May 30, 2009

Spires - Flowers and Fireworks

These guys sound sort of like Mesa Verde, which means this fairly impressive LP is sitting in the shadow of The Old Road. Their differentiating point is that they much prefer working with harmonic minor and trying to sound slightly evil and menacing among all of the epic builds rather than sweet and wistful. They really aren't that original but bring solid music nonetheless.

Flowers and Fireworks [2009] - Download - Review

Phoenix - "1901 (Customised by DLID)"

I've been avoiding posting straight mp3s or just regurgitating remixes made on the internet, but I'm thinking about opening up Worship and Tribute MEDIA to all different formats, rather than just full albums and sputnikmusic reviews. It's essentially because this remix of Phoenix's "1901" needs to be shared with the world. Ironically, this song has been over-remixed by every clown with Ableton Live into techno versions, crunk versions, etc. This version chooses a simple, fuzzy TV on the Radio-inspired beat and tosses soft electronic harmonizations into the mix and lets the vocal performance take over from there. It's nicely understated, but completely bouncy and life-affirming in the way all remixes of pop tracks should be.


I'm going to try to update this late with a streaming version in the browser window. If anybody has any hosting suggestions I'd love to hear them. I'm only really familiar with imeem and lala, which both have limitations.

Angelo Badalamenti - Music From Twin Peaks

It's hard to talk about the excellence of this soundtrack without getting into the excellence of the show, so my first recommendation is to just watch Twin Peaks for free online. One of the show's aesthetic drivers is that its satirizing the melodrama and backstabbing that exists in soap operas. The show knowingly has stilted dialogue and character relationship, there's always a mystery to solve or a love affair driving irrational behavior, and the show is even filmed with those daytime TV cameras that make everything look really flat. The music perfectly complements that visual and narrative motif. The music is either sweeping and grandiose, employing strings and even a harp, or mysterious and coy, using sultry horns and lounge jazz drums. However, as in the show, there is a lot more complexity to the music than what initially meets the ear. It's not geared towards just lampooning, but also aims to craft serious art and complex thematic construction. Angelo Badalamenti has worked with Lynch before in a similar fashion on other soundtracks like Blue Velvet so if you've enjoyed the music other Lynch movies, this should be right up your alley.

Music from Twin Peaks [1990] - Download Part 1 Part 2 - Review

May 28, 2009

Brainworms II: Swear to Me

Brainworms, a favorite of Zen and the Art of Face-Punching, are apparently one of those bands that lose a lot of their verve when recorded. Their live show (which I am not privileged enough to have witnessed) is their identity and despite a really enjoyable release in What Is Worse?, I feel like something is potentially missing. There is also something missing from Swear to Me in that despite being pretty equivalently good to their previous efforts, it suffers from being just that: similar. Brainworms play post-hardcore that is infused with a little more punk energy and slightly acerbic emo take on production and vocal delivery (thought not melodramatic). They're sort of like Comadre, but instead of sounding like skinny 20-somethings, they sound like they look: burly and with beards. Swear to Me is a great album but is not offering anything new to develop Brainworms' signature sound.

Brainworms II: Swear to Me [2009] - Download - Review

May 27, 2009

Maudlin of the Well - Part the Second

Maudlin of the Well released three now-legendary LPs from 1999-2001 that blended death metal, free jazz, and progressive in a varied and beautiful way that had only been hinted at by bands from the early 90s like Cynic. Toby Driver, leader of Maudlin of the Well, decided to fold Maudlin of the Well and create Kayo Dot, a band that used MotW's innovations as a starting point to explore even more seamless avant garde combinations of the aforementioned genres. In the process, Driver had to shelve a few significant but unfinished song ideas that he has recently recorded thanks to generous donations from his most loyal fans. The resulting recording, Part the Second definitely feels like the "next step" after 2001's Leaving Your Body Map, but really integrates ideas from throughout Driver's career and even some unexpected influences. Part the Second is a beautiful and intelligent album, with maybe only a few acoustic tracks missing for the sake of sating an old Maudlin of the Well fan's nostalgia for a verbatim revisiting of ideas on the three previous LPs. Regardless, make sure you experience Toby Driver past, present, and future.

Part the Second [2009] - Free Download - Review

May 25, 2009

De la Soul - Are You In?

De la Soul has always been one of my favorite hip hop groups, which is why I was surprised that Are You In? totally slipped under my radar. This album has been positioned as a one-off foray into more electronic or dance-oriented music. The backing retains De la Soul's good taste but strips it of its brassy funk feel in favor of sometimes inorganic electronic production. Complementing that is De la Soul expanding their vocal and lyrical quipping to include weird repeated phrasings, which I guess is meant to emulate repetitive dance hooks. This album is an enjoyable release but can't touch classics like Stakes Is High or The Grind Date due to the formatting and willful genre experimentation.

Are You In? [2009] - Download - Review

April 14, 2009

Silversun Pickups - Swoon

I never had an iPod throughout college so when I went to the gym to TOTALLY SHRED IT UP my pump up music was whatever random stuff was on the radio there. One time I was finishing a set of BR00TAL incline bench and was psyched out and started laughing when an ad said, "Buy the only best collection of holiday tunes for your loved ones: The Josh Grobin Christmas Collection." I almost crushed my face on that one. Anyways, my junior year every day I'd hear one amazing song on Albany's alternative rock station, "Lazy Eye" by Silversun Pickups. The Siamese Dream nostalgia mixed with an earnest if quirky vocal performance won me over day after day as I got HELLA swoll (okay I'll stop now). Their debut LP, Carnavas never found its way onto my playlist because I was afraid they'd be one hit wonders. To make up for my trepidation I made sure to get Swoon as soon as possible to atone. I have been thoroughly impressed. All of the Smashing Pumpkins and My Bloody Valentine throwbacks are intact and tactful and once again the vocals have given Silversun Pickups their own unique sheen. Swoon is one of those mainstream albums that avoids creating an obvious single because any song on the album could be a respectable radio hit. The only way this album could be more of a pleasant surprise is if "Lazy Eye" hadn't been caught in my head for the entire winter of 06-07.

Swoon [2009] - Download - Review

March 29, 2009

Trophy Scars - Bad Luck

Trophy Scars released a terrible album in 2006's Alphabet. Alphabets. However, their most recent album, Bad Luck, is a complete turnaround that attains unexpected synergies between the post-hardcore success of their early discography and the wayward experimentation that ruined A.A. This album reminds me a lot of Cursive in its ability to work horns and strings into a post-hardcore/indie framework without veering into a bombast or melodrama that isn't designed and intended. Hopefully, these guys will only continue to develop their new sound in coming releases. They asked me to remove the links from their previous albums so I'm not going include a link to a free download here, but instead link to a page where one can purchase the album.

Bad Luck [2009] - Purchase - Review

March 14, 2009

Group Bombino - Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 2

Group Bombino is a Tuareg folk / rock group out Mali and Niger who were recently recorded for Sublime Frequencies' Guitars from Agadez series. The album's first half is completely acoustic and features more of the Tuareg folk melodies that are traditional to musicians of this ethnic group and this area, and the second half is more of a blend of Western and Tuareg traditions with electric instrumentation and more rock, blues, and psychedelic influences. I go more into the ethnomusicological implications of the album and how it balances its influences in my review (linked below). It's an incredibly enjoyable album but will pretty much go overlooked by 99% of the hip blogspot reading community, which is a shame.

Guitars from Agadez, vol. 2 [2009] - Download - Review

March 12, 2009

Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen

It seems like Cursive have really been mislabeled by the press and as a result by potential listeners who are squeamish about genre tags like emo or indie. Cursive's early career found them taking many left turns away from the sound developed by bands like Sunny Day Real Estate and Christie Front Drive and creating a brand of indie that was heavier and had much more intricate guitar arrangements (Domestica) than that of their peers. As a result they got lumped in with the early 2000s resurgence of post-hardcore that grew out of Grade's and Refused's multi-faceted legacies. They were always outliers from both of those crowds and eventually aligned themselves more with their labelmates Bright Eyes by embracing introspective indie (The Ugly Organ) that was influenced by the singer-songwriter genre. They took off and ran with indie's textural and orchestral possibilities and became a parody of their previous styles by writing abstract pop songs (Happy Hollow) that attracted the attention of the pitchfork crowd after years of being championed by Alternative Press as an (ugh) emo band. Their newest album, Mama, I'm Swollen is a return to form circa 2002 (in between Domestica and The Ugly Organ that has been indelibly altered by their forays into indie, pop, and singer-songwriter. Lead songwriter Kasher is self-flagellating in his typically maudlin fashion, but the backdrop reconciles the experimentation of their recent albums with the potent immediacy of their earlier style. Mama, I'm Swollen is a rare kind of album in that encapsulates Cursive's entire career without feeling like a rehash. Forget about any unwarranted labels attributed to Cursive and lay your prejudices down; they are a genre unto themselves and deserve a listen.

Mama, I'm Swollen [2009] - Download - Review

March 3, 2009

Deftones - White Pony

Seeing this album upped at Staring at the Apocalypse and remembering my sadness that Deftones' bassist Chi Cheng remains in a coma (which is less morbidly but still disappointingly delaying the upcoming album Eros), has incited me to post White Pony, one of my favorite albums of all time. Like all good albums, this album has meant different things to me at different periods of my life. When it first came out, I was an 8th grader who mostly listened to music as some kind of angst outlet, which made heavy and angry tracks like "Elite" and "Korea" really move me. As I grew out of that phase and delved into learning how to play guitar, the instrumental performances popped out at me. Carpenter's guitar is typically simple, but he uses distinctive and interesting chord voicings and when he and Chi lockstep with Abe's ornamented fills, Deftones really rock. As I learned more about singing and songwriting, Chino's characteristic approach to texture and his expansive range blew me away. Even now, as I learn more about music production, Frank Delgado's soundscapes pop out at me and give new revelations about White Pony's depth and mysteries. This album truly transcends genre and its best moments are the ones that diverge most from Deftones' metal lineage. This album comes highly recommended, even to (or rather, especially to) those who have already made their mind up about what metal or the Deftones are about.

White Pony [2000] - Download - Review

February 28, 2009

Sholi - Sholi

Sholi is a band that really flies under the radar despite being signed to the relatively high profile and soon to be defunct Touch and Go / Quarterstick Records. Their style is a combination of a lot of different bands. To distill it to something concise, they sound like a lot of late 90s indie artists like Karate or Cursive but with more willingness to experiment with being more abstract in the instrumental performances as well as more conventional in their harmonic progressions. The singer / guitarist Payam sounds quite a bit like the singer from Minus the Bear, and there is definitely something shared between the two bands. This album has really impressed for with its diversity and instrumental performances. Definitely worth checking out.

Sholi [2009] - Download - Review

February 24, 2009

Dan Deacon - Bromst

Sorry for being so MIA, but I've been working hard. Dan Deacon's 2007 album Spiderman of the Rings aligned him with artists like Girl Talk for being dance / pop music favored by indie kids that didn't come from Western Europe. There was something demographically appealing in Deacon's nonstop beats and Nintendo sounds. Do yourself a favor and google "spiderman of the rings" and read some of the descriptions, "batshit bubblegum pop" being one of my favorites. It seemed like people approached that album for the sake of novelty or irony or whatever. Deacon's newest album, Bromst, does a lot to sustain that legacy and you will read countless blog posts that fixate on that. However, there's something very different about Bromst's ability to absorb and assimilate folk / world influences that makes his propulsive rhythms feel downright tribal as opposed to "bubblegum" and his melodic and textural choices eclectic rather than just layers of epileptic computer noises. Bromst uses technology as a kind of musical encyclopedia, quantizing and crunching together folk traditions that otherwise wouldn't go together, much less with contemporary indie dance music. Bromst really transcends any corners Deacon may have worked himself into with Spiderman and is my favorite album of the year so far.

Bromst [2009] - Download - Review

January 14, 2009

Dr. Who Dat? - Beyond 2morrow

Here's the aforementioned album by Jneiro Jarel, aka Dr. What Dat?, entitled Beyond 2morrow. Jneiro has always thrived on creating leftfield beats with a unique sense of flow and texture, but now his production is starting to sound more and more like Flying Lotus, which can be viewed as both a good a band thing; good because Flylo is awesome, but bad because it's sad to see Jneiro have any reduction to his own weirdness and originality. There are only a few tracks here that have vocals, and Jneiro is an able rapper. This album wasn't everything I wanted it to be, but it's definitely an interesting album and a good placeholder for anybody waiting for another fully realized blend of production and rapping.

Beyond 2morrow [2009] - Download