True fans of music spend countless hours searching for that next great song, album or artist, whether it be online or in a local record shop. The beautiful thing about music in today's age is that technology has created an infinite supply of great music that is available to us at the click of a mouse. How perfect is that? We can discover a brand new artist on the opposite side of the globe in seconds without a radio or a music television channel. It only makes sense that a website so dedicated to this gorgeous universe of music would want to celebrate the greatness and share it with anyone who is looking.
My name is Eric (Connecticutter), and I am your host of Straight from the Teet, where I will delve into 7 new albums per week and let you know which tracks I loved from the albums I listened to. I hope that my exploration through this never-ending sea of music will help satisfy that hunger for the brand new tracks you have been seeking.
The 7 albums I listened to last week:
TUESDAY: Islands - A Sleep & A Forgetting
WEDNESDAY: Damien Jurado - Maraqopa
THURSDAY: James Murray - Floods
SATURDAY: Ben Kweller - Go Fly A Kite
SUNDAY: Saltillo - Monocyte
This Winter Room - Losing The Paper Moon:
So this week involved Hallmark's number one holiday, Valentine's Day. I, like a majority of the male population, don't have much interest in the holiday and obviously did not think about it when I decided which albums I would be listening to this week. Out of the seven albums for this week's list, 5 of them carried depressing themes and ideas that dealt with loneliness and despair, perfect for the holiday that celebrates true, undistinguished love. This Winter Room, also known by his birth name Chip Johnson, released one of those albums in late January. The album, Losing The Paper Moon, has been a very quiet release. I actually came across it by complete mistake and was quite surprised by the beauty it carried. Johnson isn't an incredible vocalist or guitarist but he somehow is able to connect with his listeners very personally. I have always been a sucker for dream pop vocals where the singer normally sings under their breathe while the instruments overlay the lyrics. Johnson uses this technique quite a bit where the chords played on guitar are a bit louder then his voice as he almost whispers his song lyrics. I like the idea of that on the album which is mostly depressing as it recognizes his lonesomeness. He longs to be held by someone and be in love again and even though his spirits are kept high, he just can't seem to find that one, true companion he is longing for. As a whole, this album was actually a very worthwhile listen, especially if you are into indie folk-rock music. It's kind of a blend of Melanoid and Rogue Valley with a little bit of extra folk ingredients stirred in. For the most part, the standout tracks overshadow the rest of the album as songs such as "Half Awake (Half Asleep)" and "Foreign And Freezing" just tell such passionate stories where we're really put onto the tracks with an oncoming train of sadness coming directly at us.
Islands - A Sleep & A Forgetting:
Alright, so it's Valentine's Day. The day of hearts and cupids. The day where giving out chocolates as though they were multiplying micro-organisms isn't considered a health risk and giving out roses is considered a normality. This over-dramatized "day of love" holds it's significance for all the couples around the world whose relationships are as cinematic as "When Harry Met Sally" or "Casablanca". But lets be honest, who really has relationships like these? In today's day and age, the idea of love has become just a constant fixation rather then a miracle between two, alluring souls. Love is a forever changed word when you think about it. I know it scares the shit out of me to the point where even the thought of using it has brought on total anxiety. Yeah sure, I might be fucked up but what about Nicholas Thorburn? It seems his feelings on the concepts and pains of the idea of love stick with him more then the good natured enjoyment of the idea. This is exactly what stands out in his lyrics for his new album with Islands, A Sleep & A Forgetting. It's almost perfect that an album telling such personal stories of pain and heartbreak should be released on the national day of "love". I may not fully enjoy what this record brings to the table, mostly due to the instrumentation that surrounds the heart shattering lyrics which just don't seem to justify it, but Thorburn is really onto something here with this release. The record was written in the brief aftermath of a failed relationship and his heart is really worn on his sleeve during each track. It's the bittersweet glimpse into a broken-hearted man which we may have heard thousands upon thousands of times before, but Islands somehow does it differently. They put this upbeat, pop nature into each track which almost takes away from the despair of the lyrics a little too much for me. I respect the songwriting a great deal but I find the music a bit disengaging personally. All in all though, this is a very respectable album from an even more respectable indie band. It also has the perfect album cover for the material within.
read the full earmilk.com album review here!
Damien Jurado - Maraqopa:
It's quite incredible to think about how consistent Damien Jurado has been for the last 15 years. He has released 10 albums, most of which have had this enormous cult following of dedicated fans and critics. His lo-fi, folk music has always been very independent of anything else, at least in the modern era. I, for one, didn't get into Damien Jurado until 2010's Saint Bartlett which seemed to be a much more conservative approach to his songwriting especially in a musical sense. On his new release Maraqopa, Damien seems like he has erupted with confidence. His self-belief oozes out with every single note on guitar and in every single lyric. On the first track of the record entitled "Nothing Is The News", Damien explodes with these powerful electric guitars and booming organs that just carry so much potential energy. The strong opener is a sign of things to come as the rest of the album ventures into some 70's psychedelic ideas. A lot of reverb and plenty of distortion really bring this "not so simple" folk record to a totally new helm. At times I feel like I'm listening to an ancient Neil Young record. On the bright side of the songwriting, I finally got out of the Valentine's Day sadness cycle and into a totally different scheme of the celebration of man kind and the shared human beliefs among our crumbling society. Jurado is at an all new high with his latest record as the career road blocks haven't even seen the light of day for him.
James Murray - Floods:
Ambient music has always been a strong favorite of mine among music genres. I love almost everything about it from the soothing nature of the slow progressions musically to the subtle, yet powerful marathons of harmonic sounds. The brilliance within the genre is infinite especially as the genre continues to evolve. Even so, some ambient artist's stick to their roots. Floods serves as James Murray's description of the beauty and also the terrifying power of one of our world's most important, key elements, water. As important as water is to each of us on a daily basis, most of us don't take the time to muse over the elegance and strength it conceals. One day, water can be the most destructive force in the world, killing thousands in a flood but the next it could provide life sustaining nourishment to a village in terrible need. James Murray intended to explore these ideas musically, using some very ethereal and dreamy qualities on tracks such as "Greenlands" and also some more powerful, striking qualities on tracks like "Floods". Over the course of the record, we are put through both ideas and forced to envision the negative features that water could bring to mankind. Murray isn't trying to scare us however, he's more or less just trying to show us the light in a way I guess. Water isn't something to be frightened of, just something we should never take for granted or underestimate. Sometimes the most important piece of human existence could be exactly what denies that same existence. This album is very tender and fruitful but at the same time it's brilliance lies within it's fearful juxtaposition. I love the themes and ideas that Floods serves.
The Maccabees - Given To The Wild:
On The Maccabees' third effort, the group has found a much more expansive sound. They decided to ditch Markus Dravs, Arcade Fire producer, and go with Tim Goldsworthy and Bruno Ellingham who were successful with the likes of Massive Attack. Just by understanding that, you should already get the idea that Given To The Wild will be much more anthemic in nature. This matured, evolved sound bleeds out on most of the tracks off the new LP and it's so invigorating. Just to shake that conformed, alternative sound where people just continued to label them as little brothers to Arcade Fire, The Maccabees have totally revived themselves. Evidence points to the brand new production team for this as you can identify the grandiose arrangements put in place. This is especially evident on tracks such as "Child" and "We Grew Up At Midnight" as the songs flow out with these great guitar fillers and more electronic elements are put into effect. Orlando Weeks is better then ever with his vocals which pour out of his soul with such elegance and confidence. You can really spot some of the more trip hop influence with the drums too as they carry each beat with such relative ease. The guitars, although they have been asked to have more of a backing roll on a lot of these tracks, do take this album to a whole other level. The patience by guitarists Hugo and Felix White is tremendous as they know their place and just have timing down to near perfection. The pop sound, to me, isn't a step back what so ever. In fact, I think it's the complete opposite. The Maccabees have always been beaten over their heads by critics and they still continue to be which is really surprising to me. This album won't be one of the best records of 2012 but this new LP should definitely be on any indie fan's "albums to check out" list. Just make sure to not be suede too much by the negative criticism this band has been poisoned by.
Ben Kweller - Go Fly A Kite:
Ben Kweller has had an interesting career. His music, although not terribly popular, has seen appearance after appearance on movie soundtracks to radio air play. You would think his career might have blossomed but it stayed on a basically even keel. That's not to say his music hasn't blossomed because it kind of has. I remember back in 2006 when I had first heard his self titled, third LP which was pretty generic overall. It carried the pop sounds that got his music established though when songs like "Sundress" were suddenly put into romantic comedies as if no other song could have replaced it. A few years later though, Kweller put out my favorite album of his entitled Changing Horses. It was a totally different direction as the influences were solely old, "mid-western", country music. The steel slide guitars were so stimulating and with a more folk sounding vocal display, the album just showed a quickly evolving musician. Even so, Go Fly A Kite was not on my "most anticipated albums of 2012" list mainly just because his constant changes in direction with his latter albums. Believe it or not, this album was actually delayed for about a year when Kweller parted ways with ATO Records last March. Kweller believed that by leaving his label and releasing the album under his own label, it would allow him to perfect his song crafting and spend more time with each track. He hated the idea of rushing out records so the more time the better. The new record though, is a total lackluster. Kweller is trying to use more electric guitars and a heavier sound in general. Most of the time it just sounds like one of those 1970's classic rock records that we all outgrew when we were 14 years old. The guitar playing is good but it's just the fact that I've heard this two too many times over the course of my life. His vocals have tried to garner more energy with some bluesy type of yelling here and there but even that just sounds so prosaic to me. His album art is very revealing of all this too with the image of an "E" chord on guitar. This chord shows up far too often on the album so I'm not sure it was totally necessary to use it as the album cover but to each his own. Although Kweller was trying to expand on his sound, it seems he has put himself into a creative hole with no sign of being able to climb out.
Saltillo - Monocyte:
You know what? I'm not really into bashing musical artists especially ones who I have used to enjoy. I know it's basically part of the business as a music writer but it's just not me normally. I always like to see the bright side of things on albums especially the ones I post here on earmilk.com. Six years ago, if you are a trip hop fan, you were blessed with a release called Ganglion. The album was by a first time artist named Saltillo and his brand of trip hop was very interesting as he was a classically trained violinist. With that as an influence, his songs always combined the minimalism of droning, electronic beats with a wide array of violin sounds that protruded so beautifully. It was a very distinctive sound that really got his name out there among indie and electronic fans alike. So now, six years later, we finally have a second release from Saltillo. The album, Monocyte, is relatively the same type of record as it's predecessor. The violins show up huge and the electronics have become even more droning to the point where the trip hop feel is almost totally gone. Most of the time, this record sounds like an experimental nightmare because of its complexities. I do respect the fact that Saltillo found it necessary to experiment a bit more after his successful debut but I mean, it's six years later. The thrill is taken out by the fact that we had to wait so long for something so manipulated. For the most part, this record just sounds like a remix of Ganglion with more bass and drone sounds. There are a few high points such as "If Wishes Were Catholics" where the female vocals bring out a necessary brightness to such dark, almost overwhelming song craft. "I Hate You" is another track I quite liked but it's mainly because I was so familiar with the song structure as it sounded just like something off of his last LP. It's all a bit sad for me as this record was one of the albums I was looking forward to most this year but it just didn't come through for me.
Another week of album listens is finito and I am ready for another week as I look forward to getting back to all of you readers next Monday. If anyone is interested in purchasing or simply hearing any of these albums online, I have linked them for you to make it simple. I hope you have enjoyed reading this weeks edition of Straight From The Teet and I look forward to bringing you a new group of records next week.