Bowerbirds: The Clearing
The Clearing is the third album by the Bowerbirds, and as is often the case for bands that have found steady success, they had more time and better resources to make it. This is a bigger record, then, with bolder sounds and a broader scope. Thing is, these songs don't cede to the increased production demands. The guitars and strings, codas and bridges simply make these thoughts more urgent, more vital and more necessary, but not one bit less permanent.
A Place To Bury Strangers: Onwards to the Wall
Onwards to the Wall packs every bit of the searing sonic maelstrom listeners have come to expect (nay, demand!) from Brooklyn's A Place To Bury Strangers. Yet, the adroit songcraft that's always been there is brought more the fore, pop hooks are repurposed and more instantly recognizable. Now joined by bassist Dion Lunadon, formerly of The D4, Ackerman has found a crucial companion in pulling timeless melodies from their jet engine textures. Standout "So Far Away" takes all the pure pop perfection of The Box Tops' "The Letter" and shoots it through with a barely-harnessed dark energy and snarling propulsion. The title track carries a similar balance of classic, 60s-pop hooks and doomed-out vibes, employing a boy-girl vocal tradeoff that's at once both sexy and menacing. A handful of contemporary bands are currently exploring the new limits of loud. And here, APTBS proves that they have not only been leading that charge for some time now, but that they are also evolving and maturing on those front lines.Onwards to the Wall is a fresh, complete artistic statement from APTBS. It's a new chapter, a prelude for what awaits us on the horizon. It is a taste of greatness to come.
Gauntlet Hair: My Christ
The indieverse is slopping wet with reverb right now. And so are the songs of Gauntlet Hair. But the band uses the effect in a wholly different way than their peers. Instead of using reverb as a gauze, Gauntlet Hair uses its curvature and decay to form and push the melodies, to further shape the songs. Andy R.'s guitar strikes on "My Christ" leave these twinkling chemtrails behind then, each getting thwacked through with Craig Nice's huge-ass snare cracks. It's unrelenting in the way that Jane's Addiction or INXS could be. B-Side "Need to Retire" is a blink-and-you'll-miss it pop torpedo with a grinning, super-market singsongy "oooh oooh oooh" chorus. Meanwhile, the second B-Side track "Minimal Armageddon" is almost like a peek behind Gauntlet Hair's creative curtain. It paints an unsettling, barren landscape, with a lone menacing guitar egging on the white, metallic explosions on the horizon.
The Tallest Man On Earth: Shallow Grave
The Tallest Man on Earth released one of 2008's most powerful records, one that Pitchfork praised, calling Kristian Matsson "a natural-born folksinger, earnest, clever, and comforting." Shallow Grave could not have been more simple, just Matsson's commanding vocals with an acoustic guitar or banjo, recorded at his home in Dalarna, Sweden. Although the album was released on the Swedish label Gravitation without the help of widespread distribution, the story of The Tallest Man on Earth spread far and wide through word of mouth. In April 2010 The Tallest Man on Earth released the critically acclaimed album The Wild Hunt and has played dozens of sold-out shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Now, Gravitation is pleased to make Shallow Grave widely available on vinyl for the first time.
Blackout Beach: Fuck Death
The record is a sibling to the last Blackout Beach record, Skin of Evil. But the longing in Fuck Death is not romantic; these are deserter's songs, coward's songs. I am all for reassessing cowardice. The most important lyric on Fuck Death is "run away". It's a bit heavy, especially because the dominant 2011 story is that kids want to live on an invisible beach within their hearts and party this stuff away. But not all kids scorn uneasiness. And not all music is made for kids.
I recorded Fuck Death myself, which might be a 2011 thing to do; by that I mean that this record could not have been made with anyone else, anywhere else. I used three synthesizers (two mono, one poly), two drum machines, and one guitar amplifier. Megan Boddy sings with me on most of the songs. I thank her for that. -- Carey Mercer, Blackout Beach
The Luyas / Twin Sister: Split
The Luyas and Twin Sister are close friends and mutual admirers, and what better way to celebrate their kinship than have each of them take up the side of a 7" single. Both songs on this 7" are exclusive to the release. Twin Sister's song "Meet the Frownies" was recorded for the ongoing Weathervane Music project, while the Luyas contribute the exquisite pop song, "When I Am a Woman." Both bands enchant us with their space-age pop leanings, and together these two songs make up a perfect double A-side of sonic greatness.
Gauntlet Hair: Gauntlet Hair
Over the last year and a half, Gauntlet Hair has seen its noise-pop anthems released on 7"s by tastemaker labels Forest Family ("I Was Thinking..." b/w "Our Scenery") and Mexican Summer ("Out, Don't..." b/w "Heave") respectively. And with the self-titled debut, the duo of Andy R (guitar, vox) and Craig Nice (drums, triggers) fulfill the booming promise of those now collectible singles.
Written and recorded in Spring 2011 at Andy's grandmother's Chicago-area house while she was away on vacation, Gauntlet Hair is a subtle refinement of the sounds we've come to associate with the band -- the trunk-rattling bass; the ecstatic, tinny post-punk guitar; the din of ecstasy. But what was once simply jarring in its audacity is now also bursting with new colors. While the band continues to mine the pulse-and-clap cues of modern club rap, the intricacies of Andy's Durutti Column-inspired, circular guitar lines come a bit more to the fore on Gauntlet Hair. They are at once oblique and; pounding and glassy; melodic and exploratory. Standout "Top Bunk," with its tide-like suction and throb, is a cooled-out, coastal slowgrind. The songs multiple sections overlap and interlace through bass throb, elliptical guitars and affably shouted and falsetto-sung mantras. It's a shining, disorienting example of the careful, Byzantine sculpture behind each of these party jams. It's music made with the sole purpose of losing yourself -- both mind and body -- inside of it. They take the listener into the red, evoking that unmistakable feeling of being squarely in front of the speaker as it is screaming blissfully loud melodies.
Nurses return with Dracula, the follow-up to their 2009 homemade psych gem Apple's Acre. Dracula is steeped in the strange pop brew that bore Apple's Acre, with the band's unmistakable elastic melodies, heady pop hooks and unconventional knack for catchy songwriting that gets under your skin. But where Apple's Acre was an insular album, recorded primarily in an attic in Idaho using just an internal Macbook microphone and primitive recording software, Dracula is bursting. It's bolder, heavier, with deep grooves, dubby basslines and a focus on rhythm. It's an album with pure physical qualities. Apple's Acre was an album made for headphones; Dracula needs a sound system. What has not changed is the undeniable constant in Nurses' body of work: their immediate and catchy pop songs. The band embraces hooks and melodies--yes, they turn them upside down and inside out--but at their core, the band (and Dracula) are defined by pop songwriting.
Sun Airway: Wild Palms b/w Symphony in White, No. 2
"Wild Palms" b/w "Symphony in White, No. 2" is the first taste of new material from Sun Airway since the release of their acclaimed debut, Nocturne of Exploded Crystal Chandelier. Following tours with Bear in Heaven, Cults, Small Black, Lower Dens and more, the band went back into the studio and emerged with this stunning new single.On this 7" the band's modern sounds glance backwards, with faint 80s pop melodies sneaking into the band's repertoire. Although the sounds are lush, subtle and carefully crafted, Sun Airway once again proves the songwriting comes first, writing instantly classic pop tunes on their new single.
The Tallest Man On Earth: The Tallest Man On Earth EP
The Tallest Man on Earth released one of 2008's most powerful records, one that Pitchfork praised, calling Kristian Matsson "a natural-born folksinger, earnest, clever, and comforting." Shallow Grave could not have been more simple, just Matsson's commanding vocals with an acoustic guitar or banjo, recorded at his home in Dalarna, Sweden. Although the album was released on the Swedish label Gravitation without the help of widespread distribution, the story of The Tallest Man on Earth spread far and wide through word of mouth. In April 2010 The Tallest Man on Earth released the critically acclaimed album The Wild Hunt and has played dozens of sold-out shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Now, Gravitation is pleased to make both Shallow Grave and the Tallest Man on Earth's self-titled EP (originally released in 2006), widely available on CD for the first time.
Destroyer is Dan Bejar from Vancouver, British Columbia.
Kaputt is his latest vision: an opulent, lyrical, game-changing masterpiece to rank with the choicest works of Sade, Scritti Politti, Simply Red and Steely Dan. For a more contemporary touchstone, feel free to consider it the sad-eyed psychic cousin of GAYNGS' smooth opus Relayted. These elaborate songs were lovingly crafted by a large studio ensemble of dedicated players; they are given fresh life on the road by an eight-piece touring band which will visit European shores for the first time this year.
Kaputt was released by the good people of Merge in North America, entering the Billboard chart at number 62 and receiving exultant hosannas from such august publications as The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin and The Washington Post.
Pitchfork awarded it their Best New Music accolade, noting that "Kaputt feels wise. Like a mirror that actually points back at something better. Something you can jam and let wash over you, but also something you can use. It feels funny, tragic, artful, and ultimately true."
Dead Oceans are honoured to be Destroyer's new home for the UK and Europe.
Welcome to Avalon, people. This is a paradigm shift.
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.