M83 has gotten a lot of attention of late for the recent release of their double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011). The second track “Midnight City” has been enjoying quite an ample amount of radio time these past few months. Arguably the most ambitious project yet for frontman Anthony Gonzalez, Filter Magazine named it the best album of 2011. However, my personal favorite from this French electronic/shoe-gazer ensemble comes from their sophomore album Dead Cities, Red Seas, and Lost Ghosts (2003) — the album that first started turning heads outside of Europe, back when Nicolas Fromageau was still in the fold.
“Gone” maybe one of the most beautiful artificial sounds I have ever heard. Seemingly devoid of any organic or acoustic instrument and instead dwelling entirely in the electronic, it nonetheless resounds of the human condition. Wordless, instrumental, and with a slow, searing buildup that eventually erupts into a pure, unrestrained cry of emotion, I cannot even begin to describe the impact “Gone” has had on me over the years. To comprehend its full force I recommend turning out your lights, putting in your headphones, lying in bed, and then closing your eyes. Often have I dreamt of walking along an empty beach, the ocean a perfect blue. As I stop to look out at the horizon, I find myself slowly lifting off the ground and into space, disappearing into the stars. A somewhat silly sensation but it’s given immediate weight by the unmistakably somber tone of the piece. The perfect soundtrack for writing, meditating, or for those of you with an imagination. Get lost in it.
I’ve been on a massive Wye Oak binge of late. Last week, on my ten-hour flight from Paris to Los Angeles, I had the sounds of this indie rock duo from Baltimore playing literally the entire time. Since appearing in 2007 with their debut album, If Children, (initially released under their former band name Monarch) I’ve always been struck by their tender, intelligent, and often soul-aching lyrics. Jenn Wasner’s disarming, sensual and yet melancholy voice renders so much depth and complexity that would otherwise be absent. Coupled with Andy Stack, the two have combined to create unbelievably tranquil vocal harmonies accompanied by waves of contrastingly gentle and aggressive instrumentation. A compelling folk-based indie rock laced with occasional elements of shoegazer and noise pop. The perfect music to listen to on a stormy afternoon while lying in bed and staring up at the ceiling.
Wye Oak’s most recent album, Civilian, released in early 2011, has garnered a lot of attention – and rightfully so. Somewhat understated in its attack yet multi-layered in its sound, many have claimed it to be Wye Oak’s finest yet. The title track, “Civilian”, and “Plains” are my personal favorites. Both dwell on notions of detachment, loneliness, and dependence that Wasner and Stack have rendered beautifully, hauntingly, and in a way that demands multiple listens. Both tracks are posted below. In addition, I’ve included two more from their debut album, If Children, which continues to be a favorite of mine. Often have I contemplated the searing lyrics of “Family Glue” and “Please Concrete”. Wye Oak is definitely a band that needs to be heard.
Family Glue (mp3)
Please Concrete (mp3)
Once again I find myself having to apologize for the inappropriately massive amount of time since my last blog entry. Let’s be frank – I suck at life. But from here on out, I promise that there will be far more regularity and consistency with blog posts here at Chemical Highway. You can count on it… I hope.
So Coachella tickets sold out in about thirty seconds. Awesome. Glad to know I won’t be attending arguably the biggest concert event of 2012. But instead of harboring bitter resentment towards everyone around me (particularly you jerks who pre-ordered tickets last year), I must admit that it’s nice to see some of my favorite artists in the Coachella lineup. Particularly We Were Promised Jetpacks, who perform for the Saturday crowds. This unassuming Scottish quartet’s stock keeps rising but still doesn’t get enough exposure in my opinion. Not enough people know about them… and they really should. The irresistibly magnetic instrumentation of their post-punk/indie rock sound combined with lyrics teeming with emotional and heartfelt complexity (much along the same vein as fellow Scotsmen Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad) We Were Promised Jetpacks continues to impress. Explosive, brooding, and even raw at times, these guys will definitely be on our radar over the next few years. Plus, we have to admit, they have a pretty damn cool band name.
While We Were Promised Jetpacks released their second full-length album late last year (In the Pit of the Stomach), my hands down favorite song of theirs comes from their album, These Four Walls (2009). I couldn’t tell you how many times I listened to this song during the summer of 2010. Pulsating, addicting, and with lyrics far more profound than what might be considered the first time heard, here’s “Quiet Little Voices”:
Quiet Little Voices (mp3)
And as an added bonus, here’s “Act on Impulse” from In the Pit of the Stomach.
Act On Impulse (mp3)
Happy New Year everyone! Hope you’ve been living life to the fullest with the fleeting time we all have on earth. First off, let me apologize profusely for my prolonged absence. I spent some time this past holiday season traveling and seeing some people that mean a lot in my life so cut me some slack. I’m still overseas as I’m writing this. So this will be a short (albeit much needed) entry.
Notwist, the German indie band, has been constantly popping up on my radar over the past few years or so. I can’t seem to avoid having them rear their heads on my i-Pod every now and then. Although they’ve undergone a number of musical incarnations over the years (from an almost metal grunge sound to a more indie electronic), Nowtist continues to hang around the modern music scene despite forming back in 1989.
My favorite album is Neon Golden (2002) but my hands down favorite track comes from Shrink (1998). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this song in a variety of different situations. For me it seems to fit best as a soundtrack for walking around town when you have a specific destination in mind. The music video still stands out for its creativity and unconventionality (not to mention gratuitous weirdness)… God I miss the 90’s.
L.A. native Will Wiesenfeld has been making music since his early childhood. Although a classically trained musician, Wiesenfeld drifted over to the electronic scene and began experimenting with his newly found sound while still in his teens. Better known as the artist Baths, Wiesenfeld has released two albums, Cerulean (which he recorded in his bedroom in 2010) and Pop Music/False B-Sides which dropped in May of this year. A heavily layered, innovative, and distinctly idiosyncratic style that often features quirky vocals, live instruments, and samples of non-musical sounds (listen for clicking noises, running water, rustling of clothes, etc.) in addition to electronics makes Baths an extremely magnetic and entertaining artist.
While the track, “Aminals”, off Cerulean is wildly popular, I have personal affinity for “Apologetic Shoulder Blades”, the first track off the same album. With a choir of soaring falsettos overlapping one another laid against a warm and energizing electronic backdrop, “Apologetic Shoulder Blades” gets me every single time. I often find Baths to be the perfect thing to listen to early in the morning while walking to work. With your bones still working themselves out of their slumber and the white sun just beginning its long ascent into the sky, Baths does absolute wonders. Both songs are listed below.
And just for kicks here’s my current favorite off the album Pop Music/False B-Sides:
Lovesick Synthetic (mp3)
In less than a week I’ll be flying into Seattle for the holidays. With that perpetual landscape of grey skies and rainfall looming on the horizon, I’ll need a compelling soundtrack to match. In the past I’ve frequently turned to the Blue Scholars. I think I’ll do so again this time.
As a Seattle native I admit I’m terribly biased to this tandem group consisting of MC Geologic (Geo) and DJ Sabzi. However, you can’t deny the level of success the duo has achieved. Focusing on crafting a homegrown fan-base and establishing their own record label (as opposed to signing with a pre-existing company), Geo and DJ Sabzi have created arguably the most recognized musical group in Seattle in the past decade.
While they continue to experiment with their sound, one thing remains unchanged about the Blue Scholars – Geo’s thoughtful, intelligent, and distinctly human rhymes. Exploring everything from love to politics to sociological issues to what it means to be who we are where are, Blue Scholars continue to push the envelope and redefine the Seattle music scene. While their self-titled debut, Blue Scholars, and their subsequent release, Bayani, remain personal favorites of mine, their album Cinemetropolis dropped earlier this year and is definitely worth a listen. Many have crowned it as Blue Scholars’ finest yet.
So when I find myself slowly descending towards the landing strip, peering out that tiny plastic window at that rain-swept military town, a winter sunset disappearing behind the cinereal clouds, I know that few things fit will better than the sounds of the Blue Scholars. Here’s one of my favorites, ripped from English indie group XX’s debut album:
And a classic that was first released on Bayani that I can never get enough of:
Joe Metro (mp3)
I saw some old friends of my mine last night at a party. After a few hellos, well wishes, and drinks, I was on my way. Driving back home at 1 a.m. this song came on my i-Pod. A big hit in 1996 and still going strong, I always felt this song was the perfect accompaniment for late night driving — particularly those of us who live in more urban settings.
So here I was, coasting through the near-empty streets and rundown highways of L.A. with the sounds of Primitive Radio Gods’ “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand” filling my car and carrying the night. With its soulful, intelligent lyrics laid against a piano/hip-hop accompaniment, this track from one of Chris O’Connor’s near-forgotten demo tapes has always brought me a sense of calm and contemplation. Though they’ve gone through a number of evolutions and personnel changes over the years, Primitive Radio Gods are still around and worth checking out.