I’m no stranger to western Maryland. This gorgeous, weird land has much more in common with John Denver’s vision of West Virginia than The Wire’s Baltimore or spring break in Ocean City. Driving through the formidable valleys and sunny plains always feels like traveling back a bit in time and space; it makes total sense that Cotton Jones and their earthy sound hail from these rolling hills.
The sound of the folk quartet hearkens back to the psychedelic folk days of the mid 1960′s; their production style reinforces the dusty-vinyl aesthetic. “Gone the Bells”, the fourth track from their 2009 release Paranoid Cocoon, evokes nostalgia that Instragram only wishes it could emulate. The harmonies between frontman Michael Nau and his wife Whitney McGraw are dreamily nestled between the floating acoustic and electric guitar lines. A swirling organ sweetly fills out the instrumental passages.
I’ve known about Cotton Jones for a while, but didn’t get truly sucked in until I saw them open for Dr. Dog at the 9:30 Club this past winter. I was totally engrossed by the soaring melodies and focused performance. After their set, Dr. Dog thanked them for opening, and mentioned that ‘those guys are the real deal’. I couldn’t agree more.
While some may question their dedication to old-school stylistic choices, I can’t get enough of it. So excuse me while I don some bell-bottoms and light the incense. And by bell-bottoms, I mean sweatpants. And by incense, I mean Glade Air-Fresh Gingerbread candle. Hey. It’s not like I’m in the band. But I will certainly play “Gone the Bells” about 8 more times tonight. Mmm… gingerbread.
The flicker of the “ON-AIR” light. The smell of the fuzzy microphone cover. Phone calls from listeners in other countries. These are all things I miss about being a radio DJ (at The Lion 90.7 FM!). But one thing I still get to enjoy is the thrill of hunting new, weird songs to share with the world. Gals and gents: Tera Melos is back.
The trio’s previous album, 2010′s Patagonian Rats, has only grown on me since obtaining it after one of their concerts in Baltimore. The band expertly crafts frantic, stuttering time signature shifts lightly peppered with catchy hooks and melodies. If you seek the more bizarre edge of indie rock, Nick Reinhardt (guitars, vox) and the boys will gladly light the path.
“Sunburn,” the first single from the band’s upcoming LP X’ed Out, bounces about with a springy guitar riff before diving into the beach bliss of the chorus. John Clardy, the band’s unrelenting drummer, pummels the track with frenzied drums that offset the innocence of the vocals. Imagine the Misfits and the Beach Boys had a child. A very weird, biologically-improbable child. It might slightly resemble this song.
As the ice melts and the sun starts to hang out a bit longer, ambient electronic tunes provide the perfect pre-spring soundtrack. During a drive across the Delmarva peninsula this weekend, I queued up a long-forgotten playlist with some of my favorite head-bobbing beats. I’m glad I did, as I rediscovered my love of Mount Kimbie’s “Carbonated,” the sixth track off of their debut LP Crooks & Lovers.
“Carbonated” starts with intriguing, pulsating static. Kick drums bob-and-weave throughout before flute-like synths start to fill out the space. The song later kicks into full bore with rain sounds and an R&B-inspired vocal sample. Crank the bass on your system for maximum sexiness.
It’s been a while since I’ve fervently awaited a new album, but news of Mount Kimbie’s as-of-yet-untitled sophomore LP has me salivating (or maybe that’s the lingering scent of the ribeye steak I had for dinner?). The duo’s use of field recordings and airy samples sets them apart from their preset-twiddling ilk. A new song posted to their Facebook page on March 7th seems to indicate a more energetic attitude this time around with more focus on vocals, but the sound is still totally their own. I have a strong feeling I’ll be bumping along with Mount Kimbie well into the summer.
I toyed with the idea of scouring Soundcloud, Stereogum, Pitchfork, and Bandcamp to find songs released in the past 36 hours to make the world’s first Best Of 2013 list, but reason eventually prevailed.
Without further ado (and there has been much ado), here are my favorite albums and tracks of 2012:
good kid, m.A.A.d. city by Kendrick Lamar
Ask Me This by Alcoholic Faith Mission Cobra Juicy by Black Moth Super Rainbow
Between Friends ft. Earl Sweatshirt and Captain Murphy by Flying Lotus Skyfall by Adele (yup, the James Bond song)
I found myself listening to new hip-hop far more than anything else coming out in 2012. And right now, I’m on a pretty big classical kick (can’t get enough of Debussy). But I did just stumble upon a very strange rock song a few days ago… keep watch for that post!
Lastly, a quote to help you maintain your New Year’s resolution: “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” – Marcus Aurelius
I don’t think I’m the only one who takes some degree of enjoyment out of holding a grudge. Do you really want those t-shirts back from your ex, or is it just more fun to bitch about them? And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shouted along with glee to the bridge of Brand New’s Seventy Times Seven (an unabashed overdose of musical schadenfreude) . But leave it to one of folk-rock’s darkest bands to put a different and tragic spin on the subject.
Murder by Death’s “I Came Around” is a scorching rocker off their latest LP, Bitter Drink, Bitter Moon. Frontman Adam Turla once introduced the song’s subject matter as “going to the funeral of someone you thought was a dirtbag, then realizing that you’re the dirtbag.” The throng of grief-stricken faces changes the narrator’s opinion about the departed: “I thought your life was nothing more than one long grift- now I sit weeping by your coffin clutching a bottle in my fist.” Cellist Sarah Balliet accentuates the surprisingly upbeat song with stabs of minor-key mourning.
The new record (only $6 for the MP3s on Amazon!) captures the band’s energetic, punk-influenced beginnings, but shows a new maturity when it comes to songwriting. Don’t get me wrong- I love the songs about zombie children, the devil bleeding crude oil, and intergalactic menopause; but, I didn’t expect a song of theirs to hit me this hard emotionally. Not to spoil anything come December, but this is my frontrunner for favorite track of 2012. Now I just need to pry myself away from listening to this song on repeat and go do something with this sunny Sunday.
(…ok, to be totally honest, I wouldn’t mind having my The Bled 2009 Tour shirt back…)
Union Jack dresses. The Rolling Stones. James Bond. Pink Floyd.
London in the 1960′s had to be one of the coolest places in human history. Maybe I’ve seen too many movies (Michaelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” from 1966 comes to mind), but everything about the era just seems groovy. Skeletons on Holiday, a London-based indie/pop quintet, sound like they just stepped out of a phone booth time machine, poised to bring that specific brand of cool back.
“Sink or Swim”, the band’s latest single, starts off with a rolling bassline which could easily be cousins with Lucifer Sam or Paperback Writer. Feedback-laden guitars come crashing in, but disappear right before Jessica Preston’s lead vocals emerge. Her voice soars above the mix, alternating between bold confidence and delicate dreaminess. Tell me you can’t imagine somersaulting in a tux while pulling out a silenced gun to this song.
Check out Skeletons on Parade over at Facebook and Bandcamp, where you can nab the latest single at your own price. Union Jack dress not included :-(
I’ve been on a huge noir kick lately. I just finished another Raymond Chandler novel (“Farewell, My Lovely”) and decided to watch Mulholland Dr. this weekend. Maybe my immersion into these stories subconsciously pushed me towards checking out music with a similar tone while at Baltimore’s awesome Sound Garden last night. The Antlers’ Undersea is a four song EP that marks a pretty large step for the band thematically. While a lot of people are still in summer-fun mode with releases such as Passion Pit’s Gossamer or Purity Ring’s Shines, I’m grooving to an EP with a tone slightly darker, slower, and more sinister.
The third track of Undersea is titled “Crest”, and it could easily be the soundtrack to a trenchcoat-clad private eye shuffling down a dimly-lit alley. The prodding bass lines and muted trumpet melodies carefully weave through one another as frontman Peter Silberman sings:
“Wait in the dark for me,
wait ’til you hear my feet[...]“
I became aware of The Antlers as they started receiving praise for their soul-crushing album Hospice and have been hooked ever since. But I’m glad that they’ve looked to different musical and lyrical themes for their more recent work- I’m not sure many people could handle a Hospice 2. Check out “Crest” below, and if you enjoy the hazy melodies and menacing lurch of the song, check out the rest of Undersea, out on Anti Records now.