IMPORTANT!

Jan. 1st, 2020 12:00 pm
urgencytobleed: (Default)
A note about tags:

Each post is tagged according to the artist or band it contains music by, so if you're looking for someone specific, it's probably easiest to go straight to the tags page and see if they're in the list. I've also tagged most posts with category tags to make it easier to browse through posts of a certain type. For convenience, here's the rundown:

Best of 2007 Lists
Best of 2008 Lists
Best of 2009 Lists
Best of 2010 Lists
Best of 2011 Lists

Artist Features
Mixes
Concert/Album Reviews
Song of the Day Posts (Older)
Song of the Week Posts (Newer)
Themed Posts
urgencytobleed: (Default)
Well, it didn't take me very long to get way behind in posting, did it? Anyway, as an apology, here are three really kick-ass songs for your listening pleasure. (Also, I kind of got progressively wordier with each one, sorry.)


I'd heard of this band awhile ago but never really listened to them because I got the impression they were super twee and precious. And while Alaina Moore's voice is very girlish and sweet and their songs are chock-full of quirky synthesizers and catchy pop choruses, the duo's true talent for writing keeps their music from becoming too overbearingly sugary. This song in particular is just... immensely glorious and is actually what made me consider giving them a bit of my attention in the first place. It perfectly marries a modern, synth-drenched electronic pop sound with one that borrows more heavily from the past: those boppy, infectious background vocals are straight out of the sixties. Basically, it's just one of the best pop tunes I've heard all year - in fact, their entire new album, Young and Old, is bursting with fantastic pop songs - and if it doesn't have you immediately reaching for the repeat button, well, then, you must have a heart of stone.


Morgan Nagler is a difficult woman to keep tabs on. Early on in her musical career, she performed under the joke moniker of Vagtown2000, which eventually transformed into a fully-fledged band called Whispertown2000. They then released a rather charming little debut album, Livin' in a Dream, but reached their peak with its follow-up (and another pointless name change, this time to The Whispertown 2000), 2008's alt-country/pop mash-up Swim. Since then, the band's been rather low key, releasing a few songs here and there and undergoing some line-up rearrangements. Pared down finally to just Whispertown, the band is now basically back to being Nagler on her own, with a little help from her friends when appropriate. Despite the decrease in numbers, the richness of Whispertown's sound has thankfully not suffered at all. Nagler still has a knack for writing songs that are poignant, charmingly simple and often incredibly catchy and Andy LeMaster's skillful production makes her new EP, Parallel, a real treat for the ears. Standing out to me as especially memorable is the title track, a lush, lovely ballad which is perhaps not particularly adventurous but that's not the point of it; what's so spectacular about Nagler's songwriting and singing is how completely earnest and believable it is, even as it sometimes slightly misses the mark, especially as it sometimes misses the mark, for the appeal lies in her rawness and honesty. (Also of note are LeMaster's understated but gorgeous backing vocals - because we all know I'm a bit of a devotee and, Christ, it's going on six years since Dark Light Daybreak; a girl's gotta get her fix somewhere.)


Listen, you are all incredibly lucky that I've held out on posting more Parenthetical Girls this long. If I gave into my urges, I'd have posted basically every song they've ever released by now. So it's really not too soon for another at all. Besides, you need to hear these songs. Because a. they are incredible, hence b. after being in the game for so long, this band should really have five times as many fans as they actually do. I now consider it my duty to promote the shit out of them until everyone is converted. Anyway, this track is from 2008's Entanglements, which, by the way, is a delightful little gem of an album. The thing I love most about it is that it doesn't overstay its welcome. It would have been easy for the band to go overblown and epic what with an entire orchestra at their fingertips but instead they chose not to indulge on a single unnecessary second and at under thirty-five minutes, succeeded in producing a cohesive whole that is incredibly satisfying and, for the most part, beautifully subtle. This song in particular is absolutely crushing. Between the heartrending string arrangements and Zac Pennington's knack for poetic turns of phrase, it somehow leads the listener to sympathize with the narrator when he finds out that his former illicit teenage lover is now marrying another man (that instrumental subtlety? Pennington more than makes up for it with the theatrical bent of his lyrics). Speaking of those lyrics, I just think the man is an incredible wordsmith. He's no Joanna Newsom but he plays around a lot with various techniques like internal rhyme and dissonance and assonance, which allows his lyrics more flexibility within the confines of sticking to a certain melody. They roll off the tongue so easily and are just really aesthetically pleasing, both heard and read, while also being incredibly clever - all aspects which I very much appreciate in lyricists.

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I'm a bit late on this week's post but, anyway, I thought I'd stick with the recent releases theme. I was first turned on to Bowerbirds when I saw them open for Joanna Newsom back in 2010 (has it really been two years already?!?). They put on a fantastic show, which prompted me to pick up their then latest album, Upper Air, afterwards. Though I liked a few songs, I never truly got into the album as a whole until recently, but now I think it's absolutely gorgeous and its just released follow-up, The Clearing, might be even more so. It doesn't exactly veer far off-course in terms of the sound Bowerbirds has established with their first two albums: organic, mainly acoustic folk-rock anchored by Phil Moore's Andrew Bird-esque warble and his heavily nature-influenced lyrics and Beth Tacular's airy harmonies and warmly playful accordion accompaniment. However, it's difficult to fault the band for sticking to what they do best when they do it so damn well. The Clearing contains some of their finest songs yet; in fact, the first half of the album is rather close to flawless, from sprawling opener "Tuck the Darkness In" to the quirky, Tacular-led "In the Yard" to the trifecta of perfection that begins with the track featured here, "Stitch the Hem." The best thing about the song is how it both packs an immediate punch with its catchy chorus and simmers slowly in the back of your mind, listen by listen coaxing you into believing it may in fact be one of the best things you've ever heard. If anything, it will certainly be one of the most beautiful. If Moore and Tacular's impossibly smooth harmonizing, better here than ever, fails to win you over, well, then, I think you should probably have your ears checked immediately.
urgencytobleed: (Default)

I'm resisting the urge to post more Parenthetical Girls, as they're essentially all I've been listening to for the past week with very few exceptions (seriously, if you listen to any one band I've ever recommended here, please make it them). But instead I'll post about another band I've known for awhile but had kind of forgotten about for the past couple years before recently rediscovering. Unfortunately, said rediscovery has been put slightly on the back-burner by my current obsession but that's not to say this band isn't just as worthy of your time.

Winterpills has been consistently releasing very lovely, low-key music since their self-titled debut in 2005 but they've really stepped up their game with this year's All My Lovely Goners. It's a staggeringly gorgeous album that is, sadly, flying completely under the musical radar though it certainly deserves much more attention. It's also a bit more dynamic, sound-wise, than Winterpills' past releases, which makes it even more appropriate for multiple listens. From the lush male/female harmonies of "Amazing Sky" to the more upbeat and instantly catchy "Dying Star" to the devastating, subtle intensity of "Sunspots (Ruins)," there's truly something here for everyone to love. The song that stole my heart right away, though, is the comparably bare and simplistic "Small Bright Doses." Philip Price and Flora Reed's soothing voices and the heartbreaking lyrics are placed front and center while the instrumentation slowly but beautifully unfolds and develops in the background, culminating in a stunning yet still understated finale. It actually reminds me very much of a Carissa's Wierd song, particularly Price's deeper, raspier vocals at the beginning and the melancholy beauty of the song's atmosphere. If you like what you hear, I suggest you head over to Winterpills' Bandcamp page and stream the entire album right away, then maybe throw $10 their way for making such ear-pleasing sounds.

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urgencytobleed: (i put a pearl in the ground)
I've decided I'm going to try this format out exclusively for awhile. It gives me a chance to tell everyone about the things I'm obsessed with still, but without making me feel like I have to churn posts out at a rate of every couple of days. Also, I plan to be more in-depth with these than with my old songs of the day.


I first heard Parenthetical Girls a couple years ago, just around the time they were beginning to release Privilege, a five-part 7" project that would ultimately come together to create a full-length album, so it somehow makes sense that I've just started to truly love the band this year, when it looks like the fifth and final part will be released soon. In just a few days, the intensity with which I've grown to adore the music I've heard (so far, only a fractional part of the Parenthetical Girls catalog) is a bit staggering, so much that it's hard for me to grasp how I've had the first three parts of Privilege and the band's last album, Entanglements, sitting on my computer for ages without realizing how legitimately brilliant they are. Hopefully, now that I've seen the light, I can convince a few others to as well, because the biggest shame of all is how relatively unknown the band still is after so long.

For the past several years, Parenthetical Girls has consisted of Zac Pennington and a rotating cast of additional band members. Pennington is an immensely talented vocalist and songwriter with an eccentric performance persona and the grand musical ambitions to match; luckily, he's also got the uncanny ability to execute every one of his ideas to perfection, no matter how drastically it differs from the last. Privilege, so far, is kind of a bizarre but genius combination of the richly orchestrated, baroque-styled Entanglements and criminally catchy, synth-drenched electronic pop, with the occasional burst of cacophonous experimentation to spice things up.

There are any number of songs from the project that could serve as a perfect introduction but I've gone with "Weaknesses" because it's simply the one I literally cannot stop playing. Even when I'm not listening to the song itself, it's on a constant loop inside my head. The song is just an ideal representation of everything that makes Parenthetical Girls so great. Though Pennington's voice doesn't go through as many elastic twists and turns as it does in some of the band's other songs, it's instantly engaging: unique, strong and slightly strange in a way that makes you want to keep listening. His lyrics, too, are in top form, somehow managing to be sexy, witty, a little bit sarcastic, and even slightly devastating all at once (try and tell me that last line isn't one of the best endings for a song ever). The music reflects this multifaceted quality. It is complex enough to stay interesting with multiple listens but catchy enough to win you over from the start, inexplicably sensual, unsettling and infectious as fuck simultaneously. Basically, it's just a perfect, perfect song and I wish everyone in the world could hear it right now.

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Three-One.

Feb. 4th, 2012 12:28 pm
urgencytobleed: (Default)
Guess who feels like an asshole right now? Yep, me. I knew it was a bad sign when I started skipping days between posting reviews and I knew it would only get worse once I started school again... so, of course, fast forward a month later and I still haven't revealed my top three. I'm sure anyone who once would have cared hates me by now. I also don't have proper reviews to post with these. Not because they aren't good. Naturally, they are very good. I just don't have it in me to write about them at length. So I'm mostly going to let the music speak for itself, though I do have a few half-hearted words to go along with it. Seriously, ignore how flaky I am in my posting habits and just listen to it, please.

Read more... )

Alright, now I'm probably going to disappear again for... awhile. The foreseeable future. You can keep up with me here or on Tumblr, where I need more friends!

Four.

Jan. 5th, 2012 06:17 pm
urgencytobleed: (hand that pen over to me poetaster!)
Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind of Fix


Hey, everybody, A Different Kind of Fix is probably one of the year's best albums that you haven't heard; seriously, is it just me or has this album flown way under the radar? I haven't seen very many people at all talking about it, at least not here in the States. Even if the rest of the album was utterly horrible (which, obviously, it is not), "Shuffle" is the best pop song, bar none, that I've heard all year - hell, it's probably battling with one or two others for the best song of 2011, period. It's that good (and, in an alternate universe, should be a massive radio hit). The song showcases everything Bombay Bicycle Club has to offer at its absolute peak: the instrumentation is interesting (note the repeated piano motif that sounds a bit like a little kid hitting the keys at random and the electronic sampling that also reoccurs throughout the song) but not off-putting, Jack Steadman's vocals are quirky and highly individual but not polarizing and the melodies are diverse enough that, though it follows in the vein of a classic pop song, it also retains a sense of unpredictability. Basically, the song is immediate and traditional enough to appeal to a mass audience while also being creative and refreshing enough to impress those music aficionados who are a little harder to please - it's truly the best of both worlds. The rest of the album works in a similar way: there may not be anything too edgy here but it isn't simply a rehash of things we've all heard before either. The technique of heavy repetition in a single song can easily backfire and become boring or tedious to listen to but the repetition in opener "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep" gives the song a hypnotic and driving quality that is anything but dull; it sets the bar for the rest of the album extremely high. Luckily, Bombay Bicycle Club best themselves time and time again. Vocalist Lucy Rose contributes to several tracks and her clean, airy timbre contrasts well with Steadman's characteristic warble. On the almost tropical-sounding "Lights Out, Words Gone," her subtle backing vocals only contribute to the song's unique atmosphere, like a cool island breeze, and her effortlessly light repetition of the song's title in "Leave It" leads beautifully into the more intense sections of the song, which find Steadman singing passionately, "Don't you go evade me now/Come see what you've done/I keep thinking lately how/All these feelings won." Other highlights include "Bad Timing," which is slightly more jarring and experimental than anything else on the album, "What You Want," another basically flawless pop song, and devastating closer "Still." In this final song, Steadman sings purely in a wavering, heartbreaking falsetto such potent lines as, "Did he fill the empty spaces/Was he everything I'm not?/There's no force behind my mouth/But in just three words he brings you down/There's a movement out the door, I swear, but no/Your lips, they stay perfectly still." The way this last word is electronically drawn out, simmering just beneath the vocal layers of the chorus, lends an even more unsettling effect to the song. It's an intensely emotional finale, most similar in style to the minimal, acoustic balladry of last year's Flaws but dialed way up to ten, and it'll stay with you long after listening. As a whole, A Different Kind of Fix is one of the most immensely listenable albums I've heard in a long time - it's certainly the one I've most often felt the urge to put on.

Five.

Jan. 5th, 2012 09:26 am
urgencytobleed: (Default)
Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness


It's staggering to consider how prolific Los Campesinos! has been since the band released their debut full-length, Hold on Now, Youngster..., in 2008; less than four years later, Hello Sadness is their fourth album (along with a rather impressive array of single releases and b-sides). Even more staggering is just how much the band has evolved musically in that span of time. To play the dark, brooding Hello Sadness next to the buoyant, youthful Hold on Now, Youngster... makes for a stark contrast in both mood and complexity. Yet, at the same time, both sound distinctly like Los Campesinos! albums, impossible to mistake for anything else. While Gareth's vocals have deepened and become less erratic, his acerbic lyrics more introspective and mature and the infectious melodies subtler and more experimental, these essential elements that set the band apart from others of their ilk still remain. "By Your Hand" and "Hello Sadness," with their bouncy choruses set off by rather depressing lyrics ("It's only hope that springs eternal/And that's the reason why/This dripping from my broken heart/Is never running dry"), are among the catchiest songs the band has ever concocted; they also display a stunning amount of depth, building on the heightened emotional resonance of last year's Romance Is Boring. In fact, the heart-wrenching "To Tundra" brings to mind one of that album's late highlights, "The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future," with its gradual build-up to an impassioned finale, which finds Gareth pleading in a wounded wail, "Take a body to water/Take a body to tundra/Just take me with you as well." Also memorable in the second half of the album are "The Black Bird, the Dark Slope" and "Baby I Got the Death Rattle," the latter for Gareth's characteristically self-deprecating and humorous lyrics ("You are an angel, that's why you pray/And I am an ass and that's why I bray") and the former for its soaring chorus, a rare solo moment for Gareth's sister, Kim. As a replacement for former female vocalist Aleksandra, she is utilized mostly for harmonies throughout Hello Sadness, which makes her raspy, slightly soulful turn in the spotlight all the more delightful. At only ten songs, Hello Sadness is a much more compact affair than its predecessor and it is also much more consistent, without a moment of filler. It is the band's most accomplished album to date and it'll be a difficult one to top - though I think the members of Los Campesinos! have already proven they're quite capable of outdoing themselves time and time again.

Six.

Jan. 5th, 2012 02:53 am
urgencytobleed: (Default)
I really do have three of these to post today. They're written and everything this time, promise.

Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know


At first, A Creature I Don't Know seems like Laura Marling's chilliest album to date. Gone is the earnest romanticism of Alas I Cannot Swim. Gone too is most of the unbridled passion and world-weary cynicism of I Speak Because I Can. The absence of these qualities may initially make the album appear to be less of an accomplishment than its predecessors, slight and strangely closed-off. Even the most bombastic songs - the darkly playful horn-infused "The Muse," the sinister and bluesy slow-building rocker "The Beast" - sound naked and blunt, simplistic in a way that even the most reserved, stripped-down moments on I Speak Because I Can were not. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes the album so initially impenetrable: is it the no-frills, organic production that perhaps sometimes falls a little too flat? Is it the more abstract, impersonal lyrics or the fact that Marling's voice remains, for the most part, on a low simmer? Though these slight changes may at first keep the listener distanced from the music, ultimately, it is also these changes that makes A Creature I Don't Know such a beautiful album. It is possible that the songs here will not immediately hit you emotionally, the way that I Speak Because I Can felt like such a punch to the gut; their simplicity and subtlety is instead more like a slowly-twisting knife - they root themselves inside of your brain, ever so slightly chipping away with every listen until, suddenly, they become some of the most tender, aching and genuinely affecting sounds you've ever heard. This time, the impact of Marling's voice is not in its volume or intensity but in the barely perceptible changes in inflection it can undergo in a single line and the impact of her lyrics is not in their barely-contained anger but in what lies beneath the surface of that anger. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the three-track run of "Salinas," "The Beast" and "Night After Night." Emotionally dizzying on all levels, it is actually in their quiet beginnings that they most shine - nothing is more heartbreaking than Marling's understated, slightly husky voice barely rising above a whisper with only a gently-strummed acoustic guitar for accompaniment. The way she utters certain lines, imbuing them with far deeper meaning than comes across simply in the words ("That gun will turn before the sun starts to burn, understand;" "He lies, he lies, so sweet that I choke;" "Dear lover forgiven, my love is driven by rage"), is stunning to say the least. "I Was Just a Card" and "Don't Ask Me Why" are less sprawling and adventurous musically but thanks to some lovely string arrangements and, again, Marling's impressive talent both vocally and lyrically, just as affecting. The lyrics in "Don't Ask Me Why," particularly, are downright poetic: "I took the wind from the sea/I took the blood from an arrow/I took the wisdom of spring/I was thrown and blown and tossed and turned until/Time found its hand and called it an end/Me and time, we go way back when/I was a child/And I always knew why." A Creature I Don't Know is not an album that wears its heart on its sleeve - but do not let that lead you to believe it does not have a heart at all. Marling only keeps growing better and she is also an artist who does not seem content to settle; her musical future is wide open.

Seven.

Jan. 3rd, 2012 04:11 pm
urgencytobleed: (kneel and crawl to hell and back)
I apologize. I missed a couple days because I had a bit of trouble writing this review and/or I just felt incredibly lazy. Anyway, I may or may not post one or two more reviews today to catch up. Either that or this'll just take a bit longer than I expected.

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes


Wounded Rhymes is, oddly, one of the most playful albums I've heard this year but also one of the most melancholy. The insanely catchy melodies and Lykke Li's uniquely cheeky delivery make it an incredibly fun and addictive listen. At the same time, that voice, an intriguing combination of girlish and husky, can just as easily transform into something achingly mournful. That, along with the album's slower, subtler moments and its boom-y, spacious production, lend Wounded Rhymes a far more mature, reflective, even bleak quality than Li's lightweight debut, Youth Novels. As both a songwriter and a performer, Li's growth over the past few years is obvious and remarkable. What is most stunning about Wounded Rhymes is the confidence it exudes and the fact that it carries such a distinct sound - yet Li's newfound confidence never grows overbearing. Though the album's most immediately infectious tracks - "Youth Knows No Pain," "Get Some," "Rich Kids Blues" - find Li tossing out quick-witted, sarcasm-laced lyrics in an aggressively flirtatious way (most memorably, the oft-repeated guarantee, "I'm your prostitute/You gon' get some"), she is also capable of dialing down the cockiness to genuinely tug at the listener's heartstrings. "Love Out of Lust" is a gorgeously languorous track, a sort of slow-motion dance song, rich, expansive and cinematic. The album's emotional peak, "I Know Places," is an incredibly stripped-down ballad which allows Li to give her most plaintive, truly goosebump-raising vocal performance, sucking the listener completely into the song's sorrowful realm. The moments that shine brightest, though, fall between these extremes. There's "I Follow Rivers," which is just as catchy as any of the previously-mentioned tracks but also just eccentric enough and just dark enough to leave a real, long-lasting impact. It's actually oddly unsettling, with its slightly off-kilter percussion, quirky and child-like in an almost creepy way, and lyrics that are maddeningly cryptic, but not enough to keep you from listening over and over again. "Sadness Is a Blessing" is far less eerie but just as captivating. It most successfully embodies the layered, echo-laden '70s pop style that informs the entire album and it features what is probably Li's most technically impressive vocal. Also, for being so deceptively cutesy, the chorus is one of the album's bleakest: "Sadness is a blessing/Sadness is a pearl/Sadness is my boyfriend/Oh, sadness, I'm your girl." Wounded Rhymes, as a whole, is memorable not only for showcasing such a drastic change in sound and leap in artistry but also, simply, for being one of the finest albums of the year from beginning to end. Li may not be the best composer or lyricist or vocalist on this list but the fearlessness she displays on Wounded Rhymes has been one of my biggest - and best - surprises this year. I didn't go into this album expecting to adore it, which makes it all the more satisfying that it managed to win me over so thoroughly.

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Shannon

April 2012

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