Monthly Archives: February 2009

#165 the observatory – waste your life

obs

i was in b’s car last weekend, drifting in and out of sleep to the familiar sounds of singaporean band the obervatory‘s debut album time of rebirth (the band has gone on to two more impressive albums, with a new one in the works this year). it’s an album i’ve listened to through these years, and one with which i’ve formed many memories, in varying degrees of vagueness. i remember buying a copy of the demo from frontman leslie low after one of their gigs. i can’t remember where it was. some time later the song “ask” became the topic of a bet i made with debs, which i won of course. i remember the poh piah treat i got as a result, which was very good. strangely i don’t remember very much about the song “waste your life” in spite of how familiar it sounds, until i awoke to it in b’s car as the ambient intro made way to a haunting lullaby. at that moment, i felt the making of another memory.

mp3: the observatory – waste your life

time of rebirth comes in a lovingly handmade diary. you can order your copy along with the other albums at the observatory store. in related news, leslie low has a new album out called the ground, which is also comes as a beautiful handmade package. do pop by his website, where you can also download a free ep meandering loss.

#164 black lips – starting over

black-lips

black lips have a rather notorious reputation for their onstage antics, most recently incurring the wrath of indian authorities during their concert in chennai. in “starting over”, taken off their new album 200 million thousand released just yesterday, the band makes certain promises to change for the better, but when it’s delivered with the sloppiest of drawls, you know that it’s just a drunken promise to stay sober. the song itself is a curious animal, beginning with a nostalgic dreampop jangle and chugging along with a call-and-response garage harmony that invokes the black and white charm of the velvet underground’s “there she goes again”. everything about it is imperfect, and that’s exactly how things should stay.

mp3: black lips – starting over

mp3: the velvet underground – there she goes again

200 million thousand is now available on vice records. get it!

#163 elf power – a dream in sound

elf-power

i’m such an old fart. i woke up this morning, and thought about the new albums i’d finally get about to listening this weekend, but something else guided my hand towards my old elf power album from almost a decade ago. in the aftermath of the blazing trail of e6 contemporaries olivia tremor control, neutral milk hotel and apples in stereo, all reveling in the bombasticity of their three-word band names and the arguable peaks of their respective careers, the relatively understated elf power released a dream in sound. it was an album influenced in equal parts by the pop genius of the beatles, the saccharine harmonies of the beach boys, and the lyrical wit of the kinks. in short, it was a fantastic pop record, rivaling the other e6 pop masterpieces like tone soul evolution and dusk at cubist castle. this morning, listening to songs like “high atop the silver branches” and “jane” brought back memories from way back, sounding just as sweet as when i first heard them.

mp3: elf power – high atop the silver branches

mp3: elf power – jane

have a great weekend! see you next week.

#162 asobi seksu – layers

asobi-seksu

i’ve been listening to asobi seksu‘s latest album hush for the last couple of weeks now. while the first few listens sort of faded quite benignly in the background, often as relegated to a pleasant ambience with which i’ve gone about my other mundane activities, the album has started to come to life and develop a personality of its own. the overall sound has moved away from the band’s earlier shoegaze efforts to a shinier dreampop lustre, although if you listen hard enough, the hazy noise is really still there but tucked away subtly (like at the end of songs like “gliss” and “meh no mae”). most of the songs, however, are distinctly catchier and janglier, such as in the marching pop of “familiar lights” and the irresistibly endearing “me and mary”. it’s no wonder that understated beauties like album opener “layers” often end up neglected: i can’t really figure out what vocalist yuki chikudate is really singing in this one except for the cannoning chorus of “under layers”, but it sure makes for one of the brightest starts in any album for some time, with the enveloping warmth of a summer sun and the pristine iciness of a winter’s day.

mp3: asobi seksu – layers

hush is now out on polyvinyl. go get it!

#161 midnight masses – heaven

midnight-masses

music written and made while mourning a death makes such a powerful statement with the most personal of subject matters. so many times i find myself speaking of how i thoroughly enjoyed the arcade fire’s funeral, only to think later of how perverse it is to say something like that. the same dilemmas seep in when i listen to midnight masses, a collaboration between autry fulbright from dragons of zynth and jason reece of … trail of dead. fulbright had left brooklyn for his hometown in atlanta to spend time at the bedside of his father until he passed away, after which he traveled to austin to seek solace and comfort among his friends at …trail of dead. it was there that songs like “heaven” emerged, with autry’s grief buried deep under the voices of the gospel choir. it’s a treatment that never fails to tug at my heart, an art that the likes of damon albarn have mastered (“tender” and “don’t get lost in heaven/demon days”). the choir treatment lifts the song to a certain level of universality, but the real feelings of loss and mourning remain fulbright’s alone.

mp3: midnight masses – heaven

the heaven 7″ is currently available only on tour, although a digital release is slated for march. look out, too, for an ep this summer and a full length later in the year.

#160 dadamah – papa doc

krank002

i’ve really been digging up old stuff recently, and one of my favorite re-discoveries is the now defunct new zealand band dadamah. the band only played three gigs in their brief existence from ’91 to ’94, and released two 7″ singles and one ep. all these songs were quickly picked up then by the newly birthed kranky label (now firmly recognized as one of the best experimental labels) as their second ever release, which also turns out to be the last and only standing document of the band’s work. for a band this underrated, the music itself is sublime. most befitting of the band name, both their production and delivery rely on primal instinct. and while fellow countrymen the dead c (the only other nz band from that era and scene i’m familiar with) often makes for a heavy, seasick inducing listen (which i’m in the mood for only on some days), dadamah sounds surprisingly accessible considering their sonic palette. a great example is “papa doc”, which sounds exactly like an ian curtis/patti smith guest-duet for the velvet underground. don’t let this pass by you.

mp3: dadamah – papa doc

#159 a place to bury strangers – don’t think lover

place

with the pains of being pure at heart on heavy rotation on my stereo these days, i couldn’t help revisit some of my other shoegaze/noisepop favorites. one of the more recent bands to have caught my fancies these past few years (yes, years, not days or weeks. let’s keep some perspective on things, people) was a place to bury strangers, hailed by many as the loudest band in new york. i remember placing an order for their self-titled album once i heard about them and before i even heard their music. i love doing things like that. and i remember how the first three tracks blew my mind. while opening track “missing you” introduced perfectly the band’s taste for jarring noise and underlying melodies, and third track “to fix the gash in your head” was a glorified spasm-fest, my favorite was really the second track “don’t think lover”, which fittingly paid tribute to their heroes: check out the rude mbv-ish intro and the beautifully wretched jamc melodies for starts. i can’t wait for the next record already, and the day they become big enough that referring to them as aptbs will do, alongside tpobpah.

mp3: a place to bury strangers – don’t think lover