I can’t wait to listen to Love This Giant, the album-length collaboration between David Byrne and St. Vincent which will be out sometime next month. The band’s third album Strange Mercy (2011), a collection of kaleidoscopic art-damaged songs, is still on heavy rotation of course, and last weekend’s Summer Sonic 2012 festival in Japan provided us with the chance to get acquainted with the evolving music and lead singer Annie Clark’s intense stage performances. The mannered chamber pop of her debut Marry Me (2007) is a distant memory, ceding to wiry musical catharsis, manic guitar soloing and a choice post-punk cover (The Pop Group’s “She Is Beyond Good and Evil”). The studied subversion of “Dilettante” works particularly well in this context, the singer teasing out every twisted nerve and casual vacancy in the song like a sustained illusion: “I got no patience for an estrangement, anyway”. - Keith.
It’s hard not to listen to London producer Zomby in the context of the long wait for Burial‘s next (dub)step. The two seem to work best in elusive anonymity, and more significantly, both share an uncanny penchant and deft touch for creating electronic music in mournful and evocative tones. Yet, while Burial’s album work – Burial (2006) and Untrue (2007) – relies heavily on hauntingly intimate vocal samples, Zomby’s palette on his 4AD debut Dedication (2011) is broader and more scattered. That’s where the comparison gets a little unfair, since Zomby’s work seems more decidedly a work in progress in contrast to Burial, who always sounds like the finished product.
But if we take Zomby on his own terms, the moments on Dedication are absolutely stellar, each showing promise of a multitude of different possibilities, ranging from the energetic shuffles of “Natalia’s Song” to the dark minimalism of “Riding with Death” and the delightfully playful bleep parades of “Digital Rain” and “Mozaik”. And in the midst of all that, another surprise is found in the form of “Things Fall Apart”, featuring the familiar nostaligic chants of Panda Bear – the only track to feature vocals. Approaching the end of this concise album, though, we find Zomby settling into a more introspective element distilled into its purest form in “Basquiat”, a moving piano piece underscored by a breathlessly enveloping layer of strings, echoing in parts the nocturnal loneliness of Burial and who knows, maybe his own. - Dan.
Undoubtedly, the focal point in the music of Tune-Yards is Merril Garbus’ voice. Intense and disciplined, it channels an immense depth of emotion and state of being, expressed across a staggering hybrid of reggae, soul, jazz and folk influences. But it’s not the only thing worth listening to on Tune-Yards’ recent second album. Without sounding congested, w h o k i l l delights in musical complexity and rewards handsomely for each closer listen. On the standout slow-jam “Powa”, Garbus’ self-assured vocals prove unshakable, whether she’s cooing softly at the start, growling in increasing tension with each chorus, or breaking out into an impossible falsetto near the end. Yet it’s not difficult noticing the other layers that make the song what it is – the forceful ukelele strums, the angelic harmonies and evilish riffs, the luxurious reverb, and that wandering bassline that gratefully laps up anything in between. Its power inside, it rocks you like a lullaby. - Dan.
i usually prefer to listen to a record at least a few times over, just to let it sink in before i form an opinion. yet, on this evening which marks my first proper listen to deerhunter’s newly released halcyon digest, my resistance to hasty judgment gradually wore thin as song after song compelled me to work out a response, no matter how premature or fleeting or how wrong i could possibly turn out to be.
such is the disarming effect of halcyon digest. i thought i held my critical stance pretty well, but if i have to locate that moment i finally caved in, it has to be “coronado”. the deerhunter sound has always been a work in progress, a distillation of the post-shoegaze breakthrough they accomplished through cryptograms. but in “coronado”, as in so many other moments in halcyon digest, the ideas are given the time and space to crystallize, resulting in a clarity of purpose quite unparalleled in the band’s already-prolific discography.
“come on now, don’t leave me hanging“, pleads bradford cox at the start of the song’s second stanza, not long before we’re treated to a recurrent saxophone that’s never sounded better since mercury rev’s see you on the other side some 15 years ago. it works not just because it’s so well thought through, but more importantly because the band knows when to stop tinkering to keep things fresh. in a similar vein, i wish i could say more about the rest of the album, but that’s as much as i’d indulge myself after one (immensely enjoyable) listen. - dan.
Falling Down A Mountain, the eighth album by soundtrack specialist Tindersticks, kicks off with such a resounding piece of plangent lounge jazz that must whet the appetite of longtime fans, a rekindling of the wonderfully sophisticated pop sensibility that served them so well for two decades. This veteran British band, now regrouped with new members, have had a long and fruitful working relationship with French auteur Claire Denis – one of my favorite contemporary filmmakers and I’m really dying to catch her two most recent works 35 Shots Of Rum and White Material, hopefully in the theatres someday soon in Singapore – and it was acknowledged that the process of scoring these two films may have something to do with their newfound “sense of direction”. While it’s nowhere near as powerful as the second Tindersticks album (1995) or Curtains (1997), Falling Down A Mountain delves into a range of moodily baroque musical elements with a real sense of cohesion. On the album, “Black Smoke” bursts into strummy life with a touch of wistfulness, Stuart Staples’ blighted croon sounding smooth as ever and yet richly conflicted, even if that the song’s untapped reservoir of emotions is about as obsessively mundane as a masquerade of city dwellers thinning into the lonely evening. - keith.
in my opinion, camera obscura has always been a quietly confident band. on their newly released my maudlin career, however, that confidence has grown to assume a bolder and more extroverted character with a sound that’s more expansive and a delivery firm and entirely at ease with itself. nothing exemplifies this better than album opener “french navy”, a stomper bursting with energy and finesse. last year, the band gave the singaporean audience a glimpse of that as they previewed the song during their gig here, although as i noted before, they did seem rather dwarfed by the large, imposing venue. today, listening to “french navy” as it appears on the album gives me renewed hope of the greater heights the band can reach, and as evident in the song’s flourishing strings and smashing beats, it’s something they’re totally in control over.
rarely does an album capture so clearly and completely the atmosphere it was recorded and set in. in the same way how you can actually hear the freezing cold studio where joy division recorded unknown pleasures, bon iver‘s for emma, forever ago sounds exactly like the wintertime isolated cabin in wisconsin where justin vernon holed himself in to write and record this album. while vernon’s voice harmonizes perfectly with the sparse instrumentation of his music, what strikes me most are the perfectly timed silences that fill in all the nuances vernon leaves open. this gives the album a reassuring calm over much of the content, mostly characterized by the catharsis of songs like “skinny love” and “the wolves”, something that vernon makes clear only at the end in “re: stacks”: this is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization/ it’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away/ your love will be/ safe with me. it’s fitting that even these words are overtaken finally by a final period of silence, which if you listen closely enough, is really of him leaving the room and finally hanging up the phone.
beginning on a tiptoe, “in ear park” recalls the lightly sprinkled wonders of joanna newsom. but while newsom’s work evokes the faraway and magical, department of eagles remains within the realms of memory and the familiar with equally otherworldly effect. dedicated to daniel rossen’s late father, the album of the same title revisits rossen’s recollections of childhood, loosely situated in the park they used to frequent. with a theme of such personal significance and emotional heaviness, this song chooses romanticized nostalgia over grief, and as such does well to involve the listener in vicariously sharing the memories with much sensitivity and respect, while retaining the private space reserved solely for father and son.
i’ve taken a bit longer than others to get my copy of bon iver‘s for emma, forever ago, but i think the wait – while largely unjustified – has been well worth it. the album, released earlier this year on jagjaguwar, is a debut masterpiece never to be rushed into, but slowly savored and appreciated. recorded over a period of three months in a hunting cabin in northwestern wisconsin, it has an uncanny ability of absorbing its surroundings with its gentle presence and enduring companionship which grows with the familiarity of each listen. while the first recognizable highlight in the record is the invitingly immediate “skinny love”, the song that follows it proves to be a more sustained effort. “the wolves (act I and II)” begins on a measured and almost wary footing, which eventually gathers courage and momentum as justin vernon repeats with increasing conviction “what might have been lost/ don’t bother me”. it’s a refrain that invariably stirs and unsettles, especially when it finds company in the rousing clamor that supports it. but it all comes full circle at the end in what has been an emotionally draining but ultimately fulfilling journey.
the release date for deerhunter‘s follow-up album to last year’s commendable cryptograms has finally been announced to be 28 october on kranky and 4ad. bombastically titled microcastle, the album’s tracklisting has been confirmed as well, but interestingly leaves out “these hands”, which was leaked along with others in the album some months back. it’s a pity, though, as i really enjoyed that ambient, shoegaze track which seemed the logical progression from frontman bradford cox’s side project atlas sound. perhaps a loveless, understated beauty like this is best kept under wraps, or at least remain the little secret we share.
sharon van etten:
Lately, I have been obsessed with this band from Montreal called Automelodi. I work at a record label (Ba Da Bing Records) and my boss, Ben, is constantly getting new records in. He knows I have a soft spot for 80s/90s post punk/early electro, vaguely alternative music... and so one day, he put on a Wierd Records compilation. It was a vinyl set of like 4 pieces or something. There were so many good bands on there... however, Automelodi stuck out in my mind as being an authentic, genuine, NON-cheesy version of the 80s I wish I was a part of. The song in particular that gets me going in the morning is called "Schéma Corporel".
mp3: automelodi - schéma corporel
bani haykal from b-quartet:
often enough, it’s the early morning rush which gets me excited about shutting my eyes. and by morning, we’re looking at the 4 a.m. time frame where all you hear is yourself in a foggy blur, thinking if sleep is really all that important because the early few are storming off for work. in all honesty, there is no ipod nor a single earplugging devicetron which i’d attend to. often enough, it’s someone else’s sonic leak i’m getting addressed by. but, i’m listening to Steely Dan’s “Babylon Sisters”. in my head, at least. sanity ‘from the point of no return’, personally. it’s a breath of fresh air. despite its age. everything is beautiful then.
mp3: steely dan - babylon sisters
naomi yang from galaxie 500:
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.
mp3: vinícius + bethania + toquinho – a tonga da mironga do kabuletê (live in buenos aires, 1971)
jamie stewart from xiu xiu:
i have a nico button on my guitar strap and her excess eyeliner has been burning the dirge "janitor of lunacy" into my waking ears as of late, at least 20 times in the last week. until yesterday we have been on tour in scandinavia, russia, poland, austria, germany and czech. these grey locations held hands with her harmonium perfectly.
mp3: nico - janitor of lunacy
justin ringle from horse feathers:
i have been obsessively listening and waking up to this tune by gillian welch called "annabelle". it's a song about a sharecropper in alabama and it is so sad, beautiful and timeless that I can't help but listen more than once in a row. the harmonies in the chorus make my hairs stand up... beautiful song.
mp3: gillian welch - annabelle
tracyanne campbell from camera obscura:
my favourite song at the moment is called 'one in a million' by steve miller. it's really beautiful. his voice is like honey in the sun and it totally melts my heart. the lyrics are quite simple and i guess
corny but it's a great tune and the production is so good it really doesn't matter. i wish i'd written it. in fact i'd love to do a cover version of it. i was recently in stockholm visiting my friend victoria (bergsman) from taken by trees and we were singing it in the flat and talked about recording it. watch this space...
mp3: steve miller band - one in a million
stuart murdoch from belle and sebastian:
every day when i leave the house and walk over the iron bridge and up to the glasshouses, i listen to “what for” by james. i have a habit of dropping back 20 years in my thoughts, and having a parallel soundtrack running in my head so that i may be walking in a street in 2008, but my head is in 1988. i don’t know why that is. this is an up and hopeful song of the period from a band i used to care for deeply.
as we slip into the autumn here, i am prepared to let my new song of obsession become “the game” by echo and the bunnymen.
“everybody’s got their own good reason why their favourite season is their favourite season”.
mp3: james - what for mp3: echo and the bunnymen - the game
alison eales from butcher boy:
I'm waking up to Labi Siffre, and wondering how I managed to stay asleep for so long. His songs are diverse, unpretentious, and performed with tangible joy. I'm literally waking up to him as well - I have 'It Must Be Love' set as my alarm, and it is proving to be a very nutritious musical breakfast.
mp3: labi siffre - it must be love
who we are
i love music, but i can't play it for the life of me, so i might as well try writing instead. hope you like it. i'm from singapore, where there really is good music if you look hard enough. i'd love to hear from you (yes, you): firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm a four stringing minstrel of doom, and hired gun for the odd band or two. Few things excite me more than music, and whiskey soaked vocals are a definite plus, so please be sure to send some my way. When I'm not contributing to I'm Waking Up To and MAP, you should follow my misadventures at http://litford.wordpress.com And yes! I'd love to hear from you too: email@example.com
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