Tuesday, June 27, 2006
came in brave



As June gets ready to wither away into July, in less than a week we'll have officialy reached the halfway point in 2006. And, in typical music geek fashion, the only way to commemorate that is with a list of some sort. So, in a year that's been pretty impressive from a musical standpoint, thus far, here are some of my favourite things.

Albums*

1. Ladyhawk - Ladyhawk
No surprises here. I've already talked about this band and their record about a dozen times, so if you aren't already convinced, chances are you never will be. The same names get dropped in every review: Neil Young, Black Mountain, the Replacements... my friend Chris decribed them as "MMJ, without the South." The comparisons may be getting a bit tired, but all of them fit. For us locals, there's also the fact that it just sounds like Vancouver... all the dingy parts crammed into 38 1/2 minutes.
download: Ladyhawk - Teenage Love Song

2. Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat
I'm not very excited by Rilo Kiley, and the Watson Twins' record is a bit of a snoozefest. Jenny's solo debut is like the perfect combination of the redeeming qualities of both, though. No offense to Blake Sennett, but if More Adventurous is any indication, Jenny's full-time gig finally figured out what most people realized right away: that her voice is the star of the show. Team that with the Watson's soulful harmonizing and she could probably sing the phone book and get away with it. The song-writing, however, is top notch, and while it takes a sharp turn towards country, Stereogum's Ms. Indie Rock 2005, doesn't forget to bring along her pop sensibility and pentient for thoughtful words.
You can still download the entire record (minus the cover) at Team Love

3. Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country
The reviews for this one have been pretty mixed, but if you ask me (and you probably won't, but I'll tell you anyhow), it's their finest release, for sure. If this doesn't put the Belle and Sebastian comparisons to rest, I don't know what will. Sure, the songs are still pretty cutesy, but there's a healthy dose of blue-eyed soul that Stuart Murdoch could never dream of matching. The singles are the strongest tracks, but when the singles are as strong as "Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken" and the title track, I don't consider that a flaw. If you purchased the very boring Concretes record and were disappointed by more than the DRM, you should know that this is the record you thought you were buying.
download: Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out Of This Country

4. Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
Be Your Own Pet's debut sort of snuck up on me. They're certainly not doing anything particularly novel. All those Yeah Yeah Yeahs comparisons are pretty on the mark, but I've still played this record so much, I should be sick of it by now. Besides the Karen O name drops, it seems like everyone feels the need to mention that they're also very young. Youthful exuberance never sounded so good.
download: Be Your Own Pet - We Will Vacation, You Can Be My Parasol

5. Beirut - Gulag Orkestar
Overrated? Probably. But, with Pitchfork and the blogosphere clamouring over each other to "break" new bands, how do you possibly live up to the hype nowadays? I've also read people opine that you could probably travel to Central Europe and get the "authentic" version of Zach Condon's music. I wouldn't know. Frankly, as a guy who likes lyrics, I'll take the pretender english language equivalent any day of the week. Zach's American upbringing infused his songs with more than just words I can understand, though. It also means the influence of Neutral Milk Hotel, Magnetic Fields, and other modern music makers also permeate the album's 11 tracks.
download: Beirut - Postcards From Italy

6. Cat Power - The Greatest
This album was actually a let down for me. The proper credit for the record would be "Cat Power and the Memphis Rhythm Band." And, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Memphis Rhythm Band, the set of superstar musicians are so goddamn tight, they almost destroy the beautifully fragile quality of Chan Marshall's songs. Can something be "too good?" Only if part of what made it great before was the imperfections. That being said, the Greatest is still undeniable. None of these songs have ingrained themselves into my head like some of her past numbers, but I could listen to Chan's smokey voice drip across the rich backing tracks on this record all day long.
download: Cat Power - Where Is My Love? (live in Boston) (originally snagged from Bradley's Almanac)

7. Casey Dienel - Wind-Up Canary
At the tender age of 20, Casey Dienel crafted and recorded one of the finest singer/songwriter records you're likely to hear this year. The classically trained pianist will surely draw comparisons to her girl-and-keys contemporaries, but she also owes a debt to Stephen Malkmus (she even covered "Cut Your Hair" for Daytrotter). She doesn't have that same detached, slacker aesthetic, but her music does sound absolutely effortless.
download: Casey Dienel - Frankie and Annette

8. Jolie Holland - Springtime Can Kill You
Springtime Can Kill You is a long way from the sound of the lo-fi bedroom recording of Catalpa. Like Holland's second record, Escondida, it's a well produced little disc. Sonically, the newest record also loses a little bluegrass, in favour of a little more jazz, but don't think that her latest venture's into Come Away With Me territory. I'm sure this is the Jolie Holland record that my mother will enjoy the most, but that's mostly because she's doesn't find budget production values endearing, and Jolie doesn't use the word "fuck" on this record, and not because she's making a run at A/C radio play. Springtime... chronicles the failed "experiment" of the vagabond-like songtress, of settling down to a more pedestrian existence of a regular life with a regular joe. The resulting twelve songs make up one of best damn break up records you'll hear, this year or any.
download: Jolie Holland - Mexican Blue

9. Lions in the Street - Cat Got Your Tongue EP
I actually didn't think I ranked this as high as I do, until I stopped to realize that every morning that I've coaxed myself out of bed for the past month, had begun with the errant guitar note that signals the beginning of "Already Gone." It's probably worth repeating that the boys aren't doing anything new on their debut EP, but they are doing things that you've already heard pretty goddamn well. If the Stones hadn't gone steadily downhill since Exile On Main St. (except for Some Girls - I love Some Girls), they might have put this out instead of A Bigger Bang.
You can still download the entire EP at the band's website.

10. Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds
Owen Pallett is probably the only guy in the world who can write a 100% genuine concept record about Dungeons and Dragon's eight school's of magic, that has the word "poo" in the title, and get away with it. Not only does he get away with the almost overly ambitious endeavour, but the entire exercise soars. In addition to thematic growth, the record retains all the vioin theatrics of Has A Good Home, while welcoming a larger helping of accompanying instrumention. Even the harpsichord sounds good. And when's the last time you've been able to say that?
download: Final Fantasy - This Lamb Sells Condos

*if it's been leaked, but not officially released, I didn't count it.

Five more things that have got me really excited...

The Paper Cranes - I'll Love You Until My Veins Explode
The self-titled EP by Victoria's Paper Cranes is a very bipolar affair, split between new-New Wave and upbeat, piano-laden, power pop. And, while they do the whole synth punctuated, angular guitar driven, dance song thing pretty well, the triumph of "I'll Love You Until My Veins Explode" makes a strong case for jettisoning the former personality.

Akron/Family - live at the Media Club
If I don't see a better show the whole year, I wouldn't be surprised. Apparently, they can be hit or miss live, but their March appearance at the Media Club was one of the best performances I've seen... ever. Grounded in timeless songwriting, but sonically ambitious; classic folk one minute, noisescapes the next. The band pushed the whole "freak folk" thing to its limits and then some. The experimentation never reached the point where it became aimless, however, with the band jumping genres, tempos, and sonic possibilities at just the right time, with ease.

The Fiery Furnaces - Waiting To Know You and live at Richard's
These two things don't quite fit together, as my new favourite Furnaces track wasn't played at their lone 2006 appearance in Vancouver. The song might have been amongst the very few that didn't translate well to the Stooges-like reconstruction job that the Friedberger's are applying to their catalogue on this tour, anyhow. One of the most straight ahead (and "pretty" sounding) tracks that they've ever released, the plaintive, but hopeful, love song might have been flattened right out if it were performed in the protopunk style of their most recent tour. On the other hand, almost everything they played a couple weeks ago, was jaw-droppingly great with the guitars cranked and the distortion set to high.

Jose Gonzalez - Heartbeats (sorta) Video
I have never been a fan of songs in commercials. I'm not going to malign small bands that let their songs promote products (let's face it, no matter how big of an underground success you are, you probably aren't making a whole lot of coin), but I will forever hate that "Pink Moon" conjures up images of Volkswagon for me. I watch much less TV now, so it probably won't be a problem again, but my distaste remains. This European Sony Advert that features Jose Gonzalez's cover of "Heartbeats," however, is both visually stunning - a near perfect companion to the music - and only mentions the product at the very end of the video. I could try and deny that I've fallen for a commercial, but considering the amount of times I've watched this since my friend Kat sent it to me, I'd just be lying to myself.


Blue Grey Dots
I still haven't managed to make it out to one of their shows. And, even though it was a bit tongue-in-cheek, Only pointing out that the dance punk thing is so last year *eye roll* in their Music Waste preview, had some validity to it. Still, the mere three songs I've heard from their self-titled EP have me pretty psyched to see what these kids can do.


now playing: The Zombies - This Will Be Our Year

2 Comments:

Pretty good list...I'm sure that the Lions in the Streets and Paper Cranes EPs will be on my year-end EP list, and the Final Fantasy album is definitely one of my favourite for the year so far. There's been some really, really good music in 2006...though I don't know that I have the time or energy to make a top 10 list of my own!

By Anonymous matthew, at 2:35 PM  

great idea... mid-year lists are the new year-end lists

By Blogger Hanson, at 11:26 PM  

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upcoming shows
2/8 Twin Sister, Eleanor Friedberger, and Ava Luna @ the Media Club
2/9 David Choi @ the Rio
2/10 Secret Chiefs 3 and Dengue Fever @ the Rickshaw
2/13 White Buffalo @ the Media Club
2/14 The Ballyntines and Pleasure Cruise (TT) @ the Biltmore
2/18 Grimes w/Born Gold @ Fortune (early)
2/18 Cruel Young Heart, Young Liars, the Oh Wells, and Matiation @ the Dodson Rooms (AA)
2/18 Cursive w/UME @the Media Club
2/19 The Asteroids Galaxy Tour w/Vacationer @ Venue
2/20 Veronica Falls w/Bleached @ the Media Club
2/26 DJ Krush @ Fortune
2/29 Trevor Hall @ the Media Club
3/6 Slow Club w/Signals @ the Media Club
3/7 Cloud Nothings w/Mr. Dream @ the Media Clubr
3/8 Islands @ the Rio
3/10 Memoryhouse @ the Waldorf
3/17 William Fitzsimmons @ the Biltmore (early)
3/18 Magnetic Fields @ the Vogue (AA)
3/21 Plants & Animals>/b> @ the Rickshaw
3/22 Drive-by Truckers @ the Commodore
3/23 White Rabbits @ the Biltmore
3/23 Loney Dear @ the Media Club
3/24 Sharon Van Etten and the War on Drugs @ the Biltmore (early)
3/25 Nada Surf and An Horse @ the Rickshaw
3/27 The Ting Tings @ the Commodore
4/5 House de Racket @ the Electric Owl
4/6 Chairlift w/Nite Jewel @ the Electric Owl
4/7 Heartless Bastards @ the Media Club
4/8 Metronomy @ Venue
4/8 Gotye @ the Vogue (AA)
4/9 Cults @ Venue
4/10 First Aid Kit @ Venue
4/10 Andrew Bird w/Laura Marling @ the Vogue (AA)
4/13 The Odds and the Grapes of Wrath @ the Rickshaw
4/14 The Joel Plaskett Emergency @ the Vogue (AA)
4/24 School of Seven Bells w/Exitmusic @ the Electric Owl
4/26 Justice @ the PNE Forum (AA)
4/27 M83 @ the Vogue (AA)
4/27 Yukon Blonde @ the Commodore
4/28 Neon Indian @ Venue (early)
5/6 Delta Spirit w/Waters @ the Electric Owl
5/9 Yann Tiersen @ the Rickshaw
5/11 Great Lake Swimmers w/Cold Specks @ the Commodore
5/12 The Boxer Rebellion> @ the Biltmore
5/27 Coeur de Pirate @ Venue

legend:
AA = all ages
DG = @damaged goods
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previous posts
for the single young professionals, who find the n...
hearts & harps
i'm afraid of japan
sharing different heartbeats
old fashioned morphine
an actor will seek revenge
decent days and nights
no party
post-war
rub alcohol blues

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mp3s are for preview purposes, if you like what you hear, buy it at your favourite indie record store. please don't direct link to photos. click for more.

writing by Quinn
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