Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wolf Parade and some alternate mid-year bests

A few more reviews from recent days...

Wolf Parade
At Mount Zoomer (Sub Pop)
Rating: Excellent

Towards the end of "Kissing the Beehive", Wolf Paraders Dan Boeckner and Spencer Krug bleat nervy cries of "Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!" over and over again, as if all should abandon this particular ship, still four minutes or so from shore. No one will jump, though since listeners who have made it this far through At Mount Zoomer will have noticed that these two have already set every indie convention on fire. "Call it a Ritual" is a piano-banging pop song fed through an echoing, disorienting hall of mirrors, while guitar-chiming "California Dreamer" makes an anthem out of half-heard radio choruses. From the thumping, surging rhythms, to the anguished yelps to the image-drenched, puzzle-complex lyrics, to the non-linear yet fist-pumping choruses, At Mount Zoomer remakes Wolf Parade's own baroque brand of indie rock. Arcade Fire, Sunset Rubdown, Handsome Furs, consider your bets met...and raised.

Sub Pop has made two cuts off the album available on its website:

"Call It a Ritual"

"Language City"

Earlier in the week, I posted a link to Dusted's Mid-Year Round-Up, where various writers picked their favorites for the year so far. Mine was Big Dipper. Others picked Nick Cave, Toumani Diabate, Kurt Vile and others...

Anyway, as usual I had trouble deciding on just one, so I wrote a few other blurbs on particular favorites from the first half of 2008, which I am including here:

Experimental Aircraft, Third Transmission (Graveface)
Post-shoegazer bands are a dime a dozen this year, but none of them have made a record like Third Transmission, with its shimmering walls of altered guitar and dreamy 4AD-girl vocals. The two principles split singing, each taking the mic for one of two stand-out songs, Rachel Staggs in pulse-droning "Stellar," TJ O'Leary for the more strident, punk-rhythmed "Upper East Side." Both are stunning. No one warned me about this record, and hardly anyone seems to have heard it, but it's a good one, no question.

Thalia Zedek Band Liars & Prayers (Thrill Jockey)
The always excellent Zedek gathers her best band in years, adding Mel Ledermann (from Victory at Sea) and Winston Braman (a one-time Come bassist) to the core line-up of David Curry and Daniel Coughlin. A full band frees Zedek to loosen up her guitar playing, even taking the occasional solo, and gives her often elegiac songs an edge of anger. She hasn't sounded this powerful since Come...and maybe not even then.

Human Bell Human Bell (Thrill Jockey)
David Heumann, the guitarist from Arbouretum, and Nathan Bell of Lungfish, join their names -- and their instruments -- in radiant patterns of acoustic guitar. The disc turns electrified and distorted towards the end, in long, rock-leaning "Ephaphatha (The Opening)" drones coalescing around picked patterns like Kirlian auras. Weightly, mysterious and wonderful.

Retribution Gospel Choir Retribution Gospel Choir (Caldo Verde)
Loud is the new loud on this sludgy, distorted mass side-project from Low's Alan Sparhawk. You'll have to listen to a couple of times before you even recognize the Low songs, "Breaker" and "Take Your Time" wrapped as they are in splintering, rupturing volumes of feedback, yet it's worth well worth the extra spins. Delicate melodies emerge from harsh over- and undertones, in their way as lovely as Sparhawk has ever done.

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