Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Daniel's 2013 in Review

My Very Favorite Albums of A.D. 2013

20. Mikal Cronin - MCII
MCII is a starkly straightforward guitar album. It won’t make you think. It won’t make you wince. It’s not going to rearrange your definition of rock and roll. It won’t change you. But it will make you want to take a walk. It might get you looking out a window for longer than you even realize. I woke up the other day with a tune in my head. It was early in the morning, earlier than I normally get up at least. It killed me for about 20 minutes (including a failed attempt at googling fragments of lyrics). Then, I realized it was “Weight,” the first track from this record. I sat down in a chair with some headphones and put it on. 40 minutes later the album was over, and I had barely moved at all. It’s been a while since I’ve started a day so fresh. Mikal Cronin’s music is so god-damned everyday, but it’s the most spectacular kind of everyday I can picture, a no-holds barred assault of perfectly timed pop-music cheap shots that will wind you (the crowd goes wild!) and make you feel proud to be everyday human you are. 

Casey's EPs, Songs and Albums of 2013

After the relative mediocrity of 2012 following up the fantastic year of 2011, it's nice to see that 2013 let no one down. It makes sense based on the length of a typical album cycle that many of the bands that put out great albums in 2011 and 2010 would return for 2013, and we saw the return of Vampire Weekend, Kanye West, The National, The Wonder Years and far more atop many lists. However, debuts really made an impact on my list personally, as three of my top four favorite records of the year happened to be a band's first full length release. Owel, The World Is A Beautiful and The 1975 all showed that they are full of fantastic songwriters and are bands whose popularity should continue to skyrocket through 2014, and their followups will be sought after by far more people than these fantastic debuts. However, the best record of the year was one I was only slightly anticipating after a poor last release, but ended up being one of the biggest growers of the year. Below, you will be able to see my favorite 10 EPs, 25 songs and 25 albums of 2013, a year which had plenty for everyone. If you click on an album title, it will link to our coverage (if we had any) and if you click on a song title, it will bring you to YouTube or Soundcloud. Enjoy!

Max's Top 30: A Year of Metal, Pop Punk & Everything In-between

Brace yourself.

When making my list, I went back and forth over how to rank albums that I felt had an impact on me this past year. I considered the importance of each release and how it influenced or changed it's relative genre or scene. I judged the musicianship, songwriting and lyricism that each album was made of but ultimately, the albums that made my list are the ones that I've listened to the most – the ones with staying power. I've listened to this pile of songs an ungodly amount, and it's only fair that their playability is a testament to my enjoyment this year. I present to you my top 30 albums of the year.

2013: Records. Themes. Gigs. The Lot.

Like every other self-respecting music freak, I'm more than partial to the annual December list-athon, but what I cannot fathom are those which instantly speculate how a given year will be remembered. Sure, it's an intriguing aspect to the whole discussion, but alleging certain records will remain classics for years and decades to come is ultimately a hiding to nothing. Who's to say that Yeezus, for example, won't gather dust as its production tricks and shock value succumb to age, or that come 2020 we won't snigger at Modern Vampires of the City as an "album of the year" catastrophe? On the other side of the coin, how can we be sure we've not dismissed another Odessey and Oracle or Velvet Underground & Nico; an overlooked gem whose early obscurity masks a future cult classic?

With these and other bloopers in mind, I prefer to avoid declaring which LPs we'll view as "the best" or "the most important" with retrospect, and instead focus on the patterns and events which have unquestionably left an impression on the here and now. Without further ado, then, here the themes which have shaped my own musical year, together with a selection of personal favourites from what present impressions suggest has been another solid 12-month innings...

Monday, December 30, 2013

Ryan's Top Albums of 2013

When I originally created this list, it was significantly longer, essentially ranking every album I've listened to this past year. After some trimming and clipping though, I've managed to narrow it down to the top 25 albums of the year. I present them to you now:

Top 50 Albums Of 2013: End-Of-The-Year List of Rainbows and Sunshine

Because I had to find a way to fit in a Pentatonix reference.
Over the past twelve months, I finished high school, questioned (and then came back around to) my faith, wrote a lot of angsty teen poetry, took too many selfies, and met a lot of great people. That aside, I also lost a good deal of my hearing listening to all of the fabulous music that came out in 2013. To put it this way: the albums on this list alone run for a combined length of 36 hours, give or take a few minutes. I've listened to most of them a good three or four times, and some of the ones near the top of this list I've heard upwards of ten times. For the sake of convenience, let's assume I listened to each of these about five times, making for a total listening time of 180 hours for only the 50 albums below. Then consider that this isn't even a third of the music I've heard this year when you count all of the other albums, EPs, and singles from 2013. I would estimate I spent about 600 hours (or 25 days) listening to music this year, which is 6.85% of the entire year--an even larger proportion when you exclude the time I spent asleep. It's no surprise that when I look back on 2013, music will be an enormous part of my memories.

But even when I'm old and deaf in one ear, I won't regret a moment of the time I spent here: MuzikDizcovery has become a home for me, not just for the fantastic community of staff members but for every single one of you who read, listen and (as our site's name suggests) discover. You make this one of the best places for a music lover to be.

Clicking on an album title will take you to an album stream or, failing that, a stream of a single. Onwards!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013: Jonny's Top Albums, Songs & Live Shows

Jonny's Top Everything of 2013

10 Songs, 15 Live Shows and 50 Albums

Hasn't 2013 been great? Ignoring the fact no real classics have come out, it's really hard to complain. Daft Punk and Boards of Canada came back from the dead, Justin Bieber announced his impending retirement and someone threw eggs at Simon Cowell. It's also great because the world was supposed to end last year, so I guess we're all still running off the high from that.

Looking at these lists, they're a little weighted. The songs list is mostly electronic and the albums are almost entirely ambient, so while I tried to be objective it obviously hasn't worked as well as I'd hoped. Still, I rate how I feel; and apparently I either feel mellow or hyper. Anything in between is for people who vote Lib Dem and listen to Enya.

Album Review: Terra Tenebrosa - The Purging

Album Score: A-
There’s something about three dudes in black capes and demon masks that just never gets old. It really should, but it doesn’t as long as they've got the music to back it up. In stark contrast to Swedish compatriot Ghost’s tongue-in-cheek doctrine, Terra Tenebrosa legitimately gives the creeps with its genre-defying attack and macabre imagery. The trio came together in 2009 from the ashes of post-hardcore outfit Breach and delivered a promising debut, but it’s on their sophomore effort that they’ve laid claim to territory all their own. Full of distorted chants and screams, paranoia-inducing machine noises, and all sorts of other bizarre sounds, The Purging is a tour de force in unsettling songcraft.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Artist of the Day: The Pogues

First of all, a very ***Merry Christmas*** from all of us here at Muzik Dizcovery, and what better way to mark it than to hail a group who, rightly or wrongly will always be synonymous with this time of year.

I say wrongly, because for me The Pogues' perennial association with "Fairytale of New York" is something of a minor travesty. Sure, it's understandable (that 1987 hit is, after all, the greatest Christmas song of all time by several million miles - no, that's not open for debate), but I for one find it tragic that it's caused many to dismiss one of the finest and most certainly most distinctive groups of their era as mere one-hit-wonders.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Top Albums, Shows and Songs of 2013

When I’m old, fat and (hopefully) happy, I will probably look back at 2013 as a pivotal blip in my life, where I lost one of the most important things to me—something I had been planning my entire adult existence around for some eight years—and was suddenly forced to forge a new path on a new map. Opposite directions, graduation, crumbling, cynicism, and the renouncing of my faith in what I thought was my home. Yes, more downs than ups this time around, but if everything was perfect, I’d never feel anything (the balance will allow). To my beautiful lady, supportive family and the following bands, albums and shows that consistently found a way to lift me up from wherever I had fallen this year, I am forever thankful.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Album Review: Mike Nelson - Out of the Night

Album Rating: C+
Out of the Night is the latest offering from Nicolas Jaar's weekly-release, subscription based label Other People, and it's impressive just how typical a release it is for them. For one, it sounds a little bit like it could be a Jaar EP. More importantly, it's really, really short. Less than 10 minutes in fact. It seems to be a thing for the label: perhaps it's difficult to push more substantial releases at a weekly rate.

End Of The Year: 25 Songs From 2013 I Really Liked

When I look back at the year, I see it in songs: there were more great songs over the past twelve months than I can count, but this list covers most of the ones that have stuck with me. Some of these came straight from my albums of the year, while others snuck into my life via the radio or Internet (look at the amount of pop music on this list if you don't believe me); all of these songs, however, are wired into my DNA now.

Without further ado, here are 25 songs from 2013 I really liked. (In no particular order.) Thanks to everybody reading this silly little blog, and I hope you all find a song that captures your heart and mind here!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Album Review: Ocoeur - Memento

Album Rating: B+
New releases have been a long time coming from French producer Ocoeur, who briefly popped up in 2010 to deliver a one-two, EP-LP combo. The initial releases struck as a little underdeveloped, but there was a lot of promise hidden in the emotional shards of glitch and downtempo: promise I was personally hoping to witness again soon after. It’s been longer than hoped, but this year Ocoeur has arrived for round 2 with a new record label and new, sleeker sound: last summer saw Light as a Feather flirt brilliantly with warm, ambient soundscapes whilst playing off orchestral swells with harsh, yet restrained glitch. Unique and playfully exciting, it was all of 2010’s promise blossoming to one outstanding album. Fast forward to December and this little three track EP arrives like an encore. Light as a Feather was excellent; Memento proves Ocoeur’s got plenty more to give.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Live Review: Generator Sessions, Mining Institute, Newcastle (14/12/2013)

WITH a stellar lineup, a sell-out crowd and classy setting at Newcastle's Mining Institute, Saturday night threw up a real Christmas treat for North-East music fans. Organised by local agency Generator, this special gig provided intimate, collaborative performances from four of the region’s finest songwriters, following a spate of video sessions recorded last month (see below).

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Artist of the Day: Julia Holter

When I heard Julia Holter’s “Horns Surrounding Me” on the radio (yes, I’m privileged enough to have a local indie station) a month or so ago, I felt sure I’d heard it before. That’s kind of strange, considering that song sounds like almost nothing else. The hook was brave, the song jarring and intense. It wasn’t just hinting at envelope-pushing like so much exciting new music, it was pushing with full force. The track is high point of tension Holter’s new album, Loud City Song, if tension is measured traditionally, with eerie note choices and discord. The rest of the record is... well, actually, it’s pretty difficult to make any kind of general statement about the rest of the record, except that it’s great. It’s riveting from start to finish, even if it starts slow and finishes with a formless 7 minute number. It’s defiant in form, but also classically excellent; there’s so much variation packed into this little bundle of sound, it feels like a feature film, with emotional highs and lows to boot. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Album Review: Sainthood Reps - Headswell

Album Rating: B
I'm a bit late to the game on this one, but hey, December is supposed to be a time where we can catch up on everything we missed in this astonishingly great year for music, right?  Somehow, Sainthood Reps' latest effort, Headswell, flew right under my radar even though I vowed to snatch it up as soon as it dropped in October, but as an onslaught of positive reviews slowly bubbled up from the dark depths of the Internet, I realized I was clearly missing out on something exceptional.  After numerous repeated listens (to make up for my two-month tardiness), "exceptional" unfortunately doesn't quite fit the description on my side of the headphones as much as "not bad" might.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Album Review: Secrets of the Sky - To Sail Black Waters

Album Score: B+
At its best, doom metal is all about atmosphere – not the kind you get from diminished-chord synths and primeval recording quality, but the way an album changes your outlook on the world around you. Ominous becomes welcoming. Bright colors become offensive. Cold becomes invigorating. Drowning sounds like a beautiful way to go when the time comes, and to that end, Secrets of the Sky’s debut is a positively suffocating slab of blackened doom. Hovering somewhere between My Dying Bride’s tortured overtures and Agalloch’s mellifluous black metal, To Sail Black Waters moves like a powerful beast – never at more than a crawl, but with tremendous momentum and poise.

Artist of the Day: Frankie & the Heartstrings

As you may or may not have seen this week, Songkick have officially declared Local Natives the hardest working band on Earth over the past calendar year. How so? A calculation of total shows played combined with miles covered, which sees the LA group top the tree ahead of Kendrick Lamar and Alt-J, having amassed a commendable 188 shows and 192,486 miles. Now, I'm not about to argue with those figures, but what I will call into question is the criteria by which we define "hardest working." Should it be based purely on live endeavour (as has clearly been the case here), or should studio output also be considered? Alternatively, would it not also be wise to consider extra-curricular work; the type bands have no obligation to carry out, yet persevere with for the good of the musical community, be it on an international or merely local level. I can't offer a definitive answer, but if the latter is to have any influence, Sunderland's Frankie & the Hearstrings surely deserve a mention.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Round-Up: November/December 2013 (Part II)

Greetings! Here at MuzikDizcovery, we run across more amazing artists than you can shake a fist at...or write about, unfortunately. Round-Up is a monthly feature attempting to cover some of the great musicians who we may have missed but are just as deserving of our attention. Our two-part Round-Up for November/December continues with six more artists to round out a fine dozen...

Nashville singer-songwriter Trent Dabbs found the inspiration for his latest album in therapy with horses, and The Way We Look At Horses, his eighth full-length, spins his experiences into atmospheric, rousing folk tunes. Dabbs has a mettle for crafting engaging songs and lyrics with depth; on "She's My Destination," he turns a worn-out theme of love inward, tying romance to his own path towards goodness in a poignant twist, and the song's stomping Lumineers sound (updated nicely with slight electronic touches) gets the message across. Another standout is down-to-earth rocker "Midnight Walls," a rumination on trust delivered in sturdy songwriting and Dabbs' steadfast vocal. The album's quieter moments are just as powerful, though: the title track sets the album's rainy Saturday mood through gently swelling strings and hazy production, and "Time Decides" is perfect winter music, finding Dabbs reflecting on his present from a wider point-of-view and ultimately finding inner peace. On The Way We Look At Horses, his focus on moving forward expresses itself in a multitude of ways--some quiet, some bold, but all of them stirring. Stream "She's My Destination" below (and the full album here):

Album Review: Foxing - The Albatross

Album Rating: B+
Foxing is a band that sort of blindsided myself and others. Arriving with not much notice, and yet significant hype, their debut LP is already on a second pressing, that is going fast. What differentiates Foxing from all of the other hyped up new coming bands, is that they are in no way derivative of what is "popular" or "cool" in the moment. Yes, Foxing has some "emo" elements and post-rock moments, but the band never ends sounding like a rip-off or watered-down version of something else.

The Albatross is an album that stands by itself, and fully supports its ideas and themes. Tracks flow together and sequencing is spot-on. The album is one that is meant to be listened to in full, in one sitting, and by doing so it can be appreciated more. Vocals are light and packed with emotion, yet unique. There is never any whining or yelling just for the sake of it. The songs are constructed with purpose and lyrics and vocals accentuate the power behind the music. Foxing plays a mixture of what could be described as indie/post-rock meets newer "emo." Guitars are clean and crisp, and feature somewhat angular lines. Songs swell around these guitars, and build and bloom with them. They create a sound that is both fresh, yet familiar, and gives the band a respectable amount of credibility.

Artist of the Day: Rorcal

Key Release: Világvége (2013)
"You have no idea what to expect."

It’s the sort of line a band throws on packaging to dare you to buy its album. Nine times out of ten, the ploy works (and it’s exactly that, a ploy), but it’s that other ten percent in which the real meat of modern metal lies. That’s where the chimeras of heavy music dwell – the fearless bands with nothing to lose. It's where the visionaries come from, bands like Mastodon and Opeth who are now household names for their ingenuity and steadfastness. That's where Rorcal is clawing its way up from, and for a beast like Rorcal, every road from here on is the one not taken.

If you haven’t heard of Rorcal, you’re in the overwhelming majority. The quartet was birthed in Geneva in 2006, and made a name for itself by pounding the local scene in support of cult heroes like Knut, Red Sparrowes, and Wolves in the Throne Room. The outfit’s early sound owed much to its hardcore contemporaries, but by the time Myrra, Mordvynn, Marayaa dropped in 2008, Rorcal was waist-deep in doom and sludge metal. In the band’s eloquent words, “Somewhere between Drone, Doom and Black metal, let yourself go into the bowels of the whale.”

Round-Up: November/December 2013 (Part I)

Greetings! Here at MuzikDizcovery, we run across more amazing artists than you can shake a fist at...or write about, unfortunately. Round-Up is a monthly feature attempting to cover some of the great musicians who we may have missed but are just as deserving of our attention.

Getting into the holiday spirit, I'm happy (well, partially--as the one writing all of this I'm also frankly sort of exhausted) to let y'all know that, paying tribute to entering the last month of the year, November and December's joint Round-Up comprises a whopping 12 artists! That's right, six today and six tomorrow. So strap on and plug in your best pair of earphones, because have we got some muzik to dizcover...

Let it be known DIY roots musician Dege Legg (better known as Brother Dege) is the real deal: while folk style and music has come into vogue as of late, he's already spent two decades wandering the grime-stained alleys of the Deep South before it was cool. His third release, How To Kill A Horse, makes an immediate impact with its rip-roaring sonic force and ragtag tapestry of instruments--yet the most important ingredient to its success is Dege himself, who pours all he's witnessed volunteering at homeless shelters, traipsing through trailer parks, and working a traveling circus' worth of jobs into his one-of-a-kind voice, twangy, razor-sharp, and bleeding with emotion (as suggested by the presence of a song titled "Crazy Motherfucker," he doesn't hold much back). Profanity and grit aside, there is a sense of spiritual reconciliation on How To Kill A Horse. The stories all have a spiritual bent to them, as if there are demons lurking beneath every reverb-soaked riff, as if the Dobro is barely strung and the drums are cracking at the seams, ready to fall apart. Even so, there is dignity in Dege's voice, a refusal of defeat woven into each steely melody; How To Kill A Horse makes triumph of its darkness. Stream and download the title track below:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Artist of the Day: Dave Brubeck

It's been just over a year since legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck passed away, but his graceful playing, years ahead of its time with its "cool" jazz idiosyncrasies, will continue to live on and dominate my playlists for decades to come.  I consistently find myself immersed in Brubeck's prolific back catalogue come Christmas time, as his classic 1996 album, A Dave Brubeck Christmas, has become a personal holiday tradition of mine.  From the opening playfulness of "'Homecoming' Jingle Bells" to the contrasting somber "'Farewell' Jingle Bells" closing out the record, with additional amazing solos in "Winter Wonderland" and "The Christmas Song," I will forever wonder how A Dave Brubeck Christmas has bypassed becoming a December staple in everyone's yuletide household.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Artist Of The Day: Snowflake

I'm in Seoul, currently experiencing one of the coldest winters in recent memory. As I hide under my blankets and watch the snow swirl against the windows, I find myself gravitating towards all sorts of music--warm and sunny songs are comforting, but there's a dark appeal to tapping into stormier feelings, too. No wonder Snowflake has been on my playlist for a while: split the difference between Mogwai and Grizzly Bear and you still wouldn't come close to describing the New York art-rockers, who just released debut album We All Grow Towards The Sea this week. The band handles brooding melodies and textures with a surprisingly deft hand, producing songs as impressive as anything Mother Nature can conjure in scope and sound while showing off unexpected dynamic range, colorful instrumentation, and razor-sharp hooks. While every song, from the eerie piano ballad "Initials" to the spunky and powerful "Black Stars," is outstanding, if you only listen to one song, make it "Hurricane." Project leader D. James Goodwin doesn't so much ride over the song as sink into it with his hypnotic, drawling voice; meanwhile, the electronics, guitar and drum sink into the background before exploding two verses in, tearing the fabric of the song apart in a destructive display both visceral and beautiful. Throughout its debut, Snowflake suggests that perhaps this destruction is a good thing, that something better will grow in place of what the blizzards blow away.

Stream We All Grow Towards The Sea below (make yourself a good blanket fort before listening if you so desire), and find more on Snowflake at the band's Facebook.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Interview With This Patch Of Sky (12/3/13)

Looking back at 2013, it has been a fantastic year for music, and post-rock is certainly no exception, with great albums coming from Sigur Rós, And So I Watch You From Afar and Enemies, just to name a few. This Patch of Sky's Heroes and Ghosts was also a very worthy contender, and lucky for me, I recently got a chance to speak with Kit Day, guitarist for the beautiful post-rock band, about the new album, breweries in Eugene and which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle deserves a crown of superiority over the others.

Artist of the Day: Sun Kil Moon

Maybe it's the beginning of the cold, winter months or the first snow that makes Sun Kil Moon so relevant, but regardless, Mark Kozelek's brainchild is one that cannot be ignored. After leading the seminal 90's slowcore group, Red House Painters, Kozelek went solo under the moniker Sun Kil Moon. His slowcore roots stayed to an extent, but his playing excelled and flourished. Kozelek's knack for fingerpicking and arpeggios is beyond belief, and he rivals the skills of any prominent classical guitar player.

Sun Kil Moon's music is haunting beautiful, but mellow and inviting. Although the sometimes coldness of the lonesome guitar rings a bit too hollow, Kozelek's vocals are always warm as he transcends a level between singing and storytelling.

Kozelek's latest album, entitled Benji, is set to be released in February on his Caldo Verde label. It promises to be as sentimental and honest as every release he has put out prior, and it is one of my personal most highly anticipated albums of 2014.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Album Review: This Patch of Sky - Heroes and Ghosts

Album Rating: B+
Crescendos and dynamic shifts galore, Heroes and Ghosts, the third proper release from Eugene, Ore. post-rock enthusiasts, This Patch of Sky, often comes across as a perfect representation of the genre’s tried and true modern conventions. This Patch of Sky is a by-the-book post-rock band, and they’re not at all afraid to hide it. Tremolo picking finds its way into nearly every single song on Heroes and Ghosts, and all 54 minutes of the album basically narrate an extended back-and-forth battle between subdued, mellow beauty and blasting, crushing walls of fuzz. The compositions typically begin quietly with a lone guitar and cinematic synth and strings, both of which swell in volume as the rest of the band comes into the picture, pushing the dynamics of the piece to the expected all-out explosion of energy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Artist of the Day: Pretty & Nice

I saw it again! A glitch in the matrix! A fold in consensus reality! A hole in the music-press net we’re told is impermeable! So, who cut it? Maybe let’s not think about it yet. I just listened to this record by a Boston band called Pretty & Nice that I’d never heard mention of before. It’s called Golden Rules for Golden People. It came out in April. I stumbled on it by chance, and it’s one of the best things I’ve heard all year. 

MuzikDizcovery Exclusive: Winter Dust - Autumn Years Album Stream

So if you haven't noticed recently, we love Winter Dust. Between our very well received premier of "Early Grey Mornings" to our recent A level review of Autumn Years, it's clear that we think that Winter Dust is one of the best young bands making music right now. So there were no second thoughts when we found out we had the opportunity to premier this fantastic album. The album brings together so many parts of bands I love such as Gates, Caspian and Athletics, and it really is something special. From the instrumental beauty of songs like "Undertow" to immense emotional releases in "Early Grey Mornings," Winter Dust is a band that knows how to tug at the heartstrings. If you haven't already, also be sure to like their Facebook page for more information. The album is now available for free download, but if you aren't already convinced, be sure to stream it below.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Album Review: Winter Dust - Autumn Years

Album Rating: A
Listening to a great undiscovered band is like falling in love with music all over again. There’s just something about hearing that passion—that yearning and youthful fervor, woven throughout the unadorned chords and modest production that makes you want to jump on board for the ride, just to see where it takes you. It’s all so palpable that you can taste it, and you want to, over and over again. I don’t often find myself romanticizing my early years of playing, but then again, I was nowhere near as talented as the boys in Winter Dust, a post-rock/emo band hailing from a small town in Italy, who are more than ready to release their stellar debut, Autumn Years, to the world, which, coincidentally, could really use something this beautiful right now. 

Artist of the Day: Withered Hand

Five years since his full-length debut, and nearly 18 months since his last release of any kind, news Dan Willson - aka Withered Hand - is on the comeback trail could not be more welcome. One of Britain's best-loved cult artists, the Edinburgh based indie folk musician finally emerged last month with a new song, "Black Tambourine," precursing the announcement of second album New Gods, due in February. Overseen by prominent Scottish producer Tony Doogan, the record promises a polished and expanded sound relative to previous works, with the lead track embodying this aesthetic shift. A streamlined, jangly gem of the highest order, its style is reflected by guest contributions from indie pop royalty in The Vaselines' Eugene Kelly and Pam Berry of, you guessed it, Black Tambourine - though crucially it's a step which feels natural as opposed to abrupt. With members of Belle & Sebastian, Frightened Rabbit and King Creosote also set to appear, this collaborative spirit looks to have carried over to an LP which, if time in the the works is any indicator, should be one of 2014's early highlights.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Album Review: Off The Board - A Studio 4 Family Compilation

Album Rating: A-
Will Yip has a major hand in producing the sounds of the punk scene's most beloved, up-and-coming underground artists. Bands such as Title Fight, Pity Sex and Circa Survive have all procured amazing records under his guidance and it's only inevitable that a compilation featuring these great musicians would come to fruition. Off The Board: A Studio 4 Family Compilation is a mini-retrospective of Will Yip's contributions, gathering unreleased and new songs from his production roster. Featuring some of the best songs that these artists have ever wrote, it's a must-have for fans of the bands on which Will Yip has spent his career.

Artist of the Day: A Perfect Circle

Around the turn of the century Tool vocalist Maynard James Keenan paired up with guitar tech Billy Howerdel to form A Perfect Circle, a new alternative rock group that pulled from all corners of influence and genre. Rounding out the lineup with drummer Josh Freese, Paz Lenchantin on bass and Troy Van Leeuwen on guitar, the group would make a big splash over the course of several years before fading away into the dust of hiatus and reuniting in 2010.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Live Review: RM Hubbert, Old Cinema Launderette, Durham (01/12/2013)

Most musicians would round off their most successful year yet with a lap of honour or perhaps a one-off megashow, but not RM Hubbert - he played in front of a row of washing machines! One of North East England's more obscure venues, Durham's Old Cinema Launderette has spent the past two years hosting acoustic sessions and poetry readings, with the cult Glaswegian the latest to visit before a packed gathering of 22. It mightn't sound like the most glamorous setting, but for this guitarist such intimate appearances and the audience interaction which comes with them are more valuable than any hefty stage or mammoth crowd. Indeed, the 39-year old uses these performance as his own means of remedy; his beautiful and skillful flamenco pieces acting as a direct and defiant response to mental illness and withering personal setbacks. It all sounds rather depressing, but as he acknowledges, the tone of this routine has lifted as of late, a sure sign the method is working wonders.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Interview: The Dismemberment Plan

“Have you ever been to a Dismemberment Plan gig before? It’s a very interactive experience. Sometimes the crowd will call a request and end up shouting the band down until they play it.”

The tour manager’s giving me the sales pitch after walking over to inspect the interview. Presumably the sporadic bursts of laughter and my obvious student music journalist charm had him worried the band were going to give away something they shouldn’t. He needn’t have bothered: in the 10 years The Dismemberment Plan were inactive its members went and got themselves sensible, stable lives completely contradicting their notoriously energetic live shows and emo/ “dance-punk” style. Travis (vocals/ guitar) is now a committed member of a church choir and Joe (drums) designs robotic arm software for NASA. Throughout our interview, guitarist Jason enquires about coffee and tries to charge his phone. It’s all distinctly un-rock and roll, but it’s clear the band have had an absolute blast touring for their first album in 12 years, Uncanney Valley. I sat down with Eric (bass) and Jason to talk about creating music again, indie-rock audiences and voraciousness.

Artist of the Day: Self-Evident

You would think that after so many years, I would get sick of listening to math rock, but these great, oft-undiscovered bands have a way of constantly skittering out of the cyber woodwork.  My latest obsession hails from the snowy streets of Minneapolis and operates under the oddly meta moniker of Self-Evident.  Formed all the way back in 1997, these rhythmic engineers have been cranking out album after album (six in total) of addictive jazzy excellence that, regardless of their incontrovertible merit, have commonly been overlooked by those expected fans who gravitate toward the Kinsella form.  Sometimes, I suppose, even the unquestionable deserve a little push.

With hours of material to explore, Self-Evident's back catalogue can appear quite intimidating, but their 2012 offering, We Built A Fortress On Short Notice, is a good place to start.  There's the melodic beauty of "Bartertown," the classic genre brilliance of "In Cowardice" and the title track's other worldly post rock conclusion, just to name a few.  Of course, that's barely scraping the surface of this ocean of untapped mathy resources, so go on and get up.  This is happening right now. 

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