Archive for January, 2011

Odyssey Vol. III: Hills and Masts
January 27, 2011

Lawrence and Leigh

Odyssey Vol. III:  Hills and Masts

Independent Release

Brooklyn duo Lawrence and Leigh have been largely under the radar since their creation.  Sticking mostly to their home city and the surrounding areas, they haven’t received that chance to really hit big.  So they started up their most recent three part epic enigmatically titled Odyssey.  The volume we have here is the third of the trilogy, though it is the first one to be released (yeah, I don’t get it either).  Its feels like a quiet reflection, something reminiscent of the ethereal qualities that made favorites great (the Fleet Foxes and Joanna Newsom particularly come to mind).  The project has been a year in the making and even though the third/first volume Hills and Masts has a very specific style, the act has promised each EP in the set with be starkly unique, each with their own sound.  I have a feeling the talent that’s apparent in their first major release will remain.  I’m excited to see what’s coming.

 

Released:  3/7/2011

Kaputt
January 26, 2011

Destroyer

Kaputt

Merge Records

Dan Bejar has been a moving force since the first emergence of indie-rock.  Since forming Destroyer in 1996 Bejar has released eight albums, refining a style that’s both unique and refreshingly new all the while gathering recognition and a sizable following.  Kaputt will be Bejar’s ninth release as Destroyer and will mark a transition from that traditional, hard rocking style Destroyer has been known for (I mean, he did choose that name for a reason).  But here in Kaputt we receive a sound that’s not only new to Bejar, but unique in an age of overabundance.  Here he channels sounds from the slow, slightly cheesy soft rock and jazzy pap full of classy horns and gentle croons.  It’s the type of music you might have heard (or still hear) in a dentist office.  But don’t let that turn you away; it’s an excellent composition that marks a new direction for a very specific artist.  It’s good and instantly appealing in ways Destroyer’s previous releases weren’t.  It still has that airy Destroyer polish; it’s just been transitioned into a new (unique) genre.   Don’t think too hard about, Bejar doesn’t want you to.  He’s stated in interviews that he has recorded vocals laying in bed or preparing a sandwich, and I don’t think he wants listeners to approach Kaputt any differently.  It’s both light and enjoyable, all done in that classy blues-jazz-esque manner.  It was fun for him and he wants it to be fun for us (don’t worry, it is).

Released:  1/25/2011

A Silent Film
January 26, 2011

The City That Sleeps

A Silent Film

Xtra Mile Recordings

The City That Sleeps has a great sound.  It’s catchy and instantly appealing, the reliance on surreal keyboard driven melodies echoes certain mainstream acts, namely Coldplay.  With A Silent Film, they took that piano-driven sound updated it, removing those painfully cheesy elements and adding an element of depth reminiscent of the most introspective singers and songwriters.  It’s excellent, full of pop-sensibility created by diverse, piano driven soundscapes.  While nothing stands out vocally or lyrically, the harmonizing vocals certainly add an element; they are perfectly matched and tuned to the layout and design of each track.  It’s epic but not quite cheesy, certainly worth a listen if you keep wishing Coldplay never sold out (but if you always thought Coldplay was cheesy… stay away!).

 

Released:  3/13/2010

One Time Spaceman
January 26, 2011

Mark Adams

One Time Spaceman

Independent Release

Mark Adams has never been afraid to take his own approach to his music.  Many of his previous albums and projects span a number of various styles and genres and in interviews Adams’ professes that there are even more in the work (including something with a more pop-sensible feel and a noise rock release).  Preceding One Time Spaceman, Mark Adams has toyed around with American and folk and all that comes with those genres.  With this release though expect more solid rock and roll, heavy hitting riffs set to some fun, punk-influenced jams.  As inspiration for One Time Spaceman, Adams cited influence from favorite punk acts The Velvet Underground, The Clash, Dead Kennedys and even The Pixies (not so much punk but you get the idea).  When it comes together during a listen, it’s certainly a solid rock and roll release and an even better sign that Mark Adams is both talented and versatile.

 

Released:  1/13/2011

Laru Beya
January 20, 2011

Aurelio

Laru Beya

Sub Pop Records

Aurelio Martinez, born on Honduras’ Caribbean coast, may be one of the last musicians to come from the rich Garifuna tradition.  A culture that whose influences merge between common African and Caribbean Indian roots, Aurelio is a member of what is likely the last generation of Garifuna.  Born in a small fishing villiage, he spent his childhood without electricity and learned his first chords on a guitar he built from wood and wire from fishing rods.  Needless to say, Aurelio’s style is one that is steeped in tradition.  Born to the local troubadour and his vocally talented wife, Aurelio was not only taught by his family but was also sheltered from most outside influences.  And to add one more to his list of credentials Aurelio Martinez spent time serving has Honduras’ official representative to the United Nations (and the first Honduran of African ascent to serve that position).  Laru Beya will be Aurelio’s sophomore full release and it does not disappoint.  It’s fun and playful in a way that’s both instantly appealing and unique in an era of individuality.  We’ve had it on repeat in my apartment since I brought two days ago.  A must for every music lover.

 

Released:  1/18/2011

Zonoscope
January 20, 2011

Cut Copy

Zonoscope

Modular Recordings

Zonoscope is the first release of 2011 that I had on my radar, probably thanks to Cut Copy’s ability to elicit dance parties wherever they are played or how they never fail to brighten my day.  Whatever it is, Cut Copy has proved again and again that they are and should be everyone’s staple electro-pop.  While I’ve tried not to get my hopes up too high prior to Zonoscopes release I couldn’t help but have high anticipation (thanks in no part to their latest premiere release, the excellent In Bright Colors).  And I’m happy to say I’ve hardly been disappointed.  While maybe not their best release to date, their noticeably brighter tone and focus on their upbeat, more playful side made Zonoscope my first must have of 2011.  Their reduction in the heavy bass lines that dominated their last release and cheerful melodies are welcome but the accompanying lyrical content seems lacking.  But that’s never been what Cut Copy has been known for, and they have kept their insatiable, catchy rhythms intact while going in a new, even more pleasant direction.  Don’t miss the album’s first single, the Men at Work-influenced “Take Me Over” or its epic, avante-garde fifteen minute finale “Sun God.”  Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that Cut Copy has signed on to headline Zonoscope at the upcoming Coachella.  Peep their lineup, Cut Copy is only one of our favorites in the first must-go festival of the year.

Released:  2/8/2011

Deerhoof vs. Evil
January 20, 2011

Deerhoof

Deerhoof vs. Evil

Polyvinyl Record Co.

If you haven’t heard of Deerhoof here is a quick history.  Formed in San Francisco in 1994, they were among the first of a new genre that was just beginning to be known as “indie rock.”  For the last sixteen years they have toured and affected a whole new generation of songwriters; my personal favorite acts Of Montreal, the Flaming Lips, Grizzly Bear and Sufjan Stevens have all cited them as influences.  Their rich history and sound may not be as unique as it once was, their tenth studio release Deerhoof vs. Evil is their best in recent years.  Instead of returning to their roots, they continue to explore new territory for the band and improve on their skills.  It’s worth a listen if you’ve missed their last several years (or whole span), even if it is just to see how they’ve grown.

 

Released:  1/25/2011

Distance and Fortune
January 20, 2011

Johnny Burke

Distance and Fortune

Dreamcar Records

Johnny Burke’s debut album was written and recorded over two years as he spent time traveling to every state in the continental United States.  All that time on the road led the Texas-native Burke to meet guitarist and producer Marc Ford (of Black Crowes fame) while in Southern California.  So with Ford’s help, Burke refined and recorded his songs during his long stay in the area and Distance and Fortune was born.  The album’s styles range as wide as Burke’s travels; his unique nasally drawl hints to his country upraising.  But don’t let that turn you away, his voice is the perfect complement to the forlorn, melancholic lyrics.  Distance and Fortune has a higher degree of polish than what I’ve come to expect from an unknown debut.  Burke sounds like an old pro all throughout Distance and Fortune, and I’m sure he will hang in there with the best singer/songwriters.

Released:  10/25/2010

One Day Die
January 20, 2011

Matt Duke

One Day Die

Ryko Records

Matt Duke’s sophomore release is as dark as the title suggests.  Inspired from his own tormented experience after he suffered a hand injury serious enough to jeopardize the possibility of regaining his ability to play guitar, One Day Die marks new direction and greater maturity for Duke.  As he states himself, the injury’s forced divorce of Duke from his guitar allowed him to return with a greater appreciation and a renewed vision.  Thus, One Day Die not only highlights the dark place Duke found himself in last year, but also displays a new approach with less reservation than to be expected for the 25-year-old’s second album.  And what he does, he does well.  It’s a pleasant mix of pop-sensible rock and roll and melancholy acoustic tracks, and would certainly fit well into a fan of the genre’s collection.  But despite its promising premise, Duke’s One Day Die is a nothing-special release in a floundering scene.

 

Released:  3/29/2011

Minecraft
January 13, 2011

(Disclaimer:  This is not an album review.  This is of a video game, and the review will also be posted in next weeks Synthesis under the “Misc Debris” section)

Minecraft

Markus Persson

Minecraft has consumed me.  I’ve pushed my social life aside to mine the depths for that invaluable diamond.  I’ve forgone meals just so I could finish my eye of Sauron (or Barad-dum, for all you nerds out there).  I’ve called in sick to work in order to properly explore the Nether.  And I regret none of it.  Minecraft, for all the uninformed gamers out there, is an open-world exploration and creation game based around the mining and use of blocks to create fantastic, impressive and unique structures.  The game world itself is entirely made up of said blocks, from the trees to the dirt and stone and even the games water and lava (lending to a charming, cube-like aesthetic, which is both unique and easy on your processor).  The player mines and uses these blocks, placing them to create structures or breaking them down to craft tools making future mining and exploration easier.  Praised as “virtual LEGOs for adults,” Minecraft is now in its beta form.  There is no story or adventure mode (yet) but the randomly generated and nearly infinite worlds (any given game space takes up eight times the surface of planet earth), spawned monsters and critters (or mobs, as the game refers to them), complex caves and dungeons (filled with treasure and said mobs), realistically generated landscapes and cooperative/versus online play all lend to a product with peerless playability.  Download the beta now for a discounted price and reservation for a free download of its official, future release to start your own personalized world.  Or join an appealing friendly server.  Or go griefing (I’d rather you not).  With Minecraft, it’s all up to you.

Released:  Beta ($15 and a reserved free completed version), Indev (free), completed version by the end of 2011 ($30)

More images:

A brand new randomly generated world.

The Two Towers (built by me)

Top of the Tower of Isengard