Feb 28, 2009

It's So Friggin' Beautiful...

It's so beautiful. The song. The album. A gift to all of us.

MP3: Middle Cyclone-Neko Case

Feb 27, 2009

Dan Deacon @ Serial Space

Holy crap! Where do I start? How about this. I danced with Dan Deacon last night. Yes, I can't believe it either. Maybe I should start at the beginning, always a good place. I had heard that Dan Deacon shows were unique and unforgettable, but I had heard some of his songs and wasn't too impressed. Electronic, dancey, that sort of thing. But. But. I have been listening to some tunes from his upcoming album in "Bromst". They blew me away. Deacon has expanded into soundscapes of beauty and pleasure, truly mindblowing. So an underground show at Serial Space in Chippendale had me intrigued. By the end of the night I was floating on a sea of bliss.

Serial Space is in a bleak section of town. A small door leads to a room that appears to be part of an old warehouse. The room is small with cement floors and a pole in the middle. There is no lighting or air conditioning. Yet, it is somehow appealing. A million miles from corporate rock, which is very comforting. Dan was sitting in a corner of the room, listening to the support act. He was wearing an undersized blue Flintstones T-shirt and black shorts and sneakers. Not rock star looks, but just who he is. Which is a man to see live before you die. A man of the people. A man that is hugely entertaining and full of the grit of life. His stage was a long desk, loaded with small beaten up decks and keyboards and a iPod shuffle supplying the base of the music. He introduced himself and said the small crowd, about a hundred people, were going to have fun and dance themselves into oblivion. That was the key. As most of the songs were older ones, they were not especially great, except for the hypnotic "The Crystal Cat". But it was the fun, the fun. The movement, the social interaction that made this such a memorable night.

I would be writing for a day to explain all the things we did, so I will try to be brief. At first we partnered up for a dance. But I had no one, so Dan was my partner. It was a mirror dance, where the object was to repeat the moves of your partner. I was dancing with Dan, before a late comer entered the room and I switched to be her partner. Then we formed two circles and danced around the room during "The Crystal Cat". We also had a dance competition where we all had turns to dance in the middle of the room in any way that we desired. The best though was the human bridge, where we formed a row of arms to pass under and kept extending it until we were out on the street and Dan was left alone in the room. Insane. Then he closed with "Silence Like The Wind", where we posed in a kind of opera singing mode and pranced about the room. I know, it sounds silly, but it was so much fun. That was to be it, but we pleaded for one more. He played "Paddling Ghost" off the new album. Such a great song, as was "Red F", played earlier. Trust me. "Bromst" will blow you away. What a memorable night. Fun was the object of the night and it was achieved with emphatic results. Deacon is a man of immense humanity, giving and funny. Warm and engaging. This night is stored in the memory bank.

Set List
Okie Dokie
The Crystal Cat
Red F
Snake Mistakes
Lion With A Shark's Head
Wham City
Silence Like The Wind

Paddling Ghost

Feb 26, 2009

Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married blew me away. I was expecting interesting. Entertaining. Even nice would have done. But this Jonathan Demme film is explosive, harrowing and thoroughly enthralling. Anne Hathaway is a revelation and the ensemble acting is superb. This is realist drama at its best, heavy on emotion and heavy on life. It is a small film, with big ideas. It is the best film that I have seen this year.

Rachel Getting Married is set in Connecticut over 2 and a half days. Kym (Anne Hathaway) is leaving a drug rehabilitation centre to attend the wedding of her sister Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). The wedding is being held at Rachel's father's (Bill Irwin) stately home in the country side. Paul Buckman is a gregarious, spirited individual who works in the recording industry. Conversely many of the guests at the wedding are from a musical background, including the groom to be Sidney (Tunde Adebimpe). Over the course of two days leading into the wedding and during the wedding, we learn of all the dramas and issues that confront the family. Kym is abrasive and surly, struggling to fit back into her family. She constantly fights with Rachel over many things and often their father is playing the peacemaker. Paul is remarried to Carol (Anna Deavere Smith), whilst the mother of the girls, Abby (Debra Winger) is in another relationship and appears distanced from the family core.

The screenplay by Jenny Lumet unfold beautifully as we sink deep into these multi faceted characters. We learn of their passion and their joy. Their heartbreak and their shortcomings. There is one scene in particular that is terribly moving, where we learn of a tragedy that has driven a wedge straight through the family. But it's not all doom. It is a wedding after all. The setting is beautiful. There is a constant flow of music through out the film and the ceremony is original and touching. We even see Robyn Hitchcock sing post wedding. This is definitely a film that wears its heart on its sleeve. It is brimful of guts and glory. Truth and tragedy. The only slight quibble would be that a couple of scenes could have been trimmed. Demme let some improvisation occur and it perhaps goes too far at times. But the quibble is only slight, for the rewards from this film are great. It truly will affect your heart.

The two common criticisms that I have heard about the film I find unfounded. One concerns the hand held cinematography. It does appears shaky at first, but after a couple of scenes it had left my memory. In fact I think it suits the film, giving it a documentary feel. As if the audience was watching a home movie. The other one is that the main characters are unlikeable. Kym is unsympathetic at times, but she also possesses a lot of grit and charisma and strength. Anne Hathaway is superb in this role, drawing out the full amount of emotion that is required in such a demanding role. Whilst Rosemarie DeWitt is epic as her older sister. It is a complex role that requires many shades and hues and she pulls it off with aplomb. This film is not perfect, but it is perfectly real, which makes it essential viewing.

Feb 25, 2009

A Positive Rage

This will be required viewing for all lovers of live music. The Hold Steady have a live DVD/CD being released on April 7. "A Positive Rage" includes a 53 minute documentary about life on the road for the band, including many live performances. The CD contains 17 tracks recorded at a show in Chicago in 2007. Definitely one to look forward to.

Feb 24, 2009

Thoughts On The Oscars

Hugh Jackman did a good job. He was charming.
All musical numbers (except the opening one) should be banned.
Yes, the Beyonce/Baz Luhrmann production wasn't that good.
The show was actually pretty good. I liked the new look.
The way the writing awards were presented was a highlight.
I just found out that was Beck covering Dylan at the end of the presentation.
It's "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" from the "War Child" compilation.
What's the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing?
I saw Rachel Getting Married on the weekend and it should have been nominated for Best Picture. In light of that, I wish Anne Hathaway had won.
I was happy to see Slumdog Millionaire win. But Milk is a better film.
I was happy to see Sean Penn win. His speech was moving and superb.
Dustin Lance Black's speech was tear inducing.
The actresses used to present Best Actress were a motley lineup of moderates.
What has happened to Sophia Loren?
The actors used to present were a much better lineup.
Tina Fey and Steve Martin were very funny.
Jack Black is rarely funny.
Penelope Cruz is just annoying.
Queen Latifah singing over dead people was just bad.
Why is God great?
I need to see The Reader too.
Why was Synecdoche, New York snubbed?

Feb 22, 2009

Skin Of Evil-Blackout Beach

It has a theme. It has a purpose. It means something and that is important. Even if we do not understand the meaning in full, we know of its heart and of its purpose. Purposeful. That is "Skin Of Evil", the second album from Blackout Beach, which is the solo work of Carey Mercer. Mercer, the man of vivid and vast imagination. A man who catches words in his mouth, swallows them and produces momentous streams of verbs and adjectives and nouns. Mercer, the man who opens doors to territories unknown. Catching honey dripped shards of glass in his bare hands, eating forests of owls and bandicoots. It speaks of another language, but speaks to the heart. With a story in hand and a purpose to inflict beauty.

"Skin Of Evil" tells the story of "Donna" and her past and present lovers. Each lover has a story to tell and so does "Donna". Played and recorded in its entirety by Mercer, this is a spacious record. The music is sparse and stunningly beautiful. In between the cracks we get the stories. The wild and incredible stories. "Cloud Of Evil" is a beautiful opener. Soft drumming and an incessant guitar line float between the aching vocals of Mercer. "I wish the pink flowers away...". "Donna" is the awesome, perfect woman, already dismissing the first of her lovers. It would seem "Donna" is a powerful woman too, one that would have been captured in Greek mythology. "Biloxi, In A Grove, Cleans Out His Eyes" continues the theme of conquered love. This song is stunning, arid and dry, full of import and doom. Read the lyrics and weep, I say. The theme of "Donna" and her men continues through out this stunning piece of music. Each song is its own section of the story. Each song is eerie and quite beautiful. Mercer sings with an understated power here. Whilst I will admit that some of his Frog Eyes vocals can scare off even the most dedicated listener, here he sings with care and tenderness. His voice is still a unique one, but the feelings and the power are undeniable. Mercer sings "I kiss my palm to see if it's awake" with sublime awe on "The Roman" a song that remits stark beauty.

"Skin Of Evil" is a fully realised tapestry of sound and ideas. Of story and strange life. There are amazing moments in abundance here, but none better then the soft and tender "Nineteen, One God, One Dull Star", which features lovely piano and a taste of female backing vocals. As Mercer sings "We shall row into wakes of woe", you might just hear your heart skip a beat. If it didn't, then there is a good chance it will on the sublime closer "Astoria, Menthol Lite, Hilltop, Wave Of Evil, 1982", a song that delivers in full. A song of superb beauty and strong purpose. Be still, my beating heart. Please find this record now. It matters to music in 2009.

MP3: Cloud Of Evil-Blackout Beach

Feb 19, 2009

A Hand At Dusk-Swan Lake

These beautiful creatures. These fine men of song. Yes, they have done it again. If "Beast Moans" was a wondrous, intoxicating creature, full of fire and strangeness, then "Enemy Mine" is a deleactable stroll through the minds of genius and oddity. Yes, "Enemy Mine" is outstanding. Seamless and beautiful. Strange and hypnotic. Now, we have a song to share with you. "A Hand At Dusk" is Spencer's song. Six minutes of solemn beauty overlaying a gorgeous piano line. As an added bonus, we receive the voice of Carey Mercer at the end of the song. Full of doom and import, his voice adds an extra touch to this special song. Just so you know, Carey Mercer is in career best form on this album. Yes, this album is good.

MP3: A Hand At Dusk-Swan Lake

Feb 17, 2009

Odawas Release New Album

Today sees the release of the new album from Odawas. "The Blue Depths" is the third full length from this Indiana band and it sees the light of day on the always excellent Jagjaguwar. Odawas ply their trade in atmospheric, serene, warm, glowing sounds. This album will hopefully be no different.

The Blue Depths Track Listing
1 The Case of The Great Irish Elk
2 Swan Song of The Humpback
3 Angler
4 Our Gentle Life Together
5 The Sound Of Lies
6 Secrets of The Fall
7 Moonlight/Twilight
8 Harmless Lover's Discourse
9 Boy In The Yard

MP3: Harmless Lover's Discourse

Feb 16, 2009

Out At Sea-Heartless Bastards

This song represented Heartless Bastards' first apperance on national television in the US. This great song is taken from their brand new album "The Mountain", out now on Fat Possum. I recommend you check out this band.

Feb 13, 2009

Jolie Holland @ The Basement

I am a complete sucker for earthy, soulful American singers with a country stripe in their heart. The great ones. Neko Case, Gillian Welch, Patty Griffin. I love them all and I have seen them all live in the last year or three. Now I add Jolie Holland to that list. This glorious creature entertained and bewitched us Thursday night at The Basement. This is Jolie's third visit to these shores, but my first visit with her. It was a glorious visit. Indeed.

Firstly she is a singular woman. No pretense, no nonsense. Extremely graceful and superbly talented. She performed with an excellent band which included the esteemed Rachel Blumberg on drums, but she opened solo. Playing an ancient semi-acoustic, she opened with an older number in "December, 1999". Which was quite beautiful. The band then joined her and she gave us a set made up mostly of songs from her latest "The Living and the Dead", with the odd older tune and some well chosen covers thrown in. She also sang us two songs that she recorded for the new album, but which didn't make the cut. One was "Honey Girl", which she played on piano and the other was one I wasn't sure of the title, but closed the night.

Of the newer songs I was excited to hear "Palmyra", "Corrido Por Buddy" and "The Future". They all sounded great, with the full band sound. Jolie covered a wonderful Catherine Irwin song and also one from Irwin's longtime band Freakwater in the encore. I think she covered a Willie Nelson song too. Well, I am going with that anyway. She certainly covered a Bob Dylan song, which I didn't recognise, but later discovered was "To Ramona". Strangely, she barely touched "Springtime Can Kill You", only playing one song from that album. But she did touch on "Escondida" a fair bit, including a rousing rendition of "Old Fashioned Morphine" and then closing with "Mad Tom Of Bedlam". This was great as it was just Rachel on drums and Jolie on a very ancient looking violin. Which looked more like a box with strings attached. I am sure this instrument could tell some great stories. It was a wonderful night. Holland has a unique singing style, singing with a clenched mouth and lingering on each word. A country drawl if you will. She didn't say a lot early on, but warmed up later, giving us some little vignettes of her life. Her musical style is hard to pin down. A touch of country, a dash of soul, a dab of folk. It's certainly her own unique style. Her lyrics are dark and gothic, but they contain a certain amount of beauty. Just like her enchanting performance.

Set List
December, 1999
Mexico City
Sweet Loving Man
Swan Dive (Catherine Irwin cover)
Honey Girl
The Littlest Birds
Goodbye California
Hable El Corazon (Willie Nelson cover?)
The Future
Crush In The Ghetto
Your Big Hands
To Ramona (Bob Dylan cover)
Corrido Por Buddy
Old Fashioned Morphine
Mad Tom Of Bedlam

My Old Drunk Friend (Freakwater cover)

Feb 11, 2009

The Hold Steady Live at the Corner Hotel

I didn't make it to Laneway, if you were wondering. I wanted to go so badly, but I had to work. The main reason for going was to see the one band that stood above all. The Hold Steady. Craig Finn is a poet, without doubt.

Feb 8, 2009


Milk is wonderful. That much is true. It is also inspirational, warm, funny and very moving. Of the films receiving acclaim at the moment in this awards season I believe it is the best. The most complete. The true and sad story of Harvey Milk is beautifully captured by director Gus Van Sant. He elicits wonderful performances to create a truly remarkable cinematic experience.

Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) is a closeted homosexual living in New York with his boyfriend Scott Smith (James Franco). It is 1972 and at the age of 40 he feels unfulfilled and stale. So Harvey and Scott move to San Francisco and locate to the growing gay district of The Castro. He opens a camera store, which soon turns into the political centre of The Castro. Despite San Francisco being a relatively open city there is still stark discrimination and hostility directed at the gay community. Harvey decides a life of action is what he needs. He runs for public office to enable the gay community to receive their just and human rights. His friends become his political team, rallying behind him and his cause. One in particular is especially dynamic. Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch) matures into a committed and passionate advocate. As Harvey battles three times to become a City supervisor, we see a lot of real footage mingled into the film. It gives us a true perspective of the times as intolerance and prejudice is clearly alive and well in 70's America. Harvey eventually becomes a City Supervisor, where he comes head to head with the arch conservative Dan White (Josh Brolin). This is, of course, a true story and if you know the story, you will know how it ends. Yet, the end is still shocking and very sad. There were not a lot of dry eyes in the cinema I was in at the finale.

Gus Van Sant has once again given the world a great cinematic experience. The film is full of warmth and humour and a true sense of reality. It is political, but also gives us a true human experience. The cast are wonderful, with Penn especially great as the multi facted Milk. It is a richly nuanced performance, full of grit and honesty. Brolin is also great as a man battling his demons and delivers a starkly grim turn. This is truly a special film, one to be embraced and enjoyed with all your heart.

Feb 6, 2009

Born Ruffians @ Oxford Art Factory

It started pretty slowly, but ended quite strongly. It didn't change my life (see last post), but it was fun. Not every show can be mind altering, but this was still pretty good fun. I can think of ways it could have been better though. I think I will share these thoughts with you.

I like that Born Ruffians opened with "Red, Yellow & Blue". Its gentle loping melody was a good introduction to the band. But, I think from here they probably could have thrown in an upbeat number. One to fire up the crowd. But the next two songs, although quite good songs, were low key and not memorable. I don't know if it was the band feeding off the crowd or the other way around, but there was a palpable lack of buzz in the room. I have seen this band before and they were full of energy. Early on at the Oxford Art Factory though, they seemed to lack oomph. But it could have been the very passive crowd. For a band that can write such great melodies there was a distinct lack of movement. Plus, from where I was standing there was an awful lot of chatter. People, I say it yet again. I listen to bands to hear the bands, not the inane conversations of punters. Anyway, "Barnacle Goose" seemed to fire up every one a bit, then "Foxes Mate For Life" was a truly beautiful moment. This plaintive, melancholy song was extended and stretched with great results. Soon we had a disappointment turn into joy. Lead singer Luke Lalonde said that because their EP was not released here, playing one of the songs off it had bombed the night before. I so wanted to hear "This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life" and was disappointed not to receive it. But we instead were given a Grizzly Bear cover in "Knife". It was a great rendition that I loved. Before "Little Garcon" Lalonde also queried the lack of movement in the crowd again, then stated ironically that they had a slow one to play anyway. Well, never mind, this gorgeous song was just great. The harmonies were just beautiful and it signalled a strong end to the night. "Kurt Vonnegut" followed and it just slayed me. If you doubt that this band can write a good lyric, then please check out a lyric sheet to this song soon. "Hummingbird" was then a perfect closer and any apathy in the audience had evaporated by now.

It was a quick hour, that eventually gathered some momentum as the clock ticked over. The short and sweet encore of "I Need A Life" was pitch perfect. This song is a real crowd pleaser, its metronomical rhythm perfectly suited to the live arena. It also illustrated the capabilities of this band. They write exquisite pop songs, full of verve and melody and a touch of melancholy. Given the right atmosphere, I am sure a special show exists somewhere.

Set List
Red, Yellow & Blue
Hedonistic Me
Barnacle Goose
Plinky Plonky (new song)
Foxes Mate For Life
In A Mirror
Knife (Grizzly Bear cover)
Sole Brother (new song)
Little Garcon
Kurt Vonnegut

I Need A Life

Feb 5, 2009

The Hold Steady @ Metro Theatre

They came for a good time. They left changed. They came for a great time. They left inspired. They came to see if the spirit of rock and roll was still alive. They left knowing that it is. You don't attend a Hold Steady show, you are a Hold Steady show. Passive bystanding is not the thing. Singing. Dancing. Being. Living. They are the thing. If Wednesday night at the Metro Theatre proved anything, it proved that Craig Finn and company are holding the torch. The torch of hard driving, hard drinking, literate rock and roll.

I really wanted to see this band. In a bad way. My excitement metre was on high. What would they open with though. It was friggin' "Positive Jam". The first song from the first album! A perfect start to the Hold Steady story. Minneapolis! Holly! Charlemagne! Gideon! Oh yeah, this was going to be special. Then they tore open our mouths and shoved joy down it, with "Constructive Summer" being particularly exciting. At this stage the audience was in full dance mode, with bodies flying around the room. If there was one complaint of an otherwise stellar night it was some fans were a bit too rowdy. Several times I had elbows in my head and my feet trodden on. Hey, I am all for enthusiasm, but it doesn't hurt to be aware of other audience members' personal space. Anyway, the music was too good to ignore and a massive highlight was on the way. "One For The Cutters" was awesome and everything else. "Sometime she parties with townies...". "Don't Let Me Explode" was amazingness in following. In fact I think some of my favourite songs of the night were the slower ones. The ones with quiet majesty that allow us to hear the lyrics of Mr Finn in full. Especially as the sound was a little low in the vocals, meaning the big rock numbers were sometimes a bit over powering.

We kept flowing right along. How can anyone not dance to "Massive Nights"? Or "Party Pit" for that matter? "Cheyenne Sunrise" was simply bliss on a platter and "Lord, I'm Discouraged" was so good I think I found manna, or something of a similar likeness. This song also featured a killer guitar solo from Tad Kubler on double neck guitar. Wow, twice and more. Kubler was great by the way, as was the whole band. Especially the sartorially dressed Franz Nicolay. He of the moustache was resplendent in a white suit. All the while drinking red wine from a bottle. But we all know who the centre is. Craig Finn. The man is a wonder. He has this wide eyed enthusiasm to each performance. He doesn't live on every word. He lives on every vowel and consonant. Making sure he delivers each line directly to the audience. When he is not singing, he is mouthing the previous line into the crowd. He seriously wants us to feel and know what he is singing about. If we don't feel it, he's not doing his job. I am sure he made eye contact with me at least twice. That would probably apply for all that were in his sight. A wise friend (my girl) said he has a similar stage presence to John Darnielle. If John Darnielle decided to start a rock band.

The five songs that closed the set were just explosive. If "Stuck Between Stations" didn't have the ears ringing, then "Your Little Hoodrat Friend" completed the job. But it was the last two songs that were nearly perfect. "Stay Positive" is as great as the message it espouses, whilst "Slapped Actress" is now my favorite song. "We'll make our own movies"! Yes we will Craig. Yes we will. The heroes then returned to give us more. "First Night" melted us away and "How A Resurrection Really Feels" was blissfully beautiful. We thought that this would be the perfect end, but this glorious song turned into "Killer Parties". Epicness ensued as this seminal tune twisted its way into our hearts. Craig then launched into his now customary spiel about the connection between band and audience. How much they love playing. How much they love us. Oh, how much we love them. They fill us with SO MUCH JOY. This is why the rock was forged. Why the roll was formed. Why the song became us and we became the song. "And the sing-along songs will be our scriptures"

Set List
Positive Jam
Sequestered In Memphis
Constructive Summer
Cattle & The Creeping Things
You Can Make Him Like You
Yeah Sapphire
One For The Cutters
Don't Let Me Explode
Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night
Massive Nights
Party Pit
Cheyenne Sunrise
Lord, I'm Discouraged
Stuck Between Stations
Chips Ahoy!
Your Little Hoodrat Friend
Stay Positive
Slapped Actress

First Night
Ask Her For Adderall
How A Resurrection Really Feels>Killer Parties

Feb 4, 2009

Ani DiFranco @ Enmore Theatre

It's not often that I attend a show and not be familiar with most of the music on offer. It certainly offers a different perspective. So that was Ani DiFranco at the Enmore Theatre on Tuesday night. Of course I knew her reputation and name, but I have hardly listened to much of her output through the years. And to be honest, what I have heard didn't make me a huge fan. So, normally I would not have attended this show. But, when the act concerned is much loved by my much loved then I wanted to go to see what the night could potentially deliver. What it did deliver was a fun night by a dynamic and engaging performer, playing before an enthusiastic and VERY loving audience. I don't think I will be delving deep into her back catalogue anytime soon, but I certainly would not back away from seeing Ani perform live again.

So, there is the image and the stereotype. Ani, feminist, political, revolving sexuality. All her fans are female. That sort of thing. Well, there was a heavy dosage of female love in the room last night, but Ani is far from a cardboard cutout. She is a living, breathing vital human being, who is passionate about her world and the world. Not too long ago she had a baby and only recently did she go back on the road. Well, she didn't show any sign last night of slowing down or mellowing out. She attacks each and every song as if it the first time she has played it and maybe the last time she ever will. Constantly changing guitars to suit the particular song, she really is an expert at her craft. In fact, she is so good, that I think should could easily survive without her 3 backing players on stage. I am sure they are very talented, but I did not find they added a lot to each song. Except Mike the percussionist. He was pretty special.

So, musically what did I gain. To be honest, I think her songs are nice, but not spectacular. Please don't kill me Ani fans. Just my opinion. I think the songs are very rhythmical and drive very hard. But there is not a lot of melody. Or if there is, I am not hearing it especially. And although I found her voice to be powerful and electric, it's not a voice that appeals to my heart. It alerts my heart, but does not break it open. Having said that I did enjoy "Red Letter Year" and "The Atom". In fact I was hoping for more songs off her latest album. Somehow, these newer songs appeal to me more. Of the older ones I did enjoy "Two Little Girls" and the closer "Shameless", which had the whole audience out of their seats and dancing. I think this will be my greatest memory of the night. The response that one person's music can have on an audience. The fact that four walls and some chairs can become a living ampitheatre, simply because of the power of music. Ani DiFranco can do this as well as any musician on the planet. I also loved that my girl loved it and that I was there to see her smile.

Set List (With help from my girl)
Done Wrong
Red Letter Year
November 4th, 2008
Splinter (new song)
As Is
The Atom
Way Tight (solo)
Two Little Girls (solo)
32 Flavors


Feb 2, 2009

Here We Go Magic

This trio has been generating a lot of good press lately and I can see why. Hailing from Brooklyn, Here We Go Magic are songwriter Luke Temple, Baptiste Ibar and Peter Hale. They are soon to release their debut self titled album on Western Vinyl. Temple made the album over a two month period, using analog synths, a cassette 4 track and his SM-57 mic. The songs that I have heard from the album are quite beautiful and difficult to define. Temple has a light, airy voice, that plays over gentle melodies and many, many interesting sounds. This is one album that I am looking forward to hearing in full.

MP3: Tunnelvision
MP3: Only Pieces (excerpt)

Feb 1, 2009

Merriweather Post Pavilion-Animal Collective

First things first. It's great, of course. Animal Collective don't do anything but greatness. It's in their blood, the way they are wired. Truly seminal and influential, they are also unique. Even if you don't 'get' Animal Collective I think it would be hard to deny their singular influence, their ability to set trends. So, we arrive at this album that has had universal acclaim and much reportage. Making it hard to add much more. But I will try to give my impressions and maybe the things that make me love this band so much.

To begin with, we now have three. For the moment, Deakin has departed the scene. Then we discover that this album is missing his guitar work, relying heavily on samplers. This gives the album a more synth driven sound, there is much less drumming. Less reliance on tribal beats and sounds. But this in turn makes the album a bigger pop record. Well, pop in the AC world. That is, glorious harmonies, shimmering melodies, golden sounds. So, we start with a knockout one-two punch. "In The Flowers" lopes gently with Avey Tare serenading us before the songs detonates our collective minds half way through. The bass heavy beat pounds us into total submission. Then Panda Bear takes the reins through the sumptuous and totally glorious "My Girls". Its many great qualities have been written about ad infinitum, but deservedly so. It is five minutes of heavenly melody. Effortlessly great. As with many songs by this great band it is all about the feel. The spirit, the all encompassing sound. Lyrically, it is quite simple. There are many songs about everyday acts. In fact we have a song named "Daily Routine", which is one of my favourites. Maybe here I can best explain my love for the band. It begins with gloops and gleeps, a bit of esoteric emittances. Then we have Panda Bear driving the beautiful melody, which jumps all over the place. It has my attention all ready. Then at 2.30 the song slows and glides into a melancholy feel. A beautiful serenity covers our eyes. I truly love these AC melancholic moments, those moments where your heart meets your mind somewhere halfway up your throat. If I could have one thing from this album it would be more moments like this. More moments to make the heart skip a beat.

But, we have other great moments. "Summertime Clothes" drives with a purpose, "Bluish" is a summerly romp, whilst "Guys Eyes" inherits a sound heard on some of their earlier albums. "Taste" is more experimental, a great concoction of sounds. There are a couple of songs that don't quite work. "Also Frightened" would be one. But we have a sublime closer in the stunning "Brother Sport". A song that swallows me whole in every sitting. A romp and a half, one I need to experience live. In the canon of Animal Collective I still believe "Feels" sits on top of the pile. But this is an outstanding piece of music. A gift to all music lovers and truly a gift that keeps giving.