Thursday, November 22, 2012

30 day stream-of-consciousness playlist

Stefanie challenged me to spend a month making a stream-of-consciousness playlist. No pre-planning allowed, pick a song a day for 30 days and see what you end up with. While I have been thinking about it quite a bit I try not to pre-plan and stick with whatever song I think of before I post the clip. It's similar to the '30 days of music' deal, but the days are without a theme. The other part of it that I enjoy is the lack of time constraints. So here we go, in order, a month in the making from the 16th of October to November-

song- artist- album

1. Dumb Drums- Thee Oh Sees- 'Thee Hounds of Foggy Notion'

2. Gila- Beach House- 'Devotion'

3. Out of sight- Spiritualized- 'Let it come down'

4. Tell Me- Galaxie 500- 'On Fire'

5. Lady Jessica and Sam- Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions- 'Through the Devil Softly'

6. Far From Me- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds- 'The Boatman's Call'

7. Alison- Slowdive- 'Souvlaki'

8. Rainwater Cassette Exchange- Deerhunter- 'Rainwater Cassette Exchange'

9. Don't Go Down- Elliott Smith- 'Don't Go Down'

10. Lunch Hour Pops- Broadcast- 'Haha Sound'

11. Knife- Grizzly Bear- 'Yellow House'

12. Venus in Furs- The Velvet Underground- 'The Velvet Underground & Nico'

13. Let it Go- The Black Ryder- 'Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride'

14. Heavenly Bodies- Tamaryn- 'Tender New Signs'

15. Is That What you Said? (restored track)- Melody's Echo Chamber- 's/t'
16. Take me to the Sun- Jessica Bailiff- 'At the Down-Turned Jagged Rim of the Sky'

17. The Golden Age of Bloodshed- Rowland S. Howard- 'Pop Crimes'

18. Angel- Sonic Boom- 'Angel' 12"

19. Cocaine- Abner Jay- 'The True Story of Abner Jay'

20. It Will Never Be- White Fence- 'Family Perfume vol. 1'

21. Teardrop- Massive Attack- 'Mezzanine'

22. Slip Beneath- The Warlocks- 'Heavy Deavy Skull Lover'

23. Elephant- Tame Impala- 'Lonerism'

24. Fragile- The Fauns- 's/t'

25. Sometimes- Spacemen 3- 'Recurring'

26. This is the Best- CAVE- 'Neverendless'

27. Below the Salt- Unwound- 'Leaves Turn Inside you'

28. Going to California- Led Zeppelin- 'IV'

29. Soon- my bloody valentine- 'Glider'

30. Night Faces- Jessica Pratt- 'JP'

Sunday, November 11, 2012

shalloboi kickstarter

This whole kickstarter has become a bit of a do-or-die type thing. We're almost a third of the way funded at this point and we still have a little over two and a half weeks to go!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

ruminations: pre-dawn albums

When Jessica Bailiff’s ‘At the Down-Turned Jagged Rim of the Sky’ was announced I was excited. Seriously, go here. What got me most excited about it is that mainly I was hoping it would be another fine contribution of hers to a neglected genre of music that I have always been a huge fan of. Everyone knows what a 3am album is—Low’s ‘Long Division,’ Calla’s ‘Televised,’ probably Interpol’s ‘Turn on the Bright Lights.’ Since I spend so much time commuting during the pre-dawn hours (4:30-6am depending on the time of year) it’s always a challenge for me to figure out what I can listen to during these hours. I’ve found that there’s a fairly specific set of criteria that isn’t always readily apparent outside of those actual hours. I want something soothing, but that won’t put me back to sleep, it needs to be quiet so that I can remain aware of my surroundings since there are so few people around and I also crave albums with a thread of sound that ties the whole thing together, but that’s varied enough that it doesn’t all melt into itself. Quite a tall order, but I’ve found some albums that are absolutely perfect for my pre-dawn commutes.

1. Spectrum—‘Highs, Lows and Heavenly Blows’

Most of my early morning commutes are a little under 45 minutes. For the ones that will take a little longer this is usually the album I go to with great enthusiasm. To me this is the most perfect of Pete Kember’s work as Spectrum. The songs are stretched and consistent throughout, but stylistically more varied than any other record he’s ever done. True, they could all stand to be a bit shorter, but another quality of this record that I love is that while they all could be shorter they are all exactly the right length. You are able to draw so much out of them and get to know them so intimately even on the first listen. The instrumentation is very spare and there is tons of space for the ambience to spread out. Usually Kember’s instrumentation is layered and incredibly dense, but the production on this record allows you to hear and appreciate every tiny subtlety. The songs also feature his most beautiful lyrics and his best singing. The closing suite of songs is probably the best with ‘Take me Away’ and it’s waltz time momentum which is perfect for the end of the pre-dawn hours as the sun finally starts to come out.

2. Sun Araw—‘Beach Head’

This record will always remind me of commuting to the Gold Coast at 4:30am. The delirium that I felt while working there created the ideal conditions for enjoying this album. It starts out slowly with the structure of ‘Thoughts are Bells’ dropping into place slowly, but so deliberately. Once it kicks in during the second half of the song the tone is set for the blissed-out reggae-inflected stretch of ‘Horse Steppin’ and then the dynamic ‘Beams’ that blends atmospherics with acoustic guitars and mesmerizing rumbling fuzz bass patterns with little in the way of a percussive beat. ‘Bridal Philly’ draws things to a close washing over your ears slowly, like the opening track, somehow tying everything you’ve heard together and letting it soak into your mind. I’ve tried listening to it during the daytime and it just doesn’t work. Too many distractions, too much brightness. This is an album that can induce the most perfectly sublime sleep-deprived hypnosis. It’s like a sensory deprivation tank unto itself.

3. Atlas Sound—‘Logos’

Bradford Cox’s best solo record is also a shoe-in for this category. All of the spaced-out acoustic softness is padded to the front of the album. The atmospherics are drifting, but the melodies and the chords are all so clear. ‘Walkabout’ has enough of a gauzy shell that the beat isn’t jarring at an early hour. ‘Criminal’ moves all of its dreaminess into the vocal, which builds up to the hypnotic and insistent repetition of ‘Shelia.’ Side two opens with the extended and meditative ‘Quick Canal’ which builds slowly and fades away slowly sucked into the vacuum it has created itself. After that the album becomes brighter and more clear-eyed with the title track closing things out at a brisk pace.

4. Beach House—‘s/t’

Of all of Beach House’s album this one is the best suited for the pre-dawn hours. It’s especially perfect for fall. The album has a very even sonic palette that conjures up oranges, dark reds, browns and blacks—all colours that bring Autumn to mind. This is the perfect example of something beat-driven that isn’t too overwhelming for a wee hours, sleep-deprived state. The songs are haunting and moody, but not overwhelmingly so and they are filled with enough hooks to reel you in without interrupting the carefully constructed atmospherics. ‘Master of None’ is the perfect example of a restrained earworm. Then there’s that excellent lo-fi, piano-driven hidden track with its vaguely menacing lyrics and extremely pitched-down guitars (at least that’s what I THINK those odd melodics swoops in the background are). It’s about as ghostly as a song can possibly be.

5. Clear Horizon—‘s/t’

This record practically got me through every early morning commute that I had to face last summer. The first track beckons you in softly and with little warning for what you are about to experience. The way that the songs is built is practically extra-sensory. By the time that ‘Sunrise Drift’ wafts in through the headphones the fact that it has absolutely no discernable beat and is basically only held in a song-like state by the drifting breathes of disjointed ambient melodies forming the most loosely-built of chord progressions under Jessica Bailiff’s slowburning vocal melody the fact that the album has been carrying you along through an extended dream-like state is made clear. After which the album slowly draws you out of this state peaking with clear-eyed closing track ‘Open Road’ with its hip-hop-esque overlapping beats and spiraling basslines. This is an album that draws you under and leads you back out again. How many albums can you say that about?!

6. Jessica Bailiff—‘s/t’

This is another one that I’ve been coming back to for about four years in this category. This album could be the pivotal proof for anyone wanting to make the case for perfect ambient singer-songwriter as a genre. There are very few examples and even fewer great examples, but this is definitely one of them. Somehow Jessica Bailiff has managed to make something ambient and atmospheric that sustains a clear mood and aesthetic across an entire album while keeping the instrumentation and songwriting distinct through each song. On the surface it seems so minimal as well, but during the quieter hours you can hear the tiny rhythmic details lingering just under the surface. This is one of the most deceptively minimal-sounding albums in existence.

7. Sharon Van Etten—‘Because I Was in Love’

Sharon Van Etten’s debut is an acoustic-driven affair that is carried by little else than her trademark vocal close-harmonies and her nylon-stringed acoustic work. The subject of the lyrics are a love bordering on the obsessive. It’s also her only album where she manages to weave a loss for words into her songs to make the mood more effective—what I’m talking about here is the chorus of ‘Haven You Seen’ and the repetitive use of the word ‘damn’ in ‘Holding Out.’ She does so much with so little here and exerts a control that’s rarely seen in this type of singer-songwriter album. Normally such spare arrangements fall victim to an ‘err on the side of too little’ approach, but here some of the songs are fleshed out with some charming subtleties and mixed in with straight up guitar and voice recordings. I’ve always felt that the arrangement of ‘Tornado’ on this record was far more effective than the live, full-band version of the song. The fact that this appears to be a formula she will never revisit makes this set of songs all the more powerful. Plus the lovelorn themes of the lyrics are perfect for an early-morning state of mind.

8. Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions—‘ Through the Devil Softly’

My instinct is to put Sandoval’s first solo record with the Warm Inventions (‘Bavarian Fruit Bread’) in this category, but it’s actually her second, ‘Through the Devil Softly,’ that fits the category better. Plus I can’t argue with the considerable amount of time I’ve spent listening to this record on my way to work for a 5:30am shift. For all of its acoustic-based minimalism, ‘Bavarian Fruit Bread’ has nothing to equal ‘Lady Jessica and Sam’ or ‘Satellite’ in the yawning gaps of space filled by the desolate ring of reverb and the echo of every mournful guitar strum. It’s hangover-friendly calm has only been surpassed by the recent Mazzy Star single ‘Common Burn.’ It’s the point at which hangover music overlaps with pre-dawn music. Even more lush, full-band tracks like ‘Trouble’ fall easier on the ears than the strung out euphoria of ‘Around my Smile’ while you’re riding on a train car filled with a hodgepodge of sleeping homeless people, wasted post-partiers fighting off their comatose blackouts and bar workers. The lyrics are also there for you to take or leave depending on your preference.

9. Thee Oh Sees—‘Thee Hounds of Foggy Notion’

This album has always made me marvel at how a band from San Francisco was able to make the perfect winter album. Even without the visual aid of the vaguely haunting settings where the band performs these songs on the accompanying DVD, the hazy narcosis of these songs is so strong that it gets into your bones. This is a period in the Thee Oh Sees’ history that has largely been forgotten as well, which is a shame. This beautiful side of John Dwyer’s songwriting will probably be doomed to live in the shadow of the band’s unparalleled powers as the present day avatars of visceral, acid-fried, screamy, psychedelic garage rock. In the small hours the quiet grace of these songs is almost overwhelming. Even paint-peeling rockers such as ‘Block of Ice’ and ‘Ghost in the Trees’ get a nice fear-and-loathing sheen on this record.

10. Grizzly Bear—‘Yellow House’

Similarly to ‘Thee Hounds of Foggy Notion’ with Thee Oh Sees, the atmospheric, layered, acoustic, creaky weirdness of ‘Yellow House’ is a sound that Grizzly Bear will probably never visit again despite the fact that the sound they make here could easily sustain lesser bands for entire careers. Opener ‘Easier’ unfolds slowly and innocently enough making some of the biggest movements that the record will during the course of its sprawling, meandering ten songs. ‘Knife’ is as lively and wide-eyed as it gets here. The rest of the tracks move forward only to stutter to a stop and start several times as they roll along—the gaps in these spaces are often filled by heaving layers of unidentifiable sound. ‘On a Neck, On a Spit’ does this every few bars, for example. ‘Marla’ is where the ghostliness of the vocal layering and floating strings reaches its graceful apex of beauty. ‘Colorado’ does nicely to wind things down slowly and steadily. Nothing on this album happens too quickly and the warmth wrapped around every sound makes it perfect for early morning listening. One of the greatest achievements of their newest album ‘Shields’ is that they are able to distill the experimental, haunted quality of ‘Yellow House’ into the poppiness and accessibility of ‘Veckastimest.’ To me, though, this is as good as it will ever get.

Friday, November 2, 2012

review: tamaryn, young prisms at schuba's 11.2.12

Every year, somehow, Schuba’s sweeps the Reader’s category for best music venue. Why? The reason usually given is that the sound there is ALWAYS phenomenal. Well, that’s true as long it’s an acoustic-leaning act. Truth be told, though, getting great sound for acoustic acts isn’t as difficult as it seems and if you really want to see how ‘phenomenal’ the live sound is there I recommend you go catch an actual band that uses any semblance of volume, layers or texture because this is the second such show I’ve witnessed there where the sound was sublimely awful. Almost Metro awful, in fact, which shouldn’t ever happen in a room that size with a reputation as well-established.

I arrived in time to catch Young Prisms’ set, which wasn’t bad. They seem like a young band who have found their jumping off point, but haven’t gotten too experimental with it yet. I found their more restrained my bloody valentine sound pleasant enough. The most that I hope for them is that they are able to take what they have and find more of their own voice with it because they have some decent songwriting chops, which is rare in bands that mine similar material. They also get major points for not overdoing it on the effects and the amount of variation between their songs. Their set also grew more enjoyable as it continued. A little volume would’ve been nice, but it seems clear to me that the lackluster mix they received was definitely not of their own choosing. The only instruments that seemed to be coming through the house speakers were the drums, the guitarist’s vocals and a tiny bit of the female singer’s vocals. I know that the vocals are usually buried in this type of music (I’m guilty of it myself, after all), but this was clearly an oversight on behalf of the sound engineer. My favourite songs of theirs were the ones where they strayed further out into starker, more open territory from the MBV-imitation sounding songs. For a young band, though, they are way ahead of the game and I’m hoping they are a band I can keep my eye on as they progress because they have a great foundation nailed down. I’m also always impressed by a band that can still get something across even when they’re dealt a shitty mix.

Tamaryn’s band started a few minutes early and sounded nice and muscular like they did the last time I saw them, which was at Lincoln Hall opening for the Raveonettes last year. Tamaryn’s voice was also nearly inaudible and when it was clearer it was only through her own use of force. Her having to do this constantly in order to be heard did cause some audible strain on her voice. Microphone feedback problems continued throughout the night. Her vocals also sounded like they were coming from the bottom of a pool. Guitarist Rex Shelverton’s live sound cut through the mix perfectly like last time, I think purely because he understood that if he wanted volume he would have to claim it himself. The bassist followed in similar suit. They tore through their 45 minute set with conviction and the new songs sounded strong. ‘Mild Confusion,’ ‘Love Fade’ and the title track from ‘The Waves’ benefitted from the tautness that’s typical of the ‘Tender New Signs’ material—which clearly is the result of a reliance on capturing the band’s live sound.

As if the sound problems weren’t enough the atmosphere and the crowd were awful as well. I guess I just need to make my ‘no weekend shows’ a general rule as it seems there’s nowhere safe to go on the weekends where this isn’t the case. It was maddening because I spent a great deal of the main set wishing I could just go home and get away from the people surrounding me. A few songs in the band hit a nice emotional pitch starting with a restrained version of lead single ‘Heavenly Bodies’ into the buried gem of the new album, ‘Afterlight,’ paired with a powerfully beautiful live reading of ‘No Exits.’ It was the only time throughout the night that I managed to finally lose myself in the moment until this pair of girls moved right next to me and proceeded to squawk at each other over the music while comparing their fancy phones and talking about their respective workdays. At one point during a quiet section of ‘No Exits’ the louder of the two screeched ‘What am I doing here?’ and it took every ounce of restraint for me not say, ‘Who the fuck knows?! Why don’t you go away?!’ Next one of them struck a pose with her beer over her head while Screechy took four flash photos of her in the same pose. Four. Flash. Photos. The third has me staring with complete hatred directly into the camera over this girl’s shoulder.

The band ended with ‘The Waves’ and an intense version of ‘I’m Gone’ that was quite impressive. By that point I was in full misanthropic mode hating everyone who was there who couldn’t just shut up or quit tweeting, texting and fiddling with their shiny-screened phones for just 45 minutes of live music that they had all paid $10 for. I hope the band at least gets paid well for this show because then it would mean something worthwhile had come out of this night. I did notice that they made a hasty exit to the band room once they were finished. Here’s hoping they’re popular enough on their next visit to play at Lincoln Hall again. There was a room that did them justice. Congratulations, Schuba’s—you’re on the ‘never again’ list.