Mini-Beats – February 2011

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-
Cloud NothingsCloud Nothings (2011, Carpark) ♥♥♥
-short, driving, syrupy-sweet indie-pop songs in the Superchunk or Get Up Kids vein; these tracks differ from early singles as they’re a bit more polished and are based around one-liner choruses repeated ad nauseum with little else going on…I was expecting more-
EulogiesTear The Fences Down (2011, Dangerbird) ♥♥½
-LA collective has a penchant for putting one or two really catchy/awesome songs on their LP’s and filling the gaps with mid-tempo pop/rock songs that leave little lasting impression-
AnnabelHere We Are Tomorrow 7″ (2010, Tiny Engines) ♥♥♥½
-another solid release from the Tiny Engines label; these 4 songs (or 5 digitally speaking) pick up right where their lone LP left off with a ton of gang vocals and driving guitar rhythms; a stellar mix of indie, punk and emo to be had here-
Robert PollardSpace City Kicks (2011, Guided By Voices) ♥♥♥
-another notch in a consecutive string of solid releases for Bob (see the latest Boston Spaceships and Lifeguards albums for proof); all but one of these tracks falls below the 3:00 mark so things fire up and end quickly in classic, patented GBV blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fashion-
Asobi SeksuFluorescence (2011, Polyvinyl) ♥♥♥♥
-each new release finds the production getting crisper and Yuki’s signature vocals slightly more discernible but the trademark swirling synth/dream-pop sound is prevalent and beautiful; a few more spins and this might top 2006’s Citrus
Drive-By TruckersGo-Go Boots (2011, ATO) ♥♥½
-no one can deny the intriguing, tragedy-ridden songwriting chops these guys have displayed over the years but I find the band gets more and more predictable and less memorable with each new album, some moments here even bordered on uncomfortable bar-band fodder *shivers*-
Say HiUm, Uh Oh (2011, Barsuk) ♥♥♥
-this is definitely darker and more minimal compared to releases past and while the hooks are there (you just need to give them time to bubble to the top…) Um is miles behind the top-tier indie-pop of the first half of the SHTYM catalog-
Ivan & AlyoshaFathers Be Kind EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥½
-named for two characters in a Dostoevsky novel but the music is not as bleak and dreary as that would imply; this is simplistic and, at times, uplifting folk-rock that suffers only from its lack of tempo change and diversity-
The Binary Marketing ShowBecause Of This, This and This (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
-collage-pop from this Brooklyn duo that follows in the footsteps of their impressive catalog; this is a variation of folk-tronica with tribal, wind-swept melodies and organic instrumentation; RIYL The Books, The Microphones
The DecemberistsThe King Is Dead (2011, Capitol) ♥♥
-I keep giving each new release a few listens in hopes I will latch onto something and it still sounds like folkie, dad-rock to me (a step above James Taylor maybe?) but it’s still far more listenable than the horrificly bloated Hazards
Lia IcesGrown Unknown (2011, Jagjaguwar) ♥♥♥♥
-minimal, almost naked, goth-pop centered around Lia’s dynamic/expressive vocals and various string accompaniments; includes a duet with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) on ‘Daphne’, one of my favorite tracks of the year thus far; RIYL St. Vincent, Glasser
Scattered TreesSympathy (2011, Roll Call) ♥♥♥♥
-promising indie-pop that seems like an oddity coming out of Chicago these days; equal parts mellow and boisterous but wholly therapeutic; almost every song is ready for immediate mixtape placement-
Brown ReclusePanoptic Mirror Maze (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
-9 songs (3 of them instrumental interlude pieces) that hint at a more playful psychedelic pop side (read: Of Montreal/Apples In Stereo) rather than the Belle & Sebby pop of the previous Soft Skin EP; this serves as a primer for the upcoming LP to be released on Slumberland and it’s also available as a free download here
PS I Love YouMeet Me At Muster Station (2010, Paper Bag) ♥♥♥♥
-a feast of melodic, fuzzy/distorted guitar & drums exercises with vocal nods to Wolf Parade & Arcade Fire; omitted from 2010’s year-end list only because I was late in getting to sample the full LP-
Virgin Of The BirdsFugitive Works EP (2011, Abandoned Love) ♥♥♥
-the 4th installment in Jon Rooney’s free EP series that mines the same territory as the previous 3, affecting lounge-y, indie-pop with a sincere focus on songwriting..get it here
The DøThe Slippery Slope (2011, Get Down!) ♥♥♥♥
-quite eccentric, groove-based neo-dance-pop that even borders on the vaudevillian at times; the attentive listener will find a smorgasbord of sounds being deployed in the background of almost all of these tracks, couple that with creative percussion/beats and it makes for one of the most dynamic releases I’ve heard in recent memory; RIYL Björk, Feist, Lykki Li
BikiniRIP JDS EP (2010, Lefse) ♥♥♥½
-sparkling, ambient pop featuring a lot of chill(wave) traits but on the less experimental, super-melodic side of the genre; keeping an eye out for a full-length…-
Moon PearlPearl Jams EP (2010, Life’s Blood) ♥♥♥½
-my second experience with the Life’s Blood label after the engaging Pregnant LP and Moon Pearl’s scuzzy, avant-garage noise seems like it fits perfectly into the label’s mission of wanting to defy classification; the EP will soon be re-recorded and renamed (bummer) but this version still available as a free download on zee Bandcamp
Painted PalmsCanopy EP (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-nothing tops the shimmering nugget of tropical synth-pop glory on the opening track but there’s enough goodness through these 5 tracks to keep it in rotation; o yeah, get it here compliments of the band-
Porcelain RaftGone Blind EP (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥
-Mauro Remiddi finds himself branching out from his main gig (Sunny Day Sets Fire) to record a couple of poignant, mid-fi gems amongst half-realized noodlings (or at least I hope they are…)-
French FilmsGolden Sea EP (2010, Gaea) ♥♥♥♥
-the genetic makeup of this Finnish clan is wholly comprised of the new wave of beach-combing post-punk propelled by driving basslines and ooh-aah’s like the Drums or Surfer Blood by way of Orange Juice and Chamelons UK; can’t get enough of this sound!-
ChappoPlastique Universe EP (2010, self-released) ♥♥½
-the title track will sound familiar as its the background for a Ford/Apple/somethingcorporate commercial but you’ll find little else of value here-
Radical FaceGhost (2007, Morr) ♥♥♥♥
-at first this LP seemed a little too predictable outside of a few mopey gems but it’s charms reveal themselves with repeated listens; makes sense as Ben Cooper (the man behind Radical Face) produced the first two Astronautalis albums, both of which I love-
Easter IslandBetter Things EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
-when my top 40 lovin’ co-worker yelled out from another room that the guitar in the leadoff track ‘Proud’ sounded like Coldplay it hit hard and left a bad taste in my mouth; thankfully, there’s a bit more going on here to allow me to get over that initial reaction; RIYL Teenage Fanclub, Bends-era Radiohead
No JoyGhost Blonde (2010, Mexican Summer) ♥♥♥½
-a hazy novella of 90’s shoegaze and noise pop that seems to end at least 15 minutes before you want it to, unfortunately-
Fergus & GeronimoUnlearn (2011, Hardly Art) ♥♥½
-usually I gobble up this sort of lo-fi, garage-pop stuff up but I wasn’t as impressed with this LP unlike the group’s earlier singles-
U.S. RoyaltyMirrors (2011, Family) ♥♥♥
-DC-based collective who seem like they’d be more at home on the west coast; Mirrors is feelgood rock-n-roll with melodies and guitar jams I could swear were lifted straight out of the 70’s Fleetwood Mac canon (see ‘Monte Carlo’ for proof); RIYL Dr. Dog, Dawes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *