Monthly Archives: March 2010

#257 trinkets – what letters failed to achieve

in an accelerated era of instant music floating about on countless electronic press kits, it feels so comfortable receiving something on the recommendation of a friend, and listening to it without having to deal with “recommended if you like” comparisons. all tom told me about trinkets when he passed me the old museum last night was that it was a band from brisbane and the music was “nice and mellow”, which sums up this album rather neatly. the band’s simple combination of guitars, violins, bass and drums is emotionally engaging with its keen sense of pace and space – crucial for an album recorded live, in this case at the old queensland museum. the last track of their set before their improvisational pieces, “what letters failed to achieve” seems to validate with both its title and content the role of instrumental music in stirring you in ways where words fall short. when things recede into an aching emptiness in the middle of the song, i hold my breath with the rest of the audience, urging the band on for that final flourish. - dan.

mp3: trinkets – what letters failed to achieve

the old museum was recorded in 2001. the band is currently on (extended?) hiatus, so you might want to check out the work of ben tolliday (pictured above) in the meantime.

#256 four tet – sing

i don’t profess to know very much about electronica or dance music, but as a keen observer, i do notice how much seamless transition and progression are prized in the genre. at the same time, i can imagine how boring such pursuits could end up, and that’s probably why i’ve arrived at such an admiration for four tet‘s there is love in you. his first full-length album in five years, there is love in you exudes a restful calm that’s blissfully unconcerned with achieving these objectives; yet, in all its assured elegance, it surpasses all expectations in creating great dance music that surely isn’t just going through the motions. album centerpiece “sing” demonstrates this so wonderfully: although it seems to rely on a typical house beat, the backbone of the track is really a chopped up digital ringtone with seemingly little ambition. the simplicity, though, works like a charm, especially when supported by an ever evolving array of intricate samples that sound absolutely gorgeous at any one time. - dan.

mp3: four tet – sing

there is love in you is now out on domino records.

galaxie 500 special – naomi wakes up to …

as a fitting finale to our galaxie 500 week, we invite naomi yang to share what she’s been waking up to lately. thanks naomi!

The perfect song to start the day is “A Tonga Da Mironga Do Kabuleté” – the live recording from 1971 by Brazilian artists Vinícius + Bethania + Toquinho. It is like a beautiful sunrise – although I think that the lyrics are actually some sort of political commentary disguised as a Candomble/Afro-Brazilian curse – but whatever! And then you should just leave the CD on, and listen to the rest of the album while you have your coffee. And you will have a great day. – naomi.

mp3: vinícius + bethania + toquinho – a tonga da mironga do kabuletê (live in buenos aires, 1971)

naomi yang was the bassist for galaxie 500. she has since been recording with damon krukowski as damon and naomi, and together they run the record label 20/20/20 and publishing house exact change. naomi is also a visual artist and graphic designer.

galaxie 500 special – summertime

this is the third part in our feature series this week on galaxie 500. tune in for a surprise guest post tomorrow!

Although Galaxie 500 sound more extroverted by their third album This is Our Music (1990), their lyrics still appear solipsistic. The words on “Summertime” seem to reference Godard’s Breathless, yet the textures of the song conjure up Macondo in 100 Years of Solitude – you could almost smell the dampness of the hot summer air and feel the sweat on your skin. It’s probably the way the song ambles along for the first half before transiting into an instrumental epic, and all the while there seems to be no resolution. The mood is at once relaxed and tense, and it feels like you’re trapped in some eternal time warp… “The heat is just delicious/And you know just what to do.” How cheeky, and just enough to reflect the self-assurance the band had acquired. It’s a pity this would be their last studio effort before they split, but it’s a worthy statement on the shape of things to come. - song ming.

mp3: galaxie 500 – summertime

this is our music will be reissued on vinyl for the first time on march 30 on ba da bing! records and 20-20-20, who are also releasing today and on fire. in addition, cd and digital versions bundled with other rarities are available for online purchase.

galaxie 500 special – when will you come home

this is the second part in our feature series this week on galaxie 500, in conjunction with the upcoming reissue of their discography.

Of all the many great epiphanic Galaxie 500 moments, “When Will You Come Home” is perhaps the one most vividly lodged in my memory for various reasons. It is one of the first by Galaxie 500 that I have ever heard to begin with, and I guess back then I was drawn immediately to the trio’s introverted charisma and the muted melancholy of this particular song’s lonely daydream. Even listening to it today, Dean Wareham’s trebly voice and fluidly tuneful guitars still resonate strongly as ever and place the song in a perpetual mood of nostalgic wistfulness.

Much has been said about how Galaxie 500 sounded like no other, as the band members (Wareham, bassist Naomi Yang and Damon Krukowski on drums) managed to develop, within the short spell of their five years performing together, an ethereal and very unique sonic template that transcends their web of influences – think along the lines of the Velvets’ city-cool rock and roll set to dreamlike slow suspension. “When Will You Come Home” perfectly distills Galaxie 500’s slowburning sound and fury into five and a half minutes of mind-expanding pop music, Dean’s scrabbled rumination on missing someone (“staring at the wall/and waiting for your call”) ceding midway to an atmospheric afterglow of spirally guitar feedback.

Like the rest of the songs on the seminal On Fire (1989), “When Will You Come Home” occupies a stark and immeasurably fragile soundscape that further deepens the air of dreamy romanticism that surrounds Galaxie 500 – a breath of hazy tranquility to remind us of the incandescent noise that these three musicians once produced together as a collective, and that this music shall always remain blissfully ours. - keith.

mp3: galaxie 500 – when will you come home

on fire will be reissued on vinyl for the first time on march 30 on ba da bing! records and 20-20-20, who are also releasing today and this is our music. in addition, cd and digital versions bundled with other rarities are available for online purchase.

galaxie 500 special – tugboat

this is the first part in our feature series this week on galaxie 500, in conjunction with the upcoming reissue of their discography.

my first encounter with galaxie 500 was with the rykodisc reissue of today (1988). the cover, featuring the whitewashed, romantic photography of eugene agtet, lay in elegant contrast to the understated immediacy of the album title. that, perhaps, foreshadowed the tension i was to love so much in their music, which invokes the dreamy nostalgia of an old photograph while sounding curiously straight to the point with its subtle exposition of the present.

album closer “tugboat”, the single that actually preceded the recording of the rest of today, captures that tension between dream and reality beautifully. the dizzyingly reverbed vocals of dean wareham starts off sounding rather detached from reality by rejecting an assortment of social expectations, but soon stretches out in all its surrealist glory, setting its sights on something higher and otherworldly: “it’s a place i’d like to be/it’s a place i’d be happy“. all too happy to oblige in sharing such lofty ambitions is the rhythm section of naomi yang and damon krukowski, which in turn keeps wareham’s dreamy guitars in tow towards that final destination.

a short-lived journey, though, lay ahead, but “tugboat” left a near perfect template with some rough edges to be refined over the next few years. - dan.

mp3: galaxie 500 – tugboat

today will be reissued on vinyl for the first time on march 30 on ba da bing! records and 20-20-20, who are also releasing on fire and this is our music. in addition, cd and digital versions bundled with other rarities are available for online purchase.

#255 vashti bunyan – wayward

During her set at the Esplanade Concert Hall last night, Vashti Bunyan lightheartedly introduced “Wayward” as a song she wrote about how she doesn’t quite enjoy doing housework. More specifically, this song off her wonderful second album Lookaftering (2005) seems to be written by someone coming to terms with domestic life but who still reminisces about being “the one with road dust on my boots”, the sentimental melody of “Wayward” quietly yearning for the idealized sense of wandering rootlessness captured on her now much-revered debut Just Another Diamond Day (1970). I can never quite pin down why this gentlest of folk songs always sounds so mesmerizing – perhaps it is Vashti’s wispy voice, the kind that so effortlessly captivates the mind, or it is the pastel shades of buried regret in her understated performance last night, ending the song with a simple lament: “All I ever wanted was a road without end”. - keith.

mp3: vashti bunyan – wayward

#254 kings of convenience – thirteen

last night’s king’s of convenience show was an evening to remember. although i wasn’t too familiar with their work (with the exception of their first album which i love very much), their amiable onstage personalities encouraged me to relate to their songs more as old friends than new acquaintances. i got that feeling especially with erlend’s solo performance of big star’s “thirteen”, a tribute to the recently demised alex chilton. it’s a song that treads on the nostalgic path of idyllic adolescence which the norwegian duo has done so well in capturing through their minimalist ballads, and even though it was my first time hearing it, i felt perfectly comfortable sharing in those vicarious memories. i don’t have any recording of that cover, so i thought i’d share the song in its original form, as well as a comparably moving version by elliott smith, who recorded this live favorite of his in his basement for a radio show in 1996. - dan.

mp3: big star – thirteen

mp3: elliott smith – thirteen

#253 parenthetical girls – evelyn mchale

Work (and non-work) has been driving me up the wall of late, but I get by with the help of strong, healthy doses of Parenthetical Girls. Their 2008 album Entanglements is one of my favorite things, and I always love how bandleader Zac Pennington is not afraid to revel in the group’s vault of orchestral influences, even if the elaborately arranged song suite may really annoy some. Their new Privilege, Pt. 1: On Deaths & Endearments EP is as enjoyable and boldly inventive as ever and “Evelyn McHale” – inspired by the young woman who jumped to her death from the Empire State Building in 1947, later to be immortalized as “the most beautiful suicide” in a Life magazine photograph – is a delirious piece of chamber pop, part shambolic Brill Building showpiece and part ode to misplaced martyrdom. Befitting its subject matter, the song’s atmosphere is one of sweet rapturous confusion, coiling in streams of unconsciousness as “those sickest insane thoughts” of Evelyn drift into silence. - keith.

mp3: parenthetical girls – evelyn mcHale

Buy Parenthetical Girls stuff at Slender Means Society.

#252 st. vincent – these days

nico’s “these days” is the definitive cover of the jackson browne song, and for good reason too. the strings descend upon you at the right moments just as the chanteuse’s rueful balladry ushers a scene of overcast skies. that was probably not far from annie clark’s experience when she heard that version off nico’s chelsea girls album for the first time in chelsea, of all places. performing last night at the esplanade recital studio as st. vincent, clark chose to end her set with “these days”, opting respectfully for a faithful rendition of nico’s version. however, while nico’s vocals presented browne’s lyrics in shades of ominous gray, st. vincent’s treatment offered a livelier texture that sounded lighter and dreamier though no less pensive, closing a short but sweet set with a touch of class. - dan.

mp3: st. vincent – these days