Monday, November 29, 2010

Special Others - Quest (2008)

The sixth release from jazzy Japanese rock quartet Special Others, Quest sounds like what you'd hear if the math rock mafia hijacked your local smooth jazz station. This record isn't abrasive, but it's far from timid. When it comes to length, only two of the ten songs fall under the six minute mark, but this album never drags its feet for a second. A mix of Japanese and English vocals compliment the songs, but make no effort to be the main vocal point of the music, instead providing a layer that fits in perfect harmony with the rest of the instruments. There are definitely points on here that give off a This Town Needs Guns vibe, most noticeably in the album's title track. Jazz is not the enemy, boys and girls, and don't worry, I'm not saying that you have to dive into the genre as a whole, nor am I implying that this record will make you yearn for afternoons filled with freeform jazz. What I am saying is that you are better off having lived a life that included listening to these ten songs.

For fans of: American Football, This Town Needs Guns, Your Song is Good

Friday, November 19, 2010

El Ten Eleven - El Ten Eleven (2004)

The eponymous debut of Los Angeles based post-rock duo El Ten Eleven, El Ten Eleven is nine tracks of instrumental wonder. I stumbled upon this band by accident when the third track, "Lorge," captured my attention when it came up on an internet radio station that I'd had set to play songs by and like The American Analog Set. As soon as the synth loop started going, I was hooked and immediately sought out the album from whence it came. Now, my friends, I pass it on to you. Enjoy!

For fans of: The American Dollar, Unwed Sailor, The Six Parts Seven, Saxon Shore, Sigur Rós

Pop Unknown - If Arsenic Fails, Try Algebra (2000)

While they might not have been the poster boys for the second wave emo movement or the Midwest sound it became synonymous with, Austin, TX's Pop Unknown put out a record on Deep Elm in 2000 that was a perfect representation of the genre. If you like your emo untainted by whining, this record is for you. If you look back on the time when burning CDs was cool and nobody had an iPod with a smile, then this record is definitely for you.

For fans of: Christie Front Drive, The Gloria Record, Sunny Day Real Estate, Boy's Life

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Savoir Adore - In the Wooded Forest (2009)

This album was, hands down, one of the best releases of 2009. The proper full-length debut of Brooklyn's Savoir Adore (following 2008's The Adventures of Mr. Pumpernickel and the Girl With Animals in Her Throat), In the Wooden Forest is a gust of wind that gives the listener's ears a breath of fresh air (if ears had lungs, that is... You get the picture.). This studio release is full of little nuances and idiosyncrasies that keep it fresh with each listen. Songs like "We Talk Like Machines," "Transylvanian Candy Patrol," "MERP," and "Space Travel" sound new with each and every listen. This record has been given a lot of care and nurturing, and the end result is something much more cohesive than the band's previous release, while still containing all of the defining characteristics that made your humble narrator fall in love with them in the first place. Fans of their first release will recognize the track "The Wooded Forest," (formerly titled "In the Wooded Forest, A Girl") now in an extended and much more finished version (not to mention where this album gets its name). If lights had sounds, this record would be home to the entire visible spectrum of color.

For fans of: The Submarines, Broken Social Scene, Mates of State, GIVERS, The Ethnographers

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rites of Spring - End on End (1991)

Released in 1991, End on End is a compilation album by pioneers of first-wave emo Rites of Spring. It contains all the songs from both releases, plus one for the road. This band contained both Guy Picciotto and Brendan Canty in their pre-Fugazi days, not to mention that it was produced by Fugazi frontman Ian MacKaye, (how's that for street cred?) and this band's career, like a good punk song, was short and sweet. This band, along with Minor Threat, paved the way for Fugazi, which in turn paved the way for the second-wave emo greats we all know and love (Braid, Mineral, The Promise Ring, Sunny Day Real Estate, etc.), so respect your elders and let them beat your skulls in for the next fifty minutes and thirty-nine seconds. They've damn well earned it.

For fans of: Fugazi, Cap'n Jazz, Christie Front Drive


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maria Taylor with Andy LeMaster - Savannah Drive (2008)

This record is wonderful for a myriad of reasons. First, it's a collection of good songs, which is essential for any good record. Second, it's a sampler of sorts of Maria Taylor's solo catalog thus far. Six of these seven songs are acoustic renditions of songs selected from all three of her releases. Third, it includes Andy LeMaster of Now It's Overhead, and for those of you who have never heard a Now It's Overhead record, you're missing out. Fourth and certainly not last, despite the fact that it is made up of material previously found on other albums, it is something new entirely. The first, second and fifth tracks ("Song Beneath the Song", "Birmingham 1982" and "Leap Year," respectively) were taken from 11:11, Maria's first solo record. Track 4 ("A Good Start") was taken from her sophomore release, Lynn Teeter Flower, and tracks 3 and 6 ("LadyLuck" and "Time Lapse Lifeline") were taken from my personal favorite album of hers, 2009's LadyLuck. The final track is brand spanking new, a lovely little number called "Tell Me." Enjoy, friends!

For fans of: Azure Ray, Orenda Fink, Jenny Owen Youngs, Damon and Naomi

Discovery of a Lifelong Error - You Can Learn a Lot from a Pair of Black Lungs... (2007)

I went into this record with absolutely no expectations whatsoever, and that's exactly what I would recommend for all those who dare enter here to do. Listening to this record is like getting swept up into a tornado, and while you're up there, getting hit in the head with toasters and stop signs and cows and all sorts of other debris that the whirlwind managed to gather before getting dropped back down into completely unfamiliar territory. With screams that sound like a Frankenstein-esque monster made of parts of Dallas Taylor (while he was still in Underoath), Drew Speziale, Mike Hranica, and all the members of The Speed of Sound in Seawater and blood-curdling riffs all packed into short and sweet tracks (the longest track, "'Terra Firma' Might Be Inappropriate," clocks in at 3:18), you'd better kiss Auntie Em and the dog goodbye, because for the next 18 minutes and 54 seconds, you'll get blown right the fuck out of Kansas.

For fans of: Daughters, The Speed of Sound in Seawater, Circle Takes the Square, 2 O'Clock Girlfriend

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Age of Rockets - Hannah (2008)

This album was atop my list of favorite albums of 2008. The sophomore release by NY's The Age of Rockets, Hannah is the group's We, the Vehicles. A wonderful palindrome of a record, it contains bits and nuances of melodies on opposite sides of its length. Their sound has been likened to "The Postal Service with a full orchestra behind it," and that's not an exaggeration. Songs like "Avada Kedavra" and "Elephant & Castle" are perfect blends of synth and programmed elements atop live instruments. Not too long ago, frontman and founder Andrew Futral posted the record on The Age of Rockets' website for the listening public to download for free, and personally, I can't thank him enough for the gift. Follow the link below and you'll see (well, hear) exactly what I'm talking about.

*As an added bonus, you can also download their cover of Tegan and Sara's "Hell." Isn't that nice?

For fans of: The Postal Service, Dntel, The Robot Explosion, The Depreciation Guild

Download and/or Stream

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Depreciation Guild - Spirit Youth (2010)

“You know how airplane cabins have a drone to them? Well, it’s like an A note, and I was singing melodies over it in the bathroom.” That quote, made by The Depreciation Guild's frontman Kurt Feldman last year was the jumping off point for Spirit Youth, the band's sophomore release. Let me just tell you friends, man... What a release it is. Fuzz, drone, pop, bleep, bloop and rock come together to form this Megazord of a record. The album opens with "My Chariot," a song whose synth-y beginnings and matter-of-fact style of lyric delivery draw the listener in and keep them entranced for ten songs worth of wonder, including (but not limited to) the album's single, "Dream About Me."

For fans of: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, MillionYoung, Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Cocteau Twins


Friday, July 2, 2010

Damon Albarn and the UK Chinese Ensemble - Monkey: Journey to the West (2008)

This is the eponymous soundtrack of the stage show that bills itself as a "circus opera," another project by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the masterminds behind Gorillaz. The musical is an adaptation of Journey to the West, a 16th Century novel by Wu Cheng'en, but this is nothing like that cast recording of Les Misérables that you claim not to own, kids. If per chance you're feeling hesistant, check out this track, "Monkey Bee." It'll give you an inkling as to what you're in for. This record can be approached three ways, the first being fluent in Chinese. In the event you're not, it can be fun to go on Wikipedia and do some light reading so as to grasp the plot and know what's going on from track to track. The third (and easiest) way to approach it is simply clicking play and letting your mind go on the journey your ears present it with. Knowing the plot is fun, but it's not essential to enjoy this wonderful fifty-nine minutes and thirty-one seconds.

For fans of: Gorillaz, Damon Albarn, Demon Strings

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sibylle Baier - Colour Green (2006)

This record is a perfect example of the fact that ninety-nine percent of the world's best music never makes it to the radio. Recorded by German actress and singer/songwriter Sibylle Baier at home on reel-to-reel between 1970 and 1973, Colour Green was almost never publicly released. It wasn't until around three decades later when her son compiled the songs on compact disc and distributed them to family members as well as J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., who then showed the album to legendary indie label Orange Twin, who released it in 2006. Baier's whispering melodies carry deeply personal lyrics like, "I grew up in declivities, others grew up in cities where first love and soul take rise. There were times in my life when I felt mad and deprived, and only the slopes gave me hope," over fluttering finger-picked guitar. I can't believe this was kept away from the world for so long, but now that it's been released, I'm unceasingly grateful for its presence.

For fans of: Nick Drake, Vashti Bunyan, Karen Dalton

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jeff Mangum - Live at Jittery Joe's (2001)

Recorded in 1997 by documentary filmmaker Lance Bangs (known for the awesomely spastic video for Death Cab for Cutie's "Talking Like Turnstiles," among many, many others), but released in 2001 to combat the gargantuan prices that bootlegs were going for on eBay, Live at Jittery Joe's is a recording of a solo performance by Neutral Milk Hotel frontman Jeff Mangum at Jittery Joe's in Athens, GA. It's a wonderful and intimate performance, as there was no official setlist prepared, so Jeff accepted and honored requests from audience members. Being that's it's Jeff Mangum and it's not a studio release by Neutral Milk Hotel, it of course includes the track "Engine," as well as a cover of Phil Spector's "I Love How You Love Me." The rest of the setlist is a captivating mixture of songs from both of Neutral Milk Hotel's studio releases. Get comfortable, plug in your headphones and give this a listen. It's really something else, and has that prodigious quality that a choice few records possess, and that is that it never plays the same way twice. It's unpolished and unadulterated, but as most of us know, some of the world's most prolific beauty can be found in imperfections.

For fans of: Neutral Milk Hotel, The Mountain Goats, The Olivia Tremor Control

The Anniversary - Designing a Nervous Breakdown (2000)

The first full-length release by legendary Lawrence, Kansas emo outfit The Anniversary, Designing a Nervous Breakdown houses a sound that bridges the gap between classic second-wave emo and what at the time paved the way for third-wave emo. Let's be clear, I'm not blaming them for third-wave emo, I'm just saying that this record was among the first of the emo albums of the new millennium and its catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrics still hold their own to this day. The band's sound had shifted by the release of their second (and final) full-length, Your Majesty, but this record, now being over 10 years old is a delightful pop classic that will be enjoyed for years to come.

For fans of: The Get Up Kids, Hot Rod Circuit, Hey Mercedes

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bambara - Dog Ear Days (2010)

I'm going to provide a list of adjectives that do their best describe this record: Gloomy, noisy, trippy, spooky, alarming, unexpected, unparalleled, dark, layered, enveloping, dirty, foreboding... Get the picture, yet? If you thought no, then good. That was the correct answer. You will not understand this record until you hear it for yourself. It never plays the same way twice, either. With each listen, one discovers something new. It's an acquired taste, as in, "You better acquire a taste for this, otherwise, you're missing the fuck out."

For fans of: Cocteau Twins, Sonic Youth, Maserati

Monday, May 24, 2010


Released in 2009 by Louisiana's GIVERS, this self titled EP is made up of five tracks that will have your brain dancing in whimsical confusion. The band itself is such an amalgamation of sounds and vibes that trying to accurately compare their sound to other artists is like trying to divide by zero. Suffice it to say though, that these five songs are some of the most fun your ears will ever have. Enjoy!

For fans of: The Flaming Lips, The Color Bars, a third band or artist I can't quite put my finger on

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chris Zabriskie - O Great Queen Electric, What Do You Have Waiting for Me? (2008)

Described by the man himself as "an album about failed love, lost religion and horror movies," O Great Queen Electric, What Do You Have Waiting for Me? is the sophomore solo release by composer and musician Chris Zabriskie. The record opens with "Time Life," a humorous recording of a voicemail (left by lo-fi legend Marc With a C) that brings the listener's guard down right before they get hit in the face with the awesomeness that is the second track, "I Can Be Your Love," a song filled with the fuzzy goodness that Neutral Milk Hotel and Sleep Station fans have come to love so much over space age synths that sound like they came straight out of the record store scene in A Clockwork Orange. The album is also home to a track called "I'm On a Talk Show" which sounds like it could've been taken from one of Ben Gibbard's solo tours. Intellectual listeners should be sure to check out the album's closer, "Joss Whedon." Long story short, this is nine tracks of sheer brilliance.

P.S.: All of Chris Zabriskie's records are available for free download on his website.

For fans of: Now It's Overhead, Ben Gibbard, Sleep Station

Stream and/or Download

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Bad Plus - These Are the Vistas (2003)

This album does to your record collection what sugar does to corn flake cereal. It instantly makes it better. The sophomore effort and major label debut of Minneapolis jazz trio The Bad Plus, We Are the Vistas is a zestful blend of ebullient... Oh, fuck it. It's jazzy. I know, I know. Sailing on the old Redundant Sea there, but it's true! Jazzy record is jazzy. Banter and memes aside though, it's really good. It mixes fresh original pieces with a handful of covers, including Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," (which Cobain always felt was a bit of a Pixies ripoff anyway) and Richard D. James' (better known to some as Aphex Twin) "Flim." This one is not to be overlooked, friends.

For fans of: Ornette Coleman, Avishai Cohen, Happy Apple

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Ethnographers - The Ethnographers (2009)

This is the eponymous debut record by Greenville, NC indie septet The Ethnographers, and before reading the rest of this, you should click on the link below and begin the download. No, really. I'm serious. Every second not listening to this album is a second that is seriously lacking in the aural wonder department. Go ahead, click it. I'll wait. Got it? Good. Now we can continue. Where was I? Oh yes... Well, by now you're probably thinking, "What the hell? What makes this record so great?" I'll tell you. This album takes the ingredients to regular old cookies and ends up baking you a giant delicious cake (See? The cake is NOT a lie). The record opens with "The Trouble with Sleeping," which actually opens the door to the record and leads the listener into the first gem in the collection, a song called "Fine and Dandelions," which, like Maritime's "Guns of Navarone," makes the listener feel a sudden need to get up and dance. The combined vocals of lead singers Megan Kennedy and Danielle Eiler, as well as those of keyboardist Sam Hollen compliment each other in a way that's not been seen since Kanye West caught a glimpse of his own face in a reflection. The next track, "The Marathon Runner," reveals another layer of the band, introducing guitar work akin to I Was a Cub Scout's first (and well, only) record. "Avec Moi" is a must for George A. Romero fans, or those who like upbeat and unsullied pop, or those who possess the ability to hear, really. "I Was Young Once" contains vocals that combine Heathers-style harmonies with a lot of balls behind them. "Looking Eyes, Holding Hearts" is a song that sounds like it floats on waves that have been caused by the thumps of a heartbeat, and is then followed by "Grandfather Said," which introduces the listener to the vocal stylings of guitarist Ian Collins, which blends with the other vocalists in an almost uncanny way. We've reached the point where I've decided to end this track by track synopsis because if you'd followed the directions at the beginning, you'd be hearing it for yourself now, wouldn't you? If per chance you're the kid that payed attention in class, but didn't follow directions, then now's your chance to catch up. Besides, who likes spoilers, anyway? For a band with seven members, nothing ever feels cluttered or unbalanced. Everyone in the band has a part that compliments the other six members, which is a rarity in itself, and now you, the listener have been given an opportunity to indulge in said rarity, and this is only the beginning! If this is the band's On Avery Island, I can't wait to hear what their In the Aeroplane Over the Sea will sound like.

For fans of: Stars, I Was a Cub Scout, Lowry

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Dismemberment Plan - Emergency & I (1999)

Hailed, revered and a third word with similar meaning, Emergency & I is the groundbreaking third record by Washington D.C. indie rock band The Dismemberment Plan. This record finds its home atop many top ten/twenty/fifty/one hundred/etc. lists of the 1990s, and rightly so. It changed the face of the indie rock record. Don't believe me? See for yourself.

For fans of: Q and Not U, Travis Morrison, Burning Airlines


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On!Air!Library! - On!Air!Library! (2004)

This is the only full-length release from New York City's three-piece experimental outfit On!Air!Library!, and what a release it is. Between gaining a bit more exposure by releasing a split with The Album Leaf and going on tour with Interpol, twin sisters Claudia and Alley Deheza and Philip Wann recorded this gem of a record. This is one of the few choice albums that the listener can just let play from beginning to end. No skipping tracks 'round these parts, sir! Nine tracks of shoegaze-y vocals over semi-regular glitches and resonating melodies do a body good.

For fans of: School of Seven Bells, The Album Leaf, Ester Drang

Various Artists - Guilt by Association Vol. 2 (2008)

This album can be summed up in three words, taken from a quote by a hip hop duo from Detroit famous for wearing makeup, "...pure motherfuckin' magic." Engine Room Recordings followed their 2007 release Guilt by Association with this, proving that lighting does indeed strike twice. They gathered up some of the most talented names in indie rock and had them cover their favorite guilty pleasure pop songs. I've posted the track listing below, items in bold are not to be missed.

1. My Brightest Diamond - "Tainted Love" (Soft Cell)
2. The Bloodsugars - "Self Control" (Laura Branigan)
3. Robbers on High Street - "Cool It Now" (New Edition)
4. Frightened Rabbit - "Set You Free" (N-Trance)
5. Matt Pond PA - "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" (My Chemical Romance)
6. Takka Takka - "In the Air Tonight" (Phil Collins)
7. Kaki King - "I Think She Knows" (Justin Timberlake)
8. Francis and the Lights - "Can't Tell Me Nothing" (Kanye West)
9. Lowry - "Africa" (Toto)
10. The Forms - "We Didn't Start the Fire" (Billy Joel)
11. Rafter - "If You Leave" (OMD)
12. Cassettes Won't Listen - "Need You Tonight" (INXS)
13. Jukebox the Ghost - "It's a Beautiful Life" (Ace of Base)
14. Max Vernon - "I Kissed a Girl" (Katy Perry)
15. The Bloodsugars - "Self Control (Acoustic)" (Laura Branigan)

For fans of: Toto, Katy Perry, Ace of Base, Phil Collins

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Black Star - Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)

This is yet another milestone in awesome collaborations. In the late 1990s, socially aware hip hop once again began to rise from the underground where it had been shoved by gangsta rap, Mos Def and Talib Kweli came together and recorded what is now a seminal staple in hip hop culture. Originally planning to release two solo records, the two artists became aware of the artistic spark between them and chose instead to work on a collaborative effort. The result was Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star, a record that used songs like "Astronomy (8th Wonder)" to give the word "black" a positive connotation. "Definition" and "Re: DEFinition" responds to the fact that hip hop at that time (and still today) seemed to constantly dwell on the subject of death with the recent shootings of The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur and their choruses proclaim, "One two three/Mos Def and Talib Kweli/We came to rock it on to the tip-top/Best alliance in hip-hop, Y-O/I said, one two three/It's kind of dangerous to be an emcee/They shot Tupac and Biggie/Too much violence in hip-hop, Y-O." Seasoned hip hop fans will appreciate the track "Children's Story," a nod to Slick Rick's song of the same name with a message about hip hop hubris. The most poignant track, however, is "Thieves in the Night," inspired by Talib Kweli having read Toni Morrison's "The Bluest Eye" in high school. They said best alliance in hip hop, and they meant it. You know what to do.

For fans of: Common, The Roots, De La Soul

Friday, February 26, 2010

Watercolor Paintings - Open Your Mouth (2009)

Released in 2009 by sibling duo (don't confuse them as husband and wife, they'll ruin your weekend) Rebecca and Josh Redman, Open Your Mouth is ten songs chock full o' indie folk goodness. Rebecca acts as the primary songwriter as well as lead vocals and harp and Josh does some vocals while playing one hell of a baritone ukelele. With songs like "Indiana" and "Telephone Wires," this record is yet further proof that you don't have to be overly complex musically or have some juggernaut studio equipment to put out a great record.

For fans of: Elephant Parade, Kate Micucci, Erin Tobey

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Knockdown - Test/Retest (2009)

I've said it once, I'll say it again: Pop punk doesn't have to suck. These guys haven't forgotten that. The first (and only) full-length release from Oneonta, NY punk outfit The Knockdown, Test/Retest is ten tracks of raw, heartfelt emotion filled with gang vocals, power chords and zero bullshit. This album went in the direction of the road not taken (at least anymore in today's pop punk scene), the road that steered clear of whining, guyliner and Pete Wentz. With vocals pleasantly reminiscent of John Nolan and Chuck Ragan, the balls to back up the right to wear that crown and songs like "Shit Went Down in the Italian Kitchen," "Squirrelaholic" and "It Never Goes Anywhere!," this album is a definite must-have to be kept next to your vinyl copy of "Through Being Cool."

For fans of: Hot Water Music, The Gaslight Anthem, Four Year Strong


The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower - Dissertation, Honey

Punk and Jazz meet on this legendary album. Art rock at it's best - groovy, punk, heavy and emotional- it's a roller coaster. This is one of my personal favs, I think everyone should check them out!

For fans of: Blood Brothers, Blue Bridge Quartet, Death From Above 1979


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Focus Group - Hey Let Loose Your Love (2005)

The second release by Julian House under the name The Focus Group, Hey Let Loose Your Love is a mini-album (the longest track clocks in at 2:19) that's not so mini after all. Taking a cue from documentary and library films of the '70s, this record blends samples, clips, random instruments and ambiance to make a sound collage that is interesting to say the least. Nostalgia and happenstance are quilted together to make something that will stimulate the listener's brain and then some.

For fans of: Belbury Poly, Secret Mommy, Boards of Canada


Friday, February 19, 2010

The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea (2006)

This record is fan-fucking-tastic. Playful guitars, haphazard beats, enchanting vocals, baskmasking, synths... This album has it all. The fifth full-length album from Brooklyn's The Fiery Furnaces, Bitter Tea is one of their greatest efforts thus far. Dancing around the nucleus of sibling duo Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger, this band presents the listener with something new on each release. This release just so happens to present the listener with a bucketful of awesome. Choice tracks include, but are in no way limited to "In My Little Thatched Hut," "Black-Hearted Boy" and "Bitter Tea."

For fans of: Deerhoof, Regina Spektor, Half-Handed Cloud


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Teen Heat - A Crime In Our City EP

If you are going to SXSW this year you should check out teen heat. An awesome blend of electronic instruments and pop punk melodies. Great lyrics, really good quality (by famed Fueled By Ramen producer Scott Riebling) and catchy as hell. This comes with a remix by infamous french dj Toxic Avenger too, which is really badass. If you haven't you really need to download and listen...

For Fans Of: Taking Back Sunday, Breathe Electric, Justice, InnerPartySystem


Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band - Born into Trouble as the Sparks Fly Upward (2001)

2001 was a year of changes. After the release of their critically acclaimed debut, He Has Left Us Alone but Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corner of Our Rooms, A Silver Mt. Zion expanded their lineup from three to six members, and expanded their name to The Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band. Retaining the somber influence of both earlier GY!BE releases and the new sound created in their first album and adds something completely new to the mix, both dreadfully obvious on some parts and also gently subtle on other parts of the record. The combination of spoken word and slow, ambient melody reach a peak on the track "Built Then Burnt [Hurrah! Hurrah!]" when the childish voice reminiscent of an old Adventures in Odyssey radio program exclaims, "So tangle, oh tangle us up in bright red ribbons! Let's have a parade! It's been so long since we've had a parade... Let's invite all our friends and all our friends' friends! Let's promenade down the boulevards with terrific pride and light in our eyes! Twelve feet tall and staggering, sick with joy with the angels there and light in our eyes!" This one's sure to stir up something inside you, just you listen and see.

For fans of: Fly Pan Am, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Johnnytwentythree


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Strictly Ballroom - Hide Here Forever (1997)

Released in 1997 on the Waxploitation label, Hide Here Forever is the only album recorded by California emocore outfit Strictly Ballroom. It's eight songs that capture a sound that is all but lost in today's music scene. This band has gained a lot of posthumous attention due to the fact that their bass player is none other than Jimmy Tamborello of Dntel/Figurine/The Postal Service fame. Choice tracks include "Crickets," "Knots on a Counting Rope," and "A Sudden Interest in Nature."

For fans of: Sunny Day Real Estate, Braid, Snowing


Monday, February 8, 2010

AM/FM - Getting into Sinking (2001)

This is a really great record by a really great and now defunct band, and yet they still don't get all the respect they deserve. Their second release, Getting into Sinking is hazier and more atramentous than AM/FM's first album, Mutilate Us. This album houses fuzz and horns reminiscent of Neutral Milk Hotel mixed with Beach Boys/Apples in Stereo ringing harmonies, and topped off with Joan of Arc guitar work and layers...and that's just the tip of the iceberg. This band's list of influences is as long as the horizon, and it certainly shows. With song titles like "If We Burned All the Assholes the Earth Would Look Like the Sun," "Virgins! Virgins!," and "I Was Never Here Two Seconds Ago," this one's not to be overlooked.

For fans of: Joan of Arc, Audible, Modest Mouse


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tom Caruana - Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers (2010)

Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello. Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse. Wu-Tang Clan and... The Beatles?! Yes, you read right. Not so much a collaboration as it is a mashup, Enter the Magical Mystery Chambers is a work of pure brilliance that holds street cred on both fronts. Oasis ain't got shit on Wu-Tang Clan, and The Beatles ain't nuthin' to fuck wit'.

For fans of: Girl Talk, Tor and Sufjan Stevens, Jaydiohead


Secret Mommy - Plays (2007)

This album spent over a year being made, and it definitely shows. Every glitch, every sample, every second is precise and deliberate. Plays is the fourth full-length from Canada's Secret Mommy and it's the best one yet. During the first time 'round, the listener's brain will ask itself, "What the HELL is going on?" But then it'll wise-up and say, "Oh... Now I get it... Oh wait, there's more!" This record is special, every time it's given a listen, the brain finds something new inside it. Choice tracks include "Grand About the Mouth" and "Kool Aid River." Buy the ticket, take the ride. When everything starts tasting purple, you've hit the spot.

For fans of: Boards of Canada, DAT Politics, Gangpol und Mit


Mobius Band - Heaven (2007)

Heaven is the 2007 full-length release from Brooklyn-based electronic rock trio Mobius Band. After 2005's The Loving Sounds of Static, which focused heavily on the disillusionment that comes with age, they moved on to this record, which still carries an air of disappointment, but has also shown definite signs of maturity. Songs like "Hallie" and "Friends Like These" show discontent for situations like asymmetrical relationships with both lovers and friends respectively. There might not be a shining beacon at the end of the tunnel, but there's definitely a laser light show.

For fans of: The Broken West, Cassettes Won't Listen, The Notwist


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Guru - Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 (1993)

The first release of the Jazzmatazz series, Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 is a live album with Guru (of Gang Starr fame) on vocals, backed by a live jazz ensemble. Described on the cover as, "an experimental fusion of hip hop and jazz," this album was and still is a fresh innovation in the hip hop world. The listener feels like they're actually in the room where it's being recorded, they can almost smell the smoky haze found in the dark jazz clubs of the big cities. In short, this album is not to be overlooked.

For fans of: Gang Starr, Jeru the Damaja, MF DOOM


Lou Barlow - Emoh (2005)

Released in 2005, Emoh is the first solo release from Dinosaur Jr. bass player and Sebadoh/The Folk Implosion frontman Lou Barlow. Upon its release, it received favourable comparisons to folk legend Nick Drake, and those comparisons aren't too far off course. The album's fourteen tracks convey a melancholy that is both pleasing to the ear and forthright in its introspection. Songs from early Sebadoh releases hinted at something in this direction, but this is the first time that Barlow actually put all his effort into it and the result is really quite something. It should be noted that the album's title has nothing to do with its homophone "emo." In fact, it is simply the backwards spelling of the record's second track, "Home."

For fans of: Nick Drake, Red House Painters, Elliott Smith


The Speed of Sound in Seawater - Blue Version (2009)

California's The Speed of Sound in Seawater released this EP last year, and it's pretty awesome as far as EPs go. With vocals reminiscent of a younger Placebo mixed with a little Metroid and a dash of 2 O'Clock Girlfriend and all the jazzy doodle-oos of bands like Cats and Cats and Cats and Algernon Cadwallader, these guys are headed for greatness in the very near future. Choice tracks include "The Scariest Room in the House" and "Amy Adams."

For fans of: This Town Needs Guns, Cats and Cats and Cats, Meet Me in St. Louis


Monday, February 1, 2010

Modest Mouse - Baron von Bullshit Rides Again (2004)

Recorded on February 14 and 15, 2004, Baron von Bullshit Rides Again is the first and only live album released by Issaquah indie royalty Modest Mouse. It's a pretty good variety of songs originally released on earlier records, and contains one of the best quotes from lead singer Issac Brock ever to be said aloud on stage. After the band played their fifth song of the night, "Paper Thin Walls," an audience member heckled them and yelled, "FREE BIRD!" In response, Issac said this, "I know I've said this before; the odds of us actually playing 'Free Bird' are...there ARE no odds. It is not going to happen. I'll start with the first reason: we have NO idea how to play 'Free Bird.' The second reason is: in the lovebug's natural habitat, hearing that would just fucking kill him, wouldn't it? You wouldn't want that, right? He's adorable. He is cute. Thirdly: Even if some, like, pick your deity, whoever, came down from the heavens or the hills or wherever your deity lives, and just blessed us with this vast knowledge of 'Free Bird' and things, and we could play it backwards, sing backwards, we could do all that crazy shit, we still just wouldn't do it. If this were the Make-a-Wish Foundation and you were gonna die in 20 minutes, just long enough to play 'Free Bird,' we still wouldn't play it. And here's the end reason, the end reason is that life is just too fuckin' short to play or hear 'Free Bird.'" Issac: 1, Asinine Audience Member: 0.

For fans of: Ugly Casanova, Built to Spill, Pavement


Friday, January 29, 2010

Circle Takes the Square - As the Roots Undo (2004)

The first (and as of yet, only) full-length release by Savannah, GA's Circle Takes the Square, is packed with ever-changing time signatures and spastic melodies in songs like "Same Shade as Concrete," "Crowquill," and "In the Nervous Light." Raw, uninhibited and unpredictable, As the Roots Undo was a fist-shaped breath of fresh air to the skramz/screamo scene of the mid-2000s. It's definitely an acquired taste, but damn, is it tasty.

For fans of: Pg. 99, Daughters, Saetia


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Massive Attack - Mezzanine (1998)

Departing from the sound found on Blue Lines and Protection (Massive Attack's first and second albums respectively), Mezzanine finds its home floating in darker waters. Pulsing, beating and ever-moving, the songs contained herein are very much alive in their brood. Songs like "Inertia Creeps" and "Mezzanine" are like a fog, billowing around the listener and while remaining undaunting, have got you completely surrounded without any escape in sight. Several songs from this album have been covered by other artists, like "Angel," which has been covered by both Sepultura and The Dillinger Escape Plan, and "Teardrop," which has been covered by José González, Incubus, and Elbow to name a few.

Musical Fun Fact #1: The song "Teardrop" is also famous for being the theme song to that medical show with everyone's favourite misanthropic, sarcastic Holmesian doctor.

Musical Fun Fact #2: This record was one of the first to be available for legal download in mp3 format.

For fans of: Portishead, Tricky, UNKLE


Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Owls - Our Hopes and Dreams (2004)

The Owls (not to be confused with Owls), a folky four-piece from Minnesota released Our Hopes and Dreams back in February 2004 and with it, the world became a little lighter. Consisting of eight delightfully dreamy tracks, this record quickly finds a place in the heart of the listener. This album lives above the clouds and below the stars and that translates into songs like "Air" and "Drop Me a Line." Add this to your collection. Your ears will thank you.

For fans of: Laura Veirs, Noah and the Whale, Belle and Sebastian


Sebadoh - Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock (1992)

Their Sub Pop debut, Smash Your Head on the Punk Rock compiles select tracks from two of Sebadoh's earlier EPs, Rocking the Forest and Sebadoh vs. Helmet. Despite that, this doesn't feel like a compilation record at all. It's a healthy serving of the lo-fi goodness that Lou Barlow and Sebadoh are so famous and loved for. The song "Brand New Love" makes yet another appearance in its latest form here, having been featured on recordings as early as Sebadoh's 1990 release, Weed Forestin'. Younger indie rock fans might recognize that song as the extended outro of "Blacking Out the Friction" on Death Cab for Cutie's live release, The John Byrd EP. If lo-fi awesomeness be the object of your search, look no further.

For fans of: Dinosaur Jr., The Folk Implosion, Lou Barlow


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart (2008)

This album just makes you want to move. Dance, jump, even shake, rattle and roll if you feel like it. Fortress Round My Heart is the debut release by Norwegian-born musician Ida Maria. This record has spawned six singles, including "Oh My God," "Keep Me Warm" (which was recently featured on the sappy medical show, you know the one...), and my personal favorite, "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked." With this and a Daytrotter session under her belt, Ida Maria's here with a fist, a snarl and a smile and she's not going anywhere anytime soon.

For fans of: Noisettes, Florence + the Machine, Kate Nash


Dr. Dog - We All Belong (2007)

This album is an original journey that passes through the land of nostalgia a few times along the way. The fourth full-length release from Philadelphia indie psych outfit Dr. Dog, We All Belong includes the warm sound of records of the 1960s, the most obvious of which would most likely be Pet Sounds. Despite this, you'll find no evidence of plagiarism. In fact, quite the contrary. this record houses uniquely original melodies and songs, including "My Old Ways" and "Old News." This album is for fans of music, quite simply. Dig in.

For fans of: Fruit Bats, The Beatles, of Montreal, The Beach Boys


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jason Choi - Leave the Night Behind (2006)

This is an album that only gets better with every listen. When singer/songwriter Jason Choi released this a few years back, he presented an example of what a good full-length record should be. It's 10 tracks, tracks that are substantial from beginning to end. There's not one second of filler to be found. No overly complex time signatures that change every time you turn around. No pretentious 40 second tracks of fuzz and static, and yet every note is deliberate and with meaning. From the moment he sings, "Wake up, O sleeper and rise from the dead..." on "Up Jumps the Devil," the album's opener, the listener is captured by the grace and power that can only be found on Leave the Night Behind.

For fans of: Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly, Maplethorpe, M. Ward


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Converge - Jane Doe (2001)

WARNING! This album is not to be taken lightly. Do not listen to this album if you are not 100% ready for it. You should store this album in a cool, dry place only between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not listen to this album without first applying the necessary protective eyewear and body armor. Do not make sudden moves around this album. Do not taunt this album. Do not look this album directly in the eyes.

Revered by critics and devoured by fans, Jane Doe was the perfect next step for Converge as it embarks in a more melodic direction than their previous efforts, yet still retains the softness of a diamond porcupine. Remember that scene in Raiders when the Ark was opened and the Nazis melted? Yeah, it's kinda like that, and then some. Quite simply, this record carries the torch passed when Botch broke up.

For fans of: The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, Dethklok


Monday, January 4, 2010

The Cripple Lilies - La Bête (2007)

This is yet another gem from a band who is no longer among the living. Hailing from Pensacola, FL, The Cripple Lilies were a heavenly blend of harmony, strummed strings and woodwinds that stole the heart of your humble narrator a few years back. With this, their sole full-length, they achieve a level of pleasantness that is so remarkably hard to find these days. My heart skips a beat every time I hear, "Bella of the Rocks." Not too soft and not too cheesy, La Bête is just right. Play this record while you have yourself a cup of coffee. You'll be astounded when you realize that you won't be requiring any sweetener.

For fans of: Winterpills, Kings of Convenience, The Wooden Birds