Monday, August 2, 2010

It's baaaaaaaaack...

So I'd like to claim that I've left you guys hanging with no posts because the weather has been awesome and I've been outside experiencing life away from music, but it's really just because I'm lazy. In any event, it's too hot to go outside now, so have your friends over or put on your headphones and geek out to these six gems that I've enjoyed over the last four months:

1. Local Natives' Gorilla Manor wins my favorite album of the year so far, featuring vocals that sound like jazz instruments, wild percussion, and great tracks like "Airplanes," "Who Knows, Who Cares," "World News" and the sublime "Cubism Dream;"

2. It's Never Been Like That is "vintage" Phoenix (the album before their breakthrough) - it has a charming roughness to it, and like everything that Phoenix touches, is engineered for a good time;

3. "Let me be your everlasting light" doesn't sound dirty and weird at all, unless you hear it as the chorus to The Black Keys' "Everlasting Light," in which the band grinds out a slow rocker that will definitely make your next playlist;

4. "While I'm Away" from Good Old War is a short and sweet reminder of early Paul Simon and Beatles work, standing out on GOW's otherwise flaccid dad-rock album;

5. Blur released "Fool's Day" (the band's first recording since Think Tank) to only 1,000 fans on Record Store Day, but you can stream this Parklife-esque tune for free on the band's website;

6. In "Bloodbuzz Ohio," The National's Matt Berninger generates lyrical hooks that will soak into your brain, and is backed by perfectly loud drums and a band that sounds like it could bust at the seams any second, but keeps it together for four and a half fantastic minutes (tell the truth, you could only insert the obvious joke here if it were half that time).

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mercer/Danger Mouse Cover New Ground

"Kissing the Lipless" just isn't cutting it anymore for fans of The Shins, so James Mercer teamed up with Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley; producer of The Grey Album, Gorillaz' Demon Days and Beck's Modern Guilt) in a group called Broken Bells. Well, actually Mercer teamed up with Brian Burton, who has gone all Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson on us by ditching his "Danger Mouse" nickname for this group. In any event, Broken Bells' self-titled album has a sound that significantly detours from The Shins (except for perhaps the acoustic guitar-based "Vaporize"), but Mercer stays true to his enigmatic lyrics, which clearly have a deep meaning that I don't understand. Broken Bells have pushed an excellent single, "The High Road," but they don't find their character in the album until "The Ghost Inside," an upbeat loop track where Mercer sings mostly like a falsetto diva and then breaks in with his natural voice, creating a kind of faux duet. But the real breakthroughs come at the close of the album, where Mercer and Danger Mouse become the Quentin Tarantino's of indie rock, composing a hilariously macho section in "Mongrel Heart" which sounds straight out of a western film. My personal favorite is the final song, "The Mall and Misery" where Broken Bells make the best out of strings, synthesizers and Modest Mouse-inspired electric guitars, proving that Broken Bells is a marriage of two great styles.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Late to the Riot

I may be the worst blogger ever. Not only are my posts rare, but I have no idea when good new music comes out. Ra Ra Riot is a band that is better late than never. If you've been living under a rock (still thinking the Decemberists are fresh) like me, download "Oh La" and "Can You Tell." These guys understand that fast drums and violins actually fit together perfectly. I had no idea 2008 was such a great year - thank you Ra Ra Riot.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Cry for Freedom

In 1997, Wyclef Jean released The Carnival, an album which explored the musical and societal roots of hip hop, reggae, and soul. Wyclef made poverty, drug dealing and war sound almost sentimental. The shining song on the album is "Yele," which is defined musically by its raw acoustic guitar and deep bass drum hits. Lyrically, I don't understand Wyclef's Haitian-French, which is a good thing, because the English translation cannot be as potent as the foreign version. Wyclef translates the title of the song, Yele, as "a cry for freedom," and since 2005 and throughout the Haiti earthquake relief effort, Wyclef's Yele Haiti has distributed hot meals to Haiti's citizens. Almost everyone is doing their part to give to Haiti these days, so listen to "Yele" to get a little something back.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simplicity Can Be Cool

Traditional rock instrumentation is uncommon in today's music - we rarely get to hear straight up guitar, bass and drums from relevant artists. If you want to hear how classic instrumentation can create a new and refreshing sound, download Real Estate's "Beach Comber" from their self-titled album. "Beach Comber" is surf-pop guitar tones, ghostly vocals, and a snare beat that keeps the whole thing moving. For a similar experience (from last decade), check out Ambulance LTD, especially "Stay Where You Are" and "Anecdote."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Find Your Summer Soul with Coconut Records

It's getting cold outside, football ends soon, and there is no better way to escape the winter blues than by listening to songs about the summer, the coast, and playing drums in a band. Listen to Coconut Records' Davy for your summer fix. Coconut Records is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist/actor Jason Schwartsman (Rushmore, I ♥ Huckabees), who consistently writes about the supreme charm, glamour and lonliness of the west coast (check out "West Coast" and "Nighttiming" from CR's debut album, Nighttiming). Davy is the Beach Boys without their wall of sound, Weezer without big guitars, and is dominated by Schwartsman's obvious admiration for Beatles melodies. The album is well-balanced, as the catchy brighter songs ("Wires," "Drummer," "Microphone," "Any Fun") are scattered between the wistful and remorseful ones ("Courtyard," "I Am Young," "Is This Sound Okay?"). Davy will be a good glimpse of California sunshine for your collection.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kick back with Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks"

If you're into indie rock and motown doo wop (I know you're out there), check out Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" from their album Veckatimest. The piano and synthesizer sound like they're straight out of a Jay-Z hit, and the vocals sound like they're straight out of The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You." Lyrically, "Two Weeks" is, well, in the words of the song, "a routine malaise," but the the laid back nature of the song is well served by the lyrical simplicity.
Grizzly Bear sounds old school and looks prep school.