Reviews
RECORD REVIEW: BROTHERTIGER - GOLDEN YEARS
Reviews
Thursday, 26 April 2012 00:00
 



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Mush Records

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Brooklyn based John Jagos is Brothertiger, an artist who has pushed his way through a crowded genre to emerge with originality and confidence that many would be envious of. Hailing originally from Athens, Ohio, he first made a name for himself with the brilliant Vision Tunnels EP (which was a favourite here at Indie30) way back in May of 2010. Since then Jagos has been busy remixing the likes of Keep Shelly In Athens, Millionyoung, and Rollercoasters In The Woods, releasing plenty of singles, touring extensively and having regular DJ sets in European clubs. Here he had a chance to test his material on a captive audience, and this no doubt has played a part in the refined and finely honed sound found on Golden Years. 

The intro to the opener 'The Young Ones' drifts in with muted sounds from what could be a playground, kids playing, joyful yelps and laughter with upbeat synths and percussion ushering in the album. Bright and sparkly, it is just a trailer for what Brothertiger has in store over the next forty minutes and ten songs. 'I've Been Waiting' is pop at its best, infectious as hell. We have entered the 80s from our comfortable position in 2012, where tracks like this, (and albums like this) shine bright in their homage to new-wave, disco and the cult of the keyboard. 'Wind At My Back' has the feel of an ocean breeze, vocals echoing, ebbing and flowing with a body-swaying vibe that is just joyful and positive in all regards. 

'Too Convinced to Care' continues the lushness in a track that has several moments that build up and plateau onto fields of pure bliss. Multiple overlays of Jagos' voice provide gorgeous harmonies that evoke a sense of calm and comfort, you can easily imagine it as a soundtrack to a long drive through the country at night, or a blue sky Sunday by a pool. It creates a warm and lazy envelope you just want to be a part of. 'Reach It All' takes things up a notch though it's all still pretty mellow, lots of layers abound, looped vocal sounds sandwiched between lyrics and ever abundant synths and drum machined percussion, swirl and bounce in this track that brings to mind Animal Collective in places. 

'Golden Years' is the title track, and has a New Order kind of feel going on at the intro, but as with the whole of the LP it never takes these borrowings too far. The sound is his and his alone, which is no mean feat in a time where 'chillwave' or 'dream-pop' seems to be the order of the day. 'Lovers' is a highlight standing out with its choppy structure and cut up vocals, definitely one for the dance floors. 'Out Of Line' is one of the smoothest tracks found on Golden Years, groove laden and full of disco goodness, this penultimate track is another standout and over all too soon clocking in at just under four minutes. Many of these tracks beg for remixing and will no doubt be available in the near future. 'Turquoise, (Skyline)' rounds the album off nicely in a hazy kind of way, bringing this atmospheric dream-scape to a close. Golden Years is a musical equivalent to a bean bag by a fireplace, and the talent Jagos displays in all aspects of composition, musicianship and songwriting bodes well for the future of Brothertiger. 

The 80s were a time like no other. Back then, when the only digital things in our lives were our watches, we could only wish all the music sounded this good. The beauty of this revisit to the sound of the 80s through modern indie, is that it is filtered through years of retrospect and only the good stuff is allowed through. It leaves the shit, and we all know there were mountains of shit, to stay forever where it belongs, to be played in bad night clubs that go by the name of 'Time Warp', or 'Greed' or some such thing. Oh Mickey...if only Jessie's Girl had heard of Brothertiger, things could have turned out a whole lot differently for her. I'm not sure what that means, but many of the fans that Jagos has accrued over the last couple of years would have been in nappies at the time anyway so it doesn't matter. And those of us who do remember it, know it's a good thing to hear the brilliant and pioneering sounds of the good 80s, re-birthed into albums like this. 

Dave Roberts - April 25, 2012 

 

Golden Years

Brothertiger (USA)
From the album, 'Golden Years', Mush Records 

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Brothertiger Bandcamp 

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RECORD REVIEW: PINKUNOIZU - FREE TIME
Reviews
Saturday, 21 April 2012 04:10
 



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Full Time Hobby

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Danish psychedelic pop rock outfit Pinkunoizu are a restless bunch, both in style, influence and the myriad of genres they employ and this also comes through the cultural references that come through in their music. Anything goes but everything fits on Free Time, their debut album released last month. Textural fusions of psychedelia, pop, rock, post rock, prog rock, drone, country, jazz, trad, electro and Latin, Eastern, African and Indigenous influences abound, woven together into eight taut tracks that never outstay their welcome despite half of them, especially on the album's second half being of sizeable length. Some have been critical of this, but in fact, its ends up being the overwhelming strength of the album. Appropriately, Free Time after all, is the album's title.

The talented, imaginative and genre embracing foursome are Danes Andreas Pallisgaard (guitars, vocals), Jakob Falgren (guitars, keys, foot pedal bass), Jeppe Brix (guitars) and Jaleh Negari (drums). Emanating from Copenhagen a couple of years back and rising from the ashes of post rock eight piece La Fiasko, they now reside partly in Berlin, without doubt the most democratic, open and resultantly stimulating independent cultural hub in Europe. There is certainly a freedom inherent throughout Free Time, freedom to explore and experiment without fear nor favour.

It would make sense then that they would have a Japanese name that means pink noise, wouldn't it, as opposed to say, the quite alienating term white noise. Far from being frivolous, the term pink noise actually fits their unique brand of musical creations perfectly, there's warmth and a definite enjoyment that stems from them. The almost stream of conciousness writing style also suits that description and Pallisgard has said as much; “Most of what I write comes from picking up exciting words or phrases from wherever I stumble upon them. Or maybe it simply comes from floating around like some empty receptor, open to letting the language of the world flow through me.”

First off track 'Time Is Like A Melody', which also led off their debut EP from last year Peep sports an Animal Collective feel both in the vocals and the loops it employs. Guitar dominates together with a cleverly conjured up duality between a singular bass and drum combo which serves as the songs potent off-beat replete with flammed snare. The word melody in the title is also vocalised as part of that timing signature. 'Myriad Pyramid's gives off a Maghrib inspired beginning before launching into a joyous glockenspiel inspired rhythm that drives a wonderous piece of pop music. That joy also stems from the pyschedelic harmonies that serve as the track's curious chorus.

The move into the next track is seamless and there's more than a nod to the traditional roots of M. Ward to be found on 'Cyborg Manifesto' albeit with a upbeat, almost latin influenced country and western theme. Next is the hypnotic organ inspired 'Everything Is Broken Or Stolen' exquisitely paced by Negari's percussion, which this time begins with bongos before nestling down with more conventional, in a western sense, use of drums. The track is rudely but appropriately interrupted by flicking through a radio dial before returning to where its began replete with vocals that coo and echo away the repeated line 'come settle down'. It all ends in a cacophony of percussion and organ, looped guitar

Settling down is not in Pinkunoizu's DNA though as lead single 'Parabolic Delusions' take Free Time off on another tangent. Almost a celebration from the start, it employs Japanese style pop and glorious harmonies with an undercarriage that seems borrowed from The Rivington's 60s doo wop gig 'Papa Oom Mow Mow'.

Their post rock roots can best be found on the albums standout among many and first track on the three track second half, 'The Abyss', which starts with a mixture of hope and foreboding. The underbelly is quite menacing but the noodling of the pleasant guitar reassures. You do really feel like to you are heading into what its title suggests. The delicate tapping of the ride cymbal drives things here and the guitars serve to give off that otherworldy feel that is ever-present. Distortion appears to great effect to bring the track home with a 60s style guitar solo.

Without doubt the most confounding and interesting track on the record is the nine minute epic, 'Death Is Not A Lover'. Not once are you comfortable you can predict what's coming next; plucky banjo at its start to its sitar inspired first third, multiple layered and wildly different vocals and samples that would have you freaking out if you were tripping. All the while, a beat mixture of African and sub-continental influences sits atop the commotion. Half way through, things definitively change. After the strange mantra of the spartan middle, the track opens out and ends with a western style rock structure as after all the searching and exploration Pallisgard is still exclaiming 'I need an answer'.

The employment of world music influences continue on another lengthy number, the closing track 'Somber Ground'. Buddhist style throat vocals start us off here as the song takes on a delicately thoughtful and quite pensive dimension. At about the four minute mark you can sense change is coming. The ensuing raucous like, yet backgrounded guitar and sax, big drum sound and dualling vocals complete our Free Time journey. The vocals in fact reprise the end lines in 'Everything Is Broken Or Stolen' in almost a defiant stand against any thought of this band ever settling down in a music sense.

It's quite rare that a band can pull off a record that rests on the style of writing and experimentation employed by Pinkunoizu. To combine so many elements into a cohesive whole is never easy and often, when you have four ultra-talented musicians of this ilk, the narrative of a record can get lost in translation very easily. Free Time though thankfully pulls it off. Its genre defying nature is its undeniable strength and a mark of the intelligence of its creators. To understand freedom in any sense is an intensely personal thing. It means many different things to many different people. In a musical and artistic sense though, freedom able to be conveyed in some way so that it connects with others, no more so when you are in a band making music you want people to hear is a massive strength. Their democratic nature and mutual understanding in eachother's art is how Pinkunoizu works as a collective and is centrally crucial to the success of this record. They are proud to shout it from the rooftops that all four of them had an equal say and ability to influence Free Time and its eclectically produced end product demonstrates this in spades.

James Stocker - April 21, 2012.

 

Death Is Not A Lover

Pinkunoizu (DEN)
From the album, 'Free Time', Full Time Hobby.

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RECORD REVIEW: BOWERBIRDS - THE CLEARING
Reviews
Tuesday, 10 April 2012 04:57
 



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Dead Oceans

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I first came across Raleigh folk/pop outfit Bowerbirds in a tactile sense three years ago when they did some live work for the Vienna cultural and media collective They Shoot Music. In a seemingly effortless canter, the trio walked and played their way around the fine Austrian capital showcasing songs off their second album, the 2009 effort Upper Air. Always impeccibly restrained, their thoughtful, unique brand of independent Americana and folk stylings blended in perfectly with their surroundings.

And so it is with their new record The Clearing, where each track presents itself as part of a seamless whole, a ride through nature, a document of not only musical virtuosity but intelligent songwriting. But the real story before its gestation period began was far from seamless and the break down in the personal relationship between principles Beth Tacular and Phillip Moore may have threatened to prematurely end the band itself. Thankfully for us they worked it out and eventually presented us with this fine album.

For the DIY couple Tacular and Moore, who have endured the break-up, Tacular's illness and hospitalisation and hand-built a cabin from scratch over the last couple of years, The Clearing ended up being the end product of an intensely emotional ride in a personal sense where the theme of the record became finding the strength to overcome adversity from within and without. The music style of Bowerbirds does lend itself to revealing a certain emotional intensity and The Clearing certainly incorporates elements of triumph and despair, light and dark, themes that come through loud and clear. That they portray that emotion inside the music yet produce it so effortlessly speaks volumes about the artistic talent on offer here.

The lush orchestration and percussive elements of The Clearing builds upon the spartan and skeletal approach of their first two records, Hymns For A Dark Horse and the aforementioned Upper Air. The rich potential of those two albums has been realised here and it is in all likelihood that the trials and tribulations that surrounded the band going into writing and making the record that gives it its special character. Recorded with Brian Joseph in Bon Iver's Wisconsin studio, the polish that marks the finished product, rather than muddying the waters, actually accentuates the human emotion and celebration of the natural world.

'Tuck The Darkness In' as its title suggests is indicative of that oscillation of thoughts between light and dark and masking the inevitable. What is also telling is its deliberate musical statement of growth in the Bowerbirds songwriting abilities as it shuffles inexorably towards its confident emotive conclusion. Album standout, the Tacoma sung 'In The Yard' begins with a pulsing beat and gorgeous chord structure and tracks the course of constructing that aforementioned house admist the natural world. The theme of nature is beautifully captured by the gorgeous harmonies at work the wistful instrumentation actually serves to transport you to that place of such tumult and wonder in the woods.

The plucky 'Walk The Furrows' extolls the worth of working through problems while 'Stitch The Hem' works through the difficulties of being on the edge financially and otherwise that stems from the decision to do things yourself; 'There's a hope that we have what we need'. Indeed, work, whether of the artistic, emotional or physical variety dominates The Clearing and is almost a lesson for those who think escaping from urban life is merely one big hoot. 'This Year' celebrates the seasons and the move from winter to spring and the optimistic relationship that is associated with our humanity; "I'm fairly sure we'll find a clearing in the forest of our hearts". But Moore soon reminds us in a subtle way that even out there in the woods there is no escape from the realities of the fallout from the decisions of powerful, short-sighted, selfish interests; "I'm not an activist, not in the purest sense, I'm not a pacifist, I know just which rules to bend".

'Brave World' opens with percussive effects sitting atop a couple of pensive piano chords as it then begins to quietly pulse away belying the metaphorical subject matter of impatience in imperfection. 'Hush' is a return to the paucity that existed on previous releases and even sports a little Latin inflluence through its second half. Indeed, the album ends up slowly ebbing away from its lush beginnings over its last few tracks. That's not a criticism, in fact it ends up being a strength. The sparse nature is again in evidence on 'Overcome With Light' which deliberately creates the space to go with its theme of introspection. Moore's guitar dominates here as he reassures, "Yes, we had some scrapes, but now it's right".

'Sweet Moment' continues the penchant Bowerbirds have for matching song titles with the feel of the music as beautiful cooing harmonies take centre stage. However, as if to confound that theory immediately, the careful and delicate blending of piano, guitar and flourishes of percussive brushes on the following track bely what 'Death Wish' has in store for us as foreboding horns and strings serve to finish the track with the appropriate mood. Closing track, 'As We Hurry On' serves as a perfect conclusion to the record as Moore sings about the importance of taking in the little things in life; "what we see under the sun is what we get'...we used to see the forest, now we see the trees".

The adoration of nature and do it yourself aethestic that drives the members of Bowerbirds in their private lives comes through in spades on The Clearing. Often, intensely personal musically journeys can often jar the senses and alienate the listener when overdone and overwrought. On top of this, many bands, who have made their reputation through resting on the sparse and restrained, once they have a few dollars to spend and plethora of musicians and instrumention to play with, actually end up overplaying their hand. Yet, not once does the band lose sight of who they are and why they ever existed in the first place. The Clearing serves as an example of how to use and own possibility rather than allow it to dominate and drown out what was once intended. As Moore sings the final line, "take your time with it, all of it", attention to detail both personally and artistically is something we should never lose sight of.

James Stocker - April 10, 2012

 

Bowerbirds Mini Documentary about The Clearing

 

Tuck The Darkness In

Bowerbirds (USA)
From the album, 'The Clearing', Dead Oceans.

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Official Video


 

Overcome With Light

Bowerbirds (USA)
From the album, The Clearing, Dead Oceans.

Live on Sound Check

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RECORD REVIEW: GRIMES - VISIONS
Reviews
Sunday, 08 April 2012 00:00
 



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Arbutus

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Twenty-something Claire Boucher has produced her own distinctive style of sound in her short career, something that must frustrate the hell out of those people who must classify everything they hear. As we have said here before, the proliferation of naming genres within genres has become something of a joke, and while Grimes drives down the avenue of electro, there is no need to invent new vocab for what she creates. Visions is best heard and then heard again. The magic of Boucher's scope of talent unveils itself slowly, leaving you certain that this is where music should be in 2012. Pieced together using Garageband, she has created an insight into her glorious world of light and shadow, proving her to be one of the most talented artists on the indie scene today.   

'Infinite (heart) Without Improvement (intro)' is just a morsel of what Grimes has in store on Visions. This one minute thirty six long track crams a lot in and packs a punch, showcasing Boucher's abilities in vocals, production, engineering, orchestration, even the artwork done for the album cover, and the direction of the video clip for 'Oblivion'. 'Genesis' comes up next, an accessible, tight piece laden with enough hooks, reverb and layers to keep it in your head all day, finishing with a beautiful bared down piano outro. 'Oblivion' is a standout track, another example displaying the myriad of directions she can take that unique voice. 'Eight', with its looped electro voice in stark contrast to Boucher's high pitched vocals is a treat, 'Be A Body' builds up nicely in a track that would go down well on the dance-floor. 

'Colour Of Moonlight (Antiochus) (feat. Doldrums)' brings things down in a good way, it's smooth and gorgeous, perfect for late night/early morning listening. 'Symphonia IX (My Wait Is U)' continues the obscure track titles, and is another smooth one, ambient and with her voice pushed back in the mix. 'Circumambient' beginning with a slow and steady beat over what sounds like the crackle of a dusty vinyl, is another surprise on Visions. It features the lyric "Oh baby, I can't say that everything is ok, 'Cos I have a problem, and I don't know how to solve them", you can hear her vocals in pop mode on this one recalling the likes of Robyn in places. Its another example of the diversity found on this album, taking you somewhere unexpected on more than one occasion. 

'Vowels = Space And Time' has that 80s edge that sounds so much better the second time around, for those of us that remember it. It's another example of a club worthy track, synths glowing all the way through. 'Visiting Statue' is a step down from pop with its darker mood, and powers along making way for another standout; 'NightMusic (feat. Majical Cloudz)'. After a theatrical intro the beats kick in and an indecipherable layer of Boucher's voice (almost as another instrument) adds to the foray. Edgy synths and steady percussion accompany throughout until strings come in with operatic samples, it somehow works a treat. 'Skin' begins in muted tones until we hear Boucher, spotlighting her as if on a stage with a proscenium arch. Its beauty comes in the meandering path of its structure over six minutes, and the rawness to it, which sums up the whole of Visions.  

'Know The Way' brings things to a close, with simple melody and layered vocals, a fitting way to finish, and to gently bring us back after an album that will make Grimes an act at the leading edge of music 2012 style. She is a product of the technology age and knows how to use it, instinctively. Visions gets better each time you hear it, and Grimes has cemented herself as an example of what indie is all about.

Dave Roberts, April 8, 2012 

 

Oblivion

Grimes (CAN)
From the album, 'Visions', Arbutus

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Official Video

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Genesis

Grimes (CAN)
From the album, 'Visions', Arbutus

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Live at The Fader

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Be A Body

Grimes (CAN)
From the album, 'Visions', Arbutus

Live at Good Records, Dallas.

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RECORD REVIEW: LAMBCHOP - MR. M
Reviews
Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:25
 



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Merge/City Slang

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There is a remarkable consistency that characterises independent music artists like Kurt Wagner, ever present head of the ever changing Nashville collective Lambchop. That consistency exists alongside of and perhaps because of their modesty and Wagner exudes that special quality in spades. Reclusive and squarely rooted in the real world, the down to earth disposition that comes across clearly in his work spanning over 20 years, stems from the fact that Wagner, like many have to in the United States, combined years of manual labour to fund his passion for art, especially painting. This is coupled with the fact that music, while dabbled in, was never in the sights as his main creative outlet and it is the organic way that Lambchop transpired and has grown since that gives its fare its unique vitality.

Mr M. , Lambchop's eleventh studio album builds on that vitality and is again indicative of Wagner's penchant for looking to the future rather than cashing in on the past, not that cash has ever featured large in Wagner's life. His preference of always looking forward with his music and playing by his own rules was in evidence twelve years ago when headlining a show at London's Festival Hall. The band ignored the album they were touring, the modestly popular Nixon and played their forthcoming follow up, Is A Woman to a veritable shitstorm from promoters. Wagner's response, 'If I was a fan I'd love to hear what they're doing now - I've got the record (Nixon), I know what it sounds like. I wanna see what's next!

While the new album has a eye on the present and the future, it does contain a poignant look at the past in a tributary sense. It centres around a tribute to the life of the late Vic Chesnutt, who took his life on Christmas Day 2009. Despite the difficulties Chesnutt experienced for over 20 years with partial paralyis and limited use of his hands, the work that spanned his seventeen albums inspired many including his good friend Wagner. Chesnutt's death along with 50 something Wagner's recent encounters with prostate cancer and a heart attack have very much influenced Mr M.

Despite the often stark subject matter, like all of Lambchop's recordings the rhythm is often lilting, breezy and optimistic. The orchestration by Peter Stopschinski and Mason Neely, is again an ode to the lounge and traditional pop of the 1960s and is perfectly counterpointed by delicate guitar arrangements and searching rhythms again expertly played by the virtuoso players assembled by Wagner. All these elements together capture the intense soul-searching and introspection that are contained in its obscure lyrical content. You could set up a weekly university tutorial exploring the meaning of Wagner's intensely private almost inpenetrable lyrics as part of a course on modern literature. Unlike some who mistakenly think there's an unsophisication to them which may come from the sneering attitude often emanating from America's big cities towards the South, Wagner's deep navel-gazing would almost need a whole course on its own to decipher and even then the multiple explanations of what they mean would simply serve to confuse the matter.

This is no better illustrated than on opener 'If Not, I'll Just Die', which combines the vagaries of everyday life (making coffee, getting cups out' with demonstrable outlets of humanity 'blowing kisses',, 'crying'. The swing like rhythm ebbs away and the piano and strings are used to great emotional effect. Wagner's perfectly complimentary vocal arrangements turn on the emotive effects with ease. The laidback nature of '2B2' is exemplified by the slow disciplined beat as the instrumentation is built delicately and painstakingly around it. As with all Wagner's work, it is ever-understated and benefits immensely from that approach. The seemingly opposities attract, miles from each other theme is borne out by the final verse; 'It was good to talk to you while we were cooking, sounds like we're making the same thing, one man cooks with powder, the other cooks with stones'.

The beat moves up a notch with the semi-shuffle of the exquistely crafted 'Gone Tomorrow', where Wagner's two chord signature is beautifully engulfed by passionate string arrangements. The track ends with a little prog-rock/free-form jazz combo. 'Mr. Met' starts of with an almost funereal tone before unfolding into a stilted number where Wagner's dry vocal matches the low tuned music in a way where grit meets beauty. Serving as somewhat of an interlude, 'Gar' has a warm, lounge type feel with the sparely used vocal harmonies used to great effect. There is a simultaneous ode to the 60s anf 70s here where some of the arrangements wouldn't feel out of place on a Bacarach written track.

The old and the new are meshed together on the odd, yet intelligently titled slow burner 'Nice Without Mercy'. Wagner's ability to conjur up an image are no better illustrated thus;'Caught amongst the elements, taking pictures on our phones, ...catching fish with just our hands, and they taste of some coolest oral splendour, and the sky opens up like candy, and the wind don't know my name'. The shuffle returns on the wistful 'Buttons' where Wagner addresses the options open to his ordinary protagonist; 'perhaps find a job that doesn't take a genius to do' ... 'pick up trash in the rain' before turning to memory and sentiment of seemingly better times. 'The Good Life (Is Wasted)' begins with Wagner singing 'I'm not the kind of man to live comfortably' and that 'the good life is wasted on me'. The music seems to match as guitar is left to ring out in a ramshackle way and the harmonica reinforces that idea of hard living.

As a counterpoint to that roughness, as he gets older Wagner's voice seems to be lifting a notch in tone. At its dryest a decade ago, on Mr M it seems to have more range and on occasions an optimistic feel. This is in evidence on 'Kind Of' where he exhibits an almost tenor approach utilising emotion to lasting effect as strings hypnotise the listener with their depth. There is a classic eerie feel to 'Betty's Overture' as Wagner's vocals are again absent. Organ oscillates incessantly at its beginning as it opens up to serve as another interlude like the aforementioned 'Gar'. Closing track 'Never My Love' employs that tempo changing technique on guitar that Lambchop are so known for again complementing its yearning lyrical nature as Wagner sings about the uselessness of the term 'love' but to him at least, the importance of being with someone.

If you're ever traversing the side streets of Nashville, you may just catch a glimpse of the anonymous becapped Wagner on his errands driving his beat up old pick-up truck. How people perceive him ceased to matter long ago, if it ever mattered at all. His Nashville roots and music style have led to much misconception but to Wagner that is of no matter. He himself has said its better to be misconstrued that not be construed at all. The humble and unassuming approach to life is in Wagner's DNA and this has always come across in his music, no more so on Mr. M.  While Wagner's approach may be a little more refined than that employed back in the 1990s (there's not a slide guitar in sight and the country feel is largely absent), the same unique, quirky modesty and honesty comes shining through. Wagner, like Callahan, Oldham, McCombs et. al., continues to remind us how fortunate we are to live in a time where a complement of such talented but unassuming music luminaries who have never cared for or sought the limelight create pieces of artistic integrity that serve as ends in themselves. Mr. M is another creation to add to that collection.

James Stocker - March 25, 2012.

*This review borrows some of its contextual information from Michael Hann's recent interview based article with Wagner in The Guardian. Read it here.

 

Gone Tomorrow

Lambchop (USA)
From the album, 'Mr. M', Merge/City Slang.

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RECORD REVIEW: FIRST AID KIT - THE LION'S ROAR
Reviews
Thursday, 22 March 2012 00:00
 



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Klara and Johanna are the sisters Soderberg, from the southern suburb of Enskede, Stockholm. The amazing story arcing from composing a song as teenagers for a demo tape in 2007, to playing stages around the world in 2012, is an example of how amazing the Internet can be. As First Aid Kit, their true and beautiful talent began having people take notice with the posting of their Youtube clip, a cover of 'Tiger Mountain Peasant Song'. This three minute gift to the Fleet Foxes from the sisters, then 15 and 18 years old, is an incredible thing to see and hear. Those harmonies seem impossible to come from anyone so young, but the talent is clearly there and it's little wonder they had a contract with Rabid Records partly owned by fellow Swedes The Knife, just twelve months later. Their first release, the EP Drunken Trees was re-released a year later by London's Wichita Records, and their star was well on the rise. The Big Black & The Blue debuted as their first album two years ago and the girls' played a massive world tour taking in around 100 shows.

The Lion's Roar is their latest offering, and the harmonies have never sounded better. Mike Mogis, of Bright Eyes has produced, and the result is a gorgeous, richly instrumented jewel of a listen. Title track, 'The Lion's Roar' begins the LP and the Americana sounding Swedish sung vocals launch skyward, "Now the pale mornings of forgotten things, She plays a tune for those who wish to overlook, The fact that they have been blindly deceived, By those who preach and pray and teach, But she falls short and the night explodes in laughter". 'Emmylou' follows and sounds deeply rooted in old time America, it's joyous and powers along, an ode to country music legends Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash. I'm not asking much of you, Just sing a little darlin', Sing with me" goes the chorus, pure country pop, and pure bliss to behold. 'Blue' is triumphant with its cruising bass-line and glittering glockenspiel and tight production, while 'To A Poet' is more stripped back, a bare and spartan track sandwiched amongst the denser songs either side. 

'Dance to Another Tune' is breezy and folky, followed by 'New Years Eve' a more rollicking track which is perhaps a tribute to Joni Mitchell. If First Aid Kit haven't won you over (especially if you're not a fan, or are slightly afraid of ,'country infused' music), the last track 'King Of The World' can only change all that. The whole album has an uptempo, positive energy around it, and it all seems to come together harmoniously on this final track. Conor Oberst makes a grand appearance in this raucous shindig of a track. "I'm nobodies baby, I'm everybody's girl, I'm the queen of nothing, I'm the king of the world", it's a perfect way to round off Lion's Roar. 

As the girls sing on 'Emmylou', "I'm not asking much of you, Just sing a little darlin', Sing with me" this album is not ultra-reflective, existential or rocket science. It just wants you to sit back and enjoy the hayride. And it's one well worth taking.

-Dave Roberts, March 22, 2012 


Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Fleet Foxes cover)

First Aid Kit (SWE)

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Emmylou

First Aid Kit (SWE)
From the album, 'The Lions Roar', Witchita Records

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RECORD REVIEW: BOY FRIEND - EGYPTIAN WRINKLE
Reviews
Sunday, 04 March 2012 01:07
 



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Hell Yes!

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There is little doubt that the dreamy chilled out fare served up by Austin duo Boy Friend can polarise. With the chillwave genre now in the gun sights of many a critic, not only for its supposed imminent demise but for its existence in the first place, anything that sounds remotely like it has come in for some quite fierce criticism recently. Unfortunately, the debut record by Christa Palazzolo (vocals, synths) and Sarah Brown (guitar and backing vocals), Egyptian Wrinkle has been lumped in with it.  Since its release early last month it has been derided by a few on the back of this general trend. Indeed, Boy Friend have seemingly suffered from the fact that many have decided that chillwave should never have seen the light of day in the first place, either as a term or a genre of music.

This ignores that there has been many a annoying term to ascribed to music genres over the journey, 'shoegaze', 'nu-metal', 'dubstep' to name but three. It also ignores the fact that the artists that have been labelled thus, Washed Out, Toro Y Moi, Small Black et. al. have used, like many, elements of a past era to forge an all together unique sound that is definitely in essence, futuristic. And it's the future that in my view will be kind to the dreamy soundscapes that this genre has produced. So it is with Egyptian Wrinkle where time will prove the critics hasty in their unthought out criticism. Having said that, its arguable that Boy Friend's sound contains anything more than just a few tenuous links to the aforementioned term or artists.

Since leaving Stefanie Franciotti and SleepOver late in 2010, good friends and multi-facted artists Palazzolo (also a visual artist) and Brown (a jewellery maker) quickly built on their on again, off again collaborations over a long 15 year period with the release of the their promising cassette only self titled EP. That was then followed up with instantly impressive 7" single, 'Lovedropper' early last year. That and two tracks from the EP appear on Egyptian Wrinkle, and the new songs produced since consitute an album that continues in the same vein as those early tracks. Dreamy layered vocals and a deep yet optimistic wall of synths are completed by a deliberate, laconic yet massive drum sound in the mould of Cocteau Twins. That essentially is the Boy Friend formula and it is that which has landed them in the sights of the critics, many of whom label the approach as listless and bland, even sombre. But by doing this, they ignore the rich tapestry of moods that Palazzolo and Brown have woven through each track. I don't find this a cold and distant record as others do, but rather warm, atmospheric and inviting. Far from being staid, each track builds up at a slow almost sub-conciously engulfing pace and repeated listens will be kind to the patient recipient.

The album is bookended by the two part non-lyrical trance like 'Rogue Wave which serves the purpose of setting the tone and theme for the other eight tracks. 'Breathe', only a minute long capella performs the same function. The previously released tracks from the EP, the optimistic sounding, reverb drenched 'Lazy Hunter' and pensive 'The False Cross' get a much needed makeover from Maurizio Baggio and Marco Rapisarda who mixed and mastered the record in Italy after the initial recoding sessions in Austin under the watchful eye of Christa's twin sister Cari. Indeed, the Italian connection gives the record another dimension. Among the new tracks, 'Bad Dreams' begins with that big drum sound as synths move inexorably around layered vocals while 'Lovedropper' is without a doubt the album's standout. With its double beat and swaying percussion, it meticulously builds to a point where its engulfs you completely without concious realisation.

'In Case' has an ethereal feel as Palazzolo's relentless vocals provide a perfect counterpoint to Brown's physically sparse but sonically rich guitar while the title track was a perfect choice to give way to promote the record. It does follow the lead of 'Lovedropper' somewhat but unlike that track maintains a fantasy like feel consistently throughout. 'The Lair' spectrally ebbs away nicely and is dominated by Palazzolo's voice until Brown's guitar combines with her synth to finishes the track with a flourish.

There's no need to over think things in the case of Boy Friend's music, nor sound. Palazzolo and Brown just simply want to make mood inducing pop songs that are personal documents, at once obscure but overwhelmingly penetrable. Yes, while the critics have a point when they claim to be underwhelmed by the lack of variety on the record, Egyptian Wrinkle is theme oriented and a product of time and place and Boy Friend seem unashamedly content with this. Having said though, that it is a product of its time and place, I'd like to place a wager that nevertheless, it will stay eminently listenable for a long time to come. More's the point, it whets the appetite for what the talented yet modest duo will produce from here.

James Stocker - March 4, 2012

 

Bad Dreams

Boy Friend (USA)
From the album, 'Egyptian Wrinkle', Hell Yes!

Audio Only

 

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RECORD REVIEW: JOHN TALABOT - fIN
Reviews
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 00:00
 



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Permanent Vacation

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Since appearing on the electro scene back in 2009 with the insanely danceable eight minute club classic 'Sunshine', John Talabot had people taking notice. He has refined and developed his craft over the following years with the EPs My Old School, Matilda's Dream, and Families bringing us to his latest and greatest effort to date; the full length album fIN. The eleven tracks found here have the foundations firmly cemented in house while sitting squarely in this new age of electro rejuvenation. 

His remixes for The XX, Teengirl Fantasy, Glasser and Delorean have steered punters in his direction to find a treasure of tracks. And the opening track on fIN  does not disappoint. 'Depak Ine' sucks you in with its forward momentum getting the ball rolling for what lies in store over the remaining fifty one minutes. The luscious 'Destiny' follows, and features fellow Spaniard Pional in the first of his two collaborations on this LP. His honeyed vocals adding another dimension over this track with gorgeous peaks and troughs throughout. 'El Oeste'(Spanish for 'west' or 'western') is subdued and tranquil as anything Talabot has done, finishing off sounding like a machine having its power cable yanked out.

'Oro Y Sangre' builds the vibe up somewhat with synths taking over and eerie scream sounds lurking in the background. 'Journeys' featuring Ehki Lopetegi of Delorean is a highlight, as it saunters along with a beautiful mixture of layering and an intro that sounds like it is floating over the balmy night air from a beach party in the distance. The lush sounds give way to synths and percussion, with Ehki's far away vocals sitting in harmony with the tracks' production. 'Last Land' is simple and effective in construction with vocal samples and synths showcasing how Talabot has complete mastery over this album. It all drops away just over halfway through the track before kicking back up for an energetic and euphoric finish.

'When the Past Was Present' is blissful from the start, poppy and soulful, elements of Italia House are in there, with vocals pushed back in the mix. It's one of the most upbeat tracks found on fIN  and has happy, smiling faces written all over it. This is a track that belongs in a club. 'So Will Be Now' brings back Pional on vocals in a brilliant album closer. This track is another full of layers and its restraint is what makes it a standout. Like the track before it, it has moments of 90s dance sounds happily bouncing away in the background, but never in a way that takes away from the contemporary nature and feel of it.  

John Talabot has proven with fIN  he has the recipe to mix together sounds, samples, and a huge array of voices to create tracks that come out the right way each time, never over or under cooked. The future is bright for electro and with people like Talabot around, it is in good hands.   

Dave Roberts - 14 February, 2012


So Will Be Now feat. Pional 

John Talabot (ESP)
From the album, 'fIN', Permanent Vacation  

Audio Only

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RECORD REVIEW: BURNING HEARTS - EXTINCTIONS
Reviews
Saturday, 04 February 2012 08:26
 



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Solina/Shelflife

Buy/pre-order here or here

It's been seven years since multi-instrumentalist Henry Ojala (Cats On Fire) and vocalist Jessika Rapo (Le Futur Pompiste) met on a joint tour and decided over time to collaborate on a new project that would become Burning Hearts. Their debut album, the upbeat Aboa Sleeping would appear five often difficult years later in 2009, full of sweet pop melodies and juicy hooks; a pretty straightforward record that did however, contain electronic elements that suggested the potential was there for growth in less predictable directions.  After the single 'Night Animal' in 2010, the trajectory was clear. Upon the release the impressive EP Into The Wilderness last year, it was apparent that the talented Finnish duo were taking a turn in a more expansive direction, utilising loops and more unconventional song structures. Indeed, the brilliant title track, with its cleverly crafted looping underbelly and metaphorical sound is ample evidence of this. Thankfully because it fits, it also appears on the subject of this review, their second album, Extinctions.

Sporting a bigger and more polished production than previous recordings, Extinctions affords Rapo's uniquely accented, and warm yet disaffecting vocals and Ojala's beautifully crafted and meticulously executed pop the sound they deserved. The uncanny creative relationship the two have comes through loud and clear as vocally and musically its a seamless match. Amazingly, while complementing each other they also allow each other the right amount of space. Rapo's vocals could have dominated this record but they don't giving Ojala room to work his hook laden magic.

Lyrically, it's a thematic record where the difficult subject matter belies its optimistic sound. The title of the album is telling. Death lurks at almost every turn, a result of tragedies that affected Rapo and Ojala and inspired the subject matter. However, despite the surface morbidity, Burning Hearts pop sensibilities could never allow Extinctions to become overtly dark and difficult. In fact, what they have actually created is nine expansive and organic pop gems that live and breathe optimism and hope; a realisation that while death is omipresent and inevitable, there's no need to wallow in it. Having said that though, Rapo and Ojala are determined to remind us that as human beings, while there exists fragility, we can do some horrible things because many of us think we are above nature, not part of it.

'On The Last Day Of The Decade' begins with a funereal tone as Rapo authoritatively enters the fray with the line 'A man picks up his shotgun...'  over a deliberately paced beat that is retained throughout. Over its four minutes, the track slowly opens up lyrically, revealing an unsettling feel with a hunter determined to catch his prey, a metaphor perhaps for the avarice and greed that exists in the world. But musically, the track builds and builds and explodes towards its end into a cacophony of sound dominated by a simple, yet killer melody. The aforementioned 'Into The Wilderness' is the best thing the duo have done. A sparkly loop set things off and remains there underneath for the song's duration while the drum sound is programmed to reflect it's title. There is definitely a wilderness feel lyrically with talk of Alaskan treelines and permafrost. But what's telling is that the destination of the wilderness is equated with escaping from loneliness and the music accurately reflects this.

Ojala's beautifully lead guitar melodies stand out on the patiently crafted 'Modern Times'. Nothing is hurried here as the song ambles along sweetly. Chorus wise, Rapo's ooh aah's are completed by Ojala's clever chord structure. The reverb drenched slow burner, 'Love And Dissonance' lessens the pace and sports an example of what was mentioned earlier, that Burning Hearts are more than willing to be unconventional. The beauty of the track is broken up twice by an attack of unsettling noise, that dissonance mentioned in the track title.

The rumbling swing of the drum beat takes centre stage on 'The Swallows'. The track is an exmaple of how well Rapo and Ojala give each other the space they need. The former sings two lines, an almost verse cut in half before Ojala intervenes to complete it with a lusciously gorgeous hook. It works brilliantly taking the tropical swing of the track in a different and unexpected direction. Second single 'Burn Burn Burn' begins in a deceptively unobtrusive way before kicking into fourth gear. The landscape's physical features and primitiveness return as organic metaphors for Rapo's defiance in the face of fears, 'I'm covered with flames, my skin's on fire, but I won't burn'  along with the chorus refrain; 'Over the deserts, into the forests, I run as a child, to hide from my hunger, my biggest fear, I fight with my hands and my spear'.

'Trade Winds' as the title suggests has a nautical theme, an optimistically, overtly pop sounding tune with beautiful harmonies. 'The Beast' ebbs away with a hopeful disposition but Rapo reminds us of our fragility 'You think that you are a King, but within a blink of an eye, you could go extinct'. Ojala's guitar work here is a triumph of beauty in simplicity. The final track 'Deep Waters' begins with Rapo's spirit like vocals alone with a single synth note before going aquatic in a musical sense with every instrument running together like a stream cascading from a mountain.

It's not often a reviewer can mention the words cinematic and pop in the one sentence or even in relation to each other. But cinematic pop seems to perfectly describe the Burning Hearts disposition. Rapo's nature laden lyrical metaphors are expertly tracked and captured musically. It is precisley because Ojala holds court over every instrument and device in the recording process that this is possible. There's a connection, an intimacy in these songs that is palpable, where two artists at the peak of their powers are almost in telepathic contact. You can almost feel yourself transported to an arctic wilderness or some tropical haven. It's been a long road for the talented duo with many roadblocks along the way, but with an album of such unique pop brilliance now under their belts, lets hope Extinctions gets the attention it deserves. Rapo and Ojala have done the hard yards and gifted us nine expertly crafted pop gems, now its the turn of purveyors of independent pop music to repay the favour.

James Stocker - February 4, 2012.

 

The Swallows

Burning Hearts (FIN)
From the album, Extinctions', Solina/Shelflife

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RECORD REVIEW: KORALLREVEN - AN ALBUM BY KORALLREVEN
Reviews
Monday, 12 December 2011 22:31

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Acephale

Buy here

The ambient sounds of Swedish band Korallreven, made up of Marcus Joons and Daniel Tjader  have enthused and relaxed the minds of many fans world wide since the release of 'Loved Up' a couple of years ago. This debut album has been a long time coming, and fans of Tjader's other band, Radio Dept. understand what it is like to be left hanging awaiting a release date. But as the saying goes, 'all good things come to those who wait', and this LP is certainly a good thing. 

The story goes that Joons was holidaying on the South Pacific island of Samoa a few years back, when he was struck with the inspiration to make a special mix of music made with a blend of the vibe of a tropical night out with the sounds of a Samoan church choir. The pop gems created under the banner of Korallreven are pure blissful moments that are hard to resist, and really do evoke the atmosphere of a balmy night on the beach. 

Teaming up with friend Tjader, the pair dropped the singles 'Honey Mine', 'The Truest Faith' and the aforementioned 'Loved Up' to rave reviews. The ten track debut, An Album By Korallreven, doesn't disappoint with their distinctive sounds looping and weaving throughout, pulling together electro, dreampop, shoegaze and world beats into a mix that goes down as well as a freshly made mojito. The vocals, restrained and hazy hit the mark every time.

'As Young As Yesterday' begins the proceedings with the bubbling sounds of water, flute, and synths entering before those distinctive vocals, gauzy and dreamlike set the tone for the following hour or so. The layerings of arrangements from the outset are complex and well constructed, not an easy thing to pull off despite the ease of which it comes across. The Balearic sounds continue into 'Sa Sa Samoa', its soft beats, layering of synths and choir-like backing gorgeous, with Julianna Barwick on vocals makeing this track a standout on the album.

'The Truest Faith' another highlight, is a track fans of the band and this website will know well, a fresh listen and in context of the LP giving it new legs. The in-and-out-of-focus vocals at their best here. 'Keep Your Eyes Shut' is sweet and affecting, beginning with a spoken overdub and lyrics repeating mantra-like, 'a dream within a dream'. The track builds up nicely and is another example of the way Korallreven create deceptively simple soundscapes out of careful craftsmanship. 'Loved Up' drives forward, devoid of vocals up front, leaving them be, washed away back in the mix, out to sea, in that way the Swedish do so well. 'Comin' Closer' has a twinge of 80s electro to it, stabbing synths hitting the mark every time.

'Honey Mine' introduces the beautiful vocals of Victoria Bergsman in a track that stands out as more energetic and upbeat than others on offer here. 'A Surf On Endorphins' is the shortest cut on the album, complete with howling wolves and chock full of atmospherics. 'Comin' Down' completes the trip in style, nine minutes long and a beautiful way to finish and return to reality. It makes sense that Korallreven is both Swedish for 'coral reef' and similar sounding to the Samoan word for spirituality. The care and love put into the production of this LP is clear to see, and will no doubt be the soundtrack to many dream holidays, taken in reality, or out of it. Where's my mojito?

- Dave Roberts, December 13, 2011

Sa Sa Samoa

Korallreven (SWE)
From the album, 'An Album By Korallreven', Acephale

Download here


As Young As Yesterday

Korallreven (SWE)
From the album, 'An Album By Korralreven', Acephale

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ALBUM OF THE YEAR

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Have You In My Wilderness

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TRACK OF THE YEAR

LOWER DENS (USA)

Your Heart Still Beating

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EP OF THE YEAR

KELELA (USA)

Hallucinogen 

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