Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Double Dagger- More (2009)

Recommended if you like: Sonic Youth, No Age, Pissed Jeans, Weekend, Pavement, Death From Above 1979, Fugazi, Moss Icon, Joy Division

Listening to Smith Westerns' Dye It Blonde made me realize something. It got me thinking about age in relation to music. Particularly, how bands like Radiohead or Wilco can sound so old while up-and-coming bands like Smith Westerns, Born Ruffians or Harlem sound so young. And it's not just literally how old these guys are, it's more about how the music can sound so raw and unpolished and youthful. Whereas Radiohead's songs emanate this polished, meticulous and cleanly produced sound, albums like Dye It Blonde are gritty, loud and unashamed. Even when you trace Wilco's discography, you can see how the spry, upbeat ballads of Summerteeth have been slowly traded in for slower acoustic reflections or even the "dad-rock" of Sky Blue Sky.

I don't mean to be making broad generalizations here; sure, there are some old guys who can still ROCK. Nor am I insinuating that "old sounding" music is forever at a disadvantage because it doesn't sound young. Radiohead's incredibly complex songwriting isn't made any less compelling by the fact that they are older dudes. Their songs still pulsate with energy without having to sound like they were recorded in their buddy's basement. But for me, there's something rewarding about hearing an album that just sounds like it was made by a bunch of kids my age.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dâm-Funk- "Hood Pass Intact" (2009)

Check out this incredible jam from LA funk wizard Dâm-Funk. "Hood Pass Intact" is from volume 4 of Dâm's 5-LP set Toeachizown, titled Toeachizown Vol. 4: Hood. Futuristic, funky, spacey, it's an incredibly fun ride. Its blown out heavy bass and clap rhythm track is just screaming to be blasted through a big ass subwoofer in the trunk of some old Cadillac. Layered on top are juicy, colorful sci-fi synths and delicate chimes. Dâm-Funk's palette of sounds recalls Flying Lotus, James Blake's "Footnotes" from CMYK, Discovery or even Daft Punk. Dâm-Funk's unique brand of beatmaking is every bit deserving of his spot on Stones Throw next to other innovative producers like Madlib and Peanut Butter Wolf.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gary War- Horribles Parade (2009)

Recommended if you like: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Dylan Ettinger, Sun Araw, Wet Hair, Pocahaunted, James Ferraro, Kurt Vile

It's 3:30am and I'm listening to the ridiculously tripped out sounds of Gary War's Horribles Parade. I can't find much on the information on the dude(s), but one website claims that he's a former member of Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. Not hard to believe, given how ridiculously far-out the stuff on Horribles Parade is. Think Ducktails, Sun Araw, Ariel Pink's early material, the stuff that's nearly drowning it's own reverb-drenched weird psychedelia. Horribles Parade is a strange, unsettling mix of warped vocals, synths, echoing guitars and other generally otherworldly sounds. The more noisy moments recall the creeping cacophony and terror of Pocahaunted, while the album's more straightforward, coherent songs share the strung-out rock of Kurt Vile's early material. And just like The Doldrums, underneath Horribles Parade there is a juicy psychedelic pop core. But whereas Pink's songs seem to reference some weird lost decade in the past, Gary War's music recalls some alien decade yet to come (perhaps the same weird years that sci-fi synth freak Dylan Ettinger is living in). The combination of pop and head-spinning weirdness is what makes Gary War's brand of lo-fi so compelling and exciting. Click the album artwork to sample. You should definitely listen to this stuff in the context of the album, not just single songs.

1. Highspeed Drift
2. Sold Out
3. See Right Thru
4. No Payoff
5. For Cobra
6. Costumes
7. Clean Up
8. What You Are
9. Orange Trails
10. Nothing Moving
11. Anhedonic Man
12. Everynight
13. Next Year
14. Carleen's Yard
15. Scales
16. God Trip
17. Using

Buy Horribles Parade from Sacred Bones

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Day In Black and White- My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys (2004)

Recommended if you like: Fugazi, Hot Cross, Sparta, ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead

Don't let the band name turn you off, A Day In Black and White's My Heroes Have Always Killed Cowboys is one of the most intense and beautiful cuts of post-hardcore I've ever heard. I got into these guys back in the days of musical adolescence, when I was really getting into emo and hardcore (that's real emo for those of you who are still ignorant, see for further reading) and this is one of the few records that still close to my heart. The other tracks are good but the standouts are by far "The Gaze" and "There Are Objects and Objects." "The Gaze" slowly builds on Daniel Morse's angular guitars and a heavy rhythm section before exploding into this beautiful cathartic tremolo line. Then the instruments fade out for a minute and go into this incredible jam out session, the drums do this massive roll and then explode into the song's last minute and a half, where we finally get to hear Morse's abrasive shouts. He's not screaming, it's more of a yell that makes the room feel like it's going to crash down around you. "There are Objects and Objects" is kind of the reverse formula: the song explodes instantly before dying down into this exaggerated guitar part.

The best part about the album is how it's recorded. The way you can hear the bass clicking and plodding behind the guitar, how fucking loud everything sounds, Morse's overbearing yells. It manages to retain that small-space, live feel without compromising any of Morse's fantastic guitar and bass work. And the aforementioned jam out part in "The Gaze" makes the record sound so human., so personal. There's definitely way more going on here than just traditional Fugazi-style post-hardcore. Morse's dissonant guitar work and preference for delay and reverb hint at post-rock, post-punk and the indie sound that the band would later take (much to my disappointment) on their second LP Notes. But the band's association with Level-Plane records and bands like Navies and Black Castle usually gets them lumped in with emo revival stuff of the mid 00s. Click the album artwork to sample.

While reviewing this, I found out that Level Plane Records has been defunct since 2009. Sad news, rest in peace to a great label.

1. Fordward/Backward
2. There Are Objects and Objects
3. Storming the Bastille
4. The Gaze
5. The Illusion of the End