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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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New Preorders: Grizzly Bear, The XX, Bob Dylan, Two Door Cinema Club

Posted by Billy Gil, August 2, 2012 02:02pm | Post a Comment
grizzly bear shieldsGrizzly Bear have thus far released two songs from their upcoming album, Shields (preorder here), which comes out Sept. 18 and is now available to preorder at Amoeba.com. Whereas Daniel Rossen sings on the first single, the bizzaro country-jangle of “Sleeping Ute,” warm-voiced Ed Droste lends his vocals to “Yet Again,” which the band debuted today. Like most Grizzly Bear songs, it’s a grower and takes a few listens for everything to sink in. I’m picking up some Radiohead vibes on this one — nice downward-angling melody and shuffling drums, with some of GB’s now trademark harmonies and vocal acrobatics in the background. Judging by these first two songs, there could be a more laid-back vibe than on Veckatimest, which always suits this band quite well.
 
 





The XXAlso, The XX have begun the promotional push for their new album, Coexist (preorder here), out Sept. 11, debuting its first single, “Angels,” and playing it on the late-night circuit. The XX are pretty weird to have gotten this popular, but I think that says something good about people’s taste, right? The first time I heard this song, I thought it wasn’t so great. Kind of too slow and spacious for a single, even for them. Today I listened again and it had me within the first seconds, even before that hallowed out drum roll comes in and lifts Romy Madley Croft’s vocals skyward. Pretty, simple and pure. The fact that it will probably soundtrack a lot of breakup scenes in movies or whatever is irrelevant; the song sounds written from the gut, and that’s why people respond to this band.
 
 


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Gil Scott-Heron Tribute to be Held at Grand Performances Downtown

Posted by Billy Gil, July 12, 2012 10:31am | Post a Comment
gil scott heronLegendary soul/spoken word artist Gil Scott-Heron will be honored July 20 with a tribute in Downtown Los Angeles at 8 p.m. at California Plaza (350 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071) as part of Grand Performances. The "Peace Go With You, Gil" celebration will feature performances by Scott-Heron’s longtime collaborator Brian Jackson, Amoeba Music staffer Jimetta Rose Smith, Carlos Nino, Jeremy Sole, and more. The celebration is said to explore “the soul, vitality, power, humor, social activism, humanity and dynamic messages” of Scott-Heron through a musical and artistic experience. Amoeba will be there with a booth, so come check it out.
 
Amoeba also has several Gil Scott-Heron albums available in store, including the harrowing I’m New Here, released in 2010, and its remix album with Jamie XX from moody Britpop duo The XX. I recently picked up Reflections on vinyl, it's awesome. Check out all the releases in stock here.

Grand Performances Fountain

The 12 Days of Coachella: 9 Debut Albums

Posted by Amoebite, April 12, 2010 01:27pm | Post a Comment
"One man's attempt to dissect the method to 3 days of madness in the desert"
  - By Scott Butterworth


On the 3rd weekend of April my Coachella will give to me.....
.....
12 DJ's.....11 Angelenos....10 Duos Duet-ing....

....and 9 Debut Albums:  

Passion Pit
Hockey
The XX
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros
The Temper Trap
Miike Snow
B.o.B.
Florence + The Machine
Little Boots

Coachella 2010 Lineup Debut Albums

Each year, the stages of Coachella are graced by legends in music, many with careers spanning decades and musical catalogs expansive enough to fill the entire 3-day weekend. But there's also another pool of artists at Coachella each year -- usually found on the smaller "tent" stages or in the early hour slots of the main stage -- making a name for themselves in the music world on very limited but deserving musical output. Coachella promoters make a profession of spotting these artists early and presenting them to us before the "rest of the world" catches on. And it's not rare to see some of these artists, who are featured in the smallest font on the above flyer, go on to headline the festival in future years. The following 9 artists are playing Coachella this year on the strength of their debut albums. All 9 of them include singles that have permeated diverse avenues of pop culture within the past year, but all 9 artists have inaugurated their careers with "albums" that bite as hard as their "singles" bark. 

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Massive Music Showcase

Posted by Smiles Davis, October 26, 2009 12:38am | Post a Comment

Greetings from New York, New York! CMJ kicked off at the beginning of this week and NY became a mammoth showcase for new music. I love autumn in New York -- it's ridiculously beautiful. Walking is of course the greatest pastime while in the city. The weather was nice, so nice, for the first couple nights, which made it easy to get around and still look half way put together by the time you got to your final destination.

Unfortunately, by Friday night, it was cloudy with a chance of matzo balls, which meant an extra change of clothes was imperative. Luckily, it was short lived. OMG, there was so much going on. I was overwhelmed with work, with a lot on my plate, and didn’t get to see nearly as many acts as I would have liked to, but I made notes of the little I was able to soak in.

Green Label Sound hosted a party sponsored by Cornerstone at The Brooklyn Bowl with Chromeo, Thelophilus London, Amazing Baby and Solid Gold that was off the chain. DFA's Holy Ghost provided a dj set. This new bowling/concert venue is ginormous, 1,000 capacity at least, and it was packed wall to wall. An eclectic mix of industry folk, unbigoted music-minded individuals, people dressed like hipsters, aspiring and established artists roamed the joint. The night's festivities lasted well into the night, but time just seemed to fly by. I enjoyed great food, had a couple rounds on the lanes with friends, enjoyed the live acts in a concert setting, and danced till I broke a sweat all under one roof. If you get the chance to go check out this spot, do, and order the cajun catfish, it's scrumptious!

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