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February 25, 2009

"You Were Young" - Giantess

via Giantess Myspace

If you can't get enough of Passion Pit, fear not because another Boston-based band is bringing you all the electro ear candy that you could possibly handle without exploding. Giantess comes recommended to me by the same friend who introduced me to Passion Pit last July. If you take a listen to "You Were Young," this recommendation will be unsurprising since I could imagine people easily mistaking this for a PP track. I did a little searching and turns out Ayad (synths) of PP produces the band. Mystery solved.

Beware, this song is extremely catchy. I didn't think too much of it at first, but then I was humming it at work today. It's kind of annoying that I can't get it out of my head. And, now I'm dancing in my chair. The best kind of dancing, of course.

Giantess' debut is expected to drop on Neon Gold next month. Hopefully, an upcoming NY show is in the works.

In other semi-related news, Neon Gold is raving about the upcoming Passion Pit LP. Hope it lives up to the hype.

You Were Young - Giantess | Alternative Link


February 21, 2009

"Everything Is Moving So Fast" - Great Lake Swimmers

via Aquarium Drunkard

My current living situation has become so unbearable that I almost dread waking up in the morning. But, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and a certain new Great Lake Swimmers song has been coaxing me out of bed. Premiered by You Ain't No Picasso earlier this week, "Everything Is Moving So Fast" is a free mp3 off Lost Channels, Great Lake Swimmers' upcoming follow-up to Ongiara. To be honest, I wasn't too enthralled by "Pulling on a Line," the first single off Lost Channels. I was expecting something more along the lines of "Your Rocky Spine," which is a song that I immediately liked and played constantly. But, this new track makes me excited for the rest of Lost Channels, and it puts a smile on my face in the morning. The perfect, serene start to any day. Take a listen and feel soothed.

Lost Channels is due on March 31. Great Lake Swimmers return to New York on April 16. Catch them at Bowery Ballroom.

Everything Is Moving So Fast - Great Lake Swimmers (via You Ain't No Picasso)

Your Rocky Spine - Great Lake Swimmers | Alternative Link

Great Lake Swimmers


February 20, 2009

"Creekmouth" & "Thanksgiving Moon" - DM Stith

via Lost At E Minor

In an Ambien-induced stupor a few nights ago, I came across the most appropriate album for my mood. One of the Asthmatic Kitty family members, DM Stith first emerged as a My Brightest Diamond collaborator. Although he still collabs with his labelmates and most recently contributed back-up vocals to Sufjan and Buck 65's "Blood, Pt 2" off Dark Was The Night, David Stith is releasing his first full-length album, Heavy Ghost, on March 10.

While "Pity Dance" was my introduction to the album, the eerie "Creekmouth" was the track that really drew me to listen to Heavy Ghost in its entirety. The song is spooky in an oddly spiritual and tribal way, and the rest of the album continues in this manner. Another favorite of mine, "Thanksgiving Moon" is a song that personally speaks to me since I'm going through something that most people refer to as a quarter-life crisis. I just rolled my eyes at myself, but you get the idea. While the opening lyrics are somewhat hopeful, the minor key and melancholy vocals reveal the conflicting duality of the piece. It's a stunning piece that haunts me every time I take a listen. A demo version of the song is available on DM Stith's official website here.

Although my writer's block is prohibiting me from communicating how much I enjoy this album, I'm pretty confident that DM Stith's Heavy Ghost will end up on my list of top albums of 2009. I hope I don't have to eat these words in December.

Heavy Ghost is available for pre-order. If you're in the NY area, catch DM Stith with Pterodactyl at Cake Shop on February 27.

Creekmouth - DM Stith | Alternative Link

Thanksgiving Moon - DM Stith | Alternative Link

DM Stith

And, if you're curious, you can read the official album press release for extensive lyrical and musical context.


February 11, 2009

"The Lonely Man of Winter" - Sufjan Stevens

via Brooklyn Based

On January 28, I read something on Brooklyn Based that literally made my heart skip a beat. Over a year ago, Alec Duffy of Hoi Polloi received exclusive rights to "The Lonely Man of Winter" for winning Sufjan's Xmas Xchange with an original song that you can listen to here. After holding onto the song for a year, Alec decided to host listening sessions every Wednesday for about a month. With three sessions a night, each limited to four listeners, Alec truly intended to create an meaningful experience for those who were able to attend. Promises of tea, cookies, and a virtually unheard Sufjan Stevens song were more than enough motivation for me to shoot an email to Alec.

As I entered Alec's home in Prospect Heights, I was immediately greeted by co-host Dave Malloy, the musical director of Hoi Polloi. I was the last to arrive of the group, as everyone was already situated in chairs and couches with mugs of tea. We all introduced ourselves and talked about how we became fans of Sufjan Stevens. Of course, we had different backgrounds, but we came together by chance to hear Sufjan's "The Lonely Man of Winter." After some convo, Dave and Alec set us up with some headphones so that we could listen to the now famous (or infamous) song.

Immediately, the looped guitar intro of "The Lonely Man of Winter" sent chills down my spine. I could almost imagine him building the loops by himself to produce the song. Because I generally prefer the more somber Sufjan pieces like "Casimir Pulaski Day," the melancholy lyrics of this holiday song seemed to deliberately cater to my tastes. The song ended with a beautifully haunting piano coda, reminding me of my recent reconnection with the instrument. Clocking in at 3:11, "The Lonely Man of Winter" ended before I knew it. After hearing it one more time, I'd say that it's one of Sufjan's best Xmas songs. In fact, "The Lonely Man of Winter" is a track that could stand on its own on any Sufjan album, not limited to just his yearly holiday albums. Sadly, I can barely remember the song now. Alas, some beauty is meant to be transient.

Even after Alec fulfilled his end of the bargain, the small group continued to linger a little longer. But, with the group picture taken and the guestbook signed, we knew that it was time to depart. Maureen, one of the attendees, said that she really enjoyed what Alec and Dave were doing with the small listening parties because they humanized the act of sharing. It's true that with the digital age, connections and relationships have become rather impersonal. I am guilty of this, since I hardly ever pick up the phone and prefer communication via text or email. While some people are upset with this method of distribution, I really appreciated listening to a new song in this manner. Alec and Dave created an environment for a unique experience: connecting with a small group of strangers over a common interest. Let's be honest. If this song had been readily available on the Internet, I would have downloaded it, listened to it once or twice, and then it would have been added to my exponentially growing iTunes library. I download something like at least four albums a day plus at least fifteen other songs. Because I go through so much music, I'm no longer able to keep up with how I discovered certain songs and artists, which is rather sad since I like having background stories.

Thank you, Alec and Dave. I hope to hear this song again in some shape or form, because it is too good to be kept "unheard" forever. Also, thank you for introducing me to strangers who informed me of "secret" bars and possibly illegal sushi joints in Brooklyn, all très important info since I'm moving across the bridge in a couple months.

Casimir Pulaski Day (demo) - Sufjan Stevens | Alternative Link

Sufjan Stevens

By the way, this is a real holiday in Illinois. I wish I could still get a day off for it.


February 8, 2009

Nodzzz, Wavves - Underground Lounge 02.08.09

Wavves @ Less Artists, More Condos
via .

Nodzzz @ Underground Lounge

Morningside Heights is probably one of the last places I would voluntarily trek to on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but I happily returned to my old stomping grounds today to check out Nodzzz and Wavves. WBAR has been keeping the kids cool with acts like Crystal Stilts, Fujiya & Miyagi, and Telepathe over the last couple years, so I wasn't surprised when they came together with Todd P to bring some of the most anticipated acts of late. I'd never been to Underground Lounge during the day, nor had I ever ventured away from the front bar area, but somehow it made sense to me that the "performance space" was more like a dark corner in someone's exposed-brick basement. The small raised stage could barely support a drum set and some amps, and the room was more than cozy. Basically, it was a perfect place to listen to some Californian garage pop/punk bands during the daytime.

Usually, lo-fi/garage pop tends to be a hit-or-miss for me, but Nodzzz is exactly what I needed to get over my endless winter blues. Their music makes me want to skip and jump outside, which I would never do under any circumstance. I don't really get it, because I don't think they're particularly good in the traditional musical sense. But their lack of musical precision is exactly the reason why I can't stop listening to them. And, I always enjoy half-serious lyrics. With songs that were mostly under the two-minute mark, Nodzzz delivered controlled doses of their catchiness. I would love to see this band again somewhere outdoors.

Of the acts that I caught, Wavves was probably the most hyped one. Nyctaper said that Wavves had found fame on the Internet, and to a certain extent, it's true. You can't click through the major music websites and blogs without some mention of the Wavves buzz. While he's 22, Wavves aka Nathan Williams looks like a young child prodigy of some sort. As I was waiting for him and his drummer, Ryan Ulsh, to set up, I overheard some students talk about how much they admired Nathan's genius and how Wavves made them think, "Dude, I just want to make some experimental music." Roll eyes. As a live act, Wavves was far less distorted than he is on record, and he sounded more like straight garage punk. I don't know if this is the case at all his shows, but don't take this as a complaint. The sound was still ear-ringingly loud, and the music was just as fun. Creating fun in a cramped, warm basement with no air circulation is no ordinary feat, but Wavves did it. No surprises that Wavvves, which will officially drop in March, is already making some preliminary Top of 2009 lists. Personally, Wavves hasn't given me any musical revelations (and some of you will fiercely disagree with this), but I can't help but enjoy listening to the songs, either recorded or live. If anything, Wavves has made me think that noise can be done in a way that's listenable and not too abrasive.

How was Blank Dogs? I left before they got on.

Losing My Accent - Nodzzz


So Bored - Wavves

Pre-order Wavvves here.


Ffiinnaall Ffaannttaassyy - The Kitchen 02.07.09

via brooklynvegan from Friday's show. Owen wore a bright yellow shirt on Saturday.

Last night, Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy and Matt Smith played the last of three shows as Ffiinnaall Ffaannttaassyy. Even if you've never heard of his pseudonym, it's likely that you're still familiar with Owen's other work. A go-to for string arrangements, Owen has worked (and at times toured) with Arcade Fire, Beirut, Grizzly Bear, and The Last Shadow Puppets. But, it is his work under Final Fantasy that really defines him as a must-listen.

As the program described, Owen Pallett and Matt Smith created more dissonant and abstract versions of Final Fantasy's music through some improvisation. With Matt, a Toronto-based musician and composer, Final Fantasy performed music that I could barely believe with my own eyes and ears. For one, Owen is a tremendous vocalist, and his tone was never compromised by whatever complex things he was doing on violin. During the show, I remember thinking to myself, "Is that REALLY his voice? Or is he pulling a Jennifer Hudson at the Super Bowl?" Nope, last night was all real-time, which was clear when Owen made a little slip-up while setting up a loop for "The Great Elsewhere." Behind a table of equipment, Matt Smith manipulated Owen's violin-playing and used samples to make the audience believe that a quartet, or even an orchestra, was performing onstage. It is quite strange when your eyes tell you that what you're hearing just cannot be, but that was the beauty of this show. I have no idea what Matt was doing, but I would really appreciate an explanation for I am very curious about his wizardry.

An experimental performance space, The Kitchen allowed for a unique stage set-up. If you take a look at the pictures on brooklynvegan, you'll see that audience members were invited to move around the stage to experience how the sound changed from location to location. Owen enticed people with organic fuji apples from Chelsea Market, and the opportunity to get up-close and personal with Ffiinnaall Ffaannttaassyy. He also invited offers for his clothes, but people refrained from going there.

Final Fantasy performs with the Brooklyn Philharmonic at a joint show with Grizzly Bear on February 28. Brooklynvegan is under the impression that Owen intends to exclusively perform with orchestras in the future. As much as I am excited to hear Spectrum, 14th Century and Plays to Please with a full backing ensemble, I hope Owen does not abandon his solo shows. He didn't insinuate said intention last night, and the program seemed to imply that Ffiinnaall Ffaannttaassyy (Owen and Matt) will be releasing the forthcoming Heartland, the full-length follow-up to Final Fantasy's last album. So, I'm hopeful that people will have the opportunity to see this duo in its current incarnation.

Friday's setlist is below. I believe it was the same for Saturday, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

Setlist (via brooklynvegan)

Random fact: Final Fantasy's last album, He Poos Clouds, is "a satirical song cycle based on the eight schools of magic according to Dungeons and Dragons."

Song Song Song - Final Fantasy

Hey Dad! - Final Fantasy (with Zach Condon of Beirut)

Final Fantasy


February 7, 2009

"The Tenure Itch" - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart


When K. of Escape Sounds asked me earlier this week if I had listened to any The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I confessed that I had started to see some reviews for the band's self-titled album but that I had yet to really listen to any of their music. Also, this band could be in the running for winning a superlative for their bad band name. When I had a chance to check my library, I saw that I had a couple of their tracks that I hadn't even played. My iTunes has become an overwhelming inbox with no foreseeable bottom, so I'm not surprised that this one slipped through the cracks. Per K.'s recommendation, I finally got the rest of TPOBPAH's album and came across this gem. "The Tenure Itch" is my current favorite and is probably a good starting point for this album. Two of the songs available via RCRDLBL, "Come Saturday" and "Everything with You", are a little too indistinguishable for me to listen to repeatedly. But, "The Tenure Itch" is catchy dream pop song that makes me long for the summer. I can just imagine listening to this during the middle of the day at an outdoors festival. Winter, when will you end??

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart play Mercury Lounge tonight and the Bell House on March 13. Their self-titled album is currently available for purchase. Check out Escape Sounds' thoughts on TPOBPAH.

The Tenure Itch - The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart


February 5, 2009

Beirut - MHOW 02.04.09

Thanks to an intimate night of a scaled-down Beirut, I’ve had “Postcards from Italy” stuck in my head all day. While I’ve had Beirut on rotation since Gulag Orkestar, I didn’t fall hard for this band until Zach cancelled their European tour and called for a hiatus last April. It’s true, I took Beirut’s existence for granted until they were temporarily absent from the scene. And, ever since I missed them at their MHOW show last May, I’ve been kicking myself for making poor life decisions.

Over the last few months of Beirut’s hiatus, I’ve found myself going back and listening to a significant amount of their music. You would think this would be a fairly normal action for any music lover, but that’s not necessarily the case with me. Most of my time is dedicated to listening to new music (or music that is new to me), and I’m constantly seeking my next “obsession.” Rarely do I spend an exorbitant amount of time on albums that are collecting virtual dust in my iTunes library. But, as confirmed with my Last.fm, Beirut falls into my top five most listened artists in the last 12 months. Not only have I been giving them heavy play, Beirut has become sort of a musical motivator/inspiration to me. Beirut is the reason why I picked up a ukulele. More importantly, they have helped me rediscover my love of piano performance, something I’d lost many years ago. So, it’s safe to say that I was ecstatic to finally go to a Beirut show, especially since I had never seen them live before.

Beirut kicked it off with the lyrically appropriate “Nantes,” a favorite off The Flying Club Cup. While I am not normally a fan of loud audience sing-alongs, it was almost appropriate for this song since it really had been too long since Beirut had an officially announced Brooklyn show. After the song ended, a guy from the audience yelled out to Zach, asking him to sign the ukulele that he had lugged to the show. Of course, Zach obliged (Note to self: Bring uke to next Beirut show), and the crowd aww’d. As expected, Beirut played new material, old favorites, a cover of “Brazil” and a tribute to Serge Gainsbourg. Upon first listen, the new Beirut double EP March of the Zapotec/Realpeople Holland did not leave much of an impression on me. But, when Beirut performed tracks off the EP last night, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed them. Either the songs have grown on me during the last couple of weeks, or they were just meant to be heard in person. What I know for sure is that Beirut really knows how to romanticize horn instruments (see here for the exact embarrassing words I used). There’s a certain charm of the instruments’ timbre that is unfortunately not captured by recordings. Also, I have no idea what you haters of Beirut’s last secret show at Coco66 are talking about. I would have loved to have gone to drink and be merry with Beirut. Almost felt like the band was TOO sober for the music they were playing, but I do appreciate the musical precision.

Unsurprisingly, nothing on my wish list came true. I probably would have died on the spot if Owen Pallett had walked onto the stage for “Cliquot.” As outrageous as this sounds, I really hoped that it would happen. Ed Droste is out of town, working on the production of Grizzly Bear’s upcoming album, but Owen is supposed to be here for two shows on Friday and Saturday. Also, is “Transatlantique” just not a song that they practice? Am I the only person who is in love with that song?

Beirut performs at BAM this Friday and Saturday with the Vassar Orkestar. I should have held onto the tickets I had for Friday…

Oh, and Tune Yards, the first opening act, was awesome. More info on her here.

Setlist (via Stereogum)
Mount Wroclai (Idle Days)
East Harlem (Unreleased)
Elephant Gun
The Shrew
The Concubine
Postcards From Italy
La Javanaise
After The Curtain
The Akara
Cocek (Unreleased)
- - - -
My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille
Scenic World
Gulag Orkestar

I believe the second encore included “Sunday Smile,” “Forks & Knives,” and “Brazil.” Thoughts?

The Akara - Beirut | Alternative Link

Transatlantique - Beirut | Alternative Link



February 2, 2009

"Untitled 18" - The Real People (Zach Condon)

via brooklynvegan

Roughly around the time that I was dedicating most of my time to teenage angst and emo music, Zach Condon was doing something slightly more constructive and arguably cooler (by a very slim margin, of course). Pre-dating the Balkan folk style that distinguishes Beirut's music, The Joys of Losing Weight was an unreleased album that Condon had put together at age fifteen under the moniker of The Real People. I read that Zach had some solo material before Beirut, but I didn't know of the digital availability of The Joys of Losing Weight until recently (Thanks, Nate!). When I started listening to "Untitled 18," I felt like I was given a rare glimpse into Zach's musical development. For one, the track opens with a beautiful guitar intro, which is something I did not expect from him. But, this album is from a time when Condon was still able to wrap his wrist around a guitar, before he underwent surgery and traded in the guitar for a ukulele. Although I absolutely adore the uke and Beirut is my inspiration for buying one, I didn't miss it one bit in this bossa nova-inspired track. As a fan of Beirut, I think it's exciting to hear something that is distinctively different, even if it was from seven years ago.

Beirut explores more of this project with their Realpeople Holland EP, which is currently available for download with the March of Zapotec EP. Grab the rest of The Joys of Losing Weight here. Beirut plays three shows this week, one at MHOW and two at BAM. I may possibly have an extra ticket to MHOW, if there are any takers.

Yes, this was a pre-show hype post. I can't help it, I am so stoked to see them. My fingers are crossed for one of the following events to occur:

1. "Transatlantique" is on the set list. Unlikely but not impossible.
2. Beirut plays rarities from The Joys of Losing Weight. Highly unlikely and pretty impossible.
3. Owen Pallett or Ed Droste join Beirut for "Cliquot." I must be insane for wasting a wish on this one.

Untitled 18 - The Real People (Zach Condon) | Alternative Link



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