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.
TUESDAY: BADBADNOTGOOD – BBNG2
WEDNESDAY: Julia Holter – Ekstasis
SATURDAY: Mecca:83 – D A Y B R E A K
SUNDAY: Good Old War – Come Back As Rain
Maps & Atlases – Beware And Be Grateful:
The first time I ever experienced math rock was when my close friend and neighbor presented to me a youtube video that portrayed some dirty looking hippy playing the hell out of an acoustic guitar in some sunlit apartment. I was left absolutely mesmerized as the guitarist was using the instrument not just for it's strings section but also for bass and percussion. By tapping the guitar body and the strings themselves, he was able to get this magnificent sound to take over the song. This was a pretty defining moment for me as a music fan as I like to think of it as the beginning of my journey into the musical abyss that I am still voyaging through. Before then, I was basically your average teenager who listened to whatever the radio had looped 100 times over the course of a 24 hour day. This all took place in 2006 and would also be the time when I would first discover the identity of the dirty hippy guitar player, Dave Davison. Davison is the lead singer and guitarist for the much anticipated math rock group Maps & Atlases, a band that prides themselves on crazy time signatures and odd uses for their basic instruments. The band was formed in Chicago and although they started out as a very experimental group with lots of very unique characteristics, the band has since moved past those ideas. The whole "math rock" label isn't truly justified anymore, especially since their 2010 release, Perch Patchwork. That album showed a slight decline in what really made the group interesting to begin with and although the pop infused sound was enough to get their name out into the open finally, it just erased any type of true, musical progression that the band seemed to be working towards from the get-go. After the release, I was pretty anxious to hear another as I figured the change in sound selfhood couldn't be permanent. As Beware And Be Grateful finally made it's way to my eardrums, I was finally hit with the truth…Maps & Atlases just would never be the band I had hoped so bad they would be. I was indeed distracted while I listened to the new album's pop oriented sound as I longed for double time guitar and tapped chords, or anything math rock related. Those ideas never made their way to the music though. This album instead is filled with cliche guitar progressions, boring drum patterns, and lyrics that just don't hold any true significance. The band isn't progressing, they are in a steady decline and this abortion of their math rock capabilities seems like a poor choice in musical direction.
BADBADNOTGOOD – BBNG2:
So immediately, before you even put this record on, you have to wonder what in the hell is up with the name of this band. Although I do not have the answer to questions such as that one, I can officially tell you that in no way, shape or form does the name of this band define their music. In fact, these guys are quite the opposite. I should tell you that finding much significant information on this band is like mission:impossible as even their official website contains very little personal information on the band themselves. The trio, who are from Canada, make up a very unique sounding Jazz outfit. Jazz is becoming a very quick changing genre nowadays which I think many people, especially older generations of jazz music fans, are not relatively happy about. Music though is an infinitely changing and evolving art that needs to blend together genres and ideas in order to stay on top of the creative output. Technically speaking, BADBADNOTGOOD are very jazz trained musicians who have a love for electronic and experimental music, which they blend in with their jazz instrumentation. All together, they create this medley of sounds that is dark and twisted yet fun and inspiring. Although the band likes to cover and redo beats which they did a lot on their first LP, on BBNG2, the band has decided to put more original takes into motion. The album does have some terrific remixes of songs by Kanye West, OFWGKTA, James Blake and My Bloody Valentine but they also throw in some terrific outpourings of really classic jazz fusions mixed with some electronic rhythms. This album ends up being much more complex then a jazz record or a trip hop record as each track shows a great deal of knowledge behind the notes. The instrumentation is great from the drums to the saxophone cameos and when you hear this band really start to improvise and jam out, the energy is just massive. Being a true lover of jazz music, I can obviously see the distortion with BADBADNOTGOOD but overall, the band is just overflowing with production talent. Although these guys are somewhat young, they seem to have a natural ability to bring this brand new version of jazz music to life.
Julia Holter – Ekstasis:
2011 ended up being, in my opinion, one of the greatest years for music that I have personally experienced. Album for album, 2011 just seemed fully stocked of interesting records that were really significant to their corresponding genres. The year brought releases from M83, Bon Iver, and Fleet Foxes but it also had some truly surprising breakout releases by bands like Submotion Orchestra, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, and Snowman, all of which ended up atop my 350 album list for the year. Obviously, these were just to name a few and when you think about everything else that played out beyond just these albums, it's obvious that some albums become overlooked or even completely missed. One of those albums for me was Julia Holter's first full length song cycle, Tragedy. On that album, Holter fused her folk styled upbringings with her baroque pop influence to put out an album that was truly special. The record stirred your emotions and was extremely powerful and well crafted. What really makes an album like that special is it's ability to generate so many different types of emotions and reactions from the same listener. Art pop is a very difficult genre for bands to wrap their head around as so many art pop bands come and go and so few actually continue on. The territory is relatively dangerous for an artist but when you are as ambitious as Holter, you strive for complexity. Tragedy made a living off those ideas and it's livelihood was kept afloat for a new day. On Holter's brand new record Ekstasis, it seems those same ideas are once again thrown up for grabs but the technical aspects are just simply void of the same enjoyment I got out of her last record. Thinking about this after many listens over and over again, it becomes clear to me that Holter is putting a sincere effort into trying to become this baroque pop VIP but when you're busy trying to get something done you're missing the musical marks you set out for in the beginning. Holter is a terrific musician, and that's a plain and simple fact. She understands musical composition and how to blend notes together and she seems like a perfectionist on the production side but it all seems so mechanical and labored. It's almost like being spoon fed chocolate mousse that is far too rich to fully enjoy. You tend to get sick of it before you even get halfway done. Holter is a relatively new musician and her prowess within the recording studio is far too incredible for me to truly dislike anything she releases, but with great potential comes harsh criticism.
Lotus Plaza – Spooky Action At A Distance:
I have to admit right off the bat that I am in, what seems to be anyways, a very vanishing minority of people who never really climbed on board the emerging vessel of Lotus Plaza. Lockett Pundt, who is the guitarist and multi-instrumentalist for Deerhunter, is really defined by that. Deerhunter is a very experimental, alternative group led by the fascinating Bradford Cox and the band has continued to impress more and more after every release. I hate saying that the band's flavor would ultimately change if Pundt were to be left out of the equation but he seems to be the anchor that holds that ship in place. All four members of Deerhunter are creative and have lots of input when it comes to the overall sound but Pundt is the musical leader. With Cox writing all the songs, Pundt is the one behind the scenes bringing each song to the surface. In 2009, we finally were able to hear some solo work by Pundt and the album came in the form of a dark shoegaze record met with ambient fusions. The overall sound was fundamentally great and it really showed Pundt in a very different, artistic light other then what he brought to the table within the band. I wasn't really into it though as I had trouble really discovering my identity along with the record's. I felt kind of lost and deluded by it. Fast forward to this year as Spooky Action At A Distance is released and I see a different flaw this time around. Instead of that sovereign sound that Pundt carried apart from Deerhunter, his new solo album just sounds like extra cuts directly off of a Deerhunter record. The music is a bit unimaginative and just escapes any type of true independence that was present on his first album. Once again, I am caught being a fan of Deerhunter but just cannot wrap my brain around the solo recordings of Pundt. I like him best playing guitar within the band.
Bear In Heaven – I Love You, It's Cool:
Bear In Heaven made a huge splash on the indie scene with their sophomore LP Beast Rest Fourth Mouth in 2009. The album was a very interesting neo-psychedelic record that also played around with some synth pop and shoegaze styled vocals. Although I wasn't a big fan of the record or the band for that matter, they garnered a big cult following and received plenty of great scores from major music critics all over the internet. Altogether though for me, the sound was all just a bit too convoluted and layered. It drew lots of great melodies from your basic keyboards and guitars but with the additions of experimental sound effects and really distorted bass I was left longing for something simpler. At times, the band showed their talents though with tracks like "Lovesick Teenagers" which really drew on the synth pop board rather then taking notes from their more dark psychedelia. With tracks like that, it seemed like the band had an identity flaw as they had some different musical directions they could travel but they instead just bounced back and forth between them. The people who loved the psychedelic tracks weren't really into the synth pop while the synth pop fans didn't grow fond of the psychedelic nature. On the bands new album entitled simply I Love You, It's Cool, they finally have a destined direction for their music. Synth pop really takes the focus on this album as the tracks all take a spin through some 80's nostalgia. As the band kind of goes back to the basics here, the music ends up being much more fun and although it's a much less ambitious record then the former, I happen to enjoy it more. Whether it's Philpot's blissful vocals that seem stronger and much more confident or the dance driven synthesizer melodies, the album takes a step backwards technically but it ends up being a great choice musically. With the absence of a sinister underbelly that Beast Rest Fourth Mouth played with, the band is able to create something fun and more relative. I can understand why this album will get a lot of mixed thoughts but I think altogether, this is a very genuine album with warm textures and a nice flavor of synth pop that will most likely get stuck in your head after a few listens. I like the direction Bear In Heaven is heading.
Mecca:83 – D A Y B R E A K:
Mecca:83 is the alter ego for electronic recording artist Evan Jones, a young music producer from the United Kingdom. He has been releasing music at a very fast pace over the course of the last 3 or 4 years under a few different pseudonyms, most of which has been free of charge. His music is classified as instrumental hip-hop but his use of nu-jazz and old school funk gives his music a very secluded identity that really pays off. DAYBREAK is Jones' first long play record and it pinpoints exactly what he is interested in. His original electronic work is a bit generic at times but as he combines it with some select samples of soul music from the earl 80's and even the 70's, the ideas really come together quite well. The album becomes very chilled out and although it probably won't serve as anything too significant by the year's end, it does show a nice, creative side of trip hop music. The term "trip hop" is becoming more and more popular as musicians all over the world have grown a fondness for industrial beats and electronic samples. Although the rap might be absent, the music is defined by it's downtempo warmth and chilled out vibrations. Jones does all of this in a pretty remarkable way, capturing some really nostalgic moments from the 80's and 70's in the form of soul and R&B rather then just hip hop. The tracks on this record are unlike anything else in the electronic community as no track goes longer then 3 minutes. I find that factor to be a plus but also a negative as even though no song will drive you crazy with boredom, some tracks just don't really have a chance to show it's true colors. At times, it feels as though just when you're beginning to really start enjoying a track it abruptly ends and in that regard, it kind of drives me nuts. The samples are where the album really shines on and the album really accomplishes that idea of modern nostalgia. Jones isn't the best beat maker around but he has a great ear for sampling music. DAYBREAK will be an album that you might fall in love with or totally dislike but one thing's for sure, the ideas that are in place on this record end up being well thought out and very worthwhile, making this record a very interesting release for 2012.
Good Old War – Come Back As Rain:
After the sudden breakup of Days Away in 2008 after a few decently successful indie releases, two of the members regrouped to form a more acoustic, folk inspired act instead. Tim Arnold and Keith Goodwin, former members of Days Away, would move on from the band along with Dan Schwartz, former member of Unlikely Cowboy, to form Good Old War. Off the bat, the band made a pretty quick fan base with their self titled LP entitled Only Way To Be Alone. The record showed a more spirited side of the band members' songwriting which was mainly an acoustic folk act, a far cry from their work in Days Away which was more complex and progressive in nature. Like most acoustic bands, the group used the power of pop music to their advantage, writing catchy songs that were mainly happy and melancholic. By the time the band were to release their sophomore LP, things weren't looking great musically as the band had lost their edge. The music was just ballad after ballad and the melodramatic lyrics were almost too high school prom song to take very seriously. Their self titled album just didn't contain anything that would really stick out in today's world of electronic heavy music. On their new album Come Back As Rain, Good Old War continues at the same pace as their last 2 efforts. The music is still a very pop oriented, acoustic driven folk mold with lots of high spirited song writing and joyful chord progressions. Historically, I have a very difficult time with peppy music like this. I'm not some depressing human being but for I just happen to enjoy music with a dark or depressing nature, maybe because it seems more heartfelt and real. Happy music usually leaves a lot to be desired because people simply cannot be that happy right? Well Good Old War writes songs about love and happiness and the joyful world around them. At times the music is quite nice and inspiring actually, really helping me enjoy the beautiful spring weather here in Connecticut. At other times though, I quickly lose interest in the overwhelmingly happy album. The songs are very catchy and upbeat with some pretty chord progressions and nice harmonic vocals. I really enjoy Goodwin's vocals, always have. He's not a traditionally good singer and almost sounds like someone you might hear in a modern punk bullshit band but his voice is warm and enthusiastic, a great pair of things for the music this band puts out. The album is much better then the band's last effort and really does strive for their debut. Overall the album is pretty fun but it's nothing great. It's basically just another acoustic ballad record that happens to be catchy as hell but it's a job well done.
Another interesting week of album listens is behind me and I am more than ready to start another. If anyone is interested in purchasing or simply hearing any of these albums online, I have linked them for you at the top of this page 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. Please leave comments here at the bottom and let me know what you liked or didn't like from this week's lineup. Have a great week!