I’ve written about the good guys at Soundsupply before, and I’m happy to announce that their project has made it to its fifth iteration. Their newest collection of 10 albums for 15 dollars is a bit heavier than previous drops, with IC fave Polar Bear Club, Hit the Lights, and Circa Survive among the loud stuff. But they still make room for songstresses Jen Wood and Laura Stevenson; Stevenson’s Sit Resist was my fourth favorite album of 2011. I’ve been hearing a ton about Buried Beds since they went on tour with faves MeWithoutYou; and then, of course, there’s John Frusciante, who needs no introduction.
Overall, it’s an impressive collection, one that is definitely worthy of your 15 bones. I’d pay 10 bucks for Stevenson’s album alone. Check it out here.
1. Circa Survive “Violent Waves” (Self-released)
2. Hit The Lights “Invicta” (Razor & Tie)
3. Jen Wood “Finds You In Love” (New Granada)
4. Polar Bear Club “Clash Battle Guilt Pride” (Bridge 9 Records)
5. Buried Beds “Tremble The Sails” (Self-released)
6. Rodeo Ruby Love “This Is Why We Don’t Have Nice Things” (Pentimento)
7. Pswingset “All Our False Starts” (Topshelf Records)
8. Make Do And Mend “End Measured Mile” (Paper + Plastik)
9. Laura Stevenson & The Cans “Sit Resist” (Don Giovanni)
10. John Frusciante (from Red Hot Chili Peppers) “The Empyrean” (Record Collection)
4: Laura Stephenson and the Cans – Sit Resist. There’s not a single bad tune on this album, you can sing along to almost all of them, and they pull off the “multiple genres but overarching mood” thing perfectly.
3: Jenny and Tyler – Faint Not. Their cute pop turned into churning folk-rock overnight, and the effect is hair-raising and goosebump-inducing. There were few moments as dramatic as the full-band entry in “Song for You” this year; Faint Not was the only album that made me write the sentence “I forget to breathe.”
2: The Collection – The Collection EP. The melodies and instrumentation seem effortlessly perfect on this folk album. David Wimbish’s lyrics and deft and quick, delivered in a vastly adaptable voice that seals the deal. “Stones” is just a wonder.
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.
Each genre has embedded strengths that double as weaknesses. The best bands in a genre will deal will those issues, either by subversion, exaggeration or infusion of other genres.
Oh Look Out has solved the fundamental problem/feature of video game-inspired music (playful, but not emotional) by meshing it with current guitar-based pop-rock (emotional, not playful). The result is the fascinating, fantastic Alright Alright Alright Alright Alright.
Alright‘s approximately 25 minutes leaves more of an impact than albums much longer because it knows what it can and can’t do. No riff is beaten into oblivion, no chorus sung repetitively, no song lasting longer than you wish it would. This is economical songwriting, as one might expect from a songwriter — who goes only by JP — so influenced by electronics (Can we tolerate slow, overstuffed computers?).
The one-two punch is “Analogatron” and “Bass, Not an 8-Track.” The most complete of the songs here, they have distinct vocal melodies, memorable vocal performances, meaningful rock sections, quirky video-game contributions, and deliberate song flow.
“Analogatron” can be appreciated by structuralists and pop-lovers alike. It builds like a standard rock song, opening with bass and vocals before bursting into acrobatic distorted guitar lines. The song adds evocative synths, then ratchets it up to a big conclusion. On the other hand, both the vocals and the guitars are catchy as anything, hinging on the line “When I’m dead, I’ll play cassettes!” Heck yes you will.
“Bass, Not an 8-track” is even better. It’s a fist-pumping, clapping, stomping anthem of a rock song. I got shivers when, at the climax of the song, JP hollers “TAKE! TAKE ME BACK! BASS! not an 8-TRACK!” over a stomping guitar line and synth majesty. This is pretty much all I could ask of a rock song.
But it’s not all herky-jerky pop-rock. The stark “Short Waves” and “Implode Alright” bring to mind keys-laden bedroom pop experiments of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Daniel Johnston and more — but in a much less frustrating, self-indulgent demeanor and tone than much bedroom pop. They’re delicate, emotional, hummable and able to be put on a mixtape for a girl. This is pretty much all I ask of a pop song.
Also, the persistent, perky keyboards of “Kam” are absolutely legit.
Alright Alright Alright Alright Alright is on my shortlist for best pop-rock album of the year, right up there with Generationals’ Actor-Caster and Laura Stevenson and the Cans’ Sit Resist. Its emotional and playful elements balance perfectly, giving me songs that I can feel good about but also feel something in while singing/yelling along. Seriously, what else do you want? Free? Oh, well, it’s that too.
Stephen Carradini and friends write reviews of instrumental music. We write about those trying to make the next step in their careers and established artists.