Over the 25 songs composing this Record Store Day exclusive 2xLP, Akron/Family enlist collaborators, kindred spirits, and extended family to re-imagine/reinterpret/re-illuminate S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT.
These Are Powers: All Aboard Future
Don't fear the future. These are Powers have come to conjure the new musical golden age you've been waiting for--one of insistence, intensity, and light. And yes, you can dance to it. These Are Powers are known for the dissonance of their early recordings, a cacophony of rhythms and industrial/electronic experiments that recalled Throbbing Gristle one moment, DNA the next. Once rule-breakers, the band is now rewriting those rules with a newfound focus: behold All Aboard Future. Exotic, abstract, hand-crafted sounds--made, found and electronically born--underscore each of these nine songs. Some wail from Pat Noecker's prepared bass; others stem from the idiosyncratic vocal and guitar style of Anna Barie. The two trade off vocal duties, and in the process dissonant sounds become melodies held together and torn apart in fits by Bill Salas' electro-acoustic beats. At first listen, much of Salas' rhythmic contribution sounds as if it could be pre-programmed, but these abstract rhythms are all performed live, interspersing nods to Timbaland with an appreciation for a car crash's metal-on-metal grind. Fans of forward thinking sound creators such as Gang Gang Dance, Animal Collective and No Age should pay close attention.
Califone: All My Friends Are Funeral Singers
In an underground music landscape where 140 characters equals "journalism" and lone MP3s propel bands to momentary internet stardom, bands are here today and gone tomorrow. Califone is a band that defies this blueprint. Their albums are full of layers and textures, offering endless depth, entire universes to lose yourself in ? and beyond the thick spectrum of sound, they do something even more important: They write great songs. Califone is a band that will stand the test of time. The band is at the peak of its powers on All My Friends Are Funeral Singers, its sixth song based album. The long-awaited follow-up to 2006's acclaimed Roots and Crowns, the album is the strongest collection of songs in a career with no shortage of strength. The subtlety and detail of Califone's previous work is present here ? the atmospheres are carefully nuanced, the percussion is both rattling and melodic, the melodies are rich and soulful, interspersed throughout softly strummed folk and electrified blues. All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is a dense collage of sounds, expertly formed into fully realized pop songs. All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is the record that the great Roots and Crowns hinted at. The songwriting is fleshed out, the musical vision is boiling over, the sonic experimentation is indulgent and dense, yet there's a great cohesion, a sense of purpose and a newfound focus to this Califone effort. Never has the band felt so vibrant, so alive, on one of their albums. All My Friends Are Funeral Singers is built for the long haul. Make space on your record shelf, because this one is here to stay.
A Place To Bury Strangers: And I'm Up
A Place To Bury Strangers interweave threads of krautrock, dream-pop, and 80s goth without ever losing the edge that is quintessentially Strangers. Unhinged dissonance is artfully framed within a fiercely dynamic and assured melodic sensibility. Here "And I'm Up," a highlight from the band's 2012 intense Worship, is paired with unreleased "Don't Stop."
The Luyas: Animator
Recorded and produced at the Treatment Room by band member and experimental brass player Pietro Amato and mixed by Jace Lasek of the Besnard Lakes at his Breakglass Studios in the band?s hometown of Montreal, Animator is a cathartic sophisticated collection of songs. As melodically compelling as it is artistically rich, Animator is intuitive, seductive, moody and textural. It slowly unfolds its beauty and trusts the listener to stay with it.
Nurses: Apple's Acre
To immerse yourself in Nurses' Apple's Acre is to delight in a certain mental unraveling. These are songs where the vulnerability of pop with its heart on its sleeve engages in a double-dutch jumprope match with the euphoric surrender-to-the-weird that is essential to psychedelia. And Nurses is a band that scavenges beauty and wonder, uncovering Technicolor where others see somber hues. Their off-kilter psych-pop is driven by ever-swelling vocal harmonies, adventurous electronics, some serious wheelin' and dealin' on the Rhodes piano, and the kind of new-primitivist percussion that may or may not involve a standard drum kit. Apple's Acre is a record full of dysfunctional, hushed love, laced with elegance and grace and without angst and regret. But the plain courage of their songs is the secret ingredient that's already turning heads and blowing minds all over the Northwest--and if you think about it, in pop music, courage is always at a premium. Fans of Yeasayer, Deerhoof, Danielson and wild minded pop music should pay close attention.
Donkeys, The: Born With Stripes
San Diego's The Donkeys strike a balance of smiling, surfer mysticism and winking, slacker mystique. They reanimate the charming hallmarks of sunshine-rock past without being sepia-toned retro or bubblegum-cloying. There is an innate playfulness and honesty to the music they make. It's a dynamic that has made public champions of keen-eared musicians like John Darnielle (Mountain Goats) and Craig Finn (The Hold Steady). It was Darnielle who claimed The Donkeys were benevolent keepers of what he called "The Antidote" to an unnamed sickness plaguing indie rock. We liked that sentiment a great deal. Born With Stripes is an altogether less twangy affair than the band's 2008 Dead Oceans debut, Living On The Other Side. The nods to Grateful Dead and Buffalo Springfield are better balanced with echoes of other Cali arists, notably Pavement and Beck. The country-rock flairs are often overtaken by powerpop hooks. "Ceiling Tan," feels like a lost weekend in Tijuana with Mutations and Crooked Rain, and may well be the band's mission statement. "I Like The Way You Walk" also cops a 90s' alt-rock lick, but ditches any esoterica for earnest yearnings and sweet nothings. However, as all four Donkeys shout-sing "Love you with all my heart!" to close out the tune, one gets the sense it's less a love song than a lament.
Night Beds: Country Sleep
Welcome to the sound of Winston Yellen and Night Beds, who in one stunning ten-track debut album Country Sleep, have shown that there is plenty of life left in the world of American music if you have the voice, the songs and the gift to touch hearts and souls. Think of a space between Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters/Sun Kil Moon), Gram Parsons and the dreamier side of My Morning Jacket; a heavenly place of pure country soul, touched by an endearing innocence and honesty that can only come from someone still in their early twenties. From Colorado Springs, and now a resident of Nashville where he first moved to study, Yellen?s road to Country Sleep has been anything but the straightest and easiest. In 2006, he formed Night Beds and self-released three rudimentary EPs between 2008 and 2011. Taking out a loan, Yellen rented an out-of-town, pre-civil war home in the woods that was previously owned by the late Johnny Cash and June Carter (and still maintained by the couple?s friends). Inspired by the serendipity of the discovery, he started working on Country Sleep, both in his country retreat and back in civilisation at Nashville?s Brown Owl studio.
Country Sleep begins with just a voice, a high and tender lament, for 71 precious seconds; a spirit to be reckoned with. Next up, a full band kicks up some dust behind a deliciously bittersweet melody. After that, more beautiful crooning unfolds over a violin/guitar backdrop that keeps building until the pace momentarily quickens to the sound of handclaps before a sudden, heart-aching fade. The album concludes with ?TENN?, as in Tennessee, written the next day after the night before, hungover and lost. Yellen admits the songs were often born out of, ?destructive circumstances, and many varied attempts to sedate myself.?
Indeed, anyone listening to Country Sleep ? whose title harks back to the ?night bed? in the back of his car ? will also find the record a cathartic experience.