’09 Been Kind

Fall Be Kind

Photo by Joe Mangat.

Well, after a trip up to Portland, Oregon and a bout with a still-lingering illness, I’m finally back up in this. Perfect timing too, because there’s a lot goin’ on right now. Most notably, you can now stream a song from the most exciting effort still waiting to see an official release this year — Animal Collective‘s Fall Be Kind. “Graze” opens this stunning EP with a languid interplay of sounds and soaring vocal trade-off between Avey Tare and Panda Bear before transforming into an absurdly joyous, enchanted forest-esque pan flute jam, rich with smile-inducing harmonies, percussive clicks and clacks, and buzzing gurgles of bass. And this isn’t even the best song on the record! As long as I’m listening to this, what remains of fall will indeed be kind…

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Buy: Pre-order Fall Be Kind from Domino Records as CD or LP (with mp3 download). The digital version will be available on November 23rd.

Now, with the year’s end looming, many are not only beginning to reflect on what 2009 had to offer, but also churning out hype for some of the more anticipated releases of 2010. I’ve already mentioned the addictive first single from Yeasayer‘s upcoming Odd Blood, which is sounding like it might be the biggest surprise of early ’10 (…that sounds weird right? Say it out loud. ’10? Weeeird.). As I work on my year-end features and lists, I can’t help but feel that I’d like to try and finish 2009 first… except, there’s a lot more to look forward to in next year’s early months.

Beach House - Norway

Just a few days ago, Beach House unveiled “Norway” from the upcoming Teen Dream. On their third record, Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally are still crafting their dreamy minimalist pop with many of the same elements — chintzy drum work, effects-laden guitars, woozy organs, and ethereal vocal work — and yet this feels bigger than perhaps any song they’ve put out thus far. Opening with simple drum hits and organ drones, “Norway” explodes into a surprisingly layered cascade of breathy vocal stabs and starbursting guitars, only to slip into a dizzying meander of bent notes and Legrand’s soothing drawl. Alternating between hazy swoon and dazzling heights, this track makes a promise that Teen Dream is sure to deliver on when it drops January 26th on Sub Pop.

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Download: Beach House – Norway
Buy: You can pre-order Teen Dream from Insound as LP or CD right now.

Toro y Moi - Blessa

South Carolina’s Toro y Moi, easily one the best projects to come out of the whole chillwave/glo-fi/dreamcore/fuzzstep/hazegaze/mouse house/fog-pop scene, is set to release two full-lengths in 2010. Right now you can download the album version of the previously blog-circulated “Blessa”, mastered and extended to include a brief, spaced-out transition into whatever song may follow it on Causers of This. His first album due out on Carpark Records next year comes out on February 23rd, 2010. (via)

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Download: Toro y Moi – Blessa
Buy: No pre-order for Causers of This yet, but you can pick up the “Blessa” single (with b-side “109”) as 7″ or mp3s from Insound.

Of course, there’s a whole lot more to look forward to in 2010. Here’s a list (with appetite-whetting links when available) of some other things to keep your eyes peeled for:

Final Fantasy – Heartlands (Jan. 12th)
Vampire Weekend – Contra (Jan. 12th)
Four Tet – There Is Love in You (Jan. 26th)
Free Energy – Stuck on Nothin’ (Jan. 26th)
The Magnetic Fields – Realism (Jan. 26th)
Spoon – Transference (Jan. 26th)
Midlake – The Courage of Others (Feb. 2nd)
Hot Chip – One Life Stand (Feb. 8th)
Pantha du Prince – Black Noise (Feb. 9th) (Will also include a Panda Bear feature spot!)
Drake – Thank Me Later (Feb. 14th)
Field Music – Measure (Feb. 16th)
Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago (Feb. 23rd)
The Streets – Computers and Blues (Feb. 23rd)
Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself (Feb. 23rd)
Frightened Rabbit – The Winter of Mixed Drinks (Mar. 1st)
Aloha – Home Acres (Mar. 9th)
Liars – Sisterworld (Early 2010)
Minus the Bear – TBA (Early 2010)
The National – TBA (Spring 2010)
Battles – TBA
Daft Punk – Tron Legacy OST
Madvillain – TBA
MGMT – Congratulations
Of Montreal – False Priest
RJD2 – The Colossus
Three Mile Pilot – TBA

Look out for the possibility of Animal Collective’s “visual album” seeing the light of day, and maybe new records from M.I.A., Kanye West, Joanna Newsom, Panda Bear, Arcade Fire, Burial, No Age, Menomena, The Books, and Mock Orange. With any luck, next year may also see the release of the insanely anticipated follow-up to Since I Left You from The Avalanches. Sure, it’s been ten years… but it sounds like they’re just clearing samples at this point.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?

Big Spider’s Back: Chillwhat?

Big Spider's Back (Artwork by Ilan Schraer)

Artwork by Ilan Schraer.

At our current stage of technological development, virtually anyone can start making music and distribute it to people via e-mail, website, blog, or social network. This kind of unprecedented technological access presents results that can be both exhilarating and frustrating, highlighting widespread creativity and a welcome reception of an ever-widening array of musical styles, but also exposing our generation’s increasingly limited attention spans. I’m still mostly exhilarated (would I be here if I wasn’t?), if maybe a bit exhausted. Music projects are flooding the internet, bands rise fast, some seem to fall even faster, whole genres crop up in a matter of weeks (days?). But, of course, it’s not like everyone has access to equal technologies. A large number of new acts have embraced a decidedly lo-fi approach to recording music — take the current explosion of  “chillwave” — one born of necessity, but typically embellished for the sake of art.

It’s difficult to imagine another world in which Seattle’s Big Spider’s Back could be doing his thing. Armed with guitars, synth, and a Roland SP-404, Yair Rubinstein has been constructing rich webs of kaleidoscopic bedroom-pop for more than a couple years now, carving out a local following with his subtly mesmerizing live performances and an increasing presence on the web. And while he may approach music in a way that’s similar to a number of his peers, Yair’s aims feel different. His recordings aren’t hi-fi by any means (all of his songs are home recorded onto his computer) and yet the songs on his latest and most realized effort Warped are surprisingly dense, even downright towering at times. It becomes quite clear early on that this ain’t no peak-heavy, over-compressed, Casio-synthesizer shtick. Instead, this EP finds Yair wafting through a spacey soundscape of melded electronic ambience and psychedelic pop not so far from contemporaries Atlas Sound and Panda Bear.

Throughout it’s all-too-short 17-minute run time, Warped also displays an impressive emotional depth along with Yair’s compositional prowess. “Again, Agent”, which should be familiar to followers of his blog, floats and swells in sweet melancholy, consuming the listener with layers of hypnotic synth, harmonious feedback and looping, reverbed stabs of percussion and sample work before fading into standout “Perfect Machine”. Opening with a crescendoing assemblage of sounds — off-kilter acoustic guitar strums, pulsing electronic tones, percussive clatter, effects-laden vocals — this track slowly builds into a soaring wave of droning electro-psychedelia. Lush, ethereal, resonant, and elaborately constructed, “Perfect Machine” features all of Big Spider’s Back’s strengths in one infectious burst. The title track is perhaps Warped‘s most immediate jam, pushing into Person Pitch-like sampledelic-pop territory before segueing into the instrumental meandering atmospherics of “Spooked”. “Don’t Make Me Laugh” ends the EP with a subtle exhale of fragmented nostalgia that unfolds into a transcendent swirl, only to dissolve just as patiently.

Warped comes out on November 10th on Portland label Circle Into Square. Until then, check out the excellent (and recently Forkcasted) “Perfect Machine” from the EP down below and also the previously BSB blog-shared boom-bap of “Mind Grapes”, which Yair bills as a Flying Lotus tribute.

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Download: Big Spider’s Back – Perfect Machine
Buy: You can pick up Warped from Circle Into Square on November 10th.

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Download: Big Spider’s Back – Mind Grapes (non-album track via BSB’s blog)

Watch: Peep Big Spider’s Back new video for “Warped”, featuring some hazy, polychromatic visual work from Seattle artist Karla Santos.