December 9, 2009

The Fiery Furnaces: "Even In The Rain" Video.

The Fiery Furnaces - Even in the Rain from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

December 7, 2009

Joel Mattern: "The New You".

Another year-long project completed (or given up on...your pick). Download available per the link below.

1) Strings As They Vibrate Create You And I (2:54)
2) The Seam (2:59)
3) Headlight (2:31)
4) Hundreds Of Horses (2:51)
5) Letters, Stories (3:05)
6) My Guy Ike (4:23)
7) Valsa (Como São Lindos Os Youguis) (3:23)
8) If You Could Outshine... (8:08)

Joel Mattern - The New You

December 4, 2009

The Fiery Furnaces Do The Fiery Furnaces (And Chicago).

The Fiery Furnaces' Matt and Eleanor Friedberger have been busy. Having recently released their seventh full-length album, I'm Going Away, the duo returns with a completely reworked version of the album - appropriately titled Take Me Round Again, available now on Thrill Jockey records.

The Friedbergers begin their winter tour in mid-December, with a short stint in Chicago at Schubas on the 30th and Lincoln Hall on the 31st. Don't miss these two in action!

Here's a track off The Fiery Furnaces' new album Take Me Round Again, for your listening pleasure.

>>"Keep Me In The Dark" - Eleanor Friedberger Version

December 1, 2009

Currents/Kanyons: "Whistles Chimes Birds Leaves Wind".

New Currents/Kanyons out now! Whistles Chimes Birds Leaves Wind, possibly the first album recorded almost entirely using the Apple iPhone's 4Track app, sparkles with rich ambience, charming room noise and layered acoustic guitars, creating a surprisingly earthy, organic recording using purely digital equipment. The album is available as a free download; click the link below to obtain a copy.

Tracklisting:

1) 1.08.49 (1:17)
2) Slip (2:38)
3) Stay Home (1:43)
4) Nobody Writes (3:43)
5) Six Figures (3:01)
6) Driving Song #2 (1:54)
7) Beauty (You're So Negative) (3:53)
8) #35 (12:08)
9) Bastion C (11:49)
10) The Weight (2:03)

Currents/Kanyons - Whistles Chimes Birds Leaves Wind

November 20, 2009

World's Greatest Ghosts: "No Magic".

Holy Tilly and the Wall, guys.

Portland's World's Greatest Ghosts' newest record, No Magic, serves simply as the fresh IV bag feeding the increasingly tasteless indie rock scene. Lots of gritty guitar by some bearded gentleman who hasn't quite mastered his bends (how DIY!), bubbly and fuzzy synths which the Willamette Week attributes to "a synth-rock wet dream that gets better with every listen", purposefully ill-timed vocals and backup vocals, and a growing trend that I find especially unsettling among these indie kids as of late - a kick-ass cover. It's really pretty gorgeous.

Despite these (typical) drawbacks (of most indie rock circa 2008 - 09 in general), the album does relish in its sunshiny, anti-climactic delivery of said unspectacular ingredients - just a little less annoying than that tremendously irritating fad among post-emo rockers like the Arcade Fire to drown the listener in gothic depression and prozac-ology, to the point of creative stagnation and inner decay, utilizing these same main ingredients (plus or minus a horn and a violin here and there).

A good effort, ultimately, by a young band with a little too much devotion to their respective scene. If you're a fan of that little glass of water at dinner that you never end up drinking from, you'll love No Magic. Out now on Lucky Madison Records.


✭✭✭✩✩✩✩✩✩✩

October 9, 2009

The Notwist: "Sturm".

Having soundtracked German director Hans-Christian Schmid's film Lichter in 2003, The Notwist return to their collaborative work with Schmid on his 2009 film Storm, along with Alien Transistor labelmates Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra, producing 2009's dark, ambient Sturm. Released on the Alien Transistor label, the album is packaged as a 12" LP + CD + book, featuring some genuinely gorgeous, though coldly metallic and sharp-edged, instrumental pieces and artwork.

Sturm's blurting and mysterious, horn-driven opener, "Vilina Kosa Version", immediately sets the mood for a villainous and troubled storyline, with no prior knowledge of the film's subject or plot necessary; in essence, the film focuses on the war crimes surrounding a Croation Politician (played by Drazen Kühn) and the attorney in charge of his prosecution (Kerry Fox).

The soundtrack stands wonderfully apart from the film as a Notwist release, though a bit sparse and, as previously noted, very cold and alienating; the only track that is somewhat recognizable as a Notwist tune is the comfortably-glitchy "Storm 1", a Lali Puna-esque instrumental featuring pulsating glockenspiel and unsettling ambient drones, heightening the subtle mysteries and suspense of its motion picture counterpart.

Sturm can be purchased in the UK from Alien Transistor. Schmid's Storm is due in US box-offices in late fall of 2009.


✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✩✩✩

September 29, 2009

Jim O'Rourke: "The Visitor".

Famed Chicagoland Producer/Experimental artist Jim O'Rourke returns with what appears to be a head-on collision between 1997's Bad Timing and 2001's Insignificance, judging by the album cover - more than probably promising a new inductee to 2009's "Best of" hall of fame.

O'Rourke's fascination with John Fahey is perhaps never as forefront as The Visitor twinkles to life - an amalgam of steel and acoustic guitar accented tenderly by a sustained piano and brushed percussion.

Absent of any of Insignificance's sarcastic, growling pop, The Visitor plays like a live folk guitarist's improvisational dream set. The subtleties of O'Rourke's softer, impressionistic side - evident in earlier tracks such as "Movie on the Way Down" from 1999's Eureeka - sparkle between glimpses into a redesigned Americana-folk feel for the 21st Century experimental underground (Bill Frisell meets Gershwin meets Talk Talk).

Side B of O'Rourke's 38 minute-long instrumental "The Visitor" slips some impressively tasteful, dynamic arrangements into the mix, including a playful auto-wah electric guitar and staccato string accompaniment towards the close of The Visitor.

As predicted, The Visitor tops the "Best of 2009" charts along with Tortoise's Beacons of Ancestorship and Extra Golden's Thank You Very Quickly. Highly, highly recommended.

Order The Visitor now on LP and CD from Chicago's Drag City label.


✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✩✩

September 27, 2009

Rain Machine: "Rain Machine".

What's worse than this decade's favorite soulless neophytes The Arcade Fire? The horrid lot of second-rate whiners who don't realize that there is absolutely nothing beautiful about Bruce Springsteen and post-punk once sandwiched between enough overly-emotional glam-rock aesthetic to annoy even the likes of David Bowie and his entire lineage; enter Kyp Malone's (TV on the Radio) Rain Machine. To be "fair", Malone is pretty into it, judging by the less than a minute-long intro comprised of nothing but an uninspired, whistled jingle and a sack full of assorted percussion instruments.

Seemingly drawing in inspiration from nineties acts like Sponge, eighties stars such as Springsteen and recent sixties and seventies folk throwbacks as Fleet Foxes and Beach House, Rain Machine projects a fair enough homage to said inspirations, but completely lacks any structure of its own. This is not always a bad thing, but acts wrapped in such song-heavy skins as Arcade Fire and Fleet Foxes better well ante up. Rain Machine lacks a hand at all.

Rain Machine is a valiant effort, though its efforts are not clearly defined or fully actualized, leaving this reviewer puzzled - bewildered as to what the album intends to portray and why. Tracks such as "Give Blood" lean toward a southern alt-gospel style, perhaps best showcased by Nashville band Lambchop, complete with choral accompaniment and sparse percussion, though ultimately, the effort is overturned as more poor orchestration, croons and meandering melodies obfuscate any interest it's awarded.

Good examples of the Arcade Fire formula shine through tracks such as "Smiling Black Faces" and "Hold You Holy", as Malone incorporates driving post-punk percussion paired with shrieking vocals, female "hoorays!" and an unimpressive layering of plunking acoustic guitars, twanging banjos and growling overdriven electrics.

And what do you get when you add alt-rock, alt-gospel and post-punk together? Folk-rock revival. I know, it isn't a logical progression from A to D...but it's a justified description of the album's shifting aesthetic. "Driftwood Heart" packs up those southern-fried falsettos, shakes off the vest and pocket watch, and dips its unfocused musical catastrophe into a ten-ton vat of reverb - a particularly unattractive thing to behold.

Thankfully, Malone saved the interminably boring two-chorded anti-ballad for the latter half of the album, punishing those snotty, overly-critical types (such as?) with a rather miserable attempt at minimalist artistry in "Love Won't Save You"- resulting in a painfully long tirade about who-knows-what-or-why. Nearly eight minutes later, those that are still standing are doing so atop buckling knees.

After such a drab intermission among an equally drab set of sonic constructions, it's no secret the last two tracks evade detection nearly altogether; perhaps Malone attempted a tribute album, but forgot the song list and decided to wing it? If so, Kyp, note to self: never do this again. A lot more focus on song structure, lyrical integrity and meaningful instrumentation could do wonders with even the most slovenly of indie-rock flops.


✭✭✩✩✩✩✩✩✩✩

September 21, 2009

Beasties: "Beasties".

Over a year in compiling, here's the near-finished result of hours of improvisation and free-form expression. Equal parts apocalyptic post-rock, ambient drone, field noise and improvised melody, Beasties revels in its happy marriage between structure and chaos. Enjoy.

1. Intro (0:12)
2. Those (5:58)
3. Clip (7:54)
4. Fear (7:28)
5. Pelt In (3:16)
6. Heterotic-O (3:00)
7. 2910849 : Void (3:53)
8. Improv I (5:16)
9. Intro II (2:28)
10. The DIY Toadstool (3:33)
11. Improv I (Ambient Remix) (3:52)


Beasties - Beasties (2009)

September 17, 2009

Pete Yorn: "Back & Fourth".

Pete Yorn is mainstream music's last shining light; his surface-level lyrics settle nicely atop the jangly, post-REM alternative drive like a fresh coat of grabber yellow paint on a 1973 Mach 1 Mustang, proving that, among other proofs harder proven,

1) Rock and roll still exists,
2) Rock stars still cry and
3) Sparser instrumentation tightens up those heartstrings.

Back & Fourth starts off on a sad note, and doesn't ever really lift. "Don't Wanna' Cry" is a teary-eyed lament that contradicts itself quite blatantly as Yorn nearly bursts into tears at every twist of the soulful dirge. "Paradise Cove" trudges along like a self-loathing rejected lover at the end of his rope. "Close" offers the first quasi-bright light at the end of the tunnel, and features triumphant orchestration and hard-hitting drums.

Although the opening trio sets the stage for a true alt-country experience, "Social Development Dance" sees Yorn sinking back into his comfortable nostalgic pensiveness, at the hands of a tinkling bluegrass rock ballad, and "Shotgun" revisits Pete's poppy side so evident in tunes like the breakthrough "Strange Condition" off of 2001's Musicforthemorningafter.

"Last Summer" is Back & Fourth's big rocker, though the song still ebbs and flows behind Yorn's pent-up, near-emotional outbursts in lines like "We were great last summer / We cannot go back again". "Four Years" waltzes atop the last amber light of summer, celebrates a new era like two lovers reunited from distance and hardship. It's these latter tunes, and especially the closer "Long Time Nothing New", that really jab at the heart and soul of the listener, making the album officially Yorn's "Million Dollar Baby".

A clear DIY-ethic paired with thoughtful lyrics and twinkling orchestration creates the neo-classic in Back & Fourth, and although you may not find much in Yorn's stylistic delivery, there can be little argument regarding his rapid growth and maturity as a songwriter this fourth time around. Finally, a solid and clear-cut definition of Yorn through the successful melding of original song styles with lush lyrical delivery and tasteful instrumentation that sets Back & Fourth apart just enough to achieve noteworthiness. A much appreciated effort by Yorn.


✭✭✭✭✭✭✩✩✩✩

September 9, 2009

Boredoms: "Super Roots 10".


Boredoms return with the newest installment to the Super Roots series, Super Roots 10. Produced, performed and designed by Yamataka Eye and Boredoms, this sunny little gem of an EP isn't your typical Boredoms release. Eye, known for his avant-garde vocals and rants, adds minimally to a swirling mixture of fuzzy synthesizer, driving house beats and crisp live drums that see the band releasing their Strawberry Jam, if you will. Equal parts world beat, shamanic/tribal vocal and synthy experimentation a la Tortoise's Beacons of Ancestorship. Featuring four remixes of the title track, each unique and electrifying in their own way, Super Roots 10 is sure to make many noise rock, experimental and indie rock lists upon release. Due for release on 9/29/09 as a limited double 12" on Thrill Jockey records.

August 26, 2009

RIP Radley.

I received the following in an e-mail from Chicago venue The Empty Bottle yesterday evening; sadly, the time has come that we must say farewell to our favorite mascot and drinking buddy, Mr. Radley. May you rest in peace.

Dateline – 8/25/09

Dearly Beloved,

I write to you today to eulogize our friend, confidant, and favorite feline Radley. Today this 25thday of August at 2:32 pm, Radley finally succumbed to the ills of the hard rockin lifestyle he lived. For these last 16 years, you could find Radley roaming the friendly confines of the Empty Bottle. Slinking across the bar to catch a sip of your beverage, or cuddling with you on the couch. He never judged you when you drank, and was always there to lend a furry shoulder. You were never alone when Radley was around. Many a drummer have been reminded that they were playing in Radley's house. To the bands that returned him home when found hiding in their van, to the concerned customers who carried him home when he roamed the streets. To the loving family members who cared for him over the years, to his medical team that helped ease his pain. The cat with the mouse tattoo in his ear was truly our friend.

Today is truly a sad day in Empty Bottle history. Radley has outlasted his brothers and sisters Scout, Boo, Gem, Finch, Atticus, and Bob.

Donations should be made to the American Liver Foundation – 312-377-9030.


Me & Radley:


August 15, 2009

Neil Young: "Harvest".

I've been reminded lately by some of my fellow RYM'ers of the review I wrote of Neil Young's Harvest quite some time ago; thank you for the kind words, all. Here's the original review via rateyourmusic.com.

About a year before I got married, I started working as a subcontractor for a family friend who ran a small home maintenance business. I was working part-time and going to school part-time, and I didn't have many bills because I still lived at home with my parents, so I enjoyed the temporarily stress-free life I was living. It was working for Dave that I met Mike, your stereotypical eighth grade dropout, chain-smoking, alcoholic handyman. Mike was 34, widowed after cancer took his wife from him, and completely estranged from his two kids when his sister took custody after Mike began binge drinking. You'd expect a hardened, bitter middle-aged man with a gruffness to his voice and a mean-streak a mile wide, but you'd be wrong in this case; Mike was probably the most optimistic, soft-spoken guy I've ever met in my life. He was one of those guys you immediately like, right from the start. Mike had extensive experience as a maintenance guy for a small apartment complex on the east side of the city, and yet he had a quirky way of going about it all. He'd usually smile and tell me he'd never had any experience with whatever skill the job we were on required, but as soon as I questioned him about it, he'd say through a fresh smoke, "oh yeah, piece of cake brother; we'll be out of here in no time, and maybe we'll just fuck around the rest of the day, sound good?" It wasn't annoying or anything, it was just the way his brain multi-tasked; he'd be sizing up the work at hand, and reply with whatever came to mind the moment you asked him, however absurd it sounded. We'd be on a job, and he'd start playing a roller extender like a guitar, or I'd mention one of our coworkers and he'd start impersonating them just to crack me up. It always worked. With such an upbeat attitude towards life, I had no idea such a dark past existed in his younger years. Mike had been an alcoholic since age 15, as well as a chain-smoker, and he'd dropped out of school before he reached the ninth grade. He started working as a plumber, and soon took a maintenance position for an apartment complex, where he taught himself how to fix most anything. He married a woman, had two kids before she was diagnosed with cancer, and after she died, he became completely caught up in his drinking, and his kids were taken away from him and sent to live with his sister. Although his sister and his kids lived in the same town, he never went to visit them; I believe he was ashamed of his affliction, and I also think his sister would not allow him near his own kids after seeing how low he was capable of sinking. Mike soon ran out of money, and lost his job once again. He became homeless for years, sleeping in condemned homes on the city's west side, or sometimes on the street when he couldn't find a place to stay. He had no family, and his only friends were those he made along the way, many of whom were worse off even than him. I was always unclear of how exactly he rejoined society, but eventually he began working again at an apartment complex, and was given an apartment to live in. He ended up working for Dave a week before I started, through the recommendation of a friend.

One morning, I walked into the house we were remodeling to the stereo blaring. I had never heard the album he was playing, but it sounded so familiar I had to ask. "Neil Young, brother," he replied without looking up from his work. "Harvest", I said to myself, looking over the album artwork and the track listing on the back. Obviously, I knew of the album's fame, but until that morning, I had never heard anything off it. Mike explained that it was his favorite album, and he knew every word, every note from it. He would sing along in his hilariously off-key style, and I would just crack up. We listened to Harvest every day on repeat, the entire three weeks we worked on that particular remodel on the west side; it filled the house with a sort of dying, fading happiness, like the tail-end of a good vacation, or the last few hours of Sunday sunlight on the greatest weekend you can remember, and it also provided us with the perfect soundtrack to our lives at the time. We had our best, most real conversations over Young's masterpiece, and I will forever associate its honesty and pensiveness with my friend, whom I can only hope is doing well these days.

I began working at the family business in search of better income and opportunity, and I was informed that a few weeks later, Mike went on a binge again; this time, however, he didn't come back. Mike ended up in detox after incapacitating himself one particularly dark evening of his life, and he stopped showing up for work thereafter. I hear he got a job with a local plumbing company, but who knows where he is now.

>>Link to my original review on rateyourmusic.com.

August 3, 2009

Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs Of Mark Mulcahy.

A proto-eulogy in memory of his recently deceased spouse? A far-off lament for the forgotten and long-since spoiled innocence of times past? Whatever the true meaning behind one of his many wonderful brain-children, Mark Mulcahy has spoken soulfully, of pure spirit, and the resultant release in sound will live forever - despite the physical limitations over this life and the loved ones we live it with.

Last year, Mark's wife Melissa passed away rather suddenly, departing him and their twin daughters forever. In memory of his shining star, a tribute album is scheduled for release in September of 2009 featuring friends and fellow artists Thom Yorke, The National, Frank Black and Michael Stipe covering Mulcahy's solo works from Fathering to Love's The Only Thing That Shuts Me Up. The proceeds from the sale of the album will go to Mulcahy and his family. Keep Mark's music alive and thriving - pre-order or purchase a copy of the cd or mp3 album from amazon.com or the Loose Music website.

Mark Mulcahy's career has spanned nearly three decades, including a decade as vocalist/songwriter of New Haven, Connecticut's Miracle Legion, singer/guitarist of the made-for-tv band Polaris which produced the soundtrack to the acclaimed "The Adventures of Pete & Pete" and provided the anthemic opening track "Hey Sandy", and opening for headlining acts such as Oasis and Jeff Buckley. Radiohead's Thom Yorke has given homage to Mulcahy and his work, and will appear on Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs Of Mark Mulcahy covering "All For The Best".

Tracklisting:
1. Thom Yorke "All for the Best"
2. The National "Ashamed of the Story I Told"
3. Michael Stipe "Everything’s Coming Undone"
4. David Berkeley "Love's the Only Thing That Shuts Me Up"
5. Dinosaur Jr. "The Backyard"
6. Chris Harford and The Band Of Changes "Micon the Icon"
7. Frank Black "Bill Jocko"
8. Vic Chesnutt "Little Man"
9. Unbelievable Truth "Ciao My Shining Star"
10. Butterflies of Love "I Have Patience"
11. Chris Collingwood of Fountains of Wayne "Cookie Jar"
12. Frank Turner "The Quiet One"
13. Rocket From the Tombs "In Pursuit of Your Happiness"
14. Ben Kweller "Wake Up Whispering"
15. Josh Rouse "I Woke Up in the Mayflower"
16. Autumn Defense "Paradise"
17. Hayden "Happy Birthday Yesterday"
18. Juliana Hatfield "We're Not in Charleston Anymore"
19. Mercury Rev "Sailors and Animals"
20. Elvis Perkins "She Watches Over Me"
21. Sean Watkins "A World Away From This One"

July 18, 2009

Saturday In The Park.


Above are a couple pics of the view from a friend's condo in Chicago, just east of the city. He was kind enough to let me crash there while I reviewed this year's uber-trendy Pitchfork Music Fest for the Windy Citizen.

July 6, 2009

Deerhunter: "Rainwater Cassette Exchange".

If Weird Era Continued wasn't enough, then Deerhunter's latest EP, Rainwater Cassette Exchange, is your own personal savior. Packed with the foursome's patented blend of classic rock hooks and driving motorik/shoegazer garage rock, the EP carries on the aesthetic and the amazingly strong songcraft Deerhunter hinted at with Cryptograms and concreted with their bonus EP Fluorescent Grey the same year. Amazing? Perhaps for a band far less creative and true-to-heart (and more than a few come to mind). Deerhunter's output has been frequent, as well as augmented by an unadulterated vision of where modern rock can go, and though that is obviously a feat to most, the band pushes forward with the same confident drive they apply to their soundscapes - annoyingly effortlessly.

Rainwater Cassette Exchange is a logical progression off of 2009's Weird Era Continued, the supplemental full-length LP to the critically acclaimed Microcastle, featuring plenty of reverby overdrive, big motorik percussion, and even a creepy theremin accompaniment on "Famous Last Words". What more can be said of Deerhunter's incandescence? Oh yeah, pick up Rainwater Cassette Exchange on 12" vinyl or colored cassette! Celebrate your analog ancestors!


✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✭✩✩

June 12, 2009

The Fiery Furnaces: "I'm Going Away".

The Fiery Furnace's sister/brother duo of Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger try on a more traditional rock & roll sound atop their experimental skins with 2009's I'm Going Away, the band's eighth studio album and third on Chicago's Thrill Jockey records, and the resulting twelve songs seem more an appropriation of Joni Mitchell's vocal-driven folk-rock drug over Neil Young's bloody body than a proper follow-up in league with The Fiery Furnace's usually-quirky, spastic neo-new wave freakouts.

Quite a different band from 2006's Bitter Tea, yet one would be a bit hasty in completely writing off the soulful duo's latest effort, as there are quite a few shiners here, packed up tightly onto the B-side; namely, "Drive To Dallas", "Lost At Sea", "Take Me Round Again", and "Cups And Punches".

If you're looking for a healthy dose of straight-forward indie blues-rock amidst the burgeoning seas of reverby neo-psychedelia and sixties-revival, look no further. The Fiery Furnaces are set to release I'm Going Away on July 1st. Visit thrilljockey.com for more information.


★★★★★★✩✩✩✩

>>Download "The End Is Near" from The Fiery Furnaces' I'm Going Away!

Music Cop-Outs.

For lack of any original idea this a.m., here's a list I put together a while back that I re-read and found amusing all over again.


Been here before?

1) When asked what type of music you are into, you reply with far too much glee, "The Beatles!"
-This is scary stuff here. It's scary because for each person I know who drops the Beatles like a warm stool, I find myself contemplating the validity of the very foundation that holds the whole of the music world together: are The Beatles the first boy band? This is like a closed-minded Christian reading Michael Baigent's "Holy Blood, Holy Grail"; terrifying.

2) When providing a top ten list of all-time favorite albums, you hardly escape the year 2000.
- Congratulations, your music collection is now a toddler. Here's an absolute fact: You CANNOT list Death Cab For Cutie's "Transatlanticism" along with "Demon Days" by Gorillaz. This is a cardinal sin, and will not be tolerated. Music existed before 2004 - in fact, looong before - and it would be in your and everyone else's best interest if you realized this ASAP.

3) When criticized for liking mainstream Country music, you become offended and "git yer rifle".
- Our country is much too fragile at this point in history for you to further perpetuate our stereotypically hillbilly homelives. Plus, listening to Country music is like drinking warm, stale beer, exclaiming "this beer tastes like piss!", realizing that it is in fact piss, and drinking the rest of it anyway.

4) "That's not music, it's just noise!"
- You do realize this line has been handed down from generation to generation since music was invented in some prehistoric cave system by the first homo sapiens? Johann Sebastian Bach was "noise" at one time or another. As far as I'm concerned, whether I find it aesthetically pleasing or not, as long as it's noise that's arranged onto a media source of some sort in some organized manner, it's music. (This argument is easily challenged by every single album ever made by Limp Bizkit.)

5) "I like music that gets me pumped up!"
- As do I, unless I am trying to sleep or am engaged in any other activity besides toning my beautifully-sculpted biceps. Remember, Charlie Manson got "pumped up" to "Helter Skelter", so much so that he left mementos of his love for the song in blood from his victims' entrails. Ahem...try to be more specific.

6) "They just don't make music like this anymore..." (sigh...)
- (-tear-) I am guilty of this one far too often. Usually, I am listening to some obviously superior masterpiece like "Pet Sounds" or "The Velvet Underground" while that evolutionary nugget of enlightened musical insight settles in atop my superiority complex. However enlightened it might seem, it's as false as Master P's grill - or more importantly, career. What about Low's "Things We Lost In The Fire"? Wasn't it recorded and mastered utilizing a completely analog process? Isn't Stereolab pretty "spacey" and "retro", while taking us to places where Faust and Neu! only served as bricks in the path along the way? It's naive to think that one generation held the key to musical perfection, and that they accidentally locked the key inside the recording studio while recording the long-lost final track of "Abbey Road".

7) "What poor quality audio..."
- A) It was recorded in 1967, you dope. Plus, let's not forget that you are listening to a digital approximation of what the original analog source sounded like (in all its glory). B) There is such a thing as purposeful sound experimentation...see Fly Pan Am's "Ceux Qui Inventent N’ont Jamais Vecu (?)" or William Basinski's magnificent loop experimentation in "The Disintegration Loops I-IV". C) Check the genre listing...ok, now read it aloud..."lo-fi"...right, meaning "lo-fidelity". It's a subgenre. Would you like me to dispose of that Rascal Flatts album you're listening to, or were you gonna' do that yourself?

8) "I hate Coldplay because they are too mainstream."
- I'm really treading dangerous waters here, but this is such a huge cop-out that this list would be a farce not to contain it. Hating an artist for their successes is like arguing against sexual promiscuity because you're a eunuch. Do you really hate the music, or do you hate the idea of success other than your own? Another reason this is such a huge cop-out is because so many "hipsters" these days (and I have yet to hear from someone a definition of just what that is...) commodify their indie-loving status by shunning any and all mainstream music - regardless it's positive or negative sonic qualities. Why, then, are you telling me how much you love The Beatles? What about those "traitors" Nirvana, who managed to change modern mainstream rock music by infiltrating the genre and injecting into it their own brand of fad and popular music-hating grunge? Your arguments fall as flat as your carefully flat-ironed emo comb-over. (By the way, I do hate Coldplay, save for a brief stint around the release of "A Rush Of Blood To The Head" [if you don't fess up now to jumping on the Coldplay coffee-cart at one point or another, I will hack into your computer and send a copy of "Clocks" from your iTunes to every single person in your address book], but mostly because I hate, and have ALWAYS hated, U2.)

9) When asked your musical tastes, you upturn your nose, look left and proclaim "My tastes are rather eclectic."
- Oooohhh boy, I am going to have fun with this one. This statement drives me absolutely bat-s**t crazy - almost as crazy as finding it necessary to censor myself. If your musical tastes are so diverse and nonconforming, you better well have a huge list of titles that I've never heard of. The problem is this: very seldom do I meet someone who tells me how "eclectic" their musical tastes are that don't actually mean "I'm just one more Deadhead". Am I missing something by having never listened to any Grateful Dead album in its entirety? In my opinion, definitely not - unless of course you count that I'm obviously not "eclectic" (in much the same way I am or am not a "hipster", depending on how self-righteous the looker). Here is an example of someone who might have the balls to announce their "eclecticity": any person who listens to and ENJOYS Kidz Bop (enter album number here), Joe Maneri's "Paniots Nine" and owns an unhealthy amount of Klezmer recordings (vinyl, of course). (So, for example, I am definitely NOT eclectic, as I only enjoy Maneri's "Paniots Nine", though genuinely so.)

May 21, 2009

Tortoise: "Beacons Of Ancestorship".

Post-Rock's foster family returns with another letter to their adopted subgenre, and this time around, it tells of the once-loved derelict's direct relatives and experimental visionaries in their glory days.

Originally conceived somewhere between Silver Apples' eponymous 1968 classic and Slint's brooding prog-meets-spoken word release Spiderland in 1991, Post-Rock's numerous progenitors, including the tumultuous garage rock-meets-oscillating synth drone of Silver Apples, the goofy krautrock of Faust and Neu!, the funky motorik grooviness of Can and, of course, the lush and often-rocking free-jazz of post-new wavers Talk Talk, all flash in and out of consciousness amidst the forty-five minutes of Tortoise's followup to 2004's It's All Around You, being 2009's Beacons of Ancestorship.

Like a kick in the pants to the prodigal son who took off with the family's wealth and worthiness, Beacons of Ancestorship assumes a new message to its forlorn adoptee: "I never knew the kid." Yet, the essential ingredients to the Post-Rock equation are all there, including spacey ambience and heavy percussion. So, what makes Beacons a letter of resignation to the most immobilizingly broad trash heap of all the flavors of modern experimental music? Simple - attitude.

A sharp turn from the emotionally-impacting jazz-rock and tribal aesthetic of It's All Around You, Beacons cuts a straight edge into the yet-unmolded future of experimental rock, or whatever might someday be considered "Post-Post-Rock". Its linear compositions, though sonically, invitingly improvisational, weld forever shut the gashes that bleed the Post-Rock lifeblood into ultimately thin and substance-less works of countless followers, focusing on tightly realized and melodic songs which can be taken apart from or in line with the whole.

An epic by every definition, Beacons could be the post-prog of the future, which is quite a hefty role to fill by any group aside from such a continuously cutting-edge act as Tortoise. Highlights of this charmingly atypical release include "High Class Slim Came Floatin' In", showcasing a near-perfect melding of nu-jazz and motorik percussion a la Faust; "Prepare Your Coffin" and the equally beautiful, sinister and winding "Gigantes", as well as the surprisingly masterful post-punkery of "Yinxianghechengqi". Other highlights include "The Fall of Seven Diamonds Plus One", "Monument Six One Thousand" and "Charteroak Foundation".

Beacons of Ancestorship available 6.23.09 on CD/LP/MP3 from Thrill Jockey records. Visit thrilljockey.com for more info.


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>>Download "Prepare Your Coffin" from Tortoise's Beacons of Ancestorship!

March 10, 2009

Kicking Out The Jams: An Interview with Archer Prewitt.

"The Bangtails was my first exciting foray into melody again; instead of just listening to it on records, I was creating it," says Archer Prewitt, lead guitarist of The Sea and Cake and singer/songwriter commanding a rather laconic solo career; it's about twenty after five in the afternoon, and I'm still sorting through questions, review mock-ups and biographical information, having literally rushed straight home from my day job in which I pose as a mild-mannered IT professional. Archer has been sick most of the week, and although he sounds rather knocked out during most of our interview, a spark of enthusiasm seems to leap from the artist within as important and genuinely interesting topics arise. "I heard them practicing in the sculpture studio at the art institute where I was going, and they sounded great, they sounded like The Jam, you know, they sounded like The Who and The Beatles and The Jam all mixed into one, and I thought 'Wow, this is great'. I marched in there and I said 'You guys are fantastic, when are you playin' out?"

We've only discussed some influential artists to Archer's solo work, and his marked inhibitions as a stage performer, though rightfully so, as someone who does not genuinely enjoy the spotlight; "I think the problem I have with playing solo is that on any given night on tour or even locally, I could be in a more vulnerable state than others; I think by and large I'm coming out of that vulnerability and I can sort of put on a brave face and get on stage. Otherwise, I think you can get in a sort of a dark place where you don't feel like your music's any good or that you should be on stage playing," he says, and you've got to give it to the guy; it takes guts and a burning passion for something beyond recognition, or fame or even money to do what he does - to bring yourself face-to-face with the devil, look him in the eye, and sing your heart out.

"When that band was slowly falling apart, Mike Sump looked me up and he said 'I need a bass player,' and I said, 'Well I've been messing around on bass,' and that's all it took," Archer recounts, speaking of his fortuitous enrollment in The Bangtails, which marked his introduction into the world of melodic pop music. He explains further of his early days as a musician, "I started with drums, and then I was doing backup singing, and then I started pretty early on with a hardcore punk band...so that was a lot of emotion, just beating the hell out of a drum set; then I slowly moved into pop and more experimental stuff. Eventually I started plunking around on guitar about twenty-one, and then I just slowly developed songs that I felt like I wanted to sing; it fell into The Coctails at that point."

I'm listening with intent as Archer explains further the progression from his role as bass player in The Bangtails to guitarist in The Coctails; "I'd add these sort of weird, melancholy tunes to this kind of...bubbly pop, and it was kind of an odd mix," he says, and I'm quick to agree. The Coctails put out nearly five full-length albums, and even the most blatant lo-fi rocker of the lot, being 1994's Peel, felt thoroughly estranged from one song to the next; Archer did indeed bring his sentimental guitar tunes to a mix of jangly, almost grungy garage rock, and the concoction amounted to a slightly pulpy pop experiment - pop that pulls out all the stops. He opines of this experience, "It pulled me out of the shadows in terms of where I felt like I belonged, with what I was doing, and it put me into a situation where I sort of had to think, 'If I'm going to do this, I'm going to just keep improving, keep writing a better song.'"

I shift the focus from songwriting back to performance, and ask him about his experience as guitarist of The Sea and Cake; I'm wondering whether he isn't more at home behind his black, Dano-style Jerry Jones guitar with that lonely, neglected microphone a comfortable distance in front of him. "I keep trying to get Sam [Prekop] in the middle of the stage, but he always prefers that off-center thing, and so I feel a little weird even though the spotlight isn't on me," to which I jest how center-stage he usually is because of this. "I know," he laughs, "I don't like it. I keep trying to change it, but [Sam] won't change; he's very superstitious about changing things. He's always painted on the same beat-up old chair even though it's painful to sit on, and he's always on that side of the stage - even from the first show we've ever done." Then again, why fix it if it ain't broke?

When asked a little more specifically about the inhibitions involved in solo performance, Archer offers his remedy; "I keep my eyes closed, and that helps," he says, rather matter-of-factly. "When there's a moment in a song that I feel like I can go on auto-pilot, I'll look out a little bit...but it's not a good idea," he chuckles. "I've had my moments of confidence."

There's a good number of those moments embedded in his first album on Thrill Jockey, 2002's Three. One wonders, even upon first listen, just how Archer manages to find such an effortless flow between the emotional, sentimental, flowery and all-out rocking moments. "I write a series of songs and think if they can all work together in a record; I definitely delete songs that aren't going to work and, with the help of the band, omit songs that don't flow or mesh. I also feel that I don't want to create a sleeper of a record; I have a fairly laconic voice and I think there's an inclination now to avoid stretching things out too much and to have moments of excitement in a record. I feel like some songs I purposefully inject some heavier moments, if the song feels like it needs it." Three is also very much a memento of love's power and beauty, embodied within that special someone; "That was just being in love with the woman I ended up marrying," he explains of Three's lightheartedness, "and also sort of putting away past romances that didn't work out and closing the door on those things. So it was both very positive and sunny, but it had its moments of reflection."

Three
was perfectly contrasted by 2005's Wilderness, with its stark and tortured subject matter. "I was picking from some really old tunes that I'd never written lyrics to; there were some darker, stark musical periods that I'd gone through that I had documented lots of music but no lyrics. After my father passed away, all of a sudden lyrics would come more freely, and I was aware that these songs could possibly work now. I was digging up some ancient, ancient material for that, and writing new stuff too. 'Oh Lord' was probably over ten years old, as well as 'O, Ky'," he says of some of the more intimate songs off the record.

I'm finally asking him the question I love torturing everybody with: "Could you supply your top ten list at this time?" We'll save the list for our Kitty Digs, however, and ask a more pertinent question instead: Will there be a sneak preview of any new material at March 27th's Empty Bottle show? "Yeah, there's some new material I'm trying to finish for presentation to the band; I've been working on some newer songs that we may or may not be able to work up to their full potential, or at least a presentable one. That said, there's like three songs that are newish, if we don't get the brand new songs done; they've only been played a handful of times live and only maybe once locally."

Archer Prewitt will be performing near Chicago's Wicker Park at the Empty Bottle on March 27th. Doors $10/10pm. Come enjoy an evening of Archer's unique and elegant pop folk. More information about Archer and the show can be found at thrilljockey.com. Thank you kindly to Archer Prewitt and Paco Barba at Thrill Jockey records.

February 24, 2009

Thank You, And Good Night: An Evening With Thank You.

Large, warehouse-type space; dingy, scuffed wood flooring and DIY-chic paint job; floor kit, riser kit and four large monitors, lit by warm red spotlights; this is the scene my notebook painted as the first act took the...um...floor, opening for Baltimore's Post-Kraut trio Thank You. Shred Aquarium quirkily clamors to life, sounding something like Bill Frisell's Naked City days, bringing only a meandering, overdrive-laden guitar and rolling toms and snares to the Post-Rock equation that all too often requires nearly three times as many warm bodies. Between songs, it appears as though the duo is naming their tunes spontaneously - as if the tunes might write themselves to life; "This next song is called...Abada Abada Abada SHREK!". The clumsy rock proceeds. Shred Aquarium gives up the floor to Mi Ami, a Post-Punk/Shoegaze quartet from Cali. After berating half the crowd for squatting, the group explodes into a tumultuous conglomeration of shrieks, squeals, fuzz-wah bass and Dance-Punk drums. Around 9pm CST, Thank You takes the stage, joking with the crowd as they calibrate their organs, guitars, jingle bells and gym whistles. The group opens with "Empty Legs", the opening track from 2008'sTerrible Two, which chugs along at the mercy of a driving drum beat before erupting into a buzzy guitar opus. Chicago's West Suburbs rattle through the foggy windows of the AV-aerie as Thank You pounds out each tune mercilessly, abruptly closing with the skittering "Pregnant Friends" and wishing all a pleasant evening. The trio of Michael Bouyoucas, Jeffrey McGrath and Elke Wardlaw celebrate the release of their third LP, and first on Chicago's Thrill Jockey label. For more Thank You tour dates, check www.thrilljockey.com.

February 16, 2009

Thank You @ AV-aerie.

Come join me and the folks at Thrill Jockey records for a night of great music! Thank You will be performing with special guests Mi Ami on Tuesday, Feb. 17th @ AV-aerie. Doors 7pm/$8. www.thrilljockey.com

February 14, 2009

Thank You: "Terrible Two".

The Baltimore trio of Jeffrey McGrath, Michael Bouyoucas and Elke Wardlaw seems to spend the same amount of time other acts spend on practice and songwriting blowing whistles, beating cowbells and shouting over the ruckus – though tastefully so. The post-rock formula has certainly been applied to the band’s latest effort Terrible Two, although a refreshing twist of Haywardian drumming and yelps sharp enough to cut through even the most seasoned of CBGB’s early 80’s crowds ensures any post-punks a good enough time.

Perhaps the premier example of this unique sound is our opener “Empty Legs”, which pounds to life in a medley of toms and whistles, steadily chugging to a guitar crescendo and all at once thumping to completion.

Following closely behind it, in much the same fashion, is a slightly less intimidating, krautrock-infused track in “Embryo Imbroglio”. Both tunes go the extra mile in proclaiming an undying devotion to their prog and post-rock roots while simultaneously keeping them an arm’s-length away in order to plug an original – and much needed – take on the largely misrepresented post-rock subgenre into the indie machine.

“Self With Yourself” features some highly rhythmic staccato guitars and bass, as well as a kitschy organ interlude. “Pregnant Friends”, this reviewer’s favorite of the lot, jumps to life as vocals are born into a soupy mélange of organ and percussion before being "shushed" into a completely new chaos, as an electric guitar screeches in terror.

By the 5 minute-mark, we're simmering in the fat at the bottom of this calorific stew, and a chorus of garbled squeals slurps up what's left. Terrible Two closes with an atmospheric and improvisational dronefest of organs, symbols and soft tom hits, utilizing a dynamic urgency, which carries the track to interspersed points of climax. A playful, "Atrocity Exhibition"-esque beat captures the middle of the track, and an organ hum slowly bleeds over top. Imagine Pram without Cuckston, and you’re pretty close.

Our boys in Thank You have done one of the most over-saturated and under-productive subgenres a mighty favor with their release of Terrible Two on Chicago’s wonderful Thrill Jockey label; perhaps they should be more aptly named “You’re Welcome”.


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February 5, 2009

Psychic Ills: "Mirror Eye".

"More Psych-Rock!" cries the oceans of blood the world over, and Psychic Ills meets these demands with a surprisingly fresh take on such an easily discredited subgenre. Mirror Eye makes for an understated journey through the depths of our inner being - one simulated acid trip after another. You've spoken, and they've heard; Pyschedelic Rock has become the voice of the new year, with the hugely successful release of Animal Collective's Neo-Psych masterpiece Merriweather Post Pavilion and Oneida's Thank Your Parents triptych soon to see its sophomore companion. The question is: does Psychic Ills' Mirror Eye backstroke or doggie paddle through the emergent sea of Neo-psychedelia? The key ingredients to any effective Psych-Rock release are all there: severely sustained, ringy guitars in a slightly over-cooked stew of reverb and delay, incomprehensible vocal instrumentation as well as spacey flange-swells and piano peckings placed lovingly (or haphazardly - you decide) throughout. Adam Forkner may raise an eyebrow, yet the competition is weak from the songwriting's perspective. Where earthy acts such as Yume Bitsu and Shalabi Effect masterfully utilize the spacey ambience and Middle Eastern influences within such already-fortified tunes as "Imps", "Blue Sunshine" and Yume's magnificent Golden Vessyl of Sound, Mirror Eye drowns its audience in the self-indulgent stoner rock of any moderately-capable garage band. The songwriting is slightly non-existent, and all that rings true after each note is the one before it; the brush hits the canvas again and again, and the painting looks something like my great grandmother's arts and crafts hour gallery. 

Back to my original question: Does Mirror Eye backstroke or doggie paddle? We may have our answer if it ever resurfaces...

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February 1, 2009

Kitty Digs Podcasts.

It's official - kidslooklikekats.com is now available via Podcast! I've submitted the introductory episode to the iTunes Music Store, so keep checking the website or iTunes for updates and new Podcasts! The Podcast will be a basic reiteration of each album or music review I post here on the site, but with a bit more detail into my opinion - plus any additional comments or ideas I may feel the need to express. I'll be giving a more detailed description of each week's Kitty Digs as well as some insight into what's to come in future updates and posts. There will be many more features added in over time as I become more comfortable and more focused on the Podcast - perhaps some artist interviews and such, and possibly even some live music that you would otherwise miss entirely.

Until the Podcast is available through the iTunes Store, here is a link to the introductory episode, which will give you a taste of what's to come and what to expect as the show progresses. You may click on the link directly or copy + paste it into iTunes to add the episode to your Podcast library. Feedback is welcome, as always!

January 29, 2009

"Earthly Styles" Podcast!

I'm not entirely certain I'm done with the EP, but nevertheless, here's a podcast of "Earthly Styles" in its entirety.

Earthly Styles

January 8, 2009

Kitty Digs: January, Twenty-O-Nine. "For Turntables Only."

The Beach Boys - Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!) (1965)
Eddie Fisher - The Third Cup (1970)
Nico - Chelsea Girl (1967)
Sun Ra - Strange Strings (1967)
Sœur Sourire - The Singing Nun (1963)
Echo and the Bunnymen - Heaven Up Here (1981)
The Rolling Stones - Let It Bleed (1969)
Jimi Hendrix - Jimi Plays Monterey [Jun 18, 1967] (2007)
Joy Division - Closer (1980)
The Beatles - Abbey Road (1969)

January 3, 2009

Animal Collective: "Merriweather Post Pavilion".

Whether you're one to argue Creationism or a Big Bang, you'll undoubtedly agree that the majesty and order now inherent in our universe was created out of an infinitely complex and mind-numbingly beautiful chaos, keeping in step with "ordo ab chao" and tickling the intellects of generation after generation of philosophers and deep thinkers. In much the same way, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion is born out of one singular moment of disorder, dispelling amongst the ether the shattered fractals of an intelligent design yet to assemble.

"In the Flowers" integrates spacey piano peckings with subtly-layered ambience, rising and exploding into an anthem of epic proportions; just as suddenly as it springs from the interstices between uncivilized music and ambience, it dissolves again into space. In many ways, "In the Flowers" works for and against the rest of the album.

"My Girls" lacks the spaciness of the aforementioned, and instead soon becomes a pounding disco-centric tune, soaked in the reverb AC has become known for employing. "Also Frightened" is AC circa Sung Tongs, with a synthy twist, and showcases Avey and Panda's masterful vocal harmonizing (a la Wilson brothers) - though you'd almost swear Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene suite lies buried, reinterpreted, somewhere within.

"Summertime Clothes" and "Daily Routine" share a similar spirit, though couldn't be more sonically diverse, most notably in percussive temperment and melodic expression; the former creates a rigid and unstoppable force through a thumping beat and industrial synth pad, filling every crack and crevice with sun-drenched vocals, while the latter features a much more tribal percussive feel, and one which halts as tinkering keys bleed and coalesce with meandering vocals.

"Bluish" is uncanny in its ability to separate the album into halves which do not necessarily belong together at once - just as multiple universes coexist, yet never overlap - and a large part of this separation is at once recognizable as AC's influences appear like shadows over the music, flashes of the Beach Boys' pop brilliance bursting and disseminating amidst the hazey instrumentation.

Panda saves the somewhat mundane "Guys Eyes" with flashy drumming, and "Taste" stands firm as the most introspective and philosophical track of the bunch. The last three tunes of this otherworldly release really carry well the weight of an already creatively heavy work, with the experimentally-pleasing head-boppers "Lion in a Coma" and "Brothersport", as well as a more reserved classic-rocker in "No More Runnin'".

Overall, Merriweather Post Pavilion is the promise of a bright and sunshiney 2009, though the obnoxiousness of such a promise is escaped narrowly, deftly, with the Collective's intuitive use of the atmosphere surrounding the music - just as important as the warping of space around celestial bodies. Without the pliable (though invisible) stuff between the notes, what have we but one more dry, characterless production stunt? The mastery is gauged in the manipulation of the negative space around the music, in order to create bold and boisterous new worlds - and ones we won't want to leave for some time to come.


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January 2, 2009

Stereolab: "Chemical Chords".

There was once a group - scratch that, the Groop - of knob-twiddlers amidst the up-and-coming sea of other shoegazers and knob-twiddlers with a much different agenda; this Groop brought to their music a collective love of a widely-influential genre which was dismissively dubbed "krautrock" at the time of its inception, for a lack of easy categorization (as the music collected many elements of funk and jazz and mingled them with post-psychedelic and prog rock) and also due to its origin in Germany shortly before the world was taken hostage by punk rock.

Seminal progressive acts such as Neu! and Can, among others, were hugely dominant references, and many elements of these bands' styles were applied to a masterfully-prolific songwriting engine (aka Tim Gane) which already combined elements of lounge and french orchestral pop music of the 1960's - and, yes, some early shoegaze aesthetic.

This formula gave rise to over a decade of beautifully contiguous, kraut-infused post-rock masterpieces - such as 1994's Mars Audiac Quintet and 1996's Emperor Tomato Ketchup - as well as an act worthy of acclaim and responsible for influencing a whole new generation of alternative and post-rock groups.

After the untimely death of harmonizing vocalist extraordinaire Mary Hansen in 2002, the Groop inevitably lost steam, and the engine slowed to a halt. 2004's Margerine Eclipse brought about a slightly reinvented machine, slicked and polished and surprisingly back in tact, yet Hansen's absence effectively took a leg out from under the Groop; if you lean a little too hard against the frailness and beauty of Stereolab's post-Hansen releases, it might just topple over.

There are far too many holes in such a once-great formula - simultaneously static and dynamic, sonically - these days, despite founding member and singer/keyboardist Laetitia Sadir's best efforts to patch it up and move ahead.


2008's Chemical Chords cannot be accurately reviewed by any serious Stereolab fan without the words "disappointing" and "uninspired" creeping to mind, and though there are a handful of truly decent (and even enjoyable) tracks gracing the album, the majority of Chemical Chords feels like an unsuccessful reproduction of a much more enthusiastic and purposeful release (being '04's Margerine Eclipse).

Among the better of the fourteen tracks comprising the album, the opener, "Neon Beanbag", reintroduces the staples of Stereolab's tried-and-true style - a trebly, chunky bass line, some bubbly electronics and Laetitia Sadir's heavenly vocals (which still seem to attempt to conjure up the phantom pipes of one Mary Hansen), as well as a melodic french horn cameo - into a motorik-meets-Mozart harpsichord-rocker.

"Three Women" revisits the pure minimalism and lengthy, chugging nature of Stereolab's past efforts (see Mars Audiac or Switched On Vol. 2), and "One Finger Symphony" proves fitting within the bubbly, summer lounge vibe of 1997's Dots and Loops, though a little bass-heavy and operating within much too short a time frame for any Stereolab tune to fully develop. Luckily, our title track is a shiner, seeing symphonic, Parisian-pop bliss interspersed with Sadir's tastefully percussive vocals.

The record begins to become much more insipid with "Valley Hi!", as Neu! bleeds right through the tune at the onset; Sadir's vocals once again save the day, however, jerking this track out of the crowded bowels of the krautrock wasteland known as "indie rock" - a wasteland the next track, "Silver Sands", does not so luckily escape.

"Self Portrait With 'Electric Brain'" and "Cellulose Sunshine" do much to attest to the Groop's incumbency yet as clear pop masters, but it's the closing tune that proves the most satisfying of the lot, sounding as if it were lifted straight from the threshing floor of the Margerine Eclipse sessions; a bass-driven, harpsichord-infused and vocally stimulating track, indeed.

Though 2008's Chemical Chords may not be the reassurance Stereolab fans were seeking that the strength and endurance of the Groop's beloved formula is still intact, it does prove that they're completely unwilling to lapse into creative stagnation, which - considering how long the Groop has been at it and just how much they have been through - is quite a reassurance in itself.

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January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

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