In Transit

Hallo people. This isn’t going to be a very long, drawn out or descriptive post. Right now I’m on my way to NYC to go to university. Things are really hectic, so I can’t promise I’ll be able to post again this week like I had planned, but we shall see.

Anyway, today I’m talking about a dude who I’ve loved for a long time. He’s a singer-songwriter from Philadelphia named Kurt Vile. The song I’m posting is from the Square Shells EP he released this year. This EP is much more ‘straightforward’ than his previous works, relying more on traditional folk stylings and containing almost exclusively simple guitar arrangements. Although I’m not really the biggest fan of folk, I really love Vile’s vocal quality and the sincerity of all the recordings.

Enjoy!

I Know I Got Religion – Kurt Vile

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Musical Spelunking Excursion

I original heard this track on Fader. LOVE Fader btw. Anyway, even though I’m not a huge fan of intentional re-blogs, I just gotta share this track with everyone.

Hotel Mexico are a band hailing from picturesque Kyoto, Japan. The track in question, “Its Twinkle” is literally the musical equivalent of descending into some sort of ridiculously awesome diamond cave. With it’s radiant guitar melodies, ambient bells, airy synths and more reverb than any respectable song has the right to employ, “Its Twinkle” is expansive and glittering. Just how I like it.

Its Twinkle – Hotel Mexico

The World Cup Created More than Cacophonous Vuvuzuela Noises

To preface, I present to you a question: When you think football song, what comes to mind? A scantily clad Shakira dancing vigorously perhaps? Or maybe K’Naan surrounded by various multicultural youths? Well, whatever comes to mind it is probably pseudo-triumphant, well-meaning but unavoidably cheesy outside (or, let’s be honest, maybe even within) the context of the World Cup.

I’ve been meaning to write about Manwomanchild for a while now. From the first time I heard that amazing bass line drop and the vocals that sound like Jonathan Richman if Jonathan Richman could sing in a conventional sense on “Marshall Street”, I was hooked. But as I am not the most diligent of bloggers, I failed to check my email for like 5,000 months and so, the wonderful track fell from my memory.

However, once David (who, by the way, is Manwomanchild) emailed me saying he had released a song in support of the Chilean national football team, I was keenly reminded of why his band had perpetually occupied the upper quadrant of my “next-to-blog” list. The song in question “Chile La Roja” is pretty much what all football songs should sound like. Part of the chorus is comprised of the atmospheric recitation of some of the Chilean footballer’s names and what sounds like an omnichord. Seriously people, this is good. It’s upbeat and really fun and you can definitely enjoy it being neither a Chilean nor a football fan. I say this with authority since I fall into neither of those categories.

The World Cup may be over, but it’s still nice to know that musically, something better than vuvuzuela mania was produced.

Marshall Street – Manwomanchild

Chile La Roja – Manwomanchild

Suck it hatas!

So I was feeling pretty patriotic today. You see, I work at my Dad’s job during the summer in the Weapons of Mass Destruction department.  Today I was manning the booth of one of the presentation rooms and this dude was giving a briefing about the US of A. Supposedly a representative from each of the member states is supposed to give a presentation about his/her country in order to promote huggies and kissies and world harmony. Something along those lines. Anyway, during said dude’s presentation he expounded briefly upon the history of the U.S. and whatnot, and for some reason I just felt this strange uncharacteristic pride well up in my chest and I just wanted to put on a cowboy hat and hug the flag. Hell, Dick Cheney even began to look a little less reptilian in my mind.

WTF is this thing on my faaaaaaaace!!!

Anyway, given the circumstances, I have decided to post this song by DOM (or like, maybe ‘Dom’, I’ve seen it both ways). The Dom out of DOM has had a fucked up childhood, but he also has an awesome ear for hooks and a startling command of le omnichord. This is one of those lo-fi bands that actually could end up on the radio so, pay attention O.K?

Yes, Living in America is “facetious” and jokey, but we Americans have good senses of humor. Remember Sarah Palin? Goodness.

Living in America – DOM

“Isn’t”… in a good way.

Deerhunter’s promo campaign was covert and clever and involved a little person. This only serves to highlight my anger and dejection at having not been a part of it. I missed it! I missed the opportunity to be part of the brilliant xerox art poster posting challenge and the chance to scotch tape pictures of one of my favorite bands all over the cow sheds and tractors and shooting ranges (I am kind of lying here… there is actually only one shooting range, but I hate varying quantifiers in lists) of my sleepy German town.

Fortunately however, despite my inaction/ignorance I have still had the truly enjoyable experience to listening to the new single off of what will undoubtedly be the aptly titled ‘Halcyon Digest’. After last years release of the almost flawlessly beautiful ‘Rainwater Cassette Exchange’ I have waited with bated breath for any small hint of Deerhunter’s impending LP. I wondered which of the diverse and novel musical elements presented in the EP would translate to the full length album.

“Revival” is many things. It includes many of the percussive elements I loved in songs like “Rainwater Cassette Exchange” and “Game of Diamonds and gives the song and admirable groovy-ness. The vocals, although not totally clean are much more clear and crisp than previous efforts. These elements compound to create a dreamy yet lucid and surprisingly accessible listen.

However none of the things I’ve just written really express the images I see while listening to this song (cue “Dancing about architecture” quote interchangeably attributed to Miles Davis, Elvis Costello or Frank Zappa… this is a fun fact), so I will describe said images via the medium of language.

Bradford and Co. are fasting on a Mesa  (a side note: they are wearing ponchos). You can tell they are fasting because the thought bubbles above their heads contain nothing but big-macs and carrot cake and other such cholesterol rich comestibles. Every night they make a fire and wait for a “great spirit” descend upon them. It never does. They weep. Although their persistence is admirable, enlightenment only comes when one of the Deerhunter men catches sight of his friend in the clear blue water surrounding the flat mountain. They raise their hands, rejoicing in their connection to the greater consciousness through their acknowledgment of being lesser parts of a whole. Bright glowing light shines from their pores like splashing rain and engulfs them. It spreads over the mesa, and then the countryside and then the whole world. It is beautiful. Everyone hugs everyone else. The end.

So. Ahem. That was weird; but it’s the best I can do at the moment. This song isn’t your typical Deerhunter, but it “isn’t” in a good way. I suppose the title “Revival” is quite appropriate and, come to think of it, song titles serve more than a decorative purpose.

Revival – Deerhunter

Oh No Ono!

I’ve mentioned these guys at various points recently, but they were mostly short, frivolous sort of recommendations. Now however, I’ve decided to forgo subtlety and just do a quick concise album review.

The other day I was watching an interview with Tame Impala. As is customary of these televised “up-and-coming-band” interviews, the journalist asked the musicians what kind of music they enjoyed best.   The lead singer replied saying, “We like the kind of music that is the result of one person or a few people constructing an awesome symphony of sounds. You can layer your own voice 700 times for half a second if you want, and we just love that kind of music.”

I love that kind of music too. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that some of the best albums ever recorded have stayed true to the conventional, hook-oriented, verse-chorus-verse song structures, and these albums are enduring and beautiful. However, sometimes it’s wonderful to lose yourself in something big and complicated and colorful.

Eggs finds Oh No Ono moving away from the more dance-y and electronic sensibilities showcased in their debut Yes, towards a more orchestrated and layered direction. The string and horn compositions are sweeping and robust, contrasting and beautifully complimenting the delicate soprano (or perhaps even gender ambiguous) vocals. Nevertheless, there is a marked emphasis on solid songwriting throughout so things are experimental without becoming utterly incomprehensible.

Despite this adherence to structure however, there is still a bit of a ‘found art’ quality to Eggs. “Eleanor Speaks” ends in strangely appropriate birdsong, “Eve” begins with some sort of siren and “Internet Warrior” incorporates the sound of a dove cooing. It’s unexpected elements like these that make the album sound really diverse and whole your interest for the whole 53 minutes.

All in all I think that Eggs is a cohesive, melodic and beautiful listen; and an essential for anyone who likes big, bold, rich music. It some ways it reminds me of a modern-day Wagner Opera, full of melodrama, intrigue and romance. Wagner is quoted as saying, “I write music with an exclamation point!” I think this holds true for Oh No Ono as well.

The LDN Chronicles: 2

Day 2

The next morning we arose early to take full advantage of the coming day of shopping. Since our hotel is just a short walk from Camden High Street, we were among the first to begin perusing the various wares on show. The market (and even some of the surrounding shops) are great places to find deals. However, I offer three bits of advice that I accrued in my pursuit of the best and cheapest clothes:

1. Don’t be afraid to look around. One thing you will notice is that there is a lot of overlap with regards to what is sold at the market. Don’t assume that just because the stalls are selling the same thing that they are selling them for the same price! A lot of times I would see a dress that was £30 at one stall sell for £25-20 somewhere else in the market.

2. Don’t be afraid to bargain. Many of the shopkeepers are willing to negotiate the price of their goods with you as long as you keep the discount to a reasonable range. If by some chance you meet someone who isn’t willing to bargain, never fear! You can probably find someone else selling the same thing who is willing to!

So after conquering the market and making tons of super-cheap and awesome purchases we made our way back to the hotel for lunch (which, I must add, was graciously paid for by one of our parties’ grandmother).

After lunch we headed to one London’s more conventional shopping mainstays; Covent Garden. It was nice, of course, but I just didn’t feel like spending exorbitant amounts of money in stores whose American counterparts offer much better deals (i.e. Urban Outfitters, Aldo, Mango etc.) I did however plan to spend at least a (semi) exorbitant amount of money in Rockit, but since last year they’ve really marked up their stuff. Last November I bought an awesome blue and green Cosby sweater there for £10 and KG bought a beautiful old hounds-tooth coat for a similarly reasonable price. When I browsed the same selection of old man sweaters I had enjoyed the year before, I was disgusted to see how much they were marked up. I mean, who pays £25 for a wool cardigan in summer? Suffice it to say I was not very pleased.

After such a crushing disappointment on the sartorial front, the only thing that could fill the void in my life was a milkshake from Candy Cakes. If you can get past the mediocre service, creepy mint green walls and blasting pop music, it’s a pretty awesome place with delicious cupcakes and other fattening things.

Once we were sufficiently sugared-up we headed to an awesome little karaoke place in Soho called Lucky Voice. Although my friends thought it looked a bit shady (with its rather nondescript subterranean entrance), they were surprised when we entered the sleek, wood-paneled, vaguely Japanese reception area. We were promptly shown to a private karaoke room that would be ours for the next two hours. Complete with pom-poms, afro wigs, and a choice of various mood lighting schemes the place was pretty fancy. I must admit, dear reader, those two hours were among the most fun of the trip. We danced, we sang (read: yelled), we rocked with the fury of any of the many legendary bands to come out of London’s humble streets, and we didn’t actually pay that much for it either!

As we walked back to the train station in our post-karaoke glow, the whole of England glowed with us. The English team had just won against Slovenia in the World Cup and tons of happy football fans (in various states of inebriation) flooded the streets reveling in their shared national pride.

It was a good day.

MUSIC: Daisy – Fang Island

I actually bought the LP at Rough Trade while we were in London. I highly recommend it to anyone who still likes a really nice kinda old school guitar riff now and again. A lot of people are calling this “stadium rock of the future” (you know, kinda like Surfer Blood), but that label kind of connotes the 80’s hair and crazy shallowness we’re all trying to forget. Sure this stuff is epic and anthemic enough for a stadium (and total karaoke material which is why it is appropriate for this post), but it’s got wicked heart too. Think John Farnham as opposed to Gene Simmons.

Mixcast #3: Dreaming of the South

Taking a bit of break from the LDN Chronicles to post another one of these babies as per the request of a certain friend of mine. I just got the results back from my final exams, and although I am very, VERY happy with what I’ve achieved there’s still kinda this feeling of, “Well, now what?” This mix reflects that; contentment and relief tempered with a slight melancholy. It’s all about nuance, I think.

(right click)

Track List:

1. Marchin’ In//Lo-Fi-Fnk

2. Eleanor Speaks//Oh No Ono

3. Infinite Desert//Delorean

4. Better Than Love (Jamaica Remix)//HURTS

5. So Light Is Her Footfall (Breakbot Remix)//Air

6. Most Wanted//Cults

7. Walking Through That Door//Future Islands

The LDN Chronicles: 1

I just (and I mean “just” in the most loose definition of the word; as in I’ve been home nearly a week) returned from probably the best trip ever. As my first semi-independent holiday, I think my friends and I have proven to be quite the competent travel planners! Anyway, here’s my account. I hope you enjoy it!

Day 1

As I woke up on Tues. 22nd I couldn’t be more elated by the fact that I would soon be leaving rainy cold Germany. Seriously people. How unfair is it that, even though it was mid-June, I felt it necessary to wear a heavy wool cardigan and jeans to survive the 15 second walk from my door to the car. Suffice it to say ’twas a sad, sad state of affairs.

In any case upon arrival I was reunited with my wonderfully Swiss (a word for which “punctual” is also a synonym) friend and occasional contributor, KG. We made our way through check-in and customs rather uneventfully, the only slight delay being my encounter with an anal German customs officer who was visibly suffering from a bad case of male PMS.

But friends, despite this minor hiccup KG and I soldiered on with the type of optimism only found in giddy teenage girls about to do something new and exciting.

Once our group was completed with the addition of my other friends Ilyena and Kasia we all sat down to catch up and do the whole giggly girl talking thing. Ilyena shared a bunch of stories about her transcendent two month wilderness course  while Kasia chimed in with her own additions (having heard Ilyena’s stories the day before).

The plane ride was smooth and when we touched down in Old Blighty the excitement and anticipation was visible in everyone’s faces. Being the poor students we are, we opted to take the normal Piccadilly line train into the city rather than the Heathrow express. I will not lie dear reader, the train was crowded and hot, made only worse by the fact that we four were still clad in our gloomy stuffy Munich attire. Attempts were made to remedy the situation, but since half of us were wearing literally transparent shirts  (not like, plastic though… don’t get the wrong idea) under our sweaters we erred on the side of decency and remained fully clothed deciding to just face the heat.

When we emerged out of the cavernous Tube to revel in the vibrant air of Camden we immediately knew we had chosen the right place to stay. Although this part of London’s underground cred has begun to erode, assaulted by the waves of tourists (ourselves included) flocking to its famous market, it still maintains remnants of its counter-culture association. As you walk down Camden High street you see punk after brütal punk on the sidewalk holding signs and handing out brochures for tattoo parlors and Dr. Marten’s stores and other suck “punky” stuff. I found the irony of this advertising scheme  utterly hilarious. I mean, here are people who are singularly defined by their devotion to non-conformism and being anti-establishment, acting their part in a consumerist advertising scheme. I mean think about it, they are capitalizing on their anarchism! Perhaps I’m over-thinking it and the punk subculture has just been reduced to a fashion style, but  I kept on getting these mental images of like, a furniture store add with some Johnny Rotten-esque character on the front giving the cheesy smile and the thumbs up alongside text reading something along the lines of “Lenny’s Couch Barn: Punk Compliant”… As if a Mohawk is some sort of endorsement. Funny, funny. Ha ha.

In addition to the tourists and the punk advertising schemes, another way Camden has changed is that it now has places like the Holiday Inn to stay at which, coincidentally,  provided our accommodations for the week. Only cementing the fact of Camden’s transformation from the pseudo-bohemian slightly sleazy underbelly of London to a respectable tourist district was the diversity of our fellow hotel guests. I saw people from every age group and various walks of life passing through the lobby. It was pretty cool. Anyway, after speedily unpacking and changing in to more appropriate attire we ventured out into Camden to explore a bit of the market and find something to sate our ravenous hunger (we are growing girls after all). As we perused scores of trinkets and jewelry and ridiculously awesome t-shirts I forbade myself from buying anything that day, a pact I am happy to say I dutifully kept.

Once our hunger had gotten the better of us we headed down toward the Lock to get some food. Now, time to dispel a popular myth. I have seen countless videos and web-pages devoted to the pursuit of cheap food in London; all working under the assumption that cheap food is hard to find. This is just not true. I’d say that with the exception of maybe two days my friends and I ate dinner for less that 10 pounds. Our best find? Eating at the Camden market food stalls. Our first night we ate delicious HUGE Quesadillas for 5 pounds each. Honestly, how can you beat sitting on Camden Lock when the sun is setting and the water is all sparkly in the sun, eating delicious food that’s made right in front of your face? Well you can’t really beat it, especially not for 5 pounds!

After our frugal and magnificent meals we headed back to the hotel. Although our aim was to retire to early allow Ilyena to get the rejuvenating sleep she needed to combat her jet lag, we just ended up talking all night about everything. I guess excitement has a way of distracting you from less important things… like sleep. In any case, we eventually succumbed to our tiredness and slumbered, dreaming of the awesome day that was sure to follow.

MUSIC: Kids – Mark Foster

Since this is (mostly) a music blog I thought it appropriate to accompany each post with a new (or not so new depending on how energetic I’m feeling) musical find. This is a song from none other that our favorite Foster the People front-man Mark Foster. It’s sun soaked chords and plaintive request of “Don’t stop takin’ me places” is the perfect accoutrement to the beginning of our vision quest.

Next Time: Shopping Day One!

How do I do this again?

I’m baaaaaaaack.

Indeed my friends I have returned, and as a graduate no less! Feel free to applaud if the compulsion takes you. I can’t tell you how amazing it feels not to be a high school student any more. You know that part in the “Shawshank Redemption” when Andy Dufresne climbs through the 500 yards of crap to escape the prison and then at the end he comes out of the tube and it’s all like rainy and jubilant and he just kind of lays there relishing in the freedom? That’s kind of like what is feels like, only a tad less dramatic and sans copious amounts of human waste. Anyway, since I am now as free and untethered as the majestic eagle I can focus on what undoubtedly you’ve all been waiting for (right?). That’s right, the early-summer-promising-singles-collection-thing! Although I haven’t been as active on the bloggy-wog as perhaps is appropriate, I have been listening and compiling and thinking about things to say once we had met again. So, without further fanfare or pointless pre-amblage here it is!

The Early-Summer-Promising-Singles-List/Collection-Thing

(a better name for this would be much appreciated)

1. Land of Feeling – Here We Go Magic

It may be summer, but just think of this song as easing yourself in to the icy cold musical pool. Since Here We Go Magic’s self-titled debut last year, a lot has changed. Luke Temple has got himself a band and gone, dare I say it? Krauty! Although Temple’s dreamy vocals are still there for us to drink in and enjoy, the hiccupy 8-track roughness has been abandoned in favor of tight synth lines and structured melodies. So if you like getting in touch with your inner German via Kraftwerk and Neu! and you dig sweet upbeat (but not neurotic) summer tunes then this might be just the thing for you. Guten Apetit!

2. Solitude is Bliss – Tame Impala

OK, so we’re in the pool. We’re floating around, you know, chilling on one of those inflatable beds, sipping a cocktail with a little umbrella in it. Now we are in the proper state of chillness to listen to the next track. To say that I have been obsessing over Tame Impala’s recent release InnerSpeaker would be like saying the BP oil disaster was  a bit of an accident. I can’t really explain why I like this album so much, it might be the psychedelic influences tempered with electronic sensibilities, it might be the fact that the album was mixed by Dave Fridmann hell, it might be the fact that the lead singer sounds creepily similar to John Lennon. In any case this song is sweetly fun with just enough melancholy to prevent cavities. Also, the music video is AWESOME! I’m not in to animal cruelty, but when he punches that dog I was just like, “HECKyeah!”

3. Havin’ My Baby – Think About Life

We’re warming up now! We’re out of the pool (the pool thing ends here I promise). This song is riotously fun. From the first snippets of the sampled vocals and that twinkling keyboard chord that won’t let up I feel the need to, in the parlance of our times, shake what my mother has given me. While indulging in this song’s frenetic energy any red-blooded kid should need to dance and clap and just be happy that they aren’t dead. This is legit.

4. Stay Close – Delorean

I’ve been a fan of these guys ever since the Ayrton Senna EP they dropped summer of last year. Although I can’t say that the album as a whole was as satisfying as the EP, this song is just too damn uplifting to ignore. Although I can’t really understand what the lead singer is saying most of the time, the music compensates (and then some) for all that which was lost in translation. These Barcelonese (and yes I had to google what you call multiple people from Barcelona) have got the whole synthpop thing DOWN and I am just like, loving it.

5. Real Life – Tanlines

Kind of in the same synthpop vein as Delorean, but a bit more ethnic and funky. It’s funny because the lyrics are like what you would tell a shrink; like all of these deep human issues: lack of meaning in life, feelings of isolation and latent spirituality. But it’s set to this calypso beat so the seriousness of the issues is overshadowed by the fun synth line. I can’t wait to walk into a club and hear all of the kids flailing around drunk screaming “It was a past life thing.” Funny right?

6. Helplessly Young – Oh No Ono

“I don’t know what to say/She reminds me of the future” OMG I WAS THINKING THAT TOO!!1! I love it when songs inadvertently (or advertently… you tell me) describe their members. Oh No Ono, although absent of “shes”, definitely have FUTURE written all over them. This song is so AWESOME. The singer’s vocal style is similar to that of his fellow Scandinavian Karin Andersson (I promise I am not being racist), so it’s kinda like happy Fever Ray. Epiphany pop at its best people. NOM.

7. Gay Human Bones – Harlem

And now for something completely different. Ya’ll know about my love of garage rock à la White Denim or perhaps even early White Stripes stuff. Harlem is in that same tradition, only way less calculated. When I listen to this song I just have this mental image of the Fonz or Elvis walking through a junkyard and just doing that double pointy thing at random junkyard workers and like disused carburetors. Take that as you will.

So enjoy! I just realized that my list contains a disconcerting amount of electronica and/or pseudo electronica, but honestly these songs work best in this summer-y context. In other news, I am going to LANDAN next week so I am thinking about doing a bit of a travel diary sort of thing. You guys game? Give me your opinions!

By the way, I’ve missed you.