Between here and the AR there should be much for you to chew on while I'm gone. In a few short hours I'm headed for Sao Paulo, Brazil, my second home. Hopefully I will be nowehere near a computer in the next two weeks (though I may spy in the comments here and there to see if any reader has given me tips on good record stores in the city, please?). Normal spew will resume sometime in January, and believe me, there's lots coming up. Bigger and better.
For now, please enjoy Brazil's Minister of Culture in the Anos de Rebelde...
The albums that will probably provide me with more sustenance in the future are the ones the have yet to truly reveal themselves, and as a consequence, were a bit off-setting upon first listen. A few of these are also recommendations late in the fourth quarter, and I'm unsure of the shelf-life. But usually, down the road, after multiple late night sessions and stone-soul picnics with these doozies, the real grooves eek out and layers get peeled back. So, in an effort to preserve my initial kismet with what can be considered amorphous psych -- here's a little primer on the deep jams that might one day define 2008.
Crystal Antlers - S/T EP (Touch and Go)
More than anything, the Crystal Antlers remind me of the kids back in the More Than Music Days (see Cave In, early Rapture, 90 Day Men) that were more concerned with post-punk and art-fuck, clean-living and anti-vivisection, than actually setting the stage on fire. They all possessed a heart and a passion to get cruddy and gooey in sick psych warfare, but never dosed drug number one to take them to that place. I'm not implying that it's only drugs that get you to atom heart mother, it's not, I'm just saying, Crystal Antlers found the gateway few hardcore punks ever venture through, the one that leads to this type of heavy lysergic abandon. OK. It is hard to trust anyone who's never once smoked a joint.
Alasehir - The Philosophy of Living Fire (Siltbreeze)
Speaking of dosing -- the Gibbons bros. need no introduction. Leading Bardo Pond through the ether all these years have made them a dual-headed piper to acid-freaks and heads lost in smoke for nearly two decades. In Alasehir the layers of morphined effect and endless waves get stripped to deep-grey raga-blues, repetitive wormwood fantasy, living room bong-stomp, non-frilled psych that hypnotizes without washing the soul. One of Siltbreeze's under the under-radar gems this year. Still playing.
Motorpsycho - Little Lucid Moments (Rune Grammofon)
Trondheim, Norway's finest might be one of the most underrated groups the world has ever seen with a massive discography (augmented by several double-albums, concepts, genre exercises, film scores) all of which has yet to have proper distribution in America. I would have never known about Little Lucid Moments were it not for the band's rare performance at this year's Terrastock 7 in Louisville, KY. There they basically played this epic album from beginning to end. Picking through their collection, I've always had a hard time finding a starting place for inquiring minds. Now I'm going to have to suggest this, while moving your way back in time. The average ear might pass this off as indulgent rock, nearly dinosaur in it's unabashed love of the eternal riff. It's extremely polished and journeyman, clichéd at points and put-on -- but it forms pure into an enigmatic tower of intricate beauty. It's something that needs digested in one sitting to truly absorb this record's power.
Magic Lantern - High Beams (Not Not Fun)
Like with the Shepherds, I would have never ventured back into the NNF camp without the glowing recommendation of the Moon's Dusty. The label was always intriguing, and pressed beautiful packages, but smelled more pretentious than mind-melting. Magic Lantern isn't like all the others, and compared to Shepherds they're the Ash Ra/Amon Duul side of the balance, coiling around a powerful mass of sturm und drang, and shredding within the center free of fear, but always sculpting intentionally instead of just pissing into the void like so many of their contemporaries. Somehow they've stolen the blueprints.
So....the first in the beginning of long series of Poolside...Shannon's "Let the Music Play"
Show of the Year? Close, but I’ll stick with the sticky summer triplet of V. Girls/Crystal Stilts/TNV – two of those bands were here on this night, it’s just the impending weather reports and the fact that this was a Monday knocked it down a few.
The Stilts though, are slowly winning the hearts of everyone they come in contact with. I’m a bit sick of hearing all the comparisons – Joy Division (duh), Jesus and Mary Chain (duh), the Doors (well I’d rather hear Alight the Night than most of that catalog honestly), Interpol (on the cheap). Yes, it’s obvious, it’s all there in spades, only this band stretches it into widescreen, almost meditative mantras. The basslines are tucked into the back, the guitar shimmering in shades of black, the drums simple and snappy, and those vocals – enough to scream mercy for the dourness. Yet when the noir gels, they become hypno-pop, erase the keys from the equation (which is their current form) and that rids the music of any distraction. And these guys (girl) seem to fit a niche that isn’t represented in Columbus. They could easily come from here or adapt to here and leave their Brooklyn address for good. They seem to radiate in front of Columbus crowds, even when the mope is forced through song.
Love is All, the sprightly quintet from Sweden, were perfect sandwiched between gloomy shadowplay and bouts of romantic nihilism. Don’t worry, as much as I liked them I’m not going to “overblog” them as one punter asked backstage – no need to, they spoke for themselves. One who was unfamiliar with the band’s distinctive “shit-pop” by way of any number of twee collectives (see Architecture in Helsinki, Arcade Fire, Fat Albert’s Junkyard Band) could have likely come away thinking their sound is a bit dated, played out like a late ‘90s ska band or perhaps the angular disco-punk popular less than five years ago. Yes, well, all might apply, you’d be half-right – I think it’s just the instruments they choose and the abundance of riffs they pour on that aligns them with that. What makes them a great band, on record and live, is their endless amount of energy and ambition. Few bands have that connect these days, but Love Is All looked genuinely thrilled in every one of their shows twists and turns, shifting into overdrive when the crowd allowed. Very noisy, extremely poppy and precious, eschewing anything trendy by stitching Contortions skronk to indie-rock clamor, X-Ray Spex and Archies -- dare I mention the Rapture mixed into the Sugarcubes. It may have wore a little thin towards the end, but I think that came from the crowd deflated from dancing feverishly the first 45 minutes. Come back soon.
I’ve seen a lot of TNV shows this year. A ton. More than any other band. This is their home, their turf, and it shows. Not sure if it was post-tour stress disorder or all the strangers crowding up the front, but there was a tiny disconnect from the audience. That didn’t cause the performance to be anemic though, quite the contrary. They were tight and often transcending through noise and feedback. Jared’s riffs have become even more monstrous and euphoric than ever. I don’t think the disconnect, or lack of audience back and forth was on purpose, or because the trio was lacking sleep and sustenance or care, I just think they are riding the crest of this year long wave right now and there’s nowhere farther they can take these songs until they get into a studio, rip it up, and begin again. Ears still ringing and it’s Thursday.
Actually, this isn’t too different from that awful band – a quartet circle jerking around the Ween barrel, with a hot girl on tuba (is that a gimmick?). There’s a ton of genre-hopping on Cribshitter’s debut Cry a Little Rainbow, and some of it’s digestible, like the Spanish cover of “Oh Yoko,” or the band’s attempt at cutesy electro-folk, see “Jared is Different Around Girls” and “Will You Go With Me” – but then again the album’s a marathon thirty tracks with more than enough juvenile pranks (a botched attempt at “Hotel California”) to steer away from actual talent. Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but band’s gotta’ get with it, that name’s gotta’ go. Maybe it’s the association with the name that makes the music stink so much? Worst name ever.
Arrington went on to have a modicum of success with his Hall of Fame band, and then as a solo artist in the early ‘80s before finding Jesus and giving up the ghosts for his savior. He’ll argue against this claim, but because of this his career (at least in the mainstream and the funk circles, suffered). That’s what brings us to this little oddity known as “No Reason,” Arrington’s one-off single released in 1991 for RCA. Again, thanks to scouring the Elliott Museum I dug this up. This was always one of my favorites and in recent years remained lost until a month or two ago. Believe me, I’ve tried from the beginning of Napster till now to find this digitally to no avail. There’s barely any mention of it anywhere on the nets. So if you find one on vinyl, I’ve got ten dollars right here I’ll gladly give you.
Back to the matter at hand. “No Reason” was a local hit in Dayton, especially on U92 FM, my default go-to station at the time. My only theory is that Arrington was set on resurrecting his career by cashing in on the New Jack Swing movement that Teddy Riley just began. And “No Reason” is a bumping little track, full of New Jack hallmarks – like whistles and screech beats, female back-ups, and sex talk with a voice that was made for lovin’. One of the greatest gifts of Arrington was his sultry mid-range (think Johnny Gill for reference, just heard “My, My, My” the other night) and here he’s still got it. So what became of this shoulda-been-a-hit? It don’t think it even charted outside of Montgomery County, but I’m intrigued to know if this was just the tip of Arrington’s New Jack comeback. Are there tapes lying around somewhere with more of this gold? Someone let me know. I’m waiting.
I urge you to indulge and buy one of these before they’re gone – in the meantime get trenched at the mespace link above.
Past the millenium I became obsessed with '80s music again, the sounds of a second-grade boombox and John Hughes films no doubt. I discovered Pelican West, by Heyward's claim to fame, Haricut 100. If you go back you'll love it, even beyond "Love Plus On." (Seriously, go back and listen). A shame a band like Vampire Weekend get compared to them, because this album is kind of brilliant and disposable all at once. VW should be grateful.
And now, the album above has logged a lot of time on the turntable upon finding it. North of a Miracle was released as Heyward's first solo album, at the same time that Pelican West was climbing up the charts. Heyward left the band before that record was even released, opting for adulthood early. North of a Miracle is a fairly hushed affair, full of lush arrangements and almost jazzy smoothness, but never lacking in pop sensibility, fans of Prefab Sprout should attend. "Whistle Down the Wind" will have you wishing for 120 Minutes again, or at least that episode of Top of the Pops.
“There’s only two types of people in this world/Those that entertain and those that observe” and Britney Spears is a “put-on-a-show kind of girl.” That might be the only proverb Brit has learned in a decade long career. Still as vapid as a career that has become, whatever handlers handle her and producers that produce her, don’t allow her music to become as prosaic as she contends her life is these days (yeah I sat through For the Record). So Circus is the comeback? And unfortunately, last year’s Blackout, the pre-fab pop album of 2007 by default, suffered in popularity maybe because the world was more interested in Britney’s descent into the maelstrom of her personal hurricane. Circus is certainly not as stacked as Blackout, beginning with the insta-single “Womanizer” which is a veritable dentist drill of catch-phrase and quickly following that up with the title track, the “theme” or artist’s “intent” herein – “Hey, my life is a circus and I’m the ringleader” – it’s filed with dancefloor filler, but as a document of her coming clean, her Motley Crue confessional, it’s pretty infectious and hard to put down.
Those handlers haven’t abandoned the fact that Britney mouthing “baby” in an nth number of variations is paramount to her success (from “Baby One More Time” to a song about her kids here, “My Baby”), the key is what wraps around those coos. Of course having Timbaland’s protégée Danja will create some disposable sexxxy-back Timberlake-counter (“Kill the Lights”) and the indispensible Swede Max Martin waves Top 40 with his fingertips on the ode to (sic?) Amy Winehouse, “If U Seek Amy,” but the real treat comes with her tell-all chutzpah and the tracks that accent it with unlikely sources.
“Unusual You” would suggest that Brit has been listening to the Knife and Roisin Murphy (she probably thought this template was “hella cool” before the recording), it’s a mid-tempo disco ballad drenched in neon strings and micro-house beats. Likewise, “Blur” and “Amnesia” are absolutely stunning, kind of beating Christina Aguilera to the punch of pop queens finally succumbing to Talk Talk and Portishead backdrops. Throughout she drops little lines like “smoking up outside” or “doing him for seven years” then talking about forgetting her address or “f’ing” till dawn (yeah, no fucks yet). Overall she appears to be clear-minded about her chaos six months ago.
Maybe rehab does wonders, maybe the music she had dropped in her lap made her realize she’s got enough money to blind the public with the cream of the pop-candy crop, when her younger peers (It’s Miley) pull in the lucrative Wal-Mart booty now? Circus is certainly not a perfect record (Blackout was eerily close), but at least it’s current, tasteful, and unforgiving.