i set out to update this blog at least twice a day on weekdays. i didn’t stick to that philosophy long, but i have an excuse – i’m now an intern at kexp, a gig i never thought i’d land, doing almost exactly what i do here (yelling about music). this does not mean the universe is dead, but i’m still trying to balance that with me re-enrollment in school and job hunting. i’ll return to regular posting as soon as i can. in the meantime, you can catch some of my articles at the kexp blog (hint: my name is nick, but you probably knew that. creepers).
parenthetical girls have been a quiet favorite of mine since i stumbled into one of their live performances. peculiar, awkward, and energetic, the experimental rock foursome has gone through as many different incarnations as albums. they’ve been relatively nonexistent since 2008’s entanglements, but as 2011 rolled around, untanglements, an album of rarities and alternate takes appeared on bandcamp. the album prominently feature pennington’s vocals over piano-driven tunes (though electronics and orchestral flourishes occasionally burst forth). it’s a startlingly good collection, one that proves that the girls are still indie pop’s best kept secret.
okkervil river’s particular brand of melancholy indie pop has gained them a sizable cult following, but they’ve yet to break into the mainstream. will scheff’s liberal use of literary songwriting may have been a factor, but in recent interview’s he’s stated that with the band’s forthcoming release, he aims to retreat from the cerebral and aim more towards the emotional. judging by single “mermaid,” it’s a good move – the tune tugs at the heartstrings without falling into introspective or clichéd territory. even his pained vocals sound more genuine than on the band’s fantastic (if depressing) the stage names. backed by what seems at times to be a full orchestra, piano, and choir, “mermaid” appears a proclamation of things to come. it’s not an unfamiliar sound, but lyrically it’s a welcome change from the sometimes heady songwriting of albums past.
okkervil river – i am very far is out may 10th on jagjaguwar.
the new division is exactly what their name implies – a formidable combination of joy division and new order aesthetics – without all the horrifying ways in which that could go wrong. vocals drenched in reverb beneath layers of melodic synths and mournful guitars, all while a thudding beat keeps things in motion. it’s dreamy and contemplative while still being danceable and engaging, resulting in a spiritual homage that never strays into cover band territory. this is a tribute, yes, but the new division is still markedly their own. their debut ep the rookie is a moody showcase that verges on electropop. standouts like “nocturnal” and “bucharest” prominently feature starry-eyed synths that dance and soar, while “starfield” evokes a more shoegazey aspect. it’s a through-and-through solid release, one of the best debuts in recent memory and definitely an all-star of 2011.
the new division – the rookie is available for streaming/purchase at bandcamp.
there wasn’t a band as divisive in 2009 as the pains of being pure at heart. either you immediately fell in love with their 80s pastiche or took one look at their name and let out a groan. i landed into the former category, hard, and spent the next two years listening to their self-titled debut on repeat while anxiously combing the wire for news on a follow-up. after releasing a pair of stellar 7″s (“say no to love” and “heart in your heartbreak,” respectively), the pains have finally announced their sophomore lp, belong. the title track is a mixture of crunchy yet swirling guitar riffs and the pains’ trademark twee vocals. it’s a heavier-sounding outing than their last; probably a result of producer flood (of smashing pumpkins) and mixer alan moulding (of my bloody valentine). but beneath the waves of distortion are still the unquenchable optimistic, summer vibes of yesteryear.
the pains of being pure at heart – belong is out march 15th on slumberland.
the enigmatic downtempo electronics of keep shelly in athens has captivated me for a while, and their masterful chilled-out “running out of you” is no different. it’s slow-moving, alien and ghostly, for nearly three minutes until the italo-esque breakdown that blasts it through the galaxy like a supernova. but while the original is poptastic, fellow chillwaver brothertiger’s take features dreamy arpeggios, synth stabs, and a grooving backbeat that float along beside athens’ watery vocals. the end result is something wholly different, but no less breathtaking than the original.
keep shelly in athens – in love with dusk 12″ is sold out on forest family records.
(via no fear of pop)
update: death from above 1979 are also confirmed.
it’s that time of year again: the northwest’s largest and finest – the lineup for the 2011 sasquatch! music festival, folks.
the headliners aren’t anything terribly special, but i’ve never gone to sasquatch for the headliners. the undercard is where ‘quatch impresses, year in and year out. 2011 is no different. see you there.