Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Record Review: Atlas Sound - Logos

Atlas Sound, the perhaps topographically-named solo project of Deerhunter's Bradford Cox, will release its second full-length (though certainly not second release) Oct. 20. Getting this album early was a real treat. Though a demo version leaked a while back (to much chagrin on Cox's part), it didn't do justice to the finished product, a disparate collection of songs that's as prodigal as it is pretty. Yay for ATL.

I got to review Logos for Flagpole:

Atlas Sound


After floating blissfully into the solo arena with 2008’s Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See but Cannot Feel, Deerhunter's Bradford Cox has planted both feet on the ground with his second full-length as Atlas Sound. Not only have the spiraling ideas he recorded alone returned to Earth a bit for Logos, but he’s left his bedroom confines to rejoin the world.

Combinations define Logos, of people and of genres. "Walkabout," the result of Cox's lesson in song sampling from Animal Collective's Noah Lennox, is a collaborative powerhouse. Above thumping bass, sharp treble clicks dance with happy keys and both guys’ remarkably different voices. It’s one of those summer-y songs that evokes a sort of alt-pop euphoria few can match...[Read more]

(The Fader has the "Walkabout" MP3)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Record Review: Sunset Rubdown - Dragonslayer

For Stomp and Stammer:

Sunset Rubdown

If you can stand Spencer Krug's voice long enough to get through this whole album, then man, are you in for a treat. The solo recording project that has evolved into an honest-to-god band returns post-breakthrough with Dragonslayer, the follow-up to their 2007 release Random Spirit Lover. RSL was a leap forward for the band, compositionally, and while Dragonslayer demonstrates yet again the group's abilities with intelligent instrumentals and incisive lyricism, the critics don't seem to be falling over themselves with praise because it's nothing we didn't discover they could do last time.

Which isn't to say Sunset Rubdown isn't growing or that Dragonslayer isn't a phenomenal record. Maybe it's better as an under-the-radar list-topper. All the songs contain more than they seem to at first, and expand outward from their gorgeous, melody-driven centers. Meshing imaginative synth keys and the ever-present clean guitar riff around lyrics with sentiments that range from wry to romantic (fairy tales and classical mythology pop up all over) to just startlingly descriptive, Krug (Wolf Parade, Frog Eyes) and co. create a whole world you can just stroll right into – one that rhymes frequently, too. Take for an example this line from the almost tropical "Paper Lace": "There's nothing left inside the room you filled with lion skins and laurels. Those were good ideas, but they weren't diamonds and pearls." After the verse and chorus repeat a couple of times, it launches into a B-section à la Okkervil River that ups the nostalgia and stylistic punch before returning to the original theme. Though the structure isn't unique, it puts Sunset Rubdown in good company, reserving their spot among the best working in the modern songwriting tradition...[Read more]

Monday, September 14, 2009

Live Review: The Brunettes, Throw Me The Statue, Nurses @ The Drunken Unicorn 9/7/09

For Atlanta Music Guide:

Live Review: The Brunettes, Throw Me The Statue, Nurses @ The Drunken Unicorn, September 7

I’ve come to really dig the homemade decorations bands have taken to draping across their equipment for the sake of... what, beauty? Hipster kitsch? Either way, it’s pretty charming. (I mean, have you ever seen These Are Powers live?) For Portland,Ore.’s Nurses (pictured above), the knitted doilies tied to their tables and tables of sampling boards and other electronic gadgetry might be more geared toward aesthetic continuity, as many of their press photos have to do with yarn and paper cut-out triangles.

But that’s not the point. The point is that Nurses treated the Unicorn to a dynamic live show on Labor Day, replete with faithful re-imaginings of songs from their August Dead Oceans debut, Apple’s Acre. They led with “Technicolor,” the album’s first track, frontmen Aaron Chapman and John Bowers bouncing the band’s characteristically nasal vocals off each other as they twiddled their multitude of knobs and strummed guitar strings. But James Mitchell, the band’s percussionist, played perhaps even more pivotal of a role, providing the almost tribal beats that set the band apart (or group them into the same sonic category as, say, Animal Collective), all mallet work, bass and rim tapping.

When Seattle’s Throw Me The Statue followed, the show became a very different beast. Instead of three cutoff-sporting beardy fellows, TMTS had four fresh-faced people on stage, led by the band’s brains Scott Reitherman. They spliced together songs from their sophomore LP Creaturesque, released in August via Secretly Canadian, and from their early 2008 debut Moonbeams. Just as Creaturesque was recorded with a full band instead of Reitherman solo like Moonbeams, the group’s sound has grown, too. Since the last time I saw them live, they’ve evolved to play louder, faster, and with more energy, without forsaking the melodic skill, glockenspiel (!) and drum machine vs. actual drums interplay that works so well for them. Standouts from Moonbeams like “Lolita” and “About To Walk” rose to the level of more raucous numbers from Creaturesque like “Ancestors” and “Hi-Fi Goon.”...[Read more]

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Playlist: Favorite Songs of 2009 (So Far)

So this year, I'm not procrastinating. I've been adding my favorite songs to a playlist as I go all year. When I stumble across a good one, it goes in, and now I've got something to show for it. It'll grow, of course, before list season this December. But for now, I thought I'd share so that everyone can listen to some awesome tunes. I know it's the playlist I turn to by default.

(BTW, despite its drawbacks, Lala.com has by far the best playlist embedding site going on right now.)

Record Review: The Matt Kurz One - Debt Sounds

For Flagpole:

The Matt Kurz One
Debt Sounds
Quote Unquote

Matt Kurz’s left foot is a decent bassist. His right foot plays pretty good snare and bass drum. His right hand is a respectable guitarist. His left hand plays keys and high hat well enough. But the sum of all these limbs (or rather his band The Matt Kurz One, of which he is the sole member) excels. See, Kurz plays everything simultaneously, and sings determinedly over it all. It makes his debut Debt Sounds, which would otherwise be a perfectly enjoyable rock and roll album, into something truly impressive—something to which you can’t help but tap and sing along. That is, as long as you’ve accepted you’ll never be as coordinated as he is...[Read more]

Visit Athens local Matt Kurz at his MySpace.

Record Review: Circulatory System - Signal Morning

I'm not sure if it comes across in the review--sometimes I try to avoid exaggeration or over-excitement in published pieces--but this record is brilliant. Really. It deserves a listen.

For Atlanta Music Guide:

Circulatory System
Signal Morning

Cloud Recordings

Circulatory System’s Signal Morning embodies everything that’s great about Athens’ famed Elephant 6 collective — the experimental streak, the grumbling soundscapes, the ‘60s pop throwback vocals and guitar work (complete with backwards records), the psychedelia — without everything it risks. Will Cullen Hart (formerly of The Olivia Tremor Control), the band’s heart and head, never lets the album get overblown or long-winded. Thoughts never continue longer than the amount of time for which they’re interesting. The songs never get precious or twee (I’m lookin’ at you, early Of Montreal), even at its most adorable moments (“News From The Heavenly Loom”).

Nothing — nothing! — remains static, whether it be an under-a-minute-long interlude (of which the album’s got plenty) or rambling electronic number. The only-48-second “Electronic Diversion,” for instance, is a pentatonic rave that busts unexpectedly but somehow necessarily into a low, House-y dance growl. And the record’s longest track, “Round Again,” at a full 5:36 minutes, is a fully-developed electro-pop statement. With a melody reminiscent of George Harrison at his most Ravi Shankar-obsessed, the song’s lyrics speak of mortality and the changeability of life while the music itself rounds corner after corner, satisfyingly returning to its original home in the end. The album turns on a dime from nostalgic (“Tiny Concerts”) to emotional (“Overjoyed”) to transcendent (“The Frozen Lake/The Symmetry,” “Signal Morning”)...[Read more]

Signal Morning released yesterday via Cloud Recordings. It's the band's first album in eight years, and features guest performances by Julian Koster (The Music Tapes, Neutral Milk Hotel) and even Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel), as well as everyone from Olivia Tremor Control. It's an E6 reunion, and it sounds wonderful for it.

[MP3] Circulatory System - "Overjoyed" (via Team Clermont)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Record Review: Slaraffenland - We're On Your Side

For Atlanta Music Guide:

We’re On Your Side


It’s a rare find, but Denmark’s Slaraffenland truly sounds unlike anyone else. The all-male vocal harmonies on the band’s second U.S.-released LP bring to mind a men’s choir or barbershop quartet, bass-heavy, on-pitch and gorgeous. But see, then they mix that skill with rock n’ roll sensibilities; We’re On Your Side’s throbbing percussion (“Hunting,” “Postcard”) is as important as how they sing. And Slaraffenland has brought creative instrumentation (horns, flute, clarinet, sax) and a strong ear for tension, pace and volume, too. Their compositions are more like classical arrangements than populist ditties, but pull along the same energy as the simplest power ballad...[Read more]

This song is one of my very favorite of the year:
[MP3] Slaraffenland - "Away"