Pre-Screening: Bishop Allen

Album: Grrr...
Artist: Bishop Allen
Label: Dead Oceans
Due Out: March 10th

From the first time I heard "Flight 180" off of the April EP, I knew there was something special about these guys. With all of their quirkiness and worldly vocabulary, they have managed to create a sound that is all their own, yet comfortably familiar. They have borrowed from a wide array of styles, and have covered a lot of ground in their relatively short existence. On their up-coming release, Grrr..., Bishop Allen has in many ways, gone back to their early, more rock-oriented style that people originally fell in love with them for. This, however, is not to say that they have recorded a second Charm School. What stands out to me right away, when listening to this album, is the refinement of their craft. The new batch of songs, while sounding reminiscent of their older tunes, is clearly informed by their more recent work. It is as if the band has found a balance between the the two sounds, and is back with something for everyone. I would even venture to say, that compared to their prior work, and as the album title suggests, this record has teeth.

The palm-muted guitars and questioning lyrics that begin the album's opener, "Dimmer", give us our first glimpse into a darker side of the band than we have seen on any previous release. Once it opens up, it's as bouncy as anything that we've come to expect from them, but there's a new uneasiness in singer Justin Rice's voice as he asks, "Am I dimmer everyday? Am I just a little glimmer?" This mood continues to the next track, "The Lion & the Teacup", another fairly catchy, but not quite cheery song. This song even makes use of marimba, and has a slight Spanish vibe, similar to "Castanets" from The Broken String. What gives this track its edge, is once again, the lyrical content, which gives the us feeling that something has not gone the way it was planned.

From there, we move to "South China Moon". This song is definitely one of the standouts. It has a classic Bishop Allen hook, and just the right amount of quirkiness, but the guitars on the bridge, chorus, and interlude are so massive, that they wouldn't sound out of place in an arena. The next track, "Dirt On Your New Shoes", is another song with really interesting instrumentation and a big sound. My favorite part of this one is the laid-back, almost sloppy back and forth guitar chatter during interlude. It brings something new to the table that we haven't seen from in the past, and breaks up the song nicely. This is followed by "Oklahoma". This song feels like a Charm School b-side. It steadily bounces along like much of that record does, and there isn't a whole lot to it. Not that there is really anything wrong with that, but it's noticeably different than what makes up most of the album. Interestingly enough, it seems that the general sound of the record makes a shift after this point.

The next song, "The Ancient Commonsense of Things", has a somewhat brighter sound than what you would expect from the tunes that came before it, and once again, it's another song with some traditionally Spanish-sounding elements, and reverb-laden guitars that are a bit reminiscent of surf rock. Following that is "True or False", which sees the only major use of brass on the record, and the only song featuring a female vocalist (who has yet to be identified) as the focal point. Even so, it fits in perfectly. Overall, it's very true to the Charm School sound, including gang vocals like those that were featured on "Penitentiary Bound" and "Little Black Ache". With the next track, "Rooftop Brawl", we start to get back into the edgier mold that was laid down by the first few songs. It starts off simple, then begins to build parts onto its frame as it goes. It's yet another track that has heavy Spanish and seemingly even Caribbean influences.

After that, is one of my personal favorites, "Shanghaied". This song, more than any other on this record, illustrates the band's sense for quirky storytelling. It's complete with what sounds like a chorus of sailors. Still, it holds it own extremely well, and is a really good track, especially at the breakdown. This is followed by "Don't Hideaway", also one of my favorites. This song is actually sung by Christian Rudder, the other official half of Bishop Allen, who is on backup duties most of the time. It's one of the more outwardly emotional tracks on the album. It has relatively basic instrumentation, but it gets across the mood of loneliness that the lyrics portray perfectly. It has one of the most immediately memorable hooks as well.

After this, "Cue the Elephants" begins to wrap up the record. Like the opener and a few others, this song builds up from what starts off with very little music and vocals. The opening guitar plays a fast, mandolin-like strumming part that reminds me of The Walkmen and Vampire Weekend. It's one of the few on Grrr... that is as melodramatic as what was seen on The Broken String, but it works here as an emotional and energetic release to help guide us to the close. The next song is "The Magpie". At only one minute and forty-five seconds, it's the shortest and probably the simplest on the release. It also contains one of the most beautiful moments on the album with its use of backing vocals toward the middle and end of the song. Finally, the album comes to an end with "Tiger, Tiger", a song with quite a sonic range. It begins with sleepy guitars and ends with cinematic strings and marching drums. It's a pleasing ending to the album.

This post makes it seem like the record is a marathon, but it's actually a very easy listen. There isn't a single song over three minutes and thirteen seconds, and the whole album clocks in at less than thirty-six minutes. There is just a lot to take in. The band has developed in a somewhat new direction, and it seems to be for the best. They've produced a record that's full of surprises. They took some risks, and I would say that those risks definitely paid off here. It's nice to see a band who can change from record to record without losing the essence of what made them unique to begin with.

Rating: 8.0/10.0

Best Track: "Dimmer"


Matt's Track of the Week: "Motor (Distort Edit)"

Song: Motor (Distort Edit)
Artist: SebastiAn
Album: Motor EP
Year: 2008

I've been listening to a lot of French electronic and house music lately, and one artist who I've really been feeling is SebastiAn.  Aside from his massive catalog of remixes (which has recently been released in part as A Fine Selection of Remixes, from Ed Banger Records), he has done some extremely unique original work.  His most recent original release, Motor EP, is full of arrangements that cut right to the core of you, hit you in the chest, and make you want to move.  It also includes some of the most interesting sounds that I have heard on an electronic record in a while.

"Motor (Distort Edit)" is an alternate version of the title track, which sounds as if it may actually have been created using recordings of real engine noises.  The great thing about this version, is that it takes the already intriguing concept of using a motor as an instrument, and obscures the recording in a way that creates a completely new sound.  While it's still fairly clear that it is a motor, it's much more musical, and it uses the sound itself as a base from which to build upon, overall creating a more complex song.  It comes off a bit more rough around the edges than the original, but I feel it gives the track a bigger punch.  Check it out.


John's Track of the Week: "Where There's A Will There's A Whalebone"

Song: Where There's A Will There's A Whalebone
Artist: Islands
Album: Return to the Sea
Year: 2006

Trust me, it's only coincidence that I spoke of Human Highway earlier, and now, am giving props to yet another Nick Thorburn-related track.  Just as some background to anyone who may not be acquainted with Mr. Thorburn, he was the frontman for The Unicorns from 2000-2004.  The Unicorns were a Canadian indie/psychadelic group, and were critically acclaimed, until their breakup.  Since then, Thorburn has been involved in numerous projects, including the aforementioned Human Highway, Islands and Th' Corn Gangg- a hip hop project, as well as the solo album he's currently working on, for release later this year.

Islands' first record, Return to the Sea, was released in 2006, and many can consider it a continuation of The Unicorns' stream of consciousness, with Thorburn's usual fixation on aspects of death (not in a morbid way, of course).  It is believed that this song was a big part of the inspiration for Th' Corn Gangg performances, which were comprised mainly of hip hop collaborations of Islands and Unicorns songs with rappers Busdriver and Subtitle.  The second half of the song features rapping, which is surprisingly good, and lends support to the need for a Corn Gangg studio record.  One has yet to be released at this time.  Enjoy "Where There's A Will There's A Whalebone" below though, as it's one of Islands' best.  

New Human Highway Video, "The Sound"

Human Highway's got a new video, and I'm extremely excited about it.  For those who don't know, Human Highway is one of Nick Thorburn's many post-Unicorns projects.  Their debut record, Moody Motorcycle, came out last year, and if you haven't heard it, it's fantastic.  This song, "The Sound," is the opener, and one of my favorites from them.  Check out the video below, courtesy of Stereogum, and also check out this.  You get to sit around and play with facial imagery and the sounds of the video.  Fun enough, if you've got some time to kill/are looking to put off doing something of much more importance.

New Beck B-Side, "Necessary Evil"

Beck's hit 2008 record, Modern Guilt (you may have heard of it), has a new deluxe-edition, with a new b-side, being released on the UK version of Itunes.  I guess those of us in the U.S. just aren't good enough.  Anyway, the track, "Necessary Evil," is pretty good, and very subdued.  It definitely didn't belong on the record, but I can see it's inclusion here, as it's sort of in the same state of mind.  Would I enjoy a full record sounding like it?  Not sure, but I suppose anything's possible.  Enjoy here, courtesy of Stereogum.


New Cursive, "I Couldn't Love You" & "From the Hips"

Well, this is a pleasant late night surprise.  Cursive, as many know by this point, will be coming out with a new album next month.  Besides that, we really haven't heard much as far music goes.  Until now, that is.  Of all places, Entertainment Weekly is streaming a track, "I Couldn't Love You," off of the record, Mama, I'm Totally Swollen!  The beginning sort of reminds me of Brand New in a weird sort of way, and other parts seem to resemble Bear vs. Shark and The Decemberists, but maybe it's just me.  Whatever you hear within this track, it seems like a pretty good sign of what's to come.  Check it out here.  Mama, I'm Totally Swollen! is out March 10th via Saddle Creek.

Update: Absolute Punk is streaming another track, "From the Hips".  Though I received this updated information from Stereogum, the first part was posted here first.  I know, you're just as proud as I am. Check out "From the Hips" here.


Miike Snow Remixes Vampire Weekend

Great day for anyone who enjoys reading about music.  It continues with this remix of Vampire Weekend's "The Kids Don't Stand A Chance," courtesy of Miike Snow.  The combined forces of Swedes Bloodshy & Avant and producer Andrew Wyatt of Fires of Rome/Downtown, it's a great pop take on the VW hit.  Their debut album will be out on June 9th, via Downtown.  Admittedly, I'm looking forward to it, as I've sort of given in to this whole mashup thing.  You'll have to head over to RCRDLBL to check out the track and download.

New Black Lips Video, "Short Fuse"

Busy day already, as far as music goes.  The Black Lips have a new video out for the song "Short Fuse", and due to its interesting, seemingly punk-inspired animation, I figured it'd be worth mentioning in this space.  The video gives me a bit of a YoutTube or Adult Swim vibe.  Very do-it-yourself.  It also has sticks of dynamite with faces, and matches for legs, which is cool in its own way.  Check out the video below.  The Black Lips' new record, 200 Million Thousand, is out tomorrow, February 24th, via Die Slaughterhaus/Vice Music.

New Phoenix, "1901"

Those crazy Parisians, Phoenix, have a new album coming out months from now (May).  In the meantime, we've got this track, "1901" to hold us over.  I wouldn't draw a direct comparison to Daft Punk just yet, but well, it's very synth-oriented, and seems destined for the club scene.  Plus, Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear loves it.  He even said as much on his Twitter page.  Sounds like reason enough to me.  You can grab the track below, courtesy of Stereogum.  Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (corny) is out May 25th via EMI/Source/Astralwerks.

New (MF) Doom, "That's That"

Apparently, the artist formerly known as MF Doom is now just Doom.  I doubt anyone, including me, will remember the updated monicker, but whatever, I'll go with it.  Doom does have a new album coming out though, and from the track I've heard, "That's That," it looks to be a good time.  You can hear it over at Stereogum.  Doom's Born Like This will be out March 24th, via Lex.

The next two weeks at Animal Noises will be a bit different than usual.  I'm going to be traveling at various points in the next few weekends, so Matt will be taking care of Pre-Screening segments, as well as minding the store on Saturdays and Sundays.  Enjoy.


Lil' Wayne on ESPN's Around the Horn

My first question: How did I miss this?!?!  I'm a big fan of Around the Horn, so my lack of seeing this sort of baffles the mind.  For those who are unaware. Around the Horn is one of two roundtable discussion type shows on ESPN that air weekdays (the other being Pardon the Interruption).  Lil' Wayne's successful foray into sports bloggerdom has done wonders for the network, and Lil' Wayne, so cross-promotion has sort of become a regular thing.  After a successful stint on First & 10, this just seemed like the next logical step, and I for one, am impressed by how well he fared (even though the cards were stacked in his favor by host, and one of my favorite ESPN personalities, Tony Reali).  The next move after this would be giving him one of the host seats for a night on PTI.  Until then though, I can only imagine the hilarity that would ensue.  Still, apologies again for a post that's a bit off-topic.  Here's the link to Weezy's blog archive, which ESPN finally decided to take care of.

Pre-Screening: The Whitest Boy Alive

Album: Rules
Artist: The Whitest Boy Alive
Label: Bubbles Records
Due Out: March 3rd

The Whitest Boy Alive's new album, Rules, may be one of the most black and white albums of the year (in the best sense, of course). The band builds on its sound from 2006's Dreams and seemingly creates a basic structure by which to write each of their songs by. You're never surprised, nor taken aback by anything you hear, but it remains an enjoyable experience. It's a calculated record- one that moves with ease, and alludes to house jazz and electronic aspects more than its supposed indie pop label may indicate, but is still able to maintain a rock vibe. At times, Rules sounds like Ben Folds at his most daring musical moments, but overall, a calm and relaxed sound one can truly appreciate over the course of its 11 tracks.


Matt's Track of the Week: "Spaceship"

Song: Spaceship
Artist: Kanye West
Album: The College Dropout
Year: 2004

There has been a lot of buzz lately about Kanye West, and his future plans in the music industry.  Some recent speculation gives the impression that he may be trading in his pop-icon status altogether for an internship position at a major fashion house.  Whatever the case may be, I have found myself listening to a lot of his work in the past week or so, and one song that I have had on constant rotation is "Spaceship", from his debut record, The College Dropout.

One thing I have always enjoyed about Kanye's records, is how he incorporates certain whimsical and imaginative elements that give insight into his personality.  "Spaceship"  does this better than most.  Backed by a sample of Marvin Gaye's, "Distant Lover", and singing soulfully, West depicts an an almost child-like, simplistic view of the world, and a yearning to escape that world by flying up past the clouds.  It seemed like an uncharacteristic song for him at the point of its release, but looking at the current state of things, it isn't that surprising.  Kanye West has come to define himself as an artist with few limits.  Check it out below.


John's Track of the Week: "I Hate My Friends"

Song: I Hate My Friends
Artist: Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains
Album: Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains
Year: 2008

Upon hearing the opening vocals of "I Hate My Friends," the first thing you'll think of is Death From Above 1979.  For those who don't know, Sebastien Grainger was one of the two men behind the critically-acclaimed duo, providing lead vocals and drum work.  His voice is notable for its rough edges, screaming/shouting nature, and soaring octave range.  Out of all of the tracks on 2008's Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains, I felt that this one best captures the dance/glam-punk essence of  DFA1979, and could almost pass as a b-side for the now-defunct group.

This track's sure to be a favorite for anyone into getting up and dancing, or maybe working out too.  I'd consider it appropriate for both the gym and parties, depending on the audience, of course.  For comparisons, see anything that sounds like The Strokes, and the previously-mentioned DFA1979.  And, no, I do not actually hate my friends, though Grainger might.


New Kanye West Video, "Welcome to Heartbreak"

Just a brief news item today involving Kanye West.  We'll be back to the regular schedule tomorrow of big contributions.  

Apparently, Mr. West has been making a video for the past month, even though it's not the next single.  Still, here's "Welcome to Heartbreak".  It's odd to say the least, but still interesting I suppose.  Oh Kanye.  What a crazy guy.


Pre-Screening: Here We Go Magic

Album: Here We Go Magic
Artist: Here We Go Magic
Label: Western Vinyl
Due Out: February 24th

One of the most-anticipated debut records of the year, Here We Go Magic's self-titled first release is a source of excitement for indie-folk fans everywhere. The band's frontman, notable singer-songwriter Luke Temple, has gained quite a reputation over the years, even getting a song onto that show I don't like, Grey's Anatomy. Still, this venture seems to take his stylings into a whole different direction, as Here We Go Magic focuses on painting musical landscapes, and interesting backgrounds, while also providing some enjoyable vocal presence. From tribal beats to heavy doses of freak-folk to your basic acoustic number, Here We Go Magic brings a broad array of folk, enough to keep those on many ends of the spectrum interested. However, be forewarned. It's the type of album that takes a few listens to truly enjoy, so be sure to keep your ears and opinions open. You will without a doubt be rewarded.

I'll start by saying that a good portion of this greatly resembles the resulting spawn of an Animal Collective-Sigur Rós relationship. Upon the first tribal drum beats of opener "Only Pieces," it's apparent that you're in for an interesting combination of the two artists. Temple questions death, or rather, the point of it if you're not present for it, or know when it will happen. The song, like the album, steadily grows, but never too quickly. The band, when enacting its crescendos or quickening their pace, never go outside its element. The highs and lows exist within its comfort zone, providing you with tracks that will have you tapping your foot, but never getting up to dance. Each track follows a formula, either starting off as a harmless acoustic folk track, or a seemingly-intense tribal beat, before the other element pops in, to subdue your thoughts. "Fangela," the second song on the record, starts tribal, then heads back to folk, opposite the opener. Here, the vocals also counteract the opener, by remaining high and airy, as opposed to the earlier low and abrupt nature.

From there, the band shows its experimental side. "Ahab" leans nearly exclusively on the folksy, interesting background, coupling with the drum beats listeners will have grown accustomed to by this point. "Tunnelvision" carries vocals back into the fold, but on a very limited level. The words (or in this case word) tunnelvision, is the crux of the lyrical composition, presented in various forms, and accompanied by others, in a freak-folk falsetto. This leads right into an airy, and electronic-based landscape, the relaxing and mysterious "Ghost List". The track's free flowing, formless nature lives up to its name, meandering in a computer-created haze for the entirety of its four minutes and twenty-one seconds. "I Just Want to See You Underwater," on the other hand, though hazy, lightly skips through a contrite and direct guitar riff. The track consists of two simple messages, "I just want to see you underwater" and "me and the boys are gonna live it up". One could guess at its meaning for hours, but I would assume a domestic argument.

On "Babyohbabyijustcan'tstanditanymore," perhaps my thoughts are justified. For a little over two minutes, you feel as if you are underwater, lending credence to my past theory, in a sequel to the previous song. No words are spoken here, so it leaves the mind to wander, and assume. What follows, "Nat's Alien," shrouds the message, and album, in more mystery. Another title which derives itself directly from its backing soundscape, we are once again left without words, but simply soft and patterned noise. Walking into this, one would almost assume aliens have arrived, or an abduction of some sort is taking place, but on a peaceful and simple scale. No one I know, nor any credible person knows, has been abducted by extraterrestrials, but if I had to guess what it would sound like, this would, indeed be it. The message, and the album is resolved, however, with the return of Temple's voice, lacking its falsetto, and keeping with the sound which he established on the first track. "Everything's Big" seems to bring us back to Earth, or maybe even take us through the abduction, or magic (hence the name?) trick, part-by-part, thought-by-thought.

Maybe I'm still missing something. Or maybe not. But, perhaps, that's a good thing. In any magic trick, we are left wondering what exactly happened, and how it became so. So maybe that's the point. On Here We Go Magic, Temple and his accomplices are, indeed, magicians, and for that, I thank them. For a freshman effort, the band has a sure and steady sound, and makes its voice heard amongst the crowded noise of today's scene. I laughed, I cried (no, not really), and at the end of the record, I said to myself, "I'm better for this experience". It may take three or four listens, but at some point, you'll suddenly realize something similar to what I did. Then, without a second-thought, you'll press repeat. Here We Go Magic takes the best aspects from the indie and folk communities, blending them together to create a short and enjoyable performance. If I'm comparing, I'd jump immediately to the aforementioned Animal Collective and Sigur Rós, along with subtle nods to Department of Eagles and Iran. Quite a combination.

Rating: 8.0/10

Best Track: "Fangela"

And a bonus download!: "Tunnelvision" (courtesy of Pitchfork)


All Get Out on Daytrotter

All Get Out is a young, fun indie group that sounds very much like The Format and Manchester Orchestra's love-child.  Due to the fact that The Format, one of my favorite artists, no longer exists, All Get Out sometimes seems to fill in that gap left behind when Sam and Nate called it quits the day after the Super Bowl last year.  Still, this band manages to stand on its own, influences aside, and provide some cool and upbeat music, bordering on jangle pop at times.  "Water and God" happens to be my personal favorite, but I recommend all of their material.  Check out their Daytrotter session (just posted today) here.


John's Track of the Week: "Lord Leopard"

Song: Lord Leopard
Artist: Caribou
Album: The Milk of Human Kindness
Year: 2005

For this week's Track of the Week, I bring you "Lord Leopard," from Caribou.  For those who may not be aware of the Canadian-based electronic act, it's simply the solo experimental work of Dan Snaith.  The man has a Ph.D in mathematics, yet with his spare time, has used experimental drugs with his friends and made music largely based in electronica, psychadelia and krautrock.  Caribou's albums and songs differ from one to another, with each relying exclusively on one influence, before bouncing over to another, though still keeping the continuity of the band.  This track, in particular, is based heavily on the electronic aspects, sounding like experimental hip-hop more than any sub-genre of rock.  

Anyone interested in instrumental- and drum-based music will be sure to enjoy this track.  As I said, the songs and albums are extremely varied, and difficult to pinpoint.  However, if I had to compare this specific song to anything, perhaps apt likenesses could be made to Cornershop, Ratatat and Panda Bear.

The Welcome Wagon's "But For You Who Fear My Name"

For anyone who may be a fan of quaint, folksy Sufjan Stevens, I bring you something you may also like.  The Welcome Wagon, facilitated by Mr. Stevens, is basically a religious version of Sufjan's own work (probably why we liked this so much).  In no way is it weird, or forced- it just harps on the presence of God, but in doesn't tell you to attend church this Sunday.  Though their debut album, Welcome to the Welcome Wagon came out this past year, I figured that this track, "But For You Who Fear My Name," posted up by Stereogum today, would be worth mentioning.  Welcome to the Welcome Wagon is, and has been out, via Asthmatic Kitty.


New Thermals, "Now We Can See"

With their fourth album, Now We Can See, coming out in a couple months, The Thermals have released the title track from said record into the world.  "Now We Can See" appears to be a bit of a departure from the band's usual sound- a sort-of hard hitting sophisticated punk that's yelling at you, rather than singing (in a good way, of course).  The new sound lacks the rough nature that fans have grown accustomed to, and instead, embraces a more subdued sound that resembles a mix of a Strokes cover band and radio-friendly hippie rock.  Still, lead singer Hutch Harris preaches away above the catchy background.  After a few more listens, I suppose I'll make my final judgement.  Until then, enjoy the track below, courtesy of Stereogum.  Now We Can See is out April 7th, via Kill Rock Stars.


Grammys Performances

In a quick follow-up to last night's post on the Grammys, I figured I'd add the videos from two of the more notable live performances.  Radiohead's use of the USC Marching Band is interesting, and admittedly, I would probably criticize any other artist for doing it.  For some reason though, it works for this rendition of "15 Step".  And then there was "Swagga Like Us".  I'm stil undecided as to how I feel about this one.  I guess the black and white thing was cool, but, the song just seemed a bit off.  Plus, we probably could have done without the very pregnant M.I.A.  Anyway, check out the videos below.

Congrats to the 2009 Grammys Winners

Normally I'd just ignore the Grammys, but this year, it seemed that the powers that be went out of their way to actually listen to music, rather than just base it upon radio play and record sales.  That being said, I wanted to congratulate the following Animal Noises mainstays for their respective awards, as well as laugh at Katy Perry and the Jonas Brothers for failing to win awards.

Animal Noise Congratulates:

Kings of Leon
Best Rock Performance by Duo or Group with Vocals, "Sex on Fire"
Best Alternative Music Album, In Rainbows
Best Boxed Set or Special Limited Edition Package, In Rainbows
Lil' Wayne
Best Rap Solo Performance, "A Milli"  
Best Rap Song, "Lollipop" (Feat. Static Major)
Best Rap Album, Tha Carter III
Jay-Z, T.I., Lil' Wayne & Kanye West
Best Rap Performance by Duo or Group- "Swagga Like Us"