Thursday, September 18, 2008

Deerhunter / Microcastle

Deerhunter may have passed under my radar unnoticed before with the release of 2007's Cryptograms, but this time around, they caught me and they've got me for sure.  Microcastle isn't due for release until October, but since it is up on iTunes, I figured it was fair game.  I had heard the song "Nothing Ever Happened" over the summer and was basically entranced, but there was no way that the album as a whole could be that great, right?  Think again.

Microcastle gets off to a good start with the appropriately titled "Intro," and from there it is full speed ahead with the spacey vibe that envelops every track.  "Agoraphobia" is a shoegaze lullaby, followed by "Never Stops," which I have listened to at least five times a day for the last week, and "Little Kids" is perfectly psychedelic, like one of the Brian Jonestown Massacre's more melodic, hypnotic cuts.  The middle of the album strays out into super ambience territory, but brings it right back with "Nothing Ever Happened," the track that rocks the hardest on the album.  A bit of blues works its way into "Saved by Old Times" and then escalates into some of the flower power sound from before.  Finally, the last two tracks offer a last blast of focused noise that rounds out the album and leaves you suspended in space.

Even though it really came out this summer, Microcastles seems to have just the right mood for what you want to listen to when there is a blanket of fall fog outside your window; the dreariness of a cloudy day and the jitters of that extra cup of coffee it takes to wake you up are all inside this record, so take full advantage of its early availability and hear the leaked album that everyone is talking about. -A

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Frankpollis EP

I don't remember how I ran across Frankpollis.  Probably by chance through some online Misshapes-slash-Jackson Pollis gossip via Gawker.  But I was curious enough to give their MySpace a listen, and through further research I learned that Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre crashed one of their gigs once - score one for this band of Williamsburgers.  I figured they'd sound like any other musical venture of bored hipsters, and with listed influences like Sonic Youth and Pavement I was convinced that their MO would be to recreate the lost alternative scene in its noisy, shoegazey glory.  However, I was pleasantly surprised and over the next few months I would revisit their MySpace on occasion to give their tracks a listen.  

Their self-titled EP eventually ended up on iTunes so I finally gave in to the music industry and made it my first-ever iTunes purchase.  And it does not sound like a gang of pretentious Brooklynities trying to freak out their listeners.  This is solid stuff.  There is definitely that Sonic Youth wall of sound with a prettier My Bloody Valentine vibe that appears throughout, but the noise is more focused than that - at the heart of every track is some legitimate songwriting backed up by some sound chops.  Real music?  Imagine that.

Frankpollis do not shy away from the pop side of rock, either.  "Expectations" could be a radio single; it recalls a less melancholy Coldplay that enjoys rocking out, complete with smooth, Chris Martin-esque vocals.  "Truths Been Told" is the ballad that ascends into layered instrumental harmonies over its five minute duration, throws in a little noise and then seamlessly transitions into the two-part closer "Sacred Soil/Sacred Heart."  As a cohesive unit, the EP is refreshing and draws no direct comparisons.  This could be the soundtrack to summer winding down until the autumn chill creeps in; versatile, interesting and thoughtful, a little gem of an EP that Pitchfork & Co have not yet hyped the life out of.  Enjoy it while it's special.  -A

Monday, July 21, 2008

Whartscape oh eight!

So we decided to check out the 2008 edition of Wham City's Whartscape and see what all the hype is about. Hundreds of hip kids decked out in their thrift store duds descended on the MICA parking lot for this all-day assault on the ears by some of the city and nation's premiere sound manipulators. Sunday's "Duck Tales Porno DVD Boxset" wristbands granted us entrance to one of the more interesting days you could spend in Baltimore...

Ps. Check pictures in the pix link...

We're gonna break this down by setlist:
3.00: Kyle Mabson + Mincemeat or 10 Speed + Narwals

Messed with some songs you'd probably hear in elementary school gym class or for a pregame warm-up at a basketball game circa 10 years ago. Set complete with a guy playing (like an instrument) a Game Boy while crowd surfing and flying Big Bird and huge apple being thrown around. Way to break us in for Whartscape, didn't think a dude in an American Eagle polo and plaid shorts could get the party started.

DJ's Take: Definitely a great way to start off the afternoon. Being smacked in the face by Big Bird adds a much needed thrill to the experience. The "songs" were a tad discombobulated, but the antics of the performers was enough to make up for the occasional aimless wanders.

3.40: White Williams

A two song set with White Williams looking quite disinterested while the guitar player messed with pedals and his iPod for even more ethereal sound effects.

DJ's Take: White Williams had played with Ecstatic Sunshine on the Saturday afternoon. The guitar player was actually into it. Keyboard player, total L7. I'm sure he is most likely a very nice guy who lacks a sense of humor.

4.00: Adventure

Very cool interesting guy in a white bodysuit jamming out house beats, way entertaining and had a lot of home crowd fans, it's easy to see why. Even if you didn't know the songs you couldn't not bust a move.

DJ's Take: Someone needs to get this guy to deejay some school dances.

4.55: Future Islands

As if Jack Black, dressed head to toe in turquoise and with crazy facial hair, were fronting an electronic-ish group with really good songs. They only played 3 or 4 but the crowd was sold, the jams were tight and catchy and they are also one of those bands that releases their record on cassette. God bless them.

DJ's Take: One of the best and most original bands of the afternoon. Seriously, they need to be heard. A great crowd presence and the interesting combination of bass guitar + laptop sells their product.

5.25: Height

Heard him (and saw him 'cause he's freakin tall) from a distance while sipping refreshing San Pellegrino Aranciata (only at Whartscape, I guess) and Gatorade and getting pumped for D. Deacon, but the crowd was into it, and this local MC can sure spit the rhymes. He later guested with Grand Buffet for a sweet collaboration.

DJ's Take: I don't remember his set at all. Heat exhaustion.

5.55: Dan Deacon

The single act that commanded the attention of everyone in that parking lot. Was more of a camp counselor than an entertainer, had the crowd stretch out before he would play, eventually made everyone get in a circle to play high-five/run around/tag-you're-it, there was a circles vs. triangles dance contest where you could side based on your shape preference (we were triangles), and finally a gauntlet that ran the length of the parking lot where you could dance through as "sassily as possible" (Yes, that's a direct quote).

DJ's Take: Easily the most entertaining act of the afternoon. He was obviously not up to par, but even then he was still one of the best acts I have ever seen. He commanded the crowd with his overwhelming stage presence. Deacon was among his people (Baltimoreans) and they were thrilled to do his bidding, myself included. I am running out of superlatives to describe Dan Deacon. See him people.

6.40: Trey Told 'Em

Probably one of the most anticipated acts of the day, Girl Talk's collabo with another guy on a laptop and a girl hitting random drumset parts turned out to be one song only, a remix of Nirvana's "Moist Vagina" and was nearly 10 minutes of "Marijuaaaanaaa". Pretty out there. Many an angry Girl Talk fan afterwards conveyed their dismay but vowed that his return to Charm City in October will be what they had been waiting for. There was supposed to be the Who Is The Tunafish Man? supergroup of Girl Talk+Deacon+Spankrock at 2AM later that night at the Annex afterparty, which we didn't hang out for, and didn't happen anyway so looks like Pitchfork stuck around for nothing.

DJ's Take: Total bust. It was remix, but a crappy remix at that.

7.00: Grand Buffet

Hysterical. What other hip-hop duo is this animated while rapping about microwaves? They would give Flight of the Conchords a run for their money. Almost. They're touring with Girl Talk next time around, hopefully his audiences will get it. Great beats too that made you forget they just told a really corny joke between songs...

DJ's Take: A great rebound from Trey Told 'Em, Grand Buffet basically made my day. They are definitely a group I will be seeing or attempting to see again. Check them out. Just some regular Joes from Pittsburgh making music they love.

7.30: Double Dagger

Pretentious much? Lead singer wearing a Garfield "Are we done being ironic yet?" t-shirt asks the crowd if there was a bulk sale on ironic sunglasses. Proceeded to be dangerous by throwing a drum into the crowd and hitting a guy on the head. He was bleeding. A punk band, dangerous? Never. Sick drumming and bass though. Still didn't quite distract from wannabe Ian MacKaye singer's antics...we split early to get a good spot for Ponytail.

DJ's Take: Umm, yeah. Good instrumentation for a hardcore band. Getting kicked in the back of the head was not fun on this one.

8.00: Ponytail

Craziness, no lyrics at all. Really intense everything else reminiscent of Be Your Own Pet's debut. If you like Deerhoof, Ponytail is right up your alley. This was an entertaining set with a lot of energy and noise, definitely on the unique side (but then again, who wasn't?)

DJ's Take: Amazing. Probably the most alive I felt during the whole evening. Of course, the only girl with heeled boots on is dancing in front of me and steps right on my foot. That aside, Ponytail is entering my rotation for music. Fantastic musicians all of them and awesome presence.

8.30: Parts & Labor

The only band your parents would've liked at the whole 'scape, provided that they're keen on the musical stylings of noisy experimental Brooklynites. Awesome stuff though, still focused while being noisy and surreal. Their set was cut short thanks to the ominous clouds and reports of rain over Ellicott City; the trash bags over the speakers weren't going to save the show unfortunately.

DJ's Take: They somewhat reminded me of Death Cab For Cutie, but that might just be stereotyping lead singers with long beards and glasses. But definitely a great band I will try to go see again. As the afternoon and evening went on, the musical intensity switched from electronic acts to actual bands. Parts & Labor finishes a close third behind Dan Deacon and Ponytail for best acts of the night.

9.00: Threat of rain ends Whartscape early...

DJ's Take: My legs were really tired.

Dan Deacon himself sent us all out early because not even Wham City's equipment is invincible. We were lucky the rain held out as long as it did, only canceling Black Dice...still, there is no experience like the Whartscape experience. And the city of wham will most likely strike again because they are rescheduling Black Dice, the Tunafish extravaganza and DJ Dog Dick for those who held on to their Duck Tales Porno wristbands...