Thursday, April 29, 2010

Record Review: Frog Eyes - Paul's Tomb: A Triumph

For Tiny Mix Tapes:

Frog Eyes
Paul's Tomb: A Triumph

Dead Oceans

If we were to take Carey Mercer and his cohorts — members of Frog Eyes, Swan Lake, Wolf Parade, etc. — as a sampling of what Canadian musicians are like, we’d assume everyone who ever picked up an accordion or pan flute north of the border was prolific, virtuosic, impassioned, and a little unhinged. But I guess that wouldn’t be quite statistically sound. Though Paul’s Tomb: A Triumph is Frog Eyes’ Dead Oceans debut, as far as I can tell it’s their sixth full-length overall, the previous LPs having been put out by small Canadian and Californian indies Global Symphonic, Animal World, and Absolutely Kosher.

And if you liked those, you’ll love this. Much of the same Frog Eyes material is here: the frenetic guitar refrains, the slithering keys (even without Spencer Krug performing them anymore), the manic drumming, and Mercer’s voice howling and gurgling around it all. This release feels freer, though — not easier, necessarily, but delivered with a clarity of purpose not quite as muddled, consumption-wise, by sheer weirdness as was their previous LP, Tears Of The Valedictorian, for instance...[Read more]

CL Show Preview: Megafaun wants to earn your trust

For Creative Loafing Atlanta:

Megafaun wants to earn your trust
The rootsy band returns to Atlanta with tricks and treats

If Durham, N.C.'s Megafaun plays what typically is categorized as bluegrass or Americana, then its take on roots music certainly has sprouted gorgeous branches. The trio, which formed after the collapse of its previous band DeYarmond Edison (with Justin Vernon, currently of Bon Iver) in 2006, employs a brand of experimentalism that turns what would otherwise be a competent rehashing of traditional folk styles into something riskier. After two full-length albums (2008's Bury the Square and 2009's Gather, Form and Fly), Megafaun will release a six-song EP this summer titled Heretofore, a project they wrote, recorded and wrapped up, all within the space of about six weeks. "We just worked fast and had to make decisions from our gut," says multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook. "I think in retrospect that we did a really honest record."...[Read more]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Record Review: Medications - CompletelyRemoved

For Tiny Mix Tapes:



Medications’ sophomore full-length is remarkably easy to consume. For something so covertly metrically ambitious, CompletelyRemoved goes down smooth, and before you know it, you’ve taken it all. Mary Poppins would be proud.

Maybe the D.C. band’s subtlety — or, rather, slyness — shouldn’t come so unexpected. Devin Ocampo and Chad Molter have been in bands together for almost two decades, most notably co-leading Medications’ much-lauded direct ancestor Faraquet, and it’s hard not to notice the level of performance chemistry birthed by such a lengthy collaboration...[Read more]

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Record Review: Broken Bells - Broken Bells

Writing about a James Mercer project is a little nostalgic for me. Not quite in the his-music-is-SOOOO-important-to-me kind of way you might expect, though. I mean, there was a time when The Shins were my favorite band (and I'm happy to report it didn't coincide with the release of Garden State, thank you very much). I think that time concluded when I saw them play live at the Atlanta Civic Center (which, to be fair, is a TERRIBLE venue for live music) and it was as if I'd put in the album and pressed play. Boring. The whole thing was so stilted that I never quite returned to them.

What I'm remembering is that I read a review of the last Shins record, Wincing The Night Away (Jan. 2007) in some magazine...I'm thinking The Big Takeover...a few months after its release. That summer, I was a recent grad and an aimless intern at Athens Magazine, and I read the review over my lunch one day. I had bought the album a few months previous and it was one of my current faves, in heavy rotation almost every day, and when I read the review (which I can't find online despite my best efforts) it just...made sense to me. The writer's descriptions of songs on the album, and the overall way they tied it together--I seem to remember them describing "Australia" as a "gentle rockabilly" or something to that effect--I thought was something to admire. I also thought, "I could never write about music like that."

And I never wrote about The Shins. Not for a publication, at least. Wincing The Night Away was their final release, at least for now. The band has suffered lineup losses after domestic violence drama and infighting, and the members now seem to be off deliberately working on other things.

Enter Broken Bells. It's a very different beast, to be sure, but it's still a Mercer project and it's still something that back at that lunch table, I thought I'd never do.

For Flagpole:

Broken Bells
Broken Bells


If the collaboration between sensitive songwriter James Mercer of The Shins and provocative producer Danger Mouse (former Athens musician and WUOG DJ Brian Burton) of Gnarls Barkley fame seems an unlikely one, the natural feel of Broken Bells’ self-titled record proves even more improbable. After working with the likes of Gorillaz, MF DOOM and Beck as well as on a myriad of other projects, Burton’s contribution to Broken Bells brings the sneaking suspense of Demon Days and the maximalist multiculturalism of St. Elsewhere to meet Mercer’s acute lyricism and lilting melodic skill...[Read more]

Record Review: Freelance Whales - Weathervanes

Wrote this one in a plane on my way to New York last month. Can you tell?

For Tiny Mix Tapes:

Freelance Whales


At 35,000 feet, a first real listen of Freelance Whales’ debut LP seems scarily appropriate. The tops of clouds and glimpses of the coastline below act as visual echoes of Judah Dadone’s gentle vocal style, of the intricate orchestration and laptop rhythms the multi-instrumental quintet has to offer throughout Weathervanes. Prevailing winds even affect an airplane as much as they power the device after which Freelance Whales named the album. Sensually, the only reason the experience of the record doesn’t fit the journey of an hour-and-a-half flight is that, for someone afraid of flying like I am, Weathervanes lacks the adrenaline edge felt at takeoff and landing. It’s beautiful but a little impotent, kinetic but decidedly de-clawed...[Read more]

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Record Review: Christy & Emily - No Rest

For Tiny Mix Tapes:

(My favorite paragraph):

Christy & Emily
No Rest


...In fact, every instrumental decision the duo makes is something I’d stand up and applaud; Irmler’s deft production is nothing to sneeze at, either. No Rest, in that way, mixes the perfect amount of seriousness and detachment with the adamant and the white-knuckled, both committed and reserved. The problem enters — and it’s a big problem — when the lyrics begin. It’s not that they’re un-poetic (though they do come off a little obvious at times); it’s that there’s something fundamentally wrong with the lyrical phrasing. It’s like threadbare fabric stretched futilely over something lumpy, or like trying to wrap up a plate of leftovers with too little aluminum foil: what was once neat and self-contained rips, and suddenly there’s chicken all over the floor...[Read more]

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Record Review: Tahiti Boy & The Palmtree Family - Good Children Go To Heaven

A damn treatise I wrote on Tahiti Boy & The Palmtree Family for Tiny Mix Tapes:

Tahiti Boy & The Palmtree Family
Good Children Go To Heaven

[Third Side; 2010]

Full disclosure: I’ve played the flute for 13 years, and despite the existence of mainstream rock acts like Jethro Tull (stop with the Jethro Tull jokes, already!), I’ve always felt that in my favorite musical genres — punk, art pop, lo-fi — it’s been a seriously underrepresented instrument. It’s just not cool enough, maybe. So when I heard that the first notes of Good Children Go To Heaven, the debut LP from French group Tahiti Boy & The Palmtree Family (a group that, it should be noted, has no tropical tendencies of any kind), were part of a well-performed flute cadenza, I was more than a little excited. Once a band nerd, always a band nerd, I guess. Sorry...[Read more]