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MUSIC» Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
In which I recover from the rote indie glaze of slower months with novelty techno, lavish Europop and "grunge."
Charanjit Singh - Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (Bombay Connection)
Geeta Dayal alleges that this 1982 recording of--what else?--ten ragas, arranged for Moog synthesizer, cheesy vocoder and minimal 808 backbeat, predates the European acid house revolution by at least as many years as those between Sugarhill Gang and Public Enemy. But acid house was a rhythm-plus-sound-FX dance phenom that never rested on such continuous, expansive melody curls. Some might say that traditional sitar ragas don't have that much color either ("that's why they're called drones"), but this marriage is lightly kitschy and breathable. Even when the "songs" probably aren't doing all that much, the slow unwind of the TB-303's LFO setting makes them sound constantly unfolding, peeling. A missed genre opportunity.
Beach Fossils - Beach Fossils (Captured Tracks)
Not chillwave as the trendy name suggests. More like a Deerhunter without pretensions toward noise or texture, or a Real Estate that lives up to what people say about Real Estate. Beach Fossils make a worthier Yo La Tengo successor than either of those groups, and even then, so much clearer and more reliant on the line graph of singular guitar melody than texture, variety, arrangement or change of pace. That means there's no "Sugarcube." But it also means half the tunes are under three minutes, and several are gorgeous: bronze, silver and gold go to "Daydream," "Youth," and "Wide Awake," respectively. And "Twelve Roses" is forward enough to net them (hopefully) an opening slot for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart. I mean, who wants to stay at the beach all day anyway? That's how you get sunburned.
This Moment in Black History - Public Square (Smog Veil)
These excellent, racially-integrated posthardcore warriors from Cleveland bring the much missed sludge of Steve Albini's peak projects into a world where punk's not so slimy anymore. New album splits the difference between the Hives' shoving call-response ("Forest Whitaker [In an Uncompromising Role]") and the MC5's riff-into-solo lava lamp mutations ("Pollen Count") with retro-dirty production and the occasional metal tune ("MFA"). That they maintain their attack and squeal even when Albini isn't producing them is miracle of gritty imprecision, even when "90%" cues up a synthesizer. I want to play them albums by the Hunches and the Catheters. But even those guys didn't achieve the power-drill sonics of "Photonegative" or the gall to freestyle rap "bitch don't touch my notes."
Male Bonding - Nothing Hurts (Sub Pop)
Inevitably overrated for simply being a small-potatoes variation on the current landscape--re: they play fast, short songs with guitars-this is being tagged by both the band and others alike as "grunge." But grunge wasn't particularly fast or peppy, and this band's too obsessed with being catchy for small blurs at a time to waste time on ugly minor chords or actual guitar riffs. So if you must chalk it up to that era, think Dinosaur Jr without a guitar god or Jay Reatard without nerves. But they don't sound far off from the current Surfer Blood or Vivian Girls either. They succeed at their mild goals and sound like small catchy blurs. By the Ramones Rule, they might have even made the most efficient, least fallible indie album of the year. But they won't save rock and roll-not with that reverb.
The Radio Dept. - Clinging to a Scheme (Labrador)
Why is it so much easier for critics to praise Swedish pop so than the homegrown stuff? Annie and Peter Bjorn and John's albums are at least as inconsistent as Pink's or Justin Timberlake's, and if they get to invoke the Knife, well we get Liz Phair. Maybe they mock our expressionism, but I'm skeptical over their lack of dynamite. Take the Radio Dept.'s blissful "Heaven's on Fire," an airy trifle that's one of 2010's most charming and incandescent singles with a shuffling hiphop beat unmatched by anything else on Clinging to a Scheme. And the few that try--military drums on "This Time Around" or the oddly anthemic ping-pong ball intro to "A Token of Gratitude"--never hook like the single, or particularly get around to trying. But they are tuneful: "The Video Dept." and "You Stopped Making Sense" jangle effervescently despite a vocal sigh as distant and dour as Oliver Ackermann's among a Place to Bury Strangers' invigorating noise. Enjoy them while expressionism's their only deficiency. As a bonus, this band is currently Ratified.
Kate Nash - My Best Friend Is You (Fiction)
LAS contributor Theon Weber initially groused at the relentlessness of this record just as I initially oversold it. But it's giving what her stop-and-go #1 debut didn't: every track whams into place in five seconds with a mess of studio riches. String swoops, piano, horn blats, xylophone and a bleachers section worth of handclaps grace the dizzying opener "Paris" alone, and "Take Me to a Higher Plane" revs up the orchestra-billy Los Campesinos! have already unfathomably done away with. And so forth. We're okay with Nash's neuroses quadrupling because her songwriting has followed suit, and her sharp, sexy accent has arguably the best enunciation in current music. The way she bites down on "I bet her feet don't even stink" in "Kiss That Grrrl," or fades the end of "I think that girl's shady" in premier I-don't-know-what-he-sees-in-her anthem "Do-Wah-Doo" are two arcs in her many perfect readings. Reports that she's been playing Sleater-Kinney have made her talking and screaming experiments almost more compelling than her surefire pop: fuzz-rock "I Just Love You More" and fuck-essay "Mansion Song" may go down as embarrassments with the crowd that discarded Liz Phair's teenpop, but they're compelling left turns for a likeable mini-star I'm not sure anyone expected an encore from. She's either too easy to overrate or too easy to dismiss. I presume the latter.
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.
See other articles by Dan Weiss.
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