Mini-Beats – August 2011

CultsCults (2011, Columbia) ♥♥♥½
:this comes very close to being deserving of the abundance of hype its received over the past year; mostly culled from singles that have slowly emerged over the past year and then rounded out with a few other tracks that fit nicely in with their easily digested 60’s pop á la Jesus & Mary Chain (Stoned & Dethroned era…) by way of Spector: (buy vinyl)
Okkervil RiverI Am Very Far (2011, Jagjaguwar) ♥♥½
:Will & Co. have fallen into a category of classy, sophisticated, story-telling pop-rock that, while capable on a literary level, puts little to no focus into the actual music itself; I must have listened to this 3 solid plays through and not a single note displayed staying power which does not bode well: (buy vinyl)
Point Juncture, WAHandsome Orders (2011, Mt. Fuji) ♥♥♥
:Portland collective who have not changed their m.o. over the years – warm, organic dream-pop with unpretentious intentions and boy/girl vocal tradeoffs; you can pick up 2 of their earlier releases gratis here; I wrote a review for the Juxtapony EP review here and featured several of their songs on monthly mixes: (buy vinyl)
Warm WeatherDances EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:exceptional indie-pop with Beach Boy influences and multi-part harmonies abounds; their sound is highly reminiscent of Vampire Weekend with nods to Afro-beat guitar rhythms and percussion but this is hardly a knockoff band; available as a free download here – go get it!:
The Nighty NiteDimples EP (2011, Graveface) ♥♥♥½
:new project for Paper Chase ringleader John Congleton will have you wondering what the difference between the two projects is and the answer is…nothing; 4 songs presented in such a dark and eerie manner that only John can conjure up including a tasteful Magnetic Fields cover to round out the EP: (buy vinyl)
IdahoYou Were A Dick (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:the king of all sad shit, Jeff Martin, returns with his first album since 2005’s spectacular The Lone Gunman and the formula hasn’t changed…ethereal soundscapes peppered with minimal amounts of piano plucks and guitar atmosphere and Jeff’s forlorn vocals; not going to top the finer moments of his past but I still expect to see this on a few year-end lists: (buy vinyl)
BattlesGloss Drop (2011, Warp) ♥♥½
:a mess of an album if I were to say so myself; contrary to what I’ve been hearing Tyondai Braxton is most definitely ‘missing’ from this equation; occasionally you’ll hear an interesting Books-like embellishment but that and the ‘human element’ of cameo appearances does very little to keep this in rotation: (buy vinyl)
Other LivesTamer Animals (2011, Play It Again Sam) ♥♥♥½
:turns out this is the same group of musicians who recorded under the Kunek moniker about 5 years back and released a pretty decent instrumental LP (go here for a very interesting back-story on lead singer Jesse Tabish that involves his old band and the All-American Rejects…); anyways, if you are familiar with Kunek this is only slightly different so I’m puzzled about the name change; RIYL Shearwater, Bon Iver: (buy vinyl)
The Loose SaluteGetting Over Being Under (2011, Graveface) ♥♥½
:breezy pop with a slight bit of twang featuring a few former(?) members of Mojave 3; really, really loved their debut EP back in ’04 but since then they’ve re-worked their style to a harmless (though ineffectual) sound: (buy vinyl)
Little SurLittle Sur EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:a sparkling gem of a folk EP here with lots of warm melodies, banjo and rustic campfire vocals (courtesy of Olivia Gerber); available as a free download on their Bandcamp – highly rec’d!:
ObitsMoody, Standard and Poor (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥♥
:not nearly as dissonant as Drive Like Jehu or as propulsive as Hot Snakes but this is still pretty fantastic garage rock ‘n roll packed tight with hooks and Rick Froberg’s signature howl; sure to please fans of Dirtnap and In The Red Records catalogs!; RIYL Marked Men, Mind Spiders, The Catheters: (buy vinyl)
RefrigeratorDangerous (2011, Shrimper) ♥♥
:this isn’t the electric/eccentric ‘fridge of old on the classic Shrimper catalog but merely a shell of its former self with Allan Callaci only wielding an acoustic guitar and a lyric sheet; this comes off as too much guy-and-a-guitar-in-a-dive-bar for my liking; if you need a reference point think a decaffeinated version of Dean Wells (Capstan Shafts) but not nearly as good as that sounds:
IceageNew Brigade (2011, Dais) ♥♥♥½
:once the foreboding intro ends we’re all treated to an onslaught of buzz-saw guitars and angsty post-punk energy; this is raw & messy art-punk descended from the Times New Viking-via-Wire school of thought and its likely the most veritable Danish export of the last ten years aside from maybe the Copenhagen Wheel…: (buy vinyl)
Brown RecluseEvening Tapestry (2011, Slumberland) ♥♥♥½
:one of my favorite local Philly acts returns with another great collection of psyche and paisley pop with simple but enlivened arrangements and indelible melodies; RIYL Essex Green, Belle & Sebastian, the direction Of Montreal should’ve taken their music: (buy vinyl)
Ringo DeathStarrColour Trip (2011, Club AC30) ♥♥♥½
:as heard before on x blog, this Austin group are wholly derivative of the Jesus & Mary Chain/My Bloody Valentine/Pale Saints school of sound but these songs are just too good to pass up and cast off as mere lesser-thans…feast and prosper!: (buy vinyl)
Eleanor FriedbergerLast Summer (2011, Merge) ♥♥♥♥
:a whimsically diverse and accessible offering from one (major) half of the Fiery Furnaces (whom, for the record, I’ve never liked…); it feels like Eleanor has successfully culled bits and pieces of the last 3-4 decades and churned out one of this year’s finest LP’s: (buy vinyl)
BraidCloser To Closed EP (2011, Polyvinyl) ♥♥
:I’m sad to announce that I cannot endorse this ‘modern’ version of a band I’ve held dear and true to my heart for the past 15 years; these 4 songs don’t have much oomph/life/energy behind them: (buy vinyl)
Black BooksAn Introduction To EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:I was quite impressed with this debut 4-song 10″ and ashamed it took me so long to listen to it after featuring ‘The Big Idea’ on the June 2011 mixtape; fans of sleepy dream-pop (this guy) will love this; RIYL Beach House, Band Of Horses: (buy vinyl)
Colin StetsonNew History Warfare, Vol. 2: Judges (2011, Constellation) ♥♥♥♥
:I’ve gone on record numerous times to decry my hatred for the saxophone…however, Colin’s left-field skronking and ‘circular breathing technique’ adds a human element that takes this instrument to an entirely different level; it even works when he’s accompanied by avant-songstress Laurie Anderson and Shara Worden from My Brightest Diamond on a few passages; given that I don’t travel too far into the depths of experimental music this could very well be my favorite release of the year in that realm: (buy vinyl)
Nick JainaThe Beanstalks That Have Brought Us Here Are Gone (2011, Hush) ♥♥♥♥
:Nick has finally topped what I thought to be his master work (read my review of 2005’s The Bluff Of All Time) and I would’ve never expected it to arrive in such a way – 10 different female vocalists, including BTID faves Laura Gibson, Luze (Y La Bamba), Amanda Spring (Point Juncture, WA), Jolie Holland & Corrina Repp, tackling an eccentric array of genres ranging from alt-country ballads to jazzy lounge and even playful (dare I say) twee sounds on ‘The President Of The Chess Club’; I kept trying to turn it off and move on to the next album in my queue but it kept pulling me back in…:
White DenimD (2011, Downtown) ♥♥♥½
:when these boys from Austin aren’t raising hairs with flute-driven psyche numbers their getting their 70’s hippie folk jam shiz on; WD have managed to take sounds I’m typically not impressed with and turn them into something tangible and impressive; glad I took a friend’s advice on this because I found nothing of note on their last Daytrotter; RIYL Dr. Dog, Blitzen Trapper, Black Mountain: (buy vinyl)
Natural Child
1971 (2011, Infinity Cat) ♥♥♥
:lots of vintage Stonesy blues ‘n roll for the enthusiasts but I don’t think this has enough character to extend itself beyond that audience; that said, this album could serve as a suitable backdrop for a party involving rednecks, cheap beer/drugs and the confederate flag: (buy vinyl)
The War On DrugsSlave Ambient (2011, Secretly Canadian) ♥♥♥♥
:the full album experience didn’t stray too far from the general feeling one got after listening to the first couple of singles for weeks on end; picture Bruce Springsteen cooing/howling into a steady, swirling stream of guitar atmospheres and then point it through a prism of current-day indie rock somebodies = the exact opposite of a sophomore slump; RIYL Kurt Vile: (buy vinyl)
Paul SimonSo Beautiful Or So What (2011, Hear) ♥♥♥½
:Simon can still write the occasional brilliant song and while this will not add up to his work with Garfunkel or Graceland, it manages to incorporate enough charm, personality and depth to propel this on to many writer’s year-end lists: (buy vinyl)
The Michael J. Epstein Memorial LibraryVolume One (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:buoyant, ‘intelligent’ indie-pop not unlike anything you’d have heard on the Magic Marker label over the years… features members of Neutral Uke Hotel and The Motion Sickness:
13 Chambers (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:I am no fan of mashups in general but this combo brought me much pleasure and not just for nostalgic purposes; these beats, rhymes and grooves go together like chocolate & peanut butter & my mouth; mountains better than The Grey Album:
Young Buffalo
– Young Von Prettylips EP (2011, Cantora) ♥♥♥½
:somehow this Mississippi collective has flown under the big indie blog radars; I say this because they’re sound is very in – a culmination of 90’s indie rock moves blended up with quirky newcomers like Fanfarlo, Local Natives and Cloud Cult; lots of big choruses and call-and-response vocals to please the ‘now’ indie crowd:
Christine OwmanThrowing Knives (2011, River Jones) ♥♥♥♥
:Christine is a Swedish-born multi-instrumentalist infatuated with the burlesque; as her press sheet and several live videos will attest, she is known for her spontaneous actions and homemade video projections during live performances but on record you’ll find very capable songwriting with lots of cello, uke and dimly-lit undertones…kind of like the female counterpart to Nick Cave..this also has a bit of an early Liz Phair feel to it:
Sad AccordionsThe Colors and The Kill EP (2011, Rainboot) ♥♥♥½
:it’s kind of weird, almost every track here immediately reminded me of another band that I love whether it be GBV, Wolf Parade, Clap Your Hands or The Antlers so the EP was a little difficult to pin down to just one sound but, hey, quality songs are quality songs, right?:
JoasihnoYou Say: Oh Well (2011, Red Can) ♥♥♥♥
:Joasihno is really just Germany’s Cico Beck (great name, if I do say) and he likes arranging pretty songs that run the gamut from quiet/hushed folk to sparkling chillwave type numbers; one of the many great discoveries from the monthly Musical Alliance Pact mixes:
Oscar & MartinFor You (2011, Two Bright Lakes) ♥♥♥♥
:I tried really hard to not like this for it calls upon the recently-trendy R&B/dubstep school-of-thought but there’s an adorable geek element to these songs that made me want to keep playing it over and over again; Sean from StG got it right when he described this as a combination of James Blake and Dirty Projectors…I’d throw house favorites CocoRosie in there as well; best thing I’ve heard from Oz in a few years; formerly known as Psuche (Ensemble) to their fellow countrymen:
Gem TrailsTimeshares EP (2011, The Curatorial Club) ♥♥
:this is basically the soundtrack to any number of ‘life on earth’ Discovery channel shows you stumble across while fumbling through your TV guide; I expected something a little more scintillating from the Woodsman frontman…good news is he’s giving it away:
The Gifted ChildrenThe Portable Sun EP (2011, Tinhorn Planet) ♥♥♥♥
:another classic entry into the seemingly endless TGC catalog; much like recent releases Jeff & the gang have perfected the art of minimalist dream-pop focused around piano ballads and, in the case of this EP, pessimism:
Big Spider’s BackMemory Man (2011, Circle Into Square) ♥♥♥
:a swirly, yet gentle, concoction of tempered bliss-pop and ambience from Seattle’s Yair Rubenstein; there’s a couple of real gems here (like whoa, Black Chow) but not enough stimulation to make me recommend the album as a whole: (buy vinyl)
Unknown Mortal OrchestraUnknown Mortal Orchestra (2011, Fat Possum) ♥♥♥
:shortly after sitting down with this I realized I had heard half of these songs many times over from my travels on ‘indie’ rooms; for those unfamiliar you’ll be greeted with an amalgation of 60’s psyche, soul and funk all awash with reverb and wrapped up into something the kids can dance along to; RIYL Peter Bjorn & John, Foster The People, Dungen: (buy vinyl)
The Japanese War EffortSurrender To Summer EP (2011, Song, By Toad) ♥♥♥♥
:see front-page review: (buy vinyl)
Turf WarYears Of Living Dangerously (2011, Old Flame) ♥♥♥
:mid-fi, meat-and-potatoes garage-punk-rock from the bowels of Atlanta, GA; couple of nice party jams to be extracted from this release:
Y La BambaLupon (2010, Tender Loving Empire) ♥♥♥½
:it takes a few listens to get over Luzelena Mendoza’s sweetly irresistible voice and reveal all the charm and eccentricity strewn about this album’s 11 tracks like the downright depressing ‘Monster’ or the haunting backdrop of ‘Juniper’; love love love the tracks with multi-part harmonies (Fasting In San Francisco); also see their poignant Tiny Desk Concert: (buy vinyl)
BeirutThe Rip Tide (2011, Pompeii) ♥♥♥½
:admittedly, I’ve not been a huge supporter of Zach’s endeavors since the unstoppable duo of albums from ’06/’07 (Gulag Orkestar & Lon Gisland EP) but this has struck a favorable chord with my scrutinous earholes even though the formula is quite basic – brass, marching band drums, Zach’s sleepy-eyed croon and a batch of quality songs: (buy vinyl)


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