Reviews
RECORD REVIEW: TEEN DAZE - ALL OF US TOGETHER
Reviews
Thursday, 27 September 2012 00:00
 

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Lefse

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Since mid 2010 Teen Daze has been prolifically releasing EPs and singles over the web, leading up to his debut LP, Four More Years. He released this through Arcade Sound in 2010 as a 'bedroom producer', and was immediately impressive as he had honed his craft, amassing a good following while developing his style. My Bedroom Floor was self released in the same year along with the EP Beach Dreams. Last year saw four more releases and this year Teen Daze has self released a tour EP, and the accomplished album All Of Us Together, which is the topic of this review. November 6 will see the release of his next album, yep that's two this year, The Inner Mansions, also through Lefse. Tracks from this album are out already, one featuring Frankie Rose ('Union'), and another titled 'New Life'. He will have probably recorded another EP by the time you have finished reading this. Hailing from Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canada, Teen Daze has developed his songwriting, with laid back rhythms and atmosphere which have pushed through to the top of very crowded but beautiful genre, which goes by so many names it has become hard to take seriously. Chillwave. Glo-fi. Dream-pop. Synth Pop. Whatever, if it is done right, and with care, you can call it whatever you want. Teen Daze excells at his art.

Teen Daze has refined his audio mastery working on many remixes for the likes of  Bon Iver, White Arrows, and Californian artist Coral to name a few. Brothertiger has returned the favour with his Teen Daze 'Brooklyn Sunburn' remix, all of this as well as performing the new material around the clubs has helped keep things fresh. Having a ready made audience to test your new beats on, each night via the dancefloor has its advantages.

"I played a lot of this material on tour last year, and there's a connection to that element, it's all become very dear to me", he has said of the album, "There are countless reasons on why a person would create something; my reason is bring people together, to let them know that they're not alone". That feeling of being part of a collective, sharing a common experience is very powerful, as you would know if you have ever been part of a crowd under the spell of a DJ maestro who knows how to build the levels and drop it down, only to crank it up to 1000 in a heartbeat. It's a powerful feeling, and it's very primal at its centre. Teen Daze has a bright future and we are only seeing the beginning.

'Treten' opens things up here, and conveys the feeling of wide open spaces with a drive that permeates the whole LP. At seven minutes in length it's given time to explore, as it ebbs and flows gently opening up the tone of the next 45 minutes. 'Cold Sand' is all glittery, shiny, and retro with its drum-machine and lo-bite synths. Fuzzy VHS images spring to mind upon hearing this track. 'For Body And Kenzie' is drenched in reverb and has a beautiful buildup after an extended intro soft as a sunrise. Halfway through stabbing synths take over with percussion added to the mix to make a standout track on the album.

'The New Balearic' is soft and dreamy, with synths twinkling, while  'Brooklyn Sunburn' (with vocals by Steph 'Stefaloo' Thompson) and 'Erbstuck' are made for clubs. In the penultimate track, 'The Future' vocals make a rare appearance, be it distant and vague. 'Hold' is gorgeous with the hypnotic keylines, short and understated it's a nice way to complete the Teen Daze journey. 

Teen Daze has said "(He) came upon an old book at a thrift store called 'Utopian Visions', an encyclopedic volume of different views on what utopia might look like, which became a huge inspiration. Especially when considering the future of our world as it actually unfolds. We're becoming more and more self-reliant, more and more separated from our communities. I wanted to make a record that sounded more synthetic but also inviting - this is futuristic music with a heart." All Of Us Together therefore makes sense as the album title, evoking a communal feeling, be it in a club or a bunch of friends travelling down a highway at night, music brings people together and this is what Teen Daze is striving for.

Dave Roberts - September 26, 2012

 

Brooklyn Sunburn

Teen Daze (CAN)
From the album, 'All Of Us Together', Lefse

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RECORD REVIEW: WILD NOTHING - NOCTURNE
Reviews
Monday, 24 September 2012 01:50
 

Captured Tracks

Wild Nothing Facebook

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When Jack Tatum released the EP, Golden Haze in 2010, which sported its to-die-for title track, the direction of his Wild Nothing project was clear. Gone was the less than perfect production values of his promising and impressive debut album, Gemini, to be replaced with a dream-like sheen that sat beautifully underneath his gorgeous take on pop music. On his second album, the stunning Nocturne, Tatum has continued the move towards carefully cultivated pop perfection. The attention to detail in each track is clear as Wild Nothing mine the rich pop gold of the past and embellish it with a musical intelligence and respectful gloss that renders the familiar new in every sense. Anybody who thinks there's nothing fresh and vital here simply doesn't get independent pop music.

All eleven tracks are resplendently better for their additions and Tatum's vision is brought to the fore by Nicolas Vernhes meticulous production. More importantly every instrument is afforded a standout role. Wild Nothing, while Tatum's baby, is a band in every sense. The determination to democratise the sum of Nocturne's parts makes the album an intriguing listen in virtuosity. The rhythm section exudes a exceedindly warm bass sound coupled together with intuitively employed drum work. Melodically speaking, the intricate and intelligent guitar work and the lushful embrace of keyboards together with carefully chosen reverb laden production embellishments is not only intriguing, but makes for an incredibly addictive listen from beginning to end. And make no mistake, Tatum is a pop medium; he gifts us his blissful homage to pop history at every turn. It's almost as if he thinks the genre needs far more respect than it's afforded. He recoils from attention in a personal sense while at the same time putting his love for pop up in lights.

First single, 'Shadow' with its familiar guitar melody is finished off with lush, dramatic orchestration and the title track winds its way through you with its five minutes with splendidly intelligent guitar work. Lyrically, Tatum appropriately repeats the  mantra, "Ooh, you can have me", in the chorus and while we know he's on about love and relationships, its as if he really is giving his all for the listener. And such generosity pervades the whole record. The slow beat that is put up against the faster paced vocal and music on the contemplative 'Through The Grass' is a songwriting masterstroke while the woozy four to the floor 'Only Heather', with its flute like keys and guitar licks stoke the flames of pop genius.

The almost funk like nature of the bass that together with the engulfing nature of the three chord key structure that is the base of the the deceptively laconic, 'Paradise' is yet another example of Tatum's genius. The loose yet taut guitar lick tops it off nicely. The hypnotic nature of the track fits its title and lyrical nature perfectly, "dancer in the night, playing with my eyes". 'Disappear Always' has a rhythm and guitar hook to die for. 'Counting Days' ebbs and flows beautifully. The driving bass and big drum sound of the urgent 'The Blue Dress' sparks instant comparisons to the The Cure c1989 Disintegration but without the downbeat aura. But here Tatum again gives us far more than a mimicry of that with the employment of long winding guitar melody that complements things nicely.

Nocturne is an outstanding listen from start to finish. Tatum has achieved a remarkable consistency not only with the attention to detail in each track in a songwriting and production sense but in the seamless way the record hangs together. Great pop albums tend to be over before you know it and so it is with Nocturne. There's no weak spots here. Tatum has triumphed in very sense, bringing his respect for the purity of pop to the fore. While it has a great deal of competition, Nocturne could just be the album of 2012.

James Stocker - September 24, 2012.

 

Paradise

Wild Nothing (USA)
From the album, 'Nocturne', Captured Tracks.

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RECORD REVIEW: ARIEL PINK'S HAUNTED GRAFFITI - MATURE THEMES
Reviews
Friday, 14 September 2012 02:29
 

4AD

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The polarisation that characterises the reviews of Mature Themes, the new album by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, is not surprising. Pink is an artist people seem to either love and get, love and don't need to get, or just don't get and dismiss with often quite nasty distain from their narrow corner of the world. More on the latter later. Thankfully, this reviewer sits with a foot in each of the former and as with Before Today, which this website rated the best album of 2010, the indie AM pop troubador has once again assembled an uber-talented array of music afficionados around him to produce an album that will both delight and confound.

Once he was able to get out of the basement and into the world and enlist the assistance of the likes Tim Koh, Kenny Gilmore, Cole Greif Neil, Jimi Hey and Aaron Sperske, for Pink the release of the exquisite 'Can't Hear My Eyes' as a single in 2008 on Mexican Summer was indicative of what was to come. Only interesting songwriters with something profound to offer are able to assemble talented like minded people around them and there is no way Pink would have been able to attract the aforementioned luminaries, who are not just studio musicians, but actually contribute greatly to the process, if he was simply an inconsistent flake.

What Pink has been able to do with Before Today and now with Mature Themes is give long standing and new ideas the flavour of virtuosity. The tracks that make up Mature Themes are forever restless and unpredictable and don't conform to traditional elements of time found in pop music, witness 'Early Birds of Babylon'. Forever the pop deconstructionist, Pink and his ensemble consistently blur and stretch the lines of the absurd and play tongue and cheek on the edge of conformity without ever wanting to go there. There's a deliberate intention to stay well out of convention's way, even to sneer at it at times and Mature Themes is much better off for it.

Lyrically, things are as strange as ever but are indicative that far from having all the answers, Pink's mind seems genuinely forever in a state of flux. On the superbly neurotic 'Kinski Assassin' he namedrops Athens and Paris with double agents and angels, talks about getting shot in the chest and wearing bullet proof vests, hypnotists, masochists, jacuzzi wads that will fondle your arse, suicide dumplings and testicle bombs. What the...? But what is telling is the line 'Who sunk my battleship, I sunk my battleship' suggesting that Pink is a much more durable entity these days and if anybody is going to bring him down, he'll do it himself.

Further evidence of Pink's search for making sense of his world surfaces on the relationships based title track. Here he is brutally honest that although he wants things to be good, talks about devotion to thee and promises to be true, he simply isn't able to; "truth is shameful and vile and I'm not real", "I don't care about you". He finishes lamenting his vertically challenged frame; "I wish I was taller than  5"4, 35 years of my life spent computing it all".

But in the end it is what's contained in the party ode 'Live It Up' that gives a clue as to what Pink actually wants, "gotta find my destination...meet you down at the bright spot, 24 on the dot you know, baby tell me is this the right spot or not, let's go yeah, gonna live it up all night long".

Musically,  Mature Themes is a wonderous listen with its blissful twists and turns, hooks and licks. The space like spaghetti western bass lines of 'Driftwood', the kaleidoscopic nature of "Is This The Best Spot", the disciplined title track and the salacious Byrdsian, 'Only In My Dreams' sport some of their best work. The deadpan and wholly weird 'Symphony of the Nymph' contains nods to Pink's lo-fi past, which really never departs the room at any point on the album. 'Pink Slime' is a joyously jaunty ride while 'Farewell American Primitive' glistens with its sunny keys despite its caustic criticism of modern mainstream money driven America.

The quotes penned by critics than pan Mature Themes are telling in their intellectual laziness and display their overall cerebral shortcomings when it comes to commenting on multifarious independent cultures that don't need to be understood. Lines like "a band and songwriter that don't really care, so why should we", "a celebration, rather than an analysis, of several species of awfulness" and my favourite, from the 'pretend we know what independent means' Slant Magazine; "another tiring exercise from an artist who may never tire of releasing such profoundly hideous messes" suggest a complete misunderstanding or total lack of awareness of Pink's career or life in general existing outside artificially constructed commercial norms.

He has never been "a man without a scene", because there is no scene, nor has he ever cared for supposed scenes created by the artificial side of the commercial music industry. But make no mistake, he has always been 'a full tilt radical' and those who suggest that he has "nothing to rebel against" are again living a sub-conscious nightmare world where an intensely unheathy respect for a hideous, monolithic mainstream culture seems to be their lot in life. Mature Themes suggests that Pink may be still trying to work it all out but all the while he does, people on board with what he's doing are in for one unpredictable and thrilling ride.

James Stocker - September 14, 2012

 

Only In My Dreams

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti (USA)
From the forthcoming album, 'Mature Themes', 4AD

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RECORD REVIEW: TWIN SHADOW - CONFESS
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Tuesday, 11 September 2012 07:47
 

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4AD

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Ever since George Lewis Jnr. burst onto the indie music scene in 2009 in his unique and unquiet way, with the brilliant debut Forget, those in the know have been hanging out for the follow up. Definitely not shy of a camera, Twin Shadow's persona is a bolt from the 80s, with the songs from Forget among the best of the modern day take from that era which pervades so much of the music we hear today. That new wave atmosphere on Forget hit the mark every time on tracks like 'I Can't Wait', 'Tyrant Destroyed' and the legendary 'Slow', and while it is all still present here on his album number two, more of the man himself has shone through with his razor sharp songwriting ability and production.

A close call in a motorcycle accident was the spark for his new LP, as he has said with his trademark eloquence via his blog; "One Winter I crashed my motorcycle, with a friend on the back. I shouldn't have been riding that day, but I was young and fearless of the black roads, fast and easy in my ways. As the bike slipped from under us my head filled with words. The slow motion moments of calm just after surprise and just before regret are bliss"...George certainly has a way with words. The man and his motorbike (I'm guessing not the same one) are front and centre in the video (which you can check out below) for the lead single 'Five Seconds'. This was offered as a free download, and is a highlight of the album. It clearly marks a difference from all the tracks found on Forget, being much grungier, grittier, edgier. A feeling that continues across the entire LP, one which Twin Shadow meticulously produced himself.

"Some people say you're the golden light / the golden light / and if I chase after you / doesn't mean that it's true", so begins his new album with the opener, 'Golden Light'. This track is cutting and immediate, and well placed, one that will stick with you well after the ten songs have faded away. When Twin Shadow sings "I don't give a damn about your dreams / A whole world that is falling at the seams" on 'You Call Me On', full of kick drums and harsh guitar, his vocals are regretful and pained. There was nothing like this on Forget. 'The One' brings things down in tone somewhat, with more simplified instrumentation, 'Beg for The Night' has a staccato sounding intro and a repeated sample of a gun cocking followed up by pure 80s synth, which though sounding like it shouldn't, does work, and works well.

'Patient' sees Lewis crooning on about a no strings attached fling, and sounds at times almost like vintage Prince. The musical tangent mid song is just great. 'When The Movie's Over'..."I'll cry / I'll cry / when the movie's over", is maybe the most 'Forget'-like song found on Confess, but again darker and creepier. 'I Don't Care' is a darker R & B styled affair, about a morally bankrupt woman, full of his perfectionist production values, 'Be Mine Tonight' closes the LP, with an echoed guitar effect punctuating the solemn song making this a good choice as closer.

Love gets a full workout, put through the wringer and spat out on Confess. It's the corrupted jaded older cousin to Forget, and again shows the deeply personal nature of Lewis's work, stripped bare for all to see on his vinyl. While he is a showman, a man of many hair-styles and self indulgences, he has a pureness, bravado and confidence that is hard to dislike. Can't wait for the next Twin Shadow offering.

Dave Roberts - September 11, 2012

 

Five Seconds

Twin Shadow (USA)
From the album, 'Confess', 4AD

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Live at Grasslands, Brooklyn

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RECORD REVIEW: DIIV - OSHIN
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Friday, 07 September 2012 00:00
 

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Captured Tracks

DIIV Facebook

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Indie music Mecca Brooklyn will go down as one of those special places, a place that has fostered a cultural niche throughout a certain period of history. Part of all this comes DIIV, (say "dive"), the four piece project of Beach House guitarist Zachary Cole Smith. It all began, as these days is often the case, from Smiths' apartment in Brooklyn. Working solo he recorded the tracks 'Sometime' and 'Human' as demos which were released on 7 inch after being picked up by label Captured Tracks. Both have made it onto the album. Joining him after a name change (his band began life as 'Dive' but was changed out of respect for Belgian industrial rock artist Dirk Ivens whose solo project from the early 90s went by the same name), came Devin Ruben Perez (bass), Colby Hewitt (drums) and Andrew Bailey (guitar). All have impressed with their debut LP Oshin (say "ocean"), an album which varies its sound and influences but comes together as a cohesive whole, and is heavy on melodies, atmosphere and heart. 

But the guitars are the major feature on Oshin, smothered in reverb and watery haze, as are the vocals of Smith. The 80s are present with sounds recalling legends The Cure and The Smiths at times, but a main presence is Krautrock across the thirteen tracks, which are deep with compositional intelligence far beyond many of their 'dream-pop' guitar based contemporaries. All this is evident from the opening instrumental track '(Druun)' with its driving beat and bass line that loops under the complex guitar, over too quickly at a mere two minutes, making way for 'Past Lives' where the gauzy vocals are introduced, setting the tone for the rest of the LP. 

'Human' has lyrics which are so blurred it's pretty much impossible to make out a word, but never mind, they are really just another element in the mix with the rolling up and down motion of the brilliant guitar lines that flow through the track. 'Air Conditioning' has a simple bass riff joined by more melodic guitar that spans the whole thing, complex and highlighting the skill of  this band. It's the longest song at four and a half minutes and contains minimal singing. 'How Long Have You Known?' is an obvious standout, immediately catchy and original, yet familiar. Full of layers showcasing the impressive arrangements, the chorus sticks with you long after it's over, "how long have you known / how long have you shown it? / Forever Forever". It ebbs and flows with music mimicking the vocal lines of Smith, it's just a gorgeous track. 

Although in an interview Smith has said the name of the band is unimportant ("I don't really give a fuck what the band is called") the titles DIIV (dive) and Oshin (ocean) fit perfectly as the whole LP has a feeling of immersion, like hearing music while underwater, barely coming up for air.  'Sometimes' is full of beautiful guitar hooks and again vocals that sound like they are wafting in on a warm summer breeze, from somewhere you want to be. 

Rounding things off on Oshin is 'Home', beginning with a gentle and golden intro as Smith comes in with "You'll never have a home / you'll never have a home / you'll never have a home / until you go home". This final track is a perfect way to complete the album, a gentle come down, feeling like you have broken the water's surface, taken deep lungfulls of fresh, unpolluted oxygen, and leaving you feeling invigorated. This sums up all of Oshin, it leaves you with a good feeling, and it's over all too soon. 

Dave Roberts - September 7, 2012

 

How Long Have You Known?

DIIV (USA)
From the album, 'Oshin', Captured Tracks

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RECORD REVIEW: ETERNAL SUMMERS - CORRECT BEHAVIOR
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Saturday, 01 September 2012 00:00
 

Kanine

Eternal Summers Facebook

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Since their inception in 2008 Virginia indie post pop/punk trio Eternal Summers have been railing constantly against the stifling straightjacket of authority, and no, they're not talking about the exactly the same kind of authority that has led to the shameful treatment of Pussy Riot in Russia. That's more overt and in your face, although just try protesting in the western world right now... Outwardly demonstrable dictatorships are plain to see and don't hide their aim in crushing both the individual and collective spirit. The elites that run more clever versions though, like the democratic fallacies in the 'West' largely destroyed the collective spirit decades ago and through their control of the mass media have been trying to 'kettle' all individual expression that doesn't fit in with making money for them ever since.

While Band founders Nicole Yun and Daniel Cundiff have never been overtly intellectual in their social or personal criticisms, they quite clearly are on a different path to where the powers that be want them be. They belong to a musical collective, the Magic Twig Community in Roanoke, a community that supports each other and shares instruments among other things. Reading the simple, repetitive lyrics on their aptly titled new album Correct Behavior and you get the impression that the authority they elude to is more about that which people put upon themselves. However, extrapolating this outward is easy in the current environment. People don't limit themselves in a bubble. The insidious, almost subliminal in kind, narrow corporate dominated cultural authority that envelops society without most in it even knowing, a world where financial elites act with impunity and the poor suffer is the social and political backdrop to Eternal Summers' career. There is strength in numbers then.

Sound wise, Correct Behavior is a breakout album for now trio, having added Jonathan Woods on bass. While the lo-fi DIY sound and anti-authoritarian streak of past releases, the full length collection of singles, Silver, with its opening track 'Disciplinarian' and last years EP Prisoner, with its song titles like 'Cog' is still bubbling beneath the surface, this is a more lush and expansive, better recorded album softens the edges but not the centre, which is as visceral as ever. And while that may be a bad thing for some people, Eternal Summers lose nothing from going in that direction. In fact, the improved virtuosity on show here only renders things more powerful.

Opening track 'Millions', the best on the album, is a perfect example of this. Lyrically sparse at just  five lines, it speaks volumes in its brevity with its understanding of the need to break free. Musically, it positively sparkles with Yun's delay driven guitar work and exquisite differentiated vocals as well as Cundiff's big yet disciplined drum work. Immediately, you can feel the benefits of the addition of Woods's bass work.

Other standout's include, 'Wonder', which invokes the alienated feeling of standing out (or in) from the crowd in your youth. 'You Kill' begins with a tortured high note driven riff before settlin down and delivering a pop based vibe. The sassy sounding, yet lyrically sad Cundiff sung 'Girls In The City' with its menacing, nihilistic guitar and punk derived bass and drum approach is a welcome change up and perfect start to side two. 'Heaven And Hell' within the context of the whole album is almost brutish at its beginning before Yun's vocals sweetly intervene. The opposites definitely attract here.

With Correct Behavior, Eternal Summers, along with PS I Love You, DIIV and others have taken the mixture or pop and rock to another level again. That's not to say what they are doing is groundbreaking or necessarily vital, for their influences are plain to see. Name dropping Metallica, Black Sabbath with The Cure and Radio Dept. in their credits without wincing once is where today is at musically. The many independent minds of Generation Y and indeed the intersection of Gen X don't really care for clear delineations when it comes to genres and Eternal Summers with their aforementioned distaste for putting individuals in boxes in a lyrical sense clearly mirror that attitude musically. And because of it, they take us on an unashamedly enjoyable ride.

James Stocker - August 31, 2012

 

Wonder

Eternal Summers (USA)
From the album, 'Correct Behavior', Kanine.

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Millions

Eternal Summers (USA)
From the album, Correct Behavior', Kanine.

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RECORD REVIEW: PURITY RING - SHRINES
Reviews
Wednesday, 29 August 2012 00:00
 

Last Gang Records/4AD

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As their plethora of singles and b-sides released over 2011 and this year suggested, the debut album from Canadian duo Purity Ring, Shrines, was always going to be A musical highlight of 2012. Why? Because it is unmistakably now in its approach and delivery, has a definite vision and sounds like nothing else in its taut, cohesive delivery of an otherworldly combination of dark synth driven pop sliced up with elements of hip-hop and R & B delivered WITH stuttering beats that are ever shifting into directions unseen, gorgeous vocals that give lie to the wrenching subject matter and pitch used on those vocals to massive, lasting effect. There's no suprise then, that over that journey, three of these ten tracks have been number 1 on this website's chart.

Edmonton natives Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (music) are 21st century laptop collaborators. Distance becomes irrelevant, that little matter of 1300km between them (Halifax and Montreal respectively) in actuality is an advantage and you can hear that on Shrines. Roddick sends James the music and she fires back her vocal and lyrical interpretation. It's quite clear that both feed ofF each other. James's world of on the surface vulnerable but in reality extremely powerful protagonists seeking to control all before them is perfectly coupled by Roddick's fantastical, yet deeply unsettling and foreboding arrangements. In an recent interview with berlinbeat, Roddick stated, "I’ll write the track and show it to Megan and she’ll send it back with like a demo…and we’ll go from there, so often I’ll have to restructure the track around her vocals".

Lyrically, careful consumption is in order. With her reference to metaphorical self harm, "cut open my sternum and pull" ('Fineshrine'), 'broil and toil and foil thy scalloped breastbone" ('Amenamy'), "...stake rare toothpicks in my dirt filled heart" ('Grandloves'), "drill little holes into my eyelids" ('Belispeak'), "varnish my forehead red in evening, drip down over my jowls" ('Saltkin'), you could be forgiven for seeing Shrines as a bleak, distant listen. However, James's penchant for the visceral, actually makes connection easier for the listener. These references all stem from an idea of self-empowerment rather than self harm. The strong female characters on Shrines seek to assert themselves and envelop and protect, nurture and grow. The aforementioned reference to the cutting open of the sternum is to enlist the ribs to wrap around and form a strong foundation for the other, "my little ribs around you, the rungs of me be under under you".

Musically, Roddick's ever shifting disposition and approach matches the human travails and natural landscapes contained in James's lyrical world. He combines elements of hypnotic and warped layers of dark synth with bubbling pop moments that shed light on those dark places. His use of James's vocals is a highlight as evidenced on the track 'Ungirthed', which gave us our first taste of Purity Ring early last year. Roddick is also not averse to using male vocal elements and indeed the duo enlist Isaac Emmanuel (Young Magic) to the cause in the form of a sample of 'You With Air' and the contribution of a couple of verses on 'Grandloves'. It serves as a great circuit breaker smack bang in the middle of a set of tracks that have a definite sonic and thematic similarity.

Both James and Roddick have stated that Shrines took a year and a half to write, record and produce so don't expect a quick follow up. Given that, the impressive aspect of Shrines is it will be a stayer so both can afford to sit back and bask a little in its glory while working on their ever growing live show. However, with the democratic and restless nature of independent music in the 21st century, no-one would expect James and Roddick to rest on their laurels. Democratic and restless. Those two words spring to mind when describing what Purity Ring are, in creation and culmination. Given the approach to Shrines, it would not be surprising to expect to see one or two examples of where this exceptionally talented young duo will go in the future next year. Wherever that is, it will be a challenge to follow up such brilliance and if they never do, we will always have this, and this will be with us for a long time.

James Stocker - August 29, 2012.

 

Fineshrine

Purity Ring (CAN)
From the album, 'Shrines', Last Gang/4AD.

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Obedear

Purity Ring (CAN)
From the album, 'Shrines', 4AD.

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Ungirthed

Purity Ring (CAN)
From the album, 'Shrines', 4AD.
 

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Lofticries

Purity Ring (CAN)
From the album, 'Shrines', 4AD.

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Belispeak

Purity Ring (CAN)
From the album, 'Shrines', 4AD.

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RECORD REVIEW: THE WALKMEN - HEAVEN
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Sunday, 19 August 2012 00:00
 

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Fat Possum / Bella Union

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Since their beginnings ten years ago, The Walkmen have followed a course many bands would be envious of. A big sound, a good time, and a massive future. Heaven is their seventh studio LP, out via Fat Possum / Bella Union, following on from the excellent 2010 album Lisbon. Produced by Phil Ek (Built To Spill, Modest Mouse), the sound and vibe found on Heaven is that of an aged ten year old Cab Sav, subtle yet full flavoured, capable of being front and centre in the spotlight but not self centred and full of ego, devoid of hype.

Frontman, Hamilton Leithauser harnesses it all together, keeping a tight reign over the album full of two chord bass lines and laid back guitar. Heaven has moments of belting vocals and beautiful contemplation over its arc of thirteen tracks. It is a positive, happy record, one made by a group of guys who are in a good place, and it shines through right there on the vinyl. 'We Can't Be Beat'  starts things off and ponders the isolation of perfectionism, with help on harmonies from Fleet Foxes Robin Pecknold. It's a song that starts with aching acoustic guitar and develops into a fully fledged marching band rally cry.

'Love Is Luck' dwells on the aspects of chance and luck in relationships, (which is really how it usually works) but sounds upbeat, almost calypso. 'Heartbreaker' features classic riffs the band has been known for as we hear Leithauser sing "I'm not your heartbreaker / these are the good years / the best we'll ever know", these words have never been truer for this group of five guys. The term 'content' comes to mind, but not defined as so many cynics would have it in a lazy, 'that's it, our time is over' kind of way. They might be one of the first indie rock bands to feature a group photo of themselves posing with their collection of seven children, but hey, why not? And good on them. It might be cheesy but who cares.

'Southern Heart'; "tell me again how you loved all the men you were after" highlights the charismatic delivery of Leithauser and intelligent orchestration of Moroon, Martin, Barrick and Bauer on their respective instruments. Sparse when it needs to be and full throttled when called for, it is clear they are at the top of their craft. 'Song For Leigh' was written for Leitauser's (and possibly all of their) children, a fine present to give and look back on in future years. The value of being surrounded by such awesome music during those formative years is gold, lucky kids indeed.

'Jerry Jr.'s Tune' is a short ninety second instrumental track that tends towards the classification of "golden oldie", while 'Heaven', the title track is a driving and sentimental number, catchy as hell. "Don't leave me now / my best friend / remember remember / all we fight for", Leithauser croons retrospectively, summing up the whole album in a lyric. 'No One Ever Sleeps, with its gorgeous mariachi horn sound and echoed percussion, is a standout track. The LP Heaven is a logical conclusion for a great band like this, and with their staying power after a decade The Walkmen have cemented their place as pioneering indie band of our time. The proof is in the fact that they are still here, sounding better than ever, while most of their contemporaries there with them at the start have faded away. The golden age of The Walkmen is only just begnning.

Dave Roberts - August 19, 2012

 

Heaven

The Walkmen (USA)
From the album, Heaven', Fat Possum / Bella Union

Download here

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RECORD REVIEW: DIRTY PROJECTORS - SWING LO MAGELLAN
Reviews
Thursday, 16 August 2012 06:42
 

Domino

Dirty Projectors Official Site

Buy here


Any Dirty Projectors release has always intially served to confound and challenge its listener. The Brooklyn based David Longstreth led project continues down this path with the Projectors latest album Swing Lo Magellan, a wide and varied sonic landscape that is eternally restless and ever changing. Musically, like with Bitte Orca before it, its twelve tracks positively leap of the written page and include so many change ups that stem from the recesses of Longstreth's overly active mind that it can leave your head spinning. Like with any piece of cerebrally charged music, you're unlikely to get it over the first few listens which, without the employment of patience, could threaten to derail the whole project as overwrought and overblown in the minds of many. But persistence pays off and eventually reveals a magically creative and quirky piece of genius which will, in all likelihood, result in Swing Lo Magellan being the independent album of the year. And importantly, the finished product leaves one in no doubt that Longstreth could not have pulled it off without the towering force of harmonies stemming from the vocals of multi-instrumentalists Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle and the solidly spectacular rhythm section work of Brian McOmber and Nat Baldwin.

Dealing in the abstract lyrically has always comforted Longstreth. His penchant for loosely self- generated meaning has always been preferred. However, on this record he made a concerted decision to get down and personal, albeit as personal as Longstreth can get. At times, its clear he's rightly unhappy about the state of affairs right now in the world. Just check to the first three tracks as evidence for starters. The last track is telling too. But that's not to say, it's all doom and gloom as his ode to Coffman suggests. Swing Lo Magellan is also more song oriented and not looking to centre on a single idea and that is borne out by the meticulous attention to detail in the songwriting arrangements themselves. While sometimes they seem to have a mind of their own and don't seem to hand on any pre-conceived notion of discipline, nothing could be further from the truth. Even though there are moments of brevity and studio moments outside the songs captured casually and left in for posterity, the determination of Longstreth to make a songs based album is clear. And these gems were culled from around 70 or 80 of them.

Dirty Projectors exploration of sound usually coalesces into interesting results. Take the bass drum on the superb first track, 'Offspring Are Blank'. Rather than the thud of the bass drum it's the reverberations of that thud that nestle down in the recording that seem to preoccupy Longstreth the producer. Minimal harmonies sit perfectly alongside Longstreth's emotionally charged vocals while he alternates between dirty electric and clean acoustic guitar work. Equally impressive is 'About To Die' where again interesting percussive elements are employed. A hollow triplet is used and combined with a solid four four beat to give the track a slow dance feel. The ultra smooth 'Gun Has No Trigger' is next with its harmonies and stilted beat dominating until Longstreth's somewhat strained but appropriate vocals take front and centre. He laments political and social ignorance throughout the track, repeating the refrain 'If you really looked'. He seems to be so critical of rampant inertia that the ultimate action that the title suggests is a sad metaphor for it.

The title track is a gorgeous little ode musically but again is punctuated by the caveat of the great distance between humans and nature. Intricate arrangements abound on the rail against the social and environmental dangers of big oil, 'Just From Chevron', "Where she (the oil) collapses into the shore". There is a sense of hopeless, yet determined defiance, "Don't think I won't try, when I close my eyes, whatever the people will drive, I swear I will survive. All of my friends my enemies too, live in the shadows of the dirtiest few". A celebration seemingly  abounds on 'Dance For You' where its bubbly disposition almost enables you to skip down the road alongside Longstreth as he sings "I boogie down Gargoyle Street".

Hanging tremolo and vibrato guitar and an inside out beat herald the beginning of Side Two. 'Maybe That Was It' combines falsetto vocals, percolating guitar, an intermittent beat and crashing percussion to maximum cascading effect. Indeed the track is one of the albums many highlights. 'Impregnable Question' seems to be a term that could be said to preoccupy the whole album but personally its an ode to Coffman, who is currently in a relationship with Longstreth. "We don't see eye to eye, But I need you, And you're always on my mind...We have shared it all, We have both stood tall, What is mine is yours, in happiness and strife, You're my love, And I want you in my life". 'See What She's Seeing' employs strings to emotive effect as the ping pong like percussion (bit of Flying Lotus perhaps) engulfs the perfect harmonies that belie the lyrical disconsolation, 'I can see what she's seeing' and then directly to the protagonist, 'but you can't see me'.

'The Socialites' sees Coffman take vocal duties. Her angelic voice is all over the track as she sings tellingly, 'We’ll never let on the face you wear is wrong...we'll never let on, when you meet someone real'. That reluctant fakeness that sometimes needs to be employed to survive a soulless world is represented by the warped guitar note that high-lows throughout. 'Unto Caesar' begins with a nostalgic 60s feel and that continues throughout with the string arrangements, only to be rudely but appropriately interrupted by the chorus. It's on this track that Longstreth's dominance is playfully and wryly toyed with by Coffman and Dekle, who seem to mock him somewhat stating his lyrics 'don't make any sense'. It's really important that this was left on the album. Longstreth and company, even when their tongues have been firmly in cheek have sometimes, wrongly, had the aura of inpenetrability. This helps rectify this anomaly somewhat. 'Irresponsible Tune' is the musical nightcap the album had to have. But lyrics wise it's no comfortable end to the metaphorical night. Longstreth is as direct and as pointed as ever, "In my heart there is music, in my mind is a song, but in my eyes a world crooked, fucked up and wrong".

Swing Lo Magellan is peppered lyrically with asides to being on the outside. Existing outside of peoples easy intellectual reach and being acutely aware of the inanities, gullibilities and stupidities of the mainstream herd can be a liberating but also quite alienating experience. That juxtaposition though, can be held up like a mirror to the Dirty Projectors' entire career. Their strength is that their mainstay has never played to the crowd and that means the end result always matters where its important - in its art, in its concepts and this time especially in its individual songs. On 'The Socialites', Coffman sings Longstreth's lyric, "I’m glad they’re the ones on the other side of the glass, Who knows what my spirit is worth in cold hard cash". For the sake of independent artistry in music lets hope that question is increasingly rarely asked and never answered. Often seemingly initially  impenetrable, Dirty Projectors always reward patience and once again with Swing Lo Magellan, the term, it will reward you in spades, doesn't even come close to giving a clue as to how much it will.  What's next for Longstreth and company, who knows? But one thing is for sure, it will matter.

James Stocker - August 16, 2012

 

Offspring Are Blank

Dirty Projectors (USA)
From the album, 'Swing Lo Magellan', Domino.

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Live at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn on July 9, 2012

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RECORD REVIEW: PEAKING LIGHTS - LUCIFER
Reviews
Monday, 06 August 2012 08:50
 

Mexican Summer / Weird World

Peaking Lights Official Site

Buy vinyl here

 

Indra Dunis and Aaron Coyes, the married couple behind the psychedelic electronic duo Peaking Lights certainly wear their spirituality on their sleeves when it comes to expressing themselves through the art of making music. On their third effort, Lucifer, that otherworldly expression is delivered through the sonic lens of a variety of genres and sub-genres, all within a nocturnal context, although there are doses of both late and early sunlight, dusk and dawn. On an album that pays homage to analog electronic music, Lucifer employs elements of lounge, pop, dubstep and reggae to unique, laconically manic effect. There is less of the sound collage approach produced here than on their breakout 2010 effort, 936 and apart from the bookends, 'Moonrise' and 'Morning Star' that represent a little of that, there are six fully developed and tautly written tracks still of substantial enough length to go off into hypnotic tangents. But none of them lose their focus. In fact, the combination of being able to pull off laid back, relaxed, yet disciplined fully formed creations is testament to their ample songwriting abilities.

The album in essence is a representation of their dedication to a cyclical rather than linear approach to existence. Indeed, both have feet firmly in the exploration and celebration of the sub-conscious where the concept of timelessness, dreams and deep realisations are the central drivers to their art. And, while the title of the album, Lucifer might lead some to consider that the two have done a deal with the devil, if you put Christianity aside (and why wouldn't you?), the term in actuality is the representation of the planet Venus, a beam of light; in essence, sunrise. And these two concepts, cyclicality and repetition put together are the firm signifiers that characterises every aspect of what Lucifer, as a record, is.

Opening track proper 'Beautiful Son', is an ode to well...their young son, whom the multi-faceted experience of having is essentially the subject of the album. It immediately reminds of early Air with its lounge type feel and repetitive chimes all completed with Dunis's smooth yet fragile and effected vocal. 'Live Love' is a busy shuffling jam that contains a plethora of simple arrangements that sit side by side to actually create a track that ends up being quite complex and presents as a standout on an incredibly even album. 'Cosmic Tides' never hides its intentions containing unmistakable nods to dub and reggae. Dunis's echoed vocals and Coyes's busily oscillating keyboard flourishes give the track an aquatic feel. Again, a layered approach is employed that keeps the track ever busy but nothing is cluttered here. The space created, given the fact there's so much going on is a triumph. And that goes for every track.

Side Two begins with 'Midnight (In The Valley Of Shadows)' featuring addictively dream like mantras combined with a constant beat replete with jilted electronic percussion which ebbs away throughout. A snazzy bass line creates a dancy vibe that would still find a welcome home in the wee small hours as the party starts to wind down - layered electronic horns serve to remind that its not over yet. Dubstep makes a return on the giant 'Lo Hi', as its winding bass slowly snakes its way around you and the primordial beat positively sweats. All the while synths cascade down and combine with a noodling, spiral like keyboard signature. Organ and woodwind elements and then brass take things down a notch as the duo's son makes an appearance in all his humanness. 'Dreambeat', with its funky bass, spiky guitar sound and triumphant retro laden keys keeps the energy flowing as the music seamlessly matches the songs concept, that is the ever constant beating heart; "it's in the rhythm of the heart" repeats Dunis.

As Coyes states tellingly, the concept and story of Peaking Lights is according to his own words, "A bunch of circles rotating at different speeds but still intertwined like the Mayan calendar or how I visually imagine gamelan" (traditional Indonesian instrumentation). And so it is on Lucifer, below literally and metaphorically in the first sense and ornamentally in the latter. The key is that the album is derived from multiple elements that can be employed in many contexts. The oscillating energies mean that it can be enjoyed alone sunning it up, daydreaming. Or alternatively together at the warming up, at the height or at the winding down of a party and certainly at the come down after party. Coyes' stated that Lucifer would be 'the tranced vibrations of the most killer all night party you've been too, less cocaine, more weed, a sustained orgasm". After sustained listens, we can tell you, while high self-praise indeed, whatever your drug of choice, he ain't far wrong.

James Stocker - August 6, 2012.

 

Lo Hi

Peaking Lights (USA)
From the album, 'Lucifer', Mexican Summer/Weird World.

Peaking Lights Official Site

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ALBUM OF THE YEAR

JULIA HOLTER (USA)

Have You In My Wilderness

Domino

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TRACK OF THE YEAR

LOWER DENS (USA)

Your Heart Still Beating

Ribbon Music

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EP OF THE YEAR

KELELA (USA)

Hallucinogen 

Cherry Coffee/Warp Records

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