As if you couldn’t already tell, I’ve been angling toward the noisiest, most abrasive music that I can find. The more messed up the rhythms, the faster the songs, the more angular and distorted the guitar parts and the less intelligible the lyrics the better.
Bbigpigg is currently on tour through the beginning of November and is also offering a five song EP, “Phantom Photography,” for free at their site. There is also another free download at their main site here.
Similar in overall sound to THIGHS, Bbigpigg takes their energy over the top and keeps it there. Something comparable in texture to At The Drive-In where it’s impossible to discern where one guitar ends and another begins. Everything is just a cloud of interconnected squeals and accents pinned to the ground by a rumbling bass. “Bitch-Hogg” takes a completely frantic approach rhythmically, with air-raid guitars cutting across everything in its path. Everything is just heavy as hell, and worth more than a few listens.
Check their site for tour dates across New England and make sure to grab that download.
Back in May I introduced you to a band out of Scotland that goes by the name Andrew Lindsay and the Coat Hooks. They had just released their fantastic The Whittling EP, that would easily end up on my year end list for Favorite EPs of 2011 had I made one. Well they are back with a truncated name (now they are simply known as Coat Hooks) and a new track, “Popcorn Blues.”
This track is right in line with those found on The Whittling EP with perfect sounding acoustic guitars this time with the added ethereal effect of overdriven and e-bowed guitar adding a perfect background layer. If you haven’t checked out The Whittling EP now would be the perfect time to do so. Also, you can download this track for free on their Bandcamp page. They also have a new EP that’s coming out soon, To the Waters and the Wild, so keep an eye on their internets for that.
It’s hard to tell whether this was a really great year for music or if I was just paying attention more than last year. That sums up my feelings at the end of every year. I don’t want to do too much of an introduction because I have quite a bit to say. I’m not putting these releases in any particular order, they are just my favorites. Some I listened to more than others, but putting them in order just seems too subjective and a pointless waste of time.
Chad VanGaalen – “Diaper Island”
Listening to this album filled the void left by Women not releasing anything this year. This was my gateway into listening to more of VanGaalen’s stuff and it remains my favorite album of his. With it’s haunting and warm sound, psychedelic imagery and noisy guitars Diaper Island hit all the right notes. Standout tracks “Peace on the Rise,” “Heavy Stones” and “Do Not Fear” would be a good fit on any year end mix. (review here.)
Fucked Up – “David Comes to Life”
Simply put, this is one epic album. It may seems like a chore to listen to this nearly 78 minute hardcore opera about love and loss, but when it comes down to it the album still relies on catchy hooks, pure unbridled emotion and more guitars than have ever appeared on any album ever. The complexity of the arrangements may be overshadowed by the brash vocals but take another 10 or 20 listens and you’ll undoubtedly start to appreciate how truly brilliant this album is from it’s structure and lyrics right on down to the execution. This continues Fucked Up in their clear evolution of a hardcore band that is always searching for new ways to expand the medium.
Radiohead – “The King of Limbs”
Radiohead will never be able to catch a break ever again. They are caught in the terrible, yet still enviable, position of people expecting great innovations from album to album and then fans and critics regularly misunderstanding their music and heaping faint praise onto them. Make no mistake The King of Limbs is a fantastic album. Sure, it is short, and there isn’t much in the way of guitar on it, and it’s really percussion heavy. It’s still a Radiohead album though and in my mind they are nearly at the level where they can do nothing wrong. There are definite gems on here and it should not be simply cast aside. (review)
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/07-Give-Up-The-Ghost.mp3|titles=Give Up The Ghost]
tUnE-yArDs – “w h o k i l l”
Probably the most divisive album of the year. I have yet to come across anyone that could say, “Yeah I heard the tune-yards album, it was ok”. The reactions were always hard to one side. If I recall correctly even those of us in the Tympanogram camp were at odds over how we felt about it. My take on it is that it’s a wholly new sound that is interesting rhythmically to a very high degree, orchestrationally it also makes great use of everything available but never tries to go too far, or do too much. This album manages to do all of those things while continuing to keep it interesting and different from song to song covering a variety of moods. (review)
Wild Flag – “Wild Flag”
This is a straight up rock record. I had been looking forward to its release ever since Carrie Brownstein left NPR to pursue music in a touring band once again. They manage to easily sidestep any of the normal pitfalls of a debut album because all of the members of Wild Flag are seasoned pros. Each track is exciting and energetic and simply rocks. They captured the energy of a live show and released it simultaneously as they toured across the country garnering acclaim for their exciting, energetic show. (review)
Colin Stetson – “New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges”
This album is the only thing I have listened to that has left me absolutely speechless and astounded upon its conclusion. It’s flashy, arty and walks that line between art-music and jazz. It’s another album that stands in a category of its own, which is exactly the kind of thing that I’m attracted to. What’s even more amazing is that it’s almost all solo saxophone music, except for one track that Stetson performs on French Horn. On the surface it is not exactly the kind of thing that I would be drawn to, and maybe it’s not the kind of thing that you’d be drawn to either. To you I would say this is definitely worth a listen or ten. It’s damn near revolutionary and will leave you spellbound. (review)
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/12-The-righteous-wrath-of-an-honorable-man.mp3|titles=The righteous wrath of an honorable man]
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/05-From-no-part-of-me-could-I-summon-a-voice.mp3|titles=From no part of me could I summon a voice]
Starfucker – “Reptilians”
Catchy as hell, synth-laden, danceable pop tunes about life and death, though mostly about death. This was definitely an album that I had cast aside earlier in the year, but when I came back to it I found that I was surely missing out. There’s something satisfying about a thick, buzzing synth sound.
Tim Hecker – “Ravedeath 1972”
I definitely don’t fashion myself an expert on ambient music, but there is just something so moving about this album the way that it uses masses of sound to create an atmosphere that is ethereal and familiar all at once. I can’t quite put my finger on exactly what I love about this album. Maybe it’s the fact that I keep coming back to it, that it keeps forcing me to come back to it. It’s just so damned intriguing.
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – “Mirror Traffic”
The Pavement nepotism is obvious. I became absolutely obsessed with Pavement when I finally started paying attention to their albums around 2006. Come to find out I was wasting all sorts of time missing Pavement because Malkmus has been putting out fantastic albums since right after Pavement’s last album came out in 1999. “Mirror Traffic” is full of songs with interesting harmonies, sudden shifts, catchy melodies and Malkmus’ literate and sometimes cryptic lyrics.
The Two Koreas – “Science Island”
I know that hardly anyone is going to agree with me on this album. I also know that not too many people have heard this album and that is a shame. That is also partially the reason why I am making it a point to mention it on my year end list. The music is sloppy to a certain degree, totally embodying a garage rock aesthetic. Every track is a barn-burner sung with a sneer with plenty of jangly, noisy guitars adding to the overall experience. If you listen to anything on this list, or are inspired to listen to anything new I would suggest most highly this album. (review)
(Originally posted on December 20, 2011 on Tympanogram.com)
One of the tracks that I kept coming back to this year was “Big Broom” by RACES. At the time when I first came upon it there were only, from as far as I could tell, two tracks by the band available. That one track though, and the B-side, were enough to keep me wanting more. Last month they did release an EP on Frenchkiss records that featured “Big Broom” as well as 2 additional songs that showcased their sound which is huge, powerful and up-front. That EP, released through Frenchkiss, can be found on their bandcamp page as well as on iTunes.
Since I’ve pretty much given up all hope for 2011, cranked out a “best-of” list and am now spending my days trying to forget it all in order to make room for new music, I’m glad that RACES has sent word that their full-length will be forthcoming in March of 2012. The title of the album is The Year of the Witch, and from the sounds of this video I’m going to need to get my hands on a copy of it as soon as I can, and I’m suggesting you do the same. The new songs are full of energy and show a penchant for utilizing every aspect of their six piece ensemble in each tightly knit tune. Of course, check out the video of a recent performance they did previewing several tracks from The Year of the Witch that starts with “Big Broom” and continues through the new material broken up by brief interviews where the band discusses the new songs and coming together as a band.
I’ve been a fan of of Montreal since hearing the Icons Abstract Thee EP that came out following their amazing, pace-setting album Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?They also hold the honor of putting on, by far, the best live shows I have ever been lucky enough to witness. They change directions pretty wildly with each new album and I have stuck with them through it all. Nothing can quite compare to what I think of as their classics, but I’m always excited by an artist that puts out consistently challenging, new sounding material that follows no path but its own. No other band out there today sounds quite like of Montreal.
In 2011 they released an EP entitled The Controllersphere that was to False Priest what the Icons Abstract Thee EP was to Hissing Fauna… It was a collection of loud, boisterous noise funk jams that picked up where the previous album had left off. Now Kevin Barnes and Co. are doing another 180 with forthcoming album Paralytic Stalks on Polyvinyl. One song, “Wintered Debts,” has been released so far to let us know what to expect. It’s an extended jam that clocks in at over 7 minutes and sounds, to me, like the band is heading back to the direction of Skeletal Lamping – songs that are extended, chopped up, free-form and as far out there as one could possibly hope for, while still retaining the sound of the band.
Polyvinyl, in their infinite wisdom, is prepping us for the new album with a sampler “video” on youtube. It’s not as much a video as it is just the cover art with a sample from each of the songs played underneath. It sounds like it could be the most varied, introspective and wild album of the of Montreal opus with the usual literate lyrics, meticulously orchestrated, and for lack of a better term weirdness. The album is available for pre-order now and will be released on February 7th on limited edition colored 2xlp vinyl from polyvinyl. Don’t miss out.
[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/07-of-Montreal-Wintered-Debts.mp3|titles=of Montreal – Wintered Debts]
It’s only been 2 and a half months and I’m already realizing all of the things I miss about living in Western New York. One of them is that Toronto was only a short 2 hour drive away. I could move from rural backwater to bustling metropolis in no time, and that was exciting. I spent a good portion of my life in Toronto for a few years and began to get really familiar with a lot of the music that the city and country has to offer. The Canadian music scene is at once all encompassing, displaying an infinite amount of variety, yet very familial. From my outsiders perspective it seems that even every band from Vancouver to Halifax knows each other or has worked together at some point.
That being said, those elements of vast and far-reaching yet close and intimate are at work in this track off of Regina, Saskatchewan’s Rah Rah. Their sophomore effort, Breaking Hearts, was released on Hidden Pony Records last week in the U.S. Album closer “Parkade” begins gently, slowly growing and expanding throughout with gorgeous melodies blooming over top of the echoed expanses that the piano occupies. The drums enter as the song builds to a close that is dramatic and explosive, while still managing to hold back. The sound depicts a feeling of wanting to break free and escape, while the lyrics tell us in a sleepy voice “you’re going home…” much like the woman in the video, trapped by her neuroses. Note to the band: you could have saved a lot of money on this video and gotten the same result by simply following me around for a day.
It’s really great to be a music blogger. I get the chance to listen to a ridiculous amount of music that I would normally not have any clue existed. Sometimes it’s better that way, I mean there’s a lot of crap to sort though, but it’s definitely worth it to find the good stuff. Sometimes, though, the good stuff shows up in my mailbox unsolicited (bands: take note!). I mean my actual, real life, physical mailbox. Portland outfit A Happy Death emailed me and insisted upon sending me their 7″ EP. I’d be stupid to pass up free vinyl. I’m grateful for their generosity and even more grateful that I don’t have to write false praise.
The 4-track self-titled EP is an energetic, reverb soaked garage rock trip. Similar in style to, maybe, The Black Keys in their overdriven guitar sound based squarely in the tradition of blues and surf rock. More direct and tighter than the White Stripes, but in that same realm. Sometimes Ryan Lella’s vocals reminded me a bit of Jack White, but the band seems to be influenced more by older acts like Black Sabbath and The Kinks than anything else.
The garage aesthetic is front and center on “Nazi Zombies” with a dirty riff and vocals echo a bit in the back of the mix. Similar in this vein is “Surf Rock Band,” a track that stomps right on through to the end with a harmonized double guitar solo, each panned hard to either side, that is good and noisy. “Ghost House” picks up the pace a little bit, closing the EP on a strong track. My personal favorite is “Mr. Rutter,” a laid back, minor key ballad with a doo-wop swing and well placed vocal harmonies about a down on his luck transvestite factory worker. The tone of this track isn’t far removed from the rest but the clearer vocals push it a bit more towards the sound of MGMT and their “Congratulations” album that found them exploring the sounds of the early psych rock era mixed with a bit of Motown production. A Happy Death play off of those same vibes of psychedelia that are a little rougher around the edges.
A Happy Death has their sound down. From the guitar work to the reverb soaked vocals to the organ that perpetually toils away in the background adding to the atmosphere. This EP is the real deal and suggested listening for fans of garage and psych rock.