Groove Armada: "Shameless"
The duo of Andy Cato and Tom Findlay have been producing chilled, reggae fused, down-tempo house music for years. With the new album Black Light, Groove Armada takes a stab at the indie electronic scene, citing influences like LCD Soundsystem and MGMT. “We could've knocked out an album of reggae-influenced house bangers and a couple of chill-out tunes, and that would've been a much easier life," said Cato, "But we needed a new challenge."
Jay Electronica: "Suckas"
"Ah shit," you put Jay Electronica on a Madlib beat and you get a SICK track. The ambient, film score emcee master, sounds fresher than ever over a grounded beat.
Dan Black ft. Kid Cudi: "Symphonies"
I don't know how to feel about this track. It's catchy. It's really catchy actually. I like Kid Cudi, but he also seems like a cry baby that is struggling with all (or lack thereof) attention he's gotten. Oh wait, I forgot this track is by Dan Black--without Cudi's name I probably wouldn't have ever checked. Mr. Black sounds like a less soulful Robin Thicke and more electro than Mattafix. Don't get it, well just listen.
Yeasayer: "Ampling Alp"
Yeasayer may I say whoa. This is just good, what else can I say? This track is from their new album, Odd Blood.
Mux Mool: "Ballad of Gloria Featherbloom"
Mux Mool give me some more tunes to work with. "Ballad of Gloria Featherbloom" is one of the best tracks on Nocturnal Suite, which I reviewed favorably. It's difficult to contrive a feeling with electronic music, but done well (Postal Service)is amazing. Mux Mool is close, really close and I'm excited to hear more from him.
K-Flay in the bay making remixes and stir-fry. Holla! K-Flay is a Bay Area based rapper, straight out of Standford, and can be heard chopping words with Zion I. Written up several times by Urb Magazine, this sweet thing is still waiting to be discovered. Take a look, have a laugh, grab some chopsticks and dig in.
Now, for what seems like the last month or so (but likely just over a week), the entire San Francisco Bay Area has been one big, soggy, sad, cloudy mess. Perhaps that's why those who braved the elements to check out Birdmonster's show on Friday at The Bottom of The Hill were rewarded with more than the usual amount of revelry and companionship. Live music, much like family dinners and sporting events, is one of the world's great community-building events. The intimacy of the venue, coupled with Birdmonster's bright and energetic performance reaffirmed why the group is not only an SFCritic favorite, but has a loyal local fan base.
Their music is a polished, but genuine take on indie rock Americana. Strong songwriting paired with everything from a full-strength rock band, to the most minimalist use of mandolin, makes Birdmonster the kind of band you reach out to on a rainy day. It probably doesn't hurt that all four are extraordinarily easy on the eyes.
Playing a mixed set from their newest release Blood Memory as well as previous albums, the boys took to the stage Friday night without holding back. The palpable energy both with each other and the audience, brought a strength and authenticity to their material that is impossible to record. They look like they are genuinely enjoying each other and playing music for you. "Yuma", sounded downright excellent live, a track that was, shall we say is not my favorite on Blood Memory. Another favorite of the evening was "I Might Have Guessed", which was made even more honest, emotional and stand-out-awesome by vocalist Pete Arcuni's alt-country crooning in-person. Between bassist Justin Tenuto jumping across the stage and the audience bouncing in return, the fun taking place was palpable.
No matter who you are, there is a 96.5% probability that at The Bottom of The Hill you will run into your best buddy/co-worker/someone that went to your high school. While this could be a drawback depending on your point of view, it does make Bottom of the Hill a cozy, convivial place to drink, be merry, and celebrate good music with new and old friends. It also made it the perfect setting for Birdmonster's intimate, silly, yet impressive performance.
If you missed it (or didn't get enough the first time) Birdmonster will be returning to Bottom of the Hill February 19, 2010 for an exciting lineup featuring Girl Band. And you should be there. Doors at 8pm, 21+, $10.
The first single, "Stylo" from the Gorillaz's new album Plastic Beach was officially released today, though leaked earlier last week. The single features Bobby Womack and Mos Def, which if you didn't know Mos is newest member of the animation posse, going by the moniker "Sun Moon Stars." The album is set to be released March 9th in the US, and March 8th abroad. You can check out the video here. Continuing upon their growing tradition of celebrity guests, Plastic Beach will feature Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Lou Reed, the Fall’s Mark E. Smith, Gruff Rhys and the Clash’s Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.
Download "Stylo" here while it's still working. Enjoy.
Here is the track listing for Plastic Beach
1. “Orchestral Intro”
2. “Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach” (feat. Snoop Dogg and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
3. “White Flag” (feat. Kano Bashy)
4. “Rhinestone Eyes”
5. “Stylo” (feat. Bobby Womack and Mos Def)
6. “Superfast Jellyfish” (feat. Gruff Rhys and De La Soul)
7. “Empire Ants” (feat. Little Dragon)
8. “Glitter Freeze” (feat. Mark E Smith)
9. “Some Kind Of Nature” (feat. Lou Reed)
10. “On Melancholy Hill”
12. “Sweepstakes” (feat. Mos Def Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
13. “Plastic Beach” (feat. Mick Jones Paul Simonon)
14. “To Binge” (feat. Little Dragon)
15. “Cloud Of Unknowing” (feat. Bobby Womack)
16. “Pirate Jet”
Come on let's get that cheddar with Jake One and Freeway. Spreading the love, cause it's the Minneapolis way, the duo are giving out the highest returns on any purchase in music in 2010. You get a CD, and some Jake One and Freeway cheddar, no joke, it's the Stimulus Package.
Freeway has always been an underrated emcee. Recently, I grabbed one of his old mixtapes Live Free and Die Hard, which you can download here. Meanwhile, Jake One is one of the premiering underground producers. His beats are gritty with hints of soulfulness. The kind of grime you dust off an old vinyl gem. Here is a beat that Jake One did for Scarface on his album Emeritus (a good album btw) entitled, "High Note."
Souls of Mischief: "'93 Till Infinity"
Souls of Mischief: "Tour Stories"
SFCritic (SFC): How was it getting back together as a group for Montezuma’s Revenge?
Tajai: We always work together as a group. As far as getting back in the studio together that was fantastic. We tour probably a 100-150 shows every year with each other, let alone another 100 on our own.
SFC: Even on your guy’s solo-project since the last album you have been working together?
Opio: Yeah. We do solo-projects, but we tour all those records as Souls of Mischief. For me personally, it has been an eye-opening experience to see how people react, “Man—Souls of Mischief got to get back together,” because it’s almost like we never were apart.
SFC: Being such a tight crew, how was it working with Prince Paul? Was it totally business, or were you guys all going out and getting burgers or something?
Tajai: A little bit of both man. We isolated ourselves by moving to a house in the middle of nowhere. We were cooking and stuff together. We kicked it and everything, but when it came down to it we were together to make some great music.
SFC: Who was the cook in the group?
Opio: (Chuckles) Man we were just using the microwave. It was our favorite cook.
SFC: You’ve been grouped with The Native Tongues crew (East Coast), but as a group you are a fixture in Bay Area hip hop. Did you ever think of packing your bags and working in a bigger market like LA or NY?
Tajai: No, because you know part of what makes our music special is that it’s homegrown. I think moving from our home would change a lot. We’re not some nomads. We are trying to build up our community.
SFC: How did you feel about the hyphy movment?
Tajai: I think any kind of exposure for the Bay is great thing. I think they tried to turn into a movie thing, rather than just letting it be what it is, which I think kind of killed it. I mean, the reason we are so hyphy is because we don’t have a club scene. It was for kids to get their energies out.
It sort of ate itself alive because were not like LA where cats will have all these great functions to jerk and dance. We don’t have those types of spaces for youth. Really, the kids don’t have anywhere to kick it so it’s hard for it to sustain itself. Hip hop is an expression, but when you start talking about a movement, a movement has to have a direction.
SFC: “’93 Till Infinity” is your ubiquitous hit that people recognize. It’s gotten you fame, and given you a bar to step to. As you continue to try and grow from that single, is the song a blessing or a curse, or both?
Tajai: It can only be a blessing. How can that be bad? Anytime it comes on it brings joy and makes people feel a certain way. It’s bigger than what we even intended.
If you look at our releases the reason why there is time in between them is we are trying to craft exactly that level. I think it’s a high bar, but you know I’m not objective at all, but I think we are matching it and even exceeding it as Souls of Mischief, with Prince Paul, with some prospective on the world, in 2009 when there is a drought of real rap shit.
Opio: We didn’t go out to make hits. We went out to make true hip hop. We accomplished that in a song. I think it’s more a classic record that has withstood the test of time more so than a super-hit record that was a smash at one period in time that might have gone platinum
SFC: On tracks like “Hiero HQ” or “Proper Aim” you bring battle raps, but unlike 50 Cent or Joe Budden you never really attack particular artist, why?
Tajai: Me personally, I don’t feel like there are any artists I feel that way about. If I’m trying to establish supremacy over everything, why focus on the individual as far as lyrics. There isn’t anybody I feel that way about. It’s never been that way either.
SFC: I don’t want to get too much into, but with your whole “Mr. Freeman Skit,” why did you choose those artists (Webbie, Rich Boy, D4L)?
Opio: That’s a comedy. Prince Paul creates these skits that are really funny.
Tajai: To me when he was like “I helped out Webbie” and then says “I helped your boy Beeda Weeda” and that’s an artist I put out--basically, he’s talking about old versus new, not about what’s fresh or whatever. We were making fun of ourselves too.
Opio: The spirit of competition is what we thrive off. Maybe some people do it for show, for record sales, or to increase their visibility, but for us it really is about the competition. All the other sideline, hoopla, we don’t involve ourselves in that, especially living in Oakland. Talk about somebody here you’re going to get approached. We live like that all the time.
Souls of Mischief perform at The Mezzanine on January 28th. Advance tickets are $15. Doors open at 8pm.
This article is republished from SF Station.
Download two tracks from Junip's debut album set to be released in 2010. The Swedish folk band is comprised of Jose Gonzalez, Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn. Some might be familiar with Jose Gonzalez for his solo-career as a guitarist and singer. Junip is very similar to Gonzalez's previous work, but more creatively dynamic by default of the larger group. Here are two tracks to listen to and download if you're interested.
With The RH Factor, Roy Hargrove has collaborated with some of the most respected hip hop and soul artists of the last decade including Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Common, Q-Tip, Meshell Ndegeocello, Karl Denson and more. Tonight at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco was no exception. Featuring Bay Area talents Lyrics Born, Goapela, and Kirby Dominant, The RH Factor were at their best.
It’s easy to confuse hip hop and rap. Hip hop is the all encompassing umbrella, referencing and incorporating all the cultural aspects: dj, b-boy/ b-girl, graffiti writer, and rapper. It is the all encompassing history of a musical culture. The references, the samples, the recreation of jazz, soul, R&B, blues, funk, rock & roll, and even these days, house music. It feels therefore natural, if not cyclical or symbiotic that Roy Hargrove, a renowned jazz artist first recognized for his straight-ahead-jazz would find a second, and equally successful path as a hip hop fused jazz performer. With The RH Factor, Hargrove connects jazz to hip hop, the underground to the mainstream all into one cohesive combination. It’s quite the feat and proves quite the delight.
With a smile I can say that unlike the typical hip hop concert tonight show began promptly at seven. This is obviously, no typical hip hop concert. Hargrove walked onto stage in the front of his eight piece band: three pianists, two saxophonists, a guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer (the full lineup actually includes another bassist and drummer). Quick to blow and show his chops, he wasted no time with an introduction. It would have been unnecessary, as his neon green sunglasses with flashing lights were an easy tip-off—he was the man of the hour.
Hargrove once said, “I've been doing more touring with RH Factor than my quintet lately. People are turning a deaf ear to jazz. Some of that is the fault of jazz musicians trying too hard to appear to be cerebral. They aren’t having fun playing the music and that's why people aren't coming to hear it live anymore.” True to his words, if Hargrove wasn’t playing, singing or dancing, he was smiling and clapping his hands. Hargrove never solo-ed or took away from the band while playing a mishmash from the group’s three albums. Pianist and singer Renee Neufville’s voice was so effortlessly beautiful that I wondered if her regular voice was equally as stunning. Equally impressive, throughout the night Bobby Sparks played a combination of the arp, organ and piano with either of his hands.
Typical of a jazz performance showcasing each member of the band, Hargrove welcomed guests Lyrics Born, Goapella and Kirby Domination one by one, giving each a time to shine. To my dismay, their moments were less collaborative and more showcasing. Each artist is undeniably talented, but the break from The RH Factor’s groove was more jaunting than refreshing, with one exception. Midway through their set, The RH Factor played Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under The Groove,” with Hargrove singing the hook before Lyrics Born dropped a verse. The nod to funk ended with the saxophonist playing the bridge for the hip hop classic “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool. It was that perfect blend, underground, mainstream, jazz, and hip hop that Hargrove at his best creates.
As the night came to an end the crowd’s cry for a second encore had to be subdued by Hargrove, “Some of these people have planes to catch, you know how hard that is.” It is hard, but probably not as hard as the wait to see The RH Factor perform again—because that’s just plain rough.
Fuck You EP Track Listing:
2. "Pop The Cork"
3. "Fruits" ft. Malbec
4. "Watchu Say"
5. "Fuck You"
The Knux: "Floozy"
The Knux: "Pop The Cork"
This brought a smile to my face. Hope it does the same for all you. This kid is just plain cute. Listen to him sing the chorus (between 30-43 seconds, it's hard to say). Just look at that the passion in his face, feel the soul! in his lyric, cant you just see--this kids a star! A star I tell you. Until he ends up on Teen Idol. Hell, if he shows up on Teen Idol I'll vote for him.
Grammy award winning trumpeter, Roy Hargrove played this weekend along with his band The RH Factor and special guests at Yoshi's in San Francisco. The RH Factor is Hargrove's project to connect mainstream, underground, hip hop and jazz. Having performed with some of the best in hip hop and soul, including D'Angelo, Erykah Badu, and Q-Tip, Hargrove has been compared to Quincy Jones. This post features "Liquid Streets" from the album Hard Grove. Enjoy, and check back soon for a live review by SFCritic.
For the last few years Coachella's lineup has been unequivocally superior to any other music festival in the US. In 2010 the trend continues. The three day festival is headlined by Jay-Z, Muse, and Gorillaz. Though these are the "headliners," they're not necessarily even the "best" groups playing. Other names include (in no particular order) Phoenix, Thom Yorke (*with ??? added), Vampire Weekend, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, MGMT, Dead Weather, Dirty Projectors, Pavement, Faith No More, DJ Tiesto, De La Soul, Miike Snow, Fever Ray--blah blah blah. You get the picture right?
It's the place to be if you're anybody, somebody or you just have some free time. Forget your trip to Africa or Honduras go to Coachella--don't be a elitist humanitarianist. What? Okay, well if you want to remain eco-friendly, and maintain your elitist values (I mean really, there is no such thing as global warming, get over it..) there will be a car pooling, or "carpoolchella," for those interested, see here. Adding "chella" to anything is a little trite, and honestly well, poochella on then. Not funny? Then stop reading--geez. And I'm outropoolchella.
For more info, check out the Coachella website.
SFCritic (SFC): How did you choose the name Birds & Batteries?
Mike Sempert (MS): It came from a Tom Robbin’s novel I read, “Still Life with Woodpecker.” The words were juxtaposed together and I liked it. It’s just a phrase or a sentence in that book.
SFC: Have you ever had anyone confuse you with The Bird and The Bee?
MS: Yeah, that’s happened to us. There are a lot of bird bands.
SFC: For sure.
MS: “Wolf” is the new “bird.” There was a New York Times article about SXSW a couple years ago about all the animal bands. The invasion of the animal bands; we were mentioned in a batch of a thousand bands with animal names.
SFC: So, is music your main gig now?
MS: More or less. It’s not lucrative, but it is my entirely livelihood.
SFC: That is not always easy.
MS: It’s not. It’s kind of scary actually, but It’s good. I feel like now is the time to do it.
SFC: You have described your album as a “spooky-funky adventure.” Can you describe a spooky-funky adventure you once took?
MS: I went swimming once, late at night, by myself at a lake. It was completely black. When you swim late at night, the difference between the air and the water is sort of disorienting and terrifying. So, I was spooked there once.
SFC: How was your album a spooky-funky adventure?
MS: Well, the process of making it took a really long time. I feel like when you’re really close with a project, and you’ve been working on it for a really long time, you kind get into the dungeon working on it everyday and start to lose perspective and get a little crazy.
SFC: The production on the album is really clean, were you working on it in a studio or at home?
MS: It’s sort of a hybrid of a home and studio project, which I think how a lot of people do it nowadays because studio time is expensive. It’s funny because our next record will be a look in the opposite direction — a little rougher around the edges and not as clean.
SFC: I’m a little perplexed because your sound is really evolving. With this EP you’ve received a lot of positive feedback, and you’re now going in a different direction?
MS: It’s potentially problematic because I think we’ve gotten some nice love for the EP. I think people might be expecting certain things on the next record, which they might not get. The EP itself wasn’t like “this is the direction were going in the long-term sense.” It was just to explore a batch of sound, and a production style for one EP. I feel like we accomplished that and now we’re on to the next. It’s sort of the only way I know to not feel limited by a genre or style, and just to do what the music calls for.
SFC: So tell me about this direction you’re going with the new album.
MS: Another reason that it’s sort of hard to see it as two different directions is that the EP and this new album were recorded at the same time. Originally, both the “Villian” and “Out In The Woods” were going to go on this full-length. Then I started writing these offshoots songs like “Sneaky Times,” and “Lonely Guns.” I started seeing a narrative, and an opportunity to cut things off and go with that.
SFC: What is the narrative?
MS: There is sort of a protagonist, who I refer to as the villain. Essentially, this sort of character connects with a lot of questions of morality that we see especially in the corporate world. A lot of songs were written before the economic crash, but I think it ended relating toward that as well. So, “Out In The Woods” is this character fleeing the crumbling civilization and losing his mind. “Sneaky Times” is again about this character. These are guidelines, it isn’t anything concrete.
SFC: Up To No Good seems darker and sonically lusher than I’ll Never Sleep Again. What were some of your influences or reasons for these changes?
MS: I think we live in really fucked up times. I think I’ll Never Sleep Again has certain optimism to it, and Up To No Good is my release in whatever sort of darkness you might find that it is, and hopefully a bit of irony and a bit of tongue-and-cheek humor with a title like “Sneaky Times,” because sneaky times is just fun to say. It’s vitamin-D dark, whereas I’ll Never Sleep Again is serious with a sort of optimism.
SFC: When you’re not making music, are you up to no good?
MS: Yes, yes of course.
Birds & Batteries perform at The Bottom of The Hill on January 23rd. Tickets are $10. The show begins at 10pm.
This post is republished from SF Station.
All I really can say is "holy shit." I can't believe it took me this long to discover The Antler's Hospice (Eve, was months ahead). The album is richly emotional, comforting and haunting. The album's concept revolves around a lover/hospice who is battling the demons of watching someone die and reflecting on their relationship. While writing the album, Peter Silberman found guidance from the words of Michael Lewis' Sylvia. Sylvia is the story of Michael's relationship with his ex-wife, Sylvia Bloch.
When a piece of art is introduced to the public sphere the original meaning grows, expanding with the interpretation of the listener/observer. For me, Hospice is the voice of my mother when I was deathly ill. I was ten, and fighting for my life for two weeks in the hospital. I almost died from several complications. The narrator's struggle is that of my mother coping with the potential loss of her son. Haunting her with regret over the verbal abuse of a youth and the hurtful words that are exchanged meaninglessly, potentially never amended.
"Two" might feel like a "bright" track, but it's meaning is lost outside the context of the album. Listen to this album from beginning to end. Then check back soon for SFCritic's interview with Peter Silberman.
Woozy Viper is what you would call a palate-cleanser. Kansas-born and bred brothers Luke and Mitch Meseke recorded a lo-fi 12 song debut, put it up for free download with nothing but some seriously simple album art. It is an album of back-to-basics rock and roll songs, two scruffy vocalists, and tin can percussion. They sing songs about paying the rent, about wanting nice cars, and girls. They're the kind of rough and twangy songs that hearken back to a simpler time before "indie rock" was nearly synonymous with a heavy use of synthesizers (not that that's a bad thing). The songs are stylish and classic without seeming overly referential. For every song that overtly sounds like The Beatles or Johnny Cash, there are hints of Kurt Cobain's anguished drawl (on "The Switchblade Swing") or Sublime's plucky ska baselines (like "Dirty Rat"). They're a little bit country, a little Rolling Stones, and all-around enjoyable.
Sounds Like: The Kings of Leon not taking themselves so seriously. Also the song "One of These Days" really, really sounds like Spinal Tap's "Gimme Some Money".
Listen To: Speaking in Tongues, Woah Baby
Kidd Russell - The Dash
Kidd Russell's debut EP The Dash is a little confusing. It is predominantly of the hip hop persuasion, and certainly sprinkled with influences of hard rock (Korn, Slipknot maybe) and a little reggae. While the lyrics are earnest, the vocals certainly aren't great (a little flat) and the beats leave much to be desired. Each song seems to stand on its own, to cater to its own agenda rather than work together to create a cohesive sound. The EP's self-proclaimed star is "Dear Shooter," an emotional outcry against gun violence that calls to mind Eminem's haunting track "Stan," but it lacks a memorable hook and the raw emotion that made that song so important. A different, more rock-influenced track is "Rush (Rock Remix)" which is apparently hd.net theme song for Ring of Honor wrestling. It sounds a little like Kid Rock, and brought back all fondest memories I have of Limp Bizkit (of which there are very few). While it's clear that Kidd Russell has diverse interests, and enthusiastically includes them in his music, The Dash still feels a little rough and disorganized.
Sounds Like: A college football player turned musician (hint: that's what it is).
Listen To: Rush (Rock Remix), Dear Shooter
Phantogram: "Mouthful of Diamonds"
Phantogram is the love duo of Sarah D. Barthel and Joshua M. Carter. Their EP floats in space, zooming by with synths and chopped samples, followed by melodiously hovering in time guitar chords. On "Mouthful of Diamonds," Sarah's lo-fi vocals contrast the crisp production. If you like this track, definitely check out "When I'm Small," which has a DJ Premier-esque production quality. (Note: for those wondering where do I find this music, I was recommended this by a bartender. You never know what you're going to get.)
Betterpropaganda recently published their best of 2009, which included a list of top music videos. Here at SFCritic, we had hoped to do something similar, but this is a perfect opportunity to plug our friends.
Check out the video list which includes:
1. Fever Ray
2. Miike Snow
4. Passion Pit
5. Fleet Foxes
7. Kid Cudi
9. DJ Rupture & Matt Shadetek
10. The Presets
Last night, I listened to Sonic Youth play at The Fillmore in San Francisco, one of many bands known for using the technique. I watched as Thurston Moore repeated chord progressions as Lee Ranaldo took lead vocals, playing notes slightly off time from Moore. This dynamic was repeated with the different combination of Moore, Ranaldo and Kim Gordon. The rare moments of silence between bridges were like gasps for breath before re-submerging.
Sonic Youth: "What We Know"
Phil Spector (pictured above), the homicidal producer, famous for his work with The Ramones and The Ronnettes, is the creator of the "wall of sound." He has been noted for having up to forty microphones in his recording studio to create his patented sound. "Be My Baby," by The Ronettes is considered the "quintessential expression" (Wiki) of the technique. A random side note, Phil Spector is famous for pulling a gun on Joey Ramone during a studio session, insisting they continue working on their recording.
The Ronettes: "Be My Baby"
Recently, SFCritic interviewed The Raveonettes to discuss their new album, In and Out of Control. The group, whose name references their influence from The Ronettes and Buddy Holly's "Rave On," are a modern day example of the technique in practice. On "Gone Forever," the track's beginning distortion dissolves into light guitar strumming, before building into more instrumentation as the vocals enter. After the song lifts off, the noise grows and continues without any pauses.
The Raveonettes: "Gone Forever"
Thanks for reading this thought process.
The Knife along with Mt. Sims & Planningtorock will be releasing the studio version of the opera Tomorrow, In A Year on February 2nd. Last year, The Knife worked alongside the two groups to create the music for the opera based on Darwin's theory of evolution.
jj : "Ecstacy"
There are a lot of secrets with jj, starting first with the Swedish group's identity. They're also signed to Secretly Canadian. Oh, and their album, jj n2, "secretly" received high acclaim. At Secretly Canadian they openly described the band's efforts:
"jj create R&B and balearic dub from the ghosts of lost lovers; pop as delicate as a fawn's nose across blades of frosted grass. It is the soundtrack for friends packed into the town square's tiniest tavern, their moontanned, apple-cheeked faces glowing, their dilated pupils filled with all the meaning and meaninglessness of a magic 8-ball."
My favorite line is "as delicate as a fawn's nose across the blades of frosted grass." Isn't that just poetically sweet like an adolescent camp love song sung softly in the heat of an erection? There is no mistaking the Lil Wayne beat, but oh what ECSTACY.
Foreign Born is a (domestic!) four piece out of Los Angeles. The boys joined forces in 2003, were scooped up by uber-indie label Secretly Canadian, and released Person to Person, their second full length. It's a catchy, sunny and upbeat album. It is perfect, on first listen, to imagine putting several tracks on your playlist for a road trip up the coast, but with enough torment, density, and lush arrangements to keep it from being a once-round wonder. While comparisons to Grizzly Bear and The Walkmen are not necessarily unfounded, they're also not quite informative. There are moments of African percussion and cowbells followed by 80s U2-esque drum beats with haunting vocals to match, and airy guitar rifts. The songs feel vintage, without feeling trite or precious. These are tightly recorded pop ballads with danceable beats and stuck-in-your head choruses. Though released in 2009, Person to Person is certain to put Foreign Born at the forefront of this year's indie discussion. Catch them locally at Rickshaw Stop 2/24 with Free Energy as part of the Noise Pop festival.
Sounds Like: A West Coast answer to Vampire Weekend
Listen To: Wander Aimlessly, Vacationing People, Early Warnings
All My Friends - We Have No Faith in Machines EP
All My Friends is a Canadian synth-pop duo from Vancouver BC. The two eagerly site their major influences as Passion Pit, MGMT, Phoenix and The Postal Service. It is not hard to hear how these influences come through on their sparse Microkorg-produced EP. Well, The Postal Service part anyway. The boys certainly know their way around a synthesizer. Unfortunately, it lacks the layered arrangements, lyrical complexity, and production polish that make these groups excellent. Things look up for them on the ever so slightly more complex "Tonight Happens", a little bit grittier New Wave-influenced track, and "Secret Smiles", which could be a big dance-pop hit if it had more than a chorus. With the recent explosion of Owl City, that inexplicably popular baron of annoying emo electronica, it is not surprising that more boys would want to churn out basement albums made only with a synthesizer and a laptop. While All My Friends have wisely refrained from an embrace of auto-tune, tracks like "Stay" and "Another Morning" fall in that category.
Sounds Like: Owl City at worst, The Postal Service at best.
Listen To: Tonight Happens, Secret Smiles
"Let There Be Horns" is the "mystical," horn infused track by producer RJD2 from his upcoming album, Colossus. Telling the story of a pill-popping Minotaur, which is obviously a metaphor for my life (how did they know?), the video is entertaining to say the least. "Hey look, it's a Minotaur in a Smart Car!" says the kid pointing, "Haha!" (ref. to The Simpsons, what?) Like many of RJD2 tracks, you either love or don't care for the 1:10 loop. "Let There Be Horns," is crafty, shifting and dangerous beat like Shaft, unfortunately it falls short of supreme like the Minotaur's game, lacking. RJD2 will be commencing his tour shortly, and will be stopping in San Francisco in April. Expect more coverage closer to the of the show, *cough* Mr. PR--I want access.
The Dodos & Magik*Magik Orchestra Collaborative Performance will be a one of a kind exclusive performance. The Magik*Magik Orchestra will be composing 10 arrangements of Dodos songs all featuring the band and various members of the orchestra. The orchestra is a 26-piece formation that includes a small women’s choir, strings, winds, brass and percussion.
The festival begins February 23rd and goes until March 1st. From my experience last year, tickets sell out quickly, so get to it. All tickets go on sale this Sunday, January 10th--so get to it.
The Nocturnal Suite is a satisfyingly diverse compilation of electro based music. With thick unraveling synth pop tracks like Mux Mool’s “Ballad of Gloria Featherbottom” followed by City Center’s “Summer School,” an ambient track full of sweet saw noises surrounded by dream-like vocals, the album balances opposite textures and flavors like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Featuring Mux Mool and Daedelus, most of the two-disc set includes lesser-known (rising) artists like NewVillager and Daniel Johnson. Each track features some infusion of synths, vocal effects, accelerated BPM, and spaced-out noises, but those fearful of “UMPH-UMPH” redundancy will be pleasantly surprised; there is a refreshing combination of synth-pop (Outlier’s “Visible Light Eater”), ambient instrumental (Matters & Dunway “Memorial”), indie-rock (Elm From Arm’s “Pretty Take”), techno-dance pop (Mogi Grumbles’ “Supreme”), disco-funk (Scott Brandon’s “Voyage Into The Dark”), and punk (Wild Yaks’ “Crazy But Not Afraid”). My personal favorites are NewVillager’s “Rich Doors,” D. Gookin’s “Glad I Met You,” and Tonight’s “When Galaxies From” stand out with catchy hooks, late-night-bobbing beats, and retro-modernity. For those electro junkies looking for new fixes this album is perfect.
NewVillager: "Rich Doors"
D. Gookin: "Glad I Met You"
Miike Snow is a Swedish band that formed in 2007, but released their self-titled debut in 2009. The featured video above, "Animal," was released in August of last year, and circulated a buzz amongst blogs. The electro-reggae-beat of "Animal" is a bright contrast to dark lyrics like, "I change shapes just to hide in this place but I'm still, I'm still an animal." The group has received high acclaim in Sweden, and throughout Europe, and will be touring the US in the next few months (April for SF folks). To download "Animals," click here. A random note, Miike Snow has produced for several notable acts, but gained recognition for their production of Britney Spear's "Toxic."
After thirty years of making music, it’s hard to imagine a band remaining current, but Sonic Youth continues to defy the odds. With a meringue of avant-garde sound and pop undertones, the band’s latest album, Eternal, realizes all the facets of the group’s past success. Sonic Youth performs January 10th at The Fillmore. SFCritic spoke to drummer Steven Shelley during a phone interview.
SFCritic (SFC): I read that you don’t eat before a show unless it’s five hours in advance.
Steven Shelley (SS): Yes, that’s true.