Alright guys, we’ve thrown around this idea in the past a lot around here, and finally it looks like it will be coming to fruition. Starting soon, we will be expanding to cover more than just indie music! In the next couple weeks, we’ll be adding a new member to the team, Moosette, who will be reviewing and discussing independent and foreign films. This will probably mainly focus on new film, but often will feature older favorites as well. Stay tuned for more information on this, as it’ll be taking shape in the next week or two.
Welcome back, guys and gals. Lots of cool stuff in the podcast this week. New music from Dum Dum Girls, Eleanor Friedberger, and Fruit Bats. Also, we discuss the bumped-up release date for Beirut’s new album, and this week in indie releases. Enjoy!
The new album from Beirut, one of independent music’s most intelligent and consistently great artists, was due to come out in late August. The Rip Tide was certainly at the very top of our long list of highly-anticipated albums to be released in the next 2-3 months. Apparently, however, we will not have to wait that long. The news was released Tuesday that it will instead be released (at least in digital format) in one week, on August 2. This move was likely made in response to an internet leak, as most release date bump-ups are. We are grateful here at theanimalscankillyou, and it will likely actually work in Beirut’s favor, as August 2 figured to be a fairly slow week in indie music. The only artist he will be competing with directly on that date is Moonface, the solo project of Wolf Parade’s Spencer Krug. Then again, he didn’t have much competition on the 30th either, so maybe that’s a wash. Either way, check in next week for a full review of The Rip Tide, which I’m sure will be a phenomenal album.
tACKY Grade: 7.2/10
2. Wait In The Dark
3. Today Is Our Life
4. Yes I Know
9. Fell Thru Ice
10. Fell Thru Ice II
11. Trance Sisters
We’ve had a slew of fantastic albums coming across our desk lately here at theanimalscankillyou. While this year has a ways to go before it catches up to the craziness that was 2010’s album release schedule, June and July have gone a long way to leveling the playing field. We had Sarah Jarosz and Bon Iver, the Rosebuds and Ladybug Transistor, Crystal Antlers and Washed Out. Last week gave us one more piece to remember, Dayve Hawk’s second release under the Memory Tapes moniker, Player Piano.
Memory Tapes (also having released under the names Memory Cassette and Weird Tapes) has been an innovator and vanguard on the indie scene for several years now. His first album as Memory Tapes, Seek Magic, was one of the earliest experiments in the late 00’s chillwave movement and remains a defining work for both that style of music and indie pop in general. The stuff he released as Memory Cassette was similarly on the cutting edge of electronic music, but not as widely renowned. Player Piano is probably his first truly anticipated album, and while it diverges quite a bit from the path his early works blazed, it is still a very good album.
There are a lot of stylistic changes here. Player Piano is less textured across the board than any of its predecessors, but more heavily layered with conventional instruments. It is also less introverted than anything Hawk has released previously, which is a little disappointing when you understand that quiet distance as having been the pivotal dimension of his sound. The fact that he has opened up, however, does not in and of itself make Player Piano a failure, but it certainly gives it an awkward feeling that makes you examine the album with a more critical eye.
When you do that, you see a number of delightful songs. “Offers” is an effervescently dancy tune, and one on which the piano and synth blend creates an odd but effective pairing. Perhaps because of its gushing lyrics or the mind-lulling pop grooves, this track absorbs the listener in its lighthearted flow and romance. And it leads perfectly into our favorite song from Player Piano. “Humming” opens with a simple, droning synth underneath a parallel female vocal part that compliments the sound perfectly, then both fade away to leave a delightfully weird electronic transition out of the intro and into a complicated concoction of upbeat hip hop-influenced percussion, piano, and layers of synthesizers. “Humming” fades and then drops out, but if you’re not paying attention you won’t even notice the shift into “Sunhits” which is a completely different kind of song, but flows perfectly out of the previous two. This time, it’s a standard pop instrumentation – electric guitar (which seems a little forced at times, but is good), synth, basic pop drumming – which is fitting because this is pretty much a standard pop song in the traditional sense, or as close as an artist like Memory Tapes has come to it.
It may lack in a couple of areas that Hawk’s other works have been brilliant in: it is not the most subtle of albums, it is not consistent or comprehensive, it severely misses the texture he is known for, it does not have a tremendous amount of structural artistry as an entire work. Above all else, however, it is a huge shift in direction from Seek Magic and previous endeavors. Player Piano feels a lot like Passion Pit’s transformation between first and second albums – like a move towards conformity, towards popular relevance and away from artistic relevance (although far less egregious than that example). There are some truly mind-blowing songs and aspects of the album, for which he should be commended, but it falls a little short of what we expected in almost every category. We still dig it, and enjoy listening to it, but don’t revel in its brilliance as we have before with Memory Tapes (or any of the other names he goes by).
tACKY Grade: 9.3/10
1. Jules’ Story
3. Summer Solstice
4. By The Sawkill
5. Two-Way Mirror
6. Way Out
7. Fortune Telling
8. Always Afraid
9. Knee Deep
11. Dog Days
In early 2009, we were introduced to Crystal Antlers by way of their first full-length LP, Tentacles. The swinging, screaming lamentation of their first single “Andrew” extending to the indie rock world a refreshing and unexampled branch, provided a perspective on rock-and-roll that we hadn’t seen in a long time, if ever. It was bluesy, distorted, torrid, and in constant flux, but incredibly gratifying in every way. Even after dozens of plays, you could always find something new you loved about the song. The drums had a liveliness to them that was unparallelled. The guitars screeched along with the drums, emphasizing every rhythmic intricacy and bringing their song to life. The backing organ that only rose to the forefront in the key interchanges of the song was dazzling, wrapping you up in its welcoming arms. And the lead vocals and lyrics, above all else, endeared these Long Beach rockers to droves of indie fans.
The album itself was far less in touch with its pop consciousness: more experimental, louder and more raucous at times, abstract and entrenched in eccentricity at others. Tentacles was all over the place, and left many listeners brought in by “Andrew” wondering what the hell they had stumbled upon and a little put off by its striking contrast to the single, but left others captivated by its imagination and wonder, enthralled by its theory and execution of concept. Either way, no matter what you made of their first album, you wondered what you could possibly expect from its follow-up.
What we got was in part a continuation – deep and layered and often drowned in pure volume but artistically a step above anyone else. The differences and changes made between Tentacles and Crystal Antlers’ second full-length, Two-Way Mirror, are subtle and indistinct on the first listen. The most overt difference is the stepping back of the organs that played such a critical role in the sonic makeup of the first album. There are still a few tracks, like “Séance” that strongly feature the organ, but not in the same garage rock revival style as before. They were largely replaced by piano and synth, almost entirely relegated to a backing role, but a understatedly important one in the development of the depth and overall sonic landscape of the album. Where the organ was at times the central force behind Tentacles, this new work is driven far more heavily by guitar and Jonny Bell’s unmistakably bold vocals.
“Jules’ Story” kicks off the new album with a percussive flurry. Bell’s lyrical prowess is immediately on display with a violent and yet passionate fury that would rival that of any old school At The Drive-In tune. Something about his voice makes the words even more potent than they are on their own. The second verse, in particular, demonstrates this as he sings,
“Pray for signs from somewhere else
Where eyes still see the truth
Behind dead criminals.
Cast a cloud of a fake account.
Lights went out with an ounce of clout.
Lies were spread/fires fed.
We’re all misled/kids still dead.
Fell in love with the gun,
And it shot my son.
Fell in love with the gun,
He was 21.
Who was touched by the hand of the grace of god,
Who was touched by the hand of the chosen one.”
Much of the album continues in this style: fast-paced, high-energy, and drenched in layers of loudness. There are a few more shaded tracks like the piano-heavy “Summer Solstice”, and the 1:42 instrumental track “Way Out” that features a wailing organ over static-laden guitars and soft underlying percussion that feels both out of place and yet perfectly complimentary. That, as well as a few other tracks, are far more experimental than many of their post-punk/garage rock contemporaries tend to get into. Our favorite track is somewhere in between their experimental and straightforward sides. “Knee Deep” is a quick (2:24) blend of swinging blues, refined and yet openly raw guitar work, driving piano, and simple drumming. On an album that features great song after great song, each in its own unique way, it is difficult to pick a favorite track but this would probably be the one. The closer, “Dog Days” would probably be another – a fun bringing-together of a lot of the sounds they attempt on Two-Way Mirror that seems like it will be perfect material for their live show for years to come.
Overall, this is a brilliant album. It is a collection of great tracks, but pieced together and ordered perfectly. There is a lot to take in from it, and we still learn something new every time we delve in. It’s great for nearly every listening situation – sitting in your room on a rainy day and cranking the stereo, road trips, walking up the street with your headphones on, and everything else in between. You can lose yourself in it easily and immediately, and come out of the haze it encompasses you in feeling like something just knocked the wind out of you. It meets the artistry of many of the indie post-punk bands, like No Age, with an unrivaled energy and intensity that is all their own. Love everything about this album, and even though Washed Out just set the bar for indie albums in 2011, this leaped psat that mark and set a new one. Instant classic? Must buy? Album of the year contender? Emphatically, yes to all of those. This is about as perfect an album as you’ll find, and continues Crystal Antlers’ legacy of crafting a genre of their own.
Hey guys, welcome back to theanimalscankillyou. Today we’re taking a big new step for the site, as we’re going to start podcasting! This week we’re going to discuss and play music from Washed Out, Vetiver, Ladybug Transistor, and more. Also, we’ll take a look ahead at next week’s live music schedule in the Triangle and also next week’s album release schedule. Click here to listen, or add our feed in iTunes for it to automagically load all our new podcasts. And, as always, be sure to “Like” us on Facebook to keep up with all the new content and changes being made to the site (we’ve added a handy little link at the bottom of the page to direct you to our FB page).
Loud Planes Fly Low
tACKY Grade: 7.7/10
1. Go Ahead
2. Limitless Arms
3. Second Bird of Paradise
4. Come Visit Me
5. Without a Focus
6. Waiting for You
8. A Story
9. Cover Ears
Upon hearing the news a couple months ago that we were to get another entry from Raleigh’s own the Rosebuds, to say our interest was piqued would have been an understatement. Certainly, our expectations were not the highest after the last couple albums. Night of the Furies was a let-down in nearly every sense – inconsistent and waffling between dark bass-centric indie rock and synth-driven electropop. It was a complete shift in style, conforming to the dance pop/indie rock movement, that was entirely unnecessary. This dance pop tangent was frustrating, tiresome, and bland – an utter disappointment from a band that was always flavorful and stood alone as the most defined and unique of all the indie rockers arising from the Triangle area in the mid 00’s. Not only was it not a good style for them, but it felt like they should have stayed away from the idea altogether, as they certainly were not the first one to that party, nor were they good enough at it to do justice to either themselves or the genre.
Life Like similarly felt unimaginative at times and, while more mature and a small step in the right direction, was merely almost good enough to make you forget how far they had strayed in an obvious attempt to pander to the popular scene. Both albums garnered huge critical acclaim and massive national fandom, but forced long-time fans of the band to question whether they would ever again see the Rosebuds as they were in the back room of the old Kings Barcade on McDowell Street. This month’s Loud Planes Fly Low goes a long way to answering those questions.
The newest work from Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp is in much of the same mold as their last album, sonically, but carried out with much more lyrical thought and compositional care. If you had to define it as a blend of two of their previous albums it would be the dark sound of Life Like combined with the confidence and intelligence of Birds Make Good Neighbors, which still stands (in our eyes) as their best album to date.
The album opens with “Go Ahead”, a doleful reminiscence of what once was a quietly perfect relationship, and ultimately the dreaded end of it all. Howard sings of the small activities that kept them entertained, like coffee-drinking and people-watching. He sings of the overriding feelings of ecstasy and love that the relationship was built on, as in the opening lines
“Go ahead and be my world
And everything will be okay.
Just hide there in plain sight,
Too big to see, yeah to see.”
He sings of the things they did for (and with) one another, like the symbolic planting of a forest to provide cover and an escape when the civilized world rejects them or gives up on them. This is an image strikingly evocative of the language and ideals of “Boxcar” or any number of songs from Birds Make Good Neighbors. He then transitions smoothly into discussing the end of the couple, where the two throw all their clothes out, and looks hopefully towards a future date that they can come back to the lake and find the waves had washed up all of the dresses on the shore. This is a great symbol, the two throwing out all their emotions to the open world, perhaps never to find them again, and he doesn’t seem to care if his ever get found again, but only that hers will get pulled together by nature or random chance or whatever force it takes.
“Let’s go ahead and grab our clothes,
And walk together where the water knows us.
And toss them over the edge
Into the lake and watch them sink.
Let’s make a pact, set a date,
Meet back up here at this same place,
And maybe brim will make beds in your dresses.
In your dresses, in your dresses.”
“Go Ahead” also introduces a compositional and vocal theme that runs through the rest of the album, a sort of sighing or shrugging nature, especially at the end of phrases and verses. This is audible on “Waiting For You”, “Without a Focus”, and every other track. The only song that has a little more vocal force is “Woods”. All of the songs deal with the end of a relationship, which makes plenty of sense as Howard and Crisp’s relationship has played an integral role in the content of their music from a very early point in the band’s history and as this is the first album they’ve released since the end of their marriage. It is quite an interesting way to address such a personal matter, publicly and together airing their emotions and the things that they have witnessed.
Musically, the divorce has not driven them apart – the vocal harmonies and direction of the music is on point as ever. The only part it plays, other than in lyrical subject, is in the mood of the album, which is almost entirely somber and suppressed, like a stifled cry from someone who wakes up in the middle of the night forgetting they’ve lost their love and and reaches for a hand to grasp, only to be reminded of their loneliness by the vacant space beside them. It is similar in this regard to the Mountain Goats’ Get Lonely.
Loud Planes Fly Low isn’t an album that shakes up their discography or takes their standing to new heights or even distinguishes them as a great band, at least not to the level that they have already done with previous releases. It is, however, a reaffirmation of their ability to put out a consistent album and one that you can enjoy without being taken out of the moment by forced stylistic changes or mediocre lyrics, as was so often the case with the last two works we’ve seen from the Rosebuds. If you liked Birds Make Good Neighbors, then you will probably enjoy this one. Its mood and subject matter is completely different, but some of the imagery and musical ideas conveyed are similar. Definitely give it a try, no matter what you think of the Rosebuds. It’s worth at least hearing a few times, and (for us, at least) is really a very enjoyable album that we’ll come back to more often than anything they’ve done in the last few years. I’d call it a very good, thoroughly consistent work; perhaps it isn’t great but in light of what they’ve done recently and what this could have been, it’s quite exciting just to have another very good one from these guys.
Within and Without
tACKY Grade: 8.5/10
1. Eyes Be Closed
3. Amor Fati
5. Far Away
7. You and I
8. Within and Without
9. A Dedication
Independent music, over the years, has been responsible for many different movements and innovations in the music industry. It has advanced our understanding of punk rock, brought life and color to folk music, and stripped electropop of its enormous amount of cheesiness and infused it with intellect, but most importantly has introduced us to all sorts of amazing blends of genres and ideas that would otherwise not have been available, all by way of exposing to the listener bands that are not hindered by the necessity to pander to the almighty dollar, but contrarily can master their talents and revel in obscurity, crafting a sound that is perfectly conceived and wholly theirs. Sometimes, these bands forge new genres, or revolutionize a tried genre to such a radical level that it may as well be brand new.
This is the case with Washed Out, who from his bedroom studio took the blossoming genre of chillwave to all new heights. Ernest Greene’s self-produced EPs and Myspace-released material invigorated the uber-intelligent underbelly of the indie pop world with its subtety, ecstasy, and artfulness that his predecessors had hinted at or displayed in small part but not perfected or extensively explored. This, coupled with the simplicity and minimalism of his stage act, endeared Washed Out to music bloggers everywhere and hordes of fans seeking something new and something brilliant. Even without a full-length album, Washed Out almost instantly became the most recognized name in chillwave music, perhaps in part because of his perfectly appropriate band name, but mostly due to his talent and uniqueness.
All too often, bands in this mold become stale by trying to recapture their initial success, or even worse try to break that stereotype by quickly shifting away from their sound and trying to become something they are not and are not good at. Within and Without suffers neither of those tragic failures, but gracefully walks the tightrope that so many other bands readily jump off of. With his newest album, Washed Out manages to advance his original sound without either growing stagnant or changing so many aspects of his brilliance that he becomes an altogether new artist. It is more full, sonically, that his early works and more confidently written, but retains its artsy yet dancy nature in every way. Lyrically, Within and Without is not far superior to Life of Leisure, but its slight superiority in that aspect is clear to see. The beats are still rooted (perhaps more heavily so) in hip-hop, but more inventive and more unpredictable. The interwoven sampling on tracks like “Before” is ingenious, as intricate and involved as it is simple and uncomplicated. It is a little quieter and more removed at times, but this is what I expect he would say he was attempting to accomplish with prior releases.
There are no tracks that stand out from the rest, only because each is phenomenal in its own way but also interlaced into the fabric of the album as a whole. Whereas Life of Leisure and the tour EP and his other small releases were punctuated by tracks like “Feel it All Around” that leaped through the speakers more so than others, every track on Within and Without has a sort of equality in that regard. Sure, tracks like “Amor Fati” and the first single and opening track “Eyes Be Closed” are certain hits and widely talked-about, but they aren’t far removed from the other songs or the feel of the album. Each one settles in, makes its home in your headphones, and sends your mind lilting and spinning through a maze of simultaneous color and colorlessness. It’s a bit like seeing the Northern lights while tripping acid on a frozen lake; at any moment, there is brilliance and flavor and spirit flying in every direction, but at the same time you are well aware of the dull and dreary natural world surrounding you, and the two feelings juxtapose themselves in your eyes to create a harmonious equilibrium.
Altogether, you have to say this is Washed Out’s best work to date, and all the more remarkable for that fact. It’s incredibly difficult, it seems, for electropop (see: Passion Pit) or chillwave (see: Toro y Moi) bands to recapture their genius in their second major release, whether because they are trying to reach new audiences or change their make-up for the sake of changing or trying the same thing without growing and advancing. But Washed Out takes a mature step, a step in the same direction he has been walking since his arrival. Within and Without is a mark of progression, development, and improvement in his career, and a statement that Washed Out is far from a one-hit wonder but rather an artist that will continue to march on as the advance guard in cutting edge music for (we hope) years to come. Moreover, it is – on its own musical merits – a great album, perhaps the best we’ve seen all year. It is perfect for headphones, but just as perfect thumping through car speakers while you drive downtown in the middle of the night. It is a must-buy for every indie fan, and ought to make for great live material.
tACKY Grade: 7.9/10
Alright guys, we’ve been on summer vacation during the musical void that is the end of June and beginning of July. There has been little to talk about, and when that’s the case we prefer not to say anything at all. The dead of summer is over, however, and things are picking up pace once again, so we’re back. We’ve got a lot coming up in the indie world, and we’ll get to all of that soon enough. Today, though, we’re talking EDM. For those of you unfamiliar with EDM, they may be more recognizable as Early Day Miners, a slightly off-the-radar post rock band from Indiana that have been consistently putting out quality records for more than 10 years now and this Tuesday give us Night People, a lively new album that we here at tACKY have been pouring over. It’s really quite a listen, whether you’re a long-time fan of the band or this is the first you’ve heard of them.
Night People comes off more engaging and energetic than some of their earlier work, but still distinctively cool in a very stereotypically Early Day Miners way. It does diverge a bit from their early slowcore or shoegaze roots, much more in touch with their recent history in post-rock. There are more moving parts here, more intricate composition throughout ever facet of the album, rather than just certain aspects being phenomenally thought-through. The drums are a little faster (at least most of the time) than old fans may be used to, but that gives their sound an extra infusion of power and warmth that it probably didn’t need but is a welcome adjustment. The turning up of the percussion balances perfectly with the decentralized guitar that still rages, but more often in the background than in the face of the listener. All in all, this balance and the overall approach comes across as deliberate and incredibly mature.
There are a lot of current and recent bands that EDM will remind you of, throughout Night People and other albums. This is not to say that they have taken the sound of those bands, but the exact opposite – they are among a number of bands that in the last 10, 15 years can be accredited with re-imagining the post-rock sound and carving out their own path within the genre. I’d be willing to bet that any band you think they sound like from recent memory – whether it’s White Lies, Interpol, Foals, or anyone else – would cite EDM as a contemporary influence, someone that they have appreciated for the trail they blazed.
Now, some of the highlights of Night People. The first single (“Stereo/Video”), which we have for you to listen to, has a little bit of a throwback new wave feel that melts in perfectly with their post rock sound.. It is romantic, gushing with several vivid emotions – love, distrust, longing, wishing for the ability to forget – and yet is delivered in such a cold, mechanical manner that really demonstrates what the song is attempting to convey: the depth of emptiness and the chill of loneliness.
Another track that caught our eye (or more appropriately, ear) is the fourth song, “How to Fall”. It begins in a somewhat minimalist style, the acoustic guitar and suppressed percussion mingling perfectly with the soft but brilliantly harmonizing duet vocals. It builds slowly (as is so post-rock typical) into a passionate, heart-wrenching ballad, with long, vulnerable, moving guitar lines and aching, yearning vocals. The bass guitar is also quite complex in a way that isn’t noticeable right away as it seems simple enough at first glance, but after a few listens you can hear how elusively involved and complicated it really is. This song is conceptually magnificent, but is more notable for its perfect execution of that concept. And then you have the complete opposite of “How to Fall”, “Terrestrial Rooms”. A thundering bass matches the powerful staccato gallop of the rhythm guitar, all while the lead guitar wails away, burning its own course but somehow perfectly in line with the rest of the song. The only similarity you can draw between the two tracks is that both carry out their idea cleanly and exactly, and to the end effect of creating great listening material.
The one other real treasure from this album that is chock-full of great tunes is the last track, “Turncoats”. It is oddly reminiscent of some of the old Sarah Records bands like Northern Picture Library, Orchids, Secret Shine, and Aberdeen, all of which are huge tACKY favorites. “Turncoats” seems suppressed in just about every aspect, save spirit and emotion. The female lead voice is perfect for the feeling of the twee-pop genre, even though it’s not the genre they typically play in. Quite an odd ending for a post-rock album, but somehow perfect for this eclectic album.
All in all, we really dig Night People. It’s a little unfocused in its sound, jumping from post-rock into all sorts of off-chutes, but it does so with such confidence and brimming emotion and talent that it all fits really well together into one nice package. Even after dozens of listens, this album does not bore or become in any way less enthralling. Every time you come back to it, you find something new to like about it. Especially at this time of the year when there are very few noteworthy releases, it’s wonderful to stumble upon something so constantly fresh. We’ll be listening to Night People as we have everything from EDM – a lot, and for a long time. Definitely worth checking out.
The doldrums of summer have passed now, and we’re jumping right back in this week with tons of new albums. And as is usually the case with a slew of new albums, they bring with them promotional tours, which means lots of live music in the near future. We’ve got a few early-summer albums still queued up for review, most notably the new Rosebuds album that we are in love with, and have been waiting to review only because we’ve been wanting to really do it justice. That’ll be up this week. As for the rest of the summer, there is a plethora of juicy new material on deck, all of which we are incredibly excited to get to in the coming months. New stuff from Crystal Antlers, Memory Tapes, Ganglians, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Beirut, Blitzen Trapper, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Dum Dum Girls, St. Vincent, and Wico (among others) are all on the schedule, and that’s just through September! Needless to say, we’ve got an exciting couple of months ahead and are jacked up to get into all of it. Keep checking back for new posts all the time, and as always let us know if there’s something we should be listening to but have missed out on.