Articles posted in July 2009

Your summer jam has arrived

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Atlas Sound began as Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox’s home recorded solo project, but, after just one album, it’s already evolved into something more. This fall, Atlas Sound will release Logos, an unfinished version of which leaked onto the internet in 2008. The final product opts for more a full band sound than last year’s Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel and features guest appearances from some of Cox’s musically-inclined friends.

“Walkabout” is a collaboration with Panda Bear, and is based around a sample of the Dovers‘ 1966 song “What Am I Going to Do?” Accompanied by subtle electronic percussion and a Brian Wilson-aping vocal line, the tune sounds closer to Panda’s previous work than Cox’s—it could have easily been slotted into 2007′s Person Pitch without seeming out of place. The catchy verses are broken up by ambient washes of blissed-out synth, meaning the song sounds a bit like a four-minute distillation of everything that makes Panda Bear and Atlas Sound so captivating.

Logos doesn’t come out until October 21, but it’s easy to see why Cox chose to release this song early, as its sunny vibe is ideally suited to beach parties and backyard barbecues. What a fucking jam.

Download or stream the song over at The FADER.
 
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More of the same from Apollo Ghosts

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It’s only been six months since Apollo Ghosts released their debut, Hastings Sunrise, an album that still stands out as one of the year’s best albums. Forgotten Triangle comes hot on the heels of that release, offering more of what made Hastings Sunrise so likable. Like its predecessor, the EP was recorded live off the floor by the production duo JC/DC (the New Pornographers, Destroyer), and features an infectious mix of Ramones-inspired punk and ’80s college rock jangle.

Opening track “Palm of My Hand” begins quietly, but its jazzy, whispered verses bely the upbeat chorus, which is easily the catchiest thing the Vancouver trio has ever done (and that’s saying something). In its final minute, the song suddenly busts into a thundering coda with squalling guitar, wailing saxophone, and a euphoric refrain of “I want you in the palm of my hand.”

That song sets the unpredictable tone for the rest of the EP, which ranges from sweet and funny to raucous and abrasive without ever departing too from the group’s usual slacker-rock ethos. “Shaolin Barhop” tells the story of a motocross champion, Adrian Teacher’s soft vocals punctuated by fractured blasts of start-and-stop guitar. After this noisy offering, Apollo Ghosts strip things down for “I Won’t Support Your Love,” a gentle ukulele ballad with a whistling solo.

The highlight of the collection is “Shanghai Alley,” an R&B groove that gives bassist Jay Oliver to lay down one of the slinkiest basslines in recent memory. With airy girl-group harmonies, a piercing guitar solo, and sultry sax leads, it’s a remarkably convincing modern take on ’60s soul.

Closer “Scott, Painter” is the most straightforward rock song of the EP, poking fun of its titular character with the hilarious opening lyric “Disappointed with your sideburns / Shouldn’t have shaved them off / Now you look like your mother don’t you?” It would be tempting to describe the song as vintage Apollo Ghosts, except for the fact that the group’s entire recording history only spans half a year. With such a distinct style already established, Forgotten Triangle shows that Apollo Ghosts have plenty more offer.

The entire EP is currently streaming from the band’s MySpace. It’s also available from Catbird Records on CD (for $5) or as a digital download (for $3).
 
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The Dodos open the floodgates

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The Dodos‘ new album, Time to Die, isn’t due out until September 15, but it’s gone the way of Veckatimest and leaked two full months early. In order to combat the leak, the group is now offering high quality stream of the full album at timetodie.net.

To make the deal even sweeter, there’s also a free download of the album’s first single, “Fables.” The song is a major stylistic departure from the primitive folk-metal of last year’s Visiter, featuring jaunty strumming and a chorus that’s so hummable it could almost be a nursery rhyme. Drummer Logan Kroeber scales back the dense tribal drumming of his previous work in favour of a more straightforward rock beat—it’s still heavy as hell, but this time you’ll want to clap along with the snare hits. But perhaps the biggest departure is the clean, densely layered production of Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, the Shins). The recording practically shines, with layers of vocal harmonies, electric guitars and what sounds like a marimba all competing for space. It doesn’t have the same visceral power as much of the material on Visiter, but it’s an infectious summer single nonetheless.

mp3: “Fables”

Time to Die is still due in stores on September 15, but its digital release has been moved way up to July 28. During the first week it will be an Amazon exclusive, and will be available from other digital retailers after that.
 
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VanGaalen lets his freak flag fly

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So long as logic prevails, Chad VanGaalen is a lock for this year’s Polaris Prize. He’s up against a strong set of nominees (most notably Joel Plaskett and Hey Rosetta!), but it’s tough to deny the brilliance of his 2008 release Soft Airplane. The album is sonically fascinating, with ramshackle acoustic instruments set against fractured, squiggly electronics. But it’s VanGaalen lyrics and melodies that are the real focus, with timeless songs like “Willow Tree” and “Bones of Man” transcending the limitations of lo-fi bedroom pop.

This August, VanGaalen will release another album, this time using the moniker Black Mold rather than his own name. The album is called Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz and is intended to emphasize his experimental leanings. The album is entirely instrumental, and based on the two tracks that have already been released, it covers similar ground to “JC’s Head on the Cross,” a track from 2004′s Infiniheart. “Metal Spider Webs” begins as a baroque dirge, with haunting horns, strings, and a gently tinkling glockenspiel. Futuristic electronics soon take over, with feedback swells marring the prettiness of the intro.

mp3: “Metal Spider Webs”

“Tetra Pack Heads” features a frenetic glitchy beat and vaguely tropical synth riffing, recalling the madness of Dan Deacon without the dancefloor-ready payoff.

mp3: “Tetra Pack Heads”

Snow Blindness is Crystal Antz is due out August 11 via Flemish Eye.
 
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Times New Viking ups the fidelity (but not really)

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Times New Viking released its third album, Rip It Off, just 18 months ago, but it already sounds ahead of its time. Since then, ultra lo-fi fuzz rock has suddenly become popular, and bands like Wavves, Vivian Girls and No Age have achieved buzz-band status in the wake of Times New Viking’s success.

Times New Viking is set to release its fourth album, Born Again Revisited, on September 22, and according to a press release from Matador, it will feature “25% higher fidelity” than previous recordings. Of course, sound quality is a relative term for Times New Viking—after all, the group delivered the new album’s master recordings on VHS tape. The lead single, “No Time No Hope,” scales back the distortion of 2008′s Rip It Off, but it’s still messier than just about anything else you’ll hear this year.

This isn’t to say the song doesn’t show some stylistic progress for the Columbus trio. Unlike the band’s usual bite-sized approach to songwriting, “No Time No Hope” clocks in at 2:51, making it longer than all but one of the 16 tracks on Rip It Off. It’s a chugging, organ-heavy groove without much of a discernible structure, spending its runtime alternating between shouted verses and catchy instrumental breaks. Based on this preview, Born Again Revisited promises to be one of the fall’s must-hear albums.

Listen to the song over at Matablog.
 
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Rah Rah seeks a sound

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When I saw Rah Rah a couple of weeks ago, I noted that the band’s baroque rock intensity was distinctly similar to Arcade Fire. On the group’s album, 2008′s Going Steady, that resemblance is even more apparent. Aside from the deep, mumbling vocals of singer Marshall Burns, much of the album sounds like a collection of lo-fi Funeral outtakes; during “Betrayal pt. 1,” with its sawing violin and yelping backup vocals, you half expect the band to break into “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” at any moment.

The Arcade Fire sound-alikes are fun, but Rah Rah is at its best when carving out a sound of its own. The clear standout is “Duet for Emmylou and the Grievous Angel,” a gritty waltz-time strummer with a stunning singalong chorus of “It is fashionable / To be single / In big cities but not in small towns.” The folksy “My Guarantee” is a charming love song with sunny mandolins and poignant harmonies from the group’s female members. The girl-sung backup vocals are equally effective on “Winter Sun,” which features call-and-response harmonies over its sparse electro groove.

The album is carried by Burns’s lyrics, which are often witty and consistently memorable. He specializes in romantic cynicism, especially on the biting “Betrayal pt. 2″: “And I swear that I once loved a girl / More than any hockey team in the world / But you left me for that asshole / I forget his name.”

Burns has already found his lyrical voice, so hopefully Rah Rah will develop a a unique sound to match. It’s encouraging that the group is at its best when it sounds most like itself, rather than when imitating others. The band has already recorded a follow-up; based on the potential displayed on Going Steady, it’s going to be an album look out for in the near future.
 
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