Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Roots

Each week, Spin This profiles the week's notable album releases via KUT's Texas Music Matters. This week: fresh off their stellar gig as the best late night talk show band in history, The Roots return with an album full of left-turns and high-profile guests. Also, the invigorating Nina Nastasia continues to break the boundaries of what a singer-songwriter should sound like, with the help of the irascible Steve Albini. All that and much, much more in our weekly rundown of notable music releases, available right here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Blitzen Trapper--Destroyer Of The Void

Our review of Destroyer Of The Void, the new album by Blitzen Trapper. Read below or at Prefix.

Since their self-titled debut in 2003, the members of Portland’s Blitzen Trapper have veered wildly with every new release. Those expecting Destroyer of the Void to be Furr, Part Two -- Furr being their dusty, Americana-flecked 2008 breakout -- don’t know this band. They are one of the more stylistically adventurous groups working today; alt-country, folk, glam, prog, funk, and indie pop all figure into their sound. Void almost works as a career summation of their genre-roulette tendencies, but it suffers under its own weight and too often becomes a game of “spot the influence.”

Nowhere is this more apparent than the album’s opening cut, “Destroyer of the Void.” It’s the obvious elephant in the room: six minutes of rock-opera bombast, combining complex multipart harmonies with soft piano codas before the song opens up into full-on guitar shredding. It’s certainly eyebrow-raising, but a memorable hook would have been nice. For all its bluster, it’s pretty forgettable.

All of the band’s knottiest songwriting tendencies are on immediate display for much of Void’s first half, inducing a kind of aural whiplash. Yet album midpoint “Heaven And Earth” signals a welcome shift into the strong later tracks. With lead singer Eric Earley alone on piano save for an expert string section, “Heaven” is not just the album’s obvious gem but a career standout. Oftentimes piano ballads can be throwaway excuses for a solo spotlight, but Earley makes it feel essential, sounding like the wounded counterpoint to Furr’s “Not Your Lover.”

Following this heaviness is the slow-burning “Dragon’s Lair,” an exercise in smoky psych-rock that’s perfectly sequenced to play off the melancholy of “Heaven.” Blitzen Trapper are at their best on countrified head-nodders like “Evening Star” and “Sadie,” two songs that allow Earley to weave his novelistic stories around driving backbeats that mimic his laconic delivery. Nowhere is this storytelling more fully realized than on the classic-sounding folk strummer “The Tree,” a duet featuring fellow Portlander Alela Diane.

Despite these late highlights, Void still overly employs Blitzen Trapper’s biggest negative: inconsistency. They have a great album lurking somewhere in them, but for now they’re settling for a couple of good songs mixed in with their 1970s fetishism. Destroyer of the Void’s unbridled creativity certainly has something for everyone, but it’s not quite a substantial enough offering.

Blitzen Trapper--Heaven And Earth
Blitzen Trapper--Evening Star

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lower Dens

Jana Hunter
is usually known for her ghostly, lo-fi folk music, the kind where you can actually hear her fingers strumming the strings. Which makes Lower Dens all the more surprising: a full-band psychedelic rock effort, with Hunter front and center. She brings the same care, skewed artistry, and attention to detail to Lower Dens' haunting tunes; suffice to say, this ain't some throwaway jam session. Their debut album, Twin-Hand Movement, drops July 20th via Gnomonsong. In the meantime, psych yerself up with "Hospice Gates" below.

Lower Dens--Hospice Gates

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Curve

Commission for The Curve at London's Barbican by French artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot. Excerpt from Ariane Michel's film, Les Oiseaux de Céleste.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Episode 18: Summer Jams, Pt. 1

[via ryan tatar]

It's already 100+ in ATX. Time to melt with the summer sun. Your soundtrack: Episode 18 of the WS podcast, Summer Jams, Pt. 1, with more installments as the season continues to grind on. This first tide features sun-kissed ska from Prince Charles & His Royal Cats; off-kilter tropicalia from one of many Strokes' side-projects, Little Joy; the woozy dance-pop of Twin Sister; a sleepy track from the perfectly named Austin band Pure Ecstasy; gnarly new psychedelia from Australia's Tame Impala; and a not-too-subtle comedown courtesy of the warm folk stylings of Ted Lucas. Enjoy, and wear some sunscreen. Tracklist and download below:

Dick Dale & His Del-Tones--"Let's Go Tripping"
Prince Charles & His Royal Cats--"Give Me The Right"
Karl Blau--"Apology To Pollinateurs"
Little Joy--"No One's Better Sake"
Twin Sister--"Lady Daydream"
Pure Ecstasy--"Alexandria"
Washed Out--"Get Up"
Los Amaya--"Zapatero Remendon"
Tame Impala--"It Is Not Meant To Be"
Kurt Vile--"Beach On The Moon (Recycled Lyrics)"
Ronnie Prophet--"The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise"
Ted Lucas--"It Is So Nice To Get Stoned"

Total time: 40:50

Summer Jams, Pt. 1