Mini-Beats – June 2011

LiturgyAesthethica (2011, Thrill Jockey) ♥♥♥½
:there’s no shortage of can-crushing beats and syncopation to satisfy the typical black metal crowd though the ‘pleasant’ thoughts used to create the music and the controversial interviews held with certain band members will certainly not appeal to Viking dark-lords and necrophiliacs; I could have lived without the interludes (like the 8-bit noodling of Helix Skull) and, well, the vocals in general….they’re paranormal, for sure: (buy vinyl)
BelongCommon Era (2011, Kranky) ♥♥♥
:can’t compare this to their heralded debut as I haven’t heard it yet but Common follows a simple, singular formula of naked shoe-gaze with post-punk leanings and ample ambience; I can get behind a few tracks but the album as a whole was a little messy: (buy vinyl)
Cold CaveCherish The Light Years (2011, Matador) ♥♥½
:I was somewhat disappointed in this new direction, aside from the anthemic opening track (one of the best singles of the year thus far) this was mostly cheesy 80’s rehash and way below average lyrics; kinda assumed a move to Brooklyn would’ve yielded better results..: (buy vinyl)
Blue Water White DeathBlue Water White Death (2011, Graveface) ♥♥♥♥
:expect the art-damaged pop(?) that we’ve all come to love/hate from Jamie Stewart and inject Jonathan Meiburg’s (Shearwater, Okkervil River) influence on the arrangements and this ended up seeing an unlikely marriage yielding quite the unhyped gem; dark and eerie, sparse and beautiful, essential!: (buy vinyl)
LowC’mon (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥♥
:considering I’ve been a huge supporter of Alan, Mimi and Zak’s evolution since the early 90’s it means a lot to declare this their most powerful and endearing release since ’01’s Things We Lost In The Fire; Low consistently find ways to keep minimalism interesting while maintaining their integrity: (buy vinyl)
SharksThe Joys Of Living 2008-2010 (2011, Rise) ♥♥♥½
:had a chance to see these lads open up for Chuck Ragan and they thoroughly impressed; this is a collection of singles and whatnot culled into an LP steeped in 70’s & 80’s mod/punk revivalism: (buy vinyl)
GrailsDeep Politics (2011, Temporary Residence) ♥♥½
:pimped by several normally reliable sources but for the second album in a row (includes last year’s Black Tar 4) I walked away from a Grails LP with little to no positive impression…after 3 full (car ride) listens; the song structures and instrumentation are just flat and uninspiring when compared to earlier releases like Take Refuge or Burning; sadly, this diluted genre requires artists to stay on top of their game and broaden their palettes and, with that, Deep failed to satiate: (buy vinyl)
Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears Scandalous (2011, Lost Highway) ♥♥½
:by all accounts I should love this…it’s hi-energy nü-soul with sweat gland explosions and gyrating hips and Lost Highway is typically a reliable source for this brand but neither this or any past release of BJL’s has revealed any lasting power: (buy vinyl)
Dark MeanDark Mean (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:this proper full-length combines the band’s first 2 excellent (but critically ignored) EP’s plus a few newer tracks; one of the better alterna-pop acts hailing from Canada right now and I hope they find the time to tour my neck of the woods soon:
Tim CohenTim Cohen’s Magic Trick (2011, Captured Tracks) ♥♥♥½
:tres busy frontman for Fresh & Onlys and handfuls of other projects puts together a swell collection of lite psyche-pop nuggets; I preferred this to anything his main gig has put out; RIYL White Fence, Jens Lekman: (buy vinyl)
Eternal SummersPrisoner EP (2011, Forest Family) ♥♥♥
:this picks up where last year’s Silver left off, brief, Spectorized pop songs that bounce to and fro except for my favorite track on the EP, ‘Pure Affection’ which reminded me of one of those slow, laid-back Sonic Youth numbers: (buy vinyl)
31knotsTrump Harm (2011, Polyvinyl) ♥♥♥
:there were some rough enough moments on here but nothing like their blisteringly good pre-Polyvinyl halcyon days: (buy vinyl)
High Tension WiresWelcome New Machine (2011, Dirtnap) ♥♥♥♥
:with Dirtnap it’s already been pre-determined that infectious, high-energy garage-pop is in order here; I’d have to say this is probably one of the signature albums from the genre’s recent history as it sinks its claws into your head and never really lets up; RIYL Marked Men, Jay Reatard, Mind Spiders: (buy vinyl)
Swim PartyThere Is Too Much Wood In My Coffin EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:if I had not bothered to look I would have just assumed these lads were from Scotland and not San Diego…regardless this does sort of have the feel of the last few Frightened Rabbit albums, edgy, mid-tempo indie rock with emotional ups and downs; RIYL Wintersleep, Jim Yoshii Pile-Up:
Touchy MobAtlantic Back EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:real promising mix-mash of chill, folktronic sounds with almost dubstep-like beats from Berlin; some serious grooves found within and lo! free on his Bandcamp (along with all of his other output that I intend on listening to):
JEFF The Brotherhood
We Are The Champions (2011, Infinity Cat) ♥♥♥♥
:I knew I was going to love this immediately after hearing the opening 30 seconds of swirling 90’s indie guitar jamminess; it’s sweet and hooky when it needs to be and scuzzy/grungy when it loosens up…kudos!: (buy vinyl)
Bill CallahanApocalypse (2011, Drag City) ♥♥♥½
:it took a few spins for Bill’s ultimate charm to reveal itself on Apocalypse; the arrangements reminded me heavily of what Van Morrison achieved on Astral Weeks only peppered with Callahan’s signature (and unmistakable) baritone; my favorite ‘solo’ release out of the big three: (buy vinyl)
The AntlersBurst Apart (2011, Frenchkiss) ♥♥♥
:I couldn’t enter into this listening experience expecting Deuspice but I wasn’t prepared for such a drastic drop-off in quality; the diversity and emotional buildups have more or less disappeared and been replaced with average mellow-core sprinkled with highs (literally… check that falsetto on ‘Parentheses’) and lows (various and sundry cheesy moments throughout the album); RIYL Grizzly Bear: (buy vinyl)
Mumford & SonsSigh No More (2010, V2) ♥♥♥
:don’t cast this rating off as backlash for their enormous explosion in popularity…this is normally my bag…however, the formula of hushed, introspective intro then banjo hoedown breakdown, verse, chorus, verse chorus gets old after about hm, 3 the first 3 tracks: (buy vinyl)
GenerationalsTrust EP (2010, Park The Van) ♥♥♥♥
:this band has officially taken over the spot left blank by Spoon’s last couple of albums; each of these 4 tracks revealed charms on different levels; RIYL The Love Language, Spoon:
Sin FangSummer Echoes (2011, Morr) ♥♥♥
:pleasant and playful collection of tunes from the frontman of Iceland’s premier indie-pop/electronic band, Seabear; those keen on the Morr sound will probably extract a bit more enjoyment from this than I did; RIYL Múm, Tunng: (buy vinyl)
Parenthetical GirlsPrivilege Pt. III: Make and Mend Do EP (2011, Slender Means) ♥♥♥
:surely you’ve heard that the Privilege album will be split up into 5 fairly limited 12″ EP’s, each volume hand-numbered in the blood of a different member of the band; regardless of what you think of the music found within THAT will be hard to top!; RIYL Owen Pallett: (buy vinyl)
Israel Nash GripkaBarn Doors & Concrete Floors (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:very accessible rural Southern-influenced rock ‘n folk with Steve Shelley on drums (huh?); I could see this being gobbled up by fans of the current wave of indie/Americana/festival-folk RIYL Neil Young, Ryan Adams:
Dreamers Of The GhettoDreamers Of The Ghetto (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:a unique Bloomington collective of (mostly) family members with deeply affecting vocals and a rather proletarian feel and approach to their music; we should expect big things from these guys…hopefully a vinyl release of this album…:
Maggie BjörklundComing Home (2011, Bloodshot) ♥♥♥½
:file this under desert-folk with many helpings of spaghetti and pedal steel guitar thrown in for authenticity (Joey Burns from Calexico plays a huge part in this..) plus tasteful vocal appearances by Mark Lanegan, Jon Auer and Rachel Flotard (Visqueen); the Danish-born Björklund is most known for her pedal steel playing and session work as well as her full-time gig, Darleens; RIYL Calexico, Giant Sand: (buy vinyl)
Bon IverBon Iver (2011, Jagjaguwar) ♥♥♥½
:we can all agree that Justin has powerful & easily likeable/discernible vocals but, unlike Forever, they’re rather one-dimensional here and a lot of these songs have no open space to let them breath and develop into memorable passages/chapters; still, most of this is above-average and admittedly better than I expected except for the cringe-inducing, Phil Collins-esque shart that closes up the album…: (buy vinyl)
The DeloreansAmerican Craze (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:self-described eccentric power-pop from Louisville filtered through show-tunes, modern psychedelia and vaudevillian/baroque pop; a most pleasing experience that very few critics will be able to pinpoint or set to words very easily; couple of these tracks (like the opener and ‘Non’) actually reminded me of Devotchka: (buy vinyl)
Epic45Weathering (2011, Make Mine) ♥♥♥½
:a breeze of an album that strays very little from their tested formula of open-spaced dream-pop; this feels a lot like The Antlers’ Hospice without Peter’s signature falsetto/delivery if you need a reference point:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.It’s A Corporate World (2011, Warner) ♥♥♥
:there’s a juicy rumor going about that Mr. Zott is actually the lead singer for Victorious Secret, the winners of the freecreditscore.com contest last year…but as for the music goes I feel like I’ve heard all of these songs before…done much better…aside from the gorgeous single-of-the-year candidate ‘Morning Thought’; RIYL Local Natives, Generationals: (buy vinyl)
Centro-maticCandidate Waltz (2011, Undertow) ♥♥♥
:definitely not Will Johnson’s finest work but these tunes are easy on the ears and his voice is always a welcome addition to any verse/chorus rock formula: (buy vinyl)
Love InksE.S.P. (2011, Hell, Yes) ♥♥♥
:simple, soft-spoken, indie-pop from Austin that begins and ends in a blink of a (black)eye; fans of The XX might dig this: (buy vinyl)
Hunx And His PunxToo Young To Love (2011, Hardly Art) ♥♥♥♥
:a throwback variety of queer-core that champions all that is good with the sub-genre of Spector-influenced garage…handclaps, oohs/aahs, Grease/Rocky Horror flashbacks, his/her call-and-response; if you’re looking for infectious smiles and fun in 2011 consider this your gold standard; next up – ’09’s Gay Singles: (buy vinyl)
Eleventh Dream DayRiot Now (2011, Thrill Jockey) ♥♥½
:I struggled to find any remnants of their occasionally brilliant past; Riot seemed sloppy and disjointed but not in an interesting Chicago scene kinda way: (buy vinyl)
Way YesWalkability (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:couple of dudes from the Columbus, OH area who take advantage of the Afrobeats-and-indiepop trend on their sophomore EP; RIYL The Dodos:

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