Look out, look out, for the man who came in with little fanfare and left just as unassumingly not too long after. For that brief hour or less, Mike Hadreas – performing as Perfume Genius – was laid bare for all, his music an intimate, knotted struggle. As in their recorded versions in his debut album Learning, the songs all sounded too short and ended too abruptly, drawing out each time an awkward pause before the applause. But Hadreas knows awkwardness well enough to let those moments linger, keeping the tension going with an audience probably more nervious than he.
As the opener, “Perry” was an apt introduction to the tormented world of Perfume Genius, of memories haunted and still raw. Captivatingly, Hadreas worked hard in each of the subsequent songs to present the dark as beautiful, with the deeply personal “Learning” and “Mr. Peterson” garnering the most unanimous response from a 100-strong crowd that was mostly appreciative but at times dumbstruck. For me, it was the brittle cry and grippingly bare piano of “Look Out, Look Out” that struck hardest, that unsettled wariness remaining even as the bar started to clear and the evening to close. - Dan.
Sea Change was the album that sounded least like Beck, but ironically remains the most gorgeous work he’s ever produced. Now as producer, he seems to have convinced Thurston Moore to attempt his own sea change. Titled Demolished Thoughts, Moore’s new album finally embraces the aesthetic of beauty that he’s spent an entire career subverting through strains of dissonance and alternate tunings, while effortlessly managing to sound every bit like himself. “In Silver Rain with a Paper Key” is a perfect example of this, a song complete with instantly recognisable SY-esque lyrical imagery, set surprisingly to a sea of evocatively textured strings. - Dan.
there’s always a certain celebratory immediacy in the music of the new pornographers. in their latest album together, the songs keep rolling on untiringly, as they have in their previous efforts, from one melody, hook or chorus to the next. while supergroups like theirs are supposed to collapse under the weight of individual stars, carl newman, neko case and dan bejar have, like their songs, stuck together and remained unashamedly pop, album after album.
by the closing song of the together, it’s no surprise that we still find them dwelling on the themes of chance and serendipity. titled “we end up together”, the song wastes no time introducing its protagonist, “little brother” and his mid-life crisis of sorts. “when are you going to do some damage?“, newman asks, before ruefully contemplating this “damage, sweet damage” which ushers in the cello riff that drives the rest of the song in soundtracking little brother’s life. with its wry, poignant lyrics, the band has clearly chosen to end the album on a bittersweet note, but with its stubbornly uplifting strings, it emerges as one that’s equally triumphant against the odds. - dan.
for one trained in ornithology, jonathan meiburg’s choice of naming his band after a bird is hardly surprising. but settling on shearwater – a variety of seabirds – couldn’t be more apt, especially in the golden archipelago. like its namesake, the band delves into the album’s singular but expansive theme of island exploration from a bird’s eye view, unafraid to be guided by the winds, and content to stay as long as the magic of discovery remains. it’s a perspective that takes us “over the ocean/winging low” as narrated in album opener “meridian”, which unveils the new horizons by bringing us to that “first wave/and the flares that fall/like fireflies/on the islands“. utterly absorbing. - dan.
i woke up this morning with this incessant racket reverberating in my head. i just couldn’t pin it down, except for this dissonant, off-kilter alarm going back and forth, sometimes going a key up, sometimes just getting hazier and noisier than before. well i’m a little more awake now, and i’m pleased to say problem solved. it’s lovely how times new viking‘s “born again revisited”, the title track from their album released earlier this year, just found its way into my waking subconscious, its unabashedly lo-fi vocals hollering in my face, driven by that stubborn riff that stays so stubbornly out of orbit. good morning, noisy world. - dan.
bobby pyn was the earlier name of darby crash, who fronted the germs in the late 70s. the punk band disbanded in 1980 when darby overdosed on heroin as part of a suicide pact, days after performing his last gig with the band during which he delivered his farewell to the sold-out crowd: “we did this show so you new people could see what it was like when we were around. you’re not going to see it again”. explosive but shortlived, the legacy of the germs is resuscitated ironically by one of the longest lasting post-punk bands living today – sonic youth with their inevitably titled 16th studio album the eternal. “thunderclap for bobby pyn” is a tribute to this memorably fleeting moment in noise meditation, delivered curiously late but with all the urgency typical of SY’s more punkish fare. teenagers they no longer are, but kim, thurston, lee and steve show they still have what it takes to start a riot, even if they’re riding on the shoulders of past revolutions. - dan.
sometimes things are best said plain, without the ambiguities of metaphor or the constraining structures of poetry, without even the obligation to be subtle about things or to understate how we really feel. so let me try and say things as plain as i can: i really do like this song. i like how the words say everything. i like its pace, which puts me at ease. i feel it understands me quite well. i think it knows and cares how i feel.
there are things that words cannot express: the frantic urgency of the opening salvo, the comforting consistency of the sheet of drone that washes through most of the song, the surprising early but beautifully timed solo, and what must be sound at the end of your heart beating as one. these devices, however, work tirelessly to keep the words afloat, words that weigh so heavily in promising so much with little else but an earnest effort to please: try to be more assured/ try to be more right there/ try to be less uptight/ try to be more aware. on their own, these resolutions sound hopelessly futile; you could always try, i guess. but swallowed as a whole, it sounds just about right, sweetened but still retaining its original flavor, and always worth a shot.
the period after belle & sebastian‘s lukewarm release of fold your hands child at the turn of the century was perhaps the most crucial of the band’s career. at that point, many had felt the glaswegians had probably run out of ideas and trapped themselves within a tweefolk sound that was beginning to wear thin. the next proper album in 2003, dear catastrophe waitress, provided just the change they needed, boasting a polished gleam without loosing any of its understated charm, a direction pushed to even greater perfection in 2006′s the life pursuit.
that turning point, however, cannot be viewed apart from the other possibilities that the band could have taken. according to stuart murdoch, it was during the dear catastrophe waitress tour that he began to envision something different, songs with strings and female vocals that didn’t fall under the institution that had become belle & sebastian. in the course of the subsequent five years, this has grown into the project now known as god help the girl, revolving around murdoch’s musical narrative supported by the uplifting vocals of catherine ireton, celia garcia and alex klobouk, with mick cooke’s expansive orchestral arrangements.
“come monday night” is the first single to be released, and offers that exact glimpse into what else belle & sebastian could have become at that turning point. the lush but clearly defined strings are a natural progression from the simple arrangements found in their earlier albums, but with a certain buoyancy distinctive of the band’s later efforts. what we get then is an alternate view into the belle & sebastian universe without having to depart too far from its current solid form which you’d be wicked not to care about.
in brightblack morning light‘s “oppressions each”, every sigh is heard as the song waltzes in its own time, drenched in reverb as if played in an empty hall where even the dust on the wall trembles along. it’s a soulful, spiritualized piece that mourns and aches with an air of heaviness that weighs down on even the lightest shoulders. production wise, the sound is musky and archaic, but in its content, the message is universal. i haven’t heard the rest of the motion to rejoin album that “oppressions each” is taken from, but judging from this delicately treated dr john-inspired track, the haunting music of rachael hughes and nathan shineywater will continue to seep through the cracks and overflow the consciousnesses of lands beyond their own.
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): email@example.com
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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