Posted by: Jeff | February 24, 2012

Album Review: Sleigh Bells – “Reign of Terror”

Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror [Buy Here]

Mom + Pop
Release Date: February 23, 2012
Grade: B-

Sleigh Bells – “Comeback Kid”

The opening machine-gun staccato of Sleigh Bell’s 2010 debut ‘Treats’ hit like a cardiac defibrillator, a bombardment of electrical energy that set chest cavities vibrating with pulsing bass.  That whole album, though brief at just 32 minutes, was a refreshing in-your-face pop explosion, and rightfully landed on many best-of 2010 lists.  Since that release, Sleigh Bells has gained a reputation as a bad-ass live band with a front-woman flying in the face of gender expectations of pop, able to connect the dots between fans of metal, bubblegum pop, and hip-hop.  The overwhelmingly-positive reception places their follow-up LP, ‘Reign of Terror’ high up the list of most anticipated releases in 2012.  The challenge with ‘Reign’ is living up to expectations and proving that the act isn’t just a one-trick pony.

Read More…

Posted by: Jeff | February 23, 2012

Album Review: Geographer – “Myth”

Geographer – Myth [Buy Here]

Modern Art Records
Release Date: February 28, 2012
Grade: B+

Geographer – “Life of Crime”

Stream the whole album ahead of its release via Paste Magazine here.

Though ‘Myth’ is Geographer’s second full-length release, it is the first to come on the heels of 2010’s widely-lauded ‘Animal Shapes’ EP and the first since joining San Francisco’s Modern Art Records label.  Prior to signing with Modern Art, the trio struggled to establish a wide audience (2008’s superb ‘Innocent Ghosts’ LP is one of the most egregious omissions on Spotify), but the strength of ‘Shapes’ has spread by word of blog and garnered a few spots on MTV productions and “artist to watch” features in magazines like Spin and Paste.

All eyes are therefore on Geographer in advance of their anticipated first release on Modern Art, and from the opening notes of album opener “Life of Crime” – a hesitant sputter of synth leading into crashing drums and a deluge of electric cello – Geographer seems to make a statement about their continued evolution.  This is a band growing up – unlike the innocent melancholy of ‘Ghosts’ and the over-indulgent synth-pop catharsis of ‘Shapes’, ‘Myth’ has added the steel of forceful percussion and electric guitar to their bubblegum sensibilities, giving the band an added depth of range and emotion. Read More…

Posted by: Jeff | February 23, 2012

Album Review: Porcelain Raft – “Strange Weekend”

Porcelain Raft – Strange Weekend [Buy Here]

Secretly Canadian
Released: February 2012
Grade: A-

Porcelain Raft – ‘Put Me To Sleep’

Debut releases always inspire comparisons, and Porcelain Raft is no exception.  The exquisite dream-pop offering by 37-year-old Londoner Mauro Remiddi is garnering comparisons to a diverse array of artists and trends including shoegaze, dubstep, Pink Floyd, Toro y Moi, Neon Indian, and John Lennon.  To my mind, his closest compatriot might be Youth Lagoon, the highly-regarded 2011 upstart famous for being a 22-year-old who recorded his album in his Idaho bedroom.

Which is all to say that Porcelain Raft hits a lot of good buttons and is a startlingly refreshing debut – a statement that seems silly in light of the fact that Remiddi has been a musician all his life.  Yet this is his first output as Porcelain Raft, and it’s a wonderful offering.   Read More…

Drexciya – Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller I [Buy Here]

Clone Classic Cuts
Release Date: January 2012
Grade: C-

Listen on Spotify here.

I don’t listen to a lot of Tech House, so forays into the album format are generally novel and fresh. Despite their almost cult status among early Tech House adopters, I’m also not very familiar with Drexciya – aside from that track on the Gold Panda DJ-Kicks release last year, of course.  On this particular LP, a compilation album in truth (many tracks date back to the 1990s) Drexciya (Gerald Donald and recently-deceased James Stinson) endeavored to create an ambitious concept album – a soundtrack to accompany the mythology of a manufactured aquatic civilization – appropriately named the Drexciyans.  The fascination of the producers here is on creating bubbling aquatic soundscapes that fit acoustically on the bottom of the ocean. Read More…

Posted by: Jeff | February 22, 2012

Album Review: Kathleen Edwards – “Voyageur”

Kathleen Edwards – Voyageur [Buy Here]

Zoe Records
Release Date: January 2012
Grade: B

Kathleen Edwards – “Change The Sheets”

There’s a certain folksy charm to Kathleen Edwards, despite the heavy emotional territory she treads here in her fourth full-length album.  Written in the span of time between a divorce with long-time collaborator Collin Cripps and a new relationship with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, it’s no surprise that Edwards comes across as earnestly contemplative, pleading for some form of emotional stability. Read More…

Posted by: Jeff | February 22, 2012

Album Review: Graffiti6 – “Colours”

Graffiti6 – Colours [Buy Here]

Capitol Records
Release Date: January 2012
Grade: A-

Graffiti6 – ‘Free’

Graffiti6 may be just another in a long line of collaborations between young singer-songwriters (Jamie Scott) and veteran pop producers (Tommy Danvers) looking to cross over into mainstream pop, but they outpace their peers on this fantastic debut album that meshes Scott’s folk sensibilities seamlessly with Danvers’ pop grooves.  “Colours” is remarkable in that it establishes a cohesive identity for a young band across an entire LP, giving the band a fun, mature sound that many mature pop acts would envy.   Read More…

Posted by: Jeff | July 26, 2011

Lollapalooza 2011 Friday Lineup Mixtape

I got my 3-day bracelet in the mail today, so I suppose it’s about time to start looking more closely at the lineup for the annual trip to Lollapalooza.  Hopefully by now you’ve secured tickets because by now they are sold out – all 270,000 of them!  So if you’re a procrastinator like me, now is the time to hop on Craigslist and eBay and hope for a rare deal, because this is looking like a solid festival.

By now you’ve likely heard all about the acts heading the bill for this year, the 20th anniversary of the festival.  Coldplay, Eminem, Muse, The Foo Fighters, and My Morning Jacket are all well established acts with loyal followings – but what about some of the artists that play earlier in the day?  Here are some acts that are worth checking out in Grant Park. Read More…

Posted by: Jeff | May 18, 2011

Live Review: The Antlers (Black Cat, 5/17/11)

Waiting for The Antlers to come back to the Black Cat stage to perform a four-song encore, one can’t escape the impression that there is a connection between this and those fans lucky enough to catch Radiohead at an early show in a seedy English club.  This isn’t to say that The Antlers are bound for international fame and fortune – in actual fact, their music is far too intimate for that – but it is to say that there are striking similarities between the two bands that resonate more deeply with the listener than most.

I first came upon The Antlers by way of a recommendation to check out a newly released track called “Kettering” that would be featured on their first major album as a newly-minted trio (Frontman Peter Silberman previously released two albums under the moniker as a solo act).  “Kettering” is a tense, building track that packs a large emotional punch.  Beginning so soft as to be almost inaudible, a surge of piano and the quiet wail of Silberman’s falsetto creep into the mix slowly, immediately setting the listener on edge.  Only fragments of the haunting vocal are intelligible at first listen, with snippets such as “But something kept me standing by that hospital bed” and “those singing morphine alarms out of tune” – this is no ordinary song about break ups or teenage angst. Read More…

Posted by: Jeff | May 17, 2011

Those People Who Believe in Possibility

Joe Posnanski writes brilliantly about so much more than just baseball:

I was on the phone with the Indian Land volleyball coach — at least that’s how I remember it — when I was told that there was a call for me. I told them to put the call on hold where it stayed for a few minutes. When I finished my in-depth interview with the coach, I picked up the phone. And it was Bob Costas.

He told me that he had gotten my letter, and it had told him more about me than any story ever could. He told me he had pinned the letter on his refrigerator door. He told me that someday, when I was working at the New York Times (or Sports Illustrated — Bob seems to remember it as Sports Illustrated) he would tell people he knew me when.

I cannot begin to explain what that call meant to me. My crazy life has been overcrowded with lucky breaks — breaks I did not fully (or, in some cases, even partially) appreciate at the time. Everything broke right. I worked for great editors at precisely the right time in my career. I ran into great stories, often by accident. I met amazing people who offered a kind word or perfectly timed advice or a brilliant lesson. I have made great friends in this business, and we have challenged each other and pushed each other and inspired each other and mocked each other just when we needed it most.

And that call from Bob Costas on that afternoon … well, I can only explain it this way. I try to teach my daughters a lot of things. Right now I’m trying to teach my oldest her 8 multiplication table (“Figure 8 … it would be great … if I could skate … “), and I’m trying to teach my youngest that chocolate chips do not make a viable meal, but the biggest thing I want to teach them both is that it is possible. Whatever it is. The world, I believe, is best enjoyed and most affected by those people who believe in possibility, who strive for it, who shake off the doubters and their own self doubt, who laugh with the critics and keep moving forward, who follow their own curiosities until they are filled, who see themselves accomplishing the best they can imagine.

Posted by: Jeff | May 12, 2011

The Awesome Volume of Nature

From CNN’s article about flood prevention efforts in New Orleans:

“The Bonnet Carre Spillway was partially opened on Monday … in order to keep the volume of the Mississippi River flows at New Orleans from exceeding 1.25 million cubic feet per second,” the Corps said.  But the muddy water had already exceeded that speed, with a flow of 1.36 million cubic feet per second by Wednesday night, authorities said.

To put that in a bit of context, that’s 38,500 cubic meters per second.  The Jacqueline Kennedy O’Nassis Reservoir in Central Park is 3.8 million cubic meters.  So a volume of water approximately equivalent to Central Park’s reservoir is flowing through New Orleans… every minute and a half.

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