An ongoing guide to shit I've listened to in 2011. [R.I.P.]

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19 Ene 2011, 18:29

A good idea gone horribly lazy. There were a few decent reviews. I'm deleting the list in favor of those.

I'm going to try review everything I listen to this year that I think is worth reviewing. No one will read it, and I'm doing it at as slow a pace as possible, but whatever.

Foster the People - Torches

Torches is an alright album. It doesn't really exceed that. If you're breathing you've probably heard Pumped Up Kicks, and if you've heard that then you've heard all of Torches. It's got catchy hooks throughout, but lacks the ambition to fill out the rest of the track past the chorus. I'm getting bored just talking about it so... uh, yeah.

Highlight tracks: Pumped Up Kicks and Warrent.

All in all boring and predictable. 1½/5.



Passage - Pass and Touch

I guess I feel like I owe Passage something, as he was one of the upstarts on my favorite label; but every time I check one of his new releases, I wish I hadn't. Passage is a one trick pony, and he showed off his trick 7 years ago with the passable The Forcefield Kids. Pass and Touch not only lacks any kind of substantial lyrics, but it skimps on the beats too - they feel cheap and brittle, like if you listen to them to intently they'll snap in half. Plus a good posrtion of them are recycled from ANOTHER weak release, Pass Money Multi. Snooze.

I can't in good faith recommend any of these tracks. Just skip it entirely and save yourself some listeners remorse. ½/5 for the fact that it's free.





I've been looking forward to this album with a mix of curiosity and utter dread. I've become increasingly frustrated with Sole over the last year and a half. As a rapper/artist who I once held in very high regards for his individualism and absolute disregard for what everyone else thought the genre should be, I can't help but feel he's jumped on some really shitty bandwagons here recently (see: #SWAG). He's just putting his name in with an over-hyped and uninteresting crowd (see: Lil B). I don't use the term 'selling-out' often, I don't like to, and I don't want to in this case. But, well... there it is. What we have here is some sick sad spoof of the talent that went into the previous Sole and the Skyrider Band albums. Lyrically, this album is a really watered down approximation of the long established Sole style. Self depreciating, but still pointing fingers, only this time, it's not fun to listen to. There are no twists or turns, no mazes to work through - and that was the fun of listening to Sole rap, you know? It's an autotuned, swagged out, pile of disappointing rhymes. Easy rhymes. Sole's above this kind of shit. He's capable of being infinitely more interesting, but chooses not to be for the sake of... of what? I don't even know. For the sake of taking the easy route I guess. The let-downs don't stop there though! We have some wonderfully weak guest spots, highlighted by Lil B's COMPLETELY monotone, pseudo-intellectual drag, and punctuated by typically unmoving guest-spot verses from Noah23, Isaiah Toothtaker, and whoever Mestizo is. The song with Sage Francis is OK at best, and the collab with Xiu Xiu, which I thought would be interesting, just kind of makes me uncomfortable. To boot, the Skyrider boys have apparently forgotten how to play their instruments, and decided to use one blueprint for a stuttering drum machine and some synths in every song. What happened to the lush instrumentation of the first two albums? What happened to the post-apocalyptic soundscapes that so perfectly blended post-rock bigness with hip-hop groove? I'll tell you this: they aren't to be found here.

Highlight tracks: Hello Cruel World, and that's all they get.

Jesus. Let-down of the year. I hope they come to their senses and realize that lots of people listened to their music because they didn't want to listen to stuff like this. What made this project so special is nowhere to be seen. At least I don't have any more albums that I'm actively worried about anymore. 1/5.



Murder by Death/

There haven't been a whole lot of singles this year that I've even really considered worth putting on this list; you know, the original and a remix doesn't really constitute a review and rating. This is an exception. The 7" split single series that Murder by Death has been putting out over the past 4 years has been utterly exceptional. They cover another bands song on the A-side, and said band covers one of their songs on the B-side. This time round (part 5 of 7) it's The Builders and the Butchers turn, but there's a twist! Two additional 8-bit remixes by operation mission, AKA Ray of The Builders and the Butchers. I'm not familiar at all with The Builders and the Butchers, so I can't vouch for the original, but the Murder By Death cover of their song In the Branches is legit (all of the 7" series covers has been really stellar). The Builders and the Butchers do a nice rendition of Until Morale Improves, the Beatings Will Continue too. It's a bit of an angry song anyway, but they take that up a few notches and put the frustration of the song all up front. The bonus Operation Mission songs are really cool. 8-bit is pretty hit-or-miss with me, and these make we want to get down.

Highlight tracks: In the Branches, Until Morale Improves the Beatings Will Continue, & Ball and Chain

I just really enjoy the idea of the 'we'll cover you, you cover us' trade, and they've turned out really well. The artwork is always impressive, this time being fan-made on both sides. A really stand-out single. 3½/5.




Excuse me, but who the fuck are These People? My friend played me their debut EP in his car one day, and I dug it as much as one can dig something they're offhandedly listening to for the first time. So 4 or 5 months later I remember that I thought it was decent and look them up. Well. Turns out they're more than decent, they're really legit, and they're offering up their EP as a free download on their website (go download it). These People blend old school rock sensibilities with grooving bass lines, powerful drumming, and appropriately blistering guitar parts. Catchy but interesting lyrics hook you and make you double take at what might at first glance seem like a bit of an unapproachable lead vocalist (it's apparent this isn't the case soon into the first track). It may clock in just under 20 minutes, but slap this little treat on repeat and an hour later you MIGHT notice you're hearing the same songs again.

Highlight tracks: Into the Great White's Bite, Song For Alex, & Sand Feels Hot

I'm enjoying the hell out of this EP after overlooking it for almost half a year. A great first effort and a really slept on gem of 2011. Hook yourself up, it's free and it's tasty. 4/5.




The Nuclear Winter series is a neat idea, but not really my cup of tea, so my opinion is biased to begin with. Sole's taken the beats from recent popular rap songs and re-rapped over them about topical political and world issues. It's a cool idea, and the whole point is to speak on these current issues quickly after they happen, but to me it mostly just comes off as sloppy and a little pretentious. Not to say this 2nd installment is no good, it does have it's stand-outs; Coke Rap is a great collab, and I was stoked and surprised to hear Cool A.D. from Das Racist. I just think his whole angry political observations are getting a little tired. Where they used to be thought-provoking and deeply metaphorical, they're starting to seem very straightforward and. The best tracks here are the few that are backed with original beats, and some of the ones with guest rappers. I was excited when I got to the track featuring Busdriver, who generally brings it proper, but goddamn what an uninteresting track. Maybe I'm just letting my preconceived notions of what I think Sole SHOULD be get in the way of viewing his newer material in a fair light. I may come back to this review.

Highlight tracks: Coke Rap, Bradley Manning Swag, White Rage / Arizona Goddamn, & I Think I'm Noam Chomsky

I read something recently that went "Sometimes it's hard to tell when your heroes die, or when it's just you". Even though this has some solid tracks and is legit for being put together quickly and released for free while the topics are still topical, that quote plays in my head every time I listen to it. Sorry Sole, 2/5.




The day Jookabox calls it quits, their front-man David "Moose" Adamson (hence DMA), has already got an EP of shit that was too weird for them to call Jookabox. Drem Beb really is a strange little creature. The first of four cassette releases recorded by Moose during the Eyes of the Fly sessions, it's thick and fuzzy art pop, dreamy and threatening at the same time. Tribal drums kick all the way through, carrying the unsettling electronic haze. Distorted croons and yelps about dreams, dying, NOT dying, and poor living conditions of dogs feel like they're leading some kind of wicked parade through a bad part of town.

Standout tracks: Riding Holiday, Heart and Bone, & Dog Drem

Seeing how this guy was the driving force behind Jookabox, it's easy to spot similarities. It works well for what it is, but probably wouldn't hold up against something a bit more substantial. 2½/5.


The Bomarr Monk - Remixes, Vol. 1


I really want to like The Bomarr Monk, not just for the fact that his name is an intensely cool and painfully overlooked Star Wars reference, but for the fact that he does every once in a while produce really fantastic songs. But the truth is that he is just not a strong stand alone producer. His best work has been with the groups he's collaborated with. This free set of remixes from the past 5 or 6 years is free for a reason, and boasts little-to-no replay value. It's something of a chore to listen to, actually - with no moments that really call you back for seconds, or jump out as really creative - just a lot of same-sounding and simple beats. Do yourself a solid; skip this in favor of his 2007 EP, Freedom From Frightened Air where you'll find some great songs and a stellar reworking of an early Grizzly Bear track.

Standout tracks: None to speak of. Oops.

Sorry Mr. Monk, while I think you have the potential in you to do really neat stuff, you usually don't. ½/5 for the fact that it's free.




Initially Old Age was one of my least listened to tracks from the sophomore 13 & God album, Own Your Ghost, but like I hoped it would, it revealed it's greater part in the album and I fell for it over time. They could have probably picked a stronger song for a single, but that's not my call. The really exciting thing here is the re-recording/reworking of the song Luck&Fear (which can be found in it's original spitfire state on Alias & Tarsier's strikingly beautiful album Brookland/Oaklyn as Luck And Fear). Here it's slowed down and more deliberate, with a slew of new lines and new interjections by the calmer side of the 13 & God vocal duo popping in every once in awhile.

Highlight Tracks: If you care at all you've probably already heard Old Age, so Luck&Fear.

It's a sweet treat to have anything at all from 13 & God, and the fact that a song they've been playing live for a long time has made it to a legitimate studio recording makes it that much better. 4/5.




I'm not really sure how to do this one. An Island is really a part-documentary, part-experimental music video, part-narrative story filmed by one Vincint Moon, who does the utterly breathtaking Take Away Shows for La Blogothèque. Vincent followed Efterklang to a small island of the Danish coast to with the intent to make a film about the same length as an album. The end product is a visually stimulating piece that speaks of simpler times and purer things. There are basically 3 parts to it: tastefully compiled nature shots and scenery, interviews with the band about their past working together, and performances of Efterklangs songs (most come from their most recent album Magic Chairs. During the bits of scenery, you really get a feel for just how secluded it must be living on a small island. There are no cars running in the background, no city noise, or industrial buzz. Just quite forest and seldom traveled dirt roads. Interspersed over and through these parts are vocal interviews with the band. They speak softly to one another, recalling times when they were younger; recording their first album, their first practice space over someones garage. It becomes obvious that they hold a deep respect for their past and how it's shaped them. It's a very personal thing that they're letting you in on. The real beauty of An Island comes from the performances they put on throughout the film. Soon after they get to the island, they find themselves in a barn, improvising sounds they find and make on whatever is laying around into a noisy and raw beat-centric song. As neat as that is to watch, they only get better. Vincent Moons eye for wonderful camera pans make the most of a barn performance witch includes not only the band, but about 10 island locals playing a beautiful rendition of the song Alike. A moving version of Me Me Me the Brick House is put on in an elementary school, with at least 30 shy-eyed kids blushing and singing along. There are a few performances just by the band, but the coolest are definitely the collaborations with the locals. The film ends in a high school auditorium, where Efterklang start I Was Playing Drums for a room full of parents, only to be joined by a chorus of all their kids for a really real, really raw, really emotional performance. Vincent Moon is fantastic at what he does, and Efterklang are a very interesting, very honest band. An Island is really not like anything I've seen before, and I found it to be really touching.

Highlight tracks: Alike, I Was Playing Drums, & Me Me Me the Brick House

This is a really special thing they've done. If this sounds interesting to you, you can watch previews, order a physical copy (limited run), or do a pay-what-you-want download package at the website. I highly recommend you do so, as it's obvious a lot of love and a lot of work went into this. 4½/5.




Ugh. Tim Holland, why have you forsaken yourself? The Mansbestfriend series is solely solo Sole. He builds the beats himself where he usually brings in outside producers. The end result is usually not as impressive as his proper Sole beats. I wasn't expecting a whole lot from this, but geez. He's really fallen off. His political material used to feel insightful and really thoroughly considered. Here we have run-of-the-mill anti-government tripe. He's taking cues from others instead of burning his cue cards like he did in days past.

Highlight tracks: Proletarian Dreams has a 30 second verse of him really bringing it. I guess if you're going to spend the time looking it up, look up that bit.

He's in a tailspin towards terrible. Each release is getting consecutively worse. Sigh. 1½/5.




All right Record Store Day! Two tracks that didn't quite make the Odd Blood cut find their way onto this limited single. You can tell why they didn't make the album. They're both much slower than anything you'll find on Odd Blood, and even though you can tell they were recorded at the same time, you tell these were recorded with a different mindset. The A-side song is called Swallowing the Decibels. A heavy bass line carries a sweet synth throughout, but doesn't really deviate from that pattern and kind of burns itself out. If it were 2 minutes instead of 5, it'd be great. The B-side, Pheonix Wind, is a more straightforward jam that still retains some of the fun vocal effects that were so prevalent on Odd Blood, but doesn't vibe like most Yeasayer. It's got an almost mournful feel to it, like resignation to some unyielding, unmovable fact.

Highlight tracks: Only 2, but Pheonix Wind is the better of them.

They're trying something new with these songs, and I for one like it. I'll be happy to see a darker shaded Yeasayer album in the future. 3/5.




What an ordeal. Trying to concisely sum up an album like this is difficult enough without the idea of a Part II sneaking around the edge of my vision, but here goes nothing. When These Are My Twisted Words was released last year, one of my eyebrows raised of it's own accord, and I began to scour the internet for info and interviews with the band as to a new album. It seemed to me to be a natural progression from the sound of In Rainbows; more electronic and a tad darker. It sounded awesome. I was stoked. So when they came out and said "Oh hey, we've got this new album, and it's totally done. You can have it this Friday, no big deal." I nearly fell out of my chair. I'm getting sidetracked. Fast forward to hitting play after downloading it and tripping over my own fingers trying to unzip it. Immediately I was pleased. 20 seconds in, and it's already tripping me out. The opening song, Bloom, rattles the album into an uneasy setting with a drums that you can't quite settle on. The bass feels like it's sitting back considering the drums at its own leisure, and Thom lets loose an almost mournful howl. They progress through the first half of the album, keeping these crazed drums as a unifying theme. The lyrics wind themselves through the jagged spikes of snares and cymbals, keeping up with, but never surpassing them. Feral end s the first half on a, well, a feral note. It's an aggressive instrumental (for all intents and purposes) that make's great use of distorting vocals to the point of unrecognizable moans and yelps. The second half tones it down a bit, starting with Lotus Flower, the first really recognizable Radiohead track. The drums give way to flowing bass, and the track finds its groove quickly. Thom really starts getting his act together and rocks a sweet falsetto (can you "rock" a falsetto?) throughout the song. This is about the point where the image of the band playing in the middle of a dead forest really starts to form in my mind. Codex is really the high point for me. Beautiful imagery of a slow fall from frozen cliff to a deep, cold, clear lake slowly paints itself with the help of a sorrowful piano. Give Up the Ghost is a weaker link in the second half of the album, only rearing its head for a few lines. We end with Separator, which brings back the skittering drums and leaves us with "If you think this is over, then you're wrong/...wake me up/wake me up".

These last words seem like a strange way to end an album. Especially since there are so many rumors and speculations about this only being the first half of album. While I don't have really high hopes for a Part II, I would gladly welcome it.

Highlight tracks: Bloom, Feral, Lotus Flower, & Codex

Ultimately, The King of Limbs was about what I expected. Another, darker side of In Rainbows. It may be short (it clocks in just shy of 40 minutes), but it's a tight, well thought out play, and by the time Separator fades out, you're ready to start it again. I don't see it becoming my favorite Radiohead album, but it certainly will leave its mark. 3½/5.

Edit: No Part II apparently. That's ok, it's still pretty solid.




This was my first experience with Kay the Aquanaut. This free EP was put up on by Circle Into Square, who play host to both Sole and the Skyrider Band and Cars & Trains, as a free download so I decided to give it a shot. I must say that I wasn't expecting to be caught so immediately nodding my head. No subtlety here as the beat blasts you and Kay kicks off the first song with an almost pop-rap quick-spit commentary on life in the city. Unfortunately, there's not much change from there. There are some standout lines, like in The Challenger "One for the body/two for the soul/three to make the stars on my ceiling seem more appealing". He's got really good flow, and his rhymes are poignant. I could do without the shout outs and such though. The beats are solidly consistent, but not really stand out, besides the first and fourth tracks, which are both pretty slick. He reminds me of a more by-the-throat Atmosphere without the woe-is-me. Not bad by any means, but not really my cup of tea.

Highlight Tracks: The Big City and The Challenger

Not bad by any means, but not really my cup of tea. Overall it's about what I expect of a free EP. A few solid tracks, and a pretty good introduction to an artist I wasn't familiar with. 2½/5.




Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will starts off well enough; the opener White Noise has an almost confident feel to it. White Noise segues nicely into the second track, Mexican Grand Prix, which continues with the upbeat, almost playful feel. Like an unspecified dare to the listener. Unfortunately, Mogwai don't keep their end up. After Grand Prix, I found my mind wandering to thoughts of other things I'd rather be listening to. It's not that it's bad, it just gets redundant. HOWEVER. Track eight, How to Be a Werewolf, picks it back up. It's a nice track that feels... triumphant. Track nine, Too Raging to Cheers, surprises you about halfway through when you're about to give up on it; it flares up and says 'Hey, fuck you!' for a minute and then tapers out to the closing track. I've always liked Mogwai's track names, Hardcores closer, You're Lionel Richie, is no exception. It's too bad that the track itself is a slow-burner that would have worked much more effectively as a 3 minute song rather than an 8 minute lecture.

Highlight tracks: White Noise, Mexican Grand Prix, How to Be a Werewolf & Too Raging to Cheers

Overall, I'd say it's a 2½/5. It's not bad, but it's really that great either. Too little diversity.




I eyed this album cautiously from across the room as I often do before giving it a fair chance. I'm glad I did. A lot of people have said that this album has a Animal Collective circa-Feels feel to it. I can definitely see that, but it's by no means is it a carbon-copy wannabe. Native Speaker is a sweet ride that gently picks you up off your feet and sweeps you down its little psyche-pop river. It starts like many good things start, with Lemonade; a wonderfully building song that all too soon slides down the vocal equivalent of an awesome sledding hill. You want to hike back up and do it again and again. By the second song, Plath Heart, I was already in love with their singer Katie, who really does a great job bouncing between delicate crooning and loud proud declarations. From there, the Native Speaker river slows to a nice ambling speed with Glass Deers which sparkles and echos behind Katie's "I'm fucked up/fucked up/fucked up/fucked up..." The title track takes its time exploring itself, unfurling beneath honey soaked vocals that make the 8 minute song flow right past. Lammicken eases you out of the slow meandering of the previous songs about halfway through with an almost tribal-drum-sing-along lullaby. The album ends gently with Little Hand, and the river is still warm. You might just be temped to take another ride.

Highlight tracks: Lemonade, Plath Heart, & Glass Deers

It's a solid album, and a great debut by a promising act. I say 4/5 and I will be eagerly looking forward to more from Braids.




Note: I fucking love The Republic of Wolves. They just keep impressing me.

Imagine my excitement when my favorite album of 2010 (Varuna) was to be followed up with an EP a scant month later. Awesome. So there I am, 1:00 a.m. January 1st, with The Cartographer halfway downloaded, barely able to contain myself. I promptly start it up and... oh my god, it's everything I hoped it would be. While Varuna is a ship caught in the throes of a dark and dangerous storm at sea, The Cartographer feels like it comes from the other side of the world, where waters are calm and glittering with centuries worth of ice, but foreboding nonetheless. The intro is fantastic, its soft sad sounds feel like the preparations for a trip someone knows he won't come back from. We're then swept into Home, a quick paced questioning song that brings to mind bitter feelings that just won't fade; "I never ever thought that it would get as hard as this/my whole family the side of the antagonist/and all the people I thought I could trust have just let me down". Home tapers into an acoustic outro that spits venom at whoever it's intended for, and transitions nicely into the quietest track on the EP. Calm Down, which is a beautifully, well... calm, contrast to the more aggressive songs, it takes it's time letting its story unfurl; a man who seemingly finds a map from his father and follows it, never to return. After that comes Widows Walk, which lulls you into a false sense of safety before snapping you into a rush of impending danger. It works it's way out with a warning "Hey boy, don't you know/that you can never come back home/and you will die here all alone". One thing that I really love about The Republic of Wolves is their integration of screams into otherwise very harmonious songs. This isn't an easy thing to do and have it work well. India is a good example of it working well. Coming in after India is my favorite track, Mirage. It starts with a few crooning lines about what I take to be meeting death before the drums kick in. And oh man, those drums. To me, this song speaks of seeing ghosts. I love songs about ghosts. "Now it's hard to believe that someone could leave/and then suddenly reappear/a mâché of your trust/folded and cut into a mask that I have to wear". Cue the shivers down my spine please. Mirage turns into a full chorus before it drops back to a crooning end. The last track is I think the most forgettable of them, which is to say that it's only awesome. It's a driving track, probably the heaviest present on the EP The Cartographer, but it's real gift is the "hidden" bit at the end, which really is just a slow extension of the main brunt of the song.

I can't imagine a better way to set the bar for 2011 than releasing a beautifully constructed EP the second the ball drops. I'm expecting some really spectacular things from some of my favorite groups this year, but I think this one will stay strong as one of my favorites. The Republic of Wolves are amazing storytellers, and these songs just weep loss. But behind that is an acceptance, because, you know, how else could it be?

Highlight tracks: Home, Calm Down, Widow's Walk, & Mirage.

It's an a amazing EP in it's own right, but it really makes the perfect companion to Varuna. Storytelling is strong, as is the overall cohesiveness of the band. The Republic of Wolves, you have kicked my 2011 off PROPER. 5/5.

Comentarios

  • Defiant_Reliant

    I agree on Hardcore Will Never Die...about half way through I was sick of it...

    20 Ene 2011, 8:23
  • guitargod71

    Very nice. There are ALOT of new albums due this year, and as you have stated HOPEFULLY they follow through.

    20 Ene 2011, 13:33
  • MichaelLeSuer

    I agree with ALMOST everything you said about Sole here. I thought everything he put out this year was shit, but I recently started listening to tracks from Mansbestfriend v. 5 and I was actually really impressed with some of the beats, which after all, are the main focus of the project.

    10 Ene 2012, 22:10
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