Mini-Beats – February 2011 – Edition 36

Sam HumansHeligoatsLive Free & Let Loose Split 10″ (2011, Greyday) ♥♥♥
-a formidable pairing of Sam Humans (formerly Modernstate) and the former singer for Troubled Hubble now rolling as Heligoats; Portland’s SH is locked into that darker, folkie sound much like recent Lou Barlow offerings while Heligoats are more interested in weaving largely amusing sing-song tales to great effect-
EmeraldsDoes It Look Like I’m Here (2010, Emego) ♥♥♥½
-warm, synth-heavy drone with a knack for slowly elevating one’s heartbeat to ‘pure excitement’ level; this would have been a much better suit for the Tron OST than the horrid job Daft Punk did; I recommend this but caveat audiens, at 64 minutes its a little overbearing-
TennisCape Dory (2011, Fat Possum) ♥♥♥♥
-I was hoping this didn’t stray from the alarmingly endearing Specter-pop they presented on all the ’10 singles; it’s a harmless, worry-free listening experience that also lacks the pretension of others currently mining this territory-
Cat MatadorThe Address EP (2011, Beard Museum) ♥♥♥½
-compelling dream-pop that resides on the darker (but not gloomy) side of the fence; the violin and multi-part harmonies are used to great effect here; RIYL Interpol, British Sea Power
DestroyerKaputt (2011, Merge) ♥♥♥½
-if there’s anyone who could turn loungey jazz into something worth listening to more than a few times through, it’s Dan Bejar; though the bulk of your attention should be paid to his storytelling prowess which is still on point and perhaps at an all-time high (see: ‘Suicide Demo For Kara Walker’ & ‘Song For America’)-
BraidsNative Speaker (2011, Kanine) ♥♥♥½
-one of the most anticipated releases of ’11 based solely off the few singles they’ve trickled out into the blogosphere; i’d file this under the hypnotic variety of chill-wave with elements of trip-hop and tropicalia but what seals the deal is Raphaelle’s otherworldly singing; RIYL Glasser, St. Vincent
The Cave SingersNo Witch (2011, Jagjaguwar) ♥♥♥
-there’s definitely a bluesier feel to this album not necessarily present on previous efforts and it bogs down the more impressive spiritually-energized folk like ‘Swim Club’ & ‘All Land Crabs and Divinity Ghosts’; RIYL Two Gallants, Blitzen Trapper
You Say Party! We Say Die!Hit The Floor! (2005, Sound Document) ♥♥
-my, how far they’ve come since this inessential debut; it’s full of energy but lacking in staying power and there’s even a few moments of embarrassing disco-pop…stick to the newer stuff-
CarpenterSea To Sky (2010, Paper + Plastick) ♥♥♥
-artists mining the melodic emo-core/punk formula have a tendency to find themselves on the wrong end of the cat-o-nine-tails more times than not critically but these Canucks occasionally rip with focused intensity, anthemic choruses and populist ideals…an EP’s worth of genre gold here; we seem to both share an affinity for John Cougar…; RIYL The Milwaukees, Hot Rod Circuit, Piebald
SalemKing Night (2010, IAMSOUND) ♥♥½
-there’s no doubting this trio has stumbled onto something unique but when the doom-heavy shards of synth overpower the matter-of-fact style of rapping its like chalk on chalkboard; call this ‘witch house’, ‘drag’ or ‘grave-wave’ or whatever you want….the favorable hype was misleading and unjustified-
The FormsDerealization EP (2011, Ernest Jenning Recording Co.) ♥♥♥
-a collection of older songs ‘derealized’ with guest spots from Matt of The National, Craig W. of Shudder To Think and Andrew from Pattern Is Movement; there was plenty of room to wiggle with these songs to begin with…however, I prefer the warm, consistent texture of The Forms‘ tracks realized; of note, this is being pressed on 12″ with the band’s debut, Icarus, on the B-side-
Dirty BeachesBadlands (2011, Zoo) ♥♥♥
-unabashedly lo-fi and bleak…as a RateYourMusic friend put it ‘Elvis is yelling at us from hell‘; at 26 minutes its the perfect length, any longer and I’d have to ‘go get my gun’-
The HummsLemonland (2010, Gypsy Farm) ♥♥♥♥
-primarily the brainchild of Georgia’s Zeke Sayer; when he’s not hammering out swampland rockabilly (an attempt to soundtrack the next season of True Blood?) he’s gently plucking lite psyche-folk numbers; hard to believe this is their debut LP as its so impressive and, gosh darn, it’s a hoot to boot-
DeVotchKa100 Lovers (2011, Anti) ♥♥♥♥
-I find I’m always holding everything new up to everything old in the DeVotchKa catalog and that’s a mistake….even a mediocre LP from this camp is better than 95% of whatever else you’ve been listening to; 100 Lovers sees Nick’s vocals more being up front and ubiquitous than ever and there’s even a folk-mariachi offering for those yearning for the diversity found on How It Ends
Shugo TokumaruPort Entropy (2010, Polyvinyl) ♥♥♥♥
-I couldn’t care less that I don’t understand a lick of what Shugo is on about (unfortunately I haven’t retained any bit of Japanese as a result of my stay in Nippon), this is exquisite tinker-toy pop with an abundance of melody and arrangements; was never hot for his earlier albums but I feel he’s at the apex of his songwriting career after this LP-
AgallochMarrow Of The Spirit (2010, Viva Hate) ♥♥♥½
-prompted to hear this as it landed on many reputable year-end lists and while it’s expansive and beautiful and informed by the halcyon days of black metal, it gets a little predictable and repetitive at times; that aside, I can see this appealing to fans of Envy or Godspeed! You Black Emperor
CakeShowroom Of Compassion (2011, Upbeat) ♥♥♥
-its as decent as it is irrelevant; the band haven’t changed their sound over the course of their entire existence and that would normally be OK if my personal tastes hadn’t gone through a massive transformation in the past ten or so years; if I were to pick a standout it would be ‘Sick Of You’-
TristenCharlatans At The Garden Gate (2011, American Myth) ♥♥♥½
-Nashville native following up on her stellar 3-song single from last year; her sound is not-so-country-not-so-pop songwriting with an emphasis on her voice not unlike a recent favorite of mine, Lissie
HeligoatsGoodnight Gracious (2010, Greyday) ♥♥♥
-old fans of the horrificly underrated Troubled Hubble will be pleased to know Chris Otepka is still cranking out albums under this, his solo moniker (though he’s since added a few bros to round out the band); Chris’ distinct, nasal vocals and the ability to pen engaging tales of everyday life and self-deprecation have led many to compare his music to the Mountain Goats, myself included-
The BeetsStay Home (2011, Captured Tracks) ♥♥
-I guess I should have expected to not like this after not even making it all the way through their latest Daytrotter session; it’s trashy, lo-fi songs that usually appeal to my indie rock roots but this album falls flat due to a lack of engaging songwriting and it even comes off as amateurish and unlistenable at times-
Signe TollefsenBaggage EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
-Signe is a promising Dutch singer-songwriter with exceptional vocal range; this is a short EP of covers ranging from flaccid (‘No Thank You’) to memorable, a rendition of PJ Harvey’s ‘Down By The Water’ which stands up only because it’s such a powerful tune to begin with and a poignant version of Portishead’s ‘Glory Box’-
The Rural Alberta AdvantageDeparting (2011, Saddle Creek) ♥♥♥½
-the last RAA release topped my year-end list in ’09 and while Departing album still features some of the most important aspects of what I loved about Hometowns like Nils’ vox and Paul’s unpredictable drum beats, it seems to have been thinned down with less harmonizing and a terrible remake/version of ‘Barnes’ Yard’ (originally found on their Daytrotter session); it’s still worthwhile enough for you to hear-
Nana GrizolRuth (2010, Orange Twin) ♥♥½
-I felt a little let down considering this was reviewed positively by several reliable sources and it saw release on the indie-psyche-pop powerhouse, Orange Twin; the band struggled to climb out of its own cuteness at times which made it more difficult to get into the rambunctious or instrumental numbers; maybe I will have better luck with the debut…-
TalonsHollow Realm (2010, Big Scary Monsters) ♥♥♥♥
-I am all over this like flies on shit because they are all over what 65daysofstatic should have released instead of their turd of an album last year…; this is explosive, mathematical post-rock of the highest order-
Post HarborThey Can’t Hurt You If You Don’t Believe In Them (2010, Burning Building) ♥♥♥
-my reviews have been rather wordy lately but oddly enough this release came and went without much to say other than its ‘average’ and ‘pretty’ and one track uses the auto-tune ‘app’ to great effect-
The End Of AmericaSteep Bay (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
-this seems somewhat out of place considering these 3 lads call NY, NY their home; Steep Bay recorded live in a cabin in the northern parts of the state (sound familiar) and the first 30 seconds will immediately make you think Elliott Smith but then the 3-part harmonies and banjos and mandolins kick in and it takes on a whole new (welcome) meaning; the band intends to travel to different regions of the US to record future albums and I’ll be riding along with them…-
MoondoggiesTidelands (2010, Hardly Art) ♥♥♥
-this is your basic Neil Young-inspired beardo rock that now finds itself up against a crowded genre of competition; its pleasant and palatable but I don’t think this has the staying power to help it remain in rotation-
White FenceWhite Fence (2010, Woodsist) ♥♥♥½
Darker My Love’s Tim Presley sure knows his way around a record collection…when’s he not ripping his way through Little Stevens-approved blues-garage numbers, he’s deconstructing psyche-pop songs and his tenor in The Fall shows glowingly on my favorite track, ‘Baxter Corner’-
Lonnie WalkerThese Times Old Times (2010, Terpsikhore) ♥♥♥½
-collective from Raleigh that brought to mind the type of hootin’ and hollerin’ Broken Family Band or Langhorne Slim has featured for years; the rowdy numbers are full of unbridled energy and clever wordplay but this album seems to suffer a bit when the pace slows up around halfway through-

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