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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Album Review: SBTRKT - Sbtrkt

Trying to do that with my beard actually
SBTRKT = London musician/producer Aaron Jerome. Jerome is mostly known for remixes of artists such as M.I.A. and Basement Jaxx, amongst others. He has also released a few singles as well as last year's EP Step In Shadows all under the moniker of SBTRKT. If you ever see someone cruising around in a mask such as the one shown above from the album cover for his self-titled debut LP SBTRKT there is a chance it may be Jerome. He prefers to live in anonymity through these modern interpretations of traditional ceremonial masks and by not using his name.

The album is full of funky UK dubstep beats that keep your head bobbing throughout. My 1st listen through I had thoughts of this crazy mixture of Phantogram, the XX, and TV on the Radio. The TVOTR part is a little more of a stretch after multiple listens but it was more about their artistic funkiness as opposed to the sound.

Check out the strange yet kinda cool video for single "Wildfire" below along with the audio for my favorite track "Hold On."


Hold On

Friday, July 29, 2011

Band You Should Know: The Cave Singers - No Witch

I think that's my buddy's dad...
So I had read here and there about The Cave Singers in various blogs, sites, and magazines around the time their latest LP No Witch was released back in February. I should have taken it as a sign to check them out based on the praise and that it was released 2 days after my birthday but as usual I did not. C'est la vie.

My first real run-in with this trio from Seattle, WA was a couple months back when they opened for the Fleet Foxes as Stubb's here in Austin. I was instantly intrigued by the funky folk music and raspiness of singer Pete Quirk. On top of that it didn't hurt that we had a storm blow through near the end of the set that caused euphoria as we hadn't seen a drop in weeks (Texas is in a massively insane drought right now if you weren't aware). It's funny how rain can have that effect and enhance the emotions involved in the current happenings. 

Ever since the concert they have been on my wishlist and I finally purchased No Witch this past weekend when I made a trip to Waterloo records after some "Sunday fun day" at Lucy's and Dirty Bill's off W. 6th downtown. Happy with that purchase but don't really get some of the others I bought but oh well, I'm sure this is the least of things you (the reader) care about.

Back to the music! The album has an overall feeling, but one that is most prevalent, on the opening track "Gifts and the Raft" that it could serve (in parts or as a whole) as the soundtrack to just about any Coen Brothers film. Being a HUGE fan of these filmmakers this revelation might have something to do with my new found love for this band. You can check out "Gifts and the Raft" below.

Can't you see H.I. and Ed involved in some sort of shenanigans with Nathan Jr while this is playing? Maybe even a B side from the Soggy Bottom Boys! And don't tell me I'm out of my element!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Finally! A New Review! Washed Out - Within and Without

I wonder what they're doing....
After multiple singles and EPs Ernest Greene delivers a solid debut LP full of synthpop whispiness under the moniker Washed Out. Within and Without brings a sort of airy fresh feeling that is perfect for a drive through the country or along the ocean with the windows down.

We are in a new era of "do-it-yourself" musicians that can layer complicated musical pieces together through computer programs. Greene is of this era and does it very well. He has had hints of greatness before with songs like "Feel It All Around" but ...Without is an album you can really lose yourself in. It's relaxing like a kiddie roller-coaster; it has its ups and downs with a few rickety bumps here and there but it's fun nonetheless. I feel like that analogy is kind of under-selling the album but read that knowing that I enjoy listening to it and would recommend it and I hope you get where I was going with it....

Below you can check out my favorite track (so far after a few listens), "Amor Fati." It has a little more of the 80's synth influence but it is one of the more accessible tracks on the album. I'll be intrigued to see Washed Out live as it's always interesting to see how "bands" like this play out live.

Bonus track action for your audio pleasurement:

While this isn't on Within and Without you can check out Washed Out covering the classic Chris Isaak gem "Wicked Game" over at Stereogum by clicking HERE.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Lack of Posts

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have been traveling the last week which is why I haven't posted anything. I will be back in a couple days so more reviews are coming soon!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Highly NSFW Review: Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

Disclaimer: Along with the title this is your warning seeing as there is plenty of nudity in the album cover, which I usually begin my album reviews with but in this case I have at the very bottom so nobody gets fired over one of my posts. I will also mention again when I post the link to the video for their lead single "What About Us," but the video is also highly NSFW so you won't want to watch that in your cubicle either.

A few days ago I posted my top 20 for the year, so far. Handsome Furs latest treat Sound Kapital came in at 18 as I had only listened to it a couple of times. Part of the reason I don't post my reviews right when an album comes out is that I can't really judge the music until listen at least a few times. I hate reading reviews when you can tell the reviewer didn't listen to the album more than once if even all the way through and just wanted to beat a deadline. That's the worst.

Handsome Furs are made up of Montreal's own Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and his wife Alexei Perry. Sound Kapital is the Furs' 3rd album since signing with Sub Pop in 2006. To be completely honest, this is my first rodeo with them but I may have to check out the back catalog now. It's obvious the duo are making music the way they want to make it and that they have a great chemistry. I hear this chemistry is on full display during their epic live performances. I'll confirm this on August 26.

Sound Kapital is full of electronic beats you'd expect if Dave Sitek (of TV On The Radio) went back about 25 years and combined his flare with some 80's new wave rock. A lot of the songs lead you in different directions before realizing 4 minutes in that you're listening to the same song. You can hear what I mean on the lead single "What About Us." Furs just released the video for it this week and you can read an interesting interview with director Scott Coffey on Stereogum where he discusses tying in the video with the theme of the album art including the cover. Click HERE to check it out and you can see the highly NSFW video as well.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Sound Kapital is going to climb out of the upper teens by the end of the year but we have a long way to go.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

New(er) Band You Need to Know: Yuck

When an album cover matches the band name perfectly...on a few levels.
Once again I'm a little late to the party and reviewing an album that came out a few months ago. I remind you, I don't care and I'll post what I want to post about.

I'm just playin around but although this came out earlier in the year I still wanna make mention of it since it is one of my favorites of 2011 so far. It's funny because I kept reading reviews about Yuck and people talking about how good it is and how it reminds them of 90's rock and yada yada yada. The only reason I'm even posting about this is because it came free with my subscription to Under the Radar magazine. Let's just say it's fate they didn't send me something else.

So now am I going to tell you how awesome this album is? Am I going to tell you how much you should check them out? Am I going to go into detail about how they have this uncanny 90's rock sound? Nope. I didn't listen to anyone else so why would you listen to me?

I will tell you the 5 member group is from London and this self-titled album released in February on Fat Possum is their debut. I will also tell you that they shouldn't even remember 90's rock since they were barely alive.

If you've read this far hopefully you are at least a little intrigued so I'll let the music speak for itself. Below you'll find some auditory bliss. A couple you might want to bust out your old favorite Nirvana t-shirt and flannel combo. The others will bring the lighter side so feel free to bring back your wannabe Adam Duritz dreads....not that I am comparing them to Counting Crows, quit reading into this so much.

90's rocker "Holing Out" (Video is NSFW - and a little creepy)

A little more mellow, "Shook Down" (also NSFW...these UK boys love their nudity in videos)

And one more rocker, "Operation" (this time you can stare at the creepy album cover while you listen)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Mid Year In Review: MY Favorites So Far

I suppose we just passed the halfway point of 2011, which is crazy. I have never done a mid-year top albums list so to quote Zach de La Rocha "What better place than here.  What better time than now."

Below you can see my top 20 for the year (so far) along with my top 5 EPs released so far. I included a list of honorable mentions because there are many that I either just got or haven't listened to enough yet to consider them. 

As a warm-up, here are my top 5 EPs of the 1st half of 2011:

5) Year of the Tiger: Good Day for A Tiger - If you like Sleigh Bells check out Year of the Tiger. You can listen to and download Good Day for A Tiger  for free HERE

4) Ocean Carolina: Leave On - Ocean Carolina have a pop country vibe to them with some solid chill tunes.  Check out "Blue" below 

3) Childish Gambino: EP - Also know as Donald Glover who plays Troy on NBC sitcom Community.  His alternate hip hop ego delivers with fun lyrics that go well with his name. You can download the EP free from his website and check out "Freaks And Geeks" below.
2) Heavenly States: Oui Camera Oui - This album was brought to my attention by "Berlin Wall" featuring Britt Daniel of Spoon but the rest of it is pretty solid as well. Brings to mind early 90's pop/rock. On "Monster" you almost feel like you're listening to a new song from The New Radicals. Check out "Berlin Wall" below

1) The Black Books: An Introduction To... - Big surprise here since I did a review gushing over this local Austin band's debut EP. Lo fi rock that brings to mind the days of My Morning Jacket around At Dawn  and It Still Moves. Check them out on their site HERE and feast your auditory taste buds on "The Big Idea" below

My Top 20:

20) Toro Y Moi: Underneath the Pine

19) James Blake: James Blake

18) Handsome Furs: Sound Kapital

17) Holy Ghost: Holy Ghost!

16) The Antlers: Burst Apart

15) Radiohead: King of Limbs

14) Cut Copy: Zonoscope

13) Foster the People: Torches

12) The Strokes: Angles

11) Smith Westerns: Dye it Blonde

Now keep in mind, this isn't a list of what albums I think are the best but more of my favorites. Those I can listen to over and over and want to listen to.  

10) Middle Brother: Middle Brother - "Supergroup" featuring the singers from Dawes (Taylor Goldsmith), Delta Spirit (Matthew Vasquez), and Deer Tick (John McCauley) brings country/rock/folk bar music to 2011 with guns alblazin. Very solid effort and a couple of the songs even made it to the new Dawes album but aren't the same missing a grittiness that  Goldsmitth can't deliver on his own. 

9) Death Cab for Cutie: Codes and Keys - Here is one of those I haven't been able to listen to as much as I would like yet but I already know it will end up as one of my favorites as it continues to grow on me. At 1st the happier vibe of the music and Ben Gibbard's lyrics were a deterrent. This isn't Death Cab! After a couple of listens, though, it's still them and I'm getting over it slowly.

8) Iron & Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean - This easily wins best album title of the year for me. Fantastic effort by Sam Beam and company with their new album. They decided to pick things up a little bit on this album and breathe a little more energy into their beautiful music.

7) The Head & the Heart: The Head & the Heart - Great debut album from these Seattle indie pop folksters. Great chemistry, harmonies, lyrics, music, and stage presence. What else do you need? Was self-released in 2010 but Sub Pop re-released it in April of this year so it still counts.

6)The Decemberists: The King Is Dead - A different kind of album for The Decemberists  Missing are the epic story lines of times past or 10+ minute collages from the mind of Colin Meloy. The King Is Dead is the most mainstream album we have seen yet from The Decemberists. Where else can you go after Hazards of Love and what better timing than when you plan to take at least a 3-4 year hiatus?

5)Yuck: Yuck - Debut album from London rockers sparks a fine cord with me and should with anyone else born in the 80's or that still has a soft spot for 90's rock. I put off listening to this because all I read about was how good it is and the 90's rock comparison (see songs "Holing Out" and "Operation"). That was a dumb move on my part because that was spot on and it really is an awesome album. I chose to take it down a notch with my choice below.

4) My Morning Jacket: Circuital - My favorite band's followup to 2008's Evil Urges that saw the band dabble in R&B and funk. They come back to their roots on Circuital but manage to include some other things they've learned along the way with their sound experimentation. Great album that will continue to grow as the year goes on and I can't wait to see these new songs translated live!

3) Destroyer: Kaputt - This album seems to be kind of polarizing in that I haven't talked to many people that say it's ok or not bad. It seems like you either absolutely love it or don't really care for it at all. Personally, I love it and it has been heavily in my rotation since it came out back in January. 80's synth-influences and Dan Behar's unique style and lyrics have made this a classic.

2) TV On the Radio: Nine Types of Light - Nine Types of Light was released shortly before the passing of bassist Gerard Smith due to lung cancer. It is different but arguably their best effort to date. Has a softer focus than previous albums but the sound and reasons that TV On the Radio are staples at the top of year end album lists still remain.

1) Bon Iver: Bon Iver - Bon Iver comes back with his sophomore effort with a little less of that "if I ever were to write a suicide note I would want this playing the background" feel. Slight exaggeration and For Emma, Forever Ago was a gorgeous album but Justin Vernon breathes some auto-tuned life into this follow up. I can't get enough of it and right now it is the hands down clear cut winner.

It will be interesting to see how this list shapes up as the year goes on and which albums have staying power and which push their way up.

Top 20 Honorable Mention Bands: Dawes, Panda Bear, Givers, Metronomy, Okkervil RIver, Banjor or Freakout, Puro Instinct, Tinie Tempah, The Weekend, Young Galaxy, Young the Giant, Gardens & Villa

UPDATE: So I just realized I mistakenly left Helplessness Blues, the sophomore effort by Fleet Foxes, from my list. I am not going to redo this so I will just include it in my year-end list. Something to look forward to!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I'm Back! Foster the People - Torches

Hate to see the monster they are after
Sorry for the break from posting but I have been on the road for work and didn't have time to post. So I will welcome myself back with a review of the debut album from the band I am seeing tonight, Foster the People. I'll do a review of the show as well, which will hopefully get posted tomorrow.

I'm pretty sure there is no way you haven't heard the first single from this trio from Los Angeles, "Pumped Up Kicks." The song was actually featured on their self-titled EP that was released in January and also featured "Helena Beat" and "Houdini." All 3 songs are on their debut LP, Torches that was released a few weeks ago.

Mark Foster (vocals, keyboards, piano, synthesizer, guitar, programming, percussion) formed the band with some friends back in 2009 after working predominantly solo, writing jingles, and a brief stint in a metal band. The influences for this crew are all over the places.  You can tell the jingle background with the catchiness of most songs on Torches. Although I will admit I don't get where the quasi-creepy childrenish and chipmunkish laughter/noises in the background of "Don't Stop (Color On The Walls)" comes from but it seems to fit and I dig it.

Most reviews so far that I have read can only complain about the lack of depth in the lyrics or that they don't what the band is trying to be. Some complain that the new tracks to Torches that weren't on the EP from January have such a different sound. Are they trying to be MGMT? Are they trying to be so and so? They are Foster the People and that's who they are trying to be. They are an Indie Pop band with influences all over the place and they do a solid job portraying that to my ears. Most of us prefer our fun summery pop songs to not be all deep and make you think. It's the summer! We need tunes to let loose, kick up our dancing shoes, and just have a good time.

A couple of standout songs for me that go the supposed different route from "Pumped Up Kicks" are "Waste"  and "I Would Do Anything For You." I suppose both are indie pop love songs with a catchiness that goes along with the sweetness and simplicity of the lyrics like "Yeah when the monsters they won't go and your windows don't close, I'll pretend to see what you see" in "Waste." Luckily, "I Would Do Anything For You" sounds nothing like the 80's/90's classics with similar names by our old friends Meatloaf and Bryan Adams. The chorus features some oooo la's and if this one picks up some airplay it should be a mix-tape standout for all those summer loves of 2011.

You can check out both songs below (since you've already heard "Pumped Up Kicks" so many times)

Above is live version of "Waste" that's not quite acoustic but is a mellower and stripped down version

Here is the album version of "I Would Do Anything For You"