All The Colors We Have :: An 8tracks Mix

This has been our summer of returning to the idea of the mixtape. We couldn't bring ourselves to name it, "All The Colours We Have" a direct tribute to the GROUPLOVE lyric which launches this mix, but the rest are all songs with a color in the title (or with the British spelling of "color" in the title, which is more popular than we realized), and no shade is repeated. "Blue" is easy, so is "red"; there are even more songs with "black" in the title, even it not being a real color. The trouble is the others. What is the best song you own with the word, "yellow" in the title? What about "Green", "Purple", or our furthest reach, "Golden"?  Long used as the emotional paintbrush, these are the best songs in our collection that make use of this type imagery. Drawn from the Decemberists, Yo La Tengo, California Wives, Clap Your Hands, and a bunch of others, the spectrum, like that of reflected light, is enormous and yet totally discrete.

Lisa Hannigan :: "A Sail"

If true human affection involves the dual act of killing and being killed, Lisa Hannigan is both a mass murder and a willing victim. Dating back to her mildly over-wrought and completely beautiful work with Damien Rice (footnote: 2006, "9 Crimes" single release), Hannigan has proved the master of shooting the middle between being so brittle you thought she could be snapped in half and seemingly so stout she dared you to try. Now away from being Rice's secret weapon, she is already onto her second solo effort, Passenger, out this fall. Not the first single (which will be "Knots") but first available download, "A Sail" illustrates Hannigan's twin gift for metaphor and melancholy pop. A broken, little banjo hook, some strings and a final analysis, "I will roll my heart up", leave you almost laughing at how far she's willing to go to have you picture her emotional boat, sails rolled in, beaten about a terrifying sea or listless in a dead one. As usual, still very much alive, we picture her somewhere in the middle.

Lisa Hannigan - A Sail by partisanpr


Friska Viljor :: "Passionseeker"

Friska Viljor, the Swedes by way of Berlin, have frequently channeled something that sounds like a brass band exploding in a telephone booth. This is a compliment, not musical terrorism. On "Passionseeker" the seventh track off their latest release, the band sounds far more like countrymen the Shout Out Louds, although a version that embraces the highest of highs instead of pluming the depths. The fidelity is nearly sickly sweet, like the morning cereal that used to hurt teeth and turn milk a color not found in nature. But the baroque pre-chorus, with its pumping strings and its simple insistence, "I like other things too", provides a sad statement about the limits of a relationship's capacity for fulfillment, a lyrical counterpoint to the saccharine falsetto and hook-filled refrain. The final rhetorical question: "Could we discover time is gonna bring us down, girl?" is the steamroller, offering a different inevitability running in the opposite direction of everlasting love.

Listen :: Friska Viljor - "Passionseeker"


Steel Phantoms :: "Bedouin"

The first thought is, "Close To Me". It's not your fault either, the first ten seconds of Steel Phantoms' "Bedouin" are an absolute dead ringer for the Cure original. Of the next nearly five minutes the easiest comparison is last year's Hooded Fang record, an amalgam of string pizzicato building to a sprawling plateau of a chorus and the instantly memorable, "Everybody goes away." The path from the first refrain to the last is circuitous, featuring what feels like two straight bridges laid back to back. You will return to the warmth of the guitars - very nearly out of the Vampire Weekend catalog - in the last chorus, this one imbued with a sense of urgency that trumps even the languid vocals and all the lazy progress it took to get here. After all, this is song about getting a little bit lost.

Listen :: Steel Phantoms - "Bedouin"

Light For Fire :: "The Huckster"

J. Nicholas Allard, the narrative voice behind Light For Fire, put his misery to paper. He made that paper into sheet music and that sheet music into a debut record about a girl who ripped his guts out over the course of a summer in New York City. How forthright. In essence, here, look what you did and I don't care who knows about it. On second promotional mp3, "The Huckster", also track one on the album, Allard is stripped down, open with his problematic drinking and the most charming brand of fatalism you've heard since the last time you stupidly decided to walk home in a snow storm. The rest of the record, including the previously mentioned "NY (By The Hand)" reminds the listener of Spoon, but here, Allard seems completely unconcerned with any aesthetic sensibility or genre comparisons, powered only with his voice, an acoustic guitar and an unfolding heartbreak of which this is only side one, track one. So it begins, in medias res, where we know the outcome already, the terrible conclusion that lead to this moment. And none of this, the glaring honesty, the hooky little acoustic tune at the beginning of a nice pop record, takes away from this story and how something so obviously terrible could end up sounding so damn good.

Listen :: Light For Fire - "The Huckster"


Dreamers Of The Ghetto :: "Tether"

Yesterday afternoon, we received a promo of the very excellent debut album, Enemy/Lover from Dreamers Of The Ghetto. Out this fall, it is simply one of the best debut records you'll hear in 2011. Stunning in its sense of scale, the band proves masters of leaving enough space in their arrangements to fashion them into booming caverns, playgrounds for their trademarked gravel vocals. The album closes with the spare and beautiful, "Tether", a seven-and-a-half minute slam that finally finds a guitar down stroke, washing synths and an edict, "It's just another door." It starts at 3:48, the guitars gently stripping away, as the drum kit pounds like someone carrying too much weight up a gentle incline. Then the guitars turn, fashioning a rhythm out of the same chord, and this is where the arrangement finds its wings, these repeated motions becoming an architecture for huge synth chords and the finally tally, a yelled, "It's just another door." The implication is all these openings were for naught, all this space just lead to more room, more gates to pass through. Unless, you suppose that this next door, at the end of their first album, implies something all together different. That this is just the enormous beginning.

Listen :: Dreamers Of The Ghetto - "Tether"


Icarus Himself :: "On Your Side"

A sea sick swirl of loops and buzzing sonics paces around the front of Icarus Himself's latest single, "On Your Side". It is fully more than a minute before Nick Whetro's vocals creep into the mix, a languid, shabbier version of Pete Yorn's desire to express the same sentiment 10 years ago. But this artful fog clears in the form of a crystalline acoustic guitar, a bit of clarity before the drums hit, digging the whole arrangement back down into a pretty, cacophonous muck. Whetro continues to insist he's, "on your side", but it doesn't sound like being there is a whole lot of fun. This is a kind of entrenched support, a promise built on another form of fatalism. Essentially, to be in the camp of another, knowing full well it might be the worst idea possible.

Icarus Himself - On Your Side by PlanetaryOnlinePR


We Humans :: "One In A Million"

As something wickedly poppy this way comes, We Humans might the next speeding pixel on the horizon with the kind of crossover potential that makes major label scouts think, "this could save my job" and advertising executives think, "What would it cost to use that song, 50k? Great, let's do it." Sounding a whole lot like Parklife-era Blur, We Humans only played their first proper live gig back in June and have just three demos streaming on their Facebook and Soundcloud portals. They have 15 followers on Twitter. Which means this is only the start of something far more serious and far reaching than the glossy, international sounding pop that we hear from them now. This is how you will know if the record industry folks are doing their jobs, feverishly hunting down bands on the Internet and seeing the possibilities open up like a smashed vending machine. We Humans are headed for movie soundtracks, television placements and late night talk show performances if the cards fall right. On "One In A Million", a burnished, silky single, the band sounds utterly precocious, even on bits of instantly memorable and meaningless pop lyrics like, "You're just one in a million faces/going nowhere, you're going places." For some reason, the Hype Machine tells us that this will be the first post about the band in the United States. This will offend your later self as much as it surprises me now.

One In A Million by We Humans


Kyla La Grange :: "Heavy Stone"

As we inch closer and closer to Kyla La Grange's debut LP at the beginning of next year, she has yet another single ready for release in October, "Heavy Stone" with B-side, "Lambs". Available for streaming and free download below, La Grange is again in top form, though it almost risks redundancy to pay her these types of compliments. In her textbook style, "Heavy Stone" opens with a brittle guitar riff before processing in seemingly inexorable fashion toward a crashing final 30 seconds, the drums finding a new and resolute down beat as strings rise and churn behind the little woman with the enormous voice. Of course, it wouldn't be a La Grange song without a vicious lyrical twist. Over and above lines like, "I want to see myself painted in an invisible grey" and the cruel bridge, "We will remain unfinished puzzles as we sit", she closes with the last line of the chorus, all but that brittle guitar stripped away, the final denial, "I am carrying my cold heart home." Somehow even in this moment of narrative slinking away, gutted, La Grange still feels firmly in control, a master of big, heart-broken pop.

Heavy Stone by Kyla La Grange

On The List :: The Rapture @ Music Hall of Williamsburg [8.20.11]

This review runs live and in color on the Bowery Presents House List blog.

Without any urging, those in the crowd at the Rapture’s sold-out Music Hall of Williamsburg show began frantically moving around. There was no sequence or coherence, but it wouldn’t be long before the same people reached for the ceiling, fighting Newton’s Law of Gravity. In the briefest summary, the set was an absolute ripper, a dance show with a rock band playing or maybe it was the other way around. If the Rapture waited five years for this, as they would intimate later in the evening, for this group of fans, the wait seemed to have been even longer.

The Rapture appropriately opened with one of their many songs directly referencing human affection, “In the Grace of Your Love.” Put another way, if your drinking game was to do shots each time frontman Luke Jenner mentioned the word love, you’d either be very drunk or very dead, depending on your tolerance for alcohol. Jenner ended the evening with “It Takes Time to Be a Man”—the closer off the band’s new album and nearly a dead ringer for “Let’s Get It On”—dedicated to his wife of 10 years and perhaps a reflection of how good it feels to be back onstage. This means there were two types of love in play as Jenner stared into the balcony: that of a guy who took off a ton of time from music to spend it with his family and that of a guy who felt completely at home onstage of Music Hall of Williamsburg, a venue that did not exist when his 2006 LP hit stores.

This intersection of the old and the new and the personal and the public played well as the band spent the evening in their more comfortable back catalog with a few new album stunners mixed in for good measure. “House of Jealous Lovers” sat comfortably with “Get Myself Into It,” next to new cuts like the night’s second song, “Never G0nna Die Again,” and main-set closer, the club-ready “How Deep Is Your Love.” That love, clearly a complicated instrument, had waited too long to not be real and the ceiling of Music Hall was way closer than it appeared.


The Moor :: "Warm Winter"

Finding a seat between Beach House and Warpaint on the team bench for far away feeling pop, The Moor make their entry into your hearts with their debut, self-titled record, out this Tuesday. Lead promotional track, "Warm Winter" that has all the sickly, unsettled feeling of one of those out of place February days where the temperature climbs into the low 60s and everyone wonders if the world slipped officially off its axis. It is, of course, never quite so drastic. The cold returns but, here, before it can, the chorus is a charming pop daisy, replete with backing vocals and a clapping beat. The vocals are that female type that whisper close to your ear, and yet feel like they could be thousands of miles away, buried under wax paper microphone, reverb and a reference to butterflies that you'll either catch or you won't.

Warm Winter by themoor


Tidelands :: "Marigolds"

Oh, to be elevated, that curious anti-gravity, lifting and gaining momentum against every Newtonian law. But it is rare, to be sure, these upwardly mobile chord progressions, half because of innate difficulties and half because we live in an age where elevation feels dishonest. Our position already so edified, so ripe for tipping, we feel guilt, fear. We are watershed people, standing on a horrific fulcrum, aware of our precipice and how everything runs away, down to the sea. Chose your continental divide, we think, but the way out is certainly not headed up. Yet, even in a world rife with cultural anxiety, where a comparatively meaningless band like Tidelands can write a seven-and-a-half minute song ostensibly about flowers, all is never lost. The horns are lifted from Sufjan Stevens circa 2005, but the melody and its plucked acoustic roots have no interest in staying grounded. These refuse to be simple cover ups, nor a dishonestly positive rendition of a negative time. This sounds like the slowest of liftoffs and the knowledge that the sun never stops rising in the east.

Listen :: Tidelands - "Marigolds"


beat radio :: "Teenage Anthem For The Drunken Boat"

The first time beat radio's Brian Sendrowitz sings, "I made you a mixtape/okay, it's not a tape at all", you believe him. It's a dead technology. Probably no one you know has made a real compliation tape in going on two decades, a memory that you, like me, might keep alive by calling CDs, even playlists or zip files sent to girls far away, "mixtapes", even if it means lying to the last three generations of music technology. But the second time Sendrowitz sings the same lyric, high fret board guitars wail behind him, adding a level of romance that shatters even our most artful compartmentalization of memory. Maybe it was a tape after all. This inexorable march, this race of new formats - vinyl killed by cassettes killed by CDs killed by mp3s killed by the Cloud happened in less than 30 years - is unstoppable. Sendrowitz just isn't having it, confessing a desire to explode this bullet back into the gun, to repack Pandora's box, maybe taking with it her Internet radio. The final lyric is the killer, "I was looking for something that can't be encoded in zeros and ones." Magnetic tape is no better than binary coded mp3s, but for Sendrowitz our feelings about music could stand to move forward by going back. We were no better or more earnest back then, but we remember it differently. For beat radio, we can be those remembered better people, even when you're downloading this song across the Internet wasteland.

Listen :: beat radio - "Teenage Anthem For The Drunken Boat"


All I Really Want Is Girls :: An 8tracks Mix

With the continued support of the wonderful people over at 8tracks, we've re-examined our music library with a new eye and increasingly arbitrary filters. This time, on "All I Really Want Is Girls", we avoid the Beasties' track of the same name, but keep the impulse, searching for the songs that feature a single-word, female name. That means Ben Folds' "Jane" would be in (though we went with "Emaline" instead) but the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane" would be out. I know, arbitrary. You'll notice a lot of them end in the letter "a" either indicating that a lot of girl names end in this letter or that, at the very least, this closing vowel inspires song creation (read: love, heartbreak, etc.). We pulled from Avi Buffalo to Brandon Flowers, Miike Snow to Wolf Parade, about those faces that launched a thousand ships and those names that inspired all this great pop.

Yukon Blonde :: "Fire"

"They're setting fire to the ocean", Yukon Blonde warn us. Now, barring the oil-spill-lightning-strike scenario, this is probably figurative language of the suspend-the-laws-of-physics-the-world-is-melting type. The stakes are, as they recently seem to be, high. As a point of clarification, or simply to up the ante, the band closes its list of things that are being set ablaze with the chilling one-liner, "They're setting fire to my face". Summarized as an English sentence: It's the apocalypse. But, the edge of disaster never quite sounds so bad, as warm acoustic guitars and golden harmonies that evoke The Stills at their most alt-country or Family Of The Year, make Yukon Blonde's "Fire" a perfect summer single. Think of a less dishonest Fleet Foxes, or driving windows down into the setting sun, getting damn close and hot as hell.

Yukon Blonde - Fire by killbeat music


Awesome New Republic :: "New Armor"

Protection could easily be one of our next impulses, nationally, personally, something. Awesome New Republic, a Miami band that recently gained a ton of good press, have a single in exactly this vein, "New Armor". One of those slow speed jams that initially feels like it was a sent a text to meet at the corner of an updated George Harrison and pharmaceuticals, it evolves into a more direct iteration. The final edict, amidst an enormous explosion of sound, is, "you've got to find yourself so move on". The arrangement only gets bigger from there, spinning off in directions that will make you nod your head and will pour someones anti-anxiety drugs in the collective punch bowl. One part recommendations, one part recognition, "New Armor" seeks that moment where, after moving on, the antagonist will feel fine. And this is the trick; they won't, this antagonist. In all probability, they are hosed. But, this is and isn't your problem. Sometimes you suggest and then pull back behind your moat. The rest is outside.

Listen :: Awesome New Republic - "New Armor"


Jonathan Coulton :: "Nemeses" [Feat. John Roderick]

Jonathan Coulton is a joker. This part is known; his back catalogue looks like a series of ideas that Al Yankovic discarded for being too high brow. However, on his new record, Artificial Heart, produced by They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh, Coulton heads in a direction to coalesce these broad, quirky ideas into a beautiful slice of pop. Lead single, "Nemeses", the kind of thing that would have dominated college radio in 1993, or easily could have appeared on a Lemonheads record in that same year. Here, Coulton digs John Roderick of the Long Winters on backing vocals, a sound that will remind fans of how long Roderick has been gone. He's well-used on "Nemeses", a bit of throwback pop about how much we need our rivals. It's a love song to the upwardly mobile middle manager who is looking to beat you out for Vice President of fill-in-the-blank. You could say Coulton is kidding, but listen to the bridge, the obvious boy-needs-girl language turned into man-hates-man. Unrequited love spun on its head. This is a weird, pretty, love song for someone you should otherwise despise, as delicate and serious a concept as pop can handle.

Listen :: Jonathan Coulton - "Nemeses"


Big Wave Riders :: "Behind These Walls"

In these cheap, one paragraph reviews we all write - the scary footnote being that we historically write more than our peers - it is always tempting to delve into easy metaphors. A band called Big Wave Riders? Let's immediately trot out phrases like "wall of sound", maybe we let you make the connection, or maybe it's more obvious and we talk about being "washed away"or even more cheaply, we use the word, "crest". It's graphic in both senses of the word, but imagery of this type is as lazy as it is pervasive. Finland's Big Wave Riders are thusly not a band that remind me of anything, despite some of the obvious shared genetic material with countrymen, French Films. "Behind These Walls" features an impatient, even urgent bass line, as the backbone of crashing vocals and a soaring, unintelligible chorus. It is instantly full of hooks, a tidy pop song, shoegazing in parts, loads tougher than the Drums and more fun than anything else you'll do this morning. Unless, you've gone surfing. This is harder than it looks.

Listen :: Big Wave Riders - "Behind These Walls"


On The List :: Airborne Toxic Event @ The Met, Providence, RI [8.5.11]

(photo via)
All this is not as easy as it looks perhaps. Despite a successful second record, All At Once, charting at 17 on Billboard, with a single, "Changing", in heavy rotation at modern rock radio, Airborne Toxic Event look a little worn. Or maybe, "mechanical" is the right word. For a band that so relied on its mercuriality in 2008, a bizarre combination of surprise success and incredibly magnanimous band members, they seem, for lack of a better word, rehearsed. Singer, Mikel Jollett will later reflect on this grind of being a touring musician, about being far from home and playing too many shows (a worthy footnote: this is one of the most prodigious acts in American rock at something like 200 shows a year) a comment made not to engender any specific sympathy but, rather, to explain why this night ended up turning out so well. He looked exactly at the back of the room and uttered one of those life affirming platitudes that sounds as bullshit as it is completely true, "Nights like this remind you why you do it." This time he's right for all of us.

This is not one of those narratives where we find a band saved by its fans or, as the first paragraph may have mistakenly implied, a band worn down to its dull edge finding some last great moments in front of an admittedly enthusiastic crowd. Airborne Toxic Event will get on their bus and play another show, their music will be licensed in television and movies, they will play late night talk shows, and they will still manage to be the same nice people they were on their first tours at their first shows. In short, they will be fine. But it is a story about degrees. In this case, those small degrees between a live concert being great and being mediocre. Over the long haul, two albums, nearly four years of touring, Europe and back, distinctions like these are achingly slim as the band took the stage, playing "All I Ever Wanted" and loose version of maybe the single biggest rock song of 2011, "Numb".

The set found its legs in the middle, with bassist Noah Harmon upping his intensity level on "Tokyo Radio", a bonus track from All At Once that sounds better live than it does as a fuzzy addendum to the deluxe version of the record. The main set closed with "Something New", the stomping latest single, "Changing" and the band's seminal thesis song, "Sometime Around Midnight". The audience matched this succession of upbeat cuts, on board and singing nearly every lyric, including a guttural screaming of, "I am a gentleman" during the pre-chorus of "Changing". Jollett moved to the edge of the crowd, all of us yelling now, a portent of the singer himself spilling into the audience during the encore.

After a quick trip back stage, the band returned, mostly wearing the t-shirts of opening band The Drowning Men. TATE played classic closing song, "Missy" only stuffing an medley of classic songs in the middle, featuring "I'm On Fire", "I Fought The Law", a song Jollett dedicated to, "that fucking racist cop", and a faithful cover of Johnny Cash's, "Folsom Prison Blues". The closing song would be the eponymous first track off their second album, "All At Once", one of those songs about getting older, becoming something else, and living under the specter of evaporating time. But, Jollett reflects first, telling us it is nights like this that make it worth it. This is not about saving a band, for they don't need to be saved, but it is about remembering why this is so cool, when it has been so cool for so long and started to feel like something else, something granted, given, an "of course", repeated stimulus dangerously recast as a numbing agent.

But despite the band's lyrics at the beginning of the night, the ones about wanting to be numb, all of us will leave in a different capacity. In a wasted, somewhat forgotten section just north of a medium-sized New England city, a crowd packed an old factory for a rock concert and a band found new energy in their fans. I suspect they do this most nights, or maybe only on the good ones, transcending a practiced series of moves, the sublimation of songs they've played maybe a thousand times, and finding something new and important in something old and tiring. Or maybe Jollett says this in every city and every crowd finds it a unique commentary on their supposed uniqueness. But having seen this band enough now, it seemed that something a little special happened with the crowd at The Met. It was only a few degrees above everything else, just a shade, but these are the few degrees that matter.


DJ Natty Heavy :: THE FIRST OF THE MONTH [August 2011]

DJ Natty Heavy is back with his second monthly compilation mix for your ears, an absolute burner with no regard for your safety. It's an exclusive to 32ft/sec and we're calling it THE FIRST OF THE MONTH, the time when you get paid, or when someone comes to collect, or in this case, both. Already one of the best club DJs below the Mason-Dixon (who else gets shouts from Estelle and Ghostface on the regular?), here we find Heavy in top form on a Tom Vek/"Top Billin'" mash or the YACHT/Capital Cities transition or the absolute explosion that happens in the use of Polarsets and Cee Lo. What about Adele thrown over a song about the apocalypse or "Gucci Gucci" taking over the back half of the Strokes' "Taken For A Fool"? It will take two listens before you even fully grasp what happened here. Absolute fire from the American South from a DJ that if you don't know, now you know, I'd say you should stream and download below but, really, you need to tell everyone you know and take cover. This kid is coming to wreck your town.

1. Common - "The Corner"/ GROUPLOVE - "Itching On A Photograph"
2. Tom Vek - "We Do Nothing" / Audio Two - "Top Billin'"
3. YACHT - "Dystopia" / Adele - "Rolling In The Deep"
4. Capital Cities - "Safe And Sound" / Estelle - "American Boy"
5. The Rapture - "How Deep Is Your Love"
6. Polarsets - "Leave Argentina" / Cee Lo - "Fuck You
7. First Rate People - "Someone Else Can Make A Work Of Art" / Drake - "Best I Ever Had"
8. The Strokes - "Taken For A Fool" / Kreayshawn - "Gucci Gucci"

DJ NattyHeavy :: FIRST OF THE MONTH [August 2011] by 32feet


Various Cruelties :: "Chemicals"

It's weird, right, you're thinking Kings Of Leon of 2010 went back and wrote material for themselves in 2005? Newest Various Cruelties single, "Chemicals" spins a type of throwback rock that also seems to dance right to the edge of being too poppy (a tension preserved by the above mentioned KOL previous to these events) before running head-long back into the mother's skirt of credibility. Ostensibly, this a song about doing drugs, or believing in the natural fated chemistry of the universe - and here, refer to the above sentence to reason out any potential ambiguities; it could be both. "Chemicals" also traffics in those nearly cliched moments, "If it's meant to be/the universe is gonna throw it back to me", before resolving chords with satisfying flourish, even if the lyrics are the inconclusive, "that's just how I feel." Due out October 3rd, you can hear it first below, only reaffirming that Various Cruelties are one of the most promising acts on the horizon, you know, that line between being authentically huge and hugely authentic.