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Labels unite on no-brainer


Content

1. Labels unite on no-brainer

2. Tracks

3. Recommended Reading

Labels unite on no-brainer

Last week, upwards of 750 independent labels came together to sign the "Fair Digital Deals Pledge" spearheaded by Worldwide Independent Music Industry Network (WIN). The tenets of the pledge confront two issues: creating more transparency around digital licensing agreements with artists and the assertion that labels, regardless of size, deserve an equal share of revenues from digital content distributors. Read the pledge and the appended "Global Independent Manifesto" in its entirety HERE.

The Pledge:

We will:

Ensure that artists’ share of download and streaming revenues is clearly explained in recording agreements and royalty statements in reasonable summary form.

Account to artists a good-faith pro-rata share of any revenues and other compensation from digital services that stem from the monetization of recordings but are not attributed to specific recordings or performances.

Encourage better standards of information from digital services on the usage and monetisation of music.
Support artists who choose to oppose, including publicly, unauthorized uses of their music.


Support the collective position of the global independent record company sector as outlined in the Global Independent Manifesto below.

We wholly disapprove of certain practices which leave artists under-recompensed and under-informed in the digital marketplace and will work together with the artist community to counter these practices.

Signed on behalf of [Label]


On the surface, the pledge and manifesto look like little more than a bit of political posturing in reaction to YouTube's planned subscription service and the broken math of Spotify's current payout system, until you stop and acknowledge the rarity of any group of humans congregating in the name of Common Sense these days. More importantly, the pledge has the tone and appearance of a class action lawsuit without the lawyer fees and years of litigation that such a suit would entail. This makes sense as a first step, but it may fail to accomplish any substantive change in policy from the YouTubes and Spotifies of the world. If the indies do garner a reaction from the major players, we should nominate their owners for a seat in congress this fall.

Do the aims of WIN appear egregious and overreaching? Hardly. The group simply wants the internet to remain a level playing field for the participants held within. Unfortunately, we live in a world where level playing fields are a pipe dream. At virtually every level of the global economic system, parity is an afterthought. I've watched the proverbial Goliath squash the little guy too many times to have any confidence that the pledge is going to result in equal payouts to artists. That said, I'm still holding out hope for the underdog. If nothing else, this is a story to keep your eyes on in the coming weeks and months.

TRACKS

Mexican Slang - "Halcyon"

Earlier this month, up-and-coming Toronto punks Mexican Slang dropped a four-track EP on Canadian label Buzz Records entitled Inside The Velvet Cake. It's the sixth batch of singles the group has released since forming in 2012. At the center of Mexican Slang sits the hazy vocals and understated guitar of lead singer Annabelle Lee. "The main reason I started playing music is I had to get out a lot of anger," Lee recently confessed to BlogTO. "I just wanted to get it out of me. The music is angry so that I don't have to be." The limited-edition cassette is currently sold out, but listen to the hypnotizing slow stomp of "Halcyon" below and grab a download on the cheap via Bandcamp.

Tour Dates:
7/24 - The Maltese Tiger - Indianapolis, IN
7/25 – Wally’s World – Chicago, IL
8/24 – Uncross Your Arms Fest – Kitchener, ON
9/12 – The Baltimore House – Hamilton, ON (Supercrawl) w/ HSY
9/20 – The Silver Dollar – Toronto, ON w/ Shonen Knife



Sleep Cycles - "just a couple"

I recently received a nondescript email from UK singer-songwriter Max Holder who performs under the moniker Sleep Cycles. Holder recently dropped his debut LP of fragile, acoustic-driven bedroom pop called hibernation. I was immediately taken with the release, which sounds something like an undiscovered batch of Youth Lagoon demos. Listen to "just a couple" below, and name your price for a download via Bandcamp.



Cousins - "Alone"

I caught Halifax two-piece Cousins when they opened for fellow Canadian Chad Van Gaalen in Indianapolis earlier this spring. The band is comprised of Aaron Mangle (guitars/vocals) and Leigh Dotey (drums/vocals). Since that first impression, I've returned to the duo's 2014 LP, The Halls of Wickwire, with regularity. Over the weekend, I had a chance to catch Jack White at Forecastle. His set was solid, but left me pining for The White Stripes. While those pangs of nostalgia are probably a misguided waste of time, at least I have Cousins to admirably fill that void.


 

RECOMMENDED READING

Mike Cooper and the Cult of Reissues (LINK)

Earlier this year, I previewed a collaborative LP from Steve Gunn and legendary guitarist Mike Cooper. Not to boast, but Cantos de Lisboa has proven to be one of the 2014's most interesting and challenging listens in this author's humble opinion. Last week, Michael Blair and Joe Bucciero co-wrote an article that places Cooper at the center of a phenomenal discussion around the culture of vinyl reissues over at Adhoc. The writers did an admirable job of underscoring the unpredictable nature of Cooper's career as a recording artist while adding some clarity to the phenomenon (and financial boon) that drives the reissue market. I also found it reassuring that there is at least two other writers who hold Cantos de Lisboa in the same high regard that I do.
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REVIEW: Alvvays - "Alvvays"


Alvvays - Alvvays
Record Label: Polyvinyl 
Release Date: July 22, 2014

Indie pop needs a new face. A few years ago, I would have sworn it to be Avi Buffalo, a group that seemed to flame out as soon as it got going. Listening to Alvvays, the self-titled debut of Toronto-based five-piece Alvvays, I was taken back to my first experience hearing Avi Buffalo's singles and struck with by how much I've missed the light-hearted melodies of musicians who seem to be trying to cover up internal fears. Alvvays sounds like a less-pretentious version of their Canadian brethren Stars, eschewing hyper-literarcy for a kind of naive sentimentality without relegating itself to twee fascinations with broken hearts.

The record opens with a thudding rhythm measure before a guitar line that seems to jangle and distort at the same time leads to Molly Rankin's vocals. On this track, "Adult Diversion" what seems like a cookie cutter structure warps into a keyboard-lead bridge before coming back to the a minimal guitar line as Rankin's vocals echo around and the band finally rejoins.


As a five-piece, the band never seems to be at a loss for sounds to accent and alter their tunes. "Red Planet," the record's closer, is the band at it's most minimal, yet it's still deeply textured with synths crashing into percussion and vice versa. Equally as exemplary as the instrumentation are Rankin's vocals whose delivery seems as off-the-cuff as it does lackadaisical. She always seems to be a half-beat behind and yet this is right on time. In the chorus of "Party Police," she intones a line at once melodic and disaffected: "You don't have to leave / You can just stay here with me / Forget about the party police / We can find comfort in debauchery." A slight revision in the melody of this line in the final chorus when Rankin pops her vocals up to another line is microcosmic of what the band does with such aplomb--right when you think that you've gotten the pattern, they shift it keeping you in the melody and opening musical possibilities at the same time.

"You've expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony" begins the single from Alvvays "Marry Me, Archie." The sentiment behind the song -- loving someone who you know can't (or won't) love you back -- is an old musical and literary theme. This incarnation of it, like much of the work that Alvvays does, seems to harken back to the past while putting a new spin on tried and true emotions. It's hard not to think of the vocals of Isobel Campbell or the sardonic lyrics of the Moldy Peaches as the album unfolds. Both these artists managed to capture a moment and in many ways Alvvays feels perched between the sincerity of Belle and Sebastian and the tongue-in-cheek of Kimya Dawson. Musically and lyrically astute, Alvvays sounds like what was great about indie pop bands of the past smart enough to make you hear an emotion anew. 
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We Need More Hipsters


Content

1. We Need More Hipsters

2. Tracks

3. Music Video Of The Week

WE NEED MORE HIPSTERS

Here is a really really really funny joke because you had a long day and need a laugh:

Q:  Why did the hipster burn their tongue???

(you ready...this is really funny)

(I mean really funny)

(here we go....)

A: Because they drank their coffee before it was cool!

You get it?  Hipsters like to brag about how they knew about music before it was cool.  Isn't that hilarious?  

Over the last decade "hipster" has become one of the dirtiest words to summarize really anything at this point.  Like a virus, the term has latched onto anything and everything to the point where I'm not sure the word has any meaning at all.  While hipsters have been criticized for being pretentious, having a sheepish mentality, being ironic for the sake of being ironic, the main cause of gentrification, and other catch alls...the bashing of all things "hipster" directly hurts something I care deeply about...the passion for musical discovery.

That not so funny joke above highlights one of the biggest problems in music today...people are afraid to be proud of their individual musical taste.  At this point I would rather be around someone who claims they saw Animal Collective in a fifteen person room (even if they are bragging) than a person who likes four mainstream bands because that's all they care to see.  The beginning of musical discovery comes from a want and passion to discover, to be an individual, to totally immerse themselves in an art that carries great emotional weight. If that means being a hipster, then from now on let's start using the word as a positive.

The original bashing of musical discovery before "it was cool" comes in the form of the automatic notion that one is bragging about their claim.  For a lot of people it sprouts from a basic declaration of truth and being proud of putting in the necessary work.  Let me use a personal story to highlight this miscommunication.  

I saw Sharon Van Etten this weekend play to a festival crowd of a few thousand at Forecastle Festival.  I remember a morning show at SXSW years ago where my friend and I stumbled into a small trailer, ate pancakes, and sat on the floor crossed legged while she strummed an acoustic guitar and sang for a dozen or so people.

There are so many hipster buzzwords above, one can't help but roll their eyes.  I highlight that when I saw Van Etten there were far less people, it was at a hipster (or once was) festival, it was way in the past, and for the love of hipster it was in a "small trailer!"  WOW.  What a hipster!  Now, let's push the hipster notion aside and really examine the actual process of events.  The show was very early for SXSW standards, around noon, and my buddy and I forced ourselves to make the long walk to take a chance on a singer/songwriter we had briefly heard before.  It was raining and out of the way.  If we wanted to see any of the bigger artists that night the lines were already forming.  We had no idea if this journey would be of any importance or quality, we were two people trying to discover new music...that is simply it.

In the end this singular show and the chance we took will always be one of the most important and memorable shows I've seen in my life.  I don't have a bigger claim to being a Van Etten fan than any person discovering her for the first time this weekend at the festival, but I can be personally proud that I blazed my own trail and was rewarded with a special musical moment.

Which leads me to what I want to scream at you:

BE PROUD TO FIND MUSIC ON YOUR OWN.

You don't have to brag about it, but I'm sure people will think you are bragging simply because of the false notions brought forth through the crazy word that is hipster.

BE PASSIONATE.

GO TO A SHOW BY YOURSELF WHERE NOBODY ELSE IS.

LOVE MUSIC FOR YOURSELF AND NOBODY ELSE.

When you do that...

BE PROUD THAT YOU ARE YOURSELF AND NO WORD CAN CHANGE THAT.

TRACKS

Courtship Ritual - "Yellow Spiders"

I've only had the full album stream from Courtship Ritual for a few days but the love is immediate. Thick layers of somehow pretty drone and hum set that backdrop for snappy vocals and guitars/bass that thump along with a personality all their own.  Leave it to the best new label of recent memory, GODMODE, to smash this Battleship Potemkin plate of perfectly placed sounds across our face over and over.



The album comes out July 22nd and if you're quick you can grab a limited to 100 cassette HERE.

The Unicorns - Rocketship (Daniel Johnston Cover)

The band that made me love music is back for a few reunion shows and hopefully, fingers-crossed, writing some new music.  There is not much more to say...The Unicorns are back, Daniel Johnston is amazing, The Unicorns covered Daniel Johnson.  I can't believe I just wrote that.  One more time because it felt so good: The Unicorns are back, Daniel Johnston is amazing, The Unicorns covered Daniel Johnson.



Pitchfork has the news of a vinyl reissue.  Here is the track title (drool over those bonus tracks) and catch them live.
Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?:
01 I Don’t Wanna Die
02 Tuff Ghost
03 Ghost Mountain
04 Sea Ghost
05 Jellybones
06 The Clap
07 Child Star
08 Let’s Get Known
09 I Was Born (A Unicorn)
10 Tuff Luff
11 Inoculate the Innocuous
12 Les Os
13 Ready to Die
14 Rocket Ship (Daniel Johnston cover) [Bonus] [unreleased]
15 Let Me Sleep [Bonus] [unreleased track from Who Will Cut Our Hair? sessions]
16 Evacuate the Vacuous [Bonus] [from the 2014 EP]
17 Haunted House (Live) [Bonus] [recorded March 29, 2004 at Crocodile Café in Seattle]
The Unicorns:
08-01 Inglewood, CA - The Forum *
08-02 Inglewood, CA - The Forum *
08-22 Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center *
08-23 Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center *
08-24 Brooklyn, NY - Barclays Center *
09-21 Montreal, Quebec - Pop Montreal
* with Arcade Fire, with Dan Deacon
MUSIC VIDEO OF THE WEEK
I was honored to catch a wonderful Louisville band this Friday called The Gallery Singers.  I've lived in deep absence of the Silver Jews for so long and for the first time in forever this song seemed to fill in a little of that gap.  The video is simple but there is a mystical quality to the static shot that begins to slightly move and snaps the listener out of the songs' trance.  The band is working on a new album that should be released later this year.

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Music Alliance Pact (July 2014)




Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 24-track compilation through Dropbox here.

 UNITED STATESWe Listen For You Conveyor - Theme XIII (Edit) Brooklyn's Conveyor has recently released a fascinating double LP where they reimagine the score for the cult film THX 1138. These expansive soundscapes creep into your brain and create the most perfect moments of sonic serenity.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie Los Tiros - Autocontrol In the past weeks we've been listening to Denso y Moderno, the first album by Los Tiros, in a non-stop loop. This band from Quilmes, a city in Greater Buenos Aires, delivers a pop-rock sound with lots of synthesizers and optimistic lyrics. The album has 11 tracks, all potential hits, and Autocontrol is one of them.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They? A Dead Forest Index - Cast Of Lines Cast Of Lines is the new 12" by Melbourne's A Dead Forest Index. Released recently through Pop Noire (the label run by Savages' Jehnny Beth), title track Cast Of Lines is an expansive, meditative piece - a precursor for the band's unique sound palette which has been praised abroad.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo TMPL - Voyij TMPL are a relatively new electro-pop duo from Toronto made up of Kevin O'Brien and singer-songwriter Eli Andreas. By new, I mean they have this one song out called Voyij that takes you on an expansive journey of sounds that gets more exciting at every corner.

CHILE: Super 45 Histéricos - Misplaced, Displaced They chose the right name to express their no-limits energy and rage. Histéricos is a four-piece rock band that always trusts in a good melody and have some clever things to say. At the end of 2013 they released their debut album Misplaced, Displaced (Algo Records) and here we present the title track dedicated to "the ones who get it wrong. The losers, the outsiders. To those who suffered loss and regret. To those who question why", as they write in their manifesto.

COLOMBIA: El Parlante Amarillo Los Elefantes - Yo Soy Un Gigoló The life of the Colombian capital is reflected by the Jamaican music, mainly ska, that Los Elefantes have made ​​for more than 18 years. Feeling independence as a way of life, they are releasing their fourth album, Grandes Exitos de Otros, from which we present the song Yo Soy Un Gigoló, a classic version of Just A Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody, with the lyrics touched by irony.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian Blaue Blume - In Disco Lights Released a few months back, Blaue Blume's official EP debut, Beau & Lorette, is bold, ambitious and almost always compelling, not least thanks to mighty songs like Lost Sons Of Boys and MAP exclusive download In Disco Lights.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: La Casetera TipiHop Project - Suéltame Que Bailo Solo TipiHop Project's mission is to blend Dominican native genres with modern electronic and hip-hop rhythms. Anyone who's had the opportunity to dance a fast-paced merengue would argue that is nearly impossible to slow it down, but the guys behind TipiHop found a way in Suéltame Que Bailo Solo, the instrumental opener of their first album. The namesake LP has been brewing for almost three years, but now they're ready to show their musical richness.

ECUADOR: Plan Arteria Sweet Sandra - Nakkked Sweet Sandra is a trio based in Quito who use distortion, electronic bits and punk. Their first release, Nasty Disco, is an album of 10 songs. Nakked has heartbreaking screams between the twisted outbursts of drum machine.

FINLAND: Glue Cats Of Transnistria - San Francisco Formed earlier in the year, Cats Of Transnistria is an exciting blend of dream-pop vocals and fuzzy, psyched guitar and keys by the duo of Henna Emilia Hietamäki and Tuomas Alatalo. The band has just released its first recording produced by Black Lizard's guitarist/vocalist Paltsa-Kai Salama.

FRANCE: Your Own Radio Andrea - More To Me From Paris' indie electronic scene, Andrea plays beats like a surgeon - meticulously. More To Me is the perfect song to chill out to in bed on a Sunday morning. Andrea is also the kind of crazy guy who has a project to produce a sample each day during a month - take a listen to Day 4, which samples Sam Smith.

GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda Pete Sun - Ocean (You) Drawing influence from sun, sea, urban life and relationships, Pete Sun's sublime third EP, Phantom Express, contains three shimmering lo-fi, romantic dream-pop songs to hold close to your heart. With his simple, poetic, yet sensitive lyrics and an intimate voice that's as if he's whispering a secret into your ear, Pete Sun creates a beautiful scenery to lose yourself in.

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar Napolleon - Rendezvous After a long musical journey, young Bayu Andrianto's decision to put reverb on vocals and guitar resulted in raw, space-rock songs. They have been talked about amongst music enthusiasts in Indonesia for the past few months, with hotly-anticipated performances and an album to look forward to.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing Blooms - If I Blooms' euphoric yet mellow style of ambient electronica is the brainchild of Louise Cunnane, an Irish woman based in London. The If EP features toned-down flow, soaring soundscapes and stunning vocals, recalling the 5am bliss-out at the end of a manic beach party. If I, the free-to-download EP's standout track, builds on subtle R&B influences to create a memorable early effort. Cunnane's delicate potential is abundant and beautiful.

JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies Left Right Arms - Rest Rest is a song that comes across as though it was recorded under blankets, like the driving sonic aim was to imagine what someone breathing on your neck sounded like. Fitting, considering Left Right Arms records everything from his bedroom in Tokyo, the close quarters coming across clearly in this woozy, ultimately vulnerable moment.

MALTA: Stagedive Malta TroffaHamra y Los Mechones - Donde Estás Tú TroffaHamra (Ruth Abela) is a Maltese singer-songwriter who went travelling to Barcelona in 2010 and ended up staying there. Not much later she formed her band TroffaHamra y Los Mechones, in which she sings and plays guitar, together with four Catalan musicians. Together, and due to their different musical backgrounds, they created an original sound. TroffaHamra's songwriting is fresh and sincere, and influenced by life experiences and strong emotions. The style of the band sways between swing, bossa nova, folk and Western ska - a mixture of sounds, languages and moods.

MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika Navukodonozorg - The Goat Of Zachary He may not be the king of Babylon, but he could well take the throne of Mexican electronica. He may not be named after Morpheus' rebellion ship in The Matrix, but his music will surely take you on a trip through a decadent post-industrial underworld. Hailing from Veracruz in the Gulf of Mexico, Navukodonozorg unleashes a work full of dirty bass, complex rhythms and nonsense melodies. Take the 'red pill' and submerge in this fabulous futuristic wonderland.

PERU: SoTB Catervas - Atemporal Catervas is one of Peru's most beloved and essential bands. Their long career, embodied in three albums, has contributed some great indie rock with melodies full of excitement and inspiration. This year the band will release their fourth album; Atemporal is its first single, a nostalgic song that honors the classic sound of Catervas.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco? Moullinex - Love Magnetic Moullinex is the project of Luis Clara Gomes, a DJ with a remarkable body of work as a producer. His first album as Moullinex, Flora, was released in 2012 and, following two EPs in 2013, a new album is due at the end of this year, which Love Magnetic is an appetizer for. When not working as Moullinex, Luis keeps himself busy remixing other artists (Cut Copy, Sébastien Tellier, Two Door Cinema Club, WhoMadeWho) and managing the label DiscoTexas which he co-founded.

PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico Indie fAi - I Thought The World fAi is a new project from producer/composer Hector "Stonetape" Hernández and singer Beatriz Faísca. They recently released their first single, the catchy and sweet I Thought The World, a generous slice of perfect summer indie-pop that promises great things from the duo. Stonetape continues to demonstrate his studio chops throughout the song, achieving a confident and measured production, while Beatriz truly surprises with a voice equally mature and flirtatious.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise The Boy Who Cried Wolf - It's Just A Rebel, Sir! The Boy Who Cried Wolf started their activity when members of two local bands (CHESTER and Breathelast) from Bucharest collided, with a mission to write some tunes that would better react to their primal needs to play wild, fast-paced metal combined with hardcore/punk vibes. In 2013, The Boy Who Cried Wolf released their first debut record, Bad Time Stories, available from Bandcamp as a pay-what-you-want download.

SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop Foreignfox - Yoghurt No matter how much you think you're ready for it, the song Foreignfox introduced themselves to the world with, Yoghurt, still knocks you sideways. The raw, stomach-knotting emotion of Jonny Watt's struggle to come to terms with his father's cancer diagnosis is unravelled in lyrics of rare candour, backed with some sweeping guitar work and a suitably tear-inducing promo video. Foreignfox's debut EP, We Float Like Sinking Ships, is available on Bandcamp.

SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK Messgram - My Funeral Messgram markets themselves as a modern heaviness hailing from Korea. They put out their first EP a few months ago and recently finished third in the Korean leg of the Redbull Live On The Road competition. With a female vocalist, the style often reminisces the popular gothic metal-influenced bands of the early 00s, but rather than sounding dated, Messgram gets a special edge by blending it with post-hardcore. My Funeral perfectly exhibits this exciting combination.

SPAIN: Musikorner Cumbres Carrascosa - Minimum Sacrifice Cumbres Carrascosa is the side-project of Miguel Cámara, from The Fruhstucks, and one of the nation's breakthrough artists of 2014. His music is a blend of psychedelia and the-darkest-chillwave-ever, as you can tell by listening to Minimum Sacrifice, a mesmerizing yet unsettling tune.
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Trying to Think Beyond the Hipster in the Music of "Girls"


A few months ago, a colleague contacted me with an proposal. He's editing a book on HBO's Girls and wanted to see if -- given my blogistry and academic pedigree -- I'd be interested in contributing an article on the music of the show. I hadn't seen an episode before, so I blindly agreed. This post, essentially, is a condensation of that chapter and I'd love any feedback or comments that you gave. I'm not the targeted demographic of the show -- the only guy in his 30s on the show can't even make a virgin happy -- and writing about some of the musical experiences in the show is difficult, for reasons that will become clear below. Most importantly, I'm interested in thinking about this: If Girls represents a comedic but mostly accurate representation of hipster life, then how do we get beyond it? And how do bands navigate the maelstrom of taste-mongering that makes hipsters go? Is it possible to think beyond hipsters or is this way of consuming culture here to stay?

"Hipster" is a difficult term most likely to be taken as an insult even by those who display the outward signs of being a hipster. More than likely, the current incarnation of hipsterdom, began in the late 90s and early 00s as independent culture began to shift and become more closely related to mainstream culture. Two key pillars of hipster identity, irony and self-denial, rose up around this relationship. As authentic indie kids, hipsters had to disavow anything corporate or mainstream. However, even their culture was going mainstream. So, in order to maintain some sense of "authenticity," hipsters began scavenging  from other cultures and developed an ironic stance which buffers them from the potential emotional or cultural shock of corporate co-option. In music such "selling out" became downright everyday by 2005, due to the truncation of media outlets, possibility of big pay days at the end of licensing deals, and a general shift in the relationship to licensing music after the success of Moby and VW Nick Drake commercial spots. By 2007 and 2008, the culture was facing a big backlash. Time Out New York called on them to die, a la "A Modest Proposal," and Adbusters named the hipster the "Dead End of Western Civilization." How, then, did the hipster survive? 

First, that irony and self-denial that I mentioned earlier enabled not only an emotional distancing, but also a virtual carte blanche on cultural taste. Hipster social standing is made up of taste: he who finds the "cool" rises in standing above he who does not. Which is why you tell your friends that you knew about Wolf Parade before they did. However, if you like things ironically then you can listen to anything. Hey, Jim, are you rockin' Katy Perry. Yeah, brah, but I only like it ironically. See how it works? So, at this point with all the irony and cultural co-option kicking around (because here's the kicker about finding something legitimately cool, once you do, then it gets found and marketed back to you) literally anything is fair game. And, that old paradigm of independent vs. mainstream is largely gone. Contemporary consumerism doesn't work like that any more. It's impossible for a band to make a living by being heard on one of the world's last few independent radio stations. Or trying to earn enough off Spotify (mainstream!) streaming. For hipsters, this is the most crucial aspect -- to be cool you have to sell out and to maintain authenticity you have to maintain irony. You can see how it's a bit of a vicious, but effective circle. Hipsterdom has survived because of asserted independence, bolstered by irony, and sustained by rampant consumerism.

What about the music of Girls? Three big realizations I came to while watching the show.

1. The music is ALL OVER THE PLACE. They're just as apt to break out Demi Lovoto as they are Duncan Shiek or Ghostface Killah. There is no musical creed or over-arching taste. This is a show that will license dozens of tracks per episode and it doesn't care where they come from.

2. Girls makes stars. Probably the best example here is Icona Pop's "I Love It." A song that didn't get recognized the year it came out (except by Pitchfork) and once it shows up on Girls as the soundtrack to Hannah and Elijah's coke-fueled, AndrewAndrew DJ'd freakout, the track shoots into the Billboard Hot 100. And this isn't the only example. There's a Girls effect, much like the Colbert Bump.

3. If you're a character on Girls (with the exception of musical artist cameos) and you're making music, you're probably a punch line. 

This last one is the most disturbing for me. None of the characters on the show who make music are ever taken seriously. Adam's weirdo songs for Hannah are "hostile," Marnie's Edie Brickell video is autotuned and laughed at by everyone but her, and Thomas John's "mash ups" are like if Warren Buffet created Dada. There is literally one redeeming musical moment created by a character, and that's with the return of Charlie's band in season one, but even this isn't really seen on camera because what's more important is Marnie's reaction to the band. For a show that can pull from almost every musical style and make stars out of previously niche Swedish duos, why do all the characters who make music get treated like shit on the show?

The answer is pretty simple and it goes back to needing to be cool and the dominance of taste that I mentioned earlier. When we see these characters make music, we see them trying. Trying to make it, trying to connect, or trying to show an emotion, and trying is the opposite of cool. Trying is effort, whereas cool is second nature. Furthermore, when these characters have these moments of obvious effort, they have more on the line because they're openly putting their social standing on the line through a "taste-less" act. Think about it like this. No one cares that Charlie's band rocked a warehouse party, they're all impressed when, out of nowhere, he develops an app. Then he's "grown-up." The mentality that the show has toward music is reflective of hipster culture and deeply disturbing. Whereas indie celebrated the DIY, self and community expression, hipsters celebrate the opposite. What you try for isn't as cool as what's already able to be bought. 

This is essentially where my chapter ends. Obviously, it's a lot longer and with more theory and examples and all that good stuff, but I find myself at the end of it wondering what the end of this line of thought means. And again, I'd love your input here.

1. Will hipsters and hipsterdom go away? It seems to be a remarkably resilient culture that shows like Girls prop up and perpetuate. It would be fallacy to call them a subculture or independent culture at this point, they're more of a consumer group, but it's one where musicians have to hawk their wares. 

2. How can musicians survive in this? I don't think that it's coincidence that many of our best indie musicians, The Antlers, Sharon Van Etten, even more "mainstream" folk like Bon Iver, are crafting really emotionally resonant songs to undercut this ironic hipster stance. It's as if they seem to be challenging their audiences. But, with hipsters being the dominant (or one of the dominant) markets for indie music how are musicians making it?

3. If eclectic listening really is this hallmark of hipster culture, then where the fuck is the "world" music? What kind of a white paradise is this hipsterdom when it moves according to class-stratified, white taste? And, don't tell me that Robyn, Icona Pop, and Pitbull are "world" music. 

This final question seems, to me, to be the ultimate Achilles heel of independent culture today. We've become so focused on ourselves that we seem more and more unwilling to let other cultures in and become a genuinely mixed or poly culture. Rather than stealing from we should be working on new forms and one of the biggest ones is by looking outside our window, our country, and our culture. 


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My Blog Is Dead...But It's Ok



Content

1.) My Blog Is Dead...But It's Ok

2.) Tracks

3.) Important Wax

4.) Music Video Of The Week



MY BLOG IS DEAD...BUT IT'S OK

Nearly seven years ago, I started this small music blog with my best friend Hank.  I had thought about starting a music blog for years because I looked up to the likes of My Old Kentucky Blog, You Ain't No Picasso, Aquarium Drunkard, I Guess I'm Floating, and many more.  I couldn't understand how these gatekeepers of music knew so many bands/artists I've never heard of before.  I wanted to be like them and, more importantly, wanted to help discover those unknown bands/artists and help talented people become known.

Over seven years, We Listen For You has had its ups and downs.  In 2010 we were named by our peers the #1 music blog in a friendly, blog-only voting poll and were seeing our largest traffic year to date.  What I want readers to understand is that all over the world, there are people like us at We Listen For You examining tracks, albums, videos, etc for no money and taking up tons of the little free time we have.  It's a weird obsession that slowly becomes part of your identity.  Over these seven years, I've tried to shut down the site here and there (maybe three times a year), but I just can't imagine not having this outlet.  

These days, it feels like our music blog and many other music blogs are losing interest in moving forward. We've seen our audience shrink, mostly due to our own irregular posting (or the lack thereof).  My biggest sadness in this comes in the form of musical discovery.  It seems every year it gets harder and harder to convince readers to check out bands/artists they aren't already familiar with.  This is where I make a request to you, the individual reading this right now.  I'm pleading with you to give us a chance... once a day... and give the same chance to the smaller artists we highlight as you give the ones you already know.  You will not like everything we write about. Still, music bloggers all over who are writing about the little guy, the band struggling to get the smallest amount of attention... we're all pouring or hearts and time into this and it means nothing if you don't have the thirst to discover what's new.  The ultimate joke is that in the music industry today, even the bigger bands need help.

So... where does WLFY go next?  You might remember a few years ago we made a promise to cut all the fat... no music gossip, news, or irrelevant lists... just keep our modest music blog focused on the nuts and bolts: music analysis and discovery.  As I get older, it becomes harder and harder to post five times a day and turn pieces around before they become irrelevant to the reader.

Knowing this, I introduce you to the new WLFY format:

Every Tuesday, I will create a post like this with chapters.  Each one will highlight tracks, vinyl, and most of all, my personal thoughts on any and all topics relating to music.  A lot of the time, the title to these posts won't be sexy or have you itching to click... but please, give us your time for just a few minutes each day.  Hank and the rest of the staff will each have their own regular posting day.  We hope over time you get to know each of us personally through our weekly posts and at the same time, hope to open up a steady conversation with you, the regular reader.  Mondays will be open for larger, standalone writing like full album reviews, think pieces, and other features if a writer feels inclined to do so.

Thanks for reading.  WLFY might be practically dead, but I'll never be able to let it go.

TRACKS

Roman Ruins - "Loved One"

The music of Graham Hill (Roman Ruins) always focuses on perfect order and layering.  I've mentioned it before, but Hill's background as an architect seems to inform his style of music.  His tracks build themselves in front of the listener.  What starts as a blueprint introduces us to the individual components -- by the the end, we're settled on a wide shot of the finished creation.  The music of Roman Ruins builds complete structures over the time of the track, while simultaneously stepping back to show what the synchronicity of several concepts can ultimately create.



Bear In Heaven - "Autumn"

I always refer to the music of Bear In Heaven as "danceable reflection in slow motion."  The music drives forward in a systematic form that makes one want to dance, but there are also layers of dark emotion that make the listener want to reflect, elevating each track to much more than just a good time.  The music beats heavy and cycles upon itself, a gentle tornado of synths and bold vocals that makes the world seem larger and more important, every sound creating a visceral reaction and causing mandatory reflection note after note.



James Bay - "If You Ever Want To Be In Love"

The blending of several genres of music fits this James Bay track very well.  It has a bit of twang on the guitars and is complimented by booming vocals that drive the song forward.  "If You Ever Want To Be In Love" is all about being smooth, from its great production to its emotive vocals.  This is a perfect summer song that pulls all the right strings to put the listener in that special mental space that ballads tend to do.  There is a lovely drop out with a gentle piano at the end which clearly marks Bay as a clever musician in full control of his craft.




IMPORTANT WAX


If you hang around vinyl obsessed people long enough, the debate about missing songs/albums never pressed on wax begins like clockwork.  This is one of my favorite songs of all time and until recently was never available on vinyl format:

This problem was recently fixed by the Numero Group record label, who released what has to be my favorite "reissue special release" on vinyl this year.  It sports a beautiful gatefold packaging with twenty-four perfect tracks.  The release includes the one and only original Sandy Denny & The Srawbs album that has always been hard to find on wax, along with a ton of b-sides that never saw the light of day.  The most impressive quality of this release is how every single b-side is of top quality and makes you question why anything was ever cut.  This is a must own album -- maybe I'll buy two because my first copy has been glued to the turntable and I don't think it will be leaving its spot anytime soon.
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MUSIC VIDEO OF THE WEEK

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Music Alliance Pact (June 2014)




Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 27-track compilation through Dropbox here.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie Temper - Quitapenas Temper is an instrumental rock band with influences that encompass tango, jazz, surf-rock, Hindu movie soundtracks and psychedelic music. This catchy track is from their third album, Clitoxismo: 10 Neurotransmisiones En Círculos, released last year by La Boca Se Te Haga Un Lago, a local independent label which specializes in instrumental music.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They? Kučka - Unconditional Perth native Kučka, aka Laura Jane Lowther, makes tinsel-y RnB that falls somewhere between the smooth, subdued sounds of 90s-era Janet Jackson and the cartoonish decadence of K-pop. With her vocals featured on two tracks from A$AP Rocky's debut album, LONG.LIVE.A$AP, and with a brand new EP due out later this year, Kučka is definitely an artist to keep your eye on.

BRAZIL: Meio Desligado Russo Passapusso - Paraquedas Russo Passapusso, the lead singer of BaianaSystem, is about to release his first solo album. In single Paraquedas he displays a deep appreciation of Brazil's musical roots. It's a mixture of samba rock, funk and hip hop to make you dance.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo Once A Tree - Howling Hayden John Wolf and Jayli Wolf may show some Europe electronica inspiration in Howling but the duo are indeed from Toronto. Each time Once A Tree drop a track on SoundCloud, they deliver with creative vocals and eargasmic production. Howling proves to be their best tune yet, experimenting with trap-like beats and chilling atmosphere.

CHILE: Super 45 Adelaida - O Sea No Mundial Adelaida, a trio from Valparaíso, are members of the new brood that's renewing the Chilean independent rock scene. In their debut album Monolito, they reclaim the best moments from the 90s: grunge's anger, shoegaze's walls of sound and the versatility of experimental noise.

COLOMBIA: El Parlante Amarillo Flying Bananas - Funk No Name Based on the legend that tells the story of a man who committed suicide by jumping off a seventh floor disguised as a banana, as you can see in this video, Bogotá quintet Flying Bananas make a musical tribute of the deceased using funk, jazz and hip hop. These seasoned musicians have no fear and float between genres with the power of bass, samplers and percussion, as we can hear in Funk No Name.

DENMARK: All Scandinavian The Olympics - Leaves Art-pop quintet The Olympics are in the process of following up on their debut album Mother and Limbo EP with 10 songs in 10 months (to be released as an album later). You can check out the first two, Monument and 4U, while the third great one, Leaves, is a MAP exclusive download.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: La Casetera Franny & Zooey - I Love You I Love You is taken from Franny & Zooey's new EP, Bottled Up And Ready To Go. Following the same line of influences as Heavenly, Go Sailor and Talulah Gosh, they exhibit strong pop melodies with some power structures and punk, reminiscent of the Ramones.

ECUADOR: Plan Arteria Sexores - Historias De Frio Historias De Frio, the second album by shoegaze and dream-pop band Sexores, flirts with distortion, ethereal wave and melancholy. The title track envelops the listener in a lethargic, mellow sweetness.

ENGLAND: Drowned In Sound Lucy Claire - Stille Perhaps it's obvious with a site name like Drowned in Sound, but we're a sucker for a swell of strings that leaves you feeling suspended in a sea of melodies. Our love of classical may have begun with watching A Clockwork Orange as a child and blossomed with falling in love with Sigur Rós but my-oh-my is modern classical music on fire right now. Lucy Claire from London melds big strings and glorious electronics.

ESTONIA: Rada7.ee Firejosé feat Sander Mölder - Mas O Menos Firejosé (aka Mark Stukis) is an artist born in Estonia and tempered by the jungles of Central America. His roots go deeper and influences run wider than the rainforests of Tortuguero, though. Similarities to Detroit Swindle and Joy Orbison have been drawn, but most recently Firejosé quenched the thirst for Baltic beats with live shows alongside Gold Panda and Bonobo. A well-kept secret from the hype machines, it is the unquenchable desire for deep, shuffled beats that keep Firejosé ablaze.

FINLAND: Glue Saints Of Winter - Lullaby March Inspired by the Finnish Lapland, songwriter Mikko Hautakangas came up with the songs that form the debut of his latest project Saints Of Winter, which is defined by three words: snow, melancholy and hope. The album, Bridges And Windmills, is an indie-folk affair in which songs come to life thanks to the vocals of lead singer Sari. You can pay as much as you wish to download it on Bandcamp. Here is the beautiful opener Lullaby March.

FRANCE: Your Own Radio Aamourocean - Yuntekkem Aamourocean is a​ ​mysterious​ ​indie producer. We don't know much about him, but who cares? His song Yuntekkem is enthralling as the sampled army choir takes us by the hand to ​a tropical forest.​

GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda Opsis - Antigone Based on deep drones, eerie noise, dislocated beats and classical vocal choruses from Byzantium and Renaissance, Opsis' sublime double album Antigone/Persae conveys musically the eternal agonies of man as they are portrayed in the works of the tragic poets of the ancient world, Sophocles and Aeschylus. It is a personal contemplation on the events taking place in those two tragedies and the emotional variations and torments of their most substantial characters.

INDONESIA: Deathrockstar Cupumanik - Luka Bernegara Luka Bernegara ("Pain of Nationalism") is a song about the dirty, bloody politics in Indonesia. The heavy distortion and angst displays a heavy influence of 90s grunge music. As one of the few bands left who label themselves grunge, they enjoy a strong following in Indonesia.

IRELAND: Hendicott Writing Red Sail - Wheel Your Wings Home Built around winding, subtle folky melodies, Red Sail stand out above Ireland's folk-pop masses. Wheel Your Wings Home is their latest single, a vocal-led rustic beauty backed by Damien Rice's wonderful touring cellist Vyvienne Long. 2012's harmony-drenched Paper Cutouts EP and lyrically nuanced follow up We Still Build Forts EP have already seen this unassuming project head across Europe; this delicate musical partnership is threatening to take flight.

ITALY: Polaroid Yakamoto Kotzuga - All These Things I Used To Have Yakamoto Kotzuga is not Japanese. His real name is Giacomo Mazzucato and he is a 20-year-old Venice-based producer. His sound is influenced by Shlohmo, Shigeto, Gold Panda and Flying Lotus, just to name a few. He's going to release an album on La Tempesta International and it will be great. But you should forget all these notions and just let his music vibrate and take you to the deepest regions of outer space.

JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies StillSound - Towns Based out of the lovely capital city of Okinawa, StillSound makes rubbery electronic music taking sonic cues from the likes of Toro y Moi, and latest song Towns is a slippery bit of funk that moves at an easy-breezy pace perfect for the start of summer. Despite the beachside vibe, Towns conceals a bleeding heart, the vocals revealing far deeper emotions than simply chilling out.

MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika Montenegro - Blackout With melodic, heavy and catchy guitar riffs like The Cure, and deep vocals like Joy Division, you might think we are somewhere in 80s England. Not at all. Montenegro come from Mexico City, and Blackout sounds fresh without the trite of being too "innovative". They're noisy without turning their backs on melancholy (in fact, they just look down at their feet). This quartet embodies the spirit of DIY and seem to make music for their own joy, and fortunately also for ours.

PERU: SoTB Los Filipz - Positivo Formed in 2004, Los Filipz make something called reggae power - a mix of funk, rock and reggae obviously. The band is promoting their second album Presente, which tries to create a link between people and the world around them.

PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco? Bullet - 6830 Miles Vladimir Orlov is the leader of Bullet. However, in reality, Orlov is just an alter-ego for the multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and producer Armando Teixeira, who has visited us before in the Music Alliance Pact. 6830 Miles is taken from Cosmic Noise Vol. 1, the third album by Bullet, in which the vocals by Lili take center stage; the second volume will see Orlov's vocals come to the fore. Bullet should please those into bands such as Air, Saint Etienne or Stereolab.

PUERTO RICO: Puerto Rico Indie Dead Hands - Perdido Sin Ti (Ricky Martin cover) Ricky Martin is Puerto Rico's premier international pop superstar. Indie Martin is a celebration of his career and musical legacy, reinterpreted by emerging artists from the county's independent music scene. The full compilation will be made available online through Discos Diáspora in August, but you can listen to a new cover each Tuesday via PuertoRicoIndie.com during June and July. Noise and ambient producer Dead Hands is in charge of the third weekly single, an exclusively MAP download. His refreshing take on the fan-favorite Perdido Sin Ti reaches for the pop perfection of The Postal Service, with glitchy melodies and a driving beat that bolster the dual boy-girl vocals sung by Francisco Valls and La Nikko.

ROMANIA: Babylon Noise Bohemian Groove - Sanctuary From hard rock to psychedelia and blues, Bohemian Groove is reminiscent of 70s rock bands such as Cream, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. Sanctuary starts off softly, taking you to a magical place where a wise dog whispers truths of life in your ear, then culminates with Sabbath-like riffing and a mind-bending keyboard solo. It's taken from the power trio's debut album Event Horizon.

SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop Nieves - Winter Glasgow duo Nieves sure know how to make a stunning first impression. With a simple acoustic guitar/piano set-up they deliver debut song Winter with immaculate poise, an elegant sadness pervading as singer Brendan Dafters uses the changing of the seasons to tell the story of a relationship's end. MAP exclusive download Winter and new single Symmetry (check it out on SoundCloud) are taken from Nieves' debut EP, due out later this summer.

SOUTH KOREA: Indieful ROK Hyun Lee Yang - Is Help On The Way? Hyun Lee Yang made a name for himself as the leader and vocalist of emo-punk band 99anger. After a decade-and-a-half, 99anger disbanded in 2012 but Hyun Lee Yang continued to write songs and in May he finally released his first solo single. Is Help On The Way? is an excellent start: lyrics still in English, the band replaced by an acoustic guitar and a melody that lends itself well to repeated listening.

SPAIN: Musikorner C.I.A.N.U.R.O. - Purity C.I.A.N.U.R.O. is the Spanish response to Kap Bambino, Crystal Castles or even Purity Ring. They are a trio formed by acid-synth lovers influenced mainly by synth-punk, witch house and post-rave. Their music is as dark and breathtaking as it gets, and Purity, taken from their second EP, is no exception.

UNITED STATES: We Listen For You Bro. Stephen - The Shape The music of Bro. Stephen just seems to float. On The Shape, the listener is treated to a glider of a song, where Bro. Stephen elevates the craft of folk music to a visceral experience of changing tempos and gentle yet powerful vocals.
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