Monday, 27 December 2010

2010 Best Albums Part 2

Second round of 2010 Audiopleasures favorite albums, the order is irrelevante.

Twin Shadow - Forget / 4AD
Listen | Twin Shadow - Slow

Twin Shadow is the moniker used by one George Lewis Jr., a Dominican-born, Florida-bred composer whose varied musical misadventures have already taken him around the globe and back. This reviewer first became aware of Lewis when he lived in Boston several lifetimes ago. Lewis quickly gained notoriety while playing in a punk band that could seamlessly spit out furious Fugazi-style anthems alongside three-part harmony Gospel. With his charismatic, razor-tongued stage presence and his intimidating musical vocabulary, Lewis built a congregation of wobbly-kneed devotees who were left at a loss when he split for Brooklyn and parts unknown back in 2006. Lewis would spend the next few years performing for European theater troupes and knocking out soul infused classic rock (think Otis Redding fronting Led Zeppelin). Somewhere along the line, the seeds for Twin Shadow were planted when Lewis presumably hibernated in a German hotel room, armed only with a drum machine and copies of Tears for Fears’ The Hurting and David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy. A random set of circumstances led Lewis to Grizzly Bear bassist/producer Chris Taylor, who helped see the project to fruition (Forget will be the first full length released by Taylor’s Terrible Records imprint). Pop Matters

Sylvain Chauveau - Singular Forms Sometimes Repeated / Type
Listen | Sylvain Chauveau - Singular Forms Sometimes Repeated

"For those only familiar with Sylvain Chauveau in an entirely instrumental form, the amount of vocals on this album may come as a surprise. The French multi-instrumentalist is comfortable using silence and space as effectively as any sound. The odd, unexpected noises placed low in the mix create different feels depending on the mood of the track in question. Chauveau’s melancholic lines are again dropped in and out by swift production over notes used so poignantly that there is little danger of the minimalist style growing tiresome at this stage, allowing the noises space to breathe and resonate.

The opening crackles of ‘From Stone To Cloud’, akin to a wartime wireless, give way to single piano notes and rich male vocals, slightly looped and almost clipping off the end of the preceding phrase- an effect set to be a prominent feature throughout the album. Ambient sounds litter the background, humming and buzzing until an abrupt cut-off before the titular lyrics, trailing off into creepily muted percussion to meld into the second track, ‘Show The Clear And Lonely Way’. Closing with what sounds like a vinyl skip, the song soon drops into the intergalactic blips of ‘The Unbroken Line’, almost 2001: A Space Odyssey-esque.

The blend between tracks makes Singular Forms feel cohesive, as if conceived as whole entity, rather than piece by piece. Although the intro shows what interesting and complex things the Frenchman can do with the most obscure of sounds, the six minute composition lacks some of the charisma and personality inherent in his other work. Despite the reappearance of poetic vocals about open oceans and snow, panning from speaker to speaker, the absence of piano for the most part finds us in territory that may feel too abstract for a few, with drones in place of tuneful keys. " The Line of Best Fit

The Greenhornes - **** / Third Man
Listen | The Greenhornes - Song 13

"Cincinnati's Greenhornes make a stellar return to the scene here with their fourth record simply titled "★★★★". It is their first full length since Dual Mono was released back in 2002 but the incredible thing is, that in 2010 the band brings the same 60's style pre-psychedelia garage rock meets British invasion style to you, like no time has passed. The band basically picked up where they left off and sound tighter then ever. Of course, the road traveled in-between has kept them at the top of their game, as 2/3 of The Greenhornes have been entrenched in the Jack White family, with Jack Lawrence playing in both White projects, The Dead Weather and The Raconteurs, while Patrick Keeler is in The Raconteurs. John Curley (Afghan Whigs, Ass Ponys, White Stripes) recorded much of the album at his Ultrasuede Studio in Cincy and additional tracking took place in Third Man Records home of Nashville with producer Brendan Benson of the Raconteurs. Of course, The Greenhornes would not be anything without the voice of Craig Fox, whom returns to front the band with his infectious swagger. "★★★★" sounds exactly how you think it will sound and that is a plus. There is no experimenting, no studio trickery and no vocal effects. The Greenhornes give you a straight up rock n roll record that has flash, controlled restraint and soul completely interwoven into its 12 tracks." The Fire Note

Holy Fuck - Latin /
Listen | Holy Fuck - Latin America

"For most of their history, Holy Fuck have operated as the augmented duo of Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh, surrounding themselves with a rotating cast of bass players and drummers (sometimes more than one at a time). Over the last few years, though, a consistent lineup has solidified, with bassist Matt McQuaid and drummer Matt Schulz holding down the rhythm section. And as one might expect, the consistency has affected the band's sound, making Latin, the band's third album, leaner and funkier than its predecessors.

Borcherdt and Walsh have refined some of their more aggressive noise, and here they use their arsenal of tone generators, guitars, and keyboards to create washes of tone that wrap around the rhythm section like a scratchy blanket. The occasional stab of melody flashes out from the maelstrom, before following the band on its next rhythmic turn. In fact, the album opens with a long ambient wash that builds in volume and intensity before peeling back to reveal the skeletal dance groove of "Red Lights", a highlight that makes the most of the strange interplay between untethered ambient sound and insistent rhythm." Pitchfork

Emeralds - Does It Look Like I'm Here / Editions Mego
Listen | Emeralds - Candy Shoppe

‘Does It Look Like I’m Here?’ is the third official album by Emeralds (after "Solar Bridge" on Hanson, and the self-titled LP on their own Wagon and Gneiss Things imprints, as well as countless small edition tapes and CDRs on a host of labels) and once again it presents another radical new direction for this Cleveland trio.
It sees the group moving from playing single oscillator analog synthesizers to really complex analog and analog/digital hybrid as well a great deal of guitar synthesizers, not to mention fine tuning their skills as brilliant tunesmiths. Simply put, the results are outstanding.
Comprising of a number of tracks from their recent ultra limited 7” vinyl series on Wagon, as well new compositions exclusive to this release. This fine selection of tunes surpass anything they have achieved in their 5 year career. Perfect melodies intertwined with ripping sequences and a guitar sound that floats perfectly throughout. Although most tracks cover new ground in that they follow a shortened ‘pop format’, more long form cuts such as the towering ‘Genetic’ and the title track will give fans of their earlier work something to grab onto, or totally let themselves go depending on the state of mind. Editions Mego

Sun Kil Moon - Admiral Fell Promises / Caldo Verde
Listen | Sun Kil Moon - Third and Seneca

"Expansive wide-panned double tracked vocals and clear-as-a-bell finger-picked guitars meander through seemingly aimless songs. But they’re not aimless, they’re each a thing of beauty, and beauty doesn't need to have a point. It's just beauty. There are no highlights, the hole album being such a consistent songwriting endeavor. Kozelek has written a batch of songs that fit together like a laced shoe. On his own, without a band, the voice and guitar becomes the centre of the musical landscape. Moments of intricate guitar drift away from the main song, spilling out into puddles, rock pools of melody caught after the tide has withdrawn.

The album is almost a travelogue following Kozelek around the west coast of America. Always enamored with places, we find ourselves taken from Puget Sound in Seattle to San Francisco, Kozelek beds his songs into the physical world and explores how our geography impacts our lives. All of it over exquisite, courtly classical guitar. This is beautiful music, auteured with a singular vision in mind. Artists should be allowed to explore the obsessions that drive them. Sometimes it's awful, sometimes it's stunning. This is an idea taken to its natural conclusion, a classical guitar and a voice working together. Oh, and it's awesome." Rhum

Bonnie Prince Billy & The Gairo Gang - The Wonder Show Of The World / Drag City
Listen | Bonnie Prince Billy and Cairo Gang - Someone coming through

"Keeping himself admirably busy over recent times, Will Oldham returns with yet another new full-length for Drag City/Domino, a studio-recorded follow-up to last year's acclaimed Beware. For The Wonder Show Of The World, Oldham is joined by his frequent collaborator, guitarist Emmett Kelly, who on this occasion steps up to the position of "first mate and then some", as the album credits would have it. The album starts impishly with Oldham hinting at some nefarious nocturnal activities: "I once loved a girl, but she couldn't take that I visited troublesome houses" he laments during the opener, with a very capable Kelly performance at his side. Kelly features more prominently still on 'Teach Me To Bear You', which comes with wonderfully fluid, bluesy guitar soloing and reverberating vocal harmonies. After the comparative expanse of albums like Beware and The Letting Go, this record reverts to a more self-restrained instrumental palette, concentrating on the song at hand and the two central performers; their voices and guitars. Consequently there's a ramshackle, intimately lo-fi country feel to the recordings, with just a couple of extra players cropping up: Mt. Eerie's Phil Elverum assists on vocals during 'Go Folks, Go' and 'Kids', while prolific session player Shahzad Ismaily provides bass and occasional percussion." Boomkat

Tamaryn - The Waves / Mexican Summer
Listen | Tamaryn – Love Fade

"The Waves sounds like the last shoegaze album ever, an expansive coda that finds airy mournfulness in seas of guitar and vocals that open up like a desert sky. Tamaryn's namesake singer, a New Zealand ex-pat now living in San Francisco, has a special voice: feminine yet woolen and full-bodied, a sound that merges with the sweeping guitars dramatically and which carries the album's tone so well it'll practically break your heart. "Haze Interior" might be the most accurate song title of the year, with the awakening, semi-hopeful vibe of "Dawning" following suit. But The Waves is one of those album's that saves the best for last: The closing "Mild Confusion" rings out, the guitar stabbing upward while Tamaryn herself holds the vocal center, raising goosebumps and hopes for another record soon." Sound Fix

Dead Ghosts – Dead Ghosts / Floridas Dying
Listen | Dead Ghosts – Off The Hook

"Bursting from the desperate vaults of R&R’s discrete past, Dead Ghosts is a shattering testament to the janglophone origins of pop. Reverberated country twang, phantasmic R&B, gnarly jangled garage, and indelible pop hooks bespeckle this game-changing thesis, throwing a Hegelian bomb into your square neighbor’s pool party. Grab the telephone, kick-down the door, wave your 4-4 and keep yelling: pop music ain’t gonna hit me no more. There ain’t nothing new without something old so grip it all while you’re still here to party." Weird Canada

Whirl - Distressor / Self Released
Listen | Whirl - Distressor

"Whirl is truly a great name for any shoegazing band, undoubtedly due to its certain truth in advertising quality. The term “whirl,” unfortunately, was ruined for me from my first job at 16 – Fazoli’s. During my tenure as breadstick bitch, it was my duty to begin the shift by mixing the garlic butter, which was made mostly from some gnarly yellow gelatinous shit called Whirl. The main selling point, displayed prominently on the label in in one of those explosive talk bubbles, was “no need for refrigeration.” A dairy product that did not need to be preserved with refrigeration. Neat. Yummy.

Charming and whimsical anecdotes aside, this Whirl from beautiful Emeryville (they have an Ikea!) on the East Bay has produced and quietly released an EP of such gorgeous enormity that all memories of my career in fast Italian cuisine have been repressed. The elements of true-to-cannon shoegaze are all here on Distressor - swirly guitars, anthemic melodies, and piercing treble. What makes Whirl different is their presentation – releasing such a large sound onto cassette tape to give their destructive ground swells a restrained, muted, and beautifully wonky vibe. Imagine hearing Slowdive’s Just For a Day for the first time after a nasty case of tinnitus." The Decibel Tolls

2010 Best Albums Part 1