Weird little Icelandic gnome…and friend of Damn Ugly Photography…Ryan Karazija is finishing up the second Low Roar album and he’s got a Pledge Music page up and running to him with the costs. If any of you remember how amazing the first album was, then you’ll probably wanna get in line for his new music. I don’t need to go on and on about how talented Ryan is…I’ve said it all before…but he always manages to take my breath away with his musical ability, his lyrical phrasing, and how he can turn your head inside out in five minutes through one of his songs.
The new album is called “0” and will be released this summer, but please…head over to his Pledge Music page and lock in your purchase today! Only 12 bucks gets you the download, but for $25, Ryan will personally scribble his name on an actual Old Skool CD…and lick the stamps himself to get the thing off to you…all the way from Reykjavík!!!
Ryan’s apparently too bloody busy to send me anything downloadable from the new record, but here are a couple of videos of new music, including ‘Home From Home’, a killer song he did with Neil Davidge…the mega-producer behind Massive Attack’s album Mezzanine…on Neil’s new record, ‘Slo Light’, as well as a performance recorded on a street somewhere in Poland…
The other day, a friend pointed out that this past year the usual high output of songs that got put up on The List was decidedly less than past years, to which I replied, yes…the necessity to work from time to time had certainly put a crimp in my ability to give away my usual amount of free music, but what did get tossed up was of such high quality as they more than made up for the diminished quantity. And with that in mind, here are the best of the best…the Songs of the Year…
Ryan Karazija didn’t just come up with the best song this past year, but I’ll be damned if he didn’t also have the best album, too. I could have put any one of the twelve tracks from the album on the annual list…they are all that good…and it’s only a coincidence that ‘Give Up’ is the first track on the album. I’ve already yelled at you guys enough to BUY THIS RECORD, but if you haven’t, do it now! And mark your calenders kids, cuz Ryan’s gonna be taking a flight from Iceland over to New York to play a gig at Piano’s January 19 and MilkBoy in Philly on January 22nd.
If not for Low Roar, Cameras would have certainly been sitting on the top of the heap this year. I’ve played ‘Polarise’ so often, I’m pretty sure even Camille is getting sick of it! Nothing like a wall of hard-to-understand, harmonic, atmospheric, shoegazey melodies to win my heart.
We all should have a dose of sweaty, angst-ridden rock to wake us up from time to time. They’re almost unheard of over here, but these four Scottish lads are burning up the clubs in Great Britain. Powerful, lotsa fun and yes…very sweaty!
#4. BIRD CALL
The Ballad Of New York
DOWNLOAD: The Ballad Of New York
I swear Chiara Angelicola may have been plucked out of a Jazz Club from the 50’s and transported to the Here & Now to remind us what real music is like. She’s got a voice that can drop so low it will rattle your bones…and then outta nowhere she’ll crack a high note that will give you goosebumps. The Ballad Of New York is going to be on her next album, but in the meantime she’s got a lot more sitting over at iTunes just waiting for you to enjoy.
There’s just something so comfortably reassuring about the way Cass McCombs sings. From the very first time I heard ‘The Same Thing’ I was won over. The melody, the slightly syncopated vocal style, the sad/lazy way it made me feel…it all works.
Another strong contender for my favorite album this year was Civilian by the Baltimore duo, Wye Oak. It’s a noisy mashup filled with masterful guitar work, shoegazey distortion, wonderful storytelling and Jenn Wasner’s languid voice holding it all together. It’s another record that you should seriously consider buying!
We’ve been friends for quite a while and I even shot her album cover earlier this year, but when Gabrielle Aimée sent me ‘Have You Ever’ I was knocked out. I had never heard her slide into such a bluesy place and be so damned sexy on a song before, and the vibrato from the Farfisa-like organ transported me back in time.
Kate Tucker has been a staple on The List from the moment we first heard her with the Sons of Sweden and since then we’ve followed her from Seattle to Ohio to New York and now to Nashville, so when she recorded an EP with Nic Danielson as K+Nikku we were on board. I’ve been goofin’ on her…calling her Katemau5…because of the slightly electronic edge to the EP, but she knows I love her…
The Pack A.D. is Becky Black & Maya Miller and they’re a hard-hitting garage duo outta Vancouver B.C. that has released four albums of stripped-down, pissed-off, dirty punk rock…and they’re bloody great! ‘Sirens’ is off of their latest release, Unpersons.
Going from the grungy goodness of The Pack A.D. to Sherlock’s Daughter shoegazing their way through ‘Reprise’ might be a bit jarring, but I’ve had their EP near the top of my iTunes folder all year and there was no chance it wasn’t making it on this list. Call it nonsensical aural wallpaper if you must, but Tanya Horo’s voice always has a calming effect on me…like a neural tranquilizer…I can feel any tension I’m feeling fall away as soon as she whispers in my ear…
We’ve come to the end, but I’ve turned it up to “11” and hearing Chaz Tolliver channel Mick Jagger one more time seems like a perfect way to close out this years Best Of List. The Booze play boogie-rock that can’t help but make you think of the early Stones and The Kinks, and Tolliver seems to have mastered the fine art of Jagger-esque posing…in a good way!
When the news broke last year that Claudia Dehaza was going to be leaving the Brooklyn-based trio School of Seven Bells, my heart sank a little. It’s hardly a secret that I’m a big fan of their luxurious, shoegazey dream pop…they’ve been featured on The List three times before, HERE, HERE and HERE…and God knows I’ve pretty much worn out their albums, Disconnect From Desire and Alpinisms, so it’s understandable that I couldn’t imagine how the band could continue without the harmonic melodies Claudia and her twin Alejandra spun into their songs. But the new duo of Benjamin Curtis and Alejandra Dehaza have recently completed a new album, Ghostory, which is scheduled for a February release. With a bit of creative knob-twiddling, Alejandra is able to harmonize with herself while Benjamin stays at the top of his game assembling layer upon layer of guitars, synthesizers and frantic drumwork into what is unmistakably the SVIIB sound.
You can follow School of Seven Bells on their website and if you’re into planning ahead, the Album Release show is gonna be February 28th at The Mercury Lounge
Dream Pop, Chill-Wave, Glo-Fi, Nu-Gaze, Shoegaze, Witch House, Freak-Folk…..Christ, if not for wikipedia I wouldn’t be able to keep track of all the new names that get thrown at musical genres these days! I’m beginning to think that if you wanna get noticed in the indie scene nowadays, you had better come up with a new name for exactly what highfalutin mood your music is meant to evoke. All of which brings us to what may be the first ‘Chill-Wave’ song to ever make it on The List. Washed Out is the alter ego of a rather harmless looking lad named Ernest Greene, who apparently put together his first album, Within and Without, whilst holed up in his bedroom with nothing but a laptop, some synthesizers and a dream. I gotta admit, before I heard a note I was initially drawn by the name of the song…Amor Fati…it had me thinking he was an aficionado of chubby lovin’, but apparently it’s a Latin phrase glommed on by Nietzsche meaning “love of one’s own fate”. My guess is that besides twiddling the knobs on those keyboards, Ernest is reading some pretty deep shit in that bedroom…probably why he looks so serious. The song itself is a fluffy bit of aural wallpaper, complete with the requisite angsty vocals and layers of deep & meaningful synth runs and would feel right at home playing as the credits roll in an 80’s John Hughes teen flick! And while that probably sounds like I’m being a tad dismissive, I actually like it! Hell…I used to listen to Howard Jones, for God’s sake…I got nuthin’ wrong with admitting that occasionally I get off on a sappy, poppy, electronic concoction! You can head over to Mr. Greene’s facebook page and hit the ‘Like’ button and if this sorta things gets your toes tappin’, you can pick up the album on iTunes. And for the rest of you, I’ll promise to find a song with some guitars next time…
Based on how their recent music was sounding, I never would have thought that Ladytron would be capable of composing a song so lyrical and dreamy and pretty….and just so bloody sweet…as today’s Song of the Day. But then I heard “White Elephant”, a leak off of their next album, Gravity The Seducer, due out in September. OK, let’s be honest…I know Ladytron ain’t exactly known for being hard-edged, but after their last album, 2008’s Velocifero, I was afraid they had made a creative shift towards being just another electro-disco/house group that I could ignore. Velocifero was a lightweight collection of blips and tinny drums and thumpy basslines seemingly aimed at the dance crowd, and quite honestly left me feelin’ disappointed. Aside from “Tomorrow”, the one track I actually liked enough to put on the SOTD (and they must have loved as well since they released a remix EP of 7 different versions) the album just seemed forced and overworked. I was probably in the minority however, cuz Velocifero has been their best-selling album to date.
But for the new album, they’ve set up shop and recorded in the pastoral English countryside. The lack of distractions, rolling hills, hedge rows and chirping birds have obviously had a calming effect on the girls, cuz based on the two songs I’ve heard, they’re sounding a lot more like when they they released the seminal Witching Hour, with songs like “Sugar” and “Destroy Everything You Touch”. The first thing I noticed about “White Elephant” was the signature harmonizing between Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo that got lost in a wall of electronic fuzz on Velocifero is now featured up front where it should be. The sparkling synthesized harpsichords dance and float and give the song an ethereal, lullaby quality…and I can’t wait for more.
This isn’t a Song of the Day. It’s too passive and all those electronic clicks and pops don’t really fit the Indie framework I think of when I kick out something for the SOTD…..but it’s still a nice, non-confrontational way to get going this morning. ‘The Broken Places’ is the first track from Moby’s latest album, Destroyed. And since there’s really nothing I can’t say about Moby that hasn’t already been said, just check out his website!
I had every intention of kicking out something rocky and dark and loud today, but I’ve had a headache since breakfast, so I’ve been quietly humming along all morning to this dream-poppy number from Brooklyn-based Aussies, Sherlocks Daughter. I first discovered these guys last month when I saw bandmembers Tim Maybury and Tanya Horo on the cover of the Village Voice in a real estate feature. Based on that bit of notoriety, I don’t know what convinced me to check them out, but I’m glad I did ‘cuz I love this kinda stuff. I find it very relaxing to be enveloped by waves of feedback-drenched shoegazey guitars, moderately self-important electronica and a softly swirling nondescript female vocal. They’ve caught the ears of the downtown music intelligentsia since even Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore is a fan…which, now that I think of it, sorta makes sense since Tanya’s voice is a lot like a softer version of Kim Gordon’s. Sonic Youth producer John Agnello is apparently twiddling the knobs on their debut album, due out later this Spring. In the meantime, head over to their MySpace Page to hear a few more tracks.
Yes, I know…..I haven’t been around much the past few weeks…work and the impending holidaze have simply gotten the best of me, but I promise to end the year with a flourish of posts that will inform, delight and entertain! And on the entertainment front, I’m happily gonna stay away from Christmas Carols by tossing out a leak from the forthcoming album from Asobi Seksu, the noisy dream-pop outfit from Brooklyn last featured on The List back in March of 2009. If ‘Trails’ is any indication, Fluorescence…scheduled for a February release…promises to carry on the duo’s signature wall of shoegazey noise and operatic melodies. I’ve always heard heavy doses of Slowdive, The Cocteau Twins and My Bloody Valentine in their music, but Yuki Chikudate’s trilling soprano vocals on this song have really tapped into a Siouxsie and the Banshees vibe! Her voice bounces and swirls around the layered, fuzzy arrangement with such abandon, it’s exactly what I would expect from a band whose name is Japanese for “playful sex”…! So head on over to their MySpace page for more playful sex, I mean…Asobi Seksu.
You’re all gonna have to cut me some slack, but The List is gonna deviate from the normal flow of Indie/Singer-Songwriter/Guitar-Driven tunes today, because as a dyed in the wool fanboy of anything Synth-Pop, I can’t resist leaking the first new material from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark since 1996! OMD’s new album, History Of Modern, is set to drop later this month, but already the remixologists are twiddling the knobs on a few tracks that fell off the back of the truck. French Horn Rebellion has taken “If You Want It”, turned the bass up to “11” and added some club-friendly hooks and electro-fuzz and the result is a industrial, dark and dreamy, juicy kiss on the lips to all that Eighties UK synthpop we all loved back in the day…
Sounding like a post-modern mashup of Depeche Mode, The Human League and Bauhaus, bother and sister duo, David and Jade Hanks, have got the two-fingered, blips & bloops synth and drum machine dialed in pretty damned good and are making some catchy pop music at the same time. And if the cool electro-beat sounds oddly familiar, it prolly has a lot to do with the fact that ex-Depeche Mode mastermind Luke Smith is handling the production for the kids. But frantic electronic knob-twiddling aside, it’s really David’s dark, haunting voice that resonates and carries this beyond being just another throw away, lo-fi techno downer. From what I can glean from the interweb, the siblings are just getting this little dog & pony show off the ground, but you can follow ’em on MySpace all the same.
I needed a bit of ambient fuzz to help me start the week and the this morning I fell over a leak off of Monster, the 5-song EP by Inu, the new project comprised of producer Mikael (Count) Eldridge (DJ Shadow, No Doubt, New Order, Radiohead) and bassist/guitarist Tim Hingston (The Nightland, Stripmall Architecture), featuring cello superstar Zoe Keating (Imogen Heap, Dresden Dolls). I liked ‘The Bailing’ so much after only a couple of listens that I actually coughed up the five bucks to buy the rest of the EP. I’m sure some of you might find this easy to pass off as your usual mellow blend of electronic trip-hop with techno-squonky vocals, but the smart production and theatrical guitar structures carry this much further up the musical ladder. I get a wonderful Joy Division vibe off of these guys. Don’t believe me? Then head over to Inu Music to stream the rest of the EP. They’re apparently following up this EP with a full-length in March…I’ll be keeping them on my radar, for sure.
Mr. Song of the Day turned 50 yesterday, so to celebrate we’re gonna toss out a few gems from one of my fave local bands, School Of Seven Bells. After announcing their recent signing with Vagrant Records, a deluxe edition of their first album, Alpinisms, will be released digitally on October 13. The Alpinisms Deluxe Edition will have nine bonus tracks on its re-release comprised of demos, live versions and different mixes of songs from the original, including ‘Iamundernodisguse’. Any long-timers to The List surely remember that SVIIB made the 2008 Songs of the Year with ‘Connjur’…..
So if we’re counting, I guess this newest version of Alpinisms will make three times they’ve re-invented themselves. Is it possible for a band to make an entire career outta re-recording the same stuff over and over…?!!
A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times Magazine ran a fascinating cover story on Spike Jonze and his struggle bringing Where The Wild Things Are to the screen, but near the end of the piece, in describing his ‘Go Big or Go Home’ and ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if . . . ?’ attitude when directing music videos, and that “…his music videos don’t tell stories; they capture a feeling…”…..and went on to describe how he took this trippy, dream-pop song off of the ‘Fully Flared’ Soundtrack by James Lavelle & Pablo Clements, otherwise known as UNKLE, and turned it into a big-budget extravaganza of slo-mo effects & explosions…just ‘cuz he can!!! Well, I have a feeling Andrew Hetherington read the story too and just like me, was thinking of Heaven, because in his blog post yesterday he accompanied a stop-action video of his recent on-assignment travels with the song as background music…..and it got me thinkin’, I should send this beauty out to the rest of you.
Check out what’s up with UNKLE on their MySpace page and make sure to watch the ‘Heaven’ video below….it’s guaranteed to blow your mind!
If you’ve been paying any attention to the way the Song of the Day operates, then you probably know I find a lotta new music from listening to some of my fave channels on the old Sirius…Alt Nation, Underground Garage, Sirius/XM U (the indie channel)…but I also frequent one terrestrial radio station that after all this time still pushes out great new music on a regular basis…Fordham University’s WFUV. New York radio has pretty much sucked the entire time I’ve lived here, but FUV has been the one welcome exception. I was listening yesterday when this new cut from Metric’s latest album, Fantasies, came on…I got so wrapped up in the hook-filled piece of synth-pop that I didn’t even realize I was listening to a heart-wrenching breakup song until I came home, downloaded it and listened a few more times. Emily Haines’ raspy vocal blends in beautifully with the dreamy synths and fuzzy guitars. But hey, I understand if you’ve had your fill of electro-synth and you wanna just listen to some great songwriting…that’s cool…then check out the stripped-down acoustic version on YouTube…
I’m gonna add some movement to the blog today with a wonderfully weird video (directed by Martin de Thurrah who has previously shot vids for Röyksopp and Futureheads) from the amazing debut album from Fever Ray
Back in January when I first dropped ‘Now’s The Only Time I Know’, the first leak off the solo experiment of Karin Dreijer Andersson (former singer of 90’s pop group Honey Is Cool and one-half of The Knife) and her brother Olaf Dreijer, I was completely taken by her voice and the somber, haunting melodies and complex electronic constructions that I heard…and the fact that I’m a sucker for anything with a Glockenspiel in it! Now that the album has been released I strongly advise anyone within earshot to search it out…this is a magical, storied World of primal, minimalist beats and unexpected instrumentation…almost like electronica filtered through an African wilderness. I’ve been sitting here for hours, deskbound…retouching…..and have played it over and over and over…..the intriguing ghostly harmonies taking the edge off of my Photoshop-induced headache…..
Longtime devotees of The Song of the Day List will certainly know of my affection for Azure Ray and Maria Taylor…as recently as this past January I dropped a cut from Maria’s new album, LadyLuck, on The List (pre-blog), so today when I found out that the other half of Azure Ray, Orenda Fink, will be dropping her debut as O+S next week. She’s apparently taken recordings from around the world and turned them into loops and beats to incorporate into her new songs…and despite how that might sound, the result isn’t the typical electronic background trickery you might expect. Her new collaborator, Cedric LeMoyne (AKA: Scalpelist…Orinda + Scalpelist = O+S, get it?) and producer Michael Patterson, with their hypnotic drum loops and backwards-masking, have created a controlled and elegantly weird musical landscape for Orenda’s airy, harmonious vocals. Check ’em out on MySpace
A.) find the time…
2.) find the music, for the Song of the Day!
I’ve said it a million times, finding good music ain’t that hard…and honestly, it’s not like I spend major time doin’ it, either! I obviously scan MySpace Music, but I also keep my eyes and ears on a lotta indie record label sites and music blogs…they’re both great sources for incredible music that will probably never be performed by Rihanna, Kanye or Mariah Carey. Just this morning I fell over a post on the Young Turks Records blog announcing this band of four 19-year-olds from South London they just signed & recorded (in a studio the size of my bathroom!) called The XX. The wistful, dreamy, bedroom slo-jam has me swaying in my chair this morning…you can check ’em out further on their MySpace page and if you follow that link to Young Turks you can download another track!
I can’t put my finger on it…and even though I really, really like it…there’s something deeply disturbing about this song. Maybe it’s the way lead singer Catherine McCandless’ trance-like voice sort of begs and pleads the lyric…it’s like she’s transmitting a feeling of doom through the words. And the way the distorted, watery guitars and fuzzed-up keyboards fight to get heard past the thick production just adds to the sense of hurt and pain. I can’t quite imagine what these guys are like live…you can find out if you wanna hit Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow, ‘cuz they’re opening for The XYZ Affair and Pete & J…but I figure a few anti-depressants and a beer might help to take the edge off! It’s depressing and dark and sad…and I love it! Their new album, Invisible Republic, doesn’t have a release date quite yet, but you can check ’em out over at MySpace