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Albums Out 10/9: Tame Impala, Ty Segall, MellowHype, Django Django and More

Posted by Billy Gil, October 8, 2012 07:00pm | Post a Comment

Album Picks:

Tame ImpalaLonerism

tame impala lonerism

LP $19.98

DL $9.98

CD $11.98

Whereas Tame Impala’s awesome first album, Innerspeaker, was all about muscle, on Lonerism the Australian band tends to build its psych-rock songs more deliberately, more delicately. But they still kick ass, and hard. “Be Above It’s” titular refrain is whispered over a tumbling drumbeat until Kevin Parker takes off with a simple, Beatlesesque melody and he and his cohorts supply fuzzed out psychedelic flourishes. Thanks to Parker’s high, nasal voice, those comparisons to John Lennon keep coming, on songs like “Apocalypse Dreams,” where Parker’s vocals and melodies certainly are reminiscent of the Fab Four, but musically they’re no mere worshippers at the psych throne, more interested in squeezing strange, new sounds out of familiar territory and taking their arrangements through multiple tempo changes, broiling them through effects, laying moogs and synths over them and then looping back to the original melody like deja vu. Tame Impala also prove adept and producing the straightforward rock single on “Elephant,” which may draw comparisons to The White Stripes for more than just its title, but whose bass-heavy sound really pulls more from psych originators like Blue Cheer — just hookier. Parker, who produced the first Tame Impala record, as well as the recent, excellent release by Melody’s Echo Chamber, finds perfect sonic kinship in David Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev), who can be known for helping to dramatically change a band’s sound (Sleater-Kinney’s mindblowing The Woods, for instance) but who mostly seems to help Tame Impala sound even fuller, allowing the band’s punchiness to come through in tracks like the pop psychedelic wonder of “Music to Walk Home By,” but thickening it with layers of space-rock sound. The end result is that Lonerism hits hard but leaves a lasting impression, leaving the listener to wrap his or her head around all the wondrous sounds of the record and immediately wanting to track back and listen again.

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Albums Out 10/2: Moon Duo, Taken By Trees, Flying Lotus and More

Posted by Billy Gil, October 1, 2012 07:29pm | Post a Comment

Album Picks:

Moon Duo CirclesMoon DuoCircles
 
Echoes of Suicide, Silver Apples and Spacemen 3 emulate from Moon Duo’s big bad amplifiers, but the San Francisco band develops that into their own brand of psychedelia on Circles, their latest and finest release. The band, which consists of SF psych-rockers Wooden Shjips’ Erik “Ripley” Johnson on guitar as well as Sanae Yamada on keyboards, sounded great on previous releases when they let things fly into extended jam territory (as do Wooden Shjips), but they sound just as engaging in more bite-sized pieces, as on the darkly melodic “I Can See” and jangly title track, which lets just enough light in to help illuminate the rest of the album as a result. They still do motorized rock with Kraut beats like no other, as on songs like “I Been Gone,” but songs like the actually kind of dancey “Dance pt. 3” prove to be the perfect augment to their sound. Badass and no-nonsense, for sure, Circles captures Moon Duo at their best but allows them loosen up stylistically and have a little more fun at the same time.
 
taken by treesTaken By TreesOther Worlds
 
After leaving Swedish indie pop group The Concretes, Victoria Bergsman has straddled the line between conventional pop wisdom (her duet with Peter Bjorn & John, “Young Folks,” and covers of Animal Collective and Guns ‘N’ Roses) and more worldly aspirations. Other Worlds continues that tradition for Bergsman. Inspired by her travels to Hawaii, Other Worlds similarly concerns itself with one place, or one feel, rather than taking a pan-global approach (similarly to her last album, the Pakistan-influenced East of Eden), though Other Worlds doesn’t sound terribly Hawaiian as it does have a swaying, oceanic feel, like a dive captured in slow motion. “Dreams” beautifully floats into the ether on the strength of Bergsman’s nocturnal voice and chorus-heavy guitars. “In Other Words’” most notable feature is actually its country-inspired steel guitar, but the song’s slow jaunt and vaguely singsongy quality makes it feel like a codeine-fueled cover of a sea shanty. Thankfully Bergsman doesn’t allow her muse to overly rule or define her songs, and Other Worlds is quite distinct and varied, despite its understated island vibe. You forgive some of the seemingly cheesy elements of its theme, like the cutesy vibraphone and steel drums on “Pacific Blue,” because Bergsman weaves them into something unique and seamlessly ties them together with unrelated sounds. The album’s opening songs, for instance, build airy ballads over airy bedroom electronics and found sounds, which come back to the fore with the clanging “Not Like Any Other” and dubby beatwork of “Large,” both of which sound a bit like a chilled out Grimes. Like most of Bergsman’s work, Other Worlds is a feat of subtlety, but is nonetheless memorable, tuneful and easy to submerge yourself in.

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New Preorders: Ty Segall, Muse, Bat For Lashes, Taylor Swift and More

Posted by Billy Gil, September 19, 2012 04:50pm | Post a Comment
flying lotusFlying LotusUntil the Quiet Comes – Oct. 2
 
The latest from the L.A. sound maestro features contributions from Erykah Badu, Laura Darlington, Niki Randa, Thundercat and Thom Yorke.
 

 






the vaccinesThe VaccinesCome of Age – Oct. 2
 
The second album from the NME-touted Brit punks.
 









 
MuseMuseThe Second Law – Oct. 2
 
The Britpop group turned arena rockers’ next album may have an electro edge, given its first single, “Madness.”

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Album Picks: Thee Oh Sees, The XX, The Raveonettes, Plus Albums and Blu-rays Out Today

Posted by Billy Gil, September 11, 2012 05:45pm | Post a Comment
thee oh seesThee Oh Sees – Putrifiers II
 
S.F. psych-rockers Thee Oh Sees’ cult seemed to overflow with two great albums released last year, the scuzzy lo-fi pop of Castlemania and its more acid-tinged follow-up, Carrion Crawler/The Dream. Putrifiers II works off that momentum and delivers on its promise, scaling back the noise of their more rambunctious moments to offer hypnotic, low-key psych-pop. “Wax Face” features some of Thee Oh Sees main man John Dwyer’s idiosyncrasies, with wacked out harmonic guitarwork and echoing, screechy vocals, but with that familiarity out of the way, the album’s next two songs feel new for Dwyer, as “Hang a Picture” is nostalgic, even sweet jangly pop, and “So Nice” takes a Velvets-inspired trip through stately drone. “Flood’s New Light” sounds like a cleaned-up version of the off-kilter Turtles-style garage rock the band previously produced, and with its cleaner production, Dwyer’s pop songwriting smarts come through more clearly, as does his way of subverting his pop arrangements with slightly atonal melodies. As the album’s noise-and-space epic title track flows into the ethereal, strange ’60s pop of “We Will Be Scared,” it becomes clear this is Dwyer’s strongest material to date. For all his prolificacy, Putrifiers II is remarkably consistent and a fine statement of purpose moving forward for Dwyer.
 
the xxThe XX – Coexist
 
The XX dig further into their shrouded corner of the universe with Coexist, an album that finds the trio even more assured in producing their minimalist, romantic sound. “Angels” opens the album breathtakingly as Romy Madley Croft’s vocal coaxes intensity with just a few simple refrains. Co-vocalist Oliver Sim pulls a similar trick on the yearning “Missing,” while “Chained” is one of the best examples yet of how Jamie Smith’s production meshes perfectly with Madley Croft and Sim’s simple yet divine vocal interplay and subtle guitarwork, its beats coming in offtime to break the spell at just the right time. Coexist works when its trio supports each other with the just the right amount effort, such as on “Reunion” and “Sunset,” in which Smith’s lush keyboards and muffled beatwork provides a perfect backdrop in which the vocalists can swim, or when Smith largely removes himself for the first half of the haunting “Tides” before coming in with his most pronounced beat of the album. At times it threatens to blow away in the wind, given its lightness of touch. But taking the view that there’s a time and place for most music, Coexist plants The XX firmly in nighttime music territory, and for such times — for sleep, romance, introspection — there’s nearly nothing better to suit the mood.
 
the raveonettes observatorThe Raveonettes – Observator
 
After spending the better part of a decade producing huge, wall-of-sound, Jesus & Mary Chain-style guitar noise, The Raveonettes continue the scaling back of their sound begun on the darker, unfairly maligned Raven in the Grave on Observator. Though it still eschews the campiness that marked much of The Raveonettes earlier work, Observator is a sunnier affair than Raven, full of sparkling guitarwork and Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo’s twinlike harmonies. The beginning songs on Observator sound like a back-to-basics approach to their sound, Buddy Holly melodies over tinny beats, but the Ride-like rush of “Sinking With the Sun” and lovelorn single “She Owns the Street” display an interest in jangle pop, without as much of the shoegaze sheen the band used to coat their songs with. This is a more melody-focused rendition of The Raveonettes’ sound, and thus its emotional quality comes through more clearly. Observator’s noise-flecked pop in songs like the glorious closer “Till the End” relay a lonely sense of wonderment, like staring at the stars alone.
 
Also released today:
 
st vincent and david byrneDavid Byrne & St. Vincent – Love This Giant
 
An old art school meets new art school dream collaboration comes to us from David Byrne and St. Vincent’s Love This Giant, which plays to the strengths of both artists with a dynamic, eclectic sound, immaculate production and deft arrangement. The Byrne-led “Who” calls to mind classic Byrne/Talking Heads with its quizzical delivery, while “Weekend in the Dust” makes St. Vincent’s Annie Clark into a worldbeat dance diva. “Dinner for Two” is a sublime duet, nicely interrupted by horn-work that dots the album and holds it together, especially coming into play on the funky pop of “The One Who Broke Your Heart,” featuring Antibalas and The Dap-Kings. “I Am an Ape” and “I Should Watch TV” find Byrne at his most satirical, while Clark shines on “Optimist,” one of her sweetest vocal performances to date. Some of the album’s middle tracks mesh Byrne’s and Clark’s styles so well, such as the clockwork sound of “Lazarus,” that a future collaboration to see how these two could get into even more interesting territory seems like a sure thing — at least we can hope, because Love This Giant already is a slyly rewarding gift from two artists, one over many years and one in just a short time, who have given us plenty already.
 
calexico algiersCalexico – Algiers
 
Calexico’s noir folk sound grows even more majestic on Algiers. The band’s eighth album finds them as confident in their sound as they’ve ever been, becoming more soulful, more embracing on tracks like opener “Epic,” which balances warm verses with a darker chorus. In particular, Joey Burns’ and Jacob Valenzuela’s vocals mesh beautifully on the propulsive “Splitter,” and Burns carries “Sinner in the Sea” through its spooky, spiritual setting of sparkling piano and minor-key guitar, suggesting the New Orleans setting the band has said helped inspire the record. Calexico have often evoked various times and places, namely the desert setting of their namesake, and Algiers can’t help but feel like the work of a band at some mysterious port-town dive, whether that be in New Orleans, Algiers or any number of Spanish-speaking cities, calling out Santo Domingo and strumming Spanish guitar in “Puerto” and going back to their mariachi-inspired roots on the Spanish-sung “No Te Vayas.” Surprisingly, Calexico’s globe-trotting, more pronounced than ever, holds together and doesn’t feel like dilettantism; rather, it helps not define Algiers by one specific time or place, instead conjuring unspeakable feelings of nostalgia and becoming lost in another culture. Wherever Algiers puts you, you know the feeling.
 
bob dylan tempestBob Dylan - Tempest
 
Over the opening sounds of steel guitars and a bouncing bass, Bob Dylan’s ever-growlier voice comes in like a train conductor from another time and we’re whisked away to an Amierca of yore in Tempest opener “Duquesne Whistle.” Tempest is classic Dylan, full of his trademark detail and skillful incorporation of various threads of classic American styles. Dylan and his band tunnel through the country blues of “Narrow Way,” as Dylan delivers irresistible lines in his rambling fashion like “It’s a long and narrow road/If I can’t work up to you/You’ll surely have to work down to me some day.” Tempest isn’t all dusky blues, though, as its ballad “Long and Wasted Years” is one of its best, Dylan offering romantic lament (“I wear dark glasses to cover my eyes/there’re secrets in them that I can’t disguise”). Tempest’s strongest moments come in its closing tracks, the immaculately detailed murder ballad “Tin Angel,” hopeful album closer “Roll on John,” and sandwiched between them the title tracks, an already much-discussed near-14 minute tale of the Titanic “sinking into the underworld” (and also, “Leo and his sketchbook”), over a stately mix of country blues and sea shanty, buoyed by transcendent violins that give pause to Dylan’s depiction of tragedy and what it brings out of ordinary people, good and bad. Tempest ends leaving listeners with renewed interest in the complexity of humanity, as the best of Dylan’s work often stokes our desire to know ourselves and others more deeply.
 
guano padanoGuano Padano – 2
 
Along with Calexico’s Algiers, this week has seen a wealth of Western-inspired rock released. Guano Padano are an instrumental three-piece who move from nourish country (“One Man Bank”) to Middle Eastern-inspired surf rock (“Gran Bazaar”) to glitchy jazz (“Lynch”) and just about anywhere else their instruments can take them, incorporating your basic guitar, piano, bass and drums, plus banjo, eerie steel guitar, Chinese instrumentation (“Miss Chan”) and anything else that might seem appropriate while retaining their Spaghetti Western sound. Mike Patton shows up to lend his howling vocals to the dark “Prairie Fire,” and the band turns in a dreamy cover of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” but these moments aren’t even necessary diversions — Guano Padano’s cool, kitschy sound stands on its own, soundtracking imagined, unmade films and allowing the listener to explore their own interpretation or simply bask in the sound.
 
amanda palmerAmanda Palmer – Theatre is Evil
 
Amanda Palmer drops some of the theatricality of Dresden Dolls for this synthier, poppier album with backing band The Grand Theft Orchestra.
 

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Album Picks: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Bill Fay, Lorelei, Plus Albums Out Today

Posted by Billy Gil, August 21, 2012 06:46pm | Post a Comment
ariel pinkI haven’t had any picks per se over the past couple of weeks. Truth be told there just wasn’t that much I was excited about. Then this week comes Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti’s new album, Mature Themes. I was concerned about this one — reports of the band breaking up, then not; an inter-band lawsuit; and a lovely yet somber cover (“Baby”) chosen as the first single. But not to worry; Mature Themes proves to be a tongue-in-cheek title, though its title track does tuck quarter-life crisis neatly into clever lines and jaunty ’70s AM Gold (“I wish I was taller than 5-foot-four/Thirty-five years old/My life spent computing it all”). Ariel Pink has a way of making even self-destruction sound amusing, bouncing lyrics like “Who sank my battleship? I sank my own battletrip” off gooey guitar riffs and organs on Mature Themes’ opener, “Kinski Assasin” (another sample lyric: “suicide dumplings dropping testicle bombs”). It’s as much fun as its predecessor, Ariel Pink’s lo-fi pop breakthrough, Before Today, but with more of a focus on songcraft. “Only in Dreams” has its fair share of neat production flourishes, but it wouldn’t need them to send its ’60s pop hooks into your brain. And with repeated listens, the breadth of bargain-bin pop and forgotten sources reconfigured through Ariel Pink’s art school lens becomes more apparent, and more bewildering. Is “Live it Up” meant to sound like the dream-pop soundtrack to an early NES game? Is “Symphony of the Nymph” both the name and theme song to a sexy straight-to-VHS ’80s comedy? Is “Schnitzel Boogie” actually a boogie, and does that mean I should learn more about boogie? With Ariel Pink, every song seems to occupy its own little sound wave, and surfing between their brilliant colors makes all others seem monochromatic in comparison.
 
bill fayAlso out today is the first album in 40 years from British singer-songwriter Bill Fay. I hadn’t heard Fay’s music previously, but after hearing the stunning Life is People, I’ll be sure to check out his earlier work. “There is a Valley” is a spiritual of sorts personifying the trees, sheep and flowers that surround humanity, detailing how they’ve born witness to the destruction caused by humanity. It doesn’t come off as preachy, but rather, when taken with the album’s title, allows its listeners to see the bigger picture of humanity as one element that impacts its environment more than any other. It helps that Fay’s voice evokes rare wisdom, like a subtler Leonard Cohen or calmer Patti Smith. While many of the songs on Life is People invite somber meditation, based around ominous orchestration, there’s also a fighting spirit that saves Life is People from too much cynicism — even as lines call to mind the struggles of the working poor on “This World,” a collaboration from admirer Jeff Tweedy (of Wilco, who covered Fay’s “Be Not So Fearful” in their documentary I Am Trying to Break Your Heart), the song benefits from a sunny, alt-country delivery. Similarly, “The Healing Day” is so lush that even its bittersweet tone feels comforting, as Fay sings a simple line like “it’ll be OK” and sends shivers down your spine. But you don’t have to take my word for it — listen to a full album stream below and pick up a copy of Life is People.
 

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