The New Decay

for those who love myusik

Friday, November 30, 2007

The New Decay Does Hit-Free Top 25 2007

I had some extra time booked in the studio at umfm today and used it to put together a mix of some of my favorite songs of the year. My rules were that it had to be something I would be comfortable playing on my show (do we need to be reminded any more about how awesome Rihanna or Timbaland are?). So anyways, I've compiled 25 songs, split them up into two sets for you to download off of yousendit and enjoy. Looking at this list it's a bit concerning about how limited it is stylistically. Last years list would have included some hip-hop, metal and jazz all in the top 15, whereas this year it's predominantly folk/rock/pop/electronica. There wasn't much happening in the way of jazz for me this year, and Hip-Hop seemed to have a very off year (even though Ghostface is set to release an album on Tuesday), and I just haven't gotten around to completely absorbing the Pig Destroyer album yet. Anyways links to files are below as is a set list (which basically goes as a top 5 followed by 20 songs tied for 6th). Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Part 1
Part 2

1) Frog Eyes - "Bushels" (From the album Tears for the Valedictorian)
2.) Sandro Perri - "The Mime" (From the album Tiny Mirrors)
3.) M.I.A. - "Paper Planes" (From the album Kala)
4.) Christine Fellows - "Not Wanted on the Voyage" (From the album Nevertheless)
5.) Burial - "Archangel" (From the album Untrue)
6.) Justice - "D.A.N.C.E." (From the album t)
7.) Robyn - "Konichiwa Bitches" (From the Ep Konichiwa Bitches)
8.) Jens Lekman - "The Opposite of Hallelujah" (From the album Night Falls on Kortedala)
9.) Beirut - "Guyanas Sonora" (From the album The Flying Club Cup)
10.) The Luyas - "Play Dead" (From the album Faker Death)
11.) Himalayan Bear - "The Captain" (From the album ...Attacks the Brilliant Air)
12.) Sunset Rubdown - "The Taming of the Hands that Came Back to Life" (From the album Random Spirit Lover)
13.) Panda Bear - "Bros." (From the album Person Pitch)
14.) Black Moth Super Rainbow - "When the Tongue Shines on Your Tongue" (From the album Dandelion Gum)
15.) Bill Callahan - "Sycamore" (From the album Woke Up on a Whale Heart)
16.) Sandro Perri - "Everybody's Talkin'" (From the album Tiny Mirrors)
17.) San Serac - "Fairlight" (From the album Professional)
18.) LCD Soundsystem - "Someone Great" (From the album Sound of Silver)
19.) Julie Doiron - "No More" (From the album Woke Myself Up)
20.)Low - "Belarus" (From the album Drums and Guns)
21.) Deerhoof - "+81" (From the album Friend Opportunity)
22.) Ghislain Poirier - "Ciara" (From the album Bounce Le Remix)
23.) The Bad Plus - "Life on Mars" (From the album Prog)
24.) Animal Collective - "Cuckoo Cuckoo" (From the album Strawberry Jam)
25.) The Good, The Bad and the Queen - "80's Life" (From the album The Good, The Bad and the Queen)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Laughter, Pain and Dread ... Himalayan Bear Interview

The December issue of !Earshot will include my recent piece on Victoria's Himalayan Bear (who, in case you haven't heard yet, released one of my fav's of the year in ...Attacks the Brilliant Air). I had the chance to interview Ryan Beattie a few weeks back for the article and have posted it below unedited. He's writing to me from Italy, where he is currently touring with Frog Eyes. It's always exciting when an artist you appreciate so much also appears to conduct himself well in interviews. Enjoy!

JF: You're currently on tour with Frog Eyes. How has the tour gone thus far? Is this the first time you're touring overseas?

RB: This is the first time I've toured overseas. I'm enjoying it much more than touring in North America. The food is better. People that come to a show listen more. There is very little pretense to what happens at a show. We just got to Italy after a show in Moscow. It was one of the best shows I've ever played. People were just so appreciative and receptive. Obsessed Russian Frog Eyes dudes. We got quite drunk on Vodka with members of the Latvia National Opera that night and almost missed our flight out of the country the next day. That is, if it weren't for an angry German booking agent yelling "come on Ryan, we don't have time for this dilly dallying. Get on the bus!" A hangover caused me to laugh uncontrollably while my head was splitting with pain and crushing dread. It was all pretty funny and Christian, our booking agent whom I spoke of, is top drawer. Also, I mean, there are some pretty beautiful places here. We are currently driving through the Italian Alps. It beats the Midwest any day.

JF: With both Himalayan Bear and Chet you have a significant role in the songwriting process. This doesn't seem to be the case when playing with Frog Eyes. How has it been working with a band that's not being directed by yourself?

RB: It's helping me tremendously. Playing in someone else's boat has cleared the sense of stagnation that I tend to slump into. It's making me a better guitar player, at thrashing that is.

JF: Has there been a different response to your sets in Europe as there has been in North America?

RB: It seems totally random. On the one hand you have some shows where there is an attentive adoring audience who truly is there for music. Then on other nights it is more of a feeling that people are just going out to see what's happening at the club they go to and "what's this? It's a band from North America? They're ok. Can I have a beer?"

JF: Looking at the lyrical aspects of your work, it's fairly clear that your surroundings have a significant impact on the direction your lyrics take. How has touring across Europe impacted your music?

RB: I'm not doing much writing. There is not time…we ran through Florence the other day. Mike and I had a lovely street lunch in some beautiful alley then walked out upon Piazza del Doumo. In all honesty I write more about things that relate to things at home when I'm away on tour. I've never really considered myself to be a crack lyricist. There are so many of my friends that are really beautiful writers. Coming from Vancouver Island does tend to seep heavily into a lot of people's music.

JF: Coming back to '... Attacks the Brilliant Air' (which I find absolutely stunning by the way), given the fact that the album was released at a similar time as Chet's 'Fight Against the Darkness.' How have you found the two to play off each other? What has been some of the differences between working as a solo project and working in a full band setting?

RB: The last time Frog Eyes toured North America, I was able to open the Canadian shows which worked really good. I'd never really given thought to the idea of a Himalayan bear tour. Himalayan bear has been something that I do in between Chet albums. That tour gave it a sense of seriousness to me. There were people that knew of the record and came to see me play. I've anticipated recording another record ever since. Still, having a band is way better. Guy with a guitar gets old pretty fast.

JF: I've found the songs on '... Attacks the Brilliant Air' are longer and much more open-ended than those on 'Lo Lonesome Island'. Was there a deliberate attempt on your part to be more exploratory on your new album, or did it just kind of happen that way?

RB: The main reason for the way the songs are structured was the location we were recording. My friends Kate and Ben use to run a bookstore in Victoria that had 25 foot ceilings. They let me record there at night and I had a long time to do it. It sounded so beautiful in there, especially the organ that I ended up adding these long droning passages simply because I enjoyed listening to the room. The space conducted the performance and ultimately arranged the songs.

JF: Victoria seems to be pumping out awesome album after awesome album lately. Whether it's the 'madman in the basement' aesthetic of Frog Eyes, the country charm of Carolyn Mark, or the almost-straight-up pop frenzy of Run Chico Run, Victoria seems to be a great place to be a songwriter right now. How has being part of such a vibrant and supportive musical community in Victoria impacted your songwritting?

RB: I'm really more antisocial these days and tend not to see people that much. But a few years ago it was great to have all these buds around that played music and made records. It is always easy to find someone to play on a record or find big groups to sing gang chorus'. I think 75 percent of the albums recorded in Victoria last year had some kind of gang chorus on it. It's time to move on.

JF: What plans to you have coming up (recording or touring-wise)?

RB: When I get home from tour, I'll be starting a Himalayan bear record with my bud Tolan who has a studio in a cabin in his back yard. He's recorded most of the Frog Eyes, Chet and Carolyn Mark albums. Chet is going to release an album on the San Fransisco label Absolutely Kosher. Frog Eyes tours in the spring as well as Chet.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On The Decay

It's been a while since I've done something like this so ...

Listening to ...

I've already professed my love for the new Burial record on here so need to rehash it, but there has yet to be a day since its release that I haven't heard at least part of that record.

The Luyas - Faker Death (Pome Records)
Former S.S. Cardiacs front women Jess Stein puts together a new band consisting of guitar, drums and Euphonium. As much as I loved the last S.S. Cardiacs album (and prefer the band name) there is a maturity apparent in Faker Death that was laking at times with the Cardiacs. It's more focused and more interesting that Stein's previous effortts as we get the pop sensibilities of the Cardiacs coupled with occasional walls of sound that interrupt the otherwise straight up pop songs. The end result is that Faker Death is a wonderful debut album from a band that appears to have a lot of promise.

Betty Davis - Betty Davis (Light in the Attic, 1973 Reissue)
Betty Davis is many things. She's my aunt. She's an Academy Award winning actress. She's the subject of a cheesy song about her eyes. Most importantly (well except for maybe being my Aunt) she is one of the meanest and funky sounding vocalists from the past 40 years. "Stepping in Her I Miller Shoes" will make even the most stubborn indie-rocker get up and dance.

808 State - Ninety (ZZT, 1989)
Influencing the likes of Prefuse 73, Aphex Twin, Venetian Snares, and Burial, 808 State's Rave/IDM classic Ninety is a beautiful listen that serves as a reminder that the late 80s were not a complete musical wasteland. Anybody who has an appreciation for modern day electronic artists needs to hear this album.

There's more I could include today (Cecil Taylor, Chris and Cosey, Prefuse 73 etc...) but I should probably stop here. I've submitted my year-end picks to !Earshot, which has got me started on the whole "Year End Lists" thing earlier than usual. My goal is to have a top 10 and bottom 10 list focusing on album artwork this year in addition to the usual top 10 albums and songs lists. Any suggestions on that front would be greatly appreciated (right now Sunset Rubdown is winning for worst cover for an album that's actually really good).

Until next time...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happy Burial Day!!!!

Pitchfork's review of the new Burial album.

I've forced myself not to say anything about the new Burial album Untrue for a week now just to give myself some time to soak it in and see if I really like the album this much. Well after a week I think I can safely say I do. Of all the artists who have emerged over the past couple of years few have excited me as Burial. He has released two amazing albums thus far (Untrue and 2006's self-titled album), has a very strong understanding of what he is trying to do and accomplishes it exceptionally well (as the quotes in the pitchfork article and this one at K-Punk can attest to), and has become the first DJ that I've heard that has actually made me want to become a DJ myself (wouldn't that be a funny site).

Anyways, enough of my gushing. Onto the album. Unlike a number of recent underground albums to have come out in recent years, be it hip-hop, metal, jazz or whatever falls under the 'indie' guise, Untrue has a strong sense of location. Burial is an artist that understands the importance of his roots, his influences, and wants this to come out in his music. It's an album that pays homage to Burial's home ground of South London both musically, alluding to such musical forms as grime, dubstep, bassline, and even some old-school rave stuff (ala 808 State), and architecturally, trying to paint a picture of a decaying setting that is haunted by it's former, more glorious pass (the closest thing I can think of in Winnipeg would be the exchange district). It's an album that makes me an outsider, as it is constantly referencing that which I (as a Winnipegger and not a Londonite) have had little to nothing to do with. But given how much I still enjoy the album, I'm okay with this.

However, while in many ways I can't really fully understand the significance of this album, since I have little knowledge of its context, there is still lots to chew on here. In fact, one key result of this strong dedication to location is that Untrue is one of those albums that makes you see things differently. Not in some "it's changed my life" kind of ways. I mean that this album literally makes you see things differently, as once you put it on, how you look at your surrounding completely changes as you are taken into this other setting being created by Burial. The textures created throughout the album are done so with such care and precision that they completely impact how you see and understand your everything around you. Walking down the street feels, doing your dishes or riding your bike all become different, once you put on this record.

Musically, the album is quite something. This time around, Burial has decided to focus on sampling R n' B vocalists. There is a passion in these vocalists that is inspiring to hear. The problem is that you only ever really get a small glimpse of them as Burial refuses to allow them to become somewhat intelligible to hear. He has been quoted in the past saying he wants to capture with his music, that moment once you've left a club and the music is still ringing in your ears. He wants to create music that is unfinished, and only partially ever really heard. He does this by blurring the vocals, placing them in the background of the music, or loading them up with so many effects that they hardly sound like voices anymore. He maintains the passion inherent in these voices, but strips them of everything else. The vocals are always present, however only in a fragmented and distant kind of way.

As such, the vocals help give a general unsettled feeling to the album, that makes it refreshing to hear. There is a sense in which the album remains intentionally unfinished allowing the listener the chance to fill in the holes. It's a participatory album that invites the listeners to further explore what it is Burial is trying to accomplish.

Anyways, I could go on forever on how great this album is so I should probably stop. All of this is to say that you should check this album out ASAP.

Until next time...

Monday, November 05, 2007

I (heart) music ... well only one certain kind of music from a very small portion of Canada!

The 2007 'best-of' season is officially open with I (heart) Music publishing this years edition of Hottest Bands in Canada. In this article, the good people at I (heart) Music poll a fairly large group of well known Canadian bloggers (such as the peeps from Said The Gramophone and Chromewaves). As such it tends to be a just as good, if not even better, expose into the state of the Canadian Blogosphere as it is about Canadian music. Looking at this years list I have to say that it leaves me deeply frustrated for numerous reasons.

First the positives. I think the article did a good job of including artists that often get looked over in the wider Canadian music scene (ie. The Luyas, Woodhands, Plants and Animals, Handsom Furs) while still giving the big whigs proper recognition (ie. The Weakerthans, Julie Doiron, The Acorn, Sunset Rubdown). I have few quibbles with the entire top 10 for that matter.

But now the negatives. Generally when I look at lists like this I try not to pick on particular artists who made it at the expense of others, but I just can not get past the fact that Wolf Parade made the list while the Frog Eyes didn't. How can a band who has publicly declared to be on 'hiatus' make the top 15 on a list that is counting down the hottest bands of the year? Are they really that hot that they don't even have to currently exist? If that's the case The Guess Who should be on this list as I rarely can turn on Power 97 without hearing them? More importantly, how can a band that has made it on the list in previous years get cut after making what is widely regarded their best album to date?

Then there is the who eastern-bias thing. Now I recognize that I was born and raised in Alberta which makes me a bit over-sensitive to issues like this, but I can't help but see this as a failure of the article. Of the 33 bands that made the list, 3 call a province west of Ontario home. 3!!!! And of those three one (The New Pornographers) hails from Canada's third largest city Vancouver, while Calgary's Chad VanGaalen is spending significant chunks of the year in Sackville NB (Julie Doiron recently referred to him as a Sackville artist at a recent show at the WECC). Seriously, if bands like The Great Bloomers and Plants and Animals who have yet to release full-length albums surely artists like Chet, or Boats! deserve some consideration. I really shouldn't let this bug me so much, but articles like this only contribute to the false idea that you need to be from Ontario or Quebec to really become an important artist in this country.

On top of this, looking at the article it's clear that the Canadian blogosphere has a very narrow idea of what constitutes 'good' music. Of the 33 bands on the list, the only group that challenges the whole guy/girl with a guitar thing is the Junior Boys (and maybe Caribou as well). There is hardly any electronic stuff, no experimental stuff, and certainly no hip hop. Now I recognize that the Canadian music scene does consist of way more guitar-based bands than anything else, but that doesn't mean there aren't artists that do well while not falling into this mold. Where is Ghislain Poirier, Cadence Weapon, Grand Analog, Drumheller or Secret Mommy?

If this list is supposed to represent the tastes and opinions of a good chunk of Canadian music writers I can't help but be deeply concerned. Is the Canadian blogosphere becoming this narrow minded? I certainly hope not.

By the way, if I were to submit an entry into this list it would probably look something like this;

1.) Frog Eyes
2.) Ryan Beattie (of Chet and Himalayan Bear)
3.) Sandro Perri
4.) Ghislain Poirier
5.) Sunset Rubdown
6.) Cadence Weapon
7.) Julie Doiron
8.) Nelly Furtado (who is NOTICEABLY absent on the I Heart Music piece)
9.) The Weakerthans
10.) Nick Frasier of Drumheller