Mini-Beats – March 2011

Beach FossilsWhat A Pleasure EP (2011, Captured Tracks) ♥♥♥
-mega-jangly springtime pop that finds Dustin crisping up production a little instead of hiding behind the wall-of-4track-sound on his debut LP-
British Sea PowerValhalla Dancehall (2011, Rough Trade) ♥♥♥½
-I’ve never really given an entire BSP album a fair shake since none of the ‘singles’ since The Decline struck me as anything special but Valhalla treated me to a sprawling exercise in variety with mostly positive results most especially when they display poise and restraint on the dreamier pop numbers; I can see how some would decry ‘identity crisis’ but I expect this to improve with each future listen; RIYL David Bowie, Catherine Wheel, Spacehog (yep…)-
Teenage PanzerkorpsGerman Reggae (2011, Holidays) ♥♥♥½
-what just happened here…oh, TPK just pummeled your cubicle with a blast of reverb-drenched, dark-wave punk; there’s ties to the Jewelled Antler collective in these ranks but you’d never know it-
The DiggsCtr-Alt-Del (2008, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
-if, like me, you loved all those emo-core bands of the 90’s that focused on grand, atmospheric passages and tension instead of relationship heartbreak and acoustic guitars…this will tickle you pink; this is much different from their debut EP and LP but no less essential; the band is now sadly defunct; RIYL Elliott, Sunny Day Real Estate
Hands and KneesWholesome (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
-animated indie-pop troupe from Mass that opened up this LP strong but it flattened out quickly-
YuckYuck (2011, Fat Possum) ♥♥♥
-(Julie Christie) the rumors were true…this taps into the Dinosaur Jr./Yo La Tengo/Elliott Smith vein and draws way more blood than
Eastern Conference ChampionsAkustiks (2010, Rockhampton) ♥♥♥½
-LA by-way-of Bucks County, PA collective cranking out hook-laden folk-pop and, at this point, most notable for their contribution to the Twilight:Eclipse OST; regardless, there’s no denying the foot-tappin’ rhythms and frontman Joshua Ostrander’s anomalous vocals-
Natural Snow BuildingsWaves Of The Random Sea (2011, Blackest Rainbow) ♥♥♥♥
-devastatingly beautiful ambient folk that should find itself on every self-respecting music lover’s year-end list-
The Baseball ProjectVol. 2: High and Inside (2011, Yep Roc) ♥♥
-I love baseball and all but these serve up little outside of nostalgic musings…most songs sound terribly forced with little no hooks to help embed them into your head-
MogwaiHardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥
-read a lot of positive reviews of this coming in but I walked away feeling less than impressed with Hardcore as there weren’t any explosive/wow moments; still by far the loudest live band I’ve ever experienced-
The Lava ChildrenThe Lava Children EP (2009, Graveface) ♥♥♥
-a hit or miss affair with some really diverse psychedelic garage jams but Sherri West’s vocals occasionally sent my ears packing; thumbs up for the swirly pink-and-sea-green vinyl; RIYL Reading Rainbow, Cibo Matto
Cotton JonesSit Beside Your Vegetables EP (2011, Suicide Squeeze) ♥♥♥½
-a short, 4-song extension of the rustic, Appalachian folk explored on last year’s LP-
CreepoidHorse Heaven (2011, Ian) ♥♥♥½
-very promising local Philly act that spans the realm of dark, reverb-driven, sometimes lush dream-pop with mixed male/female vocals-
Aurelio MartinezLaru Beya (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥
-known to most simply as ‘Aurelio’, he specializes in Garifuna soul native to Central America, notably Honduras where Aurelio is actually an elected member of the Honduran National Congress-
White Fence…Is Growing Faith (2011, Woodsist) ♥♥♥½
-Tim Presley’s latest finds him exploring a more subdued assemblage of warm, jangly 60’s sounds not unlike Donovan and Left Banke; RIYL The Young Sinclairs-
PJ HarveyLet England Shake (2011, Vagrant) ♥♥♥♥
-I’ve never before listened to a complete PJ album though I’ve been more than impressed with singles I’ve heard over the years but I think I have to work backwards after this LP; Let is bursting with personality and diversity and although I can’t directly relate to the Anglophilic politics they don’t hinder the album at all; easily one of my favorite releases so far this year-
Bright EyesThe People’s Key (2011, Saddle Creek) ♥♥
-I’ve had the nagging feeling that Conor has pretty much spent all his vigor and songwriting prowess on Lifted and everything before it; outside of the opening cut most of this sounds fairly cheesy with ho-hum 80’s synth sounds and lifeless vocal deliveries-
ArchesWide Awake (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-mellowed-out dream-pop that reminded me a lot of fellow Philly locals Creepoid or a sleepier version of Real Estate; as per the band, this is a concept album about a routine-driven city dweller who packs up shit for the country and wanders about without purpose-
Kurt VileSmoke Ring for My Halo (2011, Matador) ♥♥½
-I can’t seem to really align myself in the KV camp like many others; this just feels monotonous and devoid of character and the same can apply to the live show :( –
Toro Y MoiUnderneath The Pine (2011, Carpark) ♥♥♥
-another notch of swirly, sampley, synth-pop in Chaz’ belt; the few memorable tracks are outstanding (‘Still Sound’ and ‘New Beat’) but little else here moves me; CHILLWAVE…there I said it-
Hotel MexicoHis Jewelled Letter Box EP (2010, Second Royal) ♥♥♥
-I knew it wouldn’t take long for Japan to buy into the chillwave movement and these guys do a admirable take on the hypnotic beats, electronic noodling and, funnily enough, broken English that are all inherent to the genre-
LifeguardsWaving At Astronauts (2011, Serious Business) ♥♥♥
-from the opening seconds of this album you can deduce Doug Gilliard’s involvement is as profound as it was on the debut Lifeguards LP; the duo succeeds when they explore the bleak, guitar-buzzed, post-punk landscape (‘Sexless Auto’) but Waving drags when the tempo slows down-
Lykke LiWounded Rhymes (2011, LL) ♥♥♥♥
-you might not find the dynamic range in voice (assertive-to-twee/timid) and left-of-center percussion as you did on the debut but you can’t ignore the fact that Lykke has returned with a solid collection of organic, progressive-minded, dance-pop and as far as I’m concerned this is a noted improvement upon Youth Novels
J MascisSeveral Shades Of Why (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥½
-outside of J’s mystical/tribal/forgettable meanderings on Sing+Chant you pretty much know what you’re in for here…quieted down versions of late period Dinosaur Jr. songs under different names; a treat, especially if, like me, you were all over the Martin + Me live recording; best artwork of the year thus far-
LubecNothing Is Enough EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
-Richmond, VA collective putting on a sloppy, swirling mass of mid-fi pop/garage on display and doing it well enough to warrant a few listens; RIYL Cloud Nothings, No Age
Cut CopyZonoscope (2011, Modular) ♥♥♥½
-completely danceable synth-pop that managed to set my white ass in motion while cooking dinner the other day; however, it lacks the end of the album drags a little and overall its lacking individual character; extra half-star for one of my favorite tracks of the year so far ‘Take Me Over’-
Banjo Or FreakoutBanjo Or Freakout (2011, Memphis Industries) ♥♥½
-pffft…no banjo or freakout…pass…; but really, there are some ambient tones here worth exploring like the droney ‘Dear Me’ but this isn’t a particularly strong or memorable release-
Jon McKiel – Confidence Lodge EP (2011, Youth Club) ♥♥♥½
-Nova Scotian responsible for the 15 minutes of mid-tempo folk-pop found here…not life-changing by any means but totally hummable and I like that kind of shit sometimes; RIYL Matt Pond PA
Keep Shelly In AthensIn Love With Dusk EP (2010, Forest Family) ♥♥♥
-chillwave from, of all places, Greece released on the GorillaVs.Bear record label; this is of the sultry, synth-wave variety that taps into 80’s vibes and occasionally features the typically-maligned sax to good effect…decent but after I heard ‘Running With You’, I was expecting more-
Smith WesternsDye It Blonde (2011, Fat Possum) ♥♥♥½
-it took a few listens to glean all the influences on display here like 70’s glam, 80’s skinny-tie power-pop riffs and the entire 90’s Matt Pinfield scene; many have whined about Cullen’s vocals but I wasn’t moved one way or another with them; is it better than the debut? who knows…that one’s still sitting in my listening queue..-
James Vincent McMorrowEarly In The Morning (2011, Vagrant) ♥♥♥½
-soulful Irish folkie that’s every bit of Justin Vernon and Ray LaMontagne with more than a lion’s share of bittersweet lyrics, banjo and multi-part harmonies; amazing what Vagrant finds itself releasing these days…; rumor has it that James created a lot of buzz at SXSW so I expect this to blow up a little-
The DøA Mouthful (2008, Cinq 7) ♥♥♥½
-it’s safe to say that Olivia (the lead songstress/personality behind the duo) can be heralded as the French Björk considering she can draw on any influence/genre and weave it into gold; almost every song here has its own distinct charm…not unlike their latest LP if not slightly less stimulating; RIYL St. Vincent, Lykke Li
Telekinesis12 Desperate Straight Lines (2011, Merge) ♥♥♥
-strangely enough this didn’t move me as much as I had hoped based on the fabulous holdover EP from last year; it contains a few a tracks from that EP but little else of note; RIYL Fountains Of Wayne, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Maritime
Mind SpidersMind Spiders (2011, Dirtnap) ♥♥♥½
-MS features Mark Ryan from The Marked Men/High Tension Wires fame (also Dirtnap alumni) but really this is basically the same principle and just as catchy as anything he’s done previously, especially on the rippin’ garage numbers like ‘No Romance’ and ‘Don’t Let Her Go’; RIYL Jay Reatard or any of the aforementioned projects-
Five EightYour God Is Dead To Me Now (2011, Iron Horse) ♥♥♥½
-surely egged on by a ravenous local fan-base in the Athens/Atlanta area, Mike Mantione and the gang release only their 2nd effort since their magnum opus The Good Nurse in 2000; come for Mike’s poignant lyrics and delivery, stay for the surprisingly tight meat-and-potatoes, guitar-rock crunch-
The Appleseed CastMiddle States EP (2011, Graveface) ♥♥♥½
-another solid, if not brief, notch in one of the most consistently appealing bands of the modern indie era; the clean, paint-stroked post-rock formula they helped perfect remains intact-
WoodsmanRare Forms (2011, Lefse) ♥♥♥♥
-this album definitely has an omnipresent heartbeat which is what separates it from the now over-saturated field of 2nd wave Animal Collective worshippers; the ambient, percussive pieces reminded me a little of Mt. Eerie/The Microphones a bit as well; regardless of the influences, Rare helped me mentally wander through a few traffic-jammed rides home from work and for that I endorse it-
FaustSomething Dirty (2011, Bureau B) ♥♥½
-as sleazy as the title might imply; psyche freakouts, little bit ‘o Kraut, industrial splooge all make for an inconsistent affair, not unlike last year’s Faust Is Last
Dinosaur BonesMy Divider (2011, Dine Alone) ♥♥½
-I recall this Toronto-based group showing a bit of promise with last year’s 4-song EP and the standout track ‘N.Y.E.’ (also found here) but this LP oftentimes treads perilously close to vapid, top 40 radio-rock territory-
Foster The PeopleFoster The People EP (2011, Sony) ♥♥♥½
-I’m not sure where I’ve been while this dance-it-like-ya-got-it synth-pop, troupe from LA built up their seemingly unstoppable head of steam; Philly show sold out in minutes; RIYL Architecture In Helsinki, Peter Bjorn & John

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