More than likely you’ve heard of Deerhunter. Their last album, Microcastle, topped many ‘Best Of’ lists last year, including mine. But what about Circulatory System? Yeah, me neither but you soon will – trust me. I got tipped on their forthcoming album, Signal Morning, recently, took a listen and have been smiling ever since. It was like listening to Deerhunter on a Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. Holy head trip! This is fan-fucking-tastic, who are these guys?
As it turns out, Circulatory System has been around a while and share much in common with Deerhunter. Both were formed in 2001 in Georgia, have received critical acclaim and have front men tormented by disease. Circulatory System was founded by Will Cullen Hart after Olivia Tremor Control fell dormant in 2000. He and most of the other Olivias now comprise much of the band. Their eponymous debut album was released that same year to much critical acclaim and their long awaited sophomore release, Signal Morning, is finally due out September 8.
Seven and a half years in the making, Signal Morning has been sculpted from countless hours of recordings. The end product is a heady, complex and orchestral sonic journey. The songs, composed by Hart, explore his battle with Mutliple Sclerosis – much in the same way as Bradford Cox explores his plight with Marfan Syndrome in his work with Deerhunter and Atlas Sound. And like Deerhunter’s trajectory with Microcastle, I expect this album will explode and take them to a higher level.
P.S. Rumor has it that Olivia Tremor Control is together and recording again too!
Deerhunter kicked off the Noise Pop Festival this Tuesday at San Francisco’s Mezzanine and holy shit was it good. Ranking right up there as my favorite live performance so far in 2009, but we are just getting started. They pulled out quite a few new songs early on in the set but after a few quirky interludes from Bradford Cox the band got down to business and had us knee deep in Microcastle yumminess. For those of you who pulled out early before the encore, you don’t know what you missed. The band delivered a relentless, blistering, mind-blowing wall of sound finale that left me with goosebumps and grins all night long.
And here it is.My top 20 albums for 2008.This list represents the music that inspired me throughout the year and the albums that I kept coming back to again and again.I’ve tried to put the critic hat aside to be very honest in my ranking.What you see here, in order of appearance, are the albums I listened to the most throughout the year.In order of heavy rotation, so to speak.
So while some of you may judge my harshly for listing bands like The Raconteurs in the top 10, the truth of the matter is I listened to that album a lot this year and it got me off every time. It’s a great rock album. Plus they were one of my favorite live performances of the year.And hey, if they’re good enough to make Nic Harcourt’s top 10 list, it’s good enough for me.
1. Deerhunter, Microcastle
This album blew me away from the first listen and put Bradford Cox into the genius category for me. I really and truly can’t stop listening to this album. It’s brilliant start to finish and much more melodic and song-oriented than other Deerhunter albums. A classic for sure.
I’m truly obsessed with this Austin-based band. I listen to this album, without fail, every single day. I start with the Let’s Talk About It EP followed by Exposion. It’s my go-to, late night, ‘gotta wake my ass up to get some work done’ combo. I just love their stripped down Stooges/White Stripes vibe. Feels really good. And seriously rocks!
“I’ve been working on a cocktail called Grounds for Divorce…,” is the opening line from the rockin’ single, ‘Grounds for Divorce,’ off Elbow’s fourth and best release to date, The Seldom Seen Kid. The song is immense, snarling with emotion and emblematic of the theme of the album – the joys and sorrows of everyday life.
‘The Rockintours’ as my 3 year old son calls them, this album was most definitely on heavy rotation throughout 2008. To the point where he has developed an obsession with Jack White and tries to emulate his moves on his toy guitar. Could Jack White be the rock god of his generation? Very well could be. He made demi-rock god status in my book after seeing them play at Bimbos earlier this year, one of my concert highlights of the year. A relentless assault of rock and roll I haven’t seen the likes of in quite some time.
I’ve been a fan of The Duke Spirit since their first album, Cuts Across the Land, hit the US in 2005.With their second release, Neptune, the band has clearly come of age.The album is a seductive blend of lead singer Leila Moss’s bluesy-rock vocals and ferocious guitar riffs.The songs, evoking images of sea gods and ships, are a journey of brooding intensity that, in the end, leaves me only to say… “All Hail The Duke Spirit.”
This album is almost entirely a solo project showcasing the genius of David Brewis, member of the on-hiatus group Field Music, and is a true album experience.Like a mini rock symphony, the album starts and ends with a series of songs called ‘Rockists Part 1 and 2’ and ‘Rockists Part 3 and 4’.Parts 1 and 4 are different versions of the same song but strung together and listened to in it’s entirety, is a stunning arrangement. The songs are exquisitely constructed and I love the way he plays with structures and sounds.
My biggest regret of the year? Having to miss Beach House play The Swedish American Music Hall. Grr. It’s such a lovely, lovely, album. I love their etherial, haunting, lovelorn music and Devotion was a late night favorite on my headphones all year long.
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.
This is the kind of album that grows on you over time. As you dig deeper through the album, you’ll start to appreciate the complexities and amazing orchestral arrangements that continue to unfold listen after listen.
Have you heard the one about this girl who walks into a bar in Austin, TX and sees Fleet Foxes for the first time? Call it serendipity, call it love at first sight – er, listen – she’s smitten. And so is the rest of the indie rock world. With good reason. Another one of my top live performances of 2008
Are you a Pavement fan? If you are, you’re gonna like the latest release, Heavenly Bender, from the Brooklyn-based quartet,Sam Champion. Steeped in lo-fi, garage-rock jams, their sound may be a little too Wowee Zowee for the non-Pavement aficionado, but for me it’s the perfect combination as bands like Pavement /Stephen Malkmus represent everything I like in Indie Rock music – crunchy guitar jams sandwiched between sweet harmonies. My indie rock PB&J.
Remember when this band was fresh on the scene and how great it was, for that brief moment, to have them all to yourself? Then suddenly they were everywhere and even your non-music friends started talking about them. ‘Have you heard of this band called Bon IVER?’ At least we had the satisfaction to smugly correct them on their mispronunciation. “It’s pronounced Bon Hiver – like good winter in French? Phht.” Okay, maybe that was just me. All kidding aside, this is such a beautiful album and truly one of my favorite live performances of the year. It gave me goosebumps.
The Portland-based duo, The Helio Sequence, released their third album ‘Keep Your Eyes Ahead’ in January of this year; but it’s one of those records I just keep coming back to again and again. It makes me feel so nostalgic. Perhaps it’s because there are moments on the record that sound so early U2/Joshua Tree I can’t help but feel that way.
This stripped down, two-man San Francisco band consists of Meric Long on guitar and vocals and Logan Kroeber on percussion.Both are feature performers– on the recording and live.Their simplicity has drawn comparisons to a crop of new-primitivist bands like Yeasayer and High Places.Whatever the case, you should listen to this album and make a point to see them live. They’re mesmerizing.
Welcome to the Night Sky is the third album for the Halifax-based Wintersleep, and one that seems destined for success in the US. Already quite popular in Canada, the band recently received the 2008 Juno award for ‘New Group of the Year’. Their sound is expansive with heavy, smashing guitars combined with delicate, heartbreaking vocals. A sound so well represented in the track ‘Drunk on Aluminum’.
Women are a Canadian group (two of them brothers, actually) with their self-titled debut released July 8 on Flemish Eye Records. I was very pleased to learn that Chad VanGaalen produced this album, of whom I’m a big fan. He recorded the album in his basement on old tape machines and ghettoblasters. To say their sound is lo-fi is an understatement. My guess is you’ll be hearing a lot more from this band.
I adore this guy. He’s a wonderful and interesting artist, a virtual one-man band who’s notoriously very reclusive and apparently obsessed with death and other morbid topics. I find a stark beauty in the basement-recorded ‘Soft Airplane’ (as well as a nice cover of The Shins ‘City of Electric Light’). And while it’s true that the basement can be a dark and scary place at times, it can also be filled with wonder and surprise.
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. One of their best albums in over a decade. I’ve been listening to their electronic grooves a lot. 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.
Last, but certainly not least, is Juana Molina’s, Un Dia. This Argentinean singer /songwriter is an amazing interpreter of sound. I discovered her by chance many years ago opening for a band I can’t even remember now because her performance was so compelling and mesmerizing I’ve forgotten everything else about that night. I’ve been an ardent fan of her dreamlike, hypnotic music ever since. Her fifth full length album, Un Dia, is her most adventurous, upbeat and rhythmic release to date.
Artist: Deerhunter Album: Weird Era Cont File Under: Ambient Indie Rock Recommended if You Like: Sigur Ros, Radiohead, Grizzly Bear, Atlas Sound Featured Track: ‘Operation‘
Oh happy day! Weird Era Cont., the second disc from Deerhunter’s October release, Microcastle, is out now. I’ve been listening to it non-stop since yesterday and it more than holds its own as an album, unlike many bonus discs. Both albums are on heavy rotation. I couldn’t be more excited about the music Deerhunter is putting out right now. And you should be too. As fellow blogger, This Recording, put it:
‘Bradford Cox is the indie rock Jesus, ready to die for our musical sins. This guy is gay, possibly a virgin, and frighteningly skinny due to Marfan Syndrome which will likely lead to a premature death. Is there anyone you could root for more? On top of that he put out what is arguably the best album of the year, and he helped reinvigorate a genre that was drifting into irrelevance – indie rock.’
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.