Monthly Archives: February 2011

#330 Yuck – Georgia

Fresh-faced indie slackers armed with a derivative sonic template firmly tied to the nineties (Yo La Tengo, Teenage Fanclub, Swervedriver) and a tragically unimaginative band name, Yuck have nevertheless been garnering quite a bit of attention for their eponymous debut – at least until the new Pains of Being Pure At Heart record drops, I suppose. “Georgia” is their effervescent brand of fuzzy guitar-driven pop at its most engaging, flawlessly executed by musicians who clearly relish in the ecstasy of influence. Originality may not be one of their strongest suits, but Yuck’s way with jingle-jangly melodies would have many bands out there green with envy. – Keith.

mp3: Yuck – Georgia

Yuck’s debut album is out on Fat Possum.


Music Alliance Pact – February 2011 Issue

SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To…
ElektoneFalling Into You
Memories fade in and out of reality when it comes to Elektone’s dreamy brand of electro-pop. Started by Zulfadly Amin, a graduate of our National Arts Council’s Noise Singapore initiative, he and his merry band capture love and light waves as pangs of desire wash over Singapore’s bullet-speed society. Taking a moment to enjoy Elektone’s music is almost like allowing yourself to fall asleep in a mass rapid transit, dreaming of tomorrow as yesterday happens all around you. – Brian.

To download all 33 songs in one file click here

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#329 Walls – Soft Cover People

One of those albums I missed last year, this debut effort by Walls – a collaboration between Allez Allez DJ Sam Willis and Alessio Natalizia of Banjo or Freakout – meets you on that blurry pathway between dreams and reality. You can’t quite pin down where that point lies (is it even a point?), but you find it constantly worked out between Willis’ electronic synth leanings and Natalizia’s guitars and instrument-like vocals. On “Soft Cover People”, surprises abound just when the latter’s contribution appears to dominate to the point (no, there really isn’t one) of no return. Eventually, things come together rather satisfyingly on this one, so I think I’m finally ready for bed. – Dan.

mp3: Walls – Soft Cover People

Walls is out now on Kompakt.

#328 James Blake – The Wilhelm Scream

What made James Blake such an exciting new discovery last year and eagerly anticipated artist this year is the kind of suspense he’s built up through each of his three EPs released in 2010. The cinematic space-age paranoia of The Bells Sketch set the stage perfectly for the deconstructed genre-bending breakthrough of CMYK, both EPs demonstrating Blake’s deft hand at handling complexity and willingness to upset the flow of things.

Seen in that light, ending the year with the more laid-back Klavierwerke might have almost sounded like a step backwards. However, this was arguably the EP that made the most progress in bringing together Blake’s musical distinctives and making them stick. At the same time, as his most organic work thus far, it also lifted the veil slightly in giving us a glimpse of the person behind that shape-shifting sound.

With his finally-released debut album, James Blake pulls a rather shocking move of baring himself totally, even if the cover art remains as that now familiar but still enigmatic self-portrait, albeit in a cooler shade of blue. The songs, by no means simple, actually sound like proper songs, and his voice, once processed and chopped up at will, now lies naked for most part. And the presumed temptation to meet the hype with more tricks seems to have quite an opposite effect, with vast expanses of emptiness timed and situated perfectly.

It’s a gamble that could so easily backfire. And it almost does. Listening to songs like “I Never Learnt to Share”, I discover the secret of how much Blake loves and surely adores Antony Hegarty. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s just too vulnerable, and I feel I now know too much. Yet, I’m forced to overcome my own awkwardness when faced with the immediacy and sheer gorgeousness in the intricate details of tracks like “The Wilhelm Scream”, a stirring personal vignette about falling and turning that subtly lifts you off the ground along with it. – Dan.

James Blake’s self titled debut is out now on Universal Republic.

#327 Smith Westerns – Imagine Pt. 3

What times are we living in? Did you see that coming? What makes the guitars so exuberant? Are the band really from Chicago? If so, why do they sound so Brit, so glam, so Beatlesque all at once? Could you ever imagine C86 sounding hi-fi? Are they really that young? Countless questions abound with Smith WesternsDye It Blonde, an album that revels gloriously in wake of the best crafted pop music of old. Bursting with imagination, this sophomore effort is unapologetically excessive but never wasteful, making its 35 concise minutes an unquestionably delightful listen, brimming with innocence and fervor. I really couldn’t ask for more. – Dan.

mp3: Smith Westerns – Imagine Pt. 3

Dye It Blonde is out now on Fat Possum.

#326 The White Stripes – The Hardest Button to Button

I guess this song is most fondly remembered for its Michel Gondry-directed video, achieving such iconic status in popular culture that even garnered it a Simpsons’ tribute/spoof. Along with his Lego-brick treatment of “Fell in Love with a Girl”, Gondry’s filmic reduction of the band to its bare essentials – in this case, the band’s stunning bombast through simple repetition – is a concise distillation of what Jack and Meg have accomplished with their stark visual aesthetics (primary colors of red, white and black), single-minded musical direction (old school rock and blues) and daring ambition (can two people sound like a seven nation army? hell yeah).

For me, “The Hardest Button to Button” is actually the White Stripes song I’ve heard most in my life. As the chosen tune on my morning alarm, it’s quite literally the song I’ve been waking up to over the past year. On good mornings, it takes only a few plays of Jack White’s ominous single bassline before I hit the snooze; on worse days, my heart starts beating faster only when Meg turns up the beat and Jack transforms the intro into a snarling siren. That’s probably quite a decontextualized way of relating to Jack and Meg, but I guess that’s how they’ve somehow become part of my daily morning routine, and in a small way, part of my life. – Dan.

mp3: The White Stripes – The Hardest Button To Button

The White Stripes do not belong to Meg and Jack anymore. The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want.”

Our Favorite Reissues of 2010

Ok, this is really the last of our 2010 reviews. Anchoring this column is Keith, who’s listened to more reissues this year than Brian and me combined, putting us to great shame. Enjoy the list, and have an awesome year ahead!

Antena – Camino del Sol (Numero)

I suppose we could possibly populate this list with plenty of the other fascinating releases from the Numero label, and French trio Antena’s 1982 debut album is one of our favorite things. The fleet and exquisite jazz pop of Camino del Sol was well ahead of its time and you can hear their influence particularly on the balearic sounds of bands such as Air France and jj. – Keith.

mp3: Antena – Seaside Weekend

Black Tambourine – Black Tambourine (Slumberland)

The scruffy indie pop of Black Tambourine still sounds as raucous and refreshing as ever, with popular groups such as The Pains of Being Young At Heart and Dum Dum Girls trying to recapture Pam Berry and her band mates’ dreamy charms. Their music is resurrected once again in a new Slumberland edition that presents the band’s spontaneity and lo-fi brilliance in greater scope, beefed up this time with several previously unreleased tracks. – Keith.

mp3: Black Tambourine – Black Car

The Cure – Disintegration (Rhino)

Exaggerated nostalgia perhaps, but a whole generation of crepuscular souls hid in their bedrooms and mope along to the sweeping atmospheric pop songs of Disintegration, the 1989 Cure masterpiece birthed during a time of incertitude when Robert Smith was apparently disgruntled with commercial success. Rhino’s lavish three-CD repackaging, which also includes relevant outtakes and live recordings (of each track), is the best way to revisit Disintegration in all its monolithic magnificence – dark places haunted by nocturnal spiders and a bad fog of loneliness. – Keith.

mp3: The Cure – Plainsong

David Bowie – Station to Station (Virgin)

Famously, David Bowie was so fucked up on cocaine that he later could not recall making Station to Station. This visionary 1976 album – Bowie’s best, in my humble opinion – was his full-throttle attempt at turning rock mythology on its head for poetic effect, a work of flash delirium that anticipates the Krautrock-infused sound he would forge in Berlin with Brian Eno on Low (1977). The ambered haze and rippling futuristic soundscapes on Station to Station still sound absolutely phenomenal today, the Thin White Duke’s gloomy grandeur having lost none of its power to astound. – Keith. David Bowie – Golden Years

Destroyer – Streethawk: A Seduction (Merge)

Speaking of which, there has always been hints of David Bowie’s glam-pop influence on Destroyer records. 2001’s Streethawk: A Seduction remains the pinnacle of Dan Bejar’s tuneful songwriting and wordy idiosyncrasies, and this 2010 Merge reissue nicely whets our appetite for this year’s January release of Kaputt. – Keith.

mp3: Destroyer – Sublimation Hour

Galaxie 500 – This Is Our Music/Copenhagen (Domino)

All it took was three albums for the Boston trio to make their indelible mark on music history. This Is Our Music (1991) was to be their last, and in this reissue, finds itself paired with Copenhagen, a recording of their final concert. At the encore, the band perform songs by their evident heroes: the Velvets’ “Here She Comes Now” and Jonathan Richman’s “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste”. The latter, one of the most career-defining of their covers, couldn’t be a more fitting swansong. – Dan.

mp3: Galaxie 500 – Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste

Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg – Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg (Light in the Attic)

Light in the Attic follows up its 2009 US reissue of Serge Gainsbourg’s seminal 1971 concept album Histoire de Melody Nelson with the release of another his classics in Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg (1969). The paraphernalia of decadence served up in this first whirlwind collaboration between Serge and a then fresh-faced Birkin is potent as ever – not surprising when you consider the shock value of “Je T’Aime… Moi Non Plus”, and the smoldering pop provocation of “69 Année Érotique”. – Keith.

mp3: Jane Birkin/Serge Gainsbourg – 69 Année Érotique

Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom (Domino)

Domino Records’ extensive reissue of Robert Wyatt’s solo works is a real godsend, allowing us to get reacquainted with his surrealist-influenced pop music full of sonic invention and genuine mystery. The precipitous Rock Bottom, the 1974 album recorded after Wyatt had suffered the accident that left him permanently confined to a wheelchair, is the best place to start, the surreal wonders of this deeply personal six-song cycle freighted with both loss and renewal. – Keith.

mp3: Robert Wyatt – Sea Song

The Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St. (Polydor)

This was actually my first time listening to this record, and in spite of what I’ve read before, I just couldn’t imagine the Stones having this much blues and soul in their rock and roll, not to mention gospel or even country. The context of the album’s production, in all its tumultous decadence, is probably helpful but not essential for listening: whether you’ve been following the Stones’ for the past half a century or you’re a new convert like myself, this is an equally rewarding trip in all its swaggering brilliance.– Dan.

mp3: The Rolling Stones – Tumbling Dice

Tom Zé – Studies of Tom Zé: Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You (Luaka Bop)

It seems impossible to properly recapitulate Tom Ze’s manic career trajectory, and we won’t attempt to do so here. Instead, we would rejoice in the release of this lovingly compiled 3-LP box set that successfully compresses the many dimensions of a man who has been such a pervasive influence on Brazilian countercultural pop music. – Keith.

mp3: Tom Ze – A felicidade

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