Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Longlist Pt. 4 - Four and out...

Atlas Sound – Logos (Kranky)
Ah, to be as talented and prolific as Bradford Cox. It’s not enough that his initial focus – Deerhunter – is so darn good. No, he has to go and have a side-project that is wholly different but just as good. Atlas Sound is ostensibly a solo effort, but on Logos Cox enlists Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier and Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox for two of the strongest songs (“Quick Canal” and “Walkabout”). The former is a nine-minute cut that doesn’t feel laboured or ‘epic’ but just long enough and the latter is the type of sunny-with-a-chance-of-weird we’ve come to love from the AC.

The Deep Dark Woods – Winter Hours (Black Hen)
I was among the folks who lumped Saskatoon’s The Deep Dark Woods into the ‘death-country’ category along with Elliott Brood after their last record, Hang Me Oh Hang Me. (And yes, like chillwave, death-country is another genre tag that we can leave behind us in the aughts .) With Winter Hours it certainly sounds as if the ‘Woods have left it behind – there’s a sunnier tinge to some of the numbers and considering the title, a fair bit of warmth as well. While “All The Money I Had Is Gone” was one of my favourite songs of ’09, I still contend that “The Bird On The Bridge” is one of the best songs Neil Young hasn’t written but could have.

Maxwell – Blacksummer’s Night (Columbia)
If Vegas gave odds for when artists are likely to put out a record (they may do this, I don’t gamble so I don’t know for certain), Maxwell would likely have been giving long odds prior to 2009. His last album (Now) was released in 2001 and it looked for all intents and purposes like we had a second D’Angelo on our hands (fitting considering their music shares comparison points as well). But whaddya know – with Blacksummer’s Night, one of the world’s finest falsettos made a triumphant return and soundtracked the creation of more than a few 2010 babies no doubt.

Build An Ark – Love Pt. 1 (Kindred Spirit)
Following up 2007’s Dawn LP, Love Pt. 1 finds the soul jazz collective continuing to make great, under-appreciated music with the emphasis on the soul-side of their genre. The folks at Dusty Groove call the record a masterpiece and hit the nail on the head when they talk about Build An Ark carrying the Love Supreme torch that John Coltrane first carried, with songs of hope and praise infusing Love Pt. 1. There’s no way to listen to this record and not be lifted by the positivity.

Lisa O Piu – When This Was The Future (Subliminal Sounds)
Lisa O Piu isn’t a person – there is a Lisa in the group, but this Swedish combo is actually a sextet. Lisa Isaksson IS the principle songwriter on When This Was The Future, but her songs benefit greatly from being fleshed out by the rest of the band; in addition to the typical ‘band’ instruments, they employ accordion, clarinet, mellotron and more. Produced by the same person responsible for Dungen, the album’s sound has much more in common with freak-folk (yet another genre tag worth discarding) – though opener “Cinnamon Sea” made me recall a great record I have from The Winter’s Consort which dates back to the early seventies. This was the future in the past and its time is now.

Heather Woods Broderick – From The Ground (Preservation)
Another year, another Broderick on my longlist. Last year, Heather’s brother Peter’s wonderful album Home made an appearance. The two may share the same lineage, but are still sonically divergent. HWB tours in Efterklang, but I don’t hear any of their post-rock seeping into From The Ground. Instead, I hear haunting and heartfelt music the likes of Tiny Vipers and Nina Nastasia create (though with less pathos than Nastasia).

Devil Eyes – Devil Eyes (Signed By Force)
Here’s what I said about Devil Eyes when I reviewed it in Stylus recently:

My wife accuses me of listening to a lot of ‘wah-wah’ music, by which she means ambient noodling and soft acoustic material; things like Radiohead’s Kid A and Iron & Wine. While it’s certainly true that a fair share of my collection has a gentle bent, there are times when dissonance, noise and just plain rawk are welcome on my stereo and the self-titled debut from Montreal’s Devil Eyes is a record made for just those times.
Raw and unadorned, Devil Eyes is all about brute force and sheer energy. The trio set a charging pace on opener “Rip My Heart Out” and don’t let up the assault for eight songs and twenty-five minutes. While they make an awful lot of noise with just guitar, bass and drums, a skronking sax is employed to great effect on a couple of numbers (including highlight “Noctilucent Ghost”) and the skronk echoes the yelps of vocalist Mattlee as he fights to be heard over the squall his compatriots make. The band have said in interviews that they want to be “thunderous” and Devil Eyes rumbles like the storm is fast approaching.

Florence & The Machine – Lungs (Universal Republic)
This one kind of snuck up on me. I liked “Kiss With A Fist” but it wasn’t until I found myself going back to this record repeatedly over a couple weeks that I realized just how much I like it, and how much more than that first single Florence & The Machine are capable of. In fact, Lungs is all over the map and very Kate Bush-ian in its approach to songcraft. And while Florence can be found wearing fake lungs on the front of her blouse on the album cover, a more accurate picture would be of her heart on her sleeve.

Bat For Lashes – Two Suns (Astralwerks)
Speaking of Kate Bush, Bat For Lashes’ “Moon and Moon” (amongst other songs on Two Suns) really brings her to mind. This album managed to avoid the sophomore slump after Fur and Gold by going in a completely different direction. The charms of this album aren’t as immediate as the debut – they’re subtler and take a few more listens to reveal themselves, but give Two Suns your time and you’ll be rewarded.

Sunn 0))) – Monoliths & Dimensions (Southern Lord)
Droooooooooooooonnnnnnneeeee. I’m not sure I can properly convey just how droning (in a good way) this record is in words. But the uber-prolific duo Sunn 0))) aren’t just tuning their guitars down low and recording the squall – over the course of the four tracks on Monoliths & Dimensions they also incorporate an entire orchestra of instruments (reeds, horns, etc) and voices. They even rope Earth’s Dylan Carson into the proceedings, which seems fitting considering that Sunn 0))) began life as an Earth cover band.

Volcanoless In Canada – The Way Forward (Independent)
Having caught this Saskatoon band live at the Western Canadian Music Awards, I know for a fact that the energy they bring to their stage act is capably captured on The Way Forward. It’s a lively listen with great pop-rock hooks that are driven by, of all things, acoustic guitar. That the band manages to make it not seem wimpy is one of their bigger feats.

Ola Podrida – Belly Of The Lion (Western Vinyl)
Two years ago, the self-titled debut from Ola Podrida was my sleeper pick of the year, placing at #2 on my Top 20. While the follow-up fails to make my final 20 this year, it is still a lovely record with some delicate moments that recall Ola Podrida without sounding derivative or rehashed.

Dead Man’s Bones – Dead Man’s Bones (Anti-)
It’s not Halloween anymore, but these morbid songs about zombies and ghouls still hold up. As I suspected they would.

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