Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sin of Omission: David Bazan — Curse Your Branches

Oh man, people got a problem with David Bazan. They're all "Stop talking about being a Christian or not being a Christian so much," and "Why do you hate America?"

I don't really get it. Bazan is definitely unapologetic, but he's not belligerent. His songs are also deeply personal, and I guess it's kind of uncool to be earnest these days (For the record: I am not actually 50 years old, as statements like this might indicate).

I like Dave Bazan. I think he's an excellent songwriter, both on the melodic and lyrical tips. He's prickly and hilarious (like myself), and now I also know that he's a super nice/cool guy (again, like looking in some kind of magical personality mirror).

You see, I had the pleasure of seeing Bazan play a concert in someone's living room last week in Birmingham. And frankly, it was awesome. Not only did he put on a great show, but he came across like a stand-up dude. He joked around, he answered questions about songs, we talked about delicious local beers and good times were had. It was then that I picked up Curse Your Branches, and it is now that I'm telling you to do the same.

P.S. The only negative thing I can say about Branches is that it cannot hope to capture how incredible his voice actually is. It is so much more rich, powerful and just impressive than I've heard any recording convey. Bummer. But still—good record. Get it. While you're at it, get Control (Pedro the Lion) and Headphones (Headphones) too if you don't have them.

David Bazan — Curse Your Branches

Monday, January 31, 2011

New Cut Copy, Zonoscope, is up for streaming.
I, correspondingly, am in raptures.

Oh, man. Cut Copy is my jam. I haven't listened to the stream yet, so I hope all this excitement isn't for naught (AS THOUGH THAT WOULD EVEN BE POSSIBLE). Zonoscope is out next Tuesday, but you can stream it until the getting's good.

Stream Cut Copy — Zonoscope

Friday, January 21, 2011

Previews: Deerhoof — Deerhoof vs. Evil and The Go! Team — Rolling Blackouts

Those of you who ever knew about Lala.com remember it fondly, no doubt. There were a lot of great things about Lala (storing your entire music collection online for streaming anywhere, cheap album prices), but my favorite thing was the ability to listen through an album once before you bought it.

And then, like your mother chaperoning the prom, Apple came along and ruined everything. Bought Lala up, put its little head under the heel of their gray New Balance sneaks and proceeded to squish it 'til it wouldn't squish no more. Dick move, guys.

Fortunately, there are still other ways to sample a record's flavor before we plunk down an hour's wage for it. You just have to do a little more looking around than you used to. Today, I checked out two reliably awesome bands' upcoming releases: Deerhoof's Deerhoof vs. Evil and The Go! Team's Rolling Blackouts. And, as predicted, predictably awesome. Hit them up below before the streams come down.

NOTE: The Deerhoof preview begins at about 59:18 in the Henry Rollins broadcast.

(embed from Hype Machine wasn't working)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Rebuttal: Tapes 'n Tapes — Outside

Boy, Pitchfork just fell right the hell out of love with Tapes 'n Tapes after their first record. This isn't the first time we've seen this (I can't remember a specific example off the top of my head, nor do I care to think about it for too terribly long, but you know I'm right.)

It wasn't just them, though. The Loon blew everyone's skirt up so hard they couldn't see to drive their Vespas, and then they all straight turned on Tapes 'n Tapes when Walk it Off came out. The shift in public (read: blog) opinion was seismic. What the hell, did Roman Polanski join the band between records?

I never understood what happened. It was so bad that I even started to kinda feel sorry for the guys. And that sucks, because The Loon was a good record, Walk It Off was a good record, and—get ready for it—Outside is also a good record.

It's more like The Loon than Walk It Off (y'all scared them, obviously), but it doesn't feel like a rehash or a "Look guys, we're sorry! It's us again! Never mind that middle one!" It still feels like (apologies for the platitude) an evolution. I don't know what else to say about it, except:
Dear Tapes 'n Tapes, I'm sorry people acted messed up towards you. I hope you'll forgive us and keep making music.
Love,  Pitchfork Ain't Right  
P.S. You're way better than a 5.5 in my book.

Tapes 'N Tapes — Badaboom

Monday, January 3, 2011

Best(-Take-Another-Looks) of 2010

The Best-Take-Another-Looks. The records that went unnoticed, went unreviewed, got hated on, didn't get much of a fuss made over them—or just need a little standing up for. If you don't have them/haven't heard them, give them a shot. You won't regret it. (And of course, don't forget Mark Ronson and The Octopus Project.) Now without further ado, and in not too particular an order:

10. Mumford & Sons — Sigh No More
This one probably doesn't need a lot of help from me, actually. It's on, even atop, year-end lists all over the place. But in case you only read Pitchfork (no judgments—that used to be me), a vicious 2.1 rating certainly wouldn't encourage you to give it a spin. Perhaps the endorsement of simple music lovers, as opposed to the ridiculous, faux-academic bitchiness of music critics, will?

Mumford & Sons — Sigh No More
Mumford & Sons — Little Lion Man


9. fun. — Aim & Ignite
I'm cheating a bit here, as this one actually came out in 2009—BUT!—they released a deluxe edition this year, so it's totally legit. The band name doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but this album is incredible. You may be familiar with the lead singer's former band The Format. Like fun, they were wholly ignored by Pitchfork. And this is a real shame, because both bands made some of my favorite over-the-top pop of the past few years.

fun. — Be Calm
fun. — At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)


8. Ratatat — LP4
Pitchfork is clearly just growing weary of Ratatat. With every album, they try and marginalize them more and more (LP4 got a poopy 5.2). And while I agree that maybe more than a little evolution is needed for them to make a scene once more, I still think that they're making great music. I don't know if I'll still be saying that by LPVII, but for right now I'm still all up in their camp.

Ratatat — Drugs
Ratatat — Sunblocks


7. Yeasayer — Odd Blood
I'm not sure how one manages to be smooching and pooping on something simultaneously (I'm not German, after all), but Pitchfork's Odd Blood review seemed just such a display. They doled out conservative compliments and snide remarks about how Yeasayer were poised to be commercially successful (how dare you, band!) in equal measure, and then cherry-on-topped it with a 6.1. This album is beautiful and thrilling. Don't sleep on it.

Yeasayer — Ambling Alp
Yeasayer — Madder Red


Gif Created on Make A Gif6. Dntel — After Parties 1/After Parties 2
It seems Dntel will always be a casualty of The Postal Service. I don't personally feel the need to separate Jimmy Tamborello from his ubiquitous Ben Gibbard collabo (especially since TPS turned me on to Dntel), but I really wish the blogholes could. They skewered 2007's lovely Dumb Luck and simply eschewed the After Parties EPs. It's worth noting that this sounds like a completely different Dntel now, but just as gorgeous.

Dntel — After Parties
Dntel — Aimless


5. Freelance Whales — Weathervanes
My first exposure to Freelance Whales was a video of them adorably busking in a subway station. Yeah, it was precious and they were stunting — but it worked. And how else are artists supposed to get our attention these days? (This bunch isn't armed with the d├ęcolletage of Katy Perry, after all.) And while the subway shtick is somewhat indicative of Weathervanes, it does not merit a Nick and Norah reference. That sh*t is beyond the pale.

Freelance Whales — Generator ^ First Floor
Freelance Whales — Generator ^ Second Floor


4. The Ruby Suns — Fight Softly
There are bands, and then there are "bands" that are just a dude who would rather not go by his real name. Sometimes other people play with them and sometimes they make albums by themselves, occasionally yielding fantastic results (see Hissing Fauna). No, Fight Softly is not 2008's awesome Ruby Suns effort Sea Lion—it's quite different—but it's also not a booger-eating 6.1.

The Ruby Suns — Mingus and Pike
The Ruby Suns — Cinco


Gif Created on Make A Gif3. YelaWolf — Trunk Muzik/Trunk Muzik 0-60
Inevitably, the first beats of any conversation about YelaWolf involve some chortling due to his being a white kid from Alabama. Then the apologetic "But Bun B, Raekwon and Gucci Mane are all on the record." And after you listen, none of that mess matters. The production is spectacular. His rapping is excellent (and not at all like Eminem, for those wondering). There's some overlap, but you don't want to miss the mixtape or the album.

YelaWolf — Trunk Muzik [NSFW - Explicit]
YelaWolf — Box Chevy (feat. Rittz) [NSFW - Explicit]


2. Jaga Jazzist — One-Armed Bandit
This band hasn't made a record yet that I didn't love, and One-Armed Bandit might be my favorite yet. Jaga Jazzist is a Norwegian 10-piece  (texture abounds!) that deals in jazzy, post-rock-y stuff with electronics sprinkled here and there. Most of the time, they don't sound quite like anything I can remember hearing before, although this record does occasionally smack of a cool old soundtrack from the '70s that you stumbled upon at a record store.

Jaga Jazzist — One-Armed Bandit
Jaga Jazzist — Touch of Evil


1. Hooray for Earth — Momo
For all the negative press and backlash to questionable business decisions that beset our beloved eMusic this year, I still have to say "God bless eMusic selects." After all, they brought us Deastro, The Rural Alberta Advantage, High Places and this year, Strand of Oaks and Hooray for Earth. Momo is but a 5-song EP, yet it grabbed me by the goodies as much as any LP this year. Here's looking forward to the future of this outfit. Hooray, indeed.

Hooray for Earth — Surrounded by Your Friends
Hooray for Earth — Comfortable, Comparable


Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Mixtape 2K10

Every year, I make a Christmas mixtape for family, friends and Internet friends. And if you're new here, there's an embarrassment of riches to be had: a four year back catalog of themed mixes. Kaboom.

It Feels Like Christmas Again — 2010 Christmas Mixtape

Year-end lists coming soon. Stay tuned, nerds.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Retroactive Rebuttal: Loney, dear. — Loney, Noir.

You know how sometimes you look back on an older review and think, "That sh*t still hurts." And three years later you still want to say something about it? Boom, the Retroactive Rebuttal category is born thusly.

I don't know what inspired me to buy Loney, Noir in the first place (besides all the most benevolent and beautiful forces of the universe), since the review was mostly composed of hilarious little jokes by one of Pitchfork's cleverer writers, peppered with a few backhanded compliments and punctuated by a big stinky 6.6 rating. The "review" ended with this gem: "After all, even the comfiest blanket chafes if someone's giving you an Indian burn with it." (As opposed to the ending I had hoped for, in which the reviewer gets his fixed gear bike shoved up his ass wheel-first.)

Loney, Noir is lots of fun. But not just the kind of fun that you smile and bob your head to as it jangles along, glockenspiels a-ringing. It's the kind of fun that makes you smile, fills you with hope and makes you wonder if you might start crying at any moment. It's simply gorgeous. Heartbreakingly so. I still get lumps in my throat sometimes when I listen to it. Loney, Noir just slays me.

I might be crazy, but there are some records that I am very, very careful how much I listen. Because I don't want them to lose their specialness. Loney, Noir is one of those. But sitting here listening to it again as I write this (and am gleefully distracted from writing this), I can tell you that it's still magic for me. And unless you're made of wood or something, I imagine it will be for you too.

Loney, dear. — I Am John
Loney, dear. — Hard Days

And now that I'm posting this, I'm remembering what made me buy the record. It was this video:

And this one (it's a two-video post!):