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.
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 last.fm 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.
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.