i hate the sound of guitars

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30 jan 2012

30 Jan 2012 · No Comments

  • bellwire – “Waterbed” (EP)
    Note: we’re not likely to make a practice of this. It’s against our charter. But the band bellwire reached out to us and invited us to listen to their music, and they made that easy and they weren’t rude about it. So we did. And it was pretty good. We decidedly liked the brushed drums on a couple of tunes. The singer’s voice had a fragile delivery and slightly reedy timbre in a way that was appealing, not annoying (a li’l bit like Grandaddy’s Jason Lytle, maybe). (We were less enamored of unsteady pitch but make allowances for young bands and anyway prefer a wobbly note or two to autotune.) The rhyme and rhythm of “words that I won’t revise/about birds I don’t recognize” overcome our distaste for songs about songwriting. We appreciated the trumpet when it cropped up, and other arrangement details like the late-night sung over-the-telephone vibe of “Plum Black.” We think the EP has a nice balance between maintaining a certain melancholy mood, but not being in the least samey. We look forward to hearing how bellwire evolves. (We don’t know why we pretended to be plural for the duration of this review, it just seemed appropriate somehow.)
  • Chairlift – Something
    Nothing with quite the creepy/catchy double-punch of “Bruises,” but “Sidewalk Safari” comes close (and evokes Thomas Dolby in roughly the same way “Bruises” called The Cure to mind.) “Amanaemonesia”’s pretty darn hooky, too, and the whole thing goes down smoothly.
  • Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory
    New: dark, angry explorations suffused with post-punk* spirit. Still there: rough’n'ready low-fi power-pop nuggets. Not a cohesive listen, but frickin’ cool. My guess: touring with Fucked Up had more to do with the shift than being recorded by the Albini. But both of those things influenced this record.
    * still hate that label, even when it’s useful.
  • The Darcys – Aja
    Confession: I don’t much like Steely Dan. But this is the second all-Steely-Dan-covers project in two years that I’ve enjoyed. (The first was Hussalonia’s brilliant Steely Danielle Hussalonia). I certainly don’t love all of Steley Dan’s compositions, but I think what irks me about them is less their songwriting than a certain sonic and attitudinal fussiness. Hussalonia’s defiantly unfussy takes (and heaping helpings of dirty guitar) delighted me. The Darcys also take things in a radically different direction, not sloppy, but multi-layered. The Darcy’s draw on shoegaze and the experimental side of indie rock: lots of sustained notes hanging in the background and such. There are also grainy/gritty guitar sounds aplenty. I think “Deacon Blues” is my favorite Steely Dan song no matter who is playing it; “Peg” might sound least like it had ever been a Steely Dan song, if only I didn’t recognize it; “Home at Last” might be the most satisfying overall.
  • Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur
    Let’s break a rule! Let’s break the rule about acts with female lead singers only being compared to other female lead singers! Voyaguer reminds me of the (less-countrified Gary Louris-led years of) The Jayhawks: similar blend of polished rock with rootsy touches, similar sturdiness of hooks and role of the organ in the arrangements. That’s no slur; this is a bit slicker than most of what I go for, but “Chameleon/Comedian” is gorgeous.
  • Elizaveta – Beatrix
    Unusual mix of dense stacked harmonies, acoustic and/or piano-centric arrangements, pieces with a jazzy or even almost classical vibe, and some synth/dance/pop attributes. Much more organic (and less auto-tuned and beat-heavy) than diva pop, but probably has some crossover appeal. Mixed bag for me, but I definitely like “Dreamer” and “Snow in Venice.”
  • Laura Gibson – La Grande
    On La Grande Gibson manages to sound simultaneously old-timey — as in pre-rock’n'roll — and au courant. A neat trick. Sometimes this record is like listening to an old folk/blues tune on a radio that’s getting interference from some college indie rock program that just happens to mesh pleasingly, if weirdly.
  • Imaginary Cities – “Imaginary Cities” (EP)
    Imaginary Cities’ layered and textured indie rock reveals a slight blues tinge in its undercarriage; singer Marti Sarbit has a not-unpleasant edge to her upper-midrange that slightly evokes a Certain Jazz Singer and her many imitators. It’s an odd mix, but these three songs leave me curious to hear more.
  • Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy
    I never really paid a lot of attention to these guys, but I like this. Slightly hard to pigeonhole (upper-mid-tempo rock that sometimes veers toward shoegaze or powerpop, depending on the track); reminds me more than a little bit of The Posies (Jon more than Ken: smooth tenor vocals).
  • Palomar – Sense & Antisense
    This time around Palomar’s smooth female-fronted indie pop is on balance quieter and slower than on previous outings. That’s not particularly meant to be a value judgement, but it may have contributed to it making less of an immediate impression.
  • Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend
    Strange Weekend stays in the ballpark that, rightly or wrongly, I think of as Animal Collective-influenced: lots of synths, some dance-worthy beats, a slightly psychedelic vibe. Within that territory it’s pretty eclectic, partly due to a singer who’s enough of a vocal chameleon that at first I thought there were multiple lead singers between tracks, but also thanks ot specific sonic touchpoints: the guitar line of “Drifting In and Out” fair screams “New Order,” the verse chords of “Shapless & Gone” are Michael Penn-ish, the vocal line of “Put Me to Sleep” is a bit Robyn Hitchcock-y at the outset. The first time I heard this I kept checking to see if it had ended and something else had started. I like it. “The Way In” is particularly pretty.
  • Traveling – “End of the Summer” (EP)
    Turns out that all that October-December time last year when I was impatiently waiting for the Good Luck album to arrive, I coulda been listening to this EP by this new band fronted by Good Luck’s Ginger Alford. And it mighta helped me cope with The Measure (SA)’s breakup, too, on account of pushing a lot of my same buttons. The Internets failed me for months. But look! I am not failing you. You can get it right now at traveling’s bandcamp. As a pay-what-you-want download, yet. And hey! On byoofull vinyl from the good folks at No Idea Records real soon!
  • Kate Tucker – “Ghost of Something New”
    Polished and tuneful with just a few hints of country. Never struck me before how much Tucker’s voice reminds me of Tanya Donelly’s.
  • Anneke Van Giersbergen – Everything is Changing
    Listened to the album with the two singles that failed to impress me last week because a friend recommended it highly. Not my cuppa, but I did like the concluding “1000 Miles Away From You,” an intriguingly textured power ballad.
  • Adam WarRock – “Parks & Rec” (EP)
    A trio of nerdcore tunes inspired by the characters of NBC’s Parks and Recreation. I don’t feel like I know near enough about nerdcore to judge its place in the canon or whatever, but it made me chuckle. Free at Adam WarRock.com
  • Xray Eyeballs – Splendor Squalor
    Slightly hard for me to believe this band is from New York because it so perfectly matches my mental template for the weirder, more-lo-fi side of Denton indie rock — I could so easily see them on a bill with the Deathray Davies, The Wax Museums, Black Lipstick, or the Hex Dispenser. OK, the Hex Dispensers are from Austin. But still, TX not NY. On the other hand there’s a slight, less Texan, Cure vibe to this, mostly in the bass lines, I think. I like it a lot, if I haven’t made that clear.

2011 holdovers

  • The Darcys – The Darcys
    Wanted a bit of context for their Steely Dan covers record. This is spacious and moody, indie rock. Not terribly uptempo, but baffled as to why listeners tag this “slowcore” (or “shoegaze”; “I Will Be Light” explodes into a swell effects-laden guitar freakout, but it’s a bit of an exception, mostly this more about the tension than the release). Singer dude frequently sounds more than a bit like Thom Yorke, which makes R——-d comparisons hard to shake, but I try. Perhaps more usefully, also reminds me of Calla.
  • Xray Eyeballs – Not Nothing
    New one made me want to hear the old one. Never a bad thing. New one is better. Never a bad trend.

Tags: 2012 · lists

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