04 July 2009

Summer Haze: The Music of 2009 For Your Summer

This is not an exhaustive list as I have omitted certain artists like Funeral Mist who do not count as summer music as these artists do. They are simply titles from 2009 that I have enjoyed this summer. There is one older title, but it is one of the best summer albums ever so I wanted to include it here. I hope you enjoy one or all of these albums!

Neko Case: Middle Cyclone
Effortless, simple, beautiful, and fun – one can truly run out of adjectives for Neko Case’s work. There is little to be disappointed with in this album and only too much to be charmed by. I had hoped that that this album would be a further hit from left field just like her last album, but instead she stayed planted on that new learning curve from Fox Confessor and tried nothing too radical. This album has a sense of dislocation in terms of place and narrator, but the longing in these songs keeps the album from being a mess of fuzzy atmosphere and fever dream lyrics. The uniting factor is the skilled playing and always impeccable singing. The album is a siren song through and through.
Listen: The whole album!

Camera Obscura: My Maudlin Career
Although it’s the band’s sunniest record to date, the songs detail the bitterness and missed opportunity of love. The beginning is very promising, but by the second song something has caught a snag. The middle of the album details pain and fallout in a confessional manner not normally associated with the usually ironic band. By the end, Traceyanne Campbell is older but wiser. Whether she’ll stay cold to the prospect of true love or embrace hope remains to be seen. The music and singing is just as strong as the change effected from the last album. Unlike Neko Case, the band seems to have grown on their new learning curve. Camera Obscura is the same here, but different.
The songs are composed in a cycle to reflect on the failed relationship that is the album’s loose concept. Instead of the usual indie rock solipsism, Campbell allows into the narrative details that indicate what happened rather what she wants to say has happened. The album benefits from the lack of anger and loathing as the lyrics are bitter and the music is sweet. This is not Pinkerton and it’s certainly not Boys For Pele, but it reflects on the same romantic problems with delicious irony, true pathos, and tangible joy. It may lack the wistful grandeur of Patrick Wolf’s The Magic Position, but it covers the same territory and remains just as enjoyable.
Listen: “The Sweetest Thing” and “Away With Murder”.

The Thermals: Now We Can See
Lo-fi will eat your heart, move your ass, and sex up your road trips. If the Thermals do anything less then just demand a refund. Not America’s greatest contemporary punk band for some reason, they use lo-fi as a reward rather than a demerit and make one of the more enjoyable albums of the year. It sounds like a punk rockified John Darnielle in a tank. The energy and noise in the songs are trademarks of the band, but here they keep it shiny like a good sword. If there’s a better rock album for the summer, it better be illegal.
Listen: “Now We Can See” and “When We Were Alive”.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart: s/t
They get the lo-fi tag, but it’s just bad amps. The mix of Ride and JAMC are the true roots of this band. It’s fast, sweet, and enjoyable with tons of buzz and no sludge. Almost like Dinosaur Jr doing Cure covers all day. The joys of the music are mostly found in the buzz and speed of the playing. There is a shoegaze influence, but it’s minor and used with restraint. The album is a lovely mirror to Camera Obscura because it also follows the path of love, but here it’s a high school prom and not the drama of failed romance. As far as fast rides go, this is great music for summer. Simple joys like this are here to stay.
Listen: “Gentle Sons”.

The Cocteau Twins: Heaven or Las Vegas
The Cocteau Twins are otherworldly and indescribable. This may in fact be due to their Scottishness. However, they sound like nothing terrestrial. Heaven or Las Vegas is certainly an appropriate title with this in mind. Wherever it is that they reside, their light, angelic music holds a bit of both. Elisabeth Fraser’s vocals may sound like confused baby talk, but they serve simply as wrapping on the songs. They are the emotional barometer while the music serves as the power of the songs. Best heard at night, the music is mysterious and beautiful like night. Far from being shrouded in reverb or feedback, the music is clear as glass. With the slow motion quicksilver vocals, the album is excellent summer music because of its fluidity, beauty, and joy. The cover of the sleeve certainly sums up the look and feel of these songs. The music glistens like sunshine on chrome and cools like darkness at night. The Cocteau Twins have the wings to take you anywhere and this album will show you how.
Listen: “Cherry-Coloured Funk”

09 January 2009

BEST of 2008...in no particular order

Earth: The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull - It is the sound of the burning, desolate West. It has the pace of a Cinemascope vista revealing that parched landscape in slow master shot detail. The music would fit a western shot by Malick. Bill Frisell is guest guitarist on three tracks.
Listen: "The Driver" or "Rise To Glory".

Sam Phillips: Don't Do Anything - This record defined so much of what I love of great songwriting: simplicity, concision, and sharp yearning. It's a very modest record, but Phillips' restrained delivery is devastating. One reason I love it so is due to it reminding me of a beloved friend: simple but stunning. It's a pop record but not an ostentatious or obnoxious one. It has simple guitars, drumming, and spare strings. The major draw is Phillips warm, knowing voice devoid of the self-pity (or sentimentality) that often handicaps the usual artist. She is the anti-Feist. For me, this gorgeous, simple record was the album of the year.
Listen: "Don't Do Anything" and "My Career In Chemistry".

Jesu: Why Are We Not Perfect - The appeal is the music's shoegaze values and heavy percussion. This EP has some of the best car music I heard this year.
Listen: "Farewell".

Islands: Arm's Way - A great pop record that could have been the best of the year. Many were disappointed with it, however. One reason for it was the limited musical palette. The playing is good - even though Boeckner and Krug are absent here - but it seems a bit unimaginative in light of the conventional music. Tellingly, listeners only seem to remember "Creeper" or "I Feel Evil Creeping In". (Or "Vertigo" and its Who homage if they made to the LP's end.) More interestingly, Nick wrote many songs about betrayal as well as death. Is he talking about Jaime here? However, it's still a great achievement for Nick and augers well for the band's future.
Listen: "I Feel Evil Creeping In".

Krallice: s/t - Whereas Wolves In The Throne Room evoked a forest atmosphere and then blew it up for a new creation, Krallice just blows it all up with the rock 'n roll and never looks back. It feels more like rock than metal, but it still combines the two to make the music a compelling force. The album bangs on and on, but it's so brutal, energetic, and varied that it hardly feels as if it's one song played for one hour. Lovers of post-rock and air guitar have much to love here. This one also provided excellent car music this year.
Listen: The whole album! (If you need one song, just try "Cnestorial" though.)

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Dig Lazarus Dig!!! - Evidently, the world didn't end in the way that Nick Cave had foreseen. This is a post apocalyptic record. There's confusion, deceit, desolation, zombies, leveled cities, and Nick Cave's moustache. However, it's still as witty and enjoyable as the last effort from the band. Drawing on his previous record as Grinderman, Cave has found his inner Mark E. Smith. If this is Nick Cave growing old, Leonard Cohen better watch his back.
Listen: The whole album!

Alejandro Escovedo: Real Animal - There are some ghosts he puts to rest here. It is no nostalgia trip however; Escovedo looks back to recall the good times. He was nearly dead once so here he remembers joyously what it was to be alive in his youth. This album is more of a rocker than his previous one, but the song vignettes focus it more tightly. The lyrics are much more narrative here than surreal as on The Boxing Mirror. His songs are in the tradition of Dylan and Westerberg. This would be a superb finale, but it feels as if Escovedo is only warming up.
Listen: "Always A Friend" and "Sister Lost Soul".

Okkervil River: The Stand Ins - I had expected this to be a bit of b-side slag as in Black Sheep Boy Appendix, but this turned out not to be the case. I find it hard to imagine how the songs here could fit into The Stage Names, though. They are too distinctly pop so I suppose that it's good they've now been released separately. Lyrically, it's all the same consistency with The Stage Names. The only difference is that they're more upbeat. There are more hits here than on the previous album so it bounces along really well while using Sheff's keen details and observation to great effect.
Listen: "Lost Coastlines" and "Calling and Not Calling my Ex".

16 Horsepower: March 2001 - This is a live album from 2001 now released. Such an occasion is always cause for great celebration. The album never lets you forget how great this band was in its glorious angst and energy. There is a Joy Division cover here that is one of the best that I've heard in awhile. Anyone new to 16 Horsepower now has an impeccable introduction.
Listen: "American Wheeze" and "Twenty Four Hours".

Mountain Goats: Heretic Pride - This is one of their best records. It has all the beloved Darnielle trademarks and even rocks out a little. This man brings humor, pathos, and beauty like none other. I'd love to see them tour with Sam Phillips and Okkervil River. "When the house goes up in flames/No-one emerges triumphant."
Listen: "Lovecraft In Brooklyn" and "Michael Myers Resplendent".

page daily hits
Promo Numbers