Getting your first two albums to evoke the name Linda Perhacs is a pretty monumental achievement, but for Julia Holter it only seems like the beginning. "World," a beautifully fragmented piece which is served up with an equally fragmented visual display, is a testament to sublime experimentation. It's also the first taste we're getting of her new album Loud City Song, out August 20.
On their debut EP, Portland's Pure Bathing Culture made combining pre packaged drums, sterling guitar work and overpowering vocals seem likes child's play. The duo of Sarah Versprille and Daniel Hidman wasted little time in setting the scene for their breathy music, instead created timeless pop music that was equal parts gorgeous and effervescent. On August 20th, Partisian Records will release the group's first proper full length album. If longtime live staple "Pendulum" is any indication, Moon Tides will pick up exactly where Pure Bathing Culture left off. "Pendulum" is somehow inescapable, the perfect cure for the late spring hangover before the summer nights turn into a musty mess.
We've done "Essential Vinyl" before. We've never had an "Essential Tape," but this might be it. I've been sitting on Soft Cat for a while after a chance encounter with the track "Sincerity" which can be found on Lost No Labor, their second album out now on Human Kindness Overflowing.
There's, undoubtedly, a Horse Feathers feel to the sound as layers upon layers of instrumentation weave the songs together. The group describes themselves as "baroque" which is as good of a label as any given that the the excessive ornamentation of each track does seem to tilt toward that post-Renaissance art form which stressed opulence and asymmetry over restraint. Ironically, perhaps the most notable place you'll find such excess on display is in the extended outro for "Sincerity" which seems to take eight different turns before finally winding up at the end.
Soft Cat is the work of Neil Sanzgiri and based in Baltimore, MD. Their first record, Wildspace, was released (you can get it on cassette as well) via Friends Records in 2010. While that record seemed to grow like weeds between the sidewalks, even the the cover art evoked a Murmur-ish quality of music overtaking like nature, Lost No Labor features a more sharply-edited sensibility. Listen for the impeccably placed background vocals on "When It Breaks." Such perfect placement is not possible in nature, though its delicate position in the song is a testament to how steady and patient Neil's songwriting is. And then, note the banjo and horn in "All I Can See."
From an interview at Impose Magazine:
I think Soft Cat is somewhat detached from some of the music being made in Baltimore, which can be very difficult. I was taught a very specific way of critical thinking in my sculpture classes which led to a lot of desires to integrate my philosophical background into my music. I think I've been successful in the sense that I hope that I get people thinking about a certain amount of content and don't blindly listen and digest the sounds they are hearing. It's been hard sometimes grappling with the fact that I make such warm and soothing music in a world filled with so many doubts. With all of that said, I think Soft Cat serves as that release from the complications and struggles of the day and if people are able to just take that with them, I think I'm doing all right.
All proceeds from Lost No Labor will go to Whitelock Community Farms in Baltimore which supports the Baltimore community through sustainable fresh food sources farmed on an abandoned lot in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood.
Limited Edition of 150 Cassettes
Before Youth Lagoon was setting the official soundtrack to nature, Candy Claws crafted one of the most earthy and transcendental modern albums with Hidden Lands. I've always found it interesting that such a tame/methodical band could elicit such excitement from me as a listener without deploying any pop hooks or gimmicks.
Now the band is back with the first sample from their LP, Ceres & Calypso In The Deep Time, which has quickly moved up to one of my favorite tracks of 2013. Building on the brilliant atmospherics of Hidden Lands, "Transitional Bird (Clever Girl)" is still rooted in that earthy exploration you would expect from Candy Claws, but shows the band growing leaps and bounds as songwriters. This is not just a track to get lost in, rather a total force of sound that builds, transforms, and hits all the right marks moment to moment. If this is the high level songwriting we can expect throughout Ceres & Calypso In The Deep Time, the world needs to prepare their ears for Candy Claws sprawling tunes.
"Transitional Bird (Clever Girl)"
From Ceres & Calypso In The Deep Time
Label: Two Syllable Records
Release Date: June 25th, 2013
To counter the latest absurdity from the Russian Government in the ongoing human rights issue that is the feminist punk collective Pussy Riot, unofficial spokeswoman Maria Alyokhina has gone on hunger strike. According to The Guardian:
In a recent letter to Radio Svoboda, Alyokhina wrote: "Soon I'll appear before the parole commission which, of course, will decide that it's impossible to let such a dangerous person as myself out into society. This is all boring and predictable."
Alyokhina, 24, has engaged in this strike to protest a court decision which will bar her from attending her own parole hearing. Referring to Soviet-era three judge panels which ruled on suspected enemies without that "enemy" present, Alyokhina is continuing her outspoken stance against Putin's growing repression. Alyokhina has emerged as one of the leaders of the group since Pussy Riot's arrest and conviction on charges of "hooliganism." You can read more about her here.
Sub Pop's recent signing Rose Windows has something of a culty feel about them--less Jim Jones and more Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies. "Wartime Lovers" commences with a flurry of keys before the whistle-able riff locks in, but what makes this track is the blast of yawning vocals which sound like someone had locked Sam Cooke in the basement only to have him return to Seattle after listening to a ton of traditional Andean folk music. Rose Windows is the brainchild of songwriter Chris Cheveyo, though you'd hardly guess from hearing the septet seamlessly weave "Wartime Lovers" together.
Check out a video of Rose Windows performing on KEXP below:
The Sun Dogs
Label: Sub Pop Records
Release Date: June 25th, 2013
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Release Date - May 21, 2013
Record Label - Columbia Records
Today is a pretty fucking stellar day. The new Daft Punk comes out today. Think about it like this: the first time that you spin that record, or stream it, or pop the tape in (have to make one yourself), you're probably doing the coolest thing in the world. Yeah. You. It's one of those awesome things that music can do--one minute you're chowing down on a meatball sandwich and maybe even spilling a little marinara on your shirt, the next, you pop in that earbud and become the coolest cat around. I mean Willie Colon cool.
Now, look, I know there's already been a fair amount of coverage on this album. And when you're in a blogger's position, covering a record that everybody else is covering, there's only a couple different paths that you can take to make your review memorable. First, you can claim to be a fan for longer than anyone else, and thus crowbar your way into a fake über-fandom which makes your opinion unassailable. Second, you can just be smarter than everyone else. Third, you can come at an album a way that people hadn't thought of before. While we pride ourselves at the WLFY offices about always bringing #2, this time, I'm going to have to admit to you that I'm not sure that there's a whole lot of smart things left to be added to the discussion of Daft Punk. Around the year 2000, when everyone was doing these retrospectives about where human culture had been, Bob Dylan was proclaimed the artist of the century or something crazy like that and in Time, or wherever this was, they gave a pro and con argument to this position. I forget the pro argument (it was probably something along the lines of "It's Bob-fucking-Dylan, man!"), but the con argument I remember: "there is more poetry in the opening harmonies of the Temptations, the Pointer Sisters, and every Motown group ever than there is in all the gobbledy-gook poetry of Bob Dylan." It's still a salient argument and one that we tend to overlook (esp. those as lyric-focused as I am): music evinces. And, I might add, it's an argument for a record (or against one) that blogs are terrible with. Music blogs can't hope to capture sheer musical beauty. As the saying goes "writing about music is like dancing about architecture," or so says Martin Mull(?!?). Thus, we tend to shy away from that inexpressible joy which seems to overtake us, which can't be formulated and recalled in pithy language. We tend to forget, that is, the pure joy that can erupt from a particular record.
This is the joy that overtakes in Random Access Memories. It's hard to think of a more impressive opening to an album than the opening three tracks: "Give Life to Music," "The Game of Love," and "Giorgio by Moroder." The latter-most is a tour de force homage to the great dance producer Giorgio Moroder, complete with archival interview. For all the styles which get referenced on the record, from the straight ahead funk of "Get Lucky" to the free jazz in "Within," Daft Punk never strays far from its blissfully retro-funk sound even while recruiting collabs from artists as disparate as Panda Bear, Julian Casablancas, and Pharrell Williams. But, back to "Give Life to Music" the steady-building opener which sets the tone for the record. While previous Daft Punk records would have pushed the overdrive on this track, the soaring intro to the song pops into an addictive groove. For all the electronics and effects, this groove seems to be the thing that does what the song's title suggests. It's the sort of track that you can't help but move to and as the intro reprises, punctuated by an impeccably placed piano line, it's the groove that you're wanting to reemerge.
Yes, this album is all over the place. But, then again, so is Daft Punk's seminal Discovery. And as any acute listener will hear, there's this fantastic existential dilemma which pervades the record (as it seems to do on every Daft Punk album) -- in this case it's about, you guessed it, memory. They say that the singularity is the point where technology and human biology will meet and amass into some sort of possible liberation (or doomsday), but Daft Punk's robotic personas are more apt to be used to comment on their humanity offering huge questions in a mechanical voice as on "Within" -- "There's a world within me that I cannot comprehend." Random Access Memories is a self-described attempt to equate memory to a hard drive and the past seems to return and return in this record not only as lyrical content (the archival interview with Moroder is the best example) but as a way of understanding the future. For all the record's retro feel, it's as much about where we are going as it is about where we have been. Given that computers have become, in essence, personal libraries of seemingly infinite amounts of culture, Daft Punk's access of the past 8 years (since their last record) is a jubilant, funky, and almost sentimental response to our lack of control over the past and memory. Though funk, the modus operandi of the album's music, is about structure, it's also equally about the losing of yourself, the Dionysian urge. As Pharrell seems to command: "Lose yourself to dance."
How do you talk about not being in control? How do you dance to your memory?
We, bloggers, tend to deconstruct, to contextualize, to examine and tell you why something is good instead of saying what happens too much -- just fucking dance to it. Marinara stain and all, just get up to dance. Because you can spend your entire life trying to figure out why you don't know, or accept that you can't know, probably won't know, and just get on down. And, like I said, if you listen to Daft Punk today, you're embarking on something with a giant community of us who are collected for the sole purpose of joy for the robots who are back and the humans who get down with them.
I've always had a problem writing about bands that are just undoubtedly great. With Cowboy Indian Bear, we have a four piece of talented musicians who craft poppy, but smart rock tunes. A few weeks ago I caught them live and immediately knew I would have a problem communicating what just seemed to be inherent about this band...they're a solid group. It's a cop out I know, it's my job to fill your head with imagery, context, use the word "jangly" and "sun soaked", but sometimes a band does all the work for the writer.
Since seeing Cowboy Indian Bear live, their newest LP offering Live Old, Die Young had been a mainstay on my turntable because the immediate catchiness of their songs quickly gives way to a better understanding of how talented these musicians truly are. It's probably to their detriment that music writers can't fill up pages about their backstory or wax poetic about their music (basically patting their own vocabulary on the back), but there are rare instances in music today where the music itself is all that matters. The music speaks for itself and Cowboy Indian Bear needs to be heard.
Cowboy Indian Bear
Live Old, Die Young
Label: The Record Machine
Release Date: April 23rd, 2013
(Vinyl limited to 250)
If Leonard Cohen is the man with the golden voice, Daughn Gibson is the man with evil stuck in his throat. His deep crooning vocals drip with a restrained passion that causes every syllable to swirl around with darkness and contemplation. Gibson's music is always a force striking your speakers, a sentiment echoed by his live performance where he drives the microphone stand into the ground over and over, beating the melody home. Now we have two new offerings as a preview of Gibson's first LP release on Sub Pop records. Both new tracks are dynamic examples of how Gibson is a true original and not a bit complacent, as the songs demonstrate a fuller sound and signal great growth for one of the more interesting songwriters we have today.
May 26 - Brussels, BE - AB Box #
May 27 - Amsterdam, NL - Paradiso #
May 28 - London, UK - Birthdays
May 29 - Paris, FR - Point Ephemere
May 30 - Copenhagen, DK - Pumpehuset
Jun. 01 - Porto, PT - Primavera Sound
Jul. 16 - Louisville, KY - Zanzabar
Jul. 18 - Detroit, MI - Magic Stick
Jul. 19 - Chicago, IL - Pitchfork Music Festival
Jul. 21 - Madison, WI - High Noon
Jul. 22 - Minneapolis, MN - Triple Rock ^
Jul. 23 - Fargo, ND - Aquarium
Jul. 25 - Vancouver, BC - Biltmore *
Jul. 26 - Seattle, WA - Capitol Hill Block Party *
Jul. 27 - Olympia, WA - Capital Theater (Backstage) *
Jul. 28 - Portland, OR - Doug Fir
Jul. 30 - San Francisco, CA - Rickshaw Stop **
Aug. 02 - Los Angeles, CA - Echo **
Aug. 03 - San Diego, CA - Casbah **
Aug. 04 - Phoenix, AZ - Rhythm Room **
Aug. 06 - Marfa, TX - El Cosmico (FREE SHOW)
Aug. 08 - Austin, TX - Red 7 ***
Aug. 09 - Houston, TX - Fitzgeralds ***
Aug. 11 - Nashville, TN - Stone Fox ^^
Aug. 12 - Atlanta, GA - Earl ^^
Aug. 13 - Charlotte, NC - Milestone ^^
Aug. 15 - Washington, DC - Black Cat (backstage) ^^
Aug. 16 - Philadelphia, PA - Johnny Brenda's ^^
Aug. 17 - Brooklyn, NY - Glasslands ^^
^ w/ Merchandise
* w/ Cairo Pythian
** w/ William Tyler
*** w/ the Young
^^ w/ Hiss Golden Messenger
# w/ Kurt Vile