Friday, February 27, 2009


OK, I knew this was going to be good, but I didn't know exactly how good. Bromst, the new album from Dan Deacon which will officially be released on March 23rd, turned out to be one of the best things I've heard in quite awhile.
Spanning approximately 70 minutes with 11 tracks, Bromst is an album of truly epic proportions. If you liked "Wham City" from 2007's Spiderman Of The Rings, you'll love the 7-9 minute tracks that anchor the album amidst the frenzied, chaotic pieces we've come to expect from Dan Deacon. It seems as if he's taken all the best elements from Spiderman and expanded and reworked them into a masterpiece of pulsating chipmunk-synth dance music. Just like he promised, however, a much greater range of emotion is included, and new tricks and experiments were also thrown into the mix to create a sound that is both familiar and new. Fans of "The Crystal Cat" will love the fast-paced, chirruping sounds of "Red F," "Padding Ghost," and "Woof Woof." Tracks like "Surprise Stefani" and "Baltihorse" are much gentler compositions, with beautiful layers of synthesizers, bells, and chimes (like "Big Milk" except on a much larger, more grandiose scale.) The centerpiece of the album, however, is the pair of back-to-back epics found a few tracks in. Both of these feature new styles and new source material for Dan Deacon: he arranges tiny segments of sound and arranges them in a rapid sequence, similar to "Orphaned" by Max Tundra (to which I dedicated a much earlier post), in the grand finale of "Snookered" and uses a chorus of tribal vocals as the backdrop for "Of The Mountains." The only new thing that didn't work out amazingly well was "Wet Wings," which consists of several layers of the sounds of women wailing and not much else. It feels out of place amidst the highly-polished, carefully constructed electronica that comprises the rest of this incredible album. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of hype about this album as it gets closer to the date, but you can be assured that it deserves every bit of it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Yes Or No; Tight Knit

A couple of weeks ago Christine and I did a show where we took random CDs off of the shelves of the radio library and played them on air without ever listening to them in advance (you should check out the archive on if you wish to listen.) It was actually a huge success, at least in terms of the expansion of my musical horizons. We tried to pick really obscure stuff that we'd never even heard of before, and most of it turned out to be really good (and I mean really.)

One of the tracks we played was "Say Fiesta" by Francois Virot, off of the album Yes Or No. We both loved the song so much on the first listen that I had no choice but to snatch the CD and rip it to my computer, and now, weeks later, listen to it in full. Let me say that I definitely was not disappointed, and the song I liked so much from our show is actually one of the weaker tracks on the album (which says a whole lot.) Virot's voice reminds me a whole lot of both Avey Tare and Zach Schwartz of Rogue Wave, especially when he sings the word "scared." The music itself is very humble and simple folk-pop (though it's technically classified as "freak-folk" due to the vocals) and the songs are both catchy and endearing. My favorites are the opener "Not The One," "Island," and closer "Yes Sun" but all of the tracks are solid.

Another surprisingly solid album is the new one from Vetiver, Tight Knit. This one didn't strike me as much on the first listen as Virot did, but after several all of the subtleties finally began to emerge. The title could just as easily apply to the way the tightly packaged music begins to unravel as you explore deeper as it does to the subject matter. Tight Knit sees Andy Cabic pushing the Banhart-inspired freak-folk into a more Beatlesque realm of psychedelic folk/pop, though it sounds even more relaxed and pleasant than that. Tracks like "Sister" and "More Of This" are more upbeat and fun while closer "At Forest Edge" is mellow and beautiful. Give it a chance and let it wrap around your cerebral cortex for a bit; it may just become one of your favorite albums of 2009 (so far.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Skin Of Evil; Skeleton; Your Blues; Beet, Maize, & Corn

I've spent the majority of my time this week doing math homework, so naturally I've listened to a lot of music in the background. Math problems are really repetetive and somewhat mindless, so they're perfect for doing while music is playing. Here are a few albums that stood out after (many) repeated listens:

Skin Of Evil by Blackout Beach: This is a new album reviving an old solo project of Frog Eyes and Swan Lake member Carey Mercer, released in December. It continues in the same noisy, chaotic vein of the two other projects, though this is perhaps even darker and less "musical." The song structures are, as usual, extremely complex, and this time they incorporate a lot more electronic elements, such as the sound of heavy pulsating static that is becoming increasingly common (like on another great album, Palm Fronds by The Double.) "Cloud Of Evil" and "Astoria, Menthol Lite, Hilltop, Wave Of Evil, 1982" bookend the album with awesomeness. I hope this is a sign of good things to come from the upcoming Enemy Mine LP from Swan Lake in March.

Skeleton by Abe Vigoda: An interesting concoction of punk and tropicalia. For some reason it sounds especially good on nice headphones, which means the simple, upbeat tunes also have a more subtle element that really enhances the overall aesthetic. The album itself is really solid as every track is pretty great, though some standouts include "The Garden," "Cranes," and the title track.

Your Blues by Destroyer: All of my friends always rave about The New Pornographers, but I've never really appreciated them as much for some reason. I tried delving into their earlier work, and while I do like some of the tracks on Mass Romantic, it's just not that interesting to me. However, Dan Bejar's other project, Destroyer, is pure genius. A melancholy mood pervades this album (hence the title) and the music is really beautiful, especially "Notorious Lightning" and "New Ways Of Living."

Beet, Maize, & Corn by The High Llamas: The sound on this album is one of the most unique sounds I've ever heard, even though it doesn't seem experimental or avant-garde at all. The High Llamas really capture a certain mood (or maybe place, or even time period?), though I can't quite put my finger on what it reminds me of, except for maybe my image the '50s or old movies/cartoons. I guess that makes it even better though, since now it can almost transcend time and space. Really nostalgic and heartwarming (like sitting next to a fireplace), especially "Rotary Hop" and "The Click And The Fizz."

I guess none of these are typical "background music," but through playing them in the background their intricacies have sort of become ingrained in my head, which always seems to happen at one point or another with the best of albums.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sweet Love For 2009

So 2009 is actually shaping up to be quite a year, and it's still only February. Not only are there a ton of great new albums from reputable artists, but there are also some great new groups (and more are on the way!) A key element to the success so far, however, is this compilation album:
Dark Was The Night, the brainchild of Aaron and Bryce Dessner (both members of indie rock greats The National), is a Red Hot Organization compilation released on the 4AD label to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. Also, it's pure genius. It's like they read my mind when gathering these 31 exclusive tracks spread across 2 CDs or 3 LP records. If you like the same music I do, you're likely to immediately recognize about 50% of the artists just from the tracklisting and then recognize another 45% when you actually hear the songs, as there's a lot of solo work here from members of notable bands. Not only are the brand new tracks representative of the best work from each artist (a lot of which happen to be my personal favorite musicians), but about half of the tracks are duets(!!!) I can't really think of anything I enjoy more than hearing two extremely familiar voices pair up to create something greater than the sum of its parts. My favorite tracks from the album include "Knotty Pine," an unexpected collaboration between Dirty Projectors and David Byrne, "Cello Song," which features the vocals of Jose Gonzalez crooning over the electronic sample-based pop of The Books, and "Service Bell," a chilling interplay between Leslie Feist and Daniel Rossen of Grizzly Bear. I don't think I've ever heard another compilation album that's quite as strong.

Aside from that, I've found more information about some important albums that are due this year and heard some more rumors of things to come that sound very interesting:

1) Hold Time, M. Ward's follow-up to the acclaimed Post-War, will be here on February 17th. It's already gotten good reviews, so keep your ears out for this one.

2) Black Moth Super Rainbow's Eating Us is set to follow their Dandelion Gum and will be released May 26th.

3) It's official: Veckatimest, Grizzly Bear's proper follow-up to one of my favorite albums, Yellow House, is scheduled for release also on May 26th. It will supposedly feature guest appearances by minimalist composer Nico Muhly (who, incidentally, provided the score for "The Reader", possibly my favorite movie of the season) and Victoria Legrand of Beach House.

4) On May 19th, Sub Pop will release a collection of rarities from Iron & Wine, and I'll finally be able to hear that really long ballad song that everyone's been talking about. There will also be some Postal Service, Flaming Lips, and New Order covers, so get excited!

5) In addition, Patrick Wolf, Swan Lake, Akron/Family, Metric, Royksopp, Echo & The Bunnymen, Alela Diane, Vetiver, Phosphorescent, and Architecture In Helsinki will also be releasing new albums this year (some of which should be out before the end of the month.) Crystal Antlers, after a couple of introductory EPs, will release a debut this month as well. Blind Man's Colour, a band gaining popularity through covers of Animal Collective's "Taste" and "Brothersport" and which has a very similar sound (from what I heard from a fellow BSR program), will be releasing a debut album and EP as soon as a record label will sign them. I think someone better get on that...

I'll keep y'all posted on any news, as long as you'll keep your fingers crossed for a new Sufjan, Panda Bear, and Joanna.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ferndorf; Infinite Leagues

During our show last weekend I dug up a few CDs that were ignored when they first came in the mail toward the end of last year (our reviewing system is sadly very disorganized.) I'm lucky I decided to go through the bin, because I found two really good albums from last October: Ferndorf by Hauschka and Infinite Leagues by Golden Birthday.

Ferndorf is the third album by neo-classical minimalist composer, Volker Bertelmann, who makes use of a technique called "prepared piano" to create his short pieces of warm, melodic goodness. The technique involves putting random objects between the strings of the piano, and it was first explored by early pioneers of experimental music like John Cage. The result, in addition to the other string and percussion instruments layered over the repetitive piano backdrop, is a folksy, earthy sound that quickly progresses around the musical ideas. The album is named for Bertelmann's hometown, and it actually captures what I imagine to be the feeling of riding a bicycle around some Eastern European country. Very pretty, especially "Rode Null" and "Eltern."
Infinite Leagues had "For fans of early Eno and New Order" written on the distributor label, which is what immediately drew me to give it a listen. The voice does sound like Eno, but that was about the extent of the comparisons. The music is very touching, however, as it combines layers of lo-fi electronic pop to create a sort of surreal environment, again using repetition to set the mood. The closing track, "Good Guys," is especially phenomenal, most probably due to my affinity for vocoder experimentation. Side note: is it just me or does the cover look almost exactly like the cover (at least in idea) of Dan Deacon's upcoming Bromst LP? And, if the similarity was intentional, who copied whom? This one came out last October...

Finally, I somehow managed to get a copy of the new Junior Boys album that is scheduled for release in April, Begone Dull Care. Basically, it's amazing. Fans of Last Exit and So This Is Goodbye will definitely not be disappointed, and at the same time the duo manages to progress into new territory and refine their sound. "Dull To Pause" is just as heartbreaking as "Like A Child" while "Parallel Lines" is just as thrilling as "Teach Me How To Fight." Bravo! I'd post a picture, but unfortunately it's so premature to its release that it doesn't even have album art yet.

Monday, February 2, 2009

March Of The Zapotec And Realpeople Holland

Another item from the list of things to look forward to has arrived: the double EP from Beirut, March Of The Zapotec and Realpeople Holland, though the second disc should actually just be called Holland and credited to Realpeople, another of Zach Condon's musical projects. The rationale for this is that the two EPs are completely different from one another, and Holland is completely different from most of what Beirut is known for.

March Of The Zapotec continues Condon's experimentation with foreign music that began with his trip to the Balkans that inspired Gulag Orkestar and continued through to Western Europe in The Flying Club Cup. This one takes place in Mexico, and while it maintains the typical Beirut sound, I feel like it lacks a lot of the charm and good songwriting that was found on the aforementioned recordings. In contrast, Holland, though it shakes the foundation of what we've come to expect from Zach and is more electronic than anything else, actually retains the charm and is full of beautiful, emotional tracks. It's almost as if Condon was torn between what was expected of him, the traditional world-influenced folk music, and what he actually wanted to make, the synth-pop. He ended up making a little of each, but you can easily tell where his efforts and excitement were focused. "My Wife, Lost In The Wild" is a gorgeous, melancholy piece that is of the same vein as the previously released "My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille," only better, while "No Dice" is an incredibly catchy rollercoaster of a track that moves farthest away from the rest and still captures the emotion inherent in Beirut's music without taking advantage of any of Condon's vocals or typical instruments. I have so much respect for him right now because of his ability to convey the same essence in two vastly different genres of music, and I'm excited to see in which direction he'll go next.