12.20.07 | Amateur Radio Operator – Sirens Of Titan
Amateur Radio Operator
Sirens Of Titan
I don’t know if it was intended or not, but the first thing that I noticed about Amateur Radio Operator was their album name – Sirens of Titan. Hello title-of-a-Kurt Vonnegut book. Needless to say, I sort of sat on this album for several months – even though I really dig it. This seems to happen frequently. The more I like an album, the longer it takes to get it reviewed. I guess that goes against common sense, but hey – you get what you get.
Anyhow, I really like the deep, vast alt-country soundscapes created by the band. It’s VERY Band of Horses (yeah, that Band of Horses). But at times I like ARO even more because of they lean even more toward the sparse and moody, with cello and quieter moments giving the songs greater swim and less swing. The vocals definitely land them in the My Morning Jacket territory but the music can be more Norfolk and Western at times. Unlike others, I think I actually like the speedbumps here – it fits wonderfully with the overall mood. But of course they’re capable of rocking out as well.
According to the bio, they’re big fans of “entropic music” – the decay that hides alongside bigger made-for-radio choruses. I like that. Broken Household Appliance National Forest – here we come.
12.24.07 | Eastern Blok – Folk Tales
Wow. This is going to go right up there with “world music that I really think I should be interested in but it’s just over my head.” I have neither the musical knowledge to talk about the band, nor the will at this point in time – suffice to say that Beirut’s Gulag Orkester was enough to put my poor Americanindie-centric brain through the wringer. Eastern Blok is right up there. Apparently, they’ve made a name for themselves, appearing on NPR and having their music in an Angelina Jolie film (Wanted). How about just have a listen for yourself:
Eastern Blok website
12.6.07 | Eux Autres – Cold City
Man, amazing. I’m back reviewing. What happened? I don’t know. Got bored. Decided to write in short sentences. Well.
At least some review packages have gotten through the post office blockade, so for now I’m keeping the address the same. Please let me know if you’re getting them returned.
Ok, so this is supposed to be a review. Here it is: the more I listen to Eux Autres the better they sound. How’s that for a major cliche-o-matic. Yay! The Portland band’s newest CD is Cold City and I have to admit I nearly put it aside until I heard a few tracks on SOMA and looked to see who it was. Shamefaced, I retrieved the CD from the “discard” pile.
Janet Weiss (a heroine of many) had a hand in the recording of their album. Not surprising there might be a few Sleater-esque moments starting with “Gratte-Ciel” and “When I’m Up.” But hey, before we even get into that I have to say that the initial 2 songs of the CD tread a different indie line: think Tullycraft plays Pants Yell! plays Masters of the Hemisphere for “The Deadball Era.” And for “Molly” let’s go That Dog plays with Slumber Party.
Whew, ok I used up all my references in one fell swoop. Oh what the hell, one more try: for “Anne Boleyn” let’s go Life Pursuit era Belle and Sebastian meets Field Mice. Regardless, the indie pop rings true on this album. I have to say that again that Masters of the Hemisphere RIYL really comes out on one of my favorite tracks, “Collision Theory.” Interesting Frenchiness also occurs occasionally. Overall: tres delicious.
When I’m Up
Eux Autres website
12.17.07 | Juviley – How To Miss The Ground
How To Miss The Ground
Ok, so I sort of needed this album to right my sanity. After tossing quite a few CDs of Kinski-esque Melvins metal, it was nice to come across the beautiful, pastoral album by Juviley. Equal parts Kings of Convenience, Mojave 3 and Belle and Sebastian, “How To Miss The Ground” mopes melodically along at its own pace. In particular, I enjoyed the drowsy slide guitar which infuses his pop songs. Feeling no need to speed up the world, Or Zublasky encourages us to slow down and smell the music. Smells quite good to me.
Juviley on Myspace
12.24.07 | Low Fire – The Second Shortcoming
The Second Shortcoming
[Workaholics on Holiday]
Rather nice, little buzzy indie pop album from Denmark’s Low Fire. It’s out on Workaholics on Holiday which I believe is an arm of BSBTA, who’s releases we’ve occasionally reviewed. The songs span a whole bunch of genres, from twee to c86 to pop punk. The band is the alias of Niklas Steffensen, but I believe he employs a bunch of buddies in the recordings.
I don’t have the time to go through all the tracks – but I just want to say that “Ringing In Yr Ears” could’ve been a Death Cab B-side track. Easily. A whole lot of songs (in Guided By Voices fashion) mean that there’s a lot of listening to do here. That might turn off some, especially if you don’t “get” lo-fi. But for those with the patience, there are some nice rough gems here and there in the mix. Good stuff…
Low Fire website
12.20.07 | MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Whoah. Just looking at their promo pics, dese guys know how to live it up. I thought MGMT might be some ska-metal band from their abbreviation, but thankfully they’re not. Oh, the name. It’s pronounced “Management”. I think.
The music – very, very trippy. Like David Bowie singing Mercury Rev plus Polyphonic Spree. I actually have no idea what to make of them because I was so expecting a metal band to blast at me when I put the CD in. Wacky, full orchestral production, electronica meets modern glam prog-rock. At times they even channel disco. They’re opening for Of Montreal which I guess makes a bit of sense, although MGMT are no E-6ers. That should be an interesting billing.
12.24.07 | Mist and Mast – S/T
Mist and Mast
If I was getting paid to review music, I would characterize this album as “excellent, and only kinda crazy.” Just kidding. Well, only half kidding. Since it IS true I’m not being paid. But it isn’t true the music is crazy. It’s just that Jason Lakis, formerly of The Red Thread (who I know nothing about) has a knack for turning what might be ordinary delicious indiefolk into songs that are just a little bit off-kilter sounding.
I actually think it’s the strange and frequent chord changes that give the music that sound. I kind of like it – it certainly kept me awake slogging through the piles of CDs on the desk. The songs absolutely refuse to sit still. Without the added strangeness it might be like Jon Brion or Matthew Sweet or – just pick a popster. At times it sort of reminds me of Nyles Lannon. I suspect with further (I mean more than ONE) listens this album will get even better. Definitely on my “bands to watch” radar…
Mist and Mast website
12.17.07 | Palebear End of Year Music Rush
While other sites are busy coming up with “best of the year” lists, here at Palebear we (I) are going to be posting up quickie reviews in order to try and reduce the towering stack of CDs in the queue. OK, so it’s not towering anymore. Thankfully. But I’m still going to try and finish up whatever is possible before the new year.
Like I’ve said before – sometimes I’ve no idea why I continue to review stuff: I must have a stupid-wish, not unlike a death-wish. But you know – stupidity tries. I think maybe I keep on reviewing hyper-indie stuff because I foolishly think it keeps me somehow connected to the heart of what seems to matter most about music. At least I hope it’s something like that.
I have no idea what the new year will bring as far as music and music reviewing goes. But here’s to something better in 2008. And hopefully less whining on my part.
12.17.07 | Pants Yell! – Alison Statton
I’ve previously said a ton of good things about Pants Yell! who are probably in my top 30 favorite indie pop bands of the 21st century. Let me tell you, pretty much the same goes with their latest release “Alison Statton”. It’s another strong set of beautifully crafted pop songs that make me want to throw my guitar out the window and just give up songwriting.
Ok, so there are a few changes. New drummer – Casey Keenan. Although I’m a bit bummed Carly left the band, Casey does a bang up job fitting smoothly into the mix. I think he might give the music a tiny bit more edge. Also, I want to say I detect a slight shift away from the “T” word – that’s twee, which they’ve been pegged (by me, among others). I don’t want to say the songs are more grown up, because they remain similar: engagingly jaunty but slightly off-kiltre. Andrew Churchman (according to the unfailable Wikipedia) sez that they were never really Tullycraftian but more Smithian – I could definitely see that on these songs. And the production is certainly really good on their latest album, which means lo-fi naysayers are going to have to give this album another listen. Released on Soft Abuse.
Pants Yell! Myspace
12.24.07 | The Bruises – Connected
[Black Heart Blue Starr]
It’s simplistic to just say that San Francisco’s The Bruises remind me of the Donnas and of Sleater-Kinney. But, it’s Xmas Eve and I’m just trying to reduce the CD “stack” for the new year. So there you go – I guess it’s better than nothing hey?
Really, there are some pretty decent grrl-punk pop songs in here that I hope to get into next year. But time is short – so rock on, Aja and Jen. I’ll catch up to you later.
The Bruises website
The State of Samuel
Here Come The Floods
[Humblebee / Total Gaylord]
I have a confession to make. I completely sat on the Here Come The Floods when it was released in October 2007. I wanted to see how long I could keep the ebullient, effervescent elephant locked in its box. It turns out my willpower is unfortunately high, and I didn’t write about the album until today when it came bursting out onto the page thusly:
“Oh my god there is a new The State of Samuel record, and oh my god it is just as good if not slightly better than the previous one, and oh my god this is at least the 4th or 5th best album I’ve listened to this year, and oh my god I can’t believe this guy is not signed to a major indie, and oh my god there is too much caffeine in my tea…”
Ok, so it wasn’t exactly like that. But in a way it was. I still think Samuel Petersson is some sort of unheralded Swedish pop genius. The songs are buzzy, summery gems, perfect for warming you up in the coming winter. Residents of gloom rejoice…
The State Of Samuel website
12.20.07 | Yesan Damen – Chronos/Kairos
[New Wine Records]
Admittedly, I know very little about Yesan Damen. For one thing, I thought that was someone’s name. Instead it’s a indie pop quartet. And while there are indeed hints of The New Pornographers in the music, I think this is one of those albums that requires a bit of “work” to really get into. Some rather pretty pop songs in here though, with very nice instrumentation. Oh, this was originally the solo project for songwriter Danny Kwak. Just mentioning his name because I like to help a brother out. Anyhow, perhaps I need to revisit this one after the new year.