SoundCloud Sunday

Scandanavia

Lately, I’ve been wondering where my fight went. I have a birthday coming up and it makes me wonder if I’m old or if my desire to flip a switch and break things has simply subsided. This week, we have Sufjan Stevens, The Silver Rabbit, Ryley Walker, Aurora Aksnes, and the White Birch. I love noisy, raucous, angry music, but it seems like I am in a slump. However, it was nice to listen to Pop Top Fives favorite punk band list last week (click to listen). It reminded me of bands that I hadn’t listened to in years. But this week, for SoundCloud Sunday, I am gonna remain contemplative and curious. It seems as though there is a beautiful side-effect of mining SoundCloud for music. The platform is from Berlin, Germany, so many of the most interesting independent bands and musicians I listen to are from Norway, London, or Sweden. I am sure it has not always been this way.

To visit the Frederick Foxtrott SoundCloud page, Click Here.

Sufjan Stevens – No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross

No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross seems to be a song of lament, of a human fallen too far from God. For me, the song is about drug addiction and alcohol use and the desperation to go back to something that you remember to be good and right. But that something is broken and will never be what it was to you again. This is a sentiment to which even an atheist can relate. This new track, off Sufjan Stevens‘ upcoming album Carrie and Lowell, marks a return. Or perhaps not a return, but something else. Stevens has enveloped himself in extraordinary experimentation since the beginning of his career. People discovered Illinoise and then went back and listened to awesome albums like A Sun Came and Enjoy Your Rabbit and began experiencing a new kind of anxiety: Will the new Sufjan Stevens album be another Age of Adz or another Michigan (I want both)? If No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross is any indication, Stevens will be singing in the soft devastating voice we listened to over and over again from 2005 through 2006.

The Silver Rabbit – Badland Folk

Perhaps because I have been working in the Badlands as of late, I have become enthralled with this amazing track. The Silver Rabbit unfairly clock this beautifully crafted song at exactly one minute. It is a single fleeting moment of a banjo, a man, and a woman crooning a perfect melody with evocative lyrics. The spectacular minute is captured on a tape recorder, which adds oscillations, becoming an instrument of its own. Could I ask them to do a cover of Walking the Cow?  The best part about discovering The Silver Rabbit is that there are so many other treasures in their back catalog. Click above and listen to more.

Ryley Walker – Sweet Satisfaction

Dead Oceans has put out a lot of great acts over the years, and I think I may have just found another. Walker is coming up through the Chicago scene, so I am sure he plays some of my favorite venues like Schubas and Double Door.  While there have been a number of musicians making a nostalgic turn toward dream pop of the sixties, Ryley Walker has looked to Steven Stills, Three Dog Night, Jim Morrison, and Seals and Croft for guidance. Sweet Satisfaction, from his upcoming release Primrose Green, is a smooth rhythmed testament to Ryley Walker’s relevance in a day where everyone is looking for some combination of past, present, and future to fill the soundtrack of their lives. By the way, he is 25 fucking years old.

Aurora Aksnes – Runaway

Dear America, your pop music needs a few pointers. Aurora Aksnes is such an incredibly young and talented storyteller, and yet she does not come across as naïve, plastic, fabricated, or gimmicky. She produces atmospheric landscapes full of cold smoke, the smell of rain, and sunsets. She sings about insecurity and getting in over her head, as well as her strength and vision. From Norway, Aurora’s phrasing make the lyrics bounce and weave throughout the ambient tones. She is manifestly awesome; she is an extraordinary example of demiurgic youth. Watch the hypnotic and gorgeous video for the track below.

The White Birch – Solid Dirt

The somber beauty of Solid Dirt is self-evident. There is the looming and confident sadness that accents Nico‘s These Days, the simplicity of Nick Drake, and the baritone richness of The National. Listening to this track I am whisked away to the sundered scene of one of Wes Anderson‘s failed white aristocracies. With the release of their most recent record, the band seems have resurrected in a new form. Also from Norway, Ola Fløttum has continued with minimalist soundscapes of The White Birch. The track is contemplative and highly emotive. Every time I listen to it, I am more convinced of its meaning and artistry.

Podcast: Pop Top Five – All Time Punk Bands

PopTop5

“A group of misinformed goofballs discuss their top five lists of random pop culture topics.”

Pop Top Five – Matt, Adam, and Kurt

Think you like punk? Then sit down, listen to this episode, comment, and rage if you like. One thing a person notices when they read reams and reams of band marketing sheets is that every band seems to think they are so fucking punk. I could list them, but why rant (you know who you are). I mean a solo crooner spits over a modulated Micro-Korg arpeggiation and ~boom~ Punk! Many of these acts are in fact incredible, but are they punk? What is punk anyway? This episode really covers more than just the familiar cannon to explore punk rock’s roots and soil. Our slingers of deep knowledge elegantly discuss elaborate theories that define punk as an ideal—as an ethic of slitting the status quo’s throat. They ruminate on the meaning of the genre’s various appendages—proto, post, hardcore. This episode of Pop Pop Five traces the genealogy of punk to its capillarial form in the late sixties and early seventies, when it was an emerging zeitgeist, and not yet a fad. There are too many punk snobs out there not comment, so I’ll leave you to it. My thoughts after the cast.

Episode 008 – All Time Punk Bands

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First,  props to Matt for the Teddybears/Iggy Pop outro. It speaks to the question of what punk rock is anymore. Swedish electronic artists with bear heads and great hook sensibilities.

Second, not one fucking mention of David Bowie! We go back to The Who, to The New York Dolls, to MC5, to The Velvet Underground, but fail to mention fucking Bowie! That is just blatant misconduct. And fine, if you want, fuck Bowie; Mick Ronson’s guitar on Ziggy Stardust is almost singularly responsible for half of punk rock’s guitar riffs (over-statement? yes). I am all about including The Who—because they deserve it—but while they stole Pete Townshend‘s teenage wasteland ethic (My Generation, Baba O’Riley), they laid their rebel words over Mick Ronson knock offs. Slow down Hang on to Yourself and you get Anarchy in the UK. Okay fine, they get equal credit.

Third, there were not three big compilation discs, there were four. Late to the scene was New Red Archives’ At War with Society (1998), a comp every poseur ought to have owned—and it only cost 99 cents! That comp was the best middle-finger at a time when I valued punk mostly because I thought it was stoner music. It gave me Samiam and their awesome contributionThe Bridge (1990), and one of my favorite songs ever, Squat‘s It’s All Over (1996). Speaking of Squat, I know Rayna was absent, but other than an Op Ivy quasi-mention, why so m-gender focused? Misogynists (love you guys). For your edification, I have posted these two songs below.

Loved the Fugazi, but they have changed quite a bit, veering into decidedly not punk terrain. And I say if you can have hardcore, I can have post-hardcore. You have to at least give me At the Drive-In’s first two records. Punk as Fuck. Also on my list, Perfect Pussy, Sleater-KinneyThe ReplacementsBad Brains, and Mission of Burma (do they count?).  For those who listened to January 11th’s SoundCloud Sunday, I still cannot get enough of Lint up in Canada. Punk/not punk? 100% Rad. Listen to Lint, Samiam, and Squat below. I loved this episode. It made me argue with myself for an hour and fifteen. Let us hear your rant, comment people.

Lint – Kids Like Us Have It Pretty Bad

Samiam – The Bridge

Squat – Its All Over

 

 

 

SoundCloud Sunday

red-winged-black-bird-lg

This week’s SoundCloud excursion brings us another batch of diverse bands from around the world—mostly London. I am always impressed with how many great musicians and songwriters are floating out there in the ether—bands that draw us in with cool seduction, the ones that perfect a genre, and those that refuse to follow recipes. On our menu tonight are Lyves, Cosmo Sheldrake, Grouplove, Amason, and Peluché. Hope you enjoy (click on their name for more info). Please comment, critique, and contribute.

To visit the Frederick Foxtrott SoundCloud page, Click Here.

Amason – Älgen

Swedish band Amason begins this masterpiece with a vintage trap beat, a quiet, muted bass backdrop, and a simple synth scale run. They then soak the whole ordeal in the ambient reverberations of what seem like viola strings sung in an infinite cavern. They almost produce the effect of vintage sirens with a theremin pitching the high end. After a minute and a half of this build up, the band begins their sweet call and response vocal lines. They are one part múm, one part Black Moth Super Rainbow, and ten parts them-awesome-selves.

Lyves – Shelter

Francesca Bergami, aka Lyves, has crafted a perfect track saturated with desire in the cannon of fellow Londoners Des’ree and Sade. The beat traces a dark heart—a cool romance in a quiet storm. The deeply evocative song only lasts a few fleeting moments, but its warm aesthetic leaves damp tulle lace clinging to your skin.

Cosmo Sheldrake - Tardigrade Song

This quixotic London based multi-instrumentalist has assembled thingymabobs, a click-clock, and xyloplanes into this quirky orchestration. It is bed knobs and broomsticks. It is cartoonish and cavalier but seriously impressive. Cosmo Sheldrake is a whimsical songwriter, dreaming of contradictions and whiskey cabinets in his shrubbery home. His British balladry shines through, transformed by a kind of true magic.

Grouplove – Colours

I still wonder what the band’s name refers to, but this L.A. based troupe has released a truly youthful indiesque rock tune whose raw stream of consciousness offers infectious phrasing and a beautiful melody. The parallels between Grouplove and the early releases of Canadian indie rockers Born Ruffians are so astounding I was convinced for a moment that they must somehow be related. Grouplove are passionate and seemly unsure with extraordinary energy to explore the meaning of the things that refuse to make sense.

Peluché – Sin

I was so ready for this to be a trip-hop track, but was pleasantly surprised when the pass-the-dutchie vocal gate flowed over the beat. The rootsy, dubish beat is unsubtly a reggae interpretation without making it possible to say that the song completely belongs in the genre. This London trio incorporates other quiet elements to produce a simple and elegant groove. Check out their video for the single Ohio below.

 

 

Podcast: Pop Top Five – TV Dramas

PopTop5

“A group of misinformed goofballs discuss their top five lists of random pop culture topics.”

Pop Top Five – Matt, Rayna, Adam, Kurt, and Tari

This episode of Pop Top Five not only examines TV dramas as a genre, but it also gives important insight into what it meant to go to high school in the 1990’s. What “So-called” team were you on? Team Jordan or team Krakow? Temperatures rise as our pop culture warriors tear into each other about the fundamental meaning of the comedy/drama distinction. Newcomer Tari adds awesome and sharp perspectives to the cast,  while we really come to understand how much Kurt hates living vicariously through other peoples’ misery. It is the deep knowledge of throw away details about shows like anything CSI that credential this geek team. My vote gives Freaks and Geeks a go for this genre. What do say? Comment, critique, and contribute below!

Episode 007 – TV Dramas (non-fantasy)

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SoundCloud Sunday

Bleeding Tree

This week we are gonna have some sick metalesque riffs slay our ears from the UK and meditate to a Norwegian angel. I am highlighting incredible music from some bands with tracks that have relatively low play counts. We have God Damn, Sea Change, Snow Ghosts, Fred Thomas, and Kid Wave. So many people complain that with the advent of the internet, bands are a dime a dozen and our music pool has been diluted with oceans of awful trash, making it harder for true classics to emerge. I am not sure if I can agree anymore. If we really believe that music has meaning, that it is art, and that it has some form of beauty, then isn’t it a good thing that people are able to put stuff out there even if only a handful of people ever get to hear it? Would we be comfortable if pastels or acrylics or clay cost thousands of dollars to release into the world, on top of the cost of the materials themselves? How much longer will having the nerve to display your music to more than a half empty community center mean you are devaluing music? I say get out there, play, record on laptops, post, distribute, whatever it means to be making music for you. Anyways, these folks below deserve a few more clicks.

God Damn – When The Wind Blows

This band is from a place called Wolverhampton, UK. And yes, they are a duo! Ash Weaver’s drums are from Valhalla; the clangor behind the voice of beelzebub. The bludgeoning riffs share in Sabbath worship like Black Mountain, and Thom Edward’s voice knows a thing or two about My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult. Other songs of theirs have other moments of greatness, aesthetically fitting in among the old Seattle greats like Tad, early Alice and Chains, and Soundgarden. I really hate to make the comparisons, but this British band has really captured a moment and they seem to live it. I cannot wait to listen to their full length. Watch their video below.

Sea Change – We Run

I have always wondered what makes something dream pop. Dream pop might have the imprint of shoegaze or eighties synthesized ambience, but dream pop means something specific. Is M83 the archon of dream pop? Perhaps it is something that is consanguineous with a dream sequence from the films Labyrinth or Legend. I suppose we can think of Sea Change as a contemporary analog. She is an angel indeed. Hailing from Oslo, Norway, Ellen Sunde has orchestrated a truly beautiful track that has me obsessed with the sedative quality of electronic tones. They are not synthetic; they have a power all their own.

Snow Ghosts - Circles Out of Salt

There is something dream poppy about Snow Ghosts, except there is something almost broken, something less than dreamy, something occultist seething beneath the beautiful flanges. It is as though Loreena Mckennitt mastered the frenetic, electric pulses of Dan Deacon. These comparisons are strained, and Snow Ghosts‘ music is certainly unique and mystical. The band is a amalgamation of extraordinary talents. If there were an indie-pagan scene, they might be bosses (maybe there is one? maybe they are?).

Fred Thomas - Bad Blood

This track comes off Thomas’ up coming solo album All Are Saved. He is known for his work under the moniker Saturday Looks Good To Me in Michigan. The song is spoken-wordish and in someways surpasses Pavement in its brash coolness, its hardcore candy, and its conversant elements, from the vintage drums, to the clicky Korg arpeggio, to the synthy whir. I have listened to this track over and over again. The words are so cool. I should have written this song. Just don’t tell me you hate David Bowie.

Kid Wave – Wonderlust

This track by Kid Wave begins with the pop abandon of The Gin Blossoms integrated with the youthful croon of Lea Emmery. There is something about early 90’s pop rock that sustains throughout, but as the song expands, it produces its own modern signature. Their sound is built on the familiarity of songs that have been with us our whole lives, and yet they valiantly believe that the echoic guitars of British pop rock and the straightforward appeal of popularized American 90’s “alternative” still have a few sets to play.

 

Podcast: Pop Top Five – Marvel Superheroes

PopTop5“A group of misinformed goofballs discuss their top five lists of random pop culture topics.”

Pop Top Five – Matt, Rayna, Adam, and Kurt

Follow Pop Top Five on Twitter and like them on Facebook

The cast really does a great job this week of thinking through some of the social implications of comic books. They consider how gender and race figure into how readers relate to comic characters. As Adam rightly explains, “If you are a person of color, and all you see is white dudes saving the world, how are you going to feel about that?” Though they find it difficult to not momentarily gravitate toward DC comparisons, the cast really show their deep knowledge of important yet sometimes obscure Marvel factoids. This is a most thoughtful episode that discusses important issues, while still remaining extraordinarily funny and entertaining. They illustrate the deeper side comic culture, framing the art-form as a literary genre composed of social critique, violence, and fantasy. Who are your favorite characters? For all you Marvel fans out there, this episode is for you!

So take Matt’s advice, and comment, critique, and contribute to let them know your perspective!

 

SoundCloud Sunday

A day late and a dollar short. This week we have some more friends from the UK, New York, and Chicago. We are featuring a lot of soft melting tracks that we think deserve some listens. This week we bring you somadril, ChordMakthaverskan, The Kickback, and Kendra Ross. This is another eclectic mix from around SoundCloud. Please comment, critique, and contribute. Have any ideas? Email them or list them below.

somadril – Jimbo>nock

I think a lot of people first heard this artist when Richard D James became a SoundCloud follower under his SoundCloud account user48736353001. At first, this electronic musician(s?) had fans speculating that this could be a fake Aphex Twin account, but it quickly became clear to most that somadril has a unique sound, deserving to be met on its own terms. After our own encounter with the various Tuss iterations, hoaxes, inspirations, one could be justified in indulging in a conspiracy or two. But somadril, a brandname muscle relaxer with a high abuse rate, sews together ambient tones with shuttering beats. At times there is something industrial about the music, but the kind of industry made by the Doozers of Fraggle Rock fame (see Lucid Hope). I chose to feature Jimbo>nock because of the twisting vocoder emeshed with the pulsing high end guitar. There is something post-rocky, something Album Leafish, something deranged, something David Lynch. I have not found any good site for more information, but below there is a video from an art installation accompanied by what I assume are somadril’s beats. This is a real gem.

Chord – Someone

This band from the West Midlands, UK is soft and momentous. Saturating the room with reverb and tape echo, the guitars are strong and cyclical, illustrating how some of the most beautiful moments in music have little to do with virtuosity. Instead, it is often those smaller moments of contrast in texture and force that bring us such euphoria. This track is off their upcoming second record. If you go to their site, and sign up they will give you a track a month throughout 2015, culminating with the release of their LP. Find a video below for this track.

Makthaverskan – Witness

So, yeah, everyone is in love with these noisemakers, but they ought to be. They are Swedish and they know riff rock. They confirm for me that Jefferson Airplane has been way more influential than anyone would have ever thought. They, like so many other contemporary bands, are certain that musical genres established prior to 1983 still have so much room to explore. Makthaverskan is one of the first bands to truly convince me of this. This song has fight and grit and yet still possesses the body to move and shake, to dance. This is a wide awake opium dream come true.

The Kickback – When I Die

This track begins much more emotionally ambiguous than other examples of their work. The song builds with Beatlesesque craftsmanship, never seeming to sit still. It has become my favorite track of theirs hands down. It is not polished, it is not clean. In fact, this track somewhat resists impulses present in so much of their other excellent work. Somehow, this cotton candy despondence shines through. It really is a “soundtrack of your life” caliber orchestration. Wa-uh-ohh woh-oh wa-ohh. Sweet.

Kendra Ross – Enough to Go Around

What a classic already! Kendra Ross is one of NYC’s true artists. She is on the ground level, grinding those shows and spreading her message one audience at a time. She is intellectual and groovy; she is real and she unreal. She is part of a storied community that commands the stage of such landmarks as the Blue Note. The music is sharp and soulful, exhorting us as much as her words to put a little something extra in the world. In our day, we need a little more of Kendra Ross in our lives. Find her and listen.