After what seems like a small eternity, Cut Copy has finally gave us a sneak peak of their upcoming full-length, Zonoscope. We may have to wait until February 8th to hear it in its entirety, but today they officially released Take Me Over, the first single from it. Now, you could go buy it on lets say, iTunes, or you could simply download here for nothing from your friends. Take your pick. Either way, you need to own this. I’ll even throw in the other song thats rumored to be included on Zonoscope as well– Where I’m Going. If its not, at least you have an additional bit of Cut Copy to keep you company this winter. And speaking of Zonoscope and its cover, why does Cut Copy hate New York?
Monthly Archives: November 2010
Sometimes I take a break from newer releases and revisit an old favorite once in a while. So from time to time I’m going to highlight a band who’s already disbanded but had a big influence on my early indie rock development. My first pick is somewhat of a predictable one to people who know me: Karate. This trio from Boston, MA formed in 1993 and 12 years, 6 albums and almost 700 shows later, they grudgingly disbanded. Members were switched around early on, but the primary core of Karate was solidified in 1997. Their attention to detail and perfectionism in song structures and in every note of their songs is something that remained consistent from the start of their career to their premature end. I’d classify them primarily as post-rock or jazz rock in their later years, but any way you want to describe them, they were original.
Karate– Their first and self-titled debut is still one of my top 10 albums. The range and attention to perfection in every stage of each song is admirable. Definitely one of the best indie records ever.
In Place Of Real Insight– This marks the first and only record that they went with a 2-guitar and 2-vocalist formula. This is also when they added Jeff Godard as their bassist and Eamonn Vitt switched to the aforementioned 2nd guitarist/2nd vocalist duties. This is when I began to doubt them. Vitt’s vocals weren’t as good as Farina’s and the songs he sang on were the worst on the record. They weren’t horrible, but they weren’t great either. A slight stumble, but no big deal. A solid 8.0/10.
The Bed Is In The Ocean– This is the first time we see the main trio that they stuck with over the years with the departure of Vitt to pursue a career in the medical community. This record is definitely a turning point. If there was any doubt that they’d lean towards post-rock, this album took those doubts and threw them out the window… possibly the one from the cover of their previous record. We can’t be sure. This also marks a turning point when they began to slow down the tempos of their songs a bit that they’d continue on their next record…
Unsolved– If The Bed Is In The Ocean was a slower record to you, this one practically stands still. No less brilliant, but no more faster either. They really took their time on this record on more than one level and though it was definitely a slow record, somehow it didn’t drag. The attention to detail is staggering at times because the format of a trio allows everything to come to the forefront without sticking out like a sore thumb. Add Farina’s unique vocals and it makes Unsolved truly one of a kind.
Cancel/Sing– This EP continues where Unsolved left off without missing a step. Still slower paced on both of these songs, the fact that these tracks last 11 and 15 minutes each is a bit troubling because I’d almost would have just settled for an EP with 4 or 5 songs. This is also a major turning point record because this marks Farina’s gradual trend towards more and longer solos on nearly every song. This helps and hurts songs a bit in the future, but at this point it was new and interesting.
Some Boots– After 9 years as a band, this record takes a dramatic turn away from post-rock towards more of a jazz-rock infused post-rock and comes out with one of the most interesting albums of the last decade. No longer trending slower-paced tempos, Some Boots is really a complete and varied record. Farina plays with delays quite a bit but never loses his unique insight and makes it work better than most. He’s one of the best and he demonstrates why time and again on this record…10/10
Pockets– This is Karate’s final studio album and the last stop on our little musical journey through time. Pockets takes a bit from Some Boots and expands on some of the jazzy elements. They also slow it down a bit like they did on The Bed Is In The Ocean, but they don’t go to any extremes in that direction. The solos did get a bit out of hand at times and sometimes it felt like the songs were almost built around an upcoming solo. Other than that, this was an excellent record and it makes me a little misty-eyed to know that it ended here.
Three years later, they followed this up with, 595, a live performance record that documented their 595th show in Stuk, Leuven, Belgium. I don’t review live albums. Ever. No one needs to be told whether to like a live album by a band they like and besides, live albums are for fans anyway. So this brings us to the end. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and maybe you even found something new here. I only wish I had some pictures from the house show I saw them play in El Paso in the late 90s…
Records. As with a lot of things that come out constantly and in large numbers, there are a few hits and plenty of misses… even from a few bands I love. Sometimes they pleasantly surprise me while others just surprise me with a punch in the stomach. This week I’ve got a little bit of both for you as well as a few other emotions, so try to keep up while I wildly cheer, cry, yell and finally lay down for a nap.
Cloud Nothings: Turning On– While I’ve stuck up religiously for lo-fi in the past, sometimes someone comes along and makes me think I might have been mistaken. The best part about lo-fi rock is the energy that it tends to have. Thats #1. If you don’t have enough of it, you’re fucked. Unfortunately, this is also the biggest thing that Cloud Nothings lack on a consistent basis. They start off on a good note with a song that was so energetic that I immediately thought they might be a lo-fi version of Les Savy Fav. My excitement was almost immediately quelled as the album continued. Its not the tempo of the songs that made them drag so much, it was the uninspired drumming and low-energy vocals that really killed this for me. If they can fix those problems on their next record, they might have something here. If not, they’ll drift back into obscurity as quickly as they came out of it… 5.2/10
Maserati: Pyramid Of The Sun– Instrumental rock bands are a dying breed nowadays, let alone instrumental psychedelic rock bands and Maserati isn’t helping things with their latest record. While I’ve not only enjoyed every record they’ve put out until now, I considered them one of the best instrumental post-rock bands around… that is, before I heard this album. Sidebar: Maserati lost their drummer about year ago in a tragic accident and this album is a tribute to his last works. That being said, this record is painfully repetitive and it recycles good ideas and riffs over and over to a point that it at times make it unlistenable. I don’t usually mention how much of a chore it is to listen to something that I don’t like so I can write about it here, but let me tell you, it was a long 50 minutes. Times three. But all is not lost if you’re still interested in their past works, which are all wonderful. Start with The Language Of Cities and make your way to the present. In fact, instead of just leaving you with an mp3 from this forgettable album, I’ll also include a favorite of mine from their 2007 release, Inventions For The New Season. I just can’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth when they used to be so much better… 4.0/10
12/16 from Inventions For A New Season
The Radio Dept.: Never Follow Suit– As with every EP thats released soon after or just before an LP, the new tracks are whats going to make or break a record. Ironically, this also what makes this difficult for me to rate. The extra songs by them are so short that just when I’m starting to enjoy them, they end. Then, On Your Side is almost a medley dedicated to the memory of Never Follow Suit, which is kinda strange. Then we have a dub remix of the title track by Pistol Disco that extends the title track to double it’s length which turns it into a long, overdrawn and forgettable memory. Then it predictably ends with the radio version of Never Follow Suit. So yeah, I have mixed feelings about it. Overall, its decent but thats about it. Personally, I’d say get the new tracks and forget about the rest… 6.8/10
TOBACCO: La Uti– While the previous record I wrote about focused on a couple of new songs with one remix, TOBACCO‘s La Uti is almost exclusively a remix record except for three totally new tracks. The formulation is simple: Take a song from Maniac Meat, and rap your ass off. The results are not only impressive, they surpassed my expectations at nearly every turn. I approached this with a great deal of skepticism because the originals were more than impressive on their own. Adding vocals of any kind is a tricky fence to walk, but Rob Sonic, Anti-Pop Consortium and the others did it artfully. Unholy Demon Rhythms‘ vocals are a bit annoying, but it still works on a certain level because they’re minimized for the most part. As usual, the three new tracks with guest vocals are inventive, beat-heavy and flow beautifully. Finally, something an indie kid can cruise around with and not look like a total douche. You can thank TOBACCO for that… 8.8/10
I know I don’t write actual reviews much, but when I do I try and make them interesting. This time I’m focusing primarily on a couple of ‘Chill Wave’ artists as well as a new solo act and some instrumentalists. Its going to get interesting, so lets get started…
Small Black: New Chain– Small Black’s first EP was a little mucky but showed a lot of promise in the early going. Once they showed a little more of themselves on their split with Washed Out, I started to get a bit more excited. Now that they’ve released an appropriate full-length, we’re able to see what they’re really made of and the result is quite interesting. Chill Wave(though mostly a weak term) is easy to spot once you’ve heard it and Small Black fits it perfectly. One part beats, one part reverb and 3 parts synthesizer is the formula that this record lives by and artfully walks the fence on. Compared to their first EP, this release is much more ambitious and gives a clearer view… clearer in the sense that its easier to distinguish their ideas from each other. The problem with their EP was an overuse of reverb to a point of serious excess. I loved their ideas, as difficult as they were to make out, but I knew there was a chance that they’d clear it up more and stop drowning out their good ideas, basically. And thats precisely what they’ve done on New Chain and the results are still very Small Black but in an easier-to-understand package…8.7/10
Laetitia Sadier: The Trip– New Stereolab! Well, not really. If you know anything about Stereolab at all, you’ll know that Laetitia Sadier was once their angelic-voiced lead singer for their storied music career. Now that Stereolab is no more, shes striking out on her own with her newest project: Herself. If you were anticipating this deviating somewhat from Stereolab, you’d be entirely mistaken. In fact, this almost sounds like a Stereolab ‘greatest hits’ record at almost every turn. I’m not sure if some of the players were from her former project, but everything from the guitar hooks to the subtle-yet-visible organs to her unmistakable vocal style are very much akin to early Stereolab… we’re talking Sound-Dust minus the horns. So, Sadier’s new project is somewhat of a stripped-down version of her aforementioned band, but not by much. And again, the fact that I casually mentioned that this was like a ‘greatest hits’ album wasn’t a coincidence. Every single track on this record is really remarkable. Nearly any song would be a worthy single. In closing, Stereolab who? 9.4/10
Gold Panda: Lucky Shiner– One of Ghostly International’s newest additions is UK producer, Gold Panda. Filled with plenty of beat-driven electronic melodies, Gold Panda’s full-length debut is an easy record to walk into. I don’t know how often I use this, but as far as electronic music goes, this is really accessible. Its a very smooth LP with plenty of easy transitions and highlighted with bouncy beats. An absence of vocals never really was an issue at any point for me because Mr. Panda always keeps things moving. And movement is key on this record as it is with most instrumental electronic music because too much or too little movement or an inconsistent balance of faster-paced to slower-paced songs is a very fine line that is easy to stray from. This record has peaks and valleys in all the right places and thats always a great thing to come across. Also, its actually very appropriate that this type of record came out at this time of year because this is typically what I like to listen-to during the colder months of the year. So good timing mixed with excellent beats and interesting melodies makes this one of my favorites as of late… 8.8/10
MillionYoung: Be So True EP– MillionYoung is yet another ‘Chill Wave’ artist thats come on the scene in the last year, but there are a couple of things that make them a bit more distinct than your average run-of-the-mill genre artist. Yes, they are very much entrenched in their respective genre, but their frequent and creative use of guitar and their vocals make them stand-outs. This is also what sort of ruined this EP for me in some instances. Their first EP, Sunndreamm, was absolutely wonderful from start to finish. Be So True‘s vocals tend to go flat from time to time and they ruined otherwise perfectly great songs… which is really too bad because the music itself could be something really special if they could just figure out how to polish them with better vocal tracks. Don’t get me wrong, the whole record isn’t a big flat mess. It only happens occasionally, but it still happens. So while I’m definitely reluctant to score this nearly perfectly, it still deserves a high-ranking with deductions for lack of polish…8.0/10
Del Rey: Immemorial– Not many people know who Del Rey is and thats partly because of their genre: Post-Rock Instrumentalism… I know, it sounds like a class you sleepwalked through in grad school. While it may not be popular, Del Rey do it better than almost anyone. I’ve been following these guys for a few years now, and they’ve definitely had their highs and lows. Their most notable high being their 2003 release, Darkness and Distance, and their most notable low being the follow up to that, A Pyramid For The Living in 2006. While Darkness and Distance really demonstrated an innovative approach to instrumental rock incorporating synthesizers and even double-drummers at times, A Pyramid For The Living fell flat by turning good ideas into long, droning monstrosities that became less compelling the longer they went on and then replicating that 5 more times to finish out the album. So when I saw that 3 or 4 of the songs lasted around the 10-minute mark on Immemorial, you could imagine my skepticism. However, this is where they surprised me. Not only did they incorporate all of the things that made them an interesting band to begin with, the long times on those tracks were barely noticeable because they weren’t loud droning and repetitive. Its almost like a symphony at times with plenty of tempo changes and dramatic crescendos that really keep your attention. I’m not entirely sure if it was written to tell a story, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to write one to accompany it. Overall, this is their best record in 6 years, which if you’re counting is a hell of a long time… 9.5/10