Tuesday, November 30, 2010

nobunny - first blood (2010)

RIYL: Jay Reatard, King Kahn & BBQ Show, The Exploding Hearts

When I first saw local act Nobunny a few years back, his bunny-masked garage rock seemed like just a joke, and I didn't feel inclined to keep up with his output.  When I saw he had a new album out this year, I was pretty sure it was going to be another middle-of-the-road garage revival record- but I'm glad to say that I was way wrong about that.  I have a soft spot for catchy, power pop & doo-wop influenced garage rock a la Jay Reatard/King Kahn/Exploding Hearts, and this exactly that, done right.  Nobunny has a knack for catchy melodies, and he switches styles up often, making for a diverse and enjoyable set of songs that pretty much always hit their mark- "Breathe" is a slow-grooving T. Rex vamp, "Never Been Kissed" adds a frantically hammered piano into the mix, and "I Was On (The Bozo Show)" closes out the album with a take on the famous circus song "Entry of the Gladiators".  The lyrics are clever too, frequently funny and surprisingly dirty.  First Blood is so sunny and fun I almost forget that we are in the middle of a cold snap and I can see my breath inside of my house.  The album's 11 songs are over in less than 25 minutes, but there's a lot of memorable hooks packed into that short play time.

BTW- Number of times I resisted making bunny-related puns in writing this review: 5

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

how to dress well - love remains (2010)

RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors

Forget how awful this band's name is.... I almost passed this up because the name was so dumb, but I'm glad I didn't because I think this is one of the better pop albums I've heard this year.  Love Remains, How To Dress Well's debut album, is anchored by soft falsetto vocal aerobics akin to bands like fellow NYCers Grizzly Bear/The Dirty Projectors/Antony Hegarty, but hides the vocals behind layers of reverb and distortion, surrounded by lo-fi washes of keyboard and sparse percussion.  In a more glossy presentation, I would probably be put off by the modern r'n'b influenced pop-style singing, but the simplicity of the sound makes it feel much more immediate and personal than it otherwise might.  Most of the album is quietly atmospheric ballads, but there are the occasional uptempo rockers ("Walking This Dumb (Live)") or trip-hop forays ("Endless Rain").  The sequencing of the album is somewhat ramshackle, reflecting that this is a group still finding its sound, but I personally find the messiness appealing.  Hopefully, How To Dress Well's future output will keep that quality intact.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

krieg - the isolationist (2010)


Although Krieg have been around in various forms since 1995, their newest album The Isolationist was my first experience listening to them.  All I knew going in to this record was that I'd heard of the band here and there, knew there was a connection to black metal supergroup Twilight (who I actually haven't listened to yet), but never really felt compelled to seek this band out.  I guess I'd never really seen or heard anyone declaring that Krieg was really good and important and I need to check them out, so I just never did.  Upon listen to this, my first impression was that this was yr standard epic, sorrowful black metal; extremely well produced, and at times very compelling, but nothing that special.  But quickly this album started getting... weirder.  Not really obviously weird, not avant-garde experimental techno black metal with toy pianos or anything, but more like strange winding and dissonant chords, guitarless passages of reversed drums and wordless howls, a voracious static that devours all other sounds, or an unnaturally frantic quickening of the pace at the very end of a song.  This is still pretty traditional black metal, but well-executed, and the occasional strangeness sets it above being just middle-of-the-road.  When things really coalesce for Krieg, and I would say they do more often than not, this rivals the best black metal of the year (BURZUM).  But there are enough moments too where things drag on just a little too long..... and I start zoning out.  I admit that I tend to gravitate towards less orthodox styles of black metal, but although this album doesn't take too many risks, it nevertheless stands out among this years' black metal releases.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sufjan Stevens - The Age Of Adz (2010)


02 Too Much by deef deeferson
03 Age Of Adz by deef deeferson

So the deal with this album is that it's supposed to be "his weird one", which, to the uninitiated would seem absolutely appropriate but you see back in 2001 mr. Stevens released an instrumental all electronic album in the vein of Mouse on Mars called Enjoy Your Rabbit. So, in a sense he has already "been weird". To me this album isn't weird at all...it's damn awesome! The formula is simple and the results are complicated. The formula is him taking his background in abstract electronics and applying it to his grand sweeping orchestral pop, simple enough, but the results are intense. The songs basically all either take the old approach of his music and pepper it with very subtle studio tricks but the best tracks take the maximalist approach of throwing everything in and they come off as more electronic than organic. The closest comparison albums i can make to this one are definitely The Fiery Furnaces Blueberry Boat and Radiohead's Kid A. It's this seamless blend of electronics and pop that make those albums along with their ridiculous sense of adventure. It seems here that Sufjan really wanted to make something huge and way more ridiculous than his previous "huge" sounding album and he succeeds completely. This record sounds like a mess, it sounds ugly yet it is graceful as well and very beautiful. The songs are longer, the ideas more ridiculous the evolution of music taking hold of a person and allowing them to be swallowed up by sound. This record is meant to be listened to loud and i thank Mr. Stevens for not giving a shit about what the indie community wants him to sound like and doing his own thing and rewarding all the people who honor innovation in music, not standing still and always pushing forward.

Oh and if this means he is abandoning the States Project than good i'll take more of this any day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

ASC - 'Reality Check'


ASC is an artist that's basically associated with the Autonomic label, home to a sort of sparse, industrial, somewhat more drum and bass version of dubstep. The productions are usually really tight and controlled in their rhythms, and pretty minimal when it comes to how thick they lay on the synths. It's a pretty unique style. The artists that run Autonomic are Instra:mental, whose track 'Watching You' was on my list of best tracks for 2009. D-Bridge is also a big name on the label and compliments the overall vibe pretty nicely.

ASC still produces for Autonomic, but started his own label called Auxiliary to host his own works, and so far he's released some pretty brilliant stuff on it. The thing about the track 'Reality Check' for me is that I've been waiting almost exactly ten months to buy it. That's one of the pitfalls of the electronic scene, is that artists will hand their tracks over to someone putting together a mix wayyy in advance of the actual release. Sometimes upwards of a year, and sometimes will simply never release the track at all. It's insanely frustrating, but I guess pretty rewarding still in the end.

This particular track was definitely worth the wait. It's easily in my top few favorites of the year. It holds true to overall Autonomic sound. The bass and snares have sort of an industrial pump and push to them, the rhythm production is pretty tightly wound and controlled, and though the synthwork is relatively minimal, it's extremely lush and quite frankly, amazingly gorgeous. There are synth flourishes that completely open up the space of the track, leaving me awestruck. A vocal sample appears throughout to a sweetly mysterious effect, as an utterly beautiful chime-like melody blooms in the background. It's a very nicely layered composition. The rest of the Certainties EP that it comes from is also pretty interesting and certainly worth checking out. har har. but really though, this track is really something special.

ASC - Reality Check by speedglueandmusic_raw3