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The 15 Best Tracks of 2015 January 3, 2016

Posted by gwyoung in Lists, Music, Track Reviews.
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Beirut – “No No No”

Björk – “Stonemilker”

Domenique Dumont – “L’Esprit de L’Escalier”

Earthly – “Ice Cream”

Here We Go Magic – “Falling”

Hop Along – “Waitress”

Joanna Newsom – “Anecdotes”

Mew – “Witness”

My Morning Jacket – “Like a River”

Panda Bear – “Boys Latin”

Purity Ring – “Bodyache”

Rick Alvin – “Fuck It”

The Tallest Man on Earth – “Sagres”

Viet Cong – “Newspaper Spoons”

Dodos – “Precipitation”


Some good songs from 2013 December 19, 2013

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15 of them, to be exact. Check below for links to streams and videos.

The Knife – “A Tooth for an Eye”
Pregnant – “Did I Not Love You?”
Young Galaxy – “Fall For You”
Sam Hamilton – “fuck shit up”
Memory Tapes – “Green Window”
The Snails – “Haters Be Learners”
Burial – “Hiders”
Youth Lagoon – “Mute”
Small Black – “No Stranger”
Arcade Fire – “Porno”
Co La – “Remarkable Features”
James Blake – “Take a Fall For Me”
Four Tet – “Unicorn”
FKA twigs – “Water Me”
Grizzly Bear – “Will Calls”

The Top 20 Musical Releases of 2012 December 19, 2012

Posted by gwyoung in Album Reviews, Lists, Music, Track Reviews.
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This being the fourth year that I’ve posted year-end lists to safer in the dark, I’ve tried really hard to learn from my past failures and absurdities and aimed to cut the fat and focus on what’s really important when designing this one. My first few lists were focused on exposing readers to albums they might not have heard about, either on this site or others, while ignoring the more important albums that readers had probably heard enough about as it was. This was great in concept, but unfortunately I often found myself making and distributing a second, “real” list that included the big releases of that year that usually took up some of the more sought-after slots. Though I remedied that with a more definitive composition last year, I still divided the releases by type (album, EP, single) and included way too many on each list, diminishing the relevance of each particular choice that I made just because I was having trouble narrowing it all down. This time around, I’ve made just one list (besides the album art and overlooked/underrated which I’ve already posted, because those are just fun for me) of all releases (LPs, EPs, reissues, and even 7”s and singles) that will accurately describe my year in music, and I’ve limited it to (mostly) 20. The reasons for doing this are a) music comes in all shapes and sizes, some songs are as long as a whole album, some EPs are longer than LPs, and a reissue is just as much a part of a year as a new album is, so why shouldn’t they be stacked up against each other? b) is there really a difference between something that’s ranked 32 versus something ranked 33? and c) who even cares anyway? Begin:



Grace / ConfusionMemory Tapes – Grace / Confusion

By the time Grace / Confusion came out in early December of this year, I had already painstakingly assembled my top 20 from a list of about 100 potential releases that I had been amassing throughout 2012. After last year’s Player Piano and 2009’s Seek Magic, I had assumed that Dayve Hawk’s latest work under the Memory Tapes moniker would be similarly good but not great, and that there was little to no chance of me needing to save a space for it. The last few minutes of opener “Neighborhood Watch”, however, led me to reconsider, and by the end of this glorious mess of an album I was forced to concede that it is entirely deserving. Though I probably should’ve shuffled the rest of the entries around and reduced the list back to its declared length, the fictional 21st slot seems appropriate for this surprising album that will continue to mystify.



When We Were Eating Unripe PearsBee Mask – When We Were Eating Unripe Pears

You know an album is good when it invites you to revisit your feelings about an entire sub-genre. There’ve been a lot of electronic musicians making a new kind of abstract ambient music – the kind that constructs an otherworldly space from bizarre patterns, rhythms, and synthesized tones. Among the more popular of these artists include Oneohtrix Point Never, Actress, Rene Hell, and perhaps Laurel Halo, but the album that finally pushed me over into this strange world of left-field composers was Bee Mask’s When We Were Eating Unripe Pears. I won’t spoil any of the surprises (as the album’s excitement stems from its unnervingly dynamic movement through various facets of the paradoxically familiar unknown) but I will say that it’s a musical experience worthy of anyone reading this list, and definitely one of the most interesting of my 2012.



Five SecondsTwin Shadow – “Five Seconds”

It’s no coincidence that the album art for Twin Shadow’s best single is a nighttime view of the open road and its video features George Lewis Jr. on a motorcycle: “Five Seconds” calls to mind all the best one-hit wonders of cheesy ‘80s synth-rock without directly copying any particular one, and its similar propulsive qualities make it just as good as any to jam to during a night highway drive. The track takes a sound deeply nostalgic from my youth (it wouldn’t feel so out of place blasting out of the car stereo on one of my family’s road trips) and thrusts it into an entirely new and modern context, and the results show just go to show how great that combination can be.



GossamerPassion Pit – Gossamer

Any discussion of Passion Pit must involve the inherent contradiction between Michael Angelakos’ sad, sad life (as expressed through his lyrics and manic falsetto) and the peppy, upbeat, and fun music that supports it. It’s not so easy to ignore the words when they’re coming right out of your mouth as you sing along in the shower or while driving, and chances are (if you’re sane and not an emo high school student) you may disagree with his claims (such as the one about love being greed). But there’s no denying that this power-pop is extremely powerful, whether it be through its sheer infectious qualities or as a result of this intriguing contradiction, and, given all the incredible songs packed onto this disc, there’s no denying its place as one of the albums that will be remembered long past 2012 (even if it sounds a little bit Disney).



ghost toastyyu – ghost toast

ghost toast is about meandering, moaning, floating, wandering, whining, wailing, getting stuck, getting unstuck, popping, clicking, whirring, and other things that ghosts might do, or that toast might do. yyu makes the kind of music I wish I could make: it seems so easy to just throw a bunch of samples, piano chords, guitar plucks, and distorted vocals together and produce something like this, but his curious vision and sense for delicate placement infuse this EP with a stirring sense of emotion that make the music much more than the sum of its parts.



The Palace GardenBeat Connection – The Palace Garden

Beat Connection’s debut EP, Surf Noir,  was one of my favorites from 2010, mostly due to the shimmering and liquid qualities of the aptly-titled “In The Water” and the “chillwave” haze of “Sunburn” and “Silver Screen”. Like other contemporaries (and critics, for that matter), Beat Connection have abandoned the chillwave aesthetic in favor of something more… icy. The Palace Garden as a whole seems more crystalline, pairing elegant and emotive vocals (especially on the outstanding “Think/Feel” featuring Chelsey Scheffe) with frosty synth stabs and intricately jangling chimes. That being said, tracks like the title track and “Saola” showcase the same kind of warmth felt throughout Surf Noir, both through the use of shining brass and vocalist Tom Eddy’s increased presence. Though Beat Connection’s palace may be frozen over, its garden is cozy and comforting, and together they deliver on the promise of The Palace Garden’s predecessor.



Centipede HzAnimal Collective – Centipede Hz

Animal Collective fans tend to rave about each new album as if it’s their absolute best, so it was shocking to many to find that their latest, Centipede Hz, is just not as jaw-droppingly good as the rest of their releases. Fans (and critics) raged that the album was a huge disappointment, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad album: in fact, Centipede Hz is an aggressive and powerful mind-fuck of a record both sonically and conceptually. It’s just not as groundbreaking as, say, Feels or Strawberry Jam were, and so doesn’t quite meet the ridiculously high standards the band has established for itself. But that’s ok, since a not-their-best album from Animal Collective is still leaps and bounds ahead of most great albums by any other band, at least in my biased opinion, and thus Centipede Hz deserves so much more than to be forgotten at the year’s end.



Simple SongThe Shins – “Simple Song”

I’ll admit, I was nervous about hearing a new Shins album in 2012, five years after their stellar Wincing The Night Away and four years after James Mercer fired the rest of his band (forcing them to earn their living working taco stands instead) and replaced them with new musicians who could play the more complex pieces he was composing. Because musical trends change so much more rapidly in this internet age, it’s always interesting to see how an old favorite releasing a new album will fare against the popular styles. “Simple Song”, the first single off of Mercer’s comeback album, Port of Morrow, not only eased my anxiety but stunned me in a way that not even Wincing The Night Away could have back in 2007. Though “simple” in its traditional verse-chorus structure, “Simple Song” is actually a complexly layered space-pop-infused folk-rock gem, complete with powerful guitar chords, synth noodling, and a rollickingly propulsive drumbeat. Though the rest of the album wasn’t quite up-to-snuff with the expectations set by its first single, “Simple Song” is strong enough on its own to stand up as the Shins’ glorious comeback.



Two Airships Exploder FallsCandy Claws – “Two Airships” b/w “Exploder Falls” (reissue)

Reissues are just as much a part of the listening experience over the course of a year as new releases are, especially when the album had either dropped off the indiesphere’s radar or was never popular to begin with. A lot of my 2012 has been spent taking advantage of a timely reissue to discover albums that may be old but were new to me, such as Paul MCartney’s Ram, William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops, and this, Candy Claws’ first single featuring “Two Airships” and b-side “Exploder Falls”. A stunning precursor to In The Dream Of The Sea Life, this “single” contains two lengthy, instrumental jams that are just as bombastic and blown-out as their titles suggest. Though each is 12+ minutes in length and doesn’t feature either of the gorgeous voices typical of the experimental pop duo’s work, the tracks are thoroughly dynamic and consistently intriguing. Though one could potentially draw comparisons to noisy contemporaries such as Black Dice or Fuck Buttons, I really haven’t heard anything quite like this before, and I’m grateful that this year’s reissue introduced me to this diamond that might’ve forever remained in the rough.



The Idler WheelFiona Apple – The Idler Wheel is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do

As evidenced by a lot of this list so far, my musical tastes have been delving deeper into the world of the abstract and electronic as of late. Every once in awhile, though, I feel like I need a more tangible record, comprised of real instruments and actual “songs”, to keep me from plummeting to the lowest depths. This year’s rope was Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel…, a stunning collection of ramshackle folk melodies and powerful piano balladry. Apple’s lyrical angst is universal: we can all feel and relate to both the pain and joy embodied by the songs on The Idler Wheel…, and the album as a whole is so personable and intimate that its not a real surprise that its dominating the onslaught of year-end lists, regardless of the musical taste or persuasion of their respective list-makers.



Wait South CongressAirhead – “Wait” b/w “South Congress”

Airhead’s “Wait” could technically be classified as a remix of “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, but in the hands of this extremely talented producer the brief samples of that ever-so-infectious chorus are transformed into something with an entirely different feeling from the original. “Wait” is both nostalgic and contemplative, seamlessly flowing from acoustic strumming to the sounds of nature, skipping playfully along the boundary between found-sound collage pieces and traditional electronic music. “South Congress” is its polar opposite: a peppy, blippy, shiny piece of production magic that doesn’t feel pressured to weave in a notable sample, instead focusing on a repeated melody of synthetic chimes. Together, they show just how much an electronic musician can accomplish in the confined space of a 7” and make for a pleasantly unexpected pairing of abstract electro-acoustics.



LotsDan Deacon – “Lots”

Eschewing his defining chipmunk chiptunes that first broke onto the scene with 2007’s Spiderman of the Rings, Dan Deacon crafted an album for our nation that was really more like an exercise in control. Reigning in his overly ambitious and at times bloated compositions from 2009’s Bromst, Deacon’s focus shifted toward the twinkling landscapes and anthemic rock & roll that define his America. “Lots”, an extremely surprising sidestep for a Dan Deacon single, reminds me of the music I listened to in high school: it’s a thrashing, sweeping, and guttural sing-along for the ages, and it totally rocks.



A Different ShipHere We Go Magic – A Different Ship

I mentioned in my lengthy review of A Different Ship that it felt like an instant classic, though I mostly cited its Talking Heads and Paul Simon influences as the basis for this claim. I feel the same way now, half a year later, but for different reasons: there’s something really comforting about Here We Go Magic’s latest effort that makes you want to listen to it again and again. There’s a human warmth that pervades these songs, whether it be in the soft and bright guitar strums of “Hard to Be Close”, the sighing background vocals in “Over the Ocean”, or the fluid energy of movement in “Make Up Your Mind” and “I Believe in Action”. The album has a life force, with blood flowing through its limbs giving the music space to breathe deeply and relax into their forms. Though a lot of hard work and tough production decisions went into the making of the album, this natural quality makes A Different Ship seem effortless, allowing the listener to transcend from the typical listening state into a closer emotional engagement. Here We Go Magic have significantly matured with this release, and we can only hope that this ripening will produce even more delicious fruit going forward.



Swing Lo MagellanDirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

I’ll admit, Swing Lo Magellan’s rambling, meandering, folksy nature was a bit off-putting at first, especially when compared with the grand and precise vision behind 2009’s Bitte Orca, but even if the sequencing was a bit off, the tracks themselves stood on their own as great examples of experimental outsider pop done right. Swing Lo Magellan is an experiment with texture, as each track forms and dissolves around erratic patterns of unexpected electronic tones or acoustic noodling, and almost all of these repeated trials turned out to be a huge success in the long-term. From the anxious vocal buildup of “Gun Has No Trigger” to the stuttering twinkle behind Amber Coffman’s stunning voice in “The Socialites” to the elastic guitar that forms the backbone of “See What She Seeing”, the album feels like a childlike wonderland of curious structures and places to explore. The directness of the lyrical content reinforces this lullaby-like aspect, and though the album sometimes tries to stand up too quickly and falls back into a crawl, on the whole it shows a new direction of growth for this band that just gets more intriguing and nuanced with every release.



Yet AgainGrizzly Bear – “Yet Again”

Though the haunted beauty of Yellow House will always be my favorite Grizzly Bear sound, there’s no denying that the band has a knack for writing melodies. “Yet Again” has possibly the best chorus of any Grizzly Bear song thus far, and ever since I let it sink into my brain with the first few hesitant listens, I’ve found myself singing the tune both in my head and aloud while walking down the street, driving home from work, or even asleep in my bed. Shields is pretty magnificent on the whole, but “Yet Again” is the real reason I keep returning to it, and If I had to pick one individual song that defined my 2012 (which I did for Stereogum’s Gummy Awards) I would be left with no other options.



Choose The LightMi-Gu – Choose the Light

Choose the Light collects the best tracks from part-time Cornelius backing band Mi-Gu’s career thus far, giving a stateside release for some incredible music that was previously only available as expensive imports. Though it’s a compilation in concept, the album flows beautifully from jagged female-fronted guitar rock to poetic and pensive musings and back again, taking many detours and pit stops in various musical genres and bizarre ideas along the way, ranging from the orchestral bombast of “Oshiro” to the existential contemplations of “Floating” to the ecstatic boogie of closer “From Space”. Choose the Light is weird and ethereal and powerful, and it makes for a great introduction to another excellent Japanese experimental rock outfit that is sure to be climbing the ranks with releases to come.



ProphetRamona Falls – Prophet

It seems as if Menomena just aren’t the same without Brent Knopf’s musical ADD-influence. Though their fourth record, Moms, was entirely decent (in fact, “Capsule” was one of my favorite individual tracks of 2012), it was missing Brent’s pop sensibilities (and charming vocals) as a key ingredient to balance the aggression and heaviness of the other two musicians that made up the now-fragmented trio. It definitely says something that Moms isn’t on this list and Brent Knopf’s solo project’s latest output, Prophet, sits at #5, and while it’s still too soon to write off Menomena entirely in favor of Ramona Falls, it certainly makes me wonder to what heights the fully united band could have soared in 2012 had they collaborated instead.



ConveyorConveyor – Conveyor

Conveyor’s self-titled debut is at times annoyingly contrived (see the intro to “Mane”) or lyrically shallow (see “Short Hair”), many of the tracks seem almost direct rip-offs of similar contemporaries (see “Two Davids” and Animal Collective or “Mom Talk” and West Side Story), and others are just plain boring (see “Mukraker”). The fact that the album still made it to #4 on my list, despite all of these evident flaws, just goes to show how truly unique and original this band really is. Conveyor’s willingness to try a whole slew of new approaches to song structure and lyric without being afraid to fail along the way, all the while constructing a thoroughly exciting and cohesive album, make them one of the most promising new bands of 2012, and I can’t wait to see where they go next.



AC_7in Innersleeve TLorSL_wHolesAnimal Collective – “Honeycomb” b/w “Gotham”

Animal Collective pulled a Beatles this year when they released the stand-alone single “Honeycomb” with its b-side “Gotham”, neither of which appeared on the full-length that followed but both of which can be counted among the band’s best efforts. These two tracks are not merely outtakes from the Centipede Hz recording sessions: together they form the perfect distillation of Animal Collective’s musical trajectory over the past 10 years, showcasing the band’s exquisite attention to detail and layering, masterful balladry, and bizarre creativity in the selection and arrangement of samples. Though Centipede Hz came around a few months after, this 7” is the more accurate depiction of Animal Collective’s post-Merriweather Post Pavilion triumph, reminding us all that, even though they are prone to change their style, we can always count on them to deliver something both shockingly innovative and ecstatic to the ears.



Beak & Claws / s / s – Beak & Claw

After touring The Age of Adz and playing “Impossible Soul” dressed as a disco-ball rocket ship while surrounded by “wacky inflatable arm-flailing tubemen”, Sufjan Stevens let both his creative genius and increasingly troubled psychosis overflow into various other unexpected projects, most of which involved extensive use of the increasingly polarizing auto-tune. Beak & Claw is the best and most underrated of these: a collaboration with rapper Serengeti and like-minded maximalist electronic soundscapist Son Lux that spans four ingenious pieces ranging thematically from a school field trip to marrying the Octomom and musically from spoken-word to dubstep to the jaw harp. Beak & Claw is all over the place in the best way possible, and it serves as a true testament to the talents of the three disparate artists involved that they were able to tie all of their grand, chaotic ideas into a neatly-packaged, 16-minute bundle of pop perfection.



Breakup SongDeerhoof – Breakup Song

“When you say it’s all over
When you say it’s all over
Oh yeahhhhh
Oh yeahhhhh”

The perfect album for the would-be apocalypse of 2012. Well done, Deerhoof. In a year full of let-downs, missteps, and mixed bags, you’ve delivered a cohesive and consistent album of canon-defining material, 11+ albums into your career. Keep on truckin’.




Bish BoschScott Walker – Bish Bosch

Assigning a usual ranking to Scott Walker’s latest felt like an act against God, but 0, the void, is almost perfect for it: Bish Bosch is like a black hole, sucking all music and art, along with all of its criticism, inside of it and completely obliterating everything that stands in its way, similarly to how 0 obliterates any number it is multiplied into. Additionally, everything that decays approaches 0, and with Bish Bosch it is all too clear that Scott Walker is decaying. The album is both musically and thematically dark: the lyrics feature vignettes concerning the beheading of dictators and more grotesque forms of disease and plague than Crystal Castles could ever use as song titles while the textures included in the immersive and profoundly silent landscape include scraping machetes, the sound of slabs of meat being beat against the ground, and one of the two “tubaxes” (a combination of the tuba and saxophone) in the country. As the tinymixtapes review pointed out, Scott’s baroque delivery occasionally feels like the lunatic ramblings of a psychotic old man, and the casual references to excrement, the oft-archaic vocabulary, and the cliched insults such as “If music were shit you’d be a brass band!” and “Does your face hurt? Because it’s killing me!” only further extend the comparison. Bish Bosch is a swirling vortex of avant-garde motives and musical ideas that is unparalleled by anything else released this year (except maybe Swans’ The Seer, though my listening experience with that was not nearly as pleasant nor intriguing due to the dizziness and nausea that ensued), and forcing a comparison by placing it somewhere in the center of this list of natural numbers is an absurdity I’m not willing to bear.



75475TemplateWilliam Basinski – The Disintegration Loops (box set of reissues)

At this point my list has turned into a big math joke, but I’m not going to let the year finish without at least briefly mentioning this now-classic piece of ambient beauty that has been re-issued as a box set with the complete set of its incarnations in all their glory. William Basinski’s masterpiece, The Disintegration Loops, is pure both in sound and in concept: using prior recordings impressed on magnetic tape that he wished to convert into a digital format, Basinski happened upon his ever-present aesthetic of deterioration as the backing fell off the age-damaged tape during the transfer process. The result is a breathtaking, looped orchestration that seems to dissolve over the course of an hour, replacing the sounds of the instruments with the hiss and crackle of failing technology. Though he applied this same technique to many recordings in the years to come (all of which are collected here), the first is notable because of its completion on the morning of September 11th and Basinski’s decision to use it to soundtrack a video of the smoke and ash against the sunset that he viewed from the roof of his apartment (and later used as the cover for the compact disc). This adds a haunting and sombre allure to the composition, and solidifies its place both in contemporary musical history and at the bitter end of this increasingly contrived year-end list, 11 years after the fact.

Animal Collective – “Crimson” November 13, 2012

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While Centipede Hz was a great record compared to most, the fact that it was a new LP from Animal Collective set the bar extraordinarily high. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent getting to know each of the tracks on the album, I came out of it slightly disappointed, not only from my high expectations after hearing “Honeycomb” and “Gotham” (one of my favorite Animal Collective releases of all time and a perfect distillation of a career’s worth of experiments with their sound) but also because there was something off about it. I’m not sure if it was the off-kilter mixing, the disjointed songwriting, or something else, but it feels like it was missing a crucial element that every other release from the band has had up until now.

Now they’ve released one of the standout tracks, “Applesauce”, as a single, backed by another excellent cut that didn’t make the album. “Crimson”, like “Gotham” before it, is another beautiful ballad that flies in the face of the skittering chaos of its siblings from the sessions that ended up on record. Also like “Gotham”, the guitar and rhythm patterns hearken back to the syrupy sounds of “Feels” as Avey’s emotive vocals meander around tropical synth padding and gentle percussion, eventually bubbling up and bursting into a climax of the same child-like yelps, howls and squeals that peppered tracks like “The Purple Bottle” and “Street Flash” and settling back into an arpeggiated waterfall of sunny and warm electronic tones. Have a listen below, and you’ll see that Animal Collective have no problem saving their best tracks for singles and b-sides:

Indian Wells – “Wimbledon 1980” July 24, 2012

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Though the Books are now sadly defunct, some silver lining is that a lot of great electronic musicians are following in their footsteps. Another to add to that list, at least on this particular track, is producer Indian Wells, who places a Wimbledon radio broadcast over microsampled soundscapes consisting entirely of the sounds of a tennis match. Who knew that the thwack of a racket against a fuzzy yellow ball could sound so hypnotically alluring when looped a million times over in cadence? Check it out below, see if you agree.

5 New Songs With Excellent Female Vocals June 10, 2012

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Here are a few of the songs I’ve been repeating lately, aggregated into a list so I don’t have to write too much about each one. The theme is female vocals, though I didn’t even notice that they all had that feature in common until I had finished preparing the list. Anyway, here they are, in alphabetical order:

Banks’ performance on her latest single tops everything she’s done so far, not just because of her verses but because of the way her cadence perfectly meshes with Hudson Mohawke’s bouncing, horn-stabbing production. The title is pretty spot-on, too, as the whole thing sounds like a pack of wild animals stampeding through a jungle. The full mixtape, Fantastic, will be out July 4th.

The second and better half of Touch & Go’s comeback single from the sisterly freak-folk duo, CocoRosie, contains all the electronic flourishes and gentle beats of their best efforts (see “Rainbowarriors”) but is made even better by the addition of Antony Hegarty. His baroque falsetto, when coupled with the weirdo Appalachian stylings of Bianca and Sierra, make for an intimate and beautiful melody about “love for humankind”.

Apparently Finnish group Husky Rescue just revamped their entire lineup, sound, and image, now favoring hushed electronic pop over sprawling ambient musings, and the result of that is startlingly good. Recently-hired vocalist Johanna Kalen really shows her stuff here, evoking similar warbling styles to Twin Sister, the aforementioned CocoRosie, and even Bjork.

Major Lazer’s latest features Amber Coffman (notable for providing the “oohs” and “ahhs” in the Dirty Projectors) singing of independence over a relaxed reggae beat courtesy of Diplo. The track is a lot less spastic than some of Major Lazer’s previous work, presenting a new direction for the project as well as building a perfectly breezy backdrop for Coffman’s stellar performance. If you’re looking for something more upbeat but just as excellent, try the Bonde do Role remix included on the EP.

Barfod’s latest album, Salton Sea, features a lot of excellent collaborative efforts pairing beautiful vocals over delicate house music, but the best is definitely “November Skies” featuring Nina Kinert. Though the title calls to mind grey clouds and cold weather, the track is colorful, cool, and gentle, like a relieving summer rain. It’s perfect for blasting out a car stereo this summer, possibly on the way back from a trip to the beach.

Blood Diamonds – “Phone Sex (Ft. Grimes)” May 31, 2012

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Though I was originally attracted to this track by its deliciously quirky cover art (courtesy of nu-rave musicians/artists Elite Gymnastics) and the ever-present Grimes namedrop, the music contained within certainly lives up to its packaging. It seems like Claire Boucher is 2012’s post-Lana Del Rey indie music queen (all her intimate dive-bar shows have been selling out and she’s constantly harassed by Carles of Hipster Runoff) and as such should be featured on every hit experimental electronic track that comes out, and “Phone Sex” is no exception. The beauty of the song is more in her vocal performance than in the electronic backdrop, though both fuse seamlessly together into an energetic dance number that sounds just as good as the best of Visions. “Phone Sex” is the lead single off of Blood Diamonds’ upcoming debut, What, though I’m sure it’ll be tough to follow up with a first taste this good.

Tall Ships – “T=0” May 24, 2012

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Tall Ships‘ latest single, “T=0”, is “math rock” at its finest, and not just because of the algebraic equation-solving title or the fact that its lyrics include a line about space they fill being “infinitesimal”. The loop-based, arpeggiated guitar stabs that drive the song sound at once both chaotic and precisely controlled, while the gradual layering of washed-out reverb, ghostly voices, and eventually verse and chorus shows a clear, logical progression from start to finish, forming together a brief but powerful song perfectly representative of the paradoxes inherent in mathematics. “T=0” is a song full of contradictions, just as the zeroes confront the infinities in the world of calculus, and thus serves as an excellent example of the philosophical essence of this sub-genre of rock & roll.

Still Flyin’ – “Cleat Talking” May 23, 2012

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It’s that time of year again, when tons of bands release a bunch of generic indie pop tracks and try to pass them off as “songs for the summer”. Everyone’s looking for that warm, sunny jam to blast out their car windows in the summer heat, and the favor shifts from original, unique sounds to catchy, overdone pop hooks and easy beats. Still Flyin’s latest single, “Cleat Talking”, is full of all that good stuff and more, but somehow still manages to sound like an interesting and relevant piece of music in spite of itself.

Coupling some boy-girl harmonies with a groovy bass line, “Cleat Talking” is the ridiculously catchy earworm that everyone expects from a summer anthem. Paying a bit closer attention, however, reveals a lot of attention to detail that other summer jam candidates tend to lack. While the two-note backbone of the song remains the same throughout, the rest of the textures refuse to sit still as the song transitions from some ramshackle trash can-drum percussion to New Wave-style synths to whispered vocal samples and back again all in the span of an easily digestible two and a half minutes. The lyrics are also endearingly quirky, as frontman Sean Rawls affectionately croons “I ain’t no Steven Hawking, my cleats do all the talking” as a chorus to his uplifting, bouncy vocal performance. The result of all this sounds like a bunch of friends hanging out by the pool in someone’s backyard, jamming together while waiting for the burgers to cook on the barbecue, and if that’s not the perfect embodiment of the coming warm-weather months, then I don’t know what else would be.

Animal Collective – “Honeycomb”/”Gotham” May 7, 2012

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Just this morning I was wondering when Animal Collective was going to come forward with the new material they’ve been teasing us with since some of their shows last year. Several interviews with the band members claim that the group went into the studio in January to record the 15 new songs they’d been writing together, but here we are in May with not even the news of a new album to tide us over until its release. Well, it’s not exactly a new album per se, but the group just posted two new tracks on their website, “Honeycomb” and “Gotham”, off on upcoming 7″ that may or may not be the lead single off a new LP.

Given that the band completely redefines their sound and musical approach with each new album, it’s definitely exciting to hear the first taste of the re-united foursome (the 4th member, Deakin, being absent since 2007). With “Honeycomb” and “Gotham”, it’s clear that the group has moved way past Merriweather Post Pavilion, and these tracks are sure to disappoint fans whose love for the band is based on that album alone. But those of us who’ve thoroughly enjoyed their earlier works are in for a real treat, as the spastic “Honeycomb” serves as a natural extension of the sense of panicked frenzy that pervaded 2007’s Strawberry Jam while the abstract aloofness of the moody “Gotham” calls to mind the more expansive tracks on 2005’s Feels. Merely comparing them to their predecessors doesn’t do them enough justice, however, as they both really are entirely new beasts. The only thing that remains constant about Animal Collective (aside from the quality of their music) is change, so you’ll just have to hear them yourself to get a sense of this budding next chapter in Animal Collective’s always-groundbreaking career.