Monday, May 16, 2011

Bon Iver | Calgary

Today we got the first taste of Bon Iver's long-awaited follow up to 2007's For Emma, For Ever Ago.   The album is set to be released on June 21st.   The song is called Calgary and can be streamed below.

Canadian rapper kills a Canadian classic

A friend of mine brought this to my attention today.  Knowing that I am a long time Neil Young fan, she warned me and told me to "YouTube it if I wanted to be disgusted".  Most people that know me, know that sometimes I have a sick perversion for bad music.  It's like driving by a car accident on the highway; it's hard to resist a quick glance at the wreckage.  So I couldn't help myself.

This was my first (and probably last) exposure to Redlight King, a white rapper from Hamilton, ON.  In his song  "Old Man"  he lazily samples the 1972 Harvest classic with the same name.  Bastardization issues aside, the beat is terribly stock and generic, and the rapping is painfully pedestrian.  Granted, it will likely give Neil some exposure to the younger crowd.  But I don't think it will end up on the playlist of any loyal Neil fan (or hip hop/rap fan, for that matter).

Here, decide for yourself. But consider yourself warned. :)

Old Man Redux:

Old Man Original:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Timber Timbre | Black Water

Last summer, I caught the tail end of Timber Timbre's set at the Olympic Island Festival in Toronto  (there to see Broken Social Scene and Pavement). This was my first exposure to this Canadian three-piece, and I ended up walking away feeling rather indifferent.  For me, the slow paced spooky crooning of lead singer Mika Posen didn't really fit the hot summery day.

Today, I finally gave Timber Timbre's recent album Creep On Creppin On a complete spin during a long drive in the rain.  This time around their brand of eerie blues made much more sense to me.  Maybe it had to do with the overcast skies and heavy downpour. In the stand-out track Black Water, Posen sings "All I need is some sunshine". Check it out below:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Bibio | Mind Bokeh

Let me start off by saying that Bibio's Ambivalence Avenue is by far one of my favorite albums to come out in 2009.  It is one that that will never get old in that I'll always come back to it.  And while I usually tend to gravitate more towards concise and cohesive albums, what I like about Ambivalence Avenue is its diversity.   Each track is different from the next drawing on different styles ranging from UK folk to off-kilter electronica a la Flying Lotus to smooth Dilla-esque hip hop to African infused 60s psychedelic.  And the tracks are consistently good. So needless to say,  I was very much anticipating Mind Bokeh with exceedingly high and probably unfair expectations.

Mind Bokeh follows the same sonic trajectory as its predecessor, moving away from the folky warbly tape sound that defines his ealier albums and even more into the realm of electronica.  Again, it's more of a mixtape or collection of songs, than say an "album" with an overarching theme that ties  tracks together.  However, unfortunately, I feel this time around Bibio misses more than he hits.

The misses includes songs like Take Off Your Shirt and Light Sleep, the former being an out-of-place staked-guitar rocker that resemebles something by Phoenix, and the latter being a blatant regurgitation of Jealous of Roses (from Ambilanence Avenue).  The track More Excuses falls short with it's unattractive repetitive vocal melody and striking similarity to All the Flowers (again from Ambivalence Avenue).  In Radiohead terms, it like what Amnesiac's Morning Bell is to Kid A's Morning Bell.

However Bibio makes up for these shortcomings with some quality tracks.  The instant mood-changer Anything New features a sliced up sample over top arpeggiated keys and an infectious beat.   Bibio proves that he is a well versed multi-instrumentalist on the bouncy and summery K is for Kelson. Finally, on Pretentious, Bibio daringly infuses a microtonal ostinato with 70s funk which makes for a peculair yet interesting mix that works out in the end.

Overall, Bibio is still a solid producer.  He excels at crafting unique soundscapes and textures, while taking retro sounds that conjure nostalgia and mixing them with modern electronica, giving old sounds new life.  Mind Bokeh is not a bad album, by any means.  While it doesn't quite live up to its predecessor, you would be doing yourself a considerable disservice by passing on it.

Check out my current favorite below:

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gang Gang Dance | Eye Contact

Gang Gang Dance is an experimental electronic band from Manhattan, NY. They have released several albums over the past decade, displaying an obvious stylistic progression towards accessibility while maintaining their signature eclectic sound. This progression continues with their latest album Eye Contact released via 4AD.

While Eye Contact may be even closer to the center than the group has ever been before, this isn't something you would show to mom or dad. This is still a weird album. However, a big part of the weirdness is due to singer Lizzi's exotic wail that sounds like an Eastern-tinged concoction of Bjork, Kate Bush and that chick from Pony Tail. To the unseasoned listener, this can be a bit off-putting at first. But beyond the vocals are tight and intricate electronic compositions that draw on many genres including club, dance hall, uk underground, R&B and psychedelia.

Eye Contact awakens with the 11-minute opus and first single Glass Jar, which eases in with shimmering whooshy synths, ride cymbal patterns and intermittent spoken word in the background. The song builds and meanders until the 6 minute mark where it then bursts into a modern day electronic jam. Definitely not a track for one with ADD tendencies. But upon subsequent listens nuances of the finely crafted build-up and all-out synth jam are revealed making the track a definite highlight. A risky move, but one that ultimately pays off.

From then on, the album flows nicely from track to track. There is a worldly sound to the music with an emphasis on Eastern melodies and African rhythms. Stand-out track Mindkilla is a club banger with a soca beat that flirts with dance hall and techno - by far my current favorite. Romance Layers featuring Alexis Taylor from Hot Chip brings the intensity down a bit with a chillin R&B beat and soulful vocals. The energy reemerges though, with the penultimate and Bollywood flavored track Sacer and the cap track Thru and Through which features an eerie call to mosque motif at the end of the song.

Overall, Eye Contact is an album that can be listened to front to back without skipping a track. It's more cohesive, concise and focused than it's predecessor Saint Dymphna (2008), with less filler and top-notch production qualities. And clocking in at almost 40 minutes, its welcome doesn't seem overstayed. For me, Gang Gang Dance just gets better with each release. If you like experimental electronic music, give these guys a chance.

Check out Mindkilla below:

Tyler, The Creator | Goblin

Ok it hasn't been officially released yet, but the album is out there if you want it. And why wouldn't you? This is one of the most hyped albums to come out so far in 2011.

The Yonkers video caught my attention when it hit YouTube. I'll admit that. Up until then I hadn't heard of OFWGKTA. As I watched the views skyrocket over just a couple weeks (views are at about 7 million right now) I thought this guy might actually have something. However, upon hearing the rest of the songs on Goblin, I've come to realize that Tyler, The Creator doesn't really have anything at all.

The album is littered with bad fruity-loop 101 beats, grating synths, lackluster rhymes, flowless rap and terrible punchlines. And these are just fundamentals. On top of that you have lyrical content awash in eye-rolling misogyny, homophobia, violence, excessive references to masturbation, cock sucking, rape oh and violence. Oh he's so shocking. On top of that, he complains about his recent bout of fame as if it's a curse. C'mon. I'm not buying it.

But no, he's not serious. And as evidenced in his lyrics, interviews and live performances, it is clear that he just "doesn't give a fuck". This attitude married with rap can actually work and it reminds me of another group that blew up on the blogosphere not too long ago: Das Racist. But Das Racist's brand of hipster-hop at least has good beats. They have stellar flow, clever rhymes and punchlines. They can pull it off - consistently, too. But for me, Goblin is just the opposite. It boils down to gimmicky rap that will eventually (hopefully) fizzle out once the hype dies down.

Tyler, I'll give ya Yonkers and the video. But the rest is terribly forgettable.

Listen to the track below to hear what "the best thing to happen to rap in a long time" sounds like: