Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tap Tap - Lanzafame

Tap Tap
Lanzafame
Catbird

I first read about Tap Tap over at My Old Kentucky Blog. After listening to a sample and reading about them being likened to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, I decided to get the album. After a quick check out process via paypal over at Catbird Records, and a short wait on the USPS, Tap Tap's Lanzafame showed up in my tiny mailbox.

Upon first listen, the references to Clap Your Hands are understood and accepted. However, listening to it a number of times has uncovered nuances that were perhaps missed on the first pass.

Take "To Our Continuing Friendship" for instance. The chorus on this is more Beach Boys than Clap Your Hands. "Talk Slowly" lets Tap Tap take a crack at low-fi folk, and they pull it off quite well. Standout tracks include opener "100,000 Thoughts," "Little Match (Big Fire)," and the aforementioned "To Our Continuing Friendship."

Tap Tap puts together a little over 30 minutes of bouncy, energetic, quirky pop. If you've got an extra $10 and a paypal account, make it yours.

Check it out if you like: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Islands, Neutral Milk Hotel
Listen to a sample here: "100,000 Thoughts"

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Menomena signs to Barsuk

I just bought tickets to see The Long Winters and Menomena at the Bowery Ballroom on Sept. 29th. I navigated over to Barsuk just so see where else the tour was going and what do I notice on the homepage? That Barsuk, former home of Death Cab For Cutie and current home of, well, many solid music peeps, has signed Menomena. So that's why they're all playing together. And by "they're all" I mean, the above two along with What Made Milwaukee Famous. It's a Barsuk party.

From Barsuk:
"
Menomena, the experimental rock trio from Portland, OR, have signed to Barsuk. Their upcoming release, friend and foe, shines Northwest indie songcraft through a Chicago post-rock lens, illuminating the quiet recesses with an experimental, jazzy light. Look for this release in early 2007."

The Long Winters - Putting the Days To Bed

The Long Winters
Putting the Days To Bed
Barsuk

I forget where I first heard about The Long Winters. I feel like I saw a poster of their's in Other Music, my record store of choice. Hey, see there, design does work.
Or maybe it was a flyer for an in-store performance. Either way, they stuck in my head and I recently decided to buy their latest full length Putting the Days To Bed. I'm glad that poster, or whatever it was, got my attention.

Putting the Days To Bed has been one of those slow-burn albums for me. You know, the ones where you like it at first, but don't think much of it. But then it grows on you and you really start enjoying it. It was like that with The National's Alligator which seems absolutely insane to me in hindsight, knowing how much I love that album now. Anyway. So now I'm really into this album. It's a nice mix. A little Wrens, a little Shins and a bit of Band of Horses. No, they don't sound like any of them outright, but if you have any of those in your Pioneer six-disc cd changer, you should probably make room in there for this one.

Stand out tracks include "Sky Is Open." The chorus in this one is where I got the Band of Horses thing above. It's like BoH minus all the reverb. "Clouds" is a nice lo-fi number, all restrained percussion and acoustic guitars, and heck, throw in a banjo for good measure. Then comes "Rich Wife" which, in my opinion, is a deadringer for The Wrens. And that's a good thing as I love me some Wrens. On the last track "Seven," when John Roderick sings "I'd miss you Seven," he sounds an awful lot like Blake Schwarzenbach singing a Jets To Brazil (okay fine, Jawbreaker) tune. My favorite of all is"Ultimatum" which is also the title of a previously released EP. The EP version uses finger-picked (what?) guitar, recorded lo-fi a la Iron & Wine, and lush orchestration to carry along Roderick's voice. It's a toss up which one I like more, but the version on Putting... is very different. It's a rocker, and a good one at that. If you put a gun to my head, and I hope you won't, I'd probably pick the EP version. I'll link it below and you can check it out. Then compare and contrast it with the version on Putting the Days To Bed, which, if I were you, I'd be running out to get.

Check it out if you like: The Wrens, The Shins, Band of Horses
Listen to a sample here: "Pushover" (from Putting...); and "Ultimatum" (the previously released EP version)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Snowden

Just read about these guys over on Pitchfork and turns out they're playing down the street from me on Sunday. I'll check 'em out and let you know what I think. This is what they look like
And this is what they sound like: "Anti-Anti"

edit: turns out this show is actually on Saturday and I will not be in town to attend. Bitches.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Lazy bastard = Me

I'm way behind with this thing. I wanted it to be updated frequently. I'll get the wheels under me soon. In the meantime, my little black book of "must buys" is growing wildly out of control:













And my stack of things I would have liked to have already written up is also commanding way too much real estate on my desk













I picked up Putting the Days To Bed by The Long Winters today. I'll write it up tomorrow. Listen to Pushover while you wait.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Boris - Pink

Boris
Pink
Southern Lord

Mud. Lava. Rocks. Skulls. These words bring a smile to my face. They're words my friends and I playfully threw out whenever we'd put on some metal back in the day. It seemed perfectly appropriate–after all, these are the things metal is made of. Well, at least skulls anyway.

Boris brings this to mind. I picked up Pink having heard/read the hype. Oh yeah, I'd heard it. And, knowing that my roots are in metal (I was the kid people l
aughed at in high school because I listened to Nuclear Assault and Exodus), I had to pick it up. Let me just say, Boris did not disappoint. This was my intro to their sound and I'm now working a trip to pick up their back catalogue into my iCal.

Boris is a three-piece metal band from Japan. Now, don't go thinking this is that kind of metal. Metal has so many sub-genres now that I've lost count, and frankly, interest in keeping them all separate. Metal is metal is metal to me. It's either good or bad. That's not to say that there isn't a clear distinction between say Cannibal Corpse and Iron Maiden, because there is. But the one constant is that they'd both be considered metal by average-Joe on the street. Boris brings to mind fuzzed-out, stoner-rock metal groups like Kyuss (remember them?!) and Earth, et al. Some of it is really slow and drone-y, and some is built for speed. It's definitely not death, or doom, or black metal. It's not speed or thrash. What is it then? Well, it's a lot of guitar distortion for starters. Tons of it in fact. The one constant you'll get with Boris? This stuff is heavy.

The album opens with "Farewell." The first minute or so rocks you to sleep almost. Gentle notes drenched in reverb ring out as a simple beat keeps time. We get a final crash cymbal, a few toms, and then, the tidal wave of distortion washes over you. This recording is definitely in the red. The distortion is so much at times, you wonder if it's on purpose, or if the mics just can't take it and are distorting themselves. This is definitely one of their slower tunes. But if you're not into slower metal, don't let that dissuade you as Boris definitely picks up the pace after that. Track two, the title track, switches gears, and it's an all out assault. This theme carries for the entirety of the album. A concentration of rock attack songs, broken up by slower, moody pieces. Towards the end, you get a nice breather with the Mogwai-esque "My Machine" which I'm particularly fond of. Sure, it's only two minutes long, but it's a great respite before the pummeling starts back in with "Just Abandoned-Myself."

If for anything else, I dig this album because it just doesn't sound like any of the metal I've heard lately. So much is coming out that's metalcore/grindcore and this is a little more straight-forward. I like that. I like their simple approach. Keep it simple, stupid. Isn't that how the saying goes? Well, the simple equation for Boris is to make it fast, make it slow, but however you make, just make sure it's distorted and heavy. Extra special bonus–buy the American release (the one shown above) of Pink and get three sheets of acid blotter paper. No, I'm not kidding.

Check it out if you like: Kyuss, Om, SunnO)))
Listen to a sample here: Navigate here to check out "Farewell" in the listen section

Friday, August 11, 2006

Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds

Final Fantasy
He Poos Clouds
Tomlab

Go ahead. I'll give you a minute. Let's get the snickering out of the way. Yes, the title of this album really is He Poos Clouds. All joking aside though, this isn't a silly album by any means.

Owen Pallett is associated with The Arcade Fire. On their impossibly good 2004 album Funeral, Pallet is credited with playing violin and string arrangements. But you'll find no semblance of Arcade Fire here. Instead, you'll get one the more odd releases of the year, full of strings, piano and pieces that sound like they'd accompany a play. That's no strike. I actually rather enjoy the album–I just can't think of anything I've put on in recent days that sounds quite as weird. Well, maybe Liars comes close, but in a very different way.

Every time I listen to this album, I think of those Choose Your Own Adventure books or The Neverending Story. There's something haunting and even mystical about the music, but Pallett's singing always grounds it in a delicate, vulnerable way. In my mind, I can just see Atreyu approaching G'mork with "If I Were A Carp" gently playing. It'd be a perfect fit.

A standout track for me is "This Lamb Sells Condos." With it's cabaret-like piano and Pallett's voice rising and falling with the notes, the song moves along at a pace that's a bit quicker than the rest of the album. It may also be the only track that could theoretically be released as a single and get some level of play.

Putting aside his truly bizarre choice of album title, Pallett has crafted an album that's interesting and challenging, while still being very listenable. It's also a stake in the ground that he won't be doing Arcade Fire ver. 2 with this project. This is truly his own creation, and a pretty neat one at that.

Check it out if you like: Liars, The Fiery Furnaces, Grizzly Bear
Listen to a sample here: Go to Tomlab, select He Poos Clouds–you can listen to samples of the whole album.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Poster Art - The Small Stakes























I started getting into music posters about three years ago. And not just the posters, but the designers behind them and the studios they work for. Now, I just have them bookmarked and check back regularly. Stylistically they can be all over the place. I'm really drawn to clean, minimal design and have pinpointed a few of my favorites. With some regularity, I now make it a point to go back and check out the new work.

One of my bookmarks is reserved for Jason Munn who runs The Small Stakes in Oakland, CA. The Small Stakes produces everything from book covers and album packaging to t-shirt designs and silkscreen printed poster designs.

His posters have always been among my favorites, not only for the design, but for the bands he produces work for. Animal Collective, Sufjan Stevens, The American Analog Set, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, and Broken Social Scene have all looked to The Small Stakes to have work done.

Check him out. If you like the work, many of the posters are for sale at a very reasonable $20. I'll probably mention a few others in the future, but if you want to look at the breadthe of what's out there right now, and don't feel like waiting on me, poke around at Gigposters.com. There you'll find hundreds of designers and tons of styles. Surely you'll find something there that'll suit your tastes.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Girl Talk - Night Ripper

Girl Talk
Night Ripper
Illegal Art

The mash up is not a new thing. We saw it coming from far away. Recognizable songs started showing up heavily in hip hop records. Paul's Boutique immediately comes to mind. Club dj's made it a habbit to find a beat, a time signature in one record that flowed into the next so they could be layered over one another and the transition from one song to the next would be seamless. This was function over fashion, but it planted seeds. Soon, dj's were putting out albums comprised entirely of records in their collections woven together. Turntablism reached new heights when DJ Shadow released his watershed album Endtroducing in 1996, followed by noteable releases from RJD2, Kid Koala and Cut Chemist to name a few. Somewhere along the line, the mash up came out of this–the idea of taking two songs, usually from disparate artists, and layering them together to create a new tune. If you haven't heard, or heard of, Danger Mouse's The Grey Album, which mixes Jay-Z's The Black Album with The Beatles' The White Album, you probably should.

So where is this going? Well, it sets the table for what Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, does on his latest album Night Ripper. Perhaps in an effort to call out just how much "mashing up" he's doing, instead of thanking engineers, record label folks, and the like, in his liner notes Gillis instead thanks the artists he layered together on Night Ripper.

All 164 of them.

The amount of songs and artists put together on this album is simply staggering. Maybe it comes with ease, but I doubt it. This must have been some undertaking trying to find so many songs that work together. As mentioned, often a mash up is just two artists pieced together. This isn't a hard-and-fast rule, or a law in the land of mash up, but rather a standard. On
Night Ripper, any given song uses five, six, ten or more songs pieced together. And the genius is that they come from all over–hip hop from the west coast, the east coast and the dirty south. Bygone MTV hits. Indie rock staples like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Pixies. 80's wonders like Paula Abdul and George Michael. 90's alternative (when it really was alternative) is represented by Nirvana, Weezer, Dinosaur Jr. and one of my favorite, but criminally overlooked, Hum. I could go on, but you get the idea. There's a little of everything on this album.

The longevity of Night Ripper is still in question for me. I'm wondering how many times you can listen to this, or rather, how many months or years down the line you can listen to it. So far, I'm about 20 listens in and still enjoying it. I still get a grin of satisfaction everytime "Smash Your Head" comes on. Sure, he works in Nirvana's "Scentless Apprentice," which would have been enough for me, but I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard Biggie come on, spittin' his summer classic "Juicy" with Elton John's "Tiny Dancer" providing the backdrop. I don't know that it gets much better. Though on "Summer Stroke," Gillis comes close by putting Kanye West's "Gold Digger" over Pilot's "Magic." Oh, ho, ho, it's magic indeed.

So there you have it. Run out and pick this up. Play a drinking game with your friends to it (just one more day of college life, that's all I ask). Every sample you can't name means you have to drink. Before you know it, you and your friends will all be smashed, and grinning from ear to ear as you sit in amazement, wondering how Girl Talk did it.

Check it out if you like: DJ Shadow, RJD2, Blockhead, Kid Koala, et al.
Listen to a sample here: "Hold Up"