Initial Reactions (2011): Stephen Malkmus, Girls, Thurston Moore, tUnE-yArDs

Stephen Malkmus – Mirror Traffic – [ind]: Initially, Mirror Traffic sounds like a bunch of slightly off-kilter but mostly generic stabs at classic rock. However, a shift occurs around the album’s middle.  "Asking Price" approaches vintage Pavement, and from then on the album takes a step in the right direction. There are some bright moments here, even a few flashes of Stephen seeming to re-capture his Pavement-era muse ("Fall Away" is a definite winner). Unfortunately, they are merely flashes, none of them reaching the low-key melodic transcendence of "Here" or "In the Mouth a Desert" or any other Malkmus-penned great. Pass. ("Fall Away", "Asking Price", "Spazz")

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost – [ind]: Shades of canonical classic rock all over the place. I hear "Kodachrome" in "Honey Bunny." "Die" sounds like some proto-metal proggish thing that I can’t quite put my finger on. "Saying I Love You" recalls the Beach Boys. "Vomit" could be an outtake from Dark Side of the Moon. The loveliness abounds, fer sure. It’s all nice, don’t get me wrong, but the thing is, none of it grabs me. In all honesty, why the hype? ("Alex", "Saying I Love You", "Forgiveness")

Thurston Moore – Demolished Thoughts – [++]: It’s an understated effort, built upon haunting and oblique acoustic guitar figures, but Moore gets it right by inviting violinist Samara Lubelski along for the ride. A meditative and poetic record that is frequently gorgeous and inviting, it is perhaps only lacking in gluey themes. Nonetheless, these tunes make for excellent study soundtracks, assisting in the construction of thoughts better perhaps than Moore intended. ("Benediction", "Illumine")

tUnE-yArDs – W H O K I L L – [++]: I can’t say that this is the type of sonic adventure I’m prone to jump all over, but I have to give Merrill Garbus credit. Word is she was a puppeteer in a former life, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit given the way her music rhythm-izes synthetic sounds into a strangely organic flow. There’s a whole bunch of absolutely fascinating musical moments contained herein, and she performs with a combination of giftedness and passion that is entirely rare. Even though I don’t completely get it, I can definitely appreciate the musical vision that W H O K I L L represents. I’ll certainly revisit this one, and keep my fingers crossed for Garbus as she becomes indie rock’s musical rocket woman. ("My Country", "Gangsta")

REACTION KEY

[****]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.

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Quick Review (LP): Sun & Shade by Woods

Woods
Sun & Shade
Woodsist; 2011

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "Out of the Eye", "Pushing Onlys", "Any Other Day", "Hand It Out"


NOTES

  • I’m really liking "Pushing Onlys" – great tune!
  • Nice krautrock-ish thang on "Out of the Eye."
  • Five tracks in, and I think it’s safe to say this is a pretty great album.
  • I really like the guitar riffs this band comes up with. "Hand It Out" in particular reminds me of something The Pixies might have come up with.
  • Dang this is catchy. ("To Have In The Home")
  • The long one sounds like The Doors, except without the corny Jim Morrison vox.
  • The second half is a bit more mellowed out than the first. Maybe that’s a conceptual thing? (Sun = Side 1, Shade = Side 2?)
  • Ref. analysis? (Slanted & Enchanted + Surfer Rosa) x Wilco = Woods.
  • I really love this band’s sound. At first, I was bit turned off by the high-pitched vocals, but it really works with the overall aesthetic of the music. Additionally, the lyrics seems strong after a few listens. I’m planning to dive into this one a little more as the year goes on. A very intriguing effort.
  • I agree with Pitchfork that Woods is a “sleeper” band, an act that keeps putting out non-headliners that tend to stick to your brain, not like bubblegum on a shoe, but like the memory of an unexpectedly pleasant stroll through the forest. This is definitely one of my favorites so far this year, and although I’m a bit late to the party, I have to say that I’m really looking forward to exploring more of Woods’ back catalog.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Release Rundown: Fall 2010

 

from The Young Scamels page on Facebook

 

The air is getting cool, the wind is getting brisk, the leaves are changing color, and Death Cab is sounding fantastic again. Fall is officially here. Here’s a rundown of some new and/or forthcoming stuff and why I’m excited about it:

  • Belle & Sebastian, Write About Love: Their last full-length, The Life Pursuit, was their best since If You’re Feeling Sinister. It sounds like the record shares a kindship with The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds in being a pop record very focused on God and things spiritual. Listen to the whole thing at NPR.
  • Young Scamels, Tempest: I’ve already mentioned why I’m excited about this one, but I’ll just say it again. What I’ve heard sounds great, and it’s Shakespearean indie rock from 2/3’s of Rachel’s. I’m sold. Sample their stuff at Myspace.
  • Parlour, Simulacrenfield: I’ve loved everything they’ve done until now, and it’s been a long time since their last release, the excellent Hives Fives EP. “Imagine a heavier, more disturbing Neu! with more unexpected twists and turn. . .” Enough imagining, I’m ready! Get an MP3 here.
  • Shipping News, One Less Heartless To Fear: Shipping News is good news, plain and simple. It’s been a long time coming, and this one’s apparently going to be a little more hot and heavy than their previous releases. Sample a track here.
  • Over the Rhine, The Long Surrender: Over the Rhine is an old favorite at this point, and I’m looking forward to whatever surprises they may have in store. All I know right now is that it was produced by Joe Henry, it has a great title, and that I’m getting a sneak preview this weekend. Can’t wait! Band website here.
  • Young Hunting, Attachment in a Child and the Subsequent Condition: I know very little about these guys, but I’m very excited by what I hear on their Myspace site. Their first 7″ sounds really good – I might have to pick it up. File under Landscape Rock?
  • Pavement, Terror Twilight [Deluxe edition]: We don’t have an official release date from the Matador website yet, but I do have two unconfirmed “sightings” of a November release date. How about a tracklist already?
  • Real Estate, “Out of Tune” b/w “Reservoir”: One of my favorite new bands of 2009 continues to roll out new music. “Out of Tune” is a great track, and I’m excited for something new on the flip side. You can listen when you pre-order.
  • Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz: Listened to this a few times so far, and I am not too sure what to make of it. “Too Much” is insanely catchy, and he is definitely stretching himself in multiple directions. I’ll suspend judgment for now, but one thing is for sure: Sufjan has probably made his Kid A, for better or for worse.

I’ll be that new Strand of Oaks LP is going to sound even better with the dropping temperature as well.

If you’re in a band that’s looking for a review of a CD, 7″, or some other recorded format, drop me a comment and I’ll be glad to oblige with e-mail and/or shipping address.

Worth Repeating: On the interpretation of rock lyrics…

“At least one long and winding road to hell is paved with interpretation of rock lyrics. Writing on the subject tends to fall apart because lyrics make less sense to the eye than to the ear. Words are blurred and bent by the music that swirls around them. ‘A song doesn’t exist to convey the meaning of the words,’ the critic Simon Firth has written. ‘Rather, the words exist to convey the meaning of the song.'”  – Alex Ross, “The Pavement Tapes” (originally published in The New Yorker, May 26, 1997)

Query: Deluxe treatment for Pavement’s Terror Twilight On The Way?

This site is listing a November release date for the deluxe treatment of Pavement’s Terror Twilight. Should I get excited about this?

Anyone know if this is offical from Matador?

UPDATE: It’s been pushed back to 2011. I referenced the Matador statement here.

Pavement: Slanted & Enchanted (1992)

Pavement
Slanted & Enchanted; 1992
Matador Records
My Rating: 88/100
There aren’t many records that I would call “incredibly pretentious” and “brilliant” all in the same breath, but here it goes: SLANTED & ENCHANTED is brilliant in an incredibly pretentious sort of way. For the novice, Pavement’s debut will most likely sound like the schizophrenic garage-band antics of middle-class white kids who’ve been playing their instruments for, oh, three weeks. But don’t be so shallow, you! Here’s the big secret: Pavement could write some great songs! Yes, beneath all the fuzz there’s a juicy fruit waiting to be enjoyed, but SLANTED & ENCHANTED can’t be approached head-on. You have to accept the inherent contradictions (the inverted beauty of “In the Mouth a Desert”), the off-kilter rhythms (“Conduit for Sale!”), and the off-key guitars (“Zurich is Stained”) on their own terms. When you do, you’ll start to see them as a necessary part of the experience. “Here” wouldn’t be nearly so great in the hands of someone with a soulful voice – there’s an undeniable authenticity in Malkmus straining to hit those high notes. But the record’s title really says it all: these songs come from a world of paradoxic landscapes and schizoid vision, the sound of running Escher’s and Picasso’s collected works through a blender. Every piece has its place, and while some tracks are better (“Trigger Cut”, “Two States”) than others (“No Life Singed Her”, “Our Singer”), SLANTED & ENCHANTED is a jigsaw that wouldn’t quite fit together if a note was missing. Obtuse? Yes. Inscrutable? Fer sure. Esoteric? To a point. A waste of time? Not at all. Give SLANTED & ENCHANTED as many listens as it takes. You will believe.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Tracks:
1. Summer Babe (Winter Version) (4.5/5)
2. Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17 (5/5)
3. No Life Singed Her (4/5)
4. In the Mouth a Desert (5/5)
5. Conduit Sale! (5/5)
6. Zurich is Stained (5/5)
7. Chesley’s Little Wrists (4/5)
8. Loretta’s Scars (4.5/5)
9. Here (5/5)
10. Two States (5/5)
11. Perfume-V (5/5)
12. Fame Throwa (5/5)
13. Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era (4/5)
14. Our Singer (3.5/5)

Slanted_and_Enchanted_album_coverPavement
Slanted & Enchanted; 1992
Matador Records

My Rating: 88/100

There aren’t many records that I would call “incredibly pretentious” and “brilliant” all in the same breath, but here it goes: SLANTED & ENCHANTED is brilliant in an incredibly pretentious sort of way. For the novice, Pavement’s debut will most likely sound like the schizophrenic garage-band antics of middle-class white kids who’ve been playing their instruments for, oh, three weeks. But don’t be so shallow, you! Here’s the big secret: Pavement could write some great songs! Yes, beneath all the fuzz there’s a juicy fruit waiting to be enjoyed, but SLANTED & ENCHANTED can’t be approached head-on. You have to accept the inherent contradictions (the inverted beauty of “In the Mouth a Desert”), the off-kilter rhythms (“Conduit for Sale!”), and the off-key guitars (“Zurich is Stained”) on their own terms. When you do, you’ll start to see them as a necessary part of the experience. “Here” wouldn’t be nearly so great in the hands of someone with a soulful voice – there’s an undeniable authenticity in Malkmus straining to hit those high notes. But the record’s title really says it all: these songs come from a world of paradoxic landscapes and schizoid vision, the sound of running Escher’s and Picasso’s collected works through a blender. Every piece has its place, and while some tracks are better (“Trigger Cut”, “Two States”) than others (“No Life Singed Her”, “Our Singer”), SLANTED & ENCHANTED is a jigsaw that wouldn’t quite fit together if a note was missing. Obtuse? Yes. Inscrutable? Fer sure. Esoteric? To a point. A waste of time? Not at all. Give SLANTED & ENCHANTED as many listens as it takes. You will believe.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)

Tracks:

1. Summer Babe (Winter Version) (4.5/5)
2. Trigger Cut/Wounded-Kite at :17 (5/5)
3. No Life Singed Her (4/5)
4. In the Mouth a Desert (5/5)
5. Conduit Sale! (5/5)
6. Zurich is Stained (5/5)
7. Chesley’s Little Wrists (4/5)
8. Loretta’s Scars (4.5/5)
9. Here (5/5)
10. Two States (5/5)
11. Perfume-V (5/5)
12. Fame Throwa (5/5)
13. Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era (4/5)
14. Our Singer (3.5/5)

The Unseen Power of Pavement (Pavement Reuniting?)

You can never really be sure in these uncertain postmodern times, but it sounds like we’re close to a mathematical proof that Pavement will in fact re-unite in the next year. See here and here for more.
As a tribute, here’s a mix I concocted recently from the Matador reissues of the band’s greatest rarities and b-sides from their heyday. Did I leave anything off?
The Unseen Power of Pavement
1. Give It a Day
2. Painted Soldiers
3. Frontwards
4. All My Friends
5. Drunks with Guns
6. Beautiful as a Butterfly
7. Sue Me Jack
8. Sensitive Euro Man
9. Harness your hopes
10. Gangsters & Pranksters
11. Secret Knowledge of the Backroads (Peel Session 1)
12. The Sutcliffe Catering Song
13. Circa 1762 (Peel Session 1)
14. Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)
15. Strings of Nashville
16. Mussle Rock (Is A Horse In Transition)
17. Lions (Linden)
18. Texas Never Whispers
19. I Love Perth
20. Greenlander
21. No tan lines
22. Kris Kraft
23. Roll with the wind
24. Unseen Power of the Picket Fence
25. Nothing Ever Happens

pavement18caYou can never really be sure in these uncertain postmodern times, but it sounds like we’re close to a mathematical proof that Pavement will in fact re-unite in the next year. See here and here for more.

As a tribute, here’s a mix I concocted recently from the Matador reissues of the band’s greatest rarities and b-sides from their heyday. Did I leave anything off?

SECRET KNOWLEDGE OF PAVEMENT

1. Give It a Day
2. Painted Soldiers
3. Frontwards
4. All My Friends
5. Drunks with Guns
6. Beautiful as a Butterfly
7. Sue Me Jack
8. Sensitive Euro Man
9. Harness your hopes
10. Gangsters & Pranksters
11. Secret Knowledge of the Backroads (Peel Session 1)
12. The Sutcliffe Catering Song
13. Circa 1762 (Peel Session 1)
14. Shoot the Singer (1 Sick Verse)
15. Strings of Nashville
16. Mussle Rock (Is A Horse In Transition)
17. Lions (Linden)
18. Texas Never Whispers
19. I Love Perth
20. Greenlander
21. No tan lines
22. Kris Kraft
23. Roll with the wind
24. Unseen Power of the Picket Fence
25. Nothing Ever Happens