Posted tagged ‘dirty projectors’

Continued crunch

09 Jan 2010

Let’s talk albums. Once again, for the first seven months of the year or so, I was up on things, then I just kind of listened to old music for a while. This will be a highly personal review of the year.

Let’s get these three out of the way first: Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective, Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear, Bitte Orca by Dirty Projectors. These three albums were the subject of more hype than any other “indie” release this year by far, and to be honest there’s not much else to say about them than has already been said a hundred times before. But I will say things anyway!

MPP – the most influential album since Kid A, maturation and culmination of Animal Collective’s sound, instant classic, blah blah blah. Yeah, it is really good. I do believe that this probably the most unique and important band of my musically-mature years (the past five or six years). I don’t know if this is their best album, though. “Also Frightened” does not engage me, and the albums drags a bit with perhaps a little too much reverb and too little percussion at times (but when they drop that beat, oh man… finally hearing “In the Flowers” live the third time I saw them this year was wonderful), but overall it has one of the strongest claims on album of the year.
Veckatimest – perfectly, painstakingly composed and arranged, impeccable melodies & harmonies, everybody in the band can sing like Andrea Bocelli and dress like Beau Brummell, &c, &c. Though as a silly high-schooler I couldn’t always explain why, I always liked Grizzly Bear, eventually growing to love Yellow House like a brother. It took a while for me to get used to the new album, but it’s damn good. The drummer, Christopher Bear, gets love mostly just from music nerds, but anyone privileged enough to see him play right in front of you, the very definition of “controlled intensity,” would be able to see why he’s such an essential part of the band. Honestly, I’ve never been so happy watching a drummer’s performance.
Bitte Orca-Dave Longstreth finally makes his crazy genius accessible for a wider audience,  three excellent singers + 12-hr rehearsals = spectacular vocal tracks, each track stuffed full of ideas and brilliance, boopity boop boop. It’s all true. The “easiest” Dirty Projectors album, and arguably the best, it definitely rewards repeat listens, defies categorization and, hey, is pretty damn catchy. If there’s one guy who deserves to hang around with David Byrne it’s Longstreth.

There was, of course, more to the music scene this year than these three releases. A few albums, then, that I also have deemed worthy of mention, either because I think they’re one of the best of the year, or else a lot of other people did and I want to talk about that. We’ve got some top-ten material, some honorable mentions, some bop bop-a-do-bop. They’re not in any particular order, mind you. Well, they’re kind of grouped together, some of them. Like Motel Motel and The Rural Alberta Advantage. That was intentional.

Family – Le Loup. Sounds a bit like old Animal Collective, with more “folk” in their freak-folk — including banjo. Frontman Sam Simkoff sounds like Panda Bear sometimes, but when the tempo picks up his vocals and phrasing style are entirely his own.

Album – Girls. I downloaded this album during the latter half of the year, while I was trying to isolate myself from the hype storm that any regular reader of music blogs weathers (and even embraces). Word eventually spread to me, though, about the praises being sung to this release. So I listened with critical ear and, looking down my critical nose, couldn’t really find too much to criticize. I told the Good King Martinslas a while ago that the fifties were going to be the new hot revival decade and he said some fool thing about blues making a comeback in the indie world. This is why he’s the king and I write about music. If you can deal with singer Christopher Owens’s somewhat affected (some might say whiny) delivery, you’ll have a good time with this one, whoooo.

The xx – The xx. Here’s another band that rode the hype wave all the way to Bombay this year. They’re good, I like them, but 3rd best album of the year? I wouldn’t go that far.

Gorilla Manor – Local Natives. I think this album is only out in Europe now, but I’m not going to wait, because by this time next year they’re going to be too famous for me to mention them on here without risking losing big-time credibility. And, let’s face it, I have precious little credibility to begin with, here. So yeah, this is a big old pop record, really, with big old voices using big old reverb on big old catchy choruses. Think Fleet Foxes, Annuals, maybe some Arcade Fire without Régine. This record might not stand up to ubiquity like Fleet Foxes — we’ll see — but for now it’s great to listen to straight through once in a while. If only I had the same restraint with Danish butter cookies — I overindulged and now I can’t stand them. HA! Just kidding. That could never happen.

Hometowns – The Rural Alberta Advantage. This album was released last year, but was re-released this summer on Saddle Creek, so let’s go ahead and count it, hey. Singer Nils Edenloff has a bit of a Jeff Mangum thing going on and I hear a little Billy Corgan in there, too (no offense, Nils. I’m sure the similarities don’t extend to being really wack and doing really wack things). The songs are plaintive, honest (I hope!) and since Neil Young is a little busy right now doing his electric car thing and releasing everything he’s ever recorded, it’s nice to see some Canadians doing what would probably be called Americana except yeah right, you wish, these colors don’t bleed, why don’t you go back to where you came from foreigners? take your socialism back to the Arctic, tea party, SP2012. So maybe we’ll just call it “music for white people.”

New Denver – Motel Motel. Another record that technically debuted in 2008 but saw re-release this past summer (on 7 July, weirdly enough the same day as Hometowns), this time by the Rebel Group, which may explain why it hasn’t seen even the modest acclaim afforded to the RAA record. If only for showstopper “Coffee” this album would be worth your time, but you should go ahead and give the rest of it a shot, because there’s a lot of good Americana going on, here. And they’re actually Americans.

If I were you I’d be looking forward to seeing another post later with some more thoughts on some other albums, possibly including Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, The Antlers’ Hospice and maybe even a little record I like to call Celebrity, by *NSYNC.

Dark Was The Night at Radio City Music Hall – 3 May 2009

05 May 2009

I’ve decided to forgo my usual chronological scrupulousness. Last night was the Dark Was The Night charity concert bonanza, and, due to extraordinary pressure from certain acquaintances of mine, I shall do some writing on the subject. Some writing off the subject may also appear in this post; I will not attempt to deny my propensity to digress.

Dark was the night, cold was the ground

11 Mar 2009

Hello, dedicated readers. I have a lovely thank-you gift for you; I hope you find it useful.

The gift is a presale password to the Dark Was The Night Live concert at Radio City Music Hall. In case you didn’t know…