Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Four Tet

Four Tet - "Smile Around the Face"

A friend of mine recently shared with me that he felt there weren't enough exciting 'movers' in music nowadays. Some names he mentioned were Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Jeff Buckley. According to him, these were all artists who were never able to find contentment staying in one place for very long, dabbling in numerous musical styles over their long - or in a few of these cases, abruptly cut short - careers.

Kieran Hebden, perhaps better known as Four Tet, is a man determined to move forward in his musical endeavors. His is a movement in a completely different environment as the the one of the aforementioned artists, though. Where those previous artists were constantly pushing the very limits of human capabilty, Four Tet is pushing the boundaries of musical experimentation on an inhuman level, using laptop computers and drum machines rather than a guitar or a saxophone or live drums (any traditional instrument, really).

The songs Hebden comes up with using these tools are noticeably steeped in electronic free-jazz, hip-hop, and gamelan. In a recent interview, Hebden claimed that the drums on his record would be impossible for anyone to play on a real set of drums, even with the best drummers of our time sitting behind the kit. He also pointed out that during the recording of Everything Ecstatic, he would completely throw out anything he came up with that he felt sounded like it could've fit comfortably on his previous record, 2003's Rounds. Maybe this is the type of movement and constant genre-bending that my friend wishes was more prevalent nowadays.

But beyond that, this song - or any other that you could pluck out of Four Tet's ouevre - will just make you feel so good. What a great thing to be able to have said about you as an artist, that you can be so equally innovative and utterly enjoyable. Kudos to you, Mr. Hebden. Exceptional work here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Hank - "Ferox"

Fans of last year's cheerleading indie rockers The Go! Team should find plenty to like in Toronto's "ever-evolving entity" Hank. The two bands share a very similar appearance and sound: an army of singers, juiced up party-inducing guitars, wacky samples, the occasional horn blast, extremely raw production and an unshakable ability to put a person in a fun mood. The most noticeable difference is that the members of Hank don't wear t-shirts that spell out their band's name (maybe only because there's not enough letters). Another distinguishing factor is that Hank actually find some time during the course of their sophomore effort, How to Prosper in the Coming Bad Years, to slow it down on a few tracks. Although it's probably good to spice things up with some variety, the uptempo numbers are still head and shoulders above the slower jams in terms of potential for pure enjoyment. "Ferox" is one of those and at two minutes and forty-four seconds, it's also the longest track in the group. The CD can be queued up and listened to in its entirety in less than a half-hour, which I've learned does nothing but cry out for one to click that little 'repeat' button and run through it all again. Genius. Hey, all you A.D.D. kids, here's some audio ritalin for you.

That would have been a nice note to end on, but I absolutely must take a second to mention the wonderful handmade packaging: Hank-member Paige Gratland made envelopes and sleeves for every single copy of How to Prosper... - I think only 500 were pressed - using nothing but old magazine cutouts and a foil stamp. Snag one of these beauties for yourself over at Insound or The Blue House (before it's out-of-print).

P.S. - Oh, Canada, does your well of stellar musical collectives ever run dry? I'm beginning to think not.

Friday, May 13, 2005


Spoon - "I Turn My Camera On"

How Spoon's Gimme Fiction didn't make it into Pitchfork's "Best New Music" section and only garnered a 7.9 rating is a mystery I will never be able to solve. It's blasphemy, I tell you. The album is easily one the best three records to be released so far this year. I think the exclusion (and big slip-up) by Pitchfork is more a testament of their pretentious snobbery than anything else. When it comes to reviewing records that have already received a decent amount of acclaim elsewhere, the ignoramus writers over at the 'Fork tend to either completely bash it or at the least give it a less than stellar rating (Case in point: Gimme Fiction, or even Beck's Guero). Seriously, how do Antony & the Johnsons deserve the distinction and yet Spoon's best album to date is elbowed out? Pitchfork sucks, man. That's why it's such a b&@# that I won't be able to NOT pop over everyday still. Ah, inner turmoil at its worst and on its most irrelevant level!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Why? - "Sanddollars"

The "flow" of Yoni Wolf, better known as Why?, has always toed the line between rapping and singing. At least to me it has. If you don't agree, I urge you to go dig up his 2003 release, Oaklandazulasylum. Give a quick listen to "Woman, Eye, 'No.'" or "A Little Titanic" and you'll undoubtedly hear what I'm getting at. Heck, he even hints at his future sound: "I'm a singer in a rock and roll band / it sounds pathetic / but to tell the truth / I don't regret it."

That leads us to his new release, the Sanddollars EP, on which there's no question that Wolf has taken a definite turn towards more singing and less rapping. It's not just his vocal stylings that have changed, though. A few of the songs are more fleshed out rock songs with guitar, piano, and drums (the title track that I'm posting above being the best example). It's also quite evident that Wolf had actual melodies in mind when crafting these numbers.

Now, this may put off some fans, as there was plenty to like about Oaklandazulasylum. Why fix something if it's not broke, right? His non-linear, homemade, bedroom hip-hop poetics on that album were incredibly inventive and refreshing. I'd attest to that myself. But let's not kid ourselves, artists have to show progress and change slightly if they want to stay relevant and interesting. Besides, more than half of what made Why?'s first album so great were Wolf's quirky and super absurd lyrics. And there's no shortage of that on Sanddollars. Although they're coming out in a more "sing-songy" delivery, it's really not that far off from what it sounds like when he's rapping. It's pretty deceiving, really, how the presence of instrumentation can make him sound so different. Plus, like I stated earlier, he always strode that fence anyway.

So what's really not to like about this track? That's right. Nothing. It's a freaking good time!
Listen without any preconceived expectations routed in your love of Why?'s earlier sound (if you had any) and then enjoy the hell out of this song. And don't forget to catch him on tour, if he's coming to your town and you feel so inclined.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Seu Jorge

Seu Jorge - "Starman"

I don't know about you guys, but the thing I'm looking forward to most next week is the Criterion release of Wes Anderson's latest masterpiece, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The DVD's scheduled release is May 10th and it will be available in two different formats: a single-disc version and then one with a second bonus disc that should be packed to the gills with special features.

In the film, Seu Jorge (City of God) plays Pelé, one of Steve Zissou's crewmembers. More specifically, he was the one who could be found singing and strumming his guitar to the tune of several David Bowie classics (en Português). His Brazilian reinterpretations were a wonderful touch to the film. And this track is probably my favorite of the bunch. I don't see how anyone could NOT feel good while listening to it. There are a few more on the rest of the film's soundtrack, so if you like this one you should really check out the rest. Besides Jorge, there's plenty more to enjoy: an array of vintage british punk, some Iggy, some actual David Bowie and, as in several of Wes Anderson's previous works, you'll also get a smothering of Mark Mothersbaugh's casio-inflected compositions. I'm sure you all remember that unbelievably catchy and equally berserk "Ping Island" piece that Team Zissou pipes in through those special rabbit ears they installed on their helmets. But if you ask me, Seu Jorge completely stole the show. I never even liked David Bowie.