Thursday, July 28, 2011

Memory Tapes - Player Piano

It's an interesting time for the young electronic genre known as "chillwave". Most chillwave artists have only released one or two albums so far (Toro Y Moi, Neon Indian, Washed Out etc.) and there's no telling where the genre will go. There's a whole debate about the necessity of coining the genre but I won't weigh in on that right now.

Memory Tapes, a slightly less electronic chillwave act, continues to incorporate guitars and rock accompaniment in the recently released Player Piano. In general, even on their previous album, the use of guitars in addition to pure electronics gives the band a variety tht artists like Toro Y Moi and Washed Out sometimes lack because of their purely electronic palettes.

Little touches like obviously live drumming and the live guitars on "Sunhits" and "Fell thru ice" (part I) remind listeners that the album had to be created using more than just pro-tools. There is a refreshingly live aspect to Player Piano while still producing patently "chillwave" feelings of hypnosis and immersion.
Perhaps there's just more of a rock influence in general. They've got a lot in common with MGMT (post Oracular Spectacular) and Tame Impala.

To keep myself from gushing about the album, I'll end by recommending both halves of"Fell thru the ice" and "This our life" to listeners looking for key tracks.

Grade: A-

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yes - Fly From Here

"Fly From Here" is the first Yes album released since Alan Benoit replaced vocalist Jon Anderson and in that context, it's a decent album. Benoit's vocals are clearly very different than Anderson's at points but he is able to provide the same effect and evoke the same feelings. No one can truly replace Anderson but it's good that Yes hasn't used that as an excuse to retire before they're ready.

Howe's guitar playing and the band's harmony is still largely intact and the writing is above average even sans Wakeman and Anderson. The arrangements still have a very Wakeman feel to them at times. It's amazing to consider Howe, White, and Squire's ages and realize the stamina it takes to play these songs live OR in the studio. Yes is still touring more heavily than any band I can think of, to boot.

The gems on this record are all movements of "Fly from Here" and "Into the storm".

Grade: C+

Theophilus London - Timez Are Weird These Days

For a debut album, "Timez are weird. . ." is strong enough to make me want to keep an ear out for this young man's next step but overall it's a bit lacking. On "Timez. . " Theophilus London is able to straddle many different genres including hip-hop, funk, and r & b but for this reason the album seems a bit scattered.

The whole release has a tight, electronic feel to it and the production is crisp but the songwriting lags at some points. Songs like "Girls Girls $" and "Last Name London" are forgettable and lame but they're offset slightly by a few winners like the 80s inspired, west-coast influenced, "
Why even try" and my favorite track, the Prince-esque "Lighthouse". Listeners will notice that London is a much better singer than rapper, at this juncture. But hey, your music isn't exclusively hip-hop in my opinion so sing your heart out, Theo. I like it better than your flow.

Timez is a mixed bag but sadly it's mostly full of garbage. If he buckles down though he could have something unique in the future but I'll still be watching for him at Austin City Limits this fall.

Grade: D

Monday, July 25, 2011

Pictureplane - Thee Physical

Pictureplane's last full length was pretty good but hampered by a lack of variety. The palette of samples he used was too small overall and this made the album feel old quickly. Individual songs are great (such as "Goth Star") but there is too little variation for all of them to be winners in the context of a single album.

Pic seems to be countering that by playing with the tempo a little more and making each song more distinct from the others. There are more samples this time and less repetition, well as little repetition as there can be for Pictureplane: an artist working in a trance-like genre. The tell-tale trance piano chords still haunt the recording but this time they're put to a better use.

This is a much much stronger release than "Dark Rift".

Grade: B+

Friday, July 22, 2011

Handsome Furs - Sound Kapital

Dan Boeckner continues to forge a more electronic path for the now three album deep Handsome Furs side project. The musicians of Wolf Parade have spawned more independent projects than practically any band I can think. They're doing laps around Eric Clapton at this point now that I remember Spencer Krugg's Moonface project which is active again. Anyway..

There's few guitars on Sound Kapital but somehow it still sounds like Handsome Furs. The increased electronics don't however make the release any more tame. Songs like "Damage" use growling synths that mimic guitar in tone and intensity. Sometimes you hardly notice. If anything the album is louder than "Face Control". The important thing about "Sound Kapital" is that by and large the songwriting still follows a rock structure, just with less guitars.

Songs to listen to first include: "bury me standing", "damage", and the very non-rock "what about us?"

Grade: A-

Thursday, July 21, 2011

They Might Be Giants - Join Us

The band's latest album, released yesterday, demonstrates that they're aging gracefully without losing their quirky, creative edge. I have no idea what the cover is about. It's a pink monster truck. I'll peg this weirdo for Pitchfork's top worst album covers of the year but that barely matters.

Meat and potatoes rock is the flavor of this album and it's executed successfully without feeling like it drags. "Judy Is Your Viet Nam" was widely promoted before the release and although it's short in length it tells a humorous story and is a testament to the band's still keen lyrical abilities. "You Probably Get that a Lot" is an extremely tight almost Strokesy rock song definitely signaling a new comfort with the slightly more conventional which is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are still blips and bloops of weirdness (like the goofy "Cloisonne" and "Celebration") but TMBG have taken slightly a more serious approach after releasing their two previous albums mostly for children.
It's nice to hear them do some new music for us big kids. I was beginning to get jealous. Can't let the little noise miners have all the fun.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Washed Out - Within and Without

I've been anticipating this album for a very long time and now that it's here, I'm slightly disappointed. That could be because the "Life of Leisure EP" was so captivating and lively that it was impossible to top but "Within and Without" definitely seems to lack a certain life even when judged as a standalone. It's not God-awful by any means but it lacks the excitement and immersion of its predecessor.

Although short, "Life of Leisure" spanned many different moods and tempos from the joyful "New Theory" to the foreboding "Hold Out". However "Within and Without" seems to settle on a single mood of quiet melancholy which makes for a few beautiful songs but leaves the whole album feeling sort of flat on the whole.

The songs to look for on this album are the relatively peppy "Amor Fati", the majestic title track "Within and Without", and the sad "Far Away".

Overall: B-

They Might Be Giants releases good new shit, skips Houston

I'm not bitter when good bands neglect to tour through Houston. I know the mechanics of making promises and greasing palms in the music industry makes it hard for bands to come through every city but I'm kind of sad though. They Might Be Giants is going on a long ass US tour and Houston isn't on the docket.

On the more positive end of things, the single off their newly released album ("Join Us") is fantastic though. The song is called "Judy is your Viet Nam" and compares a shitty relationship to the 60s political quagmire. Funny stuff with nice driving guitars. I'd link to it but the record co has been pulling down links all day from Youtube (probably just because it came out yesterday). It's out everywhere now though, including Rhapsody. I'll post my review of the whole thing later this week.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Iceage interview

Elias Ronnenfelt is the frontman of Danish punk band Iceage, and at only 19 years old him and his bandmates have been making some serious waves, on both sides of the Atlantic. Winning acclaim from places like the New York Times and Pitchfork, the band is developing a strong cult following. Their debut “New Brigade” has been out since March and is the one of most raw releases, this year. It clocks in around 24 minutes but says more in that time than a lot of bands say in two albums. The band will be playing with Balaclavas and The Energy at The Mink on July 15.

PostPunkd: For a while you guys weren't on my radar for some reason and I'm really happy that the band is coming to Houston.

Elias: Thank you.

PP: Since you're mid-tour right now, how's it going?

E: The tour is going great.

PP: Now I'm not actually much older than you are but-

E: Oh ok, how old are you?

PP: I'm 21 so I'm only a couple years older than you guys and -

E: I'm 19

PP: Yeah, that's what I heard. That's amazing. So what is it like touring the world at such a young age?

E: People are treating us really well. We met a lot of people who's been over our expectation, just treating us really well. The only thing that's annoying is that we can't drink.

PP: [laughter] Yeah, I was going to ask about that.

E: We manage to do it sometimes but it's hard.

PP: Yeah, I'll bet. You'll learn that the US is still a really puritan country in some ways. Sort of in the same vein, do you think people underestimate you because you're younger or are you getting the respect you deserve?

E: Uh- I don't know. People haven't really been- can you ask the question again?

PP: Yeah sure. Since you guys are younger how have you treated by older musicians and do you feel like you've been getting credit.

E: Yeah, well a lot of the bands we've been playing with have been very nice and bought us beer and stuff. We met a lot of great people so far.

PP: I really like the record, what are some of your influences? Who are some people who inspire you, music-wise?

E: I'm not sure because it comes from a lot of different places and I think like you unconsciously use all of the music you listen to. So I'm not sure how to address it.

PP: This is the band's first LP but have you recorded any singles before it?

E: Yeah, we did a 7 inch before the record.

PP: Are those available anywhere?

E: I think they're all sold out now but our Danish label might have some left.

PP: Could you tell me a little about “New Brigade” and what it was like recording it?

E: We recorded it in like 3 or 4 days. We didn't really use overdubs. Like we played all the music together and we did vocals after that but there wasn't really any overdubs. We just played the songs a couple times till they were right. That's kind of the recording process. We didn't have a producer or anything.

PP: 3 or 4 days is a short recording time. You guys must have been working really hard to get that.

E: Yeah, I guess it was just the method of naming the songs. We didn't need that many attempts.

PP: Can you tell me about the name of the band, Iceage. This might just be me interpreting things but I hear a lot of Joy Division in your guys' music and some of the energy of it and the band name has always reminded me of the Joy Division song “Ice Age” but where do you think the band name from?

E: As for the Joy Division thing, yeah I really like Joy Division -we seem to get compared to them a lot but I don't think we really sound like Joy Division. But we didn't take the name of their song. We just kind of brainstormed words and then it became that.

PP: You don't sound just like Joy Division. You sound like all sorts of things. I appreciate how experimental the music is. It's not just straight punk or straight anything. Did it take you guys a long time to write songs?

E: Yeah it did. We can't just like- just write a song in ten minutes. We spend a lot of time like finding the right parts and melodies and stuff. They are written over time. The ideas are pretty spontaneous but -what can I say- we use a fair amount of time to get the songs right.

PP: It definitely sounds like that. While I would call Iceage punk it seems a lot more thoughtful than a lot of the punk I'm used to hearing in the past couple years. It's a shorter record but it seems like every note is more thought out than a lot of punk bands I know can just sit down and write a song. And that's not always good [laughter]. It's good you spend a lot of time.

E: We don't want anything there that doesn't have to be there.

PP: That's a great quote. One of things that the bands does that made me think 'oh this must have taken a lot of time' is how the band uses lots dissonant tones, lots of noise, in a very calculated way. I love that.

E: Thanks.

PP: On your tour, how many cities in the US have you been to so far? -and Canada too.

E: So far we played two shows in New York, one in Philadelphia, one in Baltimore. Now we're playing one in Pittsburgh tonight.

PP: This is something I've been wondering, after doing some internet homework and listening to the album a couple of time-

E: Thanks, we appreciate that.

PP: How long has the band been together?

E: We started doing Iceage in late 2008 -but we've known each other since we were small kids.

PP: What's the band's plans for the future? Have you started recording or thinking about recording your next album?

E: We've been recording- and we are writing. We've written over half the songs for the next album so it won't be too long.

PP: Since you guys had a major taste of the music industry and touring, definitely more than most bands with members of your age, is there anything in particular that pisses you off about the music community in general?

E: Yeah. I've felt a lot of things but there's a lot of people interested just because a lot of people talk about it, not because they actually relate to the music. That's what I don't like. A lot of business people want to- want to lick our asses because they want to work with us or whatever.

PP: Yeah, I'm sure you're encountering a lot of that now.

E: It can be annoying but it's also good because like- a lot of people get to know about it. That's good. Like I wasn't expecting that people would sing along the lyrics for songs so far away from where I live but that's amazing because it happens.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jack White in the hizzy

Months after ditching The White Stripes, Jack White is committing himself to an unlikely project. Third Man Records recently announced that they have signed rapper Black Milk and that Jack White will be doing more than just producing.

This news scared the shit out of me at first because it made me think of washed up musicians/celebrities trying to revitalize their careers as hip-hop upstarts ala Dee Dee Ramone or Joaquin Phoenix. Luckily though, Jack has not jumped the shark and percussion and guitar will be the extent of his contributions to the project.

Get a taste here courtesy of Some Kind of Awesome.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Girls are back in town

I have no idea what happened with this one but hopefully one of my readers can help me out. The fantastic indie rock band Girls was supposed to be one of the headliners at Free Press Summer Fest but dropped out since they recently "broke up". However, not a month later they announce a new album with no explanation of why they are now suddenly again a fully functioning band. I can't seem to find an article on it anywhere.

While I'm psyched Girls is still around, I feel like we might have gotten fucked out of seeing them for some stupid publicity stunt. Whatever. Fans like me have a new album to look forward to in the fall. That's enough to distract me from this conundrum for now -I guess.