New Yeasayer: “Ambling Alp”

Yeasayer - Ambling Alp

Yesterday, Brooklyn-based experimental rockers Yeasayer dropped the first single from their upcoming 2010 release Odd Blood. “Ambling Alp” is a bubbly gem of gurgling electronics and layered percussion. Soaring to surprising heights, its off-kilter pop antics seem to most obviously recall both the dense production of Animal Collective‘s Merriweather Post Pavilion and the playfulness of its predecessor, Strawberry Jam, but it still leaves me feeling really excited to see where this band is going. If this track is representative of the rest of the material on Yeasayer’s sophomore release, there’ll be no bracing for a slump of any sort.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Yeasayer – Ambling Alp
Buy: You can pick up the full single — which includes remixes from DJ /rupture and Memory Tapes — from Yeasayer’s website.

New Fever Ray Video: “Stranger Than Kindness”

Fever Ray

You probably know by now that Fever Ray, solo project of The Knife‘s Karin Dreijer Andersson, has been the source for some of the best music videos this year. The latest, again directed by frequent collaborator Andreas Nilsson, is for her characteristically frightening cover of “Stranger Than Kindness” by Nick Cave. Eerie lights, mysterious shamans, and dark rituals abound, this video actually reflects much of the stage and costume design from her live performances.

“Stranger Than Kindness”, as well as Fever Ray’s take on Vashti Bunyan’s “Here Before”, a bonus disc that collects a complete live performance, and a DVD of music videos, will all be available on the deluxe edition of Fever Ray’s self-titled debut, due out November 24th on Mute Records. [via]

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Fever Ray – If I Had a Heart

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Fever Ray – When I Grow Up
Buy: Pick up the original release of Fever Ray over at Insound or pre-order the deluxe edition from Amazon.

Crank the Treble: Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile - Childish Prodigy

Check out my latest Treble review for current Album of the Week Childish Prodigy by Kurt Vile. Originally published here, where it includes a short list of similar albums.

The late 2000s have spewed out a staggering number of fuzzed-out chillwavers, low fidelity rockers, and tape-hiss troubadours. Many have consistently put out some of the most enjoyable music of the past few years and many others are probably destined to end up remembered as flashes in the pan. But, even among the heaviest of the lo-fi heavyweights, few have approached what might be considered genuine greatness, in that their songwriting transcends their fascination with production aesthetics and the production aesthetic amounts to more than a well executed gimmick. There’s little question that Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile has become one of those truly noteworthy few, crafting memorable bedroom-pop anthems and utilizing lo-fi in a way that such a labeling feels incomplete and inadequate.

Vile’s rise into the indie limelight started back in 2008 with the release of Wagonwheel Blues from his stellar band The War on Drugs and his official solo debut Constant Hitmaker. Though the former has often been primarily credited to frontman Adam Granduciel, further Kurt Vile works have confirmed that he obviously played a large role in constructing The War on Drugs’ dense shoegazing blues-rock. One need not look beyond that record or his sporadic live sets with backup band The Violators to know that he can convincingly posture as some forgotten classic rock god, channeling the likes of Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Neil Young, and Lou Reed. And while some of that posturing has cropped up now and then on Vile’s solo material – take the soaring CCR-stomp of Constant Hitmaker opener “Freeway” – on his own he has more typically delved into the realm of spacey psych-folk, recalling the nihilistic sonic legacies of Suicide and Spacemen 3.

Childish Prodigy, Kurt Vile’s latest album and debut for Matador Records, finds him joined by members of The Violators as well as The War on Drugs and strikes at the surprisingly comfortable middle ground between bombastic lo-fi rock gems and his more fragile bedroom compositions. “Hunchback” – which also kicked off the 2009 EP of the same name – leads off with vigor. Re-recorded as a leaner, bolder version of itself, this track is driven by an immovable, stone-cold guitar groove and Vile’s menacing, outburst-laden ramble. These rousing rock antics quickly give way to the reverbed arpeggios of “Dead Alive” and the subdued, psychedelic “Overnite Religion”. On the latter, shakes of tambourine and maracas frame hypnotic, interwoven acoustic strums as Vile’s vocals mumble along in a meandering drawl, accented with touches of clumsy falsetto. Before you know it “Freak Train” hits with a drum gallop that should now be familiar for fans of Kurt Vile projects, unfolding slowly as layers of guitars and feedback swell into a massive, lo-fi wall of sound. As this careening epic ultimately fades into “Blackberry Song”, another fragile and moving meditation centered on mesmerizing guitar loops, the cycle begins anew. Vile continues to press through Childish Prodigy with a swirl of seesawing approaches and textures, oscillating between the monumental and the stripped-down, the rousing and the restrained. From his take on Dim Stars’ “Monkey”, to the soaring nostalgia of “Amplifier”, to the bass-heavy, drugged-out harmonica-drone of “Inside Lookin’ Out”, he continues to affirm that this record is one of his strongest works yet. And perhaps most impressive is Vile’s ability to coalesce these varying compositions into a smooth and compelling whole that adheres to its own haphazard logic and soon lures, captivates, and absorbs the listener.

“Hits” and “Hitsmaker” are phrases that are used liberally by both record labels and Vile himself in regard to his music and his place within the Philly scene. Liberally and probably spuriously – though he may conjure images of classic AM rockers, there’s no question that such images are distorted and marred in a haze of feedback and lo-fi weirdness. And yet Childish Prodigy, which feels like a first step in that oft-dreaded progression towards “accessibility”, seems to leave Vile a little less immersed in irony (if he ever was). But, it also feels like a natural step. And even if later releases find him composing with increased focus and recording at higher fidelities, it’s hard to imagine Vile giving us something that won’t keep us guessing in some respect.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Kurt Vile – Overnite Religion
Buy: Order Childish Prodigy from Matador Records as MP3, FLAC, CD, or LP.
Watch: Peep the video for unrelenting standout “Freak Train” down below.

Phaseone: White Collar Crime

Phaseone - White Collar Crime

St. Louis producer Phaseone dropped some more free music (apparently his free debut album just wasn’t enough) on the internet this week. His White Collar Crime mixtape features a number of stellar remixes that have been heavily circulating the blogosphere in ’09 and a grip of brand new tracks. Download the mixtape for free right here. (via)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Phaseone – Panda Jawn (Panda Bear – I’m Not Remix)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Radiohead – Videotape (Phaseone & Frank Heat Remix)

—————————————————————————

Fever Sleeves - Soft Pipes, Play On

Speaking of free music, one of my favorite San Diego bands recently made their excellent debut record Soft Pipes, Play On available for free as 320 kbps MP3 and Apple Lossless. You now have no excuse to not check out this album. These guys are seriously deserving of more recognition than they’ve received thus far, so get on it and download either version above.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Fever Sleeves – Futuristic Killings

Animal Collective: Fall Be Kind

Animal Collective (pic from RVCA)

After a mysterious Amazon entry appeared online a couple days ago, that intense Animal Collective cult of rumor and hype was up and running at full force. Will it be a permutation of the previously discussed Brother Sport EP? Is it the so-called “visual album” the guys have been working on? Could it even be a new record? Well, Avey Tare spoke to Pitchfork and cleared a lot of things up about their next releases and more.

Turns out, as many had already managed to deduce, Fall Be Kind is in fact an EP likely to come out digitally mid-November and on vinyl and CD in early December. Collecting Merriweather-outtakes “Graze” (formerly “Grace”, “Pan Flute Jam”) and “I Think I Can”, the Grateful Dead-sampling “What Would I Want? Sky”, newer track “Bleed”, and one more unreleased song from around the MPP era (“On a Highway”), Fall Be Kind is packed with some pretty exciting stuff, for sure. And yet obsessive fans are still crying for a studio version of “From a Beach”. I suppose that’s inevitable, but I don’t really see how this EP won’t ultimately satisfy even the most rabid, especially since Avey also mentioned that they are again working with overachieving Merriweather Post Pavilion producer Ben Allen.

In his conversation with Pitchfork, Avey Tare went on to drop some tidbits about the “visual album” Animal Collective has been working on with friend and frequent visual collaborator Danny Perez for the last three years, as well as the news that they will be taking a hiatus from touring for a little while. Oh, and don’t forget about the just-announced “Brother Sport” single with a live version of the aforementioned “Bleed” for a b-side (pre-order that over at Domino Records). Avey also explains their reasons for splitting the single and the material on Fall Be Kind. You can read it all in the complete interview over here.

Look for more regarding Fall Be Kind soon. Until then, enjoy some of the compiled live material down below.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Animal Collective – Graze (Live in Amsterdam, 2007)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Animal Collective – What Would I Want? Sky (BBC Session)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Animal Collective – Bleed (Live on NPR)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Animal Collective – On a Highway (BBC Session)
Watch: Finally, check out some footage from the Animal Collective performance in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park back in August. Includes “Graze” and a killer “What Would I Want? Sky / My Girls / Fireworks” medley:

Crank the Treble: WHY?

WHY? - Eskimo Snow

Another review from the pages of Treble. Check out my thoughts on Eskimo Snow, the new album from Oakland’s WHY?. Originally published here, along with a short list of similar albums.

Born in Cincinnati, now residing in the Bay Area of California, Yoni Wolf has built an impressive career on the outskirts of genre. Whether with his avant-garde Anticon brethren in the much-celebrated cLOUDDEAD or through his own solo work, Wolf has long operated under the murky label of “alternative hip-hop”, bizarrely melding key principles of rap with experimental pop sensibilities, indie rock instrumentation, and fragile lo-fi folk rambling, all with illogical success. WHY?, once his solo moniker and now a full-fledged band, had been drifting further from the world of hip-hop even before the release of Eskimo Snow. This latest effort pushes that trend along steadily, delivering on Yoni’s early characterization of it as “the least hip-hop out of anything [he’s] ever been involved with”.

Recorded at the same time as last year’s Alopecia, Eskimo Snow is both distinct and complementary. In concept, it’s a logical progression of the tormented psyche of Yoni’s imagined self. Pressing on from the naïve-weirdness of Oaklandazulasylum, to Elephant Eyelash’s loss of innocence, to Alopecia’s dark sarcasm, here WHY? plunges into a sea of dismal resignation. Sad and bleak, Eskimo Snow plays out like a beautiful, ornate requiem that finds Yoni Wolf deep in reflection as he patiently awaits his impending fate. Openly addressed on the very first lines of the album, he lethargically proclaims: “I wear the customary clothes of my time / Like Jesus did, with no reason not to die”. Later on the dejected anthem “Against Me”, Yoni muses on the extension of his legacy, “Out of every woman on earth, who will I mate with? / Or will I spit empty threats, until all that’s left, is a million zeros printed on a roll of ticker-tape?” before candidly wondering: “Will I gain weight in later life? / And when will someone swing a scythe against me?”. Though he goes on to imagine himself as a mummy trapped in a “shoddy school museum collection”, brutally indulges in self-deprecating confessions (“And I know saying all this in public should make me feel funny / But ya gotta yell something out you’d never tell nobody”), and continually awaits death (“Lay me down in a hearseback / it’s where my new best look is at”), Yoni also begrudgingly recognizes that he lives on (“Then I’m still here / Bearing my watery fruits, if fruits at all / Then I’m still here / Barely understanding what truth that rarely calls”).

Not simply a thematic progression, this album sonically sets itself apart from past works as well. A sort of antithesis to Alopecia’s sharp execution and tight production, WHY? allows Eskimo Snow to breathe and soar. These recordings sound remarkably spacious and instruments feel free and improvised – pianos ripple and surge playfully, arpeggios of vibraphone interlock with melancholic guitar work, drums resonate and seem to emphasize the recording space almost as much as the rhythms themselves. Against the openness of these compositions Yoni’s voice retains its distinctive qualities and cadence, but his delivery more closely resembles singing on Eskimo Snow than on any other album in his discography.

Such subtle transformations help these songs adopt new emotional weight. After all, the perceived inevitability of failing relationships, self-deprecation, disappointment, and death aren’t new topics for Yoni Wolf, but with its rich production, masterful pacing, and tender, mournful execution, Eskimo Snow commands a striking depth that resonates in a more salient and serious way. Where WHY? goes from here is anybody’s guess, but undoubtedly it will be a place all their own.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: WHY? – This Blackest Purse
Buy: You can order Eskimo Snow directly from Anticon Records. The record is also currently streaming in its entirety over at WHY?’s myspace page.

Phoenix: “Love Like a Sunset (A.C. Remix)”

Animal Collective

First off, for anyone who ran into it, apologies for the random downtime my blog has been experiencing… should be in the clear now. Had I been able to post on Thursday, I would have been enthusiastically joining in the chorus of praise for the latest killer remix out of the Animal Collective camp. Ostensibly helmed by the absent-as-of-late Deakin (Josh Dibb), this undertaking plays out a bit like Panda Bear‘s (Noah Lennox) hypnotic remake of The Notwist’s “Boneless”. More cover than remix, here “Love Like a Sunset” is molded into a pulsating wave of spacey, tribalist-pop, complete with additional vocals. After you put that gem on repeat for a while, you’ll probably realize that now is as good a time as ever to revisit the other drugged-out remixes that A.C. has put out this year. Check it all out down below. (via)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Phoenix – Love Like a Sunset (Animal Collective Remix / Deakin’s Jam)
Buy: Look for the Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix remix record, due out Oct. 13th / 19th (US/UK).

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Zero (Animal Collective Remix)
Buy: Pick up the “Zero” single from Amazon.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Download: RATATAT – Mirando (Animal Collective Remix)
Buy: Order the “Mirando” single from Beggars Group USA as 12″ vinyl, MP3, or FLAC.