is sure to rile up the geek inside you:

The folks at Sup’ Magazine just recently posted a couple of videos from French music princess Charlotte Gainsbourg’s set in Brooklyn a couple of days back. Here’s one of her covering Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Women”.

Alex Bleeker & The Freaks‘s self-titled album on Underwater Peoples had to be one of my top five favorite debuts of 2009. Courtesy of the Pelly Twins‘ flip-cam, here is a video of them performing two new tracks (jump to about 30 seconds in):

Finally, my favorite video of the week belongs to the rooftop collab of El Perro del Mar and Lykke Li on del Mar’s song “Change of Heart”:

The Beatles // Apple Records USB

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

My friend Jerod sent me over a couple of photos of the ultra-limited (well, at only 30K available it is by Beatles standards) Apple Records USB drive containing high quality audio recordings, exclusive videos, and a shit ton of photos. At a retail price tag of $280, this is certainly not for the casual fan, but anyone who can shell out the cash for the recently remastered mono/stereo box sets have to be at least thinking about adding this to the collection. Here’s what Jerod had to say about it:

It’s pretty awesome! The apple is really heavy, I think it’s solid metal. The packaging is kinda like an iPod or iPhone — really minimal and clean. I watched all the mini documentaries last night and they are amazing. They have lots of audio from the studio, like from when they would be rolling tape before and after the takes, or the beginning of bad takes.

The audio quality is really good. I’ve only been listening to the FLAC files, all of which are 7.32GB. The mp3s are 1.39GB but are a good 320kbs bit rate (those are better for iPods and the like since iTunes can’t import FLAC files). The drive has an autorun flash interface which allows access to all the music in a cover-flow-esque user interface. It also has the 13 videos, and a bunch of photos including alternate photos from album covers.

Over all, I’ve only been more and more happy with the purchase as time has gone by. I got my hands on it just last night, but I’ve already listened to three of the albums, watched all the videos, and looked at a good chunk of the photos! Some people have scoffed at me when I tell them the price, but I think it is really well priced. Plus, because there are only 30,000, it might very well be worth a lot more in the future, maybe even the near future.

So there you have it! If you want to take the plunge, there are several outlets selling it. If not, here are some more shots Jerod took of the packaging as well as the drive itself so you can almost experience the feeling of unwrapping this gem:

20th Century Songs

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Today I did a search in my music library for Phoenix’s hit song “1901″ and noticed that there were a ton of tracks that had a year from the 1900s referenced in the title. Even more surprising is how good a lot of these songs are! Here’s some of my favorites in chronological order:

Phoenix // 1901 (Live & Unplugged)

Woody Guthrie // 1913 Massacre

Swan Lake // Petersburg, Liberty Theater, 1914

Califone // 1928

Harry Nilsson // 1941

Neutral Milk Hotel // Holland, 1945

Ryan Adams // 1974

The Mountain Goats // Chino Love Song 1979

Lucero // 1979

Smashing Pumpkins // 1979

The Tough Alliance // 1981

The Mountain Goats // Sept 15, 1983

M. Ward // From a Pirate Radio Sermon, 1989

Crystal Castles // 1991

Department of Eagles // 1997 (Daytrotter Session)

Suburban Kids with Biblical Names // 1999

A brief search for past centuries yielded paltry results in comparison (just a Slagsmalsklubben “1888 Franklin” song and a handful of year 2000 references). What’s also interesting is a lot of the 1900s referenced tracks were made in the aughts, highlighting how nostalgia was certainly in vogue the first decade of the 20th century. Anyways, just thought this was something pretty cool to find!

Sonny and the Sunsets // “Too Young to Burn”

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Not entirely too surprising, but I guess I have a love affair with San Francisco bands as of late. Sonny and the Sunsets are the latest Golden Gate group to mesmerize me with their music, creating some great beach tunes that aren’t drenched in fuzz and reverb like those newfangled “glo-fi”ers. More Kumbaya around the fire pit than sandy acid-trip, Sonny Smith effortlessly weaves together dual vocal harmonies with easy-going guitar like he’s been doing it all his life (which a look at his discography shows that he pretty much has).

Other than a from-what-I-heard stellar 7” released on Soft Abuse Records — one that is unfortunately sold-out — his LP entitled Tomorrow Is Alright is his first compete effort with his backing band The Sunsets. Reading as a sort-of “who’s who” of the up-and-coming San Fran scene, The Sunsets are composed of members from The Fresh & Onlys, The Dry Spells, and PT Music favorites The Sandwitches. No doubt the inclusion of equally strong musicians have only helped Smith, as Tomorrow is arguably his best work to date. Even after only a cursory listen to the opening track “Too Young to Burn”, it’s enough to warrant scouting out the LP in your local record store, hoping to find one of the 500 copies that were printed.

When listening to “To Young to Burn” you can’t help but realize the communal effort it took to produce the record. Everything from the background “Oooohs and Aaaaahs” to the handclap percussion reeks of collaborative creativity that only a round table discussion of “wouldn’t it be cool if we did this…” could produce. Also, I can imagine when performing live that this collective nature of Smith’s music is sure to yield wonderful audience participation — encouraging sing alongs and claps to the beat like no other band. He’s coming to Portland the 23rd of January, so I’ll be sure to check it out and report back!

But until then, here is an mp3 of “Too Young to Burn” as well as a live video of another one of Sonny and the Sunset’s songs “Stranded”.

Sonny and the Sunset // Too Young to Burn

Coachella 2010 // Lineup Released

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Want to hear a sad story? In a last hoorah before my undergraduate graduation, I was slated to go with a group of my friends to Coachella 2007. We rushed to buy three day tickets, arranged where we were going to stay, and had all the logistics planned out, unfortunately, none of us bothered to cross-check the dates with our academic calendar, as the festival fell squarely in the middle of finals. Bummed out to the max, we had to sell our tickets on ebay (one of us unable to recuperate anything for them) and sulk for the rest of the semester. And since then, I’ve been unable to make the festival for one reason or another (well, actually only for one reason as I’ve been in Europe for grad school).

This year, however, my luck might change as Coachella just released their initial lineup and I think it’s stacked enough to warrant a drive down to Southern California. The festival is so dense that even the acts relegated to the 6 pt. font are impressive (Beach House, Girls, Flying Lotus, Local Natives, and recent favorite Gil Scott-Heron). Here are the results after drawing up a list of acts I would like to see each day:

  • Friday: Sleigh Bells (I figure I should see them live before bashing them further), Lucero, Yeasayer, La Roux, The Avett Brothers, Grizzly Bear, Fever Ray (if the Live in Lulea album is any indication, this could be the best of the festival), LCD Soundsystem, and Jay-Z
  • Saturday: Beach House, Flying Lotus, The Raveonettes (my “white whale” when it comes to seeing them live), Camera Obscura, The XX (I’m thinking they won’t work well in a festival setting but I would still want to check them out), The Dirty Projectors, Major Lazer, Hot Chip, and Tiesto
  • Sunday: The Soft Pack, Local Natives, Gil Scott-Heron (this will be hit or miss I think), Little Boots, Local Natives (want to see these up-and-comers live), Deerhunter, Matt & Kim (always a good time), Charlotte Gainsbourg, Spoon, Phoenix, Thom Yorke????, and Pavement — possibly the best day of the festival.

Here’s the poster of the lineup for those wanting to pick out their must-see bands:

Local Natives // Cubism Dream

Fever Ray // Keep the Streets Empty (Live in Lulea)

Camera Obscura // French Navy

Can’t Get Enough of… // Gil Scott-Heron

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

When someone mentions spoken word records, thoughts of William Shattner instantly spring to mind which, unless it’s a reading of Sarah Palin’s twitter feed, isn’t usually a good thing. However, if you’re lucky and famed poet, musician, and author Gil Scott-Heron enters your brain, you’re most likely going to wind up in a reflective state pondering deep philiosophical ideals and social injustices.

I must admit that before news of Scott-Heron’s upcoming February XL Records release entitled I’m Not Here hit the blogosphere, I only vaguely knew of him and his past accomplishments (see: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised). Although a scant entry on wikipedia isn’t near enough to cover his significance in the African-American movements of the 70s (both politically and musically), it will have to suffice as unfortunately no written biography of his has hit the bookshelves.

Even as early as high school, Scott-Heron was noticed to be extraordinarily gifted in writing. Originally attending the famed DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, he was offered a full scholarship to the well-known Ivy League prep-school The Fieldston School. A couple of years later, after only two years of college and at the tender age of 21, Scott-Heron completed his first two novels. This just goes to show how talented this guy was even before his whole musical career.

When the 70s hit, Scott-Heron started making music — and by making music I mean nine albums in that decade alone — beginning on Flying Dutchman Records before hitting the big-time and signing with Arista for his ’75 release A First Minute of a New Day. His music is best summarized by the Allmusic expose on him, simply stating that his “unique proto-rap style influenced a generation of hip-hop artists”.

As for his newest record, his first in thirteen years, it is pretty damn bad ass. Scott-Heron’s voice is smoky as ever, providing some haunting verses that would be an appropriate soundtrack to parts of The Wire (you know, the scenes where people walk around with semi-automatics in the daytime looking for trouble). Everything about him — his cadence, tone, volume, and swagger — commands complete attention, captivating you with every track and making it near impossible to listen to him on shuffle with the rest of your music library.

For a sample, here is the official video for his first single off of I’m New Here called “Me and the Devil”:

Lightspeed Champion // “Madame Van Damme”

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

One of my oddest concert experiences while I was over in Europe was when I caught Lightspeed Champion — the brainchild of former Test Icicles member and bizzaro blogger Dev Hynes — perform at this small-ass nightclub in Copenhagen called Rust. The venue itself was fresh off of reopening after a fire blazed through months earlier, so the smell of paint combined with the overpriced Danish drinks was very oft putting. However, I was able to meet up with some Swedish girls during the show, somehow got wasted, successfully got Dev to play his cover of “Xanadu”, and chilled with the band after their set. So all-in-all it turned into a pretty good night. Anyways, I was only a casual Lightspeed Champion fan before the concert (I’ve always thought of Hynes’s eccentricities overshadowed his music too much), however, after watching him perform I have to say that the guy can play.

Well Dev is back with his sophomore effort entitled Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You out on February 16 — unfortunately a bit too late for the inevitable Valentine’s Day plays. To whet a lot of people’s appetite before the release day, Domino Records is streaming two tracks off of their website, allowing for one of them (“Madame Van Damme”) to be downloaded. Both songs are live recordings, so the quality is certainly poor, however, you can get a glimpse at what the new album might hold.

For those looking for the band to reinvent themselves/push the boundaries, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Other than a marginally fuller sound, the track is made much in the same mold as Falling Off the Lavender Bridge: snarky lyrics, mid-song a cappella breakdown, and sing-along choruses. No doubt the song is infectious — Dev has a talent for writing catchy pop songs — but there is certainly a lacking of creativity that past tracks “Galaxy of the Lost” and “Devil Tricks for a Bitch” exhibited. With that being said, one can not poster about an album’s worth until, well, hearing the entire album, so until the February release date comes to pass I’ll reserve judgment.

Lightspeed Champion // Madame Van Damme