Category Archives: Mini-Beats

Mini-Beats – September 2011 – Edition 50



The Submarines
Love Notes/Letter Bombs (2011, Nettwerk) ♥♥½
:I’ll admit that there are hooks and choruses galore here but the ultra-glossy production saps all the charm out of these Apple-commercial-ready pop songs; you had a sense they were moving in this direction after ’08’s mildly successful Honeysuckle Weeks: (buy vinyl)
Spirit SpineGlossolalia (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:chill, reverb-soaked psychedelia definitely inspired by Kraut legends and Panda Bear alike but it only works well if your mood allows this to soak in, otherwise it might sound a little same-y if you’re paying too much attention…I do dig the complete package of ‘Ocean Of Sand’ though:
COOLRUNNINGSDracula Is Only The Beginning (2011, Dracula Horse) ♥♥♥½
:insidiously catchy even though this strays more on the experimental side of pop with its wiry, post-punk underbelly; dig the inclusion of Burnout from the Buffalo EP as well as the strangely mellow Fort Kid; a nice followup to their self-released freEP’s of the past few years…you can also grab this on a donation basis here:
AstronautalisThis Is Our Science (2011, Fake Four, Inc.) ♥♥♥½
:Andy Bothwell’s finally taken the disparate styles he’s touched upon over the course of his catalog and rolled them up into one complete package but I’m not convinced there isn’t TOO much going on; Andy’s beats are still a warm splash of water on a just-shaven face and there are a few signature Astronautalis cuts that will keep me coming back to this and future releases: (buy vinyl)
Kelli SchaeferGhost Of The Beast (2011, Amigo/Amiga) ♥♥♥♥
:Kelli gives the world her best Polly Jean Harvey imitation and mostly succeeds; a few numbers wander off course here but tracks 5-8 are about as good as any EP’s I’ve heard all year, displaying Kelli’s impressive vocal range, that of honey (Gone In Love) to vermouth (Sister K); press release throws out ambiguous but simple descriptors like ‘rock’, ‘pop’, ‘soul’ etc. and I guess that makes sense as Ghost should appeal to anyone interested in quality songwriting in general; RIYL Kristin Hersh, PJ Harvey: (buy vinyl)
Sea OleenaSleeplessness (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:charming, sleepy-eyed folk delicately sung and arranged by Canada’s Charlotte Oleena (oh, I see what you did there!); the sparse arrangements help keep her breathy voice in the forefront and that’s a magic carpet I hope she continues to glide on with her new gig, Holobody; available as a name-your-price download here:
VA – Sing For Your Meat: A Tribute To Guided By Voices (2011, No More Fake Labels) ♥♥♥½
:a very capable and entertaining tribute, buoyed mostly by the fact I love each and every one of these songs as if they were my own…especially enjoyed the Lou Barlow, La Sera and Jason Isbell versions:
I Hate You Just KiddingDays Grew Longer (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:I’m sure the name Jeremy and Jessi decided to choose for their mellow dream-folk-pop project will yield more than a fair share of snarky commentary (in jest, of course) but the music itself is worthy of a few spins regardless of the lack of variety; RIYL Snowblink:
Wooden ShjipsWest (2011, Thrill Jockey) ♥♥♥½
:my first foray into WS is a positive one; dig the squalling, psychedelic garage guitar sounds (+ Farfisa!) and overall trippy feel; ‘Lazy Bones’ sounds like a runaway train about to fly off the tracks and the closing track ‘Rising’ was actually recorded backwards but it sounds great!; need to investigate more of their storied catalog as well as Ripley’s other project, Moon Duo; RIYL Tame Impala, War On Drugs, the noisier side of Yo La Tengo: (buy vinyl)
Gold-BearsAre You Falling In Love? (2011, Slumberland) ♥♥♥♥
:these guys mix elements of all things good like bristling C-86 pop, subtle twee melodicism, a GBV-like penchant for brief, yet potent hooks and a slight coating of shoegaze; found out there’s a few members from Plastic Mastery in GB which might explain why I loved this so much! Slumberland is str8 up knocking it out of the park this year! RIYL The Wedding Present, Boyracer: (buy vinyl)
Will JohnsonLittle Raider EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:always a treat when Will steps out from (the confines?) of his main gig Centro-matic to serenade us with just his golden pipes, a guitar and a sizeable serving of melancholy sadness:
William Elliott WhitmoreField Songs (2011, Anti) ♥♥♥
:this is classic Whitmore and, although each track is indecipherable from the next, it’s hard to find fault with his bare-bones, banjo-driven blues-folk for the proletariat; all of his albums would make for perfect company on a long road trip through the countryside: (buy vinyl)

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Mini-Beats – August 2011 – Edition 49


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:
Wugazi
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 their 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 turntable.fm ‘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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Mini-Beats – August 2011 – Edition 48

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)

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Mini-Beats – July 2011 – Edition 47

Gray YoungStaysail (2011, 307 Knox) ♥♥♥½
:very melodic, atmospheric post-rock that relies heavily on sounds pioneered by The Appleseed Cast; while not the most unique showing, Staysail still struck me as solid songwriting, especially in a genre that rarely moves me anymore: (buy vinyl)
Trouble Books & Mark McGuireTrouble Books & Mark McGuire (2011, Bark and Hiss) ♥♥♥
:combine TB’s warm folktronica and McGuire’s ambient guitar drones and this will be exactly what you think that marriage would sound like: (buy vinyl)
O’DeathOutside (2011, Ernest Jenning Recording Co.) ♥♥½
:I just can’t seem to latch onto what these guys have been doing; there’s even less of that darkside, Gothic Americana/folk than previous records and the production is sleek and flawless; I think at this point the band seems like an Okkervil River knockoff moreso than the potential pioneers of their own sub-genre: (buy vinyl)
By SurpriseMountain Smashers (2011, Topshelf) ♥♥♥½
:these bespectacled Jersey boys have put together an unorthodox, but welcoming combination of 90’s slacker indie-rock, youthful Promise Ring energy and every English professor’s dusty bookshelves; come for the hyper numbers, stay for the variety: (buy vinyl)
My Morning JacketCircuital (2011, ATO) ♥♥½
:I can’t really say why this band has never done anything for me other than ‘they’re boring’; nothing really sticks in your head or forces your eyebrows north: (buy vinyl)
Hospital ShipsLonely Twin (2011, Graveface) ♥♥♥
:Jordan Geiger has built up quite a resume with a few excellent Minus Story records, part-time gigs with Appleseed Cast and Shearwater and this, his ‘solo’ venture that exhibits many of the same as all of the above; wasn’t as keen on this as I was the debut but there’s enough quality to give it few spins: (buy vinyl)
KindercastleNumber B (2011, Yewknee) ♥♥♥½
:this baby is all over the pop rainbow with samples and nods to free-form Parisian pop or the (dare I say) chillwavin’ Pale Noon; these 2 lads are heavily influenced by ELO and it shows; you might know one half of the duo as Uncle Skeleton; an entertaining listen with endless twists and turns: (buy vinyl)
Alexa WoodwardIt’s A Good Life Honey If You Don’t Grow Weary (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥♥
:I’ve been a fan of Alexa’s for a few years now, slowly catching up on her previous releases and I’m always smitten by her affecting, world-weary vocals and minimal, folk accompaniment (most notably the banjo); It’s A Good Life is unquestionably a charmer from start to finish and it’s available as a name-your-price download (free if you pass it along to friends!); RIYL Sharon van Etten, Joanna Newsom:
The KillsBlood Pressures (2011, Domino) ♥♥♥½
:it had just been brought to my attention that Alison Mosshart was the former lead singer for Discount which explains why I unashamedly like this; this is a very minimal, bare-bones variety of garage-pop that bands like Yeah Yeah Yeah’s and The Raveonettes have been making a living off of; it seems a lot of critics disagree but I prefer this to their semi-heralded Midnight Boom LP a few years back: (buy vinyl)
TanlinesVolume On (2010, self-released) ♥♥♥
:hard to believe a former member of Don Caballero comprises 1/2 of this duo as this is ready-made tropical beats that ride a not-quite-chill wave (too much open space and minimalism) but close enough to get the hipsteros sweatin’ up a storm at the Barbary; really dig Real Life and the Glasser-assisted Z but this sound is best left to short singles and EP’s:
The Capstan ShaftsKind Empires (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:it would appear that Dean felt it was time for a return to form after a virtually ignored release on venerable Rainbow Quartz; this is classic Shafts – snappy lo-fi bursts of pop noise with Dean’s signature voice jockeying for attention:
DaybreakerThe Northbound Trains EP (2011, Pure Noise) ♥♥½
:this is a case of maturing punks branching out to melodic punk rock ‘n roll with slightly dramatic vocals and ooh-ooh’s; s’ok but there’s not much that’ll make me come back to this in the future; features former(?) members of Ambitions and With Honor: (buy vinyl)
DolfishYour Love Is Bumming Me Out EP (2011, Indiecater) ♥♥♥½
:a handful of heartbreak songs (released on Valentines Day, actually) but coated in humor rather than whining and mulling about; I’d be curious to hear more from Max Sollisch (sole member) as his voice and approach are rather unique:
Kids On A Crime SpreeWe Love You So Bad (2011, Slumberland) ♥♥♥½
:above-average Jesus & Mary Chain worship featuring the dude behind twee folks’ faves Ciao Bella & From Bubblegum To Sky (Mario Hernandez) and Becky from #poundsign# & Scrabbel note…certainly not unique in any way but it’s on Slumberland so you know it’s worth your time and I dare you to pry some of these tracks from out of your head; RIYL The Raveonettes, The Big Pink: (buy vinyl)
The SwordWarp Riders (2010, Kemado) ♥♥
:a few decent metal virtuoso instrumentals but when the vocals kick in it’s waaaayyy too much 70’s ‘hard rock’ influence for me to get into this: (buy vinyl)
Panda BearTomboy (2011, Paw Tracks) ♥♥½
:remember that Justin Bieber song slowed down like 10,000x that went viral about 6 months ago? this is about 50 minutes of that – hollowed out shells of Animal Collective songs that might serve you well as mood music (ya know, what record shop owners play to prove to you how above you they are) but I can’t see myself reaching for this much in the future; I did, however, enjoy the slight dub influences on a few songs and Sonic Boom’s (obvious) contributions: (buy vinyl)
SerynThis Is Where We Are (2011, Velvet Blue) ♥♥♥½
:fans of fragile/delicate melodies, multi-part harmonies, clean/crisp production and folk instrumentation (banjo, uke, ‘mouth sounds’, etc.) will be pleased with this Denton collective’s debut; the rather articulate mix of uplifting and melancholic moments help this to stand out from all the one-dimensional artists in this category: (buy vinyl)
Lil DaggersKing Corpse EP (2011, Song, By Toad) ♥♥♥
:melodic garage in the Dirtnap vein from the swamps of Florida; this serves as a prelude to their upcoming debut full-length on Limited I Fanfare; RIYL Marked Men, Cloud Nothings: (buy vinyl)

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Mini-Beats – July 2011 – Edition 46

WarpaintThe Fool (2010, Rough Trade) ♥♥♥
:seems like YEARS ago that bloggers were hard pimpin’ these ladies as ‘the next big thing’…well I’m a little late to the show so this opinion will count for next to nothing now that we’ve not heard a peep from them since they came rolling through here with Zola Jesus and The XX; oh, the music? it’s a muted variety of gothic, dream-pop not unlike those XX cats: (buy vinyl)
Le DaysDead People On Tape (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:sparse and fragile folk from Sweden’s Daniel Hedin (with help from friends); at 78 minutes it runs a bit long but his striking emotional outpouring should keep even the most ADD-afflicted listener on the edge of their seat in anticipation of what will come next:
JesuAscension (2011, Caldo Verde) ♥♥♥½
:this is admittedly my first true experience with anything Justin has ever done so I have no frame of reference to compare this to; with that in mind, I found Ascension more in line with the slow low-end churn of 90’s alt-indie kings Hum than Slint/EITS (amateur Pitchfork reviewer…); tracks 2,3,4 make a killer trio but the album has a tendency to repeat itself and drag on a bit: (buy vinyl)
Snake OilSnake Oil (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
:groove-based instrumental passages featuring members of Weigh Down & Titles that occasionally sound like Black Moth Super Rainbow/Tobacco outtakes: (buy vinyl)
Victory & AssociatesThese Things Are Facts (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:rowdy but melodic indie rock from San Fran featuring the former singer of Replicator (blast from the past there…); this is a West Coast sound filtered through matter-of-fact, Midwestern mannerisms (dig that alliteration) not unlike The Hold Steady: (buy vinyl)
Closely Watched TrainsClosely Watched Trains (2009, Twin Lakes) ♥♥♥½
:CWT present a hodgepodge of back-porch Americana and quasi-hippie-folk-rock from the burgeoning New Haven, CT scene; this is earnest music at its most refined:
Dignan PorchDeluded (2011, Captured Tracks) ♥♥♥
:another entrant into the long (currently) line of melodic, mid-fi garage pop bands from the UK RIYL Real Estate, Beach Fossils: (buy vinyl)
Jill AndrewsThe Mirror (2011, Liam) ♥♥♥½
:Jill has backed up her beautiful, unmistakable voice with an exceptional batch of songs…I was concerned all of her best work was behind her as a member of the (still-missed) Everybodyfields but that’s not the case; might be easy listening for some but this occupies a niche that I sometimes need to call upon; RIYL Lissie:
Sam BayI Have A Fever (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:Sam may or not be recognizable to BTID readers under his former stage name Sam Skarstad due to his inclusion on one of my all-time fave monthly mixes (December 2005); this is crafty, ‘orchestral’ psyche-folk with gentle guitar plucks, electronic flourishes and trippy lyrical passages; don’t pass up Sam’s new Philly/Brooklyn based project Snakes Say Hisss…pretty impressive for a lad of only 20!:
AustraFeel It Break (2011, Domino/Paper Bag) ♥♥♥♥
:Katie Stelmanis has finally found a bit of recognition with her Polaris Prize nominated Feel; her voice is a perfect fit for these euphoric, goth-pop dance numbers; RIYL Zola Jesus, Crystal Castles: (buy vinyl)
Eddie VedderUkelele Songs (2011, Island) ♥♥♥
:it would appear Vedder is one of the few (if not the only) music pioneers of the 90’s grunge era to artisticly thrive in the post-flannel years; he gets help from Chan Marshall (Cat Power) and Glen Hansard (Frames) but this is mainly his gig with vocals, uke and minor accompaniment plus a few covers:
The Go! TeamRolling Blackouts (2011, Memphis Industries) ♥♥½
:a playful but scatterbrained trip through indie-pop psychedelia and melodic weirdness from this UK collective…couple of knockout tracks but a lot of (instrumental) filler; rumor has it their first two LP’s are more substantial: (buy vinyl)
The LongwallsCareers In Science (2011, Static Motor) ♥♥♥♥
:having been one of Boston’s best kept secrets for years, The Longwalls have crafted a start-to-finish power-pop gem with equal amounts jangle and twang that hopefully extends their audience beyond Beantown; also features BTID favorite Kurt von Stetten on drums:
Here We Go MagicJanuary EP (2011, Secretly Canadian) ♥♥♥
:I felt the same way about this stopgap/leftovers EP as I did the recent LP (Pigeons)…there’s fine moments here (the bubbly post-punkish sound of ‘Backwards Time’) but not a whole lot to keep this on the iPod permanently:
The ACB’sStona Rosa (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
:it might be a bit lazy to say a lot of these tracks sound inspired by (or derivative of) Weezer or Fountains Of Wayne but hot-damn catchy tracks like ‘Italian Girls’ rip a page right out of Rivers Cuomo’s diary; RIYL Weezer, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, modern indie power-pop circles:
SkeletonsPeople (2011, Shinkoyo) ♥♥♥½
:noodly and angular avant-rock sprinkled with elements of jazz, folk, weirdness and profanity; add vocalist’s Matt Mehlan’s inviting, matter-of-fact style (Chris Leo of The Van Pelt?) and this becomes strange brew, but an invigorating affair; peeps whose tastes regularly from 4/4 time signatures and verse-chorus-verse formulas will find a lot to love here; RIYL Battles:

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Mini-Beats – June 2011 – Edition 45

JEFF The BrotherhoodWe 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, 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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