Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New 2.22.2011: Toro Y Moi, Phil the Agony, the Low Anthem, more!

________________________New 2.22.2011
Adele _ 21
Huge-voiced British songstress sings new blues.
**Banjo Or Freakout _ Banjo Or Freakout
Hazy acoustic dream-pop, see "Go Ahead," Postponed to 3/8. Preview it at www.abigcitydied.com.
Julianna Barwick _ The Magic Place
Soothing, spacey atmospheric jams. RIYL Enya, Bjork.
Bayside _ Killing Time
NY rockers bring slick production to their signature brand of dark, melodic post-punk.
Bizzy Bone _ Mr Ouija
Bizzy is 50% crooner, 50% straight thug.
Jonny Burke _ Distance and Future
Austin singer/songwriter draws inspiration from early rock.
**The Cave Singers _ No Witch
Upbeat indie folk/rock by way of Washington State.
Celtic Thunder _ Heritage
Theatrical Irish tunes.
Civet _ Love & War
Hoarse female punk-rock.
Devildriver _ Beast
Melodic death metal ft Coal Chamber’s Dez Fafara.
Earth _ Angels of Darkness Demons of Light 1
Heavy droning blend of progressive/classic rock.
G Love _ Fixin’ To Die
Bluesy set of Americana produced by the Avett Brothers.
Joell Ortiz _ Free Agent
Skilled underground Harlem rapper aims for the mainstream.
The Low Anthem _ Smart Flesh
Gorgeous simple folk features unique instrumentation (harp, bassoon) and rich
four-part harmonies.
Malachai _ Return To The Ugly Side
Experimental British electro act follow up to 2009’s Ugly Side of Love. See "Rainbows."
**Phil the Agony & Jolle _ Flow Pattern
Quarterfly _ Do You Believe
Mod rock. RIYL Staind, Puddle of Mud.
**Sean Rowe _ Magic
Upstate NYer brings a unique baritone to simple yet intricate folk. See "Surprise," "Jonathan."
Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx _ We’re New Here
The legendary innovator remixes last year’s I’m New Here. See "NY Is Killing Me."
Six Organs of Admittance _ Asleep On The Floodplain
Sleepy guitar based psych/folk.
Strong Arm Steady _ Arms and Hammers
West Coast Crew gets help from KRS-ONE, Game, Kurupt, Kweli, Marsha Ambrosius, etc.
Toro Y Moi _ Underneath The Pine
John Waite _ Rough and Tumble
70's influenced American pop-rock.

____________________Featured Reviews
Toro Y Moi _ Undearneath the Pine (2.0/5.0)

Toro Y Moi AKA Chaz Bundick had us from hello with 2010's Causers of This, a standout amongst the pile of "chillwave" artists frantically attempting to make it by getting their name through the fingertips of the right blogger. Causers was different from its peers in its styling; dark, retro, and funky without conjuring tacky images of disco balls, vinyl primary-colored bell bottoms, etc. Faced with the extremely difficult task of following up their stylish debut, Bundick chooses a new path that definitely removes the band from the chillwave pigeonhole but lacks the clear artistic vision of its predecessor.

Undearneath the Pine eases itself on the listener with "Intro Chi-Chi," noisy electronic swells create a track that sounds like it could be a hi-fi outtake from the last record. The record really begins with "New Beat," a disastrous attempt to update the funk sound that made them huge. The cleanliness of the production is like someone hit the floodlights on a warehouse rave, exposing the building as a rathole and the surrounding revelers as the yuppiest of hipsters. "Go With You" has some of the style that we love, but the song denigrates into a lounge-y break.

"Divina" and "Before I'm Done" again return to lo-fi styling and indie-cool, but the onslaught of tacky funk/pop continues with "Got Blinded" and "How I Know." The following tracks "Light Black" and "Still Sound" are the albums most successful, but are far too little and far too late on a record full of bombs. "Light Black" features Bundick's vocals in the most effective placement under a shroud of noisy atmosphere, and "Still Sound" is the hi-fi funk that the rest of the album wishes it was.

The album closes with the piano-based "Good Hold," and the six-minute "Elise," a sprawling piece of hazy electro. This is a band with the potential to make extremely listenable, upbeat albums, as they demonstrated with their debut; unfortunately Underneath the Pine is not another.

Highlights: "Go With You," "Light Black," "Still Sound"

Phil the Agony & Jolle _ Flow Pattern (3.5/5.0)
Strong Will Music
This collaboration between Swedish producer Jolle and Strong Arm Steady member Phil the Agony is the result of a long-distance relationship. That being said this is an impressive 6-song EP, and on these six tracks Phil and Jolle easily top many of their contemporaries within the underground scene.

"Intero" give the listener a taste of what's to come; sparse, stuttering, meticulously arranged beats under Phil's gritty flow. On "Talk of the Town" Phil shows off some tricky wordplay about paranoia and the streets while Jolle blends subtle synths with a slippery vocal sample. "This Trade" finds Phil's rhymes at their most cliche; slinging rocks, vacationing on beaches, and stealing your girl, but Phil could sound good rapping about anything Jolle's sparse, swaying production.

"You Will See" is the album's party jam, a mid-tempo, major key romp through Phil's weed-tinged day-to-day life on top of a killer electro-pop beat. "Day In Life" is the album's darkest track, organs appear in eerie blips, shaky violins, and a catchy vocal sample fills out a radio-ready chorus. The closer "Think Twice" is an electro-pop banger with the bouncy keyboards and warm, unique synths that we've come to expect from Sweeden's latest generation of production gurus.

Flow Pattern is the meeting of Phil and Jolle; a clever, skilled American MC and a Swedish master of the boards, a seemingly random encounter. But the result is a fresh, vibrant record and we hope that there is more to come.

Highlights: "This Trade," "You Will See," "Day In Life"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New 2.15.2011: Bright Eyes, DeVotchKa, Mogwai, much more!

New Releases 2.15.2011

A Skylit Drive _ Identity On Fire

Fearless' latest emo-core benefits from slick production.

Beans _ End It All

Founding member of Anticon gets help from Fourtet, Tobacco, Tunde of TV on the Radio, members of Interpol, Flying Lotus, DJ Nobody and more.

Justin Beiber _ Never Say Never (the Remixes)

Ft. Kanye, Usher, Chris Brown, etc.

**Bright Eyes _ The People’s Key


Brown Recluse _ Evening Tapestry

Quality guitar indie-pop.

Bullet for My Valentine _ Fever (Tour Edition)


Cowboy Junkies _ Demons

Bland female-fronted Canadian rock outfit.

**The Dears _ Degeneration Street

Critically-acclaimed Canadian indie. See “Omega Dog.”

Deicide _ To Hell With God

The blackest metal.

**DeVotchKa _ 100 Lovers

Critically adored fusion act keeps the poignant, catchy folk tunes coming.

DOM _ Sun-Bronzed Greek Gods

Ratatat tour-mates play stylish up-beat but inconsistent rock. See "Burn Bridges," Bochicha."

Drive By Truckers _ Go-Go Boots

Joyous American art blues/rock.

**East Coast Avengers _ Present: DC the MIDI Alien -Avengers Airwaves

Impressive Massachusetts hip-hop.

Emmure _ Speaker of The Dead

Face-melting metal.

Ginuwine _ Elgin (2.14)

Straight-forward R&B.

P.J. Harvey _ Let England Shake (2.14)

PJ takes a dark folksy look at English history.

Korpiklaani _ Ukon Wacka

Finnish folk/metal.

La Sera _ La Sera

Airy, sparse, female-fronted indie rock is bound to charm. RIYL Feist.

**Mogwai _ Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (2.14)

Massive, beautifully atmospheric guitar-centric instrumentals. See “Rano Pano,” “Too Raging To Cheers.”

Mr Big _ What If

Stuck in the '70's in a bad way.

Nelson _ Lightning Strikes Twice

Glam band takes a break from playing on Caribbean Cruise Ships for a new studio album.

Ben Ottewell (GOMEZ) _ Shapes and Shadows

Pleasant folk.

Rev Theory _ Justice

Brutally derivative nu-metal.

Runner Runner _ Runner Runner

Pop punk; the latest reincarnation of A Simple Plan?

**Josh Ritter _ Animal Years

Stylish, somber folk/rock.

Saigon _ Greatest Story Never Told

Promising rapper is plagued by inconsistent production, see “The Greatest Story Never Told,” “Bring Me Down.”

Sonic Youth _ Simon Werner a Disparu (Soundtrack)

Sonic Youth score a French flick.

Eddie Spaghetti _ Sundowner

Country/rock with a dark edge.

Stryper _ The Covering

Christian glam-metal.

Twilight Singers _ Dynamite Steps

Interesting, dark indie-rock from former Afghan Whigs frontman Greg Dulli.

The Warriors _ See How You Are

Victory Record's latest angst-y hardcore.

Yuck _ Yuck

Fuzzed out album from London blog sweethearts.

Featured Review

Bright Eyes _ The People’s Key (4.0/5.0)

Saddle Creek

Since Omaha, NE native Conor Oberst began recording as Bright Eyes in 1998, the moniker has taken on a life of its own. The pale, sickly looking teenager has evolved into a full-blown American rock icon, and has gone from playing introspective angst-filled folk, to alternative country, and now full-circle to upbeat, impassioned, existential rock. In a Rolling Stone interview last year Conor stated that this is the final Bright Eyes album, and The People’s Key, which plays as an aural tour of the band’s catalogue, is a lovely, nostalgic goodbye.

The record opens as all Bright Eyes records do: noise, a spoken word passage, and uneasy building. Layered guitars, distorted drums, pedal steel, and otherworldly noises are organized for maximum dramatic effect. The second track and lead single “Shell Games” begins with a minute of Conor and a piano before opening up into a blissful synth line and a chorus highlighted by dancing palm-muted guitars. The next track “Jejune Stars” is an early highlight in an album full of great songs, and after a thrashing intro reveals a concise, straightforward pop-tune.

Darkness returns with “Approximated Sunlight,” and finds Oberst reaching into his past for the dark, dusty, Midwestern soundscape that he perfected and nearly exhausted in his earliest records. The drums march slowly while Oberst’s lyrics explore spirituality yet avoid preaching. “Haile Selassie,” “A Machine Spiritual,” “Triple Spiral,” and “Beginner’s Mind” keep the pace up, and the tracks are kept interesting through unique vocals and adventurous yet stylish instrumentation. “Ladder Song” dips the listener back into the darkness, before the brilliant “One For Me, One For You” skips happily off into the sunset.

The influence of Saddle Creek Records and the music of Oberst and his early cohorts (now leading indie rock giants The Faint and Cursive), has been massive within the American music scene. The People’s Key finds the band using every songwriting trick in the book; building tension and releasing it, repeating themes and stripping sections to create space and emphasis. While Bright Eyes may not be able to provide us with the answers to all of life’s questions or explain the origin of human life, they can definitely make a damn good rock record.

Highlights: “Jejune Stars,” “Haile Selassie,” “Triple Spiral,” “One For Me, One For You”

*Also available through Saddle Creek records on February 15 are the 7” singles “Singularity” and “In the Real World.”

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New 02.08.2011: Over the Rhine, Cut Copy

New This Week: 2.8.2011

**Akron/Family _ S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

Brooklyn/Portland hipsters mix the weird-electro of Animal Collective with the backing vocals and guitars of the Flaming Lips with interesting results.

And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead _ Tao of the Dead

The Austin, TX outfit retain their guitar heavy approach and sneered vocals.

Belphegor _ Blood Magick Necromance

Metal: black as hell. Named after a demon.

Crowbar _ Sever the Wicked Hand

Sludge-metal from long time New Orleans crew.

Cut Copy _ Zonoscope


Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) _ Resolutions

Fast-paced folk-rock sharing many qualities with Brian Fallon's solo work.

**Emily Arin _ Patch of Land

Debut LP from a golden voiced native of NY’s Finger Lakes. Beautifully written and delicately produced nostalgic folk.

Esben & the Witch _ Violent Cries

Eerie female-fronted indie guitar Brits are haunting in their best moments, dreary/kitschy at their worst.

LBC Crew _ Haven’t You Heard..

Classic West-Coast rap gets a welcome update.

Lionize _ Destruction Manual

Self described as groove heavy stoner-rock meets dark reggae.

**Miles Davis Bitches Brew (Live)

One of the greatest jazz albums of all time, live.

Motorhead _ The World Is Yours

Lemmy and Co are as heavy as ever.

Nicole Atkins _ Mondo Amore

Singer-songriter ranges from mainstream rock to alt/country. RIYL Sheryl Crow.

**Over the Rhine _ The Long Surrender


Slaughterhouse _Slaughterhouse: The EP

Shady/Interscope's latest make a bid for mainstream success after years on the underground scene.

Teddy Thompson _ Bella

Son of legendary folk duo Richard and Linda Thompson seems to write pop-country tunes with his genes. See “Looking For a Girl.”

Thompson Square _ Thompson Square

Uninspired pop-country.

Waylon Jennings _ The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings

Good country music.

Yanni _ Truth of Touch

The legendary Greek spices things up with a more rhythmic, electronic approach.

Featured Reviews

Over the Rhine _ The Long Surrender (4.0/5.0)

Great Speckled Dog

This husband/wife duo is one hard working couple. The Long Surrender, their fourteenth studio album since their '91 debut shows off years and years of dedication to the craft. 2011 finds Over the Rhine with a well-deserved confidence following the critical success of 2007's The Trumpet Child and a rapidly growing fan-base.

This album opens with "The Laugh of Recognition," gentle folk propelled by a chugging mandolin and shrouded in ominous swells of slide guitar. As always the finely nuanced vocals of Karin Bergquist are front and center, and her tone is steadily accurate and constantly intriguing. The gorgeous ballads "Sharpest Blade," and "Soon" are built on minor chord structures and artfully accented with carefully placed violin and mandolin.

When Lucinda Williams interjects into the refrain of "Undamned" the two singers trade lines seamlessly, although a more impressive vocal performance is on-deck in yet another eerie ballad "Infamous Love Songs." The darkness is then peeled back beautifully with the classic sounding "Only God Can Save Us," and "Oh Yeah By The Way," but the sunshine doesn't last for long.

The album then hits it's dark pinnacle with "The King Knows How," an atmospheric march, and when Karin sings "I think I need a little something to tide me over," we believe it. The band then calms the listener, so as not to part in a frenzy, and within the soothing warmth of "Days Like This" it's hard to not feel comforted.

This is a band that has been working tirelessly for 20 years to get where they are, and this album alone proves their journey was worthwhile. Fans of Iron & Wine, Glen Hansard, and the Kings of Convenience will not want to miss this record.

Highlights: "Rave On," "Oh Yeah By the Way," "The King Knows How"

Cut Copy _ Zonoscope (2.0/5.0)


When Cut Copy exploded onto the world scene with their 2004 debut Bright Like Neon Love they were at the forefront of the dance/punk/electro/pop scene. Fast forward to 2011 and Zonoscope, the band’s third release enters into a music world saturated with synth-heavy, eighties inspired acts. Cut Copy have described their sonic mission as integrating elements of traditional songwriting with elements of techno/dance music, exactly where Zonoscope fails.

From the first notes of "Need You Now" the music lacks the dynamics, complexity, and the huge hooks we've come to expect from Cut Copy. The second track brings a much needed hook after the six-minute plus opener, but the track reeks of its influences and plays a bit too much like Men At Work's "Land Down Under" for my tastes. The following track "Where I'm Going" begins as a decent effort, but the lack of any sort of dynamics and a clear hook make it almost unlistenable.

"Pharaohs and Pyramids" is the album's early highlight; there is space to breathe and the track is constructed around the interesting and inventive synths. The band attempts to keep the fun going with "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution" and features the albums first vocal and instrumental hooks (a catchy marimba part). Unfortunately the hooks don't last for very long and the band strays from their comfort zone into several reverb-soaked, guitar-centered disasters.

"Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat" finds the band back in their comfort zone, but their dance-electro seems to be lacking the power and charm of their previous albums. "Corner of the Sky" has some of the huge synth lines and catchy melodies that make Cut Copy a great band, but it's far too little, far too late. In the crowded world of contemporary electro-rock this is a record that lacks the clear artistic vision of previous albums and falls way short of this band's great potential.

Highlights: "Pharaohs and Pyramids," "Blink and You'll Miss A Revolution," "Corner of The Sky"

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

New Bright Eyes on NPR

Dont miss new Bright Eyes, The People's Key, streaming for free on NPR. Connor Oberst gets over his recent fixation on writing alt/country tunes and comes up with another great record. Enjoy!
also RIP White Stripes, thanks for everything.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New 2.1.2011: Spokes, Seefeel, Bob Marley, more

New This Week: 2.1.2011

Acid Mothers Temple/Stearica _ Split

Some of today’s best psychedelic by way of Japan and Italy.

Arabrot _ Revenge

Norwegian black punk/metal. Very heavy.

Aretha Franklin _ Aretha Sings the Great American Songbook


Billie Holiday _ Forever Lady Day (3CD)

Compilation of 53 of Lady Day’s greatest.

Blood Command _ Ghostclocks

Female-fronted emo-core from the Netherlands. You can imagine…

**Bob Marley & The Wailers _ Live Forever: Stanley Theatre, Pittsburgh, PA, 9/23/1980

A reminder that Bob isn’t just a pioneer and pop-culture icon, but great performer. Must have for fans, hippies.

David Lowery _ The Palace Guard

Cracker lead singer makes the album he wants to make. Pretty American folk.

Dirtbombs _ Party Store

Unique Detroit garage-punk. See 'Jaguar', 'Alleys of Your Mind.'

Esben & The Witch _ Violent Cries

Eerie female-fronted indie guitar Brits are haunting in their best moments, dreary/kitschy at their worst. If you want to get creeped out watch the brand new video for “Marching Song,” directed by Peter King.

George Michael _ Faith [2CD]

Who knew there was a demand for more ‘Faith’? We didn’t, but here it is remastered and extended.

The Go! Team _ Rolling Blackouts

More Brits. Adventurous ones. Here they offer their most straightforward, psychedelic tunes yet.

Lloyd _ King of Hearts

Postponed, new date 3/22/11.

Matisyahu _ Live At Stubbs, Vol II

Say what you will about religious music but he’s the best Hebrew in reggae. Live from the famous Austin, TX BBQ joint.

**MEN _ Talk About Body

Sparse dance-tinged electro-pop from Le Tigre's JD Samson. Definitely has moments of greatness.

Midnite _ Treasure

Authentic, spiritual roots reggae.

Paul Hardcastle _ Desire

English synth-jazz guru plays dreamy, predictable jams.

Philthy Rich _ Trip’n 4 Life

Simple minded Cali MC is bolstered by slick beats and a long guest list. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Phish _ Live at the Greek (8.6.10, 8.7.10.)

Live. Die-hards swear the jams are better then ever.

Pushking _ The World As We Love It

Nu-metal from one of Russia’s most popular rock bands.

Red _ Until We Have Faces

Dramatic Christian mod-rock/screamo. Think a Lifehouse/Disturbed/Nickelback combo.

Regina Spector _ Live in London (2LP) (VINYL)

Spector manages to be simultaneously detached and compelling.

Seefeel _ Seefeel


**Spokes _ Everyone I Ever Met


Strong Arm Steady _ Arms and Hammers

Gritty, unique hip-hop. Postponed to 2/22/2011.

The JaneDear Girls _ Self titled

Warner Bros wish for another Taylor Swift, and it definitely doesn't come true.

The Rippingtons _ Cote d’Azur

Russ Freeman and Co keep the smooth Jazz coming. This guy wrote the music for the Weather Channel’s Local on the 8’s.

Terror Danjah _ Grand Opening, Minimal Dub, SOS, Leave Me Alone

Top-notch UK producer releases 12-inch from last year's Undeniable.

**Todd Snider

Prolific singer-songwriter sings instant classics. Endearing American folk.

Featured Reviews

Spokes _ Everyone I Ever Met (3.5/5.0)


Spokes are new to the scene, and their full-length debut doesn't hide it. This record doesn't fit cleanly under the umbrella of indie, folk, or even pop. More rock than a group like Mumford and Sons, and more pastoral than the Shout Out Louds, Spokes find a place of their own.

The opener "345" is a sweaty Arcade Fire-styled romp, built up from layers of sparse guitars and boosted by a striking violin line, eventually exploding with ferocity matching Win Butler and Co at their best. Second track and lead single "We Can make It Out" continues in the same vein with huge atmospheric guitars and violin weaving in out of the traffic. The album progresses organically into the title track exploding into a hooky pinnacle that would be the envy of peak masters Explosions In The Sky.

A much needed respite for the ears is then provided with the stripped down "Sun It Never Comes", and "Give It Up to the Night", which prepare the listener for the continuing swells and violent crescendos. The album doesn't let up the rest of the way sticking to the same formula of attack and release, building tension slowly, erupting in joy, and then doing it all over again.

The listening experience provided by Everyone I Ever Met doesn't feel like a collection of songs, but a unified project, conceived and realized as a whole. The low points here come in rare sleepy moments, which are few, far between, and will be welcome to some after the assault of smashing cymbals and guitars. This is a meticulously produced piece of art, every melody in a precise location and the timbre of every tone carefully crafted. Recommended listening for fans of good pop music.

Key tracks: "We Can Make It Out", "Everyone I Ever Met", "Forever the Bridge"

Seefeel _ Seefeel (2.5/5.0)


This is not a pop record and Seefeel is not a pop band, which may be the most important thing to keep in mind when listening to their latest self-titled LP. This is an assertively original collection of songs and if you can get over the fact that they're not made to please you, then there is an enjoyable experience to be had.

The album begins with stabbing synths, arrhythmic at first and gradually gaining structure with the plodding drums and otherworldly noises and feedback of "Dead Guitars." "Step Up" offers little more in the way of rhythm and continues to build on the theme of swelling electronics introduced by the opener, later resolved towards the end of the record with "Step Down." As the record continues to progress, the structure increases. Plodding rhythms begin to march, while chromatic melodies maintain the pervading sense of uneasiness.

"Rip Run" is the first track with an actual beat featuring dark atmospherics and warbling analog synths. The stuttering plod of "Making" is a definite highlight, accented by airy falsetto vocals, and the off-kilter movements of "Airless" continue the theme of unapologetic creation. It becomes clear that the band is not concerned with traditional song structures with three tracks under 1:03, and six tracks longer then 5:30.

Seefeel will be compared to the other electronic acts of today; Boards of Canada, Apparat, Braids, and while their perspective is extremely refreshing the record leaves something to be desired. As a fan of the genre and synth enthusiast I wanted to fall in love with this record, but it wasn't meant to be. Despite the group's many admirable qualities (they have been at it since '92 and continue to make music that is rudely original), this is a record that will be hard for many listeners to understand.

Key Tracks: "Rip-Run", "Making", "Sway"