Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Big Beat 'cast 20

Here's a guided audio tour of a few of this year's favorites, a companion to my recent post "33 1/3 CD's for the first 6 1/2 months of 2011". Some have been widely acclaimed while others have flown under the radar. Here's to you finding a new favorite of your own.

CULTS "Never Heal Myself" (Columbia/INTO), from Cults
WASHED OUT "Amor Fati" (Sub Pop), from Within & Without
THE GLOBES " A Stitch Couldn't Save The World" (Barsuk), from Future Self
TV ON THE RADIO "Second Song" (Interscope), from Nine Types Of Light
THE FEELIES "Nobody Knows" (Bar/None), from Here Before
RADIOHEAD "Little By Little" (self), from The King Of Limbs
RINGO DEATHSTARR "So High" (Sonic Unyon), from Colour Trip
ELBOW "Neat Little Rows" (Fiction), from Build A Rocket Boys!
THE WEEKND "What You Need" (self), from House Of Balloons
RUMER "Slow" (Atlantic), from Seasons Of My Soul
SBTRKT "Wildfire" (Young Turks), from SBTRKT
BRAIDS "Lemonade" (Kanine), from Native Speaker
LINDI ORTEGA "Little Red Boots" (Last Gang), from Little Red Boots
YUCK "Shook Down" (Fat Possum), from Yuck
ANNA CALVI "Desire" (Domino), from Anna Calvi

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Big Beat 'cast 19

Keen observers will have noticed I've not used the 'New Tunes Tuesday' tag in a while.  First, it immediately dates the show, as if its sell by date is only 7 days max. That and, rightly or wrongly, I feel its cheating to throw in an oldie, and so on.  Nevertheless, this one is indeed wall-to-wall, back-to-front new music. By the way, Spotify entered my life last week. Life is good.


NEKO CASE & NICK CAVE "She's Not There" (WaterTower), from True Blood, Vol. 3 - The music supervisor for the television series went into a record store, started thumbing through the C-section and came up with the idea to have the closely named stars remake the Zombies classic for the show.  Although that sounds totally made up, it's totally true.

LANTERNS ON THE LAKE "You're Almost There" (Bella Union), from Gracious Tide, Take Me Home - One of my SXSW highlights, this is the first track to emerge from their full-length debut due in September.  This Is Fake DIY has the song's video.  Hear previous single "Lungs Quicken".

BJORK "Crystalline" (Nonesuch), from Biophilia - We live in a music world where most albums are judged by their opening week, just like movies.  Go for the big open, hope for the best.  Heaven knows there probably won't be much of a budget to promote it beyond that.  While it's great to know that Bjork scored a Top 10 record with her last disc Volta, she hasn't had a gold record in the US since Homogenic.  That was 14 years ago.  The days of radio play are, outside a small number of tastemaking outlets, long over.  I enjoy this new single, but it's sonically not a whole lot different what you've heard over her last few efforts. And that's probably not gonna earn her much of a look-see from casual listeners.  Search the web and download another new track "Cosmogony".

WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS "Act On Impulse" (FatCat), from In The Pit Of The Stomach - First track from the Scots' second record, due the first week of October.

BOS ANGELES "Beach Slalom" (self), demo - Just as one might amend the name of your town with 'Vegas' (Nashvegas, Glasvegas, etc.), this trio from the seaside town of Boscombe, known as the "heroin capitol of England", do, er, kinda the same thing.   Presumably their first demo recordings, they really nail it.  A tight l'il guitar-based indie rock song: lean and mean, over and out in barely two-and-a-half minutes. This Is Fake DIY has more.

[MP3] I BREAK HORSES "Winter Beats" (Bella Union), from Hearts - I knowIt's only chilly, Scandinavian  electronica but I like it.  A duo from Stockholm, their full-length debut arrives next month.

WASHED OUT "Before" (Sub Pop), from Within & Without - Call me crazy, but this might be chillwave's crowning achievement to date.  Yes, I'll readily admit to wondering if Ernest Greene is simply Howard Jones v.2011, but the disc works for me.  I especially like the glitchy track included here.

CHAIRLIFT "Amanaemonesia" (Terrible), single - Singer Caroline Polachek guests on the Washed Out record while bringing the goods on this new song, released as an indie single prior to their second full-length coming out via major label Columbia.  And, is this even a word?

[STREAM] Amanaemonesia by Chairlift

SBTRKT "Right Thing To Do" (Young Turks / Beggars), from SBTRKT - Jessie Ware takes the mic on another track from the self-titled gem of a debut, one of my favorites of the year so far. 

[MP3] HTRK "Eat Yr Heart" (Ghostly International), from Work (work, work) - London's (via Melbourne and Berlin) HTRK's dark, druggy debut from two years ago, Marry Me Tonight, sounded like a loaded needle in search of a vein.  Sadly, the band's Sean Stewart took his own life in March 2010.  The remaining members of the trio, Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang, chose to carry on and secured a proper US release for their new CD in September.  Sample the first track from it.

LITTLE DRAGON "Brush The Heat" (Peacefrog), from Ritual Union - Singer Yukimi Nagano has scored prime guest spots on the new discs from SBTRKT and Raphael Saadiq, lifting her band's profile in the process.  I haven't taken to Ritual Union as immediately as its predecessor Machine Dreams, but I can't deny her milky smooth vocals will keep me listening.  The laid back lounge clubbiness of this track won me over.   

TOM VEK "A Chore" (Downtown), from Leisure Seizure - It's been a full six years since Vek's debut We Have Sound came out.  Supposedly working on the follow-up ever since, Leisure Seizure arrived last month to a much different musical landscape than 2005, the year of debuts from Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.  Yep, it sure seems like a lifetime ago.   Expect a proper US tour in the Fall.  

TOTAL BABES "Like They Always Do" (Old Flame), from Swimming Through Sunlight - A few of the guys in Cloud Nothings not named Dylan Baldi set out on their own with the side project Total Babes which, at first listen, sounds a bit like the mothership.  Not a bad thing.  The record hits next month via Old Flame Records, headed by my pal and ex-WOXY staffer Rob Mason. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

33 1/3 CD's for the first 6 1/2 months of 2011

I've been threatening to put fingers-to-keyboard in order to summarize my favorites of 2011 so far, and here it is. I've grouped them in bunches that make sense to me and hopefully, my explanation will bear out why that's so. With the exception of the first three, I'll make no claim to any kind of ascending order.  I think it's been a pretty good, just short of great year. How about you?

The Unimpeachable Top
Anna Calvi - Anna Calvi
Yuck - Yuck
Lindi Ortega - Little Red Boots

Calvi's been on top literally from the start. She has a style and a persona that will likely make me a lifelong fan, much like an artist down the list with whom she's oft compared to. Yuck's simply made a record that sounds like a collection of singles. I dig its cohesion. And maybe it's my coming up on two years in Texas but I've gotten a bit more receptive to tha twang, which Ortega's got in abundance. She's major label talent - signed to Interscope at one time - one can presume they didn't know what to do with her. It's an indie country-pop album: lots of catchy tunes with a li'l bit of sass.

And Then There's...
Braids - Native Speaker

Braids does dream pop.  No big whoop in the present landscape but a heavy Cocteau Twins influence sets 'em apart from the pack and into my heart.  Check back with me in December to see if SBTRKT turns out to be more than a fleeting crush, which it currently is.  My guess is yes: a clubbier version of the James Blake/Jamie Woon debuts, if you will. 

More Debutantes
Cults - Cults
The Globes - Future Self
Iceage - New Brigade
Rumer - Seasons Of My Soul
Washed Out - Within and Without
The Weeknd - House Of Balloons

Those with a low tolerance for sugar should steer clear of the Cults disc, even though it personifies summertime indie pop v.2011.  I thought Barsuk would've given The Globes a bit more of a push.  Released in May, reviews have been scarce. They have a slightly prog, quiet-loud-quiet sound that on occasion, reminds me a bit of the Dismemberment Plan. Shamefully being slept upon.  OTOH, Iceage (You go, Denmark!) seem to have been anointed as the saviors of Class of '77 punk rock, and why not?  They've got the genre all to themselves and thankfully, they've also got the chops.  A welcome kick in rear at a time when most seem content to chill; wave.  The debut from Rumer, not out in the US until September, takes me back to a safe place: childhood.  70's style soft rock, Karen Carpenter smooth.  A little Dusty without quite the soul.  A palate cleanser.  But if you must do the chill, wave; you'd be hard pressed to do better than Washed Out's debut. When you look back at what 2011 sounded like, you might point to this disc as Exhibit A. The Weeknd disc seemed to arrive from nowhere (can this really be the third Canadian act so far?  Beauty.)   It's dubstep, neo-soul, trip hop and witch house all in one sitting.  So cool it's, um, chill.

Veterans Day
The Feelies - Here Before
Mogwai - Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Radiohead - The King Of Limbs
The Radio Dept. - Passive Aggressive: Singles 2002-2010 

The freakin' Feelies!  Please don't stay gone 20 years next time, k?  Folks, this is how you make jangle pop and honestly, I hope Stipe, Buck & Mills hear this and decide hang their shit up.  Y'know, I finally saw Mogwai live and my brains didn't bleed out of my ears.  Not even once.  Truth is, anyone can play it loud these days but their pretty is better than most everyone else's pretty, and Hardcore was best when it was pretty.   PJ, my love, you've bored me for a decade and while conceptually, you had this one down, I still wasn't blown away.  I still respect you in the morning and all but I can't stop looking at Anna cuz, girl, she done studied you up.   Radiohead showed up one day, let everyone download their latest, then asked if we were happy and told us not to bother them again until after Phil releases a few more albums.   Radio Dept. put out the one compilation everyone should have.  Listen to it and wonder why they don't have Casey Anthony's lawyer suing all of these bands who're doing the chill; wave.  Because they should.   

Old Dogs, New Tricks
Arctic Monkeys - Suck It And See
Elbow - Build A Rocket Boys!
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
TV On The Radio - Nine Types Of Light

I kinda like where Alex Turner's going, primarily because he doesn't care what you think.  Dude's doing it on his terms.  Much respect.  What makes me a bit sad about Elbow is the realization is that (like Doves), they're probably never gonna do what it takes to make it in the States.  Whether it's writing the song or not touring here like they've got a cab waiting and the meter running.  Truth is, that like EU politicos, they simply don't need to dick with the Home of the Brave in order to make coin anymore. Just ain't gonna happen, unless Coldplay handpicks them to open every date on the inevitable 100 city US tour; and then 'maybe'. Fleet Foxes: not as pretty as their first, but a solid listen.  Just not a band I can get excited about.  Would've liked Tunde to rock me a bit more but in any event, TVOTR just may be the best US band of the last 7 years or so.  Agree?

There are hundreds of bands from Austin.  Here are 3 of them:
Ringo Deathstarr - Colour Trip
Not In The Face - Bikini
Shapes Have Fangs - Dinner In The Dark

There's very little that's original on Colour Trip, right down to the British spelling which outs them as  pretentious Euro wannabies to most Tea Party types.  Did I mention originality is overrated?  Especially if it's in a style I like.  I mean, some guy told me once he could never like Arctic Monkeys because he already had Green Day and that's all he needed in that 'punk' style.   He was lame, RD is not.  Not In The Face (BEST NAME EVER) have the two guys, Black Keys thing going but if Dan Auerbach was Paul Westerberg.  Bikini is barroom ready, a record to drink Lone Star to if I ever heard one.   You know what's lo-fi about Shapes Have Fangs?  Everything.  A greasy, grimy, sloppy little Texas psych punk record.  Very little in the way of pretension; never mind that it first came out on cassette.  It's worth owning.    

Everybody sing! "We like American Music.."
Mount Moriah - Mount Moriah
Other Lives - Tamer Animals
Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin' 
David Wax Museum - Everything Is Saved

If Dolly Parton was an indie chick, she'd probably sound like Heather McEntire from Mount Moriah.  Their debut is soulful Americana with a spring in its step.  They're from North Carolina.  Other Lives is from Oklahoma, just like The Flaming Lips, but sound nothing like them.  Not even a smidge.  And their 2nd album has so much orchestration on it that it's safe to assume that a few of the band members might be from somewhere else or have actually left the state on occasion. (I keed!)   Saadiq is a smooth cat.  He's got soul and gets major props for pulling in Yukimi from Little Dragon on a cut.  Robert Randolph, too. Your parents would like it.  David Wax's name is really David Wax.  Thankfully it's not David Wax Jr. Jr..  Anyway, he spent a lot of time in Mexico and that's deeply influenced this little self-released record that's earned good notices but precious little in the way of buzz.   Damn hippies.

...and then there's these:
James Blake - James Blake
Conquering Animal Sound - Kammerspiel
The Phoenix Foundation - Buffalo
Young Prisms - Friends For Now
Younger Brother - Vaccine
WU LYF - Tell Fire To The Mountain

Let's see: Blake, Younger Brother and WU LYF are English, Conquering Animal Sound is Scottish, The Phoenix Foundation are Kiwis, and Young Prisms are from San Francisco, which is equally as foreign in the eyes of most Americans.   All have released CD's in the first half of 2011 worth investigating.  And so say all of me.