Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Of Montreal - Daughter of Cloud (Polyvinyl, 2012)

Of Montreal
Daughter of Cloud

Rating: 4 pairs of cargo shorts out of 10

More indie rock disco from Of Montreal.  This is a compilation of random tracks recorded from 2007 until present day, which seems to coincide pretty well with their morphing into a white funk band.  As I've not been particularly interested in this turn the group made I'm not sure why I even bothered to listen to this, I guess old habits die hard.  But if you like what they have become, you'll probably like this.  Not for me though.  Not worth writing much else either.    

Friday, October 26, 2012

Divine Fits - A Thing Called Divine Fits (Merge, 2012)

Divine Fits
A Thing Called Divine Fits

Rating: 7.5 bloody sheds out of 10

Divine Fits, "super group," blah blah blah.  I guess anytime you get people from established bands doing a new thing together, the label gets dropped.  I don't even know that it's a bad thing or a good thing, it's just...a thing.  But when you have two people with very distinctive & well known voices handling all of the vocals - in this case Britt Daniel from Spoon and Dan Boeckner from Handsome Furs & Wolf Parade - it honestly doesn't even feel like a "group," more like a compilation of unheard Spoon and Handsome Furs songs.  I'm not even complaining about that, as I love both bands, but anyone coming into this project looking for something new or different is going to be disappointed.  I expect this will get a lot of plays out of me though, my love of the Handsome Furs allowing me to pretend this is a new album by them and they didn't really break up. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth (Merge, 2012)

The Mountain Goats
Transcendental Youth

Rating: 7 pieces of hard candy out of 10

I never feel smart enough to review The Mountain Goats, as I'm quite sure John Darnielle is doing and saying things much more complex than what I get from his music.  I'm not a big lyrics guy, mostly focusing on melody, and Darnielle is probably one of the best lyricists around.  Or so I'm told, cause really, unless the words to a song are Top-40 brain dead stupid I'm probably not even registering them. 

But I have listened to a lot of Mountain Goats records, so I can at least compare it to those.  This one continues the hi-fi, mature version of the Goats that has been going on for the last few records - full band, recorded in a studio and not on a boom box, all that sort of thing.  No matter how much you might like the old version of the group, it's gone - you gotta love them this way or I guess not love them at all anymore.  "Transcendental Youth" had two instantly strong, very upbeat tracks that I was struck by immediately - "Cry for Judas" and "The Diaz Brothers".  Two of the better Goats songs in a few years IMO, I skipped back to both multiple times.  The rest of the album is fine - pretty, mellow, a little adult contemporary even, but mostly exactly what you expect from Mountain Goats. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Knock Knock - We Will Raise Your Child (Test Pattern, 2012)

Knock Knock
We Will Raise Your Child
Test Pattern

Rating: 6.5 fluttering leaves out of 10

When you review records you get emailed a lot of random crap.  Some catches your attention, some doesn't; some is good, some is awful, most is mediocre and not even worth noting.  In the email I got for Knock Knock I saw they were from Sacramento and it mentioned the great goofy punk band The Bananas, and now I was paying attention.  

Well, this doesn't sound anything like the Bananas. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit disappointed.  They're not even a part of that garage-punk-pop-goof rock tradition that Sacramento has done so well for years, despite the silly image portrayed on the cover of this release.  Once I got past my disappointment, it's not a bad little indie pop record - catchy songs, lots of harmonized male and female vocals, and what feels like a lot of instruments being played on top of each other some of the time.  If I was told this was a side project of some of those Broken Social Scene kids, I'd probably believe it.  It's all very pleasant and enjoyable and if it got to the right set of ears it could surely enjoy a little college radio success.  I guess even old Sacramento punks mellow out and play dad rock eventually.  Ain't nothing wrong with that...

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Ceiling Stares & The Super Vacations - Split 7'' (Sweaters & Pearls / Velocity of Sound, 2011)

The Ceiling Stares & The Super Vacations
Split 7''
Sweaters & Pearls / Velocity of Sound

Rating: 7 theoretical candidates out of 10

I knew nothing of The Ceiling Stares before listening to this seven inch - apparently, they're from Pittsburgh and their song "A Tunnel Through the Air" had been previously released, just not on vinyl.  Jangly, a little bit of drone/shoegaze - pretty straight-forward indie fare really, but not drab or boring.  Kinda sounds like a thousand songs I've listened to over the last few years going for the lo-fi garage-psych thing, but one of the better of those thousand.

I was aware of the band on the flipside of the slab though - The Super Vacations.  They're from Virginia and play down here in Raleigh a fair amount, and I've heard good things from friends even if I haven't managed to see them myself.  They fit in two songs (the record is set to 33 1/3), more upbeat numbers than what the Ceiling Stares brought - punk-infused indie rock, reminding me (but not really sounding like) the Triangle's beloved Whatever Brains.  Of these two bands this is my preferred one, and I really need to get off my ass and see them next time they come to town. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Godspeed You! Black Emperor - 'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend (Constellation, 2012)

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
'Allelujah! Don't Bend Ascend

Rating: 7.5 double plays out of 10

I often think of Godspeed You! Black Emperor as the godfathers of instrumental post-rock... not because they were the first to play this style of music or are the most popular, but they just seem the most...important.  I realize this is mostly me talking out of my ass, but their music seems like it is more than just a gang of Canadian musicians playing long songs with no vocals, it feels much more special than that.  Maybe I'm reading more into their music than I should, but based on the most recent live viewing of the band a lot of other guys between 30 and 40 who don't like to shave feel the same way. 

Anyways, first record in a decade, four songs in a little under an hour, blah blah blah, all the shit all the other reviewers are saying.  Bottom line - it's awesome.  Opening track "Mladic" at nearly 20 minutes long is worth the price of the album by itself.  The song gets so heavy around the middle that they venture into metal territory.  Really beautiful stuff.  The other epic track "We Drift Like Worried Fire" is also a fine addition to their canon, though not as heavy as the first.  The other two are just noisy filler for my money, but I'm sure the avant-whatever folks will dig it. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Beachwood Sparks - The Tarnished Gold (Sub Pop, 2012)

Beachwood Sparks
The Tarnished Gold
Sub Pop

Rating: 6.5 empty streets out of 10

Once upon a time Beachwood Sparks released one of the most perfect country rock records of all time, "Once We Were Trees," then pretty much broke up soon thereafter (yeah there was an EP too but let's not ruin the narrative).  And just like they seemed to disappear for no reason, they reappeared in 2012 with a new record seemingly out of the blue.  "The Tarnished Gold" sounds very much like a follow up full-length for OWWT, with all of the Byrds and Gram Parsons and Flying Burrito Brothers comparisons still fully applicable.  If I didn't know better I'd actually assume this was recorded right after OWWT and they just got around to releasing it, but all the press tells me otherwise and who am I to argue.  

One thing I will say, and I'm not even sure how exactly to explain it, but I don't feel the magic I felt off of OWWT when I listen to this new record.  It's pretty, and I'm sure I'll listen a few times, but I still listen to OWWT all of the time. Not sure "The Tarnished Gold" will have the same staying power for me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fat History Month - A Gorilla EP (Sweaters and Pearls, 2012)

Fat History Month
A Gorilla EP
Sweaters and Pearls

Rating: 6.5 packets of horseradish out of 10

This Fat History Month release is both an EP and a seven inch, four songs packed on a slab of translucent yellow vinyl.  And it's set to play at 33 1/3, which always screws with you the first time you listen cause you set it to 45 like most seven inches and you get a helium-voiced mouse singing back at you.  

As for the music, I'm going to throw it into the "folky art rock" bucket, as that is the closest fit.  I hear some Joan of Arc and some early Modest Mouse...it feels like something I would have been enamored with somewhere between 1995 and 1997, when a lot of bands seemed to be heading down this musical path.  I still dig it though; especially the first song on the flip side of the record, "Heart Takes a Beating" - it's the most upbeat of the bunch, actually reminding me a bit of one of the Triangle's local treasures Lonnie Walker...ramshackle and adventurous but built on a pop base.  The band apparently also has a full-length record out, and this is interesting enough to make me want to hear more. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lower Dens - Nootropics (Ribbon, 2012)

Lower Dens

Rating: 8 tin cans out of 10

Baltimore - so hot right now!  Add Lower Dens to the list of hot-shit band's coming out of the the home of "The Wire."  Actually, maybe you already added them after their debut "Twin-Hand Movement," a fine record but not nearly as impressive as this one.  You can feel the band's growth here, and while the elements that make up this new batch of songs might be the same the construction feels different - more confident maybe, more comfortable in their own skin, or some such claptrap.  To boil it down to it's simplest terms, this band is what you'd get if Blonde Redhead listened to a ton of Kraftwerk and Can and then wrote a new record under that influence.  Since they are also from Baltimore you'll also hear comparisons to Beach House, but for my money Lower Dens are far superior musicians and songwriters.  The opening three tracks "Alphabet Song," "Brains," and "Stem" (with the last two basically functioning as one track) are as strong an intro as an album can possibly have.  From there you're just sucked in.