Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Getting lost at the In-Edit Music Documtary and Film Festival

Let's be honest, most films about musicians or bands quite often don't do justice to the quality of the work they're portraying and also have a nagging tendency to turn into an avalanche of clichés or even worse, taint the reputation of the artist's work.  Being able to capture the magnetism of a particular musician or movement on film is a noble feat since it's the experience of listening to the music itself repeatedly and the context in which it took place which creates the powerful affinity of its fans.  As much as a director may try to persuade us why we should be interested in this particular artist, if we don't have any proper bond to compare it to, it ends up being a losing battle.  Documentaries run into similar complications when they decide how to straddle the line between diving into endless wistfulness or just practicing dry reporting.  If you leave room for a bit of intrigue and try not to force-feed the meaningfulness of your subject down the audience's throat, you can lead them along just long enough to tell a great story and hopefully provoke some sort of favorable reaction.  Half a dozen documentaries down and with a list of many more left to see, this year's In-Edit didn't feature anything that left me completely floored but nor did I once feel like I was being given a run for my money.  Here's a chronological run-down to my throughly informative week of grandiose interviews and grainy concert footage:

Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski

A larger-than-life figure if there's ever been one,  Lemmy is made for fans of Motörhead who have a simple image in mind when it comes to their adored front man.  While definitely not lacking in charisma and humorous anecdotes, it feels like an opportunity was lost to explain the resilience of a man who really should have died decades ago.  The film's two-hour fly by at such a frantic pace of laudatory interviews and increasingly bombastic stunts that your left with no room to reflect on where such a man finds inspiration to continue with his self-destructive lifestyle. 

Don Letts

A methodically constructed report on the Notting Hill Carinval's tumultuous history which focused excessively on the individual experiences of a few participants instead of allowing the power of the festival's music to speak for itself.  Though informative and thoughtfully brief, it's unsuccessful in communicating the pertinence of the event in modern times.

Upside Down/The Story of Creation Records
Danny O'Connor

The epic rags-to-riches story of one of the most meaningful record labels in modern history doesn't skimp on showing off its immense repertoire.  We don't need much reminding that Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, and The Jesus & Mary Chain have all released extraoridinary albums but what keeps Upside Down compelling is the constant tumultuous state in which the label existed during its historical run. The unfailing ability of founder Alan McGee to always be on the cusp of what's worth listening to and dive himself completely into a project shown alongside his disquieting detrimental tendencies, make for a figure that's easy to get behind, in spite of Creation's ultimately sinister demise.  
Brian Eno: Another Green World 
Nicola Roberts

Brian Eno has become seemingly untouchable in his intellectual prowess and ability to dabble in various fields of thought.  As a man who transformed the concept of what function music could have in relation to the listener, he's always been more fascinating for his capacity to implement a concept than for his musicianship or cultural background.    Another Green World shows Eno in perhaps his most natural and comfortable environment by taping a series of conversations with various distinguished guests at the artist's home studio.  His insatiable desire to expand his understanding of science and mankind may come off as pedantic for many but it's almost as if his search for truth serves a much more deeper personal purpose than he lets on.  By constantly questioning and researching the world around him, Eno makes us wonder why other musicians must limit themselves in the implications of what their work represents.  This dry presentation of brain candy is less about music but more about the need to discover new answers in an enigmatic world.  

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within
Yony Leyser

Crude, cold, and impenetrable.  Burroughs undoubtedly made an his ugly mark on modern counterculture movements through his daring willingness to confront the pillars on which our society is built.   His preference to wade in the filth of unadulterated humanity makes for plenty of shocking footage and nutty interviews but the documentary falls flat in deciphering just how he refined the unique craft of his writing to dissect bourgeois values with a rusty scalpel.  This gathering of musicians and artists to heap their praise upon the legend seems like unnecessary lip service for those who have ever read his literary work and doesn't effectively paint the urgency that made the "beat" movement.

High on Hope
Piers Sandersen

This thrilling account of the struggles which the Blackurn-based organizers of the first acid house raves faced in developing what is now a world-wide phenomenon, serves as an example of how music can quickly become about more than just providing entertainment to the masses and turn into an audacious opportunity to stand up and say no to blatant social injustice.  It's distinctive narrative quality made it stand apart from any other documentary at the festival and was a clear choice for this year's jury prize.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Dominant Legs - Young at Love and Life

Over the past couple of years San Fransisco has established itself as a sort of mecca for bands looking to rehash the glories of antiquated trends and showcase them as something both current and unfamiliar.  Girls skillfully pulled apart the jangle pop of early Beach Boys and Buddy Holly to turn it into the soundtrack for one of the most intriguing come back stories in recent memory and the latest LP from SF's The Young & Onlys has set them to be the torchbearers for this generation's Nuggests revivalists.  Dominant Legs  continue this course and play glossy pop in the strictest sense of the word though they don't let their chirp obstruct the gravity of the adult questions which canvas the record.

As the gap between adolescence and adulthood continues to grow, young adults are left with more and more time to reconcile their old idealized visions of concepts like "a good life" or "love" in a world that isn't as palpable as it used to be.  Presented with the choice of either retreating from or embracing this uncomfortable fact, front man Ryan Lynch doesn't pretend to have any absolute answers but inquisitively confronts this lost of innocence as perhaps a chance to start over and capture whatever it was that had left.  The EP effortlessly floats along by using whirly keyboards and jubilant percussion to offset this lyrical gloom and instead, these highly personal doubts are presented to listener as an invitation to share in the pair's abstruse journey and not feel so bad along the way.

Dominant Legs - Clawing at the Walls

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Dress Well - Love Remains

A new generation of indie-minded musicians are emerging who wantonly tout their love for 90s R&B but for numerous obvious reasons, don't fit the profile of your typical pop star.  Last year a group of pale and not particularly attractive art students named the xx became an omnipresent enterprise thanks to their pleasant brand of easy-to-swallow pop, and though their masterful cover of Aaliyah's "Hot Like Fire" wasn't included on their debut LP, it was a prime example of where their song-writing sensibilities came from.  As the lines between amateur and professional recording become more and more blurred by accessible home recording technology, even a traditionally slick genre like R&B has become fair game for music geeks who operate outside the conservative hit-making machine.  This innovation allows individuals to redefine what facets of a song they believe are worth being accentuated.  

How to Dress Well's debut LP Love Remains is a collection of new material and songs that had previously  been released on the blog of philosophy student Tom Krell.  There's a distinctively somber tone throughout the entire record which nimbly erodes the superficial gestures of R&B lust and enraptures the listener into the haunting solitude of irretrievable longing.   Lyrically, the album is pretty unintelligible but this fact doesn't hinder it whatsoever in communicating the creator's ethereal state.  Instead of allowing his gripping melodies to shimmer, each apex is drenched in thick flux of reverb and distortion which is both elevating and upsetting.  By bravely wearing this humanity on his sleeve, we are invited to imagine the humble settings in which these songs were made and appreciate the grandeur in devotionally seeking a temporary escape from the ineluctable gravity of our own mortality.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Salem - King Night

For every action there is a reaction.  In the past two years, a torrent of bands have appeared which revolve around the intimate allure of beach imagery to create a shelter away from the required doldrums of modern life.  Having been stretched to its extremes, "chill wave" now represents a spectrum of musical styles which adhere to a common aesthetic doctrine in which songs must unobtrusively glide without ever placing any displeasure onto the listener.  The emerging 'witch house'/'drag' genre directly clashes with this docile philosophy in that, though it incorporates similar syrupy texturing, rhythms are purposely slowed down to create an eerie and perplexing semblance.  Genre forefathers Salem mangles what could have formally been a robotic southern hip-hop beat into a majestically triumphant assault of "O Holy Night".  Imagine club music pulled away from the dance floor and thrown into a cathedral.

Salem - King Night by DISCODUST

Friday, July 16, 2010

Here We Go Magic - Pigeons

Luke Temple has undergone enough artistic transformations in the last few years that it's becoming more and more difficult to identify any singular trait that holds his work together.  Initially making his living painting murals, he began dabbling in music for more than a decade ago and has received praise from the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Ben Gibbard.  The most salient trait on his two albums released as a solo artist was his uncanny ability to carry a song along through the potency of his own Paul Simonesque nasally voice. On these early home-recored records, his vibrant melodies were a welcome contrast to his sporadic choice of arrangements and jerky rhythms.  Since then, he's put together a band using the forgettable moniker Here We Go Magic.

While Temple seems to have embraced all the sonic possibilities that working with other musicians can give, there still remains a highly personal quality in how he attacks the self-made boundaries within each arrangement.  It almost as if these antsy shifts, which are especially conspicuous throughout this latest record, were the catalyst of some sort of underlying restlessness which doesn't allow any enjoyable moment to last too long.  Not to say that Pigeons doesn't have it fair share of fun moments, it just doesn't leave the listener with much to hold on to.  Apart from the excellent single "Collector", it lacks the same effusive charms found on the band's debut LP.  This lack of congruency seems to lie in that the album is constantly crossing between the two contradictory extremes of wild chamber pop and lumbering ballads which at times can be frankly boring.  There are still however more than enough moments of swirly bliss, like on the Talking-Heads-inspired "Old World United", to redeem its numerous lapses.  It's undoubtedly commendatory that such an artist would abandon their comfortable origins and plunge themselves into new territory despite the risk of making a few missteps along the way.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Don´t Look Back #6 - Tiger Trap - Tiger Trap

By the time Tiger Trap´s first and only full-length LP gets through the instrumental number "Tore a Hole", it becomes blatantly obvious that pigeonholing them as just another twee group would be a doing a total disservice to the mesmerizing effort made in not sacrificing content or melody for power.  While the lyrical content remains in the familiar terrain of adolescent dilemmas and childish daydreaming, each song is approached with a surprising boldness that often pushes the expected softness of similar indiepop into noisier territory.  Clocking in at a little over half an hour, the album includes timely and unexpected changes of tempo with alleviating sudden losses of composure in the normally graceful vocals of lead-singer Rose Melberg.  Though every song may be recorded in a similar juvenile fashion, their masterful hooks feature a maturity and differentiation in structure which elevates this short-lived group to nearly legendary status. 

Tiger Trap - Puzzle Pieces

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Plat de Jour Madness!

Over the past three years, the folks over at Plat de Jour have grown notorious for throwing eminently rowdy parties which always feature the rawest and most gleaming DJs to be found.  This year's off-Sonar affair is no exception as it will showcase the talents of one of the most important labels in electronic music, Hyperdub.  Not only will founder Kode9 be on the decks, Ikonika will be tearing things up with material from her excellent debut LP, Contact, Love, Want, Have.  Darkstar, Guido, Cooly G, the Plat de Jour crew, and a cadre of surprise guests complete this ace lineup which will undoubtedly supply more than enough ruckus to create an unforgettable night of Barcelona bass.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tennis - Marathon

This Denver couple have ingeniously turned their sailing memoirs into one of the most unmistakably infectious pop gems to be released so far this year.  Drawing from the suave finesse of Motown, the song's full of swooning hooks that remain polished behind a strong blast of warm guitar fuzz.  Unapologetically bare in their delivery, the vocals are sung with such sprightly charm that you can't help but want to get on board.

Tennis - Marathon

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Saturday, May 29th)

A friend told me on the final day of Primavera Sound, that it was best to not to see the weekend as a race but rather as a marathon.  Having seen bits and pieces of probably over thirty concerts over the previous two days, it was hard to imagine how this night would compare to the others.  Free from any giant headliners(I'm sorry but the Pet Shop Boys don't count), this showcase seemed to be more about having select quality acts, than overwhelming the audience with a flood of names.

Atlas Sound (19:15)
Describing Atlas Sound's music as restrained or simplistic would be haphazardly inaccurate for an artist whose albums always feature an assortment of different styles.  However when Bradford Cox took the stage and it became clear that he would be playing alone, it became hard to visualize how he could reconcile his vast material with only an acoustic guitar, some loop effects, a drum machine.  The answer is that not only did he succeed in accomplishing this daunting task, he translated each piece in such way that it became a presentation on how he singularly constructs the dense layers that his songs are composed of.  By beginning on a more uplifting note and ending with only the repetitive looping of his own voice, the set seemed to a progressive dismantling of the elements that form his sound.

Nana Grizol (19:50)
One of the more pleasant surprises of the weekend, this outfit featuring Laura Carter of the Elephant Six Collective provided the instigative jolt that the initially disinterested crowd seemed to be in desperate need of.  The timely use of a small horns section and having two drummers on stage made, what at first appeared to be cookie cutter festival filler, an impressive flash of upbeat dance rock.

Grizzly Bear (21:55)
Baroque style pop which relies heavily on variable instrumentation, doesn't come off as something that would work well at a large festival.  Besides "Two Weeks", Grizzly Bear's repertoire doesn't have much in the way of instantly catchy songs or anthems that could inspire first time listeners either.  These factors seem like a perfect recipe for disaster, but seeing as how everything these Brooklyn protégés touch seems to turn to gold, their hour long set, unsurprisingly was perhaps the best performance of the weekend.  Indie might take a lot criticism for its stance that places style over musical expertise, but this idle judgment was discredited by the phenomenal artistry that was displayed throughout the show's entirety.  Each member possessed a profound command of their instruments and each part was so thoughtfully placed that those who were lucky enough to be close to the stage, were left mesmerized by the quenching resonance that these four were able to produce.  The complexity behind the composing of each score came off as fluid and effortless, while still delivered with a unique fervency and humility.  The highlight of the set came with a glowing performance of "While You Wait for the Others", which featured every member singing in perfect unison to create a more spirited version of one of last year's best songs.  By the time the show came to an end, one couldn't help but admire the diligence and perfectionism that was behind creating this extraordinary set.  

Built to Spill (23:00)
Plagued by sound problems from the start, Built to Spill's set never seemed to be able to gain any sort of momentum. Even after playing fan favorites like "Going Against Your Mind" and "Carry The Zero", any type of enthusiasm seemed forced for a band that I had hoped would be one of this weekend's best.  Doug Martsch was constantly complaining about the sound levels on stage in spite of the fact it sounded decent enough to those in the audience.  The three ax men on stage all played with an acute sense of time and place but didn't show any signs that they were taking in pleasure in being there.  Maybe it might have been better to just salvage what they could from the unideal conditions, instead of trying to force perfection at the cost of the everyone else's enjoyment. 

Liquid Liquid (00:30)
"Feel the groove!" "Get funky!"  Old guys running around stage and playing a wide assortment of different types of drums while some other guy beat-boxes.  Maybe it's because my feet were tired and that I had scored a good seat near the stage, but I still have no idea why I stayed for this entire set.

HEALTH (3:00)
Even heavier than on their grating records,  HEALTH's mammoth set was not for the faint of heart.  Intense focus was a requisite in order to appreciate the feedback tweaks and morose twists on analog sounds that were being made on stage. A willingness to head bang for hours on end also made the whole experience that much more gratifying.  The manic, and at times trancing, stage circus created a sense of chaos and disarray that seemed to resonate well with a crowd that was running on fumes.  By the time they played "Die Slow", there somehow appeared to be a clear harmony between the jerky rhythms and the idiosyncratic noises that hold HEALTH together.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Friday, May 28th)

After Thursday's unexpectedly salvage ending, I was left wondering if my body could withstand another two days of increasingly exhausting abuse.  A few pots of coffee later and enough junk food to sink a small boat, I was set for Round 2!

The New Pornographers (18:15)
Nothing dampens the day as much as finding yourself watching a band that you've seen enough times to know exactly what to expect from their live performances.  The only thing which made this set strikingly different from other occasions, was the noise level in which they decided to play material from their new album Together. Approaching these songs more aggressively was perhaps a strategy in trying to make up for the lack of not having Neko Case and Dan Bejar on stage to contribute their unparalleled voices to the giant wave of sound that is a New Pornographers show.  The absence of fan favorites from Mass Romantic and Electric Version was a big let down, but Carl Newman and company still managed to throw together a decent enough set to kick off the evening.

Best Coast (19:15)
Oh the risks of seeing a hype band!  One's personal expectations can sometimes be so high that you're pretty much setting yourself up to be disappointed, but Best Coast's brief and dry set didn't seem to conjure up any sort of marked emotions from the mostly watery public.  The Balearic and low-fi feel of their material seemed to be washed out in a quite standard sound and instrumentation, which choose to concentrate more on lead singer Bethany's disinterested delivery than in creating even a drop of vibrancy or variation.

Condo Fucks (20:30)
After hearing Condo Fucks' clamoring take on garage classics, I finally understood why some people actually choose to go to concerts with earplugs on.  This drenching live experience was at first hard to associate with the familiar faces on the stage, but the excellence of Ira Kaplan's ear for making the most of analog feedback effects was one of the most distinctive features of the set.  Cleverly choosing a wide array of different rhythms and approaches to a more or less straightforward genre, helped keep the mood fresh and engaging throughout this electrifying indulgence.

Beach House (21:40)
Front woman Victoria Legrand has managed to turn herself  -with only two albums worth of exquisite material- into one of the most distinctive voices and forces in indie pop.  Drawing from the 60s orchestral flairs of groups like The Zombies and Nico, this perfectly sounding translation of moody and intimate dream pop onto the big stage was one of the definite highlights of the entire festival.  Gems like "Used to Be" and "Gila" glided through with a mastery that made each rise and fall more climatic than the next. By filling in all the empty spaces of the densely packed amphitheater with the softest of nuances, Beach House demonstrated their expertise and how they have pushed themselves musically in so many ways with so little time.

The Pixies (1:15)
The idea of getting excited about a reunited band that hasn´t released any new albums for more than a decade, and that has said on numerous occasions that their reasons for touring are purely financial, may strike some as pathetic blind devotion, but when you´re talking about a force as imposing and influential as The Pixies, all preexisting ideals get thrown out the window.  Yes, Frank Blank and company may have labored through a greatest hits set and there was definitely still some visible tension in how the band members interacted with one another, but the punch and determination behind each one of the their classic songs was exactly what the crowd wanted and received.  Free from any sort of spontaneity or originality, the set list centered on keeping within the boundaries of the original recorded material but I guess we should be content with just having been witnesses to such a display of potency and drive.

Joker (2:45)
Massively thick and saturating bass, served with a dash of melodic trills, and a stale MC on the side that you tried to forget was there, were the basic elements of Joker's intensely satisfying set which included few departures away from the roaring dub-step we've come to love from this up and coming urban star.  Though the crowd may have seemed confused at times with how to react to the darker moments in his mostly upbeat performance, Joker's crafted and pronounced mixing kept most of his listeners captivated and wanting more after a set that seemed to cruse through every transition with increasing ease.

Mujeres (4:00)
This local band's take on indie punk might not have been the most innovative music of the evening, but they indubitably showed that they could enliven big crowds- who for the most part had not heard them before- with little effort.  A beaming cover of "Run Run Run" which included a barrage of audience members joining the group on stage, was a memorable end to an evening which featured very little in the way in the way of disappointment but faltered in not delivering any fresh surprises.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Primavera Sound Wrap-Up (Thursday, May 27th)

After weeks of anticipation and arguing over which bands should get the honor of being highlighted, Barcelona's Primavera Sound came off to a roaring start which included sets that won't be easily forgotten and others which reminded us of the shortfalls of the festival format.  Despite being the most crowded year to date, Primavera Sound was mostly free of the headaches that can plague a festival which has experienced such substantial growth in the past few years.  Yes, the lines to buy a beer were excruciatingly long at some points, but this predicament was offset by the excellence of this year's line-up.

Titus Andronicus (20:30)
Though mostly showcasing material from this year's The Monitor, these Jersey rockers strayed away from the cinematic touches that distinguish the album and decided to perform their material in the most straightforward and noisy way possible.  By extending the more rambunctious moments of their mammoth songs, Titus Andronicus managed to show that their sweeping flourishes aren't an exercise in presumptuousness but rather a vehicle to accentuate the grandeur of their ballads.

The Smith Westerns (21:45)
I knew these kids were young before coming in to this show, but I couldn't help but be taken aback but their amateurish pose and poorly hidden nervousness during their brief set.  The group may not have much material to work with, but their small legion of fans made up for any lack of energy that was felt on stage by providing the desperately needed spark which made the group interesting in the first place.  The grimy vocals and treblely guitars that filled their debut album were mostly washed out in their live mix and caused the simplicity of their songs to turn on them in a quite unflattering way.

Crocodiles (23:15)
While not known for their especially profound songwriting, Crocodiles seemed like a good alternative in a mostly guitar heavy night.  Using heavy kick drums and an over amplified bass to try to turn plain songs into instant crowd-pleasers, however, only works if the set features an effective balance of highs and lows, but by constantly relying on their simple rhythms, the set quite quickly became linear and not enjoyable.  Most of the crowd seemed to share my opinion in that they spent most the set chatting away or leaving halfway through. 

Pavement (1:00)
The most anticipated group of the night and possibly the entire festival brought such large crowds that it showed how much this band's stature and influence has grown in the past years.  Productively balancing favorites like "Cut Your Hair" and "Conduit of Sale!" with more restrained numbers like "Stop Breathin'"", Pavement's very presence and exuberance seemed to leave the crowd hanging on to every note with a concentration that is rare at such large venues.  Stephen Malkamus's guitar playing and vocals moved away from the sloppiness that defined their earlier material and instead seemed to focus on producing a precise effect for every moment.  Far from being a greatest hits set, the performance came off as a fresh, new statement for a band trying to define their already revered legacy. 

Delorean (2:45)
The popularity of these local heroes has grown unexpectedly in the past year thanks to their original blend of melodic pop and painfully dense electronic dance music.  At this hour, their live show came off as more of a showcase for their ability to get bodies moving rather than having a defined purpose or aesthetic.  The band should be admired for their ability to effectively reinterpret the loops that make up their songs and congeal them into a more fluid experience.

Moderat (3:30)
This Berlin based project featuring the techno powerhouses Modeselektor and Apparat, included all the positive aspects that one comes to expect from a minimal show.  Their stunning visuals and unpredictable dynamics, joyously brought the very long evening to an end that was surprisingly eventful for a Thursday night.  It may not have suited the tastes of everyone in the crowd but it certainly gave an extra boost to the few and faithful who decided to carry on dancing long into the night.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Primavera Sound and A Viva Veu: Fred i Son, Fantásico Club, May 24, 2010

This week's festival madness started on a low-key note with yesterday's intimate and modest set by Barcelona's own Fred i Son.  This three-piece group brings recollections of the days when Belle and Sebastian and other bedroom pop stars used to adhere to the philosophy of the barer, the better.  Free from the confines of any elaborate orchestration, the group made the most of their limited resources and provided the tightly packed crowd with nearly an hour's worth of gracefully pleasant amusement.  Restraining themselves from the tendency of turning acoustic sets into campfire sing-alongs, the rhythm section's keen use of brushed snares and melodic bass lines, turned what could have easily been a syrupy bore into an unexpectedly jolly start to a long week.

Fred i Son

A Viva Veu

Monday, May 17, 2010

Kira Kira - Bless

BLESS from Overture on Vimeo.

Iceland's reputation has taken quite a hit within the past few months.  First the country went bankrupt, and now we're living with the threat of having its recalcitrant volcano ruin all of our summer travels.  The musical output from this beloved island nation however, has continued to fascinate with both its diversity and high caliber artists.  Kira Kira's work blends electronically damaged vocals with ambient tones to create a visual spectacular that merges so gracefully, it becomes a new experience in itself.  Their most recent LP, Our Map to the Monster Olympics, comes off as more of an atmospheric soundtrack than a full-fledged album but remains captivating thanks to its soft fluctuations and pop sensibilities.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't Look Back #5: Beat Happening - You Turn Me On

The regression to an idealized version of childhood might be Beat Happening's most prevalent vestige in terms of developing indie's current aesthetic. But what makes You Turn Me On stand apart from the work of other twee idols is how it doesn't allow its minimal style to hinder or obscure the pure strength of its content.  Album opener "Tiger Trap" features all the ingredients of their earlier work: Calvin Johnson's baritone droning, simplistic chords, and a driving rhythm section, however the subject matter is interpreted with such earnestness and depth that it is impossible to not be taken aback by this new, more mature approach.  Instead of using the innocence of youth as a defense mechanism for a lack of maturity, every story is told with total vulnerability that requires the listener to appreciate the grace and bravery of displaying your humanity without regard to the values of the "adult" world.  Full of contrasts yet easily understood as a whole, You Turn Me On completes the journey that we all must take when we choose to define concepts as broad as life, love, and death.  Though this mission might seem like an arudous and thankless task, it's the special attention that is given to the ephemeral moments of life which makes it such a fulfilling experience.

Beat Happening - Teenage Caveman

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Primavera Mix!

How does one define a concept as broad as "excitement"? Is it that feeling of anticipation that arises when you know that something significant is going to happen? Or could it be that all these emotions are just the result of our perceptions of previous experiences?  We can imagine all we want but eventually the big moment arrives and rarely does it resemble what we had envisioned.  Big names and hype are fun but surprise is what I pay for when I go to a festival.  With Primavera Sound right around the corner, we've decided to throw together a mix of some of our favorite bands this year.  Thanks to Bateman for his contributions and enjoy.

Kids Don't Follow - Primavera Mix

Sunny Day in Glasgow - Shy
Surfer Blood - Neighborhood Riffs
Aias - La Truita
Montañas - Andrín
Built to Spill - Center of the Universe
The Pixies - Alison
Sic Alps - Message from the Law
HEALTH - Die Slow
Joker & Ginz - Purple City
Fake Blood - I Think I Like It
Major Lazer - Keep It Goin' Louder
Delorean - Simple Graces
The Big Pink - Velvet
Ganglians - Try To Understand
Best Coast - When I'm With You
Pavement -  In The Mouth of a Desert

Monday, May 3, 2010

The New Pornographers - Together

How did The New Pornographers manage to surprise me after I thought I had them all figured out?  Challengers, although it had it's share of sweeping finesse, felt like a tired effort in trying to create a new "adult" sound that ultimately resulted in stamping out all the chaotic joy that made me like this group in the first place.  The lack of innovation on A.C. Newman's solo album Get Guilty then led me to believe that he had no more songwriting tricks up his sleeve and any new material would just be a further exercise within the same used template.  It would be an exaggeration to call Together a radical departure but the album exemplifies that the band's previous indulgences in orchestral recording were not just for show but rather a step in creating a new identity.

Once known for perfectly blending syrupy, dense distortion along masterfully written power-pop, the thrills on Together come from the attention that is given in a creating distinct momentum for every track. Feedback hiss is traded for elaborate vocal harmonies and this is without a doubt, the most treblely Porno's album to date.  Thanks to the return of Kurt Dahle's more aggressive and versatile drumming, slower numbers no longer plod but keep the listener engaged with the countless shifts in melody and moon.  Dan Bejar's eccentricities are once again exploited to their full potential; like on "Daughters of Sorrows", which might awake memories of a more lush version of Destroyer's Rubies.  Any hints of staleness are completely erased once the album reaches it's majestic closer "We End Up Together" which summons all the gumption and talent of each member to create a audacious statement on how tireless resourcefulness can somehow still produce bright material despite increasing public indifference.

The New Pornographers - A Bite Out Of My Bed(dead link, sorry guys!)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Devo - Fresh

In commemoration of last week's Record Store Day, synth-pop legends Devo have given us another taste from their upcoming album Something For Everybody.  The album will be the band's first in twenty years and if this new single is any indication of things to come, we are in for quite a treat.  "Fresh" comes off as a new, more aggressive and contemporary version of the band that has already spawn numerous dance floor classics.  While incorporating the same rhythmic drive and bounce that made LCD Soundsystem's earlier material so contagious, the single retains the essential elements that made Devo stand apart from their contemporaries.  Despite their many years, the lyrics still hold a zany quality that few artists can pull off successfully without sounding overly eccentric, and each synth-line punches with a precision that carries this single into category of being one of the best dance/rock songs to be released so far this year.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Don't Look Back #4: The Mekons - Fear and Whiskey

"I went out the other night / fear and whiskey kept me going / I swore somebody held me tight / but there's just no way of knowing"

Apart from continuously seeking refuge in alcohol and living with the fear of seeing your society slowly deteriorating, The Mekon's classic album Fear and Whiskey had a lot reason to be unsure of how it could possibly fit into the punk rock scene in 1985.  The band tirelessly struggled for one long week to create a working class hybrid of country music and post-punk that incorporates instruments not commonly seen in bare bones rock, such as the fiddle and the slide guitar.  Despite country's traditionally conservative leanings, Fear and Whiskey's central themes lie in individual isolation and the feeling of helplessness that arises when abuse of power and social injustice permeate our everyday lives.  These grim topics may not sound like the adequate material for making soaring drinking anthems but its spontaneity and complete embrace of failure is what propels this album to greatness.  The fragility of each song not only makes the album unpredictable, but also allows the listener to share in the melancholy triumph of knowing, that though everything we've struggled for might be taken from us, despair is not an impediment but rather a call to arms and camaraderie.

The Mekons - Hard To Be Human Again

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Primavera Preview #6: The Almighty Defenders

Already having run their reputation of nonsensical belligerence into the ground, The Black Lips have decided to team up with King Kahn and BBQ, so as to squeeze out every last possible drop from their limited musical capabilities.  It seems that the concept of The Almighty Defenders is to put the typical Lips' track through a soul/gospel filter, which like its predecessor, can be gratifying in its best moments but often leaves us feeling disappointed or even cheated after a complete listening.  The mentality behind creating a rushed production works well if the spontaneity of the moment leads to a more direct and veracious performance, but it seems as if this incarnation is trying to disguise a lack of ambition or audacity with two-dimensional nostalgic ploys.  Still, there are plenty of knee slapping and foot stomping numbers to make the experience enjoyable enough for a limited number of listens and their live set will surely feature all the familiar buffoonish antics and drunken banter that we've come to associate with these surprisingly charming rascals.

The Almighty Defenders - Cone Of Light

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Happy Brithday - Happy Birthday (Sub Pop)

All hail Brattleboro, Vermont's latest offering of bedroom pop and teenage heartthrob, Happy Birthday.  Their Sub Pop debut, which features all the ingredients to make up a complication of 70s throwaway glam singles minus the bloated front, has been making waves within the sea of new bands that come off as nothing more than new twee with a sugary aftertaste of grunge.  Imagine what the pitiful reading of poetry by a loveless high school student might sound like accompanied alongside hyperactive guitar licks, and then you can begin to fathom what half an hour with Happy Birthday really entails.  Though ephemeral singles like "Girls FM" and "Cracked" might have originally been causes for excitement, as a whole, the LP is difficult to digest due to its uneasy shifting and departures that more often than not lead to nowhere.  Change within a song is a sure way to keep your listeners engaged but carelessly throwing in fidgety variations just for the sake of covering the monotony of an arrangement makes it easy for one to lose interest when initial expectations are so high.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Black Monday Mix

 Our holiest of weeks has come to an end and that can only mean one thing: new mix!

Black Monday
A Pots and Pans Wash Up:
1. ATV - Alternatives
2. Spacemen 3 - Transparent Radiation
3. Sonic Youth - Catholic Block
4. Suicide - Ghost Rider
5. The Fall - LA
6. The Chameleons - Monkeyland
7. The Mekons - Psycho Cupid
8. Section 25 - Looking From A Hilltop
9. Siouxie and the Banshees - Cities In Dust
10. Blank Dogs - L Machine
11. Big Black - The Model
12. Esplendor Geométrico - Moscú está helado
13. Wire - Another the Letter
14. Crocodiles - Flash of Light
15. Ciccone Youth - Into the Groove
16. The Clean - Tally Ho
17. Golpes Bajos - No mires a los ojos de la gente
18. Talking Heads - Girlfriend is Better
19. Radio Futura - Estatua del Jardín Botánica

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Don't Look Back #3: The Dukes of Strasophear - Psonic Psunspot

Rarely does a band get the opportunity to create a second self which pays homage to a genre that has not aged well with time and is only followed by a small horde of notorious collectors and enthusiasts.  XTC's notoriety however lies in their ability to rejuvenate, pull out, and congeal the best parts of what would normally an undecipherable jumble of compositions.   The Dukes of Stratosphear were a short lived experiment that produced little material but whose influence can be heard on XTC's definitive record Skylarking.  Made with practically no budget from their parent record label,  the members masked themselves under archaic pseudonyms like the Red Curtain and Lord Cornelius Plum and created near perfect hard copies of late 60s psychedelic pop.  Though intended to be marketed as a long lost compilation of the era, traces of XTC's rambling dexterity can be heard all over the band's only full-length, Psonic Psunspot.  The lively opener, "Vanishing Girl", unashamedly tips it hat to jangle bands like The Byrds and The Hollies while discovering a new quaint approach to the remaking of a primitive sounding variety.

The Dukes of Stratosphere - Vanishing Girl

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yo La Tengo (March 19, Sala Apolo)

As a band that has been consistently releasing quality records for over two decades, it would seem that Yo La Tengo might have little need to prove themselves when it comes to distinguishing their live material from that of their recorded.  A "best of" set list with perhaps a few songs off the new album would be suffice for your typical band that's now well into their forties.  But alas, Yo La Tengo has repeatedly shown us that they are not so easily pigeonholed and Friday night's performance demonstrated that though they may no longer have the need to reinvent their identity with each new release, the constant reinterpretation of their vast repertoire eliminates any notion that they're anywhere near to becoming irrelevant or outdated.

The most striking feature for those who had yet to see Yo La Tengo perform in a such intimate setting, as opposed to the more withdrawn set from last year's Primavera Sound, was the immediate sense of unpretentiousness and stoicism that all three members distinctly project to the audience.  Their many years of touring have turned them into masters of their craft but they've constantly maintained their accessible and above all else, humble origins.  The first segment of their show highlighted the standouts from 2009's Popular Songs and a clear favorite was the reconstructed and bent version of the opener "Here to Fall".  By being their most orchestral piece of recorded music, the song clearly presented a new type of challenge for a band whose reputation lies most in their low-fi style. Nonetheless lead-man Ira Kaplan's saturating use of a totally refashioned analog organ filled in any space that might have been felt in the absence of the song's original lush production.

The group wisely took advantage of their multifaceted talents by dabbling in every nook of the immense pool that is the Yo La Tengo sound.  One number might consist of no more than two acoustic guitars and the accompaniment of Georgia Hubly's fragile voice whereas another has them showing off their best brother Gibbs impression or then shatteringly performing their dense noise rock classics.  Apart from playing their own material, their shows have grown in notoriety for their eclectic selection of covers from more obscure artists.  This segment was underscored by the recent death of Mephsis legend Alex Chilton.  While his more rambunctious pieces have become staples of the power-pop genre, one of the night's true highlights was the subdued tribute paid to the Big Star favorites "Take Care" and "Thirteen".

Constantly thanking the public and unable to hide their gratification for the lively, yet at times quite raucous reception, Yo La Tengo's final number "My Little Corner of the World" epitomized what the band has successfully worked for throughout their career in generously giving their fans a serene hideaway that their music both represents and repeatedly provides.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Homemade Music for a Sunday Evening

This hastily thrown together collaboration seemed to have more technical interruptions than moments of musical inspiration and I suspect the previous night's boisterous activities might have been a contributing factor to its disheveled condition.  

1.  Los Payasos de Circo - ¿Como están ustedes?
2.  Agaric - We Are
3. Pictureplane - Goth Star
4. Neon Indian - Terminally Chill
5. Lindtrom and Prius Thomas - Boney M Down (alt. version)
6. Portishead - Cut the Tear
7. Yo La Tengo - If it's True
8. Best Coast - Sun Was High
9. Ducktails - Horizon
10. Julain Lynch - Rancher
11. Animal Collective - On A Highway
12. Washed Out - Feeling All Around
13. Atlas Sound - The Light That Failed
14. jj - Ecastasy
15. Moderat - Rusty Nails
16. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
17. Four Tet and Burial - Moth
18. Gorilaz - Orchestral Intro (Feat. Sinfonia VIVA)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pictureplane - Beyond Fantasy

"Goth Star" by Travis Edgey aka Pictureplane was one of last year's best examples of how the effective yet unrelenting looping and splicing of samples can create a dense rhythm section that still manages not to lose the essence of a song.  His latest work rips apart Baby D's cheesy ballad "Let Me Be Your Fantasy" and transforms it into a dark and desperate cry of synth-pop vitality.  Far from being profound or evasive like his earlier output, every vocal manipulation and drum break has a clear purpose in elevating this track to its euphonic finale.  Though seeming fragile in its growing hysteria, "Beyond Fantasy" manages to hold together and deliver an indulging standout.

Pictureplane - Beyond Fantasy    

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Primavera Preview #5: Scout Niblett

One's first impression of Scout Niblett might conjure up memories of grunge's heyday in the mid-nineties.  She's worked with legendary producer Steve Albini, she's known to cover "Verse Chorus Verse" live, and every review of hers can't seem to avoid mentioning PJ Harvey.  Once you get past all these surface traits though, you'll find that her albums are far more intimate than the work of these aforementioned artists.  Using the most crude and direct approach to making a guitar rock album, Niblett creates the sensation that she's not playing for a large audience, but rather that her music serves as her own form of personal therapy.  She gives her minimalist methods plenty of room to breathe and fill the arid silence between her tensely delivered passages that often allude to mysticism and classical tragedy.  Expect an obscure set with brief flashes of fiery distortion followed by intensively long periods of barren distress.

Scout Niblett - I.B.D.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cults - Go Outside

Robert Frost once said that unlike poetry or art, cults offer the promise of a great clarification and refuge from the confusion of everyday life.  A true work of art on the other hand, at first delights and then ends in wisdom, without the false comfort of empty promises.  "Go Outside" probably fits best into the former category, as it breaks out with undeniably infectious harmonies and a mammoth sound that gives both shelter and a sense of triumph.  I've been trying to find more information about these new pop minstrels but so far, there is little to be discovered regarding there history or origins.

Cults - Go Outside

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Don't Look Back #2: John Cale - Paris 1919

John Cale is perhaps one of modern music's most humble and versatile contributers.  Despite boosting an markedly comprehensive professional career resumé that includes producing The Stooges debut, Nico's best album, and taking part in the formation of some group called The Velvet Underground,  Cale's solo endeavors have often been met with a lukewarm reception due to the fact that in his case, the apple did fall very far from the tree and those expecting another reading of "The Gift" might be disappointed.

Paris 1919 doesn't dwell upon the lurid and secluded corners of the urban landscape like his former band mates did so well, but is rather a bright and classical affair with shameless references to Shakespeare and the Welsh countryside.  This indulgence in lush production is skillfully countered with Cale's softly sung and insightful lyrics which veer from gushing sentimentality to brash irony and criticism.  This somber record dynamically exhibits the work of a genuine artist exploring his creative spectrum while divulging into the themes that he openly prizes.

John Cale - Hanky Panky Nohow

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Morning Benders - Excuses

These Berkley kids have been blowing up the blogsphere with crafty blend of 60s pop and ballroom ecstasy.  This nostalgic number brings back memories of a childhood summer where everyday seemed to mix into the next and one could get lost in endless daydreaming.

The Morning Benders - Excuses

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday!

Capybara is back on the menu.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Primavera Preview #4: Condo Fucks

Those of us who have had the pleasure of seeing Yo La Tengo live in concert are often surprised how a band that is relatively low-key on record can suddenly turn into a noisy garage act on stage.  Where does this aggression come from and how come it never makes the cut onto their dreamy albums?  The answer to that is Condo Fucks.  While effortlessly shredding through covers of bands like The Small Faces and The Troggs, their work is refreshingly versatile in that you can share the enjoyment of an old playing their favorite rock staples.  It only seems fitting that a band that has already built a reputation for including numerous covers on their albums would create a completely different entity to reflect their diverse musical tastes.  Expect a short and rambunctious set, full of psychedelic nuggets.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Caribou - Odessa

Imagine you're in the middle of a dark and dense Canadian forest.  You might have taken a combination of chemicals that leave you feeling a bit vulnerable and that give your surroundings an almost mythical quality.  Your curiosity turns into introspection and the realization strikes you that there are million of possibilities that you haven't even considered yet.  You don't know where this trip is going to take you but you're sure as hell going to enjoy the ride while it lasts.  Now, imagine this experience condensed into a song and you've got the latest offering from Daniel Victor Snaith aka Caribou.    His new album is set to drop on April 19 and let's hope it can live up to the superbness of this new single.

Caribou - Odessa

Monday, February 8, 2010

Primavera Preview #3: Built to Spill

Last week's addition of Built to Spill was a shot of steroids into this year to this year's already strong line-up.  This is a band that has been consistently releasing quality albums for almost two decades while still managing to stay relevant with whatever sea change of aestheticism might hit them.  Though they may have released more accessible work since then, the best demonstration of their musical prowling and depth has been their major label debut album Perfect From Now On.  From the existential petitioning on opener "Randy Described Eternity" to the malicious bombast of "Stop the Show",  the record continually explores the limits of demolishing and then rebuilding using traditional rock instrumentation.  If music is a form of communication, then frontman Doug Martsch has developed his own language through his malleable and robust guitar texturing.  It's a record that doesn't ever sound tired or presumptuous while still coming from a place of exploration and profound doubt.  

Built to Spill - I Would Hurt a Fly

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Running with Scissors

We all like to imagine that our families have a slant of being a bit idiosyncratic or even dysfunctional which makes them distinct from everyone else's.  But somehow when we are exposed to the harsh reality of this chaotic lifestyle, we find ourselves in an uncomfortable place and we appreciate the fact that our own childhood could have been much worse.  Running with Scissors somehow manages to minimize the harrowing experience of a child being thoughtlessly neglected by a non-existent father and a mentally unstable mother.  Rather than only focusing on these disturbing circumstances, Auguesten Burroughs captures the spirit of adventure and survival through the eyes of a wandering adolescent that tirelessly tries to find humor in the most unreal of situations.  True character development is eclipsed by the author's desire to create an easy to read memoir that is at points both chilling but more often comical.  Though I was not particularly astounded by the in-elaborate prose, it would be incorrect to describe it as disappointing. This brief plunge into a turbulent family life provides more than enough grins to justify the effort. 

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't Look Back #1: The Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs

The idea of sitting through a record with sixty-nine songs all about love may seem like some sort of cruel joke or even worse, a poorly thought out concept but The Magnetic Fields have always had a gift for surprising us with their eclectic dabbling into different genres.  The music is lush and extravagant while still maintaining a wittingly dry sense of humor.  This makes the album seem like less of a chore but rather an entertaining showcase of the sixty-nine different meanings a love song could have.  A new box-set to be released this April gives this massive work the makeover it truly deserves.

The Magnetic Fields - The Luckiest Guy On The Lower East Side

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Primavera Preview #2: The Clean

What happens when you replace chunky punk guitar with a dingy new-wave organ sound?  You get The Clean.  These quirky Kiwis have been causing trouble since the late 70s and have reunited yet again, after another one of their numerous hiatuses.  Expect a set that leans more towards trashy garage pogoing than your typical "too cool for school" post-punk act.  The following video may be a bit disturbing but the song kicks serious ass:


Monday, January 25, 2010

My homeland is in my hat.

Can the arrival of the Messiah only mean disappointment for those who had expected something more? The dream of possible redemption may motivate a handful of refugees stranded far from their promise land but Michael Chabon's brilliantly crafted hero, Detective Michael Landsman, has learned the hard way that placing hope in an undefined fate is a dangerous gift discovered from within and that one is better off not to lose it. Using the typical crime genre plot as a blueprint, Chabon constructs a perplexing alternate reality where Jews now occupy the icy metropolis of Sitka, Alaska. Hustling weapons for the next possible resistance or flooding the streets with cheap heroin alongside your Hasidic brotherhood must now fall within the boundaries of the Talmudic law. Rabbis are kingpins and an entire people know that they're desolate time on this planet is running out (thanks to their not so accommodating southern neighbors). Within these dreary circumstances, a murder is waiting to be solved by our neglectfully erratic detective. Questions of Jewish identity are thoughtfully embedded throughout this comical take on the mystery novel. Yes, it has its share of cliches(surprise informants, family revenge, and an out-of-place partner), but every twist is so masterfully blended into this murky yet somehow recognizable imagery that it comes out like the first drag of a cigarette, chokingly thick but still incredibly enjoyable. Chabon's sharp eye for detail and wordplay make The Yiddish Policemen's Union one of the best reads I've had in recent memory and news of a possible Cohen brothers adaptation is definitely something to get excited about.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Primavera Preview #1: Wild Beasts

Get the sunscreen out and call your dealer because it's festival season!  Yes, I know Primavera Sound is still four months away but its line up just keeps on getting more exciting and a little bit of pre-festival hype never hurt anybody.  With the announcement of Pavement playing their first European show in over a decade followed by a barrage of other top acts, Primavera Sound has effectively marketed themselves as one of the "best bang for buck" festivals in Europe(look out Glastonbury).  Here at Kids Don't Follow, we'll be featuring one new band or artist from the line up every week to help you make an informed decision once it becomes to time to pull out the highlighters and hopelessly try to plan your festival schedule.

This week's featured band is Wild Beasts.  Bryan Ferryesque crooning within Remain in Light style afro-jam sessions sounds like an unpleasant or possibly not very well thought out combination of genres.  Like a lost child aimlessly wandering through the mall, the songs from Wild Beasts at first cautiously approach their many possible choices.  But once something new and appealing is found to draw their momentary attention, who knows where they might end up.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One Night In

A tense anticipation fills the air as two restless souls hover over the warm glowing light before them.  Can these two impeccable egos fit onto one mix tape?  Only the bitterly cold night of the city can tell where this pair of beatnik bottom-feeders might end up.

"One Night In"

The Small Faces - Itchycoo Park
The Soup Dragons - Softy
Elliott Smith - Sweet Adeline
Sondre Lerche - Two Way Monologue
The Db's - The Fight
The Shins - Eating Styes From Elephant Eyes
X-Ray Spex - Let's Submerge
Bratmobile - Gimme Brains
The Cramps - Bikini Girls With Machine Guns
Television Personalities - She Can Stop Traffic
The Replacements - I Bought A Headache
Triangulo De Amor Bizarro - Isa vs El Partido Humanista(Demo Version)
Delorean - Seasun (John Talabot's Kids & Drums Remix)
Animal Collective - Bluish
Belle and Sebastian - Legal Man
Blur - Chemical World

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dovers - What Am I Going To Do

One of the standout tracks from last year's Logos by Atlas Sound was the peppy pop number "Walkabout" featuring some dude called Noah Lennox.  I came across the original sample for this song while revisiting the always satisfying Nuggets series this morning.  The Dovers may have not released much in their day but their serve up just the right type 60s jangle to get me up and moving during this endless cold snap.

The Dovers - What Am I Going To Do

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Serious Man

The Cohen brothers have struck gold yet again.  Their latest masterpiece has them gently blurring the lines between sharp social satire and the bottomless abyss of personal isolation.  Not since Barton Fink, have the Cohen brothers drenched a film with such profound metaphors regarding religion, morality, and the exasperation of the human condition.   The banality of spiritual bureaucracy is exposed with such a piercing focus that one can't help but empathize with the hero's futile search for answers.  Each interaction with the film's marvelously constructed characters represents another obstacle in this Kafka-like pursuit for the undefinable.  Does our hero finally find relief or was this all just preparation for the inevitable?  

We will never forget

The Golden toad used to live the cloud-covered jungles of Costa Rica and was known for it's flashy color and unusual mating habits. This mae hasn't been seen since 1989 and it's probable extinction has been linked to global warming.

Can You Get to That

I've never been big on funk.  Yes there are a couple of standout artists that have made some timeless ablums(Sly, Curtis, etc.) but the genre just doesn't seem that pertinent to today's scene.  Every once and awhile you come across an old track that leaps out to you and makes you reconsider it's value.  Funkadelic has provided us with countless classics and George Clinton is now practically a living legend.  "Can You Get to That" is off their remarkable 1971 album Maggot Brain and this gospel-style piece fits perfectly between the album's numerous giant funk grooves.  Profound, catchy, and bold.  Can you get to that?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Portishead take on kraut-rock

Portishead have released a new single to benefit Amnesty International and it kills!  It's built around a simple analog beat that comes straight from the likes of Neu! and Suicide.  I don't dare say that Portishead just made an electro dance hit but the end of this slow builder takes the band to brighter places that were completely absent from Third.

Portishead - Chase the tear

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bolshevik Mix

Kids Don't Follow proudly presents it's first mix of revolutionary anthems.  Worthy sympathizers may download this compilation at the link below:

Track list:

The Feelies - Raised eyebrows
Surfer Blood - Swim
Harbinger Complex - I think I'm down
XTC - Generals and majors
Ida Maria - O my god
The Modern Lovers - Someone I care about
The Soft Boys - You'll have to go sideways
The Bicycles - Longjohns and toques
Flame - Big wheel turning
Minutemen - Corona
Bauhaus - Third Uncle
Young Marble Giants - N.I.T.A.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

B is for Beetle Juice

What makes Beetle Juice work so well is how Tim Burton was able to transform the plain world of small-town America into brilliantly erratic models using simple stop-motion photography. The humor hasn't lost it's edge with time and this bizarre scene is one of my favorite moments from the film.

A is for albatross

These long distance flyers have the unusual ability to both sleep and fly at the same time.  It's not rare for some types of albatrosses to cross the entire globe in one breeding cycle.  Stay tuned for more fun and useless facts!

Favorite Albums of 2009

After being mercilessly bombarded by two rounds of "best of" lists(first for the year and then for the decade), I've finally arrived to the conclusion that my impartial opinion also deserves to be thrown into the bottomless pit of music blogging and never-ending juvenile commentary. After a frantic week of downloading and finally getting a chance to listen to a couple of missed gems, my favorite full-lengths of 2009 are here. I've gratefully tried to spare the reader from any longwinded sentimental discussions about what the noughties really represented or why I still bother buying vinyl.  Each album title has got a youtube behind it, enjoy!

10. The Antlers - Hospice
This record is not an easy listen by any means. Hospice feels long and its songs divulge into lighthearted themes ranging from agony to regret to surrender. Its sweeping transitions from soothing pianos to frenzied noise are not meant to energize the listener but rather place them in an confined state of mine. What it does contain however is an intensive character study about two lovers living through a desperate and incurable illness that can only mean frustration and pain for the survivor. The accompaniment is rightfully menacing for the context but as these Brooklyn newbies wondrously demonstrate on the closer "Epilogue", the awakening and rebirth that comes from loss can be as blissful and transformative as the trauma itself.

9. The Flaming Lips - Embryonic
The Lips seem to have finally arrived to the conclusion that the jubilant orchestral pop formula that made Yoshimi and The Soft Bulletin so great has reached its saturation point. After the deep disappointment of At War with the Mystics, I began to wonder if the band's best days were behind them. I mean, how many comebacks can one group really pull off? What they delivered though with Embryonic is an audacious and consistent group of songs which leave you feeling overwhelmed but also deeply satisfied with the experienced you just endured. It may contain some of the same pacing issues that plagued Mystics or lack the one-two pop punches that filled their earlier work but each song is meticulously constructed and demonstrates that this band has yet to lose their avidity to take risks.

8. Hyperdub - 5: Five years of Hyperdub
Dubstep isn't a genre that's known for its particularly rich albums. What I've come to expect from it are brilliantly textured singles that fill the room with soul drenching bass and immense mantra like hooks. The label behind a large number the genre's both emerging and established artists has been Hyperdub, and they've compiled an excellent collection of highlights to commemorate their 5th anniversary. The tempo on a few tracks is at times a bit too slow for any real type dancing but what 5 is trying to do is present a balance between urban music that's meant to be listened to on headphones in a dark, empty apartment and raunchy anthems that get a crowd all sweaty deep into the night.

7. Phoenix – Wolfgang Armadeus Phoenix
With Wolfgang Armadeus, these dressed to the teeth Frenchies finally released the great album that their fans always knew they were capable of producing. Lead vocalist Thomas Mars's phrasing has grown increasingly confident and the album's tight rhythm section has allowed him to spawn two unforgettable melodic singles with “1901” and “Lisztomania”. Yes, his lyrics are as nonsensical as ever but they are now sung with more conviction and eagerness than the album's predecessor. Perhaps the best example of this new gravitation to substance over style can be found on the closer “Armistice”.  More attention is now being given to creating a proper buildup to the song's euphoric ending as opposed to the jittery inclinations of the band's earlier work. This relentless and perfectionist work ethic of the clean and simple pop-rock song has now paid off for them and they've given us an album that doesn't seem to ever feel stale or cliché.

6. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
One's first impression of this group may lead some to believe that these Brooklyners are just another gang of noise pop revivalists who are taking advantage of the latest trend setter sweet tooth. But behind all the Jesus and Mary Chain comparisons, there is an extraordinarily rich collection of wistful shoe gazer indulgence. Lyrically this debut album is pretty damn somber but it manages to squeeze in just the right amount of irony without coming off as artificial or presumptuous. Each chorus grows more and more infectious 
with every listen while also featuring a sharp ear for concentrated adolescent angst.

5. The Very Best - Warm Heart of Africa
Last year's mix-tape from this collaboration between DJ/producer Radioclit and Esau Mwamwaya was such an uplifting and energetic breath of fresh air in a year full of new afropop dance groups, that I doubted the pair would be able to reproduce this same exuberance onto a full-length. Thankfully, Warm Heart did not disappoint my lofty expectations but rather presents us with a young artist trying to define his sound while not be afraid to dabble into different genres. Standouts include the incredibly catchy title track and “Julia”, which features yet another stellar guest appearance from the ever present M.I.A. Let's just hope that this duo doesn't stop improving upon their winning mixture of diverse rhythms and rejoicing vocals.

4. Woods – Songs of Shame
At times it seems that minimally produced campfire folk has experimented with every possible combination of instrumentation and texture that the genre is running risk of running out of options to pull from its big bag of tricks. But Songs of Shame immediately strikes you because of it's odd balance of eerie tone contrasted with vocalist Jeremy Earl's shrill yet dampened vocals. The fragile and authentically heartwarming lyrics on personal favorite “Number” are so perfectly modest and caring that one can't help but appreciate the fact that simple authenticity hasn't gotten old. This idealistic stance becomes most clear on their subtlety despondent version of Graham Nash's “Military Madness” whose chugging melody and wistful message sound as pertinent now as when it was first written. Apart from being full short folk gems, the album dedicates nearly ten minutes on “September with Pete” to spotlight the group's psychadelic jamming roots. These noisy moments of tape effects and blaring guitars have also made them one of this year's best live acts.

3. Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
There are so many possible comparisons that can be made with Natasha Kahn that at times she seems like more of a hip chameleon than a true creative force. Her previous album Fur and Gold left me with the feeling that although she was obviously talented in terms of voice and presence, her disunited vision would prevent her from ever releasing a solid album. Two Suns continues her tradition of using past and present female stars like Björk and Stevie Nicks as reference points, but now she pulls off her act so flawlessly that originality is no longer an issue. The killer single “Daniel” hits you like a 21st century “Rhiannon” with a cheezy disco beat that is so contagiously catchy that one can't help but idiotically sing along to it after just a few listens. The album also benefits from excellent pacing and density that keeps it sounding experimental yet strangely familiar. Emotional powerhouse “Siren Song” at first appears to be yet another homage to the likes of Tori Amos or Kate Bush but it's dark electronic finale takes this hybrid to exhilarating new places that are as seductive as they are exhausting.

2. The Smith Westerns – The Smith Westerns
The first time I heard The Smith Westerns, I was blown away by how they could make such a colossal sound with only the most basic garage setup. Every chord change is monumental and the album has 70s glam written all over it. While T.Rex's lyrics may have had a bit of a spiritual slant, these Chicago teenagers always stick to the same subject, girls. The songs may be sappy at times but it's the simplicity of everything that makes it so easy to fall with The Smith Westerns. The sound is crude and the lyrics often intelligible but at least this group is willing to wear their hearts on their sleeves and have a bit of fun all at the same time.

1. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
What I've always respected and loved about my favorite musicians is discovering and appreciating the path they took to reach their creative apex. Every highlight or misstep has it's own explanation and the evolution that Animal Collective have undergone to reach this point in their career has without a doubt been one of the most rewarding experiences of recent memory.  From the first time I saw them perform Feels to their last stop here in the summer, the band has never failed to impress me with their uncompromising desire to test pop music's boundaries. There's no way I could have imagined back in 2005 that they would be able to release such a harmonically memorable album with Meriweather. The sounds are as equally perplexing as before but the atmosphere they've created is some how now more plush and reassuring. The themes of each song are familiar and presented in a such a direct, humble manner that you can't help finding a bit of sanctuary in them.