Sunday, July 30, 2006

Laura Veirs

I've been meaning to do a review of a Laura Veirs album, but I haven't updated this damn blog in over two months. Sorry folks. I tell people to read my blog and then slack on updating! Shame shame. Hope I can convince you to keep coming back, as I will try to update more often from now on.

Now on to the music... Lately there have been many singer-songwriters, but not of Laura Veirs' character. She brings back an earnest kind of songwriting that has been lacking lately in this particular genre. We have our kitsch, our genre bandwagon hoppers (jazzy, cabaret, electro-tinged, etc.); but no good-ol' fashioned nice songs. Veirs leaves me satisfied. Similar to how I feel after I finish listening to a Sarah Harmer album, she delivers. Year of Meteors, Veirs' latest album, is a collection of all-around good songs that vary just enough to let the album feel complete. "Secret Someones" could've come off of an Ivy album, with the off-beat and moog synth. "Through The Glow" brings me back to older Cranberries stuff. Remember when Liz Phair was making decent music and had that feministy edge? Well, she's not doing either anymore, but Veirs is at least able to make a good song similar to hers with "Cool Water". Veirs has a lot of things going for her while other artists may be very talented, always have something a little lacking. Let's face it, sometimes Cat Power just sounds a little too bland. And I know you agree when I say that Beth Orton has an annoying voice, (which is really too bad, cuz otherwise her music is pretty good). Veirs' voice is nice, and her ability to dash the perfect instrumentation in between those sad minor chords makes her excel above these other artists. I know I'm dropping a lot of other artist's names, but Veirs is something great all on her own. I am a relatively new fan of hers, so I am anxious to encounter her previous albums, and await her next!

Laura Veirs - Year Of Meteors

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Shogun Kunitoki

It's hard to make that organ music that you usually hear at church services seem fun, but Shogun Kunitoki seem to have it down to a science. Well okay, the music on their debut album "Tasankokaiku" can't really be described as funeral music, but the organ sequences remind me of something you might hear at a church service. This Finnish group dabbles in electronic noise, with the organ and repetitive bass being the focal points; but what SK do really well is layering. By layering the various sounds they can make each song sound so similar, yet different at the same time with a slightly differentiated layered bit. It's pretty interesting. I can't seem to compare them to any other acts as they seem pretty unique, but they are purely instrumental. At some points the background bass hits sounds slightly reminiscent of a Lali Puna beat... but saying their sisters in sound is a total stretch. Perhaps a more lively, grounded version of Sigur Ros??

"Montezuma" is most likely the single of the album if they were to have such a thing... but you most likely won't hear it on your local radio station, (which is a shame). SK can be pretty dreamy at points; in "Tropiikin Kuuma Huuma" for instance, the halfway through their is a pretty blanket of twinkling sounds that cuts the broken two-step beat. Some tracks such as "Daniel" and "1918-1926" have a majestic feel to it. The former two sounds really do justice to the Sigur Ros comparisons i think. It's a very nice record, which somehow manages to border the pretty/majestic/creepy line. I like it though! So check it out.

Note: I always upload full albums, (yeah yeah it's illegal.. but how else will you hear about good music anymore without a little promotion? Don't be a hardass). The links do expire though. So if you don't want to miss out on the uploads of fresh, good music (sometimes which is pretty hard to get your hands on in the internet/real world), visit this website regularly! That way you can get to the music when the uploads are still active. Cheers, and enjoy :)

Shogun Kunitoki - Tasankokaiku

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Panda Bear

Sometimes I am late in catching on to stuff, but think it's good enough to still feature cuz, well, people should know about it if they don't already. I only got into Animal Collective recently (basically when everyone and their cat did), so this is probably why I am just hearing about Panda Bear recently. Panda Bear, aka Noah Lennox, is a member of Animal Collective, and his solo record "Young Prayer" was released in 2004. If you enjoy AC you'll most likely warm up to "Young Prayer", though I wouldn't say they're very similar. Lennox is still using a relatively unorthodox approach to songwriting, which one could say is along the lines of AC's material.

Despite this writing style, I hit it off with this album right away, (yes, we are now in a committed, loving relationship). I have a soft spot for artists who don't need to be too flamboyant with their "indie-ness", and can pull off a great introspective album without seeming too pretentious. Most of the time I can't actually understand what Lennox is saying because I'm too busy listening to his soft, high-pitched voice over the guitar picking, clapping, vibes, or whatever other sparse noise he's decided to use. I also can't glean from the song-titles what the songs are about since he's gone away with those entirely (each song is referred to "Untitled 1", "Untitled 2", etc.). No worries, i'm sure that's unimportant. My favourite track is "Untitled 6", which starts out probably as raucous as any of the songs will get, and then peeters off into this melancholiness. I'm hoping with AC's newfound fame, Panda Bear gets the attention he deserves. Enjoy!

Panda Bear - Young Prayer

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Flaming Lips

How does it make you feel when someone tells you that you just don't "get" a band? It usually annoys me when someone tells me that, (especially if it's coming out of some indie snob's mouth). But the reality is that sometimes it's hard to explain why you like a band and why you don't. It appears that The Flaming Lips are often seen as one of these bands that you just have to "get".

Either that, or give it yourself some time to like them. It's true, The Lips are a strange band. Quirky lyrics, bizarre story-telling, obscenely long song titles, no real clear-cut genre to lump them into, and it's really hard to compare them to other bands cuz the sound is so original, (or at least i think it is). I find this all exciting personally, but some people just don't like it.

This brings me to their latest album, "At War With The Mystics", released in early-April of this year. It took me a couple of listens to get into it, and part of the reason is that the first two songs will make the Lips' haters say I told ya so. They're just too strange. The opening track "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song..." has a good yelping part in the background, and an interesting beat... but the deep-man voice in the background along with the yeah-yeah-ing is just plain weird. The second track "Free Radicals..." sounds like a song i could have made up in my bedroom at the age of 12. Not cool, folks. If you really want to do this album justice, just skip the first two songs, and you get to the really good stuff. "My Cosmic Autumn Rebellion..." sounds like the single of the album that we may eventually hear in a Saturn commercial. I've always found the Lips to be especially poignant when they lay back, relax, and do their dreamy thang. Sometimes they get a little too weird, but this album stays on board after those first 2 dreadful songs. "Mr. Ambulance Driver" is a highlight for me. Wayne Coyne's slightly off-tune voice paired with the sweet music is just soo cute!

Lesson of the day: Be open. If you didn't like them before, give them another chance. You may be surprised!

The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics

Monday, May 01, 2006

Casey Dienel

It's sad how certain musical genres are like fashion trends: they're hot and everyone has to have one, and then they disappear for like 4 years and all of a sudden they come back again. (Remember those camo-patterned t-shirts that were all the rage in the mid-90's, and now everyone and everything is camo?? yeah, *that's* what i'm talking about). The female-piano-songstress genre was reignited, i suppose, by Regina Spektor over the past couple of years. Casey Dienel somehow got lost in the shuffle of the revival though, and that's too bad. Though i wouldn't say she sounds a lot like Spektor, the styles definitely draw some similarities.

What's kind of annoying though is the tendency to lump them all together, though many of them don't sound anything alike. First of all, Dienel is definitely more jazz-inspired. Just take a listen to "Coffee Beanery" or "Baby James" and the strong vaudeville influence is obvious, (the latter track also has some sweet clarinet action.... that touches my heart). At times her music is more free-flowing, and Dienel just lets her fingers fly like on "Embroidery". Dienel can mix things up a little though, like on "Old Man", where she's more stripped down, left with only her voice and the piano. Or "Stationary", where she abandons the piano entirely for a bamjo. All in all, Dienel is an extremely talented songwriter and pianist, and shows it off consistently throughout "Wind-Up Canary" with her campy sound and fun arrangements. A sweet find!

Casey Dienel - Wind-Up Canary

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Glenn Kotche

So i've got out of my Canadian music funk and am making my first post about a non-Canuck artist! I'm glad, cuz this guy rocks. Glenn Kotche for those of you who may not be familiar with the name, is the drummer for Wilco. However, his music sounds pretty much nothing like Wilco, which is a good thing (not that i hate Wilco, but i enjoy Kotche's solo material much more).

In essence, his second album "Mobile" is very experimental in nature. Drawing from his talent as a drummer, Kotche has made a complex album of various percussionary elements, mixed in with electronic blip, and a few select other instruments like piano. But otherwise, it's all pretty glitchy and percussion-y. This is awesome. The first track "Clapping Music Variations" opens with a light cymbal sequence, then segues into a great vibraphone sequence. I absolutely LOVE vibes, (especially in jazz... mmm), so i like this track a lot. For those of you who enjoy the cuttiness of micro-house techno, you'll like "Projections of (What) Might". With a firmer back beat it would make a great Richie Hawtin track. Overall, the album has a nice flow to it, because Kotche never picks up the pace too much to throw the listener off. "Reductions or Imitations" is a very laid-back piano piece, "Individual Trains" will make you feel like you're in a helicopter or something (very spacey), and the finishing track "Fantasy On A Shona Theme" is a fabulous closer with, yes you guessed it, vibes! Kotche leaves us with a smooth exit, and boy is it good.

I love this album, (someone told me it even sounds "Balinese"??). I clearly need to listen to more Balinese music. Even if you don't traditionally like/think you'll like experimenetal music, i highly recommend it!

"Mobile" Track Listing:
Clapping Music Variations
Mobile Parts 1 & 2
Mobile Part 3
Projections of (What) Might
Monkey Chant
Reductions or Imitations
Individual Trains
Fantasy On a Shona Theme

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Raising The Fawn

Don't you love it when you hear about bands for a while and think, why didn't i get into them sooner? This is how i feel about Raising the Fawn, cuz i rather like their music. And thankfully, i'll get to see them live soon!

Another good Canadian band... yeah yeah jumping on the bandwagon you might say, but give them a listen and you'll see they're worth it. And they're from Toronto... not your typical indie-powerhouse city like Montreal or Vancouver or Ottawa. Hahah, ok i was joking about Ottawa :P But i digress.

Unfortunately i have yet to hear their latest album "The Maginot Line", it was released last month. But I gave their first full-length "The North Sea" one spin and i liked it instantly! It's very accessible, (that might make some of you happy, and some of you cringe). Don't worry, it's accessible in an original kind of way. The first couple of songs are slow and mellow, with lead singer John Crossingham (who is also a contributing member of Broken Social Scene) sticking with the falsetto mostly (he enjoys the falsetto throughout most of the album), giving the songs an almost earie (sp?) tone. Oooh, spooky. Then comes track 3 "Gwendolyn", definitely the single of the album, and things pick up. It actually sounds very reminiscent of The Stills' early stuff (hey, didn't we just talk about them?? what goes around comes around i guess...). Following this track we have "July 23rd", which is the country-twang addition to the pack. Hey i don't know about you, but i can enjoy a little twang with my indie once in a while. Lastly, the title track has parts that are very similar to Uncut, and the rest has some very Dears-esque guitar picking. I don't know if my comparisons make any sense, but i'm notoriously bad at this kind of thing. Just listen and you'll figure it out.

Please note that the songs are in .wma format, and also please note that you'll just have to deal with it. It's free music, don't complain.

"The North Sea"

If you like what you hear at all, Raising the Fawn will be performing in Ottawa @ Zaphod's on May 5th w/ another cool band called In-Flight Safety!