Posts tagged ‘Animal Collective’

January 12, 2010

Graceland –> Contra

Contra

If you like Paul Simon’s Graceland you’ll like Vampire Weekend’s new album Contra, out today. And, that is a huge compliment to Vampire Weekend. Graceland was a landmark in a white guy perfecting afro-pop. I think Contra is stronger than their first album. “Horchata” basically is the best song to play for someone who hasn’t heard them. Vampire Weekend have their own “sound” for the most part, and that basically is breezy and playful. Tropical in possibly the whitest sense, with lots of blinky, bouncy percussion and plenty of strings and woodwinds. They use a lot of synths too, like the “horns” in “Run”. “Horchata” vaguely reminds me of Animal Collective in the beginning, because of the synths and because of AC’s own debt to world music. But, those marimbas are pure Paul Simon. If you listen to the guitar on “California English” or in the opening to “Cousins” you can really hear the debt to Paul Simon. At times Ezra Koenig, who has a sweet sounding voice, sounds like Paul Simon too. Listen to his vocals during parts of “Diplomat’s Son” or “I Think Ur A Contra”. They sample M.I.A. during “Diplomat’s Son”, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s on purpose during a song called “Diplomat’s Son”. M.I.A. being arguably the greatest artist right now in marrying various kinds of world music with modern hiphop and dance styles. With Contra, Vampire Weekend have clearly decided to embrace their idiosyncrasies. “Holiday” is almost carnivalesque with that guitar sound. The strings during “I Think Ur A Contra” are lovely, and during “Horchata” they’re bright and fun. I know it seems I’m being unfair to Vampire Weekend, but I truly think they’re very good. If you like one, Paul Simon or Vampire Weekend, check out the other.

Vampire Weekend – Run

Paul Simon – Graceland (of course)

January 8, 2010

Animal Collective – Brothersport video

This is the perfect Animal Collective video: Innocently trippy.

December 21, 2009

Dan Deacon sounds like Philip Glass

While sitting here listening to Dan Deacon’s new album Bromst, it occurred to me he sounds like someone. Philip Glass. Here’s a track from Bromst, and then a track from Philip Glass’ film score for Koyaanisqatsi. I think you’ll see what I mean. Dan Deacon uses a lot of repetition and uses wordless vocals on top of his music. Dan Deacon is a bit more chaotic than Philip Glass, and Glass uses much more live instrumentation. But, clearly Dan Deacon was influenced by him. This is not meant to be necessarily an insult to Deacon. Rather, if you like Dan Deacon and haven’t ever checked out Philip Glass, I greatly urge you to do so. Or, vice versa. Also, I think you’ll hear a little Philip Glass in Animal Collective as well.

Dan Deacon – Of The Mountains

Philip Glass – Pruit Igoe from Koyanisqatsi (Give this track about 2:30)

Also, here’s another Philip Glass track, from the film Powaqqatsi.
Philip Glass – Serra Pelada

December 10, 2009

25 Favorite Songs Of 2009

The xx


Every year I do a Top 10 Favorite Albums list. Frankly, I had a hard time listening to all the music I wanted to this year. This is partially due to it being an extremely strong year for music. It’s really one big cliche now, but in this day and age, I found myself much more listening to specific songs on my iPod, instead of whole albums. So, instead, I bring you the 25 songs I loved the most this year. I recommend all host albums as well.

1. Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes: For a long time I aggressively didn’t “get” Animal Collective, partially as a “fuck you” posture. This song was the key, because it’s an art-rave track. Art-rave. Merriweather Post Pavillion makes the rest of their albums make sense.

2. Annie – Don’t Stop: Annie does intelligent indie electropop, which she calls “pop with strange edges”. This song is one of three truly new songs on her 2009 version of the album Don’t Stop. The heavy (but not in your face) beat, the twinkling synths, the whole production by Paul Epworth add up to a pop song that doesn’t sound pop. Her breathy sweet vocal on top ties it together. Few singers can sing breathy AND with bravado like she does. That is why Annie is special.

3. Bat For Lashes – Sleep Alone: Natasha Khan mixes some Indian guitar, a huge bassline, a stuttering pounding beat, some maracas, synths, and her gorgeously sad voice for a bewitching track about her literally casting a spell to combat her loneliness. She deserves to be said in the same company as Kate Bush and Stevie Nicks, and I point to a track like this as proof. Except Natasha Khan can do beats better than most electronic producers.

4. The Big Pink – Velvet: The British do epic electronic rock better than anyone else, and this track comes in line with that grand tradition. Headphone filling.

5. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career: Phil Spector reverb. And Campbell’s vocals which say her maudlin career is over, but sound like it’s not. Yeah, that’s Camera Obscura. What made me love this song is that twinkling upward piano line that runs throughout.

6. Neko Case – This Tornado Loves Me: It’s a obsessed love song expressed by a personified tornado. And it breaks your heart. Enough said.

7. Delorean – Seasun: This house song makes the world feel glorious. It sounds like sunrise over an ocean. Such a thrill when that beat drops halfway through.

8. Franz Ferdinand – Live Alone: It’s just a classic FF track. Lots of swagger, great synth chorus that sends the song skyward, and lyrics that somehow make not moving in together sound totally awesome.

9. Girls Aloud – The Loving Kind: Co-written with the Pet Shop Boys. If the Spice Girls had had songs that sounded this effortlessly good to your ears, they might still be around. Girls Aloud knocked this song out on their FIFTH album. Girl group perfection.

10. Grizzly Bear – Two Weeks: If the Beach Boys were still together and went indie-rock.

11. The Juan MacLean – Tonight: Disco house epic. Easily one of the very best tracks out of the DFA house so far. It’s how I feel about going out in song form: Melancholy, but hopeful and glad. I’ve played the song many times driving fast down the highway on my way out or back home late at night. The trumpet solo 5:30 – 6:45 makes life feel infinite.

12. Lady Gaga – Bad Romance: The first 35 seconds dominate. Frankly, this is the peak of Lady Gaga. It’s her on all cylinders, and makes me believe she’s a contender despite her bullshit. Sure, rave has existed for 20 years, but she’s managed to bring it to the masses like few else. Oh, and “Ra-ra-ah-ahah-roma-ro-mama-ga-ga-ooh-la-la.”

13. & 14. Major Lazer – Hold The Line / When You Hear The Bassline: Diplo and Switch’s dancehall creation was my favorite driving album this year. Shit is hot. The first two songs are the perfect example of how you start a mix. Atmospheric spaghetti western guitars begin “Hold The Line”, then the dancehall beat hits, and Mr Lex and Santigold sound badass. Love that Nokia vibration sound. It really makes your head vibrate. “When You Hear The Bassline” turns shit way up with that pounding… er bassline. I’ll put these two songs, and the entire album, against any hiphop, dancehall shit you play me, and it’ll be hotter.
Hold The Line:

When You Hear The Bassline:

15. Monsters Of Folk – Dear God (Sincerely M.O.F.): Jim James, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst do some sorta trip hop sensual song. As a letter to God. I saw them live this year, and this song is gorgeous live.

16. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – The Tenure Itch: This to me is the sweetest, prettiest track off their album. For a debut album, they did their My Bloody Valentine indebted (heavily) thing really well, and this was my favorite moment. A song this romantic and shy is why their band name is the best name they could have.

17. The Phenomenal Handclap Band – All Of The Above: From an album that sounds like it was recorded in the 70’s, I think I listened to this song the most because of the strutting bassline that kicks in 47 seconds in.

18. The Raveonettes – Suicide: Their In And Out Of Control album was the Raveonettes embracing the pop part of their, in my opinion, iconic style. Which is appropriate, given Lust Lust Lust’s embrace of their feedback part. “Suicide” blew me away, because it is the sweetest, prettiest singing of the word “suicide” that has probably ever been committed to tape. And, the lyric is “Lick your lips and fuck suicide”, for the record. Only The Raveonettes.

19. Saint Etienne – The Sea: This track comes from the double disc reissue of a 1997 album that was previously Japan only, called Continental. “The Sea” comes late in an album filled with Saint Etienne’s usual pristine take on house and pop. Suddenly, Etienne drop a drum ‘n’ bass track. And, it’ll stand up to any drum ‘n’ bass track you’ll play me. Such is the greatness of Saint Etienne.

20. Saint Etienne – Girl VII (Richard X Remix): Taken from Richard X’s Foxbase Beta album, a remix of Saint Etienne’s entire debut album Foxbase Alpha. According to the commentary track to Foxbase Beta (yes, really), Saint Etienne say they wrote “Girl VII” to represent their impression of the glamour of London. Richard X takes “Girl VII” to such lush heights, you feel the glamour all the more. It’s one track on Foxbase Beta that I truly prefer to the original. And, that is rare in a remix. Somehow Richard X recreates “Girl VII” into a 4:30 minute constantly evolving and changing beast, yet all the elements came from, and follow, the original track. Epic. Perhaps the best remix I’ve ever heard.

21. Sally Shapiro – Mircale: Like others, I wasn’t as enamored with My Guilty Pleasure as much as Sally Shapiro’s debut. That’s what happens when you create a debut that’s borderline perfect. But, this electro track will always rank as one of her best. It’s Sally Shapiro at her most muscular and anthemic. And, for someone as breathy and shy as her, it was a welcome surprise.

22. Britney Spears – Womanizer: Why Britney is Britney.

23. The xx – Crystalized: I’m a huge sucker for male/female vocals. The way The xx weave their vocals together on “Crystalized” is magical. They do the atmospheric, minimalist, dreampop thing so well, and listening to this track and its host album breaks my heart in the best way possible.

24. Yacht – Afterlife: Here’s some sing-songy jaded female sung funky techno indie guitar shit. I’m still waiting for The DFA to get their due as a label. People mention labels like Jagjaguwar, Secretly Canadian, and Saddle Creek. The DFA constantly shepherd incredible dance music, and I never hear their name mentioned unless LCD Soundsystem release music. Shame.

25. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero: Answered the question, “What if the YYYs added synthesizers?” Answer: Sound like the YYYs. Happily confirmed when the synthesizers become guitars after the first chorus. What a rush. They’re one of the very best bands we have right now.

May 8, 2009

Animal Collective – “Summertime Clothes” on Letterman

“Summertime Clothes” from Merriweather Post Pavillion has totally been my gateway song for Animal Collective. As I said in my last post, I’ve had a hard time liking Animal Collective. I owned Sung Tongs ages ago, and actually sold it to a used CD Store. But, Summertime Clothes is a hands aloft rave anthem. As they abundantly proved on Letterman last night. Fuck knows what those dudes behind them are doing.

May 6, 2009

Top 10 Favorite Albums 2009… so far

Yes, it’s only May 6th. That means 2009 has existed for only four months and some change. But, I can easily make a list of 10 albums that came out this year that I love. 2009 can end now. Most of the links below are to YouTube videos, and I hope you’ll click on them. In alphabetical order:

1. Art Brut – Art Brut Vs. Satan: Let’s face it, you listen to Art Brut for Eddie Argos, his blunt British voice and his acerbic lyrics. On Vs. Satan he drops more of his signature lines like “I fought the floor and the floor won” and “Why is everyone trying to sound like U2, it’s not a very cool thing to do.” Art Brut are a music geek’s band. Argos constantly recalls rock and roll’s history, and spends half the album talking about how much he loves music. How can you not love a band who writes a song called “DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshake”, which is about just that. Their music is deceptively simple, and seven minute final track “Mysterious Bruises” proves, to me at least, that they’re accomplished songwriters. Art Brut’s first album, Bang Bang Rock & Roll was a favorite of mine, but for some reason It’s A Bit Complicated didn’t quite connect with me as much. I can’t put a finger on what the difference is, but their new album is back to form.

2. Bat For Lashes – Two Suns: You can compare her to Kate Bush, Annie Lennox and others, but no one truly sounds like Natasha Khan. I see her witchy, mystic aesthetic as only continuing a great female tradition. Her voice is unique and powerful. Her way with rhythm and percussion, using tympani, shakers, bells, handclaps and whatever else is, in my opinion, her signature. I loved Fur And Gold, and I think this album is worlds better. “Sleep Alone” is my favorite song of the year so far, with its pulsing bassline, grooving beat, and vaguely Indian guitar. Khan was somehow able to impress Scott Walker enough to lend his voice to the theatrical closing duet “The Big Sleep”, and she stands shoulder to shoulder with someone I consider possibly the greatest living male vocalist. And, of course “Daniel”, which apparently is really about The Karate Kid character and amounts to a great new wave pop song that is in no way as cheesy as it sounds. I could say lots more, but maybe you should look at her performing “Daniel” and “Sleep Alone” on British show Later… With Jools Holland. That should convince you.

3. Camera Obscura – My Maudlin Career: This is what romance and heartbreak sounds like. If you like Camera Obscura already, you’ll know they’ve been building to this album. Much of My Maudlin Career is full on classical pop, songs like “French Navy” and Careless Love” melodically driven by strings. Other songs, like “Honey In The Sun” are horn and organ driven affairs. Their music is modern 50s and 60s pop, reminiscent of Roy Orbison, girl groups, and country. The album is produced with tons of reverb and echo, which gives it a dream-like quality. Traceyanne Campbell’s voice and lyrics are as sad and lovely as you could ever ask for. Example, “I know you mean well, yes I know that you do, but sooner or later you’re gonna break me in two” from “Towns and Cities”, later saying “Oh still I wanna tell you I love you best”. This album is how you imagine your heartbreak would sound if it were music. And, it should be played loud like you mean it.

4. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone: As I said in my earlier blog entry, Neko Case is an inventive, unique songwriter with arguably the best voice in music. Middle Cyclone is an emotional, dramatic album. It’s poetic and artistic. It’s organic and natural. “This Tornado Loves You” is one of the greatest love songs I’ve ever heard, literally told from the point of view of a tornado and a great metaphor for what love can feel like. She makes her covers of “Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth” and “Don’t Forget Me” her own songs. Her songs shift and change, like in “The Pharoahs” where it starts with one melody, and quickly shifts to a whole new melody. She does dark noir, like the sax laden “Red Tide”, or bright and fun like “People Got A Lot Of Nerve”. Really, she can do no wrong in my eyes. And yes, I even like to listen to the end track “Marais La Nuit” which is a 30 minute recording of frog song and night ambience.

5. The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love: I was pretty skeptical when I heard that the new Decemberists album was going to be their “rock opera”. I was pleasantly surprised, because I think this album is pretty fucking great. It continues the traditions of Pink Floyd and The Who. They even recall Heart with the vocals of Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) on “The Wanting Comes In Waves”. But, it sounds like The Decemberists. I barely know what’s going on in the story. Something about a girl getting kidnapped and some guy trying to get her back from a Queen? No? Oh well. It rocks, has harpsichords, strings, banjos and accordians. Like a Decemberists album. There are multiple vocalists and musical themes are repeated throughout, just like a rock opera should sound have. They really pull off the whole thing. It easily could have been a disaster.

6. The Juan MacLean – The Future Will Come: I listened to nothing else for two straight weeks. Like I said in my blog entry, I feel like this album is what the last 30 years of electronic dance music has led to. It’s fun, sad, and great to drive to.

7. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – S/t: Their feedback drenched guitars and precious male and female vocals will remind you of a few shoegazing bands. But, so what. Their debut album has 10 fantastic songs. From the drumless opening track “Contender” to the pounding “Be My Baby” drums of last track “Gentle Sons”, all you’ll think is that this is a great band to have around. Especially when they find time for the sweet brit-pop of the acoustic guitar driven “Stay Alive”.

8. Royksopp – Junior: Their third album is a happy medium between their debut, Melody A.M., and their second album, The Understanding. The pretty downtempo of one has been married to the pulsing electropop of the other. You have the pounding techno track “This Must Be It”, sung by The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, which they drop four songs into the album like they could do it in their sleep. Then the pretty whimsical pop of “Miss It So Much”, sung by Lykke Li (which reminded me how much I love her voice). The string epic “Royksopp Forever” starts off like an Air pastiche, but in the middle shifts into a gorgeous song befitting it’s name. Royksopp are known for being great producers, and this album sounds amazing. It’ll fill your headphones with clicks and whirs and synths, “True To Life” being a great example. I think ultimately what sets Royksopp apart is their music is fun to listen to, and it sounds like they had fun making it. After all, lead off song is called “Happy Up Here” and it samples the video game Space Invaders.

9. St. Vincent – Actor: I like this album more than her first album Marry Me. This album is lush with strings and woodwinds. Some songs groove, some songs float. Songs meander in different melodic directions at will, and at times will suddenly surprise you with sections of loud guitar and percussion. Annie Clark has a lovely voice, and the whole album is gorgeous to listen to. The more times you listen, the more you notice. She seamlessly and artistically mixes rock, jazz, classical, and electronica. There’s so much going on, and it just came out yesterday, so I really can’t begin to discuss specific tracks right now. You should see her live, she’s adorable and a great guitar player.

10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!: I can’t add much more than my previous blog entry. Provided they don’t break up for some reason, it’s safe to say YYYs are one of this generation’s greatest bands. I really never thought I’d enjoy string versions of YYYs songs as much as I do…

I feel I must comment on one more album:

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavillion: I’ve had a hard time “getting” Animal Collective. Each album is welcomed with tons of praise and love. And, I get that they’re talented, and I agree they have a truly original sound. But, their albums always have seemed like aural soup to me, with little for my ear to grab on to. Animal Collective mix folk, ambient, Beach Boys style vocals, psychedelic rock, etc etc etc. But, their newest album is a conscious effort to streamline their sound into four to five minute structures, and I have to say I really enjoy it. Especially “Summertime Clothes”, which is an actual electronic dance song with a great beat. Their music can be joyful, like “Brother Sport”, and they’re like a playful kitten you can’t help but warm up to despite how pretentious I think they can be. And, they can sing. I have to admit that. I’m going to have to give their earlier albums another chance now.

May 3, 2009

Music Snobbery

Much of music writing is surrounded by saying “____ sounds like / pays homage to / is influenced by / rips off ____”. I do it myself. I think it has value as a reference point, since music writing is attempting to put in terms of written language something that is aural. But, I think to get hung up on it as “_____ sucks because _____ did it first” only leads to denying yourself great music. I think at this point in history, 2009, there is little that has not been done before. No band or artist truly defies comparison anymore. Even Animal Collective, who are about as an original sounding band as you can find today, can be compared to the Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Orb, etc. Getting hung up on this kind of thinking is what separates a snob from someone who appreciates and enjoys good music. I think a term like “retro” is losing it’s utility. Music, whether from the 50’s or from the 80’s, is all part of the world’s collective consciousness now. The question is, do you find it enjoyable? You like the Jesus And Mary Chain. Great. The Raveonettes and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are clearly influenced by them, and have made enjoyable albums that recall their sound. Saying “I liked them better when they were called Jesus And Mary Chain” only serves to make you, who didn’t create either music, feel superior. All that ultimately should matter is whether or not you enjoy what you hear. I think most people, if they get past the nose aloft snobbishness, would realize that The Raveonettes take all their influences and write great songs. But, we all can’t be innovators in life. It’s insane, and probably leads to hypocrisy, to expect that of the music we listen to. To put a fence around the sound My Bloody Valentine pioneered, and say “no others shall drink of this well” would deny the world great music like The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. Talent is less subjective. I can’t write or play shit. After all, music is an art form and not all of us are artistically inclined. But, I think to simply define musical talent as “were you the first to create this sound” is far too strict and limiting. And, that is what you do when you dislike a band simply on the basis of “yeah, I liked them better when they were called ____”. Music makes the world a better, more bearable place. Snobbery only denies yourself a life enhancing, at times life changing, thing.

Finally, there’s a subtle distinction to be made between enjoyment and artistic appreciation. And, a lesson I had to learn in life is to separate the two. I had to stop caring if music I enjoyed listening to was also critically highly regarded. I enjoyed Britney Spears’ last two albums, but will I say she herself is talented? No. Think of it this way: I don’t like onions. People ask me, “How can you not like onions?” And, my only answer is, “They go into my mouth, and something in my brain says that I don’t like how they taste.” Music, in the end, is the same. Taste can be refined over time, especially if you take in more and more music. Perhaps if I ate more onions, more kinds of onions, I’d appreciate them more. It took a long time for me to appreciate Steely Dan. And, maybe all it took was a maturing of my musical palate. Yes, I just compared Steely Dan to onions. But, maybe I won’t ever like onions, just like I have never really liked The Cure. And, that’s OK.