Friday, July 23, 2010

Indy Rock Reviews::: Julian Lynch- Mare

By Josh Ginsberg

Julian Lynch is one of a handful of presumably New Jersey based musicians like Liam the Younger, Fluffy Lumbers and Big Troubles who have become featured on Pitchfork in a manner inseparable from Ulysses S. Grant’s presidential cabinet to me. Associated with Underwater Peoples, a label/collective/something or other from the Garden State, Lynch’s new album Mare, a very enjoyable bedroom rock album, is one of the best the collective has produced. Part of what attracts me to Mare is the notion that many other albums of its kind exist, some better and some worse on Macbooks or 4-tracks scattered among college dorms all over the United States, but that this one stands out against the rest for one reason or another. I don’t mean to disparage Mare. It is quite good.

Apparently, Lynch is making records concurrently with getting his PhD in Wisconsin, if I’m not mistaken. Mare sounds like the work of a highly talented music lover (especially when assuming, as I am, that Lynch plays every instrument) more than a musician (which the Lynch of my mind, who is playing all these instruments quite well, undoubtedly is). The Julian Lynch of my mind is someone who is eking out his musical ambition and talent during the down time of a rigorous previous engagement. Fortunately for Lynch, he is getting critical recognition from juggernauts like P4k, which must be very gratifying. When I checked out Lynch’s Myspace the day after his album was given Best New Music, his tour of the South has a single date listed, with the rest of the dates listing a city and “TBA” or “Need Help!!!”

Mare is an enjoyable listen. It is not a rich tapestry of sound per se. It is faded and muted in ocherous tones: a pale wheat blond, a distant red, a whole lot of soil. The instrumentation ranges from sparse, down-tuned percussion, drums that sound like canyons loosely bound with cloth, to layers of icicle like strands of strummed and plucked acoustic guitar strings to a bass clarinet that sounds on the verge of implosion, rifts of time’s passage along its body affecting its tone and blemishing its appearance. On Mare all the instrumentation is both cohesive and impressive, in a way that has more with atmosphere than chops, but is not devoid of the latter.

If the Rolling Stones’ “Moonlight Mile” was eviscerated of the pristine grandeur and sweeping resolve with which it was stuffed and was refilled with a slinky auto-wah and intentionally inauthentic sounding marimba via keyboard melody, it would come close to approximating the album’s title track. Opener “Just Enough” establishes that Lynch uses a similar guitar playing style to Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtenay, who in turn lifted it from Ira Kaplan and Lee Ranaldo, but allowed it to bleach out in the sun and mellow. The melodies are a little stranger and more off kilter sometimes treading Pavement territory, but they are still very decidedly evocative of Real Estate and Ducktails, despite a sound more removed from the beach and more akin to Woods and the woods. There is a weird depravity about Lynch’s guitar playing on “Just Enough” that I find rather enrapturing. The farfisa organ in the background is exemplary of the nice subtleties which spring up all over Mare.

The percussion is impressive throughout the album, as is the dim ambience against which it is set. “Still Racing” is one of the album’s best cuts. It features a choir of hushed Lynches singing atop a thick safety net of acoustic guitars and mandolins. The song could have been at home on Young Prayer by Panda Bear. “Ears” also evokes Animal Collective, albeit in a different way. Lynch sings in a falsetto which evokes Beirut’s horn arrangements in timbre in tandem with Avey Tare. The guitar solo is impressive and sounds as if its notes are stuck in glue or honey, each note sustained giving way into a spill of hot white hum. It is the most traditionally cathartic crescendo on the LP. The furious clarinet playing on “Ruth My Sister” is impressive as well, evoking Bruce Springsteen, Bleeding Gums Murphy, a panorama of back alley imagery and that new Ariel Pink album (just a bit) to me. Another one of my favorite songs on Mare is “Travelers.” Think forests, dystopian guitar licks and avoiding tripping on tree roots while maneuvering frantically as best as possible for an approximation of what it’s like to listen to.

Proto-Indy Rock Reveiws: Veckatimest

Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest
By Josh Ginsberg

As I write this, in a sticky basement, I am in the midst of an unusually warm April and Veckatimest is slated for release on May 26th. What I’ve been listening to is the “low quality leak” that turned up in a sendspace link on a friend’s facebook status in early March. Veckatimest is named for a small island in Dukes County, Massachusetts that I have never visited. I cannot liken the waves of effervescent, vintage American pop that Grizzly Bear condensed into the four minute bliss of “Two Weeks” to a picnic on that island’s shores. I cannot compare Daniel Rossen and Ed Droste’s elaborate guitar playing to the dense tree line, which weaves meticulously, creating an almost psychedelic aerial view or that guitar sound/forest’s impenetrability, dense unyielding space with only slight crevices left to slide deeper into. I cannot compare “Dory,” from experience, to the clear, foamy, creek that cracks through the foliage of the forest floor, lined with flat, slate-grey stones. Nor can I liken the reflection of closer “Foreground” to the view from the beach at night, at the flickering lights of some small, quaint harbor on the Massachusetts mainland. But those are the images inseparable to me from Veckatimest’s sounds.

Grizzly Bear crafted a stellar album. Bassist/Clarinetist/Flautist/Producer/Arranger Chris Taylor mixes the songs flawlessly. His bass guitar playing is excellent, and his sound manipulation, which is exemplified best on the instrumental potions before the second verse of “Fine For Now” is shimmering and enchanting. The most fascinating thing that Taylor accomplishes is the creation of a heavenly, ethereal arrangement, which the orchestral and chorale arrangements augment. He arranges strings beautifully and subtly on “About Face” and they never sound superfluous or forced. The quintessential example of his aplomb as an arranger and composer can be spotted on “I Live With You,” which begins with Taylor’s signature woodwinds, and a harp, before a low section of strings cuts in and the song gives way to a women’s choir, who can be heard laughing and talking to one another if you listen closely enough to the parts where they drop out. Chris Taylor is a peer to Van Dyke Parks or George Martin if I’ve ever heard one.

One of Taylor’s most essential contributions to the band is his innate ability to balance the different singing voices of the members, particularly the two lead vocalists, the lush, soothing, snow-capped vocals of Ed Droste and the quivering voiced Daniel Rossen, who seems capable of necromancy at his most sinister moments. The two men sing together on most songs, and while it is easy to peg a song like “Fine For Now” a Daniel Rossen song, because he sings the lyrics, the song wouldn’t be the same listening experience if not for the sheets of Ed Droste’s harmonies. While Rossen sings the lead vocal on the pre-chorus of “Fine For Now” it is Droste’s soaring backing vocals that steal the show. Rossen and Droste don’t harmonize like the Dead, Beach Boys or CSNY. Their harmonies are more evocative of the infrequent but perfectly complimentary harmonies of Thom Yorke and Ed O’Brien or the duel lead vocals of Avey Tare and Panda Bear; both voices are distinct melodic entities more than harmonic ones. After a chorus punctuated by a guitar part that is sublime in a sense that is strictly in tune with Edmund Burke’s conception of it.

The guitar is evocative of harrowing cliffs and mountains that taper endlessly, piercing the holiness of whatever heavens may lie above, Droste vocalizes a passage that may have been played out on the electric guitar by a different band, but Grizzly Bear display their immaculate ability to sing. “Two Weeks” is led by Droste, who sings the simple, plaintive lyrics. But the strongest hook on the entire album is the three-way harmony between Rossen, Taylor and drummer Christopher Bear, that is sung between Droste’s lines.

Songs like “All We Ask” find Rossen and Droste switching off between verses and choruses, with Rossen singing the swinging, “faltering,” chorus, evocative of jazz-age cities, streets crowded with taxis, sidewalks swarming with neatly dressed pedestrians, straight off the page of some F. Scott Fitzgerald story, as a choir of Drostes sigh forlornly. The song’s bridge, on which a pew of Grizzly Bears, most prominently Droste, laments as the song draws to a close, “I can’t get out of what I’m into with you.” Droste and Rossen also sing excellently without each other’s help. Rossen’s vocal melodies are some of the best on the album, especially his fierce, tormenting vocal on the chorus of “Southern Point,” which manages to sound like Armageddon while being entirely void of melodrama. His next best solo performance occurs during the vocal passages when he is not pitted against the women’s choir on “I Live With You,” which shows his ability to let his vocals soar, a hard thing to prove yourself worthy of for someone who sings co-lead vocals in a band with Ed Droste. It is strange to think back to the days before Rossen joined the band, as he is every bit as essential as Droste, and contributes an incredible amount to the band with his guitar work and songwriting.

On Veckatimest the acoustic guitar is still featured prominently, such as on songs like “Southern Point,” or “Dory” or “Hold Still.” However, on most of the album, it is the electric guitar that is more prominent. The electric guitars evoke the raw, dry volume of pre-1975 Neil Young, but they are dampened with reverb and frayed with short delay. Passages like the climactic point on “Fine For Now” pop up on many of the album’s songs, including the should-be single, “While You Wait For the Others.” That tone echoes late sixties Americana while still sounding at home amongst the guitar work of bands like Animal Collective, Deerhunter and Abe Vigoda. The extended instrumental intro of “All We Ask,” cloaks the picking of Yellow House in the same tone used on Friend EP tracks like “He Hit Me.” One of the best guitar moments on the album is one of the most ambiguous. The little, bursts of reverb moistened guitar that bloom like sonorant cactus flowers on “Ready, Able” almost sound like a sample, because of how quickly they blossom from non-entities to flourishes to nothing again. This is another instance in which beautiful short delay is employed.
Veckatimest also boasts an incredible keyboard sound. The keys that open “Two Weeks” sound more like a sunny, Kentucky garden or stretch of hills than any Lynard Skynard riff ever could. The high-end electric keyboard arpeggios of the songs chorus bore tiny little wasp nests into the listeners’ subconscious, and remain rooted there until re-listened to.

The most impressive sound on the album is the drum sound, which is produced immaculately. Christopher Bear plays beats that heavily utilize toms, but unlike the taut tom sound of seventies rock or the loose sound of tribal music. His percussion is mixed almost subliminally. Where another drummer might pump up a song with a driving, two armed assault on a snare drum, Bear achieves that same dynamic before the chorus of “Southern Point,” with nothing more than cymbal wash. His driving beat through the chorus mixes a snare pattern that could’ve been pattered out by a soldier marching through the wintry woods of 1778, and plays a fill that is more akin to Jamaican music or Metal than the “indie rock” it will lumped together with. The album’s most noteworthy drum pattern is the beat of “Two Weeks.” “Two Weeks” only hardly suggests the odd, syncopated beat that carries it, while riding its waves the entirety of the song. The beat is based around the rims of snares and his swiftly pinched high-hat. It might be the last thing the average listener would point out, but it’s one of the first things that hits. Christopher Bear’s jazz training is especially apparent on the end of the song. While Ed Droste manipulates some strange device that creates bright, melodic oscillations, pitted against what sounds like a tremolo-drenched electric guitar, Bear assaults with bells of his ride cymbal with more finesse than any of the jazz greats of the bop era. Not once does
Christopher Bear surrender his distinct style for a bland rock beat.

The songs on Veckatimest are more or less all top notch. Veckatimest features songs that are all memorable and that don’t bleed into each other as the songs on Yellow House sometimes did. The album is brighter, although, minor key melancholia is evoked at some point throughout at least half the songs, such as on the chorus of “Ready, Able,” the verse of “Fine For Now,” or the late-night-side-of-the-highway piano lines of “Foreground.” The only shortcoming of the songs is the occasional lyrical dud. The Grizzly Bear guys aren’t really elaborate wordsmiths. They aren’t bad lyricists per se, but they offer quatrains of seemingly meaningless, sometimes prosaic ramblings or non-sequiturs, best exemplified in the chorus of “Two Weeks,” which reads “Would you always / Make it easy / Maybe sometimes / Take your time.” Ed Droste isn’t exactly saying something poignant and if his execution is something shy of adroit, but that doesn’t detract from the song’s merit. I thought the lyrics of the verse (“Save up all the days / A routine malaise / Just like yesterday / I told you I would stay”) were good until I read them on paper and realized they were sort of juvenile and disjointed. Grizzly Bear are simply not a lyrics band. The best lyrics on the album are probably those on “Dory” which opens, “Oh wildly cohering in a watery deep….”

Veckatimest is the first truly consistent album of Grizzly Bear’s career. Yellow House is a much “cooler” album, but where Yellow House creates a distinct and fascinating horizon of sound that melds pre-War Americana, pastoral woodwinds and the fiercest acoustic finger picking and guitar webbing this side of John Fahey, Veckatimest offers twelve hooky and neat songs. Song albums are never as “cool” as album-albums, where a really cohesive and distinct mood is created and explored until the breaking point but they’re a lot more enjoyable to listen to. Grizzly Bear have released a greatest hits worth of great songs between their debut Horn of Plenty in 2005 and their Friend EP in 2007, but never before have they crafted an album as great as Veckatimest.

Indy Rock Reveiws: Small Black

Small Black, Big <3
By Josh Ginsberg

Small Black is probably the first band I’ve liked from Long Island that I have not been a member of. In the wake of emo Long Island has become associated with the cranky inhabitants of suburbs, self-mutilation and skateboarding at malls instead of the cerulean water that tickles its forks, the radiant flora that spring up from its earth and the modest but lovely fauna that carouse among the flowers. Small Black doesn’t evoke those things--they’re not Real Estate!!!--but they miraculously evoke an image of the mystic apocryphal nineteen eighties Long Island I was conceived on and born during. Small Black evokes the steamy, foggy streets I’ve walked down many times, wearing a hoodie and thinking about a girl. Their great self-titled five song EP catches me between the contradictory emotions roused in me by kids smoking pot in and around swimming pools. Small Black makes me disdain the spoiled aimlessness of “Long Island adolescence” but also makes me long for an amble past a local duck pond, holding hands high.

Small Black is “glo-fi,” a trippy, mellow brand of lo-fi that sounds a lot like the Ninja Turtles Soudtrack cassette I used to listen to in bed at night in 1993. The lo-fi recording creates a haze not unlike a moist summer night, which obscures the sound as sfumato might a painting. Small Black sounds sort of thin and tinny on bad speakers or when played too quietly, but on good speakers or loud in headphones it sounds great. The EP opens with the same low-end drum loops the keyboards you find left out for the trash boast. “Despicable Dogs,” isn’t a far cry from New Order’s “Temptation,” but the longing is even more palpable. This super-cool Pitchfork approved jam also evokes Neon Indian and Washed Out. Lyrics are close to indecipherable but reference smoke machines and being lost in the woods. The dizzying physical sensation of running and ducking, drunk, breath visible in front of your eyes, is unmistakable and inseparable from the listening experience.

“Weird Machines” implores the listener to lie upon a mattress. It is darker than “Despicable Dogs” and its keyboards would evoke “This Heart’s On Fire,” if the rest of the song were not eviscerated of raucousness and pomp. Its chord progression is more melancholic, similar to the EP’s fourth track, “Pleasant Experience,” a song reminiscent of Neon Indian’s “6669 (I don’t know if you know).” Spacey and subdued, the song gives way to a fluttering of eyelashes, a synthetic mandolin a galaxy away and a chorus of opaque sensation. Something is hard to pin down. The percussion and winking bass line of the EP’s anthemic via anti-anthem,“Lady in the Wires,” is a pleasant way to end the EP. And things grow even murkier and more indecipherable as melodies grow more uplifting on the track’s long build.

Centerpiece “Bad Lover,” is infectious. It is the most danceable song on the EP, but really lends itself to a drowsy sway. Love is wasted and ambient guitars, pushed back beneath an astral synthesizer and percussive loop, evoke Loveless only slightly. Listening to “Bad Lover” reminds me of sitting with my legs up on a bed, leaning toward a lover’s warmth and shifting my weight to one hand as I bring my opening mouth toward hers. The pulse of the song’s chorus feels the same as the comforter and mattress recoiling under my palm and looks like the specter of an approaching face beneath closed lids. Posture is self-consciously straightened and in this immersive dorm room or park bench of sound the sense of touch is made immaculately and inexplicably present. Josh Kolenik reminds a listener of the realization “You are not in love,” a poignant one when the number of women kissed and kisses per woman grows inversely. “You were running off to / Perhaps to see her,” he sings over groupings of notes too crushed, too hushed to be chords, “Drawn to the site / Moving bones.” Small Black seems almost self-referential when two voices sing of “Drifting fog,” and either “Rain under water,” or “Laying underwater.”

Small Black were great live. I was lucky enough to wander into their set at U-CafĂ© early into the semester. The songs sound even better with a real rhythm section playing them and Small Black’s set may have been one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had at a show. Now signed to Jagjaguwar, I assume that a more proper release from Small Black will surface before the year is through. For now their EP will make ambling through a flurry or crunching over see-through snow a little more worthwhile. Too bad those guys pretend they’re from Brooklyn.

Indy Rock Reveiws::: Panda Bear - Tomboy/Slow Motion 7"

I remember reading an interview with Panda Bear post-Person Pitch where he said that the experience of meticulously forging an album of that caliber from such an immense pool of samples was so taxing that he couldn't picture himself being in a place to make another one anytime soon. One needn't do more than simply take a gander at the tracklist of the all-Avey, all-the-time ("Loch Raven" as exception) Feels to see how Panda's hands were tied making his solo record, the majority of which was released through a series of seven-inches starting in '05 and leading up to the full-length release.

Three years later, Panda's back at the ole grind, prepping the follow-up Tomboy and once again drumming up anticipation through a series of advance singles. In these heady Independent Rock Music times, where bands like jj and Los Campesinos! are issuing presumably shitty sophomore efforts just months after their shitty, breakthrough dealbreakers were released, three years is an even longer time in music years than it had been previously. Still, with Panda's contributions to Animal Collective becoming more and more prominent and individualized, culminating in the two most popular Merriweather singles both being Panda-penned, my impression was that he was effectively parlaying the fact that Person Pitch was more beloved than any AC release into a more centrally creative role within the band. The McCartney (optimistic, more popular) to Tare's Lennon, If U Will. So I'm honestly a bit surprised that we are just a few months away from the release (and probably much closer to the leak) of Panda's fourth solo LP, and hopefully his second one that I actually like.

Anyone reading this is likely well acquainted with how Panda has described Tomboy-- guitar-based, a departure from sampling inspired by the likes of Kurt Cobain and Jack White. For those keeping score at home, that's supposed to come off as really intriguing because you see, Cobain and White play(ed) big distorted rock guitar and are less-than-adored by hipsters, while Animal Collective aren't a rock band, but do make hipsters go apeshit. In fact, in a Feels-era interview, the AnCoBros ("Bro's?") claim they never have and never will use distorted guitars even though they like how other bands use them, because it just ain't they steez. I've never heard them explain "Cuckoo Cuckoo." Anywho, the live bootlegs from January sounded promising enough, and, perhaps thankfully, very much Panda Bear.

Listening to this first single, featuring the album's title track backed with a song called "Slow Motion," which may or may not make the LP, I was immediately disheartened to realize that "Tomboy" was in fact "Track 02" from my boot, one of my least favorite tracks. I think a lot of people hear/read "guitar-based" and immediately think Feels here, which is a fundamental mistake because Panda of course does not play guitar on that record. In actuality, the guitars on "Tomboy" share little in common with the lushly warm and watery alt-tuning drones employed by Avey and Deakin. Here, the guitars are tinny and small, even vaguely 8-bit sounding. Perversely enough, it almost sounds like Panda was taking cues from the very chillwave artists who are so heavily indebted to Person Pitch. But whereas chillwave songs tend to be built around a simple but catchy central hook, and shrouded in just enough fuzz to fill out the mix, "Tomboy" is a lightweight dirge, backed by slight percussion and ultimately too glaringly lean. Some mildly appealing melodic elements emerge with repeated listens, but the song rings ultimately, like much of the work of notorious Panda wannabe El Guincho, as a failed hypnosis attempt.

"Slow Motion" corrects the misstep of using a metronome-level backbeat, here employing a robust hip hop sample. The guitars are more heavily processed, thus sounding less like guitars, as the song floats through subtly-varying chanted sections, the penultimate ("It's how we show what counts.") being the catchiest. Still, if this song were but another section in "Good Girl/Carrots," it would be easily the least memorable. Which isn't to say it's bad-- neither of these songs are bad, per se, they are just shockingly underwhelming when coming from a member of a band who these days seemingly can do no wrong. And while if the bootlegs are any indicator, there is definitely enough material -- "Surfer's Hymn, "Drone," et al -- to yield an adequate album, this first single, intended as a teaser, serves mostly as a buzzkill.



Wednesday, July 21, 2010


July 20

would you say you like black people more or less now than you did 10 yeras ago
July 21

sow ahtd you say on the wavves review comment section

we're all bros here

some demons cant be outrun
12:25pmGary is offline.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Indy Rock Reveiws::: Beach House - Teen Dream

My initial hatred of Beach House was rooted in reasons nearly polar opposite to the root of my initial disdain for Wavves. Where Wavves' brazen one-dimensionality, its haphazard recycling of the same few surf punk chord changes, and the rapturous praise it was almost instantaneously greeted with left me confounded, embittered and depressed, the seemingly conventional perception of Beach House as sophisticated, refined "smart music" a la Dirty Projectors (marginally rougher around the edges), provided a different road map to those same disenchanted feelings.

Of course, status alone is preposterous grounds for disliking a band -- even Malkmus conceded that "1979" was a sick jam -- and I'll be one amongst the droves to consider Grizzly Bear, the poster band for "smart independent 'rock' music," to be one of the very solidest groups making music right now. But Grizzly Bear's music is innovative and expansive, their approach to making music admirably meticulous (just seeing the aerial shot of the infinite clusterfuck of wires, close-mics and foot pedals from the Veckatimest sessions was stressful), their god-given proficiency undeniable, and their songwriting good to very good. Beach House's seemed to lack this expansiveness and innovation, devoid of an edge, and their songwriting lacking of any sort of intangibles. My first hearing of the band was a front-to-back listen of one of the two pre-Teen Dream LPs, I'm not sure which, and the experience was a total wash-- no hooks, chord changes in vain, slow. I only got through the first two songs of Dream before dubbing it an indisputable piece of shit, and giddily expounded upon just how shitty I thought it was as soon as I met up with the friends I'd assumed would indubitably hold shallow affinity for the arpeggiated, reverb-drenched turd. I made excessive, unnecessary note of how unattractive I thought the chick was.

The reality of music listening, as far as I'm concerned, is that despite the sheer multitude of records out there, one only has the will to download so much. People often lament the fact that music downloading has jaded listeners who amass obscene quantities of mp3s, give said mp3s a cursory listen, and then disregard them forever. While I'm obviously sure this still happens, I think more and more people are becoming jaded to the point that they don't even bother downloading shit anymore because, if that Costco-inspired approach to record collecting taught them anything, it's that most music sucks. Why download the Male Bonding LP if the track I heard on YouTube sucked? The positive fallout of this is that less music, at least for me, means reverting back to the days of actually spending time with albums, and granting second chances. This, coupled with the demand twice a week for three-hour iPodathons to keep me sane during art class, proved to be Teen Dream's opportunity to redeem itself in the eyes of Master Craig John Palzius Heed, Esq.

There is a certain majestic quality to the songs on Teen Dream which was just understated enough for me to miss it the first time around. Opener "Zebra" does well to epitomize this quality-- an articulately arpeggiated verse gives way to an ascendant chorus which fits the bill of its lyric ("Any way you run, you run before us/Black and white horse arching among us") and conjures feelings of making one's way through billowing white silk curtains and into the sunlight, as well as the scene from the first Jurassic Park where they seek refuge from the herd of Gallimimuses under that fallen tree (minus the T. Rex). "Silver Soul," which the first time around just sounded like lite FM bullshit to me, also stands out on repeated listens, its chorus a memorable, universal lament, accented by the chick's infectiously fluttering vocal fills which pervade the rest of the disc. "Norway" explodes in a magenta-and-off-white rush of lush-'n-hushed vocals and swirling guitar before settling into a mid-tempo shuffle for the verses, replete with whale sounds, (c) Kevin Shields 1991. It returns to that first propulsive section for the chorus, and to my ears had "lead single" written all over it, though I don't think that was ultimately the case. However, the cream of the crop here is the track directly following, "Walk in the Park." Starting like so many of these songs with a cheap drum machine beat, resulting in a dichotomic sound when all those crisp reverb plug-ins kick in, a reclining clean-channel guitar lead eases its way into verses introspectively sung in the second person. Flurries of Italian-sounding guitars clear every cloud in the sky and pan to an aerial view of the park's shimmering canopy for a gorgeous chorus, as sweeping and stately as anything on the first Vampire Weekend LP, yet better than anything on it. In fact, this is one of the best songs/choruses I've heard all year, right up there with "No Dialogue," "Don't Taunt a Tiger," "Killed by Cars" and "The Exceptional Bastards." Running with the theme of vague-at-best Vampire Weekend comparisons, the second chorus is followed by a coda that leaves me longing for a third choral go-'round a la "Campus" (I first felt solidarity with a particular friend when he turned off "Campus" just before the ascending major scale coda in favor of "Marquee Moon"), except the coda of "Walk in the Park" is actually quite good, just not as good as that chorus.

"Used to Be" would be a microcosm of the album's second half (despite concluding side one) if it weren't for the fact that it's probably weaker than any of the songs to follow. A pleasant-enough pseudo-chorus doesn't take flight into a post-chorus the way you'd like, and for that, the song rings a bit flat. Still, Teen Dream proved once again to be a record which gradually reveals itself; I'd slagged off the second half entirely until relistening for the sake of writing this, and in that most recent listen found that while none of the later tracks close in on matching the heights of the Big Four, they still retain legitimate merit. "Lover of Mine" is a subtly-solid number which vaguely reprises "Norway," while "Real Love," the real latter-half gem, is also possibly the album's slowest song. And while a slower, spacier second half is characteristic of many classic albums -- Feels, Begins-with-a-Q, Ends-with-an-S, Isn't-a-Legit-Word -- where a song like "Banshee Beat" or "Daffy Duck" can actually command greater attention for their sparseness, a track like "Better Times," while decent (still not crazy about the key change), doesn't quite make the grade. Likewise, "10 Mile Stereo" seems to take a tempered approach to reaching a "Walk in the Park"-esque zenith, and the results are alright but not the same. "Take Care," a titular farewell in a similar way to "Bye" from Figure 8 (though with vocals), is built around the simple-yet-poignant couplet "I'll take care of you/If you ask me to," which actually seems to lose some of its luster as it fades into daydreams.

All in all, Teen Dream is an adeptly-crafted album that, at least for me, took a bit of time to appreciate. Still, while it is technically solid front-to-back, it can't help but feel frontloaded for having its four best tracks bunched together at the very beginning. For that, I can't call it a great record the way so many others seem to because it just doesn't flow like one. However, it's clear now that Beach House isn't merely lite FM bullshit -- at least not on this album -- even if I do picture The Captain & Tennille singing all their songs. And honestly, the girl isn't really that ugly.



Friday, July 9, 2010

Indy Rock Reveiws MIXTAPE:::B- songs by C- bands

Best Coast - "When I'm With You"

I can't tell whether or not this chick is cute because I can't tell whether or not she's secretly chubby, plus she looks fifteen years older than she is and that just doesn't bode well in the long term. Terrible marriage material. Anyways, this is a pretty catchy song, albeit the sort of jaded and insincere bullshit you could only deal with for three to seven days, tops. Still, a memorable, if unoriginal hook, with proto-pre-King Wavves production. Unsurprisingly enough, her only other good song, "Feelings of Love," is melodically similar enough to always feel as if it should break into the chorus of "When I'm With You." I don't understand how the ole idea pool can be so shallow with these people, and yet time and time again, there's always some ponce in some high place who's ready to push it. If that very same ponce ever happens upon this here blog, I'd just like to say that this whole beach-themed, cat-loving stoner aesthetic (see: artwork for this forthcoming LP, the Wavves one below) is pretty lame. I read an interview with this ho where she likens "When I'm With You" to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (the audacity mk III). No wonder she flunked outta art school.

Washed Out - "Feel it All Around"

A pretty pimp song honestly; the drum fill sample is especially sick. "New Theory" is another good one, embodying that same feel good vibe while being perhaps a bit more buoyant. Unfortunately, that's pretty much all this dude has in the tank. In fact, I'd tell you to just listen to Small Black instead, since the first three songs on their EP are great, as is their b-side "King of All Animals," but they never responded to a heartfelt email I once wrote them, and so I'll just assume they're a buncha pricks who don't need your money or hard drive space.

Delorean - "Stay Close"

I don't have it in me to be hard on these dudes. They've apparently been at it for ten years now despite only breaking about a year or so ago, and they don't exude the air of obnoxious hipsters. Respeck. This song, while sort've gay, is a very good song, ageless by modern indie rock standards in that I probably first heard it about a month ago and can still appreciate it. A "sick running jam" if I'd ever heard one. However, my reservations about it-- that it's like Merriweather taken one step too far into the realm of gay, guido fist-pumping techno -- are endemic of the rest of this disc. A collection of not-quite-there-yet Person Pitch outtakes, with just enough thump to not be completely surreal if heard blaring out the window of a white Escalade on Franklin Avenue.

Sleigh Bells
- "Crown on the Ground"

This chick is really hot. Didn't know whether to single out this one, "Straight A's," "Rill Rill" or "Tell 'Em." Those were the only ones in consideration because the rest are all a bit shitty. I'd pretend to like them all if this chick was my girlfriend, tho (the one about her A/B tracks does have one cool riff...). I believe I already used the phrase "jaded, insincere bullshit" so I'd rather not sound redundant. It's funny though that the retard/dude in this band used to be emo. I guess when you rock a tattered, circa 1986 NY Mets bullpen jacket, you're ironic enough to make all those bozo brainz in Brooklyn forget.

Girls - "Lust for Life"

Man, fuck these guys. Talk about a shallow pool, every song's bread and butter is the major-to-minor chord change. Josh and I actually started a joke side project called Cuddleston Bear, in which we did the same thing in a strictly pre-1965 Beatles style. In fact, the lone fruit of our labor, "ILU," was posted on this blog a long while back, and I'd advise trying to track it down somehow as it's better than Girls, and if you're the type of person who frequently listens to Girls, it's not like the time wasted on tracking down a Slothbear rarity would've been better spent anyway, right?

- "Burn Bridges"

Another dude who is all about smoking pot and loving his cat. That these fuckheads became a hype band only a couple months after forming is sickening. I do endorse this track's misanthropic message though (I only know two lines), but tried myself to temper any bridge burning by excluding any "one B- wonders" who may be slightly more inclined to stumble upon this blog post in their vanity searches.

download link:

This playlist is only six songs because, had these bands kept their respective records to only six or so songs, perhaps they would've been good like the one I made.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Indy Rock Reveiws:::Wavves - King of the Beach

Indy Rock Reveiws is a brand new segment of the Spotblog. In it, palz provides his expert insight on the latest vaunted indie rock releases. In tribute to Pitchfork Media, aka the last vestige of *rEaL* counterculture, all records/bands/songs will be graded on a scale of 1 to 6, with decimals, and a final verdict of "Better than Qids?" To give some sort of context, a perfect 6.0 would be equivalent to a 9.2 BNM p4k album.

I went into seeing Wavves live at the Market Hotel (good riddance) in February 2009 already moderately embittered towards him. I heard "So Bored" and was wholly unmoved by it, and was disheartened to learn that the weedheaded, skateboarding doofus behind this music, only a couple years older than myself, was already being praised by p4k and ABC news just months after playing his first show.

The show I was about to blow $10 on, however, would serve as a demoralizing crash course in present day, Brooklyn 'DIY' (the audacity mk II) indie rock. In a venue my band couldn't sniff booking a show at, promoted by a tyrant (UNWUR) who can't be bothered to respond to my emails (no matter how threatening), I bore witness, first hand, to the paradox of modern independent rock music: none of these bands can fucking play.

Between shambolic sets from Wavves themselves, opener Nodzzz(zzz?), the texturally/melodically insipid Blank Dogs, and one of the biggest piece of shit bands going right now, Woods (I didn't even stay for them, and it would be months before I had the misfortune of even hearing their music), it became distressingly apparent that, had Ian and I owned a reverb pedal in high school, we could've been niche famous.

The same regurgitated power chord progressions, compartmentalized ambitions, and stylistic neglect of originality which permeated the duration of that show would pop up time and time again on many a 2009 release and are all amply showcased on Wavvves. Its failed noise experiments and objective clunkers where songs were presumably supposed to be (see: "Beach Demon") notwithstanding, Wavvves satisfied on the absolute dumbest level. I enjoyed the chord progression of "So Bored," Mr Wavves' go-to progression (more on this later), when I first heard it in high school on "Wave of Mutilation"; I enjoyed it more than I did in "So Bored" yet still less than in "Wave" on "To the Dregs." These two nearly-identical tracks are brazenly featured on the same half of the same album is so preposterous I almost have to applaud Wavves.

As I see it, the whole idea of something being a "guilty pleasure" stems from the fact that what you gratifies on a sensory level does not always pass the litmus test of what gratifies on an artistic (and often enough, social) level. I can appreciate a chord progression I'd heard before, but knowing it was cheaply recycled, not once, but twice, reflects pretty poorly on the artist here, and it's admittedly salt in the wounds to see something that lacks so much integrity garner the attention and praise it does, while the virtues of my own endeavors go largely unappreciated. I'd compare this paradox of enjoyment to hate-fucking-- think of some famous hot chick you'd love to bang, yet think is a stupid whore. After all, aren't the need to slam and the need to rock out both more or less physical?

It's even easier to hate Wavves when you consider what an ingrate prick the dude is, all storming off stages in places most could only dream of visiting, in front of thousands of paying fans. What almost separates him from the pack, other than having slightly better taste in stolen melodies than his contemporaries, is that he doesn't seem to be complacent. As embarrassing as it was to watch live clips of him trying to keep up with Zach Hill, it's still sadly a noble attempt to try and move outside his comfort zone. The same goes for his shift into the world of high fidelity recording on King of the Beach.

Recorded in the same studio (I think) as the way better Merriweather Post Pavilion, King of the Beach boasts a production that, to quote Sam McKeon, "pops!" and this proves effective on the standout title track and the equally satisfactory "Super Soaker." I was all ready to say that "Linus Spacehead" features the catchiest chorus he's ever taken, but apparently one of the ex-Reatards wrote that one. In fact, the Wavves dude himself only wrote nine of these songs. Of these, the best is "Mickey Mouse," which had p4k shitting themselves about a year ago when they heralded it for being "lo-fi Animal Collective." Here it's cleaned up, but the description is ultimately apt-- a neat horn sample he likely obtained using the same expensive software which lent past Wavves releases those signature distortion filters casts shades of "Comfy in Nautica" before the fuzzy guitar and warbled falsetto drop in. Listeners/suckers are more likely, however, to latch onto lead single "Post Acid." The verses sounding like a revved up "Summer Babe" with guitars that cut in and out on an absolute dime, the song is pleasant enough until you get to the chorus and realize that this could quite easily be a late 2000's era Weezer cut. That something supposedly representative of the gritty underground could evoke "Troublemaker," and that that same something could also make hipsters lose their shit while simultaneously ignoring my heretofore life's work is just downright heartbreaking.

Elsewhere, there's not a ton going on. "Convertible Balloon" is the token chillwave nod, "Baby Say Goodbye" drags a little but its heart is in the right place, and "Idiot" sounds like track 3 on Nimrod. Like every other 21st century indie rock album that has some sort of lo-fi affiliation, there's a track that cribs the already red handed "Just Like Honey" ("When Will You Come?"), but most interesting of these throwaways is "Take On the World." Reverting back to that old "Wave of Mutilation" progression, Wavvesguy sings something about lamenting the fact that everything he writes is the same. Maybe this kind of confession would endear Wavves to people, but while I'll likely often listen to the first two songs, "Linus" and "Mickey Mouse" whenever I go running or out driving on a sunny day, it won't keep me from still harboring some sort of deeply seated rage towards him.



Saturday, July 3, 2010