Category Archives: 2012

Stream/Download: Thighs – “Thighs”

Thighs - "Thighs"
THIGHS – “THIGHS”


Toronto thrash punk is alive and well, apparently. THIGHS sound like Tangiers having a seizure. The disjointed, monomaniacal, throbbing rhythms with ultra crunchy guitars and shouted vocals is nothing but pure energy and raw power. A song like “Tunnelr” covers a lot of ground in it’s 2 minutes, going from stomping, mosh inducing potential energy to the release that comes toward the end in the form of a 3 against 2 rhythm that sounds down right groovy coming out of krautrock-land where they began.

Each of the 9 tracks are similar in their sound: dominating bass pushed almost to the point of distortion, the guitar’s tentative grasp on pitch. Think the rhythm section of “They Threw Us In A Trench and Put A Monument on Top” era Liars with the guitar-as-extension-of-the-drums noise blasts of “Drums Not Dead” era Liars.

It’s actually remarkable how quick THIGHS goes from noise to total silence. The start-stops are so crisp and punchy, placing the intermittent silence at equal footing to the noise-stomp that encloses it, for example in the track “Horse.” A song like “Meat” pushes the mechanical kraut-rock sound to an industrial grind, driving that one chord into your head one measure at a time.

The self-titled album is available as a download on bandcamp for any price you care to pay, though I would suggest grabbing the limited edition (only 100 made) vinyl from Not Unlike for only $15. This should be on your turntable right now, loud enough so that the walls blow out while people 2 miles away call the cops.

Ongoing Projects and thoughts

I’ve been working on a bunch of different things lately, album reviews, show reviews, and I’m always busy transcribing and analyzing music, trying to dig into everything as deep as I can. That’s what it means to be a music theorist. Our job really is to try and figure out how music works, or why music works. Sure it can all get pretty subjective sometimes, but if one really gets down into it music analysis is really as much science as it is art.

I’ve got several projects going right now that I’ll just mention briefly, as I don’t know exactly what they are going to turn into just yet. One ongoing project that I began last term involved transcribing the music of Women. Friends of mine already know that I listen obsessively to this band, and that obsession has given way to an intense desire not only to figure out specifically how the songs on their 2 albums “work” as far as guitar voicings are concerned, but also how all the elements of their sound come together to form a cohesive whole. I’m interested in exploring their formal structures, the counterpoint, the chord progressions, pitch collections, use of noise, how things were recorded, how the songs were conceptualized, just everything. Beyond that I’m interested in finding what the music really says, beyond just the sound and all the elements that I just mentioned. This is the project that I have made the most progress with, I’ve taken several different analytical approaches to many of the songs, and written page upon page of descriptions and come up with some possible conclusions. At least I’ve begun working towards conclusions is what I really mean.

As a music theorist I’m always interested in how the music comments on culture, and how the things that the music does describes some sort of philosophical standpoint, how the music stands to represent an idea, how it proves, disproves, or calls into question an idea. It’s in this way that we keep evolving our thinking, and I like the idea that music can be some small part of that.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. After listening to the album “Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven” several times a day for several weeks in a row I started to wonder about how those songs are held together. This of course means that I have to take that first step and start transcribing, which is going to undoubtedly prove to be a considerable challenge, because it’s hard to tell even how many people are playing from track to track, minute to minute – not to mention that the songs go on for 20 minutes at a time in most instances. But I have learned a few things about their typical construction and it won’t be nearly as difficult as I once feared. I’m looking to discover similar things with their music as with the Women project. There is also an element of what I’ll call here “spiraling”, or Jacob’s Ladder type construction of bass lines. It’s a small detail that would take much too long to explain here, but it’s an element that appears in their music quite a bit that I am going to look into how it effects the bigger picture. So much can be said about their music, how it moves, how it doesn’t move, how it is all held together. It’s really fascinating and I’m excited to uncover these things and talk about them.

Which brings me to the other point of being a music theorist. Sure, discovering all of these things is great, and strengthening those findings with scholarship in other disciplines, but the field is admittedly not inviting to those that are not involved in music scholarship. It’s a very insular group, much like anything scholarly. I’m sure not too many of us are interested in reading the findings of university physicists, microbiologists and mathematicians in our spare time. The difference, in my opinion, is that music is something that we all share. We all experience it differently, we all share our opinions on our favorites with friends, and in that way music spans that divide between scientific and non-scientific thought. One doesn’t have to have a degree in music in order to discuss music, and one doesn’t even need to be a musician to be involved in discussions.

I think that there is a great opportunity to bridge that gap and create an avenue for greater understanding and appreciation of music in a way that doesn’t alienate music fans, but also doesn’t compromise. There is still a lot more that I am thinking about as far as this is concerned, and I’m busy filling notebooks with my thoughts on these things. There are definitely things that I despise seeing, hearing and reading about music, and there are things that I absolutely love. I’m sure that I will get into those specifics in future posts.

All of these things that I have been thinking about have also lead me to think about what I want this blog to be. I do enjoy providing album reviews and news blurbs, but there is always this nagging feeling that I’m wasting my time because almost all of the information that I provide as far as news goes can be found in several other places on the internet, and those sites (Stereogum, Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan etc.) get far more traffic than my site can ever hope to get. So I’m left thinking about what I have to say, what sets me apart, or what is going to set me apart? I guess I really don’t know the answer to that. I only hope that the content on my blog speaks for itself and takes a different angle than most other places around. I’m starting to get less concerned with hits (because I’ve never really gotten that many) and more concerned with just continually producing the best content that I can regardless of who is or isn’t reading. I’ve changed my perspective to doing this for myself, and if other people find enjoyment reading it, and appreciate my opinion then that is great. If not, that’s fine too.

What I really need to do now is continually work. That means more writing, more analysis, more listening, more reading… it’s only through continually doing these things that I will get better and I hope that some of you will follow along. I do want to do more posts like this where I share opinions and other things that are going on with me. Though one thing that I refuse to do is talk about anything that isn’t music related. I also am trying to strike that balance between posting too much, and not posting enough. I am only one person, and in my desire to provide unique content I want to avoid simply reposting things from other, aforementioned, sites. Trust me, if I simply took every press release that came into my inbox and every request from every person with a bandcamp that I got in my inbox every day I would be able to simply copy and paste with relatively little effort and have 10 posts a day. Being that that is typically how one gets their blog to get a lot of hits, through incessantly posting, is something that I struggle with accepting. I know that typically the text on any music blog is ignored while the reader searches for the free mp3 download or stream. I’m painfully aware that few people have even bothered to read this far (1,100 words now) into this very post, but it’s something that I am not willing to change.

Music has a lot of things to say that goes beyond the attention span required to listen to a 3 and a half minute long pop tune. It should be the duty of the music writer to go beyond simple description and meaning to try and tie a song and an artist to a much larger and relevant narrative. We should be thinking about how all of the pieces fit and not just how to sell a few more records, or how to get a few more people to go to a show. Change the narrative, change people’s expectations, increase the level of discourse. That’s what I hope to do. Some day. Many things have to happen before that though.

There are a couple other projects that I’m working on that I didn’t mention in this post, but I will talk about them soon enough. Thanks for reading.

 

New Release: Divine Fits – "A Thing Called Divine Fits"

Divine Fits - "A Thing Called Divine Fits"
Divine Fits – “A Thing Called Divine Fits”

Here I am, waiting for a new Spoon album, and Britt Daniel decides to throw a bit of a curveball. No new Spoon album this year. Instead we get an album by Divine Fits, featuring not only Daniel, but also Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and Sam Brown from New Bomb Turks.

Of course there are going to be plenty of comparisons to Spoon’s material as this album starts to make its way out into the world, and there are some obvious similarities. Britt’s voice is unmistakable, as is the kraut-rock staccato pulse of “Flaggin a Ride”, the periodic echo on his vocals in “Would That Not Be Nice”, and in general the clarity of the mix throughout the album.

The strength of this album is in its expansive sound, partially due to sharing vocal duties, but with that comes different moods, textures and harmonic directions. Opening track “My Love is Real” is straight up danceable with low-end saw synths and electronic beats. Later in the track some other synth patches add to the texture, but the kraut-rock persistence is traded for heartfelt legato melodies and repeated hooks. The former motorik elements have gone through a transformation, moving them more towards a new wave pop sound.

These elements aren’t consistently played against each other from track to track either. “Civilian Stripes” combines a folkier guitar style with a hint of syncopated piano strains peaking through in the chorus. Likewise the sound of “Like Ice Cream” features Daniel’s voice over a chord progression that would fit on any of the past few Spoon releases, but a delayed guitar track crackles just below the surface, dirtying up the mix a bit, and the repetitious structure allows the band to stretch out, where Spoon would likely remain bound to a single idea.

All in all it’s an album worth spending some time with. “The Salton Sea” is like the album opener with fat synth sounds and electronic beat that brings Divine Fits pretty close to treading into Kraftwerk waters, where “Shivers” provides the greatest contrast with bleak lyrics, and a dark spacious sound of gently strummed guitar.

They are currently on tour in the U.S. through October. Check dates at the site below, and check the other links for any other information you could possibly want. You can listen to the album on their official site, or check out a track below. You can also head to their webstore to purchase the album.

Divine Fits: Web | Soundcloud | Twitter

The Blind Shake – "Seriousness"

The Blind Shake - "Seriousness"
The Blind Shake – “Seriousness”

Usually when walking into a venue for a show I expect to drink away the opening acts. Openers are something that, 95% of the time, must be endured rather than enjoyed. At The Empty Bottle in Chicago this past July 15 all of that changed for me. I was there to see Thee Oh Sees after a full and final day of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and sure they were fantastic (as previously mentioned) but I can’t put into words how astonishing The Blind Shake’s performance was.

After a brief soundcheck the trio left the stage and returned dressed identically head to toe in black, accentuating their already strikingly similar appearance: all around my height (5′ 10″) with shaved heads, one of the guitarists wears glasses with a band strapped tightly around his head, and for good reason as the show would soon prove.

They immediately obliterated the stage with the drummer pounding violently and unforgivingly on his set while the two guitarists stood firmly, leaning towards their mics as if at any moment they would jump directly into the crowd to throttle each and every one of us. The guitars were being battered just as hard as the drums with every  hammered strum threatening to rip the strings right out while the two of them barked into their mics on opposite ends of the stage in unison, and when they weren’t actively engaged in singing were flailing around the stage, instruments swinging freely as if they were at once trying to escape them or wield them as weapons.

With each song that passed more of the audience was won over. I kept turning to my friends in disbelief. My brother was standing beside me and we couldn’t figure out how to describe what we were seeing and hearing. The only phrase I could manage being “This is frightening. It’s fucking amazing.” And that it was: both frightening and amazing.

The Blind Shake
The Blind Shake

Listening to the album right now on Spotify is only capturing some of the experience (again, much like Thee Oh Sees). The songs on their latest full length, “Seriousness”, are straight forward, foot-stomping jangling and aggressive garage punk. Standout tracks are definitely the surf-rockin’ opener “Hurracan” and “Out of Work”. There isn’t a single track on the album that is over 3 minutes long, “On Me” comes closest at 2:58. Each song is an unrelenting, visceral, rhythmic jolt aided by open guitar tunings that allow for extra jangle. Everything they have recorded can be heard on their Bandcamp page, so you should head over there and check it out.

Right now those of you in the midwest are lucky as The Blind Shake have a few shows coming up in August in Chicago and Minneapolis according to their website, with a full fall tour schedule coming soon. And according to their Bandcamp page they have a  show in Florida and Georgia in September. They are also playing the Halifax Pop Explosion in October, you lucky Haligonians!

Their albums are available for actual physical purchase (highly suggested) from Learning Curve records. Their latest, “Seriousness” is available on vinyl.

The Blind Shake: Web | Facebook | Twitter | Bandcamp

 

 

 

New Release: Chris Reimer – "The Chad Tape"

Chris Reimer
Chris Reimer

Christopher Reimer of Calgary art-noise band Women was responsible for some of the more ambient and droning elements of the band’s output. Those elements were not simply limited to background atmospherics but also entire tracks like “Woodbine” from the band’s first self-titled release and “Bells” from “Public Strain”.

As Stereogum, Pitchfork and many other outlets are already reporting the so-called “Chad Tape”, named for Women’s producer and friend, fellow Calgarian musician Chad Vangaalen, is available for purchase on Bandcamp. As stated on the blog run by Reimer’s loving sister in his memory:
Some time ago Chad VanGaalen approached Chris Reimer of Women offering to reproduce a casette tape of Chris’ solo work. Chris started work on this but passed away before completing the project. His closest friends have assembled the songs he intended for the tape, laid it out with Chris’s own writing and artwork and now this tape is available here for you.
All proceeds from this release will benefit the Chris Reimer Legacy Fund, an organization dedicated to providing scholarships for children in music and dance education. You can still pre-order cassettes from the Chris Reimer Bandcamp site, and you can also download the digital album. Release is slated for August 13th and includes artwork by Chris Reimer and tracks collected by close friends, including Chad Vangaalen.

Head to the blog to learn more about the Christopher Reimer Legacy Fund. The money raised through the fund will go towards youth scholarships in music and dance as well as towards the production of Chris Reimer’s work. A truly worthwhile endeavor. I encourage you to head to the bandcamp page, have a listen, and purchase this very special cassette. If you’re interested in simply sending a donation to the Legacy fund, you can download the donation PDF or head to the dedicated PayPal site.

Chris Reimer: Bandcamp | Blog |

 

 

New track: Deerhoof – "The Trouble with Candyhands"

(Originally posted on Tympanogram on August 7, 2012)

Deerhoof - "Breakup Song"
Deerhoof – “Breakup Song”

Everyone’s favorite San Francisco based fun-time art-pop band, Deerhoof, are preparing to release a follow up to 2011?s Deerhoof Vs. Evil with Breakup Song due in stores on September 4th via Polyvinyl.

They have released a typically quirkily named track, “The Trouble With Candyhands” on the Polyvinyl Soundcloud page that provides us with a short glimpse of their ever evolving sound. The addition of staccato brass adds a bit of a danceable salsa flair to the typically frenetic sound of the band. The guitars are dialed back significantly but Greg Saunier continues to carve intricate, shifting rhythms right through the heart of the song with Satomi’s high falsetto soaring sweetly above the foundation. You can hear snippets from the entire album by popping a token in the Jingletron. Based on this first listen it sounds like Deerhoof are placing a little more emphasis on their electronic leanings that started to show a bit more on Deerhoof Vs. Evil.

With a new album comes a new tour and Deerhoof are ferocious live, so check them out when they come to a town near you. And if you are in Portland, OR for their show (with the equally amazing Buke and Gase opening) I’ll let you buy me a few beers.

You can buy “Breakup Song” from Polyvinyl here.

Find Deerhoof:  Tour | Facebook | Polyvinyl


Album pre-order: Sloan – "Twice Removed [Deluxe Edition]"

Legendary Canadian band Sloan are re-releasing their groundbreaking 1994 sophomore effort “Twice Removed”  with a whole host of goodies and following that up with a tour.

So as you can see from the above video there are TONS of extras that will be included when you pre-order. In my opinion this makes it completely worth the $89.99. If you haven’t heard the album then you probably won’t be willing to part with so much cash, and probably won’t be interested in all of the extras, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make yourself familiar with one of the greatest Canadian rock albums of all time. Forget Canadian, this album holds up as one of the best no matter what you put it up against.

This will be the first time “Twice Removed” has been made available on vinyl since the 90’s, a big plus for those of us that are completists. If you want to familiarize yourself with Sloan and you are on Spotify then you are in luck because the entire Sloan catalog is up there for your listening enjoyment.

Ironically one can not access Spotify in Canada, so enjoy the video below, or simply listen while you head to Sloanmusic.com to check out their tour dates, where they will be playing “Twice Removed” front to back all across Canada and the Northern U.S. As of right now they have posted dates throughout September with a promise that there will be more shows booked through October and November so keep checking  Sloanmusic.com if you don’t see a town near you listed.


Find Sloan: Web | Twitter | Facebook

Sloan “Twice Removed” Tour: 

SEP 05, Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge (Northwest Music Fest)
SEP 06, Seattle, WA – Tractor Tavern
SEP 07, Golden, BC – Rockwater
SEP 08, Oliver, BC – Tinhorn Winery
SEP 09, Lethbridge, AB – Average Joe’s
SEP 11, Edmonton, AB – Starlite
SEP 13, Cranbrook, BC – Key City Theatre
SEP 14, Vancouver, BC – Commodore Ballroom
SEP 15, Victoria BC – Rifflandia
SEP 17, Medicine Hat, AB – Esplanade Theatre
SEP 18, Regina, SK – The Pump
SEP 19, Saskatoon, SK – Louis’ Pub
SEP 20, Winnipeg, MB – The Pyramid
SEP 21, Minneapolis, MN – 400 Bar
SEP 22, Chicago, IL – Subterranean

See also: Album review: Sloan – “The Double Cross”