by: John Penny, KUCI Music Director
This week I realized just how difficult the MD job can be... I whittled down the new music to about thirty really average CDs and had a tough time deciding what to keep and what to pass on. Ultimately, I think we've got ten new releases (nine rock, one experimental) that are really diverse and will appeal to lots of DJs.
Memphis - A Little Place In The Wilderness (Good Fences)
This album was originally released back in the summer of '06, but has just found distribution in the US and was just released domestically. Memphis is the solo-ish project of Stars singer Torquil Campbell along with his friend Chris Dumont. The album was apparently recorded in a Vancouver hotel room in the middle of winter, which might serve to explain the pervasive themes of ghosts, dreams, wilderness, and snow. The sound leans toward the whisper-core styling of American Analog Set, while maintaining the pop sensibilities of Canadian cohorts Broken Social Scene and Metric. The cutesy vocal melodies on "In The Cinema Alone" and "A Little Place In The Wilderness" bear more than a slight resemblance to those of Ben Gibbard.
SW: 1, 2, 4, 6
RIYL: American Analog Set, Death Cab For Cutie, quiet sounds, the great white north
OPI: Needs review
Misha - Teardrop Sweetheart (Tomlab)
Everything I've read about this band intentionally draws attention to the fact that the duo behind Misha, Ashley Yao and John Chao, are Asian-American. This, of course, sheds no light on what the music sounds like. If anything, Misha's roots in Taipei and time spent in Paris, Hong Kong, and New York (among other global locales) have helped instill their debut record with a universal appeal. "Teardrop Sweetheart" is a bittersweet and delicate piece of lap-pop; solid pop songwriting and quirky melodies are at the core of each cut, while analog synths and electronic beats round out the sound. "Losing" wouldn't feel out of place on the last Dntel record and "Cruelist Heart," with its pitch-shifted vocals, sounds like what would happen if Kanye made a full-length song out of one of his hooks.
SW: 2, 1, 5, 9
RIYL: Dntel, Lali Puna, Belle & Sebastian, being a hipster jet-setter
OPI: Needs review
Ensemble - Ensemble (Fat Cat)
Ensemble is French producer Olivier Alary, who you may know as a frequent Björk contributor/remixer. This album is a good blend of subtle electronics, Múm-like atmospherics, and deft songwriting. Ensemble is assisted here by several well-known and talented musicians; vocal takes from Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Lou Barlow (bands ending in "-doh"), and Mileece (Mileece), along with expert drumming from Adam Pierce (Mice Parade), make the album full and cohesive depsite the random cast.
SW: 3, 1, 5, 6
RIYL: Múm, Air, field recordings of wind
OPI: Needs review
St. Vincent - Marry Me (Beggars Banquet)
23-year-old Annie Clark (St. Vincent) rolls with two high-profile touring armies: The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' winged, scout troop. And while you can hear little bits of those bands in her solo endeavor (some Spree-esque horns and some catchy backing vocals ala Sufjan), Clark's first turn as St. Vincent is a clever mix of sounds including indie rock, folk, jazz, cinematic pop, and piano-driven balladry. "Now, Now" is a rocker for fans of Mates of State and "Jesus Saves, I Spend" is most directly influenced by Clark's aforementioned employers. "Marry Me" features the lyric "Marry me John, I'll be so good to you," so when I finish this email, I'll be writing my acceptance letter. Attn: Talented and beautiful women, writing me songs is all it takes.
SW: 1, 2, 3, 4
RIYL: Rosie Thomas, My Brightest Diamond, Kate Bush, confidence
OPI: Needs review
Bottom Of The Hudson - Fantastic Hawk (Absolutely Kosher)
This former one-man-band has been upgraded to a four-piece, but still follow the singular sonic vision of Eli Simon. Simon's penchant for throwback production is still present here, despite the tighter songwriting and larger sound. This is hook-laden, endlessly catchy, lo-fi rock referencing diverse influences such as Sebadoh, Guided By Voices, and Jeff Mangum, among others.
SW: 2, 5, 1, 7
RIYL: Guided By Voices, The Wrens, the british invasion, lo-fi production
Aaron Ross - Shapeshifter (Grass Roots)
I often wonder how people like John Darnielle or Jeff Mangum made the decision to become singers. Obviously, we all treasure their musical output and are glad they stepped up to the mic, but their voices are so weird and otherworldly that you'd think someone would have tried to talk them out of it. Aaron Ross is another such individual: someone so clearly consumed by the art he is creating that it doesn't matter what his voice sounds like. Darnielle and Mangum are the two closest references for Ross's music, but unlike his influences, most of Ross's songs stretch past the six minute mark. Five bucks says we'll hear this one on Kyle's show.
SW: 1, 2, 8, 9
RIYL: The Mountain Goats, Neutral Milk Hotel, Devendra Banhart, Nevada County California
Round Mountain - Truth And Darkness (Fast Horse)
Okay, this one is the outcast of this week's adds. I'm going to take a chance on it and see if it gets any plays - not to mention that it's going to be impossible to describe, so you'll have to take a listen yourself. At first glance/listen, this album sounded like the score to a Renaissance Faire, but upon repeat listens I discovered just how tight the musicianship is here. This isn't exactly world music, but you can pick out West African tribal rhythms, Bulgarian zydeco, gypsy accordions, Scottish highland pipes, Jewish Klezmer, and Middle Eastern saz, among the myriad instruments/styles exhibited. The closest sound, however, is something close to Appalachian bluegrass, so Round Mountain definitely can't be pigeonholed. Give this one a listen for me.
SW: 2, 1, 4, 12
RIYL: Calexico, O Brother Where Art Thou?, wearing tunics, new experiences
Pelican - City Of Echoes (Hydra Head)
This one is (almost) metal, but I'm going to add it in Rock-A so it'll hopefully get more plays. This is atmospheric, instrumental metal in the same vein as Jesu (sans vocals), so you can expect loud, driving rhythms carrying tightly constructed guitar melodies. Fans of the heavier post-rock bands should check this out if you want to expand your repertoire.
SW: 2, 3, 8
RIYL: Jesu, Explosions In The Sky, banging your head, starting fights
Various - PDX Pop Now! (self-released)
This compilation is intended to promote the PDX Pop Now! Festival which takes place in August and features over 40 Portland-area bands. The compilation features some KUCI favorites such as Menomena, Mirah, Alela Diane, YACHT, and The Robot Ate Me. I'm adding this comp. mostly for one song, however, as I anticipate a lot of you wanting to play it. That song is the previously unreleased "Culling of the Fold" by Decemberists' main man Colin Meloy. Enjoy!
SW: Disc 1: 19, 10, 16 Disc 2: 16, 8, 4
OPI: Disc 1: 1, 3 Disc 2: 12
Max Richter - Songs From Before (Fat Cat) *experimental
I was watching "Stranger Than Fiction" the other night was pretty shocked/delighted to hear Max Richter (as well as last week's add Spoon) start playing as Will Ferrell was trying to avoid death. For those acquainted with the sounds of Max Richter, this album will be familiar territory for you. Richter has created a lush, narrative soundscape through the use of cello, violin, viola, piano, and of course, some computers. The main difference here is that the songs feature Robert Wyatt reading from the text of Haruki Murakami, adding to the dreamy, haunting, Kafka-esque/Lynchian tone.
SW: 1, 2, 4, 6, 8
RIYL: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Murakami, melancholia
Thanks for listening,