The heavy beats and restricted melodies that open Panda Bear’s longer Centipede Hz contribution, “New Town Burnout”, immediately remind of his most recent solo effort, 2010’s Tomboy. I really liked Tomboy: it had some really great singles (“Slow Motion”! “Last Night At The Jetty”!) especially, but I did kinda feel a little less enthusiastic towards it than, say, Fall Be Kind or Merriweather Post Pavilion. And “New Town Burnout”, now confirmed by Panda to have been originally written for Tomboy, pretty much explains why.
Tomboy had a unique, imaginative production approach for sure - the weird guitar sounds, the scattered sound effects - but, along with Avey Tare’s Down There, it didn’t have the same lush, spacious sound that the Collective’s last few records had had. “New Town Burnout”, on the other hand, is just so much more dense with sonic information, and as deep and immersive as any of the group’s best work. Whether that’s the work of producer Ben Allen or the magic that only comes with an AnCo group record, it speaks to the ability these guys have to bring the best out of each other’s songs.
People have been saying that Centipede Hz is more or less an Avey-centric AnCo record, and it’s true that Panda’s vocal contributions are pretty limited compared to Merriweather. But if there’s any member that feels more prevalent than ever, I think it might just be Geologist. Who else exactly is packing these songs with the amount of crazy audio manipulations and obscure samples that they contain? I’ve always kinda had a hunch that Geologist brings the atmospheric, almost avant-garde production element to the table anyways. Yeah, yeah, we don’t really know who’s making which sound on this album, but I’m willing to bet that a big part of Centipede’s crazy, maximalist production is his work.
Ah, the coveted “Panda Bear” track. The super reserved and quiet Noah Lennox has always been my favorite member of Animal Collective for a variety of reasons. One of the biggest is that the tracks on any AnCo album on which he’s given the spotlight usually end up becoming my all-time favorites - “Chores”, “I Think I Can”, “Derek”, “Daily Routine”. Avey has always been the de-facto leader of the group, singing on practically every track in the early half of their discography as well as handling the songwriting. But ever since Strawberry Jam, Noah has literally become more vocal on their records, though without overtaking Avey or having to share his unofficial leadership role of the band. While it was fantastic getting to hear Panda sing on almost every track on Merriweather, I love his new role on Centipede Hz, back on the drumset and allowing Avey to regain dominance on the record. The result is that the elusive “Panda Bear tracks” are much more valuable and stand out a lot on this record (as if “Rosie Oh” wasn’t already an awesome song on it’s own).
If you had to take a shot for every time Panda Bear says “I” or speaks in first person on one of his tracks, you’d be pretty plastered by the end of a song. Panda songs always have a ton of stylistic similarities, the intimacy and personal closeness he projects onto them being one of the more obvious one. “Derek” was a narrative about a sheltie dog that Noah used to have, and “My Girls” talks about his wife and daughter. His entire solo album, Tomboy, mostly revolves around his children even. Contrasting the chaotic nature of Avey’s songwriting, Panda is clearly the more reserved of the two with his relatable domestic and personal themes. “Rosie Oh”, a song that sounds like it could fit into a musical number in an old 60s Disney Cartoon, unsurprisingly has some interesting Panda-esque lyrics underneath that catchy melody and ocean of strange radio sounds. I won’t post the lyrics for your fascination - I think the strength of his songs comes from the melodic narration Noah has to offer, because he’s obviously an incredible singer. In other words, try to see if you can piece together this personal journey Noah wants to tell us in this gem of a song.
Animal Collective have done manic spins round the merry-go-round before, and in spades on Strawberry Jam, but much of the critical malaise surrounding Centipede Hz focused on this facet of the record as a major sticking point. As I read such outlandish descriptors as a burrito thrown against the windshield of a car, I couldn’t help but wonder…why the animosity now?
I mean, “Today’s Supernatural” is really the prime example of Hz’s burrito-ness, and aside from the monolithic guitar stabs in the chorus, there’s really not a whole lot that makes this any more of a technicolor smear than something like Strawberry Jam, but its much more maligned.
For what reason? For the tribal drums? For the wailing le-le-le-le-s that Avey stabs into the instrumental? For the absurdity of the lyrics?
All Animal Collective hallmarks, and all even more special here on this lead single from Hz than elsewhere. They’ve crafted a more Animal Collective-y Animal Collective song that ever, and it’s absolutely brilliant.
THE DEAK IS BACK! Yep, there’ve been a lot of talking points surrounding the new Animal Collective record, Centipede Hz, but the return of Deakin might be the biggest news of the entire record style. “Who cares?” you might ask, to which I say get the hell out of here. As if any of us have any idea what the members of AnCo are really doing on most of their records if they aren’t singing; for all we know, Deakin might’ve been responsible for every gooey sound packed into 2007’s Strawberry Jam.
And either way, Deakin’s got the last laugh on all the unbelievers this time around, as Centipede marks the first time he’s ever fronted his own track on one of the group’s records, the hugely psychedelic, vaguely eastern-sounding “Wide Eyed”. If the tie-dye shirts and perpetually stoned vibes weren’t enough indication before, I think “Wide Eyed” pretty much confirms that the Deak is AnCo’s resident hippie psych rock bro, and I don’t mean that as an insult at all. “Wide Eyed” is a definite highlight on an album that pretty much kills it all the way through, and between this and “Country Report” from that Keep release, I think a Deakin solo release is sounding better than ever. Get that shit together, man! (Don’t worry about Geo - his solo record is the environment -ed)
So anyways, the mp3 I posted isn’t the “Wide Eyed” from Centipede Hz, but actually an acoustic rendition from a recent radio session, a nice little nugget for longtime Collective fans especially. The meandering, borderline droney structure and acoustic guitar interplay is totally reminiscent of some of the group’s work in the earlier half of the past decade - Campfire Songs, some moments of Sung Tongs, and some of the band’s most beloved deep cuts (check out “Always You” and/or download this awesome 2004 Other Music bootleg). It’s also cool to get a rare stripped-down look at Deakin’s songwriting. I really think he has a blissed-out Jeff Mangum thing going on, but maybe that’s just me.
p.s.: It’s Centipede Hz week on Season of the Shark! We’re gonna be posting some of our favorite cuts from the new Animal Collective record all week this week in celebration of one of our favorite albums of 2012! Yay!
The first song you hear from a favourite band is always a magical moment, a moment of pure, joyful discovery. There really isn’t much to compare it to. I’m not sure how I first came across “Fire Eye’d Boy”. I was much more into pop punk and emo at the time (look, we all have phases). But even though it didn’t correlate with my music tastes at the time, I fell in love almost immediately.
I’ve come to love Broken Social Scene since then, but Fire Eye’d Boy has always held an extra special place in my heart. The lyrics are obscure. The composition is dense. I dunno if there’s anything that really will jump out at you. But, taken as whole, it’s just got this almost magical quality to it that few songs can ever hope to emulate. It’s a mesmerizing, thoroughly catchy four minutes that just stays in your head, its whispery vocals subtly burrowing into your head.
I don’t even know who this Fire Eye’d Boy is and who he’s giving ‘the slip’ but I want to be him. Maybe he’s a drug fueled adolescent running away from his problems, maybe he’s just a kid with a lot of ambition running from a world that’s holding him back. Whatever the case may be, I just kinda wanna be him. I can’t explain why. And, at the end of the day, I don’t think I could adequately explain just why I like this song so much either. It’s just one of those things. Bottom line is, if I had to rate my favourite songs of all the time, this would come in number 1 without a doubt.
It’s tough to be Neon Bible. Following up the insanely well-loved Funeral is just a shitty thing to be tasked with, pretty much guaranteeing disappointment straight out the gate. And then, even after stringing together 11 great tunes, having one of the top 5 album covers of the decade, and receiving the kind of critical praise most indie groups can only dream of, The Suburbs is still referred to as “a return to form”??? Shit is fucked up man.
5 years later, Neon Bible still spends most of its time in its room, wondering where exactly it went wrong. It tried so hard not to copy what Funeral was doing, it did so many new things! Those other big-headed records can’t even pretend like it didn’t have some of Arcade Fire’s all-time best songs. I mean come on, you don’t see Bruce fucking Springsteen jamming out to fucking “Neighborhood #1”. Whatever. Neon Bible knows it has to get out and do something, or else its just gonna be the same old thoughts, the same old feelings for another evening. Maybe it’ll call up Centipede Hz to play video games or something.
Chris already talked yesterday about what was special about Kate Bush’s original penning of the landmark “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”, and the 2007 cover by Chromatics, by most marks, sticks very close to that original. Drawn from Night Drive, Chromatics first record as a synth pop quartet, it functions in the context of that record as a frame for both the romantic content of the record and for Chromatics’ sound for the coming years.
Though Bush’s original version was by no means boisterous, Johnny Jewel and Ruth Radelet flay the track and lay it bare. Radelet’s breathy, stark delivery and Jewel’s more minimal production function as a near antithesis to Bush’s siren song. Though I could pen a whole thesis on the thematic relation of “Running Up That Hill” to Night Drive, Night Drive to Symmetry, and Symmetry to Kill For Love, I have neither the time nor the space. Just know that this track, though a cover, is central to understanding the Chromatics’ canon. And hey, it’s pretty damn good on its own as well.
Kate Bush - Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)
(I apologise for the rather heterosexist tone this review will ultimately have, but the song’s lyrical content calls for this sort of analysis.)
I’d usually begin a Kate Bush review with how I find her one of the few, true storytellers making music today, but it seems an improper introduction for “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God).” After the rabid gothic drama of The Dreaming, the first half of subsequent album, Hounds of Love comes off as a step away from the literary, fairy tale world that characterized a lot of Kate’s early work. There is a notable shift from Wuthering Heights and Hammer Horror films to humble pastoral farms, sheep and most notably – human relationships. The first suite of the album, the Hounds of Love, tackles the different forms of love that a child might face: parental love (Mother Stands for Comfort and Cloudbusting), nostalgic love (Hounds of Love and The Big Sky), and lastly, but most relevant to this review, romantic love (Running Up That Hill). The first two types of loves seem unquestionably comforting and positive, but Kate finds an inherent problem with the structure of a romantic love between a man and a woman: the inability to understand each other.
Man, woman, masculine, feminine. It’s hard to imagine a division so pronounced and symbolic in the canon of opposites. Yet, in a natural sort of magnetic attraction, both of these extremes are tied together. Men and women will continuously fall in love and face the realities of both the joys that their companionship and differences bring together, and sadly, also the irreconcilable conflicts that arise from those same differences. This perhaps remains the biggest tragedy among human relationships and the final barrier between uninterrupted communication between man and woman. But, it begs the question, if men and women are meant to be together, there must be a way to make it work harmoniously? How can they get each other to see as they see? Sadly, the distance between the two is too far – only God can mend a wound that big.
Let’s ignore the weird name and get right down the essence of Letting Up Despite Great Faults’ music. They’re a 4 piece band that melds electronic beats with a shoegaze aesthetic into an ethereal dreamscape of sound. The thing I really love about them is that they never stray into the boring (or at least dreary), which is the sort of thing that, for me, can happen within this realm of music. And sure ‘background’ music for want of a better term has its place in the music world, but a lot of the time I still prefer to be engaged by whatever I’m listening too.
LUDGF, as I will refer to them, do this brilliantly. The whispery vocals, mixed with upbeat and catchy hooks, make each listen an active journey rather than a passive one. ‘In Steps’ is the perfect example of this, and it’s my favorite song off of their 2009 self-titled debut. It encapsulates everything I love about them. If the album itself didn’t work so well cohesively I’d probably be listening to this on repeat a lot, but the entire thing is best listened to in one go. So give this opening song a shot, and I’ll bet you’ll be looking for the rest.
I’ve never seen these guys live before but I’d say it’s pretty obvious from videos and just their music alone that these guys are really fun in the live show they put on, and mainly how much they seem to enjoy themselves while playing. If you’ve never really listened to Foals before, you probably kind of know them for “being that one math rock band”. It’s pretty much correct too. Their sound has largely been defined by their “mathy” guitar riffs and overall guitar sound, consisting of eclectic single note licks, obscure arpegiating patterns and distinct harmonics. Their drums however are a different story. Math rock’s reputation seems to be built off of the stereotypes of “quirky” time signatures and whatnot, and Foals isn’t exactly the case, probably to their benefit. Not that the drumming isn’t complex by any means, but it leans moreso towards dance punk, and I say that with positive connotations. Their drumming isn’t quite “mathy” as much as it is dancey, and “Two Steps, Twice” is a clear example of this. You can even look at the song as a mini drum lesson, showing the progression of what is called “linear drumming” and the illusion of a tempo increase by adding more high hat and changing into rapid eighth notes. It’s not super complex at all, but man it’s really cool.
This is by far their least melodic of their songs, and probably their most straightfoward if you don’t consider the song being split into two parts as “complex.” It’s the best example that Foals doesn’t exactly try to be a math rock band, but just tend to use loose mathy elements to add to their core dance-punk sound. Over time, I’ve come to realize that sometimes math rock bands can be a little too overwhelming, providing a sensory overload of wacky time signatures, strange riffs and drumming that borders on chaos. That’s probably why I like Foals so much for grounding the positive aspects of that genre into something, dare I say, more digestible. But in a very good way.
Pause was, on the whole, a stately blend of ambient electronica with organic instrumentation. A blend dubbed “folktronica” by many. Sure, whatever. Call it what you want. It’s an album to get lost in, to dive headfirst into and soak up. The passive float of tracks like “Tangle” is what makes such a vibe possible, so in this context, “You Could Ruin My Day” is a bit of an anomaly.
Though still a far cry from the dancefloor vocal sampling of There Is Love In You, Kieran Hebden’s instrumental samples suggest something far more insistent than the rest of Pause. This is the car chase scene, the brief terror, that part of your dream where everything gets really fucking weird right before you wake up. You’ve got some of the same smooth acoustic guitar samples as you move on through the track, but where most of this album (and most of Hebden’s career) is content to sit in a tight grooveless pocket, “You Could Ruin My Day” is an off-the-rails head-nodder. It’s contained in the sense that, well, it’s still early Four Tet after all, but the bliss is absent, the peace is gone. The beauty remains, but you better get moving—or else.
There’s not much new or useful I can personally say about The Avalanches’ sampledelic masterpiece Since I Left You other than to recommend that you give it a listen if you haven’t. Allegedly comprised of over 3500 different samples and covering a wide range of styles, Since I Left You is a schizophrenic, eccentric listen that takes you so far down the rabbit hole that you barely remember who you are on the other side. It’s simultaneously one of the most unique and well-constructed albums I’ve ever heard AND one of the most likable and playable records in my library. In other words, if you’re looking for an extremely colorful dance record as fun as it is creative and experimental, then, well, you’re not gonna get too much of a better recommendation.
Of the two big singles from the record, the madcap classic “Frontier Psychiatrist” is the one that focuses the most on The Avalanches’ sampling, humor, and novelty (and it’s all the stronger for it). In contrast, “Since I Left You” feels much more like a traditional pop or sample-based electronic song. It takes the golden-age girlpop roots of its central sample and, rather than twist them into something unrecognizable, expands them skyward. As such, the song comes closer to beautiful than zany.
Tampa post-punks Merchandise seem, for a variety of reasons, the luckiest band in Florida right now. That’s not to say that the release that’s vaulted them to indie fame— Children of Desire —is slacking in any way, they just seem to have managed success that far surpasses most of the Florida music community without grinding through local opening slots in the traditional fashion.
But hey, more power to ‘em. As this track from 2010’s Strange Songs (In The Dark) exemplifies, they’ve been putting out great tunes way longer than most of us have been paying attention. Though the song features a typically Morrissey-ian vocal take, it relies far more heavily on their shoegaze-y inclinations than the new wave predilections of their newest material. It’s a bit unsettling, hearing guitars this noisy without any percussion to ground it or tie it all together, but it’s the good sort of unsettling. You know, the one that curdles your stomach and raises the hairs on your arms. Maybe Merchandise aren’t so lucky after all, maybe they’re just really fucking good.
Forget riot grrl. Not the music or the message, but the term. It’s just so unfairly reductive in an uncomfortably ironic way that feels at odds with the entire point of the movement in the first place. Yes, Sleater-Kinney were a group of female musicians who were influenced by punk music and often wrote from a highly feminist angle, BUT I think linking their music so intrinsically to such an overtly political and single-minded movement makes it seem, at least today, like they’re mostly special for being a group of girls with guitars.
And yeah, I take issue with that, mostly because I can’t think of a single band that were making straight-up rock music as well as they were in the late 90s. A lot of my favorite Sleater-Kinney songs - “One More Hour,” “Burn, Don’t Freeze,” “Get Up” - are the ones that feature a lot of vocal (and guitar!) interplay between dual-frontwomen Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker, and “Leave You Behind” is no exception. The chorus is is absolutely breathtaking, Carrie’s modest voice paired against Corin’s siren-like higher register. There are some almost folksy harmonies going on, too, and the guitar riff is one of the most deceptively simple things the band has ever come up with (reminds me a lot of the guitars on that New Order song from yesterday too). Most of all, it’s a song only Sleater-Kinney could write, a timeless piece of indie rock whether linked to a specific scene or not.
I’ve always found there’s something magical about New Order’s ear for melody. Take the closer to their essential new wave classic, Power, Corruption & Lies. “Leave Me Alone” is deceptively simple, both the guitars and Bernard Summer’s unassuming vocal locked into a lilting, descending melody that’s as uncomplicated as it is captivating. New Order does this kind of thing all the time, working with the most simple, natural elements at their disposable and making something inexplicably magical out of it, whether it be on their first post-Joy Division 7” or on their work deep into the 80s.
People make a lot of New Order’s shift away from the Joy Division sound, especially on Power, Corruption & Lies, and most of the discussion is focused on the synthesizers. But I think, even on the most guitar based tracks like “Leave Me Alone,” where the echoes of Joy Division’s music are most pronounced, there’s a clear difference. Something as flowery and beautiful as this song wouldn’t have appeared on Unknown Pleasures or Closer; Joy Division simply weren’t that kind of band. There’s a deep melancholy on “Leave Me Alone,” but I think it’s fair to say it’s a melancholy that’s all New Order’s own.
Two Door Cinema Club’s debut was a masterpiece of indie pop. Three unknowns from Bangor transformed into one of the hottest new bands virtually overnight. Lead singer Alex Trimble was even handpicked to sing during the opening of the Olympic Games. So obviously a lot is expected of their sophomore effort.
The first single off it is ‘Sleep Alone’. The song isn’t breaking any new boundaries. This is the same Two Door Cinema Club we all know, but hey, that’s not such a bad thing right? Even though the band tour with a live drummer it seems as if Trimble is back to producing drum beats electronically, and the same sense of infectious danceability flows throughout the song. But it’s also a little fuller sounding than its predecessors. A little less indie newbies, a little more fully realized band. This is probably in part due to the excellent production capabilities of Jackknife Lee, who has previously worked with The Drums and Weezer.
If the single is indicative of the rest of the album, it looks like TDCC can carry on their upward rise for a while to come.
It is hard to fathom that in two minutes time, something great could exist and then not. Of course this is true of rollercoasters and, more romantically, a kiss. However when it comes to music, it’s something incredible. It takes those experiences—a rollercoaster ride, an intimate moment—and makes it replayable and relatable. It marks that experience in time rather than in just the mind.
“Caroline, Please Kill Me,” whether it be as satirical as it sounds or the actual and true feelings of Coma Cinema’s Mat Cothran, creates that relatable experience in just under two minutes. Even without thinking about the lyrics too much, it’s not unbelievable to assume that most have felt those contradictory feelings of frustration and endless attraction towards another.
Coma Cinema seems to have perfected the songwriting abilities that have been showcased by artists such as The Magnetic Fields and Neutral Milk Hotel. Blue Suicide is an album jam packed with short indie pop gems (only 3 of the 13 tracks exceed 3 minutes), much like 69 Love Songs (an album based entirely on the appeal of short and sweet pop songs) and NMH’s In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, which, despite 8-minutes of “Oh Comely,” achieves bluesy perfection on opening track “The King of Carrot Flowers, Part 1.”
I’m sure that part of the reason I love “Caroline, Please Kill Me” is my former (yet still existing?) adoration of the “victim music” produced by emo bands (Mayday Parade, etc.), but angst is not the only reason. This track probably has one of the catchiest melodies to ever exist, yet still achieves the angst that fed my middle school taste. Cothran pairs his usual somber vocals with endless cymbal hits and “oooohs” to make the most singable indie pop track I know of the last few years.
I’m not very familiar with the discography of Coma Cinema, but I can tell that he’s really figured it out. While unbeknownst to most, he’s doing one of the most impressive things in music; his songwriting keeps it to the point and his songs leave nothing to be desired.
Twa Toots - Please Don’t Play ‘A Rainy Night In Georgia’
You know, I’m a huge fan of 80s and 90s twee and jangle pop, but I will admit: there just aren’t enough times where the genre gets truly weird. Leave it to Twa Toots to change that. Maybe best known as one of John Peel’s favorite bands, Twa Toots were a twee band that weren’t afraid to let their freak flag fly. Incorporating elements of 60s girl group, 70s post-punk, and 80s jangle pop with their own mix of sugary vocals and excitable musicianship, Twa Toots just don’t quite sound like anybody else (save for maayyyybe likeminded Peel favorites Trixie’s Big Red Motorbike). Their sound definitely paved the way for the work of later groups like Talulah Gosh and Tiger Trap, but nobody ever quite hit the same mark as Twa Toots.
The band released a single 11-minute EP during their original run, a live John Peel session that includes, in my opinion, four of the most unique and lovable pop tunes recorded in the 80s. The just-fucking-unbelievable “Yo-Yo” is some heavy competition, but “Please Don’t Play ‘A Rainy Night In Georgia’” might be my favorite. The transitions between the tangible melancholy of the verses and the hyperactive energy of the choruses are truly something to behold; it sometimes seems like the musicians are in a contest against one another to see just how fast they can play this song. It’s all a blur, but I’m pretty they reach pop nirvana by the 2-minute mark.
Mixtapes are fantastic. It can usually be intimidating when someone tries to recommend a band to you. “Where do I start, man?” “Idk dude, just uh, listen to their discog? They have too many good songs”.
Mixtapes are the godsend of the viral music world, allowing us to just get a nice sample of multiple new artists without the pain and time required to dig through their material. Which brings us to this track. No, I do not listen to Dead Gaze. No, I don’t pretend I do. But I do like what I hear. Credit this to the famous Blalock’s Indie Rock Playlists, or BIRP. This widely popular mixtape site churns out a MASSIVE mixtape monthly, and it’s almost guaranteed that you’ve never heard of at least half of the guys on their tape (*adjusts glasses*). But seriously, it’s pretty massive. I chose one of their mixtapes at random to listen to during my Spring Finals (distracting and responsible for some poor results? Maybe, but that’s not relevant mind you) . It was the September of 2011 mix, and it, of course, had this particular track on it.
A track like this works well as a standalone. Heck, the entire mix functions very well without an album context to guide it. “Stay, Don’t Stay” is a pleasant and easily digestible acoustic pop melody with not much more to it, and sometimes that’s a great thing. It’s not exactly sing-alongey; more of a foot-tapper that you’d drive around the city in the daytime to, or sit under a tree and read a book to. Something interesting though is that tune stylistically reminds me way too much of a certain awesome hazy track called “Season of the Shark”…
The irony of this all is that apparently, Dead Gaze’s other material sounds pretty much nothing like this. It’s much more noisy and somewhat akin to some early Wavves stuff. But again, I don’t listen to Dead Gaze. The point is, I sure am interested now thanks to this gateway ‘sampler’ track.