Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bitte Orca

Another hit-or-miss group, Dirty Projectors, also have a new album right around the corner: Bitte Orca. "Warholian Wigs" and "I Will Truck" from The Getty Address as well as "What I See" and "Gimme Gimme Gimme" from Rise Above are examples of experimentation that work beautifully, whereas some other tracks are just too out there to sound pleasing. Bitte Orca, however, is all hit and no miss.Maybe it's because there's only 9 tracks instead of 13 or 14, maybe it's the increased collaboration with Angel Deradoorian (like on the beautiful "Two Doves") and Amber Coffman (who contributes vocals on the stellar single "Stillness Is The Move"), or maybe it's just a natural progression for Dave Longstreth's new-folk project, but Bitte Orca seems like a much more focused album and may be the best they've recorded yet. The sound is more polished and the musical themes are much more fleshed out, while the songs are jam-packed with the same energy present in the best tracks of their discography. They're catchier and more accessible than ever, and while that may seem like a bad thing to some, accessibility is exactly what Dirty Projectors needed. This is not to say that they sold out or even came close, they've just finally refined their sound to its pinnacle: the bizarre song structures, rhythms, and guitar-work are just as weird as ever and the songs still have the distinct Dirty Projectors sound. This is exemplefied in the raucous opener "Cannibal Resource" as well as the more subtle tracks "No Intention" and "Remade Horizon." Though it actually isn't released until June 9th, this album is already on my list of the best of 2009.


Akron/Family's more mellowed-out version of Animal Collective's freak folk is usually a hit or miss for me. Some of their songs are ridiculously good, such as "Gone Beyond" from Meek Warrior and "Running/Returning" from their self-titled debut, while others are just plain boring and uninspired. Their new album, Set 'Em Wild Set 'Em Free, continues this traditional dichotomy, but here the ratio of good to bad is slightly improved. The track that makes the entire album, however, is also the first single, "River." With its fusion of tropical instruments and a steady, light-hearted beat, the song is sure to put you in a better mood after listening. The lyrics are charming, the music is bright and sunny, and it's just a catchy track all-around.

You can download it from Pitchfork for free by clicking here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

There haven't been many good new albums lately (hence the lack of posts) but one of my recent finds has slowly grown on me: Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, the new disc from Smog's Bill Callahan.
I'm not too familiar with most of Bill's other work as Smog, but I plan to be after hearing this. Some reviews I've read have said that the songs recorded under his real name showed a stark contrast with his earlier, lo-fi folk recordings in both sound quality and subject matter. That being said, I think this album is somewhat of a return to form. Though there are many layers of instruments over Callahan's monotone vocals, the structures are simple, repetitive, and somewhat hypnotic while the lyrics capture some of the horrid feelings of despair found on the only Smog record I've heard, Red Apple Falls. Bill does a lot of interesting things on this album with the few elements he has at his disposal, including the Arabian sounds on "The Wind And The Dove" and the back-up choir on "Rococo Zephyr." He also uses his words as an important instrument, creating a profound build-up toward the end of "Too Many Birds" just by repeating elements of the phrase "if you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat" over and over again, adding each new word one at a time until complete. Other notable tracks include the single "Eid Ma Clack Shaw" (which is surprisingly dark and atypical), the satisfyingly upbeat "My Friend", and the 9-minute closer, "Faith/Void."