The Chilliest Wave of Them All

October 30, 2010

Yeah.  It’s the new buzz term.  Any band you may have heard for the last three or so months has probably been called “chillwave”.  Based on the description of said genre, a large amount of bands you may have liked for the last 5+ years may also may now be looped into the descriptor of “chillwave”.  Nothing is beyond it’s grasp.  Do you like Ariel Pink? Best Coast? Panda Bear? Boards of Canada? Beach House? m83? The Avalanches? Deerhunter? Broken Social SceneFennesz? Well my friend… you like chillwave.

“Wait,” you say, “all those bands existed years  BEFORE this newfangled term.”

Yes, but all of that is irrelevant now.  The wave is upon us.

I’m writing a few little posts about it, the first one is up now.

  1. The strange origination of Chillwave
  2. The bands of Chillwave
  3. The aesthetic of Chillwave

The Emergence of the Hipster Prep

August 6, 2008

Boat shoes, fencing, polos, crew shorts, over-the-shoulder sweaters, oxfords, wayfarers, and indie rock.  Wait… what?

You have to love Vampire Weekend’s “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” video.  It’s a nice reminder that at the height of the 80’s New Wave scene U.S. culture has re-fallen in love with, there was another wholly opposite trend also at it’s epitome — the Super-Prep.  As it is the nature of nostalgia to forget the bad portions of two decade year-old trends, it’s not surprising to see a resurgence of both of these styles right now.

Both cliques are equally-reviled but by different crowds.  But ask yourself if the sulking/satanic Goth-Punk kids at the ending of “Kwassa Kwassa” are any more or less ridiculous than their preppy counterparts?   V.W. kindly reminds us that, as this generation mines John Hughes movies for style pointers, that super-priss Molly Ringwald was adored just as much as misunderstood alterno-rocker Ally Sheedy.  And if I recall, in Hughes idealized world, Ringwald’s prep was the heroine of a lot more movies than Sheedy’s dark dandruff artiste.

 

and, just for old time’s sake, back when this used to be more of a joke:


Speed Reviews

April 25, 2008

m83: Saturdays = Youth

Best album Anthony Gonzalez has put out BY FAR. The rolling sonic washout of “shoegaze” is still in the mix here, but the vocals, dreamy as they are, are put to the forefront. The thick electro dissipates a bit to make these gorgeous songs shimmer without overwhelming you. m83 was never “inaccessible”, but this one hits the pop palate a lot more than his previous work. A few reviews point out this could be the background synth soundtrack to a never-made Brat Pack movie… sounds crazy, but totally true, and it totally works.

RIYL: French electro, stereo bliss, John Hughes

MP3: “Graveyard Girl”

Biirde: Catherine Avenue


A well-paced strummy summer winner. Definite Rilo Kiley L.A. sound going on here with deliberate midwesterness with some top-of-the-line west coast production values. It’s an exercise that’s pop one minute but often wanders into Ballad Country. Wistful guys and girls swap songs and versus, while songs build and fade tastefully. “Catherine Avenue” is the single they’re pushing (on the website), but the real winner is the cover of “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of” where charmingly hilarious lyrics are underlayed by a jaunty organ wheeled into the studio straight from Haight and Ashbury.

RIYL: The 1900’s, Saddle Creek Records, California mythos

MP3: “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of”

Cut Copy: In Ghost ColorsI’m trying to limit the number of Madchester-esque dance/pop bands I claim to love, but I can’t deny that this is a flippin’ great album. A record meant for oscillating wildly to on beer-soaked bar floors and shiny disco ones (and maybe Pitchfork Festival maybe?! Plllllease?!). These guys would tear up the outfield grass in no time. In Ghost Colours will surely usurp Justice’s Cross as THE default records to spin this season — it’s what the Junior Boys would sounds like if they stopped being ethereal and just shook their asses. Standouts include “Out There On the Ice”, “Lights and Music” and the can’t-miss club banger “Hearts on Fire”.

MP3: Hearts on Fire 

RIYL: half-dancing, half-bouncing, New Order


2006 Albums of the Year, Late As Usual

January 28, 2007

Top Albums 2006

Ahhhh! It’s the obligatory “end of year list,” and obligatorily posted late, by moi. Okay. I would like to mention that I can only rank albums that I’ve actually listened to. Here’s 10 (+5) albums from 2006 I’ve listened to a lot and have actual insight on:

Preface: In keeping with the concept of the Arctic Monkeys’ debut “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not” I will say that The Arctic Monkeys are good, and that they deserve to make any and every “top 10” list.

1. Hot Chip, Hot ChipThe Warning

Oh Man. You can’t hate on this CD. This is the kind of record that changes people opinion on a “sort” of music. I.E., my friend Jimmy’s 30-something pseudomentor Chad (that’s his real name). Chad said something like… “I really like that ‘Hot. Chip’ song. Even though it’s kind of, ‘dancey’.” Join the club Chadly! The LP is just too catchy, too poppy, too funky, too damn fun to categorically deny because of dudes with keyboards and silly mustaches.

Free mp3: “And I Was A Boy From School”

2. The Hold SteadyBoys And Girls In America

Everyone’s afraid to put this album at number 1. It SHOULD be. (Hypocrite warning). This is an album I would recommend, without hesitation, to anyone. It’s a straight-ahead rock n roll album… which I thought didn’t exist anymore. I thought every band needed some sort of concept, prepackaged backstory, or clever nod to whatever retro-trend in the band is aping. The Hold Steady has straight-up rock swagger that reminds me most immediately of Guided By Voices. But the content… oh my… the tales Craig Finn talk/sings are wonderful. They’re the kind of personal/universal “‘member when?” youth stories everyone relates to even if you’ve done nothing of the sort: Betting on ponies, drinking, smoking, troubled kids, raging parties, first loves. All of them done in this anthemic, Glory Days-meets-Chuck Klosterman type storytelling. Indifferent to cliché, Finn’s immediate literature reference, “…There are times when I think Sal Paradise was right,” sets a tone for a terrific and shambling LP.

Free mp3: “Killer Parties”

3. Junior BoysSo This Is Goodbye

This is a sexin’ album. It’s an album by and for th’ sexin. I didn’t think Junior Boys would be able to top their previous release, Junior Boys – Last Exit, but they did… well… he did… as one half of The J.B. left before this album got made. Yet another reason why the band can’t be mentioned without a casual name-drop of sonic frères’ m83. This stuff blows m83 out of the water. Transcendental, groovy, electronic but deeply soulful, the understated crooning (and sometimes just cool breathing) of hit single  “In The Morning” would have to be my favorite single of the year.

Free mp3: “In The Morning”

4. HeadlightsKill Them With Kindness

“Kind of a new record slipped into a list old safe ones… verrry PUSSY!”. Ha. Guilty. I got this record very late in the year, but, as Last.FM would testify, I’m enjoying very very much. Nothing exciting has come out of champaign, IL since, ohhhh… Braid, until now. I’m a sucker for girl/boy vocals, and this was THE album for me in the last few months. Think Stars (especially Amy Milian-like vocals, minus all the fatalistic/melancholic/depressive lovesickness, then sprinkle with a few exciting influences… occasional Mates of State keyboard fun, some navelgaze dabbling, a track that reminds me a bit of Broken Social Scene, and that standard “We’re twee But We’ll Include One Adorable Techno Track To Show We Can Do It” song. (Ahem, Belle and Sebastian – Electronic Renaissance, Scotland Yard Gospel Choir – Topsy Turvy). Check ‘em out.

Free mp3: “Owl Eyes”

5. The Radio Dept.Pet Grief

Tim (The Muttering Retreats) turned me on to these guys. What a fabulous album. It’s this kind of new wave revivalism that makes me despise legwarmers and oversized belts a little less. It’s tough not to “influence pick” on the album, but it wonderfully re-creates a poppy The Jesus and Mary Chain thang in a haze of keyboards and drones and looooooooove.

Free mp3: “Against The Tide”

6. DecemberistsThe Crane Wife

Mad props for jumping to a major label and putting out an uncompromised LP, especially 10+ minute song sagas. Though, Castaways & Cutouts and Her Majesty… are still my personal favorites, Colin Meloy & Co went from your libraries favorite chamber pop band to a synth-soloing Genesis-nodding pop/progrock hybrid — quite a feat. And a little unsettling.

Free mp3: “Sons & Daughters”

7. The PipettesWe Are the Pipettes

I think, technically, this album hasn’t been released in the U.S. yet. I don’t care. Good music travels fast. Records labels can’t control product if the fanbase or buzz is large enough. The Pipettes bring back that girl group era to modern-times, a-lah Camera Obscura, but where C.O. delivers wispy lovelorn tunes with some occasional twang, The Pipettes have style, sass, swagger (and handclaps) to spare. The Pipettes – Your Kisses are Wasted on Meis a gem among an album filled with…well… other gems. The only downside is that the “we all have slightly different personalities and dress in polka-dots” seems suspiciously like a marketing ploy, you really can’t hate on these girls. 1 year from now, the re-united The White Stripes will have the Pipettes open for them. I predict it… it will come true.

8. Isobel Campbell & Mark LaneganBallad of the Broken Seas

When Isobel left Belle and Sebastian I was 95% sure her success would nearly match that of Looper. I picture, mid-Storytelling tour, Stuart Murdoch turns to Isobel on the tour bus and “Oi, Ah quite like your voice eeen that, buh eeets a bit wyrd, ya know, that one song you du, ‘The Sunrise Song’, eh?” Isobel promptly gives Stu’ the finger, jumps off the bus with a small, adorable, Scottish-looking suitcase, meets Mark Lanegan in a cowboy bar near the airport, and after a weekend in a motel, they decide to record an album. Isobel then flutters her eyes, forgets Mark for 3+ years and gives him a ring when she gets board spooning her cello.

Free mp3: “(Do You Wanna) Come Walk With Me”

9. TV on the RadioReturn To Cookie Mountain

Good, solid album, and a welcome return after a disappointing debut LP. I feel this one was a bit over buzzed, but it’s still incredible. A good listen, all the way through, the standout being the rollicking, driving assualt of “Wolf Like Me”. It’s SO hard to tell people there’s an indie band who combines, art-punk, trip-hop and Peter Gabriel and have them still pay attention to you. But, the word’s out on them, there will have to be no convincing.

Free mp3: “Wolf Like Me”

10. IslandsReturn to the Sea

Who woulda thunk it??? Especially now that all The Unicorns are dead. Turn the weirdness level down about two-notches, and what appears but yet another fabulous pop band out of Canadia. But to be honest, I kind of miss the previous weirdness levels, but their beginnings of silly instrumentation, deliberately incomplete songs structures, and childish deliveries allowed the .666Unicorns to flank the standard pop-rock formula and conquer all. Now… about Th’ Corn Gang.

Free mp3: “Jogging Gorgeous Summer”

Honorable Mentions:
11. Belle and SebastianThe Life Pursuit
Free mp3: “White Collar Boy”

12. Sufjan StevensThe Avalanche: Outtakes & Extras from Illinois Album

13. Jenny Lewis With The Watson TwinsRabbit Fur Coat
Free mp3: “Rise Up With Fists”

14. José GonzálezStay In The Shade

15. Camera ObscuraLet’s Get out of This Country
Free mp3: “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken”

Mad shoutouts to an indie kids’ savior: The Hype Machine.

And the blogs I stole mp3’s from:
http://skyscraperlife.blogspot.com/
http://www.girlpants.org/  (not making this one up, promise)
http://res1999.blogspot.com/
http://www.michaelmieler.com/blog/ Mike Went West
http://timedoor.textdriven.com Timedoor
http://tracemyface.blogspot.com/ Red Blondehead
http://www.blogotheque.net/sommaire.php3 La Blagotheque