People of the North — Deep Tissue

I’m dog sitting this week for an adorable little pup named Ash. There’s a stack of records as tall as him waiting to be digested and reviewed. Unfortunately for most of those records, the pup wins.

However, this debut album from People of the North (comprised of members of Oneida), with its layered drone and psychedelic riffs, fits in perfectly with pup time. Ash immediately hopped onto my bed and placed his furry little head on a t-shirt pillow as I become transported into this heady soundscape.

Coincidentally, I’m in the midst of reading Salome Voegelin’s Listening to Noise and Silence. Voegelin explains, “A philosophy of sound art must have at its core the principle of sharing time and space with the object or event under consideration. It is a philosophical project that necessitates an involved participation.” And while Voegelin’s writing can be distractingly theoretical, it details the crux of the active listening and music discourse. “The sonic sensibility put forward in this process re-focuses philosophical problems around objectivity and subjectivity; it questions the notion of a transcendental a priori; and via the notion of interpretative fantasies, connects the experience of sound with the notion of virtuality.”

But this ain’t no philosophy blog. I’m merely drawing the connection because Deep Tissue, an admirable effort in sonic transportation, is, personally, an album which can only be enjoyed in a specific mental and physical environment. I’m not going to listen to this album unless I have the ability to completely zone out for forty minutes; in a state which will afford me the energy to focus on the subtle vocal echoing and rolling synth on “The Vastest Island” or juxtaposition of sludgy guitars and neat percussion on “Tunnels”.

So, as I watch this black mop of fur roam from corner to corner, seemingly elated by the sunlight that peers in through my windows, and eventually surrender to the feather-topped mattress, I think to myself, “He gets it.”

And as the needle returns back to its origin, I realize that I got it, too.

Recommended for some super chill-out times.

-sibel yaman

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Nightmares on Wax — In a Space Outta Sound (2006)

2007 was kind of a blur for me. moments of blinding euphoria. times of crippling ennui. sleepless weekends; weekdays of supreme hibernation. nights in clubs air kissing familiars and days spent in a ramshackle fort in my room with red scarves over my lamps. my life was unconventionally structured and my music reflected that. techno, my liege, from thursdays to mondays. whatever else could fill the week.

music barters with friends. buying records at crash and immediately going to the one person who i knew had a turntable just so i didn’t have to wait another minute to hear the track. that time we went to see coldcut, out of our minds. “just for the kick”. too fucked to see bonobo. no one knew the real identity of burial yet. my ticket stub signed by two french lads. “justice for sibel “. waiting at bus stops. walking through the victoria quarter. passing through hyde park. pints at a local pub. afternoon garden parties. this place had insanely become my home.

when i took off to south africa for easter, i missed leeds and found solace in in a space outta sound. it took my mind back to the narrow roads of hyde park, the grey skyline of leeds, and the georgian architecture of headingley. a few friends had introduced me to this album by leeds-native george evelyn previously, although i was never afforded a chance to see him perform.

but this album represents leeds in such a manner that befits the title. the cultural diversity begets the “whatever you’re looking for” music scene. “flip ya lid” has remnants of the influential west indian scene with its reggae guitars combined with simplistic, percussive handclaps. and the final track, “african pirates,” is a jubilee of repetitive bongos and an infectious bass line, in conjunction with vocals in…well, i’m not quite sure which language. each track flows straight into the next, without, it seems, any noticeable transition, but you immediately find yourself in another space as they layers accumulate. it scopes those anthemic “i wanna be with you” moments of life, as well as those melancholic “who gives a damn about me” ones.

and, years later, whenever i’m feeling like i need a simple reminder of leeds, i put this album on and revel in my memories of living in one of the most giving cities.

-sibel yaman

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Radiohead- The King of Limbs

I am currently sitting on my couch, listening to The King of Limbs for the sixth time through today.  That’s right, sixth.  I have done this in a number of different environments today: Listening in a dark room with my noise canceling headphones on; Listening with crappy Apple earbuds while walking through campus today; Listening to it through my computer speakers on my couch; and through some stereo speakers as well.  Each time I listen, I hear a subtle difference that changes this album for me.  Whether it’s a strong ambient effect, or the quadruple vocal layers that sometimes shine through the melody.  This is something that only Radiohead can do.  If I had to choose a word to describe Radiohead in their last four, or even five albums, I would choose unorthodox.  I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had two songs playing when the drums get that ever so slight amount off time.  But, that’s Radiohead for you.

Back in 2004, I had just begun to hear the talk of Radiohead.  My taste in music was accelerating and it was beginning to take a serious impact in the way I looked at everyday sound.  I walked into Schoolkids Records one day and picked out The Bends and Hail to the Thief.  As a newbie to the Radiohead community, I popped in Hail to the Thief and was so weirded out that I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Seriously, horrible first album for someone who was currently listening to Linkin Park and the Space Jam soundtrack… I know, awesome tastes.  As I eased into this band, I couldn’t help but realize that they were already on to something big.  After seeing them live at Bonnaroo in 2006, I put them at the top of the totem pole where they have remained ever since.

As they are accustomed to doing, Radiohead delivered the unexpected.  Just a week before February 19, 2011, no one had any idea that Radiohead was even done with an album.  The “first” newspaper album was announced a week before its release with no hints as to track names or sound.  Then on Friday, the album leaks.  As we remember, Radiohead has done this before, releasing In Rainbows within a weeks notice.  Also, Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser, came out with little notice.  This is something we have grown to expect from this, again let me say, unorthodox band.

Now, here we are, arriving at the newest album from Radiohead, The King of Limbs.  First off, I want to say that I LOVE the cover art.  It reminds me of a mix between Ghostbusters meets Pac-Man meets those plastic finger ghost puppets that you get at Halloween. It looks awesome.  My initial problem with this album is that it sounds nothing like a typical Radiohead record.  The intricacies and depth that are usually involved have been stripped for quite a raw record.  Nothing wrong with raw, however these songs sound like raw versions of past solo or Radiohead songs.  “Little by Little” sounds like “Black Swan”, “Codex” is an updated version of “Movie Soundtrack”, and “Morning Mr Magpie” sounds like a mix between “The Clock” and “Harrowdown Hill”.  Instead of a new Radiohead record, this could easily just be The Eraser Pt. 2.  I honestly have a hard time hearing each person in the band anymore.  Is that a drum machine I hear?  Oh, Thom, just say that it was you on your computer who made this entire album.

The album begins with “Bloom”, which I initially felt that it was quite amazing.  The unfamiliar piano with two or three drums overdubs is quite neat.  However, this song drags on, much like the first half of the album.  Pretty lengthy songs are the culprits here that drag it down to the middle or bottom of the Radiohead catalogue.  Averaging about 4:50 each makes it hard to keep the audiences attention.  Trust me, I know from experience.  “Mr Magpie” and “Little by Little” are nice, but damn they sound like I have heard them on a previous record.  Then comes “Feral”, which is a big mess.  It’s cool, don’t get me wrong… but wtf…  it’s super lengthy for being a “filler” song.  It feels more like Johnny Greenwood wants to put people on a bad acid trip.  My favorites on the album “Lotus Flower” and “Codex” have the most structure of any songs on the album.  They are gorgeous tracks that you are certainly able to zone out to. Both “Codex” and “Give Up the Ghost” seem like songs straight off of OK Computer, which is refreshing.  However, I know I have heard these songs before.  Luckily, you can hear their maturation in the past 10 years and see that they really have excelled as musicians.  Which is why they are able to put these songs on the record, subtle differences.  Lastly, we come to “Separator”, which is a fantastic ending to this record.  It’s upbeat, fun and crisp.

Overall, this album is a fun experience.  However, I don’t think this album was what fans needed.  It’s a “newspaper” album, in that, people are going to forget about it in a few weeks.  This is no OK Computer, Kid A, or even In Rainbows.  It leaves something to be desired.  But, if you are indeed a Radiohead fan, then I urge you to check it out.  Just do not expect it to be at the top of your end of the year list.  My hat is off to you Radiohead, because you can consistently keep people on their feet and deliver albums at your choosing.   Just make it something I am going to remember in 10 years.

6/10

-corey swank

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James Blake — Self-Titled

Writing about James Blake’s music seems almost an exercise in futility now. He himself is all too aware of the rapidity with which his popularity has risen; his name touching the lips and pen tips of every other music journalist and radio dj over the past year. Despite the actual scarcity of his releases, I myself fell in and out of admiration of his work before he had even released this, his self-titled debut album.

When I heard ‘Air and the Lack Thereof’, one of his first releases, I went dotty for the strange amalgamation of sounds at play. Blake is not only a talented composer but also, thanks to having studied popular music it seems; well versed in music history (he has mentioned that the music of classical composers, namely J. S. Bach, was a greater influence than that of his contemporaries in writing and recording his first album.) ‘Air…’ managed to push him to the forefront of the ever progressive ‘post-dubstep’ scene whilst simultaneously displaying a singular understanding of musical heritage: its peculiar vocal samples and distorted organ melody reminiscent of the gospel and blues from the American Deep South.
His next big release, a cover of Feist’s ‘Limit to Your Love’, catapulted the appreciation of his work up a few dozen notches into the commercial echelons of daytime radio and the broadsheet newspapers. I didn’t like that song. It is not a question of selling out; he had only released a handful of tunes, the guy hasn’t even had a chance. No, the combination of indie ballad and bowel-shaking bass just didn’t match the ingenious hybridity of his previous work. Singing and piano, then singing and bass, repeat: it was simple but, for me, awkward rather than effective. I switched off.

His debut has since caused me to look back over my shoulder however. ‘Limit…’ still features, sat smack bang in the middle of the track-list and although I’m still not a fan, it now appears to me as a stepping stone towards the generally more successful and subtler genre-melding at work on this record. Much has been said about the importance of this ‘experimental’ artist breaking into the mainstream yet in truth Blake doesn’t tread entirely new ground and displays a debt to the influence of some decidedly newer composers than Bach, namely Burial and Bon Iver (please don’t sample him, Kanye). Still there is so much that’s good here. The rough, irregular production quality of his trademark clipped vocal samples and fuzzy organ synths makes a welcome return but is now effectively paralleled by the variable vulnerability of his voice on the haunting ‘I Mind’ and ‘Tep and the Logic’. Atmosphere is something Blake has down, no trouble. The album is, as one would expect, clever but surprisingly touching too, just listening to the hugely personal ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and ‘I Never Learnt to Share’ I feel terrible for having ever criticised him! In truth though, it is this courageous lyrical exposure of his emotional frailties that separates Blake from the rest of the largely instrumental ‘post-dubstep’ scene as an artist worth cherishing in years to come.

So much hype can often be detrimental to an artist’s career. Listening to this album, there are things I love and things I don’t but for a debut that’s not such a bad thing. Blake doesn’t appear interested in making a perfect album, rather in trying new things musically. Regardless of whether or not it always works for the listener, it’s exciting and bodes well for his future work.

3/5

-toby ginsberg

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Toby’s Best of 2010 List

10. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

It’s been out for a year (well, two, unofficially) but still makes for addictive listening. Also marks the beginning of David Lynch’s musical career, which is always a good thing.

 

 

 

 

 

9. Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh)

Came nowhere near the dizzying heights of Part One (quite possibly album of the decade!) but still managed to transcend the majority of this year’s soul output.

 

 

 

 

 

8. Tame Impala – InnerSpeaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Voice of the Seven Thunders – Voice of the Seven Thunders

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Toro Y Moi – Causers of This

Music is always vital to a good summer and these three albums proved the perfect soundtrack to this years hot weather. If sunshine was audible…

 

 

 

 

 

5. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma

Ugly but beautiful, discordant yet harmonious, both painful and peaceful, this album reaches perfection through its imperfections. Without digressing into some post-modern parenthesis, regardless of whether you like it or not, this album is a big deal.

 

 

 

4. Scuba – Triangulation

Like a musical metrodome, this year saw dubstep begin to implode under the weight of its own popularity. Several artists switched integrity for chart places and many of the hotly anticipated début albums released this year eventually proved disappointing. There were a couple of notable exceptions however and Scuba’s LP was the pick of the bunch. A collection of introspective techno-dub musings which distinguishes itself from its genre as something special, much in the same way as LTJ Bukem’s Producer 01 did from drum and bass.

3. Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here

What can you really say about this album? One of the great poets of the last century comes back to us. Still relevant, still so unassuming, still mighty.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Onra – Long Distance

Simply put, I haven’t heard a Frenchman work the synth so well since Daft Punk. Achingly gorgeous music.

 

 

 

 

 

1. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid

Easily the best album of the year. Picks up where Andre 3000 left off with The Love Below and then betters it. This consistently surprising, almost annoyingly talented singer gifts us a musical cornucopia with her début LP. It is stupidly good.

 

 

 

 

-toby ginsberg

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Corey’s Best of 2010

The year 2010 is coming to an end and with that comes my end of the year list!

15. Janelle Monáe- The ArchAndroid

The first I heard of this new talent was on Letterman (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzZnao2fbRQ&feature=related).  This instantly was, and still is, my favorite late night performance of the year.

 

 

14. Best Coast- Crazy for You

This band is taking me by force.  This album makes you want to grab a margarita or Corona and party on the beach.  Only Bethany Cosentino could make me wanna dance to a break-up album… oh wait, and #4.

 

 

 

13. Gayngs- Relayted

A supergroup of epic proportions.  This band combined my favorite artists of the Triangle (with other fantastic artists such as Bon Iver and Solid Gold) and made an album that I always want to bob my head to.  Who knew an entire album at only 69 bpm could be so fun…? Gayngs did.

 

 

12. Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings – I Learned the Hard Way

Sharon Jones has successfully brought the funk and house music back into our hearts.  She has been around the block and back with songs of “life lessons, hard times, and infidelity” that bring soul and passion to the audience.  I instantly fell in love with Sharon and that amazing voice.

 

11. Sufjan Stevens- The Age of Adz

Few people know that this is Sufjan’s first full length album since Illinois (one of my favorites of all time).  With Adz, Sufjan ventures out into the world of the electronic and makes an album that will redefine him.  One of the highest points of the album is the 25 minute epic, “Impossible Soul”, which is essentially 8 songs in one and is fantastic from start to finish.

 

10. Broken Social Scene- Forgiveness Rock Record

A thoroughly enjoyable album that brings all of the original members back for another go.  Seeing this band at Hopscotch was a highlight of the weekend, and this album does not disappoint.

 

 

9. Cee Lo Green- The Ladykiller

The classiest, and arguably the busiest, man in show business today, Cee Lo delivers a super up-beat and exciting album that makes me want to get up and dance.  Plus who doesn’t love “F**k You”?

 

 

8. Frightened Rabbit- The Winter of Mixed Drinks

The makers of my favorite album of 2008 have returned with a different but lovable album.  The lyrically apt Scottsman is one of the best songwriters we have today.  If you don’t have Midnight Organ Fight, this one album will have to do (don’t worry, it’s a good thing).

 

 

 

7. Big Boi- Sir Lucious Left Foot and the Son of Chico Dusty

I reviewed this album back in September (My Review).  Check it out.

 

 

 

 

 

6. LCD Soundsystem- This is Happening

One of my favorite songs of the year is “Dance Yrself Clean” and I can’t help but love James Murphy.  His ideas mesh perfectly into this album and he continues to be one of today’s most exciting artists.  I can’t wait to see what he has for 2011.

 

 

 

5.  Caribou- Swim

Seeing this band live in 2010 at Cat’s Cradle was a ridiculously fun time.  The great thing about Caribou is their ability to recreate such intricate music for a live audience.  So fun! So exciting! That’s album #5 for you.

 

 

 

4. Future Islands- In the Evening Air

This is one album that I have had on repeat since it came out.  Something about 2010 makes it a great year for a break-up album, but why can’t a break-up be fun?  That’s exactly what Samuel T. Herring thought after a tough ending to his one true love.  This record brings out the the best in the former Art Lord band.  If you have yet to do it, SEE THIS BAND LIVE! They will blow you off your rocker.

 

3. Sharon Van Etten- Epic

A amazing album that is a modern day masterpiece.  These  eight songs sit so heavily on my mind after I hear them.  Songs of pain, longing, and sheer anger that can’t be expressed but through Sharon’s captivating voice.  “To say the words I want to say to you would be a lie/ By the time I get the courage I am drunk and you are tired”.  In two words: simply gorgeous.

2. The National- High Violet

The exciting thing about this band: they finally made it.  After working dead-end day jobs and putting every last dime they had into their first two albums, they gained recognition and are now selling out every venue across the country.  My favorite record of all time, Alligator, was the start of a love and a connection to this music that I hold very dear to my heart.  Matt Berninger delivers his hauntingly perfect voice in the best ways on this new album.  This dark chapter in The National’s repertoire evokes an emotion over the listener that has never been matched by another band, in my opinion.  “Now we’ll leave this Silver City to all the silver girls/ that gave us black dreams”  Incredible album by an incredible band.

#1!!!!- Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-  Just kidding… THIS ISN’T PITCHFORK!

1. Wild Nothing- Gemini

This band has completely taken over my life.  I have never gotten into a band so quickly than I have with Wild Nothing.  I listen to this album every day and never get tired of it.  The simple yet perfect riffs are enough to excite anyone, but add light and effect heavy vocals, and you have an unbeatable combination.  What excites me most about this band is their ability to never sound the same.  I always hear a uniqueness to each song that begs me to wonder why no band can do the same.  It pains me to say that I have not seen this band live, but when that day comes, I will be a happy man.  If you get one thing this holiday season, make it this album… for real.

-corey swank

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So there’s this.

Over the past two weeks I’ve tried to attack this “best of” thing from a number of traditional angles, and I’ve failed in each attempt.  I change my mind a lot, I get obsessive, and I get moody, three things that do not lend themselves to constructing a professional year end list.  However, I’m not a professional, so here are a handful of records that I loved this year and I feel like writing about.  Today.

Lower Dens – Twin-Hand Movement


There’s a lot of dreamy pop music floating around these days, and a lot of it is great. Beach House and Wild Nothing spring to mind immediately when considering great dream pop records of 2010, but my favorite of the year comes from Jana Hunter’s Lower Dens; there’s a momentum that stretches across the entire length of Twin-Hand Movement that just begs for repeat listens.  Loping bass lines and ear-twistingly simple drum patterns give a complexity that I can’t escape.

Harlem – Hippies

A friend visited just after I first heard this record.  I used an internet jukebox to pick out the catchiest tracks for him to hear at the pool hall we occasionally frequent; by the time I was done, I had shuffled out twelve of the album’s sixteen songs.   Unabashedly ramshackle and sugar-sweet in equal measure, it’s a scream-along record for the best summer drives.

Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me


On some long albums, the filler is just filler.   Part of me thinks Have One On Me would be much better if thirty minutes were trimmed from its length, but another part sees a necessary ebb and flow to keep ears at attention for the really important parts.  Really great drumming, too.  At very least, the fact that I listened to the entire thing at least ten times the week it came out before I started zeroing in on the really good stuff is a testament to how interesting Miss Newsom can be.

Best album of the year: Titus Andronicus – The Monitor


I’ve had a soft spot for Titus Andronicus since I saw them open for a band who shall remain nameless at Cat’s Cradle a couple of years ago, and today I still think they’re currently the best live band in America.  While their debut album displayed their passion to a certain extent, and definitely displayed their songwriting prowess, The Monitor lays out the full TA experience: sweat, blood, and the ability to hold attention through not one, but FIVE songs of more than seven minutes in length.  With any other band, that would be indulgent.  In truth, it still is, but I’m too enthralled to care.  That being said…

Favorite album of the year: Best Coast – Crazy For You


I won’t pretend that Crazy For You is musically superior to the other albums listed here, let alone another dozen that I greatly enjoyed but failed to mention here.  However, it’s right in my wheelhouse.  Lonely love songs over simple guitars with harmonized “ooh-oohs” sung by a pretty girl.  I’ve practically worn out my vinyl copy, and I’m still not tired of it.  Yes, there are many records released in 2010 that are empirically better than Best Coast’s debut.  So what?

I also like these, but not enough to write more than a sentence:

Invisible Hand – Sinister Hand – “Four Seasons” is still the best guitar song of the year.

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest – Less enjoyable than the last one. Better cover.

Tame Impala – Innerspeaker – A really great Dungen ripoff.

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening – Motherfucker did it again.

There are more, probably.

– brian shaw

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