2007 was a bumper crop for music with great music being produced under every genre and style. But the past is the past, and 2008 is already showing plenty of promise in terms of new music and much anticipated releases. After dividing my Top Tracks of 2007 list into three handy, CD sized mix tapes I felt that it was an enjoyable enough exercise to try regularly. So every month I’ll be posting a new collection of songs to burn to CD that cover what I’m digging in new music.
January is, of course, the hardest one to begin with. So I’m pleased to get this one out the way. Not a lot gets released this early in the year, probably for fear of being forgotten by annual end of year lists. A lot of music also takes many listens to start to appreciate in its full glory. Yet there still have been stand outs this January, and also a couple of salivating teasers promoting forthcoming albums
You can read about the tracks below, and obtain the collection here.
From Alopecia due on 2008/03/11
This is the first single off the new Why? album Alopecia due next month. Why? is a curious combination of your standard indie rock band fronted by Yoni Wolf (from cLOUDDEAD) who drops sing-songy raps over over the backing music. It's very similar to the cLOUDDEAD and Subtle flow and style of graphical, streaming rhymes. Using a band for beats certainly is creative and proves to be effective. The strumming bass throughout The Hollows dominates and it's a very dark and shadowy song with creepy pianos playing their part as well.
The Mountain Goats
Sax Rohmer #1
From Heretic Pride due on 2008/02/19
John Darnielle has been evolving The Mountain Goats over the past few albums from a simple, acoustic sound onto a grander scale. The new album Heretic Pride certainly sheds the intimacy of earlier works but pulls off its transition into bigger sound well. Although if you’re predicting a funkier change fear not, Sax Rohmer #1 is named after the author of the Fu Manchu novels so you won't be hearing any horn section on this song.
The extra production that has gone into the song and album pay off in my opinion, and there is a whole brown, Autumnn theme that builds which is quite fitting for the upcoming season.
From Safe and Sound available on Kompakt
The Köhncke back catalouge of techno and house music includes a lot of happy, uplifting pop tunes. But he has abandoned the disco synths and bubbly keyboards for Feuerland - a remake of the original by Michael Rother (formerly of Kraftwerk) from 1977. The result is a darker, swirling track that rumbles along for the first few minutes before launching into extra-terrestrial sounding horns piercing the atmosphere and splitting the encompassing bass. Even producing from a different angle it still sounds tight as usual. Justus' album Safe and Sound is available now.
From Made in the Dark due on 2008/02/05
We transition from atmospheric techno to poppier dance now. The new Hot Chip album is shaping to be one of the albums of the year because it's packed with funky, uplifting dancefloor tunes. The track Don't Dance starts with a dare, the words "Don't Dance" being taunted over a steady, marching drum hook. Then there's a bit of singing about freedom and the drums, predictably but enjoyably, break free of drudgy steadines and burst into a cacophony of energy. Organs, synths and zaps all jam together and, well, you dance.
The Magnetic Fields
Too Drunk to Dream
From Distortion available on Nonesuch
The title of the new Magnetic Fields album is Distortion and, if you haven't heard it by now, it's not a misnomer. It's a gimmick, proposed by Stephin Merritt who after years of writing catchy pop songs covering many genres and styles decided he wanted to tribute the low-fi Jesus and Mary Chain sound of the early 90's. Therefore all the tracks are underproduced, with feedback and, of course, distortion which creates a simpler sound to enjoy. Too Drunk to Dream is a catchy and funny three minute ballad about escaping an ex-boyfriend through alcoholism and starts with off with some amusing couplets about intoxication that ring very true and should bring a smile to your face.
British Sea Power
From Do You Like Rock Music? available on Rough Trade
British Sea Power are a British band, not to be confused with British India who are not a British band, but a band from Australia (which was colonised by the British). With that cleared up I can tell you that British Sea Power are an epic rock, "big sound" live band not unlike the Cure, the Editors or U2. Keeping on the alcohol theme as well, Waving Flags is kind of a light hearted look at immigration in the UK but instead of getting deep into the issues it's more a tale of how we all like beer, and just because we like different kinds of beer, doesn't mean we can't get along. Not that you would guess at this fluff when you hear the dramatic, pompous power chords and echoes of a choir in the background which gives everything a colosseum full of people atmosphere. The album Do you Like Rock Music is now out.
Cassettes Won't Listen
From Small Time Machine due on 2008/03/11
Cassettes Won't Listen is a one man project out of Brooklyn, New York. While relatively small at the moment, he has remixed some major Hip Hop acts like Aesop Rock, Dr. Octagon and Morcheeba which is surprising considering that his own work is more of a Postal Service-esque indie-rock with computers sound. Indeed, Large Radio (perhaps named ironically, off the LP Small Time Machine, released digitally in March) starts with a lazy drum machine and sweeping 16bit synths. Drake's voice is soothing for the most and it bounces about the liquid sounding melodies like echoes in a seaside cave, but they also soar and build into crashing waves in a loud but still very soothing way. Large Radio is a beautiful track really, and deserves to be checked out.
Requiem for a Neo-Con (feat. Mr. Lif)
From Forthcoming Album...
Requiem for a Neo-Con comes from an alias of Hervé Salters, a French producer whose trademark is composing tracks using vintage keyboards and other past-era instruments. According to the internet, he believes older instruments come packed with more soul and there is definitely no lack of funk on this hook, or boogie in this bassline. Mr. Lif drops verses throughout in his greasy style and goes silent for the organ breaks and warbling keyboard solos at the appropriate times. No official release date has been announced for the album more specific than this year, but a second track (featuring Lateef the Truthspeaker) is available on the General Elektriks website, along with both tracks in uncompressed WAV format (for Stereos. Woop!)
Queens Will Play
From In the Future available on Jagjaguwar
It's 2008, but the fuzzy rock sound of the 1970s is still being thrashed out by bands like Black Mountain who, notably, do a good job of it. Their album is called In The Future which is just another example of an ironic album title. It's full of jams that go hard; some more laid back builders and at least one 16 minute epic rock composition. Queens Will Play is the closest to a cross between all three. The guitars are modest from the beginning, strumming away as (who I assume is) Amber Webber provides female vocals to an accruing pressure. Harmonic church organs then start to sing in the background as the psychedelic guitars complete their warm up and launch into the last part of the track: heavy shredding, rock assault.
The Helio Sequence
From Keep Your Eyes Ahead available on Sub Pop
From the Sub-Pop label (home of the Shins and Band of Horses) comes The Helio Sequence who play a similar brand of keyboard fused indie rock. Lead Singer Brandon Summers sounds comfortable singing on Hallelujah which is impressive as since the last album he suffered damage to his vocal chords preventing him from recording and performing. For his recovery program he started singing Bob Dylan songs until he got better. That influence appears to be lasting judging by the folky nature of Hallelujah’s lyrics on top of the hammering keyboards of former Modest Mouse performer, Brandon Summers. Their album is called Keep Your Eyes Ahead and is now available.
Tell Me What It's Worth
From Falling Off the Lavender Bridge available on Domino Records
Falling Off the Lavender Bridge is the first album from Lightspeed Champion, which is a production of Devonte Hynes, former Test Icicle. It's a pop song that clocks in at less than three minutes, starting with a dominant acoustic guitar that gets strummed from a short, quiet beginning into an all out guitar thrashing as part of an elongated, catchy chorus. More than just bubble pop though, this is one of those songs that sounds happier than it actually should be.
From EP1 EP available on Warp
I never knew who Mark Pritchard was, but he's been producing and remixing techy IDM over the years. Harmonic 313 is a new side project for him and under its guise he's now producing techy, break-filled IDM in a described Detroit Hip-Hop style. Not that there are any lyrics being spat on Word Problems by over-confident MCs. In fact, the only lines being dropped are from one of those late 90s Learn-To-Spell fake computer toys. And over the course of heavy, gristly basslines you will learn to spell Harmonic. Your reward will be even wobblier basslines and acidic layers being pumped from your speakers. Quite reminiscent of a Yoseph era Vibert, Word Problems comes from a solid little EP called, creatively and not ironically, EP1.
My People (Kris Menace mix)
From My People EP available on Modular
Finally we have some local talent to close off this month’s mix. My People has been out since last year and is hopefully just a taste of Apocalypso which should be a banging album to be released this year. My People works with a simple, beefy synth hook and power chords throughout that continually lead to the opportunity to yell "I'm here with all of my People" which is particularly awesome when drinking. It truly is a party song, and the Kris Menace mix clubs it up a little further by buffing up the bassline expanding it out to almost six minutes of heavy, rocking electro. Furthermore, you can order a signed copy of Apcalypso from JB Hifi right now for only .99 ready for its April release date. The Presets are also currently playing shows around Australia including any of the Laneway Festivals in late Feb/Early March or even better for Adelaide locals, see them for free at the Adelaide Fringe opening night party (with Dappled Cities Fly and I Heart Hiroshima).