The Stand-Ins, and its predecessor, The Stage Names, are essentially integral parts of my record collection. Will Sheff and company have long been creating mini-masterpieces of unique pop/folk/rock and even if the band released an album every year, it still wouldn't be enough for me. In the hiatus in between albums, Okkervil River hasn't been idle, and have actually been a part of two of my favorite albums from last year, including Roky Erickson's True Love Cast Out All Evil, and Shearwater's The Golden Archipelago. When I Am Very Far drops on May 10th via Jagjaguwar, I'll be the first in line. The band is also taking an interesting course marketing the new release, choosing to have two of the new tracks hit the interwebs via live video performance, as opposed to MP3. Those will come, no doubt, but for now, the videos work. "Weave Room Blues" will be a B-side to the album, and the studio version will wander around the internet closer to the May 10th release of the LP. This recording was done off the air during a Fallon taping, and includes AC Newman, just as the last release did. Okkervil River has a stellar formula and create excellent, cerebral, and infectious music. This is a big one for me personally, and I'm excited new tracks are bouncing around. Enjoy the video below. Additionally, enjoy the first official MP3 from the album, "Mermaid."
Tag Archive: Jagjaguwar
Just a couple of days ago, I reviewed Black Mountain's blistering show at The Beachland Ballroom (see HERE). My electronic mail woke me up this morning with a new cut from Black Mountain's upcoming LP, Wilderness Heart. One of the things I loved most about In the Future was its psychedelic take on both the sludgier elements of early 70's blues-rock and the psychedelic modalities of their best acid-rock predecessors. This newest track, "The Hair Song," fits right in line with what McBean has alluded to when discussing the upcoming album. There's immediately a lighter and more airy feel to this, as opposed to the all out subterranean feel of In The Future. The song absolutely shreds with a killer gypsy-like riff throughout the song, and Webber and McBean's vocals link together with more lively vigor. This isn't Pink Mountaintops, but I don't quite think it's signature Black Mountain, either. I'm absolutely revved to hear the new album in its entirety. McBean has mentioned that the new release will carry more of this lighter feel. More pop, in other words, but that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't rock. Listen to "The Hair Song" and you'll get the idea.
Today was one of those weird weather days – insufferably humid throughout the day until the haze and muck bled into some wickedly ominous and dark horizon clouds. This was primarily the scene driving down I-90 westbound on my way to the Beachland lalast night. I suppose there really couldn't have been better weather patterns for the Black Mountain show. A wave of pinks and heavy purples lit the night sky over the Lake Erie shore, and Jagjaguwar's finest, Black Mountain, brought the sludgy mixture of psychedelic rock anthems that capped off a pretty oppressive day with equally cerebral and lip-curling rock.
I've often alluded to the chemistry of Amber Webber and Stephen McBean vocally. There is a decisive distance between the two and this back and forth evokes much of the band's harrowing stage presence. The band rolled through as much of 2008's In the Future as time would allow. The 7+ minutes of "Tyrants" and the epic jam session that "Druganaut" turned into, managed to leave the band with about 7or 8 nuggets of wailing perfection. "Wucan" was one of my favorite tracks a few years ago, so this was a treat to see in a live setting. McBean stomps on the pedal and sends it into overdrive halfway through. It translated perfectly in the darkened quarters of the Beachland. Most tracks did, and whether it was soloing, the synth-wizardry of Jeremy Schmidt, or the smoky reverb of Amber Webber, each piece was orchestrated brilliantly. There were a lot of Clevelanders that headed to the Black Keys show down the street, but the fairly packed crowd spoke volumes about our growing scene here. Two packed venues, two great bands. A rowdy fan shouted, "Cleveland likes Black Mountain more than the Black Keys!" McBean shot back with, "We'll have to tell Mr. Auerbach about that one." In any event, scheduling bottlenecks aside, the hour and half was well worth it. By the time they slowed it down a little with "Stay Free," folks were locked in and ear drums were pulsing.
I suppose the best way to substantiate this review is to mention that I went to this one solo. No, peanut gallery, I do have friends, but half our crew decided to go the "other" show in town, and I think I made the right choice. The clouds above Cleveland dissipated while I was indoors, but the sullen and retro psych sounds of this quintet were just enough to lift this Clevelander out of the muggy haze. Enjoy our concert footage of "Evil Ways" and the killer six-minute jam session of their "Druganaut" rendition. Fuck the Cadillac commercial. This is how it's supposed to be done. (Concert photos below the vids – Pardon the amateur photography).
Nearly one year ago today, James and I snuck up to the front of the side stage at The Pitchfork Music Festival to catch Jagjaguwar's newest flagship band, Women, for their stripped down and fairly mellow set. Their self-titled 2008 release received quite a bit of critical acclaim, and I'm a fan of the eclectic arrangment with solid-body rock core of most of their tracks. The band is releasing their sophomore effort, Public Strain (produced by Chad VanGaalen), the last week of September. The initial taste, "Eyesore" has me completely in a conundrum. Women always manages to foster the brooding sense of darkness in me, while keeping me completely addicted for more. "Eyesore" is the closing track of the record and has me fairly excited to see if the first part of the album toes the line in this direction. If so, this is going to be an excellent follow up.
You’ve no idea how stoked I am about this new Besnard Lakes album. Their last full-length release, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse, was my co-favorite album of 2007 (along with Unsparing Sea’s A Cloud in the Cathedral), and while I’m admittedly a man prone to superlatives, I sincerely cannot think of an album that has a better eighteen minute start than what you’ll hear on Dark Horse.
So how do they top this? I mean, can you top an album that was already a top record of the year winner? I don’t know, but if you can, putting out a concept album about spies and counter-spies, novelists and violent gods of rock, all set to the backdrop of a ferocious war that might not actually be taking place. Oh yeah, and it was recorded at frontman Jace Lasek’s own Breakglass Studios on a vintage Neve germanium mixing console that freaking Led Zeppelin used when making Physical Graffiti.
Now whether there are any future equivalents of tracks like “Kashmir,” “Houses of the Holy,” or even “Black Country Woman” remains to be seen, but if “Albatross,” the new record’s first single, is any indication, 2010 will be a banner year for The Besnard Lakes. (Providing the soundtrack for Mark Ruffalo’s Sympathy for Delicious, set to screen at Sundance, doesn’t exactly leave the band yearbook wanting for content.) “Albatross” starts with tension, a slightly out-of-tune hard guitar gradually and gently slipping through the fuzz to the right note and softer hum, before vocalist Olga Goreas comes in with what could have been a super-slow 70s girl group melody, though you’d be hard pressed to totally find it behind the wall of artful feedback the band puts up. Eventually, the grinding crescendos the band has become famous for emerge with the last 1:40 of the song storming to an immediate intensity that holds until the abrubt end of the vocals and a slightly more lingering instrumental fade.
The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night, the Montreal quartet’s third full release, drops on March 9th via Jagjaguwar. It will be awesome.
Good stuff keeps rolling into our electronic mail boxes, so we thought we’d hit you with a double dose of the Singles Club today. Given our fascination with all things DeYarmond Edison, we’ve been pretty deeply anticipatory about the upcoming Volcano Choir record, Unmap, which features Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame and the cats from Collections of Colonies of Bees. The tracks on the upcoming record were layed to tape before For Emma, Forever Ago was in the can and, allegedly, Vernon got a big old dose of creative energy from the sessions. Given all this, we’ve long assumed that the record will be awesome and have been itching to get our grubby fingers on it. The record hits shelves on September 22, but Jagjaguwar just unloosed the first single, “Island, IS” into the universe today.
The track does not disappoint. The complicated layers of mildly frenetic percussion and rhythm behind hushed vocals, the killer breakdown at the 2:30 mark that emerges into a slightly more triumphant and the overall sonic excellence of the track are going to knock your socks off. If the rest of Unmap is this good, we’re, almost certainly, going to have coverage on the record as the release date approaches. We’re stoked. You should be too.
All of the Memorial Day festivities left us at a loss for words this morning. All three of us had plenty to do Monday and we weren’t in any position to get any album reviews up today. It also happens to be a crazy time of year in the public school employee world. Kids are freaking goofy and all of the last minute meetings and end of the year nonsense unfortunately take precedence over the blog. We’ve got to keep our day jobs for now, so we’re going to have to suck it up and do what bossman asks of us until the early parts of June. That said, if you happened to show up this morning and saw the same post up as yesterday, you get our deepest apologies. Thanks to JagJaguwar dropping this lovely email to us this afternoon, we’re back in the saddle. You’re going to like this track.
Founding members of Black Mountain, Amber Webber and Joshua Wells are pumping out their second Lightning Dust effort, Infinite Light, on August 4th and the label released “I Knew” for the blogosphere today. It’s no secret how high I am on both Pink Mountaintops and Black Mountain (I can’t stop spinning the PM album), and one of the major reasons is Amber Webber. Her smoky vocals are top notch in the released track and we’re excited to snag this album early as it’s supposed to be a bit more lofty and full than their first release.
The press release uses the term “musical theater” in describing the new album, and makes references to the inspiring sounds and breakaway from Webber and Wells’ minimalist debut. This has my interest piqued because I like Webber when she’s at her most tense and gritty, haunting behind crushing psychedelic synthesizers. Webber’s beginning to step outward on her own here, and this is apparent, not only in her croons from the new Pink Mountaintops release, but also in the more full and lively sound of this newest release. The undercurrent is a thumping instrument (please leave a comment if you know what it is) that rises into a sludgy synthesizer that keeps this song completely out of the pop realm. Webber warbles and sings her guts out up close, not far away and distant from her other projects. This is her animal and she’s doing it well. Look for more coverage on the the release as it nears and enjoy the tune. Or, if you live in one of three cities, check out Lightning Dust in one of these three places. They’re gearing up for a tour in the fall to promote the album, so we’ll get you those dates when they release them.
5/26 – Denver, CO – Hi-Dive w/Cotton Jones
5/27 – Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court w/Cotton Jones
5/29 – Seattle, WA – Triple Door w/Cotton Jones
Steve McBean is my homeboy. Dude spits out records of worth each and every time. I’ve been with Black Mountain since the beginning, and had the first Pink Mountaintops release in 2004. I bought into it just as much as BM. The lag time between Black Mountain’s eponymous debut and In the Future would have been a much more grueling marathon without the Pink Mountaintops work McBean released. A prolific artist, I suppose, is one who can span multiple genres and create noteworthy art without sticking to securely defined parameters. What’s so refreshing about Pink Mountaintops is that parameters are not even closely defined within its own outfit. Artists typically use the side job as a way to explore new boundaries and sounds. I’d argue, however, that Pink Mountaintops is a successful animal without discussing Black Mountain. Even without the enormous success of his mothership, and although both projects essentially began around the same time, McBean continually impresses with each Pink Mountaintops release. He’s a musician at the top of his game, and Outside Love will prove just that when it’s released on May 5th.
Each Pink Mountaintops release has been a touch different, stylistically meandering as McBean invites casts of friends and family to incorporate psychedelia, folk, and even good old rock n’ roll into extremely divergent tracklists. However, Outside Love, sonically, reads more like a giant narrative, and not many of the songs shift too greatly in style. This is not to say that the album is all one song and doesn’t vary, but the overall vibe on first run through is that of a grand fuzzy and folky story of the ups and downs of love. There is big, epic sound on the entire record and emotional tracks span beginning to end. “Axis: Thrones of Love” is the first track, a dreamy envelope of fuzz and growl, setting the tone for the stylistic aura of the rest of the record. McBean has lots of dudes and damsels playing alongside him here, and the cacophony of sound is so tightly arranged it almost sounds simplistic. Big Timpani drums and an overriding synthesizer really create a lot to digest in one song. This is a major success.
There are a few portions of this record that fuse 50′s sound with late 60′s psychedelic rock but somehow manage to make it sound completely modern. “Execution” is a snare drum heavy track with an upbeat rhythm catchy choruses. It’s important to note here that songs like this would never appear on a dark and brooding Black Mountain album. The female vocals in this duet are much more crisp and clear, as Amber Webber’s voice in BM is always distant and tense. ”While We Were Dreaming” is another dreamy track with smooth and smoky vocals. Webber is crooning with McBean on this one, and I think that’s why I dig it so much. “Jesus ain’t coming, so don’t waste your time.” It starts off with a more electrified finger picking and halfway through a fuzzy synth whips into play. The track is slow and beautiful, and not to be missed.
The press packets all say this is an album about the themes of love and hate, and press releases sometimes do not lie. There is a healthy dose of the euphoric and growling angst from top to bottom. “Holiday” begins with some cool southern harmonica and lyrically focuses on an intense Summer. On the outside, the song is immediately catchy and a sunshine ambience is catapulted at the listener. A closer look reveals pain lyrically, as McBean pines “I’ll never let the bastards fight back,” and “bulletholes through the walls of summer, god damn, what have we done.” The sound is incredibly complex, almost as if Black Mountain met The Pogues in an alley and created angry psychedelic ballads together. Weird, but entirely awesome. “And I Thank You” is a cathartic half-country track with slide guitars and keyboard wizardry. As mentioned, most of the album is about reflection, and this one departs completely and focuses on looking forward. “I ain’t livin’ no long lonesome nights. I’ll stop calling that woman my wife.” The sharp taste of pain is often mixed with the exhilarating feeling of emotional freedom. McBean is definitely my homeboy.
There are many things to love about this album. I find it entirely intriguing to compare the Pink Mountaintops work with Black Mountain, although both are completely separate successes. Outside Love is primed for major acclaim, and if I could write for three days about it, I would. There are touches of darkness here, splashes of color there, and a giant list of influences at work. Most of McBean’s work gets tagged with the Pink Floyd references, and that reference is entirely well founded, as so much is at work that one listen is not enough. Pre-order this thing whenever you get the chance. “Vampire” is the southern-fried indie track we’re asked to share with you, but to understand the sonic spectrum, you’ll have to wrap your brain around the whole thing.
Well, it’s official: we really, REALLY wish we were in Austin at SXSW right now. Sure we’re having a great time here in the Midwest listening to records and everything, but at the same time it breaks our hearts knowing that we are missing out on quite possibly the greatest event of the year for music geeks such as ourselves. Between keeping up with all of the updates on Twitter and the other blogs, we almost feel as though we are there in spirit, but somehow that doesn’t quite cut it. Unfortunately Citizen Dick was no more than a glimmer in our eyes around the time we would have needed to be planning our travels and applying for credentials, which means we will have to wait until next year to make our pilgrimage to the land of all-day rock shows and BBQ joints. In the meantime we are going to keep plugging away with the reviews, bringing you the best new music we can find and looking forward to CMJ in October.
Up first today is Mazes, a local Chicago trio featuring Edward Anderson and Caroline Donovan of 1900s (another stellar Chicago band) along with friend Charles D’Autremont. I honestly love this record so much I almost don’t even know where to begin. I found these guys while playing around on eMusic earlier this week (as you may have noticed by now, I spend a lot of my free time doing this) and was hooked after listening to just a few of the 30 second clips. Obviously I downloaded the full album immediately, and it took only a single listen for it to instantly jump to the front of my list of best releases of 2009 thus far. A culmination of numerous sessions over several years, this self-titled debut album is an absolute masterpiece from start to finish. And given that some tracks were laid down in a matter of hours while others are the product of years of tinkering, it is absolutely incredible how cohesive and perfect the finished product truly is.
The Mazes sound is predominantly low-fi Americana with a 70’s AM gold vibe to it. It is the kind of music that suits itself so perfectly to listening on vinyl that I find it somewhat tragic that I have been listening to mp3’s. I imagine myself listening on a dusty turntable on a Sunday morning from the comfort of my log cabin while reading a newspaper with a cup of coffee and whiskey. Yes, this is the kind of music that takes you to another place in your mind and makes you feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy inside. And though the tracks sometimes shift between folk, country, and psychedelic, they all share an amazing balance of polish flaw; somehow finding perfection through imperfection time and time again. At its heart, the album is everything music should be and nothing that it should not. The songwriting is incredible and it is complimented beautifully by the array of instruments and harmonies strewn across each of the 11 tracks. Songs like the hypnotic “Cat State Comity”, the folky “Face Down on Forest Roads,” and the rich and delicate “I Have Laid in the Darkness of Doubt” are absolute gems. Top to bottom, this is timeless music that will sound as great in 30 years as it does today and likely would have 30 years ago. I really don’t know what else to say other than this is by far the best album I have heard this year and I very strongly suggest that you go out and buy it.
Next up in the grab bag is a Canadian super-group of sorts, Swan Lake, comprised of Daniel Bejar (Destroyer, New Pornographers), Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown) and Carey Mercer (Frog Eyes). Now Before I go any further, I have to make a bit of a confession: when I first listened to this record I had no idea who was in the band, I only knew that it was good. This is an incredible oversight on my part for a few reasons, the first of which being that when I looked through my older mp3’s from a few years ago I realized that I actually own their debut album, 2006’s Beast Moans. The second reason being that my initial thought was that they sounded an awful lot like a cross between Wolf Parade and Destroyer. So as you might imagine I felt like an idiot and a genius at the same time when I finally realized that Bejar and Krug were the masterminds behind the group.
Getting to the music itself, I think it’s fair to say that the album plays out exactly as a Bejar/Krug/Mercer collaboration should. Its both eclectic and genius, and the vocals are unique and powerful. After going back and listening to their Beast Moans, Enemy Mine (available 3/24 on Jagjaguwar) is far more cohesive and structured. Nearly gone is the wild dissonance and it has been replaced with layered melodies and intricate nuance, making Enemy Mine far more of a collaborative endeavor between the three artists. But with such distinct voices taking the lead on different tracks, it’s easy to pick out who is who. In some ways, it’s almost like listening to a mix tape that alternates between Destroyer and Wolf Parade tracks. Not a bad thing, and if anything it is a testament to how well the three musicians have come together to create a complete and full sound. For your listening pleasure, check out “Spider,” which is very clearly a dark and introspective Daniel Bejar tune, but be aware that to really appreciate the album you will want to purchase it and listen to the whole thing.
For this week’s vault entry, we will be visiting out third continent of the day: Australia. No, today’s featured band is not Men at Work nor is it Midnight Oil (though “Beds Are Burning” was an outstanding track). Hell, it’s not even Silverchair or AC/DC. Nope, today’s band is Architecture in Helsinki and the track is “Maybe You Can Owe Me,” from their breakthrough 2005 album In Case We Die. For me, this track sums up everything that is great about indie pop music. It’s expansive and dreamy, and although the melody and structure are incredibly intricate and delicate it exudes an air of fun without pretense. This song made it onto almost every mix CD I made in 2005 (which was a lot), and after listening to it again today there is a good chance it will find its way onto a few mixes again this year as well. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Odawas’ new LP, The Blue Depths, really starts to make sense about three and a half minutes in the third song, “Our Gentle Life Together.” The first chunk of the song shares a distant genetic ancestor with Radiohead’s “No Surprises.” It’s one of those things that isn’t overt, but the first minute of the Odawas song sound like that track in the same way that my hand looks like a dolphin’s fin. The song slowly build, adding elements, most notably a haunting cello, until the weight of all the elements collapses; with a minute and change left, everything drops out of the song, leaving only and ethereal keyboard, laying down dreamy and soothing chords. A piano starts to pick out a few notes, way underneath the synthesizer wash and the song drifts away into the ether. This sound crystallizes the album for me; there are several variations on the general theme, but those drifting chords are the thing the album hangs its hat on.
Odawas make pretty cerebral music; in the wrong hands it could sound uber-pretentious and self-serious. While it’s an album that employs a lot of electronic sounds, it still carries a ton of feeling and authenticity. All this to say that the album is composed of elements that could sound mechanical and snobby, but instead feel homespun. It’s a weird bit of cognitive dissonance ad makes the album a rich listen. Clever touches like the echoing and briefly used handclaps in “Sound of Lies” and the wickedly distorted guitar solo in “Secrets of the Fall” give the album a distinctly human thumbprint. The apparent dichotomy is nicely distilled on the band’s website, where they list the members as follows: Isaac Edwards – keyboards, patience, ears and beards, sounds and songs, Michael Tapscott – keyboards, guitars, vocals, harmonicas, dry skin, songs and sounds. That’s some funny stuff from a band that lists The Blue Nile as an influence.
Tapscott’s vocals are perfect for the sound that Odawas pumps out. It’s soothing but emotive. It’s another aspect of the album that dances on the border between wildly disparate ideas. He doesn’t work through a lot of tonal changes, but still conveys a sort of aching wistfulness that fits in with the drifting ambient sound. when Tapscott sings “I’m on fire” in “Secrets of the Fall,” he can’t be taken literally, given the mellowness of the delivery and the generalized calmness of the record. However, the lyrics still hit home; dude’s torn up. There are also times on the record when they manipulate the vocals a bit; on the opening track, “The Case of the Great Irish Elk,” it almost sounds like they’re pushing him through a Peter Frampton era vocoder, which, strangely, completely works.
There’s a lot of harmonica on the album as well, appearing prominently in three of the eight tracks. I’ve never really thought of the harmonica as a particularly flexible instrument, assuming that most harmonicas are going to sound like John Popper’s to a large degree. The Odawas harmonica, however, is a wildly different animal. In front of the bank of keyboards, it sounds like a French horn being played inside an oak tree; it’s an oddly familiar, but totally subverted sound. We’re used to harmonicas in front of blues songs; here, it’s in front of a completely spaced aural landscape. It’s one of my favorite touches on the record.
While the keyboard sound is omnipresent, the harmonica heralds another sneaky attribute of the record. There are a lot of different sounds beneath the more consistent ambient approach. Several songs feature an approximation of a dance beat and there are several where a piano leads the way for the things moving across the background. It’s one of those cases where the songs all sound like each other, but are recognizably unique. Odawas has a distinct sound that underpins most of what they do, but the album moves through some diverse modes.
Overall, The Blue Depths does not disappoint. We were fans of Raven and the White Night and were eagerly anticipating this new effort. Odawas have come through with another winner. You’re not likely to play it when you’re looking to get folks riled up, but it will almost certainly work to help folks cool out. It’s an ideal apres-club record. This and a ginger ale are a winning recipe for wrapping up an evening.
“Harmless Lover’s Discourse” – Odawas