Mailbag: Volume 5, Voltaire Twins

Posted in Mailbag, Music on October 7th, 2012 by Tom

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From time to time, I get e-mails from artists suggesting that I might be interested in their music. The “mailbag” is my attempt to give back by showcasing the talent of those emerging artists whose work I genuinely enjoyed.

It’s been so long since we’ve done a mailbag, or any post for that matter! At the end of August I got an e-mail about the new NSFW ‘banned’ video for the new single by Perth indie synth poppers Voltaire Twins. You can view that video right here:

Voltaire Twins – Solaris from Voltaire Twins on Vimeo.

The nudity for which it was banned from the ol’ YouTube is moderate, in a writhing group-sex-scene-from-the-Matrix-sequel sortof way, but arty enough that I it isn’t tawdry or porny. I liked the video, personally.

So much so that I quickly found my way to the band’s SoundCloud page to hear more of the music, which is what really had impressed me.

I highly encourage you to hit up the SC link at the bottom, where you can stream the full Apollo EP. Clocking in at 4 songs, it’s over in roughly 16 minutes, but it’s such a rich experience that you can’t help but give it another spin the second it stops.

Initially, the video track ‘Solaris’ was the draw for me, but little by little the second track became my favorite, then the third… and finally the fourth. Every song on Apollo is worthy of being a ‘favorite’.

For the closing track, which is my present preference, ‘Silhouettes‘ paints a vivid image of a frigid, perfect world where the two objects of the song had never met.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

The ethereal synth is amazing accompaniment over the dual vocals of Tegan and Jaymes, which ring with a sharpness and clarity only a proper listen will do justice. Thumping, tribal percussion offers contrast and texture that rewards repeat listens.

Can’t recommend this one enough. Super excited to see what a full-length from these guys would look like.

Voltaire Twins’ SoundCloud Page
Purchase Apollo on iTunes


My Head Is An Animal

Posted in Music on August 13th, 2012 by Tom

I’m a complete sucker for an unexpected surprise. Home for a recent family reunion, my sister was driving me to the meetup, and she put on a record she’d gotten in the mail earlier that day.

My sister and I have a reasonable amount of overlap in our musical taste, but it’s never a guarantee that we’ll both like something.

When she put on My Head Is An Animal though, very quickly I recognized something special. As the rousing opener ‘Dirty Paws’ played, hearing the guitar few well-timed ‘HEY!’-s prompted me to exclaim: “I like this! Instantly, I love it.”

I was being somewhat glib, but as I get older and listen to more and more music, I’m getting a better ear for what I like, and recognizing it more quickly. My offhanded comment proved to be an accurate prognostication, though, as my love for the album has only grown.

On the one hand, the Icelandic sextet know how to write a radio single, ample evidence of which is heard in ‘Dirty Paws’, ‘Mountain Sound’, and the absolutely infectious ‘Little Talks‘.

‘Little Talks’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

This song is essentially what Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes promised us with ‘Home’, and the rest of Up From Below never delivered on. Of Monsters And Men are here to finish the task, and they do it flawlessly. From mixed-gender vocal hand-offs to big brassy anthemic hooks, the song has it all.

The other side of the coin is that the deeper cuts are just as enjoyable in their own way. Bolstering the top of the record is a personal favorite, ‘King And Lionheart’. Softer in places than the ‘bigger’ tracks, it soars just as well. The folksy-ness of it is evocative of Mumford & Sons in the best way possible.

Notable tracks also include the genuinely tender ‘Love Love Love’, which is not nearly as trite or repetitious as the title might imply. Singer Nanna Hilmarsdóttir’s breathy whisper on this song conveys such intimacy and makes it a really special moment coming into the home stretch of My Head Is An Animal.

Penultimate tracks are a growing curiosity of mine, and this record’s ‘Lakehouse‘ doesn’t disappoint.

[ mp3 ♫ ]

I opened by saying I’m getting more attuned to what I like in music. I like big, epic swells that explode forth from quiet moments. I like it when horns come crashing in at the perfect moment moment and you can’t help but belt out the lyrics. I like those things, and this song has them. It doesn’t just have them though, it owns them.

My Head Is An Animal is a finely crafted tapestry of emotion and enthusiasm that never fails to capture my attention throughout all 12 tracks. I’ve greedily devoured this record, and now have to wait patiently for quite some time to see what greatness the band will come up with next.

Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal


Life On Mars?

Posted in Music, Nerd, Technology on August 5th, 2012 by Tom

Tonight, the Mars Science Laboratory rover is landing on the surface of the red planet at about 1:31 EDT. The mission is a huge undertaking, and will be nothing short of a modern miracle if they can pull it off.

This seemed as good of an occasion as any to share one of my favorite Bowie tracks today, the appropriately titled ‘Life On Mars?‘.

‘Life On Mars?’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The song has a funny little history, originating as a Bowie-penned lyrical re-working of a french song ‘Comme d’habitude’ that never came to be anything. When Frank Sinatra did the same thing, it became his mega-hit ‘My Way’. In response, Bowie wrote and recorded ‘Life On Mars?’ for Hunky Dory.

It’s truly epic in its composition, and the lyrics weave in and out of comprehension. You can’t help but belt the chorus though. Give it a spin, and when you’re through go ahead and tune in to watch the amazing team at NASA do their stuff later on tonight:


Signle Shot: Let’s Go

Posted in Music on July 20th, 2012 by Tom

Pandora introduced me to the massively fun Matt & Kim last week, via their older hit ‘Daylight’. This week, I was parsing through a few news items, and I found the two Brooklynites have recently released a single ahead of their new LP Lighting due this October.

The song is top-notch, and seems characteristic of the limited exposure I’ve had to the duo’s body of work. What caught my eye, rather than my ear, was the fantastically simple and yet nonetheless impressive video that accompanies it:

It’s mesmerizing watch whoever that guy is perform a menagerie of hybridized basketball-dance-moves! The single perfectly soundtracks it; see if you can spot some of the more notable points of synchronization throughout.

‘Let’s Go’
[ mp3 ♫ ]


Port Of Morrow

Posted in Music on July 16th, 2012 by Tom

I had really, really high expectations of this album based on the strength of its harbinger, ‘Simple Song‘, not to mention the unequivocal (musical) success that was Wincing the Night Away. I submit as evidence:

The triumphant guitar riff, elemental piano backing, and Mercer’s iconic vocals make this song the complete package, and leaves you wanting more.

‘Simple Song’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Mercer’s time away on the Broken Bells project, highly thought of around here, was seemingly time well spent, right?

I’m not sure. Ten listens in, and I’m still not quite set what I think of the album. Working backwards, there’s the eery and out-of-place title track, some AM sounding songs with numbers in them (40 Mark Strasse, Fall of ’82), and a real slow jam that is mostly just slow (Taken For a Fool).

Things aren’t all bad, though. ‘No Way Down’ has a fun bass line as well as the lyric “lost in an oscillating phase,” which is pretty cool even at face value, and a catchy chorus.

‘September’ is the best slow track on the album, hands down. Subdued and acoustic, it still demands your attention, and in the grander scheme, makes a lot of sense as a pacing element among songs like ‘No Way Down’ or ‘Simple Song’.

‘Bait and Switch’ is another upbeat jaunt with some clever guitar runs and the classic Mercer lyric, “I’m just a simple man / cursed with an honest heart.” It’s preceded by ‘It’s Only Life’ which I maintain is a bit trite and not that interesting of a tune.

So now we find ourselves back at the beginning of the record. The purpose of this ass-backwards review structure is to save the absolute best for last, and that’s the opening track, ‘The Rifle’s Spiral‘.

‘The Rifle’s Spiral’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I suppose I like this song the best because it bears the strongest resemblance to my favorite material on Wincing The Night Away and Broken Bells. Solid beats and space-age melodies structured into a three-and-a-half-minute mini epic of a song. And also, for the love of god, if you haven’t seen the video, by all means:

The evocative, Burton-esque short film is a match for ‘The Rifle’s Spiral’ every bit as unlikely as it is perfect.

So, where does that leave us? The album starts of with two flawless tracks, and slowly deviates from there. If you like your LPs with a wide range of more experimental tracks, then by all means, Port of Morrow is what you seek.

I prefer a more focused collection of tracks, and I really only got half of what I wanted. Even still, the high points are on par with any previous output of Mercer’s, so I remain content with the work, if not as blown away as I’d hoped to be.

The Shins – Port Of Morrow