Thursday, 30 August 2012

Swans - The Seer added to 2012 Recommended Albums

Since there have been a huge number of noteworthy albums released in the last couple of weeks for your average indie blogger (at a rate that looks set to continue), it has become increasingly tough to seperate the great from the good, to predict what records will remain and be returned to long after the dust has settled. This simply isn't the case with The Seer, the second Swans album after bandleader Michael Gira resurrected the moniker in 2009. It seems as if any other review or discussion of The Seer has to include the following quote, and as I believe it to be an important one I'm going to regurgitate that trend. In case you missed it, this is what Gira said of the album in an interview with The Quietus:

"The Seer took 30 years to make. It's the culmination of every previous Swans album as well as any other music I've ever made, been involved in or imagined. But it's unfinished, like the songs themselves. It's one frame in a reel. The frames blur, blend and will eventually fade."
On surface level it isn't difficult to understand just why The Seer stands out. It's a monster, a 2CD/3LP experience that demands two hours of its listeners' misery. Amongst its eleven tracks lie a 32-minute title track and two closing tracks of around 20 minutes each. And not to mention it's by Swans, a group that has spent the best part of the last 30 years destroying people's conceptions of popular music, evolving over the  ages to marry no-wave punk with noise, industrial and post-rock music. But even with these credentials it's something else entirely to produce a two-hour album containing elements that longtime fans are going to be surprised by, and to result in a cohesive statement that deserves to stand next to Gira's towering words.

But it does. One of the album's strongest qualities is that it manages to entertain consistently for that amount of time, albeit entertain a certain type of music listener. There are too many specific moments, instuments and guest musicians to name each one individually, and The Seer is something that needs to be heard to be believed, but likewise there are too many great things going on to neglect a mention. Opener "Lunacy" is a great one. It feels like the doorway into the album's netherworld, with Gira's chant "Your childhood is over" being the signpost pointing the way back for the unadventurous. The first half of the next track "Mother Of The World" is taken up with a two note riff that stutters its way into exhaustion, complete with heavy breathlessness. Of course the majority of the first disc is taken up with "The Seer", which without trying to sell it short (if that's even possible) is most strongly defined by Thor Harris' pummeling drums. "93 Ave. B Blues" builds tension until it breaks into classic Swans cacophony. Even the acoustic ballads on Disc 1 sound twisted; Gira's creaky vocals on "The Wolf" are brought right up close, elongated out of any comfort.

The second disc opens up with a respite, a ballad sung not by Gira but Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeah's fame. "Song For A Warrior" is perfectly placed; functioning as both a welcome and necessary break but also introducing what I consider to be the strongest three tracks on the album. Firstly "Avatar" skips along church bells andd Gira's monasterial chanting, gaining momentum until finaly breaking into one of the best dramatic turns on the album. It's a small shame it doesn't last longer; alas it moves into the crackling fires of "A Piece Of The Sky", nineteen minutes of sheer beauty, like a Pink Floyd album in microcosm, and as an essential part of the album as the final track. "The Apostate" is like the final boss of a video game: challenging, but if you've managed to get this far you'll see it as your reward. Initially slow, brooding; it takes exactly six minutes to turn unapologetic, and eventually seething.

The Seer is clearly a sprawling, cinematographic album, like Can's Tago Mago and Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Lift Yr Skinny Fists... before it, and not for the casual listener to pick up. But it's not so demanding as to drain you, not so repetitive as to be monotonous. It's length and scope may seem to disguise any faults repeated listening may unsurface, yet returning to it several times reveals few. The Seer is a masterpiece for Swans, that genuinely does draw from all phases of Michael Gira's musical career: the sounds of a lush plethora of acoustic instrumentation, with the massive force of the central band unit. In totality the album's hugeness is likeable to the heights Swans stand over the rest of the world's music makers.

Grizzly Bear w/ Perfume Genius - (Nottingham) Albert Hall Conference Centre (29th August 2012)

The 2 Bears (Ed Droste and Daniel Rossen). Couldn't get the rest in shot, heaven knows I tried.

Perfume Genius
Not too dissimilar to the set they performed at Latitude last month (and because I detailed that here I'm not going to elaborate much). Thankfully I was surrounded by less irriating company this time around. Surprisingly, the main difference between this Mike Hadreas and the one performing to double the amount of people in the i Arena was this one seemed to lack further confidence. Not a huge problem, as is the nature of Perfume Genius, and as far as support slots go, I don't think I could have asked for a better one.

Grizzly Bear
Ed Droste decided to turn the seated show into a standing one. One of the main issues of this was that it became tough to see (and photograph) entirely what was happening on stage. The Albert Hall Conference Centre isn't a typical music venue, and there's no barrier between the crowded audience and the under-three-feet stage. This was probably my only major negative of the show. The setlist ranged across Grizzly Bear's current three studio albums, but some of the night's brightest moments came from the scarcely-performed new material, to feature on the upcoming album Shields. No less than six new tracks were played: "Sleeping Ute" and "Yet Again" were already familiar, but they were rivalled by "Speak In Rounds", "A Simple Answer", "gun-shy" and "Half Gate". Between them signifies a prediction that Shields may turn out to be Grizzly Bear's rock album, and all four members infused these songs with a new passion. Some top-class banter solidified the evening, on the account of it being Chris Taylor's birthday, and they can be forgiven for shortening their encore to go out to celebrate.

I managed to nab myself a setlist, which is how I knew what the new songs were. The penultimate track is called "Half Gate":

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Converge announce new album - album cover, tracklist, music video for "Aimless Arrow"

Since Converge's last album, 2009's Axe To Fall guitarist Kurt Ballou has produced for some of the finest bands of American underground metal. Now he will be putting the skills he's learned on those records towards a new album for his own band. All We Love We Leave Behind (artwork above) will be released on 9th October on Epitaph, and will be available in both regular and deluxe edition packages. Below find the album's tracklist and Max Moore-directed video for first track "Aimless Arrow":

1. Aimless Arrow
2. Trespasses
3. Tender Abuse
4. Sadness Comes Home
5. Empty on the Inside
6. Sparrow's Fall
7. Glacial Pace
8. No Light Escapes*
9. Vicious Muse
10. Veins and Vails
11. Coral Blue
12. Shame in the Way
13. On My Shield*
14. Precipice
15. All We Love We Leave Behind
16. Runaway*
17. Predatory Glow

* Deluxe edition bonus tracks

Track all the info up to the release of All We Love We Leave Behind on the Upcoming Releases page.

Monday, 27 August 2012

TOY - "Lose My Way" video, plus other stuff

Finally I get an excuse to talk about TOY! I've been loosely following this band ever since I caught the back end of their set at Latitude last month. Their self-titled debut album is to be released via Heavenly Recordings on the 10th September (artwork above). This is the video to their latest single "Lose My Way", which will also see an individual release a week later:

Below you can find the album tracklist, trailer, singles and music video for "Motoring":

1. Colour’s Running Out
2. The Reasons Why
3. Dead & Gone
4. Lose My Way
5. Drifting Deeper
6. Motoring
7. My Heart Skips A Beat
8. Strange
9. Make It Mine
10. Omni
11. Walk Up To Me
12. Kopter

Track all the info up to the release of TOY on the Upcoming Releases page.

Cat Power - Sun and Deerhoof - Breakup Song streaming at NPR Music

New albums ahead of release this week come from Deerhoof and Cat Power, who release Breakup Song and Sun respectively next Monday. Enjoy yourself with these links:

Cat Power - Sun
Deerhoof - Breakup Song

Friday, 24 August 2012

Neil Young & Crazy Horse to release second album of 2012

Earlier in the year Neil Young reformed Crazy Horse, a band with which he recorded some of his best and most popular albums of his career. They released Americana, an album made up of classic American songs of yesteryear, but now Neil has announced on his website that there will be a new Neil Young/Crazy Horse album of entirely original material. Psychedelic Pill will be released on double CD and triple LP sometime in October. In addition "full length videos for each of the songs will be available and previewed. A recommended high resolution 24/192 full fidelity version of the album Psychedelic Pill will be released on Blu-ray and will include all the videos". Now that's what I'm talking about!

Track all the info up to the release of Psychedelic Pill on the Upcoming Releases page.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Ab-Soul - Control System added to 2012 Recommended Albums

"Ab-Soul: abstract asshole". This warped line of self-promotion is a painfully accurate one. By far the most leftfield of the already ahead-of-the-curve Black Hippy, Ab-Soul also goes under nicknames like "Black-Lip Bastard". At a young age he was diagnosed with a rare skin condition called Stevens-Johnson syndrome which meant the skin "grew back darker than its original pigment". He always wears dark glasses due to photosensitive eyes. Even before his music Ab-Soul cuts one of the more interesting figures in rap, someone who's had an unimagnable dose of ups and downs. Like many I first encountered him on the eponymous closing to Kendrick Lamar's Section.80, "Ab-Soul's Outro", where his flow bore a closer resemblance to free jazz than anything out of the tome of hip-hop. Due to Kendrick's success with Section.80 last year Control System can't escape being the full-length indroduction to Ab-Soul, and its title hides nothing about its motivations.

Soulo is often considered the most lyrically gifted of the Black Hippy crew, which is a tall feat within itself standing next to Kendrick, but this would add up to little without suitable production from Top Dawg Entertainmant's unsung heroes. Right from the beginning we are told "This is a story about control" and the scene is set for the remaining 70 minutes. The production never feels too dark or too flashy; Ab-Soul is able to be topical yet retain a dry humor in places without the risk of falling flat. It may never turn your head in amazement but it's dependable and never off; consistent but varied enough to last Control System's runtime. I especially like how it twists its way around the other three Black Hippies who guest on the centre trimverate. ScHoolboy Q's presence on "SOPA" makes it a swag rap, Jay Rock's "Lust Demons" is more soulful, and Kendrick brings the album back to social commentary with "ILLuminate". It's an example of clever sequencing, something which all albums of this length need to have. And it also provides a break from the gloomier themes.

Most people however won't be here for the production, but to hear Ab-Soul's wordplay, not to mention his "story about control". Control System is more of a collection of seperate ideas surrounding Soulo's social and political views than it is the tightly-constructed concept album the intro leads you to believe it is, but that doesn't stop his lyrics from biting on the tracks that do reflect these ideas. In this regard the Danny Brown-assisted lead single "Terrorist Threats" leads the charge. "If all the gangs in the world unified/We'd stand a chance against the military tonight" is a pretty powerful call to arms, especially when you discover his target: "Dear Barack.../You're lying to the public like it ain't nothing". "Track Two" overlaps Ab-Soul's control system theory with his personal struggles, and comes across as a convincing leader in charge of the "Giving people what they need/You got some kind of disease" hook.

The story of Control System is also the story of Ab-Soul, and knowing what a fascinating one it could be we thankfully get to hear a good amount of it, as the more solemn, pessimistic tracks are for my money the best. Even when he creates a character who plots his own form of justice in "A Rebellion", its weight comes off the lines not being so clear cut. The album's second half slips in mood until the suicide-contemplating "Beautiful Death", but is all put into perspective with "The Book Of Soul", which tells the true story of the suicide of Ab-Soul's girlfriend Alori Joh. The most remarkable part of the album, and where Ab-Soul truly lives up to his name, as his voice chokes under the weight of its subject matter - it must be difficult for any listener to not feel some connection to it.

Of all of the rappers and groups crossing over into the mainstream, there are fewer that suggest they could bring something unique, even necessary than Ab-Soul and Black Hippy. Control System is powerful evidence for both. Mainstream rappers, criticized more frequently than ever for taking fewer risks, rarely attempt to put something like Control System together; that could only have someone with passion, humour and an unfaked quirkiness that have earned him a loyal fanbase, the Abstract Asshole.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Single of the Week: Swans - "A Piece Of The Sky"

The new Swans record The Seer happens to be two hours long, but it saves one of its best moments for its penultimate act. "A Piece Of The Sky" may not be The Seer's longest track (a brisk 19 minutes compared to the 30 or so of the title track), but it almost certainly is the prettiest. Opening with the sound of crackling flames and a low-end distorted rumble the track slowly evolves into an ambient mood piece highlighed with what resembles the percussive rattling of stringed instruments. At the ten minute mark it changes again into the steady roll of post-rock with slow guitar phrases over bells. In the final minutes Michael Gira reaches over to the microphone to record a solemn vocal over acoustic guitar. Somehow his usually jagged croon becomes the most moving part of the track, especially when almost doo-wop sounding backing vocals emerge. "A Piece Of The Sky" then fades gracefully with the twinkle of xylophone, leaving the memory of one of the most affecting of pieces of orchestrated rock you're probably ever likely to hear.

From The Seer. This track can only currently be heard as part of the album stream which you can find by following this link.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Les Sins - "Fetch" and "Taken"

Les Sins (better known for his work under Toro Y Moi) has a new single on the JIAOLONG label run by Daphni (better known for his work under Caribou, ugh), set for a "late [A]ugust" release. Luckily it caught my ear. Both sides below:

Stream Matthew Dear - Beams

It's time to hear what the album that features previous Single of the Week "Her Fantasy" sounds like. Matthew Dear's latest, Beams (artwork above), is released next Monday on Ghostly. Until then, stream below:

Swans - The Seer and Dan Deacon - America streaming at NPR Music

By now you've hopefully found time to sit down with Animal Collective's Centipede Hz - and reconciled with the fact it's not coming out for another two weeks. If you want to stream albums that are being released next Monday/Tuesday the I would point you in the direction of NPR Music who have both Swans' two-hour odyssey The Seer and the more compact-sized Dan Deacon album America streaming in full. Links:

Dan Deacon - America
Swans - The Seer

Stream the new Animal Collective album Centipede Hz

As part of the Animal Collective Radio series the band has just finished airing the premiere of their new album Centipede Hz (artwork above). If you missed it, or just want to experience it all over again you can still head over to the band's website myanimalhome where you can stream Centipede Hz at your leisure, accompanied by visuals created by Abby Portner. Altenatively listen to the last four weeks of Animal Collective Radio archived on the band's Mixcloud page.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

AlunaGeorge - "Your Drums, Your Love"

Sultry R&B duo AlunaGeorge are moving up in the world. Following a vocal feature on a Rustie remix comes "Your Drums, Your Love", a single for Island which will see release on 7th October, with promise of an album in 2013:

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Black Hippy members each release a track for "TDE Fam Appreciation Week"

The four members of rising hip-hop group Black Hippy are by far Top Dawg Entertainment's biggest signings, with each of them finding individual success, respect and acclaim. Over the last few days Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q have released a song each in celebration of "TDE Fam Appreciation Week"; each one working with seperate TDE in-house producers. Kendrick Lamar also has a major-label album out on the 2nd October, good kid, m.A.A.d. city; his track "Westside, Right On Time" features Young Jeezy. Stream/download all four tracks below. I won't be including them in this month's playlist for the sake of equality, but it doesn't worth they're not worth your time:


Track all the info up to the release of (Kendrick Lamar's) good kid, m.A.A.d. city on the Upcoming Releases page.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Flaming Lips announce new album The Terror

If an interview Wayne Coyne did with Rolling Stone is to be believed, the Flaming Lips hope to release a new studio album, for now called The Terror, later this year. It follows a set of collaborations the band released on this year's Record Store Day called The Flaming Lips And Heady Fwends and succeeds 2009's Embryonic. Speaking to Rolling Stone Wayne told of some disturbing news surrounding longtime Lips guitarist Steven Drozd's drug addiction (possibly related to his 2010 hospitalization). Thankfuly however Wayne says that Steven is "better now than ever".

Track all the info up to the release of The Terror on the Upcoming Releases page.

Lunice - "Believe Dat" (music video)

In the video for the new Lunice track "Believe Dat", directed by Shot by JFK, we see our eponymous hero swagging out on his MPC and generally making a lot of noise. Now that his TNGHT project with Hudson Hohawke has wrapped up there's talk of a solo album. More news as of when:

Liars - WIXIW added to 2012 Recommended Albums

I'm not quite sure what it was, but there was something off about a veteran dance-punk band that I had previously barely spent time with releasing what had reportedly been boiled down to an "elecronic record". Perhaps it had to do with the nature of the last few Liars records in particular. After the sprawling art-rock masterpiece that was 2006's Drums Not Dead (considered by many to be the band's magnum opus) the trio pared back their sound over their next two records Liars and Sisterworld. Which is a fine idea in principle, however the divided opinions of both those albums and obvious lack of adventure was enough to suggest that the party was rapidly reaching a close. Liars' seemed to have run dry. Next, an electronic record?

All the reports of the WIXIW sessions suggested that the album took nothing other than painstaking amounts of time and effort to create. Videos of the band in their recording space saw the trio at the absolute end of exhaustion. Even if they were partially or entirely acting, the sound of WIXIW itself is tense, brooding and claustrophobic; in short the exact result of a band using their previous experience to venture into unknown depths. It's one of those albums that can sound either entirely boring or utterly compelling depending on the mood it catches you in, made even more astonishing considering that it was mostly made up of instruments and software programs deliberately chosen by Liars because of their unfamiliarity and relative complexity.

WIXIW opens with "The Exact Colour Of Doubt". Angus Andrew sings beautifully to the listener that he'll always be their friend, his voice between methodic analogue synth. Next "Octagon" increases the pace significantly; tight drum machine patterns punching the way. Then we get to lead single "No. 1 Against The Rush", one of Liars' most accessible songs period and one of the few of WIXIW's to feature guitar. Andrew's vocal changes for a third time, now altenating between deeper verses and choruses that appear stretched in their note lengths. Despite its abillity to capture a singular mood the album shows Liars refusing to stay in one place, changing up not only from one track to the next but during individual moments. It never feels as though you're getting the same thing twice.

More than ever the influence of Radiohead looms over Liars; now not only in Angus Andrew's distinctive vocal style but in their approach to album craft. WIXIW could easily be seen as a Kid A moment for the band, as both capture a completely different angle of electronic music. Liars have not made a Caribou album. Instead they have dug out their own ground using Krautrock, early synthesizer music and the aforementioned Radiohead as shovels. And the buzzing bass textures of "Flood To Flood", the gorgeous layers of title track "WIXIW" and oddly 90s-reminiscent force of "Brats" show that this is something which the band have a clear knack for. WIXIW can be fun, serious, haunting and romantic; wiith Liars switching from straighforward to complex whenever the mood takes them. It knows that life is never black-and-white, and through the detail it displays it stands as an accurate testimony to one, long, deflating, inspiring recording process.

Flying Lotus - "See Thru To U" (feat. Erykah Badu)

Straight off the back of the Earl and Captain Murphy-featuring "Between Friends", the first single from the new Flying Lotus album Until The Quiet Comes. "See Thru To U" features the vocals of Erykah Badu (spoiler: it's awesome):

Stream Jessie Ware's debut album Devotion and JJ DOOM's KEYS TO THE KUFFS

I've posted enough Jessie Ware tracks to prove that I've been looing forward to hearing her full-length debut Devotion for a while. Now in time for its release next Monday it's here, available to stream below courtesy of the Guardian:

UPDATE: Also streaming on the Guardian is the new JJ DOOM album, KEYS TO THE KUFFS, featuring collaborations with Damon Albarn and Beth Gibbons (Portishead). I decided to include it in the same post. Click here to listen.

Deerhoof - "Fête D'Adieu"

If you want to hear the second track to be taken from Deerhoof's upcoming album Breakup Song, the "Keith-Richards-joins-ABBA" of "Fête D'Adieu", you'll have to go to Rolling Stone. Also head here for first single "The Trouble With Candyhands".

Swans - "Mother Of The World"

Here's a ten-minute taster of he new Swans record The Seer (artwork above), out next week on Young God Records. The album features collaborations with Akron/Family, Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Grasshopper (Mercury Rev) and Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker (Low) amongst others. "Mother Of The World" is streaming at Pitchfork.

King Krule - "Rock Bottom"

New single on the way from King Krule, whose self-titled EP was an easy 2011 favourite. Here's "Rock Botttom", which has the ginger Rick Astley look-a-like singing part of the Streets' "Empty Cans" during its frenetic climax:

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Himanshu announces new mixtape, download "Killing Time"

Das Racist's Heems is readying a new mixtape called Wild Water Kingdom, the second this year following the 2012 Recommended Nehru Jackets and the fourth this year total from the Das Racist camp. Below download the Echo and the Bunnymen-sampling "Killing Time", and stick with it. It's worth it:

Track all the info up to the release of Wild Water Kingdom on the Upcoming Releases page.

Single of the Week: Mac DeMarco - "My Kind Of Woman"

The problems with retreading not only a familiar style of music but also subject matter are many. At worst it can sound kitsch, insincere, lazy and uninspired; not to mention there's always going to be someone else doing the same thing, especialy nowadays. Up and coming singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco, who plans to release a debut album, 2, on 16th October via Capured Tracks, sidesteps all of these problems by doing what his chosen genre does best (in this case 50s rock & roll). On "My Kind Of Woman" DeMarco plays it straightforward, letting his guitar ring out cleanly behind his lovelorn vocals, noticeably higher than his usual baritone. It's obvious that DeMarco is leaving behind the lo-fi, often jocular nature of his earlier recordings as Makeout Videotapes and heading for the big time.

Track all the info up to the release of 2 on the Upcoming Releases page.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Stream new albums by Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Teengirl Fantasy and Yeasayer

Maybe you need to get rid of the horrendous taste of that Olympic closing ceremony (This Is England). Then doesn't the internet (specifically NPR Music) have just the thing for you! Three anticipated albums, all set for release next Monday/Tuesday available to stream in full. Links below:

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes
Teengirl Fantasy - Tracer
Yeasayer - Fragrant World

So yeah, thanks world for always finding ways to balance things out.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Hear DOOM perform new JJ DOOM cut "WINTER BLUES", live on BBC Radio 4

Earlier DOOM recorded a new track, "WINTER BLUES", from the upcoming JJ DOOM album KEYS TO THE KUFFS - for BBC Radio 4 show Loose Ends no less! Played with live backing it sounded pretty lovely - hopefully the album version will retain some of the qualities the studio musicians bought. I would love to think what happenstance Radio 4 listeners thought of it (the awkward interview with presenter Clive Anderson that begins the clip doesn't reveal too much):

Track all the info up to the release of KEYS TO THE KUFFS on the Upcoming Releases page.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Titus Andronicus announce new album Local Business: release date and tracklist

It didn't look like it for quite a while, but turns out we will have a new Titus Andronicus album by the end of the year. Local Business is the follow-up to 2010's The Monitor, and will be released on the 23rd October on XL Recordings. The album was recorded "primarily live with precious few overdubs, with an elite squad of musicians" (including Owen Pallett).The tracklist reveals that a number of songs featured are ones the New Jersey-loving punks have performed live, including "Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape With The View Of Detritus", from Titus Andronicus LLC Mixtape Vol 1, a collection of free material from earlier in the year:

1. “Ecce Homo”
2. “Still Life With Hot Deuce And Silver Platter”
3. “Upon Viewing Oregon’s Landscape With The Flood Of Detritus”
4. “Food Fight!”
5. “My Eating Disorder”
6. “Titus Andronicus VS. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)”
7. “In A Big City”
8. “In A Small Body”
9. “(I Am The) Electric Man”
10. “Tried To Quit Smoking”

Track all the info up to the release of Local Business on the Upcoming Releases page.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Jessie Ware - "Sweet Talk"

Jessie Ware - who you may know of through collaborations with SBTRKT and Joker - releases her debut album Devotion on the 20th of this month (artwork above); be surre to lookout for it. Here's the latest single, "Sweet Talk", produced by Julio Bashmore:

Track all the info up to the release of Devotion on the Upcoming Releases page.

alt-J (∆) - An Awesome Wave added to 2012 Recommended Albums

That name. Those vocals. The hype of the UK press. The descriptions on every track of their Soundcloud album stream. ∆. I was convinced I was going to hate this album. I made fun of it to my friends. Then I listened to it. I take it all back. It's brilliant.

It takes some getting used to. alt-J's most distinctive musical feature as mentioned already is their vocals. Joe Newman's falsetto sounds forced, contrived and immediately like a gimmick. In a sense they represent every negative criticism one could construct towards the band and An Awesome Wave, their talked-about debut album. It's tough to describe the vocals' timbre with only words; though ultimately they are tuneful, carry emotion and the majority of the lyrics can be deciphered (to these ears), and are just pleseant enough to be gotten away with. If there's anything to get past, it's the vocals (and I'm still not sure if I actually like them or not), but if you can what remains is an album of uniquely crafted, forward-thinking British indie-rock.

The loudest and most dynamic track An Awesome Wave has to offer is clearly "Fitzpleasure", with its huge, dirty bass riff leading charge a polyrhythmic battailion of "la la la"'s. If you only need one track to secretly indulge in let it be this one; though admit it, how could you not fall for one of the quirkiest, most energetic singles of the year? Second place goes to "Breezeblocks", whose narrative (captured in its reverse-motion music video) documents the violent struggle of a tearing relationship. Newman's knack for a comelling vocal melody ("Please don't go, please don't go / I love you so, I love you so") may appear to be the standout feature, but as with the majority of An Awesome Wave the credit has to go to the drum patterns of Thom Green, which burst with a trip-hop flavour from which the rest of alt-J's style is indebted to. It's no coincedence that one of the labels the band suggested to define their sound was "trip-folk".

Listening to deeper album cuts yields more gems. "Dissolve Me" may whiff of a bedwetter's paradise (the song literally describes a "bedtime routine"), but is genuinely affecting, with a skipping keyboard melody and another rousing mantra: "she makkes the sound the sea makes, knee-deep in it all". The Eastern instrumentation of "Taro" is another move that many bands miscalculate, but alt-J use it sparsely, putting rhythm again at the forefront. Even the interludes are interesting enough to feel important, although the third, "Piano" feels like one too many. If An Awesome Wave comes close to falling off anywhere, it's the relative blandness of "Matilda" and "Ms"; the latter feeling especially awkward and empty ("The dark seeks dark"). However even these tracks stay in character. You may have heard "Matilda" on the radio during the last few months, and it's easy to see it as an accessible step towards the rest of the album's unusual delights.

Aside from a few badly-chosen sample choices and the obvious vocals there's very little to disagree with An Awesome Wave. It's the debut album for the summer you'd want, with a handful of wonderful standout tracks to go into any playlist. alt-J are another band who present new, fully-developed ideas from the drop of their debut, and are willing to challenge not only mainstream but also underground tastes. It's a risk that not only allows them to stand out from the crowd but pays off from a musical standpoint too. The highs of the album far outweigh the lows, and for that it's an experience that doesn't deserve to be missed, or misjudged.

Big Boi joins Little Dragon on stage for new collaboration

Big Boi tweeted pics of himself in the studio with Swedish electro-pop group Little Dragon ages ago. Now we know that one of the tracks produced in those sessions, "Mama Told Me" will feature on Big Boi's Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumours, scheduled for a 13th November release date (we'll see about that). The track was premiered live in Austin, Texas where Big Boi joined Little Dragon on stage:

Track all the info up to the release of Vicious Lies And Dangerous Rumours on the Upcoming Releases page.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Cat Power - "Cherokee" / Nicolas Jaar Remix

"Ruin" has worked its way towards my ears quite regularly since its inclusion in my June playlist. Now not only has Cat Power released the next single from her new record Sun (artwork above) for free, there's also a remix by my favourite house producer Nicolas Jaar to boot!

Track all the info up to the release of Sun on the Upcoming Releases page.

Wild Nothing - "Paradise"

The first Wild Nothing track to emerge from the upcoming Nocturne was the beautiful "Shadow" (see my June playlist). Now we have "Paradise" to whet appetites before Nocturne's imminent release date (27th August via Bella Union in the UK, a day later via Captured Tracks in the US):

Track all the info up to the release of Nocturne on the Upcoming Releases page.

The xx - "Chained"

The second track to be released from the xx's next album Coexist is also the second in the tracklisting - have fun playing "Chained" straight after "Angels" and dreaming up the rest of the album's possibilities:

Track all the info up to the release of Coexist on the Upcoming Releases page.

Austra debut new song on Scion Sessions

In what's being presented as "a very special first glimpse at what's manifesting as Austra's follow-up to the acclaimed "Feel It Break" debut album", Scion Sessions hosted the premiere of a new Austra song (#14 best album of 2011). "Painful Like" suggests a more dance-orienated direction for any new material, something I'd very much like to hear more of. Until then:

Single of the Week: Grizzly Bear - "Yet Again"

There's enough hype out there to tell you that for many Shields is one of the most anticipated records left to come out this year. Even without promotional singles this would be the case, but "Sleeping Ute" and "Yet Again" prove that Grizzly Bear can craft material deserving of such early praise. The former hinted at a weightier, brasher direction for the notoriously sleepy-sounding quartet. "Yet Again" builds on that blueprint and continues to use the band's usual instrumentation to rock out. It's the loudest song Grizzly Bear have put together, but Ed Droste's usual soft vocals keep the balance between the familiar and the obscure tied down. The final minute of the track is taken up by an unexpected freakout of noise, giving further creedence to the idea of Daniel Rossen as the new indie generation's guitar god. Grizzly Bear are drawing attention with their new songs, regardless of whether their previous albums' greatness made that attention inevitable in the first place.

Blur - Wolverhampton Civic Hall (6th August 2012)

Of all my low-quality camera phone shots, this one was the least, ahem, blurry

Like me, it seemed that most people thought that one of Britain's all-time most celebrated bands would start their set at the relatively small venue (for a band of their stature), the Wolverhampton Civic Hall as they did their BBC Radio 2 Live At Maida Vale session broadcast last week (click here for video highlights): intimate, low-key, saving their energy for their huge Olympic Closing Ceremony appearance at Hyde Park happening later this week. We were so wrong: as the opening notes of "Girls And Boys" squelched out it was clear where all of those plastic cups of horrible, expensive beer were about to go. The initial six-song run (highlights being "Tracy Jacks", "Beetlebum" and "Coffee And TV") played out like a punk show: Damon Albarn managing to show the crowd his best Iggy-isms without coming across as too ridiculous or flashy. Despite his non-commital attitude to his most renowned project over the years, he seemed to be having the most fun out of anyone.

Over the course of two hours Blur knocked out an impeccably-chosen setlist, balancing their best-known hits with lesser-known album cuts and b-sides ("Caramel" and "End Of A Century" being two of my favourites), and both sides of their new single: "Under The Westway" / "The Puritan". Hearing "No Distance Left To Run" immediately after the two-minute near-heart-attack of "Song 2" was probably a relief shared by more people than just myself. Even a few sound issues didn't dampen the experience: four backing singers and three horn players stood to the side of the stage without being heard even in their most necessary moments, but the four band members could be heard beautifully (my ears are stil ringing, as expected). It was totally their show, made even more special by the rare occurrence of the event. Thankfully both band and audience were detemined to get the most out of the precious time shared.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

R.I.P. Bill Doss - Olivia Tremor Control playlist

Devastating news came last Tuesday when it was revealed that Bill Doss, one of the founders of the seminal 90s psych-rock band Olivia Tremor Control, had passed away at age 43. Bill was a key figure in the Athens, Georgia music scene and one of the founders of the Elephant 6 Recording Company, a group of independant music artists who saw the inception of not only the Olivia Tremor Control but also Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples In Stereo and Of Montreal.

The Olivia Tremor Control was started up by Bill Doss and Will Cullen Hart in Louisiana in 1988. They released two studio albums: Music From The Unrealized Film Script: Dusk At Cubist Castle (1996) and Black Foliage: Animation Music (1999). Both albums are regarded as classics by many: heavily indebted to 60s psychadelic rock in sound and recording style, yet in a uniquely inventive style that ensured their legacy as one of the most creative bands of the 1990s.

The band had succesfully reunited by 2011 and were busy touring and reportedly working on material. This burst of new energy has made the news of Bill's passing all the more sudden and unexpected. Being a fan of Bill's work through the Olivia Tremor Control I thought the best way to honour his legacy would be to make a short playlist of songs from the two OTC albums. You can consider it an introduction to the band if you're unfamiliar with their material. I would defenitely recommend delving further into one or both albums if you like what you hear here:

Rest in peace Bill.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Chris Cohen - "Optimist High"

Former Deerhoof member Chris Cohen is releasing a solo record on Captured Tracks. Overgrown Path (artwork above) is scheduled for release on 25th September. "Optimist High" is the second single to be released from the record (following "Caller No. 99", which featured on my June playlist):

Track all the info up to the release of Overgrown Path on the Upcoming Releases page.

Laurel Halo - "Carcass" (Sun Hammer Remix)

The awesome Laurel Halo put out not only one of the best albums so far this year but also one of the best EP's under her King Felix alias (read a little about both here). Now Sun Hammer has remixed Quarantine track "Carcass". Check out the results over at FACT.

Grizzly Bear - "Yet Again"

The new Grizzly Bear single, "Yet Again" just debuted on BBC Radio 1. It will feature on new album Shields (artwork above). Here it is in case you missed it (you are forgiven):

Track all the info up to the release of Shields on the Upcoming Releases page.

Airhead - "Pyramid Lake"

James Blake collaborator Airhead put out one excellent single already this year ("Wait" / "South Congress"), but the goings-on of "Pyramid Lake" suggest another direction. "Pyramid Lake" / "Black Ink" comes out via R & S on the 10th September; stream the a-side at Pitchfork.

Teengirl Fantasy - "EFX" (feat. Kelela)

The next single from Teengirl Fantasy, following "End", from their new album Tracer. This one has an R&B flavour to it, not only due to guest vocalist Kelela.

Deerhoof - "The Trouble With Candyhands"

Awesome new Deerhoof song from the upcoming new album Breakup Song. Just when you think you know what to expect...

Dum Dum Girls - "Lord Knows" and End Of Daze EP cover art

25th September is an important date for Dum Dum Girls fans (like me), as it sees the release of their new EP End Of Daze on Sub Pop. "Lord Knows" is the first track from the EP, and I can see myself overplaying it to death in anticipation for what lies behind that great cover art. Download below by parting with your email address:

Track all the info up to the release of End Of Daze on the Upcoming Releases page.