I suppose I should get this out of the way: I’m a huge Sigur Rós fanboy. I believed Jónsi to be one of the best singers of our generation before I even took a listen to this album. It goes a long way to affirm this belief, and a new one I found; that he is an excellent songwriter on his own. Go takes the poppy aesthetic of Með Suð… and the massive, bombastic style of their more poignant works, combining them into a, well, massive, bombastic pop record. It’s still Jónsi of course; you can tell that from the first spout of glitchy vocal melody to the first impassioned, falsetto “YOOOOOOO.” It’s still inherently artsy and original and heartfelt. Here, Jónsi just turns the happy dial up to 11. His vocal hooks skitter up in the upper ranges with breathless ease, they float about the mix, holding it together and carrying it along to the most cinematic heights. Flutes, warm synths, plaintive pianos and raggedy percussion create an air of the unreal that is still very grounded, still very here. The criticism I always leveled at my high school friends who didn’t get Sigur Rós always went something like, “Fuck, man, If this doesn’t make you wanna cry, you have no heart.” If Go doesn’t make you wanna smile and get up dance, you have neither a mouth nor feet.

Buy

– Brian S.

Omar Rodriguez Lopez & John Frusciante Cover Art

The last thing I ever thought I would be listening to this summer (or really, ever) would be another side project album from TMV’s guitarist/composer/co-leader-buttbuddy Omar. The Mars Volta was for a long time my absolute favorite band in the world, but both myself and the band have changed significantly since I was 15 (I still love the shit out of most of their stuff, though). Omie-Womie has been appallingly prolific in his solo output, but none of it has ever really grabbed me the way his band does- the albums always felt like side projects. The strange thing is, if anything, this album is his most side-projecty of all: it’s a charityware album he made with other lifelong buttbuddy, John Frusciante sometimes of and sometimes formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Everything about it screams out “I was created in a basement at crazy o’ clock in the morning  just for the hell of it”, and it’s great. The songs are all instrumental and (except for maybe the timestamps) arbitrarily titled- the recordings are about as lo-fi as you’ll probably ever hear two major-label grammy-winning musicians/producers get. You can hear the guitars being slightly out of tune in “0=2”, you can hear them getting slightly out of time with the fart-noise synthesizer in “ZIM”, but somehow that makes it better. You really get the feeling that this is just two guys having fun and seeing what they can make together, and their two radically different approaches to the guitar really mesh here to create something fantastic. Frusciante gives some great driving melodic lines and wraps Omar’s signature “I don’t give a fuck, I want to play this note” dissonance in some more traditional harmony, giving the music the grounding it needed. This is the kind of shit you expect to hear when you walk into a dark, smoky basement with a couple of guys flopped over musty old couches with guitars in hand, just doing whateverthefuck and loving it.

The link I provided is to Omar’s online store, because they’re giving this album away for free: enter 0.00 if you want it for exactly that amount, but anything more will be a donation to “Keep Music in Schools” programs, which is extremely cool of them.

~ Julian

The first Champion album I bought years ago was a bit of a guilty pleasure. It was called “Chill ‘Em All” and featured a bloke in a lovely sunset t-shirt on the cover…honestly i believe it was mostly the cover that had me look into it in the first place. Released in 2004, that album featured lively beats, and a bit of a electronic gospel feel that made you nod your head and tap your foot. 6 years later, the sterile bass and synth has given way to dirty guitars and bigger choruses on top of the same lively driving beats. This is an album to beat someone up to…not an angry album, just an album that makes its listener assertive and outgoing. You wouldn’t beat up an innocent to this album, you would beat up someone who deserved it.

Most notable track in that vein is “So Big.” A grungy filthy guitar fades in, cymbals start to crash, and once the warped riff starts you are ready to kick some justified ass. The beats kick in a few seconds later and its on. By the time the vocals start, you don’t know what is so big, but you don’t care.

Other favorite tracks are “My Black Saab” which carries on the “justified badass” theme and “Sannois Beach” which bubbles and boils up to a great frenzy that lasts for the remainder of the track.

Buy

Dave




If you haven’t heard of this band yet, don’t worry: I have a feeling soon everyone will have. I’m usually drawn more toward late-bloomers, simmering albums that take a while. But I’m pretty sure I fell in love with this one at first play. Fang Island is massive and happy music: part punk, part pop, part math rock, part part-hard shredfest. I was figuring that I’d be hard-pressed to describe anything so electric guitar-based fresh in 2010, but they’ve proved me wrong. Whether it’s skittering tremolos or joyous walls of power chord progressions or huge, bombastic melodies, the guitar carries every song in a way that satisfies a hunger I didn’t know I still had. The same thing happens with every gang vocal chorus, every hook; I’m drawn into a sense of happiness, community, partyness that makes me unashamedly giddy. I’d compare the experience to Passion Pit’s Manners last year, and Sigur Rós’ Með suð before that. There are moments I could point out that I really love (the chorus of Daisy, the huge tremolo breakout at the end of Sideswiper, the OOO OO WHOA OH in Davey Crockett) but I’m sure you’ll find your own. They’re there.

Buy

Brian S.

GREAT NEWS!!!!!!

04.19.2010

MY FUCKING HARD DRIVE DIED!!!! ISN’T THAT AWESOME!?!?! Seven years of music, gone! Great shit!

Anyways. Yeah.

I haven’t stopped listening to Baths, so just go re-read that post again and pretend like I just put it up. Blah.

Brian B.

So I was jamming to some top 40 radio yesterday, as I often do (haters to the left) and heard the wonderful new Juelz Santana/Chris Brown collabo ‘Back To The Crib’. The hook was immaculate, and upon further listening I realized it was in the same key as Baths’ incredible track ‘Aminals’. I wanted to know what they would sound like hand in hand, so I mixed up this fun little track. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s alright. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Brian B.

GY!BE Reuniting!

04.09.2010

One of my favorite bands of all time, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, are reuniting! I seriously never thought I’d ever see them again. So stoked!! The official press release from them is below! I wonder what the URL means: http://www.1119732.net.

Alright, here it is. The first album of 2K10 that I just fell instantly and hopelessly in love with. The one where the sounds just hit that sweet spot so perfectly that listening to anything else, even time-honored favorites, leave you with nothing but a bigger jones for this new young pony. Baths is the project of one SoCal producer named Will Weisenfield, who marries ecstatic melodies and emotional sentiment with abstract hip-hop better than anyone since Bibio dropped Ambivalence Avenue last year. Seeing how that record hasn’t really left my rotation since I first heard it 10 months or so ago, I was beyond stoked to find someone up to the same tricks.

Much like Bibio, Will’s not afraid to use his own voice to put a fingerprint on these songs (and that’s what they are- not tracks, songs). His faux-funk falsetto on ‘Lovely Bloodflow’ might seem odd and silly at first, but taking into account the delicate lyrics and sparse, melancholy instrumental reveal that it and all of the other idiosyncrasies and personal inflections that make this more than just great beats and cool instrumentation (not to say that this record lacks either of those things at all). Baths also makes effective use of spoken word samples, mostly from women and children, to further exhibit the human element that can still be found in this electronic, “point-and-click” music if the artist is willing to put it there and sophisticated enough to pull it off without cheese. After enough repeated listens, they almost become characters within the song, and once you get to know the structure, you anticipate their arrival and contribution.

The albums arguable highlight is the least hip-hop influenced of them all. ‘Rain Smell’, with its percussion that consists of barely more than fading a noise signal in and out over handclaps while a lonely piano figure plays in some other room in some other house in that neighborhood you moved out of years ago. There’s just something really fucking affecting about it, and I still haven’t really figured out what the lyrics Will repeats over and over for almost six minutes. It hits me hard. It’s beautiful. Being able to capture this much feeling inside a machine shouldn’t be possible.

This couldn’t have come at a better time. The sun is shining (well, not right now in Chicago actually), birds are singing, leaves are appearing, and these wonderful, catchy, warm, upbeat, vulnerable, funny, and truly forward-thinking songs are pouring out of my speakers for hours on repeat. It’s about as much as you could ask for.

For Fans Of: Bibio, Toro Y Moi, Flying Lotus, Keaver & Brause

MySpace

Brian B.

FINAL EDIT: Corrected the final album title and art, and took down the link because a.) it was incomplete and b.) because this is damn good and I really really really want people to buy it when it drops in June on Anticon. Some of the best songs are on the MySpace so go listen there.

There are a couple things that separate Sara Abdel-Hamid, better known as Ikonika, from the dubstep masses. First and perhaps most obvious, she’s one of a scant few female producers gaining any sort of widespread notoriety. Second, she counts many decidedly non-electronic acts such as Glassjaw and Dillinger Escape Plan among influences. Lastly, her calculated chaos of 8-bit blips, deep bass, and sophisticated rhythms put her miles ahead of many in the dub game, and right at home on the prodigous Hyperdub label. She’s been putting out tracks since 2007, but many first took notice with her two highlight entries on Hyperdub’s 5 retrospective last year; the slippery, pitch-bent ‘Please’ and the plodding throwback synths of ‘Sahara Michael’ which appears again here on her debut full-length.

The video game theme that runs through the synth styles and song titles on Contact, Love, Want, Have might seem limiting at first, but Ikonika teases a great deal of mileage out of the template. Upbeat workouts like album standout ‘Idiot’ balance nicely with the slower dubs like ‘Sahara’, creating a sense of cohesiveness, pace and an album-oriented approach rarely found in the track-focused *step world. Don’t be surprised if you start hearing this girl’s name mentioned in the same breath as some big names very soon.

For Fans Of: Joker, Zomby, Floating Points

Myspace / Buy

– Brian B.

Let Live and Let Ghosts

Jukebox the Ghost is a fun band. Let Live & Let Ghosts is a really fun album. If you wanted to be a negative nancy you could be all ‘man this just sounds like some Ben Folds’, but that would just make you lame. Yes, they are a lighthearted piano rock/indie band whose singers often do sound like the aforementioned influence and touring mate (the pianist is even named Ben, too!), but their music is bursting with a youthful energy that has been lacking from Folds’ work for some time now. More importantly, these guys sound like a band, not just one really talented guy with a lot of touring musicians.

In this age of drum comping and perfectly-quantized rhythms, sometimes you forget what it sounds like to hear a couple of dudes play together and just be naturally fucking on-point, and that’s exactly what Jukebox the Ghost are. When you hear them whip out the snappy syncopation on songs like “Hold it In” and “Lighting Myself on Fire”, you can just feel that these are three guys who are very good at what they do and have played together a lot. It’s tough to consistently sell this kind of upbeat jauntiness over the course of a whole album, but this band is just so tight that everything is a pleasure to listen to.

Said jauntiness is balanced out by a recurring sense of biblical apocalypse in the lyrics, mostly in the songs sung by guitarist Tommy Siegel. It’s remarkable on these songs to hear the way in which the band takes such a rudimentary instrumentation (just piano, guitar and drums) and transforms it from the upbeat and poppy to the foreboding and dramatic, all the while retaining the same joyous energy that permeates the record. Never will you be so gleeful singing along to “mom and dad, wake from your slumber, because we’re going to burn this motherfucker down”.

Buy

~Julian