Category Archives: Mini-Beats

Mini-Beats – June 2011 – Edition 44

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):

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Mini-Beats – May 2011 – Edition 43

(Editor’s Note: Starting with this edition all mini-beats reviews will feature links to buy the album on vinyl…if available, of course. Sweet, huh?)

MonumentGoes 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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Mini-Beats – May 2011 – Edition 42

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…-

 

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Mini-Beats – April 2011 – Edition 41

Hammer No More The FingersBlack 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 more appreciation for this-

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Mini-Beats – April 2011 – Edition 40

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) ♥♥♥
-see 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…-

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Mini-Beats – March 2011 – Edition 39

White Fence…Is Growing Faith (2011, Woodsist) ♥♥♥½
-Tim Presley’s latest finds him exploring a more subdued assemblage of warm, jangly 60’s sounds not unlike Donovan and Left Banke; RIYL The Young Sinclairs
PJ HarveyLet England Shake (2011, Vagrant) ♥♥♥♥
-I’ve never before listened to a complete PJ album though I’ve been more than impressed with singles I’ve heard over the years but I think I have to work backwards after this LP; Let is bursting with personality and diversity and although I can’t directly relate to the Anglophilic politics they don’t hinder the album at all; easily one of my favorite releases so far this year-
Bright EyesThe People’s Key (2011, Saddle Creek) ♥♥
-I’ve had the nagging feeling that Conor has pretty much spent all his vigor and songwriting prowess on Lifted and everything before it; outside of the opening cut most of this sounds fairly cheesy with ho-hum 80’s synth sounds and lifeless vocal deliveries-
ArchesWide Awake (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥½
-mellowed-out dream-pop that reminded me a lot of fellow Philly locals Creepoid or a sleepier version of Real Estate; as per the band, this is a concept album about a routine-driven city dweller who packs up shit for the country and wanders about without purpose-
Kurt VileSmoke Ring for My Halo (2011, Matador) ♥♥½
-I can’t seem to really align myself in the KV camp like many others; this just feels monotonous and devoid of character and the same can apply to the live show :( –
Toro Y MoiUnderneath The Pine (2011, Carpark) ♥♥♥
-another notch of swirly, sampley, synth-pop in Chaz’ belt; the few memorable tracks are outstanding (‘Still Sound’ and ‘New Beat’) but little else here moves me; CHILLWAVE…there I said it-
Hotel MexicoHis Jewelled Letter Box EP (2010, Second Royal) ♥♥♥
-I knew it wouldn’t take long for Japan to buy into the chillwave movement and these guys do a admirable take on the hypnotic beats, electronic noodling and, funnily enough, broken English that are all inherent to the genre-
LifeguardsWaving At Astronauts (2011, Serious Business) ♥♥♥
-from the opening seconds of this album you can deduce Doug Gilliard’s involvement is as profound as it was on the debut Lifeguards LP; the duo succeeds when they explore the bleak, guitar-buzzed, post-punk landscape (‘Sexless Auto’) but Waving drags when the tempo slows down-
Lykke LiWounded Rhymes (2011, LL) ♥♥♥♥
-you might not find the dynamic range in voice (assertive-to-twee/timid) and left-of-center percussion as you did on the debut but you can’t ignore the fact that Lykke has returned with a solid collection of organic, progressive-minded, dance-pop and as far as I’m concerned this is a noted improvement upon Youth Novels
J MascisSeveral Shades Of Why (2011, Sub Pop) ♥♥♥½
-outside of J’s mystical/tribal/forgettable meanderings on Sing+Chant you pretty much know what you’re in for here…quieted down versions of late period Dinosaur Jr. songs under different names; a treat, especially if, like me, you were all over the Martin + Me live recording; best artwork of the year thus far-
LubecNothing Is Enough EP (2011, self-released) ♥♥♥
-Richmond, VA collective putting on a sloppy, swirling mass of mid-fi pop/garage on display and doing it well enough to warrant a few listens; RIYL Cloud Nothings, No Age
Cut CopyZonoscope (2011, Modular) ♥♥♥½
-completely danceable synth-pop that managed to set my white ass in motion while cooking dinner the other day; however, it lacks the end of the album drags a little and overall its lacking individual character; extra half-star for one of my favorite tracks of the year so far ‘Take Me Over’-
Banjo Or FreakoutBanjo Or Freakout (2011, Memphis Industries) ♥♥½
-pffft…no banjo or freakout…pass…; but really, there are some ambient tones here worth exploring like the droney ‘Dear Me’ but this isn’t a particularly strong or memorable release-
Jon McKiel – Confidence Lodge EP (2011, Youth Club) ♥♥♥½
-Nova Scotian responsible for the 15 minutes of mid-tempo folk-pop found here…not life-changing by any means but totally hummable and I like that kind of shit sometimes; RIYL Matt Pond PA
Keep Shelly In AthensIn Love With Dusk EP (2010, Forest Family) ♥♥♥
-chillwave from, of all places, Greece released on the GorillaVs.Bear record label; this is of the sultry, synth-wave variety that taps into 80’s vibes and occasionally features the typically-maligned sax to good effect…decent but after I heard ‘Running With You’, I was expecting more-
Smith WesternsDye It Blonde (2011, Fat Possum) ♥♥♥½
-it took a few listens to glean all the influences on display here like 70’s glam, 80’s skinny-tie power-pop riffs and the entire 90’s Matt Pinfield scene; many have whined about Cullen’s vocals but I wasn’t moved one way or another with them; is it better than the debut? who knows…that one’s still sitting in my listening queue..-
James Vincent McMorrowEarly In The Morning (2011, Vagrant) ♥♥♥½
-soulful Irish folkie that’s every bit of Justin Vernon and Ray LaMontagne with more than a lion’s share of bittersweet lyrics, banjo and multi-part harmonies; amazing what Vagrant finds itself releasing these days…; rumor has it that James created a lot of buzz at SXSW so I expect this to blow up a little-
The DøA Mouthful (2008, Cinq 7) ♥♥♥½
-it’s safe to say that Olivia (the lead songstress/personality behind the duo) can be heralded as the French Björk considering she can draw on any influence/genre and weave it into gold; almost every song here has its own distinct charm…not unlike their latest LP if not slightly less stimulating; RIYL St. Vincent, Lykke Li
Telekinesis12 Desperate Straight Lines (2011, Merge) ♥♥♥
-strangely enough this didn’t move me as much as I had hoped based on the fabulous holdover EP from last year; it contains a few a tracks from that EP but little else of note; RIYL Fountains Of Wayne, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Maritime
Mind SpidersMind Spiders (2011, Dirtnap) ♥♥♥½
-MS features Mark Ryan from The Marked Men/High Tension Wires fame (also Dirtnap alumni) but really this is basically the same principle and just as catchy as anything he’s done previously, especially on the rippin’ garage numbers like ‘No Romance’ and ‘Don’t Let Her Go’; RIYL Jay Reatard or any of the aforementioned projects-
Five EightYour God Is Dead To Me Now (2011, Iron Horse) ♥♥♥½
-surely egged on by a ravenous local fan-base in the Athens/Atlanta area, Mike Mantione and the gang release only their 2nd effort since their magnum opus The Good Nurse in 2000; come for Mike’s poignant lyrics and delivery, stay for the surprisingly tight meat-and-potatoes, guitar-rock crunch-
The Appleseed CastMiddle States EP (2011, Graveface) ♥♥♥½
-another solid, if not brief, notch in one of the most consistently appealing bands of the modern indie era; the clean, paint-stroked post-rock formula they helped perfect remains intact-
WoodsmanRare Forms (2011, Lefse) ♥♥♥♥
-this album definitely has an omnipresent heartbeat which is what separates it from the now over-saturated field of 2nd wave Animal Collective worshippers; the ambient, percussive pieces reminded me a little of Mt. Eerie/The Microphones a bit as well; regardless of the influences, Rare helped me mentally wander through a few traffic-jammed rides home from work and for that I endorse it-
FaustSomething Dirty (2011, Bureau B) ♥♥½
-as sleazy as the title might imply; psyche freakouts, little bit ‘o Kraut, industrial splooge all make for an inconsistent affair, not unlike last year’s Faust Is Last
Dinosaur BonesMy Divider (2011, Dine Alone) ♥♥½
-I recall this Toronto-based group showing a bit of promise with last year’s 4-song EP and the standout track ‘N.Y.E.’ (also found here) but this LP oftentimes treads perilously close to vapid, top 40 radio-rock territory-
Foster The PeopleFoster The People EP (2011, Sony) ♥♥♥½
-I’m not sure where I’ve been while this dance-it-like-ya-got-it synth-pop, troupe from LA built up their seemingly unstoppable head of steam; Philly show sold out in minutes; RIYL Architecture In Helsinki, Peter Bjorn & John

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