Archive for May, 2010

Fighting the undertow on Caribou’s ‘Swim’

May 28th, 2010 No comments

Whenever a band is able to produce several stellar records in a row, they are considered for one of the enviable positions amongst my favorite music on my Facebook Page for Mark Zuckerberg to take and share in a capitalistic manner all over the Internet.

Caribou has reached that point already and their latest album “Swim” has to be listed amongst on of my favorites so far this year.

Caribou, the Dan Snaith project is almost into its 10th year has produced several incredible releases. Caribou’s growth as an artist from “Up in Flames”, “The Milk of Human Kindness” and “Andorra” have not truly led in any one logical progression.  But anyone that is sincere about LCD Soundsystems album should definitely check this out.

Snaith, an accomplished drummer and mathematician would also be part of my All-Star Fantasy Band.

Other Members?

Thom Yorke

Noah Lennox (Panda Bear)

Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound)


I am not picking these members by instrument they play but more so on what they have brought to the table insofar as expanding the horizons of music and were ironically the first 4 artists that I thought of. However, the point of this is not to get off topic but rather specify just how important Caribou is to the current music scene.

Caribou’s 2010 release, “Swim” seems to be more than just a title but a theme. In songs such as Kaili, there is almost a warbling underwater feel to its electronica setup. In some manner, it would almost be like taking the backdrop of the dance floor and combining that with Olivia Tremor Controls ‘Black Foliage’ album.

The stellar track “Sun” is primarily an instrumental dance track with Snaith repeating the word “Sun” several times. On the surface it sounds simple but again, it plays with your emotions. Listen carefully to the uneasy feeling, almost as if you were underwater and looking up at the surface diving in and out of the water, the word “Sun” blurred until you get to the surface and its as crystal clear to the ear. What does it feel like? Um, like you are swimming.


What is surprising about Snaith’s direction is how he pulled back in fear of becoming too mainstream.  There seemed to be a direction that the albums were taking, while keeping with some of the psychedelic influences intact. A song like Melody Day for example is reminiscent of classic 60’s pop and yet feels fairly modern.


Take the most accessible track off Swim, the opening track ‘Odessa’ and you get a funky beat and yet it still has time to pull some strings. Odessa feels as if it should be played at the darker end of the dancefloor, its murky, scratchy feel keeping you off balance while the percussion keeps your head bobbing.


‘Swim’ is not the pop follow-up to ‘Andorra’. Instead, Caribou digs you deeper and farther underwater. The transition song ‘Lalibela’ appears to borrow from Caribou’s own ‘After Hours’ becoming much briefer and off-kilter but leads to the intriguing ‘Jamelia’ featuring Luke Lalonde from the Born Ruffians on lead vocals. Changing tempos several times, it feels as if it approaches world music.

What is very much apparent is the combination of conventional instruments as well as electronica in the same breadth, something that Snaith pushed the boundaries on this particular album. Take into account that during their live shows, there are two drummers featured in the front of the stage. While I have seen the element of the Electronica genre feature a drummer, few will put two on stage and even fewer will stuff the back row with individuals that play conventional instruments.

‘Swim’ is not a conventional album, however, and it should be noted that I will be keeping notes when the band plays it’s free show at Pritzker Pavilion here in Chicago this summer.

Lastly, I have found myself relating to this album on a deeper level with the recent BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. While there are no direct ‘Spooky’ correlations as with Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot after 9/11 you still do not help but wonder about humans relationship with the water and our senses of this pure source of life (and death). This album will not give you answers but it will make you ask a couple questions along the way.


Categories: Music Tags:

Sleigh Bells was a Bit ‘Tricks’ and ‘Treats’

May 18th, 2010 No comments

If someone were to ask me today about the status of quality music that is coming out, my answer to them would be there is a plethora of great music of all shapes and sizes being released to the public. The problem of course is finding that music.


While word of mouth is still a strong component of the music that you listen to, the other sources of finding out about new music have largely changed. 25 years ago, people would rely on MTV, the Radio and Music Magazines to get their fill. Today, conventional radio is a fraction of what it used to be, MTV doesn’t even play music anymore and like the rest of the Newspaper and Magazine market, most people prefer blogs and websites to magazines.


On top of this the number of bands have multiplied several times over when it has become difficult to follow a handful of bands closely. Stadium-filled shows have been replaced by festivals, which can attract a greater amount of fans to experience and explore the sounds around them.


Being a “Thirtysomething” that has a steady job outside of writing on this site and others, my music fill is both one that relies on time and need. I just do not have the time in the day to rely on every single music release and base my own thoughts around friends, cohorts and sites that promote music.


One of those sites that I have used is Pitchfork. Pitchfork has built upon a solid Indie Rock Formula of good reviews, a level of irony and a lack of acting “Too Corporate”. While they might go to bed with certain bands like Radiohead, Vampire Weekend and Animal Collective, I do not take their word as “Holier than thou” but a word nonetheless.


Recently they reviewed the inagural release ‘Treats’ by the band Sleigh Bells, one of those “Buzz” bands. These bands will have a paragraph or so in their reviews about somehow being the talk of the hip indie community as being one of the next big things. Discovery is important and to put it in writing is even more important so that they can reflect on that years later about how they gave certain artists high grades early on.


What of course I noticed about the release was that Pitchfork gave the Sleigh Bells new album the title “Best New Music” and a score of 8.7. This title is given to any album that receives a score above 8.0 on their grading chart. They are fairly tough reviewers as you see very few releases above 9.0 on their grading system and since 8.7 is pretty high up there, it meant that I should check it out.


Another factor in my immediate purchase was that they were planning on playing Pitchfork Music Festival which I am attending. What better way to get acquainted with my music listening decisions that weekend than checking out the talent.


My initial reaction to this album was one, which would make me call it one of the best albums of the year or one of the worst. If anything it is one of the most intriguing releases of 2010 which will probably command a lot of disparate opinions across the internets. 


At first listen to this album, my deepest fears were being met. A combination of the “Pussycat Dolls” and “Heavy Metal Guitars” with an equal amount of electronica to make Lady Gaga have an orgasm. Not that I have a huge problem with ‘Lady Gaga’ or her talents withstanding, but better to the point that it reminds me of those yuppie bars I would attend in my youth.


No there is no doubt talent on this record and there will no doubt be many thoughts and reactions about this album. But how do you write about something that you are either going to admit is a “Flash in the Pan” – Jesus Jones moment or something that is a genuine record of the year candidate?


According to Wikipedia, they have been defined as “Dance Punk”, what that means, I have no clue. Sorry if I find that there are more music genres in music these days than bands.


For me the moments of annoyance are when Alexis Krauss’s vocals venture into the “Pop Stardom” vs. sticking with the Miki Berenyi-Lush stylings such as my favorite song on the album so far “Rachel” which combines that Spooky/Gala style on top of some great electronica. Personally, I prefer the latter but also understand there is more money in the former. 


However, the guitars on this album is why it was posted to Pitchfork to begin with. Derek Miller’s guitars on ‘Infinity Guitars’ among others are meant to bleed eardrums and what makes this album from being a favorite at the yuppie clubs and also the indie rock circuit. When the initial shock wears off, you understand the conflict in the music. Alexis Krauss would have no part in a Heavy Metal/Punk outfit in her life and yet, this odd combination actually works on many levels.  It tries to break barriers in the same way that Prince did by bringing R&B and guitar-driven rock together. It is a combination that you do not expect and at times abhor but you listen anyhow.


And that is half of the problem. You finish listening to the album and it slightly kicks you in the ass and you are really not sure if the ride was worth it or not. For me, the album has not been immediate but rather bone-jarring. The opening to the song ‘Straight A’s’ for example would have heavy metal fans on their feet. Ever pissed at a neighbor? Play this track at 11 and you will be noticed.


There are other songs such as “Ring, Ring” or  Rill, Rill” depending on where you are getting your knowledge from. which provide a gentler, luscious side, that should be a mainstay at Proms if they have a pretty good DJ.


Its strength’s are in the music and the vocals and would provide a thumbs down to the lyrics, which I would characterize as pedestrian. This is a blaring, sweaty party album. It’s an album that will do well on the tour circuit on a hot summer venue.


This album crosses genres and based on your own musical preferences, I would suggest the purchase if only to experience it and create your own opinion. This is not your average “Boring” rock record.  This record takes chances and for that I applaud it.


But as any music listener will attest to, opinions change. The Buzz today could be in the trash tomorrow.

Categories: Music Tags:

The ‘Happy Place in Extreme Environments or Situations’ Mix

May 13th, 2010 No comments

This mix was inspired by a friend of mine, Adam, who is part of the Dirty Avocado’s, which is not your mother’s Guacamole. Instead they are a Adventure Racing Team, braving the environmental factors such as the weather, terrain, and their equipment.


Per his request in asking for a nice mix of songs to play while battling the extremities, I came up with a “Relatively Small” list of songs (50 to be exact) that would hopefully put him in his “Happy Place”.


I will hopefully post a “Podcast” or three of these songs for your listening pleasure later on but I thought I would offer this as an eccletic mix of Happy Songs.


In coming up with these songs, I tried to loosely base it off a “Psychaedelic” theme. However, even in dealing with that theme, we do cross over into other genres of music from time to time.  You can read, critique, and lambast here and then later on I will let you sit back and relax and enjoy the ride.


Song Title  – Band


Why wont you talk about it – The Radio Dept.

Calvary Scars Ll / Aux. Out – Deerhunter

Zebra – Beach House

Paranoid Android – Radiohead

No Surprises – Radiohead

Already Yours –  Curve

Sunbathing – Lush

Comfy In Nautica – Panda Bear

The Crystal Cat – Dan Deacon

Silence            – Portishead

Three Days – Jane’s Addiction

So You’ll Aim Toward The Sky – Grandaddy

Sometimes – My Bloody Valentine

Skunks            – Caribou

Deeper into Movies – Yo La Tengo

The Way You Dream – 1 Giant Leap

No. 6 Von Karman Street – A Sunny Day In Glasgow

Bright Tomorrow – Fuck Buttons

Infinity – The XX

Where I End And You Begin (The Sky Is Falling In) – Radiohead

I Have Been Floated – Olivia Tremor Control

You Are The Blood – Sufjan Stevens

…And the World Laughs With You (feat. Thom Yorke) – Flying Lotus

The Trees – Max Richter

Don’t Let Your Youth Go to Waste – Galaxie 500

Wait in a Line – Now It’s Overhead

Red – Mission of Burma

The Rat – The Walkmen

Wholehearted Mess – Bear In Heaven

Dead Souls – Joy Division

The Murder Mystery – The Velvet Underground

Hearing Damage – Thom Yorke

Texico Bitches – Broken Social Scene

We Were Born The Mutants Again With Leafling – Of Montreal

Get Innocuous! – LCD Soundsystem

In the Flowers – Animal Collective

Inertia Creeps – Massive Attack

Indoor Swimming At The Space Station – Eluvium

Roscoe            – Midlake

Starla – Smashing Pumpkins

je t’aime… moi non plus (en duo avec Jane Birkin) – Serge Gainsbourg

Hard World – Overflower

A Rush and Push and the Land Is Ours – The Smiths

Sun – Caribou

Whatever Happened – Glenn Mercer

Archangel – Burial

Astronomy Domine – Pink Floyd

Your Blood in Mine – Serena Maneesh

Everythings Alright When You’re Down – The Jesus & Mary Chain

Instrumental – Galaxie 500

Categories: Music Tags: