The first half of this list is marked by songs that rock out really hard. The second half is marked by songs that are outside your normal arrangements.
Rock Out / Quirk Out
1. “Station Wagon Apocalypse” – The Outfit. I’d just like to point out that this incredibly-named garage-rock tune is not even the best name on the two-song EP. (That would be “Tyrannosaurus Surfboard,” YOU’RE WELCOME.) As to the tune itself: Big drums, big guitars, big vocals, big fun.
2. “Be Cool” – Cancers. Cancers is the missing link that makes me think Sleigh Bells might not have been robots from the future and instead were just really, really hyped up ’90s kids.
3. “Last Forever” – Fenech-Soler. As a bassist myself, I appreciate it when a song is so thoroughly dominated by bass that the guitar and keys just kind of follow along. When those songs are also jubilant dance tracks with irresistible shout-it-out vocals, well. Well, well.
4. “Metronome” – The Yuseddit Brothers. There was a brand of ’90s grunge/slacker-rock that took pride in sounding like it was kind of underwater. This low-slung groove has that fuzzy-edged production value to match the not-so-ambitious tempo and tone. Chillax, y’all.
5. “Bright Eyes, Black Soul” – The Lovers Key. Sometimes I hear a song outside of genres I usually cover and think, “WHOA WHY DON’T I LISTEN TO THAT GENRE MORE.” Probably because I’m hearing an elite artist, but I don’t know. Anyway, The Lovers Key has me interested in aggressive Blue Eyed Soul with some serious motown horns stacked up on it. This makes me think of a James Bond movie. Can’t really explain that either.
6. “All in a Day’s Work” – Horizontal Hold. As a mid-point between rocking out and quirking out, I submit Horizontal Hold, which is out-Pixie-ing the Pixies at the moment.
7. “You Are My Summer (feat. Coleman Hell and Jayme)” – La+ch. This is a perfect electro-pop tune. In musical world that I ran, this would be the big hit of the summer. It’s got Icona Pop infectiousness and Cobra Starship restraint. What’s not to love?
8. “Old K.B.” – The Solars. Speaking of motown influences, here’s a piano-pop tune fronted by a guy who sounds like Jack White that features organ and horns. This thing grooves way more than piano-pop fans are probably comfortable with. THAT’S OK!
9. “Unrevenged” – Floating Action. Rubbery bass, ethereal background vocals, driving percussion? Clearly indie-pop, but not any like you’ve imagined recently. Has me all stoked for the album.
10. “I’m To Blame” – Anand Wilder and Maxwell Kardon. After sending us a folky tune for the first single, the second one is a incredible mash-up of jazz trumpet, Radiohead vocals, Muse craziness, and a totally rad guitar solo. It is, in a word, different.
11. “It Doesn’t Even Matter” – Onward Chariots! If the Kings of Convenience had more quirky pop arrangements, it might end up something like this.
12. “Rockingham” – Kasey Keller Brass Band. 58 seconds of found sound, gentle synths, and meandering acoustic guitar paint a sonic picture extremely well. Very cool stuff here.
13. “Shadow’s Song” – Foxes in Fiction. Chillwave + Owen Pallett? TOTALLY THERE, MY FRIENDS.
A ton of great singles have come my way in January, so I thought I’d put them all in one big post arranged quiet to loud. Enjoy!
1. “Pacific (Acoustic)” – Indigo Wild. Were you looking for a rolling, intricate, acoustic mountain jam? Like Fleet Foxes if they were less hazy, this will make you long for the pines.
2. “Anna” – Daniel G. Harmann. After graduating his solo project The Trouble Starts up to a full-on rock outfit, Harmann gives old-school fans a few tracks that hearken back to his early, dreamy days. His trembling, soaring voice over spare guitar chords is just wonderful to these ears.
4. “Slow & Easy” – Scott H. Biram. Less gospel and more ominous vibes mark the second Biram single off Nothin’ But Blood. It’s still incredibly engaging, what with the crisp production and Biram’s voice.
5. “Celeste” – Ezra Vine. If you’re of the opinion that you can never have enough hand claps, whoa-ohs, and happy melodies, raise your hand. Then lower that hand and click on this peppy, wonderful tune.
6. “Girl Don’t Fight It” – Phone Home. Optimistic, keys-heavy, proggy indie-rock in the vein of Fang Island, And So I Watch You From Afar, and others. It’s giddy and heavy and intelligent!
7. “Planets” – Little Earthquake. Peppy acoustic-pop + massive MGMT synth melodies = this unique song.
9. “Violent Shooting Stars” – Robot Princess. Mostly RP is a heavy, exuberant, video-game-infused garage-pop band (WEEZER FOREVER!!). This track puts them more in a pensive mood (at least for them) before ratcheting up to some stomping guitars. Get your power-pop on, dudes.
10. “Bird in the Water” – The Trouble Starts. Harmann’s band, throwing down pop-rock a la Snow Patrol. This would be fun to hear live.
11. “Tangle” – Acid Fast. Starts out with a nostalgic, emo-esque half-time section, then blasts off into a punk rock second half. The melodies bounce off those basement walls with almost more cymbals and passion than you can handle.
1. “Walrus Meat” – The Parmesans. Nothing like a fun-lovin’ bluegrass tune whose only lyrics are the title. Bonus points for the surprise halfway through and for recording to cassette.
2. “Heard It All Before” – The Switch. This garage-rockin’ trio has audible and physical connections to The Vaccines. Check that awesome bass work.
3. “Knot in My Heart” – The Zolas. This song sounds like every hip indie-pop song I’ve ever heard, but I can’t stop listening to it. Or should that be, “so I can’t…”? RECURSIVE LOOP
4. “Heart of a Lion (Purple Sneakers Remix)” – The Griswolds. The Strokes-ian rocker gets a spaced-out, airy, dubby remix.
5. “Ready for the Weekend” – Icona Pop. Easily the most aggressive and club-oriented offering by the Swedish electro-pop duo yet. This one will enthrall some and alienate others; haven’t figured out which camp I’m in yet.
6. “Pique” – Menomena. Horns!
7. “All Is Lost In The Light” – Electrician. Gentle, contemplative, quiet songwriting reminiscent of The Eels’ down moments.
Come On Pilgrim! is finally finished with its debut record! All y’all in Boston need to be at The Rhumb Line (Upstairs) in Gloucester, MA, on August 11. I will sadly not be there, but I will be thinking of it from afar as it happens. Here’s the video for the album’s first cut.
Icona Pop’s new jam is called “I Love It,” and I love it. This is the late-night, scream-it-out summer jam.
The somber mood of Scarlett Parade’s “March of the Fallen” caught my ear recently; this organ-led tune is quite arresting. You know those empty, bleak moods that Songs:Ohia and Pedro the Lion used to make? This tune is heading that way.
11. “Nights Like This” – Icona Pop. I love a chorus that I can belt at the top of my lungs in a moving vehicle, and this dance-pop gem provides. I get shivers just thinking about those euphoric “whoa-oh-oh-OH-oh”s.
5. “Song for You” – Jenny and Tyler. Jenny and Tyler transformed from a Weepies-esque duo to a powerful, churning folk-rock duo, and this song is the best example. I get shivers when the band crashes in.
4. “Norgaard” – The Vaccines. When I turned in my last paper, I put this pop-punk rave-up on repeat and danced all the way home. I’m sure people thought I was nuts. I don’t care – the song is that good.
3. “Kitchen Tile” – Typhoon. I’ve got a book on my stack to read about rock’n’roll and the desire for transcendence; Typhoon has already achieved it in folk with this song. Vocal melody, choirs, horns, strings, This is everything I want in a folk tune.
2. “Sticks & Stones” – Jonsi. The charging rhythm, unique textures and ethereal vocals made this the most infectious song I heard all year. I rocked this one all summer … and fall.
I’ve rarely been on-the-ball enough to get my year end lists done by December 31, but this year I made a concerted effort to have all my 2011 reviewing done early. As a result, I was able to put together not just a top 20 albums list, but a top 50 songs mixtape and a top 11 songs list. Here’s the mixtape, organized generally from fast’n’loud to slow’quiet. Hear all of the songs at their links, with one exception of a purchase link (#27). The other lists will come over the next few days.
I’ve been training for a half-marathon since August, and I now only have two more training runs before the 13.1 miles of something-vaguely-akin-to-glory transpire. My interest in running music has been directly proportional to the increasing length of the runs, which is one of the reasons IC readers are treated to the RunHundred top ten list every month. I haven’t jumped into the continuous mix boat yet, but Kitsuné Maison’s 12th compilation The Good Fun Edition is pretty close to one.
Kitsuné is an interesting story in itself: it’s a record label, music magazine and fashion store all at once, in addition to putting out compilations of electronic/dance music. The label roster boasts the excellent Two Door Cinema Club, as well as IC new faves Is Tropical. (Neither appear on this particular compilation, sadly.)
But plenty of other great tunes fill out the fifteen-track compilation: “Goose” by The Cast of Cheers takes a profoundly post-punk angle on dance music, providing a Bloc Party-esque indie rock extreme to the compilation. “Record Collection 2012 (Plastic Plates Remix)” by Mark Ronson and the Business Intl. and “Let’s Work” by White Shadow form the extreme end of the dance spectrum, as both are essentially clubby beats and melodies with minimal lyrics (and song structure) provided.
Tons of different angles on dance music fall in between those, like the Phoenix-goes-house genre mashup that is “Excuse Me” by Lemaitre (easily the most infectious track on the comp, as well as the most baffling). “Zimbabwe” by New Navy is all up in that post-disco/hipster-world-music groove. MuteMath is checking its discography to make sure it didn’t write “Closet Anonymous” by Man Without Country. There’s plenty of ’80s-inspired stuff, if you’re into that—although none of it reaches the transcendence of Chad Valley’s work.
If a good compilation is supposed to sound like a radio station that you don’t want to change, Kitsuné’s The Good Fun Edition is working exactly as it should. I expect nothing less from the compilation series that helped launch Icona Pop, although I don’t hear anything as immediately arresting as that find on this version. Still, the overall effect of the comp is impressive; you could leave this in your car and spin it for a long time without getting bored. And “Excuse Me” will most likely never get boring.
If the next big thing exists, it’s Icona Pop. (With the fickleness of the Internet, the “next big thing” is a pretty fluid concept.) But for those who are chasing good tunes instead of hipness, I’ve got a prescription for you: “Nights Like This,” off the EP of the same name.
Yes, “Manners” took over everything when it was released – it even got appropriated by Chiddy Bang. But “Nights Like This” is even better. It’s more adrenalized, catchier, and more fun. There’s less cold, Age of Adz-esque pretension and more party-bangin’ beats and synths, followed by a euphoric rush of wild “whoa-oh”s. It’s the sort of thing that must have sounded absolutely monster when they were writing it, because it’s pulled off with an assertive confidence that sells that which was doing just fine on its own. You know when you know, you know?
“Manners” is awesome as well, what with its slithering rhythms and squelching bass synths. The chanting vocals that everyone’s been humming are still awesome. “Lovers to Friends” is a pretty standard synth-pop tune, absent of all the unusual rhythms that make Icona Pop so unique and interesting. Unsurprisingly, it’s the least effective tune here.
“Sun Goes Down” features The Knocks and is a return to the dark, spacious, clubby tunes. Low, modified male vocals contribute significantly to the creepiness of the track, and the whole thing comes off as proof that Icona Pop could have more staying power than two magnificent singles.
I sure hope they have staying power, because anything even resembling the thrill of “Nights Like This” would be enough to keep them on my high rotation. Hear all the audio here.
The prolific Dylan Gilbert is offering up 50 tunes that he recorded between 2005-2011 as a pay-what-you-want download. That’s roughly an 8-song album per year of indie-rock that is now at your fingertips. I’m not going lie and say I’ve heard it all, but random clicking has enlightened me to the great “Oh No Oh Now I Know.” Start there or at the beginning if you’re interested.
SoundCloud just put out this interesting and clever video about sound. For those who wonder why “sound” instead of “music,” check out this beautiful thing.
Icona Pop‘s “Manners” blew up in part due to being featured on one of Kitsune‘s compilation albums. Icona Pop took that and ran with it, putting out “Nights Like This.” It’s another incredible song, and it now has this weird and wild video:
Kitsune’s 12th compilation album drops November 14, and a quick North American tour promoing it starts next week.
10/19 – Electric Owl, Vancouver w/ Beataucue + Database
10/20 – Good Units, New York, NY w/ RAC, Is Tropical, Database, Beataucue + Gildas
10/22 – Summit Music Hall, Denver, CO w/ RAC, Database + Beataucue
10/26 – Mezzanine, San Francisco, CA w/ Is Tropical, Database + Beataucue
10/27 – PM Lounge, Dallas, TX w/ Database + Beataucue
10/28 – White Room, Miami, FL w/ Database + French Horn Rebellion
10/29 – Terraza Uroboros, Mexico City w/ Is Tropical, Beataucue + Database
Stephen Carradini and Lisa Whealy write reviews of instrumental, folk, and singer/songwriter music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.