Eluvium’s Matthew Cooper and Explosion in the Sky’s Mark T. Smith have come together to form Inventions. This bit of perfect news was accompanied by a release date and track-listing for the project’s first, self-titled album, as well as a trailer.
The one minute teaser gives away little, but it does reassure us that, yes, this will likely be the thick slab of elegant grandeur and graceful beauty that this union would have us predict.
The two have worked together before, with Smith playing on “Envenom Mettle,” a track off Eluvium’s gorgeous, expansive double album from last year, Nightmare Ending.
Yacht have premiered a video for new single “Plastic Soul,” there first single last year’s “Party at the NSA” and “Second Summer.” It’s undoubtedly YACHT, but unlike the bouncing, bursting-at-the-seams utopia that was much of 2011’s Shangri La, “Plastic Soul” is a comparatively lethargic mid-tempo single. It lazes in the bright California sun on a beach chair, head slowly bopping and drink dangerously close to slipping from its hand.
The similarly casual, ramshackle video was directed by Clay Tatum and Whitmer Thomas, and it was produced by Jash - you know, that comedy network from Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim and Eric, and Reggie Watts. The cassingle is available through DFA, which has released the past two YACHT albums. DFA is also offering remixes from DNTEL and Gramme.. Whether this is a portent of new material to come or not is unknown.
The ever-evolving trio Liars will return later this year with the follow-up to 2012’s WIXIW. Selling new album Mess as a manifestation of confidence and an expression of exuberant fury, they’ve sent out an on-edge first single that pokes and prods with forceps of repetition, spare electric blips, and a spiraling chorus of taught, wild ecstasy.
Similarly fascinating is the album trailer, with its music having a much more methodical build as it follows a brightly colored string. Two different sonic directions present in the initial press, but both promising something intriguingly off. Mess is due out on March 25 via Mute. Check out the tracklist and trailer below.
1. Mask Maker 2. Vox Tuned D.E.D. 3. I’m No Gold 4. Pro Anti Anti 5. Can’t Hear Well 6. Mess On A Mission 7. Darkslide 8. Boyzone 9. Dress Walker 10. Perpetual Village 11. Left Speaker Blown
Mark Kozelek’s status as a noted wordsmith is in no danger of being questioned, but it’s still a bracing experience listening to “Ben’s My Friend” unfold. It’s a shame to spill the story without going on the journey, but it hardly spoils the experience of listening.
The way Kozelek relates the story, remembering in reverse, is flawlessly executed. Walking us backward from discomfort in a cafe to conflicted feelings driven by age and a touch of jealousy at a youth-infested, massively attended Postal Service show, Kozelek’s autobiographical, horn-laced slice of life is like an Isaac Brock/Jens Lekman baby. Saying that may seem a bit reductive, but it’s meant in the best way. It’s very modern classic, the turn of the century indie folk sound, which means my heart is right up there on the tee for Kozelek to knock out of the park.
Kozelek’s sixth album under the Sun Kil Moon moniker, Benji, will be out on February 4 on his own Caldo Verde.
1. Carissa 2. I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love 3. Truck Driver 4. Dogs 5. Pray For Newtown 6. Jim Wise 7. I Love My Dad 8. I Watched The Film The Song Remains The Same 9. Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes 10. Micheline 11. Ben’s My Friend
With To Be Close To You, Sam Ray shrugged off his previous project’s self-seriousness with indie-pop songs about love and the acceptance of loss. Though much of the record deals with unrequited (or at least uncertain) love, the debut has nothing to do with breakups. If anything, spending a literal summer with To Be Close To You taught me how much Ray has to offer when it comes to the concepts of nostalgia, love, and loss. “how i spent my summer” certainly appeases those seeking an aesthetically sad song, but the repetitious musings end up sounding more like fond memories.
To Be Close To You is made up of a lot of past tenses, but like “how I spent my summer,” they’re almost all projected with warm harmonies and bright instrumentation. Your 2013 summer memories probably won’t sound as nice as this, wrapped up in a lo-fi pop song, but songs like these ought to remind you they’re still worth valuing.
There are few musicians better to be alone while listening to than Grouper’s Liz Harris. Harris’ music isn’t suffocating or alienating, but I always avoid the company of others when I turn on Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. The Man Who Died In His Boat is a batch of songs recorded during that session and “Living Room” is the most vivid shade of gray on the companion record.
Harris’ vocals are strikingly lucid, easily one of her clearest vocal tracks in her discography, complete with vulnerable lyrics that squirm with discomfort:
“I’m looking for the place where the spirit meets the skin/ can’t figure out why that place feels so hard to be in/ we’re all of us at this ill-fitting party / busy pretending to relate.”
"Living Room" is more than a whisper-quiet anthem about kids with identity issues, however. It’s also a revealing glance at a songwriter who spends most of her time obfuscating her work with static. The droning is still there, packaged in the guitar’s languid pace, but the lyrical clarity changes everything. For a brief moment, Liz Harris is an identifiable character instead of a shroud of beautifully constructed noise.
Earlier this year, The Le Sigh released a fabulous bundle through Birdtapes. This bundle included a zine and a tape compilation from the blog, which is one of the better sites giving attention to women in music and art.
At least, I assume it was fabulous - I spaced on it while deep in the mire of less important life things, and I wasn’t aware of my oversight until the zines and tapes had sold out. I didn’t know much about the contents, but I was familiar enough with the work done by The Le Sigh and the plethora of featured artists to know that I, along with many others, had missed out.
Fortunately for us, the late-passers and no-cashers, this week’s installment of The Le Sigh’s “Monday Mix” series was that very tape. The entire compilation is now available for free download over on Birdtapes’ bandcamp.
Another example: Lizard Kisses is a name I’d heard but not investigated. The luxurious “Little Things" has me scrambling to change that. Winter's “Find Me” and its room-filling reverberations were yet another eye-opener, and… actually, I’ve already said too much about how I know too little.
Finish the new year strong with this compilation. Even the more plugged-in music nerds will find something new and delightful. Maybe we’ll all pay more attention when Volume 2 drops.
Earlier this year, Phil Elverum released Live In Bloomington, Sept. 30th, 2011. By my recconning, it’s Elverum’s third live album, his first since 2004’s Live in Copenhagen, and his third live album overall (he also had 2004’s Live in Japan under The Microphones moniker).
With a tracklist spanning numerous Mount Eerie albums, Live In Bloomington is full of recognizable favorites. Hearing them in this setting is the true treat, though. The space has an off-world intimacy, and the arrangements are run through the keyboards and auto-tuned vocals (Pre-Human Ideas precursor) of Nicholas Krgovich and Julia Chirka.
More importantly, they feel right in how they are listed and arranged here. It’s not a “best of.” When the insistent throb of “House Shape” turns to the Twin Peaks surrealism of “Between Two Mysteries,” it feels proper. The omnipotent, all-of-time “Ancient Questions” turns to the homey humanity of “Karl Blau, and that’s the way it should be.
Any number of tracks could be plucked out and propped up as the “best,” especially with the fantastic renditions of “Karl Blau,” ”Ancient Questions,” and “The Place I Live" that are present here. It is "House Shape" that wrecks me once more, though, just as it first did in the run-up to last year’s Clear Moon. It is a song that, both in its original recorded form and this one, shakes me to my core upon every reacquaintance. It toys with my being as if I am nothing. It leaves me a gelatinous, trembling thing comprised of nothing but terror and deconstructed emotions.
"Here’s the thing, we started out friends. It was cool, but most night’s I wanted the world to end. Sometimes it almost did."
That’s not quite how the Kelly Clarkson classic “Since U Been Gone" goes, but it’s close enough to hook this unabashed Kelly fan.
Chris Cappello is an 18 year old Connecticut resident who writes about good music over at Lewis And His Blog, and he already released a pretty excellent full-length album earlier this year called Could Be Bitter Forever. He’s outdoing me in both creation of and blogging about music, but I can’t be bitter when he has correct opinions like this:
He also follows my personal tumblr. That’s no mean task.
Cappello dropped his new EP, the three-song Wretches of the Frozen Crust, right around the time the clock struck Christmas on the east coast. The three songs are forlorn acoustic pieces that play well with tender guitar, a bit of vocal layering, and, in this song, a voicemail sample.
While he undoubtedly bears similarities to other lo-fi tumblr/bandcamp artists we cover, there’s definitely a good amount of personality to Cappello’s music. It feels honest (that word), not aped, and that’s much of the battle.
Merry Christmas, if you’re into that. Of all the songs I loved this year, this seemed the most appropriate to celebrate the day with. Frozen was a flawed film, but there were two truly fantastic scenes in it: the very end and this one.
"Let It Go" blew away every other song in the film, and it wasn’t close. It’s perfect. Glen Weldon of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour described it as a drag anthem, a song that’s already in hundreds of drag show playlists around the country (heavily paraphrased). That only makes it more perfect.
Idina Menzel brings a certain sass, a little pizazz, that makes the song the superb, anthemic earworm it is. Demi Lovato couldn’t even conceive of matching it on her travesty of a single version.
Now if we could get an X-Men title with Elsa as the lead, I’ll be content.