Archives for posts with tag: Polyvinyl Records
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Wisdom for Debris, Eluvium

Ghost Trees is a blog with (apparently) 2 posts per year. Prolificacy has always been the specialty here.

I’ll cut the crap. Last year on my blog I wrote about lists. I still do not like them.

I was asked to contribute to Decoder Magazine’s end-of-year features again this year (Last year I wrote an ode to Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse and Jason Molina of Songs: Ohia. You can find the feature here: “More Yellow Birds and Lunch Box Blues“), which I did. And when my feature is posted, it will be clear that I again skirted the actual topic of commenting on a list for 2014. So here I go and post a list on my blog anyway. I don’t know. There is a sixteen-year-old in me still following through on some kind of silly tradition that I started.

Rank Artist Album Label
1 Swans To Be Kind Young God Records
2 Grouper Ruins Kranky
3 Eluvium Wisdom For Debris (self)
4 The War on Drugs Lost in the Dream Secretly Canadian
5 Have a Nice Life The Unnatural World Enemies List Home Recordings
6 Fennesz Bécs Touch
7 Dads I’ll Be The Tornado 6131 Records
8 Owls Two Polyvinyl
9 Maxwell August Croy and Sean McCann I Students of Decay
10 Horseback Piedmont Apocrypha Three Lobed Recordings
11 Fire! Orchestra Enter! Rune Grammofon
12 Adult Jazz Gist Is Spare Thought
13 Thee Silver Mount Zion Hang On To Each Other Constellation Records
14 Orcas Yearling Morr Music
15 Inventions Inventions Temporary Residence
16 Rivulets I Remember Everything Jellyfant Records
17 Christopher Willits Opening Ghostly International
18 Wolves of the Throne Room Celestite Artemesia Records
19 Alex Cobb Marigold and Cable Shelter Press
20 Sun Kil Moon Benji Caldo Verde

That Swans record is a monster. For other people who have read my blog before, you might see some familiar faces like Owls, Horsback, Fire! Orchestra, Rivulets, Grouper, etc.

The year was an interesting one in listening to music for me. I got hooked on a lot more older stuff, and did a good deal of traveling with the day job and on vacation. This meant fewer times with a computer or plugged in, limiting my music carrying capacity to a few old apple products and somewhere in the range of twelve GB. Great new musical seductions – that War on Drugs one surprised me!

I’ll look forward to doing more writing for Decoder Magazine in 2015. And the other news for me is that I’m leaving Berlin to move back to San Francisco, so my music access points will change again, and I’m sure my list(?) next year will be quite different.

Adam

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Dear faithful devoted blog readers,

The passage of time between blog posts is just a matter of reality at this point. I do not intend to make blogging a more central part of my life. Lately the purpose of keeping a blog has become more apparent to me – to fill in the gaps with what I do not have a chance to say on Decoder or what might not be appropriate in other avenues.

Two

2014 has been a great year for finding new music releases. I have blogged before about Owls’ self-title record (Jade Tree, 2001), and so the reformation announcement was pretty exciting to me. Good news is that the new record really hits my buttons. It’s a strange thing, though – I would call it more “middle of the road” indie rock and certainly not as immediately striking (and probably also will not be as influential, ultimately) as its predecessor. But the hooks are bigger and mathy arrangements are less impenetrable. I have this secret hope that “I’m Surprised” becomes popular enough that I could slip it on in a Friday evening setting and not completely freak out the general public. I’ve spent a lot of time with TWO so far, and I am so pleased that it’s met my (very high) expectations, in its own little way.

Piedmont Apocrypha

Another really special record that I’ve been appreciating this year has been Horseback’s Piedmont Apocrypha, which was released on Three Lobed Recordings in March. Horseback is led by Jenks Miller, an astoundingly talented and versatile guitarist who finds himself recording and collaborating across styles, from noise to folk to black metal and back. Apocrypha sounds a little bit more mellow than some of its older siblings under the Horseback name, but that doesn’t mean it’s less compelling. Particularly gorgeous is the 10-minute-plus ambient second track. Apocrypha is a mix of dynamics, beauty, and exploration that I can only highly recommend to fans of vision quests in the woods, or other Miller projects. I attempted to write a review of the record in greater detail, but I realized I don’t actually understand the tradition of psychedelic music from which it has descended, and quite honestly, the review written alongside the Three Lobed release is just perfect.

Cian NugentI’m still going to shows. Above is a particularly artsy (and accidental) photo I took of Cian Nugent, who played with his band, The Cosmos (No Quarter Records), here in Berlin a few weeks back. It was an aurally rich, complex, and consonant folk-rock blowout orchestra. The droning organ and violin bowing, coupled with the driving rhythm section, created the dense bed of warm sound, over which the Irish guitarist could work in dreamy licks and dustbowl landscape painting. There is really not enough praise for Mr. Nugent and his troupe of open-hearted explorers.

Who knows when I’ll post again on the blog, but maybe someone at some point will find something new in this post. Umbrellas into the future,

Adam

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.fmCap’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?

I’ve decided to make a list of some of the things I’ve been listening to lately. It’s summertime, which means I’m in a foreign country and instead of spending all of my time interacting with the locals, I walk around like a hip American with my headphones listening to depressing music.

Owen – I Do Perceive – Polyvinyl Records

I only discovered Owen recently, thanks to many conversations with dj partner Luke about the 90s band, American Football. Owen is the solo project of Mike Kinsella, formerly of American Football, Cap’n Jazz, and others. It’s bedroom-constructed melancholy pop. Throwing the ’emo’ tag around sells this short. Layers of acoustic guitars and drum machines build up to blissful, lush melodic stretches under tender, fractured vocals. I haven’t made one of those all-time lists in a while, but this has climbed into my hypothetical top 50 within the span of weeks. I think my favorite songs on here are the dreamy, depressing, “Bed Abuse,” the My Bloody Valentine-meets-Elliott Smith, “Lights Out” (yeah, really), and the bouncy opener, “Who Found Who’s Hair in Who’s Bed.” Also check out the like-minded ep, (the ep). Fans of Elliott Smith, Mark Kozelek, and American Football take note.

Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentlemen – Mute Records

At this point there is no album this year in the same league as Josh T. Pearson‘s Last of the Country Gentlemen. Oh my goodness. Crawling spindly folkish acoustic dirges wallowing in the misgivings and imperfections of humanity. This album is an hour long and is seven songs long. That is pretty typical for what I usually listen to, but this album also has lyrics on every track. I feel like I’m already failing to promote it by attempting to describe it or how it makes me feel. The songs hinge so much on Pearson’s emotions that I’m pretty sure this is a textbook example of how not to keep time (my lack of being a musician may be showing here). Lush strings are added tastefully here and there, only augmenting the drama and pathos. For the most part, however, the songs are structured around a repetitive guitar pattern that varies slightly with the slowly unfolding confessional narratives about alcoholism, lust, and religion. Every song is an absolute gem. I’m going to do my darndest to try to see him in continental Europe in August.

Coastal – Coastal – Words on Music

This one may be a little bit more obscure. It is a sin to admit, but it’s true that I found this artist on pandora. I don’t remember what sort of situation I was in, in which I decided to listen to that sinful device, but it was the least of whatever evil I was faced with choosing. In any case, I’m glad I found Coastal. Low impersonators they may be, but I cannot get enough of that hazy, dreamy, slow, simplistic navelgazing pop. Just extended, languid songs that slowly bob along blissfully.  I imagine that it may be difficult to find a lot of information about this band. Thank goodness for KZSU. Who would have thought they came from Utah? Oh wait, the Low thing makes even more sense.

Thanks for reading and geeking out with me.

Hugs,

Adam