Monthly Archives: October 2010

#316 ariel pink’s haunted grafitti – fright night (nevermore)

the kids used to knock incessantly at our doors every halloween, and because we never stock up on candy at home, our doors would almost always be the target of confetti abuse. it’s not something that you’d exactly miss, and i most certainly don’t since moving away, but it’s a memory that stays with me nonetheless. only this and nothing more. - dan.

mp3: ariel pink’s haunted grafitti – fright night (nevermore)

#315 ólöf arnalds – crazy car

I came to the music of Icelandic folk chanteuse Ólöf Arnalds on a soft-drizzle morning as if drawn in by a strange mysterious impulse, consumed by a desire to be lulled into dalliance with something unfamiliar and piercingly beautiful. And the brittle “Crazy Car”, one of the three songs Ólöf sings in English on her sparsely elegant second album Innundir Skinni, seems to fit the bill perfectly. The soft and haunting textures of this duet with compatriot Ragnar Kjartansson gently coax crumbs of meaning interpreted or reinvented out of everyday experiences – Ólöf herself has remarked that it is a bit of friendly advice delivered to a friend living in New York. Listening to “Crazy Car”, the song initially conjures up for me floating imagery of a young frightened hitchhiking couple and their secret meeting by the cemetery gates (or maybe I’m just getting way too much into my Milan Kundera readings and The Smiths all over again). Then through repeated listens, “Crazy Car” and the rest of Innundir Skinni lead you down new roads to a different geography altogether, some place near the dark back of time where a deluge of old memories fade into futility and settle into the sound of peaceful forgetting. - keith.

mp3: ólöf arnalds – crazy car

The excellent Innundir Skinni is out now on One Little Indian.

#314 twin shadow – slow

is there a point to pop revivalism beyond fashionable nostalgia? the music of george lewis jr, whose debut album forget was recently released under his twin shadow moniker, proves an interesting case in point. there’s always the fun (and if you’re honest some degree of self-elevating satisfaction) from picking out influences, even if (and intriguingly, particularly so when) these “roots” extend far beyond “your time”. when i listen to one of lewis’ songs like “slow”, i find it hard to call my response sentimental since many of his influences – let’s say joy division and the smiths, for starters – were making music way before my time. yet, my appreciation of and identification with it is hardly diminished, almost as if i was living out and remembering vicariously an era and culture i never was a part of. it’s a strange place to be at, but for me, an album like forget serves not merely as a call not to forget, but to be more aware of how we remember, as often through the memories of others. - dan.

mp3: twin shadow – slow

forget is now out on terrible records.

#313 wintersleep – baltic

A storm is coming. When you’re fascinated by post-apocalyptic themes, sometimes we forget that the precursors are every much as gripping. The only thing going through my mind as the guitars shimmer in, and the pensive bassline that snakes in, over the hypnotic forest of snare work, is that this world could very well end in the next five minutes, and it would be GLORIOUS.

Halifax rockers Wintersleep have done it again. They’ve somehow conjoured the spirits of the cold winds to bless their forays into songwriting. “Baltic” doesn’t so much sound like a song as much as it seems to be a chant or ritual as they welcome the crashing waves to come sweeping along the cliffs that protect our hearts. The mood is inexplicable: as you go under the spell they weave, the words take shape, they lose their form. Then, as Paul Murphy, who acts as shamen or spiritual guide, begins the next phase of his ritual, he evokes the darkest emotions to manifest themselves. “Let it out.. let it out of my head..” he said. - brian.

mp3: wintersleep – baltic

“Baltic” appears on Wintersleep‘s 4th studio album, ‘New Inheritors’ and is being released by The Tom Kotter Company. Vinyl bundles can be bought at their store.

#312 sharon van etten – love more

it’s such a joy watching a musician grow. when sharon van etten released her debut album because i was in love, i remember being captivated by her voice and simply amazed at how she managed to summon such fullness of expression in the subtlest ways, something i was naturally drawn to considering the record’s simple vocals/guitar format. epic, van etten’s newly released follow-up album, continues building itself around her voice as centerpiece, but daringly steps out towards a richer sound and a wider musical palette. there’s a stirring confidence too in both arrangement and delivery, most evident in the punchy stomper “peace sign”, a teaser perhaps for the shape of things to come. album closer “love more” finds her in more familiar territory, her meandering voice hauntingly close by, refusing to fade into the distance with every repeated verse reinforcing the previous one, tying together with such resolute melancholy an album that shows even further glimpses of what van etten is capable of achieving. - dan.

mp3: sharon van etten – love more

epic is out now on ba da bing! records.

#311 311 – grassroots

Just thought I’d be a bit cheeky with entry #311, since the band 311 was a big part of my growing up. They were one of the bands that saved me from spiraling too far down into the abysmal genre of music known as nu-metal. Yes, I did grow up in that era, and there were a few bands that I thought were cool.

Listening to 311 was like someone holding an intervention for your excessive lifestyle, and it was also one of my first forays into the realm of rap-rock. But genres aside, they taught me the importance of groove, taste within a pocket, and that if you didn’t try too hard to have fun, you would.

I love “Grassroots” just for that. It’s a supersampler of 311′s fusion of rock, rap, reggae and Santana-inspired blues. While you’ll probably need to listen to an entire album to get all of that, this number distills all the elements that work and filters it down to an exciting four minute ditty that’ll get your head boppin’ along because 311 has grassroots for your momma. - brian.

mp3: 311 – grassroots

#310 the radio dept. – a token of gratitude

This terrific tune starts off sounding like one of those random ruses to connect with someone, sated with lovelorn sentiments that one may come to identify (involuntarily) with in a pop song every now and again. On “A Token Of Gratitude”, this dance of identification is wrought by the transporting lilt of the keyboard-soaked music, deftly dissolving the thin line between dreams and romantic disillusionment as moody guitar melodies whirl in confusion.

For the sake of an easy introduction, I recently described, to an office friend (rather in haste I should add), The Radio Dept. as an indie rock band trying their hand at writing/performing Pet Shop Boys songs – a really tart description perhaps but not totally inaccurate. Then again, The Radio Dept. guys have long shown the aptitude for bending sound into wholly original dream pop of such wistful lyricism that the comparison does the Swedish band little justice. While the songs on their third album Clinging to a Scheme generally attain a newfound sense of immediacy, it is surely on the familiarly hazy echo of tracks like “A Token Of Gratitude” that older fans would most savor. - keith.

mp3: the radio dept. – a token of gratitude

Clinging to a Scheme is out now on Labrador.

music alliance pact – october 2010 issue

if we ever had an office (would anyone like to sponsor?), typewriter‘s new album indian head massage would be a mainstay on our shared music playlist. we’d also be sure to have their awesome cover art plastered on our walls. that’s probably how thrilled we are to have the band generously offer us an exclusive mix of album track “cry so well”, as our MAP correspondent brian koh shares:

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
TypewriterCry So Well (The Suntan Mix)
Ten years and three line-up changes later, Typewriter have finally released their labor of love, Indian Head Massage. Their debut album is chock full of well-crafted power-pop tunes and guitar riffs, whimsical lyrics and one of the most dynamic rhythm sections in the country. As a live four-piece, Typewriter shed all inhibitions to deliver a spine-tingling dose of forgotten melodies to awaken the senses, but on record they take the time to flesh out the minute details that make each song stand out. This level of songwriting should come as no surprise, since each member has been a part of Singapore’s indie music legacy, having played in such notable bands as Ordinary People, The Oddfellows, Electrico and Moods. The combined experience adds favorably to their songcraft, allowing Typewriter to truly step out from the behemoth shadow of their predecessors. - brian.

To download all 35 songs in one file click here

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#309 sufjan stevens – i walked

shortly after the surprise release of his all delighted people ep, sufjan stevens introduced “i walked”, a first taste for most of us to his new album the age of adz. when i first heard it, i must admit being disappointed with its sluggish pace and oddly chosen drum-machined beats. hearing it now in the context of the whole album, everything makes much more sense. after the cosmic electronic frenzy “too much” works itself into and the ballooning space-age anthem that inhabits the title track, “i walked” provides a much needed breather and bridge to the heavenly “now that i’m older”. more than that, though, it contextualizes the album as sufjan’s homage to royal robertson, the late sign-painter who spent the final two decades of his life as a recluse, creating apocalyptic-themed sci-fi comic art obsessively addressed to his ex-wife adell. with “i walked”, sufjan aligns his steps sympathetically with robertson’s, restoring in our consciousness the humanity of the man probably with “nothing left to love” but still desperately yearning for “the respect of a kiss goodbye“. - dan.

mp3: sufjan steven – i walked

the age of adz is out today on asthmatic kitty.

#308 les savy fav – clear spirits

I wasn’t all that sure about the latest Les Savy Fav album (their fifth) at first, to be honest, in spite of being quite a fan of their work over the years since falling hard for The Cat and the Cobra (1999). But that’s until I eventually got around to a proper listen to Root for Ruin the whole way through and was dumbstruck by the raw, tempestuous brilliance of “Clear Spirits”. Here is a very inspired choice to close the album with – a post-punk anthem that features each of the band members operating at their peak condition, driven by a stormy jet stream of Seth Jabour and Andrew Reuland’s dauntless guitars that threaten to swallow every shred of cynicism in its wake. And as ever, “Clear Spirits” is propped up by the wiry urgency of Tim Harrington’s expressive vocals, a mix of dark poignancy and unbridled enthusiasm that inhabits the erratic moods of someone darting in and out of painfully absurd life situations – hell yes, a phenomenal song fit for a reprobate’s résumé. - keith.

mp3: les savy fav – clear spirits

Root for Ruin is out now on Frenchkiss Records.