FROM ENGLAND WITH LOVE: The Last Shadow Puppets
Now that we’re six days into 2009, self-titled figured we should stop arguing about the rest of our ’08 countdown and decide the damn thing so we can move on to new music. With that in mind, here are 18 more endorsements in alphabetical order.
Like what you see or hear? Click on the album covers for links to the cheapest high-quality downloads.
Atlas Sound, Let the Blind Lead Those Who Cannot See (Kranky)
What we said then: “Made for best friend/bandmate Lockett Pundt, Let The Blind proves Cox can cull the madness into something openly accessible (‘River Card’) while the jittery swell of ‘Ready, Set, Glow’ and the micro-house variation of ‘Cold As Ice’ take his consciousness-altering whirlwind to new psychotropic heights.”
Why we’re still listening: With a sound that’s dreamier and more sample-driven than Deerhunter, Bradford Cox’s side project is the equivalent of swimming in a vat of particularly strong cough syrup.
Atlas Sound @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, 2.24.08
Try before you buy: “Recent Bedroom”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/02%20Recent%20Bedroom.mp3]
The Bug, London Zoo (Ninja Tune)
What we missed the first time around: A devastating disasterpiece of wobbly synth shards and bass lines that slap your speakers like smart bombs. Not to mention some menacing MC work by Flowdan, Warrior Queen and more.
Try before you buy: “Poison Dart” (featuring Warrior Queen)[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/11%20Poison%20Dart%20ft%20Warrior%20Queen.mp3]
What we said then: “Fuck blog-house, DayGlo fashion lines and nearly everything associated with electro these days. You know what Cut Copy are? Pop stars in waiting.”
Why we’re still listening: With guitars that gently grate and synths that shimmer like a thousand LED lights, Cut Copy’s breakthrough LP is preposterously poppy–our go-to tonic for cheering up the office come deadline time. Few 2008 albums had singles as thoroughly satisfying as “Out There On the Ice,” “Lights and Music,” “Hearts On Fire” and “So Haunted,” either.
Try before you buy: “So Haunted”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/07%20So%20Haunted.mp3]
What we said then: “If you’ve been keeping score since Fucked Up’s 7-inch-stacking beginnings (check the discography), this stunning album is simply a natural evolution from the group’s last opus, 18 minutes of mind-boggling prog-punk (see the many movements in Year of the Pig‘s title track). Don’t buy that argument? That’s fine. Be sure to file a complaint with someone that actually gives a damn about adhering to a sound that dates back to before many hardcore traditionalists were born.”
Why we’re still listening: Ambient interludes and shoegazer shades prove you don’t have to outgrow hardcore; you can grow up with it.
Try before you buy: “No Epiphany”[audio:http://www.matadorrecords.com/mpeg/fucked_up/no_epiphany.mp3]
What we missed the first time around: Take a lengthy look at the Technicolor art that adorns this four-part box set. The nocturnal shot is a perfect summary of what you’re in store for here: an incomparably influential collection of ambient techno experiments that predated Kompakt’s seminal Pop Ambient series and lots of drone-on music that hits your head like a morphine drip.
Try before you buy: “Eins”
Genghis Tron, Board Up the House (Relapse)
What we missed the first time around: True to its title, Board Up the House is all about battening up the hatches as the End of Days era draws near. An Act of God’s got nothing to do with it, though. More like us–killing ourselves through neglience, ignorance and sheer stupidity. That said, this thing isn’t a downer; it’s absolutely electric, brimming with the spirit of old Nine Inch Nails LPs and Warp compilations.
Try before you buy: “I Won’t Come Back Alive”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/05%20I%20Won%27t%20Come%20Back%20Alive.mp3]
Hercules and Love Affair, Hercules and Love Affair (DFA/Mute)
What we said then: “Need we say more about this group? Support gay disco.”
Why we’re still listening: Playful one moment (“Hercules’ Theme,” “You Belong,” a rather anthemic “Blind”) and bristling with love and longing the next (“Free Will,” “Iris,” “Easy”), this is the most human dance record of the past couple years.
Try before you buy: “Free Will”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/01%20Free%20Will.mp3]
Jay Reatard, Singles 06-07 (In the Red)
What we said then: “The included tracks–lifted from long OOP singles released on In the Red, Goner, Squoodge, P. Trash and Stained Circles–play around with light, sing-songy melodies as much as they go balls out on the hot, sticky guitar action. Restraint–something you wouldn’t necessarily think to associate with such a hair-in-face, flying-V-guitar-slinging rocker–is Reatard’s friend here.”
Why we’re still listening: As much as we dig Reatard’s ’08-centric Matador compilation, there’s a looser, livelier vibe to this series of earlier sides. Hell, we fell for its brittle hooks so hard (“Don’t Let Him Come Back,” “Night of Broken Glass” and “I Know a Place” are pure pop gold left in the rain to rust) we put Jay on our second issue‘s cover without hearing his new songs.
Try before you buy: “Night of Broken Glass”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/01%20Night%20Of%20Broken%20Glass.mp3]
What we said then: “Whether the bump-in-the-night co-production of Spank Rock’s Aramani XXXchange or the one-two punch of the first couple tracks pulls you in, it’s easy to see why Kate Moss ditched Pete for a Dawn of the Dead-looking dude named ‘Hotel.'”
Why we’re still listening: To listen is to gain a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for acting ‘bad,’ as this dirt-encrusted disc is basically an excuse for indulging your id.
Try before you buy: “Tape Song”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/03%20Tape%20Song.mp3]
Krallice, Krallice (Profound Lore)
What we missed the first time around: Black-metal from the icy outskirts of … Brooklyn? Indeed; and it features some of the most hypnotic guitar heroics we’ve heard in eons. (Cheers to Mick Barr.)
Try before you buy: “Wretched Wisdom”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/01%20Wretched%20Wisdom.mp3]
The Last Shadow Puppets, The Age of the Understatement (Domino)
What we said then: “With a scintillating sleeve that’d fit nicely alongside a dusty copy of Blow-Up, The Last Shadow Puppets’ debut had me at hello. However, it really sealed the deal with songs like ‘Standing Next To Me’ and ‘Calm Like You.’ Thanks to the effortless orchestration of Owen Pallet and (producer/drummer) James Ford’s grasp of a certain Arctic Monkey’s strengths, both feel like full-blooded vignettes–tunes that’ll turn your speakers into a silver screen on the way to seizing the NME’s staff by its collective balls.”
Why we’re still listening: Simply put, we like this so much more than Alex Turner’s other gig, the Arctic Monkeys. “Standing Next to Me” and “Calm Like You”–a stupendous pair of groove-bursting singles–also emerged atop our iTunes “Play Count” list at the tail end of 2008.
Try before you buy: “Standing Next to Me”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/02%20Standing%20Next%20To%20Me.mp3]
What we said then: “Thankfully, No Age is our burrito, an indie-rock band that’s putting in the work, playing the shows, making the great music, not because they’re trying to attain some grandiose level of instant-grat stardom that’ll (maybe) make sure their children’s college tuition is paid, but simply because this–exactly what they’re doing now–is their dream and it’s also their job. Michael Azerad wrote their bible. This is what they love. Do it your damn self. DIY(DS). And that dedication sure does show in their music.”
Why we’re still listening: Because No Age–like Fucked Up–remind us of why we used to plummet into hardcore punk mosh pits, knowing full well that we were about to get wrecked. And they do so while injecting their ire with dashes of noise pop.
Try before you buy: “Teen Creeps”[audio:http://www.subpop.com/assets/audio/4708.mp3]
Poni Hoax, Images of Sigrid (Tigersushi)
What we said then: “Before you scoff at the very idea of yet another band schooled in the art of Joy Division, Giorgio Moroder and the Talking Heads, know this: Poni Hoax’s music is more like a modern day update of classic French cold-wave music (see the excellent So Young But So Cold, BIPP compilations) than a Parisian spin on Bloc Party or Franz Ferdinand. They’re also diametrically-opposed to the Ed Banger-backed stereotype of French dance tracks being nothing but distorted, speaker-singeing synths and crowd-pleasing bits of electro, hip-hop and filtered disco. Basically, Images of Sigrid is an album you play while driving through rain-pelted streets at midnight, not your everyday collection of club bangers.”
Why we’re still listening: Because this is the most overlooked, under-appreciated nostalgia trip of the “House of Jealous Lovers” generation. In our humble opinion, of course.
TIPPING POINT: Poni Hoax profile
Try before you buy: “Pretty Tall Girls”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/03%20Pretty%20Tall%20Girls.mp3]
Portishead, Third (Mercury)
What we said then: “Third is difficult, draining, dense and depressing, an absolutely soul-sucking record if ever there was one. That said, it really is fascinating, and even if you don’t dig it, it’s an aural event you must to experience at least once.”
Why we’re still listening: More than a simple ‘comeback album,’ Portishead’s first studio record in 11 years feels like a revelation–a stunning reminder that the trio was never tethered to anyone’s sepia toned idea of trip-hop. While “Machine Gun” and “We Carry On” are more menacing and HEAVY than any metal song we heard all year, “Deep Water” is surprisingly tender and simple, a barely-there blend of cascading ukelele chords and backup vocals from beyond the grave. As for “The Rip,” well, it’s the Single of the Year, a goosebump-y blend of creeping coldwave keys and melodramatic melodies that bring new meaning to the phrase “misery loves company.”
Try before you buy: “The Rip”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/04%20The%20Rip.mp3]
Rodriguez, Cold Fact (Light in the Attic, reissue)
What we said then: “His deft–and daft–poetics are coated in the kind of ’60s/’70s flourishes we simply don’t hear on today’s records: strings that swoon, Woodstock-ian guitars, a mix that’s warmer than a windowsill-bound pie. No wonder why David Holmes dropped “Sugarman” at the start of his stellar Come Get It I Got It mix. Like any reissue worth its weight in liner notes, Cold Fact is timeless stuff.”
What we’re still listening: If it were still the ’60s, this recently-unearthed time capsule would make us want to move to San Fran and live off nothing but freshly-pulled espresso shots and dog-eared books about Marxism and the Man.
Try before you buy: “Sugar Man”[audio:http://www.lightintheattic.net/releases/rodriguez/sugar_man.mp3]
School of Seven Bells, Alpinisms (Ghostly)
What we missed the first time around: One hell of a haunting/heavenly listen, emanating from some sort of psychedelic ether. Aside from that, it’s the genre-less sound of three gifted musicians shedding their past projects (Secret Machines, On-Air Library!) for their purest work yet. To give you an idea of how varied the soundscapes are, “Half Asleep” is goddamn gorgeous and the 11-minute pairing of “Sempiternal/Amaranth” is a slightly sinister downward spiral into a rabbit hole you just might not crawl out of.
Try before you buy: “Connjur”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/07%20Connjur.mp3]
Titus Andronicus, The Airing of Grievances (Troubleman Unlimited)
What we missed the first time around: The crap production values of this debut is a major source of its scab-yanking appeal. (It should be subtitled Jersey Bites Back.) That, and the nutty Oberst-isms of Patrick Stickles, circa the Lifted LP, as if Mr. Bright Eyes traded in his red wine collection for a handful of amphetamines.
Try before you buy: “Arms Against Atrophy”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/04%20Arms%20Against%20Atrophy.mp3]
Torche, Meanderthal (Hydra Head)
What we said then: “This record is easily the most palatable metal record I’ve heard in years. Probably because it sounds like the Foo Fighters jamming with Quicksand.”
Why we’re still listening: Since Walter Schreifels would rather reunite Rival Schools and Gorilla Biscuits than Quicksand, this is the closest we’re gonna get to another Slip.
Try before you buy: “Grenades”[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/audio4/02%20Grenades.mp3]