The Tough Alliance: “Hung Up on a Dream”

The Tough Alliance

The Tough Alliance, one of the leaders of Sweden’s impressive electropop revival, recently recorded a cover of “Hung Up on a Dream” from The Zombies’ still relatively underrated masterpiece Odessey & Oracle. Eric Berglund and Henning Fürst flush out the original’s fragile melancholy into a polished, ethereal, head-nodding synth jam. Surprisingly successful to say the least.

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Download: The Tough Alliance – Hung Up on a Dream (Zombies cover)
Buy: It doesn’t have this cover on it, but you should still pick up 2007’s widely acclaimed A New Chance as mp3s or on CD over at Insound.

(via GvB)

Lotus Plaza: The Floodlight Collective

Lotus Plaza -  The Floodlight Collective

Casual fans who made it over to the Deerhunter/Atlas Sound/Lotus Plaza blog have probably been more likely to recognize the first two names in that title, as all Bradford Cox-affiliated projects have been swept up into the indie limelight. Lotus Plaza, the solo project of Deerhunter guitarist Lockett Pundt, has long dwelled on the back burner, releasing just a handful of tracks on their shared blogspace. But this year, Pundt has finally delivered the long-awaited Lotus Plaza full-length debut (which supposedly was started back in 2007) via Kranky, home label for both Deerhunter and Atlas Sound.

The Floodlight Collective, which came out on March 23rd, explores psych-rock territory just a stone’s throw from either of the aforementioned bands. Yet, Pundt manages to drift into even hazier expanse, threading together fogged soundscapes of electronics, feedback, drowned out vocal harmonies, and 60s garage-rock sensibilities. It’s unfortunate that some critics are already starting to write this album off, assuming it’ll ultimately get overlooked in light of the excellence of Atlas Sound and Deerhunter. I’m not ready to break out the underrated albums of 2009 list just yet. If you spend some time with Pundt’s The Floodlight Collective, I think you’ll find it reveals itself as a one of the better albums of the year so far and dispels any notion that Bradford Cox is the sole guiding force of their main band.

Most of the best tracks on this record ascend to bright and brilliant heights of formless ambience, yet remain grounded in strong hooks, be they melodic or percussive… standouts “Quicksand” and “Different Mirrors”, which features Cox as guest drummer, benefit from both.

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Download: Lotus Plaza – Quicksand

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Download: Lotus Plaza – Different Mirrors
Buy: Order The Floodlight Collective from Kranky Records on CD or LP.

Grizzly Bear: “Cheerleader”

Grizzly Bear

Many of you have probably already listened to the upcoming album from Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear (posed above in a promo shot that I’m assuming was conceived as “come-hither Kraftwerk”), which leaked earlier this month in the form of painfully low-quality mp3s. If you haven’t yet, try not to. The leak really doesn’t do Veckatimest justice. Luckily, Grizzly Bear and Warp Records have made exercising that restraint all the easier with the release of the first official mp3 from the record.

Standout “Cheerleader” features a myriad of gracefully layered sounds, from sparse flourishes of percussion and surging guitar riffs, to delicate accents of brass and woodwinds, to ethereal vocal work and a haunting children’s choir. The production, fully revealed here, is also predictably incredible. These guys have really stepped their game up for this one…

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Download: Grizzly Bear – Cheerleader
Buy: You can pre-order Veckatimest directly from the band (or elsewhere) over at their webpage. The record comes out May 26th on Warp Records.

Grizzly Bear also start a Veckatimest-supporting tour at the end of May, check out the dates here (complete with links to buy tickets for the all the gigs).

Crank the Treble: Yoñlu

yonlu

I’m excited to be writing for a new publication these days, the excellent (and, coincidentally, San Diego-based) Treble. This should be an eventful year over at Treble as we embark on an overly ambitious attempt to construct a list of the best tracks and best albums of the 2000s. Beyond the decade retrospective, there are plenty of other cool features and reviews to check out. For now, take a look at my review for the painful and powerful collection A Society In Which No Tear is Shed Is Inconceivably Mediocre from Brazil’s Yoñlu. The full review and a couple mp3s are available after the jump.

Music is, above all, a form of expression. A way to connect and communicate with something larger than yourself, be it some higher power, society, or even the people around you. Making music can be an expression of joy, love, faith or wonder, but often times it is a purging release of anger, sadness, frustration, pain or loneliness. Sometimes it’s enough to help someone move past a difficult period of their life or to deal with constant pain. Other times, those feelings prove to be insurmountable.

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Bon Iver: Blood Bank

Bon Iver

Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver, has been riding the wave of his fantastic debut, self-released in 2007 and subsequently reissued on Jagjaguwar (U.S.) and 4AD (U.K.) last year, for a while now. And why not? For Emma, Forever Ago, conceived and recorded by Vernon during a winter of solitude at a cabin located somewhere in northwestern Wisconsin, was a work of sincere emotional depth and one of the best albums of 2007 (and 2008).

Well, last month, Bon Iver returned with Blood Bank. A number of reviewers have been quick to point out that the material on this new EP doesn’t quite measure up to For Emma, Forever Ago. And they may technically be right, but I still think it’s a somewhat loaded criticism considering the latter’s strength. Most of the songs here don’t fall too far from the fragile folk that marked Bon Iver’s debut, save for “Woods”, an exploration of Imogen Heap-like vocoder acapella (or maybe Vernon is a closet T-Pain fan). It’s also arguable that penultimate track “Babys” pulls a little something from Steve Reich minimalism (think “Music for 18 Musicians” for just piano). But, while “Woods” is no doubt the most interesting endeavor on the new EP, the title track is probably the strongest. Fitting perhaps that the song was originally written for Emma, but ultimately left off because it didn’t “feel right”. It certainly feels right here, opening Blood Bank with a slow crescendo of hushed power that Vernon carries through the rest of the EP.

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Download: Bon Iver – Blood Bank
Buy: Order Blood Bank directly from Jagjaguwar on CD or 12-inch vinyl.

As much as I’m enjoying Blood Bank, I actually think Bon Iver’s contribution to the recently BNM‘ed Dark Was the Night compilation might be better than any of the tracks on the EP. “Brackett, WI” is a beautiful piece of tortured nostalgia, rising like a hymn to a past you can never return to.

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Download: Bon Iver – Brackett, WI
Buy: You can get Dark Was the Night over at Beggars Group U.S.A. (LP/CD) or on iTunes.