For the past week I’ve had a song on my playlist that every time it’s come on has made my ears prick up. I originally thought it was one of several WOMEN tracks I added to my playlist upon hearing the sad news that the band’s guitarist Christopher Reimer had died in his sleep on February 21. But then it started reminding me a lot of Sic Alps, and Mike Donovan’s equivocal ramblings. When I finally got around to checking it out I discovered it was the work of a young Californian song writer named Ryan Thomas Schmale, going by the name That Ghost. The song in question, ‘Morning Now’, is off a new rarities collection named after Schmale’s late-grandmother Rosalind. The entire Rosalind EP is a reflection on all things old, lost and buried in the past. The seven songs on the EP were evidently influenced by old black and white and sepia photographs of his grandmother. There’s a beautiful loving quality to the collection that sounds a bit like an obituary, written with such passion and emotion that it sounds slightly morbid. ‘Morning Now’ is clearly the highlight, with it’s wonderfully sharp guitar combining perfectly with Schmale’s wiry, rustic voice. Elsewhere ‘Snowrabbit’ is a rattling boxcar number, recalling the roots of travelling musicians from the cotton fields of Memphis, Tennessee. ‘The Birth Of My Son’ continues the storytelling, with a simple guitar riff bouncing about while the story burns and freezes with the phrase “hold your hands out boy”. There’s more to discover from That Ghost that doesn’t need describing here, and I’m sure this is just the beginning of my love affair. Whether you like folk music (Nick Drake, Woody Guthrie), Delta blues (Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson) or slightly more psychedelic versions of both (Devendra Banhart, Sic Alps), That Ghost is a great discovery.
The Rosalind EP, along with That Ghost’s previous three releases, Songs Out Here (2011), Get It And Get Out (2009) and Young Fridays (2008) can all be downloaded from Two Syllable Records’ Bandcamp page. While you’re there, check out some other excellent records by Holiday Shores and Inlets.
I’ve never been much of a fan of Regina Spektor’s operatic bubblegum pop, but her latest offering has a lot more grit, opening and closing with blasting snare drums and running with a dark, emotive piano riff. ‘All The Rowboats’ is the first single off her new album What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, her first since 2009′s Far. The new album has an unconfirmed release date of May 12, via Sire/Warner Bros. Records. Recorded in Los Angeles with renowned producer Mike Elizondo (Eminem, Dr. Dre, Fiona Apple), the album is a collection of new and old compositions, some of which Spektor has gone back to after leaving them as demos for several years. Her previous body of work has often been compared to Kate Nash and Tori Amos, but this new song segues towards a new set of slightly more interesting influences, placing her in the company of Amanda Palmer and Beth Gibbons (Portishead). Spektor combines her assets well here, using her piano skills to drive the tone and her voice to set a steady pace. It all blends nicely together, sounding tough and affirming without throwing itself at you.
Fans eager to get their hands on something before May 21 will be glad to hear news of a 7″ coming out on April 21 (Record Store Day), containing cover versions of two traditional Russian songs.
Experimental punk purveyors Xiu Xiu release their eighth album on March 6. Sole constant band member Jamie Stewart opens up about what drives his impressive productivity, why the band is in such fine form and some of the creative partnerships that have fed into it throughout its 10 years.
Hi! How are you doing?
Stressed out! Too much work right now, but it’s all music. One must be careful what they wish for.
You’re on tour soon – how does it feel to be setting out on the road again?
I’m excited about it. Our last tour was with some members who have since gotten the boot and it was the worst tour I have ever been on in my life, so I’m very much looking forward to redeeming the form.
Xiu Xiu is 10 years old this year! Did you ever consider it would last this long?
No, I did not. It has gone by in a flash. It has been a struggle the entire time, which is probably what gave it the energy to dart past my consciousness so quickly.
Do you deliberately set out to make confrontational music or is it just what comes naturally?
We are trying to be confrontational, we are trying to write about what is honest for us. How people perceive that is up to them.
You seem to have acquired a lot of awesome gear over the years. Have you found it hard to utilise it all? Have you taught yourself how to use everything?
I don’t have very many friends, so I fill my loneliness with knobs. It is not hard to utilise what is in the band’s audible stockpile, the hard part is that there are always more things that I want.
“God, I spent so much money
on gear last year it makes me
want to throw up. But when
I do barf, I will be smiling.”
Xiu Xiu has always seemed quite prolific. Do you feel you always need to be creating something in order to be satisfied or happy?
More than anything, to be sane. I have found for better or worse my life revolves around working in music. Organising and clarifying my emotional state depends on it. This sounds ridiculous, but it has become true. And also I love music, so why wouldn’t I want to work on it all the time?
Do you write all of Xiu Xiu’s lyrics or are they sometimes collaborative efforts?
Actually our new record Always is the first one where other people wrote lyrics as well. Individually they were not really collaborations in that people just brought them in and we did not go over them together, but the lyrics as a body of words was a collaboration.
With Dear God, I Hate Myself you’ve said you were documenting sad life. What would you say Always documents?
Abortion, American marines murdering a teenaged boy for sport, divorce, child molestation, Haiti, realising that although time has passed the thought of failing is as strong as it ever was, finding company and maybe beauty in the terror of living.
I read that “a night of extreme psychological distress” inspired the title Dear God, I Hate Myself. Since then your interviews have sounded really positive. Do you think you were in a more positive state when you made Always, and so perhaps the recordings reflect that?
One thing that’s different is that Dear God, I Hate Myself was very much autobiographical, only one and half of the songs on Always are about my life. The rest are about people I care for or politics. Being my harshest critic and not being so present in the topics, perhaps, is what gives it that [positive] feel. A lot of people have made this observation. The difference in the titles probably helps, too.
How did you dream up the tattoo project for Always, and what was the response like? Do you have any Xiu Xiu-related tattoos yourself?
It came together very organically. By coincidence, several people sent me photos of them in a short period of time and I had over the years seen several in person. Bearing in mind the decade-milestone, it felt like a nice way to try and say thank you to people who have been so supportive of us. We got a lot – 27 or so. Not a million, but enough for a poster. I don’t have any Xiu Xiu tattoos, buddy! I have Xiu Xiu on my fucking face!
Xiu Xiu’s music always feels quite isolated. Do you feel you write better alone or in a group?
I love both. Writing is my favorite part of music. Both processes yield very different results but both processes, for me anyway, are challenging and rewarding.
You’ve said in other interviews the band is a lot more collaborative now that Angela Seo is in the band. Do you feel the songs have changed as a result?
Absolutely, yes. Angela wrote all of one song and parts of several others. She brings a great ability to clear away detritus and make clear what a song should be about, musically. I have a horrible habit of piling things on and on and on and she is excellent at looking at a pile and saying, “This piece is the best. The other ones are distracting.” There are new members as well that will be working on the record following Always. I am very interested and excited to start to work with them as well.
How long have you been working with Greg Saunier now? How did you first meet him?
We have been working on Xiu Xiu records together since 2006. He did The Air Force, Women As Lovers, Dear God, I Hate Myself and Always. We have known each other forever. A band I was in before Xiu Xiu played a show with Deerhoof at my behest after I heard their record Holdypaws. A friend gave me a dubbed cassette of it and I have been a life-long fan since. We are actually closer now than we have ever been. He is one of my favorite people in the world. The fact that he is a musical genius and astoundingly generous in his efforts to work on Xiu Xiu records not withstanding, he is a such a gem of life.
Have you ever contributed to a Deerhoof album, or would you like to?
In a tiny, tiny, way on accident some things we recorded for a movie soundtrack I think ended up on their record Reveille. But other than that, no. Of course I would like to do more!
“I have found for better
or worse my life revolves
around working in music.
Organising and clarifying my
emotional state depends on it.”
How did you come to work with John Congleton on Always? He has some impressive credentials!
Our bands had played together a lot and we did a split 7″ of Nick Cave covers and we have been friends for several years. In 2010 he recorded a collab called Gall that Jonathan Meiberg from Shearwater and I did under the name Blue Water, White Death. He and I really clicked in the studio and he offered to mix our next record. Having had such a great time with him before I knew it could turn out wonderfully to work with him. He proved to be insightful and incredibly astute at not only making things sound amazing but making them, to me, feel much better than ever. He is the best.
Is there anyone you have in mind who you’d aspire to work with on future Xiu Xiu albums or in other projects?
Well, I just finished a collaboration with Eugene Robinson of Oxbow and another, our third with Larsen and a split 7″ with Dirty Beaches. So the list of people I would want to work with is getting steadily checked off. But impossible dream people would be Lawrence English, Diamanda Galás, Steve Reich, OMD, Einstürzende Neubauten, a blue whale, a tornado… As I said, impossible dreams.
How did you come to do the split 12″ with Chad VanGaalen? Are you a fan of his?
The label that put it together suggested it. I hadn’t known his work beforehand but now that I do, I’m very glad to have come to know him. Wonderful music!
What inspired the idea for ‘Fortune Teller’?
Idiocy, mainly. Or fear of the future, which is the same thing? Or perhaps not fearing the future is idiocy? It certainly isn’t helpful. Maybe ‘Fortune Teller’ will help?
Do you have any idea what kind of direction Xiu Xiu will go in in the future?
With great horror, no. Most of my life has been incredibly unstable and I would love to know what is going to happen. But, and I think is this case with everyone in a band, I have no idea. We will forever try our best to be as open as we can and to play as hard as we can and see what happens.
NEW ZEALAND: Einstein Music Journal Grass Cannons – Wendy’s
If hissing noise and warm melodies are your buzz then Auckland four-piece Grass Cannons should be on your radar. They’ve just released their debut EP Vet Dream, containing five darting guitar songs that each take a different path but ultimately lead to the same satisfactory conclusion. While a noisy mess rides heavy throughout their music and kidnaps a bit of their style, within each song there are several minutes of genius song structure that highlights their ability to write amazing pop-influenced punk music. Deerhunter, The Clean and Grooms come to mind when describing their sound, but Grass Cannons seem good enough to leave those influences out of the equation.
UNITED STATES: I Guess I’m Floating That Ghost – Morning Now
Californian lo-fi bedroom artist That Ghost has been making music since before he could drive a car. His sound has grown and changed as much as he has from tween state to young adulthood. OK, he was never a tween but a pure artist whose latest EP Rosalind is a gem. Check out the slow-burning ‘Morning Now’, like, right now.
SINGAPORE: I’m Waking Up To… Obedient Wives Club – Fragments
The first release by 60s indie-pop distributors Happy Teardrop Music is the debut self-titled EP by Obedient Wives Club, and what a hit it’s been with all physical copies selling out within a month. The band, cheekily named after a controversial Muslim organisation of the same name, plays a delightful blend of girly noise-pop – or what they helpfully term “Spectorgaze”. Fragments indulges its Jesus And Mary Chain obsession with generous doses of saccharine melodies and interstellar fuzz.
RUSSIA: Big Echo Brodsky – Death Note
Brodsky plays beautifully-orchestrated romantic folk with flowery melodies, youthful vocals and sad eyes that might remind you of Beirut or Jens Lekman. Nowadays, it’s truly a blessing to find such an artist in Russia.
FINLAND: Glue Black Twig – Lake Song
Noise, pop, fuzz, sound experiments. Black Twig is one of the hottest bands in the Finnish indie scene at the moment with their just-released debut album, Paper Trees. In their own words, Black Twig’s sound has echoes of modern fuzzed-out pop experiments as well as of 60s garage-rock gems, sometimes developing a sensibility for hypnotic, repetitive drones.
SWITZERLAND: 78s John Caroline – Robine
John Caroline is a young six-piece from Baden who make playful, jittery and dreamy indie rock. Their debut EP is released as a free download on February 18.
SOUTH KOREA: Korean Indie MDS – Insomnia
DJ duo MDS released their first album in July last year, full of remixes of songs from some of the best artists in Seoul’s indie scene. In January, they released a digital single with a couple of songs of their own, showing that they’re also capable of crafting great pieces of music themselves. ‘Insomnia’ is a smooth electronica track that lends itself very well as a soundtrack to a walk just about anywhere.
INDONESIA: Deathrockstar Spring/Summer – Tonight
Spring/Summer come from Bandung and are the freshest breed of (what we Indonesians call) Britpop revivalism. With a twist of The Smiths, Joy Division and Blueboy and a bit of attitude, they make tasty, raw music. They probably won’t be the next big thing, but their music provides enjoyable reminiscing of teenage years spent looking for second-hand Smiths CDs at the local thrift store.
ENGLAND: The Guardian Music Blog Wild Combination – Great Expectations
Wild Combination’s sound itches and twists in an effort to etch itself across indie’s sonic history. It shouldn’t worry so much. The Essex trio responsible know how to channel the best of recent backbeat melancholia (Foals, The Postal Service) and that’s more than enough. This demo version of ‘Great Expectations’ – mixed specially for MAP – clips along, the addition of a swarth of dreamy synths tying it just to the right side of funky.
PORTUGAL: Posso Ouvir Um Disco? Sun Glitters – They Don’t Want To Let You Know (Sumsun Remix)
Victor Ferreira aka Sun Glitters, born to Portuguese parents in Luxembourg, has been praised by The Guardian, FADER and Pitchfork. For this reason, his newest release, High EP, which came out on January 30, was highly anticipated. On it, Victor continues his voyage through a dreamy electronic world. This track is a remix of one of the songs on the EP.
FRANCE: Yet You’re Fired Cracbooms – @soleil
Cracbooms are more than a band. They are a group of friends who sing about how sweet and simple life is when surrounded by your loved ones, when there are pretty girls around and the sun shines above your head. Their lyrics are filled with humor and casualness, and are written with an unsettling easiness. As for their sound, it’s a mix between the guitars of Two Door Cinema Club and pop à la Young Michelin. I think they’ve found the perfect combination.
AUSTRIA: Walzerkönig Squalloscope – Domino
Anna Kohlweis has released three albums as Paper Bird, however these days she prefers her new alias Squalloscope. Goodbyes in bus terminals, long train rides, sitting on planes and bottles of wine have influenced her upcoming album Soft Invasions. Domino is a singer-songwriter take on R’n'B combined with postmodern lyrics: “I’m a copy of a copy of a copy of a woman, you’re the copy of a copy of a copy of a guy.”
ICELAND: Rjóminn Vigri – Animals
‘Animals’ is from Vigri’s debut album Pink Boats. The band decided to travel around many of the small churches in Iceland’s countryside to record the song, but the end result is from what they recorded in the Flatey island church.
NETHERLANDS: Unfold Amsterdam Wooden Constructions – Full Brother
There’s been a buzz brewing for Amsterdam’s Wooden Constructions for a year or two already, their edgy live performances stealing the limelight from a host of international indie wannabes along the way. Well, it’s all set to reach boiling point when they finally unleash their debut album People Now People in spring. A barrage of taut dance grooves, minimalistic riffage and unsettling narratives, they provide a contemporary glimpse of post-punk at its maniacal best. Check out first single ‘Full Brother’ for a taster of their danceable gloom, making the bold promise that the intensity of their live shows will carry over onto tape.
SPAIN: Musikorner Novedades Carminha – Pesetas
Novedades Carminha are a garage-rock three-piece from Santiago de Compostela, and they’re starting to be the talk of the town. Their songs are energy-packed and irreverent, making fun of everyday topics but vindicating them at the same time. Their lyrics hold true punk spirit. ‘Pesetas’, taken from their first album Jódete y Baila, released in early 2011, is a true jewel of dirty Spanish rock.
GREECE: Mouxlaloulouda Bokomolech – Talk About Fires
Nine years is a long time to wait, but new album Mass Vulture finds Bokomolech embracing and sifting through the finer moments of their past over the course of 10 outstanding songs. The record is once again exceptionally crafted and gorgeously composed, richly textured and potently rhythmic, instilled with instrumental mastery and consistent music ideas, powerfully expressive vocals, remarkable melodic turns, lovely harmonic noises, sleek and slippery riffs. They have created a sparse and thrilling work of strikingly expansive ambition with the arresting delicacy of the quieter, dreamier tunes capable of ripping up your emotions.
SWEDEN: Swedesplease Kids – My Sincerest Apologies
Electronic pop duo Kids are shockingly good. Sure there a few cheesy moments in the single ‘My Sincerest Apologies’ but it gives the song a bit of fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
NORWAY: Birds Sometimes Dance Storm The Bastille – Circle Robotics
You never know quite what to expect when listening to a song by Storm The Bastille. Their schizophrenic and mildly cacophonic music is unpredictable, strange and full of surprising twists. The only constant is the great energy the band possess. It’s fast, energetic, melodic and a bit dark with a sense of impending doom that creeps up close.
JAPAN: Make Believe Melodies Cloudy Busey – Up To You (If You Love Me)
Cloudy Busey takes many cues from house music on ‘Up To You (If You Love Me)’, yet this long-burning song never feels exuberant. Rather, the Osaka-based Busey inverts the sounds of a club into something apt for a shadowy alleyway. The beat pounds on relentlessly, but the spacey synths and singing evoke the loneliness of long, solitary walks home early in the morning set against neon lights. If nights out tend to bring you down, here is the jam for you.
GERMANY: Blogpartei Wooden Peak – Pills Start Work
The two guys behind Wooden Peak are getting famous for their gigs where they occupy a whole stage while just sitting on their stools, carefully watching each other. Although their set-up with guitar and drums seems quite like a garage band, their singing and acoustic play triggers very different emotions – calm and dizziness, homeliness and wanderlust. ‘Pills Start Work’ is a great MAP exclusive which slightly resembles early Whitest Boy Alive. The album Lumen has just been released on the lovely label Analogsoul.
TURKEY: WEARTBEAT The Ringo Jets – Collar
The Ringo Jets, consisting of two guitarists and a drummer, is a rock ‘n’ roll band inspired by 60s garage music and blues rock. They made a big splash in Istanbul indie circles with their Limited Lunchpack EP, which you can download for free from Bandcamp. After signing with Aisha Records, they’re planning to release their debut album by the end of the year.
COLOMBIA: El Parlante Amarillo Julián Mayorga – ¿Cómo Llorar Al Revés o Regresar Al Asfalto o…?
‘¿Cómo Llorar Al Revés o Regresar Al Asfalto o Espantar Mi Propio Cuerpo Inerte o Desaparecer y Volver a Aparecer?’ – this is the complete title of this piece by singer-songwriter Julián Mayorga, born in Ibagué. It’s an interesting, poetic union between pop and folk that hides, in what he calls La Pequeña Orquesta Sintética (synths and computers), the deep and very personal landscapes that his soft voice creates.
PERU: SoTB Los Zapping – Cine Mudo
Los Zapping began toying with music when they were still in school, but their garage-rock soon won a place in Lima nights and an authentic touch of freshness was about to be born. Their first EP, released in 2007, was considered the best of that year. ‘Teoría De La Televisión y La Radio’ was released in 2011, an album that reaffirms the strength and talent of this band.
DENMARK: All Scandinavian Spleen United – Bright Cities Keep Me Awake
“We are still wild animals,” Spleen United proclaim on ‘Bright Cities Keep Me Awake’, from their long-awaited and impressive third full-length, School Of Euphoria. It’s a sentiment carrying truth and one somewhat defining for principal songwriter and frontman Bjarke Niemann’s lyrical appendage to the dark, synthesized rock reminiscing 90s electro, house and (euro)dance. It makes School Of Euphoria a rather despondent, while immensely awesome, listen.
CHINA: Wooozy Mr. Graceless – Mr. Li
Mr. Graceless is a Beijing-based indie-rock trio. They try to keep a low profile, moving forward step by step. They are tepid and unassuming, and have a clear-cut stand on what to love and what to hate. The love, pain, fantasy and fervor of youth are the best tags for their music. They prefer beautiful melodies and independent attitude. Mr. Graceless is touring around China with their debut release The Tree Ever Green.
MEXICO: Red Bull Panamérika Uvilov – De Tantos Universos Paralelos
“Playing dreampop since 2005,” is the slogan of this pioneering band. ‘De Tantos Universos Paralelos’ is the gigantic overture to their new album El Desprendimiento, which promises to be an overload of feedback and chaos restrained under a structure. Uvilov might be intending to picture a party where the mankind of tomorrow is invited only if its conscience allows it to.
CHILE: Super 45 Survey Team – Valdivia De Viña
A couple of years ago, Survey Team was just a frail bedroom duo with singer Carla Bolgeri adding colorful and sweet melodies to folk-guitar patterns created by her bandmate, Francisco Marín. They’ve certainly changed. Today, they are a powerful quintet with sounds that shock and hit with electric sensuality. ‘Valdivia De Viña’ is a summer première, soon to be included in their debut album Suriname, which validates Survey Team as a pop delicacy from the current Chilean pop wave and a highly versatile band by successfully flirting with reggae.
ARGENTINA: Zonaindie Cosmo – Cazador
Cosmo is an indie-pop band which features members or former members of other groups that are well-known to the Buenos Aires independent music scene (Pablo de Caro from Mataplantas, Ayar Sava from Interama, Pablo Font from Les Mentettes and Andrés Ravioli from Mompox and Brian Storming, among others). A couple of months ago they released their self-titled first album, with songs that combine vintage synthesized sounds and beats with acoustic instruments and fine arrangements. You can download the whole album for free.
MALTA: Stagedive Malta Danjeli – Midnight Carpet Ride
Besides being a maverick club DJ and an accomplished musician in his own right, Danjeli is also a member of the renegade Maltese folk band Brikkuni. This year he released another solo album, KontroNatura, available for free download from Complex Sound Sagacity.
BRAZIL: Meio Desligado Graveola e o Lixo Polifônico – Insensatez: A Mulher Que Fez
Graveola e o Lixo Polifônico is a creative band that experiments with MPB (mainstream Brazilian pop music) and makes organic mashups, appropriating themes of bands from various genres to create new works. Their new record is available for download from their website.
VENEZUELA: Música y Más Mcklopedia – Guardián
Mcklopedia is a young man who, back in 2001, identified with a genre and took it as his philosophy and way of life. He explicitly shows the reality of the world’s great cities, the everyday stories that come to a close in households every night. Superlirical, his debut album, seeks to represent a new concept in urban music, combining soul, reggae, funk and hip hop.
CANADA: I(Heart)Music Amity Beach – Jake’s Version Of Paradise
Seeing as Amity Beach a) only have a three-song EP to their name and b) look like they’re probably still in high school, I might be jumping the gun on praising them. Still, listening to this track (along with the other two), it’s hard not to be excited. They’ve got a great ear for catchy pop and I’d be surprised – not to mention a little disappointed – if this doesn’t lead to some great things.
ITALY: Polaroid Heike Has The Giggles – Breakfast
On their sophomore album, Crowd Surfing, the young Heike Has The Giggles pin down even more precisely the range of their influences – from the lighter Nineties pop-punk full of fun to the stronger Noughties punk funk à la Gossip. And damn, they are very good at mixing these. ‘Breakfast’ is the new album’s first single.
IRELAND: Nialler9 Redahan – Ru In Daejeon
If I could, I would pick the entire Loud Mouth collective as Ireland’s MAP representatives this month. They are a coterie of producers, rappers, musicians and DJs who have released three volumes of freely downloadable new music taking in electronica, rap and post-dubstep. Redahan is one producer at the heart of the collective and his evocative and expansive ‘Ru In Daejeon’ is indicative of the collective’s scope and vision.
ROMANIA: Babylon Noise Methadone Skies – Vs. Evil
Methadone Skies are a bunch of young guys from Timisoara playing the music they themselves like to listen to – psychedelic, progressive, stoner, post-rock, ambient or just noise – most of the time jamming in the studio with excellent results. Keep your ears opened for them as they’re about to release their new album, Enter The Void.
SCOTLAND: The Pop Cop Craig_FS – Grass Stain (feat. Rachel Tesfaye)
‘Grass Stain’ is a musical head-turner – an 8.5-minute electro/house fusion with an outstanding soulful female guest vocal that takes you on a trip of a lifetime labelled bliss-euphoria-bliss. Craig_FS has been been making and uploading songs to Soundcloud for the past year, and the potential is certainly there for him to follow in the mainstream footsteps of compatriot Calvin Harris.
Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the whole 36-track compilation here.
Shadowy shoegaze dream-punk/pop band Night Manager released a perfectly-formed 7″ via Japanese label Big Love two months back, and yesterday it became available worldwide via Rough Trade. The three-song release captures the essence of the Brooklyn-via-Paris-and-San-Francisco band’s succinct pop with echoey melodies and doo wop-style vocals aching with an on-off nonchalance. Coming across as a softer, day-dreamier Be Your Own Pet or a more complex Best Coast, Night Manager heaps layers of scuzzy guitar reverb over fast drums and singalong-inspiring vocal melodies. Lead single ‘Ghost’ is pure pitch-shifting dreamy grunge-pop heaven, while first b-side ‘Platonic Lovers’ is an alternately sped-up/slowed-down ode in fine form. Final song ‘All Mine’ adds an old-school rock and roll croon-pop vibe to the mix.
The excitement of 9 new Chad VanGaalen tracks landing in my inbox is a little bit overwhelming, especially when it’s delivered with news of a split 12″ with the ever evolving and extremely weird Xiu Xiu. The 12″ is the second release in a series of amazing collaborations being pedalled by German label The Altin Village & Mine Records. The first release came in March 2010, featuring the primal drone of Oneida and the swooping vocal melodies of Pterodactyl. Chad VanGaalen’s contribution displays the eerie brilliance of a modern musical chameleon, whose work continues to evolve and mature. His songs have a confidence that’s been missing from his past two records, sounding less fragile and more astutely balanced. There’s moments of self-indulgence and reflection, but his storytelling is more defined, revealing and romantic. Opener ‘Your Own Mind Ends’ tells off a bitter dispute between loved ones, before jumping into the Simon & Garfunkel-esque ‘Evening Sun’, full of paisley strings and wooing vocal melodies. ‘I Want You Back’ tries hard to be the record’s highlight; a brash reminder that he is not just a folk musician, thrashing out a lively grunge inspired number similar to ‘Freedom For A Policeman’, off his mesmerising second album Diaper Island. ‘Nothing Is Impossible’ continues the assault in classic Jay Reatard style – a speedy guitar-driven punk song repeating the title lyrics. And then proving nothing is off limits, he gently slides into a beautiful folk ballad titled ‘Weighed Sin’, with harmonica and acoustic guitar folding into one another.
Xiu Xiu, or more specifically Jamie Stewart’s contribution requires it’s own lengthy explanation. His side of the 12″ is a spoken word piece that requires the physical record to properly engage with it’s complex (or simplistic, depending on how you view it) lack of musical formality. The record will come with lift out liner notes containing a set of questions. The listener is required to read a question aloud and then to drop the needle anywhere on the record to hear the answer. Stewart has aptly titled his side of the 12″, ‘Fortune Teller’.
The record label currently has no distributor in New Zealand but with any luck you should be able to pick up a copy via the many world-wide distributors listed on the Soundcloud link. The 12″ is officially on sale from March 17.