Golden Cloud Tapes, a great label based next door in Wisconsin, recently put out a new batch of tapes for us to enjoy. We covered the Filthy Huns/Robust Worlds split CS, but another highlight in their latest run of solid releases in a reissue of the Bitchin Bajas Krausened EP. Originally a limited edition 12″ from Permanent Records, the tape is two long interstellar jams that pulse and drone through the cracks in your brain. It is soothing ambiance at points, scorching grooves at others, and thoroughly enjoyable throughout. Listen to an excerpt below and grab the tape from the fine folks at Golden Tapes.
If you don’t have tickets, you are out of luck, but if you are heading to see Bonnie “Prince” Billy at the Cedar tonight make sure to get their early and soak up the cosmic kraut that this Chicago group will be transmitting.
Two purveyors of frayed-edge garage music have both released new sonic freak-outs on the world in the last couple months, and tonight they party. The guest of honor will be France Camp, a group that formed out of the ashes of Nice Purse. Their debut, self titled (Chrome!) tape is streamlined effort that explores surf and pop and struts through eight high energy songs in a less than 25 minutes. It has fuzzy edges, but the rich melodies burst through the haze and it is clearly the work of a band with lots of talent in their back pockets. This is the kind of release that you look back on in 2 years when they are playing in front of much bigger audiences and realize it was clear from the start they had “it,” whatever “it” is. Stream/buy their new release below from local label Forged Artifacts.
A band on a similar sound but at a bit more long in tooth is the great Teenage Moods, who recently released a retrospective on MJMJ Records. The double tape, titled Best ‘Tudes, captures the bands hazy punk jams, tracks that are deadly serious in their craft but often loopy and irreverent in their delivery. Their live show in incredibly fun, but when you hear their recorded work it becomes clear that this band deserves a place in the long line of Minneapolis bands that can play a sloppy/energetic rock show with the best of them, but have some incredible songwriting chops at their disposal. If you have missed Teenage Moods, stream/buy their latest release below and work your way backwards through their impressive back catalog.
Find out more about the show, also featuring the great Hollow Boys and Frankie Teardrop HERE.
Local violinist and Music Lab co-founder Jillian Rae draws on a wide array of genres in her music – country, folk, blues and even allegedly, polka. In her single “Heartbeat” the influences that come across loudest and clearest are country and pop. “Heartbeat” is an unabashedly hooky toe-tapper. It’s also an artfully constructed song – most notably due to Rae’s deftly played violin that sounds primarily bluegrassy but also dips unexpectedly into an Eastern European-influenced sound as well. There is also a nice bit or organ, guitar, and drums (not to mention Rae’s pretty vocals) to round out the tune’s depth. Rae will be performing “Heartbeat” as well as other selections from her debut solo record (also called Heartbeat) this Saturday at the Cedar Cultural Center, with the Honeydogs and Gallupstar in support.
Everyone from Bill Callahan to Alan Sparhawk is getting in on the dub craze that’s sweeping the nation! Well, not really, but it certainly does seem like lately we’re hearing dub from some unlikely places. The most recent being local trio Beat Detectives (Chris Hontos, Aaron Anderson and Oakley Tapola) who have a new dub single “Guaca Road Dub” available through the Night People soundcloud site. No word on whether it will be featured on the band’s (out today?) cassette release Music…About Time. It would be nice if it was though because it’s a great track – consisting of a hypnotic bass “riddim” accompanied by a number of electronic flourishes. Tapola’s vocals don’t seem to be present anywhere on the track, so this might be considered more of a Hontos’ solo jam. I am not going to make any promises but I am willing to guess that the new Beat Detectives tape might be available (with or without this track) at Eagles Club next Saturday (12/14) where the duo has a show. Should be a solid one so put it on your calendar, and put Beat Detectives on your radar if you haven’t already.
Itasca is the stage name of LA-based artist Kayla Cohen. She plays sparse acid-folk tunes generally aided only by guitar and vox (not to mention the occasional vocal overdub). Her songs are desolate, baroque edifices that Cohen haunts mournfully with a somber alto and carefully plucked strings. For an excellent example check out the tune “Marcy Rain” below, off of her cassette release from last year Grace Riders on the Road (purchasable here). Itasca will be coming through town next week and will perform with tourmate Ivy meadows as well as local favorites Beat Detectives and Robust Worlds at the Eagles Club in South Minneapolis on 12/14.
After an epic buildup, the always amazing Numero Group are releasing their 4LP box-set of pre-Prince funk and soul from our fair city. The box set captures the groups that were the precursor to not only Prince and groups like the Time, but bands across the country. Listen below to a selection of the songs from the compilation, ranging from funky disco soul to silky smooth R&B ballads. It is a stunning collection that brings to an area of local music that for the most part has been until now been overlooked by the general public.
There is a local “release party” tonight (Thur, Dec. 5) at the Depot in Minneapolis. More info HERE.
It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are three reactions, three impressions, three takes on Reflektor by Arcade Fire.
Arcade Fire is a band that provokes feelings, though listening to this new record I’m not exactly sure why. Not that it isn’t a good record, it basically is, but the teeth-gnashing and the holy hosannas flung their direction seem wildly out of range for what is actually happening in the music. I haven’t really been paying attention to the pre-release hype except in a dim and unfocused way; like I am aware that obviously there must be some and my social network feeds were full of people sucking their own dicks about how excited/enraged over the mere existent of this record for a couple days. And I haven’t been watching web-clips or TV, so if they were performing wearing ding-dong outfits with Blade Runner make-up on I haven’t been subjected to it (okay, truth-attack: I have and they do, but I listened to the record first). They tread in the realm of big budget, rock think piece-bait, a la U2, Bowie (I thought that was the Dame himself on “Reflektors” and hey it is), the Clash, Radiohead, et al, which really blows some folks’ skirts up and pisses off others apparently. I’ve heard the other Arcade Fire records but I can’t tell you what they sound like, I’ve seen them in concert and can’t remember much about it, other than it seemed like they were really going for it in an old-school, production value sort of way. So there’s that.
Reflektor is a pretty good record, especially the first half (I’m ignoring the 10 minute “hidden track” and the tacked on last 5 and half minutes of “Supersymmetry” of tones, synth washes, strings and honest-to-god backwards tape sounds…really? Really? I guess that’s one of those things that no one tells you are stupid after you win a Grammy). At it’s best its kind of LCD Soundsystem-esque (James Murphy produced it) Rock Music, with some multi-kulti flourishes and 80’s retro moves color (I have realized the 1980’s act as a kind of retro-futuristic signifier for this generation that the 1950’s did for a previous one). Kind of like a less messy Sandinista, kind of. Even though parts remind me of the Faint you can’t really deny that “Joan of Arc” or “Reflektor” or “Normal Person” are all good, catchy rock songs. Not positive what any of them are about as the lyrics are pretty vague, but are overall fine. At the same time I can’t shake the feeling that if I did give a close read to the lyrics I might want to punch the guy, like on the Depeche Mode rip “Porno”.
Its way too fucking long though. Even slicing out the extraneous 16 minutes of straight filler (Jesus Christ) it really starts to plod in the second half. Though oddly none of the songs are exactly awful, it’s all just too much. I thought that the new Digital Age meant we weren’t going to have to suffer through 85 minute double albums anymore? There are some nice sonic details on the second half, “Afterlife” is pretty good. “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)” is a cod-Prince/New Romantic synth action that sort of steals from a Make-Up song and pretty much lives up to the title. Mostly, the band just indulges their desire for sweeping, big feeling, important music a bit too much for my taste. Ditching a few songs and re-sequencing might help.
Oh and it’s a concept record, not that I could tell, which makes it like every other rock concept record ever. Overall, every song is kind of pleasant and well-executed and not really bad. If you haven’t already decided you hate it.
Whenever you’re crossing more than one album’s worth of music that you feel it needs to be done in two albums, you’re chancing your music. However, on the Arcade Fire’s fourth album, you’d never expect that a trip to Haiti and Jamaica to make the double album would produce the results you hear on Reflektor. Thankfully the double album isn’t extremely bloated (13 songs at a total running time of 85 minutes) and each side is enough to allow you to digestReflektor as a whole rather than the sum of its parts. Starting off with the fiery fun title track, things then take an interesting turn to such as the nice groove on “We Exist,” and you can feel the dancehall vibes on “Flashbulb Eyes.” Matter of fact, the only thing that sounds even remotely close to vintage Arcade Fire you’d expect is reflected in “Normal Person.” The second disc is a bit more adventurous and plays with the sounds in a much more experimental fashion, such as the slow cooker “Here Comes The Night Time II,” or the almost Bowie meets The Clash take on “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus).” It’s really hard to deny the grooves and the really good structures and ideas presented on Reflektor, and shows if anything, that Arcade Fire can still make great songs come to life.
My feelings about the title track that opens Reflektor pretty much sum up my feelings about the records as a whole. It is a great song, mixing the theatrical pop of Bowie with some Talking Heads-esqe grooves, but it simply is too much after multiple breakdowns and buildups. The 80+ minute album mirrors the song in that I can’t really say anything bad about it other than my ability to stay excited about something expired before the song (& album) had concluded, which generally isn’t a good thing. Some movies that are 3 hours should really be 2 hours. Most pop albums should be <60 minutes. “Afterlife” might be the best song they have ever written, and “Normal Person,” “We Exist” and “Joan of Arc” are all brilliant, dynamic tracks, but 80+ MINUTES of high density orchestrated pop music! As is the case with their “dress formal for our shows” bit, Reflekor gives me a sneaking suspicion the band are quickly becoming the U2 of my generation. They aren’t even close to “Beautiful Day” type drudgery yet, but the hype and over indulgence of this record leave me worried that we may be headed in the a similar “biggest band in the world” direction. All that being said, Reflektor is easily my favorite Arcade Fire record since their seminal debut LP, and when it hits it is one of the most engaging and exciting major label LPs I have heard this year. In an area where we can mass consume one song from each album, Arcade Fire attempted to draw us in with a massive project that defies the instant gratification and short attention span of a Pandora radio world. For a good chunk of this record, they came pretty damn close, but in the end their grandiose attempt felt like it was teetering on the edge of collapsing under its own weight.
There is a mysterious line that bands often (unintentionally) cross when making pop leaning garage music where they completely scrub the “garage” portion form the music. Sure, they have three chords, a nice fuzz pedal, that just casual enough vocal styling and cool haircuts/jean jackets, but they are clearly missing the whole point. Instead of sounding energetic and edgy, they sound like a band who wrote glossy pop songs and over-practiced for a battle of the bands. Frankie Teardrop are a newish local band who make easy to like, not especially confrontational (note: one song has them singing “motherfucker over and over,” but its 2013, so that isn’t too bad, right?) garage music that isn’t afraid to flesh out some melodies within their debut EP, but doesn’t cross that mystery line into savaging the sacred grounds of garage rock. The seven songs are short, with the longest clocking in at 2:32 and are punchy in just the right sort of ways. The vocals have the disaffected sound that most recently has been brought to our ears by Wavves frontman Nathan Williams, meshing nicely with the slightly jangly guitar work that populates the record. The songs are clever and funny without being cheesy and the production feels warm without sounding like every imperfection was scrubbed clean. Basically, Frankie Teardrop released what sounds like, to my ears, the opening salvo for a band that is going to be gaining a lot of steam in 2014. Stream/purchase the Tough Guy EP below.
Two great (mostly) local bands somehow released a split tape a few weeks back on the Golden Clouds Tapes label. Robust Worlds and Filthy Huns, at least based on the excerpts provided on the GCT website, have crafted an acoustic heavy, weary eyed tape of songs that will gently roll you into the late night haze. Both contributed a side to the tape (each called “Untitled”), and seem to be connected stylistically in their desire to ramp down the tempo and let echo’d vocals and serene finger picked guitars. It is on par with our previous experiences with Robust Worlds but a slight twist from the kraut groove of Filthy Huns NNF tape from last year. Check out excerpts from each band below and grab the tape from Golden Cloud Tapes HERE.