Karl Blau - Nature Got Away
Karl Blau has a soulful Smog-like voice -- it sounds like maybe the way a thundercloud would sound if a thundercloud was on K Records. That is to say, it sounds beautiful. Like the kind of beautiful you would not find on purpose. Maybe a secret kind of beautiful hidden on a back shelf of a janitor's closet.
I wrote this shitty review of this album for Chuck Adams' Eugene Weekly blog:
"Karl Blau's new album Nature's Got Away has 12 tracks made out of silkworm dogma. When I listen to it I think of lighting plastic on fire and then dripping fire plastic onto things. At some points in the album I think things like "that sounds like crickets" and then I start thinking about dripping flaming plastic on crickets, amen."
The Mountain Goats - Satanic Messiah EP
John Darnielle's "pay what you want" digital EP, Satanic Messiah is a scant 4 songs, but it does not disappoint. I don't think I have ever been "disappointed" by a Mountain Goats album. The songs on Satanic Messiah retain the same urgency that Darnielle's songs are known for, despite the slower beat and more relaxed instrumentation. More piano, a little better production value (by that I mean it's not recorded in a boom box -- which, don't get me wrong, are some of my favorite Mountain Goats songs); these songs are indicative of the direction Darnielle has been taking his music for some time. Sparse, haunting instrumentation and intensely focused lyrics make these songs something every Mountain Goats fan should add to their collection.
Vivian Girls - Vivian Girls
This album is for everyone who wanted to like Times New Viking, but couldn't get past the sheer vulgarity of their treble. This album's super low fidelity affords it some kind of tangible innocence that I haven't heard in a long time. I can't think of the last album I heard that created an approximation of "well-being" in me. The lack of virtuosity present in this album is something that I appreciate and embrace. I think way too much emphasis is placed on the technical proficiency of rock stars. I think that's all a bunch of horse shit. This album is thick with soul and playfulness -- something that would be compressed to hell on all the over-produced top 40 albums.
We want dynamic range! We want overtones! Sloppiness is akin to humanness!
Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane
Alex and Kasey turned me on to this album. VanGaalen has a haunting anxiety in his voice. When he sings "When I die / I'll hang my head beside the willow tree / When I'm dead / Is when I'll be free / And you can take my body / Put it in a boat / Light it on fire / You can use the kerosene" on the first track, I get goosebumps. Unlike many singer/songwriters, Chad VanGaalen's music is not one dimensional. The first track is a banjo-led dirge, but other songs include a techno-driven dance song, and a song that sounds like he's playing a fuzz pedal submerged in a swimming pool surrounded by electric crickets.
Department of Eagles - In Ear Park
I won't go into how Department of Eagles and Grizzly Bear differ, I'll only say that if you haven't, you should become completely immersed in the sound of both bands. This album will surely end up on many "Best of 2008" lists. Because it's stunning. It hits all the important places of your body. I have been trying to get the reverb on my amp to give me the sound Rossen gets on "No One Does It Like You" for weeks. I beg my little Crate amp, but it must be the wrong language. All the people involved with Department of Eagles and Grizzly Bear have amazing gifts. These bands offer a kind of virtuosity and technical proficiency that I can embrace whole heartedly. Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself.
Frightened Rabbit - The Midnight Organ Fight
If I was Scottish, I think I would probably be sad a lot, too. Think about it, the Scots invented scotch for a reason. I don't imagine they go around with whistles and bottles of scotch flipping young girls upside down while a Timbaland song plays in the background. My image of Scotland comes primarily from Lynne Ramsay's film Ratcatcher. It's like Gummo -- but in Scotland. Anyway, Frightened Rabbit gets into that kind of gritty sadness that reminds me of when it's raining and you're alone and you kind of can't help but feel a little affected by the dynamic that the rain creates. Like, somehow the raindrops are a presence and so even though you're alone, you feel surrounded in an okay way. That's how I think Frightened Rabbit feels, and that's kind of how their super emo Scot-rock makes me feel.
Herman Dune - Next Year in Zion
Herman Dune is a French pop band that writes frustrated songs about long distance relationships. The songs on "Next Year in Zion" are clever and well-written. The hand-drum beats and giddy little lead guitar parts help beat back the Monday demons, despite this album's melancholy subject matter. Not as catchy as some of the songs on 2006's Giant, but still a solid album.
Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life
I should have known about Fucked Up a long time ago, but my knowledge of new music comes solely from the internet. I am not involved in any music "scenes." Maybe if I hung out with more hardcore kids I would have known about Fucked Up. Apparently they have released about a million singles and 7"s since 2002. I'm not a huge hardcore fan, though I have been easing back into noisy punk for a while now. I thought I'd disavowed "punk rock" and even discussed its "death" for some time now. However, with innovative bands like Fucked Up and No Age, I'm beginning to thing punk may be experiencing an intelligent resurgence. Not a "fuck the world" resurgence, but maybe a sly middle finger behind the world's back. Today is Monday, and the screaming on "The Chemistry of Common Life" is extremely satisfying. And the drumming is actually interesting. It's not normal shitty punk drumming. Definitely a good record to break shit to.
Deerhunter - Microcastle / Weird Era Cont
Microcastle and Weird Era Cont represent, for Deerhunter, a turn toward poppier shoe gaze. Dare I say some of these songs even have hooks? I had a hard time getting into Deerhunter at first. I even saw them play in Portland with Grizzly Bear, but I couldn't get into the loop pedals and the noise. Since then, I've grown fond of shoe gaze and noise rock bands. However, Microcastle and Weird Era Cont both beg a new classification. Some of the songs on Microcastle even remind me of 50s ballads on psychotropic drugs. With his latest efforts (Atlas Sound's Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel included) Bradford Cox has developed a direction for his music. I declare all of the aforementioned projects to be "successful."
The Decemberists - Always The Bridesmaid
Who better to write a song about the debacle involving Robert Novak's release of Valerie Plame's covert CIA identity than Colin Meloy? "Oh Valerie Plame / If that really is your name..." "But I was just some stupid boy on a bus / When your nom de guerre was Codename Caroline..."
The Decemberists' ability to turn national security blunders into catchy as shit pop songs is one of the top reasons I love this band over and over a thousand times. I also think this song is probably a middle finger to the government. Something along the lines of, "Hey assholes, if you're not going to take this gross mishandling of national security seriously, we'll just turn it into a flippant pop song." Why not take your frustration and turn it into sweet pop bliss? They convicted Scooter Libby and Bush commuted his sentence, so what else are we supposed to do for justice? We will make pop songs. It's the ultimate form of civil disobedience. Now I want to hear The Decemberists' create something along the lines of "Oh AIG you're not doing well / If I don't see more dividends I'll see you in hell."
Oh yeah, and the other songs on here are equally catchy and worth listening to.