Tag Archives: Sub Pop

Beachwood Sparks: The Tarnished Gold

Beachwood Sparks_The Tarnished Gold

Beachwood Sparks
The Tarnished Gold

June 26, 2012
Sub Pop

“The SoCal indie cowboys deliver an album completely displaying musical, songwriting, and repertory growth from their critically acclaimed self-titled debut”All Music Guide

“The Sparks take the nascent country rock of their obvious influence and extraploate every last ounce of plangent guitar chime and yearing vocal polyphony until they ring afresh.”Mojo

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Some albums were made to be played on a Saturday night. The Tarnished Gold was meant to be played on a Sunday afternoon. Listening to Beachwood Sparks’ first album in 11 years is like being under cobalt blue skies and smelling the night-blooming jasmine on a perfect spring day in Los Angeles.

The world has caught up to Beachwood Sparks since they came out of nowhere in 2000 with their self-titled debut album, bringing new life to what Gram Parsons famously described as “cosmic American music,” and recapturing L.A.‘s laidback but vibrant heyday back in the late ’60s and early ’70s. At the time, this kind of harmony-rich, irony-free music was rare. After their second album, 2002’s trippier Once We Were Trees, and the decidedly offbeat 2003 EP Make the Cowboy Robots Cry, Beachwood Sparks called it quits. But during the subsequent half decade, the indie music scene began to change with the appearance, and wholesale acceptance, of multi-voiced throwback groups from Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver to Grizzly Bear. Clearly, the time is right for an album that stands as the purest expression of this hallowed form to appear in the 21st century, as the planets at long last align for this single-minded band.

The Tarnished Gold is the work of the classic Beachwood Sparks lineup: singer/guitarist Chris Gunst, singer/bassist Brent Rademaker, singer/multi-instrumentalist Farmer Dave Scher, and drummer Aaron Sperske, with invaluable support from guitarist and longtime friend Ben Knight (The Tyde). For the sessions, the band added guitarists Knight and Neal Casal (solo artist and former member of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals), Dan Horne on pedal steel, Gunst’s wife Jen Cohen, Sparks’ very first drummer Jimi Hey, Brent’s brother Darren (leader of The Tyde) and L.A. indie-rock maestro Ariel Pink. Once We Were Trees producer Thom Monahan returned to his familiar spot behind the console.

Father John Misty: Fear Fun

Father John Misty

Father John Misty
Fear Fun

May 1, 2012
Sub Pop

“[Fear Fun is] packed with sardonic, self-effacing songs that recall the finest traditions of harmony-soaked West Coast folk-and-country influenced rock’n'roll.”Uncut

“A captivating listen.” Magnet

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When discussing ‘Father John Misty’, Tillman paraphrases Philip Roth: ’It’s all of me and none of me, if you can’t see that, you won’t get it’. What I call it is totally arbitrary, but I like the name. You’ve got to have a name. I never got to choose mine.”

He goes on, “‘People who make records are afforded this assumption by the culture that their music is coming from an exclusively personal place, but more often than not what you hear are actually the affectations of an ’alter-ego’ or a cartoon of an emotionally heightened persona,” says Josh Tillman, who has been recording/releasing solo albums since 2003 and who recently left Seattle’s Fleet Foxes after playing drums from 2008-2011. “That kind of emotional quotient isn’t sustainable if your concern is portraying a human-being made up of more than just chest-beating pathos. I see a lot of rampant, sexless, male-fantasy everywhere in the music around me. I didn’t want any alter-egos, any vagaries, fantasy, escapism, any over-wrought sentimentality. I like humor and sex and mischief. So when you think about it, it’s kind of mischievous to write about yourself in a plain-spoken, kind of explicitly obvious way and call it something like ‘Misty’. I mean, I may as well have called it ‘Steve’”.

Musically, Fear Fun consists of such disparate elements as Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson, Arthur Russell, “All Things Must Pass,” and “Physical Graffiti,” often within the same song. Tillman’s voice has never been better and often sounds like Roy Orbison, “The Caruso of Rock”, at his most joyous, while the music maintains a dark, mysterious and yet conversely playful, almost Dionysian quality. Lyrically, his absurdist fever dreams of pain and pleasure elicit, in equal measures, the blunt descriptive power of Bukowski or Brautigan, the hedonist-philosophy of Oscar Wilde and the dried-out wit of Loudon Wainwright III.

Memoryhouse: The Slideshow Effect

Memory House - The Slideshow Effect

Memoryhouse
The Slideshow Effect

February 28, 2012
Sub Pop

“While Memoryhouse might be demographically marketed to the youngsters, there’s something in the retro-alternative beauty of The Slideshow Effect that aging Gen-Xers raised on the golden age of college radio might appreciate a little more.”Blurt Magazine

“There’s a nagging sense of melancholy throughout that gives these tracks a compelling and slightly haunting quality.”The Fly (UK)

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Memoryhouse formed some five years ago in the depths of Southern Ontario, Canada, in a mid-size town called Guelph as a collaborative project meant to serve as an artistic outlet for composer Evan Abeele and photographer Denise Nouvion. Evan, a dedicated student of classical music and a pop-music encyclopedist, intended Memoryhouse to be a multimedia art project, pairing his instrumental compositions with Denise’s photographs and short films. Testing ways to blur the boundaries between genres, to weave a synthesis of music and photography, they experimented with themes, lyrics and multiple layers of instrumentation. Nouvion’s soft, ethereal voice anchored the frozen textures of Abeele’s compositions with frank sentimentality—a unique approach towards humanizing the electro-pop compositions they were creating. The results, at once timeless and new, were impressive and in September 2011 we at Sub Pop released a fully re-recorded, remixed and re-mastered version of the band’s 2010 self-released, digital-only EP, The Years.

Shearwater: Animal Joy

Shearwater -  Animal Joy

Shearwater
Animal Joy

February 14, 2012
Sub Pop

“Animal Joy surfs similar channels to their last release, The Golden Archipelago, evoking stratospheric textures anchored down by melodically well-honed tunes.”Mojo

“Dense, powerful, wild, yet immaculately rendered, Animal Joy blends the expansive, cinematic scope of contemporaries like Other Lives and the National with the arty drama of “San Jacinto”-era Peter Gabriel.”All Music Guide

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It’s been suggested—by fans, detractors, even by the band’s founder—that Shearwater and whatever we call underground/indie/whatever-rock in this part of the century are not an obvious fit. And that’s true. So much of what we hear these days (the lousy stuff, anyway) is willfully insular; Jonathan Meiburg’s songs, by contrast, have constantly tackled bigger questions and been propelled by massive musical ambitions.

We’re in an era in which minimalism and lower-than-low-tech have come in vogue. By contrast, Shearwater’s recordings—the epic “Island Arc” trilogy of Palo Santo, Rook and The Golden Archipelago in particular—have been expansive  (some might say bombastic) in a fashion like none of their contemporaries.  Meiburg—presumably unfamiliar with the adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t  fix it”—has opted to ditch an approach that paid huge artistic dividends over his last three Matador albums for a record that seems shockingly direct, immediate and intensely personal. He’s no stranger to lush, crafted recordings, but this one sounds like no prior Shearwater incarnation. And please, don’t mistake that for a suggestion this is anyone’s notion of a traditional, singer-songwriter album.  ”Immaculate” and “Breaking the Yearlings” are inventive and confident in a manner that would humble most new artists, let alone Shearwater’s few veteran peers. “Insolence” is (take your pick) an unsparing bit of self-reflection or an evisceration of someone else; either way, the song covers a staggering amount of sonic territory in the space of six minutes plus. No disrespect whatsoever is intended to Meiburg’s sometimes-Austin neighbors Spoon when I call “Believing Makes It Easy” a song that would rank amongst that band’s finest had they come up with it instead.

Shabbaz Palaces: Black Up

Shabbaz Palaces

Shabbaz Palaces
Black Up

June 28, 2011
Sub Pop

“It’s deeply refreshing to hear an artist who exudes such depth and consideration.”Pitchfork

“Reborn as Palaceer Lazaro in Shabazz Palaces, the rapper still waxes poetic with the old boho bounce as he lounges in the club or decries the evils of American culture.”Rolling Stone

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Black Upis the new sonic move from Shabazz Palaces. Like rich velvet hijabs or gold threaded abayas. Luxury as understood by the modest. Shabazz Palaces. If Bedouins herded beats instead of goats and settled in Seattle instead of the Atlas Mountains, this would be their album. Forward thinkers but nostalgic for a sparer time when ancient astronomers only recognized five planets. Hip hop. Black light uses electromagnetic radiation to eradicate microorganisms, but shabazz didn’t come to kill a sound, just to shine their own incandescent lamp on this. Hear. Hard and clear. Fifty thousand years in the making. Honorable.—palaceer pink gators. Produced by Knife Knights.plcrs at Gunbeat Serenade Studio in Outplace Palacelands. It was recorded and mixed in Lixx-alog by Blood.

 

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