Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wye Oak--My Neighbor/My Creator

A review of My Neighbor/My Creator, the new EP from Baltimore duo (and WS favorite) Wye Oak. Read below or at Prefix.

EPs are always such a joy: they offer a space for bands to blow off steam, experiment, or throw together outtakes from a successful writing period, all in a bite-sized chunk. For a listener, EPs can be exhilarating documents of a band’s creative process. The Baltimore duo Wye Oak take an all-of-the-above approach for their new EP, My Neighbor/My Creator; it serves as an introduction to where they’ve been and possibly where they might be heading.

On last year’s The Knot, Wye Oak further developed their own signature sound, combining the noisier elements of post-rock with folk in a gauzy sheen, courtesy of drummer and producer Andy Stack. My Neighbor finds the band still enamored with big, widescreen sounds, but with a few tweaks. “My Neighbor” kicks the EP off on a buoyant note—musically at least; Wasner’s lyrics tend to be pretty dour. An avalanche of guitar notes nearly turns the song upside down, but Stack’s polyrhythmic drumming keeps things grounded. “Emmylou” and “My Creator” serve as divergent musical paths. The former is a sugar-rushed storm of words and guitars that deviates strikingly from most of Wye Oak’s slow-motion catalog; the latter is another slice of their particular brand of fingerpicked shoegaze that could have easily fit into The Knot.

Wye Oak’s most impressive element has always been Wasner’s voice: it’s strong and confident (two qualities that are sorely lacking in most indie music these days), especially on “My Neighbor.” Wasner begins “I Hope You Die” absolutely wounded, but her vocals grow in strength with each ascendant chorus. Once again, Stack provides a head-nodding backbeat that’s complex but, oddly enough, almost danceable. The subtle hip-hop and electronic influences spread throughout the EP (and Wye Oak’s entire catalog) come into focus on the “Mickey Free” remix of this Knot standout “That I Do.” Mickey Freeland (working with his brother Chris, also a producer) takes the original’s ferocious, dirge-like quality and makes it positively apocalyptic and club-ready: sirens and all sorts of electronic detritus wail in the background, and Freeland even provides a dark verse of his own.

The left-field influences make this EP (and Wye Oak) so interesting; you can actually see the band taking giant strides forward instead of staying static and churning out staid guitar rock. However, with the new sounds comes a loss of dynamics. This is the first time the band has used an outside producer, and as a result the songs are much denser, scrapping the sparseness that made The Knot enjoyable. If Wye Oak can head down these new musical roads on their own terms, a real masterpiece could be lurking on the horizon.

Wye Oak--My Neighbor

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Spin This: April 27

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: The Mynabirds' Neil Young-meets-Motown sound and Balkan Beat Box's global-hopping dance party. All that, plus a rundown of more notable releases and podcast right here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Episode 15: 40 Years Ago

[via alexandra in the forest]

We don't need no holiday to tell us to get out and enjoy our wondrous Earth, but consider this week's mix a swift kick in the pants. Assorted weirdo folk music from the past century, including a handful of field recordings done by John and Alan Lomax, new music from the incomparable Sharon Van Etten, Bonnie "Prince" Billy covering John Denver, Pink Floyd's psychedelic trip into Grantchester Meadows (one of my favorite places on Earth), south of their home town of Cambridge, and a pagan dance party courtesy of Akron/Family to bring it all back home. It's the 40th anniversary of Earth Day: get back to where you once belonged. Take a gander yonder:

Michael Lewis & Group--"I Feel The Spirit Moving"
Califone--"Giving Away the Bride"
Sharon Van Etten--"Love More"
Woody Guthrie--"Pastures of Plenty"
Tim Eriksen--"Am I Born To Die?"
John Fahey--"Night Train of Valhalla"
Kurt Vile--"My Sympathy"
Bonnie "Prince" Billy--"The Eagle And The Hawk" (John Denver cover)
Pink Floyd--"Grantchester Meadows"
Woods--"End To End"
Akron/Family--"Ed Is A Portal"
Will Starks--"The Fox Hunter's Song"

Waterloo Sunset Episode 15: Weirdo Folk
Total running time: 41:48

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Spin This: April 20

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases over at KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: Doves' new best-of shows why they consistently top charts in their native Britain, and Roky Erickson, Austin's psychedelic grandfather, teams with fellow Austinites Okkervil River on his first album in over a decade. All that, plus a rundown of more releases and a podcast, right here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

When I'm With You

Video for one of my favorite songs last year, Best Coast's "When I'm With You." Debut album is due later this year. Makes me want some In 'N' Out...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spin This

Spin This, my weekly rundown/podcast of notable music releases, is now under the umbrella of the Violet Crown Review*, Texas Music Matters' music bloggery department. This week I profile new releases by The Stooges, The Tallest Man On Earth, and many, many more right here.

*Note: O. Henry famously described Austin, TX as the "Violet Crown" in his story Tictocq: The Great French Detective In Austin, first published in 1894. The more you know...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Episode 14

[via alexandra in the forest]

Dive into the good weather, my friends (well, those of us Texans anyway). Here's your soundtrack, the Waterloo Sunset Podcast, Episode 14. We've got sunny, lo-fi pop courtesy of Austin's Harlem, who's new album Hippies drops this week; a driving, Krautrock-inspired track from Here We Go Magic's June 8 release Pigeons; ancient folk music from White Antelope, a.k.a. Robin Pecknold, lead singer of Fleet Foxes; plus a trio of tracks to close out the podcast, all united by the singers' referential love of classic rock (R.I.P. Alex Chilton). Tracklist below:

Harlem--"Friendly Ghost"
King Tuff--"Sun Medallion"
Damon--"Don't You Feel Me"
Here We Go Magic--"Collector"
White Antelope--"Silver Dagger (Trad.)"
The Weakerthans--"Sun In An Empty Room"
Webb Pierce--"Slowly"
Built To Spill--"You Were Right"
Big Star--"Thirteen"
Jeff Tweedy--"Radio King"

Waterloo Sunset Episode #14

Spin This: April 6

Here's a heads-up for my weekly blog/podcast over at Texas Music Matters, the music journalism unit for KUT 90.5 FM here in Austin. Spin This is a nice, compact rundown of notable music releases on a weekly basis. This week: new releases from Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Hacienda, and many, many more right here.