I’ve always been a casual fan of Yo La Tengo. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the hell out of them, but I haven’t yet fully absorbed their 30-year catalog. I did play the hell out of I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass when it came out in 2006, but I’ve been slow at diving into their other 12 albums past that. And admittedly, while I love the vast diversity of tunes they put out on each album, I always find myself skipping to the softer, more delicate tunes. That’s why I’ve been loving the fuck out of their newest, Fade. Their new record does something none of their others ever have – it nestles into a specific pocket and stays there. There’s no flip of the game from stretched out punk rockers to ethereal drifters. Rather, the whole record stays in that whispering stillness that is known to frequently permeate their sound. This is the kind of mellow music that Grizzly Bear tries with all their might to create, but has never really pulled off. While the kids in Grizzly make incredibly boring albums with no direction, and then bitch about not getting nominated for a Grammy, the brilliant hearts of Yo La Tengo make amazingly melodic songs that draw you in, wrap their arms around you, and squeeze out your darkest fears and comforts – and I can guarantee they couldn’t give two shits about winning any awards. And mind you, this is a simple indie-rock band fronted by Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley – two brilliant and gentle folks who have been married for 3 solid decades and who seem to have no other desire than to make music and be joyous with one another. And with the recent bummering divorce of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, Ira and Georgia have become the go-to couple for the definition of true indie love. But what’s really amazing is how they write songs, especially on Fade, that touch so perfectly on the emotions of fear and uncertainty when it comes to love and life itself. In other words, these people keep it more real than the cracks in your driveway. As its title suggests, this is a record that could seemingly fade out at any point, but instead it lingers, and it multiplies, and it echoes back into itself thematically and emotionally. It’s one of those albums that when you listen to in solitude late at night, you let out those big sighs where you admit to yourself how great it is to be human – one of those albums where you reminisce on lost love and feel blessed for the lessons you have learned. And in many ways, Fade is the definitive realization of what 2013 sounds like… the world didn’t blow up, we’re still here, shit’s pretty fucked up all over, there’s a lot of shit we need to fix, but we can all accept ourselves for ourselves. There’s no need anymore to hide or even to put on a show – this is the time to be. Just to be. So despite how epic people may tell you 1993′s Painful is, or how brilliant 1997′s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One is, Fade is the first truly essential Yo La Tengo album of their career. You don’t’ want to not have this record in your heart. Don’t let it pass you by.
Here’s the video for “I’ll Be Around” from Fade - one of the most beautiful music videos I’ve ever seen.
Two years ago, I fell in love with Youth Lagoon‘s debut album. It’s been in fairly regular rotation since then, but I think it’ll be a long time before I listen to it again – that’s how great this new record is. The kid laid down all his chips on this one, and such ambitious feats don’t usually result in such triumphant brilliance as this record. There’s a couple of songs on here that I plan on listening to for a long fucking time. Read the full review HERE at State of Mind. Here’s a snippet of the review and a clip of my favorite cut.
…The biggest improvement upon the last record though, is that you can actually understand the words Powers sings on Bughouse. No longer shyly hiding behind an ocean of reverb, he proudly sings his dogmatic epiphanies — at times sounding like a young kid explaining his first acid trip to his older brother, and at other times making some relatively poignant statements about temporal existence. “Dropla” may be the first time I’ve ever been genuinely moved by the existential statements of someone a decade my junior. The true moment of consummation appears in “Raspberry Cane.” The first two minutes are like being absorbed Tron-style into an Atari 2600, then it suddenly opens into a circular McCartney descension that you wish would never end. If this was the new David Bowie album, people would have called it one of the greatest records of all time, but Mr. Stardust hasn’t been this blown away by the universe in 40 years. These are the lofty dreams of a young kid from Boise, and that makes them far more relevant than the croons of a Brixton chap in his sixties…
After 15 years of making the most dreamy, ethereal music to ever grace the ears of the common masses, it looks like Sigur Rós are finally bringing some of their nightmare into the equation. Jónsi and his Icelandic cohorts have always made music that casts the listener into an internal and existential journey. When you take down all your walls and let their music consume you, it’s like being absorbed in the breath of the divine – a slow passage between rising and descent where the common laws of emotional response break down. It’s much like that first experience with some new drug where you’re not sure whether you’re laughing or you’re crying – rather you’re just responding to the convergence of all potential human response. Yet as much of a ride as their music will take you on, especially in a live setting, it has rarely been frightening. But with today’s release of their new track “Brennisteinn,” it seems like the fellas have finally realized there was a part of the human experience that they were neglecting to include.
Regardless of this video, which seems to be depicting some sort of human sacrifice during a solar eclipse and is reminiscent of something that Tool or Nine Inch Nails would have produced in the 90′s, this music itself is somewhat terrifying. The ethereal drift is still there, but it’s punctuated by insidious rupture. At times the melody is completely abandoned for static implosion, and there’s a very literal sense of what potential apocalyptic booms may ring of. There’s a touch of My Bloody Valentine quiver, and there’s a degree of forewarning much akin to God Speed! You Black Emperor, but there’s still no doubt that this is Sigur Rós, and to imagine how this new sound will fit into the live setting is a massive conjecture. I’ve personally witnessed complete emotional breakdowns at their concerts before, and adding this sensual flux into the equation will only make the ride all the more complex. There’s no doubt of its’ massive epic-ness.
The band announced today that their new album, Kveikur, will be released on June 17th. Could this be a sign of a new prolific age for the band? Previously there had never been anything shorter than a 3 year gap between albums, and now this dark warrior rises merely a year after their last masterpiece. Let’s hope so, as any new music from this band only makes the puzzle seem clearer.
Every so often an album comes along that serves as a fresh template for sonic possibility – an apex of divine light’s potential to transmorph into sound. Even if you were aware of Rachel Zeffira’s ethereally magical voice as one-half of Cat’s Eyes, you’ll still be wholly unprepared for the elongated breath that The Deserters draws out of you. The opening title track is an immediate tumble down the rabbit hole. A rolling piano line dances on top of itself like waves crashing in warm moonlight; quick flips between major and minor tones elevate you into that lofty world between inspiration and self-rumination; and all the while her truly enchanting voice floats on top with lyrics about meeting an old friend in some distant land in the future. There’s an undeniably surreal and massively cinematic essence to it all, and when the track ends you have the same feeling you get when you wake from a long run of lucid dreaming. And that’s just the start.
“Here On In” brings a driving drum beat to back an oddly self-propelling melodic line, and the result sounds like that mid-90’s Mazzy Star/Pavement crossover that never came to be. Except that Mazzy’s Hope Sandoval couldn’t even hold a dim candle to the gentle power of Zeffira’s voice. Her control is phenomenal, and is obviously a product of her classical training. On “Letters From Tokyo” she hits high notes with warmth and a delicate touch, but also with pulsing confidence – like the entire soprano section of the Harlem Boys Choir is living in her diaphragm. Lest too much awe be cast upon the wonder of her God-given instrument though, the symphonic arrangements underneath her are none less stunning, At times the songs feel like the perfect accompaniment to the closing credits of some life-changing movie; one where you sit in silence with your partner until the names of every last second-grip roll by, and then you walk slowly and stilly to your car while the echoes of experience still ring through your head – like if somebody were to finally make that perfect adaptation of The Sirens of Titan.
Then comes her cover of My Bloody Valentine’s “To Here Knows When.” Well you can just go ahead and add this to the short list of songs that I’d love to hear as I rise up into the welcoming arms of the creator. Listening to this cut with my headphones on late at night, my eyes softly closed. When I opened them, I was prepared to be 6 years old and lying in a field – the summer sun shining on my face, and me waking to the faint memory of 27 years of my life that had all been a dream. The Deserters is the soundtrack to the existential fantasy that can only come from the hearts of old souls, and Zeffira’s anima has created one of the great ethereal masterpieces of our modern times.
It’s a Friday morning in Portland. The sky is blue and the sun is actually blinding me through my office window. It’s one of those surprisingly random moments of perfect stillness, and coincidentally the ideal time for me to have just discovered this “remix” that Phoenix put out 3 years ago. Goddamn, these French fellas just never cease to amaze me. To put it quite simply, their own words about this little project do the best justice: A long time ago Grizzly Bear asked us to remix one of their tracks, but we never found the boldness to mess with their beautiful songs. So the other day we figured, maybe if we combine great things together (Grizzly Bear, Eno, chance), it would create something good.
Basically, all they did was acknowledge that Grizzly Bear‘s delicately lovely track “Foreground” off 2009′s Veckatimisest is in the key of D Major, and never really wavers from there except some slight variations into the relative minor of B Minor. Then they took the most well-known song ever to be in D Major, Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major” and set the two side by side. You know the Canon even if you don’t think you do – about half the brides in America walk down the aisle to it at their wedding. Why? Because it’s an incredibly beautiful song. But they didn’t use just any version of “Canon in D Major,” they used one of the epically divine variations that Brian Eno crafted for his 1975 album, Discreet Music. His variations combine different angels of the song in different patterns to create a much more ethereal and ambient vibe – essentially eliminating the structure of the song and just leaving a psychedelic drift-off behind. I believe this specific variation is actually titled “Fullness of Wind.”
Anyway, the drifting nature of both tracks means you can essentially start them at any random times and they will syncopate into something truly beautiful, and truly worthy of the word divine. It’s like synching Dark Side of the Moon to The Wizard of Oz but not stressing about hitting play right when the lion roars. I’m already on my 4th go-round this morning, and the timing is really never off. Go HERE NOW to experience it yourself. If you can, don’t be afraid to close your eyes for a second.
Well, I’m about 14 listens into the new My Bloody Valentine album, and I can already feel it restructuring my genetic make-up. I’ve always adored Loveless, and as crazy as it seems to me that I may actually enjoy this record even more, I can’t deny it. Listening to mbv is like watching water rush down an empty riverbed – it works its way into every crack and fully consumes everything, creating a new unified entity with the previously dry ground beneath it. This is the first album I’ve ever tried to turn my Bose computer speakers all the way up for, and they totally had not a lick of balls to get to the point I needed. I need to drown in this shit – that’s the intention of the music, and not letting it fully wash over you is a complete disgrace and disregard to its power. You can read my full review of the album HERE at State of Mind, and here’s the last paragraph of it.
…Somehow, thank god, Bilinda Butcher’s vocals are still as ethereal and illusive as ever. After all this time, I still have no clue what one word of the lyrics she sings on Loveless is, and 22 years from now I’ll still have no clue what any of the words on mbv are. But complaining about that is like complaining about not properly knowing what hue of indigo lies within glacial ice — some things in life just are entities solely unto themselves. I could go on and on… how perfectly imperfect the guitar tone is in “Who Sees You”… how “New You” is the most eerily beautiful anything of the past decade… how the drums on “In Another Way” sound like a syncopated stampede of rabid yak… how “Wonder 2″ is most assuredly the sound of Neptune’s rings… To simply delineate the enormity of this music into something so trivial as “shoegazing” is like classifying your life with a haircut. mbv is not only a testament to the potential triumphs of great bands lost along the way, but an ode to the authenticity of rebirth in general….
The sudden arrival this weekend of the first My Bloody Valentine album in 22 years caused music-heads the world over to unexpectedly shoot their loads all over the goddamn place. Most indie-kids had gotten so used to living with the half-chubbed boner that Loveless left them with in 1991, that they had become completely oblivious to the fact that they had spent the past two decades in constant half-aroused anticipation. When Kevin Shields decided that the unannounced arrival of his band’s new record would be the ideal drop, tens of thousands of folks worldwide had an inner sonic explosion akin only to the greatest prepubescent ejaculation of their childhood years.
But seriously, the release of m b v is a huge fucking deal. Imagine if after The Beatles released Rubber Soul in 1965, they waited til 1987 to release Revolver. That’s the equivalent gap between moments of magic we’re currently experiencing here. And yes, believe it or not, this new record totally lives up to it’s long-lost father. If this record had come out in 1993, it would have been met with just as much equal praise as it is today – a worthy successor to a breakthrough moment in rock’s history. Sure, there’s a touch more sense of melodic flow to the new album, but it still quintessential My Bloody Valentine – quivering echoes of electric squeeze, and the definitive calling cards of everything we like to call shoegaze. What’s most impressive though, is that despite the hundreds if not thousands of indie-rock bands that have tried to sound like MBV over the years, this is the only time there has ever been new music that is unmistakeably this same band. Despite every hip girl on the planet wanting to, nobody has ever sounded like Bilinda Butcher, and amazingly her voice sounds just as ethereal, and spookily heartwarming here as it did half a lifetime ago. Most importantly though, this band has possible one of the greatest legacies in rock history. And to have the confidence and skill to not fuck that up is one of the greatest accomplishments any band has ever pulled off. Think about how much you hung your head in shame when Jane’s Addiction started recording horrid new music. And think about how stoked you were when Pavement returned and played nothing but their old shit. So hats go way the fuck off to Shields and company here – good to have you all back.
When I first hear of Tame Impala last year a few years back, I presumed they were some electronica band from the Philly suburbs – I mean, who else would name their band after a Chevrolet sedan? Then I heard the single for “Solitude is Bliss” and instantaneously googled the fuck out of them. Ahh, an impala is a type of antelope form the band’s native Australia – Ok, now that aligns more with this ideal mesh of 70′s acid-trip and 90′s indie rock that I can’t stop playing on repeat. And while the accompanying 2010 album Innerpeaker was fantastic, 2012′s Lonerism is straight-up amazing. While I ranked it as #13 on my Top 50 list for 2012, I probably listened to that record more than anything else in the past few months. And again, while the “Solitude” video is great – witty, very Aussie, and a wonderful portrayal of the song – I’m more psyched that so far their video releases for Lonerism make you feel like you just ate a vintage black-light poster off the wall.
If you somehow haven’t yet seen the video for “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” then go watch it immediately, and prepare to combine your memories of your first time eating mushrooms with what you remember 3-2-1 Contact looking like as a child. The video posted a few days ago for “Mind Mischief” is even better. It’s essentially a complete contrast to Pink Floyd‘s “Another Brick in the Wall” – like you dove straight into the daydream imagination of one of those British kids getting screamed at to eat his pudding. It’s brilliant, and heartwarming. But careful if you wash it while at work, because it will make you instantly want to go rip a joint in the bathroom.
This week M83 released the final video in their connected trilogy of epic mini-movies from tunes off last year’s brilliant Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. While the initial video for “Midnight City” was met with much acclaim from anyone who laid eyes on it, the follow-up video for “Reunion” sort of squeaked out with not much fanfare – probably because that tune isn’t nearly as epic as its predecessor. But now the 3rd installment has appeared with the tune “Wait,” which is the dreamiest cut off the album and probably my favorite, and most likely will reach the fame of the 1st video. But all 3 are brilliantly produced by the team of Fleur & Manum, and front-man Anthony Gonzales has claimed that the videos are somewhat of a tribute to Akira, Village of the Damned, and Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. The first 2 references make sense as the story line is about children with heightened powers rising up to a new age of human purpose, but I think the Close Encounters reference just has to do with the fact that he digs aliens and shit. All 3 videos remind me more of the Arthur C. Clarke masterpiece, Childhood’s End, which if you have yet to read – then go spend 8 bucks and read it today. Either way, here’s my interpretation of what’s going on with em. Here’s “Midnight City”.
Ok, so we’ve got this center where the government is collecting children who have exemplary powers of mental control and intellect – basically a more frightened version of the Xavier institute if you will. It’s not quiet a prison, but it definitely appears as if they’re held here against their will. So in comes this new little kid who seems to instantly be able to unify all the children in some sub-conscious mind-cloud. With the combined mental strength and motivation of the whole team, they are able to break free. Kids being kids, they make their way to an abandoned warehouse where they use their ESP to throw cars around and break shit. Then they go up on the rooftop and watch the sun set as they presumably haven’t had a chance to do that in a while and the sun seems to potentially provide the essence of their power. It’s also possible that they’re testing their true strength here and actually speeding up the rotation of the Earth and causing the sun to set earlier than usual, but that’s tough to determine. On to “Reunion”.
So one of the children didn’t escape with the others, and is now set up in a room where the evil government folk are manipulating her powers to use as a weapon for themselves. You can tell they’re using her for bad shit because her eyes go red here instead of that awesome stella blue. She locates the missing children and essentially explodes the inner divinity out of the youngest one to turn her into a homing beacon so that the bad folk can recapture them. This process kills the young girl, and the other kids are like “Fuck, we gotta get the fuck outta here.” They run away from their hunters til the one powerful kid from the beginning says, “Hold on, I think I got this shit.” At this point, the dark empowered child takes control of one of the hunter guys, and uses his body as a puppet for her own darkened attack. She lifts the SUV in the air and chucks it at the kids, but the little guy is able to stop it mid-flight. Then a few other super-kids show up, and with their combined power they are able to relaunch the SUV back at the hunters. This combined power of the enlightened children is enough to snap the darkened girl out of her manipulated trance. She takes off her wiring and gets out of there. The rest of the kids then go into a church and combine their sacred inner lights into one powerful force, and we see the sun rise. Perhaps insinuating again that they have this unified control of the sun or rotation of the Earth and that they are turning shit once more. To the conclusion – “Wait.”
All right, now shit gets really heavy. We’re in space and we see a mirrored pyramid shape floating around slightly reminiscent of the thing that held General Zod in Superman II, but more likely a reference to the monolith from 2001. With the faint image of one of the girls’ faces interspersed with shots of a galaxy in space, it appears that the children have now astrally projected themselves off of Earth, and thus perhaps they actually are the flying pyramid monoliths. Either way, we cut back down to a severely trashed city where the now lone girl who escaped from the last video is wandering past dead bodies and destruction. We see some guys brutally beating the fuck out of someone else and then we cut back to space where we see a massive explosion go off on Earth. This is the little girl exploding her powers out, destroying all the perceived evil of society around her and cleansing the Earth. We then see here walking the now completely barren world of nothingness where upon she extracts a drop of water from the land and begins the process of rebirth on the planet. Back in space, we see the true 2001 reference take place as the boy enters full Dave/Star Child mode – launching through the escalated motions of his existence as we see the DNA structure realigning. Cut back to Earth, where the young girl has now completely reformed things into a rain-forest paradise and has essentially become the new Mother Earth. She is the new creator and the new dawn of the next life of a cleansed world. At the same time, Star Child reaches his own next state of evolution, and in exhausted completion he and his monolithic pyramid self come crushing back into the Earth. The new age officially begins. Brilliant, beautiful stuff. Powerful sounds and imagery as we near the end of 2012 here. Kind makes you really want to hold tight to the people you love. And seriously, go read Childhood’s End right now – it’s essential for an understanding of modern human potentiality.
Shit, remember when Kimock used to melt your whole essence and was the de facto post-Jerry guitarist for non-frightening psychedelic release? Those days are long fucking gone my friend. Thank God I was on the guest-list for this one, because no amount of alcohol would have made me content with paying the $30 cover. Read the full review HERE at State of Mind.
…There was a time when seeing Steve Kimock play was an exploration in delicate psychedelia — when the entire audience would gracefully join him in weaving through his complex compositions and he seemed like the only logical heir to embrace Jerry Garcia’s once fabled guitar tone. That time however‚ is not 2012. The NorCal Mecca of Arcata gets about 3 quality concerts a year‚ and thus the heads came out of the redwood-work in full force for this show. In terms of per capita ratios‚ this crowd was probably more learned in the Kimock back catalog than any you’re bound to encounter anywhere in the world‚ let alone California. Fiending for the transient licks and familiar melodies that had once spawned a myriad of self-spun ruminations‚ and also looking for launch-box fulfillment to accentuate pre-show medications‚ the folks at Humbrews were beaming with expectations. Unfortunately‚ SKB didn’t seem to take the stage this night — rather it was the Bernie Worrell Band featuring Steve Kimock on rhythm guitar…