Album of the Week: The XX

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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.

Album of the Week: Cymbals Eat Guitars

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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.

Obits – I Blame You

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Artist: Obits
Album: I Blame You
File Under: Garage Punk
Recommended if You Like:  Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes
Featured Tracks

“Pine On”:

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.

Papercuts – You Can Have What You Want

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Artist: Papercuts
AlbumYou 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.

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion

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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.)

You’ve been given the kool-aid, now drink it. Then join the rest of the disciples for an exclusive stream of Merriweather Post Pavillion on Rhapsody. See you on the other side.

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Starf**ker

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Artist: Starf**ker
AlbumStarf**ker
File Under: Indie Pop
Recommended if You Like: Chromeo, ELO
Featured Track: Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second‘, ‘Iaadeedaa

Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second:

Iaadeedaa:

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.

Get this album free via eMusic’s 50 Free MP3 Promo

buy it at insound!

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Blitzen Trapper – Furr

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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.

Blitzen Trapper plays tonight at The Independent in San Francisco.

Get this album free via eMusic’s 50 Free MP3 Promo

buy it at insound!

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