Sunday, January 25, 2009

Realpeople - Holland EP

The first thing you notice is an absence of the exotic flare so prevalent in every previous release by Beirut's Zach Condon (tagged here as Realpeople, one of his pre-Beirut pseudonyms). No horn section or accordion sweeping you away to some foreign European festivity, but rather the image of a dude hunched over his Casio CZ-101 poking the keys meticulously with only his two index fingers. Don't freak out yet, be patient as Condon's melodic crooning enters the scene and makes everything ok.
Althought the backing music may not reveal, the opening track "My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille" revisits Condon's fascination with Europe, as he sings about morals and an encounter with...well, read the title. Only Condon's delicate voice and phrasing could make such a relationship sound so romantic.

More synthesized beats and melodies follow on "My Wife, Lost in the Wild", and once again Condon's vocals bring everything together to enhance the track as a whole. Then, as if he knew we'd be waiting for it, "Venice" incorporates the sounds of Beirut with brief yet perfectly placed horns nestled by a Zero 7-like echoing ambiance.

Continuing with what he knows best, more horns and accordion lead the way through "The Concubine", the track most similar to Condon's prior releases. But, not for long, as the final track "No Dice" returns to the synth accompaniment like the opener, this time slightly more upbeat. This instrumental is so far at the other end of the spectrum than what we are used to from Condon; I'm amazed it came from the same mind that wrote "Elephant Gun".

As fans of an artist, we rarely appreciate when they deviate from what made you love them in the first place...unless, of course, it's good. In Condon's case, I respect his exploration into the pop/synth genre, and think he made a commendable attempt. His vocal delivery, alluring lyrics and often clever fusion of electronic and acoustic sounds make this an interesting listen to say the least; but I think the multi-cultural sound he has going with Beirut has more intriguing paths to follow other than this one.

Iggy


Friday, January 23, 2009

Beirut - March of the Zapotec EP

We begin with a Mexican parade. This isn’t your “Mexico-day” in Columbus, Ohio parade. This is an authentic Mexican funeral parade, filling the streets and passing by on the way through your village. This is exactly how Beirut’s Zach Condon starts out his newly leaked EP, March of the Zapotec.

After “El Zocalo’s” prologue, “La Llorona” starts like the Beirut you’ve loved in Flying Club Cup and Gulag Orkestar. It has the haunting sadness of the Eastern European gypsy aesthetic with the grandeur and bouncing flow of the small town obscure Mexicans he merged with. You still want to wave your hand along with the tubas, interjecting clarinets and accordions.

“My Wife” should feature a gunslinger with the opening horns. I can do nothing but picture a silent cowboy film, the mariachis playing on the side of the screen. Robert Rodriguez could use this entire track for any of his Desperado features.

“The Akara” is the saddest track on Zapotec, rolling into a ukulele base and waltzing around a grand hall. While most of Condon’s songs never venture into any realm of happiness, this song especially feels like sadness. Listening now, I’m still amazed how well he can switch his sound so flawlessly from gypsy folk to Mexican troubadour. “On a Bayonet” acts as an extension of “Akara”, an Act II in the EP that slightly complicates the plot – still sad, but change is coming.

I’ve been referring to this EP as a story for a reason. Listen to it and you’ll figure it out. Condon conceived the idea for Zapotec in early discussions about recording a movie soundtrack in Mexico. This morphed into his idea of hiring a local Mexican band to help him record some new material. He hired a translator, caught a plane to Oaxaca, and made his way out to the tiny weaver village of Teotitlan del Valle, where he met the nineteen members of The Jimenez Band.

I’ve included my absolute favorite song of the EP, the epilogue, “The Shrew”. I’d like you to listen to it, form your own opinions, and either leave a comment, or send us an email at theabcorder@gmail.com.

The Count


New leaked EPs from Beirut! Free download!

A free download of Beirut's new leaked double EP, March of the Zapotec and Holland. We wanted to post quickly, so we haven't even had a chance to listen yet, this is just for you! Enjoy it as we surely will!

Download here

Tracklisting

Disc 1 - March of the Zapotec:

1 - El Zocalo
2 - La Llorona
3 - My Wife
4 - The Akara
5 - On a Bayonet
6 - The Shrew

Disc 2 - Holland:

1 - My Night With the Prostitute From Marseille
2 - My Wife, Lost in the World
3 - Venice
4 - The Concubine
5 - No Dice

A TAO review coming soon!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Village Voice explains the Vampire Weekend phenomenon

Someone finally puts their finger on it. Why they're great, but you simultaneously hate them. Here's the link

and an excerpt -

“They’ve merely outed the truth of indie, which was never really The People’s Music for all its affected sloppiness and “beautiful loser” tropes, instead always much more of an upper-middle-class milieu, the kids recoiling from the commercial and mass-produced just like their parents did via artisanal foodstuffs and antiques.”
“The People vs. Vampire Weekend”

Check it out, a fantastic read.

The Count

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fleet Foxes play SNL

I'm somewhat shocked, and at the same time thrilled, that a band like Fleet Foxes landed a spot on SNL last weekend. I'd be interested to know how many independent label artists have appeared on the show in it's 30+ year history. I bet not many.

They played one of my favorites, "Mykonos", off their debut Sun Giant EP which was released a few months prior to their highly acclaimed self-titled album (which features "Blue Ridge Mountains", also played during the show). Getting bands like Fleet Foxes to appear on SNL just might give us a reason to start watching again.

Iggy

"Mykonos"
video

"Blue Ridge Mountains"
video

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

RIP Ron Asheton

Let's pay homage to The Stooges guitar player Ron Asheton who died today in his Ann Arbor home at the age of 60. No cause of death was given.

“He was a great friend, brother, musician, trooper,” Iggy Pop and the other Stooges said in a statement e-mailed by Virgin. “For all that knew him behind the facade of Mr. Cool & Quirky, he was a kind-hearted, genuine, warm person who always believed that people meant well even if they did not.”


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Glasvegas

I recently took a few of my old Phil Spector LPs (I hope he doesn’t attempt to murder me for this (allegedly)), a VHS copy of “The Commitments”, some haggis, and threw them all in an industrial meat grinder. It made a raucous of call-and-response songs, distortion, an old-timey nostalgic sound, and some Scottish accents thick enough to be characters in "Trainspotting". I called this monster Glasvegas. Of course, I didn’t create Glasvegas, it was just an extended metaphor to get your attention.

Glasvegas’ 2008 self-titled album should be a new sound to your ears. As soon as the album starts, you’re in a different place. I’m listening to it right now and I can safely say I’m in 1962, enjoying a smoke in my car in Glasgow, Scotland. Come. Join me. Have a fag and listen.

“Daddy’s Gone”, easily my favorite of the album, brings the quintessential sixties girl group sound that I love so much into a concentrated form. If I thought The Pipettes had it down perfectly, Glasvegas blows them away. The Pipettes carry too much of that early 60’s optimism that follows the girl groups around. Even the sad songs of that era were bittersweet. Somehow, someway, Glasvegas took a genre and changed it at face value. Equal parts rough and smooth, beautiful and ugly.

Immediately following “Daddy’s Gone”, “Stabbed” is macabre and slow, immediately changing the pace of the album. Upon first hearing this album, I was intensely confused. There’s another version of this song on a limited edition 2004 LP that injects “Stabbed” with distorted surf guitar and an upbeat feel. I prefer it immensely over the 2008 self-titled album version. Find it if you can, it’s worth it.

Overall, my lobes are pleased. Glavegas is a pleasant sound, a playful sound and we sincerely hope there is much more to come from this band.

EDITORS NOTE: We’d like you to keep in mind that the purpose of these reviews have nothing to do with us. It’s entirely to get you the reader to listen to music we think you’d like because, hey, we like it too. So take these reviews as suggestions rather than critiques. We do.

The Count





Friday, January 2, 2009

Spiritualized - Songs in A&E

It took almost a week of listening to Songs in A&E to feel comfortable reviewing it. There is a presence apparent in Jason Pierce's delivery that made this album feel too meaningful to absorb completely on the first indulged listens. After 6 or 7 spins, I was happy to learn that the name of the group does not mislead the listener whatsoever. Spiritualized delivers a sound seemingly larger than themselves, transcending deep into a spiritual state that channels you through every end of the emotional spectrum: love and hate, joy and sadness...all channeling Pierce's characters.

After a short, unnecessary intro track straight from "Fantasia", the album continues strongly with "Sweet Talk", a well-done ballad sounding Velvet Underground-esque with a French horn driving home Pierce's ambiguous lyrics about war, love and lies. Although it seems a bit out of place as the first full song on the album (it would be fitting much later), "Sweet Talk" adequately foreshadows the profound sentiments present throughout the remaining tracks.

The highlight of this album shines on an uplifting folk/pop track, "Soul on Fire" (and I don't care if Pierce didn't want it on the final cut). A resounding choir and strings are brilliantly layered over powerful lyrics and memorable vocal melodies, as Pierce sings "Baby, ya never should say never / I got a hurricane inside my veins / and I want to stay forever".

It's surprising that the same artist wrote "Death Take Your Fiddle", as it comes from an entirely different, less uplifting place. The detailed inhaling and exhaling creates a feeling of illness, while Pierce moans "Morphine, Codeine, whiskey - they won't alter / The way I feel now death is all around", haunting the listener even further. He continues with this down-trodden tone in several other tracks, including "You Lie You Cheat" as well as "I Gotta Fire", where another of Pierce's characters finds himself struggling, but this time with hope: "So hard to fight when you're losing / I got a little fire in my soul".

This is Pierce's first album in five years, during which he suffered a near-fatal illness leaving him hospitalized for some time (note the play on words: in the UK, "A&E" popularly refers to the Accidents and Emergencies ward). His honest, croaky voice and delicate songwriting pull from all aspects of life, possibly echoing his former bouts with drugs, alcohol and overall health. Pierce seems to have reigned it all together here and composed an incredible album. That being said, the album could do without the intermittent "Harmony" tracks that should provide smooth transitions, but rather distract more than captivate. His sense of timing also seems to be a bit off, with many tracks being too good to be so short ("Soul on Fire") or not good enough to be so long ("Baby I'm Just a Fool"), but, as a whole, Songs in A&E is superb.

Put this album on and let your soul relax and then tense up, and then back again, experiencing everything in between; all the while accepting the company of another being who seems to have already experienced it all.

Iggy