When a band member has already made one of the year's defining releases (Panda Bear's breakout Person Pitch), you know the bar is set high. So it's with great pleasure/relief that we can confirm that Strawberry Jam is a great record: wildly accessible, yet fiercely loyal to the group's spirit of noise and chaos. New fans of Panda Bear's soaring Beach Boy-isms may take a spell to appreciate Avey Tare's coo-to-a-scream vocal style, but this juxtaposition is only one of the things that makes Jam so thrilling. Bookended by two exceptional albums, 2007 is Animal's Collective's year.
Oakley Hall's first album for indie powerhouse Merge is one that fully warrants their signing. Long a good group full of great potential, I'll Follow You fulfills the promise by displaying confidence in the basic tools of rock n' roll--strong singing, solid writing, and relaxed band communication. What once felt like an adopted country-rock pose has grown into the kind of quiet assuredness for which many bands would kill. Given the chance, this album could secretly become one of your faves of the year.
Black Lips already released a killer live album this year, Los Valientes Del Mundo Nuevo, which caught the group direct from Tijuana. Good Bad Not Evil keeps their momentum moving at a snarling clip. The album is vintage garage, nailing every detail. What makes the band more convincing (and fun) than the average ripoff is their commitment to an aesthetic. And only Black Lips could get away with "O Katrina", a song in tribute to the New Orleans catastrophe that is irreverent without being offensive, sympathetic without being corny, and just the right side of dumb.
As they did last year with Carla Bozulich, the crew at Montreal's Hotel 2 Tango studio help a revered, underappreciated talent release their best work in years. This time around, songwriter Vic Chesnutt makes the trek to Monty and finds sympathetic accompaniment in locals the Silver Mt. Zion Orchestra. Producing is filmmaker Jem Cohen, best known for his documentary work with Fugazi. It seems an odd choice until you hear the album, one draped in baroque, cinematic granduer. Powerful and spare, it is the type of noir record for which Montreal is rightly famous.
The history of Pinback goes deeper than you'd suspect. Thingy, Heavy Vegetable, Rob Crow's solo discs, and metal side-project Goblincock are all branches of a family tree to which Pinback has proven to be the solid trunk. Like many cult acts, there are a host of people who would love the band if given the chance, and the solid Autumn of the Seraphs is as good a starting point as any. Gently creative, intrinsically tuneful, and sounding wholly singular, there is a reason this band is so well-loved in secret circles: they're quintessential indie-rock.
This is the fourth release by Oakley Hall and is by far their best yet. Like all great albums it gets better with every listen and is quickly becoming one of my favorites of the year. Like the previous albums, I'll Follow You mixes up the vocal duties between Pat Sullivan and Leah Blessoff with great success whether it be on one of the more psychedelic tracks or the quieter ballads. Although strong from start to finish, some standouts include "Marine Life", "Rue the Blues" and "Take My Hands, We're Free". Definitely worth checking out for new and old fans.
Deluxe reissue of Barbara Manning's first two long out-of-print records, Lately I Keep Scissors named one of SPIN's Top 100 Alternative Records and One Perfect Green Blanket . Fans of the Dunedin Sound of Flying Nun Records, jangly guitars and the minimalist aesthetic of the Young Marble Giants (who also enjoyed a recent deluxe reissue of their classic Colossal Youth) will find alot to enjoy here. Act fast though, we are told these will not be re-released again "in our lifetime".
I could go on and on about the vitality, peerlessness and plain beauty of the music of The Dirty Three, but above all else, their greatest contribution to music is their inversion of the traditional roles of their instruments. In particular, Mick Turner's ability to take the most obnoxious and familiar instrument in modern music (the electric guitar) and turn it into something so amorphous and secretive is nothing short of brilliant. This collection of rare solo material (along with duo collaborations with D3's drummer Jim White) is instrumental daydreaming of the highest order.
He may be Parisian born, but Manu Chao is clearly a son of the world. Whether it's his five language dialect or relentless style hop scotching, Chao is a testament to those who advocate the irrelevance of genres in music. On his first album in six years, the man retains all of the traits that have won him big cult status: Latin rhythms, unexpected tempo shifts, and a kaleidoscopic range from frenetic to tender. A riveting live performer, Chao keeps the energy up on record by never lingering too long on any one tune; of the 21 tracks, a great majority are just under or just over two minutes.
Offering up a killer, just-under-the-radar platter of non-sequitor indie rock, No Age are an L.A. duo (plus friends) making exactly the kind of record you'd expect (and hope for) in 2007. This means Weirdo Rippers covers walls of white noise, floating clouds of ethereal drift, geeky Sebadoh-esque trash-pop, and all points in between. These musical wanderings stay connected by the home-baked, tossed off charm of it all. To be sure, these recordings were well-considered, thoughtfully planned, and executed to an exacting standard. It just doesn't really sound like it.
After seven albums and numerous singles pushing the frontiers of sonic density as far as they could go, Hey Venus! finds SFA in a reductive mood. Gone for the most part are the techno flair and odd left turns that made their discography such an unpredictable listen. What remains, happily, is the band's unfailing way with melody and harmony. With Broken Social Scene producer David Newfeld at the helm, the Furries finally leave the songs relatively unadorned. The result? A 36-minute sunny stroll on a beach crawling with the occasional rainbow crab or talking seagull to keep you on your toes.
It wasn't long ago that many folks had written Liars off as a trendy funk-punk New York band that lost the plot and wasted their potential on fruitless self-indulgence. Oops. This trio has since had the last laugh when their brilliantly warped 2006 release Drum's Not Dead broadsided our ears with its undeniably raw power. And the chuckling can go on because this eponymous effort is every bit as unexpected, kinetic, and wonderfully mad as its predecessor. Less centered exclusively around percussion and voice, this album is dark, primal and quotes generously from the past of 60s/70s garage-punk.
Flitting from atmospheric new-agey synth orchestrations or folk vignettes (Martin) and foot-on-the-monitor proto-metal boogie (Finch), this collaborative '70s Aussie surf soundtrack sure is a weird one! A personal favourite of the new batch of reissues from mondo bizarro Japanese reissue label EM Records.
Sally Seltmann's New Buffalo makes a charming return with an album that is even more inward than her previous Last Beautiful Day. That Seltmann is married to Darren Seltmann of hyper-sample dance kings The Avalanches is nowhere evident; musically, the pair share nothing except a studio. New Buffalo charts her own path, primarly eased into existence by her barely-there voice. The naked piano arrangements and transculent vocals carry an intimacy that borders on the uncomfortable, but Seltman's strong songwriting and universal subject keeps the listener just on her side.
I have this strange love for Roxy Music's Avalon and this is their next closest album to that. While Avalon is a head first plummet into overwhelming smoothness, Flesh and Blood, its immediate precursor, is a fumbling step into that same sort of suave. Avalon is the better album and Flesh and Blood is hit and miss. The covers, "Midnight Hour" and "Eight Miles High," are as uncomfortably lazy as they are comfortably soft. I enjoy the album a lot though. The title track is a quintessential example of Ferry's preoccupation with his lady-loves. The cover is also probably my favourite album cover. Ever.