Black Lips – Arabia Mountain

Black Lips are the kind of band that I love to hate, purely because the kind and amount of hype they receive.  But props given where props due, this is a hell of an album.

I’ve been listening to it on the regular for damn-near a week now and during that time more than half the songs have been stuck in my head at some point.  It’s the sort of summertime listenin’ that makes me feel like I’m 15 again.

It’s a deceptively dynamic record that flits effortlessly through a broad range of styles, channeling the best of a decades-long tradition of garage rock music.

The energy, the bombast, the sheer racket these guys create is very identifiably punk – the band themselves even refer to their sound as “flower punk” (whatever the fuck that is).

But the sophistication of the songwriting – the melodic content, the arrangements, the variety of different instruments – is not what one would associate with typical punk rock.

There are elements of ragged indie pop, reverb-drenched surf rock, delta blues, and good ole’ rock-in-roll all muddled together, and finished with a healthy dose of psychedelia.

The hooks, which all are alarmingly infectious, stray perilously close to doo-wop at times, but generally remain firmly in Ramones’ “whoa-oh” territory.

It’s a thoroughly satisfying listen, a deft mix of noise and poppiness, blistering feedback and sweet harmony.

Download this song here.

Samiyam new album drops June 28

After a couple of mixtapes, an outstanding EP on the much vaunted Hyperdub Records and a compilation of released and unreleased material, Samiyam is set to drop his first proper full-length on Brainfeeder at the end of this month.

And I for one can’t fucking wait.

I’ve got a special place in my heart for his woozy, off-kilter electro, which hobbles with the swagger of a drunken b-boy — drums pitching forward only to self-correct, snapping back into place. I love those loose, squiggly synths and lopsided, gurgling basslines, as well as the assortment of interesting, lo-fi, sampled instruments he uses to create his jagged motif which sounds thrown together, that is, spontaneous in the best sense of the word.

Here’s a nice album sampler someone posted.

And grab the track he’s giving away via FACT Magazine.

Shit’s gonna be slammin!

TV On The Radio – “Nine Kinds of Light”

Like a fine Cabernet, TV on the Radio continues to improve with age, appreciating in richness of character, complexity and nuance.  It’s neat to watch any band operating at its artistic zenith, deftly navigating the uncharted reaches of its creative potential.  But the experience is heightened exponentially when said band has been operating on its own creative plane from the get.

In the continuum of TVOTR’s cannon, Nine Kinds of Light falls somewhere on the far side of 2008’s Dear Science, which means it’s even further removed from the Brooklyn art-rock scene the band helped create. This will probably disappoint more than a few fans.

That being said, this is really a beautiful record, one that unfolds like some exotically fragrant blossom over the course of multiple listens (And it really does take a few to even get the effect of most of these songs).

We’re talking balladry here people.

These are mosaics constructed from the detritus of every variety of popular music imaginable. They draw the listener into a world that only TVTOR could inhabit, a world where Afrobeat meets indie rock; where doo-wop harmonizing meets Parliament-style analogue bass; where full-scale string sections meet electro-synth pop.

The production is velveteen.  But even with the slick veneer, there’s and intensity that drives this record, a critical vitality that makes it all work, that sets the band apart from probably anyone else who would try to make an album like this.

Pepper Rabbit

I saw these guys open up for Rural Alberta Advantage the other night and I was pretty blown away. Not enough bands bust out the clarinet or any horns at all for that matter really. Anyway this video is kinda cheesy but these guys are super talented. They will probably blow up soon because I think they played about 10 shows at SXSW and they will be coming out with a new album later this year.

Radiohead – “King of Limbs”

Shhh. Hear that? It’s the sound of one of the world’s greatest bands making exactly the kind of record they want to make. Which is to say, it’s Radiohead doing what they’ve always done: Bucking expectations and producing quality.

Think about it, some portion of their fans, not to mention their critics, have had something negative to say about every record post-The Bends – probably every record post-Pablo Honey . And yet every one of Radiohead’s eight LPs can stand on its own, each documenting a discreet permutation of the Oxford band. All lined up together, they form a discography as strong and varied as any contemporary act.

King of Limbs is short, and might be better understood as an EP. The production is comparatively spare when measured against the lavish indulgence of a KID A or an In Rainbows. And it’s a far cry from the sterilized landscapes of techno-tinged dystopia present in much of the bands post-2000 output.

It’s a return of sorts, to the Radiohead of the ‘90s. But it’s not regressive per say, more akin to arriving at familiar situation equipped with knowledge gleaned from experience.

The eight songs contained here are the sound of Radiohead stripped, or if you prefer, distilled to their essentials: brooding atmosphere, melancholic guitar riffing and Thom Yorke’s anomalous yowl.

These hallmark features are floated over frenetic looping, jungle-esque drums (think 15 Step), and backed by muscular bass lines. The rhythmic bombast that defines much of King of Limbs, makes it the closest thing to dance music the guys have yet produced.

This record is going to disappoint a lot of folks because, it’s not the band’s best. But, instead of getting hung up about the particulars of what was/wasn’t delivered as expected, why not just enjoy this latest installment from one of the most dynamic acts of our time? It’s still Radiohead.

Bullion – “You Drive Me to Plastic”

I’m not sure if this West London-based producer/remixer’s moniker is a reference to gold, but it may as well be given the quality of music he’s been releasing over the past few years.

With a flare for asymmetrical rhythms and a penchant for genre-bending, Bullion’s track-record in the realm of left-field beats is near flawless, his kitchen-sink approach to composition yielding some of the most original-sounding stuff around.

While officially composed of nine tracks – seven tunes, an intro and an outro – this plays as a single continuous whole, like the soundtrack to some zany 20-minute stream-of-conscious daydream. It being dreamlike, in the way the listener is presented with familiar (archetypal even) sounds that are re-imagined in unfamiliar and occasionally jarring ways.

At its core, his music is a kind of off-kilter fusion of old-school hip-hop and garage rock with a healthy dose of lo-fi weirdness, but for this record he’s managed to turn his sound inside out, infusing it with a cornucopia of remarkably disparate influences from literally all over the map.

Here, bluegrass fiddles, African chanting and mariachi horns rub up against advertising jingles, filtered disco loops, spaghetti-western ambiance, and yes even some yodeling. And Bullion presides over this amalgam of noises with the deft precision of a b-boy executing a perfect head-spin to the beat of 1980s electro.

It’s nearly impossible to take in all of You Drive Me to Plastic the first time around. It can be overwhelming really, what with all these ideas whizzing by at ADHD-velocities.

At a point where hip-hop has all but abandoned samples (partially out of legal necessity), this stands as testament to why sampling is such a potent and uniquely open-ended sonic tool. Bravo!