Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stuff You Should Hear, late 2009 ed.

Its been a while since I've taken the time to make another post. In that time, much good has taken place. I met someone amazing. I had a most excellent, first ever trip out of the USA to anywhere. And I've heard tons of great new music.

As a prelude to a series of "Best Of's" for the end of the year I'd like to offer you a varied group of some of the best new bands to come out this year. While diverse in sound, all these bands share one thing in common; the ability to create powerful moving music, on their own terms, with their own steam. DIY is something that everybody can have a say in, down to its ethics or to its practical applications, or even its naiveté, but when a band puts together something solid that stands on its own two feet, its not a matter of any scene or idealism, its a tried and true result of putting 110% of yr heart into what moves you.

Dogs Of Winter - From Soil To Shale (2009)

Dogs of Winter are a Brooklyn, NY band playing a post hardcore version of early 90s grunge. While trite to bring up grunge in a review for music, one has to appreciate first the pure balls that bands like Soundgarden and Alice and Chains brought around that early period of grunge. A sound both burly and soulful, with delicious low ends and a crowd moving sense of groove. Dogs of Winter gets their kick by mixing such burl and soul, such 90's vintage groove, with fiery and tempestuous post hardcore, in the vein of such fascinating greats as Drive Like Jehu and Frodus. With angles arising betwixt belted out harmonies in triplicate, and heavy repetitive bass grooves, Dogs of Winter rule from multiple view points, even tossing in a deep low end that some stoner bands wish they had.. The singing is particularly tight and very powerful, never becoming trite or nostalgic, occasionally even bordering on the bellicose. The whole album is strong as fuck, comes complete with lyrics embedded for each song, and most excitingly, features an amazing set of artworks by artist Joe Boyle. His work is dark and splattered, with each piece speaking towards the song it represents. It would be amazing if Dogs of Winter would give this album a full release with a full booklet of artwork. (Do I smell sweet vinyl in the future?). Peep another panel of this art, for the song Anathema...

Dogs of Winter @ Myspace
Dogs of Winter
Joe Boyle Art

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Bad Actor - Portrait of Finality (2009)

Bad Actor are from Florida, and they sound like it. Pure throat shredding metal. Glass shoved in your face, and dirt clogged in your throat. You can try imagine something sunny while you take a ride with Bad Actor. But its nigh impossible. With two vocalists, ie. two times the shredded vocal delivery, in two octaves, bellowing and new and improved sound of razors against bone. Yep, Bad Actor, like their name implies, dont want you enjoy this performance. This is no sunny walk in the park. You will be bruised and possibly broken. You will get a dry feeling caught in your chest and air wont seem so readily available as blackened chords rain arpeggiated deah upon your nightmare. Whatever hasnt succumbed thus far is sure to taste the steady rumble of the rhythm section as it gallops all over the wasted lands, victims strewn by the sonic battering, crushed beneath its death encrusted hooves. Somewhere, Carcass is proud. and in Florida its probably sunny. :)

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Collapse Under the Empire - Systembreakdown (2009)

Collapse Under the Empire are a German post-rock / electronic act with subtle releases of cathartic energy, bubbling into subdued melancholy and introspection with rays of light punching through on occasion, to let us all know that while, yes, life is hard, there is beauty in the cracks of the every day. Between moments of careful progression Collapse Under the Empire rests on beautiful repetitious notes, while percolating electronics breathe an array of color and tone into what can be seen as a basic post-rock approach. The closest touchstone to these guys I can think of is 65daysofstatic, who also use programmed beats and synths among crescendos of guitars and martial drumming. Here, the combination is far more successful, with the electronics playing equal parts in the mix and often driving the sound while the guitars hang back and offer some much needed texture. The electronics in this case are more in line with one of my favorites, Obfusc. Meaning that they are steeped in equal doses of melody and ambience, the kind that brings to mind a slow flame as it dances on tiny winds, or the rush of water over rocks on a rainy day in the woods. Collapse Under the Empire (CUTE, if you havent noticed) offer up an album that is at once familiar while also honing a style that has yet to be done this successfully.

They are releasing a new album early next year called "Find A Place To Be Safe". You can hear two of the tracks on their free single, "Crawling". Download that right here.

You can also peep a video they made and be sure to check out their sites.
Band Site

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note. - My City of Ghosts, Stars and Hours (2009)

Another band from Germany playing a great style of post-rock is note. As a 4 piece that knows how to make a lot of noise, note. have something nice and unique going on. At once brash and chatoic, quiet and organized, note. has found their muse in not only combining the two extremes of explosive noise and reflective beauty and have instead infused a number of other elements into what, until this year, has been a very static and overdone music scene. By combining elements of jazz and chaotic styles of punk riffing not often heard in this genre (and by not often, im referring to a tendency to occasionally approach the hyper kinetic energies of a band like Off Minor) note. has forged an exciting new sound. While at times featuring the rapidly blurred guitar ringing of bands like Caspian and Gift From Enola, there are also copious amounts of piano, some clapping, some swift and heavy time changes that will have you doing double takes. In short, the musicianship is very tight and very obvious on these long players. The only band that has ever managed to combine such disparate influences with such success is the Samuel Jackson Five, who now have some competition if these four guys known as note. decide to come back with more albums. Lets hope they do!

Peep their myspace.

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We Only Said - We Only Said (2009)

We Only Said are a French band bringing forth a wonderful style of subdued post-rock that usually tends to arrive from the likes of Louisville or Chicago, if you catch my drift. This album portrays an amazing sense of dynamics that only bands like Shipping News, Slint and Tortoise have on some of their more subdued numbers. In other words, this is more Three-Four than Save Everything, more Washer than Good Morning Captain, more Swung From the Gutters than Djed... If you catch my drift. And drifting is something We Only Said seems to be comfortable doing. Drifting in and out of consciousness, We Only Said lull you into a sense of safety and then beg that you be more on yr guard as a tense shimmering slow build piece cracks in with a snare hit. Never content to just hit you over the head, instead, they keep you on your toes by offering hints of what might lie around the corner of yr next shift to consciousness, like a seething reminder that all that is beautiful is not always safe. And all that is safe is not always static. Its a very hard album to describe and might just be one of my favorite things I have heard this year. There is darkness all over this record and its some of the most luminous darkness I have ever experienced.

We Only Said @ Myspace