Author Archive

January shapes up exciting 2011 music scene

Here's where I destroy the mystery of what I've pegged as number one for January.

January brought with it some stunners. I won’t bore you with exposition; let’s just get to the music.

5. Braids — Native Speaker
Native Speaker is mysterious and draws a bit long. It’s even kind of clumsy. Somehow, though, Native Speaker is satisfying — invigorating, even.

Braids — “Lemonade”
[audio:|titles=Braids – Lemonade]

Read my review at No Ripcord.

4. Robert Pollard — Space City Kicks
I worry sometimes when I talk about music from Robert Pollard. He’s sort of a demigod in the indie rock world, having been in the driving seat for many years with the inimitable GBV. Thankfully, Space City Kicks sees him to return to parsimonious songwriting again, and there are some really memorable tracks here.

Read my review at No Ripcord.

3. Ensemble — Excerpts
This is future chamber pop. Really, I think some French-speaking space aliens swooped down in a time travelling spaceship, dropped this indie pop at the band’s door, and it’s hit the world.

Ensemble – “Things I Forget”
[audio:|titles=Ensemble – “Things I Forget”]

Read my review at No Ripcord.

2. Smith Westerns — Dye it Blonde
Smith Westerns have taken their fragmented, noisy approach and spiffed it up. Dye it Blonde is fuzzy, exciting power pop. It ventures into euphoria sometimes. Yum.

Read my review at No Ripcord.

1. Destroyer — Kaputt
Destroyer, that brilliant man. Or Dan Bejar, that brilliant man. Something like that. He can hardly do wrong. Kaputt is everything done correctly. As a result, this is an early contender for album of the year — when the end comes, don’t forget about this January masterpiece.

Destroyer – “Chinatown”
[audio:|titles=Destroyer – “Chinatown”]

Read my review at No Ripcord.

And if you’re looking for more to check out:
• The Decemberists — The King is Dead. Good stuff, that. It’s the same band doing something different again. Keep it at, Meloy.
The Beets — Stay Home. Fuzzy, lo-fi, but some fine songwriting beneath it all.
Minks — By the Hedge. Hazy, noisy pop, but it’s got some good moments.
Oh No Oh My — People Problems. Refined, not brilliant. Not so sugary. I don’t mind.

And just wait for February:
• Esben and the Witch — Violet Cries. This is great stuff — brooding, mysterious, engaging wrapped in a very strange package. First listen was not great, but now I can’t get enough.
• Bright Eyes — The People’s Key. Conor Oberst as Bright Eyes: He’s back!
• Mogwai — Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will. Post-rock goodness from part of the ruling class.
• James Blake — James Blake. Interesting Brit dubstep. Not my favorite of February so far, but I’ve set it as my alarm album a couple times to good effect. A little too dreamy to wake up to, but it’s fun.
• Asobi Seksu — Flourescence. I’ve not listened to this yet, but I have some high expectations. Not too high, but high.

Damn, I love Dreamend

Ryan Graveface, the man behind Dreamend, has had my ear for a number of years now. He first landed on my radar when I, on a bit of a whim, bought As If By Ghosts. I was, I think, duly impressed, and I’ve since paid some attention to Graveface, his label. Some of what’s released by the man is brilliant.

Maybe We’re Making God Sad and Lonely is no exception. This is a delectable mix of post-rock and pop; the swells, the drops, the hesitant approach and the glorious return: It’s all here, and it’s all masterfully done. This LP is among my favorite in my collection.

Listen to “New Zealand” below.

Bright Eyes preview track “Shell Games” leaves my head spinning

Bright Eyes - The People's Key

There’s about as much variety in the latest song from Conor Oberst (this time, as Bright Eyes) as you could probably pack into one single four-minute outing without sounding, well, messy. “Shell Games” manages to avoid that mess by establishing a theme early on, and sure, the post-punk interludes mesh without too much trouble with the crowd shouts, stomping synth, and Oberst’s vocals, but there’s something off here.

[audio:|titles=Bright Eyes – “Shell Games”]

The track opens with ragged piano and some sort of warbly noise (perhaps it’s the signature warble from Conor Oberst transplanted,) but the road it goes down isn’t just a little back-and-forth: It’s almost wacky in its machinations. Still, sometimes, I can’t help but tap my foot to the beat, and sometimes, I find I’m really caught up in the song — it’s certainly no travesty, but it’s all over the place.

It’s nice to hear Oberst knee-deep in Bright Eyes again, because his solo material just droned on and on as he looked for heartfelt country-folk-rock (or whatever he decided to term it,) but I, for one, hope the rest of the album manages some sort of consistency. If it’s all as disjointed and scatter-brained as “Shell Games” is, I doubt I’ll be able to listen more than once or twice.

2010 in Review #4: The Indie Rock Two Hour Block

Power 91 Radio

In June, I began a stint as a radio personality on our university station, Power 91 (KSUU 91.1 in Cedar City, Utah). “The Indie Rock Two Hour Block” featured rambling to the nth degree — and as a bit of a Christmas “treat,” I’ve linked to a set of archives of the show. If you’d like to listen to some bizarre rambling, check it out. It should return in January, and you can listen live at

2010 in Review #5: The build up to some of the year’s greats

The Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

In this series, Matthew Montgomery takes a look at five of his favorite happenings in the music world. Between today and the end of the year, you’ll get a chance to read the top five.

Waiting in eager anticipation can be fun, but when you’re incrementally fed exciting bits of music before a release, it’s that much better. Case in point: “I Didn’t See It Coming” from Belle and Sebastian’s Write About Love and “The Suburbs” from the Arcade Fire‘s chart-topping outing.

It may be in part because I’ve grown to love both groups since my teenage years, and they’d both waited several years to hit the new releases section of your favorite record store — but boosting that anticipatory glee can only be a good thing. Can you imagine being hit with the new album from your favorite band without a moment’s notice? It would be disorienting! That anticipation helps to build expectations so they can either be let down or boosted, depending on your perspective. (more…)

Rural Alberta Advantage issues anticipatory track

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Departed

My love for The Rural Alberta Advantage is not really a secret. Their full-length, Hometowns, held a very special place in my record player, and it was easily one of my most-listened albums of 2009, when it was reissued. When Departed was announced, I became, well, a little giddy. I don’t think this should come as too much of a surprise — I get giddy at the merest mention of new things from bands I enjoy, and when it’s a band I have an unabashed affection toward, make no mistakes: I’m like a little school girl. Well, I mean, I’m like a little school girl in some respects, not all.

At any rate, I snagged an e-mail this morning from Paper Bag Records advertising a track from the upcoming Departed, which is due out March 1. I jumped from the couch I’d fallen asleep on, grabbed my laptop, and the listening took off.


Music Geek: Ten for 2010

School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire

Given how quickly 2011 is approaching, here’s a quick list of ten of my favorite records of the year. If you ask me what they are tomorrow or at any time in the near future, my answers will change. Just saying. Check it out!

1. School of Seven Bells — Disconnect From Desire (@sviib)
Dream pop on steroids for the 21st century — I can’t resist it.

2. Belle and Sebastian — Write About Love (@bellesglasgow)
More from the band that’s brought you great indie pop for 14 years. Mix in some soul and R&B and you’ve got Write About Love.

3. The Tallest Man on Earth — The Wild Hunt (@tallestman)
Folky pop music with some real power behind everything. Just pure goodness here. (more…)

Graveface relaunches titles following flood damage

The Seven Fields of Aphelion — Periphery

One of my favorite record labels, Graveface Records, went through a bit of a tragedy earlier in the year when parts of their catalog were damaged in a flood. This left some very good records unavailable — three of them: The Appleseed Cast’s Two Conversations, The Seven Fields of Aphelion’s Periphery, and Dreamend’s Maybe We’re Making God Sad and Lonely.

With some great help, Graveface is now able to relaunch the records, and they’re now taking preorders. Get them while you can. I can’t recommend any of them enough.

The Seven Fields of Aphelion – “Mountain Mary” from Periphery | download
[audio:|titles=The Seven Fields of Aphelion – “Mountain Mary”]

· Check out the Graveface store