Animal Collective‘s new “Fall Be Kind” EP, released digitally by Domino Records this week, presents five new songs, diverse in their styles and moods but each fabulously perfect in its own way.

“Graze,” the opener, recalls Panda Bear’s “Person Pitch” with its soaring vocal and abrupt shift midway through. “What Would I Want? Sky” echos the cautiously optimistic themes that run throughout “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” All three band member’s talents come together beautifully on the haunting “Bleed,” certainly the most striking and probably my favorite track on the record. “On a Highway” would be the center panel for a triptych that has, to its left, Kerouac’s “On the Road” and, to its right, that wonderful “Tiny Dancer” scene from Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous.” And the finale, “I Think I Can,” brings us back to “Person Pitch” and “Merriweather” too, combining the key elements from both of those previous works.

Some people might dismiss this EP, saying that they got tired of hearing the more popular tracks off “Merriweather.” But that I just don’t understand. To me, that’s like saying, “gee, I’m just kind of bored of looking at ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon'” or “yeah, I’ve just seen ‘Lavender Mist’ one too many times.” That’s just crazy!

One last point to make is that I really don’t think it’s a coincidence or accident that the Grateful Dead song sampled in “Sky” is titled “Unbroken Chain.” With their work this year, Animal Collective build on the basic ideas advanced previously by David Foster Wallace and Stephen Malkmus. That irony and cynicism are, at this point, dead ends; that many elements of postmodernism that once felt exciting and bold now seem tired and out-of-date; that the second-rate, faux-Cartesian/solipsistic theorizing that passes for scholarship these days is … well … a lot of worthless junk; and that the search for true emotion, true satisfaction and happiness, and indeed the search for truth itself really require as essential inputs experience, experimentation, and the Popperian scientific method. With their work this year, that is, the members of Animal Collective stand tall, not just with the great creative forces of our time, but all the great intellects extending back to generations past: “The Unbroken Chain.” At least if you ask me ….

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Tara Jane ONeil - A Ways Away - K Records (2009)

Looking back as the year’s end approaches, the one record I have always been meaning to write about and never did is this one: “A Ways Away,” by Tara Jane ONeil.

This lp came out in May, and to be honest it’s never moved far from my turntable since. But “A Ways Away” is a quiet album, so I tend to listen to it when I’m in the mood for thinking, not doing. Plus, the overall feeling it evokes is one of fall-turning-into-winter as opposed to spring-turning-into-summer; so perhaps its impact would have seemed more immediate had it come out just now.

But “A Ways Away” is a great album that sinks in over time. ONeil’s expressive guitar work and affecting lyrics make tracks like “Drowning” (which you can hear on her Myspace page) and “A Vertiginous One” outstanding and memorable.

Of course, this comes against the backdrop of an extended period, now spanning nearly two decades, during which ONeil has consistently produced great music and visual art too. Still, “A Ways Away” may just be her best work yet.

My thanks to James of Friday morning Kick Out the James for telling me I’ve gotta listen to this new lp by Pants Yell! So let me pass along the favor and tell you, dear reader: you’ve gotta listen to this new lp by Pants Yell!

Pants Yell! play what I call pure pop perfection. The cover of the new album is designed by Mark Robinson of Unrest, and that I’d say is not an accident or unrelated coincidence, because Mark Robinson is one of the all-time greats when it comes to ppp.

Check out the video below for “Someone Loves You” and/or go to the Slumberland Records webpage and download the mp3 for “Cold Hands.” The whole album runs for less than 30 minutes, but that, too, is exactly how it should be: play what you want to play, say what you want to say, then call it quits. Just like the Beatles did on their early lps; just like Buddy Holly did, too.

In this interview, Andrew Churchman says this lp will be the band’s last, and that’s too bad. But if he wanted to go out on top, this was certainly the way to do it.

Pants Yell! Someone Loves You

November 19, 2009

Smoking behind the drums like Bun E. Carlos ….

From the amazing and new “Solar Life Raft,” by DJ/Rupture & Matt Shadetek.

Arms and Sleepers – Matador

November 14, 2009

album cover

Arms and Sleepers - Matador - Fake Chapter Records (2009)

I’ve been really looking forward to the new lp from Arms and Sleepers ever since I saw the article in the Phoenix in late September. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed when I finally got a chance to listen to the station’s advance copy of “Matador,” due out this coming Tuesday (November 17) on Fake Chapter Records.

The ambient/electronics and the Album Leaf-like instrumentation from the duo’s previous work are still here. But the ideas seem more fully developed and the melodies more memorable than before. Vocals play a bigger role on the new lp, too, and this adds a significant new dimension, especially to the standout tracks “Matador” and “The Architekt,” both of which can be heard already on the band’s Myspace page. Listening to those songs is kind of like hearing an old friend speak to you in a dream, oddly but pleasantly making more sense than he or she ever did in person.

“Matador” by Arms and Sleepers. A major step forward for a major artistic force.

Etienne Jaumet - Nightmusic - Domino Records (2009)

Etienne Jaumet - Night Music - Domino Records (2009)

This new lp by Etienne Jaumet opens with a 20-minute track called “For Falling Asleep.”

A short description is all you need. Contemporary French techno that borrows heavily from both minimalist classical and 1970s-era Krautrock. That last part, combining the French and the German, could of course by itself be the subject of a medium-length monograph.

But that’s not all. Jaumet layers his own free-jazz-style saxophone playing over the electronics. Plus he gets Emmanuelle Parrenin to contribute wordless vocals and a harp solo (!) at the end.

And, oh yeah: the whole thing is produced by the master himself, none other than Carl Craig.

Needless to say, all of those forces combine to make this one of the most over-the-top spectacular dance tracks of the year.