This pop gem has been buried in the rough since 1998, when Rafter put the finishing touches on his garage-built masterpiece and called it “10 Songs.” You can float along on top contemplating the slowed-up folk crunk of “My Friend the Crow,” improbably perched soundwise between Neil Young and M.I.A. (with a bit of Pascal Comelade thrown in for good measure), and thus forget that impulse to define and measure and relate everything down to it’s perceived place in the history of time. This is an album to lose your way in, headphones pumping and toes tapping and mind swimming in the rich environs authored by a persevering love-seeking dude.
Asthmatic Kitty announces a new edition of "A Sun Came," the 1999 debut album by Sufjan Stevens. Widely acclaimed for "Michigan" (2003), and "Seven Swans" (2004), singer/songwriter Sufjan Steven's first solo collection has been skillfully remastered, with two previously unreleased tracks and new art by Stephen Halker. Recorded on 4-track while still in college, "A Sun Came" first demonstrated Sufjan's eclectic instrumentalism- he plays over a dozen instruments here- noted production skills, and heartfelt songwriting. Though little known until listeners and reviewers discovered "Michigan" last year, "A Sun Came" foreshadows Sufjan's later work, and stands on it's own as an expression of his unique talents. A stunning blend of 60's psychedelic pop influences with middle-eastern and east Indian musical touches and a trace of experimental noise, "A Sun Came" grips the listener from the very first notes and doesn't let go until you've reached the end of Stevens' 72 minute opus.? -Opuszine
Two years after the world formally met her via her acclaimed debut, Bring Me the Workhorse, Brooklyn, NY’s My Brightest Diamond â€“ spearheaded by Shara Worden â€“ has been established as one of independent music’s most vibrant, creative and original voices. And with A Thousand Shark’s Teeth, Diamond’s incredible, breathtaking sophomore release, we are all instantly reminded once more of Shara Worden’s undeniable talent.
Charming, playful, daring, foreboding, graceful, eclectic, exciting and visceral: these are all the first words that come to mind after a full listen through A Thousand Shark’s Teeth. Originally meant to be a more classical, string quartet affair, the work slowly evolved and refined itself over a period of six years. The record, which was mixed by Husky Höskulds (Tom Waits, Elvis Costello), was recorded in Berlin, Los Angeles and New York City, and features twenty different players all contributing little bits of musical magic. Influenced by artists such as Tricky, French composer Maurice Ravel and Tom Waits, in addition to the star exploration themes of Anslem Kiefer’s paintings, the imaginary landscapes of photographer Robert ParkeHarrison, films by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and Alice in Wonderland, A Thousand Shark’s Teeth is a musical snowglobe that sparkles each time you touch it. The songs, whose themes broach intimacy, kisses by moonlight, laundry, lost friendship and more, marry vast instrumentation â€“ marimbas, harps, clarinets, French horns, rabid guitars, vibraphones to name a few â€“ to create an unequaled amalgamation of style and color. In simple terms: it’s beautiful, and there’s nothing else quite like it.
The EP, All Delighted People, is built around two different versions of Sufjan’s long-form epic ballad "All Delighted People," a dramatic homage to the Apocalypse, existential ennui, and Paul Simon’s "Sounds of Silence." The song was originally workshopped on Sufjan’s previous tour in the fall of 2009. Other songs on the EP include the 17-minute guitar jam-for-single-mothers "Djohariah," and the gothic piano ballad "The Owl and the Tanager," a live-show mainstay.
All Things Will Unwind is the third, stunning offer from Detroit based experimental pop chanteuse-My Brightest Diamond, aka Shara Worden. Known for her many collaborations with indie rock royalty (Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver, David Bryne, The Decemberists, and The National) as well as her extraordinary original material, Worden is coming into her own as an artist and human on this 11 song recording. At once accessible and intelligent, the songs were written exclusively for celebrated chamber ensemble yMusic (Bon Iver, Antony & the Johnsons, The New York Philharmonic & Rufus Wainwright) and they are featured on each track.
The range of influences on All Things Will Unwind are as eclectic as its’ author, but listeners will recognize hints of Roberta Flack, Regina Specktor, Edith Piaf and Antony & The Johnsons throughout the album. Inspired by becoming a mother, chats with legendary performance artist Laurie Anderson, presidential addresses, and class warfare, Worden is metabolizing her influences as only she can- with playful, profound originality. All Things Will Unwind is a picture of an artist maturing; considering joy and pain, beauty and horror, yet bravely standing in the tension between the two- and singing about it.
Following the pop-leaning lead of his last EP, Sweaty Magic, Rafter's latest longplayer, Animal Feelings, is a Technicolor pop blow-out that recalls Nintendo composer Koji Kondo leading a fantasy camp super-jam with Cody Chesnutt, Justin Timberlake, and the Tom Tom Club. Rafter's history and influences, his dreams and ambition, and his love for love, all come together as a sweet, fun, speaker-blowin', beat-busting ride into the inner-core of pop and R&B music. Ask him to drop names for his latest work and he'll say Justin Timberlake and Sublime Frequencies' Radio Phnom Penh without batting an eye. He'll tell you Animal Feelings is "a marriage record, a lust record, a death and sex record." Animal Feelings, his fourth LP for Asthmatic Kitty, is an idea-packed picnic of philosophies and fears, of affirmations and questions. Like all of his work, this record is a very personal piece of music and Rafter has a lot to tell you. Whether you choose to listen or not is the difference between you getting down on the dancefloor or simply standing outside the club, listening to the beats, muffled and gutless through the walls.
Asthmatic Kitty Records presents the fifth Half-handed Cloud full-length album: As Stowaways in Cabinets of Surf, We Live-out in Our Members a Kind of Rebirth, or Stowaways for short. Connected with the lyrical tradition of 19th Century American hymns such as “Shall We Gather at the River?” “Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb?” and “There Shall Be Showers of Blessing,” these tunes splash about in cavernous spaces opened up by irregularly measured rhythms and pocket-orchestra arrangements integrated with creaky pianos, sound-loops, a tugboat of a church organ, guitars, and billowing banjos.
Half-handed Cloud’s John Ringhofer recorded this album on his half-inch reel-to-reel tape machine in the sanctuary and custodial quarters of a church in Berkeley, California, where he’s lived and worked as a custodian for the past seven years. He played most of the parts himself, joined by friends on cello, clarinet, violin, trumpet, and flute. Brandon Buckner, one-third of Ringhofer’s former band, Wookieback, is behind the drum-kit for the duration of this record. The album was mixed with Daniel Smith (Danielson) at Familyre Studio in Clarksboro, New Jersey.
Drawing from a rich variety of influences from the cradle to his crate digging years, Lange cites influences such as Funkadelic, DJ Premiere, South American 60's pop, Arthur Russell, Ecuadorean ballad singer Julio Jaramillo, and Adrian Sherwoods's production style in the early ON-U Sound releases. But when asked about his contemporaries, Roberto references all the players on the album, adding the names of visual artists David Ellis and Christian Marclay, two artists who use elements of DJ culture in their work. This is apropos when listening to the record, which it seems as if the songs have been sculpted or painted.
Since attracting a ton of buzz for her entrancing live shows and for first EP Hello, Mozart's Sister (aka Caila Thompson-Hannant) has been head-down in her bedroom writing her debut album. For anyone who's been following her work - and for new listeners - Being is Mozart's Sister expressing macrocosmic ideas about life with panache and abundant hooks.
Inspired by Discovery-era Daft Punk, Post-era Bjork, and Betty Davis, Caila produced, recorded and wrote the album using a cheap sound card and Ableton software, approaching it with a do-it-all-by-my-fucking-self ideology.
Being is fundamentally a pop record. But if you're looking to catalog her music more than that, you're going to have a hard time; Caila describes Being as an intentionally fractured album. "It was far reaching. Things didn't always connect, but that was part of the whole idea," she says. Which is representative of the best music, and maybe the best of life: looking for order in chaos, not always finding it, and living with whatever happens next.
You know. Just, being.
A beautiful thing happened when Asthmatic Kitty artists Helado Negro and Julianna Barwick first met: they got to know each other. The result, a collaborative band, OMBRE, and a brand-new full-length record, Believe You Me.
Recorded as the newly acquainted pair were just becoming friends, OMBRE shows Barwick's clear, high harmonies and church choir sensibilities melding well with Helado Negro's rustic-Latin-psyche-folk meets big-city-summer-blockparty.
Tracks simmer with the mellow chording of nylon string guitars, bubbling electronics, and the comely pluck of harps; they rise high and mountainous with Miles Davis-y trumpet and then disappear altogether. There's a very old school jazzy soundtrack air to these sessions. (An inspiration to the sessions was Clu Gulager's 1969 film A Day With the Boys and Egberto Gismonti's fantastic late-'60s compositional jazz.) It has the feel of a hot summer day in Brooklyn, 1971, the sun through the tenements and everyone sitting in the shade watching the world drift by.
Believe You Me's 36:19 minute run is a quiet storm that never puts you in danger—just a beautiful, refreshing summer rain to watch from your front porch, sitting next to a good friend. A new friend? Yes. Perfect. Even better.
Taking a selection of songs from their latest LP, Fumes, Lily & Madeleine have recorded acoustic versions for their new EP, Blue Blades. These acoustic songs highlight the sister-duo’s ever enchanting blood-harmony. Blue Blades includes five tracks from their sophomore LP, Fumes, as well as their version of Alex Turner’s, of the Arctic Monkeys, “Stuck on the Puzzle.”
Finally, after three years of legendary performances in their hometown of San Diego, the amazing Bunky- Emily Joyce, Rafter Roberts, who has been featured in Tape Op, and friends- unleash their debut album, “Born to be a Motorcycle." “Motorcycle” will surprise even those who think they’ve heard it all; this eclectic collection of weird pop bliss blends punk, art-pop, and ballads with chugging horns, absurdist humor and bulls-eye production by veteran musicians/engineers Roberts and Joyce. The result is an album as lively as an armful of eels; Bunky rocks and croons with equal skill, sometimes in the same song. Joined by a cast of San Diego all-stars (members of Rocket from the Crypt, Castanets, Pinback, and others), Bunky blazes from the underground full-grown and ready to burn up the road.
My Brightest Diamond is Shara Worden, a trained opera singer turned pop songwriter. Her debut album, Bring Me The Workhorse courageously gathers all the essential elements of classical and pop music to fashion an album that reflects upon the sublime elements of both worlds. These songs are simultaneously gentle and urgent, evoking moments of tremendous joy and sorrow with the magnitude of Italian opera and the modesty of a Japanese haiku. The songwriting blurs the lines between rock show and recital, incorporating the contrapuntal elements of a baroque love song alongside love ballads and rock anthems. Her vocal lines reached for Puccini, while her guitar style is more akin to Blonde Redhead or PJ Harvey. The center of gravity here is the workmanship of a woman whose imagination has no limits.
The cryptic musical logic of CALAMITY might be recognizable from Cohen's past projects (both Deerhoof and Natural Dreamers), but this record is brimming over with what was only hinted at before. The singing and lyrics have at last brought The Curtains vision into a clear and recognizable focus. The enigmatic mood and seemingly unfounded optimism of The Curtains' music have never been so sharply contrasted, and the sounds and playing (CALAMITY is self-produced and almost entirely performed by Chris) have never been so uncompromisingly personal and eccentric. Casually veering from melodic pop ballads ("Go Lucky" and "Old Scott Rd." ) to unclassifiable stylistic mish-mashes ("Invisible String" and "Calamity") to unabashed bubble-gum and garage punk ("Green Water" and "Fell On a Rock") to mysterious and brooding art-song ("Roscomare"), CALAMITY continues the Curtains' project of poker-faced genre disobedience. But this time Chris's singing and newly discovered interest in song form has pushed to the Curtains music to a new level of immediacy - on CALAMITY The Curtains have become what they've always hinted that they really were and in fact, it's almost a whole new band.
It’s one of the first days of spring here in Montreal. The sun feels warm, and new green is imminent. There’s a buzz all around on days like these. The winter was cold and long, but it makes the spring sweeter. Shapes and Sizes settled here three years ago. I say "settled" because prior to their arrival here they kept a rigorous touring schedule. Touring with the National, Yeasayer, opening shows for the Silver Jews, Sufjan Stevens; too many shows to get into specifics. So when they arrived in Montreal, there was a feeling of resolution, maybe even hibernation. They carried out their daily chores: one sold books, another records, one studied music and perception while delivering groceries at night, and another never kept her eyes too far from the road. But all this while, the band was quietly tinkering. You see deep down, Shapes and Sizes never really settle. Each record starts where the previous left off, and forays into new territory. Radwan Ghazi Moumneh (A Silver Mt. Zion, Tim Hecker) recorded the album at the Hotel 2 Tango, and it was mixed at the Pines by David Bryant (Growing, Set Fire to Flames).
Canta Lechuza is an intimate, personal beast, a solo affair built lovingly from live instruments, percussion, and field recordings, all processed through electronics, computers, and synthesizers. It is an album with very defined songs, its song-structure has been labored over; choruses count bigtime, confident breakdowns and digi-pop bridges are all part and parcel of the greater good. Canta Lechuza is dance music turned inside out—percussion plipping and plapping, basslines smooth and dry as a tube of blue neon. Deep-space micro-drones emerge from hibernation, growling out from a wash of sun-filtered haze—morphing, squeezing, then bending themselves around globular droplets of blood-red electro.
"Carcassonne," the A side of a new limited edition 7 inch, is a song by Angelo De Augustine about falling in love for the first time. On side B is "Effervescent Islands." The Carcassonne 7” was written and self-produced at home at the tail end of summer, soon after De Augustine released his second LP, Swim Inside the Moon, and played to his biggest audience to date supporting Sufjan Stevens at LA's Hollywood Forever Cemetery (his tour with Moses Sumney was then about to start). "Carcassonne" is one of De Augustine's most romantic tracks that starts by asking a simple question: "Would you be the only one / In my life with my love?" and ends with the tender epiphany: "There ain't much time in life before the lights go down / So I want to know you now," reminding us to love while we can.Side B's piano ballad "Effervescent Islands" is more mysterious, with references to infinity, hypnosis, "something supernatural," and "ephemeral light," but it’s still about love: “Anything to touch the silence one more time / Anything to feel the love we all shall find.”The sky-blue seven-inch, limited to 500, is available through his record label, Asthmatic Kitty Records, or at local record stores.
Carrie & Lowell sounds like memory: it spans decades yet does not trade on pastiche or nostalgia. Stevens's gauzy double-tracked vocals wash across the dashboard of long-finned, drop-top Americana, yet as we race towards the coast we are reminded that sunshine leads to shadow, for this is a landscape of terminal roads, unsteady bridges, traumatic video stores, and unhappy beds that provide the scenery for tales of jackknifed cars, funerals, and forgiveness for the dead. Each track in this collection of eleven songs begins with a fragile melody that gathers steam until it becomes nothing less than a modern hymn. Sufjan recounts the indignities of our world, of technological distraction and sad sex, of an age without neither myths nor miracle - and this time around, his voice carries the burden of wisdom. Carrie & Lowell accomplishes the rare thing that any art should achieve, particularly in these noisy and fragmented days: By seeking to understand, Sufjan makes us feel less alone.
Cathedral, the first nationally released album by San Diego's Castanets, introduces a unique new voice of avant-country. From somber love ballads to haunted tales of frustrated redemption, Cathedral illuminates architecture where faith and doubt clash in an often ambiguous search for the divine.
Largely recorded in a motel room in Overton, Nevada, City of Refuge is an uneasy, asymmetric weave of sung songs, chants, electronic noise solos and spaghetti-western guitar interludes. City suggests a film soundtrack, with overture, mood-setting and plot-development songs, intermission, character studies, and themes of resolution and reconciliation. A narrative propelled by yearning, passion, dislocation, ambiguity, regret, false redemption, possible true redemption, cryptic symbolism and other art film obligatories, this time you’re liable to sit numb and silent through the credits as the theater empties. The difference between Raposa's landscape and more familiar backlot scenes might be this; you believe what you've heard and seen because your third ear intuits that he didn’t contrive any of it. City, then, is no longer only music, but emotional catharsis, and we, too, long for a City of Refuge.
After hearing only two demo songs, and with no performance history to speak of, Asthmatic Kitty Records invited David Stith to write and record an album. Stith's debut on the label comes in the form of Curtain Speech, an aptly titled EP that serves as an introductory tease for his forthcoming debut full-length, Heavy Ghost (due in early 2009). The music calls to mind contemporaries Antony and the Johnsons, Grizzly Bear, and sometimes the explosiveness of Animal Collective. However, a handful of other influences cloud the comparison as hints of the dissonance of Sonic Youth and Henryk Gorecki, expressive vocal techniques of Caetano Veloso and Mary Margaret O'Hara, and the romance and textures of Benjamin Britten and Edward Elgar underpin even the simplest of gestures.
Cut Me Down & Count My Rings is a collection of rarities, singles, and b-sides by indefatigable DIY pop musician John Ringhofer, AKA Half-handed Cloud. Until now, these songs were only available on vinyl, as a cassingle, with a zine, as a couple limited-edition CDEPs, or among the tracks of a few compilation albums. The themes are accordingly diverse: they include sheep, Psalms, werewolves, list-making, bees, stories from scripture and Christmas. Some of the songs served as transitions between previous Half-handed Cloud releases or built upon themes from the full-lengths. Lending a helping hand on assorted tracks are Brandon Buckner, from Ringhofer's former band Wookieback, Sufjan Stevens, Yoni from WHY?, and Nedelle and Chris from Cryptacize.