Soundcheck: What I Finally Got Around to Listening to

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Published May 1, 2009

One of the perks of being a music writer is that you get sent tons and tons of free records. Those freebies quickly begin to feel a little bit like a curse. So many records, so little time to listen to them all (and write about them and incorporate them into my alphabetized vault). Admittedly, I get sent lots of crappy music (crappy to me, anyway), but sometimes I can listen to records one time and immediately know that they are destined to become a part of the T. Cole Rachel life soundtrack. Here are a few that grabbed me this week.

Jason Lytle, Yours Truly, The Commuter

I was one of the few music nerds that never quite got over the demise of 90’s space-folkers Grandaddy, so it’s nice to see frontman Jason Lytle strike out on his own to make solo records that sound….well, pretty much exactly like Grandaddy. Sweet, weird, cosmic-sounding indie rock doesn’t get much better than this. Songs like “Brand New Sun” show Lytle doing what he does best-makng super wistful, folky Indie rock with  eccentric vintage synth sounds poured all over it. I’m waiting to see how long it takes for someone to use this song in a car commercial.

Micachu & The Shapes, JewelryThe recent success of London’s Micachu & The Shapes goes to show that Brooklyn isn’t the only place in the world where art school dropouts can find success in the music business. Actually, Micachu (real name Mica Levi) isn’t a dropout, but a music school nerd with a penchant for making her own instruments out of vacuum cleaners and old pieces of furniture. After getting lots of blog heat for early posting of tracks like “Golden Phone”, the band finally unveiled a full-lengh debut worthy of all the interest.  Why can’t all pop music sound as freaky and wonderful as this? Expect to see them in every magazine this year.

Camera Obscura, My Maudlin CareerCamera Obscura always seemed like the kind of band I should have loved—mopey, cutesy, self-indulgent tales of heartache for playing in the background while you write in your journal. While I typically love anything in that realm (Belle & Sebastian soundtracked my entire college experience), I’ve always found Camera Obscura too outrageously twee for my tastes. I’m glad that didn’t stop me from giving this record a go though because I feel like I finally get it. Despite the literally maudlin title, this record is less downtrodden than previous efforts. Songs like “French Navy” and “Swans” are actually perfect springtime jams—swoony odes to romance that sound like they actually could have been recorded back in the 60s.

The Juan Maclean, The Future Will ComeOn their second proper album, New York’s Juan Maclean finally make good on the promise of early singles and chic remixes that have been floating around on the internet for the past couple of years. This is slick, DFA-approved house music that is suitable for both dancing and for playing in the background while you work all day. It’s not quite as cowbell-heavy and party-jamtastic as most of the other stuff DFA puts out, but maybe that’s why I like it. I don’t have to be drunk at a loft party at 3am to really, really enjoy it. This is a clear frontrunner for best pop album of 2009.

 

 

Salem, Water EPAs the story goes, a couple of gay teenage hustlers (Jack Donoghe and John Holland) and their best gal pal (Heather Marlatt) got together to form a spooky synth-pop band to dance music that would sound appropriate for play in a haunted house. They call themselves Salem and the hidden messages that I imagine to be imbedded in their music (Take drugs! Run away from home! Let your hair grow really long!) have forced me to play this EP on repeat and start buying lots of black nail polish. Be warned.

Department of Eagles, “No One Does It Like You”Remember music videos? Yeah? Well, guess what, people still make them! And sometimes they’re really good.  While everyone is focused on the forthcoming Grizzly Bear record at the moment, I’m still loving Daniel Rossen’s side project, Department of Eagles. In Ear Park, the band’s most recent album, basically delivers the same kinds of pleasures that one might expect from Grizzly Bear, just in a folkier and somewhat more subdued fashion. Not sure when Rossen and Co. had time to put together this amazing clip, but it’s nice to see that the art of making a truly artistic music video is not lost, even though these days most videos only get seen in a crappy Youtube version. The dancing soldiers, singing ghosts, and blood-spewing leg amputations are actually quite beautiful to look at, and put a totally different spin on what I thought this song was all about.

 

Nodzzz, “In The City (Contact High)”Like everyone else, I’ve officially jumped onto the new lo-fi bandwagon. I can’t seem to get enough of scratchy, badly-recorded pop-filtered noise rock courtesy of bands with monosyllabic, often idiosyncratically spelled names (Wavves, Woods, Nodzzz) and records that sound like they were made almost by accident. This video makes me feel like I’m a little bit stoned, even though I’m not (right now). This California trio’s songs would just sound flatly amateurish if they weren’t so damned endearing. They might not be the best musicians in the world (yet), but I’ll take this kind of sweetly naïve guitar tomfoolery over soulless and too-polished indie-rock any day of the week. They also have a great song called “I Don’t Wanna (Smoke Marijuana).” I’m not sure I believe them.