Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Kevin Gilbert

One of the more interesting short-lived musicians from the 90's, Kevin Gilbert was a multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer who collaborated with everyone from Michael Jackson to Madonna to his then-girlfriend Sheryl Crow. His real love, however, lied in creating theatrical yet attractive sounding music that blended his own American pop sensibilities with mid 70's Genesis, a combination of approaches which is rendered perfectly on his 1995 album Thud, a testament that would prove to be the only solo album he would ever do before his death in May of 1996 from autoerotic asphyxia at the age of 29. Sadder still, his body was discovered on the day he was scheduled to have an audition that could have landed him the position of becoming lead vocalist of Genesis, as Phil Collins quit the band earlier than year.

In any case, the music here covers a lot of ground, from the angular bluesy rock of 'Goodness Gracious' to the dusky jazz of 'Joytown' to the punk-opera-prog. centerpiece 'Shadow Self' without so much as a single snag or note out of place. Wry lyrical content and a unique, distinctive delivery also do Gilbert a lot more credit than he ever got during his life, and its a shame that we'll never know just how far he could have gone. If this work was of any indication, the sky certainly would have been no limit.

Links to buy and try are below, as well as a 'Shadow Self' stream to appetize the skeptical and impatient alike. Enjoy!

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Buy It.

Local Natives

Southern California's Local Natives debuted with 'Gorilla Manor' back in November of 2009, but interestingly enough only in the UK. The album won't drop in the US until February, almost four months later. It's my prediction that by the end of 2010 this will cause one of those fussy Rural Alberta Advantage-esque "do I put it on my best of the year list or not" type squabbles for many, but the fact remains that it will probably belong. Granted, the album is far from perfect, but for me its major flaw lies in often being too pleasant. The group liberally drowns many of their tunes in lush Fleet Foxes style vocal harmony, and occasionally it seems a cover for what may be a weak melody. Another complaint with the record and the group would have to be the percussion however. Often lingering in the back of the mix, that same drab beat graces most of the tracks here. Which is unfortunate only because the group plays some pretty uptempo indie rock songs. I mean, imagine what Justin Peroff (BSS) could have done here and you'll see what I mean.

What is truly great here however is to hear the lush harmony discussed above in practice over a straight ahead rocker, like "Sun Hands", and it is these moments that make the record one to treasure. Probably a great live act too. Check out 'Camera Talk', and the download link below.

'Camera Talk', 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

Giraffes? Giraffes!

Anyone who hold fascination with the intricately dizzying yet intellectually compelling compositions of Omar Rodriquez Lopez will find new a whole new cause for celebration in Giraffes? Giraffes! The band consists of Joseph Andreoli on guitar, and Kenneth Topham, who I will argue despite the groups anonymity to be one of the best damn percussionists in rock music today. This is math rock at its finest, where the only constant is that the time signature won't be. At times it feels as if these songs must have arose from glorious accidents, with each musician seemingly adrift within the piece despite the constant resolution. While many math rock bands step into the pitfall of being too smart however, GG shrug this off effortlessly with an endearing playfulness that invites you to get lost in their musical insanity. From their band name, to hilarious and epic song titles like "I Am S/H(im)e[r] As You Are Me And We Am I And I Are All Our Together: Our Collective Consciousness' Psychogenic Fugue", it's obvious how they feel about the overly pretentious.

The duo released their debut in '05 an extremely lo-fi affair that one would probably describe as "showing promise". Two years later 2007 brought us 'More Skin With Milk Mouth'. At 28 minutes it is a short, but extremely compelling listen. The energy never lets up, and the hooks and ideas just keep on firing. Check out the band site here, download links below, and check out the closer streaming.

"A Quick One While She's Away", 2007

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Friday, January 15, 2010


A little known bunch from Quebec who generally play at small venues and occasionally spacious clubs, Sense are a band that fall squarely into the progressive rock genre, but with a very high emphasis on vocal harmony (they sing in English) and crafting gorgeous, catchy arrangements that soar just as deliciously as your favorite Sigur Ros or Mew album.

This particular record,
Going Home, was released back in 2007 and has five tracks, three of which edge slightly past the 10 minute mark. To summarize, there's a lot of flute and insanely fluid guitar work eased in between a swamplike pounding bass that works even better when the synths come stabbing in like knives. Whether being aggressive or pastoral, these songs are simply fantastic!

Should appeal to fans of any kind of music really, even if prog. isn't your bag. Listen to 'Stone In The Sky' below, where the links to Amazon and mediafire are also. Enjoy!

Download Here.
Buy It Here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


There are lots of indie rock bands named after deer and wolves. And there are also a lot of folk bands named after wood (Woods) and birds (Bowerbirds, Andrew Bird). Some folk bands just do both, like Wooden Birds (who had a strong 2009 debut) and Woodpigeon. Woodpigeon is a Canadian group who debuted in 2008 with 'Songbook', and followed up in '09 with 'Treasury Library Canada'. The two albums were both reviewed well (by those who bothered too), but generated fairly little hype, surprisingly so.

You may remember back to 2001, when "New Slang" had everybody who had ever seen 'Garden State' describing every indie band regardless as "Kind of sounding like the Shins". I'm pretty sure someone even told me Modest Mouse kind of sounded like the Shins once. That said many of the comparisions were relevant, as 'Oh, Inverted World' spawned as many imitators as any album I can remember in recent history. What is interesting about Woodpigeon is how they deliver on everything all of those bands ever aspired to be. Simply put, poppy, softly sung, acoustic based chamber pop. 'Songbook' honestly sounds like the best album the Shins never made, and yet instead of jumping for joy, we seem to be pushing it to the side. Why? Possibly because Woodpigeon just make it sound so effortless. The melodies are so natural, the progressions all so plainly pleasantly simple, that maybe were just embarrassed that all of our afore-championed imitators managed to somehow fall flat.

'Treasury Library Canada' is also a strong outing, but below you'll find 'Songbook', I'd argue the better of the two. Admittedly, this album is not without its pitfalls; song titles like "Death By Ninja (a Love Song)" are cause for rolling eyes. But that said, if you like pretty, folky, chamber pop like the song below, this is some of the best being made. Check it out.

"Take The Hint Kid", 2008

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Cat Power Record Rumors

So I recently saw the movie 'Powder Blue'. You know, the one where Jessica Biel plays the stripper.. Well, aside from that, the one truly redeeming quality about this movie is the use of a track from Cat Power's 2003 album 'You Are Free'. I implore you, turn down the lights, sip on an alcoholic beverage, close your eyes, and let "Werewolf" wash over you. (Listening to it soundtrack Jessica Biel stripping isn't bad either). There is nothing else in music quite like this, and its signature make-your-skin-crawl kind of bare bones subtlety is what has solidified 'You Are Free' as something of a modern classic. This is what makes rumors of a return to form Cat Power album in 2010 so exciting. After all, Chan Marshall hasn't played guitar on a record in 7 years, and I for one yearn for the post rock style pained atmospherics of her pre-adult contemporary musings.

As good as 'You Are Free' is, when digging into the Cat Power catalogue for me it all comes back to 1998's 'Moon Pix'. This was her first truly realized record, and was recorded with members of the Dirty Three on drums and bass. This in combination with Marshall's pained guitar notes makes for what souds like a post rock album with her soulful moaning gracing the affair. Indie myth claims she wrote the whole thing in one night amidst a fit of insomnia. Oh yes, and she's drop dead gorgeous. Check out "Werewolf", and download links for 'Moon Pix' below.

"Werewolf", 2003

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(Due to the soundtrack theme and the inclusion of a song title 'Werewolf', I can't help but bring up that the 'Twilight New Moon' soundtrack is actually rather good. The old favorites all pitch decent tracks, and a couple of the lesser knowns will surprise you. Worth checking out.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Fans of the ever expanding array of remixed indie songs mashed up with hip hop will wanna check out Montreal producer Tor's latest project; 'Illinoize'. The title and art would suggest a pretty ambitious project, but in reality the mix tape only consists of seven songs with samples coming from four of Stevens albums. In practice not all of the samples really work that well, but at its worse the tape still comes off as interesting. At its best, there are some worthy moments here, particularly coming from "The Tallest Man" and "Night Zombies" which is linked below. Among the MC's participating are Aesop Rock, Outkast, and Brother Ali. Best of all the tape was offered for free download. Check out the website here, and the direct links below.

"Night Zombies/Talkin My Shit (f. Brother Ali)", 2009

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Mike Gunn

In terms of "obscure nonpareils of turn-of-the-decade stoner rock," you're unlikely to eclipse this band. The primary reason being, of course, how horribly under-appreciated they are. But then again, they hail from Texas, a veritable wellspring of indie rock (think: Butthole Surfers, Spoon, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Okkervil River, Shearwater...) not to mention the birthplace of psychedelia itself (13th Floor Elevators). It seems only natural that someone would deign to challenge that identity.

And that's exactly what The Mike Gunn did. In their short existence they managed to churn out one studio LP and one compilation -- both excellent records in their own merit. What seemed to be their defining trait was their great aptitude for rhythmic, pounding psychedelic rock, something today that's oft attempted but rarely excelled at. It would be folly to draw comparisons to Kyuss or Fu Manchu without first prefacing their propensity for free-structured jam; indeed, they were a much larger product of the protective Houston psychedelia scene than any turgid drony space hymns courtesy of Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus. The result: a unique melting pot of driving rhythms borrowing liberally from the psychedelia handbook, what would today be sniped in generalization "stoner rock."

I chose their studio album Almaron in part because it sounds far more cohesive than their compilation of tracks, but also because it contains perhaps my favorite stoner rock song ever. In truth it's obvious that this record wasn't professionally engineered; many of the songs sound like they were written between shifts inside a warehouse somewhere. But the thin production certainly complements the diminutive nasal respirations, and it's easy to hear their fervor. I'm not quite sure what "it" is, but they had it.

"3 A.M.":

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Buy It.