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 as well as 1 randomly chosen throwback record 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.
WEDNESDAY: Koi – Beginnings
THURSDAY: Lower Dens – Nootropics
SATURDAY: Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim
SUNDAY: Lone – Galaxy Garden
THROWBACK: Samamidon – All Is Well (2007)
James Blackshaw – Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death:
James Blackshaw is the type of musician that only comes along maybe once a decade, if even that often. He is so technically gifted with his instrumentation that it's almost impossible to truly compare him to any other guitarists in modern music. As a classically trained guitarist, Blackshaw came on the scene as sort of an acoustic, ambient musician whose music was among some of the most gorgeous around. Over the years, Blackshaw has released more than 12 albums, all within a 10 year time span. Now, that much music production is enough to overwhelm any musician but somehow Blackshaw just continues to coast and he somehow keeps everything relatively fresh. In 2010, Blackshaw released probably his only bad album, All Is Falling. On that record, Blackshaw seemed to suffer from new ideas especially since all his music is done with a 12-string guitar and after 10 albums of that, what more could there be? Since then, Blackshaw has added some key ingredients to open up his sound and overall musical approach. On Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death, Blackshaw includes much more piano and even some really nice female vocals on the track "And I Have Come Upon This Place by Lost Ways". Even though these new identities are added to the already complex qualities from his 12-string guitar, Blackshaw plays up to the highest of standards. His guitar playing is brought to the forefront on some of the tracks and done so elegantly that I feel I need to be wearing a suit and tie to be allowed to cherish each note. One thing I have always loved about his music is that he knows how to take advantage of the ambiance around his instrumentals and he's unafraid to let it dictate each song's architecture. Blackshaw is one of the world's greatest musicians and he continues to bless us all with some of the most gorgeous guitar driven music we can possibly understand. His new album continues this motif and although his guitar playing is better than ever, the album as a whole lacks that warm presence of acoustic guitar too often for this album to be considered one of his bests. That being said, I am unsure that anything will ever contend with The Glass Bead Game or Litany Of Echoes but this new record shows true signs of amazing musicianship and tremendous characteristics of musical knowledge so don't take this album lightly.
Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio:
What first struck me when I came upon Robert Glasper Experiment's Black Radio was the collaborations. The album contains some joint effort from the likes of Lupe Fiasco, Mos Def, and Erykah Badu just to name a few. These names of course made me excited about listening to this record even though I had never heard of Robert Glasper. I did know however, that Glasper was a fairly accomplished jazz pianist and record producer which also excited me since I have been growing more and more fond of jazz music. Black Radio starts off as cool as records can possibly come. The intro track floats around this 1970's groove track with heavy bass and a really smooth voice that floats throughout, narrating the record and introducing the album to us. I knew almost immediately that this record was going to be a standout for 2012 because of the production mostly. As I moved on to the next few tracks which included some rap by Lupe Fiasco, some epic soul vocals by Erykah Badu, and some gorgeous R&B verses by Lalah Hathaway and KING, I was quickly blown away. Each track contained the perfect amount of jazz helping that I have been seeking all year while also mixing in other genre formats as well. Robert Glasper proves that he is a superb pianist and producer as the album just flows with such natural rhythm. The collaborations are all terrific too as each musician knows their place and their boundaries and never try to outdo the jazz outfit. The soft, melodic vocals that overlay all the downtempo rhythms and jazzy instrumentals just compliment each other so perfectly that I just can't find a single thing that I would change. This album has been an unbelievable surprise for me as I honestly wasn't expecting something so genuinely beautiful. The album blends together old school jazz and nu-jazz to blossom into a very soul oriented, almost trip-hop driven record. Each beat is so brilliantly put together and incredibly chilled out that at times you might feel like you're in a jazz lounge and that beauty is so downright epic. Black Radio has officially taken over as my favorite album of 2012 thus far.
Koi – Beginnings:
Beginnings is the second LP from the young producer Koi. Koi is a very new name on the electronic circuit but the name does belong. Beginnings is an album that uses combinations of chillwave, downtempo, and a very pop influenced trip-hop music to create a very dreamy sound. At times, the album is very ethereal with some wide open soundscapes and airy atmospheres but at other times, the music is somewhat dance driven. You can tell that Koi is very peaceful in his musical approach but he's anxious to break out with some wild energy. The music here is quite nice as layers of electronics splash together and the sounds are very natural and easy-going. Some people though, might identity it as kind of "elevator music", although that isn't very fair. Obviously this music is very lounge driven in nature but that's what Koi is going for. Koi seems to have a certain vision of nature and the world around him and he wants his music to identify with those sketches in his mind. Overall, I think that his job of doing just that was accomplished. When I listen to this record, I get a sense of being caught in the wilderness and enjoying the pleasantries of nature up close. This is a pretty decent album especially if you are into downtempo music but at the same time, there is nothing truly unique about it and I fear that it will get lost in the mix especially once this year is over. Too many artists nowadays are making records exactly like this and although Koi is probably at the upper echelon of amateur, downtempo producers, it all just blends together and doesn't have a true standout quality. With all that said though, if you are looking for some music to relax to and lounge around with, this album will definitely serve that purpose well. I, for one, love lounge music which is why I am quick to put this album into my top 50 so far this year.
Lower Dens – Nootropics:
Lower Dens formed in early 2009 when weird-fi, singer/songwriter Jana Hunter was seeking a full time band to back up her intriguing, gust heavy music. For years, Hunter was sort of a new-age, dream punk queen of rock n' roll type of musician. Her music always contained lots of heavily distorted guitars and banging drums and with such power behind her punk influenced pop music, the sound grew very appealing to lots of indie fans. After forming Lower Dens in Baltimore with Geoff Graham, Will Adams on lead guitar, and Abram Sanders on drums, the band was quick set to release their debut record, Twin-Hand Movement, which was released to pretty wide-spread, critical acclaim. On the band's newest effort Nootropics, their sound has stayed relatively the same. Most of the music is built around Hunter's airy vocals that splash over you with such essence that we are really hit hard with each lyric. The instrumentals are built around these vaporous vocals with lots of distortion and shifty keyboard patterns which, even though are subtle, come in just as powerfully as Hunter's singing. One thing I was quick to notice here on this record was the absence of guitar which seems to have been more heavily put into the backdrop rather than forefront. Instead of the shoegaze styled guitar patterns we were used to on their debut record, we are given a more bass driven track list with more lead from electronics and keys. In the end, I am unsure if it truly hurts the album but it definitely raises an alarm for me as I was very interested in hearing more heavy bursts of electric guitar then I ended up receiving. Nootropics ends up coming across a bit too lackadaisical as most of the emotions that these songs are trying to tug at just don't get put into effect for me. Hunter is a fabulous singer and songwriter but in the end the band ends up sounding like a less talented Beach House with a much darker, less accomplished edge. I think Lower Dens are a decent act that are very close to something big but until that actually ends up happening I just cannot see myself taking them very seriously, especially in a day and age of music where hundred upon hundreds of bands are coming into significance almost every day.
King I Divine & ScienZe – Divine ScienZe:
In today's world of hip-hop, rappers and producers are constantly meshing material together, trying to find collaborations that bring in the crowd and sometimes even more likely, bring in the cash. The genre as a whole has suffered in recent years for being more or less an image driven art rather than a substance of lyricism for something that is being stood for. Hip-hop has its roots but at some point in the last 20 years, it lost its way sadly. Although the genre continues to fade though, people are finally being made aware of more significant rappers who have more important and enlightening things to say and discuss. Indie rap is beginning to return the corrupted genre to its feet, flipping it right back over atop the crappy mainstream bullshit that hits MTV on a daily basis. Among that group of significance is a Brooklyn rapper by the name of ScienZe, a man whose lyrics are objective and to the point. The topics he chooses to discuss in his tracks are almost always relative and never seem to be of an immature background. One thing I really love about ScienZe is his lack of cursing, which in today's rap world is almost unheard of. ScienZe is a pretty basic rapper with major thoughts and lots of intriguing things to talk about. Rather then talking about the backside booty of the woman walking down the street, he is chanting about the world's demons and spiritual faith. On his brand new collaboration with producer King I Divine which is cleverly titled as Divine ScienZe, the duo make some very edgy, old school rap that really gets into your brain from not only a catchy factor but from an intelligent factor as well. The lyrics make you think while the beats really hold down a beautiful flow for ScienZe on the mic. The combination is done terrifically and even though the production quality is terribly low, the audio doesn't suffer all that much. In fact, I tend to enjoy that garage styled beat making process. Sometimes a low-budget ends up bringing the record to life at a better rate. I was pleasantly surprised with this album especially as someone who normally doesn't love rap. I think this is a genuinely decent attempt at pumping new blood into the hip hop community and I'm just going to continue hoping that we finally get the genre back on track, where it's supposed to be heading in the first place.
Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim:
I've always had an inner hate for all music that was jam band in style. I grew up post Grateful Dead and Phish but at the same time, people were still listening to it left and right. At times it felt like the inescapable situation where almost every party I went to included some shitty live Phish album, one of the 6 thousand they released in the last 15 years anyways. Jam bands have just never been my thing, maybe because I like something that is perfected rather then just free-styled. I'd rather hear a perfectly constructed song that took weeks or even years to finally get right then listen to Jerry Garcia play some kind of freestyle guitar solo for 17 minutes. Regardless of my feelings towards jam band music, bands still do it every day. Pond is the sister band of Tame Impala, an Australian band that hit it huge a few years ago with their debut record. Pond has actually been together for longer though and their music is quite different. Although both bands explore the 60's psychedelic sound, Pond is much more intuitive by nature. Most of the songs on their new album Beard, Wives, Denim seems like it was free-styled within the studio. The jam band qualities are highlighted throughout, giving the record a sort of live music feel. It's very explosive and vegetative as each track holds on to that same type of momentum but my patience is quickly worn thing very early into the album. I really enjoy the psychedelic portions of this album as each member has almost perfected that 60's style of music that they are trying to achieve but the jam band characteristics just overdo it for me. I feel like all my intrigue is ripped out pretty violently in fact by the building guitars and rangy drums. I like that these guys rock out hard but at the same time, I'd rather listen to them in a more organized fashion then in this type of way. I really enjoy Tame Impala and I look forward to their forthcoming record but Pond and me will never be on the same page. I just hate jam band music far too much unfortunately.
Lone – Galaxy Garden:
Lone, otherwise known as Matt Cutler, is an IDM, electronics musician from the United Kingdom. Cutler has been a very busy producer over the years, working with bands such as Kids In Tracksuits and Kona Triangle but his solo career really sets him apart from the rest. Over the years, Cutler has built a very strong fan base and had great success with music critics due to his very creative style and approach to music making. His tracks have always toyed within the IDM genre but not in a complex, overbearing way. His music is fun and very gratifying as beats wash over your soul and lift you up onto your feet without even really trying. On his new album entitled Galaxy Garden, Cutler is at his all time best. Each track is dense with brilliant layer after brilliant layer of warped dance beats and really subtle moments that splash at the perfect time. The production on this album is outstanding as the beats are perfectly clear and in super high definition. One thing I absolutely loved on this record was the waterfalls of bongo drums and tribal instrumentation that separate itself from any other ordinary IDM record. This album is just full of excitement and energy as Cutler brings out his best effort yet. Some people have discussed the fact that you can spot a Lone track on the first couple of bars if not by the first and although I do not fully agree with that statement, I can certainly understand how that could be relative. His songs are very unique especially within his world of IDM music where most songs are very mechanical and kind of become a nuisance. What's beautiful about Galaxy Garden is how Lone combines so many types of old, world music traditions within a futuristic style of genre and makes it work somehow. It's like being stuck on an island in the year 3255 where everybody is drinking their margaritas out of robotic glasses and dancing around to Lone on the beach front. Cutler is a fabulous musician and you can even tell just how fruitful is music can be when you notice the album cover for Galaxy Garden. Nothing on this album is boring as even the art you can sit down with and stare at for hours trying to examine every last detail. This is definitely Lone at his all time best.
Samamidon – All Is Well:
So I thought it might be fun to add an additional album to my weekly reviews. After thinking it over, I decided that adding a throwback album to the mix might be an interesting idea, especially since so many albums prior to the current year have either been overlooked or forgotten about. Amazing music has likely escaped many of your ears and maybe if I can resurrect some of these albums for you, it might be very worth it. So I am going to bring you one additional record per week at random, as long as it is an album that I truly love.
The first throwback album I have to offer you is a record by a folk artist named Samamidon. Samamidon, also commonly referred to as Sam Amidon, has always been the "little brother" of sorts to Andrew Bird. Not that the two are at all related genetically, it's just that their music has always shared similarities instrumentally. Amidon has never really reached the plateau that Bird sits upon which is why I refer to him as the little brother, but he does show serious signs of true potential. Amidon's career has stretched on for about 10 years now with 6 total LP's. Most of those records were quite good, especially the ones in the later half. Of all his albums though, the one standout in my opinion is All Is Well. What's interesting about this record is that each track is actually a rearranged, traditional, mid-western folk song. None of the songs are original, pursue, but they are infused with some new lyrics here and there by Amidon himself. The songs here are gorgeous re-imaginings of the originals and Amidon really puts his two cents in. Amidon, like Bird, has always been known for his use of odd instruments within his folk music such as brass instruments, banjos, cellos, fiddles, and lots of wind instruments which all combine to form very unconventional folk ballads. His vocals have always been very minimal and soft, but extremely complimentary for his instruments. Altogether, his music has always served as a mature, pretty blend of fruitful folk music. The nature of All Is Well ends up being his best album because of the creativity in his redo's of sorts. I just love the way tracks like "Saro" can sound so romantic and gorgeous while other tracks such as "Wild Bill Jones" can capture the atmosphere of mid-west America in the 1800's. These songs tell tales of that time and put you onto the front porch of a little house in the prairie as your skin burns in the hot sunlight. This album is a very overlooked record from 2007 and if you're a fan of folk music this should be on your radar.
After another great week of album listens, 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!