Trip On A Small Black Chain

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

Photojournalist

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

Natural Child

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

You

MillionYoung: Be So True EPMillionYoung 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

Cynthia

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

Innumeracy

Desaparecidos En Inglés

After a brief wait… scratch that. After several years, Saddle Creek records have finally decided to re-release Desaparecidos’ first full-length record AND the 7-inch single together on vinyl for the low low… scratch that, moderate price of $15. And who are Desaparecidos, you ask? Well they’re one of Conor Oberst’s post-punk projects that I personally liked more than Bright Eyes– his primary project. The other project that preceded it, Commander Venus, was very similar but Desaparecidos was that idea perfected. Why they changed their name, I don’t know. Personally I like Commander Venus better. Thats not the point, my point is that when Desaparecidos didn’t put out another album(like they were supposed to), I was really let down. So the fact that this is the first major news from them in… lets say, 8 years… is really all the reason I needed to talk about them today. So take a listen and reacquaint yourself for the first time with Desaparecidos and what the hell, I’ll throw in a couple of Commander Venus songs while I’m at it.

Desaparecidos – Read Music / Speak Spanish

Man and Wife, The Latter

Happiest Place On Earth

Commander Venus: The Uneventful Vacation

Jean’s T.V.

Commander Venus – Saddle Creek Sampler

Bent On Broken Nerves

Low Plants Robert

I might be a little late to the party, but apparently Robert Plant decided to cover a couple of songs from Low on his new album. Now, I admit I could give a shit less about an aging rocker’s new album in any way, but when he makes such a unique choice as to cover songs by Low, I can’t help but applaud. I still don’t give a shit about anything Robert Plant does or even his take on their songs, but I am however a little more optimistic about the world in general. At least this might shed a bit of light on Low to all of Robert Plant’s elderly fans who may just go out and buy all of the CDs Low haven’t been able to sell since most people started downloading all of their music… and by most people I mean people under 35. Its a win-win really. So, congratulations Robert Plant. You’ve finally slightly made me notice you for a brief moment. More importantly, this news is preempted by the fact that not only will Low be reissuing their Christmas album on vinyl, but they’ll also be touring in promotion of it. They’ll also be releasing a new record on Sub Pop sometime in 2011… Lets just hope its better than their last release, Drums And Guns. But one thing is for certain: It’ll be much better than anything Robert Plant puts out.

Tour Dates:

December 10th: Seattle, WA : Tractor Tavern
December 11th: Portland, OR : Mississippi Studios
December 14th: San Francisco, CA : Great American Music Hall
December 15th: Los Angeles, CA : Spaceland
December 17th: Salt Lake City, UT : Kilby Court
December 18th: Denver, CO : Larimer Lounge

Silent Night from Christmas

In Metal from Things We Lost In The Fire

(That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace from Trust

Silver Rider from The Great Destroyer

Elliott Smith Zombie

This November 2nd will mark the release of yet another Elliott Smith record. No, this isn’t anything new like New Moon‘s ‘lost’ tracks or even an unfinished album like From A Basement On A Hill… although coincidentally, Kill Rock Stars re-released it earlier this year. No, its merely a quick introduction to Elliott Smith. A brief, ‘Hello, I used to write great music, but now I’m dead. But don’t let that stop you…’ snapshot of Smith’s life through some of his best works… or at least someone’s opinion of his best work. This is my problem with people putting these out. Look, I know his family doesn’t wanna work for a living so they put out ‘greatest hits’ records every 2 or 3 years, I get that. Working for a living sucks. My problem is that these sort of records only give a narrow scope of his work. I personally have 78 tracks by him and if I had to pick a handful of songs for a record like this I’d say, ‘No, I’m not going to do that. Thats artistically dishonest, not to mention lazy’. But I suppose everyone is a bit lazy nowadays. That being said, this is actually going to be stocked with some quality tracks. So, if you’re new to Elliott Smith and you’re wondering why everyone speaks so highly of a dead guy even after 7 years, you could probably do a lot worse than An Introduction To… Elliott Smith. But really, just fucking download any one of his original LPs. I’m not saying you have to pay for it, I’m merely saying you should really be as big a fan of his as I am and thats the best way for it to happen. Thats all. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to finish polishing my Elliott Smith statue… In the meantime, please enjoy my top 5 songs by him in no particular order.

Happiness

Junk Bond Trader

Needle In The Hay

Oh Well, Okay

Waltz #2

Covering Up The Covers

Anyone who knows me knows that there are 2 things that I focus on in life: Fashion and music. Well, music and occasionally Project Runway. Recently during London’s Fashion Week, a memorial service was held at St. Paul’s cathedral to commemorate the life of Alexander McQueen who died earlier this year. Björk was in attendance and even performed a special song. In case you weren’t aware(and why would you be), McQueen designed multiple dresses for Björk over the years including the dress/make-up she wore on the cover of Homogenic. Ironically, he also designed for noted arch-villain and friend of evil, Lady Gaga. No matter, the reason I bring all of this up is because of the song that Björk performed: Gloomy Sunday. Gloomy Sunday is originally a Billie Holiday song and as I mentioned before I’m a purist when it comes to songs I love and thats a big reason I hate covers about 98% of the time. I usually find them about as pleasant as a mosquito bite on my temple. But every once in a while someone gets it right… so right that I like the cover as much or more than the original. Bands like The Get Up Kids and Sun Kil Moon know how to perfectly execute them and so does Björk. Gloomy Sunday wasn’t a song I was familiar with before, but I’m glad I found it. And hell, I’ll even share some of my other favorite covers, or the exceptions to my no-covers rule.

Björk – Gloomy Sunday (Billie Holiday Cover)

Sun Kil Moon – Ocean Breathes Salty (Modest Mouse Cover)

Damien Jurado – Place To Be (Nick Drake Cover)

The Get Up Kids - Alec Eiffel (Pixies Cover)

Deastro – Dr. Who Original Theme Song (some 60s sci-fi theme song writer guy… cover)

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