With Draw

In the past few months, I have had the chance to see music from Australia, France, and Canada, in addition to the Texas, New York, and LA-based acts that typically come through. That’s been nice.

Gojira were very polite, which stood in contrast to their precise and pulverizing metal. Their French accents were cute. I don’t know if Courtney Barnett spoke or sang or mumbled or what, but whatever it was I couldn’t understand it but totally loved it (as always). Crystal Castles were Canadian, and I also saw Phantogram. Both were about as antiseptic as expected.

Along with Barnett, the Sound on Sound Fest one-day pass also provided close access to a rock legend (Bob Mould) and a local legend (Explosions in the Sky). The latter was the clear highlight of the fall for live music. These guys’ near-telepathic chemistry and their mastery of dynamics was put over the top by the coolest light show I have ever seen (thanks, weather).

Personally, it has been a crushing few months, but discovering new music and seeing old favorites is a helpful tonic. Listen to some of what I have been listening to, if you d/care.

Open Playlist (Google Play)

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New release grab bag: Cibo Matto, Temples, Tinariwen, †††

Hotel Valentine by Cibbo Matto (B)
cibo matto

Hotel Valentine falls somewhere in between Cibo Matto’s first two full-length albums. It blends Viva! La Woman’s underground hip-hop vibe with Stereotype A’s Sean Lennon-produced metro-pop (yes, I just made that up). One thing for sure is that this does not sound like a nostalgia act. Miho Hatori and Yuka Honda have come back together after 12 years and it sounds like they haven’t missed a beat. If anything, they sound more assured than ever. The guitar work is the strongest they’ve done, and Hatori’s vocals display an increased range and subtlety. Unfortunately, Hotel Valentine, while wholly original and bursting with inventiveness and those lovely, quirky Cibo Matto idiosyncrasies, is probably their worst album (it’s about on par with 1997’s Super Relax EP). Perhaps constraining themselves to a concept album format (it’s about a haunted hotel) diminished the quality of the songs. Still, it’s a near miss, and a sub-par Cibo Matto album is still worth a few spins. Maybe it will grow on me. Plus, I get the chance to see them play some of these songs live next week; that should be wonderful.

Emmaar by Tinariwen (B+)
tinariwen

I don’t know of another band that embodies their region of origin quite like Tinariwen. You could make a case for Sigur Ros, maybe. This group of Touareg musicians from Mali make gritty yet subtle soundscapes, evocative of the wind, of the endless expanse of sky and sand and rock they call home. Their official bio starts off like this: “THE DESERT IS A PLACE OF HARDSHIP AND SUBTLE BEAUTY, A STARK WORLD THAT REVEALS ITS SECRETS SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY.” Their music is also stark, and its secrets truly do emerge only after careful listening. Emmaar is the group’s sixth full-length release, and this time around the band welcomes guest musicians like Chili Pepper Josh Klinghoffer, Matt Sweeney from Chavez, Nashville fiddler Fats Kaplin, and poet Saul Williams. I like all the hand claps.

Sun Structures by Temples (C+)
temples

After about 30 seconds in, I was ready to dismiss this album and band as nothing but another Beatles wannabe. And guess what: my first impression was not far off. However, depending on your stance on those boys from Liverpool, a psych-pop group from the UK putting out trippy little ditties might be just your thing. The production is neat, the vocals and harmonies are clean, and the songs are breezy. There is some interesting and challenging work going on behind the scenes on a number of these tracks, and the band shows potential for growth beyond this particular pigeonhole. The keyboard work in particular elevates the overall work, alternating between spacey melody lines and beefy bass riffs. In all, not a bad start; let’s see if these boys from Kettering can find some dark and gritty to add to their sunlight.

††† by ††† (Crosses) (D)
†††

††† is a collaboration between Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and guitarist Shaun Lopez of Far. I’m not overly familiar with either band, and sadly, the ††† project is unlikely to send me in either direction. It sounds destined to be a footnote. The duo, working with producer Chuck Doom, has now produced two EPs and a full-length of music that could easily slide right onto The Crow soundtrack, or any mid-90s alternative, goth-rock mixtape. The production and arrangements are very NIN-esque, while Moreno’s vocals run the gamut between alt-rock crooning and alt-metal screaming. They’re not really breaking any new ground here.

Collect Sessions – Mama Doll, Marshall McLean

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Nationally recognized for the exploits of the Gonzaga basketball team, the greater Spokane area is quickly becoming a hotbed of American music. Much of it derived from – but not limited by – folk music. Collect Spokane is a blog that focuses on art, design, music, film and culture happening in and around Spokane, WA.

Check out these excellent videos from Mama Doll and Marshall McLean w/ Justin Landis of Cedar & Boyer for proof that something is in the water of this Pacific Northwest town.

Mama Doll are a duo (now trio) that blend grit, sass, and harmony to create a unique sound and live performance that is equal parts spiritual experience and kick to the shins. Marshall McLean brings some serious conviction to this stripped down version of “Sons Of Thunder” from his band’s excellent debut album.

Friday Playlist: Austin>Malawi>Niger>Chicago>Kansas City>San Francisco>Dallas>NYC>UK

http://8tracks.com/mixes/3182008/player_v3_universal

Pop Heart Etc. Friday mix from 1444820144 on 8tracks Radio.

1. Crazy Bird by Wild Child: So many hooks!  The whistle hook is often the best hook of them all…

2. Warm Heart of Africa by The Very Best: One of my favorite band names of all time… the singer is from Malawi, the producers from the UK (although the main vocalist on this track is Ezra from Vampire Weekend)…Fyi “Warm Heart of Africa” is Malawi’s nickname

3. Azamane Tiliade by Bombino: Something about the Touareg lends itself perfectly to dusty blues guitar

4. Youngblood by Russian Circles: Speaking of guitar… Russian Circles deserve their own post—stay tuned

5. The Egg by Shiner: An old favorite; they broke up in 2003 after four records (all good, approaching great)

6. We Hit a Wall by Chelsea Wolfe: Just discovered – reminds me of Mazzy Star, but with more teeth

7. Birth in Reverse by St. Vincent: Love the early line:  “Oh, what an ordinary day, take out the garbage, masturbate…”

8. Memory Hole by Bobby Previte: One of the best tracks from one of my favorite “jazz” albums of all time

9. That’s Alright by Laura Mvula: This is my most recent ear-worm; you’re welcome!