Mini-Beats – May 2011

Voxhaul BroadcastTiming Is Everything (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:serviceable indie rock ‘n roll from LA that has bright moments (like the outstanding opener) but no attributes to help make it stand out in this crowded field; RIYL Spoon, Morning Benders:
P.O.S.Never Better (2009, Rhymesayers) ♥♥♥
:the quality of rhymes far outweigh the beats here (standard for the midwest hip-hop genre…) which is fine but Never is saved by the cuts featuring the whole of Doomtree & Astronautalis:
Mars ClassroomThe New Theory Of Everything (2011, Happy Jack) ♥♥½
:the first Pollard release of 2011 that’s left me a little wanting; you’d never be able to tell that this project features members of Pell Mell & Volcano Sun since The New Theory is indisputably Bob-flavored:
PanditEternity Spin (2011, Waaga) ♥♥♥
-big fan of the spacy, ambient landscapes where Lance’s dreamy vocals are audible and clear (like ‘Pack Your Bags’ and ‘Kodiak’) but I was rather indifferent to the washed-out, chillwavin’ numbers-
The Pains Of Being Pure At HeartBelong (2011, Slumberland) ♥♥½
-something about this follow-up to their acclaimed debut that left a bad taste in my mouth; I gave this a full 3 listens and it seems the melodies and infectious energy has been sapped out of their sound so to say I was left wanting is an understatement, especially knowing what they’re capable of…-
Timber TimbreCreep On Creepin’ On (2011, Arts & Crafts) ♥♥♥
-Canada’s finest (only?) swamp-blues-soul outfit returns with a dark, sinister effort that will surely catch the attention of the True Blood writing staff; RIYL Dead Man’s Bones
Art BrutBrilliant! Tragic! (2011, Cooking Vinyl) ♥♥♥½
-here there be shades of the band’s rambunctious, Fall-worship beginnings of which I couldn’t get enough of; boundless hilarity ensues on cuts like Axel Rose and Clever Clever Jazz; RIYL The Pixies
GenerationalsActor-Caster (2011, Park The Van) ♥♥♥½
-I found as much pleasure in this as I did their admirable debut; its pretty evident the band decided to experiment a little but the grooves are still there in healthy amounts; RIYL Spoon, Say Hi To Your Mom
Eat Your Birthday CakeEnemies (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-local Philly gang reprazentin’ the indie rock with 8 tracks of chill with emphasis on swirling keys and fuzz; Marc’s vocals are a dead ringer for Jason Lytle…it’s uncanny; available as a free download from their BΔNDCΔMΡ; RIYL Grandaddy, Cloud Cult
The Mountain GoatsAll Eternals Deck (2011, Merge) ♥♥½
-while John is still undeniably one of the greatest storytellers of this era it’s safe to say that I’ve very much outgrown the music on his hi-fi releases; for someone as outspoken about music as he is I’m expecting some different directions/twists/turns with his own output, couple this with the fact I will never spend another cent to see him play live I’m hereby calling our relationship ‘damaged with only a slight possibility of repair’-
Dream DiaryYou Are The Beat (2011, Kanine) ♥♥½
-equal parts 80’s dance, jangle-pop, and twee…sounds great but there’s no variation between one song and the next so an EP likely would have done better as far as winning me over goes; RIYL Field Mice, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
The LuyasToo Beautiful To Work (2011, Dead Oceans) ♥♥½
-eccentric indie from Montreal collective; features guest spots from Owen Pallett and Arcade Fire (who else?); Jesse Stein’s vocals are the foundation of this album but the songs themselves failed to make a lasting impression; RIYL Deerhoof
Ghost HeartThe Tunnel (2011, Friction) ♥♥♥
-a decent attempt at bridging the gap between tribal indie-pop and the current wave of chill; highlights include the opening 3 tracks but things get a little soft and uninteresting after this…a 7″ or EP would have been ace; RIYL Akron/Family
Matthew FriedbergerMeet Me In Miramas (2011, Thrill Jockey) ♥♥♥
-I’ve never really latched onto The Fiery Furnaces so it came as a surprise that I actually liked what Matthew is doing here; the only noticeable downside is this is more or less one 40-minute jam as the percussion, tempo and subject matter rarely altered course-
MillionYoungReplicants (2011, Old Flame) ♥♥♥½
-Mike Diaz basically picked up where he left off with the gorgeous Sunndreamm EP a few years ago though one could argue that this is a bit more lush and groove-laden; this served me well on a couple of long commutes to work-
FishboyClassic Creeps (2011, Happy Happy Birthday To Me) ♥♥♥♥
-my only prior experience with Denton’s Fishboy was ’07’s Albatross which featured several infectious/manic indie-pop odes of joy(?); this is no different except it was accompanied by a read-along comic and all the characters involved have their destines entwine before the end (the Magnolia of the music world?); see Mark’s front-page review; RIYL Heligoats/Troubled Hubble, Tullycraft
Singing AdamsEverybody Friends Now (2011, Records Records) ♥♥♥
-this side-project (though I think the Broken Family Band has officially been laid to rest..) features relationship woes and tempered bile throated about in Steven Adams’ typical drawl-and-legkick fashion; I don’t know if its due to the lack of BFB members helping out or not but this fell a little short of expectations-
Thao & MirahThao & Mirah (2011, Kill Rock Stars) ♥♥♥½
-Merrill’s presence is strongly felt here with all the muted/alt percussion and nods to Afrikaan beats and jazz skronk; not terribly familiar with either Thao Nguyen or Mirah’s solo stuff but I know enough to say this is quite an impressive marriage of talents…-
Four QuartetsThe Paragon Of Animals (2011, Wooden Step) ♥♥
-pretty convincing evidence that Elliot Smith is, in fact, not dead but merely vacationing in the UK-
The RaveonettesRaven In Your Grave (2011, Vice) ♥♥♥
-the Specter wall-of-sound formula remains the same but this batch of songs lacks the punch (and controversy) of the previous 3 albums; still one of the most consistent bands in recent memory-
BibioMind Bokeh (2011, Warp) ♥♥♥
-warm, inviting, sample-and-synth electronic music from this UK producer with certainly no lack of diversity or ideas but it failed to embed itself into that nook of my brain where the pressing need to hear something again lies…-
Goes Canoeing (2011, Tiny Engines) ♥♥♥
:DC-inspired and bred, this rabble-rousin’ crew have a penchant for hyper post-hardcore with equal parts dissonance and melody: (buy vinyl)
Royal BangsFlux Outside (2011, Glassnote) ♥♥♥
:Flux didn’t pack as much punch as their previous two LP’s but I don’t think this will stop devoted fans from enjoying this; be sure to check out their recent performance on Letterman…; RIYL Royal Bangs, The Slats: (buy vinyl)
Viking Jews / SmyckenSplit LP (2011, Release The Bats) ♥♥½
:a mixed affair featuring two artists from Sweden; Viking Jews offer up a 20-minute slow-burning, delay-driven drone piece that failed to make any lasting impression and Smycken delve into deconstructed pop territory with beats that can be loosely classified as ‘indie R&B’: (buy vinyl)
Apex ManorThe Year Of Magical Drinking (2011, Merge) ♥♥♥½
:I expected this to be good after hearing all of Ross’ output with his previous gig, The Broken West; much like that band, Apex Manor is an outlet for him to present his version of modern power-pop that would definitely appeal to indies…though you probably already knew that with it being on Merge and all… RIYL Brendan Benson, Matthew Sweet:
Noah The WhaleLast Night On Earth (2011, Mercury) ♥♥
:all the personality and depth of their ’09 release is gone and in its place is a glossy, lifeless collection of songs with more than an allowable share of stock synth lines; those of you comparing this to Lou Reed or awesome-period Springsteen are straight-up three hipsters short of a biergarten: (buy vinyl)
Dave HauseResolutions (2011, Paper + Plastick) ♥♥♥½
:this LP is really no match for seeing Dave play these songs out live; when a critic describes a songwriter as ‘earnest’ and ‘blue-collar’ this is what he really means; check out his main gig, The Loved Ones for a pop-punk version of his craft: (buy vinyl)
Nathan EdwinWillow Spillow EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:folkie who channels the spirit of early period Dylan; though this type of stuff is normally dime a dozen and Nathan Edwin doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue with ease, he manages to impress with little to no adornment in these ‘b-sides’ left over from his latest LP; available as a free download here; RIYL Tallest Man On Earth:
MonogoldThe Softest Glow (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:a surprise treat from this Brooklyn (no surprise) collective that features a less-serious take on AC’s good vibes and warm, inviting arrangements; quite possibly the best opening 1-2 punch I’ve heard this year and rad artwork too…someone press it to vinyl! RIYL Sun Airway, Magic Man:
The ShiversMore (2011, Silence Breaks) ♥♥♥½
:Brooklyn’s most overlooked outfit returns with another solid batch of piano soul and organ-driven dirges anchored down by Keith Zarriello’s unmistakable (dare I say ‘sexy’) croon and a bountiful supply of self-deprecating/lovelorn musings: (buy vinyl)
ShouldLike A Fire Without Sound (2011, Words On Music) ♥♥♥½
:the band’s first true LP since 1998’s unheralded classic Feed Like Fishes thankfully continues along that tradition of harmony-driven, minimal dream-pop and slowcore; there isn’t much to discern one song from the next here but, from my experience, it’s fairly typical of the genre; RIYL Low, Ida:
SnowingI Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted (2011, Count Your Lucky Stars) ♥♥♥
:angular emo action (like Cap’n Jazz but not nearly as spastic) from the nearby Lehigh Valley; they seem to be having a lot of fun and all but I couldn’t really latch onto anything that would make me come back to this: (buy vinyl)
Little ScreamThe Golden Record (2011, Secretly Canadian) ♥♥♥
:this is beautifully arranged and Laura soften the hardest of hearts with her effulgent vocals but the songs themselves seem to be lacking that extra element to make this album stand out: (buy vinyl)
Run, ForeverThe Devil, And Death and Me (2010, Solidarity) ♥♥½
:Pittsburgh melodic punk band with a lead singer who more than favors the vocal stylings of Conor Oberst so I guess you could compare this to Desparecidos?: (buy vinyl)
SloanThe Double Cross (2011, Yep Roc) ♥♥♥½
:many have said this is formidable notch in this 20+ year old power-pop band from Canada’s belt and, while I agree to a certain extent, there are some real formulaic clunkers on here; however, the two opening tracks are infectious pop nuggets that many of us have come to know and love…perhaps an EP would have fared better?: (buy vinyl)
The Builders and The ButchersDead Reckoning (2011, Badman Recording Co.) ♥♥½
:unfortunately for the B&B, their lead singer is a dead ringer for Colin Meloy, who I share no musical affinity for; a shame because normally I’ll gobble this minimal backporch/Gothic Americana stuff right up with a ladle: (buy vinyl)
Alcoholic Faith MissionAnd The Running With Insanity EP (2011, Paper Garden) ♥♥½
:Danish band straddling the line between folktronica and indie-pop; I was a little disappointed with this as their 2010 release featured a few tracks that showed innumerous potential:
The World/Inferno Friendship SocietyThe Anarchy and The Ecstasy (2011, Chunksaah) ♥♥♥
:every punk’s favorite vaudevillian/cabaret folk, weirdo-pop opera troupe (that’s featured Franz Nicolay and members of Dresden Dolls in the past) beams with good intentions on record but you mostly have to see this live to fully appreciate their vision: (buy vinyl)
Echo LakeYoung Silence (2011, No Pain In Pop) ♥♥♥½
:pleasant reverb-and-synth-drenched dream-pop from the UK on up and coming NPIP label; RIYL A Sunny Day In Glasgow, Tamaryn: (buy vinyl)
Laura Stevenson & The CansSit/Resist (2011, Don Giovanni) ♥♥♥½
:a worthy follow-up to 2008’s beautiful debut with another batch of diverse, Spector-inspired tunes peppered with banjo and horns and Laura’s genre-defining croon; download for free here: (buy vinyl)
Akron/FamilyS/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey Of Shinju TNT (2011, Dead Oceans) ♥♥♥♥
:these guys have taken a bit of slack lately from the hipster and indie-type crowds because of their unabashed hippiness but based on videos, their live shows are intense and their catalog is slowly filling up with near-classics like S/T II: (buy vinyl)

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