[Previously on Animal Noises: Pre-Screening: David Bazan]
Missed this the other day (life happens, occasionally), so I figured I'd post now. Former Pedro the Lion frontman David Bazan decided to stop in to Daytrotter on Monday and talk about his latest effort, Curse Your Branches, and the struggles he's endured, and nearly gotten over in the process. It's interesting enough, since Bazan articles usually are, so you'll want to check it out over there, and grab the tracks that he's performed, including "Hard to Be," "Curse Your Branches" and "Bless This Mess," all off of the new album.
Well, this is definitely an interesting one.
Many probably remember that Volcano Choir's (Bon Iver and Collections of Colonies of Bees collaboration) Unmap came out this past week. As also mentioned, lead single "Island, IS" is mesmerizing and eclectic. Enter the video, which accomplishes both of these descriptors equally as well. It's a simple visual representation showing colored squares appearing on a bridge as the music plays over it. It's a bit trippy, but like I said, completely mesmerizing. You'll definitely want to check the deal out below.
[Previously on Animal Noises: John's Track of the Week: Volcano Choir's "Island, IS"]
Song: This Modern Love
Artist: Bloc Party
Album: Silent Alarm
Reading Pitchfork's "Top 200 Albums of the 00s" article the other day, I noticed the inclusion of Bloc Party's Silent Alarm. Looking back at that album, many wonder what has happened since. Silent Alarm, for all intents and purposes, was phenomenal. Mixing highs and lows, within the context of their edgy, up-tempo indie pop, the band seemed destined for greatness. I mean, how could they not succeed after putting out such a sterling debut? The possibilities seemed endless.
And then, things kind of fell off. Two subpar-to-moderate albums later, they're finding it hard to stay relevant on a scene that's all but forgotten them by this point. The edge is gone, as is the catchiness, and it's a shame. Still, I can look back and appreciate the gem that was Silent Alarm, especially "This Modern Love." By the album's standards, it was fairly tame, yet it holds within itself a startling social commentary about relationships that may get lost amongst the airy guitar part in the background. Still, for those who take notice, it can function as a haunting reminder for the ills of our current societal constructs, as well as just being a great song to relax to. Check it out below.
[Previously on Animal Noises: New Bloc Party, "One More Chance"]
Sorry that this is up so late today, but unfortunately, circumstances didn't necessarily allow it to happen any sooner. This week's a mix of old and upcoming albums, however there's not a whole lot in terms of today's actual releases, which is fairly odd. Still, you'll want to check it all out, over at Spinner. As always, credit for the original idea goes out to LargeHeartedBoy.
Track: Beating Heart Baby
Artist: Head Automatica
Searching for a video for Glassjaw's "Pink Roses" this morning, I came across two things: First, the fact that for some reason there is no video for the song, and second, the video for "Beating Heart Baby," which I had forgotten all about. For those who don't know, Daryl Palumbo is the frontman for both Glassjaw and Head Automatica, hence why the second video came to mind.
Back in 2004, this song was the larger public's first real exposure to the Long Island band. Many knew of Glassjaw, but besides the local crowd, no one had really seen Palumbo's pop capabilities. It was near the dawning of the current power pop scene-- way before squeaky-clean acts were manufacturing hits. Head Automatica had an edge to them, which was, and still is, hard to come by in pop. Their combination of catchy riffs, spiraling 80s glam rock and Palumbo's snarling vocals was an instant attraction. Of all their work on their two albums to-date, I'm still convinced that this is their best, and most representative work. The video also goes a long way in that demonstration, so check it out.
Album: The Sun Came Out
Artist: 7 Worlds Collide
Due Out: September 29th (U.S./Canada)
Putting aside my usual rules for reviewing compilation albums, 7 Worlds Collide is more deserving than most of its breed because of the level of collaboration. The tracks, though constructed by many separate artists, fit into one cohesive, and flowing portrait of 24 songs. For those who may not be aware, contributors include some of the most notable names in alternative music today, such as Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone; Radiohead's Ed O'Brien and Phil Selway; The Smiths' and Modest Mouse's Johnny Marr and of course, the mastermind of the effort, Neil Finn, amongst many others. The proceeds from the album directly benefit Oxfam, which looks to fight hunger and poverty.
"Too Blue" starts off the effort, featuring most of the project's main musicians. For the most part, it appears as a brightened-up Wilco track (makes sense since a large portion of the band's involved), and works as a perfect segue into the second song, one of the band's own, "You Never Know." One of the better tracks off of this year's Wilco (The Album), it fits surprisingly well into the mix here, and gives Tweedy his moment to shine above the rest. Next, "Little By Little" spends a good fifteen seconds doing a solid impression of Thom Yorke, before bursting into a frolicky part-country, part-indie pop jam. The up-tempo, vocally-involved melody gives way, however, to "Learn to Crawl," a track seemingly made for guitar ensemble.
"Black Silk Ribbon" pops in as our first completely female-dominated track, as Bic Runga and KT Tunstall move the song from its initial distorted fuzz to a classic chick-folk extravaganza. "Girl, Make Your Own Mind Up" backs the tempo down immediately afterward, inserting itself as a forlorn, pleading and melancholy acoustic number featuring some variation on a Wilco solo by track's end. Next, "Run In the Dust" is Marr's turn to lay in the limelight, as he presents this trippy and anthemic pop track that almost sounds as if it's been lifted from Radiohead's b-sides collection. Once again, immediately afterwards, the vibe is lurched to a halt by another slower number, this time smooth and airy jazz number, "Red Wine Bottle."
"The Ties That Bind Us," surely a preview of what Selway's solo album will be like, sends us into the first disc's homestretch on a positive note, as Phil's song plays like a folksy Radiohead. In keeping with sounding like other artists, "Reptile," Lisa Germano's first shot at singing on the album, sounds like a strange rejected Belle and Sebastian single, combining wispy indie pop with a campfire girl sing-along quality that's quaint in spurts. Without a second to waste though, it goes straight into "Bodhisattva Blues," which many fans have heard already. It sounds like a psychedelic jam band cover of a Wilco track, yet is surprisingly appealing, even with that description. Keeping with the Wilco theme, Tweedy brings disc one to a close with a stereotypical, albeit appropriate ballad of regret.
Headman Neil Finn finally embraces his role as ringleader on "All Comedians Suffer," shifting quickly back and forth between eccentric 80s hair metal interlude and classic alt-rock anthem. Staying loud, "Duxton Blues" is about as country as the album gets, functioning as a regular revival song, but not distractingly so. The energy on these first few Neil Finn-involved tracks on the second disc is uncanny, and infectious. Even so, that doesn't stop "Hazel Black" from turning into somewhat of a stripped down version of a Sheryl Crow top-40 hit (pass). Thankfully, we're rescued by Tim Finn's "Riding the Wave," a Coldplay-esque piano ballad that's as uplifting as it is sad. It's the type of thing Chris Martin would have done in 2004, just not anymore.
And then the album gets very somber, very quickly. Selway's "The Witching Hour" is appropriately dark and foreboding for the track's name, with a moody and mysterious air about it that lends very well to its theme. "Over and Done," actually seems more upbeat at first, before you realize the subject matter is all about a break up, and suddenly the piano ballad becomes more of a burden. Same goes for "Change of Heart," which does the same exact thing, just from a female point of view. As much as "Don't Forget Me" also touches on these themes, its fun southwestern flair and pop-rock sensibility make it a keeper amidst a fairly uneventufl final turn on the album.
"Long Time Gone" comes off immediately as a Dave Matthews Band cover, which is probably my main issue with it off the bat. Otherwise, it would probably be an enjoyable and maybe even pleasant experience. "The Cobbler" also employs an impressionistic nature, just more appealingly so. The song, without a doubt, pays homage to Elliott Smith, with a dreary, cloudy, heart-on-your-sleeves presentation that can only point to him. From here, the album's final two tracks are not much more than the last things keeping you from the end. "3 Worlds Collide" is a lot of ambitious African and Caribbean experimentation crammed into one song, while "The Water" is a very preachy, but relaxed guitar ballad that sends you away a lot more softly than you entered.
As I mentioned, The Sun Came Out is very cohesive, especially for a 24-track effort involving this many artists. My one issue, and it ends up being a fairly large one, is how it squanders the energy it builds in the opening, and portions of the middle, just to revolve itself around a few breakup songs and acoustic numbers. For all of the good here, and there is quite a bit, there are a bunch of tracks I could definitely have done without. Perhaps, though, that's what happens with a collection of this magnitude. Some songs are just destined to be duds, but sadly it's to this effort's detriment. Not that you really need any, but if you'd like similarities, consult Wilco, Neil Finn and Monsters of Folk.
Best Track: "Too Blue" (nothing original from album available, but Wilco's "You Never Know" is)
[Previously on Animal Noises: New 7 Worlds Collide: "Bodhisattva Blues"]
Song: Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse
Artist: Minus the Bear
Album: Highly Refined Pirates
Every time the seasons change, there are certain bands that I can no longer listen to, and bands that I suddenly have an urge to listen to. It's a weird phenomenon to say the least. Like how I can't listen to the Postal Service or Ra Ra Riot unless it's winter, or how every summer, I go on a Built to Spill binge. For the fall, there are a number of bands that this also occurs with, but one that never fails to follow the trend is Minus the Bear.
"Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse" is at the same time, both calming and jarring. It begins with simple, sleepy, looping guitar parts, that gradually pile, one on top of the other to lull you into a state of ease. At this point, you become so used to what you're hearing, that you don't even expect it when the drums finally kick in, and the song grows legs. It remains mostly reserved for its entirety, except during the choruses, where the band lets loose long enough to
make their point and then return to the song's structure with a little momentum leftover from the outburst. Only at the song's very end do the guys let the seams come undone, and we come to a close with the singer repeatedly alternating between a sigh and a yell, "Let's get a bottle and drink alone tonight".
Another playlist this week, however it's of the shorter variety-- Our favorite songs that clock in at under two minutes. Unfortunately, we were unable to include some of our favorite selections from The Beatles, The Olivia Tremor Control and Animal Collective, but we still made due with what we had. Enjoy the list below. It shouldn't take long.
[Previously on Animal Noises: Weekly Top 10: Songs About Baseball]
Mew brings the eccentric pop of No More Stories... to visualization with "Repeaterbeater." The song is brash and desperate, and the characteristics are caught so much in the video that it's hard to look away. The band appears in fits of anxiety attacks, and the total shock that accompanies them. The nerve-wracking mood and ambience of the video fits perfectly, as the shifting neuroses of the characters reaches full tilt by the end. Trust me, you'll be intrigued. Check it out below.
[Previously on Animal Noises: Tuesday's Releases (8/25): Now Streaming]
Folk supergroup Monsters of Folk has released their first video from their self-titled debut, which came out yesterday. "The Right Place" visual representation is everything you'd expect it to be. A mellow pseudo-country jam, the video for the track takes place partially in the recording studio and partially in some rural backyard. Something tells me this is the only video for the project, but I could be wrong. Check it out below, and if you don't have Monsters of Folk already, get to it.
Song: Island, IS
Artist: Volcano Choir
Last year, Bon Iver's For Emma, Forever Ago took the indie music world by storm. People were obsessed, especially with tortured campfire acoustic number, "Skinny Love." The album as a whole was also a solid effort, all turned in by Wisconsin's Justin Vernon, who put it together by himself in a cabin. Now, after years of trying, Vernon's finally a relevant entity on the indie scene, and thus has the luxury of pursuing ambitious side projects. His first, Volcano Choir, in conjunction with fellow Wisconsinites, Collections of Colonies of Bees, turns in an effort completely unlike each artists' respective work, experimenting with sound and ambience on a superior level-- most apparent on first single, "Island, IS."
What makes "Island, IS" stand out amidst a crowd of "cool new things" in music today is its organic combination of such different aesthetics into just one track. Employing Middle Eastern sounds, folk and ambient electronic soundscapes, the song seemingly defines experimental, yet the appeal pulls any listener right past that label. It pulls you in immediately, as a track shrouded in intrigue and mystery. Each listen, you're digging for something new to take out of it, and surprisingly, some new feature does, indeed arise. If you haven't heard yet, you'll want to do so, with the track below, courtesy of Stereogum. Volcano Choir's Unmap just came out yesterday, so for those worried about missing the boat, it's still early enough for you to hop on.
We're back for another week of releases, streaming for you up on Spinner. This week's another huge Tuesday for new albums, even though it seems that Spinner doesn't have some of the most notable ones (Monsters of Folk, Brand New, Why?, The Twilight Sad-- just off the top of my head). Regardless, they're up for you to check out before acquiring. Credit for the original idea, as always, goes out to LargeHeartedBoy.
The Fresh & Onlys let out their second full-length record, Grey-Eyed Girls last week. You might have heard something about it. Well, now you get to hear something from it, just in case you don't already possess the San Francisco rockers' album. "Dude's Got A Tender Heart" plays just like it appears. It's a kooky, laid-back surf jam, chock full of psychedelic pop, and enough garage influence to keep it as the potential indie hit of the month. Intrigued? Check it out below, courtesy of Pitchfork. Grey-Eyed Girls is out now, via Woodsist Records.
Thom Yorke's back to doing that creepy electronic experimental stuff again. After confirming new single, "Feeling Pulled Apart By Horses" (what?!) a few weeks ago, we now get a glimpse of the track's b-side, "The Hollow Earth." The product's not available in the U.S. until tomorrow, but if you happen to be in the United Kingdom, you're in luck, and get either purchase the vinyl for 10 pounds (how many dollars is that?), or get a digital copy for free. Yup, they're still doing stuff like that. U.S. people, you'll also be able to get a free digital copy tomorrow. Or you can pre-order the vinyl today over at Radiohead's merch site.
The video below is (sadly) not the official visual representation, though it should be. Still, at least you get to hear the track.
[Previously on Animal Noises: New Radiohead, "These Are My Twisted Words"]
Track: Time Is Running Out
We've been showing a lot of new videos lately, so I felt that it might not be a bad idea to throw it back a few years this week. For many, the video for "Time Is Running Out" was their first exposure to Muse. Especially in the U.S., it was their first real, chart-topping hit, and they've been firmly entrenched in our music scene ever since. I remember distinctly seeing the video for the first time, and being somewhat mesmerized. It wasn't as if I'd never seen something like it done before. Rather, the state of madness captured by the band with this visual representation is quite interesting and intriguing.
The main inspiration for the video actually comes from Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The black comedy, which is one of the most culturally-significant films in American history, satirizes the nuclear scare and uses the vehicle of sexuality as a sign of the impending apocalypse. The second half of the "Time Is Running Out" video alludes to this, as the round table of military officers and leaders are seemingly shocked into a state of sensual euphoria. Finally, near song's end, they are brought to their knees by the weight of it all. You'll probably want to check out the video below, and if you haven't checked out the band's new album, The Resistance, I'd recommend that as well.
Album: Eskimo Snow
Due Out: September 22nd
Whenever a phrase like "they don't have a genre" gets thrown about, I tend to look away. I'd like you to try not to here. Why?'s new release, Eskimo Snow, may fit into a genre (indie rock) better than their other releases, but that doesn't mean they're any closer to being pigeon-holed. On the contrary, a little conformity here and there is just the type of misdirection an artist like them would employ, in the hopes of getting you off the trail. And that's what Eskimo Snow essentially is. Misdirection, in the purest sense. A wandering, aimless bouquet of sounds which you can only truly admire as a total composition.
"These Hands" starts us off lightly, treading cautiously and mixing a sense of somber reality with witty sarcasm. Don't fall into the trap of ever taking their lyrics seriously, because that would be to miss the point of the much greater picture, the music in the background. "January Twenty Something" further drives home this central feature of Eskimo Snow, and the band as a whole, ringing in bright, and nearly letting the bottom fall out. Then, unsurprisingly, it pops right back up, shifting between two polarities of a piano ballad and an Islands-esque refrain about love. Next, "Against Me" actually follows a more straightforward path. The song meanders for an extended period of time, as to catch you off guard later on. But, eventually, the terms of internal struggle kick in with a strong sense of resentment. It's not so much depressing, as it evokes empathy from the listener, quite effectively to be honest.
"Even the Good Wood Gone" continues our melancholy vibe, as a strumming, folksy guitar melody moves fluidly through the backdrop of more downtrodden observations about the surrounding landscape. As much as the piece builds throughout though, it expertly holds back, stopping the song each time before that critical breaking point. They string us along in limbo, sentenced to put some thought into what's occurring in the narrator's world, and we listen, intently. "Into the Shadows of My Embrace," probably the most Nick Thorburn-esque song of an album chock-full of them, glides and dances to an offbeat, yet catchy xylophone. The track is bleeding pop sensibilities, and is only held back from superstardom by the various slowed-down sections (not a bad thing). That, and the nonsensical, albeit infectious bridge (complete with guitar solo) at the end, propel it out in front as an early candidate to be named the album's best work. From pop, the band moves swiftly towards folk, however, as the lonesome "One Rose" is as cold and unforgiving as the name suggests. Still, it's not without a personality. Just a teasing, timid one.
"On Rose Walk, Insomniac," which sets up a confusing name game with the song before it, is actually nothing like it's predecessor. Psychadelic, short and odd, the lyrics jump, schizophrenically between different, unrelated ideas in an effective jumble of thoughts and emotions. Changing drastically once again, "Berkeley By Hearseback" waxes poetic on a folksy, lonely hearts jam, getting by on a rock ballad piano part snatched right out of the 1980s. Still, in between these genre mashups is an ambient world of scenic, forlorn loss; a howling, empty graveyard set in the middle of a musical, if you will. Transitioning from that, "This Blackest Purse" is the album's definitive piano ballad, sticking straight to the plan from start to finish. If I didn't know any better, I'd claim it to be the last track, but since I know better, it is, instead, the collection's most honest, sympathetic and beautiful work. It's dramatic, appropriate and even hits a nerve or two if you listen close enough. Then, it finally closes out for real, with the almost-as-appropriate title track, "Eskimo Snow." If not for "This Blackest Purse," perhaps "Eskimo Snow" would go down as the album's most sentimental piece, but instead, it just seems dwarfed by the five-minute epic which precedes it.
With Eskimo Snow, Why? turns in the type of effort you'd expect from them-- unpredictable, moody and conflicted. Still, with all of that going on, there's also an active, and at times, pleasant background which should not be ignored. Eskimo Snow is not a happy, nor a sad album, but rather, it floats in between the two. It's very aware of itself, and the message it portrays, which allows it to pull back from ever committing too much to one or the other. My only critique? Maybe one slow track to end it, instead of two, as resounding as "This Blackest Purse" ends up being. Besides that, a fine effort by a band who's always expected to mix things up, and usually delivers in grand fashion. Similarities include the aforementioned Islands, Subtle and Born Ruffians.
Artist: Brand New
Label: Procrastinate Music Traitors/DGC/Interscope
Due Out: September 22nd
Once you get over the shock of Brand New's fourth release, Daisy, maybe it becomes a great record. I guess I just haven't recovered from that initial sense of bewilderment yet. Daisy, in theory, appears as one might expect a Brand New album would; drastically different from the previous one, darker, moodier and heavier. As much as I saw all of that coming, what I couldn't have predicted was the blending of it all together. From mellow portions of Smiths' covers, to overdone impressions of Modest Mouse, there's just not enough separation present on Daisy for me to accept it as anything more than just another release from them (a first in my opinion). Perhaps this changes with time, but for now, consider me amongst those who find it good, but in no way great.
"Vices" starts off the record with a sample of "On Life's Highway," written by Bertrand Brown. The band has never done anything like this, and for those who are most acutely associated with the them, perhaps this is the most frightening/confusing moment on the album, amidst 40 minutes full of them. Cutting into the sample at about 90 seconds in, lead singer Jesse Lacey channels his inner Daryl Palumbo, reaching dizzying heights with his formerly-reserved scream. The one thing I can commend about the track though is that it sets the tone for an album that does a lot of interesting and technical things, strictly from a musical standpoint. "Bed" trudges in next, with a spacious, off-kilter southern rock anthem which builds itself to crescendo several times, yet never seems to reach its climax, and rather just tails off as a classic rock solo at song's end. First single "At the Bottom" chimes in afterwards, slowly, but surely. Playing off the sort of verse/chorus alternating intensity that made Isaac Brock famous, the band continues to capture a southern guitar rock feel, inorganic for them, but seemingly appropriate of the release.
"Gasoline" is a spitting, venomous punk number, seemingly aflame with the same substance the track takes its name from. Throughout the release, I go back and forth as to whether I approve of the screeching, waling guitar sounds littering the background, but on this track, the persistent noise works very well. Lacey has created for himself a brooding, moribund world with Daisy, and this song goes a long way towards solidifying that. When "You Stole" kicks in, however, you are suddenly transported back to 2004. At the time, Brand New had just discovered what they could begin to be capable of, and their signature (for a time) smokey bar-feel was birthed. The song plods, but amidst a sprawling scenery featuring electronic experimentation completely unheard of in the band's repertoire. If other critics insist on citing this as some sort of "watershed" moment, maybe this song is it, as the song wanders for six minutes in search of metal, and nearly succeeds. "Be Gone" would lend further to this sentiment, if it weren't for the fact that it sounds EXACTLY like a Modest Mouse song.
Unfortunately, these comparisons must continue on the verse of "Sink." If not for the screaming, spiraling chorus that more resembles a bear attack than anything of the indie rock variety, Brand New might have a lawsuit on their hands. At least Lacey makes sure to bring in his now-trademark God questioning though, so it counts as a dash of his own personality. Slowing things down a bit at the beginning, "Bought A Bride," which made the rounds as a live track on the internet last year, intersperses Lacey's bellowing and guitar solos into a fit of rock 'n' roll.
Next, "Daisy" is an echo-filled jaunt through the woods, starting in slow, and then grabbing onto some heavy noise influences for the second half; building, but never quite hitting the high point you expect. "In A Jar" tries to make up for this immediately afterwards, acting as the album's most bipolar contribution. Gyrating from the subtle nods to God-searching into the chaotic bombast of the chorus, it feels as if all of Daisy's built up aggression finally reaches its pinnacle. Good thing, because "Noro" doesn't go a long way towards said release. As hard-hitting as portions of the song get, it more resembles some spoken-word nu metal act, than one of indie rock's former noise aficionados. The only real saving grace is the continued southern rock influence that rescues it from the depths with a grinding, squealing solo to send it into more sampling to close out the album.
From the gallows of the album's onset, the band does a fair job of rescuing itself. It's just too bad that it had to start the way it did to begin with. What could have been a very promising effort on their part, what with all of the noise they incorporate, is downgraded to something just deemed okay by those who tune in. For longtime fans, their melodic core-- the leg they've stood on for the entire decade-- is seemingly a distant memory. Though not a horrible effort, the band sells itself a bit short on Daisy, if only maybe to prove a point to people. Similarities would probably include the aforementioned Modest Mouse, Manchester Orchestraand Built to Spill.
Best Track: "Gasoline" (not available, but check out "At the Bottom" below)
[Previously on Animal Noises: New Brand New, "At the Bottom"]