An inscrutable mixture of eerie DIY electronic soundscapes and the soulful falsetto of a folkie, How to Dress Well gives is the most intriguing thing I’ve heard in a while. The juxtaposition of new and old, the clashing of genres, the mysteriousness of the musician himself – it’s an exercise in true indie innovation. HTDW sounds like a mix between Bon Iver and Animal Collective, with bold shades of vintage R&B.
A voice of a sad-eyed soul singer, How to Dress Well was born from the experiments of enigmatic Brooklyn resident, Tom Krell. Rough, sampled, and blatantly bedroom lo-fi, the beautiful ambient sounds build a perfect background. And with Krell’s nasally voice floating over top, it feels at times more like an art project than band.
HTDW has released a series of progressively independent EP’s – all worth checking out – but his full album, titled Love Remains, is the standout of his work. It plays out like a long, continuous 70’s pop song, skewed and turned on its head several unpredictable times over.
OK, so.The hot candy-cane chick/neo-hippie way-too-old-for-her-boyfriend music duo isn’t anything new (White Stripes, Johnny Cash/June Carter, Crystal Castles, to name a few). What makes High Places different from these other bands is their seemingly contradictory styles. It’s like mashing up a Miley Cyrus song with a Notorious B.I.G. song; twistedly delirous, but totally awesome.
High Places mesh soft, far-away vocals with break-beat natural percussion. “From Stardust to Sentience” is one of those highly transient songs that one might see in an emotionally packed, slow-mo fly-by scene in an alt-film. The bands ability to mesh seemingly distinct and different sounds demonstrates itself in “On Giving Up.” A driving, phasered bass line meets a reverbed, wah-ed out opera voice. Complete with freaky atmospheric noise that one could only guess what it is. Take a magic carpet ride with these awkward love-birds.
Chances are, if you’ve heard of this band you’ve heard them described as the band that sounds like Grizzly Bear; and it’s true, they do bear (nope Hun in ten did) a stylistic closeness to the Brooklyn band, especially in the timbre of lead-singer James Nee’s voice – it sounds uncannily like Daniel Rosen. However, that’s not to say that We Are Trees is at all unoriginal. They may be cut from the same experimental-bedroom-folk cloth, but they are nonetheless strikingly distinct.
The deliberate down-strokes and rhythmic patterns of the acoustic guitars, paired with the regular pounding of the drums (void of the bass drum), drives the songs, sets the mood. Layered vocals and snippets of strings add to the effect, complementing the ambiguous lyrics nicely. However, it’s the unpredictable structure of the songs that proves to be the most alluring. It’s bedroom folk, tinged with the mystery of experimental indie rock, colored with hi-fi production and the meticulousness of depth and density in the recordings. We Are Trees can only be described as an experience; and one certainly worth checking out.
Voulez-vous faire l’amour à l’air (do you want to make love to Air)? If one plans to travel to France any time soon, this is a must know phrase. The new Air album Love 2 simply drips with sexiness. Tip your berets off to Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel, who have once again created a masterful, highly ephemeral album. Air’s electro-dream pop style has been highly acclaimed since Premier Symptomes, 1997.
So, what’s so different about this album? Les hommes decided that their labels studio vas tootally boiteux (lame), and decided to build their own studio. Totally seperated from whiny producers and the pressure of due dates, Air was able to create something entirely free and unique.
Upbeat, space-fi tracks dosed with soothing, romantic vocals makes Love 2 quite possibly France’s sexiest album since Celine Dion. Listen to in a room filled with candles and let the harmonies carry you off on a cloud.
Warpaint – The Fool
At first glance, the cover of the first full-length Warpaint album, The Fool, looks like something you’d see on a bad acid trip. But just one glance seems to be impossible, because, like the music itself, the cover is alluring and almost addictive. After staring at the mysterious picture, you realize the genius of it: it’s one of those album rarities, when the picture is paired perfectly with the music, and together they create a completely unique experience for the audience.
Describing the album cover is as difficult as describing the band responsible for it. Almost like a warped Warhol, it depicts a negative picture of a skull, brought to life with both watery and warm colors – cool blues and violets dot the edges of the skull, and a smooth, dark red pervades the center. Though, despite the vibrancy of the picture, the general shape is hard to make out, adding to the mystery. It looks like a facial X-ray crumbled up and held underwater, then lit up with sharp colors. Lining the top of the picture, the name of the band stands out in stark, gold letters.
Hailing from L.A., this eerie, experimental band is completely unlike any other modern artists. Exemplifying this creative otherworldliness, the cover of their anticipated album begs listening to, preferably alone in a dark room. The members of the group are each self-described artists and daily-creators; and after the release of their first album, it’s unlikely that anyone will object to this claim. The whole package – the bold music and ominous artwork – is, unquestionably, a modern work of musical art.
Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz
In an industry dominated now by mp3’s and iTunes rather than by CD’s and LP’s, album covers have become something of a dying art. However, one artist, Sufjan Stevens, has worked throughout his prolific career to break this trend. Through seven strikingly ambitious albums, he has created not only some of the most beautiful music of the twentieth century, but some of the most memorable album covers as well; and his lauded new album, The Age of Adz (pronounced Odds), out October 12th, is no exception.
The record cover depicts some sort of ominous figure that seems to resemble mythological icons from Mesoamerica. The figure looks as if it is wearing a large, black mask, and has two, dark red circles for eyes. The colors of the picture are attention-grabbing: set against a dull salmon color, the black and brick-red character stands out powerfully, beguiling listeners to explore the music. The phrase “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is etched to the right of the figure in creepy italic writing. Other, almost illegible writing is scribbled in various places on the album’s front, adding again to the mystery. Steven’s name lines the left and right of the picture, and “The Age of Adz” vibrantly covers the top and bottom of the image. In the end, the uniqueness of the album cover renders it virtually indescribable; however, that’s what makes this tantalizing cover so special – it has to be seen to be understood. Like Sufjan Steven’s larger body of work, the cover is, at the very least, intriguing.
The album’s title is a reference to the bizarre artwork of the American artist Royal Robertson, and the cover itself is a Robertson piece. Robertson was a schizophrenic and self-described prophet. His fantastical homemade creations often depicted subjects such as love, death, loss, God and sex; and appropriately, many of these same universal topics are explored throughout The Age of Ads too. Thematically, Steven’s message seems to fit with Robertson’s work. Though, the music seems to stand in contrast to this mold. The juxtaposition of Steven’s polished, modern electronica music to the stark plainness of the album cover is, in a way, a symbol of the stylistic unpredictability that has become a trademark of the musician’s career.
Perfume Genius creates beautiful (s)lo-fi bedroom ballads, sitting behind a piano, singing wearily about tragic things. The subjects of his songs are cryptic and open-ended, but are all the more heartbreaking for this very reason. The music behind the voice is gorgeous in its simplicity, often following a plain, four-chord progression interlaced with all the right minor breaks. The juxtaposition of his repetitive piano lines with his delicate voice and broken poetry brings to mind Sufjan Stevens and the Antlers; but with Hadreas’ unrelenting sincerity, his delivery feels refreshingly unique. His songs are something to be heard: they’re sad and they’re bleak, and they’re beautiful.
Mmmmmmm…… taking Shy Anne’s blog post virginity feels good…
I guess I should do introductions. I go by the name Alec Trenica. I like dogs, climbing, chicks with brains, fat tire, and the occasional stroll through downtown Wyoming (har har).
Music intoxicates me. That low, eaaasy beat and launch-your-head-to-space synths and licks get me hot. I like anything that gets that club hoppin’, booty boppin’, sugar pill poppin’, go ’till morning ya ain’t no stoppin’ groooove. Always danceable, usually upbeat, 100% indietronica is my jam.
To start, here’s a little blast from the 2003; year of the shady lighthouse.
Jeff McIlwain, a.k.a. Lusine, has been producing high quality ambient tracks since he graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a degree in 20th century electronic music in 1998. Needless to say, this guy is a seasoned veteran in electronic music.
Deep beats, booming bass, spacey, micro-sampled vocals and flowing, downtempo melodies make up the track “Dr Chinme” from the album “Condensed.” This track shows Lusine’s ability to be both introspective and calm, but with dance/house overtones. Play this track on really fat speakers or ridiculously large headphones.
Here’s the track.