Monthly Archives: January 2009

#150 kanye west – street lights


as mark from unity song has rightfully pointed out, kanye west was sorely missing in my best songs of 2008 list. this was for the simplest reason that i’d just been too slow to get my hands on his 808s and heartbreak album released late last year (i’m just slow that way, but that’s how it is i guess). written and recorded in the wake of his beloved mother’s death and a relationship breakup, this album dwells emphatically on the expected themes of loss (and, yeah) heartbreak, not unlike its other distant predecessors like the mountain goats’ get lonely. the difference for kanye, however, is the trading of his accustomed mode of expression (rap) for what really is his strength as a musician (production). while the singles released so far, “heartless” and “love lockdown” represent this shift in terms of the emphasis on melody and west’s voice sung through auto-tone, other less noticed tracks like “street lights” seem to articulate his predicament most subtly but accurately, letting his ordinarily upfront personality take a backseat for once. i know my destination but i’m just not there, he repeats through the song, reminding us that ridiculously rich pop stars, like us, do feel lost and empty sometimes.

mp3: kanye west – street lights

#149 jenny lewis with the watson twins – rabbit fur coat


while the record industry remains obsessed with weeding out music piracy, engaging itself with a futile battle when it should really be looking towards how to best harness the potential of this digital age, it’s nice to come across forward thinking labels that embrace change rather than fight the inevitable. team love recently opened their online library, where each month different releases are made available for free download, no strings attached. it’s certainly a bold move, and one would question the sustainability of such a strategy, but the bottom line is, barriers between music lovers and their music are being broken. for me, that’s how i got listening to the debut album for jenny lewis from rilo kiley, backed up by the watson twins. production wise, other barriers are broken as well: lewis’ voice is recorded and mixed with such an unrivaled clarity and proximity that i hear her every breath in my ear. this intimate treatment works especially well in the title track, a sentimental piece walzing through lewis’ bittersweet tale of her childhood.

mp3: jenny lewis with the watson twins – rabbit fur coat

pay a visit to the team love library today!

#148 s.o.u.l. – soul part 1 and 2


since we got started on the topic/theme/genre of soul, i thought it might be a good idea to dwell a little longer on it. what is soul and how do you get it? one group that attempted to answer that question, or to at least present a practicing definition of it was the quartet from cleveland, ohio – s.o.u.l. (sounds of unity and love) with their song (yes, you guessed it), “soul”, a song notably sampled by dj shadow in “midnight in a perfect world”. as vocalist lee lovett spins his tale of meeting a man who’s gained the whole word but just can’t pinpoint what he’s missing in life, gus hawkins’ flute theme takes a life of its own, circling around that man and buzzing in his ear like a fly that just won’t go away. but it’s in the second part of the song where the action really is, when the band gives up playing games a delivers the punchline: you’ve gotta have soul! it’s as simple as that, really.

mp3: s.o.u.l. – soul part 1 & 2

mp3: dj shadow – midnight in a perfect world

for more about s.o.u.l., do check out a very well written article at

#147 nina simone – don’t let me be misunderstood


i was listening to lil wayne’s “dontgetit” a few days ago when i was struck by the nina simone sample that featured so distinctly. while it was used as a deliberate foil for his commentary on racial prejudice, simone’s original touches on a more universal theme of human fallenness. it’s not so much a cry but a plead for acceptance (i’m just a soul whose intentions are good/ oh lord please don’t let me be misunderstood), and one that’s drawn out repeatedly in agony and anguish, but never in exasperation. the song never seems to make any headway through its entire duration, with simone’s questions remaining rhetorical and never resolved. and yet, although her efforts appear to be in vain, one is won over by the sheer persistence of her requests and the vulnerabilty of her soul laid bare.

mp3: nina simone – don’t let me be misunderstood

mp3: lil wayne – dontgetit

do pop by to how marvellous for a very neat and comprehensive look at the available versions of “don’t let me be misunderstood”.

#146 the silt – come back to the willow


many have likened toronto experimental folk trio the silt to the works of will oldham (especially the singing), and jason molina (song structure). indeed, in their debut cat’s peak, released just last week on fire records, many of those comparisons ring true. however, the silt trades some of oldham’s mournful beauty and molina’s consistency for some experiments of their own. what strikes me most immediately in this album is the opening track “come back to the willow”, which starts off with a soulful groove sung along to with a buckleyesque falsetto that doesn’t quite keep to the pitch, yet never strays too far off either, aided kindly by very assuring harmonies. look out, though, for the surprises in between. they don’t ever sound like they belong, but they do keep the song in its precarious balance between pleasantry and dissonance, and treading that uncomfortable yet rewarding line between the beautiful and the ugly.

mp3: the silt – come back to the willow

cat’s peak is available now on fire records. do get your copy!

#145 the decemberists – the rake’s song


the songs of the decemberists have always been characterized by colin meloy’s unshakable urge to tell a story and tell it well, with a musical accompaniment that oscillates between the light-headed and the grandiose. but with each tale often comes a darker underlining that isn’t that obvious with the exception of some of their epics like “the mariner’s revenge song”. in “the rake’s song”, our first taste of their upcoming rock opera the hazards of love (due in march), this darkness surfaces in dominating both the words and the music. meloy adopts the voice of the young man who marries early, something that “whetted his thirst/ until her womb started spilling out babies” which then becomes the bane of his existence. while the decemberists have always sounded direct and immediate, they’ve hardly expressed themselves as aggressively as this, with a deep growling guitar prodding meloy to an eventual annihilation of his narrated family, and towards a twisted end with a haunting little twist of its own.

mp3: the decemberists – the rake’s song

#144 the sound of arrows – danger/m.a.g.i.c.


swedish duo the sound of arrows, signed not too long ago by our favorite labrador records, seems to have a prolific year ahead of them. following last year’s danger! e.p., this year will see the release of their m.a.g.i.c. e.p. (next week) and their debut full length puzzles and wonders in march. listening to the danger/m.a.g.i.c. pairing gives one a glimpse into the contrasted worlds of stefan storm and oscar gullstrand, a former house producer and orchestra musician respectively. the synthetic feel of their exuberant sound is reminiscent of the pet shop boys, especially with the slightly nasal vocals, but the more you listen to these songs, the more you’ll find traces of life lingering quietly behind the big beats and loops.

mp3: the sound of arrows – danger!

mp3: the sound of arrows – m.a.g.i.c.

#143 king khan & his shrines – don’t walk away mad


last year, one of the acts i never got about to checking out was the boogaloo sensation, king khan & the shrines. this year, i got my hands on their harder to find first album three hairs and you’re mine. and while i’ve been waiting to check out the new animal collective and antony albums, this gem from all the way back in 2002 has jumped the queue to become the first regular fixture on my stereo in 2009 with its maddeningly raw brew of garage rock with blotches of funk, soul, doo-wop and a-go-go. with hair down to its knees, it’s a sound that’s dated and steeped in the psychedelic concoctions of the 60s and 70s. yet, it remains relevant with its immediacy and unadulterated energy, a spirit captured perfectly in songs like “don’t walk away mad”, which boasts among others, a rather arrogant horn section.

mp3: king khan & his shrines – don’t walk away mad

music alliance pact (january 2009 issue)


i can’t believe it’s been a month already! in this issue, we welcome the new addition to MAP, romanian blog babylon noise. interestingly, some of the bands featured this time round have certain geographical references, such as australian band the middle east and icelandic band singapore sling. our own singaporean entry is “jaded afghan” from i am david sparkle. i also have the pleasure of announcing that i am david sparkle has been selected at the sxsw festival in austin texas this march, so those of you who are planning to go there, please do check them out. for our local readers, the band, together with their label kittywu, will be hosting a gig called to texas and back at home club on 31 jan to raise funds for their trip. do drop by to support them of you can!

without further ado, may i present to you the january issue of MAP. many thanks again to jason for organizing this.

AMERICAI Guess I’m Floating

Blind Man’s Colour came on our radar in late ‘08 with three excellent Animal Collective covers. With their debut album, Season Dreaming, coming out sometime in early ‘09 and Jimmy Dove as their first explosive single, they’ve got a good chance of becoming my favorite find of 2009 less than one month in. They’ve also got a free EP called Rainbow Faces which you can download from the band’s blog. Jimmy Dove is a MAP exclusive mp3.

Blind Man’s Colour – Jimmy Dove


We started the year listening non-stop to this brand new song by Bicicletas, a superb space-rock band that has been shaking the independent scene of Buenos Aires for some years now. 11 y 20 will be included in their forthcoming album Quema, which is released in March by Bingo! Records.

Bicicletas – 11 y 20

AUSTRALIAWho The Bloody Hell Are They?

I feel like Arcade Fire comparisons have been overused in music reviews over the past whenever, so I’m going to do my best to not compare The Middle East to Montreal’s finest. It’s tough though, because this Townsville, Queensland collective do fit the criteria, at least initially – a large collection of musicians (at least six, possibly seven) who create dramatic and climactic folk-ish anthems.

The Middle East – Blood

BRAZILMeio Desligado

Created by Guilherme Mendonça, Guizado presents instrumental songs ranging from jazz, alternative rock and experimental electronica, always sounding avant-garde. Their first album, Punx, was acclaimed by critics (including the Brazilian Rolling Stone) as one of the best albums in 2008. As well as Mendonça, who is a well-known trumpeter in São Paulo’s underground music scene, Guizado is formed by Curumin, Ryan Batista and Régias Damasceno, musicians involved with some of the most creative artists of the Brazilian alternative scene. Rinkisha, a deep and melancholic song, sounds like John Frusciante playing with Tortoise.

Guizado – Rinkisha


Yes, their name is horrible. And yes, this song borrows rather liberally from The Killers. But despite both of those things, if Parachute Penguin’s forthcoming EP, due out in late February, is anywhere near as good as this (or any of the other tracks on the outstanding EP the band released back in the spring), then it won’t be long until the band is playing arenas around the world. Hopefully they’ll stay away from those feathered jackets, though.

Parachute Penguin – Your Crimes

CHILESuper 45

Como Asesinar A Felipes (How To Kill Felipes) is the best way to understand what’s going on in Chilean hip hop music – cross-referenced music styles with deep and shocking lyrics. Former jazz musicians joined MC Koala Contreras and DJ Spacio to create an outstanding jazz-rap combo. Their self-titled album, released last year, has been described as the best Chilean album of the year by even mainstream media. And there is no doubt about it, no other band can take our minds, ears and bodies like Como Asesinar A Felipes have.

Como Asesinar A Felipes – En Busca De Un Nuevo Sueño

ENGLANDThe Daily Growl

Although the wait for Emmy The Great’s debut album has been long enough to make it seem like an indie-folk-pop Chinese Democracy, the good news is that First Love is finally coming out on February 2. This track is the first single from the album, released at the end of last year.

Emmy The Great – We Almost Had A Baby


The Notwist is probably better known abroad than in Germany. They come from the Bavarian city of Weilheim, where other famous bands – partly with the same members – have their base, e.g. Console, Lali Puna and 13 & God. The Notwist sound is built on the characteristic voice of Markus Acher and the discreet electronic background constructed by Martin Gretschmann.

The Notwist – Good Lies

ICELANDI Love Icelandic Music

Singapore Sling is a darkly, neo-psychedelic, avant-garage band formed in Reykjavik in 2000 by singer-songwriter-guitarist Henrik Baldvin Björnsson and lead guitarist Einar Þór Kristjánsson. The band is often compared to The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine. Martian Arts is taken from their fourth album, Perversity, Desperation And Death, released last November on the new Icelandic label Microdot.

Singapore Sling – Martian Arts


An intriguing upbeat rabble-rousing orchestral racket from a 13-piece Dublin band who have the horn for brass and blustery rock epics. Their debut Sun Music EP sounds like Arcade Fire jamming with Herbie Hancock.

Gran Casino – One Chance


Cascades, the debut album by Arnoux, blends melancholic synths and glitches with acoustic sounds and warm voices, portraying a delicate and touching liquid landscape.

Arnoux – Today, A Rainy Day

NEW ZEALANDCounting The Beat

Every May in New Zealand is NZ Music Month. Album sales and radio airplay figures of Kiwi artists soar and there is a celebration of local musical talent. For the past two years NZ music magazine Real Groove has issued a CD in May titled The Sound of Young New Zealand. One of the standout tracks of the 2008 edition was Monkey Eats Bananas, a song so infectious I’ve driven members of my household mad with repeated plays, eventually awarding it Song of the Year in Counting The Beat. It’s silly but incredibly compelling. Xylophone, electric piano, a nonsense lyric that doesn’t kick in until two-thirds of the way through the song, all atop a great rolling bass line. Princess Chelsea is about to release her debut album and Monkey Eats Bananas will be the first single.

Princess Chelsea – Monkey Eats Bananas


I Was A King is one of the Norwegian bands I expect will do very well in 2009. Frontman Frode Stromstad has a unique gift of creating addictive melodies with distinctive roots to the 60s. Distorted through the sound of the 90s indie scene, the result is I Was A King. On their self-titled second album, which received a maximum score in Norway’s largest newspaper, the trio is helped by artists such as Emil Nikolaisen (Serena Maneesh), Sufjan Stevens, Daniel Smith (Danielson) and Gary Olson (The Ladybug Transistor).

I Was A King – Weighing Anchor


After a few demos had been circulated, the rumour was that a cool new sound had awoken the sleepy local scene. With the appearance of No Love, the second album from Turbopotamos in 2007, the rumour proved to be true. With their refreshing compositions, Turbopotamos have been plotting a path that took them on to the same bill as REM and Travis in Lima last November.

Turbopotamos – Terrorize You/Disco Flor

PORTUGALPosso Ouvir Um Disco?

The Weatherman is Alexandre Monteiro, a resident of Oporto in the north of Portugal. Chloe’s Hair is the first single of his second album, Jamboree Park At The Milky Way, due in February, which he recorded with guest musicians. Besides being a musician, Alexandre runs his own independent record label, Poptones, and an arts collective company, Sublime. Thanks to The Weatherman, the MAP sites are the first in the world where Chloe’s Hair is downloadable for free. Obrigado.

The Weatherman – Chloe’s Hair

ROMANIABabylon Noise

Les Elephants Bizarres is an alternative band formed in 2007 in Bucharest. Not really like those big, apathetic creatures, these dancing, multi-coloured Elephants are a very fresh and vivid appearance in the Romanian music scene. Their concerts often stir up the audience and make them dance with their indie-pop-disco-punk motley sounds. You can download some of their other songs and watch live performances on their website.

Les Elephants Bizarres – Have No Fear


Glasgow-based Evan Crichton is a rare talent. He’s a singer whose songs have a timeless feel, perhaps because they are immaculately paced and seem to exist in a world and space all of their own. After a year-long absence, Evan has just returned to playing live with a full band set-up and the Scottish music scene is a better place for it. Holiday Time is taken from his debut record Bright Our Broken Days.

Evan Crichton – Holiday Time

SINGAPOREI’m Waking Up To…

The curious name of Singaporean band I Am David Sparkle is a literal translation of a famous Malaysian disco singer in the 80s called M. Daud Kilau. Their music, however, shows only a hint of that nostalgia. In “Jaded Afghan”, taken from their second album This Is The New, a carefully woven ambience is animated by an intriguing blend of beats and bleeps that moves back and forth in time. For me, though, what most subtly drives this track forward in the end is the sound of a gently wandering guitar, lightly treading but hugely moving, with slightly darker rumblings underneath.

I Am David Sparkle – Jaded Afghan


Once the male half of Bluedawn – Korea’s foremost folk/dream-pop duo – The Invisible Fish is now completely on his own. For those who know Bluedawn his music is still familiar, but he’s experimenting more and the songs are more personal. Not wanting to compromise with his new-found post-noise-folk sound, The Invisible Fish releases everything by himself and put out his second solo EP, Loss/Sleepless last month.

The Invisible Fish – Fallen

SPAINEl Blog De La Nadadora

From our point of view, Saioa has changed the concept of the singer-songwriter. She comes from the Basque land and her debut album, Matrioska Heart, was released in 2008 on the small Spanish label Moonpalace ( Her songs follow a folk pattern with influences such as Low and Leonard Cohen.

Saioa – Is It Possible


I can’t say enough good things about The Bridal Shop. They perfectly meld the sounds of electronic pop of the 80s with shoegaze of the 90s and indie from the 00s. In other words they’re the complete package. Their Peruvian label (I know that’s kind of a weird locale for a Swedish group) Plastilina Records ( deserves kudos as well for releasing some of the best indie-pop this side of Cloudberry. This song is from the band’s mini-album, In Fragments, out in February.

The Bridal Shop – The Ideal State

To download all 21 songs in one file click here:

albums of 2008 – best of the rest

so we’ve reached the end of our albums of 2008 review. i know i didn’t make it very clear at the start, but this sorta became a series for me to talk about albums i hadn’t featured very much so far (with the exception of beach house and bon iver, i guess, which i really, really couldn’t help but mention again). but if you’re curious, here’s the rest the albums i enjoyed last year, in no particular order, with links to my previous posts if i’ve featured them before:

man man – rabbit habits (whalebones)
sun kil moon – april
aspidistrafly – i hold a wish for you (moonlight shadow)
lindstrøm – where you go i go too
hercules and love affair – s/t (blind)
2562 – aerial (techno dread)
portishead – third (small)
the dodos – visiter (red and purple)
vampire weekend – s/t
forest fire – survival (i make windows)
brightblack morning light – motion to rejoin (oppressions each)
cut copy – in ghost colors (voices in quartz/hearts on fire, far away)
spiritualized – songs in a & e (don’t hold me close)
fleet foxes – s/t (white winter hymnal, he doesn’t know why)
school of seven bells – alpinisms (half asleep)
interbellum – over all of spain the sky is clear
ponytail – ice cream spiritual (celebrate the body electric)

air france – no way down (no excuses)
passion pit – chunk of change (sleepyhead)
crystal antlers – s/t (parting song for the torn sky)

the microphones – “the glow” pt. 2
pavement – brighten the corners

live albums
sonic youth, mats gustafsson & merzbow – syr8: ander sider af sonic youth
justice – a cross the universe

ok that’s it! time to head into 2009 proper!