Monday, March 30, 2009

Playlist: Do The Happy Dance

Every once in awhile, I put together a playlist for myself that's more personal than the ones we throw together for our show. Whenever I do, it seems like the songs pick themselves and come together naturally, and thus they're usually rare as there's a lot of waiting involved (the last was in December.) The mixes usually consist of a wide range of songs I've been obessed with, either old or new, and they are meant to be played at random, as each song fits in so well with the rest that the order doesn't matter. Anyway, I though I'd share this one with you all; it's called Do The Happy Dance. Though most of the tracks aren't "dance" tracks by any means, most of them do have a persistent beat (and electronic effects) and they will most likely make you happy, as they do for me:

1. "Unsolved Mysteries" by Animal Collective off of Strawberry Jam
2. "No Dice" by Beirut off of Realpeople Holland
3. "Major Label Debut" by Broken Social Scene off of Broken Social Scene
4. "Surprise Stefani" by Dan Deacon off of Bromst
5. "The Twist" by Frightened Rabbit off of The Midnight Organ Fight
6. "Hold Onto Love" by Golden Birthday off of Infinite Leagues
7. "Two Weeks" by Grizzly Bear off of Veckatimest
8. "Angela" by John Vanderslice off of Pixel Revolt
9. "Dull To Pause" by Junior Boys off of Begone Dull Care
10. "We Live In An Expanding Universe" by Kelley Polar off of I Need You To Hold On When The Sky Is Falling
11. "Human" by The Killers off of Day & Age
12. "Tonight" by Lykke Li off of Youth Novels
13. "Middle Is Gold" by Mates Of State off of Team Boo
14. "Sing Me Spanish Techno" by The New Pornographers off of Twin Cinema
15. "Young Adult Friction" by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart off of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
16. "Inni Mer Syngur Vitleysingur" by Sigur Ros off of Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
17. "Elevator Love Letter" by Stars off of Heart
18. "Sister" by Vetiver off of Tight Knit
19. "Softshock" by Yeah Yeah Yeahs off of It's Blitz
20. "Tightrope" by Yeasayer off of Dark Was The Night

Follow the links to free mp3 downloads, courtesy of the blogs on Elbows music blog aggregator (except "Middle Is Gold" and "Hold Onto Love," which are courtesy of me.)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

It's Blitz

It's Blitz, the new album from Yeah Yeah Yeahs that recently hit shelves, is a departure from their early punk-rock roots in the days of Fever To Tell. However, the new album's experiment in synth-pop just goes to show that the superb songwriting abilities of the group span across multiple genres.
The album begins with the hit single, "Zero," which is energetic, upbeat, and extremely catchy. The use of the synthesizer sets the tone for the rest of the album, while Karen O's distinct vocals carry the sound to a new level. This continues on the next track, "Heads Will Roll." It isn't until the third track, though, that the album really hits its stride. Throwing a bit of oriental music in the mix, Yeah Yeah Yeahs here create their best song since "Maps": "Softshock." This is followed by another incredible oriental-influenced track, "Skeletons," that starts with just Karen and slowly builds up to an excellent amalgamation of drums, guitars, and synthesizer that reminds me of (and I hate to bring it up yet again) Animal Collective's "My Girls." The next few tracks are less exciting, but still decent. Those are followed by "Runaway," another of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's softer, more emotional tracks. The third of the three songs that make this album truly special, though, is the penultimate track, "Hysteric," which throws in a few endearing vocals and unexpected melodies to round off the album, which then ends on the beautiful downer "Little Shadow." It's a very satisfying listen, and fans of Yeah Yeah Yeahs (especially those who love "Maps" as much as I do) will see past the change in sound and recognize the variety of talent in the group.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Midnight Organ Fight

Another of 2008's many fantastic albums, The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit was vastly overlooked and under-appreciated by many, including myself. I picked up a copy sometime last Spring but never listened to it, not being particularly fond of their first effort Sing The Greys. On the first listen, I found all of the songs pretty catchy, but as it wasn't that new, experimental, or different, I didn't give it much thought. But now, almost a year after its release, I find that I can't stop listening to it.
The album is a perfect example of the popular trend of Scottish indie rock (a genre I don't even care for all that much); nothing more, nothing less. The difference here is that it's done to perfection. The song-writing is incredible and every track is solid, catchy, and just really enjoyable to listen to. There's nothing wrong with staying in the confines of tradition like this album does, as long as the product is quality. The Midnight Organ Fight, using a euphemism for sex as its title, is an album about relationships. The lyrics are simple and heartfelt (though at times vulgar.) Scott Hutchison's Scottish accent croons over the folk-infused rock music, showing a wide range of emotion especially on tracks like "The Modern Leper" and "Keep Yourself Warm." There's so much variety, ranging from the upbeat excellence of "I Feel Better" and "The Twist" to the soft, bittersweet sentimentality of "Poke" and "Floating In The Forth." Just put away any preconceived notions of this genre, this band, and this album and give it a listen. It's easy to appreciate it for what it is.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I just recently got my hands (or ears?) on the latest effort from Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest (to be released May 26th, 2009). Named for the summer vacation spot in which it was written and recorded, the long-awaited follow-up to 2006's Yellow House has instantly placed among my list of favorites in 2009.
The album continues and expands the psychedelic splendor of Grizzly Bear's sound, while at the same time pushing the band in new and different directions, probably due to the collaborative efforts of minimalist composer Nico Muhly (who also contributes vocals). A few tracks closely resemble last year's release from Daniel Rossen's other project, Department Of Eagles (see my best of 2008 list), as they have more propulsive rhythm that is common among the psych-folk scene nowadays (Dodos are the perfect example.) In tracks like "Two Weeks" and "While You Wait For The Others," they also capitalize more on a signature Grizzly Bear trait: the use of ghostly, choir-like background voices that harmonize with Rossen and Ed Droste, the other driving force behind the band. A change in song-writing is also present, as several tracks including opener "Southern Point" and "Ready, Able" have more complex structures than what we're used to, though the change is not necessarily an improvement, it just seems different. Apparently Victoria Legrand of Beach House also guests on this album, though I can't seem to figure out where (she's probably lurking in the background of "Two Weeks" or "Dory".) I guess that's just a testament to how seamless the album is, though, and I prefer how Grizzly Bear carefully integrates the individual elements to create something entirely different from its components rather than succumbing to a more gimmicky approach. Yellow House is one of my all-time favorite albums, and as such I am not quite ready to decide how I think Veckatimest compares, but the bottom line is that it's definitely an incredible album in its own right and was definitely worth the 3-year wait.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Oval's 1996 masterpiece, 94diskont, is perhaps the defining album of the glitch subgenre of electronic music. Markus Popp of Oval was one of the founding pioneers of the genre (along with Christian Marclay) and uses the "aesthetic of failure" to create beautiful soundscapes evoking a variety of emotions using source material of beeps, clicks, scratches, and other "bad" sounds. In fact, this album was created mostly through destroying old LP records and splicing their sounds together. Like fellow glitch master Christian Fennesz's Endless Summer, 94diskont could change the way you hear and think about music.The sprawling opening track, "Do While," is a slow exploration of a simple repeated theme that is sure to be ingrained into your head before the 25 minutes are up. Taking hints from minimalist composers such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich, Oval uses repetition to create a subtle but striking build-up that needs every second of the track to truly evolve. "Store Check" continues in the same subtle mannerisms. "Line Extension," the track that drew me to this album in the first place, is just brilliant. At times I don't even know what sounds I'm hearing, but they blend together into such a fluid movement that I find myself getting swept in every time I hear it. "Cross Selling" and "Shop In Store" also develop repetetive themes like in "Do While," though they are a bit more jarring and exciting because of the harsher sounds used. "Do While Apple-X" returns to the same theme as the album's opener, bringing the listener back to the beginning of the journey and completing a truly fantastic album.