Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Elizabeth Frazer
Moses EP
Rough Trade

Three versions of the same song, “Moses,” and all have a hushed, surreal atmosphere. They are basically ambient tencho with a beat, bittersweet to hear, as well as lovely. All three versions are recommended, simply because of their beauty. The proceeds from this EP go to the family of Jake Drake-Brockman, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in September of last year. Jake, along with Frazer’s partner, Damon Reece, play on all three versions, making this EP, and Frazer’s first solo recording, a tribute to him. And what a fine tribute it is. [www.elizabethfraser.com]
Andrea Weiss

Fucked Up
Couple Tracks, Singles 2002-2009

Fucked Up is a Toronto-based hardcore band that has put out many singles for different labels, two full-length albums, and Epics in Minutes, a singles comp from 2004. This comp collects hard to find singles and alternative takes spanning the years in the album title.

They are as melodic as classic Husker Du, as principled as Fugazi, as angry as prime Black Flag, with a sense of humor all their own, like “I Hate Summer” and “He’s So Frisky.” They are fun to listen to, to get some aggression out, or to start a revolution, like on “No Pasaran,” an anti-fascist commentary of the Spanish Civil War. The title is Spanish for “they will not pass” and the phrase over the years has become a rallying cry at leftist rallies.

This band was great from the get-go, and if their last single “No Epiphany “(fast version)” is any guide, this comp, will also be cool, as in fucking cool. [www.myspace.com/epicsinminutes]

Andrea Weiss

Basia Bulat
Heart of My Own
Rough Trade Records

Multi-instrumentalist Bulat sings like a cross between Joan Baez and Sandy Denny, with lyrics that bring to mind Dar Williams. She uses her voice to good effect to bring out the emotions in the songs, never over sings. Her guitar and autoharp playing, just two examples of the instruments she can play, is wonderful. She plays with grace and style. Her lyrics are traditional folk, but the modern twist is that they’re somewhat quirky, just like Dar Williams. Heart of My Own is a very good album, a nice mixture of folk and pop and recommended to folk music fans, and to anyone who likes good pop music. [www.myspace.com/basiabulat]
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vampire Weekend
XL Recordings

Vampire Weekend’s second album is fairly bursting with ideas, thoughts, and feelings. It succeeded on every track putting its points across both musically and lyrically. It is wonderful in every way, and easily tops their debut.

They opened their sound to other cultures, from third wave ska bands like Operation Ivy to Brazilian baile funk, to name a couple of examples, and moved beyond their basic afro-pop sound. Ezra Koenig’s singing has improved greatly, much more adult, and what he does with his voice, whether by scatting like on “Cousins”, or entwining his voice with a Kalimba thumb piano on “Horchata”, makes the emotions and thoughts in the music come out in the lyrics as well.

“Diplomat’s Son” is a great example. Assuming the main character is gay, a man looks back at a best friend, the diplomat’s son, who wasn’t very diplomatic. The main character knows he loves him, can’t bring himself to admit it, so he wants to use him instead. One night they smoke a joint, go to bed for what turns out to be a one night stand, and leaves the main character with a terrible memory. Musically there is a lot going on, the warm, bouncy melodies and rhythms of dancehall, Bollywood, West African guitar music, a percussive sample from MIA’s “Hussel”, and a guitar interpolation of “Pressure Drop” makes the emotions of the song come through nicely, and powerfully.

Because it’s mid January, it’s probably too early to say that there will be very few albums that are as good. These songs are wonderful, and the band’s vision so strong, that it is hard to say anything else. This truly is the first masterpiece of the year, and what a cool way to start the musical year. [
Andrea Weiss


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