“Brazil…Where Hearts Were Entertaining June”, aka, The Inaugural ‘Let Me Promote Your Band for You!’ Post, aka, Top Surprise & Wools Are the Shit!

Sup y’all!

This is going to be the first in a series of posts promoting new not-quite-up-and-coming-but-definitely-getting-there bands that I think deserve your recognition.  This week’s pack comes straight to you from Brazil, which means five bucks to anyone who gets the title reference.

Number one on our list is Top Surprise.  After just trashing the current state of DIY in the Captured Tracks post, I figure it’d be best to at least try and show the upside of things.  So for all you poptimists out there, here’s Top Surprise.  Top Surprise is everything you’ve ever wanted from a noise pop band and more.  It’s three guys and a girl from Brazil that understand not all DIY has to be an afterthought of mid-nineties noise and lo-fi.  Everything Must Go goes waaaay back to late-sixties, early-seventies protopunk movements.  The Stooges-esque riffs on “Home”, the brilliantly nonsensical (I don’t speak Portuguese) John Cale ramblings of “Legarto Drugs”, and of course the album’s Jonathan-Richman-meets-Tornados centerpiece, “I Shoot the Devil”.  Everything from the shitgaze production quality down to the self-started record label screams what DIY once was and it what it should be.

Everything Must Go is out now on Pug Records.

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Next up we have Wools.  I want you all to stop and take note.  Six months down the line, when Wools takes over Sleigh Bells’ title as the most-blogged about nextbigthing, I want you to remember that you heard it here first.  With love.  From me to you.

I have a knack for new genres.  With all the indie, DIY and revivalist movements that dominated the past two decades I think it’s incredible when a band can still come up with something entirely new when everything’s been done already.  This is part of the reason why I got into Oneohtrix Point Never, part of the reason why I jumped on the chillwave bandwagon last year, part of the reason why Crunk Rock had been my most anticipated album of the year.  Chillwave was fun while it lasted but it was a pretty static genre all together.  It’s peak was premature and what remained was just a glimmer in Alan Palomo and Ernest Greene’s eyes.

But apparently I was wrong, or at least Hugo Alfredo Gomes thinks so.  When there was no way left of going up, Mr. Gomes decided to go ambient.  What we’re talking about is an entirely new genre all together.  It’s chillwave, glitch, ambient and drone all rolled up into a neat little package.  And now that package seems like it’s bursting at the seams.  Going Home Now? is almost too big for it’s own good, though not necessarily in a bid way.  Considering it was created on a modest desktop PC, I’m admittedly kinda baffled as to how Wools was able to pull off a recording this rich, textured and original.  Props to them and props to Editions Mego for signing them in a few months (I’m calling that one too).

Go Home Now? is out now on Mimi.

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Hanoi Janes :: Year of Panic (2010); Beach Fossils :: Beach Fossils (2010); Wild Nothing :: Gemini (2010)

There are certain record labels that will never fail to impress me no matter what they put out.  Example: Thurston Moore could take a shit on a turntable, slap the “Ecstatic Peace!” label on it, and I’d still probably think it’s the greatest thing since I Trust My Guitar, Etc. The way I see it, a record label is only by defined by the types of artists it enlists, and it seems to me that a lot more labels today becoming aware of this fact.  Woodsist, Mexican Summer and Brah, in particular, have all become characterized by a certain “sound”, each filling its appropriate niche in the indie community.

Enter Captured Tracks; one of the newest additions to the group of labels that celebrates itself.  Over the past couple months, Captured Tracks has been trying to capitalize on the beach-friendly garage pop sound that’s been dominating NPR for the past year or so (and just in time for summer I might add).  And while the label doesn’t fill niches that aren’t already comfortably inhabited by the three mentioned earlier, they’re trying pretty damn hard.  These three bands, Hanoi Janes, Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing, are an eclectic mix, but when put in the context of the same label it becomes very obvious just how well they’re complimented by both each other and the label.  So without further adieu, I give you your Captured Tracks Triple Pack.  Sift through it, do what you will.  Just promise me “Chinatown” winds up on your Fourth of July playlist.

First up, we’ve got Oliver Scharf, aka Hanoi Janes.  Year of Panic is pretty straight up lo-fi garage punk.  Sounds boring, right?  Wrong.  In keeping with the label’s whole new sounds of summer aesthetic, Hanoi Janes is definitely more parts Beach Boys than Blood Visions.  After last year’s influx of roughshod DIY acts (Wavves, Meth Teeth, Blank Dogs) it’s nice to hear the genre being approached from a different angle.  At about half and hour and change, Year of Panic is short and sweet.  All-in-all it’s a pretty nice set up for…

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…Beach Fossils!  Beach Fossils’ debut sounds exactly like what the name implies.  At it’s core, Beach Fossils is skeletal (for lack of a better word), minimalist pop music.  Strict tempos, intertwining guitars and all.  But at the same time it’s got layers of the same droned-out surf pop acts like Bethany Cosentino & Co. have made so popular.  Think the xx meets Mexican Summer, but with more drugs.  Oh and speaking of drugs, up next we’ve got…

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…Wild Nothing!!!  Gemini is definitely the cream of the crop in this case.  I have to admit when “Confirmation” dropped late last year I was more or less unimpressed.  “Confirmation” sounded like an echo of its much more ambitious spiritual cousin, Ashes Grammar.  But by the time the full album leaked, I realized I had just been approaching the band from all the wrong angles.  Wild Nothing are the rare type of band that is able to reconcile the band they are and the band they would like to be.  You can tell what sort of heady, MBV-worthy sound they’re trying to create, without sounding as if they’re trying too hard.  What we’re left with is a heady mix of dream pop that’s not too balearic and shoegaze that’s not too angular (that’s where the drugs come in).  In short, Wild Nothing are a lo-fi band with hi-fi aspirations.  Also just look at that fucking album cover.

listen :: album :: artist :: label

Year of Panic, Beach Fossils and Gemini are all out now on Captured Tracks.

Oneohtrix Point Never :: Returnal (2010)

Daniel Lapotin baffles me.  Seriously.  As if there weren’t enough genre “revivals” throughout the past decade, here we have another New Yorker taking a stab at some type of old school revivalism.  Here’s the thing though.  We’re not talking about post punk or garage rock or other genres that we can attribute to helping shape today’s music scene.  No, that would be way too obvious.  Instead, what Lapotin’s (ask me how to pronounce it) Oneohtrix Point Never brings us is…Vangelis.  Not even tongue-in-cheek… Just full blown early-80s new age; vintage synths, nature sounds and all.

I have to admit, I thought last year’s Zones Without People was one of the best albums of the decade.  Maybe that’s just because I have a penchant for the Blade Runner soundtrack but that’s another story.  The truth is it was just something entirely original and unexpected.  Returnal definitely continues that trend, just a lot more textured.  Where Zones had plenty of comfortable empty spaces to compliment the dated synth sounds, Returnal fills in the gaps, definitely going for substance over style.  And between the brilliance of Zones and having recently signed to the same label that once hosted both Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke, Lopatin definitely had some big shoes to fill.  So it’s probably a good thing Returnal is as much of an accomplishment as it is.  If anything for the fact that never in a million years would I ever have expected to use the phrases “awesome” and “new age” in the same sentence.

Returnal is out 06/18 on Editions Mego.

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Kanye West (feat. Dwele) :: Power [Single] (2010)

Jesus, Kanye…

Where else was he supposed to go after the VMA thing??  After plaguing the world with Cudi and Mr Hudson?  After the motherfucking Cleveland Show?  “Power” is big.  Like bigger than “Jesus Walks” big.  The man’s been talking about “stadium status” for years but this is one of the first times we’ve ever actually heard him live up to that title.  At first I thought Kanye’s rumored venture into boom-bap sounded more insane than his experiments in austere synthpop, but I gotta admit this may just work out after all.  Oh…and did I mention there’s a King Crimson sample??  A FUCKING KING CRIMSON SAMPLE.

And as a self-proclaimed Taylor Swift fan (that’s right, fuck you) it kills me to hear Yeezy on another one of his 808s self-reflective emo rants:

“I embody every characteristic of the egotistic / ‘He knows / he’s so / fucking gifted'”

But how can I argue with that shit?

Good Ass Job is out September on Island Def Jam.

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Tame Impala :: Innerspeaker (2010)

Hey, remember that time i said I was going to update the blog more?  That was fun.

So I’ve had this post lined up for about a week and just never got around to hitting the “Publish” button.  But now it looks like Pitchfork beat me to the punch anyways.  Oh well.  Here it goes anyways.

Tame Impala are three dudes from Australia that make some pretty awesome psych pop… But with a twist.  Before I get into any of that let me just talk about the album itself for a bit.  Tame Impala are probably psych pop in its truest form.  They’re not what you typically consider today’s brand of Panda Bear-esque experimental psychedelia.  Instead, Innerspeaker is much more of a throwback to the psychedelic/neo-psychedelic eras of the late-sixties and mid-nineties.  Between the lush, effects-laden instrumentation and sprawling borderline-jam-band breaks, the album is a head trip to say the least.  If I were to sum it up, I’d say Tame Impala are something along the lines of Rod Argent meets Vision Creation Newsun.

Okay, now here’s the catch.  I really don’t mean to demean the band and you really should give them a chance for reasons other than this, but it still has to be said.  If you check out this album for one reason and one reason alone, let it be this: Tame Impala sound more like the Beatles than any other band since Abbey Road.

I’m not even kidding.  Paul McCartney didn’t do this good of a job recreating that Revolver/Sgt. Pepper transitional sound with his own solo work.  The first minute or so of the album keeps you guessing.  You kinda get the sense that this sounds all too familiar but you can’t really pinpoint from what or where exactly this feeling is coming from.  Then at about a minute and 20 seconds into it, the vocals come in and you practically shit yourself.  Or at least that’s how the first track went down for me.  And maybe the next 10 tracks after that.

So, yeah.  The Beatles.  Honestly, what other reason do you need?

Innerspeaker is out now on Modular.

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Sightings :: City of Straw (2010)

Ok, first off my bad for not having posted anything for the past three weeks or so.  What can I say though?  I’m in college, I’ve got finals.  But lucky for you that shit’s done and I can get back to updating this.

Second, this is Sightings.  Hopefully this album will make up for everything I haven’t posted this past month.

I think it’s hilarious the way Sightings present themselves on their artist page.  First there’s the quote about how the band has no “formal antecedent”, then there’s the whole thing about the “context of pop song-craft”.  And while 90% of the time if a band uses any combination of the phrases “experimental” and “pop sensibilities” to describe themselves it’s gonna be complete bullshit (Sonic Death Monkey?), Sightings may be the exception to that rule.  Similar to what I said about Yellow Swans, Sightings are a noise band at heart.  But like with YS, the album infringes so heavily on other genres that it’s difficult to label them as just that.  City of Straw is to genres like no wave and grunge what Going Places was to ambient music.  It’s definitely dissonant, but it’s not necessarily noise.

As for the whole pop song-craft thing, Sightings are about as pop as a no-wave-experimental-noise (?) band can get.  They’ve definitely got the structure down, but mind you that’s really all there is when it comes to no wave.  In fact, one of my favorite things about the album is that there’s this blatant constant disconnect between the finely structured rhythm section and the thrashing distorted guitars that push it towards the noise end of the spectrum (think SST-era Sonic Youth).  What was most surprising about the album, though, is that it’s actually pretty easily digestible considering how experimental it’s supposed to be.  I’d say for anyone who’s never really ventured into noise genres, Sightings would be up there with bands like the Jesus Lizard, Harvey Milk, etc. as a pretty decent jumping off point.

City of Straw is out now on Brah/Jagjaguwar.

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Brian Wilson :: Surf’s Up [Video] (1966)

I just wanted to post this video because I think this is the one of the most beautiful songs ever written.  “Surf’s Up” was first conceived for Brian Wilson’s Smile project in the mid-1960s.  If you don’t know the backstory behind Smile, it was originally intended as the Beach Boys’ epic follow-up to Pet Sounds.  But due to the sheer size of the project and Wilson’s increasingly frail mental state, the whole thing collapsed before it saw the light of day.  Still, this song in particular exemplifies just how brilliant of a songwriter and composer Wilson was.  WIlson’s keen pop sensibilities give way to changing tempos, abstract lyrics and peculiar chord progressions, to the point the only thing reminiscent of the group’s trademark surf pop seems to be the title.  This video was recorded in 1966 for a news special on pop music, which included some commentary by the album’s principal co-writer, Van Dyke Parks (you might know him as the producer/orchestral arranger of Joanna Newsom’s Ys).  “Surf’s Up” first appeared on the album of the same name in 1971, whereas the entire Smile project was eventually released in 2004 as a solo album by Brian Wilson.

No downloads today.  Just this.