Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Dear Dark Head Create Strange Weather

DearDarkHead’s Mini LP Strange Weather is a six song ethereal journey into the post-shoegazing landscape.    This instrumental record is utterly gorgeous and features some of the best guitar work I’ve heard on an instrumental work in a really long time.  And while the musicianship on this record is top notch or higher, it’s one of the few atmospheric albums that I’ve heard that would benefit immensely from vocals.

If you ever wondered what the Stone Roses would sound like without Ian Brown, Strange Weather answers that question.   It’s a crisp record that jangles, jumps, jams and shimmers in the sunlight.  The songs are memorable, danceable, and ready for a vocalist to take them into the stratosphere.  Not really post rock, not really ambient, not really anything related to anything similar DDH seems to be a band that simply couldn’t find a vocalist.  That being said, if they ever were to find one suited to their tastes DearDarkHead could be a band with an arsenal of killer singles and world domination at their feet.  Until then bliss out to Strange Weather and enjoy its post-shoegazing atmospherics.   

Friday, February 5, 2016

Great Lakes' Wild Vision

To tweak a rather famous lyric, “It’s been a long time since I’ve twanged and rolled.”  Six years to be precise.  It’s hard to believe but it’s been that long between Great Lakes records so the fact that I’m staring at Wild Vision is deeply thrilling.  And what a thrilling record it really is.

Now based in Brooklyn, Great Lakes haven’t changed much since their move from Athens, GA over a decade ago.  Sure they’re in the big city but their heart and soul is as rustic as ever and Wild Vision is an expansive dusty record that has more in common with mid-western prairies than the Van Wyck.

Great Lakes collectively have come up with another fantastic record of rock and roll run through the country roads and backwoods of America.  There’s enough heartbreak, bluesy guitar riffs, twangy pedal steel sounds, multipart vocals and brilliance to give you goosebumps.   The record slowly trots along barely changing the pace throughout and it’s rarely, if ever, in an upbeat mood.  In fact, there’s a constant sense of emotional despair throughout but it works for the band because the music they create is so suited to this atmospheric environment.  If Nick Cave were to don a cowboy hat and ride off into the sunset with The Bad Seeds in tow Wild Vision is the sort of record they’d come up with.

Wild Vision is not the feel good hit of 2016 .  It is, however, a temperamental and emotive record that feels like it could end it tears at any point.  Great Lakes have a produced a dour and dark record of countrified rock and roll that’s perfect for winter.  Its downtrodden sense of disappointment along with the pastoral feel of the record makes for great songs and even better listening.  I really enjoyed this album and after being away for so long it’s nice to know that Great Lakes can still create material like Wild Vision.  

Aziza Brahim's Timely Abbar el Hamada

Raised in a Saharawi refugee camp in Algeria and living in exile for more than two decades Aziza Brahim’s album Abbar el Hamada is an album that’s about resilience and perseverance as much as it is a musical statement.  And what a record it is.  Abbar el Hamada is a beautiful African influenced Arab spiced record that embraces atmospheric musical passages and jazzy melodies with open arms.  This record is a diverse effort that reflects the changing face of the world today. 

Exploring the tumultuous and timely stories of the migrant and immigrant experience this record seems to have arrived at just the right time.  Abbar el Hamada is a reflective and thoughtful effort that paints a picture through music and compassionate songwriting.  While Aziza might be from Algeria and exiled in Spain, this record would seemingly fit any of the current migrant crises we see daily on the news and makes a statement about the humanity of it all without making a much of an effort.

Even without the lyrics much of Abbar el Hamada is beautiful and emotionally poignant.  The reflective and often mellow interplay between musicians creates a serene mood and the songs are light, airy, and sound as if the old world was caught mixing with the new world.  I really enjoyed the songs on Abbar el Hamada despite not understanding anything Aziza was singing.  The record is the sort of thing you’d expect Rick Steeves to be listening to as he and his crew drove across the continent.

Emotional, stunning, and provocative Aziza Brahim’s Abbar el Hamada is an impactful effort on many levels. It’s impressively put together, played and thoroughly enjoyable.  It’s hard to believe a musician with such talent is exiled and forced to live so far from home but perhaps it’s that distance that drives Brahim and makes his songs as amazing as they are.  A worthy and passionate effort all the way around Abbar el Hamada is well worth a listen.

Try The Pie Takes A Rest

Try the Pie is the project of one Bean Tupou who creates wilting twee acoustic pop that sounds as if Kim Deal was giving you a long aural hug.  Her latest album Rest is a sweet and tender little record that sounds so twee and fragile that it might just crumble apart while being listened to.  With barely any production or barely any sheen Rest breaks your heart with just the vocals of Bean who whimpers and whispers across the record.

There's nothing complicated about Rest but there doesn't need to be because Try The Pie still comes up with delicious song concoctions that melt your emotions into a giant puddle of teary goo.  Rest is so heartfelt and so genuine you can't help but love this record.  I can't stand acoustic music but Bean's voice is just so dainty and adorable my heart melts every time she sings.  Rest is an enjoyable listen of intimate and fragile indie folk.  It's not the best sounding or produced but Try The Pie has some of the most delicately beautiful tunes to come across my ears in a while.  It's not an upbeat or energetic release but it's a perfect aural valentine and it's filled with a genuine sense of love.  And that, that's pretty cool

Antlered Aunt Lord is Ostensibly Formerly Stunted

The oddly named Antlered Aunt Lord is as shambolic and weird as their name might imply.  Led by the one and only member, Jesse Stinnard, AAL is a crazy chaotic mess of a solo project.    Stinnard is a hap hazard artist who cranks out songs as if doing so was as involuntary as breathing.  I'm not sure if he's really all that good overall but he occasionally hits a sweet spot and comes up with something that perks your ears up. 

Stinnard's solo effort, Ostensibly Formerly Stunted, is as loosely put together as his musical ideas.  Consisting of 19 tracks much of this record comes from a backlog of songs AAL had laying around and it kind of sounds like it.  Ostensibly Formerly Stunted runs together as if it were his stream of consciousness let loose in a recording studio.  As a result the album is truly all over the place musically and covers more genres of indie than I could count.  Guitars are wrangled, drums broken, voices strained and through it all Ostensibly Formerly Stunted is as lo-fi as lo-fi can be.  I'm not sure if my tolerance level for all this messiness is high enough for repeated listens, but there are some special moments on this slab.   For example, the second Stinnard finds a keyboard magical things happen songs worth hearing ooze out of the record. 

Ostensibly Formerly Stunted isn't necessarily a bad record from a songwriting standpoint (Stinnard has some great ideas) it just pivots from production qualities faster than sub genres.  And while the production is lacking AAL has some tunes worthy of listening to and given $10 and a DAT recorder they might make for a nice sounding record.  Unfortunately, this entire record is so all over the place that it tested my sanity a bit too much.  If you like crazy lo-fi/no-fi pop off of Adderall you'll absolutely flip a wig for this but if you enjoy hearing things in a somewhat structured manner...you'll lose your mind.  Antlered Aunt Lord's Ostensibly Formerly Stunted sounds like a demo committed to vinyl and I'm not sure that's a good thing.  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Animal Daydream Love Citrus

Animal Daydream's Citrus 7” is a blast of post 60's jangle that has so much Byrdsian goodness running throughout it you'd swear Roger McGuinn was in the band.  The four songs on this single are fantastic melodic gems that are sweeter than grapefruit with sugar on top.  Seriously, this is a great little record that highlights the never ending awesomeness that Animal Daydream constantly release.  Jangly guitars with psychedelic flourishes pair nicely with the melodious melodies here and the result is a single of summer pop perfection for the dead of winter.

The record is bookended by the two best songs, “Citrus,” and “In My Room.”  The two tracks are jangly and slightly psychedelic tunes that have a brilliant pop sensibility about them.  They really are pop hits, just fifty years late to the party.  There's nothing to fault on Citrus except to say that it's only four songs! Enjoyable on either side Citrus is a tangy treat of indie pop run through the 60's with orange tinted glasses (get it?).

Mark Van Hoen Has Nightvision

Mark Van Hoen’s album Nightvision is so aptly titled that it’s almost fair to judge this book by its cover.  Nightvision consists of ten tracks from a dark sunless future world where Blade Runner is come and gone and the apocalypse happened generations before.  Mark Van Hoen creates a bleak, minimalistic landscape of sounds that haunt your brain and let your imagination run wild.  It’s a post-Eno ambient masterpiece of synth goodness that expands beyond the universe into the great beyond.

With an army of synthesized sounds, ghost like murmurings, and a sound palette that is well beyond your imagination, Mark Van Hoen creates his soundscapes.  The songs Van Hoen has composed on Nightvision are post-apocalyptic electronic drones that loop and twist into infinity.  This is the sort of record where one song seamlessly bleeds into the next with barely any notice and as a result much of NIghtvision plays out as one 49 minute long dream.

Nightvision is an enjoyable listen on headphones and if listened to in a dark room could potentially cause insanity.  Its rich textures and sounds play havoc with your ears as your mind runs rampant in Mark Van Hoen’s soundscape; and it’s amazing.  If you like post rock, drone, ambient or just getting lost in a different world you can’t do much better than Nightvision!