By Caspar Salmon and Chris Polley | Music | April 2, 2009 |
By Caspar Salmon and Chris Polley | Music | April 2, 2009 |
Here is part two of our three-part series on the albums of 2009 that we’re most looking forward to. Please, read and enjoy — and share!
I’m pretty darn happy that Kanye West has a new album coming out this year - and mostly because he’s been so quiet lately. Don’t you find? I mean, what is he up to? Speak out, Kanye, wherever you are! A new album should bring him out of the woodwork. So what can we look forward to? Well, with a bit of luck this will be a massive, all-consuming party album. On its release late last year, I found his record 808s & Heartbreak to be self-involved and lyrically clumsy; but it is actually a bit of a grower, with its understated, crepuscular electronic sort of sound. This new album, one hopes, will provide a glorious counterpoint to that one - seeing him emerging from his mourning for his mother and his break-up sadness, and embracing life in the company of that polysexual lady with whom he’s currently consorting. I have enormous respect for him, not only as a producer but as a rapper - and let’s not forget how refreshing his melding of Jay-Z braggadocio and Rawkus-style roots rap was when he first appeared. After three excellent rap albums and one very intriguing foray into different sounds, Kanye can do pretty much anything right now, and I expect him to come up with something trail-blazing.
Casiotone For The Painfully Alone has a new album coming out so soon I can almost smell it - and to me, CFTPA smells of fresh cigarette smoke and coffee in a bright, warm kitchen. Lovely. Owen Ashworth - for it is he twiddling the knobs and pressing the keys, under the CFTPA umbrella - has a lazy drone of a voice, with what sounds to me like a slightly dirty edge to it, as if he’d spy on you through the keyhole if you went to the bathroom in his house. His songs - particularly on his last album, the fantastic Etiquette - are crisp, elegant, faintly arch reflections on relationships; quiet tales, deftly told. A taster from the new album, called ‘Optimist vs. The Silent Alarm’, is very promising: it’s got a skittish sort of bluegrassy dance-y shuffle, and a fantastically bashed out organ riff on ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ to finish it off well within the two minute mark. Lyrically, he seems as sharp as ever. This should be storming.
I’m also looking forward to some classy indie-pop from Camera Obscura, due out in a month’s time or so. The band really beefed up their twee-pop sound with 2007’s Let’s Get Out Of This Country, turning in a classic collection of maudlin-yet-danceable songs. It was a great record because it never betrayed their indie aesthetic - jangly guitar, lo-fi vocals, handclaps, etc - yet moved them out of the shadows of Belle & Sebastian, crafting their very own sound. It’s a sound that’s very much in evidence on the title track of their new record, My Maudlin Career - glossy production, understated instruments, and that pained voice, just on the right side of dour. Tracyanne Campbell, sweet-gloomy bastard that she is, sounds like a hybrid of Dionne Warwick and Morrissey, and this new album is released at a time when the band should feel very close to their best form.
Finally, I’m jazzed about Steve Earle’s forthcoming album Townes, a record of fifteen covers of songs by the indescribably fantastic Townes Van Zandt. Earle famously said of Townes Van Zandt that he “is the best songwriter in the world, and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that” (which, even more hilariously, prompted this from Van Zandt: “I’ve met Bob Dylan and his bodyguards, and I don’t think Steve could get anywhere near his coffee table”). The homage covers album seems to be in favour at the moment, after Shelby Lynne’s excellent record of Dusty Springfield songs last year, and Phosphorescent’s recent tribute to Willie Nelson - and this is such an obvious match-up, you have to wonder why Earle didn’t think of it before. Perhaps it’s best that he’s left it until now, though: after his early trials and tribulations, Earle is now known as a reliable, sincere and mature songwriter, and his gravelly delivery can do full justice to the stark beauty of Townes’s writing. Certainly, his take on ‘Pancho and Lefty’ is pretty strong. For this record, he’s joined by his current wife, Alison Moorer (sister of the aforementioned Shelby Lynne), and his son, the excellent Justin Townes Earle. Mark that middle name.
Spring Tides by Jeniferever: At first, this Swedish band’s debut full-length from 2006, Choose A Bright Morning is nothing grand to the ears. It sounds pleasant, meticulously constructed, but largely ignorable. But this is why the made-up term “grower” exists. It’s pretty enough to put on a couple more times as mere background music, so soon the effervescent guitars and ghostly melodies creep into your soul and you grow to cherish it so much that for each successive listen, you crank up the volume just a little bit more to hear the nuances you failed to take in the last time. The vocals are a deal breaker for many, unfortunately, especially all you Death Cab For Cutie haters out there. But the great thing about Jeniferever’s singer Kristofer Jönson, unlike manchild depression poster boy Ben Gibbard, is that he is more prone to lilting his adorable cherubic voice and staying out of the way of the lush atmospheres of the songs, which just gives me another reason to absolutely adore this band’s ethic: modesty, beauty, and mystery, all rolled into one. This is the kind of artist that I can only hope is immune to the sophomore slump curse, because no matter what, I will listen over and over again, waiting until it all clicks in a blooming epiphany of aural ecstasy and I fall in love with this band all over again. And hopefully, more people in the States will start taking notice to them too. [Release Date - April 14th on Monotreme]
The Eternal by Sonic Youth: Beware, I’m not a Thurston Moore, Steve Shelley or Kim Gordon fanboy. I’m not the kind of person who would put a new SY release on an anticipated records list every year that they produce one. I was the kid who watched the Homerpalooza episode of The Simpsons and only knew them as the band who had those shirts with washing machines on them and waited for another Billy Corgan joke. But once I discovered the independent underground in high school, I went through a phase where I sought out every Sonic Youth release I could find at used record stores and gave them all a try. Some I liked, some I hated, and only one I loved: i>Experimental Jet Set, Trash, And No Star. It was loose but still melodic, playful but still emotional, and just generally rocked my 16-year-old face off. I have no reason to think that this upcoming release will be any different except for the fact that Mark Ibold (formerly of Pavement, possibly my favorite band of all time) has joined the infamous group for this record. Add to that a song titled “Anti-Orgasm” and that their last effort, Rather Ripped, was the closest they’ve gotten to being truly accessible and engaging in a long time and The Eternal sounds even more promising. I’ve heard rumors about it incorporating elements of black metal as well, and while that doesn’t directly appeal to me, it definitely has the potential to not only rock our faces off, but melt them as well. [Release Date - June 9th on Matador]
Title TBD by Tortoise: For us lovers of modern instrumental music, there are four forefathers. They are Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Explosions In The Sky, Mogwai, and Tortoise. And as much as I worship the first three mentioned here, Tortoise is the only band to not have any direct descendants that mimic their sound. This is mostly because Tortoise’s sound is so eclectic and wildly innovative that it is, frankly, impossible to copy. More jazz than rock and more worldly than Westernized, the band has remained a fringe favorite throughout their 15+ year tenure to lovers of all things epic, worldly, and a little funky. Their landmark albums Millions Now Living Will Never Die and TNT are must-owns for anyone who can appreciate the sound of a vibraphone wiggling away in the corner of your headphones like a cinematic heartbeat or an electronic freakout occurring atop a driving and totally danceable percussion beat. And while they haven’t topped those albums in the past ten years, they’ve been consistently reliable on reinventing themselves with every release while never failing to still sound like Tortoise. Even their last release, 2006’s The Brave And The Bold, which featured Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy on vocals, still wobbled with keyboard acrobatics and grooving rhythms. But that means that they haven’t put out a strictly instrumental record in five years, so when I heard that this release date got pushed from April to June, I didn’t bat an eyelash. Who cares? We’re less than a year away from a new proper album by one of the only bands that still doesn’t care about sounding hip or jumping on a trend, and will always be hip because of it. [Release Date - Sometime in June on Thrill Jockey]
Title TBD by The Wrens: Everyone hates Creed, right? Okay, good. Because The Wrens are not only musically the rock antithesis of the band that ruined the term “grunge” forever, but they have a back story that makes them the perfect choice to headline a Scott Stapp effigy-burning party. The now older New Jersey gents started out on an independent label called Grass Records, which when bought out wanted to focus more on producing hit artists than you know, actually making good albums. When The Wrens famously refused the chance to streamline their sound into the pop-rock explosion of the 90s, Grass dropped them, changed their name to Wind-Up and signed a little band called…you guessed it, Creed. Time passed and The Wrens refrained from making music for a while (with good reason). Then they came back in 2002 with a masterpiece called The Meadowlands. It was a spectacularly dense, anthemic, and utterly unprecedented comeback, especially since they recorded it in one of their living rooms. Songs like “Hopeless” and “Boys You Won’t Remember” are so fierce and catchy that hardly anyone could resist. With such mass-market appeal and resounding success, it was the greatest symbolic middle finger to label execs who think like businessmen more than they do music lovers. And now we have been sitting on our hands for SEVEN years for a follow-up? Fuck. It was first supposed to come out in 2007, but now that the band has two new songs and a video up on their site, things finally are starting to look up. Please cross your fingers with me. [Release Date - TBD on Absolutely Kosher]
Title TBD by The Avalanches: Okay, so this one may not happen. But I’m feeling optimistic, so deal with it. All we have is a three-month-old quote floating around the net from somebody at the groundbreaking electronic collective’s label saying “they’re supposed to deliver it to me Christmas day” and a MySpace status that has said “putting the finishing touches on album 2” for what has felt like forever. They have reportedly scrapped upwards of three albums worth of songs through this nine-year process of attempting to follow-up 2000’s mindfuck of an album Since I Left You. What I would do to get my hands on these songs probably shouldn’t be published. I’ll never forget the moment I first saw the video for “Frontier Psychiatrist” in a friend’s basement. It was easily the most insane thing that MTV had ever aired at the time. Possibly even more insane than things that followed on the network over the years, like Date My Mom and The Hills. Samples from old instructional videos and TV shows bandied about in a flurry of brilliant cross-cutting and turntable scratching while a hypnotizing horn riff looped in the background alongside horse whinnies and a propulsive snare beat. “What the fuck is this?” a friend queried. “I have no clue but I think I love it,” I replied. The rest of the album is equally worldview-changing - and definitely the most dizzying collection of re-appropriated music since DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing and until Girl Talk’s Night Ripper, seven years later. Now that we have sophomore releases from both those guys, so imagine if these Mexican fellows can finally decide on a roster of tracks after having nine years to ponder it all. A boy can dream, can’t he? [Release Date - TBD on Modular]