by: John Penny, KUCI Music Director
So I logged into my email today to see how awesome my blurbs were, because I'm narcissistic like that, and I realized that my email was saved to drafts and not actually emailed out to all of you. Oops. There are a couple really good, high profile releases this week too. These CDs are already at the station, so hopefully you've had the chance to check some of them out. If not, here's the skinny on this week's new rock music.
John Vanderslice - Emerald City (Barsuk)
This guy probably needs no introduction to most of you; he's one of indie rock's most prolific and consistently compelling singer-songwriters. The most notable difference here is that "Emerald City" is mostly a live band affair, moving Mr. Vanderslice even farther from his 4-track roots. Fans of his previous work won't be disappointed, but if you didn't like him before [not sure how this is possible] then this one won't do anything to change your mind. Lyrically, "Emerald City" (which itself is a reference to Baghdad's Green Zone) finds Vanderslice's critiques of world affairs mixed with the melancholy surrounding his failed attempts to secure his French girlfriend a U.S. visa - something we can all relate to!
SW: 4, 2, 3, 8
RIYL: Mountain Goats, Spoon, bizarre speaker-popping distorted guitars, stuff that's good
Iron and Wine - Boy With A Coin (Sub Pop)
Here's another singer-songwriter that needs no introduction. Sam Beam is back and his beard is in full effect (in fucking full effect). No, seriously, check out some recent pictures of him - dude is looking more hirsute than Kyle or I ever have. This is the taste of Iron and Wine's upcoming "The Shepherd's Dog" and features single "Boy With A Coin" along with two non-album b-sides. Red Red Meat/Califone's Brian Deck is back behind the boards and his presence is felt more strongly here than on previous releases; "Carried Home" and "Kingdom of the Animals" both stretch past the five-minute mark and feature rich production complete with piano, pedal steel, slide guitar, accordion, marimba, and more. Beam has been accused of treading too familiar ground on all of his releases, but as he moves farther and farther away from his trademark, lo-fi sound, his material becomes that much more impactful.
SW: 2, 1
RIYL: Califone, Holopaw, bearded dudes, swamps and/or marshes
OPI: Needs review
Tiny Vipers - Hands Across the Void (Sub Pop)
Why a record label would send a radio station a CD without a tracklisting is beyond me, but ease of use aside, this solo acoustic release from female singer-songwriter Jesy Fortino is a good one. Sub Pop is calling this one goth-folk, but I think that's a misnomer; the songs are brooding but gentle, dark but quiet. The beautiful, minimal guitar work and simple , stark melodies will help her avoid that oft-maligned "freak-folk" tag. Here's that tracklist to help you make your playlists: 1. Campfire Resemblance 2. On This Side 3. Aron 4. Forest on Fire 5. Shipwreck 6. Swastika 7. The Downward.
SW: 2, 1, 4
RIYL: Joanna Newsom, Alela Diane, the Pacific Northwest at night, campfires and codeine (at the same time)
OPI: Needs review
Zookeeper - Zookeeper (Bellecitypop!)
I am probably more excited about this release than the rest of you, but that's okay because I think this one will grow on you. Zookeeper is the latest project from my musical crush Christopher Simpson (Mineral, The Gloria Record) and contained within their first release is Simpson's usual brand of lyrical brilliance backed by some straight-forward rock. For fans of Simpson's previous acts, this is a decidedly roots-ier (yeah, I made that word up, deal with it) affair, complete with banjos and foot-tapping rhythms and nearly devoid of all the histrionics associated with the singer's [second-wave] emo past.
SW: 1, 2, 3
RIYL: "Lifted"-era Bright Eyes, Spoon, modern day poets, your music director
Lonely China Day - Sorrow (Tag Team)
Lonely China Day isn't just a band name, these guys are actually from Beijing. On "Sorrow," lap-tops and guitars come together to create something I've never heard before: Chinese post-rock. Most of the tracks feature lyrics in Mandarin, and my mastery of that Chinese dialect can barely get me Shrimp Shumai at dim sum, so someone will need to do some research to clear this one for OPI. Lonely China Day are probably the Chinese Sigur Ros - not in style or sound, but in intent. Give this one a shot.
SW: 7, 1, 2, 11, 12
RIYL: Album Leaf, Mice Parade, dumplings made of 60% cardboard, dichotomy
OPI: Anyone speak Mandarin?
Bodies of Water - Ears Will Pop & Eyes Will Blink (Thousand Tongues)
I can't be certain, but I have the feeling this band has more than ten people in it. The opening seconds of "Our Friends Appear Like the Dawn" will immediately remind you of the Polyphonic Spree as new voices come from nowhere and then new voices harmonize with the aforementioned ones. Bodies of Water seem more choral and less militant/cultish, however, as there is a pronounced gospel influence throughout the record. "These are the Eyes" could be placed amongst Danielson's oeuvre without anyone batting an eye; later, on songs such as "It Is Familiar," a definite Arcade Fire influence can be heard. Listening to this record again, I probably should have bumped it up a couple to number four or so - it's pretty good.
SW: 1, 2, 6, 13
RIYL: The Polyphonic Spree, I'm >From Barcelona, happy music, bizarre melodies
OPI: Needs review
Arizona - Fameseeker and the Mono (Self-Released)
These guys are actually from New York, yet their press release mentions the album was home-recorded in North Carolina, and of course, the band's name is Arizona. I'm not sure what to think, but this album of clever pop-rock songs is definitely reminiscent of the optimistic beauty and disconnected self-awareness that comes from living in the five boroughs . This album is very accessible and will fit on most rock shows.
SW: 1, 2, 4
RIYL: Sparklehorse, Midlake, copper, bola ties
OPI: Needs review
Black Tie - Goodbye, Farewell (Self-Released)
For those of you practicing for your SATs... Black Tie:Roger Apodaca as Album Leaf:Jimmy Lavalle. Likewise, Black Tie's music makes its nods toward Lavalle's ever-evolving project, but ultimately, the songs found on "Goodbye, Farewell" fall closer in style to Mogwai and Godspeed. That is until you get to tracks like "Wide Open" and "This Time Around" where out of nowhere come boy/girl harmonized vocals that sound more post-country than post-rock. Anyhow, I think this blurb has almost reached the point of post-making-sense, so I'll wrap it up. In a nutshell: atmospheric rock with a string section and occasional vocals.
SW: 1, 3, 2, 7
RIYL: Rachel's, A Silver Mt. Zion, scholastic aptitude, getting high while watching TV static