Thursday, August 27, 2009

Passion Pit and the Magic of Electro-Pop (A+)

Without question, one of my favorite albums that were released this year is Passion Pit's Manners. The band's high-pitched vocals combined with its high-energy make their sound both addictive and distinct. Manners is their first studio release, but it does contain a mastered version of "Sleepyhead" (no, i didnt mean "remastered")-- which was featured on their 2008 EP Chunk of Change.

The band was formed in Massachusetts in 2007 and their use of synthesizers and samples is pretty remarkable. In fact, their unique sound has spawned relatively quick success in only two years -- doing well on the Australian (#19), British (#55), and US Charts (#51). They have even opened up for some of my favorite artists Death Cab and Girltalk.

Think music with a dreamwave kick. Insanely upbeat synthesizers, all sorts of samples, and truly unique vocals make this album irresistible. Since its hard to explain, you'd get a lot further by just taking a listening. Seriously buy this cd... as the entire album is near flawless. Your ears with thank you.

Passion Pit - Sleepyhead

Buy their album here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart....

If you are a fan of The Smiths (80's rock band fronted by Morrissey), then you definitely need to check out The Pains of Being Pure at Heart's self-titled debut album. I'm no expert on either band, but from the songs that I have heard... the similarities are obvious and sometimes uncanny.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart formed in 2007, releasing a self-titled EP that same year. The band hails from NYC and, despite their strangely similar sound, I haven't found any indication that they were directly influenced by The Smiths. They do claim to be influenced by several artists, however, including: The Ramones, Kurt Cobain, and My Bloody Valentine.

Here are a couple of my favorite tracks by both bands.

The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Young Adult Friction

Buy The Pains of Being Pure At Heart's album here.

The Smiths - There is a light that never goes out

Buy The Smiths' album here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Music for the lazy listener: the Slow Burn Summer Mix

Just a short post, but The Burning Ear has just put together a good one hour mixtape of (mostly) 2009 remixes. If you feel like throwing on some good tunes without even needing to create a playlist on itunes... then this is for you. Their Slow Burn Summer Mix consists of one continuous MP3 file. There are very basic transitions between songs, but it serves its purpose. Also, don't expect any original songs (as you might expect from team9/stereogum mixes).

The file is too big to stream, but you can get it via mediashare. Enjoy.

MP3: DOWNLOAD The Burning Ear's Slow Burn Summer Mix (click here).

To give you a little guidance...

0:00 – Vampire Weekend / The Kid’s Dont Stand A Chance (Miike Snow remix)
4:19 – Lykke Li / Little Bit (Gigamesh remix)
7:45 – Kings of Leon / Use Somebody (Andrew Anjos remix)
11:15 – Hey Champ / Cold Dust Girl
14:19 – Miike Snow / Animal (Treasure Fingers remix)
18:52 – Chester French / She Loves Everybody (RAC mix)
21:42 – Basement Jaxx / Raindrops
24:50 – Little Boots / New In Town (Fred Falke remix)
29:18 – Datarock / Give It Up (Kissy Sell Out’s 4-4 Cello mix)
33:07 – The Killers / Spaceman (Steve Aoki remix)
37:25 – Phoenix / 1901 (What Kind Of Breeze Do You Blow E-Mix)
41:23 – Wale w/ Lady Gaga / Chillin’
44:32 – Chris Cornell w/ Timbaland / Part Of Me (Grandtheft Disco remix)
47:20 – Passion Pit / Sleepyhead (Kids At The Bar remix)
52:24 – Busy P w/ Murs / To Protect and Entertain (Crookers remix)
56:56 – The Presets / Talk Like That

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Portugal. The Man shows Wasilla isn't all bad.... (B)

While Sarah Palin may have put Wasilla, Alaska on the map in 2008, "Portugal. The Man" was already representing the Alaskan city for some 4+ years. Portugal. The Man (yea, it's a weird name) is now actually based out of Portland, Oregon... and they might be stopping off in your city in next few weeks while they promote their newest album The Satanic Satanist. It's loaded with some quality tracks, although it's really not as experimental as you might think.

Musically, The Satanic Satanist has been described as funk/soul/rock/indie driven-- but, in all honesty, the album essentially seems to be breezy guitar-centered rock (with a little piano thrown in). This isn't to say that the album isn't good. It is. The melodies are definitely more distinct than the music itself. John Gourley's high-pitched vocals, along with some harmonies, give the band much more of an indie sound. Add in producer Paul Kolderie (who worked with Radiohead) and you have an extremely polished album-- regardless of whether it's groundbreaking.

Chalk this one up as a CD to buy for some light warm-weather listening.

Buy it here.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Better 29 years late than never...

If you've ever listened to Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door" and thought to yourself "my god-- why are there virtually no radio stations that dedicate themselves to 80's music?".... then you are not alone.

It's truly an underrated decade in American music history that is continuously passed over on the airwaves (besides soft-rock stations) in favor of "oldies" and "classic rock." Sure, you can argue that classic rock/motown/oldies get more airplay because they are simply (and objectively) better than most of the tunes that came from the 80's. You're probably right. It's obvious that 80's synthpop wasn't going to be as timeless as the politically and culturally charged anthems of the 60's. Similarly, few sane people would argue that Hall and Oates are on the same playing field as the Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and the like.

Still-- there is something magical about the 80's. The keyboard effects and poppy-hooks are so addictive and fun to listen to that it's essentially audio-crack (or at least what I imagine audio-crack to be). You might not want to like it, but you do. Even rock and roll legends couldn't escape help themselves. Ponder this... Pete Townshend helped make The Who one of the greatest rock bands of the 60's and 70's (and some will argue ever). 1980 came and bam! He releases "Let My Heart Open the Door." It's inexplicable.

Enjoy this random mixtape of mash-ups that feature 80's songs.... and, of course, the original song that inspired it.

1. Divide & Kreate - Maneater Love (link removed)
2. EARLYBIRD - Girls Just Wanna Dance (link removed)
3. John Roman - Rich Girl Mashup (link removed)
4. Party Ben - Promiscuous With You (link removed)
5. Apollo Zero Reconstruct - Like Jesus or Not (link removed)
6. Go Home Productions - Pink Wedding (link removed)

7. Pete Townshend - Let My Love Open the Door (link removed)

MP3: DOWNLOAD the entire 80's Mixtape (click here).

A little more detail:
1. Nelly Furtado v. Bon Jovi
2. Whitney Houston v. Cindy Lauper
3. Hall and Oates v. Jay-Z v. 50 Cent v. Slick Rick
4. Michael Jackson v. Nelly Furtado
5. Madonna v. Depeche Mode
6. Pink v. Billy Idol
7. Pete Townshend original
Buy the album here.

Oh yea-- for those astute listeners.
Took me a few minutes to crack this code. But if the intro to Let My Love Open the Door sounded familiar to you even though you're pretty sure you haven't listened to the song in a while... no worries, it's on Girl Talk's Feed the Animal's "Play Your Part - Pt. 1" (about a minute in).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just Another Stop on the Robert Downey Jr. "Comeback" Tour

Admittedly, this post should have probably have been written months ago when The Soloist was still creating Oscar hype prior to its release and ultimate flop at the box office (the movie only made back half of its $60M budget). But I didn't get to see it until tonight, and I figure it's better late than never (which is actually sort of a recurring theme in the movie). It follows the true story of writer Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) as he tries to help Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), a once promising cellist that is now homeless on the streets of L.A. Eventually, Lopez helps Ayers to get his life headed back in the right direction, but it's a difficult journey.

The coolest part about this movie is that it's based on a true story, and the real-life Steve Lopez has been able to use it (and the book its based off of) as a springboard to actually help homeless people. You can find out more here. The movie has other qualities. Downey Jr. (whose comeback is now only one by name -- the comeback is over; he's here to stay) and Foxx (who is one of the most all-around talented men in America) give truly great performances. And despite the uplifting nature of the tale, the script doesn't try to force inspirational moments when they don't exist. It also does a good job exploring the mental illness Foxx's Ayers suffers from and provides viewers with a series of flashbacks that let us dive even deeper into who Ayers is and where he came from.

But in the end, the movie itself is just OK. Despite direction from Joe Wright (whose book-to-film adaptations of Atonement and Pride and Prejudice were both done very well in this blogger's opinion) and the aforementioned performances of Foxx and Downey Jr., the plot ultimately left me feeling that the story had yet to really reach its conclusion, and I was expecting it to go on for another 20 or 30 minutes. It easily could have created the room for these minutes too. By getting rid of some of the unnecessarily long musical montages where not much happens (including one 2+ minute scene of randomly colored lights that made me feel like I was watching Disney's Fantasia) or the poorly executed subplot concerning Downey Jr.'s Lopez and his ex-wife (played by The 40 Year Old Virgin's Catherine Keener) that doesn't really give us enough material to get a true feel of the problems in their relationship or why we should care if they ever get back together, the movie could have been much more cohesive and whole.

Bottom line: I'd say it's worth a watch but not a buy. No reason you can't wait until it comes to HBO. (B-)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix Remix Mixtape

French rock band, Phoenix, released their fourth studio effort "Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix" this past May and it garnered near universal acclaim. Not only have many critics claimed that WAP is their best work.... but it has become relatively mainstream to the point that it was ranked 37 on the Billboard charts and now you can pick it up at Target for 10 bucks. If the name sounds either oddly familiar or extremely random to you, it's because WAP is a take on Mozart's full name (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart).

Since late May there have been well over 20 remixes of the songs off WAP. Most are terrible trance remixes of their single "1901" (not really my style)... but there a few bright spots. The whole cd is excellent, but here's a mini-mixtape of my favorite remixes.
You can buy it here.

Phoenix - Rome (Lanny Merge Remix) (link removed)
Phoenix - 1901 (The Teenagers Remix) (link removed)
Phoenix - Litsztomania (Yuksek Remix) (link removed)
Phoenix - Long Distance Call (25 Hours A Day Remix)(link removed)
(ok-- so Long Distance Call isn't technically off WAP, but it's one the better Phoenix Remixes out there)

MP3: DOWNLOAD the entire Phoenix Remixed Mixtape (click here).

Bonus Tracks-- Here's a pretty decent mashup of Au Revoir Simone and Phoenix. Since you might not have heard about Au Revoir Simone (a Brooklyn based synthpop group), below is their original version of Sad Song off their 2007 album "The Bird of Music."

Au Revoir Simone vs. Phoenix - Sad Song From 1901 (link removed)
Au Revoir Simone - Sad Song (link removed)
Buy their cd here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ahh covers...

One of the greatest thing about indie-ish music is that everyone seems to unabashedly cover each other within weeks, sometimes days, of new material being released. Along with mash-ups and remixes, we will try to pick and chose some of the most unique sounding covers that are circulating around.

Here are a few for your listening pleasure:

The Killers - Four Winds (Bright Eyes cover) (link removed)
Very cool cover that replaces violin/fiddle country sound of the Bright Eyes' original with The Killers' own 80's synthesizer sound. Still not as good as the original, but awesome.
Buy the Bright Eyes EP here.

Bat for Lashes - Use Somebody (Kings of Leon cover) (link removed)
Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) puts together a smooth slow version of Use Somebody during a BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge session.
Buy the Kings of Leon album here.

Ian McGlynn - Mistaken for Strangers (The National cover) (link removed)
It's a very weird thing to listen to a song by the National without Matt Berninger's unbelievably deep baritone voice-- but New Jersey's Ian McGlynn pulls off Mistaken for Strangers by reaching into the ol' falsetto playbook.
Buy The National album here.
Knatterjack - Time to Pretend (MGMT cover) (link removed)
No idea who/what Knatterjack is... but he/they does an above decent job of converting a jam into a chill piece of music. Definitely different... but definitely worth a listen.
Buy MGMT's album here.

Ra Ra Riot meets Vampire Weekend (B+)

A little late coming, but in case you haven't had the opportunity to listen to the latest collaboration between Ra Ra Riot's frontman Wes Miles and Vampire Weekend's keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij... you should. The two formed a side project known as "Discovery," releasing their debut album named "LP" this past July.

All and all, Discovery definitely brings a distinct sound that won't be confused with either VW or Ra Ra Riot. You can, however, hear remnants of both bands given Discovery's melodies and poppy hooks. It should be noted that, LP isn't just a hold-over listen for VW and Ra Ra fans-- rather its very solid in its own right (e.g. think Postal Service and Death Cab). Discovery is far more experimental than either of band member's main gigs-- utilizing both auto-tone and some glitch effects that sounds like a more polished version of Girl Talk's "Unstoppable." Add in a few popular contributors, including VW's Ezra Koenig and Dirty Projectors’ Angel Deradoorian, and you have one of the better albums of the entire summer.

Track List for LP:
1. 'Orange Shirt – 3:31

2. Osaka Loop Line – 4:02

3. Can You Discover? – 2:22

4. I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (featuring Angel Deradoorian) – 2:40

5. So Insane – 3:13

6. Swing Tree – 2:38

7. Carby (featuring Ezra Koenig) – 3:07

8. I Want You Back (In Discovery) – 3:26 (Jackson 5 Cover)

9. It's Not My Fault (It's My Fault) – 2:34

10. Slang Tang – 2:28

Buy the cd here.