Mini-Beats – December 2010

DeerhunterHalcyon Digest (2010, 4AD) ♥♥♥½
-this falls into that hills-and-valleys category where there are 3-4 extraordinary songs that place Bradford ahead of anyone else mining this trippy, lo-fi, psyche-wave territory and then there are the missteps that make you wonder why everyone is on about this album in the first place-
Raised By SwansNo Ghostless Place (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-at first this comes off as a little weak around the knees but there’s fragile beauty in Eric Howden’s voice rarely found in any music I’ve heard recently; fans of Headlights or Appleseed Cast could find themselves latching onto this-
Kanye WestMy Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010, Roc-A-Fella) ♥♥♥♥
-10 years from now this will undoubtedly be looked upon as one of the greatest hip-hop/rap efforts of all-time; its got the beats, hooks, guest spots from Rick Ross, John Jegend, Justin Vernon, a small enough amount of auto-tune to make it a non-topic and Ye’s signature rhymes-
The Paddle BoatI Wonder If The Water Ever Tires Of The Sea (2009, Single Screen) ♥♥♥
-an up-and-down adventure in quirky pop that teeters on the edge of chaos on a few cuts; includes a cover of ‘Atoms For Peace’ (Thom Yorke)-
Breathe Owl BreatheMagic Central (2010, Hometapes) ♥♥♥½
-mope-folk with male/female harmonies that border on the divine; this LP plays out a lot like the latest Strand Of Oaks album actually and you can grab it on vibrant, pink vinyl direct from the label-
Sweet LightsSweet Lights (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-former War On Drugs and Capitol Years member (quite the résumé) checks in with a solid cast of tunes with ample harmonies and hooks to keep things interesting; one of Philly’s more memorable releases this year; RIYL Crooked Fingers
SwansMy Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky (2010, Young Gods) ♥♥♥
-as with almost every Swans release there’s something creepy going on to set the mood, more like a haunting than a terrifying kind of creepy; with that said I’m not sure this LP will stay in rotation as its missing ‘something’…though highlights like ‘Jim’ make a compelling case to stay-
Wild NothingGemini (2010, Captured Tracks) ♥♥½
-love the sound/concept/hairstyle but I pretty much think this machine ran out of ideas about halfway through-
Beat RadioGolden Age (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
-this combines everything that was good about the halcyon days of slacker indie rock with modern post-electronic-pop vibes; RIYL Grandaddy
Yair YonaRemember (2010, Strange Attractors/Anova) ♥♥♥♥
-mood-setting, ragtime guitarist hailing from Israel paying direct homage to the likes of John Fahey and the late Jack Rose; there’s a great bit of diversity here with strings, 12-string guitar, banjo etc.; Yair also runs the Small Town Romance blog
Frankie Rose and The OutsFrankie Rose and The Outs (2010, Slumberland) ♥♥♥
-Frankie has played in/with both the Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls and this is similar extension of those groups but perhaps a little more shoegaze than lo-fi; I can see this making more of an impact on me with each subsequent spin; RIYL Asobi Seksu
Tobin SproutThe Bluebirds Of Happiness Tried To Land On My Shoulder (2010, Moonflower) ♥♥½
-I spent a little extra time trying to get into this based on Tobin’s past solo work and history with Guided By Voices but I fear may not be relating to this sort of sound anymore; hopefully it’s just a rare stinker and not a sign of things to come-
BussesBusses (2010, self-released) ♥♥½
-equal parts Dischord and post-punk-grunge from Philly trio showed promise but still has a way to go; other reviews only compared them to Robert Plant/Led Zep…not really-
S. CareyAll We Grow (2010, Jagjaguwar) ♥♥♥
-Sean is the current drummer for Bon Iver and it comes as no surprise that this ended up sounding like a less ambitious take on For Emma since a few of the tracks here are indeed pretty with woodwinds, piano sprinkled throughout and gorgeous enough harmonies to make Sufjan green with envy…but, sadly, most tracks end up going nowhere special when its all said and done-
Miniature TigersFortress (2010, Modern Art) ♥♥♥½
-the MT’s follow up their Weezer-influenced, catchy-as-all-get-out debut with a more subdued/realized collection of indie-pop with the standout tracks including a visit from chill-wave darling Neon Indian; RIYL Of Montreal
CanastaThe Fakeout, The Tease and The Breather (2010, self-released) ♥♥
-perhaps this rating is a little harsher than it should be but there were some really painful AOR moments and not a whole lot of that ‘edge’ that you could find on this Chicago collective’s earlier releases-
OOIOOArmonico Hewa (2009, Thrill Jockey) ♥♥♥
-Japanese all-girl experimental twee-noise outfit that will draw immediate comparisons to Deerhoof though I’d consider OOIOO to be a little more playful with their vocal arrangements-
Tan DollarChange Your Mind EP (2010, BEKO-DSL) ♥♥½
-this time around we get bursts of fuzz-pop as opposed to the blissed-out haziness of their first couple of singles-
Marnie SternMarnie Stern (2010, Kill Rock Stars) ♥♥♥½
-equal parts melody and propulsive percussion/sonic guitar noodling propel Marnie into this year’s best-of list; this is probably my favorite KRS release since the first Advantage LP; can’t wait to work backwards through the catalog…-
Sharon Van EttenEpic (2010, Ba Da Bing) ♥♥♥♥
-one of the more magical voices on the indie scene currently; Sharon saved the best for last as the final 3 tracks are as good a trio of songs as you’ll find on any other album this year with ‘Love More’ being one of my favorite singles of 2010-
JEFF The BrotherhoodHeavy Days (2009, Infinity Cat) ♥♥♥½
-I knew this was going to stay in rotation when my GIRLFRIEND (The Litmus Test) queried ‘what the hell is this we’re listening to???-
ElsinoreYes Yes Yes (2010, Parasol) ♥♥♥½
-this is probably one of the better power-pop releases I’ve heard all year with hooks abound; there are also a few glam moments as well as loud/soft indie cliche action that succeeds solely because it doesn’t take itself too seriously-
Vulture WhaleVulture Whale (2009, Skybucket) ♥♥♥
-garage rock ‘n roll from Birmingham, AL that showed promise; they have a free EP for you to sample if you want to peep it without risk-
Golden AgesTradition (2010, Indiecater) ♥♥♥
-a swell mix of nu-tropicalia and glo-fi synth sounds that makes for a pleasant listen but needs a little extra something to separate it from this now-crowded sub-genre-
Laura Stevenson & The CansA Record (2010, Asian Man) ♥♥♥½
-an eclectic folk/indie-pop smorgasbord sprinkled with NMH-like burners (‘Landslide’) and acoustic reflective pieces accompanied by banjo and horns…this is an odd choice of release for Asian Man but hey, who’s complaining?-
Now, Now (Every Children)Neighbors EP (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-very promising collective who recently changed their name to simply Now, Now; this EP is a perfect balance of celestial dream-pop and organic indie rock…looking forward to more-
The ClienteleMinotaur EP (2010, Merge) ♥♥♥½
-meant to be a stopgap to hold us over until the next full-length but this is almost as solid as any other release in the catalog outside of the out-of-place spoken word piece near the end of the EP; far better than 2009’s Bonfires
Flow ChildSpilt Buckets Of Street Light Onto The Dream Canvas (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥
-Montreal musician that mines the same territory as the above-reviewed Golden Ages
Yellow OstrichFade Cave EP (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
-this guy is going to be huge, like ostrich eggs-
JunipFields (2010, Mute) ♥♥♥
-Sweden’s José González pretty much guarantees a worthwhile listen but I’m inclined to side more with the hushed folk offered up by his solo projects rather than the groove-driven material on Fields; RIYL Loney, Dear
København StoreAction, Please! (2008, 42) ♥♥♥½
-little-known indie-rock outfit from Italy that bookends this (their first LP proper) with 2 expansive barn-burning post-rock cuts-
GrindermanGrinderman 2 (2010, Anti) ♥♥♥½
-hide your underage kids (and wives/girlfriend), another Grinderman record is afoot and it’s a smidge better/louder/more polished than the first-
Pas Chic Chic
Au Contraire (2008, Semprini) ♥♥½
-eccentric cabaret/psyche pop with danceable, almost Kraut-like beats and French lyrics likely about sex and wine and being hip and whatnot; this didn’t pan out as good as the description implies…-
Yellow OstrichThe Mistress (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-there’s always enough quality in Alex Schaaf’s songs and presentation to keep his albums on repeat for hours before I realize the pressing need to not ignore the  rest of my listening queue; this features less of the a capella harmonies of the precious Fade Cave EP but it still works wonders on its own level; gratis
Yellow OstrichThe Serious Kids EP (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-I’m hoping the eventual popularity Alex will enjoy (or suffer through…) doesn’t hinder his ability to keep banging out quality stuff and providing it for free, no less; some tracks reminded of Cloud Cult here-
FoalsTotal Life Forever (2010, Sub Pop) ♥♥½
-rhythmic indie-rock from the UK that never seems to develop and live up to its potential (that potential being Spanish Sahara…); rumor has it that I need to give their debut a spin-
Les Savvy FavRoot To Ruin (2010, Frenchkiss) ♥♥♥
-if you came expecting the heroes of the post-punk revivalist scene to summon your white ass to the dancefloor (read: mosh pit) like they have with every previous LP you’ll be a little disappointed; however, if you came for a more accessible batch of guitar-driven social commentaries (read: finger-pointing) then by all means, pleasure yourself-
PregnantRegional Music (2010, Life’s Blood) ♥♥♥½
-a nervous jaunt through a hodge-podge of skronky beats, noise loops and sound collages; pressed on diarrhea-yellow vinyl and the A-side is cut to play inside-out (pretty neat…)-
Let’s WrestleIn The Court Of The Wrestling Let’s (2009, Boom) ♥♥
-heard great things about this coming but walked away with a sour face; it’s structurally unsound, schizo/manic odd-pop that should equate to something a little more interesting-
Boston SpaceshipsOur Cubehouse Still Rocks (2010, Guided By Voices) ♥♥♥½
-I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the most solid/worthwhile release from Bob since ’06’s From A Compound Eye
Archie Bronson OutfitCoconut (2010, Domino) ♥♥♥
-a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it affair, especially when it comes to this variety of hyper UK post-punk; I liked the few jams I heard on their previous LP but nothing here came close to packing the same punch or intensity-
In GrenadaBreak (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥
-imagine a 70’s-era Springsteen fronting the 2010 Arcade Fire and you’ll begin to understand these Philly lads’ debut-
Deer TickThe Black Dirt Sessions (2010, Partisan) ♥♥♥½
-this might be a case of my loving John McCauley’s vocals more than anything since only a few tracks stood out and some even felt uncomfortable or out of place-
Josephine Foster & The Victor Herrero BandAnda Jaleo (2010, Fire) ♥♥♥
-this is a collection of adaptations of Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca’s Las Canciones; I’d say it treads more on the side of minimal Latin folk with handclaps, classical guitar and castanets centered around Josephine’s dynamic vocal style-
The Head and The HeartThe Head and The Heart (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-warm, comforting folk/Americana not unlike recent favorites the Avett Brothers and Delta Spirit
Lawrence ArabiaChant Darling (2010, Bella Union) ♥♥♥½
-an unexpected soulful pop surprise from New Zealand that doesn’t pull influence from the Flying Nun crowd; RIYL Okkervil River (an after-effect of touring with them I am sure)-
Run On SentenceYou The Darkness and Me (2010, Hush) ♥♥♥
-assorted mix of modern folk sounds and instrumentation that should appeal to fans of Iron and Wine

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