2009′s Post-Nothing by this Vancouver duo was a refreshing piece of alt-rock gold. Singles like Wet Hair and Young Hearts Spark Fire felt new but incredibly nostalgic all at the same time. It was raw, energetic, and epic sounding music. And all from two guys, a guitar, and a drum-kit… kudos. Fortunately, Brian King and David Prowse don’t break from formula on their new song The House That Heaven Built. It is fast, intense, fist-pumping, and forever-young rock. I think it’s a good sign that we still have artists who are so willing to continuously pour all their passion into their music.
Beach House never really floated my boat in the past. I liked songs like Master of None and Norway, but the majority of it felt too fuzzy, too diluted, and too boring. Their new track Myth avoids that by taking their sounds out of the murk. The looping keyboard is brought to the forefront, and it is what really hooks you. It reminds me of Moby’s looped keyboard in God Moving Over the Face of the Water. It marches you forward through the verses in a trance, barely noticing the expansive vocals and excellent guitar solo you bump into on the way. What you are left with is a song that feels large in scale, airy not foggy, and pretty awesome.
Try saying this ten times fast “See a sea anemone, the enemy see a sea anemone, and that’ll be the end of me”. Half the fun of this song is singing along – “The vicious fish was caught unawares in the tenderest of tendrils”. Apparently the song was inspired from an episode of Planet Earth (not a big surprise there), but I could only guess as to the meaning. Perhaps that like the sea anemone, he will developed a specialized way of catching prey, which would be represented by concert goers in the music hall. He will find a way to catch the ears of everyone who attends. Kind of a stretch, I know. But the meaning is unimportant, it is the sounds that matter. The beautifully looped strung and plucked violin, with the looped guitar, makes for an amazing sound. Andrew’s commitment to his quirky lyrics keeps you invested up until the point when everything dies down and the song transitions into 30 seconds of some of the best music I have ever heard. Drums, handclaps, and violin merrily dance together (yes, the instruments are dancing merrily) and then Andrew and his violin match note for note in the very enjoyable and melodic sing-along portion – “Hold on just a second, don’t tell me this one. You know I know this one, I know this song, I know this one, I love this song.” It is really breath-taking. Then the song transitions back into the original format but with the introduction of a harder electric guitar to allow Andrew to push his voice further for the conclusion. I wasn’t a big fan of Andrew’s album Noble Beast, so this great track truly is a diamond in the rough.
One of the greatest albums there ever was or ever will be, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, is far from a hidden gem. But this particular blog is not for the avid music collector, not for the Pitchfork readers, it’s actually not for anyone other than my big brother. My big bro, Ryan, has introduced me to so much great music over the years (A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, Coldplay, Wintersleep etc) and has shared my love for great bands (Radiohead, Arcade Fire, The National, U2 etc). But Ryan is also a very busy man, and never quite had the time I did to go fishing for the best of the best. This is why he does not own any Neutral Milk Hotel, and this is why I dedicate this blog to getting my brother into Jeff Mangum and all his wonders. It seems like fate, as I only heard this 1998 album in 2007 because my younger brother Tim introduced it to me. In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is a critically acclaimed masterpiece created by Jeff Mangum, and is widely considered to be inspired by the life of Anne Frank (Mangum was greatly influenced by her diary). It is grand in scope, being dark, chaotic, cathartic, romantic, perverse, and gentle all at the same time. It was a major inspiration for Arcade Fire, particularly in its Baroque sound, its use of a multitude of different instruments, and its willingness to build to great heights and then shift quickly into a different mood. It is also simply incredible. All the songs are brilliant, but I am especially fond of the combination of Ghost and Untitled. So Ryan, follow your destiny, and check out these tracks.
Working in the area of mental health I’ve seen a few panic attacks, and they are a painful thing to watch. The heavy breathing, the shaking, the pacing, and the light speed stream of consciousness rambling that prophesizes nothing but impending doom. We Are Fine, the wonderfully understated song from the new album Tramp, has Sharon asking the listener to guide her through hers – “Take my hand and help me not to shake, say I’m alright”. The addition of Beirut’s Zach Condon is a perfect compliment to Sharon’s vocals, and serves as the role of the loving partner – “It’s okay to feel… Cause we’re alright”. It is heartfelt, touching, and melancholy without being morose. Add to that this album was produced by one of the members of my favourite band (Aaron Dessner of The National) and it is destined to get a high play count on my iPod.
Let’s take it back. Way back. Back to the days when nobody had even heard of an iPad. I’m talking 2008 y’all. When supposedly a band named The Welcome Wagon dropped their debut album – Welcome to The Welcome Wagon. I didn’t know that then, but I know it now. Why? Because I ordered two Sufjan Stevens T-Shirts from the Asthmatic Kitty website, and when I received them I got a little sampler CD to try out (thanks guys). This song stood out for me. It is quite obvious that these guys were produced by Sufjan – the song starts with a banjo, then introduces soft male vocals, backing female choir, and some electric guitar solos. It would fit seamlessly into the Michigan or Illinois albums, and that is a good thing. It sounds epic in scale, just like a Sufjan song, the way it tumbles into the chorus of angelic voices and crashing cymbals. It is grand and cathartic, and although it may not be a sing-along song, it is definitely an experience. Oh, and it may be no surprise considering the producer, but that dude is a minister!