It’s not too often that I get musical recommendations from my mom. In fact, it’s pretty close to never- I’m pretty sure this is the only time it’s happened. Regardless, Lungs basically hits all the right buttons for me- badass female belting, vaguely psychedelic soulful indie rock wrapped around a spine of really solid percussion work (including tribal drums, which are basically my favorite thing ever). Flo does a decent amount of genre-hopping on this album, going from the harp and drum rockout of opener ‘Dog Days are Over’ to some almost White Stripes-y stripped down fuzz rock and then to straight up blues. The album has a very definite sound, however, and that’s due to the real star of the record, the Lungs of the title (like the organs, not a similarly titled track). Florence Welch basically sings the living shit out of every single song here- on songs like ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)’, the melody seems to almost take a backseat to her just going nuts and wailing: the melismas go in whatever direction she feels like, who cares how many syllables are supposed to be in the line?
I read in an interview somewhere that I now cannot find that Welch is a percussionist as well as a singer, and that her style is informed by taking the same approach to both instruments: “banging on things”. Even on the songs I don’t like as much as the others, her gale-force diaphragm is enough to elevate the music to intimidating, powerful and fucking awesome all at once. Her voice really ties the entire record together, the inspiringly maniacal yell-singing melting into floating falsetto and then smashing back in all over again is at once the perfect continuity between songs and the music’s most versatile characteristic.

Buy

and watch this:

~Julian

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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.

I recently got sick of screwing around with the abysmal Windows Media Player here on the family computer I’m constrained to in Ohio. After importing my library into a clandestine install of iTunes (I’ve been warned vehemently about installing things on here, since everything on earth has a virus), I was scanning through it to see if anything didn’t get transferred when I saw this interesting band name I didn’t recognize at all. This record somehow ended up on my hard drive, and it’s really really great. They’ve got a few classic, purist post rock tinges (think Tortoise’s dubby rhythms, drones and vibraphones) on some songs, but aren’t afraid to get all ballsy and Pavement on you on the more upbeat tracks. Take these influences, layers upon layers of great melodies, soothing girl vocals, and you’ve got a gorgeous sounding album that takes plenty of cues from the best parts of the 90’s without sounding remotely dated. I’m usually wary of indie rock like this, because I usually feel like I’m automatically supposed to enjoy it for hipster elder cred, so I’m glad I stumbled upon this without any previous knowledge and able to take it in as is. These guys put out another record last year that I’m currently trying to track down, so look out for that if you enjoy this one.

For fans of: Tortoise, Yo La Tengo, Pavement, Dirty Three

Myspace / Buy (physical versions of this seem to be out of print)

Brian B.

P.S. James from Shock Mountain has some videos up from the Real Estate and Woods show we attended together last week, which you can check out here.

Musicians, music writers and music enthusiasts tend to take themselves very seriously.  Music is serious business and damn it you will respect that.  I will admit that I refer to myself as a “music blogger” any chance I get.  Generally this seriousness is a good thing.  Just think of the bands that don’t take themselves seriously, and you end up with bands like Barenaked Ladies and Smash Mouth, so keep an open mind when I tell you that Whisper Signal do not take themselves too seriously.   Their ebullience is evident in their live shows via frontman Erik Adkins and his rapport with his band-mates on stage as well as their self proclaimed “Light Rock” sound.

This is not a knock on their craft.  Musically and lyrically there is a great attention to detail and each song feels like it has a purpose.  The opening track “Escape Artist” starts with fairly bare piano chords and light drumming accompanying Adkins’ mellow vocals.  Light bass then enters the mix, followed one by one by different layered parts that seem to sneak up to a sonic high point…before disappearing just as you notice them.

There are a few moments on the album that fall short.  Some of the vocals are overly ambitious and sometimes Adkins struggles to rise to the challenge.  Overall though the high-aim pays off throughout.  The second half is in my opinion the strongest section of the record.  The last three tracks, Silent Valentine, Comaglow and Slow Enemies are simply dynamite, and really feature the strong guitar work of lead guitarist Daniel Holmes, who’s talents seem wasted when he is simply providing texture and layering earlier.

Overall the album is a solid first effort for a band still developing and shaping their sound.  New members and a renewed commitment to playing live will only help Whisper Signal, and hopefully will not turn their personalities into something different than they are now…because we all know that music is serious business.

Myspace

– Dave

There have been two records that have succesfully snapped me out of my long running electronic phase over the past 24 hours, and this is the first of them. If there’s any hope for what people generally refer to as ‘post-rock’, its in the hands of bands like Seattle’s Post Harbor. A far cry from the vocal-free gain-level exercises of much of the previous decade’s post rock, Post Harbor use well-timed vocals, visceral songwriting and pacing, and a wide yet consistent palette of sounds to stake their claim.

Don’t get it twisted though, PH definitely aren’t afraid to get loud when they need to, and They Can’t Hurt You… isn’t completely free of certain genre bullet points. But the earnestness that comes across in the recording, as well as a clear willingness to experiment with different sounds (check out that vocoder in ‘Shirakashi’ that somehow works flawlessly) lead me to mark these up to chance intersections rather than easy selling points.

Its always a gamble when bands of this stripe choose to add vocals to their sound, as they flirt with the danger of seeming tacked on at the last minute or worse, bogging down an otherwise grand composition with vocal or lyrical cheese. I haven’t delved into the lyrics really, but the vocals are treated with a great sense of reserve that adds another level of intimacy to their warm, emotive bursts.

I thought I was all but past searching out obscure post-rock bands, but here’s one that managed to burst through my ever-thickening emotional shell and hit somewhere that’s been dormant for awhile now. This album reminded me why I fell in love with this style of music in the first place, and I’m surprised and refreshed that it’s the first 2010 album I’ve really taken to.

For Fans Of: Moving Mountains, Unwed Sailor, Caspian

Myspace

Brian B.

Throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s, Selda Bağcan traveled around her native Turkey with a guitar and a fierce commitment to promoting free speech and openness in a society that was less than friendly to the arts and any sort of anti-establishment messages. Just like their American counterparts at the same time, artist, musicians, and others on the fringe of Turkish society rallied around Ms. Bağcan, her powerful, beautiful voice rising when there own were silenced and muffled by authority.

This self-titled long player, released in 1976, was a radical reinvention on both a personal level and for Turkish music as a whole. After a few years’ hiatus from her folk career, Selda exploded back onto the scene with the help of some of Turkey’s most forward-thinking musicians. As a result, Selda’s protestant lyrics and calls to action had a newfound backing of blistering psychedelic rock, the likes of which few in the conservative Middle East had ever seen.

While Turkey is a relatively liberal and free place compared to the rest of the Middle East, it was still unheard of for a woman musician to have command of such powerful and straight up ballsy music. Her previously quiet musings now packed a hell of an electrical punch, bringing undesired attention from the Turkish government who believed this new style would have the power to incite riots. Take one listen to songs like ‘Ince Ince’ and you’ll realize that they were probably right. Other songs like “Dam Üstüne Çul Serer” drip with the exotic, forlorn beauty of her earlier folk work while utilizing some of the earliest synthesizers to broaden the sonic palette.

Personally, a love of geography and history adds even more to the music for me. I know next to nothing about Turkish society in the 1970’s, but the blend of raucous Western rock with her native language, melodies, and instrumentation paint such a vivid picture. I can almost feel the sun beating down on my face and the bellbottoms on my legs as a walk through an Anatolian bazaar, dodging Volkswagen Bugs and goat-led carts in equal measure while the thumping breaks of “Gitme” blast from my boombox.

Considering the circumstances, a woman like Ms. Bağcan should have never been able to make a blistering, psychedelic rallying cry to the ideological fringe of 1970’s Turkey. The fact that she did all of this and much, much more is a testament to the strength and ingenuity of one of the most criminally underrated musicians of her time. Hopefully, thanks to the efforts of labels like Finders Keepers who have made her music available to an entirely new audience, this icon will finally get the recognition she deserves. If you like this album, definitely order the album from Finders Keepers so that they can keep on releasing amazing gems like this. I bought the MP3 version myself, but I’m sure it sounds insane on vinyl.

Standout Tracks: “Ince Ince”, “Gitme”, “Dam Üstüne Çul Serer”

Buy

– Brian B.

I don’t want to say to much about this album, other than it is genius.  I listened to this album in every setting possible, and it can fit many different moods.  It is great late at night, early in the morning, or on a sunshine drive somewhere.  The album revolves around ghosts and hauntings with lyrical drive and amazing instrumentation.  Jordan Geiger’s voice is something out of this world and his emotion is amazing with every song.  Minus Story has a great musical catalog but I tend to go back to this album over and over.  Give it a couple spins before you even think about judging it and you will see what I mean.

Standout tracks: “Knocking On Your Head”, “Little Wet Head”,”Hold On”

Buy

Also check out Hospital Ships with Jordan from Minus Story.

– Steve

P.S. From Brian – We opened for these dudes once!

do lightning bolt really need an introduction anymore? i’m not sure. their new full-length, Earthly Delights, will be released on Load Records this fall, and i’m sure it will be an absolutely massive slab of ass-kicking face-punchery. the first single is a relative slow-burner for these guys, with Brian Chippendale keeping the flailing octopus drums to a minimum to assist Brian Gibson in stirring the dirge. over the course of 7 minutes, ‘Colossus’ pulls you along an increasing frenzied, psychedelic build-up that never quite pays off, for the better. we’ll see what kinds of other new tricks Lightning Bolt has picked up in their time off when Earthly Delights drops this fall.

DOWNLOAD >>> ‘Colossus’

The Velvet Teen

05.18.2009

i’ve been mulling this post over for a few days now, but i decided to freestyle it instead. i wouldn’t be able to do judah nagler’s songs with the velvet teen any justice with an attempt to deconstruct everything and out-adjective myself. i’ll keep it basic.

honestly, the velvet teen sound like radiohead if they had grown up in the pacific northwest and skipped the whole post-grunge phase. judah nagler’s songwriting skills are stunning, and the velvet teen find as much success in catchy bursts of rock (‘radiapathy’ on out of the fierce parade)  as they do on dense, emotional meanderings (the 13 minute epic ‘chimera obscurant’ on elysium). each of the three full-lengths are incredibly distinct in sound, content, and structure, another of the band’s radiohead-like qualities.

as much as i hate to throw around the term, the velvet teen are easily one of the most criminally underrated, underexposed, and underappreciated bands of the past decade. that first listen is like pulling up a rock in your backyard, only to find a flourishing ecosystem underneath; you aren’t exactly sure how something so fully realized and complex was able to spring up right under your nose without notice, but the exhilaration and curiosity are whiplash inducing.

out of the fierce parade is the best starting point with its relatively straightforward rock approach and higher single-worthy track ratio. elysium is a delicate, yet challenging guitar-free beast of a record in which nagler’s dense prose unwinds over piano and string-laden compositions. cum laude! brings the rock back with a newfound helping of electronics.

alright, i know i fell back on the adjectives a little hard right there. here’s the final word; the velvet teen, like radiohead, are frighteningly awesome at making challenging, complex songwriting incredibly listenable and pleasant. it’s music that succeeds on more levels than most bands are even aware of.

(edit: slowdance records has asked me to take down links. head over to TVT’s myspace to sample the music.)

Out Of The Fierce Parade (2002)

Elyisum (2004)

Cum Laude! (2006)

Colossal

05.10.2009

Brave The Elements EP (2003)

 

Welcome The Problems (2004)

Welcome The Problems (2004)

colossal are from elgin, illinois and contains many chicago punk veterans from bands like the smoking popes and the lawrence arms. they play technical, melodic rock and roll.