Friday, December 29, 2006

Ü2K6: Ignorance Is Bliss

Arivia: 24, Roland: 8. Ouch. Well to be fair, I also enjoyed Citrus and Notes From The Underworld, but it's fair to say that my "best-ofs" have been pretty sparse. It's not that I didn't hear many albums this year, quite the contrary; I definitely listened to a greater amount, both in volume and variety, than ever before. Unfortunately, musical overload is a double-edged sword, and I'm sure we've all been in a position where we feel obliged to listen to a critically-acclaimed, hype machined album, only to find it to be lackluster (I'll resist making a reference to Ys....never mind).

One thing I've learned is that personal taste beats external pressure every time, and really, if you listen to what you enjoy, everyone will be happier. But even the albums I've enjoyed have acquired a bit of disposability, as the stronger tracks inevitably rise to the top of any arbitrary playlist, and the work's essence as a whole is buried by the shuffle feature and the newest batch of recommended albums. On the whole, no given album has really dominated my listening for more than a few weeks, with few exceptions...

Having said all that, I really dig Silversun Pickups, hype and all, and Carnavas has been on pretty constant rotation over the last few months. My introduction came, strangely enough, via MTV's Subterranean and the stomping video for "Well Thought Out Twinkles." While the song's immediate gratification (allegedly) conjures early Smashing Pumpkins, my immediate thought was My Bloody Valentine, whose fuzz is even more apparent in the opener "Melatonin." I've stated before that I don't really get attached to plain old rock bands much anymore, but Silversuns really stand out, and seeing them stripped down to acoustics really reinforced the strength of each of their songs.

Here's a bit of an older set, recorded at KEXP on September 26th, 2005. It features the Pikul EP standout "Kissing Families," as well as the recent single "Lazy Eye;" the album version is available over at a tune a day, and another live set can be found at Kwaya Na Kisser. I've also included the dreamy hidden track to the aforementioned extended play.


1. ...All The Go Inbetweens
2. Kissing Families
3. Comeback Kid
4. Lazy Eye

Sci Fi Lullaby

Buy: Here

I think that about does it for me as far as Ü2K6ery goes, but expect some belated "normal" record reviews soon, as well as Arivia's top pick of the past year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Geography 5: AiH at WOXY

Sorry that things have been so slow on my side of things. As rejuvenating as winter break is, it almost seems that when I'm not obliged to do anything, I feel obliged to do nothing. Things are a bit sparse throughout the musical world anyhow, as the bulk of our content is either introspective or or anticipating the upcoming year.

The past twelve months really marked my evolution from casual listener to complete immersion in music, and what really defined this transition - aided considerably by my location - was the rather obscene number of concerts I attended. One night that really epitomized this insanity was that week of CMJ frenzy. Architecture in Helsinki was headlining that night, and I'm shocked that it's been almost three months, and that I actually managed to survive the five-band, six-hour marathon. As I said, I'm still not completely sure what to think of these guys. While they're quite unique, it's still a bit of an acquired taste, although some of the songs are fantastic. Like so many of their peers, the band recently released a remix compilation (unfortunately only available on import around here) entitled We Died They Remixed, which includes work from recent favorite Hot Chip and Y.A.C.H.T.

Hopefully 2007 will see a third album, but for now, here's their appearance at WOXY's Lounge Acts, recorded on June 8th 2005.


1. Intro
2. It'5!
3. Living Without You
4. Interview
5. The Owls Go
6. Maybe You Can Owe Me
7. Do The Whirlwind
8. Outro

What's In Store? Here

Monday, December 25, 2006

Ü2K6: Post-Pudding Trance

For the vast majority of our readers, Christmas is now nearly over. Presents have been unwrapped, the turkey is long dead, and it is now time to gaze into the fire, and think ahead to the debauchery of the end of 2006...things such as end of the year album lists...

2. Delerium - Nuages Du Monde

For those of you not familiar, Delerium is a mainstay for Roland and I. Their recent works (since 1994's Semantic Spaces) have focused on combining classical and world elements with elements of ambient and trance (it's notable that Delerium was an ambient project prior to Semantic Spaces, and remixes are nearly always firmly in the trance camp). Comparisons can easily be made to Dead Can Dance and Enigma; however, Delerium firmly focus on freely combining the two, with spacy trance keyboards layered over tribal beats and a chorus of feminine vocals.

Chorus is especially appropriate for Delerium, as they use a multitude of different singers in featured guest roles. Emily Haines (of Metric) made an appearance on "Stopwatch Hearts", one of Chimera's (2003) bonus tracks, while Delerium's greatest success has come with Sarah McLachlan, on "Silence" off 1999's Karma. Nuages Du Monde's appearances include Kristy Hawkshaw, Jael, Isabel Bayrakdarian (usually famous for her opera work), the Mediaeval Baebes, and Kristy Thirsk.

Let me just come out and say it: Nuages Du Monde is a great album. While previous Delerium efforts have focused far too much on one side of the formula (Poem lost itself in classical tangents, while Chimera often became a straight pop album), Nuages Du Monde hits the right balance not seen since Karma. As usual, the works here are long and drawn out, at least for a pop album. Delerium's approach is always one of quiet layering: elements and instruments fade in and out, bringing their own special touches to the mix. (The use of string instruments on "Lumenis" is the best example on this album.)

Oddly enough for such a high-placing album, I've run out of words. (Ascribe it to over-familiarity.)

Next: What, the Swedish pop scene consists of more than just ABBA?

Ü2K6: Day To Start

Christmas is finally here, and its third gift to me is insomnia. Here I sit, at 2:40 am, without sleep in sight...and you benefit! It's dark, cold, and green outside...let's find some music to fit that.

4. Cult Of Luna - Somewhere Along The Highway

While previous honorees Zyklon and Agalloch offered dark, compelling music, Cult of Luna easily takes the "heaviest album of the year" award.

My Isis review mentioned Cult of Luna as someone similar to Isis, and that is true. Both work in soundscapes instead of songs, spare lands where each guitar stroke matters...everyone knows the drill for post-rock/Neurosis-core by now. Unlike In The Absence Of Truth, there is preponderance of metal stylistic elements in Somewhere Along The Highway. Opener "Marching To The Heartbeats" plays a delicate piano arrangement off thick, distorted guitars, and this is carried forward into highlight "Finland", a tunnel of grinding, atonal riffs and bone-breaking marching drumming. Meanwhile, frontman Klas Rydberg lets out a series of gruff shouts suggesting surprise, or anger. It then trades it up for floating, pseudo-Asian strings, before descending back into the torrent of the march.

This is really the secret to Somewhere Along The Highway: that delicate balance and juxtaposition between light and dark, between heavy and soft. For their dedication to this effect, the cleaner, more doom-like segments are all the more emotional, and the heavier sections are all the more crushing. The other nice thing that Cult of Luna brings is a unique twist on the quieter sections found in post-rock: while others look for ethereal tangents, Cult of Luna delve into despair and despondency, offering up sections similar to Katatonia in the power of their dark tales.

The icing on top of all of this is the dirty, natural feeling Somewhere Along The Highway has: from the cover art to the guitar sound, the emphasis is on natural emotion and gravity, not a controlled destruction. "And With Her Came The Birds" exemplifies this, working from a near-country basis of quiet guitars and bleak vocals, carrying its despair along a long, dirt road not found elsewhere in metal.

Finally, I must note "Back To Chapel Town", simply one of the year's best songs. Why? That you'll have to find out for yourself.

3. Ihsahn - The Adversary

"Invocation". Just saying the name of the opener to Ihsahn's mighty 2006 effort, The Adversary is enough to give me shivers.

Why? To explain that, let's step you back through this Norwegian master's history. Back in 1991, a band named Emperor was formed. After releasing some extremely good material (Wrath of the Tyrant, Hordanes Land, In The Nighside Eclipse), Emperor unleashed their first masterpiece, Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk, a beautiful balance of black metal chaos and symphonic majesty. (Those bowing down at the throne of Death Cult Armageddon owe themselves a copy of Anthems.)

Skip ahead to 2001. Emperor has officially announced they're finished. Done, but they will leave a legacy. One more album. Samoth and Trym are busy with the first Zyklon album, so it's up to Ihsahn (frontman/singer/guitarist) to write the entirety of the material. Prometheus: The Discipline Of Fire And Demise is Emperor's second masterpiece, a web composed of segments of some other reality, where music exists on a completely different plane, overwhelmingly complex, inconceivably progressive, and yet somehow all holding it together.

After Emperor, Ihsahn departs for his own side project: Peccatum, a gothic effort with his wife Ihriel (of the highly recommended Star of Ash). Peccatum releases their own wonders (The Moribund People EP is one of my favorite albums of all time), and then finds their own end in 2005.

Now, in 2006, Ihsahn has released an album that combines and builds upon all his previous works. The Adversary adeptly blends Peccatum's quiet emotion, Anthems' driving majesty, and Prometheus' staggering complexity. In short, it's the best metal album of the year. (Yes, you heard me: #2 and #1 are not metal.)

What does all this result in? Well, there's one more element. Previous releases (Emperor's cover of Mercyful Fate's "Gypsy", Peccatum's cover of Bathory's "For Those Who Died") have proven Ihsahn's love for the proto-black metal heavy metal bands, and this shows up on The Adversary. Songs like the aforementioned "Invocation", "Called By The Fire", and "Citizen" blend a diverse array of riffs, from just plain heavy to progressive, with singalong choruses and blasting drums. Album closer "The Pain Is Still Mine" is the closest to both Peccatum and Anthems, an ebbing symphonic epic focused solely on personal emotion.

In short, Ihsahn has created the best metal album of the year by picking up where he left off, and doing what he does best: and both of those are a lot of different things.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Dub Shepard: Erol Alkan at Trash

You may have seen the name of Erol Alkan through simple remix diffusion. It seems that every band, electronic or otherwise, is releasing reworked songs, if not a full-on remix album, these days, and the producer seems as prominent as the actual band in some cases. Erol has a pretty impressive body of work, and it seems that his projects reflect his similarly-inflected musical tastes.

An awesome example is this DJ set, recorded at Erol's own Trash in London on January 25th, 2005. He really does a great job of incorporating the old and new, and whatever you're into, it makes for a varied and interesting listen. While other DJs incorporate the occasional sample or rely on their own processed beats, this set is name-dropping glory. I guess you could think of it as a live DJ-Kicks.


1. Interpol - Evil
2. Joy Division - Shadowplay
3. Bloc Party - Banquet
4. Cazals - Poor Innocent Boys (Demo)
5. Whitey - YUH2BM
6. LCD Soundsystem - Daft Punk Is Playing In My House
7. Daft Punk - Human After All
8. Soulwax - E Talking (Nite Version)
9. Death From Above 1979 - Blood On Our Hands (Justice Remix)
10. The Kills - No Wow
11. Franz Ferdinand - This Fffire
12. The Long Blondes - Giddy Stratospheres
13. White Rose Movement - Love Is A Number
14. The Cure - Boys Dont Cry (12" Mix)
15. Le Tigre - TKO (Peaches Knock-Out Mix)
16. Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made For Walking
17. Daft Punk - Robot Rock
18. Killing Joke - Almost Red
19. Bloc Party - She's Hearing Voices (Erol Alkan's Calling Your Dub)
20. The Stone Roses - Made Of Stone
21. Kings of Leon - Slow Nights So Long
22. The Blood Arm - Do I Have Your Attention
23. The Buzzcocks - Everybody's Happy Nowadays
24. Sons & Daughters - Johnny Cash
25. New Order - Age Of Consent
26. Joe Jackson - Steppin' Out

In The Mix: Here

Ü2K6: The Happy Plane'm sorry. I just can't write an introduction that will do justice to today's band without the aid of acid, and I don't have access to any. My apologies, but here we go...

5. Persephone's Bees - Notes From The Underworld

Let's get this straight from the outset: Notes From The Underworld is, bar none, the happiest album ever. It is impossible to listen to this and not break out in sheer glee by the end. This is the sort of music that acts as a soundtrack to things that involve smiling clouds and puppies bounding happily through sunny bright flower fields.

To understand Persephone's Bees, it is first necessary to understand its founder (who appears above): frontwoman Angelina Moysov (product of Russia). Even though she has had plenty of time to absorb Western music (having emigrated to the US in 1993), you could make a fairly good case for her not having heard any new music produced after say, 1970.

Using solely Notes From The Underworld as evidence. You see, Persephone's Bees reaches these heights of gaiety by using whatever they like from across pop's history. "Muzika Dyla Fil'ma" is a good example of this, starting off like an outtake from a surfing film and gradually drowning that throughout the rest of the song through Ladytron-style electroclash keyboards. I'm fairly sure that punchy melody in "Paper Plane" is not the product of keyboards, but of some sort of organ not heard since halcyon days involving the words "love", "potion", "number", and "nine". The band revels in this to one degree or another, throwing out references to go-go boots on "Even Though I'm Fooling Around", which sounds like a jump-rope song gone Sesame Street.

What keeps all of this from collapsing into a retro hole is really nice, really strong guitar work from Tom Ayres, who brings a thoroughly modern, thoroughly grounding element to things. Most of the songs play off between him and something fun on the drums and keyboards, while Angelina (who has a very pretty voice, by the way, full of melody and range) just keeps the insanity going. ("Paper Plane" is possibly the best example of this.)

Finally, yes, mixing up pre-existing elements is worth the number 4 spot, especially when it's done so well. (See Opeth. And if you've never heard Opeth before, you owe it to yourself to track down Blackwater Park. Now.)

Video of "Paper Plane" (conveniently my current favorite song): Here
KCRW Set, September 6th, 2006: Here (M4V Movie File)
Buy it here.

Tomorrow: A trip down the highway.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Do The Whirlwind: Hooverphonic on KCRW

Hooverphonic is yet another entry under that hard-to-define trip-hop tag. What I've heard has really been more pop than hop, as the band weaves instrumentation ranging from synths to strings with vocalist Geike Arnaert's rapturous voice to glorious effect. In another case of inevitable connections, Kyoko Baertsoen, another singer, collaborated with Rhys Fulber of Delerium, whom you'll be hearing more of shortly. If you're at all inclined to this sort of stuff, I highly recommend it.

This short but sweet set was recorded on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic on September 26th, 2000. It's a bit more straight-forward in that the electronics are diminished, but Geike's voice remains a highlight.


1. 2 Wicky
2. L'Odeur Animale
3. Jackie Cane
4. Je T'aime Moi Non Plus / Eden
5. Mad About You

Vacuum Cleaning: Here

In other news...

Kwaya Na Kisser has Silversun Pickups' recent KCRW set, and rbally has live Mogwai up.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ü2K6: A Darkness From Which You Will Never Recover

I love winter. It's so cold, so clean, so beautiful. Snow makes me happy. It's also the most desolate of the seasons, minimalist in the blanket that covers everything.

I share this love with a lot of metal bands. For them, winter is about death, dying, frost, the windswept heights of darkness. Bands like Agalloch.

7. Agalloch - Ashes Against The Grain

I lied. Way back at #13, I said Celtic Frost's Monotheist was the most depressing album of the year. Ashes Against The Grain proves me wrong.

While Monotheist was a caustic, virulent depression, Against The Grain is deep, gray, and enveloping. The first time I listened to it was while I walked home one day, under a gray sky, out in nature. By the time I had reached home, I couldn't even raise my head: what was the point? No one would remember my actions, any record would be lost in the ruins of time. One dose of #5 later, I was finally a bit happier: enough to do stuff at least.

Agalloch play doom metal with a lot of black and folk elements, from the vocalist's rasping screech to acoustic guitars ("Fire Above, Ice Below"). Indie fans coming to this are best recommended to approach it like you would a post-rock album (for example, the new Isis). Metalheads, take note: this is long, drawn-out stuff, full of haunting melody and overall feeling. Excepting certain drum and guitar-heavy sections ("Fire Above, Ice Below", "Not Unlike The Waves") there's little to headbang to, but there is lots of desolation, despair, and destruction.

In a banner year for doom, this is one of the most melancholy, the most fugue-like, the bleakest. The best, in other words.

Buy it here.

Tomorrow: We go on break for a day, as #6 is Isis' In The Absence Of Truth. Return on Thursday for something happy, happy, happy!

Hype: T&S at The Point, Bryn Mawr

About a year ago, I really got into Tegan and Sara. They really instilled an appreciation for live music in me, as their banter, musicianship, and terrific personalities really make for one of the best live shows I've heard. Unfortunately, my experiences are limited to (an obscene number of) live recordings, as they've been on hiatus for the better part of the year. As recently freaked out about, Chris Walla will be producing their next album, which should definitely be out some time next year.

As promised, here's an older set, recorded at the Point in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania on July 11th, 2001. As you can see from the numerous intros, there's a hefty amount of banter, as well as many of the more obscure songs in their repertoire.


1. Frozen Intro
2. Frozen
3. Proud Intro
4. Proud
5. Divided Intro
6. Divided
7. All You Got
8. My Number Intro
9. My Number
10. Hype
11. Buried Alive Intro
12. Buried Alive
13. One Month Intro
14. One Month
15. Come On Intro
16. Come On
17. The First
18. Your Love Intro
19. Your Love
20. Welcome Home Intro
21. Welcome Home
22. Freedom
23. Not With You Intro
24. Not With You
25. This Is Everything Intro
26. This Is Everything
27. Superstar Intro
28. Superstar
29. Don't Confess
30. More For Me Intro
31. More For Me

Also, check out this awesome video of the Party Ben mashup: Here.

Extensive Video Archive: Here
Come On: Here

Monday, December 18, 2006

Ü2K6: Deadly Melody

Before we get to today's album (Norwegian, non-Pitchfork, metal, from that extremely influential band), I want to talk about something that's oddly seen a rise this year: the black metal single. Metal's emphasis on technicality and harshness of sound often render it oppositional to a single, but bands that actually do well enough to care about singles for PR can put one together by simply polishing things and replacing a bit of the technicality with melody (see Poisonblack's "Rush" or Dark Tranquillity's "Lost To Apathy" for good examples of this).

This year, that sort of option hit black metal for the first time (you're deluding yourself if you think there's an actual single on Dimmu Borgir's Death Cult Armageddon). And #8 (today's) and #3 both prominently feature this "option". In and of itself, it's not like you're going to hear this on the radio or MTV. The cool thing is just simply hearing good, experimental, creative black metal focus on quality. Maybe there is a future for metal after all...

8. Zyklon - Disintegrate

(First off: Disintegrate's single is the superb "Ways Of The World".)

Disintegrate is this year's harshest album. Listening to Disintegrate is like repeatedly being hit with a sledgehammer at a thousand beats a minute. Of course, you should expect nothing else from the blackened death metal project of 2/3rds of what were Norway's foremost exporters of sonic chaos: Emperor.

Blackened death albums are a dime a dozen these days. What sets Disintegrate atop the rest is that they've combined the two so well: there's everything from stacked melodies ("Vile Ritual", the year's most intense song) to those wonderful multi-part riffs from Emperor's Prometheus ("Ways Of The World") to black metal's building progressions ("A Cold Grave"). It's not just blackened death, it's everything you could ever want from extreme metal in one album (I nearly forgot atypical riffs, like in the title track.) Of course, it helps having Trym (Emperor) as an octopus (also known as a skinsman, or a drummer), Samoth (guess what band) as your rhythm guitarist, and Secthdaemon and Destructhor (both in Myrkskog) to fill out the ranks.

One of the other terrible, beautiful facets of Disintegrate is, oddly enough, a focus on onomatopoeia through guitars. On "Disintegrate" itself, you can actually hear the "disintegration ray", a signature riff that comes in any time the title is shouted. "Vile Ritual" is strengthened by especially strong drum freakouts by Trym, including a ritual section in the middle of the bridge that really does bring that ritual imagery to the forefront (I said it had everything you could want in extreme metal, and this includes obscure subsubgenres).

It blasts face, it offers you melody to soothe the pain, and there's an octopus with a sledgehammer to bring the pain back: what more could you want?

Buy it here.

Tomorrow: Maybe you want depression.

The Year in Gaze: Catherine Wheel in Ohio

There's been a disturbing lack of shoegazing here lately, especially when the past year was so saturated with what looks to be the second coming. We've gone over Asobi Seksu, and I'll definitely give Silversun Pickups another look before the year's through (you can check out their great set over at KCRW in the mean time). Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie released another solo album in Continental and guested on Mahogany's wonderful Connectivity! (and apparently he has a blog). Serena Maneesh captured the hearts of critics, and brought along Sufjan for the ride.

In this context, my initial encounter with Catherine Wheel is a bit strange. Back when I kind of still listened to radio, I heard "My Name Is Love," from frontman Rob Dickinson's solo album. It's far more in the vein of singer-songwriting; there's not a distorted guitar to be found. I didn't manage to pin down his affiliated band for a long time (incidentally, it didn't help that his cousin is the far more prominent Bruce of Iron Maiden). Unfortunately, it seems that most people have overlooked the Wheel, and that's a shame.

This set was recorded at Peabody's in Cleveland, Ohio on December 13th, 1993.


1. Intro
2. Broken Head
3. I Want To Touch You
4. Crank
5. Kill Rhythm
6. Flower To Hide
7. Show Me Mary
8. Texture
9. Chrome
10. Wish You Were Here
11. Black Metallic
12. This Time
13. The Nude

Iron & Wine: Here

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ü2K6: Mutilated Geometry

(First off: yes, that is a metal band above us. I realize and fully support you in any endeavours dedicated to getting the second guy from the left a better haircut.)

Let's cut right to the chase, shall we? This is one of the top 10's non-Pitchfork, metal, Scandinavian bands.

9. Scar Symmetry - Pitch Black Progress

Yes, yes, the cover is scary. It also perfectly fits the lyrical content of this album, railing against the unmoving, hopeless cycle of life (a far cry from "Hakuna Matata"). Scar Symmetry are a sort of saviour: in a time when Swedish death metal is being pillaged and distorted by all sorts of other bands (let's just start and end the list for brevity at Lamb of God), they're a true-blue Swedish melodic death metal band that play melodeath the way it should be played: heavy, with vicious melodies stacked one on top of each other, from a blistering guitar duo.

Right from the get-go ("The Illusionist") Pitch Black Progress is confident, self-assured, and full of perfection, from sing-along choruses... Wait. Singalong choruses? On a melodic death metal album that wasn't penned by Dark Tranquillity? Yes. You see, to keep the Gothenburg formula fresh (instead of falling into the circa-2004 trap of "we strip mined At The Gates too hard, In Flames we seduced, guess we're ripping off Dark Tranquillity next"), Scar Symmetry injects good old heavy metal into the procedure, letting frontman Christian Alvestam trade off between a thick to raspy growl and the sort of soaring clean vocals you normally hear on power metal albums these days (comparisons can also be made to last year's good Mercenary album). Ultimately, this results in another great melodeath album with just an edge of the older stuff (like in "Mind Machine"). Unlike on last year's Symmetric In Design, the older touches are never over the top here (I direct you to that album's opener, "Chaosweaver", which sounded like a perfect soundtrack to a Transformers episode).

In all that talk splitting hairs about heavy vs. melodic death, I neglected to mention: this is their second album. We haven't heard something this good in straight-up melodic death on a second album (at least in my recollection) since Dark Tranquillity's The Gallery. This is definitely a band to keep your ears open for, as they can only go up. (They've already gained an impressive amount of side projects, like Christian Alvestam's participation in Torchbearer and Angel Blake [whom we will hear from after Christmas].)

Finally, way back at #16, I mentioned that "just doing your chosen genre perfect" wasn't good enough this year. From the outside, Scar Symmetry look a bit shaky on these grounds: this isn't that groundbreaking. However, to have another band doing melodic death well in 2006 that isn't Dark Tranquillity (spot the fangirlism) and that is Swedish means a lot more than just another shoegaze band. Sorry, Asobi Seksu, but you lost out on this one. (Besides, from a personal taste perspective, Scar Symmetry hit a better aural orgasm level than Asobi Seksu.)

Sample mp3: "The Illusionist"
Sample mp3 (from last year's album, Symmetric In Design): "Reborn"
Buy it here.

Next: The year's harshest post-metal juggernaut band.

Fox Confessor: Rilo Kiley at Coachella

It's been a busy year for Rilo Kiley, although that's more as a result of Blake Sennett and Jason Boesel's efforts with the Elected, and Jenny Lewis' forays into soul with the Watson Twins. The band members are definitely a well-connected bunch; any indie kid worth his laptop has probably heard Jenny's efforts with the Postal Service. Fittingly, Ben Gibbard guests on Rabbit Fur's "Handle With Care," along Conor Oberst and M. Ward. Of particular esoteric significance is the appearance of Stacy of Eisley (who played their final show of the year last night) on the Elected's Sun, Sun, Sun. Incidentally, you can see Blake drumming on "Sea King," hosted by Orange, Gold & Green.

Of course, all these connections don't diminish the fact that Rilo Kiley is a great band in its own right. Jenny is strong vocalist, with a far more immediate delivery than most of her peers. Yet, she maintains a vulnerability and complexity that's elevated her to the status of indie saint. I'm not nearly as enamoured with Blake's delivery, but his skill as a multi-instrumentalist is impressive in its own right. You can't really ask for more in a band.

Here's their appearance at Coachella on April 30th, 2005. Hopefully, we'll be getting word soon on who's performing there next year.


1. It's A Hit
2. Portions For Foxes
3. Hail to Whatever You Found in the Sunlight That Surrounds You
4. I Never
5. Ripchord
6. More Adventurous
7. The Execution of All Things
8. Pull Me In Tighter
9. Does He Love You?
10. Outro

Simply Irresistible: Here

Ü2K6: Less Fish

I guess I have a pretty transparent methodology as far as discovering new music is concerned. If it's not one place, it's another. In this case, it was here. We've gone over the various benefits and drawbacks of criticism, but I have to admit that I was biased from the start. I mean, the blurb really says it all, "UK electronica artist...instrumentation derived from real-world objects...features Dani Siciliano....samples 723 items...politically-charged dance tracks." Herbert doesn't just demonstrate electronic virtuosity like Matmos; he's an accessible, fun genius, which owes no small debt to Dani's fantastic vocal contributions (check out Slappers, her own release of the year). Scale is simply a wonderful album, combining a great pop sensibility with impeccable arrangements and emotional depth. But don't take my gushing for granted, go here and listen to four excellent tracks, along with much of his impressive body of work.

I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with the following tracks. They're apparently bonuses to Scale, but I wasn't aware that there was a deluxe version. Nor do they seem to correspond with any of the singles released (so far). In any case, if there's any problem with making them avaliable, simply contact me. Also, I've included a live BBC set, recorded in the Bodily Functions era.


Birds of a Feather (Bonus Track)
We're In Love (Bonus Track)
Movie Star (Bonus Track)
Down (Bonus Track)
The Movers and the Shakers (Bonus Track)
Flames (Bonus Track)

Herbert - Live at One World, Maida Vale

Buy: Here

Official Site: Here
Previous Post: Here

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ü2K6: In The End

Saturday the 16th.

Wait, Saturday the 16th? There's only 10 more days until Christmas!

And with that, comes the top 10 of Ü2K6: Arivia's 25 Musical Days To Christmas. Before we get to number 10 itself, here's some statistics on the top 10:
  • 3 are solo artists (2 of them female)
  • 6 are from Scandinavia
  • 6 are metal groups (2 of which are spawned from an extremely influential band that reformed in 2006 for a series of concerts)
  • Pitchfork has reviewed less than 5 of these albums
  • 3 are pop albums.
Now, with that, let's look at number 10...

10. Yuki Kajiura - Xenosaga III: Also Sprach Zarathustra [Original Soundtrack]

I know, I know, I know. Soundtracks to Japanese roleplaying games for the PlayStation 2 are not the sort of thing that should end up on top 10 lists. And if they do end up on yours, you should be checking for evidence of fangirlism.

However, I sincerely doubt still mourning Sex and the City's end has anything to do with anime fangirlism (I couldn't find anything like that). So, I am sticking to my guns and keeping this where it is - #10.

Why number #10? How could a soundtrack leap to number 10, in such a good year? Let me tell you how: it's a really good soundtrack that has merit beyond just acting as a soundtrack.

What's on offer here is akin to Bal-Sagoth: epic, musically varying, ambitious pieces. What makes it better than Bal-Sagoth is the better composition. While listening to The Chthonic Chronicles was really an exercise in surprised awe, combined with laughter at really terrible moments, Yuki Kajiura (one woman, Japanese) simply creates some of the year's best songs out of whatever she wants to.

There's no real genre pegging here - it is soundtrack music, in that it has a classical/incidental base - but the breadth of instrumentation places it outside specific boundaries. Choral sections are often used to provide feelings of tension, complimented with keyboard washes and careful drum accents. The focus here is on emotion, with songs like "Forgotten Sanctuary" capturing the essence of longing for long ago, while "The Battle Of Your Soul" encapsulates emotional conflict.

Just like Bal-Sagoth, there are some surprises, such as "Rolling Down The UMN", which brings up feelings of revolution through jazz, or the shift in "Shifting Territories" from quiet contemplation to full-out blast beats and violins.

It should also be noted that this is a very long soundtrack - 39 pieces, spread over 2 CDs, ranging from under a minute ("Zarathustra Dungeon") to nearly eight minutes ("Hepatica #3 [I Believe In You").

At the end of the day, it's futile to pretend this isn't a soundtrack; but it's so well written, it tells the story itself, without aid from image or word.

Next: The saviors of melodic death metal.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Anthropology: Fleetwood Mac in Buffalo

I'm probably in a small minority of people who got into Fleetwood Mac through what's essentially a remix. Pardon my ignorance, but I thought that Stevie Nicks was an up-and-coming singer and "Dreams" was just a sharp collaboration. On the bright side, the strength of the track induced me to give a listen to Rumours, which has a more or less indisputable mythical status as far as albums go. Even my indie-centric ears found an the upside to the work, and I should probably give their other material a go. Incidentally, Fleetwood's Lindsey Buckingham released an album recently as well.

The band's last release was Say You Will, and this was one of the first stops on their subsequent tour. The set was recorded at the HSBC Arena, home of the mighty Sabres, on May 13th, 2003.


1. The Chain
2. Dreams
3. Eyes of the World
4. Peacekeeper
5. Second Hand News
6. Say You Will
7. Never Going Back Again
8. Rhiannon
9. Come Intro
10. Come
11. Gypsy
12. Big Love
13. Landslide
14. Say Goodbye
15. What's The World Coming To
16. Beautiful Child
17. Gold Dust Woman
18. I'm So Afraid
19. Silver Springs
20. Tusk
21. Stand Back
22. Go Your Own Way
23. World Turning
24. Band Intros
25. Don't Stop
26. Goodbye Baby

Dig: Here

Ü2K6: Blame It On Life

As far as weeks go, this has been one of the worst from a productivity perspective. My apologies for the delay, but I've spent much of the time I normally spend blogging curled up in bed or ministering to ailments. Now, Tuesday through Friday...

14. Enslaved - RUUN

The best space rock album this year is not by any of the conventional names in the subgenre; no, it is by a black metal band from Norway.

In all reality, Enslaved's Ruun has little to do with conventional space rock - there's few passages featuring keyboards, the lyrical subject matter is Norse mythology, not science fiction, and there's lots of experimental guitar work. Okay, maybe there is a bit of a connection to space rock (as shown in opener "Entroper").

What really pushes this album into the space rock category is the general feeling of otherworldliness that is carried through the entire album. Even the more conventional songs carefully use spacy elements (Gothenburg-style galloping guitars, keyboards) to promote this feeling, while others play around with space and openness in arrangement (such as "Api-vat", which takes a new spin on the band's mastery of marches, such as in "Violet Dawning" from 2004's Isa).

Long-time Enslaved fans may be familiar with the feeling of otherworldliness on previous albums, but RUUN really keeps it together: it's less icy than Isa's cold tones, and more controlled than 2003's Below The Lights. For those of you not familiar with previous efforts, Enslaved's recent albums (the last 3 to 5, depending upon who you ask) have mixed prog rock and black metal, keeping prog's meandering solos chained to the black metal gait while using it for its mastery of texture.

So why should you pick up this album? If great guitar work and wonderful songwriting is your thing, accompanied with a wonderful mood focus from an unusual source are your thing, then Enslaved is your thing.

13. Celtic Frost - Monotheist

Reunions/revitalizations seem to have been metal's thing for the past two years, with a lot of old acts either reforming (Death Angel, Emperor) or releasing their best material in years (Iron Maiden, Deicide). Celtic Frost is one of these, a mighty early 80s juggernaut that set an very early, very high bar for experimentation on the seminal Into The Pandemonium (not to mention high standards for individual musicianship on such essentials as "Procreation Of The Wicked" from Morbid Tales).

16 years after their last album, Celtic Frost triumphantly returned in 2006 with Monotheist, yet another groundbreaking work. Categorizing Frost is interesting in that their sound predates a lot of subgenres, and was crucial to many of them, but the best-fitting modern label to stick to them is doom metal, as that's evident on Monotheist in spades.

What's on tap here is caustic, dark, and malevolent. There's so much distortion on the guitars, there's no real riffing to speak of - just a wave between two noises that your brain innately recoils from. The bass is monstrous, a mountain's rumbling below the crash of percussion. Songs do not resemble in any way something happy - they are laments, dying rages spat bloodied from the throats of their shells. This is a very sparse album - when another element appears, like the clean vocals on "A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh", it completely changes the feeling of the piece.

Make no mistake - from a listening standpoint, this is a harsh pill to swallow; venomous and filled with dark emotion, a blackened hulk, this is the most depressing album of the year, but if you can take the noise, take the anger, there is beauty in the abyss.

Celtic Frost return, and prove that they are still a major contender at the game they created.

12. Distorted - Memorial

Usually, the best death metal comes from Europe or North America, host to countries with their own individual stamps on and playgrounds fenced in of death metal. Israel's Distorted seek to change that, and they do a pretty good job of putting their homeland on the map.

They do this through balancing melodic death with a goodly quotient of doom, and throwing an unusual pair of singers up: a competent male growler, and Miri Millman, a woman who sings operatically in a style you find far more often in power metal bands like Nightwish. Like Nightwish, most of the songs revolve around Ms. Millman's contribution, but the real attractor here (and what catapults this to number 12) is the wonderful, wonderful songwriting skills shown here. The band shows a knowledge of pacing and time changes that greatly outstrips their years (this is their full-length debut), and uses this to effectively make songs, not just sections of doom or sections of melodic death (in comparison to previous honourees, like To-Mera. It's additionally notable that this also removes them from a lot of other melodic death metal bands: while the style of a lot of the riffs is unmistakably Swedish, the construction and assembly is new and unique).

In short, they're blazing a new pathway, they write great songs, and this sounds excellent - what else could you want?

11. Draconian - The Burning Halo

In a year filled with excellent doom (seven albums involving elements on the top 25, heavily weighted towards the higher-quality end), Draconian offer some of the best. They're easily the most gothic of the high-quality doom merchants this year, working with dark romantic imagery and baroque emotion. Their specific type of doom is slow, and ponderous, accented with flourishes of melody and keyboards - unlike Celtic Frost's caustic anger, or Distorted's majestic rebellion, Draconian are for elegies, wakes, funerals (albeit, not as funereal as, say, Pantheist), mourning. When they turn from remembrances to quicker moments of anger, the emotion is all the clearer and deeper for it.

That's really why Draconian have earned themselves spot 11 - they have perfectly and completely captured the essence of the emotions they convey, to the point where the vocals seem near obsolete, even unnecessary.

Now, if you'll please excuse me, I need to listen to "The Dying"'s perfect expression of the stages of grief.

Next: The best soundtrack of the year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ü2K6: Munich

Electronica has become a significant chunk of my listening over the past year. I find it to be a fascination genre, sort of a subculture within the greater context of independent music. While the market is no less saturated than that of its guitar-driven peers, it seems that an artist really has to excel to be picked up by the general populace. Or, more specifically, an electronica album is generally quality if it's featured on All Music Guide's Editor's Choice. Granted, it's rather biased, but I really feel obliged to check out such albums first.

Over the summer, Ellen Allen & Apparat's delightful Orchestra of Bubbles was featured and on a whim, I gave it a listen. I've found that while I can respect and admire sonic architects such as Aphex Twin or Four Tet, my pop inclinations really rely on vocals if I'm to form a real attachment. Thus, while Orchestra has a fair amount of instrumental, Ellen's distinctive delivery, as well as Apparat's Röyksoppian world-weariness on "Leave Me Alone" really make the album for me.

Having said that, the album doesn't skimp on programming. Although I'm not familiar with each artists' individual work to distinguish exactly where one ends and the other begins, there's a great fusion of Ellen's more straight-forward, dance-oriented beats and Apparat's subtlety. All in all, one of my favorite albums of the year, electronic or otherwise, and highly recommended.

You can stream the album at the official site, and they've graciously made one of the later highlights available:

Do Not Break

Here's a DJ set, recorded on July 15th, 2006. You can make out snippets of "Turbo Dreams" and "Way Out."

Ellen Allien & Apparat - Live at Fritz LoveRadio

Here's a DJ set from Ellen, recorded in Türkheim, Germany.

Ellen Allien - Live at Liberty One

As mentioned, Pitchfork has a good rundown of her various activities next year.

Buy: Here

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Twoism: Mates of State in Nottingham

Unfortunately, as I continue to delve into the past year, the number of overlooked albums continues to mount. It's always a struggle to find that balance between focus and diversity, especially when you're regularly inundated with potentially interesting and/or acclaimed work. The new Mates of States album, Bring It Back, has been out quite a while now, but for some reason, I haven't given the entire album a focused listen. However, the track "Think Long" really stands out, and it's a great example of their drums n' keys jangle and very appealing dual vocals. The band will be playing two special New Year's Eve shows at the Knitting Factory with Ida and +/-.

Barsuk was gracious enough provide a couple of tracks from the album, including the aforementioned one:

Think Long
Fraud in the 80's

This set was recorded in Nottingham, England on March 7th, 2002.


1. As Night As Now
2. A Duel Will Settle This
3. Proofs
4. What I Could Stand For
5. Halves and Have-Nots
6. La'hov
7. Quit Doin' It
8. Everyone Needs An Editor
9. I Know, and I Said Forget It
10. Throw Down
11. Clean Out
12. A Control Group
13. Leave Me At The Tree
14. Hoarding It For Home

Buy It Back: Here

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ü2K6: Going Solo

I'm not nearly as organized as my colleague, so I'm just going to throw another trio out there. While there are only three individuals pictured, there's a reason why one should consider the following albums side projects rather than solo albums, and not simply because Thom is taken aback by the term. As always, there are many artists who contribute, but aren't necessarily given attention. Also, while the medium is generally far mellower than each of their respective band incarnations, the essence of their art is very much intact, and in many ways, their vocals have far more presence.

Over the course of the year, Emily Haines became one of my favorite frontpeople. While my first go-through in Live It Out wasn't a particularly memorable experience, by delving through her rather hefty history, I've really grown to appreciate her. After seeing her at Joe's Pub, I can really attest to her stage presence. For one thing, she has one of the most distinctive voices, whether intoning gently in "Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl," or delivering the scorching "Monster Hospital."

Knives is more of the former than the latter, and admittedly, all three artists on this list suffer a bit from homogeneity. This is a moody album, and it's an abrupt change in light of Metric's recent work. However, contributions from Sparklehorse's Scott Minor and various Broken Social Scensters make for a lush album, yet one that's incredibly vocal-driven. While I still look forward to (finally) seeing Metric, this was one of the nicest surprises of the year. Incidentally, she's in the midst of a winter tour, including a January 9th stop at the Hiro Ballroom (unfortunately, it's 21+).

The Lottery, courtesy of Spin

Buy: Here
Official Site: Here
Previous Posts: Here

My first introduction to Amy Millan was the wonderful Stars track, "Ageless Beauty." Unfortunately, nothing on this album approaches the heights of that song, but I've realized that distancing herself was crucial in distinguishing this album from her previous work. This was a year dominated by like-minded singers, including Neko Case, Cat Power, and Jenny Lewis, and unfortunately Amy seems to have been overshadowed. However, her smooth delivery is very much intact, and its warmth is always welcome, even if she has partially eschewed the pop-minded outlook or something...twangier.

Last week, she stopped by KCRW, and you can stream the set here. Also, don't forget that fellow Star Torq Campbell recently released an album with Memphis as well.

Skinny Boy, courtesy of Joe's Pub

Buy: Here
Official Site: Here
Previous Posts: Here

Thom Yorke's new album has its sublime moments, particularly in "Black Swan" and "Harrowdown Hill." As if producing Charlotte wasn't enough, Nigel Godrich does a great job here of emphasizing Thom's voice, which is downright pretty at times. This album doesn't possess nearly as much claustrophobia as Kid A or Amnesiac-era Radiohead. It's is actually quite relaxing, if you overlook the various disturbing political and social themes. However, the focus is a bit too narrow, and there's a conflict between the gentleness of the sound and attempts of extracting the aforementioned meaning. Having said that, Thom's fascination with minimalism has yielded a far more interesting work than its components would suggest.

In a case of rather auspicious timing, Thom just released a couple of remixes:

The Clock (Surgeon Remix)
Analyse (Various Remix)

As Pitchfork reports, more remixes will be upcoming, including one from my current favorite, Ellen Allien. Definitely look for an overview of Orchestra of Bubbles in my next Ü2K6.

Buy: Here

Official Site: Here
Previous Posts: Here


I realized that I neglected one of the more prominent re-issues of the year in the last post, Mew's And The Glass Handed Kites. I never conceived that they'd blow up to such a huge extent even a year ago, but I suppose it's just another sign of the changing times. Unfortunately, I haven't heard enough of Kites to really write anything definitive, but I highly recommend listening to their previous work, particularly if you've enjoyed the new(ish) album. You can download three tracks from their Purevolume, which seems reassuringly much the same as when I looked last year.

Oh, and for all you metal-heads, check out this Pitchfork feature; it's Arivia approved!
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