Wednesday, October 28, 2009

James Husband - A Parallax I

For Flagpole:

James Husband
A Parallax I


James Husband, better known as Jamey Huggins from Of Montreal (and who’s played with loads of other bands, too), makes his solo debut with A Parallax I. It was recorded in three different studios by three different techniques over five years, and it sounds like it. The cassette-recorded tracks seem appropriately fuzzy and mellow, the all-analogue third of the record sounds as blended and optimistic as it should, and the digitally recorded numbers are as crisp and precise as Huggins’ layered, intricately timed arrangements require...[Read more]

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Record Review: Spring Tigers - Spring Tigers

It's weird, Spring Tigers totally share a member with Boulevard, the now-relocated band of my old co-worker Benjy at Copy Services at the UGA Library....I knew something about this record sounded familiar!

For Flagpole:

Spring Tigers
Spring Tigers
Bright Antenna

Lyrically, Athens’ Spring Tigers have claws. Throughout its debut “mini-LP,” the band explores matters more deeply than its almost manic sound would suggest, delving into themes like frustration, self-loathing and disillusionment with a humorous twist. “Stripmalls in the Sun,” for example, describes a shallow world that’s pretty, but not truly beautiful, perhaps drawing a parallel to the seriousness lurking just beneath these songs’ saccharine, dance-inducing post-pop surfaces.

But that’s where the edginess ends...[Read more]

Friday, October 16, 2009

Paste: Getting to Know... Volcano Choir

My interview with Chris Rosenau of Volcano Choir is up on today!

Getting To Know... Volcano Choir

Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has been pretty public about his love for experimental post-rock outfit Collections of Colonies of Bees. The band’s music is largely instrumental, frequently epic and, like so much music that can’t lean on vocals as an audience-catcher, depends on building tension based on pacing, volume and orchestration. It could be said that some of their arrangements are reminiscent of Bon Iver songs, but what’s more likely is that Vernon’s instrumental compositions have taken more than a few cues from Collections of Colonies of Bees. The group, which formed in 1998, probably provided much of the inspiration for the unshackled take on traditional modes that has made Bon Iver so remarkable. But rather than limit his affection to reference points in his own work, last fall Vernon teamed up with the five members of Bees (all fellow Wisconsinites) to make something entirely new—a group named Volcano Choir and an album called Unmap (out now).

Volcano Choir sounds like Bon Iver’s glitchier, more experimental cousin, happily mixing electronic trickery with post-rock prowess and traversing considerable sonic territory. From stacked-vocal-driven pieces (“Seeplymouth,” “Youlagy”) to modern spirituals (“Mbira In The Morass”), the album works some kind of haunting magic, one that isn’t afraid of its own strangeness. The baritone a-cappella-group-style backup singing of “Cool Knowledge,” for example, certainly departs from both bands’ charted territories. But these six musicians haven’t just wandered off the map—they’ve attempted to erase songwriting boundaries altogether, and their journey will likely be a long one. Paste recently spoke with Bees guitarist Chris Rosenau about the making of Unmap, writing songs backwards and the future of the new musical project.

Paste: Tell me about the birth of Volcano Choir. You guys have all been friends for a really long time, right?
Chris Rosenau: Yeah, we met Justin and the guys from his previous band, DeYarmond Edison, in 2005. We had a mutual friend—a guy that’s actually in Collections of Colonies of Bees now, Thomas Wincek, who’s our Rhodes player. They were into a record that we had done and he just put us in touch with them. They asked us to come up to Eau Claire to play a show and we did, and just kind of hit it off. We ended up touring with DeYarmond a bunch throughout the Midwest, and then just obviously ended up staying in contact with all those guys, still. We’re still all really good friends.

The whole Volcano Choir thing came about really gradually and really slowly. Basically, the whole thing started when I had recorded some solo stuff right around that same time—it was a little bit before we actually met Justin. I had just written some stuff as a total experiment with no plans of ever doing anything with it, but I was always interested in the back of my mind in finding a vocalist that could add to it. The whole idea was writing some really stark, minimal-type pieces with no overdubs or anything like that, just an idea for a vocalist to kind of use as scaffolding for something. I had never done anything like that before. So I did those things and Jim Schoenecker from Bees and I were screwing around with them, but there was no plan, so they just kind of sat forever.

And then we met Justin, and at this point DeYarmond had disbanded. I don’t even remember how it came up, but at some point we were like, “Hey, we have all these weird tracks we never did anything with. Let’s send them to Justin and see what he can do with them,” because obviously we were in love with his voice and everything. He ended up doing some vocals on those songs, and sent them back with a note like, “Here’s some really rough stuff. Just see what you think. I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.” He was really just playing around with it, and two of the songs actually ended up being on the final record. “Husks and Shells” was one of them, and “Mbira in the Morass” was one of them. Then it was interesting, because all of a sudden this stuff that was just lying around with no plan and no focus ended up being really exciting to everyone involved. We just did the same thing with most of the other songs, by email, adding to them. That was actually right around the time [Justin] was screwing around with really what he wanted to do with For Emma, you know, with the new approach he was taking with the vocal stuff. The earlier stuff for Volcano Choir kind of happened in parallel with all that...[Read more]

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Record Review: Nurses - Apple's Acre

For Stomp and Stammer:

Apple's Acre

[Dead Oceans]

We usually reserve words like "polarizing" for things with moral gravity like political policy or public behavior. When applied to a Portland, Ore. psych-pop band like Nurses, such terms start to seem less applicable. But the trio's debut LP, Apple's Acre, is without a doubt one of those albums for which your ability to tolerate the sonic texture alone dictates completely whether you can like it or not, all discussions of content aside. I feel like you'd either have to love this album based on your first listen, or hate it.

See, the content is good. Sure, it might be influenced heavily by current indie pop movements (and by "movements" I mean Animal Collective or piano-based bands like White Rabbits). And yes, Aaron Chapman and John Bowers have voices that are unavoidably nasal. But for those that found such eccentricities charming in bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, these things shouldn't be insurmountable when endeavoring to enjoy what's underneath...[Read more]

Also, check out my live review of Nurses, Throw Me The Statue and The Brunettes when they past through Atlanta last month!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Live Review: Wavves @ The Earl 10/4/09

FOA proudly presents:

The Most Overtly Negative Thing I've Ever Written For Publication!


Wavves @ The EARL 10/4/09!

For Stomp and Stammer's Tales From The Moshpit section:

There's a fine line between damaging for the sake of shock value – for effect – and just plain terrible. A band can affront its audience, like so many live musicians do, to involve them, to let out some aggression that's pivotal to the understanding of its music. A band can evoke disgust as a deliberate emotion from listeners. I get it. All that's fine, understandable and frequently enjoyable. (Unless it's AIDS Wolf that's doing it. I hate AIDS Wolf.)

But just on the other side of that line is a truly awful live performance, and sadly, that's what Wavves produced Sunday at The EARL. It was spectacularly bad. I couldn't tell you almost anything they played through the excruciating, incessant feedback that seemed to be actually drilling holes into the audience's innocent eardrums. I do know that I barely recognized a lot of the material from sophomore release Wavvves (three Vs versus the debut's two), out earlier this year, and that I was really pissed because I'd been excited to hear these songs. Sunday, I didn't hear them so much as wince through them. (And yeah, I did try earplugs. No dice. The muddy mix was bad – and the performers lackluster – with or without the murdering of my hearing's high range.)

So then the real issue is what a waste it was that Wavves sucked so hard. The tragedy, for me, was twofold:...[Read more]

(What's the most negative thing you've ever published? Anyone want to share links?)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Record Review: Throw Me The Statue - Creaturesque

For Stomp and Stammer:

Throw Me The Statue

[Secretly Canadian]

How cute is too cute? Is there such a thing as just cute enough?

Seattle's Throw Me The Statue has made a career out of staying just this side of the line between winningly sweet and disgustingly saccharine. Their sophomore release Creaturesque is by no means all bounce, though the music can definitely be crisp, and often bright. Between skipping, upbeat numbers, Secretly Canadian's pop darlings insert a trembling, mellow, sun-downing piece like "Pistols," more gravity-bound than helium-filled. Everything, whether nostalgic (with an '80s throwback slant like "Cannibal Rays") or optimistic (like the fuzzy guitars in "Hi-Fi Goon") in feel, revolves around Scott Reitherman's slow, creamy drawl, the kind of voice that goes down easy...[Read more]

Also, can we take a second to appreciate the charm of these press photos? (The top one's called "Gearamid." Ha.) Photos courtesy of Secretly Canadian, by Trae Rhee.

So adorable....