Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011 // The Albums

There was no giant record of 2011 to hang our collective hat on--when reading through other lists, the choices are fragmented and scattered across a wide variety of genres, moods, and styles. That has become par for the course in the digital age, but it's not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone is finding their own personal "best" album of the year, something they can call their own and have a real emotional connection to. I had a few of those powerful moments this year, more so than in recent memory. If there is one defining theme to this list, it's that they all share a similar headspace: they're reaching for the stars while trapped on the ground.

There's no particular order, as these records meant different things at different times. Take a gander, listen, and buy the albums from the artists--they could use your help and attention.

Words/songs after the jump.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Champagne Year: Best of 2011

Another year, come and gone. As the sun sets on 2011, WS takes a look back at all the tracks that caught our ear this year. Some from newcomers on the scene, with fresh ideas to burn; others are old favorites, proving that they still have a few tricks up their collective sleeves. As a holiday bonus, there are several ways to listen: stream it, download the full file, or grab all the tracks individually through the link below (split into four files). Thanks for listening--and enjoy.

Grab it as a mixtape here.


Side A
Unknown Mortal Orchestra // Ffunny Ffriends
Richard Swift // Laugh It Up
Wilco // I Might
Centro-Matic // Iso-Residue
Woods // Any Other Day
A Giant Dog // QYJARA
Bleached // Think of You
Soft Healer // Grand Isle
Thee Oh Sees // Crushed Grass
Wye Oak // Holy Holy
Amen Dunes // Baba Yaga

Side B
Barn Owl // Turiya
Radiohead // Bloom
Colin Stetson // The Righteous Wrath Of An Honorable Man
Dirty Beaches // Lord Knows Best
St. Vincent // Champagne Year
Washed Out // Eyes Be Closed
The War On Drugs // Baby Missiles
Kurt Vile // Baby's Arms
Atlas Sound // Mona Lisa
Real Estate // It's Real
Cass McCombs // County Line
Fleet Foxes // Helplessness Blues

Total running time: 1:23:47


Champagne Year: Best of 2011 by artblevy

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Under The Covers: The Best Album Art of 2011

*Note: Obviously, blogging has been sporadic this past fall, due to work, traveling, lack of inspiration, etc. Expect a Waterloo Sunset redesign/rethink/relaunch in early 2012. Thanks for reading.

Your mother admonished you, "never judge a book by its cover." But when it comes to music, a record's cover can set the general tone and aesthetic like the first welcoming steps into a deeper ocean. With the digitization of everything, album art seems to be going by the wayside, but there will always be the select few that know how important it is to catch an eye in order to catch an ear.

Below are some of the best album covers of the year, not limited to any one genre or theme but picked based on typography, photography, and overall graphic design. If you think of any we missed, let us know in the comments. We're always up for a good look.

Dirty Beaches // Badlands

Aidan Moffat & Bill Wells // Everything's Getting Older

Richard Swift // Walt Wolfman

*More covers after the jump below:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Megafaun // Megafaun

Folk music is too often pinned to conservative types, but there’s a real musically progressive streak running through its veins. Before physical recording was made available, folk songs moved via word-of-mouth, with each composition left up to the performer’s interpretation. Thus, no two versions sound the same. Years and years of personal weathering keep folk songs moving forward while still rooted in the past.

Over the course of three albums and an EP, Megafaun have tapped into this overarching folk narrative. While so many bands and artists are content to play dress up with acoustic guitars and harmonicas, the North Carolina band understands that you can weave in modernity in a special way. Megafaun, their third album to date, is the culmination of years of this sort of exploration and the band’s most sprawling, dazzling statement yet.

Like past efforts, Megafaun stands simple acoustic songs alongside jazzier workouts and avant-garde experiments. Their ability to sound both classic and forward-thinking is their greatest attribute, and these various voices can largely be attributed to the communal nature of the trio. They seem to genuinely enjoy working together, taking it easy while still tackling some heavy questions. Opener “Real Slow” is almost a mission statement for the band itself, lazily intoning “Take your time/Everyone knows/If it starts too fast/It’s gonna end real slow.” The song’s Southern rock-isms could sound corny in anyone else’s hands, but Megafaun are nothing if not tasteful. They achieve a similar widescreen effect on “Get Right,” an insistent strummer that shows the band’s jammy roots are still strong. The noisy bedrock is a nice counterpoint, adding a bit of menace to the sunshine burning overhead.

Even the album’s more familiar moments still reach high. “State/Meant” and “Resurrection” employ a tried-and-true folk-rock chug, but they’re worn well by a band that’s unafraid of the big melody. On the folk-pop of “Second Friend,” swelling strings punctuate a simple love song just as it approaches headier lyrical territory. Megafaun accept their dual nature with a smile, observing that “any moment now/Our river will be changing course/We may not have the time to drift and glide/ Just like the day before.” It hits on a broader theme within Megafaun’s music: staying grounded, but not at the expense of looking for something new.

And that search leads to some of the album’s highest notes. First single “These Words” wraps found sounds and electronic textures into a complex melody, but at its heart lies a catchy tune that makes the best use of the band’s ever-present harmonies. “Isadora” turns “Auld Lang Syne” into a jazzy explosion at the album’s center, and “Scorned” places blues riffs next to blasted-out harmonicas that wail like devilish electric guitars. At every turn, Megafaun take these well-worn ideas and add fresh new ingredients.

The fact that Megafaun sounds so effortless is a testament to the band’s true sense of itself. They continually adapt, looking to the past for inspiration but without getting bogged down in the dusty history. It’s apparent they’re looking to construct a big tent for everyone to fit in, and unsurprisingly they’re succeeding wildly.

[via prefix]

Megafaun // These Words
Megafaun // State/Meant

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Episode 38: Strange World

[via louis reith]

It's a strange world outside, especially in the world of music. Lots of dark, mysterious musical paths being taken these days, so Episode 38 is packed to the brim with new cuts by Widowspeak, Barn Owl, Amen Dunes, Megafaun, and the War On Drugs. Filling in the cracks are some old WS favorites--connecting the dots through time.

Widowspeak // Puritan
Link Wray // Deuces Wild
The 13th Floor Elevators // Reverberation (Doubt)
Dead Moon // Walking On My Grave
Mulatu Astatke // Emnete
Damon // Don't You Feel Me
Barn Owl // Turiya
Amen Dunes // Baba Yaga
Megafaun // These Words
Harry Nilsson // Mother Nature's Son
The War On Drugs // I Was There

Total running time: 34:27


Episode 38: Strange World

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Watch: "Music From A Dry Cleaner"

Via This Is Colossal, "sound designer and composer" Diego Stocco creates music from everyday objects, found sounds, and a heft dose of imagination. His latest concoction? A rhythmic workout featuring machines and objects found at his local dry cleaner.

Diego Stocco - Music From A Dry Cleaner from Diego Stocco on Vimeo.

Be sure to check out his Vimeo page for more videos that chronicle is unique muse.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bleached // You Take Time

I featured "Think of You" by Bleached on a recent podcast, but it's that single's B-side that's really caught my ear. Bleached is the new project for sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin, formerly of LA skuzz-punks Mika Miko. And whereas "Think of You" is keeping with their former band's brand of straight-ahead ferocity, "You Take Time" is a golden, muscular pop-rock jam that's equal parts Ramones and Big Star. Grab it below, and check out the video for "Think of You" as well.

Bleached // You Take Time

You can also snag a physical copy of the 7" at Art Fag Records.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Watch: "Turiya"

Right on cue, a video for Barn Owl's standout track, "Turiya," taken from their exceptional new album Lost In The Glare. Directed by John Davis.

Barn Owl - Turiya from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

[via thrill jockey records]

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Barn Owl // Lost In The Glare

“Our music is kind of visual to me,” admits Evan Caminiti, one-half of San Francisco psych-rockers Barn Owl. It’s a bit of an understatement, especially considering the largeness of the music the band makes. That’s due in part to the visual associations wrapped up in Barn Owl’s instrumental epics—desolate deserts, extreme isolation, and “the powerful feeling of fog creeping along the horizon,” as fellow Barn Owl Jon Porras describes the effect the Bay Area climes have on their sounds. Since meeting in college in 2006, Caminiti and Porras have found kindred spirits in one another, uniting their love of John Fahey’s American primitivism with doom metal and minimal classical. Lost In The Glare marks the first time the two guitarists have worked with drummer Jacob Felix Heule, resulting in a heady mixture of head-in-the-clouds radiance and the more earthly power of a good solid groove.

Last year, Barn Owl invited Heule on a lengthy tour where most of the record’s compositions were tried out. As a result, Lost In The Glare feels both live and lived-in. Though it’s obvious most of the songs are largely improvised, the structures seem deliberate and carefully considered. “Turiya” shows the immediate positive effect of having a drummer like Heule in the group. He keeps a glacial pace plodding along while Caminiti and Porras turn their crunchy drone inside-out. Too many like-minded acts will chase that drone to the point of tedium. Barn Owl use it as a jumping off point before weaving in more concrete ideas.

Musically, there’s no shortage of blues and Indian riffs, but Caminiti and Porras are less interested in ripping off gnarly guitar solos than conjuring an atmosphere with dark waves of feedback. Album-closer (and emotional highpoint) “Devotion II” boasts skillful interlocking guitar lines before exploding in the coda on the back of huge chords and Heule’s pounding drums. This enormity is well-deserved: they pace the album masterfully, contrasting the harder cuts with acoustic explorations like “Temple of the Winds” and “Light Echoes.” The differing moods add up to something that’s experiential and focused. Records like this are often heralded as “sounding like a soundtrack,” but that’s a disservice here. Through their careful sonic work, Barn Owl create their own stories and mythology that can easily stand on their own.

While working on Lost In The Glare, the duo experienced the lunar eclipse that accompanied the winter solstice last December. It was a once-in-a-generation event, captured on the record as “The Darkest Night Since 1683.” The song’s crushing blackness is certainly fitting, but it’s also a testament to Barn Owl’s source of inspiration. Nature runs through the band’s very being, from their own moniker to song titles and album art. It’s also at the heart of their music—wrangling the fleeting messiness of improvisation into something cohesive and constructive. Those are some immense issues to tackle, but they’re attempting to bring this bigness down to a human level. There’s real beauty in that.

[via prefix]

Barn Owl // Pale Star
Barn Owl // Turiya

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Watch: "Born Alone"

Wilco is back. Early hints prove The Whole Love is a return to form for the Chicago outfit after several years of unfocused work. Today Wilco released a video for the album's bittersweet second single "Born Alone," featuring a treasure trove of photography flickering to the accompanying folk rock workout. And for those music nerds out there, be sure to read lead singer Jeff Tweedy's interview for The Atlantic, wherein he dives deep into the music theory and lyrical structure behind the song.

The Whole Love is out September 27 via Wilco's own dBpm Records.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Episode 37: The Slider

[via mountains & buffalo]

Slide through the waning days of summer with Episode 37. We find ourselves at the messy, fuzzy intersection of soul and rock and roll, with new jams by Richard Swift and Wilco to go along with some choice favorites. As always, PLAY IT LOUD.

Richard Swift // Lady Luck
Ty Segall // The Slider (T. Rex cover)
Rodriguez // Only Good For Conversation
The Monks // Pretty Suzanne
Wilco // I Might
Atlas Sound // Doctor (Five Discs cover)
Richard Swift // Broken Finger Blues
Gene & The Esquires // Space Race
King Khan & The Shrines // 69 Faces Of Love
Jim Ford // Long Road Ahead
Bob Dylan // Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You

Total running time: 35:55

Episode 37: The Slider

Walt Wolfman

Richard Swift is known for a little bit of everything. There's his work as a singer-songwriter, calling to mind Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman. There's his avant-garde electronic work as Instruments of Science & Technology. There's his fantastic production work for The Mynabirds and Damien Jurado, and for those who haven't found it yet, Swift's website is a treasure trove of one-off recordings, beautiful photographs, and weird mixes. He's a one-man inspiration machine.

And he's set to release a new EP, awesomely-titled Walt Wolfman, on October 18. I've been digging a new track he dropped a few weeks back called "Broken Finger Blues," but today he's given us an ode to America's preeminent poet, Walt Whitman. Swift's soulful new direction is another welcomed change of pace for the restless spirit. Check him/them out below.

Richard Swift // Whitman
Richard Swift // Broken Finger Blues

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Amen Dunes // Through Donkey Jaw

Amen Dunes is the moniker for Damon McMahon, an artist that heretofore has remained intriguingly hard to peg. His 2009 album, DIA, was recorded three years previous in a secluded cabin in the Catskills before McMahon moved his entire life to Beijing, never intending for it to see the light of day. Upon its release, DIA sounded deeply personal, claustrophobic, and on the edge of sanity, due in large part to McMahon’s ghostly voice and low profile. Since then, he’s moved back to the States to make Amen Dunes into something more. The result is Through Donkey Jaw, another lonely-sounding album that nonetheless wants to shoot bigger, and it largely succeeds.

The strengths that made DIA worth investigating are still intact here. McMahon revels in a homemade style of psychedelia that sounds like it comes from a place of real emotion, rather than a particularly good (or bad) acid trip. His melodies are crisp and bizarre, but wholly original. The songs aren’t ‘60s pastiches—they sound out of place and out of time, floating around in the air while McMahon attempts to nail them down.

The personal warmth is apparent in the gentle folk of “Swim Up Behind Me,” which uses minimal percussion, synth, and a few guitars while McMahon pines for personal connection. The juxtaposition of his lyrics and the dreamy atmosphere is a central theme. Everything sounds slightly damaged, but there’s real beauty in the uneasiness of it all. The back half of the record is particularly unsettling, vacillating between the murmuring voices of the doomed-sounding “For All” and the straight-up psychosis of “Jill.” Yet these songs are just as essential as the quieter ones. They help define the tone of the album, adding darker colors to the entire palette.

Despite the inward-looking, the music is pushed further outward than anywhere in Amen Dunes’ discography. Songs like “Lower Mind” and “1985” use up all the space they’re given, the latter an instrumental that sounds like a particularly cold reinterpretation of the riff from “Take My Breath Away.” Album-opener “Baba Yaga” sets the scene by slowly, ceaselessly building into a monumental force. Much of Through Donkey Jaw sounds this meditative and assured, and McMahon seems comfortable taking himself out of the narrow headspace of the isolated cabin. The effect is rewarding and oddly comforting—there are peaks and valleys and lots of shadowy spaces, but it all keeps rolling along.

[via prefix]

Amen Dunes // Baba Yaga
Amen Dunes // Swim Up Behind Me

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Luke Temple
is known as the lead singer for Here We Go Magic, but he's all set to break out on his own come September 6. That date sees the release of his new solo album, Don't Act Like You Don't Care on Austin's own Western Vinyl, a long-delayed record three years in the making. First offering "Ophelia" is a classic Temple track: sunny, propulsive, and shot through with his wistful yearning.

Luke Temple // Ophelia

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Baby Missiles

The War On Drugs have finally moved out of the shadows. For several years, the Philly outfit was known primarily as the former band for Kurt Vile, but on their new album, Slave Ambient, the War On Drugs come into their own. They share a number of the hazy folk-rock nuances that Vile trades in, but with a Sonic Youth-meets-Springsteen vibe. Take a listen to album standout "Baby Missiles" below.

The War On Drugs // Baby Missiles

Slave Ambient is out now via Secretly Canadian.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Widowspeak // Widowspeak

Given the fact that we’re constantly bombarded by images on a daily basis, it’s fitting that bands are taking a visual approach to their sound. Contemporary signifiers like “cinematic,” “hazy,” and “shimmering” are thrown around by critics, fans, and the musicians themselves, sometimes ad nauseam. But that visual/auditory melding isn’t always just a cheap copy point. It can hint at an artistic focus that can be rewarding in its own right. Such is the case with Widowspeak, a Brooklyn-by-way-of-Tacoma trio that’s crafted a debut largely through the exploration of mood and tone.

It’s also fitting that Widowspeak comes courtesy of producer Jarvis Taveniere, resident multi-instrumentalist for Woods. The two bands share an intangible, mysterious quality, but whereas Woods’ music comes shrouded in tape hiss, Widowspeak presents itself as minimal and lonely. It helps when you have a singer with a set of pipes like Molly Hamilton. She’s already been likened to fellow dreamweaver Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star fame, and the similarities are striking. But Sandoval always sounded inviting; Hamilton keeps you at arm’s length, a narration for the stark music to build upon.

Credit first must go to Taveniere, who records Widowspeak with a beautiful clarity. “Puritan” kicks things off with the album’s musical thesis statement: pop as big and deliberate as a spaghetti western. Guitarist Robert Thomas is incredibly inventive, eschewing straight rhythm playing for winding leads that make every chorus sound huge and foreboding. The simmering energy of songs like “Harsh Realm” or “In The Pines” actually recalls Wye Oak in places, except Widowspeak build the tension and never release it. The effect is frustrating at times, especially when a good explosion is in order, but it always leaves you wanting more—possibly the greatest thing a band can achieve.

Of course, a visual aspect is apparent from the very beginning, suggesting dusty, deserted roads and wide-open spaces. It’s hard not to hear Ennio Morricone’s fingerprints on Thomas’s guitar parts, but at the center of it all is a beating pop heart. “Nightcrawlers” quotes “Apache,” built around the album’s most striking melody. Swooning hooks creep up in slow-dancers like “Gun Shy” and “Hard Times,” and the relatively hard-charging “Fir Coat” boasts a sugary, syncopated hook courtesy of Thomas. Even “Limbs—an eerie acoustic ballad tipped sharply on the edge of darkness—has a chorus that’s easily recognizable and instantly catchy.

The mixture of pop and mystery is enticing. Everything from the name and the strangely-isolated album art to the songs themselves makes you want to dive in head first. That visual and musical marriage is essential to understanding the minimalism of Widowspeak: it’s just your brain filling in the dots.

[via prefix]


Widowspeak // Puritan
Widowspeak // Limbs

Monday, August 1, 2011

Walking On My Grave

Dead Moon are the real deal--gnarly psychedelic garage-punk outta the late '80s-early '90s via Portland, Oregon, certainly akin to our fair city's psych wizard Roky Erickson. The venerable, incomparable, and deliberately enigmatic Portland label Mississippi Records just re-released their first three albums on vinyl. I completely missed out on Dead Moon on my first punk-obsessed go-around, but that's not going to happen again. Wow.

Dead Moon // Walking On My Grave

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Episode 36: We'll Be Here Soon

[via nevada moonrise]

A nice dusty WS podcast for ya, for these hot, dusty months. A little bit of country, a little bit of psychedelia, but a lot of ramblin' fun. The sun might be unbearable now, but in the words of Phosphorescent, "we'll be here soon."

Calexico // Corona
The Old 97's // Bel Air
Phosphorescent // We'll Be Here Soon (Live at KUT)
White Fence // Stranger Things Have Happened
Woods // Any Other Day
Bleached // Think of You
Love // Maybe The People Would Be The Times or Between Clark and Hilldale
Silvio Rodríguez // Fusil Contra Fusil
Dara Puspita // To Love Somebody (Bee Gees cover)
Kurt Vile // Overnite Religion
Dillard & Clark // Don't Let Me Down (Beatles cover)

Total running time: 36:18

Episode 36: We'll Be Here Soon

Monday, July 25, 2011

Alex Steinweiss: 1938-2011

Alex Steinweiss, the inventor of the album cover, passed away last week at the age of 94. Before Columbia Records hired him in 1938, albums came in plain brown paper sleeves, but his work was a perfect marriage of art, design, and commerce. His design for the original cast recording of South Pacific has been used since it debuted in 1949. The only other graphic design in America to be used for so many years is the Coca-Cola bottle.

Ever since I first got into music, album art has played a crucial role in my enjoyment of music--for me, it can be a potent visual representation of the sound itself. Below are a few of my favorites--and like any great artist, you'll know a Steinweiss when you see it.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Live From The Basement

If you have an hour to kill, watch Radiohead perform The King of Limbs live from a BBC basement. It premiered last night on Spanish TV, and it goes to show that their critically-mixed eighth album is a grower but still subtly phenomenal in its own right. If you're in a hurry, just watch the opener "Bloom"--Radiohead might have the best rhythm section around. Highly recommended viewing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cy Twombly, 1928-2011

[Cy Twombly, Untitled // 1970]

"My line is childlike but not childish. It is very difficult to fake: To get that quality you need to project yourself into the child's line. It has to be felt."

Charles Mingus // Track A-Solo Dancer (Stop! Look! And Listen, Sinner Jim Whitney!)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Two Hundred Thirty Five Years Young

[via cosmic dust]

Happy birthday, America. Here's a present for you--my favorite song.

John Fahey // America

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summertime Blooze

Just in time for the 4th of July, a cure for the Summertime Blooze. Waterloo Sunset presents nearly an hour of summer jams and found sounds, both old and new alike to keep your fires hot and your pools cool. Don't forget yer sunscreen.

Side A
Chubby Checker // Let's Surf Again
Richard Swift // Knee-High Boogie Blues
The Temptations // Paradise
The Sandals // Lonely Road
Sonny & the Sunsets // Stranded
Don Julian // It's A Sad Song
Floating Action // So Vapor
Bibio // Lover's Carvings
White Denim // River To Consider

Side B
Tame Impala // Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind
Ty Segall // You Make The Sun Fry
Unknown Mortal Orchestra // Jello & Juggernauts
Cotton Jones // Cotton & Velvet
Pure X // Back Where I Began
Wanda Sá // Inútil Paisagem
Bo Diddley // Old Man River
Link Wray // Slow Drag

Download (click down arrow on player):
Summertime Blooze by artblevy

Monday, June 20, 2011

Woods // Sun & Shade

By now, Woods’ music shouldn’t be so effective. Since their 2009 breakthrough Songs of Shame, the prolific Brooklyn group has essentially recreated the same album of ramshackle psych-folk once a year, often with similar song titles or lyrical themes. But they’ve morphed into one of the most dependably great acts around through superior songwriting, rising above the lo-fi graveyard to craft perhaps their best offering yet with Sun & Shade.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Woods might hit a stylistic dead-end at some point. Their sound isn’t especially new, drawing from that halcyon wellspring of inspiration, the late-60s to early-70s. But where the band differs is the overall feel, a wholly original atmosphere that enshrouds everything they do. Jeremy Earl’s high, earnest croon acts as the glue that holds together the bare-bones instrumentation. The tempos vary from verse to verse, the guitars are often out of tune, busted notes stick out like sore thumbs, and consequently everything feels like an exciting, warts-and-all first take.

Closer listening proves the songs are hardly tossed-off. Earl is one of the most impressive melody writers around, and each gnarly guitar solo is carefully constructed to work within these frameworks. He’s obviously pushing himself as a songwriter, trying to best himself at every turn. Take the last three album openers: Songs of Shame’s “To Clean” blasted out of the gate with Crazy Horse-like mania, but the dynamic “Blood Dries Darker” of At Echo Lake showed the band was capable of simmering their psych until the very end. And now “Pushing Onlys” puts the notch even higher, with buoyant, golden harmonies aiming for an emotional high unlike any in Woods’ career.

Sun & Shade is a perfect summation of the group’s overall aesthetic. The band works with both light and dark shades, switching off between carefree bliss and deep sadness and fear. “I won’t believe that it can’t get worse,” Earl eerily sings on “Any Other Day,” an early-album standout that shows off the group’s impeccable pop mastery. This is also the most varied record in Woods’ lengthy discography. Tribal rhythms, Grateful Dead-like folk-rock, wistful soul, and jangly bubblegum pop all make appearances. But Woods don’t beat you over the head with their influences; they take those sounds and make them their own.

Over a third of the record is given over to two songs: “Out of the Eye” and “Sol y Sombra.” These are nods back to the band’s more experimental roots, with added Krautrock rhythms that propel the various tape effects and guitar meanderings into a coherent direction. Even when surrounded by a treasure trove of pop perfection, these experiments are worth diving into. Woods can’t seem to relinquish their darker past, and that’s what makes them so effective.

There’s the tiniest bit of sheen to Sun & Shade that’s worth noting for such a defiantly lo-fi band. Maybe they can afford better equipment, but it’s more likely a result of the group realizing what a musical gold mine they’re sitting on. That fraction of fidelity elevates Woods to a new level that didn’t seem possible (or even desirable) a few albums ago. Here they’ve proved that their success isn’t all charm or happenstance. Woods have gotten to this point by following every creative impulse, and they seemingly have a million more possibilities stretching out ahead.

[via prefix]

Woods // Pushing Onlys
Woods // Who Do I Think I Am?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Episode 34: Righteous Wrath

[via but does it float]

On Episode 34 of the WS Podcast, we're saluting the righteous wrath of an honorable man, Gil Scott-Heron. This one's a dark offering, featuring the likes of Gil, Mulatu Astatke's Ethiopian jazz, and Colin Stetson, who creates avant-garde compositions through the use of a saxophone, circular breathing, and a thorough knowledge of acoustics (all in one take, no less). Best served after midnight.

Gil Scott-Heron // Paint It Black
R.L. Burnside // Goin' Down South
Timber Timbre // Bad Ritual
Mulatu Astatke // Mulatu
Gil Scott-Heron // The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
Dirty Beaches // Lone Runner (Live at Daytrotter)
Neu! // Weissensee
Lightnin' Hopkins // Last Night
Colin Stetson // The Righteous Wrath Of An Honorable Man
Gil Scott-Heron // New York Is Killing Me

Total running time: 36:56

Episode 34: Righteous Wrath

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Les Paul!

The inventor of the solid-body electric guitar, pioneer in overdubbing recording techniques, experimenter in tape delay and multitrack recording, and he invented a new musical vocabulary with his jazz and country compositions that he recorded with his beloved wife Mary Ford in the 1950s. In short: the architect of rock and roll.

Les Paul & Mary Ford // The World Is Waiting For The Sunrise

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron: 1949-2011

"I did not become someone different / That I did not want to be
But I'm new here / Will you show me around?
No matter how far wrong you've gone / You can always turn around."

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thought Ballune

As evidenced by the latest podcast, Unknown Mortal Orchestra's been on my mind. Don't know anything about them, but that's what makes their music so good: it's shoegaze-y guitar rock with some funky backbeats blasting out of a mysterious void. Some of the most exciting tunes I've heard in awhile. Their (his? her?) debut drops June 21 on Fat Possum; review forthcoming. In the meantime, dig "Thought Ballune" below.

Unknown Mortal Orchestra // Thought Ballune

Monday, May 16, 2011

Episode 33: Harlan County to the County Line

[via 50 watts]

Episode 33 of the WS podcast, featuring a decidedly warm mix sure to please in the warm weather. Weary souls abound, both old and new. Pull up a chair and ward that ole man trouble away.

Jim Ford // Harlan County
Otis Redding // Ole Man Trouble
The Budos Band // The River Serpentine
Unknown Mortal Orchestra // Ffunny Ffrends
Dungen // Det Du Tӓnker Idag Ӓr Du I Morgon
Rodriguez // Sugar Man
Bob Dylan // You're A Big Girl Now (New York sessions, 1974)
Wings // Let Me Roll It
Cass McCombs // County Line

Total running time: 35:33


Episode 33

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Morning Benders // Oh Annie

Chris Chu of San Fran's The Morning Benders wrote "Oh Annie" after "watching Annie Hall for the 100th time." Alvie Singer probably would've dug the loping jazziness of the tune. Take a listen below.

Oh Annie by The Morning Benders

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Episode 32: Towards The Sun

[via illuminate the world]

A trip around the world via ancient melodies and folk rhythms, just in time for Earth Day. Lomax recordings, found sounds, and a number of other oddities waiting to be heard and replayed. Get outside and run towards the sun.

Crap Eye // One Morning At The Break Of Day (Wake Up Song)
Califone // Ape-Like
Group Inerane // Kuni Majagani
Marissa Nadler // Daisy, Where Did You Go?
Jim Schoenfeld // Before
Ted Lucas // Love & Peace Raga
Abner Jay // I'm So Depressed
Mountain Man // Loon Song
Possessed By Paul James // Fiddle #1
Hasil Adkins // By The Lonesome River

Total running time: 36:05

Episode 32: Towards The Sun

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pushing Onlys

New track from Brooklyn's finest ramshackle psych-rock outfit, Woods. Their sixth full-length, appropriately titled Sun & Shade, drops June 14th on Woodsist. In the meantime, here's the first single: "Pushing Onlys."

"Pushing Onlys" - Woods by forcefieldpr

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fleet Foxes // "Grown Ocean"

Video for "Grown Ocean," taken from Fleet Foxes's upcoming Helplessness Blues (out May 3 on Sub Pop). With each new song, it seems this sophomore effort will be a veritable stunner, and it may rocket Fleet Foxes into the stratosphere. Couldn't be more excited. Take a gander (and a listen) below.

Fleet Foxes - Grown Ocean from Fleet Foxes on Vimeo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

24 Hours at SXSW '11

Besides our own testimonial, the Austinist offers up this artful video recap done by Jake Roper. Scenes of Austin inter-spliced with educational videos about Stephen F. Austin and scored (partially) by the Black Angels--you've found the triumvirate to steal any Austinite's heart, Mr. Roper.

24hrs at SXSW from Jake Roper on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Episode 31: Smoke Dreams

[paul klee]

After all of the SXSW madness, a little mellow breather is in order. We've got some real weird ones here, including 1950s crooner Ronnie Deauville, who was confined to an iron lung for most of his recording career. Episode 31 is a marathon, not a sprint, best served after midnight. Open the windows and enjoy.

Radiohead // Bloom
Tape // Companions
Broadcast // Come On Let's Go
Boards of Canada // Pete Standing Alone
Ronnie Deauville // Smoke Dreams
Yma Sumac // Ataypura (High Andes)
Mulatu Astatke // Yegelle Tezeta
Caribou // Found Out
Kurt Vile // Society Is My Friend
Dirty Beaches // Lord Knows Best

Total running time: 39:20

Episode 31: Smoke Dreams

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo

Kurt Vile has made a cottage industry out of his warped folk-rock, releasing a treasure trove of full-lengths, EPs, singles, 7-inches, and cassettes over the past three years. They’re all a varying degree of quality -- the Philly songwriter hasn’t met a song fragment he doesn’t want to put to tape -- but his music is united by his two strongest suits: his expert guitar-playing and his singular voice. Smoke Ring For My Halo is Vile’s fourth record to date and his strongest yet. While he still displays some maddening inconsistencies, Vile hits some truly strident highpoints that bode well for the future.

There’s long been a duality to Vile’s music—one moment he’s slinging audacious six-string solos with his awesomely named backing group, the Violators, the next he’s in full-on folk troubadour mode. His first two full-lengths reflected this, with 2008’s Constant Hitmaker living up to its pop-rock claim, while 2009’s God Is Saying This To You featured his trademark acoustic ruminations. But his Matador debut, Childish Prodigy, packaged these two sides together, and Smoke Ring picks up where he left off.

Gone is the bedroom-recorded haze of Vile’s past releases. Here, John Agnello produces, a wise choice given his resume: records by Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., and the Hold Steady all boast his name, and his steady guidance really makes Vile’s songs burn with intensity. The Violators’ precise groove on “Puppet To The Man” allows Vile to be out front with his rambling sneer, and Agnello goes for the less-is-more approach, capturing the band within a warm atmosphere.

Elsewere, Vile puts his mind to his intricate fingerpicked guitar style. Opener “Baby’s Arms” is a testament to his skill as both a songwriter and performer. He really sells the record’s best melody with his drawn-out warble: “there’s been but one true loooove/ In my baaaaaby’s aaaaaaarmmmms.” The electronics bubbling underneath add so much depth that he repeats the trick a few times, like on the propulsive and soaring “Society Is My Friend” or the dreamy “On Tour.”

But a few of the hats Vile tries on don’t fit quite as well. “Jesus Fever” and “In My Time” are two sides of the same coin: pleasantly soft pop-rock numbers that might have worked better as lo-fi demos. With the increased fidelity, oddly enough, the songs lose their carefree nature. Likewise, the back half suffers from too many acoustic numbers, with “Peeping Tom” even going so far as to pilfer part of the stellar melody from the far superior “My Sympathy” off God Is Saying This To You. The similarities between a lot of these songs are frustrating. He can be a near-perfect songwriter, but he often recycles his melodic ideas when he doesn’t need to.

He’s got some growing pains, but that’s what makes Vile so interesting. His work is definitely on an upward trajectory, provided that he’s still willing to experiment with his sound. It’s easy to see Smoke Ring being remembered as the stepping stone to a transcendent piece of work in Vile’s discography.

[via prefix]

Kurt Vile // Baby's Arms
Kurt Vile // Puppet To The Man

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lonestar Lullabies SXSW Mix

Lonestar Lullabies has put together this incredible mix for your South By Southwest needs. Consider this a primer on Texas bands that are a must-see if you're in town this week. He sez: "Austinites welcome the world (and half of Brooklyn) to our city with open arms, breakfast tacos, and plenty of tall boys of Lone Star. Ironically (but also understandably), Austin bands don't get much of the spotlight. Here's my attempt to remedy that: a mix of mostly recent Austin acts doing what they do best."

Be sure to tune into Lonestar Lullabies every Monday 7-9AM on KVRX 91.7 FM (or, where you'll hear only the finest in Texas music. Track listing below:

Cole Bee Wilson // Addicted
The Jungle Rockers // Nothin's Enough
A Giant Dog // Grand
Marmalakes // Vittoria
Possessed By Paul James // Colorofmybloodynose
Bosque Brown // Texas Sun
Over the Hill // Singin' to the Dead
Literature // Cincinnatti
The Golden Boys // Older Than You
Boonsboro // Sneak-a-Peak
Big Boys // Fun Fun Fun
Frank Smith // Nineteen
Silver Pines // Timefather
Balmorhea // Palestrina
Soft Healer // Grand Isle

Grab the mix here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beach Fossils // What A Pleasure

On their self-titled debut, Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils played it close to the vest. Arrangements were spare, with intertwining guitar lines built on a foundation of serpentine bass, lo-fi vocals, and barely there drumming. Not revolutionary, to say the least, but a pleasant listen nonetheless. With such a stylized formula, would there need to be any changes? On first listen, the group’s new EP feels like more of the same, but some subtle shifts reveal a band that’s comfortable in its skin but itching for more.

The first surprising thing about this EP is its cohesiveness. Often, EPs serve as song dumps for bands wanting to exorcise their past, but Beach Fossils have built a solid statement of a record. Introductory instrumental “Moments” serves up some widescreen catharsis that’s unusual for such an introverted band. But that bittersweet build-up is repeated as the coda to “Adversity,” bringing the EP full circle and closing the record on a high note. As a result, What A Pleasure has a definitive path to follow, cycling through some pretty heady emotions in just under 25 minutes.

With the hazy production values, you’d be forgiven in calling it vaguely nostalgic, but the band injects some real darkness underneath. On EP centerpiece “Out In The Way,” lead singer Dustin Payseur gets an assist from Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum, their bleary voices fighting for air against synths and effected percussion. It owes a tremendous debt to the kind of ‘80s pop that made John Hughes’s films so irresistible, but the emotions are completely earned, sounding like a minimalist M83 by way of the Cure.

Payseur has a real knack for writing memorable melodies and there’s no dearth here. Both “What A Pleasure” and “Calyer” display those trademark surf guitars that are so effective in hammering an earworm home. They even revel in full-on pop-rock on the chiming “Distance,” albeit in a more reserved manner. That sense of restraint is a real plus for the band, but they’ve learned to augment their songs with other ideas, either sonic or thematic in nature. It sets Beach Fossils up for a nice career, one that will be built over the long-haul on solid songwriting and steady, welcome evolution.

[via prefix]

Beach Fossils // What A Pleasure
Beach Fossils // Adversity

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Episode 30: Riverine

[via strange maps]

Mardi Gras is in full swing, so here's an ode to rivers, zydeco, the blues, and folk, meandering among anything that'll strike your fancy. Enjoy.

Clifton Chenier // Zydeco Et Pas Sale
The Band // When I Paint My Masterpiece
Fats Domino // Going To The River
Blitzen Trapper // Black River Killer
Neil Young // Down By The River (Live at Massey Hall, Toronto, 1971)
Kurt Vile // Baby's Arms
John Fahey // Requiem For Mississippi John Hurt (Live at the Matrix, San Francisco, 1968/1969)
Mississippi John Hurt // Farther Along
The Rolling Stones // Ventilator Blues
Augustus "Track Horse" Haggerty & Group // God A'Mighty Drag

Total running time: 35:42

Waterloo Sunset #30

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011

Episode 29: In The Basement

[via old soul music]

On Episode 29 of the WS Podcast, we're venturing in the basement for some home-cooked fun. There's some leftover Valentine's Day candy and a whole lot of psychedelic/soul/garage rock fire for your listening/dancing pleasure. In the basement, that's where it's at.

Sugar Pie DeSanto + Etta James // In The Basement, Part 1
The Yardbirds // Heart Full Of Soul
The Invincibles // Heart Full Of Love
Johnny & The Expressions // Now That You're Mine
The Seeds // Can't Seem To Make You Mine
Women // Black Rice
The White Stripes // Little Room
Link Wray // Big City Stomp
Cavedweller // Can't Cook Down
Charlotte Dada // Don't Let Me Down
Soft Healer // Grand Isle
Sugar Pie DeSanto + Etta James // In The Basement, Part 2

Total running time: 36:35

Waterloo Sunset #29

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Grand Isle

Brand new song from one of our favorite bands from 2010. Monofonus Press just released a one-sided 10" from Soft Healer, featuring the long-burning psych jam "Grand Isle" and their cover of the Zero Boys'"Civilization's Dying." Expect a full-length later this year; we couldn't be more excited...

Soft Healer // Grand Isle

Monday, February 14, 2011

God Only Knows

In 1966, Brian Wilson and lyricist Tony Asher penned one of the best love songs in pop history. Put to tape with a lead vocal by Carl Wilson, "God Only Knows" still shines after all these years. With that, have a happy Valentine's Day, and enjoy this Beach Boys demo recording from '67.

The Beach Boys // God Only Knows (1967 Rehearsal)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Episode 28

[via illuminate the world]

This week we say goodbye to the White Stripes, WS's adolescent gateway to a wider world of psychedelic punk. Plus, new music from Sic Alps, Papercuts, and Kurt Vile, as well as a few covers thrown in for good measure. Brush those dead leaves from the dirty ground, it's time to start anew.

The White Stripes // Black Math
Sic Alps // Cement Surfboard
Charlie Feathers // Can't Hardly Stand It
Blitzen Trapper // Whiskey Kisser
Link Wray // I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry (Hank Williams cover)
Atlas Sound // So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad) (Everly Brothers cover)
J.K. & Company // Fly
Broadcast // Where Youth And Laughter Go
Papercuts // Do What You Will
Kurt Vile // Jesus Fever

Total running time: 31:41

Waterloo Sunset #28

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wit's End

New Cass McCombs album, Wit's End, out April 12 on Domino. Turn out the lights, stop what you're doing, and stream the lead-off track, "County Line," below.

Cass McCombs - County Line by DominoRecordCo

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


[via ruradelia]

We get very schizophrenic winters here in Texas—a half-week of drizzly cold, followed by a few days of humidity and heat, then back to cold. Personally, I like our winters; the unpredictability is sometimes maddening, but there’s something beautiful to being at the mercy of Mother Nature. Consequently, I like to turn to Wilco’s “At Least That’s What You Said,” album opener to their highly underrated A Ghost Is Born. It’s the sound of weary resignation (and possibly psychosis), with Jeff Tweedy barely mumbling lyrics over haunting piano chords. Then the atonal bridge erupts, giving way to the best guitar freakout this side of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. With the abundant sunshine and heat the rest of the year, it’s nice to revel in such bleakness once in a while.

But our mild winters give way to warmer weather in an instant. It’s like somebody turns a switch: ladies and gentlemen, Summer! So during the drizzlier months, I put on Calexico’s “Corona,” knowing full well that the golden sunshine is just around the corner. “Corona” is a Minutemen cover, but in true Calexico fashion, the band strips the original of its punky attitude in favor of some Mexican flavor. It’s inherently cinematic: those mariachi horns, the gorgeous strings, and the romance of the sighing pedal steel all call to mind the best ever roadtrip to dusty, sweaty West Texas. And the false starts at the beginning sound like a clunker trying to turn over before finally kicking into high gear, its nose pointed west towards that blistering sunset. The people will survive in their environment…

[via prefix]

Wilco // At Least That's What You Said
Calexico // Corona

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Episode 27: Winter Mix

[via sunday morning]

A wintry mix to help get you through yer own wintry mixes. Get a nice drink and pop on some headphones as we say goodbye to some friends and start the new year with a toast. We've got much to talk about and much to reminisce...

Bob Dylan :: On A Night Like This
Captain Beefheart :: Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles
Nico :: The Fairest Of The Seasons
Wilco :: Hell Is Chrome
John Fahey :: Days Have Gone By
Cotton Jones :: Gone The Bells (Demo Version)
Modest Mouse :: Grey Ice Water
Broadcast :: Echo's Answer
Edith Piaf :: Non Je Ne Regrette Rien
The Walkmen :: While I Shovel The Snow

Total running time: 35:50


Waterloo Sunset #27

Friday, January 14, 2011

Echo's Answer: RIP Trish Keenan

One of the great things about music is its vastness: there's simply not enough time in the world to listen to every single thing that has ever been recorded. Consequently, great music sometimes slips through the cracks, only to be picked up, dusted off, and enjoyed far into the future.

I found out about Broadcast a few months ago when I heard "Come On Let's Go" in a store, from their 2000 debut The Noise Made By People. Their lead singer, Trish Keenan, has an arresting voice: mysterious, a little bit airy, but instantly recognizable. The song sounds like a precursor to the current fascination in underground music, diffusing Phil Spector-like pop through a darker, more modern lens.

I was late to the Broadcast party, but that didn't stop me from diving head-first into that debut and eventually their ever-expanding discography. It quickly became the soundtrack to cold, misty, quiet December nights where the rain refracts Christmas lights into a million different directions. I was excited for the new sonic adventure. However, this morning came the news of Keenan's sudden death. It's especially shocking in this case; while I wouldn't call myself a Broadcast super-fan, I was falling fast for their beautiful sound. Now, my musical exploration of Broadcast has a definite ending point; now, the band--which prided itself on boundary-pushing--is frozen in time.

Besides the personal connection, it's a tragedy for Keenan, her bandmates, her family, and her fans. Here was an artist steady in her resolve and cut down too soon. She left behind a small legacy, one that just might do for you what it did for me: stop you in your tracks and force you to take notice. That's a rare gift. We had just met, but the music isn't fleeting.


Broadcast :: Come On Let's Go
Broadcast :: Echo's Answer