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Best of 2011: PST

Posted by Billy Gil, December 14, 2011 06:30pm | Post a Comment
Oh hey! It's time for some top 50 album love.

1. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
 
Longtime devotees of Anthony Gonzalez’s M83 got to see him make good on the promises of his previous albums, all of which are great in their own way, on this unabated masterpiece. Across two albums’ worth of material, Gonzalez’s childlike ethos spreads across synth pop dreamscapes taken to arena-level sonic and emotional territory in a way that never feels trite or untrue. If he overreaches, he does it in the best way possible.

2.  Toro y Moi – Underneath the Pine
 
Chaz Bundick’s second album is a light-year’s jump over 2010’s chillwave capsule Causers of This, an album that seems to take a young lifetime’s worth of backseat radio listening and picks just the choicest bits, whether its early hip-hop or psychedelic rock or cool jazz, filtering it through Bundick’s too-cool specs.
 
       3. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
 
PJ Harvey’s perfect instincts have guided her through the starkest of emotional territory with only the most necessary accompaniment. She continues that trend here, on an album reflecting on war and England’s history in a way that feels loose and not heavy-handed, aided by strangely fitting samples and tasteful effects, but still allowing for the emotional sucker punches she’s so adept at (“I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat” in “The Words That Maketh Murder” is one for the ages).

4.  Dirty Beaches – Badlands
 
Dirty Beaches’ Alex Zhang Hungtai is a master of minimalism. Over pitch-black surf riffs he plays and then samples, he breathes, whispers and cries tales of teenage longing inspired by ’50s rock ‘n’ roll (“Sweet 17,” “True Blue”), unearthing the dirt beneath the saccharine. At only eight tracks, two of them wordless, Badlands is the year’s most beguiling release.
 
       5. Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
 
Hip-hop that feels worlds removed from the realm of hip-hop, this forward-thinking album manages to stay fun while its psychedelic tones intimate something more cerebral and transcendent.
 
      6. Real Estate – Days
 
While Real Estate seemed primed to take the throne as leaders of the reverb pack with their self-titled debut in 2009, this glorious jangle-pop opus puts them more in line to grab the torch from the departing R.E.M.
 
        7. Iceage – New Brigade
 
Real noise punk from Danish teens that rocks so hard it puts just about every other band alive to shame in comparison.

Album Picks: Real Estate, Twin Sister, M83

Posted by Billy Gil, October 18, 2011 02:10pm | Post a Comment
Real Estate DaysReal Estate – Days
 
Real Estate have helped usher in a contemporary appreciation of bands with clean guitars and hushed vocals, perfect for a summer day or autumn night. But Real Estate still do it better than anyone, as they prove on Days. From opener “Easy” and on, Days floats on breezy simplicity of melody and atmosphere that you could explain away as through line of Byrds by way of R.E.M. jangle pop informed by reverbed-out, dream pop aesthetics, but that would paint Real Estate as a throwback band when really their sound is their own. Country hues underpin even the spaciest of tracks, like the way winsome sliding guitars sway beneath the shivering, tremoloed star-shooting guitar lines of “Green Aisles,” and more obviously so on tracks like the springy, Smithsy “It’s Real,” which works some clever chord changes into a straightforward guitar-pop setting. Singer Martin Courtney’s voice is always plaintive but never intrusive, and the whole thing moves with subtle evocation, like a sepia-toned suburban home movie reel. It’s no coincidence a great, sunlit song on the album is titled “Wonder Years.”
 
Twin SisterTwin Sister – In Heaven
 
Twin Sister’s debut full-length delivers a band still emerging from chrysalis (their average age is now about 23, so says Wikipedia) but born with some pretty impressive power already. Roughly, Twin Sister are an indie pop band fronted by some froggish, androgynous vocals (singer vocalist Andrea Estella and guitarist-singer Eric Cardona both sound a little like the spawn of Sigur RosJonsi and St. Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, the latter band of which they also sound a bit like on the lite-jazzy “Stop”). They touch on chillwave (the shimmering and strange chords of “Kimmi in a Rice Field” is the album’s absolute highlight) without committing to it, seemingly more interested in vibing late ’80s indie and video game music — the gentle “Luna’s Theme” has Sega Genesis written all over it, something that might be playing in some anime space station. But whatever Twin Sister ends up doing —be it cool Britpop, neo-futuristic electro or something else entirely — it ends up sounding great, if not entirely unified.
 
M83 Hurry Up We're DreamingM83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
 
After a decade’s worth of brilliant albums that have been increasingly epic in scope, Anthony Gonzalez of M83 has delivered the masterpiece he has hinted at for years. Gonzalez builds off the life-embracing yet ’80s nostalgic pop of 2008’s Saturdays=Youth across this double-album. Taking a hint from the Smashing PumpkinsMellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Gonzalez sweeps through childlike wonder (the children’s story as Kraftwerkian computer-pop of “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire”), adolescent angst (the two and a half minutes of skyscraper-sized orchestral rock in “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea”) and young adult excitement (Gonzalez cries “The city is my church!” in the neon-backlit “Midnight City”) to capture the wide-eyed energy and naiveté of youth. There’s newly an emphasis on the kind of shuffling ‘80s funk-pop of the likes of Huey Lewis & the News and Hall & Oates in songs like “Claudia Lewis,” but it actually feels less throwback-ish than some of his previous work, perhaps in part due to contemporaries like Toro y Moi and Neon Indian similarly fusing such sounds with shoegazer aesthetics. Indeed, with the kinds of sonic dreamscapes of albums like Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts and Before the Dawn Heals Us also in tow on songs like “This Bright Flash,” Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming presents us with all of Gonzaelz’s best tendencies, all at once, and at their utmost potential.

New Groove: Toro Y Moi - "Still Sound"

Posted by Smiles Davis, December 14, 2010 02:38pm | Post a Comment

Fresh off the press: "Still Sounds" is the new laid back 70's disco groove by Toro Y Moi. If you haven't already heard his infection experimental electro pop debut album Causers of This, do yourself a favor and give it a listen. "Still Sounds" is from his forthcoming album, Underneath the Pine, which drops February 22, 2011 via Carpark.

Still Sound by fantasma_

{via www.deathandtaxesmag}

The Wrong Way: African Americans in Rock, by Cas

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 27, 2010 03:01pm | Post a Comment
kyp malone tv on the radio

Kyp Malone and I shared an “Afro-punk moment” a few years ago. We were at Bimbo’s 365 Club in San Francisco where Kyp’s band, TV on the Radio, had opened for The Faint. The show was just letting out when I ran into the furry, bespectacled guitarist and co-vocalist milling about in the lobby of the venue. I struck up a conversation, letting him know I’d caught the previous night’s show of the same bill at The Grand Regency Ballroom. We’d been talking for some time when a young white indie kid broke away from the pack of even more young white indie kids that passed by and approached Kyp and me, smiling that “OMG” smile. “You guys were great tonight” she beamed, at first addressing me. There was this split second of confusion when I didn’t know how to respond since, you know, I was holding it down in thetv on the radio audience that night. I kind of chuckled and motioned towards Kyp, remarking that he was the guy she wanted to thank. Kyp, being mischievous, motioned right back at me, letting her know that I was the guy to thank. We let it hang for one beat before letting the embarrassed girl off the hook. Kyp thanked her for the compliment, his genuine smile defusing the girl’s embarrassment. After she dove back into the throng, Kyp turned to me and said, “That happens all the time...whenever I’m standing with any other black dude.” We laughed. 

Taking the diplomatic route, I guess I couldn’t really blame the girl for thinking I was a member of the band, except I don’t bear that much of a resemblance to any of the guys in TVOTR. Sure, we share some African ancestry, taste in eyewear and facial hair grooming concepts. But we don’t really look alike. Do we? Regardless, amongst all of the people that were at Bimbo’s that night, Kyp and I stuck out, even though only one of us was on stage under spotlights.

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