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Best of 2010 January 6, 2011

Posted by ashiah in Music.

About a year or so ago, when music retailer DotShop decided to shut down, they posted a condescending note on their site about how piracy killed their business and that we were all going to burn in hell. Now that was two years ago. The year 2010 was the first year where I didn’t buy a single CD. Of course, most of my peers had stopped years ago. But there were a lot of factors for why I stopped this year (well, just one). The major factor for my decrease in buying/listening to music was my commute to and from work. I use to spend that time listening to music, now I spend that time catching up on books. So although I got caught up on books in 2010, I fell a little behind on music.

So, the following “best of” list is probably a not-so accurate reflection of 2010 highlights from the experimental/electronic music sphere. In fact, as I’m typing this I’m listening to EmeraldsDoes It Look Like I’m Here, and it is so good that it’s making me angry. If I discovered the album a couple of weeks ago it would proudly be sitting amongst the selection below. But no, I’m listening to it in 2011, and now everything is ruined. Horribly, horribly ruined!

As usual, for the two of you who care, you can download clips of all the music featured here. And now that we have that out of the way, let’s begin:

Best Albums of 2010

10. Marnie Stern – Marnie Stern
This album didn’t appeal to me as quickly as her last album did, but gradually as the album grew on me I realized that this album is probably her sanest one yet. With In Advance of the Broken Arm being all over the place, and This Is It… being more restrained, Marnie Stern straddles the two perfectly.
9. Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rivers
I just discovered this duo this year and had no idea what to expect, but I figured they couldn’t be bad if they were on Leaf. Rivers combines two EPs they released earlier in the year, Iris and Retina. The album starts with Retina, which is full of icy, operatic concerto type stuff, and then morphs into Iris, which is more harmonious, upbeat and strangely church-like. A bit of a delightful surprise really.
8. Cocorosie – Grey Oceans
Ugly ass cover aside, this is probably Cocorosie’s best album. I have never been the biggest fan of theirs, but Grey Oceans shows growth and maturity.
7. Onra – Long Distance
I always felt bad that I never got around to giving proper props to 2008’s Chinoiseries. Loved that album, but never got around to writing about it. Even 2009’s 1.0.8 was pretty good, but was overshadowed by better albums. Now I finally have an Onra album I can properly tout. Where Chinoiseries heavily sampled old Vietnamese records collected at flea shops, Long Distance captures old school ’80s and ’90s R&B. The true winner here is “Sitting Back,” which I think is one of the best dance tracks of 2010.
6. Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
Sometimes longer isn’t always better, and Joanna’s double CD album might have kept some at bay due to its length. And, OK, maybe I didn’t listen to CD 2 that often either, but Joanna’s voice is at her best here, and “Have One On Me” is one of her best songs.
5. Amiina – Puzzle
Amiina has always been that other Icelandic band, the one that’s not Sigur Ros or Mum. But Puzzle showcases how the quartet definitely deserves more recognition. Here they pretty much pick up where Mum left off (before the twins left), and it’s slightly more accessible than their last album.
4. Hauschka – Foreign Landscapes
This was my first time discovering Hauschka, who is actually composer Volker Bertelmann. Here he creates good ol’ classical avant garde electronic/classical music woven with piano solos and dounced with some overdramatic cello action. The result is what one would predictably expect — a hauntingly beautiful record.
3. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal
The track “Returnal” pretty much makes this album, and it’s my absolute favorite track of 2010. The rest of the album is a spacey walk through undiscovered landscapes.
2. Caribou – Swim
After seeing Caribou live over the summer, Swim has been ruined for me. Swim sounds so much better live, so I guess I’ve been spoiled. But nevertheless, it’s still a solid album and a great reflection of 2010.
1. World’s End Girlfriend – Seven Idiots
Seven Idiots was an album more admired than loved, at least by the people who heard it. Here, WEG stepped outside his comfort zone as he blended both his World’s End Boyfriend and World’s End Girlfriend (and possibly Wonderland Falling Yesterday) counter parts together into this bizarro world. Sometimes he hits the right points and other times it sounds like he’s over-aiming. But what’s amazing about everything he has created is that you get a sense that something truly exceptional is being created before you, something that, even if it’s not understandable, deserves props just for having gone there. You get a sense that this kinetic world is just the start of something really remarkable.
Honorable Mentions
Afriampo – We Are Uchu No Ko
Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
Kemialliset Ystävät – Ullakkopalo
Max Richter – Infra
Sleigh Bells – Treats
Glasser – Ring

Best Tracks of 2010

The best tracks list highlights songs from albums NOT featured on the best album list.

10. Aaron Martin – Water Tongue
This sleepy track is the standout on Worried About The Fire.

9. Afriampo – Sunwave Dance
Clocking in around 12 minutes, this epic track is Afriampo at their best. It’s also somewhat bittersweet considering the band is now broken up, so it’s pretty much their rock-out swansong.

8. Bjork – To Lee, With Love
This new track was included in a short film dedicated to late fashion designer Alexander McQueen. The track is clearly a leftover from Volta, but why it was left off the album is beyond me. It’s one of the strongest Bjork tracks from the Volta era by far.

7. Bonobo – The Keeper (featuring Andreya Triana)
This laid-back sultry track (thanks to Andreya’s vocals) was the highlight of the OK but otherwise forgettable Black Sands.

6. Flying Lotus – Computer Face // pure Being
I wasn’t a big fan of Los Angles, but Cosmogramma was a delightful surprise, and this particular track was the highlight.

5. M.I.A – Illygirl
Although I admired /\/\Y/\ more than I actually liked it, this track which, although isn’t all that special, was my jam all summer.

4. Santanicpornocultshop – [r.I.P] Tide
Known for their bizarre, experimental sound, Arkhaiomelisidonophunikheratos actually showed the band making an attempt toward unconventional pop. This track has the lead singer (don’t know her name) whispering the lyrics to Missy Elliot‘s “Get Ur Freak On” over a whimsical string chorus.

3. Talk Normal – In a Strangeland
Standout from the underwhelming ALBUM TITLE. (Note: I can’t find the name of the album. Sorry, I’m tired.)

2. Under Byen – Konstant
Alt er tabt was pretty good, but this quaint track is the highlight and best captures the band.

1. Matthew Dear – Slowdance
I’m actually still in the middle of Black City. The album still hasn’t sunk in enough for me, but “Slowdance” is a gorgeous track that kind of reminds of David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes.”


Best of 2009 December 23, 2009

Posted by ashiah in Music.
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Although I spent most of this year playing catch-up, one thing I’ve noticed within the past couple of weeks as I read all the “Best of the year” features that get published around this time is that 2009 lacked a tremendous amount of consistency. Basically just a bunch of stuff came and went this year, some brilliant and some horrible, and neither made any kind of lasting impression. No new genres were formed, no interesting trends or directions — just a bunch of stuff that came and went. PopMatters explained it best by rambling about all the new electronic artists that emerged this year and then concluded by concluding nothing at all. And Boomkat’s best of 2009 list is so random and baffling, it truly contests what a weird year 2009 was for music (at least for weird, underground experimental music anyway because I know some of you will argue that 2009 was a great year for mainstream pop music).

But anyway, despite the lack of consistency in good music this year, there were the usual golden nuggets. Below I listed my top 10 faves, as well as a few honorable mentions. (I’m throwing this together on the fly, so don’t expect this to be tidy or anything…):

10. Soap & Skin – Lovetune for Vacuum
By far one of my favorite new artists of the year. Soap & Skin is 19-year-old Anja Plasch who makes teenage-dom sound downright scary. Her music is incredibly dark and haunting, plus she has a homepage that creeps me out. Her debut here is a stunning, eclectic mix of piano ballads, glitchy electronics and gothic lullabies. She’s definitely one to watch.

9. Fever Ray – Fever Ray
I remember reading an interview with Karin Dreijer Andersson and Olof Dreijer of the The Knife a few years back. Both were hinting at an impending break up, and both were hinting at going separate directions. Although Silent Shout didn’t sound like an album rife with conflict, Fever Ray proved that there was untouched territory The Knife was incapable of reaching together. Fever Ray is darkly moody, yet somewhat playful from afar, and the concoction somehow works.

8. Tyondai Braxton – Central Market
I’ve never been the biggest Battles fan and was unfamiliar with Braxton’s solo work until this little dooby brushed across my radar. After seeing him perform at Warp20 and hearing Bjork rave about Central Market, I became a little eager to hear it for myself. It was nothing what I imagined it to be. Teaming up with an orchestra, Braxton somehow managed to create these sweeping, cathartic showmanship pieces that echoed classic video games and Peter and the Wolf at the same time. I’m a little surprised at the lack of response it received. I mean, Boomkat creams over Cold Cave and completely overlooks this? I just don’t get it.

7. World’s End Girlfriend – Air Doll
I think by now we all have a certain level of expectation for WEG, and he never lets us down. This soundtrack for the Japanese film Air Doll incorporates everything we love about WEG, although it doesn’t exactly shatter any new ground or open any new doors. In fact, a few of the songs on here already appeared on earlier WEG releases; either that or his music is starting to blend together. The fact of the matter is this: Whenever World’s End Girlfriend releases an album, he’s in my top 10 automatically, OK? That’s just the way it is.

6. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
The last Fuck Buttons album was able to straddle noise music in a way to constrain it enough for mass appeal. Although songs like “Sweet Love for Planet Earth” were near perfect, I just couldn’t make it through the whole album. Fuck Buttons’s sophomore effort is able to step over the flaws of their first album and create an album of nothing but fizzy pieces that grow and explode in interesting ways. It’s no longer noise music anymore, but it’s a step toward perfect controlled chaos.

5. Shogun Kunitoki – Tasankokaiku
Fonal does it again. I don’t think it’s possible for this label to release something I don’t like. But anyway, this Finnish rock ensemble has an interesting approach to music. For one, it wasn’t until recently that I learned Shogun Kunitoki is a band and not just one guy, because they definitely sound like a one-man effort. They kind of remind me of WEG if he was inspired by early M83. The band knows how to create long, drawn-out dizzying songs that never end but just keep getting better and better.

4. Micachu and the Shapes – Jewellery
A great debut from a band that shows a lot of promise. Lead singer Mica Levi snarls over a mess of sounds as she hammers away on a ukulele . The band definitely isn’t short on ideas and they throw every last one of them on here. It’s a delightful, chaotic quirky mess.


3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
Ahh, yes. The Animal Collective album that everyone can like. Everyone has pretty strong opinions about the New York band who often straddle brilliance and obnoxiousness to a point that no middle man can fully appreciate them. Luckily, they somehow were able to create an album that had every ounce of their personality but was constructed in a more accessible way. I mean, how can anyone not like “My Girls”?

Surely you’ve heard “My Girls” by now. I’m saving my bandwidth.

2. Clark – Totems Flare
I’m calling it: Clark is the 00’s Aphex Twin. Of course, I’m not the first person to say that. There’s no other electronic artist that I get truly excited about, and Totems Flare is a plethora of everything that I like about electronic music. In a time when most electronic music lack cohesiveness, Clark seems to be where I imagine it should be, and yet, it’s another album that I thought was widely ignored, which is unfortunate. Awesome album.

1. Ben Frost – By the Throat
Well this wasn’t a surprise, wasn’t it? Since Ben Frost’s debut album Theory of Machines was my favorite album of 2007, I was wary if he could match the greatness of that album. But one thing Ben Frost proved with this album is that he can say so much with so little. Most of the tracks sound like they go nowhere at all, while others explode into this orgy of violent noise. Although a lot of that kinetic energy has been dialed down a notch or two since Theory of Machines, that haunting and brooding energy he’s known for is still here. There wasn’t much debating with this choice. Easily the best album of the year by far.

Honorable Mentions
Bat for Lashes – Two Suns
Biblio – Ambivalence Avenue
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
St. Vincent – Actor
Animal Hospital – Memory
The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
Cortney Tidwell – Boys
Cloaks – Versus Grain

Most disappointing albums of the year
Mum – Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know
I was fine with their new direction in Go Smear The Poison Ivy, but this was too much. They’re no longer the same band anymore.

Rainbow Arabia – Kabukimono
I raved about them last year, but the duo who showed their inner tribal weirdo side on their EP decided to show their inner island/cutesy side for this album. It wasn’t completely terrible, but it was missing that element of excitement.

Little Boots – Hands
I raved about this artist last year, too. Unfortunately, I didn’t predict her inevitable future as a watered down Europop star. And if you think that was bad, “Stuck On Repeat” was revised and given a slightly slower, less awesome edit. Bleh!

Best songs of 2009
(Usually the “best songs” list is a way to highlight great songs that didn’t always appear on great albums. The rule here is that I don’t include any artists mentioned on the best albums list. Oh, and don’t pay too much attention to the ranking. This was pretty much just thrown together.)

10. Lusine – Two Dots
Lusine is one of the last few respectable IDM artists still around, and I liked their last album, although I can’t remember what it was called. Their newest album started off with this little gem right here. I don’t know why the rest of the album didn’t quite gel for me.

9. Hanne Hukkelberg – Blood from a Stone
I stumbled across Hanne Hukkelberg after getting her mixed up with electronic artist Hannu. But her album Blood From A Stone was surprisingly good, and it had this little number on it, which simply melted my heart the first time I heard it. It has this ’80s nostalgic vibe to it that’s so disgustingly sweet.

8. Nynke Laverman – De Untdekker
Laverman is another artist I discovered this year. Her album had some hits and misses, but none of them stood out as much as this sharp album opener.

7. Major Lazer – When You Hear The Bassline
This collaboration record made by Diplo and Switch had plenty of party tracks, but this one stood out on pure energy alone. When that bassline kicks in…well, let’s just say the title is appropriate.

6. St. Vincent – Just The Same But Brand New
I liked Actor a lot more than her debut, and was pleased with most of the songs on that album, but this beautiful lullaby-esque track rarely left my iPod.

5. Telepathe – Chrome’s On It
I don’t know why I was so obsessed with this song. It’s a little amateurish, and the song doesn’t live up to its first minute, and yet I consistently jammed to this song all year. I guess the flaws give it a little something extra I guess?

4. Soap & Skin – DDMMYYYY
OK, so I’m breaking the rules a little bit here. Although I included Soap & Skin in the best album list (and included a clip of her song “Thantos”), I wanted to include this track here because it really stood out on the album (I didn’t include it above because I didn’t think it represented the overall personality of the album). “DDMMYYYY” is a frantic, glitchy mess that easily stands out amongst the gothic piano ballads that surrounds it.

3. The Dirty Projectors – Stillness in the Move
Yes. It’s good.
Sorry, saving bandwidth.

2. Kap Bambino – Red Sign
This French duo is absolutely insane, and this track from their EP is just plain awesome. I also like that they’re stepping away that Miss Kittin and the Hacker-esque sound they had going on a year or two back. Can’t wait for them to release an album already.

1. Florence and the Machine – Drumming Song
Bleh. Despite all the hype, Lungs was a mess that I couldn’t connect with. “Drumming Song,” however, is near perfect. It starts off strong and continues to one-up itself as it continues to climb up a seemingly unclimbable mountain.

Miho Hatori’s “New Optimism” at Market Hotel, plus other stuff October 11, 2009

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miho1Excuse the lateness of this post. You would think a review of Cibo Matto’s Miho Hatori’s new side project she performed at Market Hotel about a month ago would excite me enough to post all about it the day after it happened, but…eh, things happen. Plus, I’ve been busy with moving recently, and I have limited access to internet since the move (and I’m currently typing this at a crowded cafe). But anyway, enough excuses. On Sept 16 I went down to see Miho Hatori perform a new side project called New Optimism. Because it was her debut it was kind of a big deal, but most of the crowd of younger 20-something college students seemed more excited for Javelin. Hmmm, indeed.

miho2But then again, Cibo Matto’s last album was released in 1999 when a lot of these kids were probably still in middle school or elementary school. So I guess they were bit unaware of Miho’s underground legendary status. I mean, Miho performing new material for the first time is kind of a big deal, and yet there I was in this drab venue. But regardless, by the time she took the stage, it was truly an amazing thing to see. The trademark Cibo Matto sing-song-y rap is still there, but this time over chaotic, harsh tones that neither Miho nor Cibo Matto member Yuka Honda were ever known for — not in even in their solo gigs. On stage was just her, a dude with a guitar and a laptop that sat on the floor. Behind her she had a couple of tribal dancers that stomped around. It’s been awhile since the show, so the exact details of the show aren’t as fresh anymore. But the whole thing made me excited for whatever new releases are imminent. It’s a complete departure from Miho’s solo album “Ecdysis” And it’s about time to see some raw, tribal energy from her. As she was packing up her stuff, I was too shy to ask if she was releasing an album soon. Le sigh. I guess we shall see.


OK, and on to other stuff. I just about died when I was this over at Bolachas today:
Everyone who knows me knows I’m huge fan of World’s End Girlfriend, and so any new release from him is always met with extreme jubilation. So you can imagine my reaction when I heard that he composed the soundtrack for the Japanese film Air Doll. Haven’t heard it yet but I will soon. Other releases I’m excited about:

Ben Frost – By the Throat
His last album “Theory of Machines” was my favorite album of 2007. The Milk Factory liked it. *crosses fingers*

Hudson Mohawke – Butter
I think this is his first full-length album. I know he’s released a lot of EPs, singles and stuff. I actually saw him play a free show during Warp20 here in New York. Good stuff.

I always liked their last album “The Patron,” even if it did fly a bit under the radar. I’m hearing good things about this new one.

Klimek – Movies is Magic

I’m trying to remember which list I had their album “Music To Fall Asleep” on; I think 2007’s list. Oh yeah! I didn’t make a list for ’08. I’m such a disgrace, but still…keep on plugging! But anyway….yeah, yeah…excited, blah blah.


And more news! I just remembered that NaNoWriMo starts again next month. I’m definitely doing it again this year as I had a blast with it last year. Once again, it’ll probably effect my (non)blogging, but we shall see. Hopefully I can keep writing at least one blog a week. Damn my procrastinating ways!

Siren Music Festival 2009 July 22, 2009

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siren-music-festival1Yeah, OK. So I know I was supposed to write my big spanking music post this weekend, but unfortunately I wasn’t near internet all weekend. Instead I spent my Saturday getting sunburned at the Siren Music Festival, which is held at Coney Island every year. Although there were a few performances that surprised me here and there, I pretty much was only interested in Micachu and the Shapes and Spank Rock. Both were awesome, by the way. A few of Micachu’s songs didn’t translate well to stage, but the crowed seemed strangely intrigued. Spank Rock straight up rocked it, although there were too many of his “pals” on stage and eventually security plugged the cord on them anyway.

But let’s get to the surprising ones. Thee Oh Sees (well, at least the 20 minutes I saw of their set) was amazing. But right now I’m not pleased with anything I hear on their Myspace. Strange. But then again, while at the show, I just got through suffering through a performance by Japandroids, so I guess in comparison Thee Oh Sees weren’t so bad. The other acts were fair but not compelling or interesting enough to want to write about them. A really drunk guy who kept telling people I was his wife called these acts “bearded bands,” aka white guys with beards and guitars.

By far the most interesting performance came from psychotic Israeli act Monotonix. They played their whole set in the audience….while crowd surfing. Check out these pics I stole from Brooklyn Vegan (which reminds me, either I need a new cell phone or I need to break down and buy a digital camera already).

Stolen from here.

What’s Playing Now October 28, 2008

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Gang Gang Dance – Saint Dymphna (2008 )
Brooklyn’s Gang Gang Dance has always been known for their murky, tribal experimental music. But their latest album “Saint Dymphna” is such a unique and unexpected step toward experimental pop. What’s astonishing is how easily they make the transformation without losing any form of what they originally were. They’ve somehow made a weird, freak-dance album without compromising experimentation and not compromising what’s considered pop either. For example, they’re actually able to pull off a grime/rap song without sounding completely laughable. In the same breath, they then turn out a ’80s nostalgic pop track, which is then followed by a powerful manic-beating-girl-screeching jam out. It has to be heard to believe. Definitely one of my favorite albums of the year.

Marnie Stern – This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That(2008 )
After listening to Marnie Stern’s latest album, I realize there are few people out and about right now that are anything like Marnie Stern. I seriously can’t name one. From her overly quirky album title, to the awesome, rambling intro “Prime,” Marnie Stern shows a fresh view on music that’s not entirely new. The music here is actually vintage rock, but Stern knows how to flip it on its head, adding a quirky and sometimes muddled touch. Unfortunately, Stern’s greatest weakness is her overabundance. Sometimes there is such a thing as having too many good ideas in your head, and sometimes Stern just doesn’t know how to edit herself. Although there were several tracks that succeeded, most of the album was somewhat unlistenable. Sadly, for her sophomore album, it looks like Stern is back to her old tricks. There are awesome songs on this album; “Prime,” “Shea Stadium,” and “The Package is Wrapped” are some of the standouts. But other times the album sounds like it’s tripping over itself trying to find where its feet are. But of course, I shouldn’t expect Marnie Stern to create an album with both feet planted firmly on the ground. Overall, it’s an interesting effort.

Eleanoora Rosenholm – Älä Kysy Kuolleilta, He Sanoivat (2008 )
It seems like lately I’ve been so in love with Finnish music. But it’s no coincidence these artists just happen to come from the same label, Fonal Records. Apparently I’m in love with every artist on that label, and Eleanoora Rosenholm is one of the newbies. Her music is a unique blend of pop and throwback nostalgic experimental ’80s music (well, that’s what it sounds like to me). But her songs tend to be hit or miss. There is such a thing as spiraling too far off the deep end and sometimes her music can become a bit silly. But even though some tracks might have listeners thinking, “Oh, come on,” there’s a true, genuine feeling behind the songs. So hey, at least she can pull them off…somewhat.

High Places – High Places (2008 )
High Places’s Myspace page categorizes their music as “surf hardcore,” which sounds funny at first, but to be honest, I can’t think of a better way to describe this album. Psycho beach music perhaps? Not since Panda Bear have I heard an album that captured that same airy, nostalgic feel, but High Places does it in a strange and interesting way. But unfortunately, their album is more about being intriguing than having good songs. But they’re definitely a unique band to have on your radar.
(Edit: This album is actually a lot better than my review. I just reread it and realized I was being overly critical, but I’m too lazy to rewrite it.)

Whatever happened to…your favorite ’90s alt-rock band October 21, 2008

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A week ago I read about the ’90s band Letters to Cleo reuniting. My inner 11-year-old leaped for joy. Letters to Cleo! Remember them? Their catchy/obnoxious song “Here and Now” that used to play during the credits at the end of Melrose Place? Well anyway, I used to love them, as much as I could love any ’90s alternative rock band with a quirky, cool female singer. Of course, my love for alternative rock died somewhere around ’97 when I discovered Bjork, but regardless, I still have a fondness for that period. As a tribute, here’s a list of some not-yet-forgotten ’90s bands and what they’re up to now. (more…)

Get back in your box!: Disappointed fans whine over new TV on the Radio September 19, 2008

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At work today we listened to TV on the Radio’s new album “Dear Science,.” (Yes, that stupid comma belongs there.) After listening to the album in its entirety, many of my fellow co-workers started immediately complaining that the album wasn’t good. This is a common opinion I’ve been hearing a lot about the new album ever since it leaked a week or so ago. But even though I was part of the .01% who hated “Return to Cookie Mountain,” I feel compelled to defend their newest album. Now, I still haven’t let the album fully sink in yet, but I can tell the strong negativity against the album is because of its new direction. Let’s see, where do we start? There’s more strings, more brass, more minor electronics, and less “rocking out” moments. Plus, there’s an almost dreamy quality somewhere in the middle of the album, even a track that borders on M83 type level of airy-ness. What’s happening here is TV on the Radio is daring to depart from the massively successful “Return to Cookie Mountain.” And unfortunately, whenever an artist takes drastic steps away from what made them famous in the first place, fans like to react like borderline raging psychos. (More ramblings behind the cut.) (more…)

Artist spotlight: Rainbow Arabia September 15, 2008

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Everyone’s buzzing about the new husband/wife duo from Los Angeles and after listening to “Omar K,” I can definitely understand why. Using a unique blend of native African sounds (you know, the cheap stock sounds you usually hear in spas) that quickly morph into something almost intergalactic in its bizarre other worldliness. It’s raw, it’s tribal and simply brimming with eclectic energy. I’m absolutely in love with Basta EP, and I’m currently on a worldwide campaign to make sure everyone feels the same. Below is a clip of “Omar K,” which you can also hear on their Myspace.

What’s Playing Now August 21, 2008

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Smile Down Upon Us – Smile Down Upon Us (2008 )
English duo Phelan Sheppard and Japanese singer Moomlooo met each other on Myspace. While sending messages back and forth, it eventually escalated to sound and music clips. Before they knew it, they were creating an album together. I loved Phelan Sheppard’s 2006 “Harp’s Old Master” and actually discovered Moomlooo through their Myspace as well. Unfortunately, I never got the opportunity to hear her debut album, but this is the next best thing. Multi-instrumentalists Phelan Sheppard bring a warm sound to Moomlooo’s vocals — a summery mood brimming with the sounds of nature. Moomlooo sings in both English and Japanese, but on some songs I could’ve sworn she was singing in gibberish, particularly in “No, Dimitri,” but lyrics aren’t that important anyway. This is a vibrant album brimming with so much prettiness, it’s almost too much at first. How can an album be so damn pretty? Definitely one of the better albums of the year.


Arist spotlight: KUDU August 11, 2008

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After reading this article about singer Sylvia Gordon, I discovered her band Kudu, a spacey, hard-to-categorize triple threat from Brooklyn. Their 2006 album “Death of the Party” was ignored (unfortunately, their label folded), but their new song “Thrill of the Night” that’s currently on their Myspace is an awesome electro rock anthem that has to be heard again and again. Also, expect a remix album later this year.