Spooky and nice; nice and spooky. Velma would probably like it; and so do I.

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Someone should write a book about how bands like¬†28 Degrees Taurus, Magic Shoppe, Ghost Box Orchestra and others have energized the local scene, layering elements of psych, shoegaze, and ambient over Boston’s traditional garage-rock template. Creating something new while still retaining what I consider to be the essential characteristics of (i) sounding great on headphones when listening in the library and (ii) sounding even better when played loudly, on a stereo at a party or live in a bar. Making music, that is, for people who like to think but love to rock.

To The Wedding‘s new 4-song EP is the latest to fit in exactly along these lines. And, thus, my first favorite local release of the new year. “Let Love In” streams below; the entire EP on bandcamp.

 

Destroyer – Kaputt

January 25, 2011

“Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” So the Proverb goes. Dan Bejar, though, drinks not to forget but to remember.

Having perfected his European Blues on “Destroyer’s Rubies,” Bejar returned today with another masterpiece, the brilliant new “Kaputt.” Here, he addresses America repeatedly and directly. Poignantly, and with the help of second vocalist Sibel Thrasher, he returns to the 1980s in both sound and spirit. Asking but never answering: was that the beginning, the end, or the beginning of the end?

Overall, the tone is sympathetic. But there’s a critique under the surface that, in a way, seems more devastating that Jonathan Franzen’s. Since Franzen maybe suggests that one can accept, forget, and move on; whereas for Bejar the past always haunts.

Which leaves us, like Bejar, drinking to remember. “Kaputt” is the perfect soundtrack for that.

PS – Ann Powers on Dan Bejar and Kara Walker here.

Darkstar – North

January 22, 2011

I heard the single, “Aidy’s Girl Is a Computer,” by Darkstar, when it first came out more than a year ago. Loved it.

But when I saw the lp, “North,” my first thought was to wonder if the idea — sort of Gary Numan meets dubstep — would be rich enough to form the basis of an entire album that stays interesting from start to finish as opposed to one that just surrounds the one or two best tracks with filler.

What’s so interesting about “North,” then, is how well it succeeds. By bringing vocals to the forefront and by taking a small step towards traditional songwriting and accessibility, Darkstar both pay homage to and move beyond the electronic sounds of the 1980s that inspire them — their Human League cover is, I’d say, even better than the original!

Now the only question is: where to next? “North” proves that these guys can go just about anywhere they want.

Four Tet – She Moves She

January 16, 2011

Wire – Red Barked Tree

January 15, 2011

It’s not just the amount of snow on the ground that’s reminding me of the winter of 1977-78. Wire has an new lp just out, and it’s really, really, great.

Of course, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect the band’s latest work to repeat the stylistic and philosophical innovations achieved with their first three records. Instead, what makes the new album so outstanding are the songs themselves: the first four, culminating with the astonishing and appropriately-titled “Two Minutes,” rank up there with any of the tracks that Wire has ever produced.

Equally important are the lyrics. The members of Wire have always been ones to say what needs to be said — nothing more and nothing less. And so, not surprisingly, those first four songs, as well as “Bad Worn Thing” and the closing, title track, speak directly to the bankruptcies — financial and moral — of our time and lament the stupidity and greed that blocks even the most modest steps towards solution.

“Two Minutes” can be downloaded for free, from the listen page of the band’s website. But don’t stop there — “Red Barked Tree” is a masterpiece in its entirety.

Heard this one by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma on Ning Nong Radio the other night.

From Type Records, once again:

“Love Is A Stream” is dedicated to love itself, and the dreamy, shimmering blown-out textures might at first sound like white noise before they ultimately give way to blissful harmony and hidden melody. Underneath the grit and growl are hidden guitar parts, synthesizer drones and even vocals ¬†that succeed in swelling the dense, tape-saturated songs to heady new heights and belie any influences they might have. On each listen the mind strips away another layer of dust and bones to reveal haunting and deeply moving beauty.

One of the best tracks, “Stained Glass Body,” is below; the entire album is streaming at Type.