December 31st, 2011 | Mp3 Posts | 0 Comments
Some happy beats comin’ to you from San Diego’s sungazed Miro Belle
Some happy beats comin’ to you from San Diego’s sungazed Miro Belle
Woke up to find an email in my inbox telling me about this shit. It’s these two girls from Barcelona who make syrupy dream pop as Granit. Very, very nice.
Was scrounging through my back emails today trying to find SOMETHING word posting, finally stumbling on some stuff by Brooklyn (I think?) band Secret Music. Reading the press release, turns out their album was produced by rad dude/Passion Pit member Ayad Al Adhamy and released on his label Black Bell Records.
Sorry there hasn’t been much posting going on this week. Between sitting shiva for my Bubbe, Chanukah, hanging with the family, and (the most time consuming of all) playing the new Zelda game (which is pretty awesome, as all Zelda games are), I’ve kind of just been out of the downtown-indie-rock-loop. Getting back into it today though. Went through a bunch of disregarded emails and found this shit. Chicago artist Narrow Sparrow makes lo-fi weirdo pop that’s interesting and endearing. He’s got an EP on the Bandcamp for frizzle (free, that is, Izzlish). Here’s a cut.
5. Cloud Nothings – Cloud Nothings
Dylan Baldi totally delivered on the promise of earlier recordings with this, Cloud Nothings‘ first all-original album on Car Park Records. Even though the album is by no means hi-fi, that significant bump up in recording quality and production kick the album into the big(ger) leagues. It’s rare to hear albums as consistently catchy and lovable as this one, so much so that picking highlights would basically just be picking songs off it at random. Hopefully the less-than-amazing first tracks released off the next one are misleading.
4. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
The first version of this list didn’t even include this album, but then I listened to it again and, even though it’s an album I don’t listen to much, the thing is fucking brilliant, there’s no denying it. Justin Vernon‘s songwriting is tight as shit the whole way through, and the sounds! The sounds! It’s a production monster! Holy fuck. Just listen to the drums/percussion! It’s insane – not because it’s fast and/or technically impressive, but just so creative and meticulous. And the lyrics – another “wow”. After For Emma, Forever Ago and this, I’ll be amazed if Vernon’s got any more genius in him – he’s spent more on those two albums than most do in a career.
3. Handsome Furs – Sound Kapital
Awesome album. Doesn’t have the genius of some other albums on this list, but makes up for it in its bad-assness and the political importance of its lyrics. Dan Boekner and wife Alexis Perry synth things up big time and write about the horror and decadence of some of the world’s darker corners. Most of this is expressed through suggestive imagery in songs like “Damage” and “Cheap Music” where they sing about “guns in the street fair” and “a thousand lonely kids making noise in the basement” because its illegal to play the music they do. Then there are the anthems. “Serve The People”, is, I would say, the best and most timely song of 2011. As dictatorships fall only to be replaced by new ones and free countries are declared battlefields, the prerogatives of the leaders of men have never in recent memory been as obvious and disgusting. “You don’t serve the people” could practically be the slogan of the year. “Repatriated”, another standout anthem, is fearful on one hand – “I see the future and it’s coming in low” – but on the other, invigorated – “Your little heart is gonna be sewn…I will never be repatriated”. It’s a song about freedom and escape, but it’s about escaping the mental prisons of North American consumerism and the ideology that what happens over there doesn’t have to matter to us over here.
While the rest of musical world obsesses over love, sex, and the self, with bands even as high brow as the Arcade Fire retreating to the suburbs to write about the desperation and despair in their own hearts (admittedly still a noble pursuit), Dan Boekner and his company from album to album appear to be the last bastion of rockers singing about the state of the world beyond the borders of our countries and ourselves. At the end of the album he sings, “gimme no no feeling” because it’s hard to keep caring about the rest of the world. The masses make the same mistakes over and over, and whether their rulers be elected or appointed, they never “serve the people”, but just make things worse and worse. But Boekner will likely keep singing his songs about the world and the people who inhabit it, because he cannot vanquish those feelings of disgust that have tormented him since he burst on the scene in 2004 with Wolf Parade‘s first album. For him it sucks, but for us, his listeners, it’s a beautiful thing.
2. Destroyer – Kaputt
Dan Bejar already had a solid reputation as a great songwriter from his numerous solo releases as Destroyer, as well as from his work with the New Pornographers, but nobody was expecting this. On his ninth Destroyer album, Bejar has made what is easily the greatest album out of everything he’s ever had anything to do with. And it’s a total late 70s/80s soft-rock throwback. As if Bejar wasn’t already an inscrutable figure to begin with, all these points only add to that. In fact, they make the album’s amazingness downright ridiculous. But it is what it is. And it’s a total classic. It just feels like a classic. It smells like a classic. It tastes like a classic. I bought it on vinyl a couple months ago and already I can hum every saxophone melody, every bass lines, every guitar note. I get the same feeling listening to it that I get listening to Dark Side Of The Moon or Sgt. Peppers. Some albums are like that. The Arcade Fire made a great album with The Suburbs, but Bejar deserved that Polaris Prize for this masterpiece, the reputation of which, I believe, will continue to grow in time.
1. Fucked Up – David Comes Alive
So, it’s a hardcore rock opera double album about a kid named David who works in a lightbulb factory in a fiction UK town in the late 70s. There are also four 7″ singles with more songs relating to the story and an entire album of songs by fictional bands from this fictional UK town. That’s all well and good, glad to see some people getting a little interesting and ambitious. The amazing thing is that somehow Fucked Up managed to pull all of this off and make it perfectly. No, seriously. Perfectly. Most albums can’t even manage to make one single full-length album of decent music.
David Comes Alive takes about one song to get revved up, the instrumental intro “Let Her Rest”. As soon as “Queen Of Hearts” kicks in, the album doesn’t give an inch in quality or intensity until “The Truest Road” closes the album off. Somehow all the songs sound different and are powerful, catchy, and amazingly melodic. The entire thing bristles with this huge, beautiful, uplifting guitar sound reminiscent of golden era The Who - not surprising, considering those guys usually are the first that come to mind whenever anyone thinks ‘rock opera’. And the female vocals courtesy of Jennifer Castle and Cults‘ Madeline Follin are such a perfect cherry on top of everything. What is the whole thing about lyrically? Something about love and death. Not totally sure. But I’d still call it a tremendous achievement by almost any standard, and if Fucked Up do call it a day now, they’ll have checked out on a truly astounding (and very loud) note.
Toronto-via-Guelph shoegazers Memoryhouse have finally announced the deets of their highly anticipated Sub Pop debut album The Slideshow Effect. It drops February 28th, and we’ve even got a first track off it to keep us hanging on.
“The Kids Were Wrong” sees the band moving more towards pop and away from murky ambience. There’s a subtle shoegaze-haze guitar in the background, but the melodies and sharp chord changes are pure dream-pop. It sounds killer. I always say that the problem with early 90s (and even some recent) shoegaze is that the bands forget to write melodies – they just jam out with a bajillion effects pedals and it sounds uber lame. It’s all about the melodies, people.
As for what this portends for the album, I think it’s going to be a more poppy affair. Though when I saw them play Lee’s Palace during NXNE they had some new slow, ambient numbers that weren’t super melodic, when I got a short bit of their set at the DAPS ALL-AGES they played a couple weeks ago at Kapisanan, most of what I heard was pretty poppy, and really good. As a poppy kind of guy, I’m hoping the album goes more in that direction and they save the slower stuff for B-sides and EPs.
Ok, it’s finally time for me to make this list. It seems like I out-waited everyone…because this list is obviously the most important. 2011 was a good year for music – not as good as a phenomenal 2010, but still, pretty damn good, with some stone-cold classics for the ages. I changed this list a couple times cuz some albums were just a little better than others – some albums I liked more than other even though it seems as though they were objectively not-as-good – it was tough. But here’s what I’ve arrived at. This is 10-6, tomorrow or whenever I’ll post 5-1. Here they are.
10. Feist – Metals
It was a tight call between this album and Atlas Sounds‘ solid Parallax for the last spot on this list. Though my earlier post about this album lauded it as being better than The Reminder, I’ve since reversed my position because I feel like it doesn’t have as many hugely inspired moments as that album, though I still maintain it holds together a bit better. Unfortunately, the tracklisting tosses the three best songs – “A Commotion”, “The Circle Married The Line”, and “Bittersweet Melodies” – all together around the middle, so whenever I listen to it I feel like I just want to go straight there instead of starting from song one and playing it through; she should have spread those out more. It’s unfortunate, because there are plenty of other great songs on the album…like pretty much every other song on the album. At the end of the day, regardless of the tracklisting of the album, it doesn’t let down in terms of quality: Feist‘s singing and songwriting are as superb and star-worthy as ever. Which is why it beats out the competition to make the list.
9. M83 – Shut Up, We’re Dreaming
This is an example of an album that I’m not going to listen to much, but I can’t deny its brilliance. M83 outdid his already-quite-ambitious self with this double album that takes inspiration from dreams and beautiful fantasies. The lengthy affair never runs out of steam, while songs like “Intro” and “Splendor” break through to whole new realms of musical amazingness, the likes of which Anthony Gonzales has only shown potential for in the past. Despite the fact M83 is technically an electronic act, this album knows no genres or boundaries – only beauty.
8. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
I always respected St. Vincent as a great songwriter and singer, but she was an artist I just didn’t really put into rotation much…until this album. The difference this time around is the emphasis placed on her guitar playing – as every review appears to have noted – but for those who haven’t heard the album, please don’t approach this expecting a lot of soloing and conventional histrionics, it’s so much more than that. I’m not even sure if there is one solo, really, on the album. Instead, the guitars often either provide some chutzpa to songs like “Northern Lights” by virtue of their sound and power, or, better yet, they dance around the melodies and work as accoutrement a la Television and The Strokes in songs like “Cruel” (my favourite), “Neutered Fruit”, and “Dilettante”. And she makes great use of effects pedals to get all kinds of great sounds of out them. Who would have thought such a precious-sounding (and looking) lady could be such a sharp guitar player?
7. John Maus – We Must Become Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
One of my favourite breakout acts of the year, though John Maus has been making music for a long time now and it just took the rest of us this long to notice it. Admittedly, I think it took him a while to make as good music as he does now, but I don’t really see a huge jump in quality between WMBPCOO and 2006’s Love Is Real. Then again, Love Is Real doesn’t have a standout as obvious as “Believer”, WMBPCOO‘s pop-perfect closer. Or the beautiful little “Hey Moon”, the intimate gem he borrowed (and barely changed at all) from Molly Nilsson.
The rest of the album works great as a thoughtful, and (surprisingly) enjoyable work heavily indebted to the 80s, though Maus apparently wasn’t trying to do an 80s thing. He seems a bit brilliant, a bit weird, but very interesting. Hopefully his next album won’t take too much time in the cooker.
6. Iceage – New Brigade
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Iceage is that they make punk music that isn’t nostalgic or retro-minded – something very hard to find. It’s the punk music of 2011. Not because they use synths and Ableton or whatever – they don’t appear to care about the past, or future, or anything like that. These Danish teenagers just express their anger and frustration in whatever way that they do. No bullshit. And the noise they make is fucking badass. New Brigade is a consistent and perfectly-recorded document of their work. Easily one of the most memorable and exhilarating albums of the year.
Is this the cover of the next Shins album or Zelda game?
Yeah, yeah, the end of the year stuff is coming soon. Jeez, everyone’s rushing to be like, “here’s my list! here’s my list!” – December’s not even half over yet people. Whatever. Anyways. Gold Soundz is going a bit more in the weird shit direction of sites like Altered Zones (RIP) and Weird Canada for 2012. Gonna be less pop and folk, more shoegaze, weird indie, etc. This will balance out the Toronto blog scene a bit, with the newly transplanted Weird Canada, Max Mohenu‘s excellent Diamond A/T/L/A/S and Gold Soundz taking up the left of the dial stuff, and Chromewaves, Indie Music Filter, Buying Shots For Bands, and other friends taking up the more accessible stuff. Our latest mix – covering the stuff I was listening to in November – reflects the shift. I’m also happy to say that a lot of friends and Torontonians made the mix this month purely due to musical quality, not personal connection, so kudos to all of you.
1. U.S. Girls – State House (It’s A Man’s World)
2. Quaker Parents – When You Can’t Beat The Dream
3. Blood Rexdale and the Walls are Blonde – Scared Woman In A Private Hell
4. Atlas Sound – Mona Lisa
5. Tearjerker – So Dead
6. Loom – It Is Love
7. Spirit Night – 25
8. Odonis Odonis – Seedgazer
9. James Ferraro – Google Poeises
10. Heartbeat Hotel – Intae Woe
Apparently these Minneapolis Animal Collective-esque freak-folkers/experimentalists have been getting all kinds of acclaim, but this is the first I’ve heard of Minneapolis band Dada Trash Collage. Supposedly they’ve also released three full-lengths, one of which is a movie-sync-up deal that they made with someone under the pseudonym Bear Ears. I’d like to hear/see it. In the meantime, I’m posting the track I was sent. It’s very nice.