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)


New Release Grab-bag: Guided by Voices, Takuya Kuroda, Phantogram, and The Tontons

Motivational Jumpsuit by Guided by Voices (C+)

Guided by Voices, Ohio veterans of underground noisy indie-rock, are a reliable source of two things: one or two catchy songs per album, and plenty of dissatisfied distortion. Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, and friends have been churning out records since 1983 (!), albeit with years-long breaks between albums. To these ears, the group’s new release is more of the same monotony and meandering noise, interrupted intermittently with truly memorable hooks. “The Littlest League Possible,””Writer’s Bloc (Psycho All the Time),” and “Planet Score” on the new album are worth a listen. I commend those of you who choose to dive further.

Rising Son by Takuya Kuroda (C-)

Every now and then, a new jazz artist emerges that gets me all worked up. I thought Takuya might be the newest in that string, but his anticipated Blue Note debut disappoints. His previous effort, 2011’s “Edge,” was actually stronger. What Rising Son has going for it – great sound engineering, especially on the rhythm section – is what actually sinks the album, as the focus seems to be to squarely on producing good beats rather than on expanding and stretching Takuya’s trumpet parts. He’s not a bad player, and the record sounds good, but the songs are just there, no impact, no staccato, no movement. Maybe next time.

Voices by Phantogram (B)

Man, I wanted to love this album. After the first few songs, I thought I did. The bass-synth lines, the turntable magic, the jangly guitars, and of course Sarah Barthel’s breathy, airy, yet resonant vocals, floating over everything—they all conspire to suck you in. But after those first three songs, the album starts to drag. What a drag. Things pick up again in the latter third, but by then the momentum is lost. Still, “Nothing But Trouble” and “Fall in Love” are two of my favorite songs of the year so far. If these old friends from Saratoga Springs ever figure out the whole “full-length album” thing, watch out.

Make Out King and Other Stories of Love by The Tontons (D)

Houston newcomers The Tontons have gotten some pretty good buzz around these parts, so I was intrigued to hear their debut. Too bad I fell asleep. Seriously boring stuff here. Things pick up near the back-half of the album, with the previously released singles “Bones 1 & 2,” but by then you’ll probably be drooling. The soaring, overly-emotive vocals drown everything out – I can’t even comment on the rhythm section, as the bass and drums are perilously low in the mix. Snore.