Mini-Beats – April 2011

James BlakeJames Blake (2011, Atlas) ♥♥♥
-I’m not sure I understand what a dub-step is yet but as far as these ears can tell this is like Bon Iver without the log cabin, add a little piano and R&B; RIYL Antony & The Johnsons
Wye OakCivilian (2011, Merge) ♥♥♥½
-much like last year’s excellent stop-gap EP, this collection has its fair share of memorable moments recalling the halcyon days of 90’s indie-rock; RIYL Yo La Tengo, Versus
The DopaminesExpect The Worst (2010, Paper + Plastick) ♥♥♥½
-I can’t say I’m up on my pop-punk as much as I was, say, 10 years ago but I don’t need to be covered in ink and pierced in every crack to know well enough that Expect The Worst’s final results are much more clever and catchier than its competition-
Peter Bjorn & JohnGimme Some (2011, Columbia) ♥♥♥♥
-forgive PB&J for lacking what some writers are calling ‘depth’ and instead scaling back to the basics centered around penning ultra-catchy, finger-snappin’ pop anthems for a stiff indie scene that could definitely stand to lighten the hell up already….; RIYL Say Hi To Your Mom, Vampire Weekend, Supergrass
Chain & The GangMusic’s Not For Everyone (2011, K) ♥♥½
-we’d all love to have NoU back to help make our daily lives worthwhile but that’s not gonna happen and this continued foray into faux garage and kitsch isn’t going to help scratch your itch; it’s hard to take Ian’s social commentary seriously without a scream or pelvic thrust though I’m sure we can all agree that music’s not for everyone…-
Computer MagicSpectronic EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
-one-woman, synth-pop project from Brooklyn (who the hell isn’t from BK these days…) with emphasis on precious melodies and songcraft…odd I haven’t seen Danz remixing others’ work…; get this and a few other of her EP’s gratis here
ALSOMusic Belongs In The Background (2011, self-released) ♥♥½
-mid-tempo alt-rock from LA that reaches for that ‘big’, dramatic sound but lacks that special something to make that sound their own; I was hoping for the inspiring diversity displayed on their unsung debut; RIYL The National (vocals), Elbow (music)-
William FitzsimmonsGold In The Shadow (2011, Nettwerk) ♥♥♥½
-those familiar with William (and his beard) will not be disappointed to know that not a whole lot has changed with his sound or approach since we last checked in; GITS is fundamentally his best record since 2006’s Goodnight; RIYL Postal Service, recent Jeremy Enigk, Iron & Wine
Walter MeegoWondervalley (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-a welcome combination of glam and synth-pop on the band’s sophomore release that would most likely appeal to MGMT and LCD Soundsystem fans; available as a free download here
Acid House KingsMusic Sounds Better With You (2011, Labrador) ♥♥♥♥
-Swedish twee pop royalty who can basically do no wrong return after 6 years to deliver another super-fun LP of feel-good, castanet-chattering, summertime hits; RIYL Belle and Sebastian, Hidden Cameras, Acid House Kings
Code PieLove Meets Rage (2011, Indiecater) ♥♥♥♥
-one can get the impression that Montreal is the Canadian equivalent of Brooklyn in that every time I check to see where a solid but unrecognized artist hails from…it’s Montreal; the band’s 3rd LP sees them combining elements from the first two albums like well-placed horns and muted ambience and adding even more depth (see the dirty blues homage on ‘Tunnel’ or the Afropop-influenced guitar on ‘Heart Spit’); RIYL Broken Social Scene, Anathallo
Tahiti 80The Past The Present And The Possible (2011, Human Sounds) ♥♥½
-French duo who have taken another 180 turn back to the weightless pop they received accolades for in the early part of their career; some moments were a little too airy and accessible for my personal tastes; RIYL Phoenix
RestorationsRestorations (2011, Tiny Engines) ♥♥♥½
-see upcoming front-page review-
RadioheadThe King Of Limbs (2011, XL) ♥♥♥
-this isn’t breaking any new ground like many glowing reviews elsewhere have hinted at nor is it bursting with diversity but it does make for a pleasant enough listen; I can see this having a more profound effect on vinyl or with headphones-
Owen TempleMountain Home (2011, El Paisano) ♥♥½
-Austin folkie who treads the fine line between Americana and cliche-ridden country; outside of the title track this didn’t too much for me-
Hurt ValleyTessara EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-hypnotic, underwater pop that shows signs of promise beyond this EP; RIYL Candy Claws
The Joy FormidableThe Big Roar (2011, Atlantic) ♥♥♥♥
-the JF’s quick jump to a major and more polished versions of my faves from last year’s ‘EP’ did little to dissuade me from loving every second of this intense, alt-rock powerhouse of a record; go see these songs live…they’ll hit even harder-
The StrokesAngles (2011, RCA) ♥♥♥½
-I mean, this is a Strokes album…ya got some winners (Under Cover, Taken For A Fool) and some losers (well, pretty much everything else); I didn’t see as much correlation between this and all the various side/solo projects that others have claimed to notice; BTW, is that Tom Petty on the third track?-
Josh T. PearsonLast Of The Country Gentlemen (2011, Mute) ♥♥♥♥
-former frontman for the short-lived but iconic Lift To Experience; whereas that project was dense and angelic this solo effort is a bare-bones approach to intimate folk touching on some pretty ignomious topics with sparse guitar and string accompaniment; I shouldn’t have listened to this while driving as I kept getting locked on Josh’s every word and next move; RIYL Bill Callahan, Jeff Buckley, Lift to Experience
The DodosNo Color (2011, Frenchkiss) ♥♥♥♥
-this is as close to the flagship Beware or Visitor albums as these fellas are gonna get; No Color is opened with and anchored by two of this year’s most unfuckwithable songs-
LemuriaPebble (2010, Bridge Nine) ♥♥♥
Pebble didn’t really come off as catchy-fun as their debut but it has far less embarrassing lyrical moments; regardless, this will appeal to anyone who misses Rainer Maria…-
Hammer No More The Fingers
Black Shark (2011, Churchkey) ♥♥♥
-angular, but incredibly melodic, 90’s influenced college-rock from Chapel Hill area; RIYL The French Kicks, Jawbox (mostly due to J Robbins’ production)-
Lia IcesNecima (2008, Rare Book Room) ♥♥♥½
-not as emotionally riveting or musically diverse as her latest but her virtuous coo make this an essential listen for fans of Alela Diane or Sharon Van Etten
Shipping NewsOne Less Heartless To Fear (2010, Karate Body) ♥♥♥½
-there was a time when SN would simply play their instruments and lock into a groove but their first new material in 5 years features a wider variety of sounds; the A-side of this LP pounded hard like your favorite Shellac album while the B-side simmered down and played out like June Of 44, band member Jeff Mueller’s old digs; recorded live in Japan and Louisville-
StarfuckerReptilians (2011, Polyvinyl) ♥♥♥½
-they may not be able to settle on a name for more than a few months but they do know how to throw together an album’s worth of infectious, upbeat synth-pop; feel free to use this as a litmus test to determine whether or not you possess a heartbeat; RIYL MGMT, Cut Copy
Talons’Songs For Boats (2011, Own) ♥♥♥
-the Akron, OH based Talons’ (not the above-average noisy post-rock outfit from the UK) present to you warm, twinkling slow-core and well, twelve songs about boats that (unfortunately?) don’t include profanity, SNL skits or rumpshakin’; RIYL Low
All Get OutAll Get Out EP (2008, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-dceptively good pop/rock sounds based around simple melodies and guitar/bass/keys/drums from South Kakolaki; not as solid as their eseential Daytrotter sessions but promising nonetheless-
East River PipeWe Live In Rented Rooms (2011, Merge) ♥♥½
-one of the few Sarah/Merge artists that have never yielded much by way of lasting impressions; it would seem Cornog has always reached for magnetic fields but always come up short-
MaritimeHuman Hearts (2011, Dangerbird) ♥♥♥½
-the first release for the gang in over 4 years and Davey continues to establish a formidable legacy beyond life in The Promise Ring with another above-average collection of infectious indie-pop nuggets; RIYL Phoenix, Ra Ra Riot
tUnE-yArDsw h o k i l l (2011, 4AD) ♥♥♥♥
-whine, complain, spell this however the hell you want – it’s miles better than her debut, easily one of my favorite albums of the year and I am stoked to see her in a few weeks!-
Class ActressJournal Of Ardency EP (2010, Terrible) ♥♥♥½
-a couple of really danceable electro-pop hitz to feast on here from former(?) singer-songwriter Elizabeth Harper (maybe most notable for her inclusion on the Dig For Fire Pixies tribute); you need this for the few upsides alone-
Last Days Of AprilGooey (2010, Bad Taste) ♥♥½
-those of pining for Angel Youth II can pretty much take a pass on this though I can see the power-pop crowd getting into this a little (which can be said of their last 3 release…); RIYL Matthew Sweet (but not nearly as sweet…)-
Sarah JaffeEven Born Again (2007, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-this brief but worthwhile EP gives us a glimpse of the potential that Sarah carried into last year’s captivating Suburban Nature
Os MutantesHaih…or Amortecedor (2009, Anti) ♥♥
-I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I put off listening to this for so long considering how much I love their untouchable late 60’s records but I wish I kept it buried in my listening queue forever; there’s not a whole lot to wrap your mind around here but misguided attempts at cabaret and showtunes; I’m a little bent out of shape about this-
The Lonely ForestArrows (2011, Trans) ♥♥♥½
-infectious pop/rock outfit from WA probably most known for recently touring with Joy Formidable and being the first band signed to Chris Walla’s label; I’d recommend catching these guys live as the studio album only does them so much justice; RIYL Harvey Danger, The Argument
Architecture In HelsinkiMoment Bends (2011, Modular) ♥♥
-not sure what happened to this band but the lyrics and corny 80’s vibe sound really cheesy and generic, gone is all the playful experimentation that made the first few LP’s essential classics-
Fleet FoxesHelplessness Blues (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥♥
-contrary to some critiques I’ve read, Robin’s arrangements here are just as interesting and stimulating as the debut; this hasn’t quite grown on me like Fleet Foxes yet but I suspect it will after time; one of this year’s best, for sure-
Craft SpellsIdle Labor (2011, Captured Tracks) ♥♥♥♥
-get this if you love the Drums or any number of the New Order inspired bands of recent memory; there’s also a sprinkle or two of tropicalia and a few older tracks have been cleaned up (arguably for the worse) like the uninhibited joy that is You Should Close The Door, my ringtone for the past year and a half; RIYL Drums, Kisses, chill broments-
Julianna BarwickThe Magic Place (2011, Asthmatic Kitty) ♥♥♥
-Julianna uses her voice as an instrument and while there are moments of sheer, angelic beauty here The Magic Place has one minor flaw, that being a lack of variety; I suspect a few more listens would draw out some

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