27 April 2011

Updates, Videos, and a Film

Okay … trying to settle into a smooth schedule of writing some reviews; up coming soon will be Arc in Round and Viva Stereo. Below are some videos, but first a bit about a horror film and festival.

Unbeknownst to me one of my colleagues and friend is an aspiring filmmaker. Now, I am a fan of horror movies, so of course I was immediately interested in his film, “Talon,” The film will be screened at the Pittsburgh Film Festival, 3 June 2011 to 5 June 2011. Below I have posted two film posters and his trailer (from the livingpeanut YouTube Channel) for “Talon.” Check out the posters and trailers, check out the information at the Pittsburgh Film Festival website (which will be screening tons of horror!), and consider checking out the festival.

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And now for videos … Enjoy!

Tom Vek’s “A Chore” from the TomVekVEVO YouTube Channel.

Esben and the Witch’s “Chorea” from the matadorrecs YouTube Channel.

The Victorian English Gentlemen’s Club’s “A Conversation” from their YouTube Channel: tvegc.

Everything Everything’s “Final Form” from their YouTube Channel: EvrythingEvrything.

The Pinker Tones’ “Invisible” from the Nacionalrecords YouTube Channel.

Elbow’s “Open Arms” from their YouTube Channel: elbowmusicuk.

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26 April 2011

France: “Grand Tour EP”

Our thanks to the band France for keeping us in the loop.

So I’ve always imagined myself being somewhere on a bright sunny day, wearing a pair of 3-D glasses and riding a bike while listening to something catchy and retro on my walkman (yes, I’m so bringing out the walkman for this one) as I see the palm trees float by in the skies above. Now imagine yourself being arrested by a Pig in huge sunglasses and short-shorts, who is always dancing to the same music you were listening to prior to your conviction. Of course that is something to pull out a few snickers here and there but let us get down to business; recently the band France put into our hands something wonderful, something that I will admit has had my head bobbing and my lips moving every time I listened to this EP.

Listening to the “Grand Tour EP” (21, March 2011) by the band France from, well, France, they come bearing with them tracks that are indulged with an essence of the returning era of the 80’s. France’s “Grand Tour EP” is as retro as my walkman from the prior paragraph; yet with this transcendent flow that they have developed it is not as retro as it seems but more or less a hallucinogenic and psychedelic (which by the way is usually an awesome mix) feel of space traveling and riding on that bike again. While listening to the EP for maybe the fifth time around since I’ve started the post I’ve realized the songs do in fact create a mosaic like essence that sends the ears on a visual journey and as it seems to me that journey is worth the listen.

The opening track, “Grand Tour,” is just like its name sake—literally a Grand Tour; while in the midst of listening to the EP’s title track I feel like there is a small capillary in my brain somewhere where that is also dancing to the constant current that is evoked in my auditory sense. Since this is the first song I can only be left with the belief that I have so much more ahead of me: there is a tiling idea that is much like the layers of a painting it is portrayed by the different beats that most seemingly are allowed to arouse one’s ears into thinking that they are literally on a spectacle of a tour.

Now to introduce the second track, “France de Transe,” which to those who do not know means “France Trance,” sure enough this song flows on like “Grand Tour” but there is a more techno-esque idea that elapses as the song continues on. “France de Transe” instantly reminds me of “One More Time” by Daft Punk and along the lines I also am urged to revert to my old music and listen to The Gorillaz, Röyksopp, and maybe even a little of Moby, with a little bit of Everything But the Girl.

Personally I feel that France is a group of really awesome composers because they lace their music like that of a map made of hands: it can be experienced visually while it is experienced via aural. The third track “Sur les routes de France,” which means “On the roads of France,” is actually my favorite track on the “Grand Tour EP”; I feel that is it as eccentric as it predictable. Truthfully it’s not too often that I can actually say I sat down and listened to this song and started singing it on the first go. And with that being said, I will return to my metaphor of how it is both unconventional and straight — I can have a sort of imagery that appears in my mind that I’m on that adventurous journey again but this time the bike is no longer under the sky, rather the sky is far below. There is a spacey feeling to this song and with that I feel like I am watching the entrancing Visualizer show on iTunes or Windows Media Player and thus is why I elected this track as my favorite, because despite its speedy entrance you eventually slow down because the vocals are very calm and deep, which could at the same time be quite manipulating and alluring.

And for the final track France hands to us “14 Juillet,” which again for those who do not know, means “14th of July”; in this track there is a robotic choir that illuminates the mental stage and literally helps slow down the song despite the slower pace of the beats that are conveyed. This song creates a blindfold for the mind and behind that fold is the constant revolution of the moon and its eight different phases.

Ultimately France’s “Grand Tour EP” is like an allowance into a parallel world, thus allowing it to be a wonderfully composed EP. With its eccentricity and flowing transformations throughout the album leaves me saying that “Grand Tour” is a MUST listen to, and there are no ands, ifs, or buts about it. If you are a listener who feels like taking a mental day off, take a swing around and listen to France’s “Grand Tour EP,” it is a journey that won’t be forgotten.

Track Listing:
1. Grand Tour
2. France en Transe
3. Sur les routes de France
4. 14 Juillet

Keep up with France at their MySpace and Facebook. For a list of vendurs of where to purchase the “Grand Tour EP,” please refer to the following link.

Here is the audio clip of “Sur les routes de France” from their YouTube Channel: franceentranse.

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22 April 2011

Four for April

I am finally back from a much needed holiday and escape from reality. When I finally sat down to start writing again, what I became seriously conscious about was that there were albums I never got to. I have tried to avoid doing reviews with multiple artists, but for the sake of expediency, that is what I’m going to do now. This is not a reflection on any of these artists or their work – it is simply a reflection of my lack of time. (I’m also learning to shut my mouth about upcoming releases I am excited about, as I have been disappointed quite a few times over the past few months.) Though I do not plan to make these brief “four” reviews a regular feature, I think there will be at least one later this year down the road. For now, welcome to the worlds of Brothertiger, The Chapman Family, IAMX, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. Enjoy!

Brothertiger: “Point of View EP” (14 February 2011 in the USA)

One listen to “Point of View,” it is more than obvious that Brothertiger is more sophisticated than most electro/synthpop bands. The brainchild and moniker of John Jagos, Brothertiger weaves traditionally 80s influence electronic music with a bit of downtempo and chillwave. Where the music may not be dance ready in a non-remixed form, it is seductively loungey and trippy. I still cannot get over the opening track, “Real Life”: it is somewhere lost between swanky lounge and Art of Noise, and this is an incredible space to be lost in. With an Erasure-esque bassline, Jagos’ vocals, like Bell’s of Erasure, adds to the soundscape, and not simply sung above the musical arrangements – and this is something rare in electronic music! “Back To Us” slips into an electro new romantic style ballad, while “Even Glow” moves closer to dance with the bassline and melody sections, but continues to chill with its electro-beats. In “A House of Many Ghosts,” various ostinati, vocal samples and effects, and ambient key arrangements conspire to create a truly updated, contemporary take on sythnpop. Four tracks and only one thought/question at the end of listening: when is the full-length album coming out?

Track Listing: 1. Real Life 2. Back To Us 3. Evening Glow 4. A House of Many Ghosts. 5. Lovers (Casa del Mirto Remix)

Keep up with Brothertiger at their MySpace and Facebook. Also, check out John Jagos’ blog presence. Go over to the band’s Bandcamp page where you can preview and purchase past releases. Head to iTunes (USA link) where you can preview and purchase “Point of View EP.”

IAMX: “Volatile Times” (18 March 2011 in the UK, 22 March 2011 in the USA)

Considering that I am one of those that really loved 2009’s “Kingdom of Welcome Addiction,” I was anxious to finally hear IAMX’s fourth album, “Volatile Times.” In photographic terms, prior to “Kingdom,” emotions were always expressed in over-exposures; with “Kingdom,” there was a sense of preciseness and perfect focus and exposure to the emotional anxieties and urgencies. I had no reason to believe that “Volatile Times” would be any different.

“Volatile Times” continues to be more precise in terms of the visceral, but musically Chris Corner (the man behind the moniker) has returned to a broader and more eclectic collection of soundscapes. However, this genderfucker has set the expectations really high with “Kingdom of Welcome Addiction,” and I can see people saying that “Volatile Times” does not meet their expectations. Well, I agree; if you are looking for another “Kingdom,” this is not going to float your boat. But, if you take this album at face value … just for a moment, imagine it is a debut album by a new band … it is one of the strongest albums released this year. Contradiction? No.

The music in not only more introspective, such as “Fire and Whispers” that combines gritty and crisp electronic sounds, the volatility that sometimes follows failed contemplation is so perfectly captured, especially in “Music People” – as the song slowly seeps towards a close, it becomes cacophonous, as it speeds up and the drums/percussion take over the arrangements. Furthermore, as seen in the lead single, “Ghosts of Utopia,” Corner is stepping away from the traditional synthpop / new wave revival and moving towards darkwave, sans all that etherealness that darkwave revivalists are so found of lately. The album closes with the epic “Oh Beautiful Town” – “In the floorboards under insolent feet, I left the hopscotch to my parents retreat with words of goodnight in the back of my head, words of desperation on my tongue: good night father, goodnight mother. I used to awake.” Lyrically, cynically twisted as the best of them (Gore, Murphy, Reznor, Sioux, Smith), musically beautifully, anxiously sad and sensual. No, this is not “Kingdom of Welcome Addiction”; “Volatile Times” is more sophisticated, more intricate, and more artistic. Think a bit outside of the box (even if you are a fan already) and take a serious listen to this album.

Track Listing: 1. I Salute You Christopher 2. Music People 3. Volatile Times 4. Fire and Whisper 5. Dance with Me 6. Bernadette 7. Ghosts of Utopia 8. Commanded by Voices 9. Into Asylum 10. Cold Red Light 11. Oh Beautiful Town [12. Avalanche (deluxe edition) 13. Ghost of Utopia video (deluxe edition)]

Keep up with IAMX at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is the video “Ghosts Of Utopia” from their YouTube Channel: iamx.

The Chapman Family: “Burn Your Town” (22 March 2011 in the USA as import)

I have friends who have been waiting for the release of Chapman Family’s debut, “Burn Your Town,” for a few years now; straightforward, thriving indie rock, this album was definitely worth the wait. It is obvious that the music on this album is meant to be experienced live and that static recording can only hint at the power of the music. The lead single, “Anxiety,” lives up to its name: anxiously guitar driven music, with fretful lyrics: “And they say our best isn’t good enough.” This may very well be the perfect mantra for anyone living in these economically and socially repressive times.

To give credit to my friends, they noted a certain post-punk influence on the band. This is most obvious in tracks like “1,000 Lies,” which may have been influenced by listening to a bit too much Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees (which of course is a good thing). But this brings to the forefront something that was sadly missing in the 1990s: the bridge between the alterative rock/grunge world with that of the post-punk, dream pop/shoegaze world. This kind of mergence is most apparent in “Something I Can’t Get Out.” But this, of course, brings something else to mind. The Chapman Family not only has a large range of musical references that may not always be compatible, they also have a wide range of styles at their commands. I only have one question: what else do they have up their sleeves? (By the way, the band should release the punkish “Kids” as their next single!)

Track Listing: 1. A Certain Degree 2. All Fall 3. Anxiety 4. The Sound of the Radio 5. 1,000 Lies 6. She Didn’t Know 7. Something I Can Get Out 8. Kids 9. Million Dollars 10. Virgins

Keep up with The Chapman Family at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their videos for “All Fall” and “Anxiety” from their YouTube Channel: thechapmanfamilytv.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart: “Belong” (29 March 2011 in the USA)

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart was one of the first bands that I reviewed on the blog (link), and I remembered making an offhand comment that their eponymous debut album would be something more welcomed in Europe than America. Noise pop, traditionally, has been more successful overseas, not to mention twee pop and the current shoegaze revival (no, I will not call it nu-gaze; when you consider the vast majority of these bands, there is nothing new here!). “Belong,” the sophomore album, is another story altogether. This time around, the band concentrates on their pop sensibility – their catchiness and hooks. Bands have one of two trajectories. In general terms, like Radiohead, they can go from highly accessible to esoteric, or, like The Cure, go for esoteric to accessible; The Pains of Being Young At Heart have obvious gone the latter route.

Flood’s sophisticated production style is all over this album, but most apparent in “The Body.” To Flood’s credit, he can polish and refine any song while keeping its primal urgency intact. Though we continue to hear the influence of The Jesus and Mary Chain (“Anne With An E”) and slight echoes of My Bloody Valentine (“Girl of 1,000 Dreams”), the references are broader: a bit of dream and synth pop in “My Terrible Friend” (my favorite track on the album) and alternative rock of bands such as Smashing Pumpkins (“Heart In Your Heartbreak”).

Was this album an obvious shift to garnish more American attention? I can’t answer that, but I can say that it is no sophomore slump. In many ways “Belong” is superior to the debut album (a blasphemous comment to some, I know!). What the album has going for it is to take all of their quirky references and distill them into something new, fresh, and accessible.

Track Listing: 1. Belong 2. Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now 3. Heart In Your Heart Break 4. The Body 5. Anne with an E 6. Even in Dreams 7. My Terrible Friend 8. Girl of 1,000 Dreams 9. Too Tough 10. Strange

Keep up with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

Here is their video for “Heart in Your Heartbreak” from their YouTube Channel: thepainsofbeing.

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08 April 2011

Video Time ... Part 2

As promised, here is the second installment of videos for the half of the month. Enjoy the videos and the weekend!

Wild Beasts’ “Albatros” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Matt and Kim’s “Camera” from their YouTube Channel: mattandkim.

The Salmon Fishers’ “From Ocean To Land” from the imetrages YouTube Channel.

Thirteen Senses’ “Home” from their YouTube Channel: ThirteenSensesTV.

Metronomy’s “The Look” from their YouTube Channel: metronomyofficial.

Gang Gang Dance’s “MindKilla” from the 4ADRecords YouTube Channel.

Duran Duran’s “Syon House” ["Before the Rain"] from their YouTube Channel: 07DuranDuran.

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07 April 2011

Video Time ... Part 1

So I have a bunch of videos to post over two days. Among the videos today is the return of the veterans The Human League (and of course I must get in touch with my sixth grade teacher again!) and PJ Harvey. Also, it is the return of Mexican indie band Hello Seahorse! Enjoy and see you tomorrow!

Art vs. Science’s “A.I.M. FIRE!” from their YouTube Channel: ARTVSSCIENCE.

Anna Calvi’s “Blackout” from the DominoRecords YouTube Channel.

Protest The Hero’s “C’est La Vie” from the vagrantrecords YouTube Channel.

PJ Harvey’s “Hanging In The Wire” from the letenglandshake YouTube Channel.

Kurt Vile’s “Jesus Fever” from the matadorrecs YouTube Channel.

Hello Seahorse’s! “Me Has Olvidado” from the Nacionalrecords YouTube Channel.

The Human League’s “Never Let Me Go” from their YouTube Channel: thehumanleague.

The National’s “Think You Can Wait” from their YouTube Channel: thenationalofficial.

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05 April 2011

Cold Cave: "Cherish The Light Years"

Can I start by saying that 80s synthpop revival is not restricted to the UK and Western Europe? Cold Cave, however, do not have their roots in the poppy synthpop tradition, are much closer allied to the cold wave branch of synthpop / new wave, and have tinges of punk rock and electronic body music. The second thing I should say is that “Cherish the Light Years” (4 April 2011 in the UK and USA as a digital download, 5 April 2011 in the USA as a physical CD) is the sophomore album, and as of yet I have not listened to the debut album, “Love Comes Close” (2009). I point this out because as I listened to “Cherish The Light Years,” I was free of any expectations or preconceived notions of what the band should be producing. And with every subsequent listen, I found myself just slipping in deeper and deeper into Cold Cave’s world.

I know little about the band, other than it is the brainchild of Wesley Eisold, who has amassed much experience in the hardcore punk / noise rock scenes. With a slightly revolving membership, Cold Cave currently also includes Jennifer Clavin and Dominick Fernow. But true to the punk ideology of not conforming to past clichés and norms, Cold Cave’s music is not hardcore punk, nor is it yesterday’s brooding cold wave; this is the new voice of nihilism in this crazy post-broadband revolutionized world. “The empathy of breaking chains, the sympathy in crashing waves, careful boy, caution girl, I do not think we were meant for this world” (“The Great Pan Is Dead”) muses the opening track of the album, which is only a hint of what is to come. Like the early post-punk rockers who laid down the foundation of goth rock, Cold Cave’s lyrics are a minimalist, stream of consciousness, full of poetic nihilism: “Stars explode, you dream below, oh god, a prayer and a broken home. You stare at a wall and think about your life, your brittle, little life” (“Pacing Around the Church”).

Musically, “Cherish The Light Years” is an eclectic range of musical references strung together through a dark cold wave medium. However, each song on this album is truly its own little soundscape. “Underworld USA” has all the makings of a great EBM, but even more nihilistic on a personal level than Nitzer Ebb: “They said the meek shall inherit the earth, oh God that seems like so much work…” “Alchemy Around You” infuses ska-esque horn moments. The experimental “Burning Sage” plays with rhythm arrangements, playing with the dominance of the electronic bassline with percussion effects and later disjointed beats. Over-and-over again, Cold Cave injects into their music more than one might expect, giving each song its own definitive sound.

My favorite track, “Confetti,” reminded me of every reason why I love new wave. The post-punkish guitar sounds, the piercing disco-esque synth arrangements, the perfect beat somewhere between rock and dance, and that matter of fact vocal style (both male and female in the chorus) all conspire to create a song that could easily be mistaken for a classic from the early 80s. What Cold Cave has stumbled upon, as demonstrated here, is the pop sensibility of such bands as The Cure and New Order, of Depeche Mode discovering their darker side. It is the ability, as they prove again and again, to take the darkest brooding, shake off the doom and gloom, and present a song that is at once “a matter of fact” and engagingly alluring.

Time to put the cards on the table; for someone who is growing tired of revival mania, why am I gushing over this album? First, Cold Cave is American, and there is something to be said about any American artist following what is essentially British / Euro musical traditions. Not just following them, but mastering them. Second, “Cherish The Light Years” is exquisitely nihilistic in a good way; this is not doom and gloom, but the despondency we all feel but never dare to articulate. And lastly, third, Cold Cave is all New York, where old is new and the traditional always has a wicked twist.

Track Listing:
1. The Great Pan Is Dead
2. Pacing Around the Church
3. Confetti
4. Catacombs
5. Underworld USA
6. Icons of Summer
7. Alchemy and You
8. Burning Sage
9. Villains of the Moon
10. Our Tears Help the Flowers Grow, iTunes Exclusive Track

Keep up with Cold Cave at their homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter. Check them “Cherish the Light Year” at iTunes (USA link) where you can preview and purchase the album (fall in love with “Confetti” as I have!).
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