Catching Up: End of Year Album Edition
“Catching Up” is a feature where we attempt to make up for the sin of getting buried in promo emails by writing a few sentences about some of the stuff that has left an impression of the last couple months but hasn’t made its way into a post of its own. Today I am catching up on the new stuff from bands that mostly are well covered, but each left just enough of a dent in my brain to warrant a few sentences on a post such as this. Some I couldn’t ignore because I really liked it, others I couldn’t ignore because it was a surprise, while others just needed to be written about. Forgive the brevity and dig some (relatively) new music.
Can it be that simple? Can Divine Fits sound like a synth washed amalgamation of Spoon and Handsome Furs? If yes, is that a good thing? Spoon is an indie rock institution and Dan Boeckner, with his work in Handsome Furs and Wolf Parade, brings some rock solid credentials himself. Divine Fits will scratch the itch for fans that regularly scoop up material from these two bards, but feels less like a standalone project and more like the dreaded “side project.” A good album, sure, but not one that make us wish any less that the main projects of each singer would get back to us with a new LP.
There is a point in the opening track “Mladic,” at about the thirteen and a half minute mark where guitars crescendo and roar, creating the kind of tension built euphoria that G!YBE do so well. If you are thinking, “Wait, usually by the thirteenth minute of an album I am on the third song and have been rewarded many times,” this is not your album. If you have the imperturbability to let a song simmer and burn before getting your payoff, G!YBE have shown again why they are the cream of the post-rock crop with their stunning comeback LP.
If you like you beats and rhymes done grimy and angry, I’ve got an album for you. Hot on the heels of the equally good The Money Store from earlier this year, No Love Deep Web is as viscerally impactful and emotionally challenging as any of the great work MC Ride, Zach Hill and Andy Morin have done. Hill layers mountains of noise and scuzzy beats that kick you into your chest while MC Ride’s gruff howl seems like a plaintive scream for the end of the world. This, like all of their work, isn’t something you will throw on at your next party, but if you want to see rap music, mixed with punk, taken down a dark alley and mugged…I’ve got an album for you.
Most of the time when a band gets a more “professional” sound, especially if it means going away from a garage rock template (my favorite), I am disappointed. For some reason, the latest Dum Dum Girls EP End of Daze doesn’t illicit any of my sufficiently stockpiled scorn, in fact it is one of my favorite pop records of the last few years. Maybe it was the Smiths cover they did last year on their He Get’s Me High EP that sounded so good, but the shiny edges that Dee Dee Penny and the gang employ on the EP seem like a natural progression for the band. While I hope they don’t end up making a record that is clearly angling for an opening spot on a U2 tour (*cough*kingsofleon*cough*), I am really excited about the steps the band is taking as they refine, and expand, their sound.
The lo-fi bedroom R&B thing is about to get to the point where Chillwave was in late 2011, where the groups that are doing it well (The Weeknd, Holy Other) will soon be crowded out by lightweight imitators who are jonesing for a pitchfork write-up. Luckily before the waves of mediocrity come crashing up on the beach we have at least a few artifacts to mine from this time-frame, one of which being the stunning Total Loss from Tom Krell, the one man band behind HTDW. While some of the record has some color to it, it is largely a somber, black and white affair that is emotionally draining. Total Loss is poignancy at its most minimalistic, love and loss delivered via chilly beats and Krell’s striking vocals. Good luck trying to recreate this record, copycats.
If Beck or the Flaming Lips were less concerned with staying “weird” and more with making the gummy, twisted music that they have done in the past, they might make a record like Cobra Juicy by Black Moth Super Rainbow. They would also have to learn to make a synth sound like it was run through a washing machine and create beats that are hard enough to knock you over and gooey enough to make you stick to the floor. Cobra Rainbow is actually a step into the light for the group, with the listener actually able to understand some of the vocals, but it is still a wonderfully shambolic mess of pop music bend and twisted to its breaking point. Glad someone is still doing it.
Honestly, what more can we at Reviler say about Ty Segall? He is awesome. We like him a lot. On his third release of the year, Twins, he is good again. The guitars are swamped with fuzz, his vocals are righteous and his third record might be his most focused garage rock fury of the all. The record starts out with the amazing “Thank God for the Sinners,” but I mostly say “Thank God for Ty Segall.” I am not sure at what point this fever breaks, but it has been an amazing ride.
I was late to the game with Andy Stott, only realizing his electronic brilliance on last years Passed My By EP, but better late than never, right? While Passed Me By was on the dark and emotive side of the EDM spectrum, it was a startlingly haunting trip that I found myself taking many times over the last year. Stott’s latest is the slightly less dark, incredibly elegant Luxery Problems, which finds him incorporating the evocative vocals of his old piano teacher (!). It exposes the beauty in electronic music and somehow eclipses the splendor that was Passed Me By. I know a new Burial 12” came out that we are all excited about, but don’t miss this LP folks.
While we all love the “left field” turn that artists take, Smalhans is a reminder that home is where ther heart is. After using his own vocals and taking a slight step off the dancefloor with his March release Six Cups of Rebel, Lindstrom is back in the saddle with Smalhans, a record that returns to the glory of his 2008 release Where You Go I Go Too. The six songs are epic in every sense, with the beats and melodies both thumping out of the speaker, lush and ripe for consumption. If this doesn’t get your head bobbing (or more), I need to check you for a pulse. Dance music beamed in from outer space, Smalhans is Lindstrom at his best and a cosmic journey that is well worth taking.
Only a band like Emeralds could release an album like Just to Feel Anything and people would comment it isn’t experimental enough. Following the groundbreaking Does It Look Like I’m Here (and about sixty solo records), Just to Feel Anything is a more somber affair than their last LP, but still excellent. The album finds the three piece dabbling in even more atmospheric, bubbly ambient music. Never crossing that line into New Age, the record none the less lowers the tensions and frazzle from their last LP and is much more of a soothing trip. If creating a record that would be my soundtrack if I ever floated in the clouds is a bad thing, then go to town on this record, but I think it is another success from a group that, together or solo, are constantly pushing the ambient scene forward to new and better places.