Dirty Projectors: “Stillness is the Move” Video

With a video that’s even more wonderfully perplexing than the track it’s set to, Dirty Projectors continue their satisfying output for 2009. Beautifully shot on Mount Equinox in Vermont, the clip for “Stillness is the Move” features Dave Longstreth leading a llama and inexplicably spinning in place with guitar in hand, while the ladies of Dirty Projectors (Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle) frolic with leashed huskies, show off delightfully awkward synchronized dance moves, and harmonize together in mysterious mountain-dweller garb. On second though, maybe this video is less perplexing than explanatory; clearly these cut-off peoples just heard Mariah Carey for the first time and reconstructed some smooth R&B tunes through their own cultural lens. Right? Well, either way… I’m down.

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Download: Dirty Projectors – Stillness is the Move
Buy: You can pick up the stellar Bitte Orca or the “Stillness is the Move” single from Domino Records. Check out the single’s cover art and tracklist after the jump.

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Michael Jackson R.I.P.

Michael Jackson R.I.P.

A figure so monumental that no mention of his passing would be criminal. His influence on music and entertainment has been so massive that I don’t think it really needs to be explained. And maybe it’s been difficult for most of us to get excited about Michael Jackson for a while now, but I can still remember dancing to my mom’s Thriller LP in our living room and eagerly awaiting premieres of his music videos as a child. Let’s all take a moment to remember the most successful solo artist in the history of music and a true genius of pop.

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Download: The Jackson 5 – I Want You Back

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Download: Michael Jackson – Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough

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Download: Michael Jackson – Billie Jean
Watch: Peep his classic performance of “Billie Jean” on 1983’s Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever below and head over to the Michael Jackson Youtube channel to check out any of his untouchable music videos.

St. Vincent: Live Cuts

The perpetually lovely Annie Clark recently finished up her extensive U.S. tour with a Brooklyn homecoming show and a great performance of Actor gem “Marrow” on David Letterman. Joined by black-clad back-up singers and saxophonists on top of her touring band, the track’s skonking, oddball pop becomes a towering beast of fluttering woodwinds, kick drum stomps, guitar stabs, and blaring walls of brass.

St. Vincent also appeared as the first guest of Pitchfork.tv‘s newest series, “Cemetery Gates”, where artists perform short live sets “in a chapel in the middle of a Brooklyn graveyard”. Annie and her band burned through a few tracks from Actor, their wilting sway and raucous breakdowns fitting quite nicely in the dramatic setting. Watch them perform “The Strangers” down below or catch the whole session over here.

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Download: St. Vincent – The Strangers

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Download: St. Vincent – Actor Out of Work
Buy: Order Actor from Beggars Group USA as MP3 ($8), FLAC ($10), CD ($12), or LP ($12, free mp3 download).

Crank the Treble: City Center

City Center - City Center

Here’s my review for City Center‘s self-titled debut, which was originally published over at Treble (where it also includes, as do all Treble reviews, a short list of similar albums).

Multi-instrumentalist and compulsive band-starter Fred Thomas has been involved in a veritable laundry list of projects over the course of his still-young career, his work with the soulful twee of indie-pop band Saturday Looks Good to Me being perhaps the most notable to date. Now Thomas embarks on his first solo outing with his self-titled debut as City Center, crafting a record of sparse psychedelics via detached bursts of percussive lo-fi pop and a couple extended, meditative soundscapes. That probably sounds like familiar terrain at this stage of the decade, but Thomas musters enough unique perspective to drive this latest batch of explorations into his own niche.

Throughout City Center you can identify those bits and pieces that the upper echelons of ambient psych-pop have already staked out as their own: bedroom drone a la Atlas Sound, High Places-like tribalist percussion, Panda Bear-esque sun-soaked sampledelic tendencies. By all rights, this should be getting into played out rehash territory, right? Yet somehow, the record maintains a basic, if somewhat intangible, independence. Thomas’ solo work certainly doesn’t sound like it exists in a vacuum — these connections are real and apparent — but, whether found in song structure, the progression of melodies, the record’s richly layered arrangement and production, or particular twists in the droning haze of ambience, the songs here seem to build and unfold in ways that speak to the hand of their creator.

Opening with the gurgling churn of “Killer Whale,” Fred Thomas intones: “Everyone else is gone / Don’t let me go / I can’t reach you / The waves come to eat you…” as a slow sonic crescendo threatens to overtake you. After pushing through relatively accessible gems “Open/House” and “Gladest” (hey, are those hooks!?), Thomas delves into the meaty centerpieces of the album — the dense “Bleed Blood” and “Cloud Center”. While the former features Thomas immersed in his best Panda Bear impersonation, the latter unravels with noteworthy patience. A transcendent collage of looping, phased-out electronics, reverbed tambourine, and billowing layers of vocals, the monumental “Cloud Center” is perhaps the achievement of City Center. His vision is at its strongest in this moment; by encapsulating influences and subverting them to his own bent, Thomas molds the song into a mesmerizing flood of kaleidoscopic sound. After easing the listener away from such weight with the sparse detox of “You Are a Force”, City Center closes with a second round of more tangible, pop-driven psychedelia.

While no doubt successful on a whole, traversing well-covered ground and relying on your perspective to define your work is a double-edged sword. Fred Thomas can ultimately call this work his own, but comparisons to some of his contemporaries can be less than flattering in some instances. City Center doesn’t quite absorb, soar, pop, or transcend like Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, Atlas Sound’s Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel, or Here We Go Magic‘s eponymous debut. Regardless of this fact, the record does what it does well and manages to do so on its own terms — a worthy accomplishment for any debut.

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Download: City Center – Bleed Blood

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Download: City Center – Cloud Center
Buy: You can order City Center from eMusic.

Girls: “Hellhole Ratrace” Video

Kind of window into a night in the life of San Francisco’s Girls, this whimsical video finds them and their crew indulging in some of that much-wanted “love and attention” they so longingly sing about. “Hellhole Ratrace”, which provides the clip with a wonderful dream-like quality, was pretty widely circulated around the internets last year and will also crop up on their upcoming debut LP, I assume. Look for that record, which is one of the more hotly anticipated yet to see a release in 2009, on True Panther Sounds sometime soon.

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Download: Girls – Hellhole Ratrace

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Download: Girls – Lust for Life

Warm Heart of Africa

Esau Mwamwaya and Ezra Koenig

Even more tropical goodness out from The Very Best this week, as the title-track for the upcoming Warm Heart of Africa drops into the blogosphere. Featuring Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend, this upbeat, calypso-like Afro-pop gem bounces along with a joyful innocence. And if you missed it, be sure to check out the excellent “Ntende Uli” which was released on Tuesday. Look for the album in the fall, via Green Owl.

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Download: The Very Best – Warm Heart of Africa (Feat. Ezra Koenig)

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Download: The Very Best – Ntende Uli
Buy: No pre-order yet, but keep your eyes on the Green Owl website.

The Very Best Announce Debut Album

The Very Best

Exciting news from London’s The Very Best; their debut record will be coming in 2009. The group, formed by DJs/producers Radioclit and Malawi-born vocalist Esau Mwamwaya, have been sitting on the completed album since last year and had to deal with some sample clearance issues, but it seems that all is well now. Warm Heart of Africa, named for a phrase often used to describe Malawi and their hospitable countrymen and women, will feature guest spots from M.I.A. and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend and comes out in the fall on Green Owl.

You can stream “Ntende Uli” from the album down below.

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Also, be sure to pick up The Very Best’s mixtape from last year over here and take note of the dates for their brief U.S. tour after the jump… see you at The Echoplex?

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Japandroids

Japandroids by Ilan Schraer

Artwork by Ilan Schraer.

With support dropping from the Wavves camp faster than you can say “Primavera meltdown“, some of you may be looking for some new pop-leaning noise-rock to wash that bad taste out of your brain. Well, if you’ve missed them thus far, Vancouver guitar & drum duo Japandroids just might fit the bill. Though not nearly as grating as Nathan Williams’ bedroom punk — L.A. noise-rockers No Age are probably a more accurate comparison — Japandroids still know their way around a distortion pedal.

Post-Nothing is a bedlam of raucous garage-punk and gritty 90s alt-rock that thunders past in a fit of youthful nostalgia. Youthful being the keyword — Brian King and David Prowse drop the word “heart” in two different song titles, spill their guts like drunken, patience-testing teenagers, wail about being “crazy forever” in the appropriately titled “Crazy/Forever”, and talk about girls in at least half of the tracks. Yet, it all really comes off as more endearing than obnoxious. This may be music unabashedly imbued with familiarity, but Japandroids simply want to transport us back to a time when we might have triumphantly screamed along with them.

“Young Hearts Spark Fire” cranks up the angsty anthemics about as high as they’ll go. Guitar and drums crescendo into an all-out blitz, collapse into a brief moment of respite, only to build right back up as King and Prowse engage in a dual vocal attack full of lines fit for shouting off rooftops after passing around a bottle.

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Download: Japandroids – Young Hearts Spark Fire
Buy: Order Post-Nothing directly from Polyvinyl Records as CD or LP (either of which comes with a free mp3 download). Also, be sure to check them out on their re-scheduled tour of North America that kicks off on June 24th (click here for dates).

Animal Collective: “Summertime Clothes”

What do melting ice sculptures, boogaloo sheet monsters, and deformed dancers half-encased in plastic orbs have in common? They’re all featured in the latest video from bizarro experimental-pop wizards Animal Collective. Directed by Danny Perez, friend of the band and director of the video for “Who Could Win a Rabbit” from 2004’s indelible Sung Tongs, this most recent collaboration may be a hint of things to come in their upcoming “visual album” project. Rumor (ie: Collected Animals) has it that this might actually come out by the end of the summer… you can start losing your shit now.

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Download: Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes

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Download: Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes (Dam-Funk Remix)
Buy: Pre-order the “Summertime Clothes” single or pick up Merriweather Post Pavilion, the album of the year thus far, over at the Domino Records webstore. Check out the cover art and full tracklist for the single after the jump.

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Here We Go Magic

Here We Go Magic - S/T

Here We Go Magic, the latest project from experimental folk-rocker Luke Temple, is enjoying its share of love this year. Moving from the rhythmic, Paul Simon-recalling pop textures of “Only Pieces” through a swirl of top-notch ambient-pop and bedroom psych-folk, their debut record has received favorable attention from Pitchfork, Gorilla vs. Bear, Stereogum, Cokemachineglow, and elsewhere. Even Grizzly Bear‘s Ed Droste blogged about his love for the album. And as we near the midpoint of 2009 and I start to reflect on the year thus far (expect more on that in a couple weeks), I’ve got to say that Here We Go Magic has easily become one of my favorite records released over these past several months. Look for them out on tour with Grizzly Bear throughout June (check the remaining dates here).

Recently, Here We Go Magic stopped by Daytrotter and dropped a three song session. Of particular note is brand new song “Collector”, though the live takes on both “Only Pieces” and “Fangela” (my favorite from their debut) are stellar as well. Head over to Daytrotter to stream and download all three tracks.

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Download: Here We Go Magic – Fangela
Buy: Order Here We Go Magic from Insound as CD or mp3, or from Western Vinyl on LP (with bonus track).
Watch: Peep the video for another standout, “Tunnelvision”, down below… and make sure to full-screen it.

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Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca

And, if you haven’t heard it yet, shoot over to NPR and stream Dirty Projectors‘ incredible Bitte Orca in its entirety… seriously, how good has 2009 been so far?