Unknown Mortal Orchestra - “So Good At Being In Trouble”
A Blue Eyed Soul-informed take on R&B, scrubbed down and sanitized the way that only Blue Eyed (read: white) boys tend to do, for better or worse. I should probably be upset about the lack of actual “soul” here, but this trebly, skeletal take on R&B strikes a certain chord with my general feeling of teenage emptiness.
On an actual plus side, it’s all analog. In crafting this single, Unknown Mortal Orchestra ambitiously spurned the dreary synths of the time and constructed a legitimate R&B cut with refreshingly real and very welcome guitars, bass, and live drums. If you ask me, the UMO boys should ditch their psych rock crutch in the future and stick to this aesthetic for a while. It could be interesting.
Stream “So Good At Being In Trouble” above and pick up Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s new record II via Jagjaguwar.
Youth Lagoon - “Dropla”
On the first single from Youth Lagoon's new LP Wondrous Bughouse, Idahoan project mastermind Trevor Powers transcends any of the endearing clichés of his previous record The Year Of Hibernation, courageously opting for a decidedly weirder aesthetic. Jingle bells, acoustic guitar, and psychedelic tremolo characterize “Dropla,” while Powers’ synths and a steady kick drum beat drive it forward. While watching Youth Lagoon’s excellent set at the Pitchfork Music Festival last year, I wondered what a Youth Lagoon record with amplified production values would sound like, and I suppose “Dropla” is the manifestation of that inquiry.
Although it certainly points in a purposefully different direction (as anything on a record called Wondrous Bughouse must), “Dropla” should not seem entirely unfamiliar to Youth Lagoon fans. At the song’s heart, Trevor Powers is still the shy, elfin-voiced wood sprite that he was on The Year Of Hibernation, but his vocals are more centered, less distant. At first, it’s hard to believe the optimistic sentiment of the chorus ("You will never die" ad infinitum), but his effort will win you over by the end. On the new record, it will be interesting to gauge the extent to which Powers commits to the new, self-imposed responsibility that comes with making ‘happier’ music. In that respect, “Dropla” bodes well.
Woods - “Cali In A Cup”
Despite hailing from Brooklyn, the psychedelic-tinged folk rock band Woods have always given off a west coast vibe. On their sunny new track “Cali in a Cup,” they seem to be acknowledging some of that west coast influence. “Cali in a Cup” is certainly not the only ode to the Golden State to emerge in 2012, but it definitely comes across as more sincere than Best Coast's cloying, similarly-themed single "The Only Place".
On this track, the lead single to their new album Bend Beyond, the band seems to be moving further beyond their lo-fi psych rock origins and into some more accessible, clear-sounding sonic territory. Jeremy Earl’s soothing vocals and crystalline acoustic guitar chords form a comfortable foundation for the track, while a distant, distorted harmonica ties “Cali in a Cup” back to their experimental roots. Ultimately, this is a track that sounds great on a sunny summer day like today. Open your windows, go outside, and stream this great new song above.
Summer Albums Project #4: Eddie Golden III - Grave Jams
Genre: Experimental, Psychedelic rock
Although he is best known as the lead singer and drummer for the Connecticut psychedelic indie rock band The Guru, songwriter Ed Godin composes his own solo pieces as well, which he releases under the name Eddie Golden III.
Although it was released in January 2011, I’m only just now getting around to hearing Grave Jams, the second official Eddie Golden III full-length. Ever since meeting him in April, I’ve always been sort of puzzled by him. In person and onstage, he projects an air of authentic weirdness that I can’t help but be fascinated by, and while that weirdness is definitely conveyed by The Guru’s recordings, it is much more clearly present on his solo material. While his work in The Guru is bombastic and often massive sounding, Grave Jams is far more inwardly focused.
The album is a collection of fourteen songs, the majority of which are under 2 and a half minutes. In a sense, many of these tracks are nothing more than what the album’s title suggests — mere sketches of some bizarre idea culled from Godin’s strange mind; however, the brevity of Grave Jams and the songs therein works on a thematic level. Like postcards from some alternate-reality 1950s America, these spooky jams offer a skewed insight into another musical world. Exploring rockabilly, psychedelic pop, and ’50s rock and roll, Godin channels the music of a past era through a gauzy haze of lo-fi recording quality and otherworldly weird sounds. Heavy reverb and distant chanting define the album’s more subdued points, while Godin’s own maniacal howl permeates the record in all the right places, especially on the bluesy “Can’t Hardly Stand It” and the rockabilly-flavored “Fish Hook Frank”, in which Godin channels Elvis’ iconic voice. Instrumentally, Grave Jams is dominated by noodly organs and punches of surf-rock guitar, supported by blown-out drums and various eccentric sounds provided by what sounds at times like a theremin. At times, Grave Jams recalls the work of Godin’s fellow ’50s pop tributer Dirty Beaches, but Grave Jams is significantly more light-hearted and novel than Dirty Beaches’ dark drones, despite the ghostly subject matter that Grave Jams plays with. When it comes to the “Grave” part of Grave Jams, think “Monster Mash” rather than The Sixth Sense. It’s very easy to get lost in the expansive musical palette of this album, and I highly recommend listening to it with headphones while lying down on your bed with your eyes closed.
Also, Guru fans should take note — “Disco Daughter” from the forthcoming album Native Sun (which will be released tomorrow at their awesome CD release party at The Space) borrows a line from Grave Jams' ”War Chant”, which was a surprising treat, given that I had heard “Disco Daughter” prior to hearing “War Chant”.
Check out previous Summer Albums Project entries HERE