Fleet Foxes: Sun Giant EP (2008)

fleet foxes sgepFleet Foxes
Sun Giant EP; 2008
Sub Pop Records

My Rating: 10/10

You know we are living in a good time for music when the songs of Fleet Foxes can be brewing in a gawky high-schooler’s bedroom one day and then rocking SNL just a few months later. This five-songer is no mere indication of greatness; it’s pure grandeur itself, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since R.E.M. released CHRONIC TOWN back in the day. There really aren’t words superlative and hyperbolic enough to describe the glories contained herein. “Mykonos” and “Sun Giant” would have been enough as a lead-off seven inch, but rounding it out with the other three tracks is like Christmas when you were seven raised to the power of your first kiss. Flabbergastastic.

TRACKS:

1. Sun Giant (5/5)
2. Drops in the River (5/5)
3. English House (5/5)
4. Mykonos (5/5)
5. Innocent Son (5/5)

Shout Outs: Ratatat’s LP3

CD book outsideRatatat
LP3
2008; XL Recordings

My Rating: 9/10

Ah, ear candy. This is “neat sound” music, kind of like Four Tet, but Ratatat brings a higher tempo to the mix, and a classic rock ethos. The guitars typically play the vocalist role in this outfit, and “Falcon Jab” gets things off to a good start after a droning introduction with “Shiller.” “Mirando,” the first high point, comes off like Steely Dan mixed with old school Metallica, and like any good instrumental, the music is so lyrical you won’t be missing any vocals.

“Bird Priest” shows that these guys have a penchant for the visual, while  “Shempi” demonstrates that this is a band brimming with ideas, the kind of excellent ideas that gave us those Saturday morning cartoons back in the mid-80’s. One or two tracks  lose me – “Dura” is a little too hip-hop cool inflected. But “Brulee” is an excellent change-up, reaching a bit into reggae, and “Mumtaz Khan” does a decent job with an eastern flavor.

“Gipsy Threat,” though a bit random, does provide an interesting interlude from the record’s standard dynamic,  and “Black Heroes” ends it all in a satisfying way. Overall, not a bad third effort. These guys do make really great “neat sound” music, and if you’re like me, you’ll find yourself coming back to this one.

Shout Out: Nathan’s Key Principles

key principlesWinnipeg’s Nathan play something along the lines of western indie pop. Their 2007 LP Key Principles is thus far my only exposure to the band, and from what I can tell their sound is closely tied to the overshadowing natural beauty and mystic lonesome of the wide western praries. The band has a host of strengths in their favor – two sugar-tongued singers in Keri Latimer and Shelley Marshall, a strong sense of melody and harmony, and a knack for vivid lyrical imagery. Apparently these kids are all the rage in Canada, but so far as I can tell ain’t too many in Estados Unidos who’s heard of ’em.

The record kicks off with “John Paul’s Deliveries,” exhibit A in the case for Nathan’s songwriting excellence. The melody winds through the lyrics like a drive through the backroads as Latimer and Marshall sing a song about “listening to the crickets and the heartbeat of the dark.” It’s a good indication of where Nathan’s headed on Key Principles, with most of the songs inhabiting a sort of lost old town. A strange nostalgia is especially palpable on “The Boulevard Back Then”, where Latimer takes the lead and sings “I like to walk around my dark house/Preparing for the day the lights go out”, then remarking “You should have seen the boulevard back then/We’ll tell our grandchildren.” Here, as with all of Nathan’s songs, the phrasing is just as vital as the lyrics themselves, infusing into mere words myriad emotional layers.

The gentle dream-pop of “Trans Am” recalls the best moments of The Innocence Mission,  while “Scarecrow”, “You Win”, and “Malorie” groove with a sass that recalls four or five decades past. For me though, the most deeply affecting tracks are “The Wind” and “Ordinary Day,” the first a overcast meditation on futility and surrender, the second a heartbreaking track about hungering for loves lost.

NathanBathSMKey Principles is one of those albums that gradually knocks my socks off, if one can gradually have one’s socks knocked off. The lyrics so strong, the songs so captivating, the performances loose but full of conviction, Nathan is the kind of band that deserves worldwide fame and glory. I have a sad feeling that they’ll never achieve the kind of fame they really deserve, but really that’s ok. It gives me the opportunity to introduce them to others on a one-on-one basis, which is really the kind of exposure that does them justice. But the great news is that they have a strong back catalogue, and thus I have a feeling that I have found a stalwart of a band, one that won’t likely let me down in the years to come with each subsequent offering.

Anyone else out there heard Key Principles? What did you think?

Shout Out: Top 10 Emusic Purchases

I promise you I’m not getting paid to plug them, but Emusic has to be one of the coolest legal mp3 sites on the interwebs. You won’t find a whole bunch of major label stuff, but if your musical tastes occasionally stray into the indie, jazz, or classical categories, it’s hard to find a better bargain. On average, I’ve probably paid about 25 cents a track over the last year with Emusic.

Anyway, here’s a quick list of my Top 10 purchases from Emusic over the last year.

Nathan – Key Principles
The Magnetic Fields – Holiday
Ratatat – LP3
Four Tet – Rounds
Dinosaur Jr. – Beyond
Kathleen Edwards – Back to Me
Explosions in the Sky – All of the Sudden, I Miss Everyone
Faraquet – The View from this Tower
Josh Ritter – Hello Starling
Follow the Train – A Breath of Sigh

Reviews for each of these most likely to follow.

Anyone  else out there frequent Emusic? What are your top 10 purchases?

Shout Out: Red White Blue

Red White Blue EPThough they may not have delivered marketability on the band name front (try googling Red White Blue), Nashville’s Red White Blue deliver righteous sounds on their two debut EP’s. I think I first heard the song “Washed In The Blood” on local radio about a year ago, but at the time no release existed. Glad to see they’ve debuted with what basically amounts to an LP’s worth of material in two self-titled EP’s. Though they don’t stray too far from alt-country orthodoxy, Red White Blue’s two greatest strengths are in songwriting and diversity of sound. “Goodmorning” and “Turn This Around” sound like vintage Ryan Adams, while “Honest Mistake” could have featured prominently on The Band’s third LP, Stage Fright. RWB resembles classic Eagles on “Amelie,” with gorgeous layered harmonies and mountain high acoustic tones. “You Don’t Have A Clue” recalls the Emmylou/Parsons duet “Sweep Out The Ashes,” but it’s the Black EP’s “California Cries” that best demonstrates RWB’s potential. Keep an eye out for these kids.

Shout Out: Bird Show of North America

Been going through an post/mathrock phase lately, brushing up on old indie faves like Dianogah and June of 44. Faraquet in particular sounded great on the summery drive home this afternoon.

One band I’ve been wanting to write about for a while is Seattle’s own Bird Show of North America. Purely instrumental, Bird Show really stands out from the pack because of a refusal to rely on the hypnotic “drone” so prevalent in postrock over the last eight or nine years and instead spinning out ten exhilirating and original tracks on their debut LP, Murder Over Moscow. The band’s style seems to meet somewhere between Faraquet’s angular and hard-edged guitar rock and Low’s emotive and expressive slowcore. Apparently no recording can capture the full Bird Show of NA experience though – during live performances, the band is “fronted” by an artist who paints – get this – birds. Of North America. But the CD itself provides a great document of the band’s sound. I for one hope to hear more from this band in the next year or so.

UPDATE: Short doc on the band on YouTube.