Best of 2010 (EP): Top 3 Extended Players

I’ve never been a fan of filler, so I prefer a great EP to a decent full-length, especially because bands often reserve their most obtusely interesting moments for them. Chronic Town, 7 Songs, A Beautiful Place Out In The Country…I could go on. EP’s are less frequent affairs though, so I’m restricting the list to a Top 3 in this category. The competition was stiff. I reviewed 6 EP’s in the last few months of 2010 alone, and I gave 4 of them A’s. Wye Oak and Real Estate both put out strong offerings in this category, and I didn’t even get around to reviewing Crocodiles’ Fires of Comparison (def. solid) or any number of short offerings from newcomers.



My Top 3 EP’s of 2010

3. The Seance EP by Stars…With the exception of the last one, the tracks here certainly rival most of the material on The Five Ghosts as synth-pop heavyweights. Exceptionally mix-worthy, as they say. These are the songs you listen to on the way home after the show has ended, with the windows rolled down and the cold night air keeping you awake. And the last one may not be as poppy, but it recalls The Cure’s darker and more ambient work, which fits the same vibe. Nicely done. (read my original review) [listen to “Opinion vs. The Sun”]

2. The Years EP by Memoryhouse…”Sleep Patterns” is fantastic enough to make a new Nickelback EP worth a listen (no it’s not), but the fact is that the other three tracks here measure up as well. This is super-sleepy, even for dream-pop, and it’s the ambient layers that make all the difference. Where a similar act, say, Beach House, emphasizes dynamics and the wall of sound, Memoryhouse prefers drones and blurred over synth effects. Heck, “The Waves” is a dead-ringer for 90’s infomercial new-age ambient kings Enigma. Gotta respect that. So, yeah, Memoryhouse – fantastic nostalgia-rock, chanting Hindi dude not included. (read my original review)  [listen to “Lately”]

1. All Delighted People EP by Sufjan Stevens…Already raved about “All Delighted People.” The rest of the EP is incredible too. Thought I could have done without a “Classic Rock” version of the title track, there’s no denying that Sufjan represents here. “Heirloom” and “From the Mouth of Gabriel” are favorites, and the vocal work on “Enchanting Ghost” sends chills up my spine. Still, it’s “Djohariah” that’s the true wonder here, a birthday tune he wrote for his little sis. Dang prodigies… (read my original review) [listen to “Heirloom”]

Quick Review (LP): III: Arcade Dynamics by Ducktails

ducktails arcade dynamics Ducktails
Ducktails III: Arcade Dynamics
Woodsist; 2011

My Rating: B

Best Tracks: “Hamilton Road”, “Sunset Liner”, “Little Window”, “In The Swing”

If you follow this here music weblog, you know that I love me some Real Estate, so it should come as no surprise that I decided to give the third long-player from Ducktails, Real Estater Matthew Mondanile’s side project, a look-see. What we have here sounds essentially like demo workouts aimed at future Real Estate recordings. Now, I don’t know that that’s what these really are, but perhaps it’s better to say that this record demonstrates that Mondanile is no mere hired-hand. Is it good? It’s certainly not as solid as the material we’ve seen from Real Estate thus far, but it does have its moments.  “Hamilton Road” in particular is a pleasant bit of breezy, backporch bliss, and the rest of the record’s hazy, dreamy tunes approximate some of the less captivating (but nonetheless enjoyable) moments on Real Estate‘s Reality EP. I think it’s pertinent to say that over the course of six or seven listens, I most enjoyed partaking in this on the heels of Chris Bell‘s I Am The Cosmos. To that end, I think it’s best to view Arcade Dynamics as sort of a “back down to earth” record. For a bedroom effort, that’s par for the course, and if you’re a Real Estate fan (and if you’re not you should be), then give this one a shot.

AMG review
Pitchfork review
Bowlegs Music review
Sputnik Music review

Quick Review (EP): Reality by Real Estate

Print Real Estate
Reality EP
Mexican Summer; 2010

My Rating: A

Best Tracks: “Younger Than Yesterday”, “Saturday”

Here’s what I like about Real Estate: vision. There’s a lot of bands out there trying to take part in the post-MBV hazy beach rock sound, but no one is doing it nearly as well as Real Estate. Opening track “Motorbikes” is our case in point. This band knows when to slow it down and take its time, when to throw in a little bit of ambient noise, and mostly, how to evoke the genuine nostalgia of a lazy summer day. Or take “Saturday Morning”, which I can entirely see one of these guys penning on a lazy Saturday morning. There’s an earthiness to what they are doing, the feel of genuine garage and/or basement rock. How appealling in an age when that sort of thing is manufactured on a mass scale.

Pitchfork review
Band Myspace page
My review of the Real Estate s/t LP

Quick Review (LP): Crazy for You by Best Coast

Best Coast
Crazy for You LP
Mexican Summer; 2010

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “Boyfriend”, “Crazy for You”

I know that everyone likes this record, so first things first. The singer has a very strong rock and roll voice, and Best Coast makes use of it to maximum effect. That fact alone is enough to set this record apart from the pack. However, I’m not so fond of the guitar sound. Once you get beyond the outstanding opener “Boyfriend,” there are only a handful of tracks solid enough to get beyond the a-melodic drone of the guitar. I predict this will make many best of lists this year, and be forgotten in years to come. FFO: Beach House, Real Estate, Puro Instinct, Wavves.

Pitchfork review
Myspace site

Quick Review: Puro Instinct 12″EP by Puro Instinct

s/t Cover ArtPuro Instinct was known as Pearl Harbor until only a few months ago, and under that name they released an excellent 4-songer, Something About The Chaparrals, in 2009. After hearing that release, I was pretty excited for further output from these gals, but this offering misses the mark. It sounds a lot like the current flavor of the day in indie – hazy vocals, echoing lazy day guitars, and mechanical drums – and there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever. The big problem is that the songs just aren’t up to par; the tracks sound like the toss-offs from the Chaparrals session. Hopefully this is an attempt to clear the decks for a new set of songs and a full-length, but sadly there isn’t much to be recommended here.

Rating: C.

FFO: Real Estate, Best Coast, Still Corners.

Pitchfork track review
Hear the EP
Band’s Myspace site

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 Shouting About: A new Real Estate 7″


Now that I’ve gone ahead and pre-ordered my own copy of the new Real Estate 7″, I’ll go ahead and join the rest of the indie-snob blogosphere in announcing a new Real Estate 7″ heading our way in October. The A-side, “Out Of Tune”, is familiar to followers of the band at this point. Not a radical change in approach by any means, but why mess with the formula when it works so well? I’m not sure if I’ve heard the B-side, will have to go back and check the untitled bootleg tracks.

Anyway, click through to True Panther’s website and listen to “Out of Tune”, and then pre-order your copy.

UPDATE: Don’t forget about their recent Daytrotter session. Good intro to the band, and the track “Untitled” is actually “Out of Tune.”

Real Estate: s/t LP (2009)

Real Estate
Real Estate
Woodsist; 2009

My Rating: 95/100

As a kid, I never stepped foot on a beach north of Cumberland Island, Georgia. I was a complete southern surf snob, and to this day I find myself cringing at the thought of putting my bare feet onto oceanside territory north of Myrtle Beach. Jersey shores? I would have said a big “no way” even a year ago, but having had the opportunity to bask in the warm, slow sunrise of Jersey’s own Real Estate for the last few months, I might just learn to see the Garden State’s beaches in a different light. Real Estate is neck and neck with The Low Anthem for my favorite breakthrough act of 2009, and the more time I spend with their eponymous debut, the more these beach kings seem fit to ascend. At first, Real Estate rubs off like any given garage act recorded on a ceiling-suspended vocal mic, with a few gobs of vaseline slathered on for maximum haze. But for all the amateurism apparent in the recording quality, this record achieves the same lo-fi grandeur that Pavement achieved with Slanted & Enchanted, resulting in a magical, misty band-next-door aura shot through with melody and wit. The album wins because the songs themselves are gorgeous and perfect. The chattery, twin guitar interplay of Mathew Mondanile and Martin Courtney dwells on the winsome side of the Marquee Moon, and Etienne Duguay’s understated percussion shepherds the tracks into dreamland. It’s hard to identify standouts because this is an incredibly consistent record, but I’d to say my top three are “Beach Comber”, “Green River”, and “Suburban Beverage.” Overall, this is a record brimming with nostalgia and good vibrations, as true to the beach life as you can get. It also might be the last classic debut LP of the decade now past, but for what its worth, I think it makes the case that Real Estate’s best days lay ahead of us.

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


1. Beach Comber (5/5)
2. Pool Swimmers (5/5)
3. Suburban Dogs (5/5)
4. Black Lake (5/5)
5. Atlantic City (5/5)
6. Fake Blues (5/5)
7. Green River (5/5)
8. Suburban Beverage (5/5)
9. Let’s Rock the Beach (5/5)
10. Snow Day (5/5)

Coming soon…

I’ve had a nice and necessary little hiatus, but I plan to return to daily posting next week. Here’s what you can expect in the next month or so…

– Album/EP Reviews of the latest from Vampire Weekend, Real Estate, Second Story Man, Pearl Harbor, Follow the Train, and many, many more
– Track Reviews continuing where I left off with my Top Tracks of the Decade
– Miscellaneous music commentary (of course)

I’m planning on branching out in some creative ways in the months to come, so make sure you stay tuned!

In the meantime, enjoy a tune from Real Estate, one of my favorite new bands…

Like Eddie Vedder…

Just wanted to touch base and say that I’m still alive, and plan on returning to regular blogging sometime in the spring.

A few music-related thoughts:

– the new Norah Jones was like the last Norah Jones, pretty blah…
– the new Vampire Weekend is okay, pretty mediocre compared to their outstanding debut…
– the new Dawn Landes sounds EXCELLENT after one listen…
– I never did pick up the Farrar/Gibbard record…anyone care to comment?
– Louisville indie-rockers Second Story Man just released a new record, Screaming Secrets…you should check it out…
– I’d probably agree with Paste Mag that Sufjan’s Illinois was the greatest record of the last decade…more later though…
– I”m stoked that Louisville’s Follow the Train might re-group when their new LP is released on Removador Records
– of course I’m with CoCo…duh…
– I like that new-ish band Real Estate…
– psyched for some new Josh Ritter in the spring, more psyched for the tour that should follow…
– best record of 2009? No clue…I think last year kind of sucked for music…

That’s it for now, stay in touch…