Artist: The XX Album: XX Recommended if You Like: Night Music – a la Burial, Four Tet Featured Track: “Crystalised”
Admittedly, for a blogger, I’m way late to the game on this one. The album actually came out an entire month ago (gasp!) and is one of the more hyped bands on the blogosphere right now. But that’s the way I tend to be, the music snob that I am. Get too much hype and I tend to get turned off. But I succumbed happily to this West London group’s debut, XX, whose brand of nocturnal pop has me thoroughly entranced.
Melding an unsuspecting blend of contemporary R&B with reverb-soaked guitars and down-driven beats, these innovative 20-somethings have created a most delightful and intoxicating album. Atmospheric, intimate, sexy and half-drunk, XX is the perfect headphone hypnotica experience….and mood-maker. Players take heed.
San Francisco, The XX will be playing The Independent on November 23.
Artist: Cymbals Eat Guitars Album: Why There Are Mountains File Under: Indie Rock Recommended if You Like: Pavement, Built to Spill meets The Polyphonic Spree Featured Tracks:
“And the Hazy Sea”
One of the drawbacks of travel when you’re a music snob is losing control of your musical destiny. Such was the case the other day as we were sailing around the Aegean Sea being force fed hefty doses of Cheap Trick. (By the way, if that’s the worst form of suffering I have to endure on this trip, I’ll take it.) After the third listen, I couldn’t help help but kindly suggest that maybe the captain might like this new band called Cymbals Eat Guitars? The band name is certainly kick ass enough for his classic rock sensibilities anyway. And their sound kind of has that Cheap Trick meets Polyphonic Spree meets Built to Spill vibe.
I don’t know if he’ll follow up on that suggestion but he should. Cymbals Eat Guitars’ debut release Why There Are Mountains is likely one of the best ‘Indie’ releases this year. And I say Indie in the true sense of the word because the album was actually independently released. I’ve been listening to it repeatedly on this trip and it’s really grown on me. A real grower, not a shower as they say. This is indie rock at it’s finest, folks. Their songs are ambitious and epic (most tracks clocking in at more than 5 minutes each), with waves of smashing guitars and distortion that ebb and flow as effortlessly as the Agean Sea we’re sailing on. Brilliant.
Meet Obits, the latest musical incarnation for the creative force known as Rick Froberg (Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes). I Blame You is the band’s first album and I have to say – I like this band, I really, really do. Even more so after seeing them live at SXSW. Their sound is raw and adrenaline inducing. It’s the kind of music you want to put on when you need a kick in the ass, or are getting ready to kick some. As of late it’s been my de facto wake up and go album. Better than two cups of coffee…and much healthier.
Do not miss them live. They are on tour supporting their new release now and will be playing San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill on May 20.
Artist: Papercuts Album: You Can Have What You Want File Under: Lo-Fi Indie Pop Recommended if You Like: Beach House, Grizzly Bear, Vetiver Featured Tracks: “Future Primitive”
Really? I can have what I want? I thought the saying was you can’t always get what you want. But if the former is the case, I’ll take a walk in closet please. And $10 million dollars. Yep, I think that’ll do.
I guess that’s the difference between me and Jason Quever, the mastermind behind San Francisco’s Papercuts. I grew up middle class bourgeois; he was raised on a commune in Humboldt County, orphaned, then wandered the West Coast before calling San Francisco home. Knowing that will give you some insight into his music. Jason is an analog guy living in a digital world – using vintage organs and 4 track tapes to create that hazy, lo-fi, dream-pop sound of a bygone era. “Future Primitive” is an apt description. Headphone heaven is the end result.
You Can Have What You Want is Papercuts third album, due out April 17. (Thanks AG for the advance!) Be sure to catch their April 24 record release show with the Finches and Cryptacize at Cafe du Nord in San Francisco.
Artist: Animal Collective Album: Merriweather Post Pavillion File Under: Experimental Recommended if You Like: Grizzly Bear, Beach Boys, Yeasayer Featured Track: ‘My Girls’
Listen up boys and girls, this is important. Animal Collective is releasing their much anticipated, acclaimed and uber-hyped Merriweather Post Pavillion next week on January 20th. (Well, technically it’s already out – make that sold out – on vinyl. But if you’re like me, you’re not hip enough to own a turntable.) So mark your calendars and get ready. Because if you want to be anyone in the music world, with any sort of indie music cred, you need to own this album and worship it like the second coming of Christ. Animal Collective, deliver us from indie rock evil!
Okay, all kidding aside, this is a damn good album. And you should own it. It’s just a little hard to swallow all of this hype. Pitchfork gave the album a 9.6 for christ sakes! I didn’t know that was even possible. Are they really reinventing rock? Is their sound truly that innovative and unlike anything out there in the rock landscape? I don’t think so. My best summary of their sound is classic prog rock syncopation mixed with a little techno and sprinkled with a heap of Beach Boys Pet Sounds all over it.
Perhaps what’s most innovative and unique about them is that they don’t conform to one particular genre, which is refreshing and inspiring. And their music has a joyful, playful and ecstatic quality that makes you want to grab your friends, drop some E, tune in and trip out. (Is that album art moving or is it just my imagination? Whoa.)
Here it is. My last Album of the Week recommendation for 2008! And what better way to close out the year than with a little Starf**ker. Come on, say it. You know you want to. Starf**ker!!
The debut album of this Portland-based group has grown into one of my favorite listens these last few weeks. The band’s dreamy, tranquil grooves are just the right anecdote for these foggy, wet San Francisco days of late. It’s just downright refreshing and fun from start to finish. Their lyrics are whimsical and kooky – but never kitschy – bringing a smile to my face with every listen. From the hilarious ‘German Love‘ (I’m gonna give it to you) and the completely nonsensical ‘Iaadeedaa’ to the obsessively catchy ‘Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second’, this album has me hooked. Now go get your groove on.
Artist:Blitzen Trapper Album: Furr File Under: Americana Recommended if You Like: Dr. Dog, Pavement, Band of Horses, Bob Dylan Featured Track: Furr
Portland’s Blitzen Trapper has been stirring up quite the buzz for the past year. Their last album, Wild Mountain Nation, made my ‘Best of’ list last year and was a darling in the indie music blogosphere. While some people didn’t take to that album’s lack of focus, I adored their schizophrenic romp through musical genres. It was very reminiscent of Pavement to me – weird and whimsical, which is a good thing.
The sound from their fourth album, Furr, is much more refined, honed in and mature. They seem to have grown up and figured out what works for them. And it works very well. Furr is like Bob Dylan meets Dr. Dog. They’ve taken the folk/Americana genre and played it out beautifully. No longer does the group sound like a bunch of teenagers trying every passing trend on for size. This album is cohesive and exudes a kind of confidence and talent that comes with maturity. It’s the real deal.
Artist: Department of Eagles Album:In Ear Park File Under: Psychedelic Folk, Folktronica Recommended if You Like: Grizzly Bear, Elliott Smith, Fleet Foxes Featured Track: Phantom Other; No One Does It Like You
‘No One Does it Like You’:
Department of Eagles is essentially a side-project of Grizzly Bear singer-songwriter Daniel Rossen, who developed its dreamy, autobiographical songs with college friend and cohort, Fred Nicolaus. Their latest album, In Ear Park, was developed over the years between the two, stealing time on weekends and between tours. Other Grizzly Bear band members were also involved in the endeavor. Chris Taylor acted as producer/engineer and played electric bass and horns and Chris Bear, Grizzly Bear’s drummer, also contributed heavily to the album.
Most people, like me, are immediately struck by the track, ‘No One Does It Like You‘. I obsessed over that track initially too. The rest of the album is on the mellow, quieter side. But dig deeper and you’ll start to appreciate the complexities and amazing orchestral arrangements that continue to unfold listen after listen. Which for me makes it one of the better albums I’ve heard so far this year.
Artist:Deerhunter Album: Microcastle File Under: Ambient Indie Rock Recommended if You Like: Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, Atlas Sound Featured Track: Agoraphobia
I’ve long been intrigued with the work of Bradford Cox and follow all of his projects – from his solo venture, Atlas Sound, to his five piece group, Deerhunter. I love his haunted, dreamy vocals and ambient, atmospheric sound. It’s right up my alley. And while I enjoyed Deerhunter’s last release, Cryptograms, I must say I’m liking their latest release, Microcastle, even more. It’s beautiful and I can’t stop listening to it. It’s hard for me to even pick out a single song to highlight as it’s truly one of those album experiences that should be listened to and enjoyed in it’s entirety. The music builds upon itself, ebbing and flowing from moments of quiet, hypnotic bliss into smashing, reverb drenched crescendos.
Much more song oriented than their last release, Microcastle is sure to convert more than a few skeptics. If you were once one, you should definitely give them another listen. This one’s a classic.
Catch Deerhunter at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall November 24 with Times New Viking.
Artist: The Sea and Cake Album:Car Alarm File Under: Indie Rock Recommended if You Like: Stereolab, American Analog Set, Japancakes, Sparklehorse Featured Track: Aerial, On A Letter
On A Letter:
This Chicago quartet has been around for quite a while and there’s a comfort in the familiarity and consistency of their music. Their latest release, Car Alarm, is no exception. And from the buzz out there in the blogosphere, this is their best album in over a decade. I’ve been listening to their electronic grooves a lot this week. Mellow yet powerful at the same time, they are firmly rooted in Indie rock with a splash of that electronica sound I like so much. It’s smooth, well balanced, easy on the ears and layered with just enough complexity to keep it interesting listen after listen. Like a fine wine.