"Keep on Lying" joins Boards of Canada's "Turquoise Hexagon Sun" (and maybe Weezer's "Undone") in the all-time Songs that Feature Party Talk in the Background list, but that's not the most notable thing about this song. It starts in medias res, Kevin Parker's voice in full, soft John Lennon mode (think maybe the beginning of "Julia"), riding a fuzzy bounce, talking some hard talk about deception in relationships and not wanting to say something that he knows is true. The song is essentially over at 1:45, but it goes on for another four minutes. Parker's dragging his feet. He sings "I guess I'll go and tell you just as soon as I get to the end of this song..." [BUY Lonerism]
Not a ton of talk about this record, and I can see why: produced by Geoff Barrow (of Portishead and Beak) and a few others, it's about a thousand tracks long, with mostly anonymous rappers that the producers found by trawling myspace. But it's good. Hits and misses--with something this long and this wide-ranging, that's unavoidable--but if you're a sucker for Geoff Barrow's work, this album is worth checking out. It's weird and diffuse, but then gems like "What Chew Want" rise up out of nowhere. [BUY Quakers]
"I Follow You" is graceful and beautiful, but it has a sort of detached prettiness, uninvolved. Maybe it has something to do with Melody Prochet's voice--she sounds like she's singing this into cold country air. Prochet is another singer whose voice (like the late Trish Keenan's) gives off a vital vibe like the heroines in Antonioni's films. [BUY Melody's Echo Chamber]
Delivers the same hit, the same character of force, as Pissed Jeans or Blood Brothers, but with higher clarity, more precision. METZ. Is it the unit of measure for something obscure and electrical? The kind of thing you'd never want to encounter when you're doing home improvement work? "Your generator fedback 100 METZ into the house, that's why your roof melted." [BUY METZ]
I loved everything that Ty Segall released in 2012, so it was hard to pick a standout track. I probably listened to "Wave Goodbye" more than any other song of his, but the concision and relentlessness of "Oh Mary" makes it too compelling not to include. Those guitars. It's a pack of motorcycles revving their engines in concordant phases. The freak-out at the end. (this song is great for running, no surprise there). [BUY Slaughterhouse]
This is desperation from Dan. "Jessica please/take out insurance on me/and when you leave/don't forget to keep yourself/keep yourself all right." And later: "My, my, my heart's a mess." In concert he sang this on his knees, looking wild-eyed and rough. This song is the distillation of that album for me--they could've just released this and the project would've been a success. It's got the bizarre Spoon curvature on the guitars and Dan's perfectly woebegone vocals. A few people thought this album was all over the map, but it's interesting for that aspect, two particular aesthetic outlooks mashed together. [BUY A Thing Called Divine Fits]
I associate this song with driving through the Painted Desert in Arizona, even though that drive happened in August and this album wasn't released until September. I retroactively inserted this song into the continuity of my memories of that trip, but I have no idea why. Maybe because there's a part of this song, I think when Dan takes over the vocals, where it becomes sort of otherworldly, "Checked out so long/unhinged, unwound/come help me on/to let lie what's done/some great beyond/still there, still as you were." The last part of that-- [BUY Shields]
Patrick Flegel is restless, and that's a good thing. I don't know whether Androgynous Mind exists in any form anymore, but this song (and the whole EP) is beautiful, bizarre, totally engrossing. (Listen to it.)
Knock On My Door is gloomy and slow, Flegel sings most of the verses like he's half asleep, dying, and he's joined by a female vocalist echoing a few of his words, inconsistently, in the background. I think one of the things that's most impressive about Flegel's songwriting is the way he can turn a song from being dim and dour--pure cloudcover--into something that opens up suddenly and brightly. Some of his best songs are like little engines of possibility: all the elements are there from the beginning, you just have to wait for them to express themselves. [Download Nightstalker]
The shortest nine-minute song ever? It's a blast, and maybe a message to go fuck-off? Is it like a last love note, where you recognize that things are 100% not going to work out, but you acknowledge that you'll never do better? (and you don't want the other person to ever do better?) "Hey Jane" captures and depicts a pretty complex emotion better than most novels do. Though maybe I'm reading this way wrong and "Hey Jane" is actually about post-colonial identity or something. [BUY Sweet Heart Sweet Light]
Good concert memory of 2012: Nick indulging his inner Magritte, singing, "This is not a band," while playing this song with the rest of his band in Philly. "A Sleep & A Forgetting" is so solidly a break-up album, one that's easier to lose yourself within when you're also confronting daily bleakness/despair, but it's not a wall-to-wall downer. "Never Go Solo" is, like a lot of Nick's best songs, a shapeshifter, turning to an urgent plea a minute from the end, brighter, flashier, the better to get your attention. [BUY A Sleep & A Forgetting]
Evil-sounding in the best way, like Liars' "Broken Witch" or maybe this is what a musical version of Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" would sound like. The title evokes images of some sick Roman cult, devoted to worshipping wolves due to the caretaking intervention of Romulus and Remus's wet nurse wolf. Twenty-five seconds of disjointed squeal serve as the preface; then the drums, which make this song. A woman (?) and her incantations follow. [BUY Putrifiers II]
If you haven't heard this song...you must not have Sirius radio, because they played the living shit out of this for three months. But if you haven't heard it, I'd urge you to do so. It's good, and surprising, and lively, and hard, and tight, and springy, and a whole host of other things. Mostly it's just fun to listen to. Also I loved the anecdote that Dylan Baldi told about the recording of the album, where Steve Albini mostly played Scrabble and probably has no recollection of what the album sounds like. [BUY Attack on Memory]
Her voice is always great, of course, and better than usual here, throwing shade at complainers (everyone) and telling about where she's been, what she's seen. I could listen to her sing about anything, but I especially love hearing her sing the names of places and cities. Have you ever heard anyone say 'Calcutta' more crucially? Or 'Great Britain' like she does? (you haven't) [BUY Sun]
Old Apparatus are like Raime, collecting the noisy detritus of the strange micro-scenes that appeared right before dubstep's turn to grossness (or at least the term's application to shitty music), making music that is sinister & unique. OA is a group of producers--they've done a couple releases as a collective, but this year they stepped out individually too, each member putting out an EP, all of which were expressive and difficult and rewarding. There's a lot of really terrible electronic music released every year (as with most other genres obvs.), and a lot of it is just godawfully bland or absolutely bereft of ideas, but Old Apparatus are making something new and worthwhile--they're careful and they know what they're doing. [BUY the Harem EP]
Even though I compiled a list last year, for whatever reason I never posted it. I did a much better job actually paying attention to and writing about music in 2011, which is not so much an accomplishment in itself but when compared to this year it's quite a feat. Here are my favorite songs from 2011, listed in no order below, and available as three big downloads.
Black Lips - Mr. Driver
Eleanor Friedberger - Scenes from Bensonhurst
Farben - Parada
Holy Ghost - Some Children
Kassem Mosse - Enoha
King Krule - The Noose of Jah City
Motor City Drum Ensemble - Raw Cuts # 6
Nettle - Nakhil (this is from the soundtrack to the imaginary remake of the Shining, "El Resplandor," set in Dubai. Suitably creepy.)
Pwin Teaks - Beach Bubble
Real Estate - It's Real
Rone - So So So
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin - Yellow Missing Signs
The KDMS - Tonight
The Rapture - Children
Voices from the Lake - Drop 3
Beirut - East Harlem
Chad VanGaalen - Do Not Fear
Dustin O'Halloran - We Move Lightly
Ezekiel Honig - Between Bridges
John Adams - Son of Chamber Symphony 1
Junior Boys - Banana Ripple
Keith Fullerton Whitman - Generator 7b
Michael Gordon - Timber Part III
Mr. Dream - Knuckle Sandwich
Robag Wruhme - Brücke Fünf
Sun Airway - Wild Palms
The Dodos - Black Night
The Kills - Future Starts Slow
The Last Royals - Crystal Vases
Agoria - Heart Beating
Casiokids - Aldri ska me ha det goy
All Tiny Creatures - An Iris
Andy Stott - North to South
Colin Stetson - From no part of me could I summon a voice
Fall on Your Sword - Rhoda's Theme
Gui Boratto - Galuchat
Fleet Foxes - Battery Kinzie
Haus Arafna - I Did It For You
Orthy - Suenos
Tiger & Woods - Deflowered
Sweatheart - Back Up
Los Campesinos - By Your Hand
Oneida - Absolute II
I asked Tony to contribute to the 2012 wrap-up and he kindly sent me this wonderful list below
I don’t know why (after 15 years of listening to Tori Amos, Bjork, Joanna Newsom, etcetera etcetera) it took me until this year to fall in love with Kate Bush. Previous attempts to get through The Sensual World failed (perhaps because it was via cassette tape from my mother’s best friend).
Then when my Californian friend showed me the video for Wuthering Heights on youtube, it was to make fun of the music video’s over-the-top theatrics. (Or, so I think. It’s hard to tell sometimes with the chronically hip when they’re actually enjoying something.)
And last year I thought I’d try her album Director’s Cut so I put on while rolling on the carpet with my then-girlfriend, but she said, “Who the fuck can make out to James Joyce?” when she heard the first song with its lyrics taken from Molly Bloom’s monologue in Joyce’s Ulysses.
But this year was the year she broke through for me. Here are five of the tracks that taught me how to love Kate Bush.
1. Houdini from The Dreaming
The first Kate Bush song that caught my attention. With at least three characters, it’s a pop one-act play about Harry Houdini escaping from chains underwater.. There’s an amazing melody line in here that would have scored Erasure a huge hit--it’s immediately absorbing, a melody most people would kill to write once in their life. But she abandons it quickly--barging in on it with a grotesque growling, the forces of evil. Daring. With this move I found I could no longer ignore her. There’s also a nice trick taken from silent films where a bass line mimics Houdini’s voice from underwater.
2. Deeper Understanding from The Sensual World
This song struck me as hopefully cheesy in the early 1990s, when I was still young and the internet was not yet piped in through everything in the home. But now it’s the reality of my life.
“As the people here grow colder I turn to my computer and spend my evenings with it like a friend.”
Ahead of it’s time.
3. Jig of Life from Hounds of Love
Another that seemed cheesy at first. It’s a jig, complete with an Irish bouzouki and uilleann pipes. . . but three minutes into the track, the music silences and Bush interrupts with a whisper, “I put this moment here.” And then her brother, novelist John Carder Bush, breaks in with narration. Again with the theatrics--this time reminiscent of Labyrinth or The Never Ending Story.
4. Pi from Aerial
This is the one where people riding in my car will ask me, “Is she singing the digits of pi?”
5. Coffee Homeground from Lionheart
Kate Bush is fantastically dressed as a lion on the cover of this album. The whole thing is a romp through childhood memories and fairy tales (the lyrics to the song Oh England My Lionheart are handwritten in a child-like scrawl and the references to Peter Pan abound). Coffee Homeground features more vocal gymnastics as Bush plays a housewife dodging all of her spouse’s gentle domestic poisons: “You won’t get me with your Belladonna in the coffee.” (The plumbers, however, (spoiler alert) succumbed.)
Tony is from Iowa. He maintains Monkfish Jowls.
I'll give myself an F- for this year, with an average output of two posts per month. Not great. 2012 was a weird one. But these are the songs I enjoyed most this year. You can download them as a zip (here), or à la carte, below. (For better, more comprehensive lists, I would recommend the always wonderful Said the Gramophone and Fluxblog.). The songs aren't presented in any particular order, though I will say I am especially fond of this first one. [This is part one. Part two is over here.]
Coolness in music is famously difficult to quantify. Mathematicians at Bell Labs worked on calibrating a metric for years without producing any valid results. It's a fool's errand. Though I will say that, listening to "Hémisphère" for the first time, I thought, deliriously, "There is no cooler song possible. This is the end." In my mind, Paradis set out to translate the atmosphere of a Georges Simenon book (the Widow, perhaps? or a Maigret novel?) into something darker, and though that is supremely unlikely, that's what this song (and the video, which is wonderful) reminds me of: quotidian mystery, city-wandering, modern despair, late-night lustful visions, downbeat fantasies. This song is an indulgence of some kind. [BUY "Hémisphère" b/w "Je m'ennuie" at RVNG]
I think Volker Bertelmann (Hauschka) is the kind of artist who likes to challenge himself. He's not content with his seemingly effortless ability to make albums full of beautiful and lapidary prepared piano pieces (Ferndorf), digressive travelogues (Foreign Landscapes), or transliterated dance music (Salon Des Amateurs), so he decided to collaborate on an album with American violinist Hilary Hahn. "Silfra" is the album, and it was 100% improvised in the studio (though they did practice and play together off-and-on for two years beforehand) and not retouched or overdubbed. There's something distinctly Oulipan about that--the setting of constraints in order to reach a different level of artistry.
"Clock Winder" still sounds like Hauschka, but halfway through there's Hahn's violin, a ribbon winding around the braided noises of the piano. This song, like most of the ones on the album, suggests something that is felt intensely, and it's hard not to imagine--and be envious of--the surprise and wonder these two musicians must have experienced while recording. Discovery, work, accident, chance, restraint. [BUY Silfra]
Is there a term or expression for the experience of having one's life foreshadowed by a work of art? As much as I love the Paradis song above, there was no other song that I found more affecting this year than this version of "Ocean Roar" that Phil Elverum recorded for Cock and Bull TV.
The real "Ocean Roar" is out there, and it's wonderful, but in this version, you can hear Phil's words more clearly, and those words are important, whittled down from pure experience into koanic components of a song. Ocean Roar, the album, is supposed to be about Phil Elverum's recollections of a (dreamt of?) midnight road trip to the shore that happened twenty years ago.
What I consistently enjoy about his lyrics is the way that a lot of his phrases, his simple descriptions, open up worlds of associations. There's repetition: roar and lost, and some close-rhymes between car and dark, loud and ground. There's something like the qualities of a Hemingway short story about this--only the essential elements have been retained. The lines in the song are there because they are the right lines for this song, for this experience. There's a pretty incredible lyric from "Through the Trees pt. 2" on Clear Moon where Phil sings, "I meant all my songs/not as a picture of the woods/but just to remind myself/that I briefly live." [BUY Ocean Roar]
There is a ghost of another song in this song's melody, which seems appropriate. It's tempting to think that "Lord Knows" is Dee Dee's reply/response to the Boys Next Door's "Shivers." It might be worth it to be burned so badly by someone that you receive a calm and beautiful apology song like this. [BUY End of Daze]
You can work on your bleary-eyed elegies with this one; that dreamy march makes it perfect for crazily romantic what-ifs and fugues of counterfactual thinking. But there is also the triumphant element of "Myth," the way it takes off at the end, Victoria's voice stretching out that final vowel, dovetailing into a roar of tremolo picked guitar. [BUY Bloom]
Even though I know it's not true, or even realistically possible, I suspect that my heart beat syncs up with that pulse at the beginning of "WIXIW" every time I listen to it. Can a song trigger a fight-or-flight response in the listener? It's the beginning and end of this song that do it to me. Angus's vocals sound both passionate and dead-eyed simultaneously. Whatever sounds they used in the composition of "WIXIW"--close-mic'd electric razors, vibrating bowls of jello, tortured push-brooms--it's tough to tell, and anyway it doesn't matter, because the way the pulse resolves at the end, in conjunction with the vocals, is such a perfect expression of disappointment--it's a recognition of something that's fated, out of control, but still seemed totally preventable. [BUY WIXIW]
This is more of the same from him, but that's a good thing. Love that dedication.
King Krule played six or seven songs, I think, among which were most or all of the songs from the EP, plus a couple older ones from Zoo Kid-era recordings. When I heard "The Noose of Jah City" for the first time a couple months ago, I was hit with the feeling of encountering something brand new, and that feeling was constant during the band's set. There is definitely that aspect of Archy Marshall's music that borrows from the technical and jazzy, and it'll be fascinating to see what happens with this band next. There were ideas enough in each song that I could see them going in a hundred different directions. [BUY Rock Bottom]
I will gladly admit that I have a weakness for everything that Sasu Ripatti does, whether as Luomo, Uusitalo, Sistol, or as Vladislav Delay (solo or with the Quartet). His music is consistently thought-provoking and worthwhile, and he's always doing something new. He doesn't seem to stick to the program as much anymore in terms of dividing his different impulses among the pseudonyms, so music that you might've expected to come from Uusitalo comes out under the Quartet name, or Luomo-ish stuff bleeds into Vladislav Delay, but whatever, it's all immaculate. [BUY Kuopio]
A new Pennsylvania hero, Daughn Gibson is from Carlisle, which sits in the lower middle band of the state, near Harrisburg and basically nothing else. His LP, All Hell, was initially released on White Denim, a label run by Matt Korvette (of Pissed Jeans), another PA guy, who's not only a great singer but also a great writer (check out his Yellow Green Red). This is what Matt (presumably) wrote about Daughn Gibson, and I was sold immediately: "Imagine if Nicolas Jaar edited together a cocaine-country album, with a crooner somewhere between Lee Hazelwood and Roy Orbison on the mic." All Hell more than lives up to that description, and you can hear those elements in the first thirty seconds of "In the Beginning": the shuffled piano sample, the left field kick-drum, and Daughn's commanding voice. This was the album that sounded newest to me in 2012. [BUY All Hell]
Flying Lotus, just having fun. It must be nice to be so talented that you can (seemingly) toss off an amazing mixtape in your spare time. Though Ellison really does come across as the kind of artist who, if he was dissatisfied with something he heard on the radio or whatever, would go out and create the kind of music he wanted to hear. He perceives a lack, and then rectifies it himself. Pretty incredible. [Download Duality]
"Out of Touch" is the wake-up cacophony of spring; buzzing, crying, creaking, melting. This song is mostly noise: rattles, whines, bangs, shrieks, and hiss, barely kept in check by Lockett's voice until the end, when the window's opened and it all comes pouring in, a chirring white noise wail. [BUY Spooky Action at a Distance]
A crescendo, and the consequences of that crescendo. Or deliberation, action, and regret. Some huge thing lurching to life. "Four Miles" is a thought experiment rendered in stuttering static. [BUY Jummy]
This was the first song I was drawn to from "Until the Quiet Comes." It's sleek and sinister, and seemed totally unlike in tone and movement from what had come before, on Cosmogramma. "Tiny Tortures" is almost like a more fluid and compact version of Black Dice's "Creature," which seems farfetched at first, but the two songs share a kind of wild, noisy vocabulary; both songs seem like pocket versions of a Peter and the Wolf-style sound-world. [BUY Until the Quiet Comes]
Ruth's voice. "I drank the water and I felt all right/I take a pill almost every night." Drive, L.A., etc. Wind through the windows. Oneiric montages. Neon cursive. This song is about secrets and has its own secrets. [BUY Kill for Love]
It was only a matter of time before the Walkmen wrote a song called "Dreamboat." I don't know why that seemed so inevitable, but given the band's recent trajectory, it just did. I think this band is at their best when they indulge their talent for weird, slow, unfurling songs, like "Lisbon," and "If Only It Were True" (both final songs as well, come to think of it). They're pros at this kind of parting/kiss goodbye vibe. [BUY Heaven]
Patrick Flegel (ex-Women, Fels-Naptha, Androgynous Mind) has a new band named Cindy Lee, and they're releasing their debut record via cassette around Christmas. Cindy Lee are also playing a show next week in Vancouver. Go if you can. Here are the details, from Patrick:
Creeps, if you live in Vancouver my new rock act “Cindy Lee” is releasing a 35 minute cassette cassette called “TATLASHEA” at the Astoria. Album release poster : http://img266.imageshack.us/img266/3098/manlove.jpg
Thanks so much for listening 10x the love.
ALBUM - DIGITAL VERSION
ALBUM DONE Mastered by CVG
So the 1st Cindy Lee show is next week at the Waldorf Hotel in Vancouver:
THURSDAY DECEMBER 13 (dead moon)
Cindy Lee (royal truxx+orbison)
//Z00 (HC Goth Death)
Another band playing 2 and DJ HC Rebellion
Tatlashea is being mastered by CVG in the next week and will come out on Isolated Now Waves (cassette) on Boxing Day 2012.
MORE DETAILS (12/11)
So update :
Indian Land CASSETTE ( http://isolatednowwaves.tumblr.com/ )
Cassette comes out on December 26th at the Astoria in Vancouver. Show w/ No.213
Fels-Naptha material is being chopped/mastered and compiled soon.
Members of Fels-Naptha play in The Courtneys and Shearing Pinx