Audible Musings

Sunset Rubdown – Dragonslayer
June 29, 2009, 5:33 pm
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Sunset Rubdown is the supergroup comprised of, most visibly, Spencer Krug of Wolf Parade, who authored the band’s debut album, Snake’s Got A Leg circa july ’05. Fast forward a few years and the band has expanded to include Camilla Wynn Ingr of Pony Up!, Jordan Robson-Cramer of XY Lover, and Michael Doerksen. This work, Dragonslayer, as well as the 2006 release, Shut Up I Am Dreaming, is a product of this latter combination.

So now that you have an idea about the band’s bio, I’ll highly endorse the album. I think it’s some of the finest work this year, and that’s high praise considering the slew of new albums that have been released. Although this album only has eight tracks, it clocks in at just under 50 minutes courtesy of the ten minute “Dragons Lair” that concludes the album on an epic note. As per usual, the album is centered around the keys and synth, but it feels as though with this album, the guitar takes a somewhat more leading role in pushing melodic ideas forward, be it with a crunchy backing riff or a buttery upper register controlled improvisation. Although the lyrics don’t really make sense (they never really have, to be honest), there are more lucid moments within the sprawling lyrical jumble that enable the listener to connect with this album on a deeper level than past efforts. Similarly, as this album’s melodies seem to flow smoothly and create plenty of tension and release, this album is definitely more instantly listenable than previous work from both Wolf Parade as well as Sunset Rubdown. As straightforward as the music can sound at points, it is – to my ear – the simplistic use of subtle complexities interspersed with austere melodies is what makes the album so easily listenable and instantly unique.

The opening tune, “Silver Moons,” sets a very stately tone for the album as Krug wails about moving on and growing old with a timbre that seems to suggest fear, “I believe in growing old with grace, … You are a fallen tree, He is a fallen tree, How old are you no how old are you?” As the song breaks down to piano and Krug’s notorious voice, you can’t help but be touched by his sincerity and the unique voice he posesses. Indeed, the implicit mourning continues as the guitar strikes a strident overtone that wails in its own right over the progression reaches its peak and we hear something relatively new: a vocal duet! Quite a moving piece that is immediatly contrasted by the more uptempo – and more typical of Krug’s past work, I might add – “Idiot Heart.” Again, pounding floor toms and an uptempo piano riff drive the tune until the crunchy guitar melts into the mix with a grace that almost makes you wish Wolf Parade could find a way to be that cool sounding, but you are then reminded that they have a sound of their own and that this is a way for Krug to open himself up to new sounds. The instrumentation in this song is quite unique as well, as a glokenspeil takes the lead, and later, something resembling a xylophone comes to the forefront. “Nightingale/December Song” finds Sunset Rubdown at its most creative, as a synth bass loop flows amidst hand drums and a twangy, almost southwestern sounding guitar. As Krug’s voice weaves between the multi-cultural elements that create a whirlwind of earthly sounds and noise, we hear a church organ resembling something out of Arcade Fire meander its way into the forefront as the almost tribal now background intro becomes the canvas upon which Krug and the rest of the band creates its epic tale of burning emotion and lost love. The band then leads us gently by the hand into a musical odyssey of adventure, mysticism, and sheer emotion that swells and swells until it leaves you where you started with a chord that slowly fades into the reverberating sunset.

In all, this album is fantastic from start to finish. With simple, catchy melodies that are complimented perfectly by instrumentation that is unique, yet ideal for the purpose at hand. And the lyrics remain mystical, but – for the first time – are almost accessible after a listen or two. Well done.

Dragonslayer – Sunset Rubdown

June 29, 2009, 3:57 pm
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Well, rumor has it that MGMT as well as Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s will be making guest appearances on the Flaming Lips’ forthcoming Embryonic. Thats certainly interesting choices of cameos. I’m excited to hear Karen’s voice mixed with the crazyness of the Flaming Lips. That is sure to be exciting. MGMT, on the other hand….maybe with studio mastering it’ll sound decent. Who knows. They did throw money at TV On The Radio’s producer to make them successful, so who knows how much talent they can genuinely add to the Flaming Lips vortex of creativity. I suppose the answer remains to be seen. Exciting news nonetheless.

New Fleet Foxes Tune, Megafaun, and Other Happy News
June 29, 2009, 12:04 am
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You must be just excited as I was to hear that Fleet Foxes performed a new song live at the BBC. Not only is it exciting to hear a new song, but from the Fleet Foxes, it’s fantastic. The song isn’t bad, not their best work, but the band is absolutely sticking to the woodsy, reverby, vocals that lead to such critical acclaim on their previous album and EP. Noticibly missing, however, were vocal harmonies. Perhaps it was a solo performance and I wasn’t privy to that fact. Either way, it retains the charm of the band that I fell in love with. The title is called Blue Spotted Tail, and I’d say it’s worth your time to check it out.

Blue Spotted Tail – Fleet Foxes

Next up is a band I just discovered called Megafaun. Their first album, Bury The Square, was a refreshing mix of old folksy melodies and harmonies that call to mind the days of Crosby Stills and Nash, spliced between ambient space-outs and exploration into the depths of sound. My kind of music! The bands next offering is out on 7/21 courtesy of Hometapes, and it will be titled Gather, Form, & Fly. I have a tune off their new album titled Kaufman’s Ballad. Based on hearing this perticular song, It would seem that the trio has shed some of their experimentation for a sounds reminicent to fleet foxes (ironically enough). However, the music remains uniquely their own. No other band I have ever heard has been able to make a boom chick backing beat with a tambourine that is ordinarily so cliche so fitting to its immediate task at hand. As the song progresses, the band adds more sounds to the beat, and a windy cymbal roll fills the background as a banjo plucks away underneath the three part harmonies. Adding to the mix is a fiddle strumming harmonics that sound processed and out of place in a generic folk tune, but adds a somewhat mysterious, mystical element to the music that makes it all the more appealing. Just the right touch of unique, with a dash of antiquated, and a drizzle of finely aged folk makes this tune immediate listening.

Kaufman’s Ballad – Megafaun

Good news all around! To start, we have fantastic news from of Canadian favorites Arcade Fire. The band has confirmed that work on a new album has begun after their three year hiatus. Yay! French band Air is set to release a new album, titled Love 2, to be released 10/6. And for those of you who don’t know, Wilco’s new album Wilco (The Album) is set to be released tuesday. Cheers for now!

Old news for those of you who scour pitchfork more avidly than I, but as of this afternoon, it appears that Spoon will be releasing a new EP this tuesday. Three tracks, and it’s going to be called Got Nuffin. Word.

HEADS UP! new albums galore
June 25, 2009, 2:07 pm
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I hear that two bands I enjoy will be releasing albums soon! Always great news. Keep your eyes out for Ashes Grammar, the sophomore album from A Sunny Day In Glasgow, due out on September 15th. This band is one that knows how to push the boundaries of sound, as evidenced by their first album, Scribble Mural Comic Journal, which takes thirteen songs and makes thirteen unique murals of sound that are really only connected via the umbrella of the album. Left alone each song would present its own dynamic boundary-crossing elegance. Next up, favorites Flaming Lips are due to release a double LP (!!!) titled Embryonic. No sure idea as to release date, but I’ll try to keep things as up to date as possible. BTW, the Dirty Projectors apparantly took a nasty spill in their van on the way to Canada, but all members of the band are alright. Phew.

Also, for all you Bon Iver fans out there, Justin Vernon of the aforementioned band has officially announced his side project with a group called called Collections of Colonies of Bees. The encompassing team calls themselves Volcano Choir, and they have their debut LP out September 22nd, titled Unmap. According to Vernon, the album is definitely going to be on the more experimental side of things. Can’t wait to hear what Bon Iver crossed with experimental could sound like!

Blitzen Trapper – Furr
June 23, 2009, 4:09 pm
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I discover albums as they come to me, I suppose. This one has been out for a while and is the most recent (2008) effort from Oregon’s self-dubed “experimental folk” sextet Blitzen Trapper. It is the almost immediate follow up to their ’07 album titled Wild Mountain Nation, that received critical acclaim from hipster-giants pitchfork and spin magazine. Furr was by far their most well recieved album to date, garnering two page reviews by rolling stone as the band slowly worked itself into the world of MSM. As much as this band does have their “experimenta folk” moments, I would liken them to, at points, a modern version of Bob Dylan mixed with, in certain songs, electronic elements. As a whole, the album seems to sway back and forth from this Dylan influence, for example the deep boom-chick behind the title track, Furr, as well as the reverby harmonica slinking its way behind the drawl of lead singer Eric Earley sounds like as much of a Dylan knockoff as ever. The progression is even reminicent of Mr. Tambourine Man. The band turns around from that and then makes hard rocking tunes like “Fire & Fast Bullets,” that one second has me thinking im listening to a garage band, and then a second later slaps a filter on Eric’s voice, adds harmonized oo’s in the background, and a synth porgammento swoops in as fireworks crackle behind the cacophony. How a band goes from one to the other over the course of two tunes is astounding to me, but it somehow works. The songwriting potential and knowhow that this band exudes never ceases to amaze. They’ve even got some Doors-sounding keys in the background of the next song, “Saturday Nite.” This tune is by far the most fitting of the experimental folk label. Blitzen Trapper combine Van Morrison-like bum-bum-bums with a banjo clucking behind what sounds like a melodica, capped off by tambourine shaking and distorted guitar playing a controlled improvisation. All in all, they manage to accomplish a truly unique sound that works. They even take a song that sounds like a Neil Young knock off and make it unique! The placement and instrumentation of this band is definitely something that stands out for me. In the end, though, the crown jewel of the entire album is the epic “Love U.” It’s the heaviest song on the album. It opens with a Helter Skelter-esque scream, and drops into a muddy, at times free-time sludge that takes the listener into the duldrums of a bad acid trip, or the loss of a true love, whichever works. Either way, the pounding of minor chords combined with the oo’s of vocal harmonization in the background make for a monumental song of epic proportions. When it breaks down and Eric comes back in with his vocal harmonies, it absolutely gives me the chills. Its one of those rare tunes that I wish could just go on forever. All in all, a fantastic album thats musical spectrum is as immense as any band I have ever heard. Definitely worth your time!

Blitzen Trapper – Furr

Dumping Knowledge Upon Thee
June 18, 2009, 5:04 pm
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So, in this post, I decided to finally dispose of the contents labeled “fresh indie” in my itunes library upon you (and by you I mean bastille, my lone compadre.) So, here comes a list of tunes that I kind of enjoy, some more than others, from artists that you may or may not have heard of. If you have these, I’m glad we share the same taste. If not, well, let me know what you think.

Permanent Scar – O+S
This one is an interesting song. If you dig female vocals in the vein of School of Seven Bells, Bat For Lashes, or even some M83 and Knife, you might like this artist/song. Now, the artists I mentioned were mostly electronic musicians, but O+S employs crunchy guitar riffs and reverby piano behind the female voice harmonized in 5ths for the majority of the time. Personally, I find this tune intersting for the whats going on behind the vocals, not the lead line, which feels like it’s been done before so much better by the aforementioned artists.

Vinur Minn (Rough Mix) – Ólöf Arnalds
This song makes me feel like I’m in some eastern european countryside around the turn of the century. Complete with despondent melodies and a chanting chorus of singers, this song builds on one melody from start to finish. It’s the kind of song that starts and ends with one singer, but swells and soon after ebbs. The climax is quite, well, climactic, with violins and french horns accompanying the ever-expanding chorus. It’s a quickie, but one that’s sure to stick with you. The simplicity makes it even easier to get stuck in your head.

No Reasons – VEGA
YAY SUMMER HIPSTER JAM! That’s what this song is destined to be. If YOU see yourself hopping through the streets of Williamsburg on a sweaty summer afternoon, then this tune is for you. If not, pop this into your car and turn the speakers up, loud. It’s sure to be a great night-starter. It takes its cues from other electronic artists such as Passion Pit, but adds a dancier spin to the mix. Definitely something along the lines of what is found over on my brother’s blog, Apes With Barrels. Hit this link up of this type of music interests you.

Sock You In The Face With Love – The XYZ Affair
Noone That You Love Will Ever Die – The XYZ Affair
These two songs come from the band XYZ Affair, which is a little poppier than the rest of the stuff that I’ve posted. It’s straight forward, melodic, rock, with an indie spin. They were definitely on repeat for a while with me, and both come complete with catchy vocal harmonic choruses, rim hits and tuned down floor toms, intriquite reverby guitar strumming in the background, and spacey vibraphones to add that extra-special ambiance, that at times blossoms into a listenable noise. (If you can call the noise made by these bands noise at all…you want noise? listen to some Bitches Brew.) The way the band plays with dynamics is indeed interesting. In Sock You In The Face With Love, the band does a great job at building from a distinctly empty verse into a distinctly full, swirling, harmonic chorus. It’s quite the tune. This band has the potential to draw a lot of crossover praise, as they are able to take elements of generic sounding indie pop and make it unique, yet still appeal to a large amount of people.

It Gets Your Body Movin’ – Suckers
Alright, call it a complete rip off of the Polyphonic Spree if you will, but I feel like these guys are able to make things a little less repetitive for those who don’t enjoy listening to the same melody augmented for 10 minutes. Suckers are able to use this melodic climax as just that, a peak when the song rips wide open into a melody that you feel should be repeated over and over because each time you hear it you cant help but nod along, and slowly move into pulsating along, as opposed to a melodic climax that IS the song. Big difference. It does indeed get your body movin.

Apply – Glasser
For those Knife fans out there, for those tribal-loving fans, this one’s for you. It makes me feel like, at first, I’m in some forest canyon. Between the lead singer’s hiccups that even sound tribal to the consistent use of echo effect on the vocals and bongos in the background, it’s not until the thick synth line establishes itself that we realize that we’re still here. Can totally see a remix of this being done. Sadly, the other tune I have by this artist is not of the same caliber as this one. I find this tune pallatable, but the other one I have is hard to listen to. Who knows if these guys will make it. In any event this is a very interesting song to check out. BY the time the ending rolls around, it winds up sounding very pretty.

Mind – The Milk & Honey Band
A nice acoustic tune, this song comes complete with the foresty vocals you would expect out of any band post – Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver that is kind of in that genre. However, these guys are able to take the tempo up a little bit with a pleasant boom-chick drumbeat that manages to sound original despite its notoriety. At points, it can sound done-before, but theres something about the tonality of the lead singers voice that definitely turns me on to this group. I’ll keep my eyes on them.

Papercuts Remix – Ruby Suns
Ruby Suns; awesome band, expect a post on just them coming up soon. This peticular song is not as in their vein as their original material, but this remix does happen to be a stunning soundscape. From start to finish, it manages to keep the listener captivated. Although this is a remix, I feel like it could be mixed again, as out of place as that might be. It’s about as hipster-electronic as it gets, although the way its done doesn’t make it feel forced or trying to be anything its not. While listening to this one, you really feel that everything done is really right and adds to the original, as well as the continuously expanding grandoise remix.

While We Were Dreaming – Pink Mountaintops
So I gave you a song to begin the night with, and here’s one to end it with. This slow song makes me think Band of Horses with female vocals. And that’s indeed what it may be, but these guys tend to keep it more on the mellow side as opposed to the often explosive combination of BoH. This tune explodes in a much more laid back kind of way. Instead of reaching to greater heights, it dips to lower lows by adding a deep synth and booming bass drum when appropriate. Just that simple addittion makes the song really take off at points, which says something to the musicianship of the band, or producers, for that matter. The simple escalation and drive added to the melody is something not found in a lot of bands today, and I think it’s neat that someone still has the presence of mind to do it.

The Arms Of Spirits – Vuk
You want to talk epic, this song is it. I believe that this is one of the singers from the Polyphonic Spree doing some solo work. Either way, I approve, HIGHLY. This could be the best song from the entire post. It is able to encorperate some very cool chordal twists and turns, as well as deeply unsettling harmonies. This song is truly able to move me. At times, I wonder how the fuck the stuff she does even works. But it does, somehow. And it never feels forced. From the dizzying beat set by pulsing 8th note “bum bum bum bum” vocal chords to the deep floor toms that are reminicent of some early animal collective. And whats even better is that, just when you think the song is over, it keeps going! She has some really cool orchestrations and instrumentations that even pulls someone like Sufjan Stevens into the mix. What an incredible tune. This one is definitely worth your time.

Black Hat Brigade – Fathers
June 16, 2009, 6:42 pm
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This new EP from the Canadian Black Hat Brigade has been gaining attention, sadly, not because of its musical strength, but because of comparisons to Wolf Parade. To open my thoughts on the EP and the band itself, I would like to say that tBHB is not Wolf Parade. People are quick to jump on this bandwagon because the vocals sound alike. But, I challange you to make a playlist of tBHB “Fathers” and Wolf Parade songs back to back, and I think you will find, as I did, that the comparisons end at the vocals. tBHB is a much more musically interesting band that is able to incorperate elements a more alternative sound, something like Voxtrot or, at points, Caribou, with an always interesting combination of synth and bells, or a looped line that swerves in and out of time.

After looking into the songs on the EP, the song that seems to be gaining the most traction is a tune called Castlevania, and I think it deserves the attention it’s receiving. It begins with an interplay between two synthesizers, and quickly drops into a haunting waltz, complete with swirling electric guitars that paints an image of fall leaves twirling in a cool evening wind as a storm moves in. As the lead vocalist growls, at moments he sounds like Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse. And indeed, the music mirrors, at points, their antiquated style, but maintains its modernity as the song builds into a vast soundscape, complete with arpegiated synth chords, quick guitar strumming and distorted chords filling in the void in the middle. It’s an Indie odyssey that leaves you all but thrashing around in your seat.

The only complaint that I have with the limted amount of music I have found of this band is that at times it can start to sound similar. The formula of: floor tom intro > hi hat 8th notes with reverby guitar high notes and whining vocalist has been done before, and better, I might add. However, the band does have something to their sound that is somewhat dated, and that sometimes makes me feel like I’m walking down a hallway that creaks under my feet or an old wodden ship that is about to fall apart. At the same time, however, their music manages to somehow rest in modernity. Definitely worth checking out.

This is a link to the hypem page with a bunch of their songs. I tried to found downloads or something to link to, but alas, there was nothing.