Colin Stetson is one of those rare musicians who successfully creates harmony from discord. In each of his New History Warfare albums, he constructs via saxophone, if only to deconstruct, to tear down the walls of sound from around him and to arrange them in a strangely beautiful manner. And New History Warfare III: To See More Light is no different– if anything, it further proves Stetson’s worth in the avant-garde community– but the most interesting choice regarding the album is Justin Vernon’s featured vocals. Laurie Anderson’s vocals were comforting on Judges, but they weren’t as blatant as Vernon’s are here. I rather like the change-up, though, because the album functions well with more of a vocal centerpiece to guide the chaos. Besides, Stetson makes sure the vocals are distorted just enough to fit the destructive panoramic picture he paints with the saxophone.
Colin Stetson has released a few tracks off the upcoming album thus far, but the one that’s probably most representative of the overall album’s sound is “High Above a Grey Green Sea.” Listen to the track, and see where it takes you. If nothing else, you’ll at least be damned shocked at how much sound one man’s capable of making.
Keep an eye out for New History Warfare III: To See More Light, out on April 30th, 2013 on Constellation Records.
The French trio Blaak Heat Shujaa certainly know how to capture the laid-back vibe of California on their new full-length The Edge Of An Era (Tee Pee). The band delivers psychedelic desert rock that’s equally indebted to the Eastern mysticism of Om and the groove-laden jamming of Kyuss. After all, the record was produced by Scott Reader himself, and it makes for a trippy, if at times overly familiar ride.
The song that clearly stands out amid the haze is penultimate “Pelham Blue.” The tune sees the trio collaborating with legendary Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson’s fame. Needless to say, it’s sheer bliss. The style of the band superbly complements Lalli’s dreamy vocals and trippy imagery, which momentarily bring to mind the best Fatso Jetson songs. Lalli’s knack for crafting spellbinding melodies is in a class by itself, and Blaak Heat Shujaa accompany his performance with their most evocative intrumental work to date. The effect isone of the most ravishing songs of the year. Don’t forget to breathe, don’t forget to open your eyes…
I’m beginning to think that I have some sort of affinity with bands from Louisiana. Just two years ago, I awarded my album of the year to little known indie-pop outfit Givers and their debut LP ‘In Light’. While that feat won’t be achieved in 2013 by the quintet I’m about to introduce you to, The Pelican State has once more delivered a band that has been on high rotation on my playlist of late.
Having initially caught my attention with one of those gimmicky self-proclaimed genres, Super Water Sympathy walk the talk on their second LP ‘Hydrogen Child’. The aforementioned self-labeling is that of “water pop”, but one gets the feeling that the term has only been created because it sounds better than “alternative indie pop-rock”.
Below is ‘Uh Oh!’; the lead single and album opener from ‘Hydrogen Child’. A bouncy and deceptively catchy tune where each instrument gets a chance to shine without dominating proceedings, it provides the framework for the eleven tracks which follow.
Devo’s first LP, 1978’s Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo is a chopping board of insane ideas that somehow work. Underneath the madcap dress code, jerky rhythms and daft subject matters lies a dark heart. ‘Space Junk’, once its lyrics are studied, is something of a post-apocalyptic fever dream; the world is laid to waste by falling cosmic debris. Poor Sally…she never stood a chance.
Well she was walking all alone
Down the street in the alley
Her name was Sally
I never touched her, she never saw it
When she was hit by space junk
When she was hit by space junk
When she was hit by space junk
“In New York, Miami beach
Heavy metal fell in Cuba
On Christmas eve”, said Norad
A soviet sputnik hit Africa
It’s falling fast
It keeps coming, it keeps coming, it keeps coming
And now I’m mad about space junk
I’m all burned out about space junk
Walk and talk about space junk
It smashed my baby’s head, space junk
And now my sally’s dead, space junk
In ‘My Childhood Friend’, Swedish post rockers Dorena have offered up one of the best surprises of the year so far. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t. Just give it a listen. For a genre that’s been criticized in recent years for becoming too stale and predictable, this is a much welcome blast of fresh air.
Okay, so is it just me or is R&B getting, like, too good lately? 2011 saw The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Drake and others, but those were the “cool” artists who were primed, in a way, to release some deliciously trendy beats and hooks with the latest producer close behind them. But look at 2012: Miguel, always a fantastic singer but never a captivating artist, had both the catchiest single and corresponding album in “Adorn” and Kaleidoscope Dream, respectively. Then there’s Jeremih, the dude who wrote, uh, “Birthday Sex”–he showed up with his Late Nights mixtape, a mainstay in the car-playlist rotation for those lucky enough to have sought it out on Datpiff.
Now we have Ciara, of all people, releasing the jam of at least the first quarter of the year. I don’t even really know who Ciara is–I had to YouTube “1, 2 Step” to remember its melody–but this has to be the last straw. Produced by Mike Will Made It (who also took the reins on Jeremih’s similarly awesome “773 Love”), “Body Party” is so convincingly sexy and catchy and lush that I’m pretty sure all R&B artists are forming a cabal and want to demobilize me with an onslaught of jams or something like that (also: that new Justin Timberlake album). It’s a conspiracy, guys. But what a sexy conspiracy it is.
The other day someone asked me if I’m familiar with Clutch, and I was like: HAHAHA. Here’s their new song from their upcoming album Earth Rocker which is set to be released on March 19th. “Crucial Velocity” juxtaposes darkly tinged riffs with sing-along chorus and, most of all, it grooves like hell. The futuristic themes known from the outfit’s previous albums come back in full force. Neil Fallon is all about his “rocket 88″ that’s “fastest in the land” making a nice allegory to the great power of imagination. “Unpredictable times call for the reliable friend” after all.
Despite being formed in 2009, Sans Parade – an indie-rock trio two thirds Finnish and one third Swedish (amongst a studio support cast of several others) – had released only a handful of songs prior to last month, when they released their self-titled debut album. For that, they had good reason. They were working on it.
The band described their journey to the album’s release as ‘long and arduous’, and it’s easy to hear why when listening to the album opener ‘The Last Song is a Love Song’. Not that the song is strained, difficult, or heavy with conflict. It isn’t. Rather, it appears to have been meticulously crafted from the bottom up, thoughtfully structured and arranged, and fastidiously tinkered with to achieve the most accomplished opening statement the band could ask of themselves.
It’s obvious in the choice of instruments, the way they’re played, what they’re accompanied with and when: they’ve all been given a consideration rarely seen amongst fresh upstarts, let alone more experienced outfits. The familiar quiet-loud post-rock dynamic is employed with no eye-roll backlash; instead, the guitar-embellished string section behind singer Markus Pertulla is dynamic and expressive, offering a contained, delicate intensity in the verses, swelling at the bridge, and then throwing it all to the sky for the eruptive chorus. It’s a chorus that begs to be played loud, and you’d do well to oblige.
It’s clear that Sans Parade have not just aimed for, but doggedly pursued, a first impression…
London-by-way-of-New-Zealand rockers the Veils recently debuted the new single from their upcoming fourth album Time Stays, We Go, the first bit of proper new material since 2009’s Sun Gangs (the less said about 2011’s EP Troubles of the Brain, the better). Frontman Finn Andrews (son of XTC founder Barry Andrews) has always been a combustible sort – his vocal performance tends to range anywhere from stately and forlorn to bloodied and raw, sometimes all on the same song (see opener “Not Yet” off their classic 2006 album Nux Vomica) – and nothing seems to have cooled the fire in his voice in the intervening years since they last appeared on the scene. Yet that album begged the question of just what all this emotional turmoil was really accomplishing; an accumulation of dramatic hard times that seemed more exhausting than cathartic, the end result of a band never quite seeming to capitalize on that consistent “underrated” label to achieve greater indie success? “Through The Deep, Dark Wood” sweeps away all the hesitant trifles of Troubles of the Brain and embraces Andrews’ inherent talent for stirring anthems, the thud of the drums and the whipcrack of the guitars marrying Andrews’ stark, powerful vocals to a thrilling hook. “No, I can’t go back,” Andrews wails on that cleansing chorus, and while that may not be true, strictly speaking (this song would have fit right at home on either Nux Vomica or their 2004 debut The Runaway Found), “Through The…
Georgia sludge metal outfit Kylesa are set to release their new album Ultraviolet on May 28th. The follow-up to 2010’s well-received Spiral Shadow is going to be way more ominous. The first song that has just dropped is an ideal indicator of that. “Unspoken” incorprates a notable post-punk influence into the band’s signature sludge metal. As a result, the track is atmospheric and crushing in turns, taking full advantage of its groovy bass lines and understated guitar solos. Add contrasting vocals of singer/guitarists Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants to that and you’re left with one of the most intriguing tracks of the young year. One can only wonder if Kylesa are capable of retaining such a high level of song craft throughout the entire album.
Here’s how Pleasants describes the new direction of the band:
“Whereas Spiral Shadow was a warm album suggesting concepts of hope, Ultraviolet is a bit colder and darker. All of our studio albums have their own unique identity and we’ve always been a band who strives for something different than what current fads suggest. With Ultraviolet, we took a step inward and wrote music that we felt we had to write; this album centers around the multiple themes of loss and you can feel it in the music. Everyone goes through it during their lifetime and this record reflects that experience.”
I’ve always found it difficult to express to other musicians why I find indie music* so intriguing. Instrumentally, there usually isn’t much there — indie tends to be vocally driven, minimal, and frankly a bit repetitive. (* what is indie music? whatever I want it to be for this post)
The new single ‘White Leather’ by Wolf Alice doesn’t break this mold. It consists of a simple four measure riff that repeats throughout the entire song. In the chorus they add a second riff. That’s it.
Liverpool-based Ninetails have spent the past twelve months picking up plaudits and fans like there’s no tomorrow, all of it well deserved. A clinical sound and unwavering attention to detail led to the creation and release of last year’s Slept And Did Not Sleep EP; a fine record that shows a group very much in control of their talent and potential. Not much else to say here except “enjoy”!
Download the EP for a price of your choosing HERE.
The evergreen jazz merchant-cum-voodoo warrior Dr. John is probably the type of person who you could file neatly under ‘Seen It All’. It was perhaps a surprise, even with his long track record, that 2012’s Locked Down LP was as free, easy and palatable as it came to be. Written, recorded and produced heavily in conjunction with Black Keys’ mainman Dan Auerbach, the album is one that sees the 72 year old doctor grab a new lease of life with both hands.
Tracks such as “Revolution” and the record’s eponymous effort show a certain fire; understandable for a New Orleans native who will have looked on in horror as his hometown was almost swept away. However, it’s “Ice Age” that stands out the most. A subtle sense of anger and exasperation pour out of the Dr’s mouth, taking aim at those who like “smoking crack and final blunts” and who “ain’t got a cent”; those who fiddle as Rome burns. Maybe it’s a missive against the parts of New Orleans that have been slow to recover. Perhaps it’s a rant against the wider world. It doesn’t matter, as such themes are very pertinent wherever you are. That’s the saddest thing of all, but if anyone can ease you into the gloom with a message and rhythm, then it’s this guy.
Having previously reviewed all three of the band’s albums, I guess it is fair to state that I am Sputnik Music’s undisputed expert in all things British India. From their exciting – if derivative – debut LP ‘Guillotine’, through to disappointing follow-up ‘Thieves’ and solid – if unspectacular – latest release ‘Avalanche’, there has always been some kind of appeal to yours truly… And it has nothing to do with the fact that they’re Melbourne boys like my good self.
Despite the occasional glimpse of promise, however, their two most recent LPs have felt as if the quartet were chasing their tail… Making do, without really progressing to a significant extent. Could that be about to change with the release of new single ‘I Can make You Love Me’? While still definitively British India – especially the yelping vocals of Declan Melia – it definitely took me a little by surprise with its build-up and dynamics. Sure, it still may not be breaking any new ground per se, but it feels like a genuine step forward for a band who I’ve always deemed to have potential.
As for the video; well, who wouldn’t love a drunk, pissed-off, lovelorn and karaoke-singing minotaur wandering the streets in the dark of the night? Hell, I think I’ve felt similarly myself on occasions. Hang on a tick, I think I also saw those identical views… I’ve definitely cursed Festival (aka Festering) Hall once or twice!
At the end of July, Animal Collective released “Today’s Supernatural,” the single from their upcoming release Centipede Hz due out in early September. Before listening to the track, the reemergence of Deakin has been tremendous as seen on the Honeycomb / Gotham split. One might think after the critically acclaimed, and Deakin-less, Merriweather Post Pavilion that Animal Collective would be better without Deakin’s trippy riffs. Yet, after listening to “Gotham,” where the guitar riffs drip like a hot rain, it is clear that the depth and layering of their sound is much more developed than before.
That brings us back to “Today’s Supernatural,” a frantically uptempo track that defines the growth since Strawberry Jam. The track is unusually heavy (reminiscent of “For Reverend Green”), with Panda Bear’s masterful percussion skills throbbing throughout, while Avey Tare shows a multitude of vocal dynamics and moods. Lyrically, Tare paints a picture of the willingness to adventure beyond some mundane life and quite literally ‘letting go’ and enjoying the ride. How the bookend of this ride will sound remains to be seen, but we damn well know Centipede Hz will be an interesting trip, as always.