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.