Monday, August 11, 2008

Best of 2008: Now It's August - Pt. 1

With this previous post I started a collection of good music being released this year, the idea being to sum up each four months of the year. However, that isn't really what this is. For a start, this sums up the first eight months of the year on top of what I put in the first post, and the eighth month isn't even halfway through yet. However, it was a feature born out of impatience so don't be too surprised. Furthermore, I have divided the 'August' section into three to make it easier to write about and download (you'll see when it comes to the second part). Twelve songs in total, eleven artists - one artist had to have two songs, in a (very) similar fashion to last year. The first half (Pts. 1 & 2) are all US; the second half are all Irish.

August - Part 1

1. …Who Calls So Loud – ‘Sleeplike’ from …Who Calls So Loud double 10".

2. Vampire Weekend – ‘Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa’ from Vampire Weekend.

3. Have A Nice Life – ‘Bloodhail’ from Deathconsciousness.

…Who Calls So Loud

...Who Calls So Loud are a new San Francisco-based screamo band with the drummer and guitarist of Funeral Diner, the former also the drummer of Portraits of Past. Going by the page on the band, the name comes from a passage of Dickens' Nicholas Nickelby, even if that doesn't explain the ellipsis. Either way, 'Sleeplike' is the first track from their self-titled EP which comes - exclusively - on a double 10" with a CD of the full album. This is good, so very good.

I've always been more for Envy or La Quiete than anything from American screamo of the last ten years or so, aside from Sinaloa - who also have a strong album out this year, featured in the previous list - but are not necessarily screamo in the same sense. Funeral Diner's Underdark it has to be said is a great album, almost of Envy quality, but I never liked it the way I'm liking the sound of this band. Its pedigree isn't everything, because ...Who Calls So Loud progresses quite welcomely to a newer style. (Portraits of Past 01010101 LP is really worth listening to as part of the late 90s-sound emo/screamo stuff, and has been also been released this year as part of a CD discography of the band.)

...Who Calls So Loud has that almost perfect balance between sweet melody and vicious, chaotic vocals that makes good screamo. It's a simultaneous creation of beauty out of destruction, out of collapse. Musically, it's not too heavy nor too slight for the genre; it begins with three epic-length screamo songs and then slips, bizarrely, into slide guitar - but throughout it remains utterly convincing and captivating.

Obscure screamo bands are not noted for their business acumen, but I'm still trying to work out the logic of the release format. The double 10" (above) is undoubtedly impressive, and my own copy is en route in the mail, but it's self-limiting to people who own a turntable; a group which I wasn't in myslef up until less than eight months ago. Of course, I downloaded the EP online in anticipation (as mentioned, the record does come with a CD of the tracks so you don't actually need to do that, or to rip from the vinyl). I'm guessing they've figured there's no money in producing a specific CD version, or artistically they didn't want to do so, but it would be nice to see it available on somewhere like eMusic so you could contribute to the artist without buying the vinyl or going to see a show (there's a European tour on about now, but nowhere nearer to me than UK venues.)

Mind you, their website just says under 'Merchandise':

::Go to a show and buy a shirt and a record. You will be a lot happier to get out of the house::

I admire the sentiment, but Manchester is bit far outside my house.

Vampire Weekend

Released somewhat earlier this year, Vampire Weekend's self-titled debut is a delicious blend of quirky indie rock, African rhythms, baroque strings, left-field humour, Anglophilia, simplicity, charm and some really catchy tunes. The influences aspect is the most talked-about, probably, and I discussed it here. 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' may not be the best track to illustrate the full VW sound, but it's a good one. I chose it as the only track from the first side of the album that hadn't been released as a single - and hence probably heard all over the radio - although now that it has a music video (see below) that might have changed. For the record, my favourite single is 'M79', and my favourite album track is the virtual companion piece 'Walcott'. Something about those string sections.

The video for 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' is a good way of getting into Vampire Weekend's influences, which I already said I wouldn't talk about. But anyway, ditch the over-emphasis on African polyrhythms, and dig the bizarre interplay between the cultures of east coast America and southern Britain. It's like a [stereotypical 80s] John Hughes movie mixed with the humour of [cult British comedy] Garth Marengi's Darkplace (of which the video's English director, Richard Ayoade, was part of, notably as 'smooth... like ice' Thornton).

Vampire Weekend is the premier indie rock album of the year, to my mind. It's sufficiently catchy to be pop; sufficiently quirky, offbeat, even adventurous, to be interesting; and sufficiently good all round to be enjoyable. 'Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa' is a multi-layered, absorbing song; its lyrics may be oblique, but its rhythm is clear, and the inflection the singer, Ezra Koenig, puts into "is your bed made?" really makes the song for me.

Have A Nice Life

This double album has been out since early in the spring, but I guess it's been a while before I've been able to give Deathconsciousness the time it deserves. It's quite a sprawling, but densely textured and minimalist work. 'Bloodhail' is the second track from the first disc, and it's where the album first really picks up into loud statement - the preceding song is far more ambient, almost incidental but with themes and melodies which run into this song and on into the album. It's hard to categorize Have A Nice Life, but it's a sort of beyond post-hardcore sound mixed with heavy but relatively unobtrusive elements of shoegaze. It's subtle, perhaps too subtle to make an unambiguous impact without a lot of listening; but then that's just my experience, and other people seem to fall completely for it sooner. Last Train to Cool has a good piece about discovering the record as a piece of art, as a minimalist tour de force, while Geek Down talks more about the connection with post-hardcore - I've just started to understand about the contrapuntal vocals - and the technical elements. Read them both, and since you still won't know what Have A Nice Life sounds like, listen to this track.


josephlovesit said...

Awesome to know that Richard Ayoade is directing music videos. And even though I'm not keen on Vampire Weekend, I definitely enjoyed that.

And yea, that ...Who Calls So Loud merch statement is a bit condescending. It seems more likely that they're too lazy to set up an online shop.

Thanks for the link! Glad you're enjoying Have A Nice Life.

gabbagabbahey said...

Ayoade did their video for 'Oxford Comma' as well, although the style isn't as obvious.

I was almost going to put in the 'One Track Lover' video as well, just for the "cool as ice" line, but I thought that might be a bit excessive. It makes me nostalgic for my schooldays, though.

DFelon204409 said...

don't give two shits about vampire weekend but who calls so loud and have a nice life are both high high high up there on my list (with hanl at the undisputed #1 slot).

cretin said...

Deathconsciousness was my early pick for album of the year, so it's always nice to see it get some love. As far as "Bloodhail" goes, it's pretty easily the catchiest song on there (if not the outright best), thanks to that fantastic bassline that runs through the usual sprawl of distortion and ambiance. So a good call on that one.

Haven't listened to either of the other records yet (although I've heard people raving about Vampire Weekend for the past year or so), but I imagine I'll look into them in the near future, with ...Who Calls So Loud specifically sounding like something I'd like.

gabbagabbahey said...

I have do give credit to joseph for choosing 'Bloodhail' as one of the two tracks he put up to preview, but it probably is an obvious standout.

also, Triptych > Deathconsciousness still, in my opinion.

Zack Thrower said...

The ellipses is because the character in the story says, "Who calls so loud, Who calls so loud?" And maybe a name prior to that. They explained it to me over lunch.

Longman Oz said...

A couple of new ones there for me - thanks.

As a fan of screamo bands, have you heard The Death Set? They play Crawdaddy on Friday.

gabbagabbahey said...

- Zack; and there was me thinking they were just a bunch of condescending, elitist punctuation-sprayers... when really it turns out the ellipsis is there to remind you that the title only contains part of a quote from a Dickens novel? (there's a link to the relevant page of the book in the post)

cool that you had lunch with them, though.

- Longman; I've heard the remix of one of their songs ('Impossible') by Dan Deacon, which is pretty damn enjoyable. But they're not screamo in the sense I'm talking about here. Not that it matters, really.

Longman Oz said...

No probs. As I think that I said to you once before, I couldn't give a monkey's about the micro-labelling of music genres. There is enough junk in my head as it is!

blend77 said...

nice work! ... Who Calls record looks so damn good! Its sounds very good too. I will be seeing them again with Algernon Cadwallader... stoked.

I have not heard that Have A Nice Life, but I love that painting of Marat, one of Frances most evil... The description sounds good. I will check it out...

gabbagabbahey said...

hey, thanks! figures you're the one to mention the Marat painting. I honestly mean to go and buy the damn album ($5 download w/ PDFs of artwork, lyrics, inserts) but I haven't yet, and just searched for pics... that is most or all of the album cover, even though it doesn't have any text on it.

I think since it's a double album, there's also a double cover with the image flipped over, the line of reflection going right through the guys head. Quite creepy if you see it.

Jared Dillon said...

it is packaged in like a dvd case. the painting sprawls over both sides but is repeated the same as it appears here. fantastic record.