Amoeblog

Album Picks: Kirin J Callinan, Zomby, After Dark 2

Posted by Billy Gil, July 2, 2013 08:33am | Post a Comment

Kirin J Callinan - Embracism

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LP $18.98 [out 7/16]

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Kirin J. Callinan’s music defies easy explanation. It’s hard and corrosive, full of distorted guitars and grinding beats, while his serrated voice consistently sounds on the verge of collapse, on songs like the title track, with lyrics that fuck with gender, sexuality and social norms (“"A man can meet another man in a bar/On the sportsfield/At his place of work/Or in his own apartment/Or on the Internet right now!” he explains in a hilarious verse). It’s also full of towering beauty, as his voice reins in the terror but none of the drama for the glorious “Victoria M.” The Australian native is the rare, charismatic singer/songwriter who can keep us enthralled whether he glowering or swooning, like his Aussie forefather, Nick Cave. While his attempts at more global social commentary don’t always work — “Come On USA’s” jabs are a little hokey, despite the music’s fury, and “Way II War” is effective more for its extremely creepy atmospherics — his personal freakouts are always compelling, as “Love Delay’s” sexual outcry and hairpin turn halfway through will attest. The freewheeling Embracism loudly announces the arrival of a new, singular talent to watch — with any luck, Kirin J. Callinan is just getting fired up.

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Album Picks: Smith Westerns, The Three O'Clock, Bass Drum of Death

Posted by Billy Gil, June 25, 2013 06:08pm | Post a Comment

Smith Westerns - Soft Will

smith westerns soft willCD $12.98

LP $18.98

Chicago’s Smith Westerns buck the sophomore slump trend with a second album that’s cleaner and more streamlined than their first, with the same irrepressible energy and dedication to hookiness. While Dye It Blonde felt like garage rock touched by classic pop impulses, they indulge their pop sensibilities full-force on songs like opener “3am Spiritual,” which true to its name feels like impossible orchestral pop half-remembered from a dream, with George Harrison-style solos and a hymnal chorus. Smith Westerns are also great at crafting modest guitar pop — “Idol” finds the band trading in gleaming melodic rock, full of effected guitars and soft harmonies, while “Glossed” is sprightly and sweet, channeling early R.E.M.-style jangle. But the band also can’t help going big. Instrumental “XXIII” is a slow-burning epic of Dark Side of the Moon proportions. “Fool Proof” has dizzying layers of guitar, piano and vocal melody. Even a lovely ballad like “Varsity” has grand ambition tucked away in its shy-seeming veneer. That passion makes poring through Soft Will a thorough pleasure.

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Album Picks: Kanye West, Sigur Ros, Primal Scream, Austra, Spectrals, The Mantles

Posted by Billy Gil, June 18, 2013 10:02am | Post a Comment

Kanye West - Yeezus

kanye west yeezus coverCD $12.98

Much as 808s & Heartbreak was a reaction to personal drama that led to a cold, mechanical album unlike anything he had previously produced, Yeezus seems to be a response to everything Kanye West has previously recorded — and to hip-hop, and popular music, in general. In short, it sounds like nothing else around, a fusion of harsh industrial production and some of West’s most aggressive lyrics to date. We had already heard the controversy-baiting “Black Skinhead,” its Nine Inch Nails-style beat giving a tribal flow to an otherwise entirely antagonistic first single. The rest of Yeezus follows suit; West as his collaborators keep you guessing what’ll happen next throughout. Listening to opener “On Sight” feels like staring into a glaring light, its synths overdriven to a digital roar, as West claims he doesn’t give a fuck, before West and producers Daft Punk drop an R&B sample that sounds like it was recorded from another room. “New Slaves” takes bling-obsessed hip-hop to task, along with private prisons and implied white privilge, ending with a gorgeous, lo-fi outro sung by Frank Ocean — it’s way too much for one song to handle, yet it’s thrilling to hear the song teeter back and forth. Ven the tracks here that don’t sound particularly interesting at their outset, like the slow-to-start “Hold My Liquor,” eventually do something that make your head spin — in the case of this song, it’s the way those sirens and West’s cadence bounce off the bubbling, ethereal synthesizers beneath. The greatest faults in Yeezus lie in West’s lyrics — heightened braggadocio and claims of manhood are nothing new to hip-hop, which is exactly the problem with some of the more repetitive lyrics about his sexual conquests, compared with their riveting delivery and the production surrounding them; furthermore, “Blood on the Leaves” questionably cops anti-racism classic “Strange Fruit” for a track that doesn’t amount to much lyrically. Yet even beyond these issues, Yeezus is so thoroughly exciting that complaints largely fall by the wayside — in fact, West’s free-for-all attitude to making music here is what fuels that burning feeling in the pit of your stomach when Yeezus is on. Even as the spectacular My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy stretched the limits of modern hip-hop, Yeezus doesn’t sound tethered to any particular time or genre, nor does it sound particularly concerned with radio airplay — even the Rick Rubin-produced “I Am a God,” one of the closest tracks here to straight-up hip-hop, seethes frustration and anger, dissolving into a series of screams and Twin Peaks-style synth strings, with nary a catchy sample or synth riff to rope in the average listener. For someone who receives (and invites) endless flack for things that have little to do with his actual music, Kanye West continues to be the most provocative and exciting artist in modern pop music with the imperfect yet undeniably brilliant Yeezus.

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Album Picks: Boards of Canada, Surfer Blood, The White Mandingos, Sonny & the Sunsets, Lust for Youth, Disclosure, Deafheaven

Posted by Billy Gil, June 11, 2013 09:59am | Post a Comment

Boards Of Canada - Tomorrow's Harvest

boards of canada tomorrow's harvestCD $13.98
LP $24.98
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Absence makes the heart grow fonder, the aphorism goes. For Boards of Canada, their absence from releasing music over the past seven years has left their fans rabid for something, anything from the band. Then it came — a series of codes released through various media that, when entered into a website, revealed the release of the duo’s fourth studio album. The long wait for new music and the duo’s willful obscurity about its release isn’t manipulation; it’s warranted, as part of the greater mysterious appeal of Boards of Canada, and for the fact that Tomorrow’s Harvest features some of the band’s greatest work yet. It begins sounding like the opening of a science film on “Gemini,” pointing to their early influence from Canadian nature documentaries, but “Reach for the Dead” directly follows with more epic, ominous tones. Boards of Canada have always been able to imbue their wordless music with just enough suggestion that listeners can invoke their own meaning from the music, and as such, one can’t help but think of countless awful news stories or meaningless status updates when listening to a track like “Sick Times,” which strings ghostly recorded samples of voices speaking in the background behind minor-key tones that hint at global dread. Tomorrow’s Harvest isn’t all doom and gloom, though. Even with a name like “Cold Earth,” it still the strong scent of nostalgia that carried such releases as the In a Beautiful Place Out in the Country EP to great heights, and their cut-up beatwork on tracks like “Jacquard Causeway” entrances. Tomorrow’s Harvest is long and loaded with great tracks, like the scenic “Nothing is Real” and pulsating “New Seeds,” which both appear in the album’s final stretch, making it the kind of record you want to spin again immediately when it’s over to let its finer points sink in. With luck we won’t have to wait as long for another Boards of Canada release, but Tomorrow’s Harvest is the kind of record you can pore over for years, rich enough to rank highly with the rest of the band’s estimable catalog.

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Album Picks: Sean Nicholas Savage, The Pastels, Tijuana Panthers, Dirty Beaches

Posted by Billy Gil, May 28, 2013 10:50am | Post a Comment

Sean Nicholas Savage - Other Life

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LP $19.98

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It may sound like he’s kidding at first — Sean Nicholas Savages’ casio keyboard chords and shivering falsetto sounds like mall music beamed in from another planet on “She Looks Like You.” But beneath the chintzy set up are great songs sung by an aching voice. Other Life sounds like re-created memories of Simply Red, but its modest creation only adds to the songs’ charm. The title track’s lyrics radiate with the same nostalgia as the music, only it’s for life recently lived and chances not taken (“All I do is reminisce laying in my bed with a cigarette/Opportunities fading, crazy feelings staying only feelings/And if I go back now, how many nights till I go wild again?”). Savage perfectly captures the pain of entering adulthood and realizing life is finite, and wild nights can’t go on forever. Savage isn’t quite Prince — his attempts at romanticism on “Lonely Woman” come off as awkward, though endearingly so. But when that acute pain and awkwardness is paired with soft-rock hooks on a song like “More Than I Love Myself,” Sean Nicholas Savage’s brand of instant nostalgia rings truer than 1,000 Instagram posts.

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