Tag Archives: polyvinyl

Favorites albums of 2011

(Originally posted on Tympanogram.com on December 22, 2011)

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”

Chad Vangaalen - "Diaper Island"
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”

Fucked Up - "David Comes to Life"
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 - "The King of Limbs"
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”

tUnE-yArDs - "w h o k i l l"
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”

Wild Flag - "Wild Flag"
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”

Colin Stetson - "New History Warfare Vol 2: Judges"
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/2011/02/07-Home.mp3|titles=Home] [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”

Starfucker - "Reptilians"
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”

Tim Hecker - "Ravedeath 1972"
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”

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - "Mirror Traffic"
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”

The Two Koreas - "Science Island"
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)

album preview: of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks

(post originally appeared on December 19, 2011 on Tympanogram.com)

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]

EP review: of Montreal – "The Controllersphere"

This EP picks up exactly where “False Priest” left off. I mean that in the most literal way possible. This release can be viewed as an addendum to their last full length offering that was released not 7 months ago. “The Controllersphere” is 5 full tracks worth of Kevin Barnes trying out some of his more daring ideas, heading off in directions that aren’t explored in previous albums and possibly giving us a look at what is to come. This seems to be the way that of Montreal likes to do things now, releasing an album and not too long after its release more tracks that might appeal to their more ardent fans are presented. It was the case with “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” of 2006 where “Icons, Abstract Thee” followed. Also “Sunlandic Twins” featured a bonus EP as did “Skeletal Lamping”.

This release is the third that takes its name from one line of “Faberge Falls for Shuggie”, which appears on their breakthrough release “Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?” In a way one can draw a line through these three releases, “Skeletal Lamping”, “False Priest” and “The Controllersphere”. This trilogy can really represent a new direction for of Montreal that saw Kevin Barnes becoming significantly more influenced by psychedelic rock and funk and allowing those influences to really take shape in his songwriting.

The opening track, “Black Lion Massacre” takes the ideas of “False Priest”’s “You Do Mutilate?” and creates another freakishly frightening sonic landscape with the spoken word coming down to us through a backdrop of apocalyptically overdriven noise and feedback. A sort of live energy side of of Montreal that is rarely captured on disc is evident here, drenched in the noise of caterwauling guitars and drums that are wild and  more present than usual. As is usual with of Montreal releases some of the tracks have rather eccentric titles, such as “Flunkt Sass vs. The Root Plume”. The track starts off innocently enough with a gently strummed acoustic guitar appearing for all of ten seconds before exploding into a tripped out, layered nightmare that is perfectly depicted by the cover art, which is done again by Kevin’s brother David. The song continues to build as Barnes screams out in his best Ziggy Stardust, sounding like he is re-entering the atmosphere after space travel without the aid or protection of a shuttle. The screaming, loud, live sound is present in this track as well, like the first.

of Montreal - "The Controllersphere"

Lyrically the themes that of Montreal has been exploring for some time now like loneliness, unrequited love, feelings of insanity and obsession, are explored throughout this EP. The line “Even this ghetto world that has nothing, doesn’t want me” appears in “Flunkt Sass vs. The Root Plume” explores themes previously broached, but the added volume and noise adds a new dimension and desperation to the sadness. The insanity is dialed up to a breaking point, it’s like Kevin Barnes’ primal scream captured on record.

“Holiday Call” is a soulful, spiritual track that is based on folk elements, though those elements are somewhat buried beneath quite a bit of the usual panoply of psychedelia. At over 8 minutes long it is the lengthiest track, allowing for a very interesting turn of events at about the halfway mark that conurs up the sounds of middle eastern folk music with a repeated fiddle gesture, placing the usually busy, up-front bass in a more secondary role. Barnes mentioned via his twitter stream (@xxofmontrealxx) upon release of this EP that it was heavily folk influenced, and that was the direction in which he was going to be heading. He is certainly a man of his word, as odd and unbelievable as that word may often be, he manages to make it happen.

The changes in mood on this EP are more sudden, like the entire “Skeletal Lamping” album, which comprised songs that were seemingly comprised of several short songs melded together. Unlike “Skeletal Lamping” the songs here are still cohesive, and more or less similar in sound to those that appear on “False Priest”. “L’Age D’Or” and “Slave Translator” are definitely spawns of the funk of that album.  Each track is rather wordy. Barnes rushes to fit them all in, even more so than usual. He screams like his body is being torn apart from the inside out one minute and the next is harmonizing sweetly with himself. “The Controllersphere” ends where it began, in a wall of noise. This is a powerful 5 track EP that delivers exactly what was promised not too long after “False Priest was released. of Montreal is great at creating a world of their own both on record and live where their shows are theatrical spectacles concocted from the mind of Kevin and David Barnes. It seems fitting that Polyvinyl is releasing this EP concurrently with a book of David Barnes’ artwork entitled “What’s Weird?”, which I’m sure would be a perfect companion to this release.

[audio:http://quartertonality.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/02-of-Montreal-Flunkt-Sass-vs-the-Root-Plume.mp3|titles=Flunkt Sass vs the Root Plume]

Braid re-releases on Polyvinyl

Braid was a band from Champaign-Urbana, Illinois that can be categorized with other early 90’s acts with a guitar driven, aggressive sound. They have the energy and abrasive timbre of Snapcase, the edgy stop-start math rock leaning of Polvo and sometimes the catchy hooks of Husker Du. Their sounds also exploits the kind of jumbled mess of guitars and screams that are each freely exploring all the possibilities of a chosen melodic and harmonic line. Somewhere between near all out improv and solid structure the band seems to be most comfortable constantly pulling themselves off in all different directions.

Braid
Braid

The band’s debut full-length album “Frankie Welfare Boy Age Five” is packed with short bursts of energy that are contained within a rush of loud, boisterous songs fueled by an urgency of fast, distorted guitars careening through 2 minutes of screamed vocals. The tracks are broken up by the constant turning of a radio dial that is sometimes interrupted by short ideas that are faded up, but quickly turning to new songs. Braid cuts through the noise of the radio dial with a noise of their own.

Through “Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5” there are many straight forward aggressive punk tracks like “Summer Salt” which is 2 and a half minutes of hardcore punk. “X Marks the Hope Box” leans a bit more towards math-rock with its running guitar line dashing across the fretboard frenetically that is doubled by the drums in stop-start fashion that is continued with the track “Brass Knuckle Sandwich”.

Braid live
Braid live

There is a lot of content on the album, showing the band in a steady trajectory. They are stretching out within songs but remaining true to their hard core sound, standing on the very edge of math rock and early emo-core. At the Drive-In would later tread a very similar path with their work.

With “Movie Music Vol. 1” their work becomes a bit more polished. Songs are lengthier, more developed and structured into parts that fit neatly together, dovetailing with catchy hooks that are begging to be screamed en masse. The guitars on this album seem to stay out of the way of each other. More room is made for the bass, and dynamically the band is more in control. On this album they make use of a broader sonic pallet and embrace more of a loud/quiet/loud characteristic that is added to the stop-start urgency of their songwriting which makes everything that much more powerful. They make room for each other, take their time and even show a much more reserved and quiet side with the track “Radish White Icicle” with its gently strummed guitar and light brass arrangement in the background. All of this growth of songwriting results in a more solidified sound that is thicker and more reinforced instead of wandering. Despite this their sound in general remains completely intact and easily recognizable.

Braid - "Frankie Welfare Boy Age 5"

Through all of this noise of guitars and punk rock attitude there is an honesty and sincerity added to the music through vocals that are untouched by effects, standing completely out in the open, totally vulnerable. The recordings have that lo-fi, home-recorded sound to them that is lacking in today’s uber-commercial and overproduced “emo” music. Braid’s music was not of gimmicks and trend, it was music of honesty and emotion before those elements became a musical commodity.

The fact that Polyvinyl has seen it fit to re-release each of Braid’s albums speaks to the importance of their output. They come from an era of music just before it was easy for word to spread through the internet. Their success was purely word of mouth built upon a reputation of touring and recording, yet their influence on other bands can still be heard today.

Braid - "Movie Music Vol. 1"

For more information on Braid, and to hear tracks, but most importantly to purchase their re-releases (which are nearly 50% sold out!) head over to Polyvinyl right now.