recordstoremusings

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2012: #1: SHRINES by PURITY RING

If you know me, then you knew this was coming. This is probably going to be a long one so you might as well get settled it. So, Shrines (which actually just celebrated it’s 1 year anniversary) was released last July (the 24th) through Last Gang Records, which is MY favorite electronic label and probably my favorite Canadian label as they also host bands such as Crystal Castles, Chromeo, Death From Above 1979, Metric, MSTRKRFT, etc. etc. etc., needless to say, IMO, they are a staple of the Canadian music industry. Last Gang has never done me wrong.

There was some hype surrounding the release of Purity Ring’s debut and up until my first listen of the album, I hadn’t even heard a single (basically all of my knowledge of new music comes through the workplace so any/all hype I get comes from my coworkers). When it landed I ended up actually being the only one who enjoyed the album. I listened to it, liked it, listened to it again, loved it, and then I think I’ve probably listened to it once or twice a week since it’s release; I’m obsessed with it. It was the recipient of Pitchfork’s “Best New Music” with a rating of 8.4, but The Needle Drop awarded it a 6/10 (and love or hate his opinion, I always have to give the guy respect because he touches on things I would have never thought to listen for).

I’ve always been an electronic fan, specifically electropop (MGMT, Chromeo, what have you), I’ve dabbled in early Deadmau5 records (Random Album Title, For Lack Of A Better Name), I was there when Skrillex got his break (I WAS THERE, MAN!!!!) but Purity Ring is the group that hooked me on a whole new level of electronic, and of course, for all of the genre whores out there, I’m not talking about Dream Pop. Beach House, Grimes, The XX, and if you want to go on a more alternative/indie route, we’re talkin’ Beach Fossils, DIIV, Psychic Ills, all that good stuff. But because throughout most of my high school career Dubstep had a pretty profound influence, the heavy bass/synth on Shrines is one of the things that caught my immediate attention.

Purity Ring is a duo consisting of Megan James (I swear the most adorable front-woman I’ve ever seen in my life) and Corin Roddick, who I now have an absolute fascination with. Purity Ring is floaty, dreamy, spacey, glitchy, all sorts of words ending with “Y”. But the heavy eletronic aspect is there, and it’s apparent on tracks like Cartographist and Amenamy which is absolutely carried by this humongous bass synth that just reels me in.

One thing I will touch on that The Needle Drop does fairly state is that although Megan James does have a sweet (/adorable) voice, she doesn’t really have all that much range. The highest she hits is probably in Grandloves (Feat. Young Magic who they subsequently toured with on the Shrines tour [I saw them at The Phoenix in Toronto in Feb. of 2013]) but besides that she does tend to stay on the safe side of her voice and doesn’t take a lot of chances. One thing they do though, lyrically, is they make up words. For me this is reminiscent of Sigur Ros (which is actually far more impressive because they made up an entire fake language, but the comparison is there) and it makes the listening experience much more enjoyable for myself. They have these kooky song names and subject matter that really don’t make a whole lot of sense but it suits their style; it suits the name, it suits the album artwork. Purity Ring is on another plain of existence. 

Before I offer up my favorite track(s) (I’m going to post 2 here because I can’t pick just one, that’s blasphemy) I just thought it was worth nothing that a remix of Belispeak was posted featuring a performance by Danny Brown which is awesome/hilarious as always; worth checking out, here’s the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpdyGFmct78

My choice track(s) for Shrines are: Amenamy - opens with their trademark vocal pitch/chops and into this giant bass synth and just flows so effortlessly into the chorus. There’s these single shimmery synth notes that pop up every now and again and it just gives the track such an uplifting but not necessarily happy, feeling. 

Grandloves - I’m gonna go crude on all your asses and say that this is definitely the best fuck song on Shrines. Megan James is singing in the most adorable (and also Grimes-esque) way on the album and there’s a ridiculously sexy vocal performance from Young Magic’s frontman Isaac Emmanuel (the vocals are actually a sample from Young Magic’s original track “You With Air” although he does perform them live with Purity Ring). This track is just as spacey but 10x more laid back than any other tune on the album.

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2012: #2: OSHIN by DIIV

As far as I know, DIIV is a Brooklyn based band formed in 2011 by Zachary Cole Smith who is also the guitarist for shoegaze/new wave group Beach Fossils. This album kind of just came out of nowhere; fairly unassuming album artwork with some crude bird/ape/child in pajamas…? on the front cover, it really caught me off guard.

I wouldn’t say that this album is a grower, I thoroughly enjoyed it at first listen but I would definitely say that it takes some time to sink in as the songs to have a tendency to kind of melt together. DIIV could be described as…”Nu New Wave”, modern kraut rock, shoegaze, lo-fi, whatever. Twangy upbeat guitar riffs washed in reverb and bright and shimmery (which does the album title “Oshin” some justice) and paired with equally as reverbed out vocals. The kraut rock influence here is definitely apparent and for me I draw some obvious influence attributed to Neu! what with the steady single note bass plucks, especially on the track Doused, (dumdum dumdumdum dumdumdum…) and straight 4/4 drum beat. Oshin as a whole kind of just reminds me of the first track, Hallogallo, off of Neu!’s first self-titled album. I’ve heard DIIV described as “accessible” kraut rock, as it feels like every track has the potential to carry on for 8 minutes but instead they rarely clock in at over three minutes.

If you like Beach Fossils, if you like Wild Nothing, you’ll like DIIV more. DIIV is a more practiced and perfected version of both of those bands (IMO) and is considerably more focused on the instrumental aspect of the tunes instead of the lyrics, which aren’t all that impressive anyway. DIIV puts a bounce in my step and it’s impossible to feel down and out while this record is on the stereo, unless of course I’m listening to the track Follow. Same vibe as the rest of the album but the chord progression and picky/twangy lead guitar track, it just gets to me, man! Heartbreaking. The lyrics here hit home; 

"Yeah I ran to her/ blame it on me/ that inevitable date/ you remember her/ I’m putting it off and I can’t control fate/ ‘cause we’re similar/ I blame it on you/ ‘cause that side of me I hate/ but you were never hurt"

We’ve all been there, and to me these lyrics are screaming ‘don’t blame me that I moved on, we drifted apart because you changed’, Follow is definitely one of the more emotion tracks on the album and one of my favorites. Another track worth mentioning is (Drunn Pt. II) which, in my mind, draws serious similarities to something you might hear from Holy Fuck. It was the drum fills that sold me and drew me to the Holy Fuck conclusion, especially the fill at 0:33 seconds, which is repeated in variations throughout the entire track.

My choice track from Oshin is: Past Lives. It was really difficult for me to pick a top track from this album as there are a handful of tracks that I absolutely love but Past Lives has the perfect mix of instrumentation and it keeps me interested and emotionally attached throughout the entire song. It’s upbeat but not necessarily always uplifting which I value highly.

 

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2012: #3: III by CRYSTAL CASTLES

Let me start off by saying that I am, and have been for quite some time, a pretty big Crystal Castles fan. I understand that they are hit and miss for a lot of people which, in my opinion, is quite understandable. I can see the appeal in CC’s music and I can also see why it would turn off the vast majority of listeners to tracks other than their hits. CC does have a bit of a punk edge that I think is probably most prominent on their first album but is consistent throughout all 3, especially lead vocalist Alice Glass’ shrieking witch-like vocals. When they re released their Platinum Blonde cover “Not In Love” featuring The Cure’s Robert Smith on vocals for the radio edit as oppose to the vocoder laden vocals on the original album version on II, I think it gave some people a bit of a misconception about Crystal Castles because although that is a great song (And I have to admit I like the radio edit better than the album version) it is a quite bit more accessible than the rest of that album (II). I guess you could say that about any album really but it did take me quite a while to get a feel for the real Crystal Castles.

I have noticed a trend that has spanned their 3 album release which is that they are definitely refining their knowledge of how to write  ”accessible electronic music”. Ethan Kath is probably one of my favorite producers overall and probably my favorite Canadian (holla!) producer, maybe next to Corrin Roddick of Purity Ring who are also Toronto natives and subsequently represented by Last Gang Records. Crystal Castles I comes in with a 16 song tracklist which I guess is pretty standard for most electronic artists but it does tend to work a little better with ambient artists because the tracks flow together more seamlessly. I do really enjoy the first album (Tracks worth checking out: Untrust Us [the intro sample from Death From Above 1979’s track Dead Womb from the EP Head’s Up], Black Panther, and Magic Spells) and I feel that the sound they developed on their first album has remained consistent throughout their 3 album trend. That being said, there are some songs on CC I that drive me absolutely BONKERS. I have to say that I think Alice Practice and Crimewave are probably some of the most irritating songs I have ever heard and they actually physical pain me when I listen to them. 

Now Crystal Castles’ 2010 release of II definitely has a one up on CC I. The tracklist is shortened by 2 songs clocking in at 14 tracks which is pretty easy to blow through in one solid listen. II was the album that earned them some well-deserved critical acclaim as it definitely is a fantastic album and featured the original track of “Not In Love" and the single Baptism, which comes in with those trademark Crystal Castles fuzzy reverbed out synths that sound like they’re being played inside a cathedral, followed up by a Black Panther-esque bouncy key melody on top of a grinding bass/synth combo. The production of this album definitely hit me a little harder than anything off of CC I and I had read that they recorded the majority of it in an abandoned church in Iceland in the dead of winter [sic]. CC II also holds my favorite (by a long shot) Crystal Castles song, probably my favorite electronic song, and possibly one of my favorite songs period, and that gem is Empathy. I’m convinced that it’s the best Crystal Castles song ever released and that probably ever will be released. Opening with claps shrouded in echoes followed by this bleepy bloopy noise that kind of tricks you into a different mood of what the song will follow. Once the vocoder and chopped vocals come in to form probably one of the most flawless chord progressions I have ever heard the song carries itself from there. Why can’t life be as perfect as this song? It does lose a little bit of momentum as it progresses but only because I think the first time the chords come in it’s like taking E and the rest of the track just feels like the come down.

(III) is definitely my favorite Crystal Castles release and at this point I think they’ve released their most accessible album to date. Which isn’t always a good thing mind you so maybe I should reword that statement; it features the lowest amount of irritating songs to date. It’s interesting that they keep knocking 2 tracks off of their tracklist, (III) coming in at just 12 songs which in my opinion is the perfect length for an album that features relatively average length songs. (III) is such a great mix of everything that makes Crystal Castles who they are featuring a wide variety of tunes, some coming at your full force like the ravey dance track Sad Eyes that demands to be played full force in a dingy basement club while a girl in a bikini and candy necklace passes out pills of M from a fishbowl. The album starts on a more eerie note with the track Plague which’s intro sounds like some bestial animal’s mating call or the echo of a poltergeist and then launches into glitchy and delayed synths and bass coming in a full force with Alice screaming like a banshee over top of it all. 

My choice track for Crystal Castles (III) is: Insulin. This song sounds like it’s being played out of a broken speaker. Literally. Chopped and pitched down vocals a midst this pounding and sinister bass synth coming in and out of your ear going hand in hand with a ruthless pounding bass and snare. This is by far the most interesting track on the album and the most consistent all the way through, never a dull moment.

Again, I will apologize on how late my top 3 are…yes, I realize that 2013 is about half way over. Sit tight and I swear I’ll have the top 2 coming at you a.s.a.p….rocky

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So this is a 5 part video (back and forth) presented by Noisey featuring A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown. I’m a huge fan of A$AP’s first mixtape LIVE.LOVE as well as Danny Brown’s most recent release, XXX. In this interview you will see both boys smoking “blunt after blunt after blunt” on a hotel rooftop patio discussing “twitter bitches”, fucking Cher and Kathy Griffin, Jimi Hendrix and Love’s Forever Changes, and getting head from toothless crackheads. Enjoy! -RSM

p.s. I have posted the links to the next 4 segments below for your convenience

Part 2:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0IivEjf7M8

Part 3:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZQXDEQGeT0

Part 4:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tz_MghpOu1U

Part 5:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfBi6RoSONA

And if you want to see Kathy Griffin’s ridiculous response to A$AP and Danny’s comments about fucking her in the whitest video ever then watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rrzgsq5l8oU

2014 Overview/Revisit Part 1 (A - C)

This is a screen cap of the word document I have started putting together as I go through my 2014 playlist and revisit every album from this year. My aim is to be able to make it through the entire playlist so that I can have my Top 40 completely solid by January 1st, 2015. The way I have it mapped out is that it’s ‘Artist / Album (night I re-listened to the record) rating out of 10 // where it will chart on my Top 40’ 

Hopefully that’s easy enough to understand. If you have any comments, feel free to share! I’ll be posting these screen caps as I go and then on January 1st, posting me entire list and if I have time, reviews of my Top 5. Enjoy!

*’s denotes EPs (I’m doing a separate Top 10 EPs list so none of the EPs I listen to will chart in my Top 40)

Also, as a note, I’m basing the rating off how much I enjoyed the record and what I got out of it. It’s just an opinion, not a comparison to other albums in similar genres or anything like that. The rating is based solely on my experience/level of enjoyment/insight into the album

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Ever wanted to see pictures of Danny Brown’s cat? Well, here you go. You’re welcome. Also, Billy Crystal? Bill Murray? Not the same thing.

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I WAS THERE - FUCKED UP - DAVID COMES TO LIFE


This album is a bitch to get through as it’s EXTREMELY long but, if you invest yourself, track by track, and you chunk it, you’ll make it through, and oh is it worth it. This is my favorite track from Fucked Up’s (past Polaris prize winner, ‘nother round of applause for this year’s Polaris winner, Godspeed You! Black Emperor) most recent release, David Comes To Life. I saw Fucked Up Last year at a small bar in my hometown and it was probably one of the loudest shows in a long time. Needless to say, I left the show full of OE and Pabst and blood dribbling down my chin.

Jeff Buckley

I just finished watching “Greetings From Tim Buckley”, the Jeff Buckley biopic that chronicles the days leading up to the tribute concert for his father. I did not like the movie at all and I especially did not like the portrayal of Tim Buckley and was incredibly irritated by the actor. The portrayal of Jeff, however, well, Jeff’s voice. Fuck, man. Jeff is played by Penn Badgley of Gossip Girl and I was shocked to learn that he did all of Jeff’s vocals in the film, and that, my friends, is impressive. I don’t know Jeff, I don’t know what he was really like (obviously) so I can’t comment on how accurate the portrayal was but I was definitely impressed with the vocal performance.

On another note, I just watched Jeff Buckley perform Mojo Pin, the opening track off of his ‘94 release Grace, at Glastonbury in ‘95 and I cried like a baby. I couldn’t help myself, this man was blessed with an other worldly voice and I had constant goosebumps, tears were streaming. Below is the link for the Glastonbury performance:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LK9CSRQUxDg