As the last blurbs were really meant for October, here is this month’s installment. It is a bit frustrating that we really do not get a chance to dedicate time to everything we are listening to (and that things get by us – there is only so much time we have to do research), so we wanted to do some catching up. Again, apologies that we could not dedicate more time to these albums, but hopefully you will take the time to check out these artists. Here are six incredible albums, crossing three continents, two languages, and five genres. This is truly schizophrenic. And I sort of love it that way.
Karpatenhund: “Der Name dieser Band ist Karpatenhund”
From their first show at the Blue Shell in Köln, Deutschland (Cologne, Germany) in 2005, Karpatenhund (Carpathian Dog) has been on a roll creating music that combines elements of shoegazing, new wave, and power pop. Releasing their sophomore effort on 28 August 2009, “Der Name dieser Band is Karptenhund” (“The Name of the Band is Karpatenhund”) draws influences from current indie rock and 80s sensibilities, from both sides of the Atlantic.
One of the things that I really like about this band is that they sing in German; they have chosen not to conform to the normal cliché of singing in English for popular success. Of course, speaking in German will make them less accessible to Anglo-American markets, but the band more than makes up for it with their music. This is solid music; there is not a song on this album that is not infectious, as they hook you with their simplicity and straightforward arrangements. There are no gimmicks here; what you have is a solid pop sensibility of knowing how to put an album together. Sonically, anyone that is a fan of Blondie, the Cure, the Dandy Warhols, New Order, and the current post-punk revival will find something in the band they can become a fanatic over. The music itself, in much the same way as the music of David Bowie or Eurythmics, is very dramatic.
Fortunately, I have a nephew who was raised in Germany to help me through the lyrics, but I will say that there is no need to know the exact lyrics to get the empathic power of this album. This is a feel good album, about enjoying the visceral experience with a smile on your face and the tapping of your feet. Take a plunge and listen to this band – you will not regret it. Hot track: “Lost Weekend.” I love these kinds of tracks where a band throws everything into the mix, even aspects that are seemingly contradictory to each other. A dancy, indie beat, new wave keyboarding, sythnpop sounds, key arrangements close to polka, and post-punk bass and guitar riffs, this song is by far the most memorable song on the album.
1. Anfang (Black Box Recorder)
3. Notfalls Werde Ich Fur Immer Warten
5. Plastic Soul
7. Hier wachst nie wieder was
8. Bitte Bitte Bitte
9. Wie fuhlt es sich an?
10. Lost Weekend
11. Ende (Rauchen)
Keep up with Karpatenhund at their homepage and MySpace.
Check out their videos for “Wald” and “Notfalls Werde Ich Fur Immer Warten” from their Vimeo channel: Karpatenhund.
FYI: Their album is available at Grooves Inc.
Baddies: “Do the Job”
Hailing from Southend, Essex, the Baddies debut album, “Do the Job” (28 September 2009 in the UK, 13 October 2009 in the US as import), is most definitely stirring some heads. As part of the line-up for this years Leeds and Reading Festivals, the band is becoming known for their (post)punk influenced indie rock. The band is comprised of Simon Bellamy, Danny Rowton, and identical twins, Jim and Michael Webster, and together what they have to offer is vehemence. Though pretty much straightforward rock-pop, the album is full of quirky hooks and riffs and out of leftfield lyrics (“We all sleep better night if we open one eye…” from “Open One Eye”) that make it a standout in a scene with dozens of fly-by-night bands.
Many of the songs have the same intensity as early Siouxsie and the Banshees’ songs, such as “Mirage” and “Placebo Effect.” And in a world that keeps looking to the past for cues, especially in music, it is not going to be a surprise that you are going to hear other bands in their music, including the Futureheads and Talking Heads. And, of course, since the Baddies are not part of the hit parade, this is going to be seen as a band thing (while those with press/media support doing the same thing are elevated to deity status). But what is the true measure of a band’s success: the development and loyalty of a fan base, which the Baddies are easily amassing.
The talent of the band is not to stick to one formula – not like the countless of bands that sound like Joy Division or the Cure from beginning to start. Whether you are listening to “We Beat Our Chests” or “Who Are You?” each song is distinct. There is a feel of what you listen to is what you get live. Though I have not seen them live, word has it they all dress identically live (just look at the album cover); this may have been cute and novel in the 80s, but nowadays it is just a gimmick. And gimmicks are not what this band needs. These overly powered indie tracks speak for themselves.
1. Tiffany, I’m Sorry
2. Open One Eye
5. At the Party
7. We Beat Our Chests
8. Holler for My Holiday
9. I Am Not a Machine
10. To the Lions
11. Who Are You?
12. Paint the City
Keep up with the Baddies at the MySpace page.
From 9 March 2010 to 1 April 2010, they will extensively be touring the UK, hitting Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Leeds, Cambridge, Birmingham, Oxford, Brighton, London, Southampton, Bristol, Cardiff, Northampton, Sheffield, Newcastle, and Wrexham with the Joy Formidable. Check out their MySpace for more information.
Here is their video for “Open One Eye” from their YouTube Channel: baddiestv.
William Orbit: “My Oracle Lives Uptown”
William Orbit is one of those electronic musicians and producers that have really garnished my respect. Whether it is his work with other artists (most notably Madonna’s “Ray of Light”) or his own material, whether in Torch Song or solo, Orbit is one of the few artists/producers to consistently be turning heads and perking ears, with the ability to recreate his sound and tricks over and over again. Unfortunately, Orbit falls into the same pattern of veterans not living up to their potential on his latest release, “My Oracle Lives Uptown” (4 May 2009 in digital format, 8 June 2009 as a CD; digital format in the USA available, but a hardcopy is only available via import). Essentially, there is no major shift from “The Strange Cargo” series, but, nevertheless, Orbit offers up a sophistication and allure that has defined his career. By no measure is this album hackneyed or rubbish, quite the opposite. But knowing Orbit’s track record, an album that was six years in the making makes you long for more.
Many of the tracks were previously available in one format or other via his website. With many contributors, including the incredible Laurie Mayer, this album takes a few steps away from the ambient, but not far away enough to be called pop or dance. Other than “Purdy,” you are not going to be inspired to get up and dance, but this is not a bad thing. Orbit was not aiming at a club album, but rather a “party” album. And this hits the mark straight on. As for the vocals, they are arranged as nothing more than another level of sound. The vocals are never the core of the song, usually ethereal, and this is most obvious during “Neutron Star,” where voice is used not for words but for sonic effects.
Musically I was hoping for mind-blowing sounds, boggling arrangements, and a new chapter in ambient electronic music. But I realize that these were mine (and probably most critics’) expectations – this is no reflection on William Orbit’s vision and final product. Nor is this album only background noise; it is as entrancing and rapture inducing as anything he has done before. But that is just it: Mr. Orbit has done it before and I still hold the hope that he is going to knock my socks off again.
3. Optical Illusions
4. White Night
7. My Oracle Live Uptown
8. Spotlight Kid
9. Neutron Star
10. Drift so Far
11. Golden Country
12. City Lights Reflection
Keep up with William Orbit at his homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.
Here is the video for “Optical Illusion” from his YouTube Channel: radioharp.
You Say Party, We Say Die!: “XXXX”
I remember the first time I came across You Say Party, We Say Die! I was at a Virgin Mega Store in NYC perusing when I came across one of their albums and thought to myself, “With a name like that, you best be a good band.” Then some guy, who had an eerie resemblance to Grace Jones with blue hair, said, “Great album! Love them!” And then started my affair with You Say Party, We Say Die! Their latest offering, “XXXX” (29 September 2009), is their third studio release since 2005. Combining indie rock with dance punk, YSP! WSD! is one of those infectious bands that becomes a guilty pleasure.
With a little less dance, and a little more rock, “XXXX” delivers some of the band’s most interesting music. Their best vocals till date, coupled with their best production till date, this album does not abruptly creep into a frivolous soundscape, but instead it generates a fluidic experience. My favorite track is “Cosmic Wanship Avengers.” It has a newfound sense of urgency, combining old style Devo-esque mentality. The most haunting track is “XXXX/Loyalty.” Definitely taking its cue from post-punk, goth rock musicians; the song’s sinister melodic keyboard sound, dark mood inducing guitar arpeggio, and vocal effects demonstrate that they have learned and perfected a few new tricks. And the closing track, “Heart of Gold,” is not a blowout finish. Instead, YSP! WSD! goes for visceral power.
“XXXX” follows the tradition of great Canadian song writing. Furthermore, “XXXX” may very well be the first album by YSP! WSD! that critical detractors will be forced to acknowledge as a strong, credible album. Solid craftsmanship, solid production – in my book, You Say Party! We Say Dance! have earned the right to have such a bombastic name for their band.
1. There Is XXXX (Within My Heart)
3. Dark Days
4. Cosmic Wanship Avengers
5. Lonely’s Lunch
6. Make XXX
7. Laura Palmer’s Prom
8. She’s Spoken For
10. Heart of Gold
Keep up with You Say Dance! We Say Die! at their homepage and MySpace.
Zero 7: “Yeah Ghost”
My friends are usually surprised when they find out that I am a fan of downtempo. Something about the ability to zone out to a great beat, some ambient sounds, and a killer groove that does it for me sometimes. And I am not going to offer up some grand philosophic reason for why “Yeah Ghost” (28 September 2009 in the UK, 29 September 2009 in the USA, 2 October 2009 in Australia) is the downtempo album of the year, but rather simply say that this is an incredible experience.
Essentially a duo (Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker) from London, Zero 7 employs various vocalists for their recordings and live performances: “Yeah Ghost” features Jackie Daniels, Eska Mtungwazi, Rowdy Superstar, and Martha Tilston. Binns also takes up the mantle of vocalist on the album. Notably missing from the mix is Sia Furhler. The album is definitely jazzier than recent efforts, but the folk elements are still there. “Yeah Ghost” definitely marks a new mindset for the band. Whereas before you could imagine the band producing music for a backdrop to an event or party or lounge, this album is the event. There are two standout tracks here, the first of which is sung by Eska Mtungwazi. “Mr. Mcgee” has some of the most soulful singing out there, while incorporating a jazzy bassline and upbeat percussion. The second is sung by Binns himself. “Everything Up (Zizou)” (a homage Zinedine Zidane) verges closer to indie dance than anything else and proves that Zero 7 is not a one-trick pony.
If you are in the mood to zone out to some great artistry, this is the album for you. Zero 7 definitely comes to age with “Yeah Ghost,” departing from long time collaborator Furhler does not hurt them at all; instead it has forced Binn and Hardaker to rethink their game plan and jump outside of the box that they have been trapped in the last few albums. Check it out.
1. Count Me Out
2. Mr. Mcgee
4. Everything Up (Zizou)
5. Pop Art Blue
6. Medicine Man
7. Ghost Symbol
10. The Road
11. All of Us
Keep up with Zero 7 at their homepage, MySpace, and Facebook.
Here is their video for “Everything Up (Zizou)” from their MySpace video page.
Everything Up (Zizou) [Joker and Ginz remix]
Zero 7 | MySpace Music Videos
Dappled Cities: “Zounds”
Hailing from Sydney, Australia, the art/indie rock, post-punk revival band Dappled Cities (formerly Dappled Cities Fly) released their third album, “Zounds” (15 August 2009 in Australia, 15 September 2009 in the USA). The title of the album caught my eye immediately, “Zounds,” and anyone who has read their Shakespeare immediately recognized the word, though may not have known what it meant. It was originally just a contraction for “God’s wounds,” that is, Jesus’ on the Cross. (The entire Trinity thing.) Soon, it would degrade into being an oath, like “For fuck’s sake,” showing surprise. And as I heard this album, all I could say was, “Zounds.”
Joined by a new drummer, this is definitely darker than anything they have done before, and there is a feeling of grandeur to it. But what I really like about the album is the fact that their sensibilities are as easily applied to eerie, post-punkish music as to an out and out pop number. “The Price” is a jewel in the world of pop. The song is mesmerizing but not cliché, luscious but not overpowering. It is the kind of balance that all pop (regardless if rock or dance based) should strive for. Furthermore, unlike so many post-punk revival bands out there, Dappled City is able to retain their own sound and not sound like one the veterans. Take the song “Kid” (I am so stuck on this track), you will find it impossible to pinpoint the archetype of this song, but why is that? Because unlike so many of the bands in the revival mindset, their musical references are greater in scope. This is not just post-punk rock and new wave references – but also in the mix is experimental pop, post rock, and I would venture to say some psychedelic 60s.
Perhaps this album really stands out because Dappled Cities are Australian. Australia has the advantage of having its finger on the pulse on the American and British music scenes, while having its own that most of us are oblivious of. It gives a band like Dappled Cities the ability to draw on many different influences, many different references, and create something that is distinct and fresh in a field that is often full of rehash and imitation.
1. Hold Your Back
2. Answer Is Zero
3. The Price
4. Wooden Ships
5. Slow for Me, My Island
6. The Night Is Young at Heart
7. Miniature Alas
8. Don’t Stop There
10. Middle People
Keep up with Dappled Cities at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.
Here is their video for “The Price” from their YouTube Channel: dcfhq.