Dva’s back! I’ve written a lot about themin the past. They’re a weird little Czech duo that I’m really starting to like. Their quirkiness is something that most people would find quite polarizing, but I find their sound refreshingly unique. And their most recent album Nipomo shows a more full-bodied, evolved sound. They’re actually performing tonight at Drom, but I was lazy busy and skipped it.
I don’t think I listen to any other bands from the Czech Republic, so I have no idea what the music scene over there is like, but Dva sounds more like a neo-pico pop refugee. Weirdly enough, the fact that they’re not Japanese is probably the strangest thing about them. Huh.
I figured I was long overdue for a new mix (plus, I keep losing followers every time I post something non-music related). Unfortunately there’s no cohesive theme here; it’s basically just a random assortment of crap I’ve been listening to. What’s inside:
Troller “__” (This is just to avoid the Soundcloud copyright bots.)
Illum Sphere “Embryonic (featuring Shadowbox)”
Cibo Matto “Hotel Valentine” (I’ll write more about this later.)
Orchestra of Spheres “Numbers” (I meant to make an individual post about them but slacked off. This is actually a pretty impressive debut, and this track is catchy as hell.)
I remember reading a lot about pornography when I was studying film. Back in the days. And I was really fascinated about the similarities between documentary and pornography, because it presents itself as this reality. Because it’s really happening. The sex is actual sex. This is, of course, hardcore pornography I’m talking about. And I was just fascinated with the realness of it. How real is it when it’s filmed and styled and oiled?
So I’ve always been quite fascinated with that level of reality, I guess. Which is a very sort of gray area of reality. And now with reality TV, which is something I have been avoiding, but started watching when I was doing this performance project. That was the start of this: I kind of got into trying to understand that reality level a little bit, as well. This album is playing different interpretations or manipulations, or using the concept of the real in visual culture and genres of TV and visuals, that take a certain level of reality for granted. It’s very manipulative. And also a lot about young women exposing their bodies. And exposing, maybe, their innocence. Some type of innocence.
Japanese dream pop artist Sapphire Slows (real name Kinuko Hiramatsu) is quickly becoming the face of the increasingly westernized bedroom pop scene in Tokyo. Her album Allegoria was surprisingly one of my favorite albums of 2013, and her trademark sound of silky vocals and icy electro puts her in the same vein as similar artists like Peaking Lights and Blue Hawaii. This performance video of track “Allegoria,” jointly produced by Dazed Digital and All Saints,” is a part of Dazed’s “New Music Cities” series that showcases upcoming artists in cities around the globe. You can see the documentary in its entirely on All Saint’s website. The full video includes other Toky0-based artists like Emufucka and Nisennenmondai.
And just when I thought the bedroom pop scene was dead for good…
French-Belgian trio Antena never received proper praise for their 1982 classic Camino del Sol. In fact, the album was considered a failure when it was originally released and was blamed for bankrupting their label. But thanks to recent reissues and compilations, the album is now considered a classic. Both Boomkat and Fact Mag list this album as one of their favorite ’80s albums, and I think I might have to add it to mine as well. Full of eclectic bossa nova and “electro samba,” the album was clearly a victim of being too ahead of its time. The 2013 reissue includes a bonus song (the weirdly produced cover of “The Boy From Ipanema”) and an extra disc of live recordings.
When I look back on 2013, all I can think about is all the stuff that was crammed into that year. As I already wrote about earlier, so many bands came out of hibernation in 2013. Literally everyone released an album last year, and after a while it became hard to keep up. Usually when I lament about “falling behind” in new releases I’m usually exaggerating, the reality being that I was keeping up with releases, I was just lazy/didn’t feel like updating my blog. However, this year I truly did fall behind. There was just too much stuff. For the first time I had to make a “Stuff I Didn’t Listen To” list to make up for the fact that I’m still playing catch up.
But the amount of stuff in 2013 wasn’t the worst part. Despite the amount of output 2013 cranked out, it was all quantity over quality. Nothing was really that good this year, and I often found myself re-listening to stuff from 2012. The music just didn’t cut it in 2013, and this weak top ten list definitely reflects that.
Last year I put everything in a big, fancy Soundcloud playlist. NEVER AGAIN. Making that took forever. I’m starting 2014 off right—-the lazy way.
10. Land of Kush, The Big Mango
I knew very little about Land of Kush when I first listened to The Big Mango, an ensemble experimental jazz record with Osama (Sam) Shalabi being the main mastermind behind it. “Big Mango” is a nickname for Cairo, and the music is supposed to reflect the chaos of the city. While the album can be somewhat esoteric at times, whenever all the components come together the results are fantastic.
The debut album from Bristol-based producers Throwing Snow and Augustus Ghost is a brooding, gothic work that is so theatrical and confident that it’s hard to believe that this is their first album. Sure there’s a few missteps in the latter half of the album, but the duo deserves props just for being an excellent new band to keep a watch for in 2014.
I first discovered Sapphire Slows when I heard this remix she did with Magic Touch. Despite the catchiness of the remix, Sapphire Slows real sound is murkier, fuzzier and includes her trademark breathy vocals. It’s similar to Peaking Light’s Lucifer, so if you liked that album you’ll love this.
Well this was kind of a surprise. Carmen Villain is a former model-turned-musician whose album Sleeper is full of fuzzy psychedelic rock that honestly sounds like it came right out of 1995. In fact, I think it’s that ’90s nostalgia that made me love this album. I wrote a few months back about how I was sick of the ’80s throwback sound and how we’re overdue for a ’90s revival. Well, here it is.
I love this weird little album. This is the second album from Greek producer Larry Gus (real name Panagiotis Melidis), and his world is an explosion of uncategorizable hip-hop/psych-rock/electro-twee and some other mish-mash genre journalists like to make up. The first half is stronger than the last half (I’ve noticed that’s been true for all the albums on this list so far), but it’s still a solid album.
By far her best album. I’ve actually struggled to get into her past stuff, but Wed 21 is a pure delight. Her sound isn’t radically different from past albums, but all the components seem to fit more cohesively here than they ever have before.
Kind of a predictable choice, I know. But it’s not Tim Hecker’s fault that he keeps releasing consistently excellent albums. This one too also suffers from strong-opening-weak-ending, but what can you do?
I honestly was not expecting to rank this album as high as I did. This album came out right at the beginning of the year and was an instant standout, but it was far from perfect. But I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t list it here because it honestly was the album I listened to the most this year, mostly because of track “Try To Be” which is, without a doubt, my favorite song from 2013.
Ahhh, Jenny Hval. Queen of subtlety. This album was also a surprise. I was new to Jenny Hval and haven’t listened to anything else from her, but Innocence Is Kinky is an album that’s hard to ignore (I mean, the title alone catches your attention enough). It’s weird, it’s provocative, it’s dainty, it’s slutty, it’s experimental, and weirdly satisfying. I’m honestly surprised I haven’t seen it on more “best of” lists. I guess the subject matter combined with the schizophrenic nature of the album rubbed some people the wrong way. But this was an easy #1 pick for me.
So I wanted to squeeze in one last mix before I do my usual “best of” list. I’ve been meaning to post this for weeks because I was listening to Troller and Tropic of Cancer and figured I could squeeze it all into a single mix. They all have a darkwave/goth-y vibe to them, hence the name. Here’s what’s inside:
Troller “Tiger” - This album is awesome. I’ve seen it surprisingly pop up on a few “best of” lists already.
eMMplekz “Bocanet” - This is something left over from last year. Salvaged it just for this mix.
Tropic of Cancer “More Alone” - Another fairly good album. I kept getting them confused with Lust for Youth but I had to remind myself that this was the “good” one.
Samantha Glass “Visiting Night Elves” - Something left over from last year.
Var “Into Distance” - This came out earlier this year. I don’t remember listening to it much; I pretty much just salvaged it for the mix.
Here’s a quick mix I made of all the crap I’ve been listening to lately (because I didn’t feel like writing about each one individually). Usually I try to create mixes that have a cohesive sound, but this one is just a hodgepodge assortment of random tracks. Oh well.
Moskitoo “Trajectory” This is just to avoid the copyright bots. I didn’t like her album that much.
Trentemoller “Come Undone (feat. Kazu Makino)” Great song, decent album, etc.
Technically this isn’t new. It’s been on my computer for months and I didn’t get around to listening to it until recently. I’m surprised by how much I love it. I mean I really love it. It has a nostalgic late ’90s feel to it that I find surprisingly refreshing. With so many electronic bands rehashing that throwback ’80s electro sound lately, it’s kind of surprisingly that there’s not that many artists out there being inspired by the ’90s. (I’m personally getting tired of the ’80s-throwback sound. I mean, if you got Bruno Mars doing it, I think it’s time to call it a wrap.)
Other crap I’ve been listening to (or about to listen to):
Sun Araw - Two From The Desert Yucca Valley 2012  [Live album]
Hello, Tiffany here. This site used to exist in the dark corners of Wordpress but was moved to the sunnier side of Tumblr in 2011. Here you'll find sporadic musings about popular culture, along with the occasional Polar Bear's Cafe gif (because why not?). Bloggin' since 2003!