Cat Power – Sun
September 4, 2012, 8:33 pm
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A month ago, I would have described myself as a passive Cat Power fan – I owned a majority of Chan Marshall’s albums, loved a lot of her songs but the looming release of her first album in six years, Sun, was not something as I was actively looking forward to this year. Now? I’m dangerously close to declaring Sun AOTY and have been zealously revisiting old Cat Power albums for the last month. While I’m having genuine emotional epiphanies with old Cat Power songs I have neglected, there is still no precedent in her catalogue for Sun. It is a rebirth for Marshall. The folky miserablist we’ve come to know and love has been replaced by a much more confident and adventurous musician. As you’ve probably read a hundred times by now, Sun is more eclectic, upbeat and powerful than anything Marshall has previously composed. It is also, without a doubt, her best album.  Recorded in France with mixing help from Philippe Zdar (who has worked with Phoenix, Daft Punk, Beastie Boys and Ghostface Killah), the album is bristling with electronic flourishes and beats while still somehow sounding like no one but Cat Power.  “Human Being” could pass for an outtake from Moon Pix were it not for the whirring, luminous synths and Can-like drum fills rippling throughout the song .  The album’s penultimate track, “Nothin But Time” is an 11 minute homage to David Bowie’s “Heroes” featuring a gripping cameo from Marshall’s Miami neighbor Iggy Pop.  Over a reverb-drenched, cascading piano line (which echoes “Heroes” more than a little bit), tremolo’d guitar and buzzing synths, Marshall lays out a self-empowerment anthem to rule them all: “You ain’t got nothin’ but time/It ain’t got nothin on you/Your world is just beginning/It’s up to you to be a superhero/It’s up to you to be like nobody.” Iggy’s entrance into the song – a cloud-busting growl of “YOU WANNA LIVE!” is my single favorite musical moment of the year.  On booming, shit-kicking closer “Peace and Love”, Marshall manages to evoke Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” while spitting lines like “Peace and love is a famous generation/I’m a lover but I’m in it to win it.”  It’s Marshall at her most menacing and it proudly displays her long professed love of hip-hop with nothing more than some grimy, chunky guitar riffs and drums.  It’s very much worth noting that Marshall played every single instrument on Sun herself.  You crazy for this one, Chan.

Sun is out now on Matador.


Fucked Up – “Queen of Hearts”, “Ship of Fools”, “A Little Death” & “The Other Shoe”

Up until a week ago, I had never listened to Fucked Up.  I had developed a number of preconceived opinions over the years about the band’s music (Bloody hardcore? No thanks.) and their wild bear of a frontman, Damian Abraham (A poor man’s Tim Harrington.), through nothing but reviews, articles and pictures.  Basically, I assumed that Fucked Up would never appeal to me.  What changed?  The unprecedented amount of love I saw pouring in for David Comes To Life (the band’s forthcoming third album).  I knew I couldn’t ignore the music anymore – maybe I was missing something?  To my complete and utter surprise, this album appeals to me immensely and it already ranks among my favorite of the year.  Granted, I haven’t listened to anything else by Fucked Up, but the “hardcore” tag this band gets doesn’t seem apt.  David Comes To Life is a supremely melodic album.  It’s also full of fury, bombast and epic tunes. It is ostensibly a rock opera (18 tracks, 82 minutes) that deals with finding life-altering love and then losing it via death.  A tired conceit for sure, but when our protagonists, David and Veronica, meet in “Queen of Hearts” it actually sounds life-altering: Damian Abraham howls “I couldn’t understand what just happened to my heart!” over soaring, supernova guitars and, later in the chorus, The Cults’ Madelline Folin (playing the part of Veronica) sweetly intones “Hello, your name is David/I am Veronica/Let’s be together/Until the water swallows us.”  Oh, and that chorus hits with the force of a dam busting.

The band and Matador have been awesome enough to release four singles as free MP3’s – grab them all.

David Comes To Life is out 6/7 via Matador.

Download MP3: “Queen of Hearts”

Download MP3: “Ship of Fools”

Download MP3: “A Little Death”

Download MP3: “The Other Shoe”

Cold Cave – “The Great Pan Is Dead”
February 6, 2011, 7:20 pm
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Cold Cave’s debut LP, Love Comes Close, didn’t do much for me, but I’ve been looking forward to their Chris Coady (Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Beach House, Smith Westerns) produced sophomore LP, Cherish The Light Years, regardless.  After one listen of “The Great Pan Is Dead”, it became clear that Cold Cave aren’t interested in passive fans anymore – they want to be loved or hated. Me?  I fucking love this single, and I can only hope this is a harbinger of what Cherish The Light Years has to offer.  I usually don’t resort to copying/pasting press release quotes, but theirs felt especially definitive:

Cold Cave are an experimental electronic pop group from Philadelphia and New York City who make melodic synthscapes with jackhammer beats. They acknowledge the dark roots of synthesizer music as well as its potential for making the brightest pop with their hard songs celebrating the contradictory beauty of the human condition.

In addition, it appears that Cold Cave frontman, Wesley Eisold, has moved beyond his innocuous Ian Curtisms and is embracing brighter Brit heroes – specifically, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker.  In fact, “The Great Pan Is Dead” plays like “Common People” reconfigured as a blown-out, bulldozer rush.

Cherish The Light Years is out 4/5 via Matador.

Download MP3: “The Great Pan Is Dead”

Esben and The Witch – “Warpath”
November 7, 2010, 3:22 pm
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Not too long ago, I did a post on “Marching Song” – the first single from Esben and The Witch’s debut LP, Violet Cries, which is due in early February on Matador.  I mentioned that the British trio excelled at “dark, brooding, dramatic art-rock cut from the same cloth as fellow Brit miserablists Radiohead, Bat for Lashes and The xx.”  Following “Marching Song” is the aptly titled “Warpath”, another ominous, martial track that leads me to believe Violet Cries may bear, at the very least, the passing influence of Tolkien.  Or maybe I just watched Two Towers and can’t help feeling that these tunes were tailor-made for the tales of Middle Earth.

Violet Cries is out 2/9 via Matador.

Download MP3: “Warpath”

Esben and The Witch – “Marching Song”
October 7, 2010, 9:26 pm
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British trio Esben and The Witch recently signed to Matador – the label’s first UK signing in over six years.  That particular piece of information may not seem like a big deal, but the band’s sonic aesthetic is much more 4AD than what is typically associated with Matador (Pavement, Guided By Voices, Belle & Sebastian, etc.).  E&TW churn out dark, brooding, dramatic art-rock cut from the same cloth as fellow Brit miserablists Radiohead, Bat for Lashes and The xx.  The smoldering “Marching Song” builds patiently towards a fiery release, and is best appreciated via its disturbing video below.

The Marching Song 12″ is out 10/12 on Matador.  Their debut LP is due in early 2011.

Download MP3: “Marching Song”

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