Author Archives: Matt Nelms

list: Record Store Day 2011 Top 3 Releases

Of Montreal/ Casiokids 7”- With the release of thecontrollersphere anticipated within the next fortnightan EP containing the final residual droplets of last year’s False Priest– it was of some surprise to see of Montreal in action again so soon. Refreshingly, their cover of Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Expecting To Fly’ is far from the raucous psychedelia of ‘Black Lion Massacre’, the lead track from the above mentioned EP. Meanwhile Casiokids‘ B-side ‘London Zoo’ is a real slow burner, developing into a brooding and soulful dance track. The 7” comes courtesy of Norway’s Splendour records, who also release a split 12” from their remaining scandinavian clientele, Brad Laner and Joensuu 1685.

Lower Dens/ Deer Knives 7”– The success of Twin Hand Movement far outgrew anything Gnomonsong has seen before, in which case an emigration to Sub Pop a natural progression?  This small foray would certainly suggest that at least some activity is occurring between Lower Dens and the label, ever willing to endorse Baltimore dream pop. Strictly in this mould comes ‘Deer Knives’, a nicely structured effort, containing a gorgeous whale song Esc guitar play off mid track.

Cults Abducted b/w Go Outside (remix)– Another tantalising snippet from Cults’ first full length expected in May. ‘Abducted’ continues to channel the post lo-fi pop duets that have catapulted the duo into recent fashion photoshoots with Vogue and The New York Times, whilst singer Follin is given a better chance to stretch her considerable vocal chords. Listen Below.  

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cover: La Sera- ‘Watch Me Jumpstart’ (Guided By Voices)

Since 2007, ‘Record Store Day’ has been growing and growing in endorsements, and it looks as though this year is going to be its most bumper harvest to date. One way bands have shown their support for the event is through covers, as we featured last week with Beach Fossils and Wild Nothing commemorative 7” split. Sing For Your Meat: A Tribute To Guided By Voices is as its name suggests- a collection of GVB covers, reworked by artists inspired by Robert Pollard and his Daytonian gang. Fresh from Share The Joy, out last week on Polyvinyl, Vivian Girls’ Katy Goodman has contributed a pretty organ based version of the melancholy ‘Watch Me Jumpstart’. Recording under her solo title, La Sera, Goodman appears amongst numerous other patrons, most notably The Flaming Lips and Blitzen Trapper.

artist profile: Youth Lagoon

Trevor Powers is channelling every young man’s frustrations into what can only be described as some mesmeric music. Having burst onto the scene 14 days ago, leaked tracks ‘July’ and ‘Cannons’ have already done the rounds, snowballing into somewhat of a internet monster. Amongst the usual hype a lot has been said about the hazy nature of Youth Lagoon‘s production- a point I feel may have been unfairly levelled. Yes, every layer is reverb dressed, but the punchy kick drum loops and fuzzed melodies that infiltrate each mix really lift YL above any chillwave malaise. Meanwhile, memorable vocal refrains are delivered with a brutal reality as to rival the most sincere of lo-fi hearts producing right now.

Powers bills the forthcoming full length The Year Of Hibernation as ‘a journal that I’m letting other people read’, a sentiment fitting his ramshackle approach to production. The vocals for example were recorded in a relative’s garage, blasted from one small speaker and recorded by two distant microphones. Time to fiddle with production is not something that the over worked Powers has in abundance (studying for an English degree with a full time job on the side doesn’t provide the most forgiving schedule).  However, having the enthusiasm to write and record in the short amount of time you have free is the mark of a true musician, someone doing what they’re doing purely for the love of their art. The record will be available sometime in the summer on the new Juno Beach Records, a company co-founded in part by Pandit’s Lance Smith and the man behind BIRP!.

Popular Songs: Volume I – Occasions

The air is mighty thick in here and blackness is all to see. Soon the worms will have had their fill and all you’ll be is bones for ever more. Is this heaven? Is this hell? Is anyone listening? This is a time to reflect on what was; a time to repent on what might have been had you not missed that train all those years ago. The question is, what would you do if you could start it all over again?

Explosions In The Sky – “Your Hand In Mine”
Maybe playing post-rock at a birth is a bit indulgent, but then again, little can rival the epochal grandeur of the genre. To my mind, the rises and falls of ‘Your Hand In Mine’ mirror the majesty of new life from old. MN
My Bloody Valentine – “Soon”
“Soon” just might be my favourite song of all time. It’s the closing track from one of my favourite albums, and it’s the best kind of closure; a succinct summation of everything that came before it, and yet so much more than just the sum of its parts. In that sense, it probably isn’t the most fitting choice, but paradoxically, it would be the perfect way to herald a new life. Towering, powerful, grand; full of choice, understanding that anything could follow from this event, aware of the endless possibilities a clean slate/new birth provides, and will in the near future live out. Soon. MM

Mystery Jets– “Young Love”
I think a good running song should be much like a good driving song, it should give you somewhere to go. ‘Young Love’ presents the sad story of a chance meeting with a wondrous woman and the ensuing despair of totally forgetting who she was-  ‘if i only knew your name i’d go from door to door’. Pull on your trainers, because you’ve got a lot of houses to check. MN
DJ Shadow – “Building Steam With a Grain of Salt”
There’s an inherent rhythm to walking, to steps, to putting one foot in front of the other and moving forwards. But it doesn’t have to be a soulless, inane activity, quite the contrary; it can be empowering, and master of percussive sampling Joshua Davis knows this. The birth of instrumental hip-hop can largely be attributed to Entroducing…, and the foundation of that album is purely metronomic drum sampling. Walking will never again feel so endearing. MM

Spin Doctors – “Two Princes”
I could stroll through Helmand beaming ear to ear were ‘Two Princes’ on blast. Its just that kind of song. An unadulterated guilty pleasure admittedly, but who could possibly resist these joyous thrashings. Its this blissful unawareness that I’d wish to replicate walking into the classroom for the first time and finding yourself very small. MN
Summer Camp – “Round The Moon”
As the bell tolls on education, a nostalgic door opens. What was once hated is hated slightly less in hindsight; its always the way. For all the good memories there is Summer Camp and some samples so transportive, even the most callous soul could not feel reflective. MN
Perfume Genius – “Mr. Peterson”
Fitting, really, that the song in question comes from an album named and thematically weighted around Learning. Its youthful author doesn’t let age obstruct a mature, patient delivery, and though the album can feel repetitive at places, certain tracks carry fantastic stand-alone weight. “Mr Peterson” is such a track, a vivid portrait of an eccentric arts teacher who shaped the life of his student, and later commits suicide. I’ll leave the moral behind such a tale open-ended for this one.

The Cure – “Just Like Heaven”
Step outside your body for a moment and picture yourself the protagonist who’s every close up is accompanied by a different musical movement- who’s every monumental moment is matched by a song its exact equal in tone and weight. That feeling that something special can always happen should never be without its instrumental counterpart, a notion never more true than in ‘Just Like Heaven’, perfect for the start of something new. MN

Wilco – “Jesus, Etc.” / Blur – “To The End”
Although the lyrics don’t fit, I feel the aesthetics of ‘Jesus, Etc.’ provide the archetypal 21st century slow dance. The chorus of ‘To The End’ is so ridiculously cathartic, it actually sounds (what I can only assume) finishing a marathon sounds like. MN
David Bowie – “Modern Love”
Lyrics don’t have to ‘fit’ at a wedding. The act is a passionate display of romance, a free-flowing exposure of jubilance and rapturous happiness; eternal affection trapped in a day of celebration, the concepts of embracing and escaping co-existing beatifically. Escaping, in the context of this song, from all limits social and psychological, that subvert us into self-denying the abundantly wild emotion that love is. “No confessions / and no religion /  God and man don’t believe in modern love.” MM

John Lee Hooker – “Dimples”
For a long time I’ve had a minor obsession with Delta Blues. I love the characters, the stories and what each of their works truly meant for the next 100 years of music. Were their invaluable input into the world of music as we know it to ever be forgotten, it would be an unimaginable travesty. As long as I’m still still smiling, i’ll still have ‘Dimples’. MN

Simon And Garfunkel – “Cecilia”
Such is the majesty of Paul Simon, I will happily dance into my grave with ‘Cecilia’ in my ears. People usually say that their funeral will be a ‘celebration of life’, but there has been no jubilant singing and dancing at any funeral I’ve witnessed. What I hope for is that the remaining image of myself is one of contentment and joy, sitting in my favourite chair- because knowing the world, someone else will have taken my place before too long. MN
The Antlers – “Epilogue”
That falsetto, that broken voice, that extinguished passion, that finality of tone, that acceptance of fate, the greatest denouement, the finest of exits, that unstoppable grasp of time upon life. That final forlorn guitar melody, fading into the past. MM

new release: Wild Nothing & Beach Fossils

On April 16th Captured Tracks are releasing a bundle of goodies all dedicated to The Wake. The collection will include, On Our Honeymoon and Crush The Flowers, two records decidedly difficult to locate due to their release dates- 1982 and 1989 respectively, straddling the band’s tenure at Factory Records. Included in the bundle is a split 7” from labelmates Wild Nothing and Beach Fossils. Wild Nothing’s cover of choice, ‘Gruesome Castle’ provides an interesting task for Tatum and co as they attempt to re-create a sound very similar to their own. Meanwhile, fresh from the promising What A Pleasure, Beach Fossils try their hand at the sultry ‘Plastic Flowers’.

record review: Dirty Beaches- Badlands (Zoo Music)

Whereas most music creates or at least retells stories, Alex Zhang Hungtai and his home brand nostalgia is in itself a fiction. The pseudonym Dirty Beaches merely provides the catch; a western moniker to hide a somewhat unmarketable Taiwanese birth name. This is however where Hungtai’s dismissal of his own identity begins and ends.

Hungtai once admitted that that it was film, not music that first inspired him as an artist. An appreciation for the visual is apparent in the faded sepia portraits that framed the pre-release tracks from Badlands- the pencilled faces of his mother and father adorning their covers. Video footage of Dirty Beaches is similarly muddy, serving as the visual epitome of the band’s lo-fi sonics. Were we to judge the book by its proverbial cover, the most rational conclusion would be that such a presentation is true representation of Hungtai’s inner most urges- the desire to reupholster the old upon the walls of progress. In making this judgement however, a disservice is being paid to the film maker. Biographical films are rarely eponymously titled, so why should Dirty Beaches be any different?

Badlands is not Dirty Beaches’ debut as most would have you believe, yet it is Hungtai’s first as a self proclaimed ‘pop singer’. Like many contemporaries, sampling of 60’s artists provides the melody upon which Hungtai can layer his personal staples of lo-fi reverb and delay. Never is this more evident than in the bravado soaked coda to ‘Sweet 17’ in which his swollen vocals cut the tape, leaving behind nothing but the burnt aftermath of last night’s sentiments. Into the void comes the Undertones reminiscent ‘A Hundred Highways’, simultaneously exuding Elvis croon in equal dosage to punk braggadocio. ‘A Hundred Highway’s’ exultancy does however signal the end of the record’s driven beginning, bringing with it a lull into ballad harmonies and romantic tones.

Personally speaking, tracks 5 and 6 save Badlands from mediocrity. Not that the opening lives unappreciated, I just feel that Hungtai is at his most comfortable in these blissful clouds where instead of clashing with his production, the songwriting and effects truly complement one another. Just as for many other lo-fi artists, reducing the discordance between melody and fidelity appears to be the key to stopping tracks weighing ten tonnes apiece. Here the result is startling in its change of direction yet refuses to abandon the structures and approach that define the album. Although high points remain amongst the rest, during ‘True Blue’ and ‘Lord Knows Best’ Hungtai’s artistry least borders artisanal incessancy.

In truth, Dirty Beaches probably should have stuck to this formula for the whole of this record. Somehow Hungtai hasn’t quite managed to mash together the moving images that seethe behind a producers eye, just waiting to reach fruition in their eventual incarnation. Cinematically, Badlands does nothing but cement Dirty Beaches sentimental values, blurring memory onto century old photographic paper. Sadly, the paper feels like it has worn too thin and the colours have all but blurred together. What is left however is a perfectly marketable painting, a perfectly watchable film, only lacking in the sense that its not quite the coherent and interesting artwork that it should have been.

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new release: Timber Timbre- Keep On Creepin’ On (Arts & Crafts)

Although the eponymous Timber Timbre was the band’s first record released in Britain, the imminent Keep On Creepin’ On will be their fourth long play in total. In many ways, the previously mentioned Timber Timbre served as the Canadian’s debut- the mainstream breakthrough upon which the approaching effort must build. On first listen, the new effort remains pretty claustrophobic, continuing to exude the same bassy delta tones and plinky blues piano, high up in the mix. All of Timber Timbre‘s work is certainly in tune with their forested surrounding, yet remains darker, tenser and more dense than that of other woodland recluses. I cannot help but compare singer Taylor Kirk’s vocals to Win Butler’s, the Texas via Montreal accent definitely carries through into Kirk’s dramatised delivery. Decide for yourself whether the ‘cinematic landscapes’ of Keep On Creepin’ On are a step too far by streaming the record on Spinner, anticipated for the 5th Of April.