Posts Tagged ‘Soko’

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ROLLING BONE’S 2013 BEST-OF LIST

December 11, 2013

This year I did something I’m totally not doing next year. I wrote about every damn new release (compact disc) I purchased. You can read all the reviews in full here or (in a less edited spew) here. Since these are CD reviews (plus a vinyl or two), there’s a trove of truly excellent releases missing from the following lists. Mostly stuff released on cassette, often by Canadians. In the new year I’m launching a new series called Kassetten which will eventually cover some of these 2013 tape releases. Otherwise, between Weird Canada and Tabs Out, they’ve been covered already and you should be hitting those sites up anyway. I know I also missed most of the vinyl releases I picked up. When did those Fresh Snow and Young Mother LPs come out?  Anyway, great records I never got around to reviewing. Also Salted, Zacht Automaat… the list could go on. Plus there’s a few albums I haven’t gotten around to checking out in any format yet (White Poppy, Booka Shade) which I expect to enjoy. Well, you’re familiar with the limitations of year-end lists. Anyhooo…

THE GOD DAMN RECORD OF THE YEAR

YOUTH CODE RECORD ART

Youth Code: Youth Code 

I originally gave this EBM pummeller a 4.875 (out of 5) rating, but I’m bumping it up to  a solid 5. “…jackhammer, chest compressing, beat and that mechanical bass sound peppered with guttural screams and old movie samples….” is how I described it, suggesting they were only missing the hooks their forefathers Front 242, Nitzer Ebb and Skinny Puppy boasted (I know, bands you totally associate with hummable ditties). Well, fuck that. The hooks are there, buried just beneath the surface, waiting to reward grave robbers who listen to this record on their iPhone everyday while they give their fellow subway patrons the evil eye.

Perhaps my love for Youth Code is a barely disguised form of mid-life crisis. A return to those halcyon days of listening to my Too Dark Park cassette on a Sony Walkman, hating everyone in the hallway of my high school and feeling strangely good about it. It’s the kind of record that makes you feel completely vindicated being a misanthropic loner. I feel like music these days isn’t anti-social enough. It’s all about community building and, ew, togetherness. As if other people can be trusted. The state of the world is proof they can’t. You really want to build a community with those assholes?

Anyway, there aren’t enough records like this. Sweet, sweet social oblivion. 

Just in time for Christmas, Dias Records has just released another run of the vinyl.

13 ULTRA-BESTIES OF 2013

Most of these I gave less than a 5/5 rating at the time, but they’re all 5/5 (or damn close) in my eyes now.

Valerie June: Pushin’ Against a Stone

I might simply live under some kind of counter-culture rock, unaware what the “mainstream” is listening to other than MumfordMiley and Drake, but it’s unfathomable to me how Valerie June‘s record isn’t more widely known. Obviously not in a Yeezus way (it’s not a record for thirteen year-olds and hipsters suffering from willful infantilism), but at least in a Neko Case kind of way. It’s exactly the kind of record you’d expect to see on the Rolling Stone year-end list. It’s a warm, smart, genre-bending, deeply emotional record, epic in scope but full of those intimate moments the mainstream MOR public is supposed to fawn over. Of course, Pushin’ Against a Stone does appear on that list but buried somewhere around 46, where a decade or two ago I feel like it’d have been in the top 5.

If people thought Paul Simon co-opting South African music was ground-breaking, what June does combining Afro-beat and bluegrass should have them completely losing their shit. But that was then and this is now, and for whatever reason (theories abound) no one cares about anything anymore. Information fatigue has caused the culture machine to stall, but no one’s really noticed because we’re still coasting downhill.

Anyway, on the bright side, people like Valerie June are still producing artful folk/rock/country/soul records with (what should be) a wide-appeal.

RR2013-KKVJ

King Krule: 6 Feet Beneath The Moon

I gave Archy Marshall‘s debut full-lenth a 5/5 rating originally which was probably a tad generous in hindsight. But there aren’t too many artists coming out today who are this unique, who have his weird sort of charismatic, otherworldly presence—as if he’s less a real live boy and more of a character in a film. Which is, ultimately, what we want from our pop stars. More David Bowie, less David Robert Jones. I described him on 6 Feet Beneath The Moon as a “jazzy Mark E. Smith meets art-damaged Billy Bragg meets punk-thug Morrissey” and time will tell if he and his career lives up to those references. But for now this record does. Though how much I see him as an “exotic other” through a slight anglophile lens is hard to tell. Maybe to the Brits he’s just your average, unremarkable bloke? Probably.

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Recent Release Round-Up: Soko, Aidan Baker, Classixx, Naam, Sigur Rós

June 27, 2013

2013MINIBANNER
More recent release reviews at THIS PAGE.

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Soko: I Thought I Was An Alien

I’m of the belief that all singer-songwriters should listen to I Thought I Was An Alien and take notes. Not notes on the lo-fi production, but copious notes just so they’re forced to pay attention to the inappropriately flayed-bare confessional tone of Soko‘s songs. This is exactly why we, as a species, tell stories. So that others can play voyeur and peek through the windows of our lives to glimpse a little bit of  truth to help makes sense about their own.

Soko probably won’t maintain many friendships as a result of this album. From experience, I suspect it’ll play like a wrecking ball tearing her personal life down to the foundations. But that’s what makes it spectacular art. It reminds me of the work of Stina Nordenstam, not because of the similarly fragile, icy vocals, but in the similarly honest presentation of deeply personal topics. This isn’t a happy album, though it is achingly beautiful. At times it’s youthfully naive (perhaps in the way that, as you grow older, you learn to keep these things private) but at others it’s wise beyond anybody’s years.

Joni Mitchell didn’t record Blue so that Jewel and Sheryl Crow could use acoustic guitars for as props in music videos, she must have been hoping she’d inspire more albums like this one.

5 Songs of Love and Hate out of 5 Memories of a Color

Aidan Baker: Already Drowning

Light as gauze and dense as concrete, Aidan Baker‘s post-post-rock collaborations with a series of female vocalists plays like a Wim Wenders film. And not just because the songs sound like they’d be right at home on the soundtrack to Until The End Of The World or Wings of Desire, but Already Drowning tells sprawling, interconnected, almost dreamlike pseudo-narrative that evokes spiritual euphoria against the background of existential angst.

It’s not too far removed from being a seductively soothing version of Scott Walker‘s Bish Bosh—that is to say, it’s a dramatic chamber cabaret that’s actually pleasant to listen to. Which I personally think is a huge plus. Masterpiece or not, I need to want to put an album on in order to consider it a successful piece of artistry. I have absolutely no qualms about putting the engagingly creepy, darkly beautiful, serenely paranoid, comfortingly challenging, Already Drowning on repeat any time (though might not be great running or workout music).

5 (x 8) Sirens’ songs out of 5 Cinematic soundscapes

Classixx: Hanging Gardens

Smooth, future-retro disco/house. Classixx are a little less organic than Breakbot though similarly tread the same path as Daft Punk and, again, do it better than our robot overlords did on Random Access Memories. The vocal collaborations are a bit more modern indie-rock flavoured than Daft Punk’s guests, but they all work better than that Panda Bear cameo.

Anyway, enough whinging about RAM. Everyone’s already forgotten about that album so Hanging Gardens might actually get some well-deserved attention. A party record that’s not too aggressive or built around contrived, ringtone-ready earworms, but also a sweet headphones record that sports some decent hooks (“I’ll Get You” cashes the cheque written by “Get Lucky“).

It’s Goldilocks-zone pop perfect for commuting on transit, reading or cutting a rug.

4 Retro robot DJs out of 5 Futuristic Eurodisco paradises

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