09 October 2009

Catching up with Starlight Mints and Simian Mobile Disco

SDM and I were hanging out this past weekend, listening to music that, well, sort of got by us during the summer. As we are going back a few months here for these two, we realize that you may have heard the albums already and are not going to belabor the process. But we wanted to say a few words about the albums, because they’re unexpected gems in their own right. From indie produced in the American heartland to London DJs, these two acts are inspiring and a real distinct point of reference of a music scene that is becoming more and more cookie-cutter. Neither band fits a comfortable mold, instead giving a listener a different twist on current trends in music while infusing something unique to their sound. So we divided up the writing duties on this one, SDM taking Starlight Mint and I Simian Mobile Disco.

Starlight Mint: “Change Remains”

Hailing from Norman, Oklahoma, Starlight Mint released their fourth album “Change Remains” (21 June 2009), and I am regretting I let this one almost get by me. Opening with “Coffins ‘R’ Us,” this unusual instrumental just sucked me into the experience, but was my no way the style of what was to follow. And that is something I like about this album – it is not predictable. Highly crafted, meticulously arranged, every detail working together, yet what lies around the corner is always a mystery. The second track, “Natural,” takes a different direction; like many early new wave songs, there is a sense of awkward sensuality that dribbles through the music. After listening to the first two songs, you expect an entire album that is worlds away from their prior material, but that is not the case.

Like the Joy Formidable, there is club ownership here. Andy Nunez (drummer) owns Opolis, hosting local and national acts. Why is this an important fact? Because they see the musical scene unfurl in front of their very eyes. It is one thing to travel from city to city to play your own shows, but to have the capacity to see a plethora of bands and divergent musical ideas in the comfort of your own club, well that just allows for growth as artists. And that is the case here. This is a quirky album that incorporates a lot of different sounds and styles. From funk to electropop, the album is a jamboree of sounds, an orgy of fun, and an eclectic journey though sounds and styles that is unexpected. Though some of the songs may hearken back to their older style, what is different is how tight this album is.

One listen, and you are hooked. My favorite tracks are “Natural,” “Power Bleed” (urgent, poppy, and fun), and “Snorkel with a Turtle” (instrumental that is eerie, verging on dark). There is enough on this album that anyone can pick it up, listen to it, and enjoy. And that is what I recommend; this offbeat, zany album is one of those standouts in a mundane year of repetitious sounds. Don’t let it pass you by.

Track Listing:
1. Coffin ‘R’ Us
2. Natural
3. Paralyzed
4. Zoomba
5. Black Champagne
6. Power Bleed
7. Gazeretti
8. Sesame (Untie the Wrath)
9. Snorkel with a Turtle
10. 40 Fingers

Keep up Starlight Mint at their homepage and MySpace. While at their homepage, check out the Opolis page – good things are happening outside of London, New York, and Stockholm.

Here is the their video for “Power Bleed” from the barsukrecords YouTube Channel.

Simian Mobile Disco: “Temporary Pleasure”

Releasing their latest album, Simian Mobile Disco marks their sophomore studio effort with “Temporary Pleasure” (17 August 2009). I stumbled upon the band earlier this year when I heard “I Believe” from their debut album, “Attack Decay Sustain Release” and I was very much intrigued.

Simian Mobile Disco was formed in London as a traveling DJ duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw. Minimalist in their approach, this is the stuff that great house music is made of – tightly arranged music that flows easily from track to track. Whether instrumental or employing guest vocalists (Beth Ditto, Chris Keating, Jamie Lidell, Gruff Rhys, Alexis Taylor, Telepathe, and Young Fathers), the emphasis always lies in creating ambience. Employing some of the edgiest sounds, I am only wondering how much edgier the remixes are going to sound. Come on, they are DJs, they are not going to give up the best beats right from the beginning!

The lead single, “Audacity of Huge,” is by far my favorite song on the album. It has a killer beat, and is very club friendly; I could see people gathering ‘round and dancing to this song. The lyrics are fun to sing along to and are, at times, hilarious: “I got that crank drippin’ baby shoe, I got that grape Kool-Aid filled swimming pool, I got those Roomba robots that cleans the floor, I got that mother of pearl oyster fork for sure, I got that Tammy Faye milk money butterscotch, I got that Mama Cass, you know I got that Peter Tosh, I got it all. Yes it's true, so why don't I get you?” You may criticize their lack of depth, but the point is not philosophy; the point is to sing along and party – mission accomplished.

Simian Mobile Disco’s “Temporary Pleasure” is a fun album that everyone should check out. And now starts the process of getting those remixes!

Track Listing:
1. Cream Dream – featuring Gruff Rhys
2. Audacity of Huge – featuring Chris Keating
3. 10,000 Horses Can’t Be Wrong
4. Cruel Intentions – featuring Beth Ditto
5. Off the Map – featuring Jamie Lidell
6. Synthesise
7. Bad Blood – featuring Alexis Taylor
8. Turn Up the Dial – featuring Young Fathers
9. Ambulance
10. Pinball – featuring Telepathe
Limited Edition Second Disc
11. Flea in Your Ear
12. Are You in the Picture?
13. Babaghanoush
14. Do Not Exceed Stated Dose

Keep up with Simian Mobile Disco at their homepage and MySpace.

Here is their video for “Audacity of Huge” from their YouTube Channel: SMDTV.

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