Friday, December 28, 2007

some hot live woelv traxx

if you haven't picked up tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? yet, or need a better reason to justify said purchase, here are three tracks from a recent woelv set, opening for mount eerie in philadelphia. the taper didn't get the full tracklist, and i managed to forget my copy of her album at home (i'm traveling at the moment), so i don't have any track titles for you. but, after all, it's not like i took her song names too seriously before, so this small hindrance shouldn't take the wind out of your sails.

you can download the whole show here.

buy tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? from k records.


"The story goes that in the old days, during the winter solstice, all the oceans in the world would lay calm and the bad weather would subside. It was then that the kingfisher bird would fly out into the open sea to build its nest and lay its eggs, believing they would hatch in time before the waves began to rise again. This time came to be known as the halcyon days.

The Halcyon EP was recorded in my bedroom during the month of November, 2007. Winter always seems to be a more creative time for me, and the sudden cold and slower pace that was settling in over Nashville provided a welcome excuse to stay inside and work. A few friends came by as well, each with their own special sounds from cellos to horns to live drums, adding new colors to the mix.

This EP, for me, is a way to reflect on yet another year quietly slipping by, enjoying the present stillness of a tennessee winter, and looking forward to what is coming up over those yon there hills. I hope you are to able find something in it too. thanks for listening...

- daniel james (sunday december 9th, 2007)


"halcyon" & "avatar furr"

download halcyon from rumraket.

the eraser remixes

one of the best albums in recent memory was thom yorke’s solo debut, the eraser. truer to radiohead’s aesthetic ideals more than in rainbows (in my opinion), the eraser is the work of one of contemporary music’s most enlightened songwriters. the album’s reserved instrumentals and stark, futuristic aura complement yorke’s ethereal and thin, nervous vocals, so that the eraser seemed as much a portrait of our collective fears for the coming years as a musical elegy for missed chances and untaken steps. perhaps buoyed by the eraser’s success or the simple desire of expanded horizons, yorke handed the reins over to eight other electronic artists for the eraser remixes, a full reworking of the album by some of the field’s most renowned minimalists. true to the eraser’s instrumental roots and yorke’s disenchanted lyrics, the eraser remixes doesn’t attempt to redefine his songs, only to remanufacture them with fresh sounds. to that end, yorke’s recruited artists generally succeed, maintaining the album’s emotional distance yet giving it a fresh face and sound.

released as a trio of 12”, the eraser remixes features work by four tet, burial, modeselektor, the field, christian vogel, surgeon, and the bug, most of whom are well-known for their restraint and electronic stiffness. all the tracks from the eraser, save the title one, are reworked, with “black swan “ receiving double treatment from christian vogel, who created the “christian vogel spare parts remix” and “vogel bonus beat eraser remix.” unlike many remixes (especially remix albums), the eraser remixes stays close to yorke’s original vision – though sometimes almost too close. the starkness of the new beats emulate yorke’s own, though none of the new versions could be confused for the originals; all of the remixers have put their own indelible stamp on each song. the burial song, for instance, is identifiable from his trademark hollow drum beat and back beat pounding – no “archangel,” to be sure, but aurally similar enough to be instantly recognizable. unfortunately, his version of “and it rained all night” isn’t really imaginative, and is preferable to neither the original nor most of the other redone cuts on the album.

the eraser remixes is neatly divided between good and bad remixes, the former being excellent reworkings of excellent songs, while the latter make you wish no one had tampered with yorke’s original. as with the burial version, some of the worse remixes are from the most talented artists, proving that remixing requires a different mindset than merely creating. the modeselektor remix of “skip divided” is especially good, the german minimalists teasing yorke’s voice as well as his melodies. four tet adds a softer glow to “atoms for peace,” though it lacks the blaring, joyful edge of his solo work. the field, whose self-titled album was very well received this year, reworks “cymbal rush” into an eight minute instrumental odyssey, titled “(late night essen und trinken remix)” that puts me to sleep more than makes me want to keep eating and drinking. surgeon’s “the clock” is almost a house version, and the closest thing the eraser remixes ever gets to a dance song.

this collection of remixes is very odd, as all of the remixers adhere to yorke’s original vision with almost slavish mimicry; remixing is generally prized for its ingenuity and reinvention, but the eraser remixes eschews this goal for the less exciting one of mere possibility. i wonder if the remixers chosen had to follow guidelines or stick to some rules, explaining the almost universal plainness of the remixes. as solo artists, each of the remixers have created really unique bodies of work, but they are here stifled, restrained, so that our imaginations could often serve us better. the eraser remixes are disappointing – though the remixes are technically sound, their similarity to yorke’s original songs suggest that they are more like the eraser alternatives, occasionally exciting but never ingenious.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

awesome song christmas! - "spell for a weak heart"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.

the out-of-print young canadian mothers ep was released by escape goat records.

yeah, so, final fantasy is my favorite band. this is a great little ditty from owen pallett's hopelessly out-of-print 2006 ep, young canadian mothers. the ep also features "peach, plum, pear," pallett's popular cover of the joanna newsom track.

merry christmas!

best album by a one-man band

simply put, i am fascinated by one-man bands, the relatively recent phenomenon that is aided, abetted, and allowed by the mind-bogglingly vast array of noisemaking electronic gadgets, thingys, and doodads available (or, if you’re on a budget, a macbook is probably as good). i am a devoted fan of one-man bands of every style and persuasion, ranging from daniel snaith (caribou), owen pallett (final fantasy), eric san (kid koala) or otis jackson, jr. (madlib), to even geneviève castrée (woelv). each creates in me a feeling a wonder, amazement even, as they systematically assemble songs from scraps, building intensely complex aural structures from single, abstracted fragments. even relative nobodies, like remember remember or alexander tucker, instantly impress me as they build loop after loop, for their discipline and order as much as anything else; i know i wouldn’t be able to keep one rhythm in my head, much less five, six, seven. my ear has always been drawn to progressive, complex songs (i first realized this when i identified [and rocked out to] every part of “found a job”, reveling in the talking heads’s layers and rejecting the sloppiness of the ramones), and while i find that fullest satisfaction is watching these multi-tiered songs constructed in a live setting, there is something immaculate and perfect about one-man band studio albums that can never be reproduced. so, what’s my favorite one-man band album of 2007? pitchfork skeptic though i am, ryan schreiber and i are on the same page about one thing: how fucking awesome person pitch is.

person pitch, the third solo release by panda bear, was very nearly my favorite album of the year, a work of staggering brilliance that compels listeners with its dualism, simultaneously intricate and blindingly simple. panda bear is the bestial pseudonym of noah lennox, a songwriter who has risen to prominence mostly (prior to 2007) due to his work in animal collective, infamous freak-folk progenitors, but striking out on his own might be the smartest thing lennox has ever done. despite my current love of the album, i spent most of 2007 ignoring it. the reason? i am SO not an animal collective fan. i tend to listen to them as much as i listen to bright eyes, the arcade fire, or the eagles, which is to say, never. (side story: person pitch impressed me so much that i even gave strawberry jam a listen; i turned it off halfway through the first song. ew.) but person pitch skillfully avoids the jarring pitfalls and irritating, pointless grating of animal collective by simply ignoring it. the album is melodic more than anything else (nearly to the point of overflow), lennox’s songs woven together by carefully conceived happenstance, with more flavors in the mix than jambalaya. the result is an unendingly enjoyable album, but one that is charismatic and rewarding as well as entertaining.

person pitch is a rare album by any standard. assembled from a smattering of singles, 7"s, and one-off songs, it still clings together with an enviable stylistic cohesion. with some exceptions, lennox's lyrics are mostly so distorted that they are indistinguishable, which really prioritizes the music. one exception is album opener "comfy in nautica," which entreats the listener to "try to remember always / just to have a good time." "comfy in nautica" deserves its popularity; in addition to being the album's best known (and most accessible) song, it really sets person pitch's tone and framework. starting as a cascade of clanking machinery, lennox pares that harshness away to the slow regularity of marching feet and a single, looped choir note that hits every other beat - such is the album's formula, simple and intoxicating repetition.

person pitch is aesthetically divided into two categories, based solely on song length. the album features two epic compositions, "bros" and "good girl/carrot," brilliant works that, together, make up more than half of person pitch's length. despite their length (both clock in at over 12:30), neither feels contrived nor too long - they are performed without haste or waste, the type of songs where the removal of one note would make a profound difference. both are fluid, progressive songs with multiple melodies and themes blending into each other seamlessly. all of these, however, are attributes of the album as a whole, and "bros" and "good girl/carrots" are merely larger versions of "take pills" or "i'm not," expanded. every song on the album is viscerally alive in your headphones, and listening to person pitch on constant repeat doesn't diminish its brilliance in the slightest.

as part of the album's artwork, panda bear helpfully provides a look at his working environment, a menagerie of electronics that belies person pitch's rich, organic sound. though created mostly from samples and distorted sounds, the album is fuzzy and warm, almost lo-fi in its tenderness and aural intimacy. person pitch's formula is a simple, straightforward one: lennox starts each song with a sample, then adds a couple more, and sings on top, often manipulating his vocals, and then adds a couple more samples. analyzing his approach may satisfy some academic thirst for knowledge, but person pitch doesn't need it. the album is a gem, and well deserves the several nods it has received for best of 2007. if you a) haven't it heard yet or b) haven't bought it yet, you are c) missing out. go out and get it tomorrow.

"take pills" & "i'm not"
buy person pitch at paw tracks.

view people party (a fan-made concert documentary of three panda bear
performances in 2007) at eat tapes.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

awesome song morning! - "i'm a pretender"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.

the exploding hearts - "i'm a pretender"
buy guitar romantic from dirtnap records.

the exploding hearts are one of the saddest stories in contemporary music, sadder even than callum robbins. the portland, or. pop punk band garnered widespread acclaim for their 2002 debut, guitar romantic, but the band came to an untimely and abrupt end in 2003 when a car crash claimed the lives of three band members. i was given this song on a mix in 2005, and it impressed me so much that i bought the whole album, which isn't as good as "i'm a pretender." it abounds with energy and bad rhymes ("weather was cool so i bought you some fruit" comes to mind), but is just an explosion of cheerfulness, pure pop punk joy, and great hooks. check it out!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

best album by three brunettes from brooklyn

i don't know anyone who really likes au revoir simone as much as i do (i like them a lot). i've been trying to get my friends to listen to the bird of music, the brooklyn trio's sophomore album, for months now, but they can't really hear its charm or understand the allure of its tender and restrained aura. which is really a shame, since it's been my sleeper hit of the year since its release in may by our secret record company. the bird of music is simple and not aurally or intellectually taxing, which automatically sets it apart from many of the more "acclaimed" 2007 releases (seriously, what the fuck is up with this shit?) and may contribute to why its been so overlooked (bloggers being the arrogant s.o.b.s that we are). in reality, the bird of music, though simple, is sophisticated nonetheless, has incredible staying power, and is often just plain great.

au revoir simone is the result of a fortuitous train encounter in 2003 between the band's lead songwriters, erika forster and annie hart, and with the addition of heather d'angelo, they had a band. all three ladies play keyboards, imbuing their music with the saccharine sweetness that defines their sound, without overpowering ears. d'angelo, in addition to playing keys, is au revoir simone's beatmaker, manning the drum machine. the bird of music really runs the gamut stylistically; while their sound is consciously limited by the one-dimensionality of their instrumentation, au revoir simone tweaks their approaches on a song-by-song basis, so that some songs are gentle and harmonic, while others have such fuzzed-out keyboard distortion that it almost brings sonic youth to mind, all within a melodic and poppy framework. they're not the next ween or anything, and i'm not trying to imply that the bird of music is anything but sweet, catchy pop music, because that's all it is. but, at the same time, it's pretty damn intelligent, and the ways these ladies wield their keyboards is certainly impressive as well as addicting.

the best pop music, i think, is the kind you can't really over-intellectualize - after all, the best thing about songs like "toxic" is there's no thinking involved on your part. a lot of time and energy (and, dare i say, brilliance) went into manufacturing such a flawless, mindless song. now, au revoir simone certainly aren't britney spears's songwriters, and they are targeting a...more "discerning" audience, perhaps, than "toxic" was designed for, but the basic principle of pop remains the same - you're not supposed to think about it too much, at least as a listener. you're supposed to enjoy it, and absorb it so that it becomes familiar and comforting. au revoir simone's touch is so light and their hooks are so goddamn big that the bird of music becomes familiar before you even realize it, their melodies wending the way to your brain. i find listening to the bird a refreshing experience, especially in this weather - the album's production is so stark, so restrained, the notes round and smooth - it's very digestible and satisfying.

au revoir simone make songs like painters who can't stand to see the canvas - every inch of the sonic map is covered, plotted, filled with music. there is a gentle, steam-like hiss in "lark," for example, constant during the entire song, which is just one layer of the immaculately designed complexity that three keyboards can create. they stack rhythms, melodies, creating full songs from slight beginnings. as complex and well-designed as au revoir simone's songs are, however, each element is crafted to buttress the others, so that the overall effect is a full, not disjointed, affair. the most appealing part of their music may be their own voices, which function is a similar fashion. all three sing on every track, in unison and in harmony, and what makes their voices especially appealing is that they are the only organic sounds on the record. the stiffness of the drums and the flatness of the notes are so alien that the ear latches on to their rich voices like a bee to honey. (i believe all three are altos, and i can sing along to many of their songs without straining my voice, which is definitely another reason i like them so much. winning the singalong vote is crucial.)

though the words are often buried in the mix, au revoir simone's lyrics are a definite highlight of the bird of music, cheerful and melancholy both, sincere reflections from life. some of the album's best lyrics are on "fallen snow," an apt title. keyboards trundle along with sleigh-like regularity, and bells are heard in the background, and has all the cheer of the holiday season. "nothing's worse than seeing you worse than me / nothing hurts like seeing you hurt like me" is one such choice line, but the whole effect is to capture the frightening future. "depressing things are empty beds and lonely dinners / women who are middle-aged with naked fingers" could be the best line on the album - a shockingly self-aware recognition of the possibility of a lonely life. "stars," on the other hand, feels like a kicker from the first burst of tinkly piano, a bubblegum-sweet song about meeting a boy, with the winning chorus of "you make me wanna match the stars in the backyard / with a calculator and a ruler, baby." "dark halls" and "night majestic" are two other excellent tunes, the former a cheerful ditty about bus trips to boston and the latter a cute songs about horses.

electropop hasn't gotten much love since give up, but that hasn't stopped au revoir simone. the bird of music is really a lovely album, and i know it's one that i will listen to for past december 31. their fuzzy sweetness is familiar to me, and comforting. for me, it's a blanket album - i can play it pretty much anywhere, at any time, and always be satisfied by my choice. i don't expect you to be blown away, but it's not that kind of an album. if you like what you hear the first time, listen to it again, and you'll like it even more.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

best free album (if you got there fast enough, suckers!)

on new year's eve 2006, a couple websites quietly prepared themselves for the online-only release of liberation, the nine-track collaboration between talib kweli and madlib, which was to be made available to the public for absolutely no charge. available online for only a week, liberation was downloaded over 100,000 times, making it 2007's first proper album and an important contribution to the ongoing discussion about musical property. though other online-only, sorta-free albums eventually overshadowed liberation, this album stands out for a couple major reasons: 1. it's not by radiohead and, 2. it proves madlib can make anyone sound incredible. the public reception of liberation was so favorable that it was eventually slated for proper release by kweli's own blacksmith label, and charted 60,000 sales in its first week.

talib kweli is not my favorite mc in the world. in fact, i usually don't bother listening to him - his squeaky voice and self-aggrandizing flow get on my nerves quickly, even on guest spots. madlib, on the other hand, is one of the most talented producers and musicians of the 21st century, with such vision and skill that he could take a dump in the studio, put it on wax, and it would still sound better than the latest joint. so i downloaded liberation, excited for madlib's beats if not kweli's raps, but was pleasantly surprised by this cohesive and intelligent work. though the album is barely longer than an EP (total length is 30:12), both madlib and kweli deliver, the beats rich and varied, the rhymes, while still often shamelessly self-promoting (he compares himself to leonardo da vinci on "funny money"), are incisive and insightful.

liberation is madlib's first rap collaboration since 2004's madvillainy, but with over six full-lengths released in the interim, the beat konducta's style is anything but similar. a lot of madlib's more recent work is grounded in his solo releases, the beat konducta vol. 1 - vol. 4, and it easy to trace liberation back to that fertile ground. "whatkanido (can do it)," from the beat konducta vol. 1-2, was even directly replicated for liberation - renamed "what can i do," it is that album's final track. while madlib's beats are always based in the purest soul and jazz, his style has definitely evolved, and liberation, while only the prolific producer's first album of 2007, exemplifies his intelligent beatmaking abilities. kweli's aggrieved rhymes, buried and dirty in the mix, inspire some of madlib's darkest beats ever; "over the counter" and "engine runnin" are two such sinister cuts. "time is right" stands out thanks to madlib's vocal tweaking - the beat konducta sends kweli's voice through some old-school equipment so that the rapper sounds like a sample himself, and, in a particularly intuitive moment drops the beat after kweli, referencing myspace, rhymes "that's really me on that shit, not a representative," anticipating and fanning the astonishment. while madlib's instrumental works are accessible and enjoyable, liberation was a nice refresher of how his beats really come alive with an mc on top of them (an mc who isn't madlib, that is).

as i said above, i'm not really into talib kweli, and though i really like this album, wasn't into ear drum at all. i think liberation's quality is due mostly to madlib, but kweli's rhymes are often excellent. lyrically, kweli operates the two intertwined themes of himself and politics, and is passionate about both. "funny money," possibly liberation's finest track, features an unexpectedly light funk track from madlib and coy, smart raps from kweli. calling himself "mr. international," kweli big ups his own global popularity ("funny money" itself is a reference to foreign currency) and foreshadows what has become the political issue of the year: "illegal immigration gonna control hysteria." "over the counter" is clearly references the corrupted pharmaceutical industry, opening with the line "yo yo, we need some new leaders / politicians are lying, the artists are true divas." he then challenges the authenticity of the government's 9/11 story and claims "intelligence got you hooked" and is the new "drug of choice." liberation is a serious theme throughout the record, from "the show," where kweli rejects the n-word - "sayin' nigger just to keep our teeth white" - to "what can i do," an exhortation to the community to act, to finally reject the bloated corporate structure and two-faced government, an appropriate finishing point but not the end of the story.

liberation is short, almost a snippet of a hip hop, but contains some of the year's nastiest beats and informed lyrics. three of the album's nine tracks feature guests, but, interestingly, the finest raps are kweli's alone. madlib reestablishes himself as one of the best producers in the business, and talib kweli reaches a new lyrical high. with so much going for it, is it any surprise that "cds selling like nuclear weapons in north korea"?

"funny money" & "over the counter"
"whatkanido (can do it)" from the beat konducta vol. 1-2.

Monday, December 17, 2007

awesome song night! - "the anglo saxons"

awesome song day! is a spontaneous feature, when i am moved by a song's singular awesomeosity and feel the urge to share its awesomeness with all of you. the song below is awesome.

so, john darnielle is a pretty awesome dude. he's certainly one of the most prolific songwriters ever, with ten LPs (his eleventh, heretic pride, is due out february 18, 2008), three compilations, six cassettes, and about ten million other releases. bands with such a staggering output are often off-putting, because it seems so impossible to find a good place to start, what "the best" album to get into them is. well, pretty much every mountain goats album is a good place to start, since it's hard for john darnielle to write a bad song, though you can't really go wrong with ghana, a 68-minute, 31-tracked compilation odessey that features a lot of great mountain goats material. i particularly like "golden boy," "the last day of jimi hendrix's life," "orange ball of peace," and "going to maine," but "the anglo saxons" has a special place in my heart, because i discovered it when i was living in the united kingdom. anyway, enough from me. enjoy this awesome song!

gza @ knitting factory, 12/14/07 ("wu tang is for the fucking babies")

as the gza is one of the world's nastiest lyricists and liquid swords is one of my favorite rap albums ever, it's safe to say that his pseudo-don't look back rendition of that record was probably my most-anticipated concert of the year. honestly, i've been excited for this show since i bought the tickets way back in august; i've even spent the past several weeks with liquid swords on repeat, re-memorizing every nuance of his rhymes and the rza's production. though it disappointed many people when he canceled his appearance at mccarren pool over the summer, i was overjoyed, because i was out of town. so when he announced a two night stint at knitting factory, i made sure i would be there, for an undoubtedly epic event.

though i had experienced a don't look back event before, i had a feeling that this would not be a straight recitation of liquid swords verse for verse, and not only because the whole wu wasn't going to be showing up. live rap is never like studio rap, and the gza, unlike slint, is still performing and creating new music. so i expected the show to revolve around liquid swords but not to venerate it, and that's exactly what the gza did.

doors for the show were at 11, and the line stretched from the door all the way to broadway, the sold out crowd rabid with excitement. when we finally made it to the floor, we were greeted by prince paul's progeny, prince paul jr. on the decks, who was spinning straight wu tang. the crowd was mostly white (no surprises there), and mostly from staten island, and had every other verse memorized. prince paul jr. switched it up after a while, playing great old-school stuff, from epmd and biggie smalls to dr. dooom and big pun, and the crowd ate it up. real quality stuff. he didn't do much mixing, just spinning one song after another, but the selection was really choice. by the end of his set, the sold out crowd was packed shoulder-to-shoulder, now rabid with excitement, and prince paul jr. well earned his applause.

the gza's lyrics have always separated him from the rest of the clan, profound and intellectual as well as devastating, and he really delivered at this show. despite the fact that liquid swords is credited to the gza, the whole wu tang is really an intrinsic part of the album, and their absence meant that there was no way most of the tracks could be reproduced faithfully. regardless, the gza rocked tracks from both liquid swords and wu tang albums, dropping a special verse to ol' dirty bastard as well as a special acknowledgment of the meaning of "liquid swords," and the continued importance of the wu. it was an all ages show, as the row of under 18 year-olds in front proved, and the gza seized this as an example of how wu tang is still relevant, saying "wu tang is for the fucking babies."

the gza did most of the tracks from liquid swords, including a badass "cold world" into "liquid swords," his verses flowing like butter, letting the crowd finish his sentences as often as not, acknowledging the extent to which everyone had the words memorized. it was a great show and really a privilege to see him perform. there is a divide between liquid swords and its performance, but it is an natural one, an organic one, and just as relevant and valuable as the album itself. the gza proved he (and the wu tang clan) are still a force to be reckoned with, as they have been for over a decade.

"living in the world today"

"'cold world' -> 'wu tang is for the fucking babies' -> 'liquid swords'"

Sunday, December 16, 2007

yeasayer @ mercury lounge, 12/15/07

there was one storm that wasn't forecasted yesterday, and that was the media one in effect on the lower east side. bloggers, photographers, and media mavens of all sorts gathered at the clusterfucked mercury lounge for yeasayer's first new york show since cmj, a sold out affair courtesy of friction. the diy promoter brought together up-and-comers chairlift, team robespierre, and high places to open for the much-hyped yeasayer, with the night's only downside being the set limits (half an hour for openers, 45 minutes for the headliner). 45 minutes seemed to be the perfect length for yeasayer, whose chris keating kicked the crowd out by declaring they had no songs left, and the taster we got of the other bands was just enough to pique interest.

seeing as yeasayer hasn't played their hometown since cmj, it seemed only fitting that this show's lineup was as (future) star-studded as anything the music marathon had to offer. the show kicked off with chairlist, a lo-fi pop electronica trio that yeasayer's chris keating called "the most beautiful band in new york." they charmed the small crowd of early comers with their gentle, emotive songs, easy keyboard/guitar melodies often supported by a drum machine. chairlift embraced a decorative minimalism, the drummer eschewing a full kit in favor of only a snare and a floor-mounted tom (he also played an organ that doubled as a bass line) and singer caroline draping her keyboards with blue tinsel, a cute aesthetic that matched their cheerfully wistful tunes. their songs often seemed to be pre-made for the next wes anderson soundtrack, winding and gentle as they were.

team robespierre, much like their namesake, were harbingers of catastrophe and destruction, wreaking pure havoc on and off the stage (though without any "reign of terror" nonsense). a jarring follow-up to charlift's subdued pop, team robespierre literally ransacked the place, starting their set with a no-holds-barred stage dive. music took a backseat to energy for their set, understandable for a five-piece band with four singers, all of whom prefer making their own dance pit than playing instruments. the crowd, which had quadrupled in size since chairlift, seemed stunned by their very un-new york display of unbridled enthusiasm and dancing, the front of the floor empty save for a few intrepid souls and a guy dressed as santa. since team robespierre ditched their instruments as often as not to spazz around in the pit, it was hard to tell what they sounded like, but imagine a frenetic, dance-happy punk mashup with lots of yelling and elbows, and you're on the right track. the point of their set was to sweat and dance as much as possible, and it's safe to say that team robespierre made up for everyone else's reticence by dancing twice as hard. lead keyboardist tom even set his keys up on the edge of the stage, so he could have easier access to dancing. i don't know if it was a success - there was clapping, but most faces were incredulous or stunned - but, judging by the constant flashbulbs exploding on my retinas, team robespierre made an impression, and one hell of one at that.

high places are weird, man. the boy-girl duo said little as they sped through their set, their sound at once unique and bizarre. for one thing, they used their own speakers instead of mercury lounge's, giving them a muddy and deep sound that their instrumentation doesn't hint at. mary pearson and robert barber put a new spin on the boy-girl shtick, playing self-described "hawaiian hardcore chinese pop," which actually sums up their sound pretty well. barber plays a selection of instruments, which, from my vantage point, seemed to be mostly toy or found objects, which (i think) are then routed through some kind of receiver/looping unit. he played all his instruments with self-designed sticks, and each note of each instrument created a unique sound - i was not the only one who hoped to get a glance inside his case, because who the fuck knew what was going on in there. barber's thick sounds were perfectly complemented by pearson's airy (yet reverb-heavy) voice, but i don't think i really understood them. their sound was as globally informed as yeasayer's, but their approach confused as much as it entranced. for me, the jury's still out.

i've talked about yeasayer a lot this year, and you've probably heard about them everywhere else - they have certainly owned the latter half of this year, publicity-wise. their live show is as visually exciting as it is aurally, and though the 45 minute restriction was welcomed with boos, yeasayer rocked the house and left no one wanting. they tackled all their "hits," starting the set with the anand wilder tune "forgiveness" before breaking out "2080" to universal applause. other songs included "no need to worry," "sunrise," both seasonal songs ("summer" & "wintertime"), "final path," and a new song which, unfortunately, seemed less complex than their other work. despite that, their set was musically solid and rewarding - much heavier than all hour cymbals - a satisfying conclusion to a great night of music. if friction's job is to handpick bands that are going places, they couldn't have done better than last night's show.

probably the most exciting part of yeasayer's set was chris keating, the band's charismatic frontman. though all of yeasayer was into their performance, keating took it to another level, totally lost in the music. seemingly transported or possessed by spirits, keating fell over a couple times, broke multiple keys on his keyboard by banging them with a drumstick, and tripped over the drums. mostly, though, he swayed and jerked with a supernatural intensity, punctuating his wails by punching the air or twitching in time to the heavy sounds. i wish his energy had been infectious though; the crowd stayed placid and unmoving for their entire set in dismal contrast to the band, but yeasayer was, as always, excellent.

"wait for the summer"

chairlift - "evident utensil"

team robespierre - "ha ha ha"

high places - "new grace"

mr. mammoth is dressed for the winter in his stylish mittens, scarf, and hat

well, what with the onset of winter here in new york city, mr. mammoth felt it was time to break out the cold-weather clothes and share some good cold music with you all. this sorta kicked off my winter music phase, but you know how generous mr. mammoth gets when he gets a makeover, and we thought we'd do it up right over here. enjoy!

belle & sebastian - "winter wooskie" from legal man. buy it from matador.
guillemots - "a samba in the snowy rain" from through the windowpane.
the microphones - "i want to be cold" from the glow pt. 2. buy it from k records.
yeasayer - "wait for the wintertime" from all hour cymbals. buy it from we are free.

(also, stay tuned for the yeasayer show review, coming later today!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

best most grossly overhyped album of the year / most often found use for the word "chanteuse"

way back in april, i, along with most of the indie world, waited for the reminder with bated breath, sure that whatever leslie feist had cooked up since let it die was sure to astonish, amaze, and generally kick ass. in fact, one of mr. mammoth's earliest posts was about "my moon my man," the reminder's first single, and how excited i was for the album's release proper. i had only recently fallen in love with let it die, and was sure that her new album would equal its richness and complexity; i was prepared to be blown away. "my moon my man" had shocked me a little - feist sounded so clean and hip, the rustic warmth of "one evening" traded for postmodern self-awareness - and though i eventually warmed to its whirling chaos and stable beat, i secretly hoped that we'd get feist the lounge singer (à la "inside and out") as well as feist the chic.

it turns out we didn't really get either. with only a few exceptions, the reminder is overwhelmingly monochromatic, its songs colored by the gray brush of regret instead of the rainbow i had expected. what happened to feist? her old cheek peers through the cracks in the reminder, but it should really be the other way around. only five songs on the record feel upbeat, but they are neither seductive nor smoky enough to earn her the oft-used "chanteuse" label. the other eight songs are lethargic with minimal orchestration, yet one instrument in particular carries the others instead of working in tandem with them: feist's voice. it is the crux of her songs, and rightly so - it is one of the richest in contemporary music. yet even its lingering texture and timbre aren't quite enough of a justification for songs like "the park," wearyingly repetitive, or "how my heart behaves," another song that doesn't end soon enough. adding insult to injury is the fact that feist's voice suddenly doesn't seem versatile enough to carry nearly a full album of vocal-focal songs (it sounds funny when you say it out loud, alright?). she uses the same voice catches, the same open-throat singing style on every song - after a while, especially without decent instrumentation, it gets boring, the reminder's greatest downfall.

the reminder has been met by unceasing critical praise since its release, a year that has culminated with a slavish article by rolling stone and an appearance on many year-end lists, success based on a small core of great songs that has propelled the mediocre album (by a great artist) to popularity. though "my moon my man" was the reminder's first single, it was a different song that has raised feist's profile (and album sales) - the inimitably catchy "1 2 3 4." "1 2 3 4" garnered well-deserved praise for its patrick daughters-directed video even before it was adopted by apple for its ipod nano commerials, though its use by the sleek computing giant was responsible for its massive success. (on a side note, it's interesting to think about how uncontroversial that instance of song-licensing was, in a year marked by other, more troubling examples.) "1 2 3 4" and "my moon my man" (its video is also directed by daughters) are the reminder's best songs, and while there are a handful more good ones, i still cannot understand why the album (not just the songs, mind you) has been so well-received, when there are only five above decent cuts on there.

the reminder is a sad album, sad from the post-relationship, self-excoriating "so sorry" at the top of the album, sad to the post-relationship, self-excoriating "how my heart behaves" at the end of it. thankfully, feist makes some detours from melancholy, with exceptional results. "my moon my man" and "1 2 3 4" are only two examples; others include the countrified "past in present," the africanized "sealion woman," and the major chord-heavy "i feel it all," all upbeat, cheerful, and the best feist has to offer. unfortunately, those five are woefully incomparable to anything from let it die, and the rest of the album really doesn't cut it. on "the water" and "honey honey," feist's voice is at its best, though the pallid instrumentation isn't really enough to catch the ear. yet, incomprehensibly, it has been feist's coming out album , with over three quarters of a million sales worldwide, and has received near-universal love from music critics and fans. i just don't understand.

the power of bass

i've been working hard lately, so i gave myself a day off today, to just hang around at home and catch up on some stuff (also, play some zelda). i got a kickass pair of new speakers recently, and in a sudden burst of inspiration, i decided to play with the equalizer on my media player. well, one thing led to another (yeasayer now has their own preset), but i have musical a.d.d., so i skipped around a bit, before coming to rest on sarah assbring, a.k.a. el perro del mar.

i've been an el perro del mar fan for a while now - her voice and the album's production are simply amazing - though when "candy" boomed out with my new presetting ability, it felt fuller than ever before, the wall of sound tangible. it was super cool. so, what i'm saying is, get a good pair of speakers.

the end.


Sunday, December 9, 2007

tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur?

there are a lot of words that describe geneviève castrée, the artist who performs as woelv, but, somehow, none of them seem right. it turns out i lied to you back on the last day of november, when i claimed that the year might well be over as far as seriously good music goes, and no, 8 diagrams is not the reason why. i had forgotten about woelv, who i saw opening for mount eerie in a church basement, who was releasing her seventh (!!!) album (though only her second full-length as woelv) on december 4. seriously, how does someone put out sixth albums without going some sort of internet notoriety? don't blogs exist so that that doesn't happen anymore? anyway, her impossibly titled album, tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur?, was released five days ago by k records, during which time it has utterly seduced me with its bizarre drama and hopeful anxiety.

geneviève castrée is québécoise, a graphic illustrator and painter from the suburbs of montréal. she taught herself guitar in order to create songs to accompany her paintings. indeed, castrée's method for understanding tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? best is to get the "book-record" lp version, which comes with a 60-page book of artwork and translation from french to english. ...wish i'd known about that version before i got the cd. the album is sung entirely by castrée in french. recently on tour with mount eerie, castrée is a close confidant of phil elverum's, and her naturalistic style often mimics his [elverum also appears on "(réconciliation)"]. woelv, however, sings about a different nature than mount eerie, whose songs are gentle and respectful; castrée is anxious and nervous, caring and doting, confused yet assured, and her paradoxes are woelv's heartbeat.

there are a lot of pictures of woelv out there, but this one in particular, striking and evocative, sums up woelv's aesthetic, oddly paradoxical though that seems. cathartic yet self-reflective, castrée's music is minimal to nearly the extreme, though its beauty is something to behold when she rips the silence to shreds, whaling on her guitar and wailing her lungs out. the disparity of the two, clearest on "drapeau blanc," tout's first song. it builds tentatively, cautiously, as castrée builds her loops, stringing her voices together in a choir. a harsh drumbeat lifts the song's energy, accompanied by raw, dissonant shrieks from castrée, beautiful and terrible, before it abruptly subsides, leaving a hole where none existed before.

i like to think of tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? as two things: cold music and headphone music. i've been listening to this album while traveling to work the past few days, with the wind slicing down my neck, and i can't imagine listening to woelv in any other way. there is a stillness to tout that suggests a silent winter forest, and a tremulousness chill in castrée's voice that cannot be soothed by the summer sun. in addition, castrée's voice sounds like a fusion of björk's and jónsi birgisson's, and has seemed to absorb by association (they're from iceland. she's from canada. those places are cold!) their wildly stylized yet implicitly naturalistic vocal renderings. like the wind whispering across ice or through trees (as it literally does on tout's title song), castrée sounds like the voice of winter. oh, and the fact that lots of her press photos feature her bundled in this warm red coat helps with the winter analogy as well.

i was listening to tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? on my way home tonight, when i realized how loathe i was to listen to the album on my stereo. there is a raw intimacy in listening to woelv on headphones, the music rich in your skull, every nuance enjoyed and wondered at. castrée's voice is remarkable, childish yet mature, a strong foundation for woelv's songs, which can really only be appreciated on a (good) pair of headphones. i know all music is better on headphones, but this is one of the rare few that really should only be listened to on headphones. songs like the (nearly) acapella "la mort et le chien obèse" are painstakingly constructed around castrée's vocal loops, which are almost indistinguishable on a stereo. a real connection is felt, a bridge between you and woelv, that is the emotional crux of her music, one that i feel best through headphones.

my one real complaint about tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? is its haste. not its brevity - i think the album is a good length - but the little time for reflection we get between songs. especially in the beginning of the album, when we need the time to process song by song, we instead get five songs practically overlapping. woelv's music is so striking, so bizarrely compelling, that it requires time to digest, to be comprehended. also, geneviève castrée may think that i would enjoy her album more if i had the translation in front of me, but i in no way feel hindered by the language barrier - i even find it liberating. i can get lost in her sounds, the lilt of her voice as it climbs octaves, the gorgeous lo-fi equality of the sound, the true complexity of her loops, which i would have a much harder time doing if i was translating every phrase. as mr. mammoth readers know, i'm no stranger to non-english music, and i find castrée's music all the more beautiful for my own inaccessibility to its true meanings. tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? is an open-ended story, a choose your own adventure, and i like it that way.

"drapeau blanc" & "sous mon manteau"

buy tout seul dans la forêt en plein jour, avez-vous peur? from k records.

stream the album (if you don't believe me on how good it is) here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

balkan beat box @ irving plaza, 12/6/07

though nu-med still hasn't won my heart (i find it much more derivative, world music-y, and less dancey than the band's self-titled debut), there was still no way i was skipping the balkan beat box show at irving plaza thursday night - after all, their gig in april was one of my favorite of the year, and i can always use more dancing in my life. once again, the band was on fire, electrifying the room with their middle eastern grooves and high-energy sax solos, but show didn't really compare to their previous nyc extravaganza.

dj rekha, queen of basement bhangra, kicked the show off, but without much success. she spun a mix of subcontinental house, arab dance anthems, and middle eastern remixes of songs like "hot in herre," which made the crowd bob and weave a bit, but in a distracted fashion. considering that rekha hadn't been listed on the bill, it wasn't much of a surprise that most people weren't tuning in - they were there for bbb, and only bbb.

as always, balkan beat box were immensely crowd-friendly and charismatic, frontman tomer yosef leaping across the stage, gesticulating and singing wildly, inspiring lots of booty-shaking and grooving on the floor. unfortunately, their set was almost entirely taken from nu-med, with only two or three songs from their debut. while i'm really into some nu-med songs (like itunes bonus track "ramallah tel aviv," which closed their set - see video below), i find far too many of them to be a little tiresome and repetitive. the formula became a just succession of solos around a catchy core, instead of the tightly regimented rhythms that made them so appealing in the first place. their live show has mutated into jamming showcase, turn-taking between saxophonists peter hess, founder ori kaplan, guitarist jeremiah lockwood, and bassist itamar ziegler, so that the crux of the songs are lost in all the soloing. it's a good show, and i guess it's my fault for expecting the choreography of the studio to translate into the live environment, but that doesn't really assuage my disappointment.

aside from that, i had a great time. for "la bush resistance," yosef climbed the stacks next to the stage, shouting his anti-bush song from a pedestal, though was a little more restrained on final encore "cha cha," where he was cooped up behind his drum kit. as before, lockwood took a solo turn mid-set, his guitar staccato and versatile. kaplan and co-founder tamir muskat faced off for a sax-drum solo, and the dancing was great. that being said, though bbb has another new york date scheduled for february, i don't know if i'll go. balkan beat box used to symbolize a resistance to the unimaginative beats of world music, but they're increasingly heading in that direction, and i don't think i want to see them go down that road further.

"ramallah tel aviv"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

i swear this is the last caribou post of the year

it's been a very good year for caribou, especially on mr. mammoth, earning daniel snaith & co. the prestigious "most times written about by a blogging prehistoric mammal" award. most enviable. well, i'll break it to you now - andorra ain't ending up on my year end list. as you probably recall, i wasn't all that impressed with the album, but caribou's live show is something else. a couple months ago i told you about the pink room sessions, a full set caribou taped and put on their youtube page, and the audio has finally been ripped from it, and i've got it right here for you. caribou is still somehow touring (the guys are like a machine!), with their sights set on japan and australia for 2008. jesus, dan, i don't know how you do it.

the pink room session (originally recorded for youtube)
after hours
she's the one
melody day

download the show as a .zip here.

don't forget that you can buy andorra from merge.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

one of the best british albums of last year that suffered a criminally delayed us release, so now it's one of the best albums of this year

normally, i trust and respect rough trade records quite a bit. in fact, i admire them so much that i made a deliberate detour to their london hq when last i was in town - the dollar is still too much of a whiny little bitch for me to shill out there for albums i can get here, but it was a really cool shop (also, had great street food while there). however, rough trade sometimes makes questionable decisions that are utterly befuddling, especially for their american fans. one of the most perplexing was the eight month delay between the british and north american release of someone to drive you home, debut album by sheffield's slickest glam punksters the long blondes.

it is clear from the outset that the long blondes know how to rock, lead guitarist dorian cox's melodies rough-hewn but pointed, ringing with a kind of 70s earnestness, completed by a constantly prominent bass that reminds you that it is okay to dance. early on in their career, the long blondes famously issued this statement: we do not listen to the beatles, the rolling stones, jimi hendrix, the doors or bob dylan, a bold claim that set them apart musically and intellectually. and, indeed, their sound, though it sounds like a straight throwback, is as unique as it is enjoyable. someone to drive you home was produced by steve mackey, ex-pulp bassist, after a string of singles earned the long blondes a great deal of acclaim, and was released in the uk on nov. 6, 2006. however, and here's where it gets sucky, north americans had to wait 8 fucking months for someone to drive you home to come out here! honestly, the damn album gets an 8.2 from pitchfork, blogs love it, and there were people who downloaded it and sincerely wanted to spend money on it and couldn't (read: mr. mammoth, y'all), yet it still took until july for us to get it! rough trade, what were you thinking?

jarring and jangly, someone to drive you home seduces you in seconds with its haughty melodies and clever lyrics, gripping in an instant and riveting for months. frontlady kate jackson sings one hell of a story, her character history developed and brought alive over someone's twelve songs, a character that combines the disdain and allure of femme fatale with the anxious desperation of a bridget jones. jackson nearly always sings in the first person , lending the songs an acute air of authenticity and drawing a striking portrait of modern femininity simultaneously. at once jealous, proud, assertive, caustic, passionate, aloof, and, most of all, sensitive, jackson's character engages as often as it repels, so we end up rooting for her whether she is trying to land a married man or bemoaning her unfulfilling home life. as honest as she sounds, it's really very striking that nearly all of the long blondes's lyrics are written by dorian cox - someone to drive you home only features two songs penned by jackson. yet, though cox displays unusual skill in cross-gender perspectives, jackson is necessary to bring this modern woman to life, imbuing her voice with smouldering desperation and captivating charm.

before the release of someone, the long blondes released a long string of singles, most of which appear on someone to drive you home, making it pop with catchy guitars and smart hooks. perhaps the band's most well-known song is "giddy stratospheres," which has been released four separate times. sharp guitars and saccharine synth drive this jealous anthem about a love rival, a groovy post-punk dance. "once and never again" is a bright song with lots of treble, and an admonishment from jackson that "you don't need a boyfriend," liberating nineteen year olds from the clutches of premature relationships. on a darker side of things, album closer "a knife for the girls" is a worrying rejection song with ominous drums and pointed distortion, yet is just as catchy as everything else on the album.

i think someone to drive you home is my most-listened to album of the year. it's angular and gloriously lo-fi sounding, rich and well-written, and never fails to cheer me up and make me dance, and, really, i don't think an album can do better than that. it's one of the most satisfying records of the year, and i am happy to go on record and say i love this album, and there aren't many that i would recommend as highly as this.

"giddy stratospheres" & "you could have both"
buy someone to drive you home from rough trade!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

best album that defines a genre that applies to only one album

has there ever been as absurd of a genre as "nu-rave"? seriously, when has one album ever warranted the coining of an entirely new style of music? freak folk, post-rock, even slavic stomp - multiple albums were recorded by multiple bands before such labels were generated, but, apparently, myths of the near future, the debut album from klaxons, was revolutionary enough to bypass the necessary maturation and refining most new genres endure before popularization. on the other hand, most other genres don't have NME rooting for them every inch of the way. thanks to that farce of a publication, myths of the near future, which, admittedly, is a great album, was imbued with a significance and importance that far outstripped its beginnings, inventive though they were. however ridiculous the term "nu-rave" (which, for most intents and purposes, is synonymous with klaxons) seems, myths of the near future is, truly, a bold album, in more ways than one. music generally repeats itself every twenty years, but, by jumping the gun by a decade, and resurrecting rave before it had been outgrown, klaxons not only earned themselves a legion of fans and the eternal brownnosing praise of the new musical express, but copped britain's most prestigious musical prize while they were at it.

harsh words aside, i really like myths of the near future. cataclysmic, cacophonous, and with a generous dose of geek, klaxons's debut impressed me more with their post-apocalyptic disco than any similarities to rave music. the term "nu-rave" (or "new rave") was coined in 2006 by klaxons's then-label head, joe daniel, though it was wantonly appropriated and abused by nme, popularizing the term so crudely that klaxons themselves disdain any honor the phrase "nu-rave pioneers" earns them. in fact, on more than one occasion, they have referred to it as a "joke that’s got out of hand." unfortunately, thanks to nme, klaxons are now indelibly tarred with the nu-rave brush, though, ultimately, it doesn't matter what klaxons are called by others; myths from the near future speaks with its own voice.

strikingly creative and inventive, myths of the near future seems like far too mature of a release for such a young band - lyrically and musically forward-thinking, klaxons's sound seems destined to outlive the band themselves, and we'll probably be blasting "magick" in our underground bunkers when the world ends. (the band's wikipedia page discusses klaxons's "magic-realist" themes, especially the preponderance of references to aleister crowley, an early 20th century occulist, with much more confidence than i.) in choosing myths of the near future as their title, klaxons perfectly expressed our russian roulette future; post-apocalyptic soothsayers, predicting plagues and wars over machine gun drums and air raid sirens. whether or not we manage to lay complete waste to our planet in the near future, we'll always have klaxons to dance to in our full-body radiation suits.

even when klaxons turn down their fire & brimstone predictions, as on "isle of her," myths's midpoint, they lose none of their ominous aura. a supposed rowing song, "isle of her" is actually a dirge, swaying with lurching harmonies, its percussion clanking like ankle chains. while "isle of her" is klaxons only slow song, it is so successful that one wishes they delved into it more often. klaxons's clear forte is their love for cacophonous intensity. "magick," a highlight on an album full of them, combines both, pairing threatening synth and guitar lines, blisteringly ominous, with a diametric bridge. songs like "gravity's rainbow" and "golden skans" accomplish this as well, but "magick" in particular burns with a fierce drama, surpassed in fury only by "four horesemen of 2012," a brutal reminder of how close humanity is to extinction.

myths of the near future is a warning, but it seems unlikely that the band expected many people to take it at face value; after all, it's a dance album, so let's get dancing. i was never into the rave scene, so i can't vouch for its similarities to it, but what myths does have is ridiculously catchy bass lines (as on "forgotten works") and tons of singable harmonies (as on pretty much every song). it is an outstanding album in its own right, the more so because it is literally a trailblazing one, and a most promising debut. of course, they may well fall victim to nme's gruesome betrayal tactics, or release a shitty sophomore album, but myths of the near future stands on its own feet as one of the year's best.

Friday, November 30, 2007

it's time for someone to put their foot down. and that foot is mammoth.

as the year winds down, it becomes ever more obvious that no one gives a shit about anything released after october (as evidenced by stylus's early, ambitious list). mr. mammoth here is no exception (honestly, was anyone excited by this?), but the whole concept of a "best of" list is absolute anathema here at mammoth HQ. clearly, some albums are better than others, but how can you say this album is better than this one? they're both impossibly excellent, and are crafted in totally disparate styles - i couldn't say one is better than the other. maybe i enjoyed one more, but better is such a bullshit subjective phrase that i won't even waste your time pretending that my opinion of "best" is really that valuable of a guide. what all qualitative reckonings require - and what most "best of" lists lack - is context. therefore, mr. mammoth is proud to present our 100% subjective, 100% contextual best of 2007 report - a month-long look at some albums i really enjoyed for some very specific reasons. i'll try to update three times a week between now and the end of the year, and maybe - just maybe - there will be something new for you. fingers crossed.

first album tomorrow!