Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Miike Snow

There's a very good chance you have already heard this band. Nonetheless, I'm posting the album because it is a good listen. But also because I finally put my finger on what some of these electropop bands remind me of - Peter F-ing Gabriel and Phil Collins. Maybe others have made this connection, but I finally got there and it's like now I have seen the light. Abstraction and melody, dynamic changes and satisfying tempos - listen to Solsbury Hill or Take Me Home and then Burial or Animal on this album and you'll see. Passion Pit has some of the same shit going on for sure, in fact it may have just hit me how completely saturated today's music is with these guys and I had never really thought about it. Sure Brian Eno gets credit, and the Talking Heads, but I think Gabriel and Collins get overlooked. I can't say I'm much of a Genesis fan (especially the Gabriel years - way too prog rock for my taste), but I've always kind of enjoyed each man's solo stuff. These dudes knew how to write a catchy tune that always managed to come across as epic - something the Arcade Fire does extremely well these days.

Anyway - back to Miike Snow. I don't know, well, anything about this band, other then they're Swedish and they have some street cred in the biz as producers. The pace and general exuberance of the music masks how melancholy some of the lyrics are. When the songs are good, they're really good, when they miss, it's like they went a little too Maroon 5 or Pink - this tends to happen more as the album progresses. It's sort of like if Passion Pit got overcooked in the Rainbow Room on a few of these tracks and came out of the Brill Building instead of Brooklyn. That said, I'd say the first half of this album is solid and there are moments on the latter half.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Throwbacks - Big Star

Taking a page from Howie - here's a power pop group that is oft overlooked I find. I stumbled on this band some years back when trying to figure out the origin of the song "Thirteen" as covered by Elliott Smith. Behold, Big Star. Some of their songs might be familiar to you (namely Cheap Trick's cover of "In the Streets," which became the theme song for That 70s Show), but these guys are somewhere between the Flying Burrito Brothers and the Beatles. You can sort of imagine being 15 and really connecting with these songs hardcore. It's not the most sophisticated lyricism but the melodies are clean, catchy, and full. It's fun listening. So, for your pleasure, I'm posting two albums for the price of one - rereleased as a set: #1 Record and Radio City. I find the songs where they're letting it go a little are much better than the ballads, which can get kind of cheesy and high school. Songs like Feel, In the Streets, O My Soul, She's A Mover definitely put a kick in your step and have a more rootsy feel. This is pure pop - most of the songs are under 4 minutes, and it's a fairly basic composition, but there's definitely something to be said for doing pop well. And they do.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Chef Is Back

From Pitchfork:
Between the hype, the anticipation and the attachment of a legendary album's legacy, anything less than a classic would have proven to be a major disappointment. Few albums have gone through this much turmoil and delay in the planning stages yet turned out so cohesive and tight. The last time a Wu-Tang record came together with this kind of personnel and succeeded under a grand conceptual vision, we got Fishscale, and calling Cuban Linx II Raekwon's equivalent to it isn't out of the question. Like Ghostface's modern classic, this album defies hip-hop's current atmosphere of youthful cockiness and aging complacency: instead, it's driven by the sometimes celebratory, sometimes traumatized sense of stubborn survival and perseverance, a veteran mindset that can no longer picture success without having to defend it. Consider this a triumphant defense.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Panda Bear- Person Pitch

This past summer my love for Animal Collective got a little out of control. I would listen to "For Reverend Green" and "Fireworks" countless times a day. During the month of August I would go through album after album, carefully dissecting all the intricate layers of music, never failing to be impressed by the careful thought and orchestration that clearly went into each song. However with Fall quickly approaching, and after celebrating and exhausting their entire catalogue it was time to move on, and discover some new music.

Enter stage right- Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox, founding member of Animal Collective). Now I know what you guys are thinking, "Chip this isn't really anything new, nor is it you kicking your addiction to Animal Collective." You're absolutely right! But I don't care, because this album rocks! You could say it's one of those two steps forward, three steps back kinda of things.

Person Pitch is actually the third solo album from Panda Bear, and was rated the best album of 2007 by Pitchfork Music. All the things you love about Animal Collective you will find in Person Pitch: those poignant lyrics, tight samples, creative beats, Brian Wilson-esque harmonies, and of course that hypnotic and celestial wall of sound that they do arguably better than anyone else. This album is surprisingly upbeat musically and lyrically compared to his other solo work. Call me crazy but this could be due in large part to Panda Bear moving away from Baltimore to Lisbon Portugal and marrying a beautiful fashion designer. Fortunately the quality of music has not taken a tole, as it does sometimes when other musicians start making money and stop being being poor & depressed artists (see Modest Mouse).

I suggest buying this album immediately, going to the park, and zoning out while watching the clouds go by. Without any further ado- "Bros"

The Cave Singers

Before your memories recall the Family Guy reenactment of the first song ever sung, know that The Cave Singers lead vocalist has a captivating raspy voice that makes me feel the peace of the countryside. They hail from Seattle, and the three man outfit has a simplicity to them that keeps their sound pure. Taxonomically speaking, I'd call them active Folk. They let lose on occasion, "Dancing on our Graves," but their instrumentation and overall vibe definitely inspire tranquility over chaos.

Here are their two albums for your auditory pleasure. Invitation songs is their first; it dropped in 2007. Welcome Joy was released just this year. They're on tour now and I believe heading east. I attended their show here in Chicago and really enjoyed it.

Happy Listening

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Antlers - Hospice

Put this in a box with Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Iron & Wine, maybe your Grizzly Bear. These slow, contemplative, pulsing, ambient, echoing tracks are made for rainy days and dark nights of the soul. Haunting vibrato, long fermatas - there is some clear reference to Radiohead in here as songs bounce from soft and brooding to hard and fast. Let's be clear - this album is not named Hospice by accident. Songs are about illness, death, not exactly happy topics, and the music matches the prevailing sentiment. That said, it's extremely provocative emotionally and musically - you occasionally hear those albums that physically tug on your heart strings and this one definitely slips right into that arsenal. They remind me a lot of Broken Social Scene in the best possible way - big full sounds, evocative lyrics, you can hear the heart in the record.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Late Night Drinkin' Music - "Loan Me A Dime"

         Feeling the urge to put on a good late night drunk, but just can’t decide on the perfect musical accompaniment?  In a “Best Songs” special issue of the UK magazine Q, the editors offered Jeff Buckley’s “Last Goodbye” as the best song “for being alone at 2 AM with a bottle of red wine.”  If you aren’t feeling that brokenhearted and prefer, say, bourbon as your drink of choice, try “Loan Me A Dime” from Boz Scaggs’s eponymous debut.  (Note: This song does not sound like the softy rock “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle,” or “Harbor Lights".  None of ‘em.  I promise.)  This epic down-on-your-lady-luck blues cover validates your besotted melancholy with forlorn organs and a plodding beat, but then swings you out of the dumps with the rhythmic flex of the Muscle Shoals session players and Duane Allman’s screaming guitar.  Unlike most songs that last over ten minutes, this one also plays pretty well to the late-night crowd in your favorite dive bar.  

        The original by Chicago Blues guitarist Fenton Robinson is equally great (and much shorter) in its own right. It’s got some killer drumming and Robinson’s voice blows Boz’s out of the water.



Friday, September 11, 2009

No One's First and You're Next

My personal feelings about Modest Mouse have, um, evolved over the years. From full-blown obsession to nostalgic afterthought, I will always have a soft spot for this band. When lead singer Isaac Brock is at his best, few are better. Their latest album is actually a collection of B sides, singles, archives etc. Most have been released previously, but they are compiled here. As with Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks and Building Nothing out of Something, these B sides are naturally pretty scattershot and that translates into some album ADD. I still maintain Everywhere and His Nasty Parlor Tricks is some of the best 40 minutes on record, but this one is more clearly a compilation of left overs.

The first track, Satellite Skin, is straight from the We Were Dead era of bigger, slicker sound/production and layered harmonies. Radio-friendly and a little more market savvy, it's good but it's hardly where Modest Mouse began. But there are some throwbacks on here - namely Guilty Cocker Spaniels and the Whale Song with some serious meandering guitar and Brock's notorious lyricism. They get back to some of those southern, countrified tunes as well (see: Perpetual Motion Machine). All in all, it's a solid effort from a solid band, but not a standout. If you're a fan, there are a few that are surely worth hanging onto. For people who simply don't care, this probably won't change your mind.


Aaron Neville with Allen Toussaint - "Hercules"

Brandon's post in late July got me listening to a lot of Allen Toussaint, so I thought I'd post one of my favorite Allen Toussaint produced songs, Aaron Neville's "Hercules".  ("Last Train", which a commenter so rightly highlighted, is a close second.  Oh and all of Rock of Ages by the Band; Toussaint did the horn arrangements.)  Aaron Neville is on his A game here - he floats out the falsetto (you know: the touuuchh, the feeeel of cawwwtonnnn) when the music calls for it, but otherwise reigns in his voice for some cool and clipped wisdom about the feats needed to survive in a hostile, mixed-up modern world.  Neville is great, but Toussaint's mellow production steals the show.  The bass line is downright infectious, and the way Toussaint folds in swelling horns, cool jazz guitar, timbales fills, and piano harmonies is masterful.  Wait for the point around 2:30 with just drums and rhythm guitar; so good.  Street life is hard, but Neville and Toussaint know how much it helps if you can just keep it funky. 



Washed Out will hyperextend your summer

Being 24 years old, Ernest Greene aka Washed Out's autobiography is pretty short, and would probably go something like this:

Hi, I'm one of the hottest musicians in the world right now, and my name is goddamn Ernest. I've spent my whole life in South Carolina and Georgia, living mostly on my parents' peach farm. I have a makeshift studio in the attic where I started making music a few months ago with virtually no training, experience, or money. My style, a dumbfounding combination of Californian pop, Italian disco, and John Hughes films, is basically Coppertone in sonic form and you really have no choice but to become obsessed with it. Other things about me that kick ass: I only release my records on cassette, my band name so perfectly mirrors the aesthetic of my music that all other descriptions fail in comparison, and I have a new album, by which I mean tape, coming out in a week. Did I mention I spent my entire life in rural Georgia?


Monday, September 7, 2009

Numero Group

This post is really more informational than anything I think. In 2003, a couple of buddies got together and founded a record label - and I don't mean a recording label, I mean a record label. They started digging up old 45s and lost soul records and compiling them into new LPs. The result is Numero Group, a small, independent label with a terrific collection of old records. The first, linked below, is a new LP set drawn from the local, original recordings of Columbus-based Capital City Soul record company, founded by Mr. Bill Moss. Numero Group has since compiled dozens more LPs based around similar local record labels from back in the day. Excellent compilations of singles you would likely otherwise never get a chance to hear.

The guys who run this label are serious music nerds. Their business plan was essentially to cater to folks who like the idea of digging through record crates and discovering old gems, but don't actually enjoy the practical reality. So it's small, it's niche, but it's for all those folks who like good, soulful music, regardless of where it came from. These tracks are worn, raw, a little unfinished, and extremely fun to listen to - they call it "eccentric soul."

I'm not going to post any of the songs for download because I like these guys and I like what they're about, so I encourage you to actually pay for it. They're available on iTunes, or you can get a double LP for about $20.

ere's a taste - check out the second track by Marion Black. Their myspace page is pretty entertaining as well.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mayer Hawthorne will kill you softly

If the barbershop quartet didn't tip you off, I'll just come out and say it: Mayer Hawthorne is almost completely unoriginal. His voice is a whiteboy version of Smokey Robinson's, his songs are straight out of the Motown playbook, and his lyrics consist mainly of the word "girl" with various verbs around it.

As anybody who's listened to Blueprint 3 knows, though, originality is overrated. Particularly when you're trafficking in 60's soul, whose template for success is as narrow and exacting as it is fucking perfect. The genius of Mayer is that he doesn't so much push this old template forward as nudge it a few inches over - the drums a little louder, the falsetto a little smoother. The songs, too, never stray too far from the Sam Cooke/Marvin Gaye 3 minute blueprint, where there's nothing extra, and no second is wasted. And some of them, like "Just Ain't Gonna Work Out" and "Make Her Mine", are actually brilliant in their own ways, managing to add to the deep soul canon rather than just borrow from it. Chalk Mayer up with groups like Menahan St. Band and El Michels Affair as dudes who get the throwback-to-the-future steez correct. And if you don't believe that, believe this: your girlfriend will love it.