Soundcheck: Summer Cleaning

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Published June 12, 2009

I’m almost scared to go into my office lately. For the past three weeks I’ve been totally overwhelmed by the sheer volume of promo CDs that have come my way, all of which have ended up in an ever-growing heap next to my desk. Every day I wake up thinking “Today is the day that I finally tackle that heap of CDs”….and then everyday I end up ignoring the pile and doing every other possible thing in my house that I don’t want to do (dusting my ceramic cats, mopping the stairs, reorganizing my takeout menus) rather than go through all the CDs and give them a once-over. Today fate finally intervened. While running downstairs to answer the door, I tripped on the CDs and sent them flying all over my office. Literally. So, while I was sitting in the floor arranging the CDs into nicely color-coded piles, I plucked out a few June releases that I’ve been looking forward to and gave them a spin.

The Wooden Birds // Magnolia

Austin’s Wooden Birds is the new project from Andrew Kenny, former brainchild behind the woefully underappreciated American Analog Set. Like that band, much of Wooden Birds’ songs are wonderfully melancholy affairs, but the music this time around is less moody and droney than American Analog Set and more akin to the mellow folk stylings of Iron and Wine. Magnolia is gloriously understated, impeccably-produced indie-pop that sounds pretty great on days like today, when all I’ve done is stare out the window and watch the rain. Foreign Born // Person to Person

I’ve been following the career of Foreign Born for a long time.  In 2005 I picked the band’s debut EP, the vaguely Interpol-like In the Remote Woods, as one of my favorite records of the year and eagerly looked forward to the band’s forthcoming full-length album….which didn’t actually surface for another two years. After suffering the requisite number of label hang-ups and musical indentity crises, the band now return with Person to Person-a record that will easily land itself on my inevitable Best of 2009. Whatever shadows that loomed large over the band in the past have apparently disappeared, since Person is easily the most breezy and expansive record that the band has ever made.  Their old records might have been characterized by an almost palpable sense of doom, but on this album Foreign Born sound just like a California sunset-big, beautiful and warm.

Deerhunter // Rainwater Cassette Exchange

Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox might be annoying productive at times (by the time you read this he will have posted five new songs on the Deerhunter blog), but with each successive release he proves himself more and more to be one of the best and most fascinating songwriters in the world. The five songs on Rainwater Cassette Exhange bear more resemblance to the stuff on Microcastle than the band’s freakier early output, but they draw from the same sonic palette that has always made Deerhunter so special. Convention pop songs are mummified in layers of reverb and ambient sounds, usually to wonderful effect. “Disappearing Ink” and “Game of Diamonds” rank as some of Deerhunter’s most wonderful songs. Not sure if these five songs were originally outtakes or throwaways from the Microcastle sessions, but it hardly matters. As far as I’m concerned, Deerhunter continue to shame most of their contemporaries in both the productivity and awesome tune departments.

Major Lazer // Guns Don’t Kill People…Lazers Do

Major Lazer is the much ballyhooed side project of Diplo and Switch-two people who know a thing or two about how to make people lose their collective minds out on the dancefloor.  The conceit behind the album might be ridiculous (a fictionalized mercenary who rides a flying skateboard and has a lazer gun for an arm…or something), but the jams here are not to be trifled with. The spastic genius of Major Lazer is evident in the video below. Diplo and Swtich are also taking the Major on the road. Those of you in NYC should check them out this weekend and prepare to have your minds blown.  Also, if you can’t get enough of the bizarre sound effects floating around in the mix, be sure and download the Mad Decent application for you iphone, which enables you to produce lazer sounds and channel the Major Lazer himself any time you want.

Major Lazer – “Hold The Line” ft. Mr. Lexx and Santigold