Infinite Shuffle

February 28, 2010

17 – Beach House

Filed under: B, Baltimore — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Now that all the end-of-the-year and end-of-the-decade fervor has subsided, we’re already starting to see some recent releases being touted by the indie tastemakers as early front-runners for “top album of 2010.”

The most ballyhooed is Contra by Vampire Weekend. But another that has been receiving plenty of love is Beach House’s Teen Dream.

It’s the third full-length release from the Baltimore-based dream pop duo consisting of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. I’d listened to their second album, Devotion, once and wasn’t necessarily floored. Couple that with the fact that they’ve been so hyped by Pitchfork and its brethren, and I found myself growing to resent Beach House a little.

I decided I should give their entire catalogue a listen before I officially passed judgement.

Their self-titled debut dropped in October 2006, followed by Devotion in February 2008. The two albums sound pretty similar — heavy on the atmospheric rhythms and haunting lyrics but lacking much variation.

So it didn’t bode well for Teen Dream as far as I was concerned. However, early on it becomes clear that Beach House’s sound has evolved during the past couple years.

I’m not a musician, so I can’t always describe what I’m hearing, but Teen Dream definitely seems to have a lot more going on than the two earlier albums. The songs are more complex and more filled-out.

The first single, “Norway“, was somewhat bittersweet for me. It’s a solid little ditty from the opening accordion note — which, by the way, called to mind both the Sea Wolf single, “Winter Windows“, and just about any Decemberists song.

The problem with “Norway” is that it sounds so much like “Ghost Under Rocks” by Ra Ra Riot, that I couldn’t get the latter out of my head and kept waiting for the song to transition accordingly.

Thankfully, the next track on the album, “Walk In the Park”, turned out to be my favorite and helped erase some of the bitterness of the preceding song.

The rest of the album is also pretty solid, and, as a whole, Teen Dream probably deserves much of the praise it has been receiving.

So, what have we learned today?

Teen Dream? Good.

Resentment? Bad.

Beach House – Walk In The Park

February 21, 2010

16 – Yeasayer

Filed under: Brooklyn, Y — assman41 @ 12:01 am

I’m not really sure when I first heard about Yeasayer. I know they’ve been in my periphery for the past couple years. I’d hear a song of theirs from time to time, but nothing ever grabbed my attention. I also know they were on the bill at last year’s Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, but I never saw them.

Then, within the last month or so, I heard both of their latest singles on the radio, and everything changed for me. My interest had been piqued. I thought I might’ve found an early contender of my eventual “Top 10 of ’10” list, and I had to hear more.

However, I quickly discovered the band was nothing more than a musical version of iron pyrite — you know, fool’s gold.

Yeasayer is a trio that hails from Brooklyn, and its sound is hard to pinpoint. A couple descriptions I read were “semi-experimental rock” and “Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel.”

Those are probably about as accurate as anything I could come up with to label Yeasayer’s debut album, All Hour Cymbals, which came out in 2007.

But the album that got me interested in them, Odd Blood, which came out this year, might be a little bit easier to discern. Personally, the best comparison I can make is Hot Chip meets Beirut.

Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of Hot Chip, and I’m even less interested in Beirut.

The one thing that I did enjoy was the vocals, especially on the aforementioned singles, “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E.”

I’ll probably just end up keeping those songs on my iTunes and deleting the rest — kinda like what I did with Bat For Lashes. (Interesting sidenote, Yeasayer helped produce Bat For Lashes’ most recent album, Two Suns.)

Yeasayer – Ambling Alp

February 14, 2010

15 – Mute Math

Filed under: M, New Orleans — assman41 @ 12:01 am

When it comes to Mute Math, it’s like the chicken and the egg — did I see them or hear them first. What I do know for sure is that my most vivid memory of them is when I won tickets from a local radio station and saw them live at the since-closed Starr Hill venue in Charlottesville, Va., in 2006.

I didn’t know much about the band, but I was immediately enthralled by them, especially lead singer Paul Meany, who busted out a keytar and looked kinda like Thomas Ian Nicholas.

Anyways, I really dug their sound and made sure to purchase their self-titled debut LP. I would occasionally hear a couple songs off that album being played on the radio, including “Chaos” and “Break the Same”. And the group seemed to gain a bit of fame when their awesome video for “Typical” got a lot of airplay.

But then I kinda lost track of them for a while. Aside from one of their songs occasionally popping up on my iTunes, I hadn’t given them much thought the last few years.

Until earlier this week. That’s when, for some reason, I looked up Mute Math and saw that they released a new LP last fall.

On Armistice, their sound has definitely evolved, but the key components are still there — that signature mix of rock, pop, jazz and electronica.

I can’t really think of a better way to describe Mute Math’s sound. So I’ll let Amazon do it for me …

Taking cues from several decades of alternative rock, the New Orleans-based quartet Mute Math (also known as MUTEMATH and MuteMath) fuses together New Order’s synth-dance epics, the Stone Roses’ shambling shuffle, Radiohead’s spiky chilliness, Air’s serene ambient pop, and the booming vocals of mainstream pop/rock.

I’m always interested to see what kind of bands Amazon will suggest I look into based on the band I’ve searched for. But when it comes to Mute Math, none of the ones mentioned seem like accurate comparisons. The closest ones might be Keane and Snow Patrol, but not really.

If I had to compare Mute Math to anyone, I’d say they’re a more-electronica version of Gomez.

But you should probably judge for yourself. Here are their MySpace page and their official website.

And here’s one of my favorite tracks off their self-titled LP …

Mute Math – Chaos

February 7, 2010

Outroversion threeplay #1

Filed under: England, F, NYC, Outroversion, Sweden, T — assman41 @ 12:01 am

Shortly after beginning this blog, I stumbled upon Outroversion, and it quickly became my go-to music blog — especially for stuff from across the pond.

I have since downloaded many an album and track from the site, most of which I haven’t even listened to yet. But during a recent trip home, I had plenty of time to finally delve into my iPod, and here are three solid acts that I probably never would’ve discovered if it weren’t for Simon’s offerings.

Frank Turner

I wasn’t sure of the best way to describe Turner. But then I saw on his Wikipedia page that his music falls into the “folk/punk” category. While those two genres seem pretty disparate, that’s actually a perfect description of the sound on his third and most recent album, Poetry of the Deed.

The first couple songs, he’s sort of introducing himself before he seems to find his rhythm. From Track 3 on, I was reminded of Dexter Holland’s vocals from The Offspring’s single a few years ago, “Kristy, Are You Doing Okay?” It’s fitting since Turner considers The Offspring a huge influence and toured with them throughout Europe in 2009.

His songs have a lot of Irish trad/punk/rock vibes, so it’s no surprise he also recently toured with Flogging Molly.

Here’s one of his least punkish songs …

Frank Turner – Sunday Nights

First Aid Kit

The only comparison that really came to mind while listening to this Swedish duo’s Drunken Trees EP was Joanna Newsom fronting the Fleet Foxes. Coincidentally, one of the singers is named Johanna and they cover a Fleet Foxes song on the disc.

Considering my annoyance with Ms. Newsom, that might sound like something of an insult, but it actually works here. Sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg don’t go off into a bunch of crazy-sound-filled vocal solos. They stick to the music and we’re all the better for it.

They just released their first full-length album, The Big Black & The Blue, in late January.

Here’s the song that first got them noticed by Swedish radio stations …

First Aid Kit – Tangerine

fun.

Of the three bands listed here, fun. is the only one I’ve actually seen other music bloggers mention as well.

The trio from New York City has a solid pedigree and is something of a supergroup. fun. formed when Nate Ruess’s band The Format split up and he joined forces with Andrew Dost (Anathallo) and Jack Antonoff (Steel Train) in early 2008.

After listening to the band’s debut album, Aim and Ignite, the only thing I could think of was Mika — for those of you not familiar with him, imagine Freddie Mercury at his most flamboyant.

But upon listening to the disc again, I realized fun. has a pretty full, robust sound, with all three members making notable contributions.

They seem to be at their strongest and most theatrical on this single …

fun. – All the Pretty Girls

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