Earlier this summer I made it to a couple of noise shows and since then, I’ve eased off the gas. A couple of albums have grown on me in the meantime, and I also made it to a Lightning Bolt concert. Here’s an end-of-summer recap:
Eluvium – Similes – Temporary Residence – 2010
This is an album that I remember had a tepid response (at least on the internet) when it was released, because it famously was the first Eluvium release in which Matthew Cooper employed percussion, verse-chorus structure, and even singing. My response was similar- I liked the dreamy music still, but nothing could touch some of his previous works, we thought (my favorite description I saw once likened 2005’s droney epic Talk Amongst the Trees to “weepcore”). But my most reliable music tastemaker raved about it. KZSU’s Your Imaginary Friend (broken link? uh-oh) had very positive things to say about it, comparing it to Eno, which was not the first and will not be the last time the comparison is drawn. I played it a few times on the radio, but it wasn’t droney enough for me, or a useful cog for sound layering at the time.
Thanks to my spring trainee DJ Away (your next KZSU star), who called in a Similes request one night, I reexamined and relistened to the record a bit this summer. Both YIF and DJ Away are spot on in their praise (I wish the general populace was as privy to the impeccable curatorial tastes of Your Imaginary Friend as I am privileged to be). Cooper took four years in between Copia and Similes seemingly to develop this sound. These songs and pieces are fully formed; they’re near perfect and stunningly beautiful when you let them under your skin. The lyrics are wonderful, too, something I did not pay attention to the first time around: abstract yet grounded in human questions and emotions. It wasn’t until listening to “The Motion Makes Me Last” while drunkenly riding a bus home one night did I realize how meaningful the album was to me. The waves of melodic washes buoy the blissful frame, while every word, every piano asecent, and every echoey chordal descent helped me make sense of the world. If it’s been a while since you’ve listened to Similes, I recommend revisiting it.
Owls – Owls – Jade Tree Records – (2002)
I don’t know what it is but I am a sucker for team (Mike) Kinsella. Owen has officially claimed the throne to my last.fm. Cap’n Jazz has these great melodic moments, but their sound is a little bit frenetic, angular, and shouty for me. I’m glad I’ve given them a shot and I recognize the band’s importance. American Football had, like, the greatest melodic rock album of ’99 (not unlike that Eluvium record I just mentioned in terms of fully-formed, intricate, commanding perfection). So I guess in some sort of attempt at completion-ism, I tracked down the Owls record (on which Mike K drums and Tim K sings, and the rest of the original Cap’n J lineup returns) that I had read about so often over the years.
It’s impenetrable at first- really mathy stuff that twists and jerks around interesting guitar work, but there are hints of anthemic melodic bits. Those teases brought me back for more and I slowly embraced all of it. I’ve been on a freaking kick and I’m trying to not get burnt on the album because I’ve been listening to it so much in the last week or two. It kind of makes me want to put more time into Cap’n Jazz, if the brief moments of greatness expand to encapsulate the whole thing.
It’s kind of weird that Owls reformed, and I’m not sure what to expect when the album is out… But what’s next for me, Joan of Arc?
Lightning Bolt live, courtesy last.fm
That Lightning Bolt show was fun at the Rock ‘N Roll Hotel on Aug 21st. As I expected they were quite loud. The duo played for about an hour before calling it quits on this tour supporting (I believe) an upcoming rarities release on Load Records. Brian Chippendale is certainly the main attraction as he hammers the drums all night while screaming into his “face,” a mic’d Elmo mask on our Tuesday night performance. I’m glad I got to see Lightning Bolt finally, but I’m not sure I’ll make a trip to see them again- their performance is not a gimmick, but a lot of songs sounded similar. The opening act was an Animal Collective-aping Hume, equipped with hipster Asian guitarist and two drummers providing ‘dem tribal beats. It was okay music to nod along to. I read positive reviews of the first act, Les Rhinoceros about something krautrock or another, but I was at the show for a friend’s birthday, so the bar was more of a destination for us at the time.
So that’s that. I will aim for brevity next time. Happy Labor Day?