New Crystal Antlers Video, "Andrew"

Since we just spoke about Crystal Antlers' new album, Tentacles on Friday, this seemed timely.  The aforementioned first single, "Andrew", is now here for your enjoyment in video form.  Just like the song, and the album as a whole, this visual depiction lends itself to randomness and uncertainty.  Still, it fits the mood of the song, from the calculated and soulful beginning, to its chaotic end.  If you're intrigued at all, be sure to check it out below, courtesy of Pitchfork TV.  Tentacles is out April 6th here in the U.S., and in that other collection of western societies, Europe, April 7th, via Touch & Go. 


New Woods, "Rain On"

We kick off a new week here at Animal Noises discussing Woods' new track, "Rain On".  The band, hailing from Brooklyn (where there really aren't any woods), has made a name for itself with lo-fi psychadelic pop and freak-folk type stuff, that sounds like it's being played in the...(wait for it) woods.  Their new album, Songs of Shame, is due out next month (more on that when the time comes), and they've granted Stereogum (and others, I'm sure) a free preview of one of the tracks, "Rain On".  To me, it's a bit different from their older material, only in the sense that it sounds a bit less lo-fi, but still stays true to their usual sound.  It almost sounds like an early Shins b-side, which may be intriguing enough for you to want to hear it.  Songs of Shame is out April 14th via Shrimper/Woodsist.  Check the deal to listen/download below, courtesy of Stereogum.


New Cursive Video, "From the Hips"

Regardless of how much people have liked, or failed to like Cursive's most recent effort, Mama, I'm Swollen, they're still a talented group at heart.  With that in mind, I actually enjoyed their new video for "From the Hips"- one of the songs off of the aforementioned new record.  The video plays to the track's subject matter perfectly, relaying the tough, awkward and sometimes irritating things that seem to go into the male-female relationship, and how it can cause you to lose sight of a lot.  Credit goes out to the guys of Cursive, who, I'm sure, had a lot to do with how this one came out in the end, and it shows.  Doesn't change my opinion of the record, but it does allow me to appreciate the song a bit more.  Enjoy the video below.  Mama, I'm Swollen is out pretty much everywhere, via Saddle Creek.


New Death Cab for Cutie, "Talking Bird (Demo)"

Finally, the fifth song of Death Cab for Cutie's Open Door EP has been posted up on Stereogum.  This is an interesting one, because it's the only one out of the new batch of tunes that technically isn't new.  Its final version made it onto Narrow Staris, and if you are familiar with it, I'm sure you will find this one to be a pleasant departure.  It strips away the steady bass, systematic percussion, and guitar flourishes of the album cut, to leave us with just the voice of frontman Ben Gibbard and . . . that's right, a ukulele.  When I heard a rumor a few months back that the song was originally written on uke, I couldn't picture the instrument being used in a Death Cab for Cutie song.  Upon listening to it, I feel that although this mellower version of the song would not have fit in on Narrow Stairs, it doesn't seem so out-of-character for the band, and it was definitely a nice selection to close this EP.  I strongly recommend that you listen to it here.

Physical copies of the EP will be available on their spring tour stops, starting at their Philadelphia show on April 7th, and in retail stores on April 14th.  Also, like we've been saying all week, the album will be released in digital form online on March 31st, so if you want to be one of the first to own it, you can pre-order it on iTunes from Death Cab's official site.  

New Conor Oberst, "Slowly (Oh So Slowly)"

So I'm fearing we're never seeing another Bright Eyes record again.  Not that I don't enjoy Conor Oberst's frolicking with the Mystic Valley Band.  On the contrary, I like it quite a bit, as evidenced by my ranking it as the third-best album of 2008.  Still, I can't help but think that Oberst is no longer interested in making the edgy and experimental tunes that made Bright Eyes such a noteworthy band.  I hope I'm wrong.  Nevertheless, he's putting out a new record this May, entitled Outer South.  Many will probably recognize the songs on it from the late 2008 live shows played by the band.  They're previewing one of the tracks, "Slowly (Oh So Slowly)" over at their website at the moment.  I'd recommend checking the deal, and seeing what all the fuss is about.  Do it: conoroberst.com.  Outer South is out May 5th via Merge.

Pre-Screening: Crystal Antlers

Album: Tentacles
Artist: Crystal Antlers
Label: Touch & Go Records
Due Out: April 7th

Another one of the more highly anticipated debut albums of 2009 (along with Here We Go Magic) is Crystal Antlers' Tentacles. Bouncing around between psychadelia, punk and noise, among other elements, if you're into anything busy, loud and engaging, I can promise you that you will be pleased while listening. For those who may not know, the band made its name appealing to a wide range of rock fans on the Long Beach-Los Angeles music scene. Due to its broad scope, they quickly made themselves favorites in the local area from 2006-2008, when they released their first official recording, EP. Whether this is your first time listening, or they're old news, you'll be feeling this one within minutes.

The opener, "Painless Sleep" seems anything but. With the fast-paced organ pulsing through the instrumental track for the entirety of its two minutes and 16 seconds, the last thing you'll be thinking about is dozing off. From there, the album is off and running. The gruff, yet soaring vocals on every track, the second "Dust" included, avert the listeners' ears from the hotel room bear fight in the background. Seriously, that's pretty much what it sounds like. The entire album seems claustrophobic, but intentionally. There's tons of sound going on, all of it fighting in the background of the intense vocal stylings, wrecking the "hotel room" as it were (I'm trying here on the symbolism). Good or bad symbolism aside though, believe me, it works. The organ sounds duke it out with the psychadelic guitar riff from the onset of "Time Erased", starting and stopping constantly, and then seemingly collapsing, before bringing it all back together at the midpoint. You'll feel like you're spinning in a time warp by the end of it, or perhaps even witnessing the end of the world. Somehow, with the tunes going on behind you though, you're okay with it all.

Though nothing screams "radio-friendly" on the record, the closest thing they've got is "Andrew," which will almost undoubtedly be the favorite among listeners everywhere, and is the first single. Slowing down the 40 -minute sprint, "Vapor Trail" gives us a scenic look out into space. There's a lot going on in this instrumental piece, but all of it seems to function within the abyss of space, allowing the sounds to breathe a bit. Just as you get comfortable with that however, the title track, "Tentacles" jumps back in immediately with destruction in its wake. Once again, the band is fantastic at having their instrumentation duel with itself, creating a great aesthetic to pay attention to throughout the record. Most, if not all of the tracks seem aptly named for the mood or vision they set, and that trend continues with "Until the Sun Dies (Part 1)," a track that comes in low, and then erupts with about a minute to go- probably similar to what we'd see if the sun did, actually, die. Not to give you too much of a breather, it ends with less than five seconds of feedback, before hopping right back on it again.

"Memorized" (also aptly named), uses virtually the same exact backing part the entire time, with shouting vocals managing to break up the monotony, along with some injections of brass, which pop up in more prominence from this track on out. From there, "Glacier" slows it up a bit, plodding (at least by the record's standards), allowing the vocals to face-off directly with the organ, brass and psychadelic guitar part in the background. The result? A 90-second long seesaw until the track's final trumpet blare, which leads straight into another built-in break, the short and concise "Foot of the Mountain," which is largely trumpet-based. By this point, you're used to the breaks, so are not taken aback at all by the hostile nature of "Your Spears", but are probably fooled by how calm in comparison "Swollen Sky" comes off as. Trust me, they're only letting up so you can be ambushed by the last minute or so of this one. It all wraps up with the epic "Several Tongues," packed with synths and echoes, that space aesthetic I mentioned earlier is also embraced here, as you can't help but feel as if you're floating, surprisingly peacefully. Not to leave you in that mood, the band throws all of their instrumentation at you halfway through, literally punching you in the face and sending you on your way.

What made this album so great is its constructive use of noise, great technique and broad appeal. If anyone ever wants to get hit in the mouth, this is one of the albums you can accomplish that with, and still be able to hear yourself think afterwards. It's surprisingly pleasing when its over. Though just 40 minutes, you're content with that, and at ease with what you've heard- something seemingly tougher and tougher to do these days with music. From all accounts I've heard, these guys put on a sick live show, so if you're looking for good acts to go see, maybe add Crystal Antlers to your list. I know I will. And I know you're going to be hearing about them quite a bit in the future, so keep on the lookout. Similarities include, but are not limited to No Age, Bear vs. Shark and maybe a little Death From Above 1979.

Rating: 8.0/10

Best Track: "Andrew" (mp3 courtesy of Stereogum)

New Kevin Devine, "Carnival"

As many may or may not have heard, Kevin Devine's new album, Brother's Blood, unfortunately leaked in February, a full two months ahead of its scheduled release.  As disappointed as Kevin has been in that fact, however, he is still hyped up about its actual coming out party to the general listening public in late April.  Part of that, of course, includes talking to equally excited news folks, such as the good people over at Spin.  Devine recently sat down with them to talk about the new record and similar topics, as well as hand them an exclusive mp3, which all of us fans are free to download.  

"Carnival," a song Kevin claims is about bad dreams, is in fact, a ride of sorts.  The ups and downs, and overall moodiness of the track lends to the bizzaro-world circus feel one may get when imagining nightmare carnivals.  Even if you think you've heard all that Devine has to offer, trust me, I thought the same.  Brother's Blood, especially on "Carnival" and "Time to Burn (Another Bag of Bones)" vastly changes my perception of the artist (but more on that when the time comes).  Go to Spin to check out and download "Carnival," and be sure to follow some of the other links up on the page to download some other exclusive tracks from Kevin.  Brother's Blood is out via either Favorite Gentlemen or Brand New's Procrastinate! Music Traitors April 29th.

New Death Cab for Cutie, "I Was Once A Loyal Lover"

And we're back for another day of this.  As pretty much everyone has figured out by now, Death Cab for Cutie is premiering their new Open Door EP on a track-per-day basis over at Stereogum.  Since the tracks are available exclusively over there, I figured I'd say a little something about each and then provide a link to readers who'd like to go listen for themselves.  Today's song, "I Was Once A Loyal Lover," is another great track, one that I'm glad has seen the light of day.  Where yesterday's "My Mirror Speaks" harkened back to the old days of Death Cab, this song plays to the sound they've developed over the past few years, and refines it with their classic simplicity from the band's onset.  Once again, really glad to have heard this track, and I would definitely put it up there with some of the band's best work in the past five years.

If anyone hasn't been following along all week, you can give the aforementioned track, as well as the others, a listen here.  The Open Door EP is out digitally on March 31st.  For those who would like to pre-order said collection of recordings, go check out deathcabforcutie.com or iTunes.  If anyone wants to wait around for the physical release, it'll be out eventually, via Atlantic.


Matt's Track of the Week: "Sleepyhead"

Song: Sleepyhead
Artist: Passion Pit
Album: Chunk of Change EP
Year: 2008

With everything going on in the world today, from economic crises, to natural disasters, we can't afford to take ourselves so seriously all the time.  Especially when it comes to our choices in music.  This is why my track of the week is "Sleepyhead" by Passion Pit.

Now, this is not to say that the group isn't serious about their craft.  You can hear the painstaking attention to detail that went into each and every one of their catchy electronic gems.  Upon hearing this song, however, you can immediately sense its playful nature.  The high-pitched samples and falsetto vocals by singer Michael Angelakos are fun and emotive, making for a song that has substance, but isn't so overly complicated that you have to take anything more from it than the fact that Passion Pit has a knack for writing infectious pop music.  Check it out below.

John's Track of the Week: "Alice Practice"

Song: Alice Practice
Artist: Crystal Castles
Album: Crystal Castles
Year: 2008

Changing things up a bit this week, I decided I would do something about electronic music, since that's usually Matt's thing.  "Alice Practice" by Crystal Castles is one of the standouts off of their self-titled 2008 debut, and funny enough, was an accident (or so they say).  Word on the street is that vocalist Alice Glass was doing a microphone test, and somehow, it spawned what is arguably the best track on the record, along with the attention the band needed to get signed to a label.  Regardless of what you think about semi-yelling female singers, ignore the vocals here and simply focus on the great sound and aesthetic the track provides.

Besides that, I feel that readers should probably know that the band was named after the Crystal Castle from He-Man spinoff She-Ra: Princess of Power, and not the popular Atari game of the same name.  Now that we've got that little bit of nostalgia out of the way, I'd highly recommend checking the deal below, as well as giving a listen to some of their other stuff.  The band is also notable for doing remixes for other artists, Bloc Party being one of them.  Anyone who wants to hear more, please consult their Last.fm page, here.

New Death Cab for Cutie, "My Mirror Speaks"

Now THIS is why I first started listening to Death Cab for Cutie.  Continuing our coverage of the song-per-day Stereogum premiere of DCFC's Open Door EP, we've got track three, "My Mirror Speaks".  Here, Ben Gibbard's voice seems to pick up some of its lost youth, the guitar in the background is bright and moving, taking the listener into a vast and open scenery.  To be honest, this song may be one of the band's best in years.  If you were a big fan of The Photo Album, you'll pretty much fall in love with this one.  Perhaps the next record can be more like this?  We can hope.

If you missed the details the past two days, you can listen to the latest track, "My Mirror Speaks," as well as the first two over at Stereogum.  Today's post is up here.  If you'd like to pre-order the album in digital form, you can do so at deathcabforcutie.com or iTunes.  The Open Door EP will be released online March 31st, with the physical album to be in stores via Atlantic sometime soon.


New Department of Eagles Video, "No One Does It Like You"

Well this took quite awhile.  Trust me though, I'm not complaining.  By now, most readers know all about Grizzly Bear side-project, Department of Eagles, and their contribution to "best of" lists everywhere last year, In Ear Park.  The most notable, and universally liked song from said album is, of course the subject of the video below, "No One Does It Like You".  It's been about six months or so since In Ear Park came out, but I'd say this odd video is still welcomed as it would have been at the album's release.  For anybody who hasn't heard the song, check the deal on the video below, and if you like it enough, also grab the song link, courtesy of Stereogum.


New Death Cab for Cutie, "A Diamond and A Tether"

As promised, we're putting up the link to Stereogum's article about Death Cab for Cutie every day this week.  For those who missed yesterday's events, DCFC is premiering each of the five songs off of their forthcoming Open Door EP, on a day-by-day basis, over at Stereogum.  Since our relationship with the band isn't nearly as cozy, nor existent, we're simply sending people over there to check it out, as well as provide limited commentary on the track.

Today's new song, "A Diamond and A Tether," sounds like Death Cab gone folk, or at least Ben Gibbard gathering friends around a campfire.  The usual melancholy attitude flows through the track, with Gibbard harping on regret, amongst his other life difficulties.  It's pretty good, and definitely fits in well as a companion to last year's Narrow Stairs, rather than being included on it.  Check the deal at Stereogum here, and if you're interested in owning the album, remember to check out the pre-order at deathcabforcutie.com or Itunes.  The Open Door EP is out digitally on March 31st, with the physical release becoming available via Atlantic sooner or later.


New Death Cab for Cutie, "Little Bribes"

I'm sure most of the readership here frequents Stereogum, but in the off-chance some of you don't, they're having a special feature this week- premiering each of the five tracks from Death Cab for Cutie's forthcoming The Open Door EP, one by one.  Today, they've posted up the opening track, a number called "Little Bribes".  Anyone who has heard/seen Ben Gibbard's live show over the past two years will probably recognize it as "Casino Blues"; that song that didn't sound like Death Cab but was still a good listen.  It's very similar to the earlier versions, just more produced, obviously, so no complaints here as of yet.  

We'll be updating the site here with a link each day, as well as increasing traffic to Stereogum by directing people to their site.  Enjoy the track, and be sure to stop in all week for updates on the album, as well as our resuming our regularly scheduled broadcasting, now that vacations and traveling are over.  For those who want to pre-order The Open Door EP, check out either deathcabforcutie.com or Itunes.  The EP's out March 31st digitally, with its eventual physical release via Atlantic sometime in the near future.  Here's the link to Stereogum for today's song.


Pre-Screening: The Decemberists

Album: The Hazards of Love
Artist: The Decemberists
Label: Capitol Records
Due Out: March 24th

In their humble beginnings, The Decemberists were folky and at times fragile. They consistently released outstanding albums, but aside from Colin Meloy's ever-present dark sense of humor and theatrics, they had very little edge. With The Crane Wife, however, the band started moving in a direction that showcased their wide array of rock influences, accented by the traditional non-rock instrumentation that they had previously relied so heavily upon, to create a sound that was, in Meloy's own words, "massive". This goes double on their newest release, The Hazards of Love.

The album starts with a rising instrumental, "Prelude ", which introduces the first full song of the album, "The Hazards of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won't Wrestle the Thistles Undone)". Similar to the "Crane Wife" series on the last record, it lays out the story, and contains elements that will later be repeated throughout the album. The next two tracks, "A Bower Scene" and "Won't Want for Love (Margaret in the Taiga)", seem to be almost sister songs. They introduce the alternating, male and female narrative that is loosely present from beginning to end (female vocals by Becky Stark of Lavender Diamond), as well as intense overdriven guitars, which are a near-constant aspect of this record.

The next track, "The Hazards of Love 2 (Wager All)", continues where the first installment left off, but is immediately more memorable. It's a catchy and urgent song that cautions about exactly what the title suggests. This is followed by the short and haunting banjo and string interlude, "The Queen's Approach", and then one of the album's more beautiful moments, "Isn't It a Lovely Night". It's a duet between Meloy and Diamond that comes off like a song from a musical. Its romantic, Italian-style accordion conjures images of an intimate moonlit stroll through the greenery. It's definitely one of the brighter moments as well. Next is one of my personal favorites "The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid". It's one of the loudest and most interestingly crafted on the album. Most notable is the background vocals which are reminiscent of the opening moments of the Pixies' "Where Is My Mind" during the chorus.

After "An Interlude", "The Rake's Song" keeps up the energy with pounding percussion, muffled screams of "alright!", and a steady guitar line. If this is the only song you hear off of Hazards before delving into the full album, you will have a pretty good feel for the general idea. The tense, "The Abduction of Margaret", follows in that vein, but never fully opens up. Rather, it teases you with glimpses of the full potential in small flare-ups until the final seconds, and leads directly into the melodic but thrashing "The Queens Rebuke / The Crossing". Still riding this wave, no pun intended, "Annan Water", brings back the energetic "The Chimbley Sweep"-style accordion of their early releases for one of the album's highlights.

More churning guitars continue on "Margaret in Captivity", and then, "The Hazards of Love 3", the loudest of the "Hazards" song series. Next, we have the interesting placement of "The Wanting Comes in Waves (Reprise)", which is basically the hook of the original, surrounded in a massively layered cocoon of sound. It effectively puts a close on the main themes and leaves only a single loose end to be tied by a proper final track. With a western lap-steel interlude in the middle, the forward-looking closer, "The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)", is exactly what the album called for. It's nothing too extravagant, but beautiful nonetheless.

If I can give any recommendation for the first time you listen to this album, I would listen to it loudly. There are so many small details and melodies that can only truly be appreciated at higher volumes. As a whole, I'm extremely impressed. In some ways, I'm glad I didn't really know what to expect going into this one. I hadn't even heard any of the new songs that were posted on the band's Myspace in recent weeks. But being that the album is very much a single story played out over its entirety, it was good to hear it all at once without preconceptions. This is without a doubt in my top three for this year. The Decemberists have never been a band to disappoint the listening public, and this album is no exception. In fact, it's near-perfect.

Rating: 9.0/10.0

Best Track: "The Rake's Song"


New Modest Mouse, "Satellite Skin"

Modest Mouse dropped down their new-ish track, "Satellite Skin" on The Late Show David Letterman's recently.  I say new-ish only because it's existed for about a year, but this is the best I've heard of it thus far.  Still, I'd have to say I'm intrigued by this one, as it sort of sounds a bit like 2000's The Moon & Antarctica, along with portions of Good News for People Who Love Bad News.  I feel that these albums, more than the rest, showcase Issac Brock as a vocalist and center each track completely on him and the lyrics he presents.  Their other albums, in my opinion, are much more full band-oriented.  But, like I said, maybe it's just me.  Still, this track is engaging and entertaining, while still a bit subdued, and will peak your interest if you're a fan of Modest Mouse.  Check out the video below.


John's Track of the Week: "Levon"

Song: Levon
Artist: Elton John
Album: Madman Across the Water
Year: 1971

Like many of the great artists over the past 50 years, so many of Elton John's songs stand out.  However, to me, "Levon," is one of his best efforts.  Chronicling a three-generation father-son dynamic, as well as the struggles and questions that accompanied life in the late-1960s to early-1970s, John provides some of his strongest vocals here, to fit with its powerful piano backing.  I feel it's pieces like this that really help to preserve a time period for future generations.  Yes, I know that John's "Daniel" would probably be a better choice in this regard, as it discusses the Vietnam war much more directly, but overall, this song and many others function as a time capsule.

Whether you love Elton John, hate him, or have no definitive feelings either way, this track can be an enjoyable, pleasant listen- one that lets you appreciate what music used to be.  Today, no one could put out something like this and expect success.  On the contrary, a song, and an album like this would almost undoubtedly crash and burn in today's music scene, even in the pop realm.  So enjoy Elton John, and artists like him, for the simplicity and nostalgia that they may provide.  Even if just for five minutes or so, I think it's worth the effort.

Manchester Orchestra Unplugged at Spin Magazine

Continuing with our recent news about Atlanta-based Manchester Orchestra, lead singer Andy Hull did a live acoustic performance of some of the band's new songs in Spin's NYC offices.  It's four songs, including "I Can Feel A Hot One," "I've Got Friends," "My Friend Marcus" and "100 Dollars".  Though hard to derive the exact nature of the tracks from stripped-down acoustic versions, I'd say the band is taking a slightly different approach.  If their new video for first single, "The Only One" is any indication of where they're headed though, I'd have to agree with Matt and say we're looking at a reincarnation of Neutral Milk Hotel.  We'll see though, I suppose.

Check out the live set for Spin here.  Manchester Orchestra's new album, Mean Everything to Nothing, will be out April 21st via Sony.

New Grizzly Bear Tracks, "Southern Point" and "Cheerleader"

Lots of stuff to hit upon today, but I suppose I'll start out with this news.

As you all probably know already, Grizzly Bear's new album, Veckatimest, leaked, and is fantastic.  A review will be up closer to the release date, but until then, the band has been previewing tracks for fans at a higher quality than the 128 kbps the leak appeared in.  Ed Droste discusses everything in detail at his Twitter feed.  Currently up for download/preview on various websites are album opener "Southern Point" and other standout, "Cheerleader".  Now, these songs may appear to be some of Grizzly Bear's best work to-date, and they are, but the scary thing is that I could name at least three songs on the album better than both.  For those who may not have gotten the hint already, I think Veckatimest is pretty legit.  

Anyway- below is a link for "Cheerleader," (courtesy of Stereogum) and an Imeem preview for "Southern Point".  Enjoy, and be sure to purchase Veckatimest, out May 26th via Warp.


New Manchester Orchestra, "The Only One"

Manchester Orchestra's new album, Mean Everything To Nothing, is scheduled to be released on  April 21st, and the first bits of new material are just starting to surface across the interweb.  Yesterday, the brand new video for the album's first single, "The Only One", was posted on the band's official YouTube channel.  It sets the story of a woman escaping a mental hospital, to a backdrop of grainy, old, home video-style footage, and includes captions in assorted retro typefaces.  It's an interesting concept that goes strikingly well with the band's new sound, which is much more raw than what we heard on I'm Like A Virgin Losing A Child.  At times, it even sound sounds like a modern Neutral Milk Hotel.  If the rest of the album is anything like this, I think we're in for a real treat.  Check it out below.


Matt's Track of the Week: "Accident Prone"

Song: Accident Prone
Artist: Jawbreaker
Album: Dear You
Year: 1995

Oh 1995, what an innocent time.  I can't honestly say that I even had any idea who Jawbreaker was when this record came out (I was 6 years old), but I have since made collecting music a full-time job, and I haven't skipped any of the classics.

Even though I would have to agree with most in saying that Dear You, as a whole, doesn't really stand up to their prior work on Bivouac and 24 Hour Revenge Therapy, "Accident Prone" is one of the band's all-time shining moments.  It highlights the full range and diversity of their sound, on an album full of fairly straight-forward 90s punk.  It has a perfect balance of energy and emotion that brings me back to the days when it wasn't uncommon to hear Brand New's Your Favorite Weapon and The Get Up Kids' Something To Write Home About blaring alternately from my bedroom.  Check it out below.


Pre-Screening: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone

Album: Advance Base Battery Life
Artist: Casiotone for the Painfully Alone
Label: Tomlab
Due Out: March 10th

With each release, Owen Ashworth of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone has progressed the band from its Lo-Fi roots, to a sound which has gradually given his music a little more room to breathe. The most notable departure from the mold occurred with his 2007 effort Etiquette. Where in the past, we heard songs that were constructed almost exclusively of multi-layered recordings from small, battery-operated keyboards and sub-par vocal microphones, there was a new clarity and definition, as well as the increased use of guitars and other instruments. On his newest release Advance Base Battery Life, he continues in that vein, further pushing the limits of the band. He even brings a new intensity to his at times sleepy and always laid-back brand of glitch electronica.

Starting off, we have "Old Panda Days (W/ Dan Krgovich)", a great opener that feels like waking up to the sun after a storm that raged for days and nights, or maybe a series of relationships gone horribly wrong. As usual, with this band, the focus is on being painfully alone. Next, is "Leslie Gore on the T.A.M.I. Show (Version)", a reworking of an older song from Pocket Symphonies for Lonesome Subway Cars. In essence it is the same song, but with trance synths and crunching drums taking the forefront over the dated electronic strings of the original, and a new female vocalist instead of Ashworth being featured. Sometimes redoing a song can be pointless, but this one gets my approval. The same female vocalist is also featured on the next track, "White Corolla", a song with one of the more danceable beats on any CFTPA album.

Something I immediately noticed while listening to Advance Base Battery Life is that Ashworth's usual, frankly half-sung/spoken vocals have a newly pronounced melodic nature to them. He's actually singing in a way that makes him seem emotionally invested in his subject rather than emotionally drained by it. The next track, "White on White" is where you really start to notice it. It's still relaxed and true to what we've become accustomed to, but he's definitely taking more risks than in the past. This is followed by another reworking, this time with a more poignant version of "Holly Hobby"from Etiquette. It's overall more biting than the original, and is one of the album's real standouts. After that, is the Postal Service-esque "Lonesome New Mexico Nights", and the short and dark "The Only Way To Cry". A rare break in the synths comes with the next song, "It's A Crime". An acoustic guitar-driven song, that sounds like what could happen if David Bazan were to cover Bright Eyes' Lifted or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground.

We transition into one of Ashworth's experimental vignettes with "Missoula", and then the next two tracks are a bit puzzling. "Hot Boyz (W/ Dear Nora)" and "Born in the U.S.A. (W/Concern)" seem to have just been thrown in for the joke, considering that the former is a hip-hop banger, with a female singer reminiscent of a less innovative M.I.A. on "Paper Planes", and the latter is yes, a Bruce Springsteen cover, but with Daft Punk-style vocoder vocals. Knowing the band's prior work, it is clear that Ashworth has a sense of humor, and likes to break up the seriousness with experimentation, but my only question is, with a fifteen track album, why drop two completely out of place songs in the middle of an otherwise exceptional string of tunes? It seems like they would have been better suited for a b-sides release.

"Streets of Philadlephia (W/ Concern)" picks up where the beginning of the album left off, and then leads us straight into the epic "Graceland". This song is one of the biggest risks on the album, but it is still a classic CFTPA track. It rises slowly, and becomes more emotionally strained, until finally overdriven guitars and the song's hook carry it to the close. This is followed by "Sunday St", the last full song on the album, which continues in the mood set down before it. And we finally come to the end at the instrumental "Voice Of The Hospital", an instrumental that comes in at less than a minute, but packs an emotional punch and serves as an epilogue to the record.

On first listen, I am already a big fan of this album. It's a natural progression from the last release, and it adds some new dimension to CFTPA's overall body of work. Even with the two tracks that I felt may not have fit in as well as planned, there's still very little to complain about as far as quality here. This is an artist who is growing and changing, and letting it show in his music. He's keeping the listeners interested with consistent releases, while never giving us the same thing twice. I'm excited to see where Ashworth can go as an artist from here. This album accomplishes what I believe Etiquette was intended to, and it feels like a turning point that could very well set off a whole other side of things we have yet to see.

Rating: 8.5/10.0

Best Track: "Holly Hobby"