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Drinking Buddies

Post-mumblecore romcom full of microbrewery beer, plaid shirts, beards, Jagjaguwar tunes and more beer.


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31st Mar 2014

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Promo Promo: Pink Mountaintops - Ambulance City

Power up your front-loaders and check the max-VHS resolution for the new Pink Mountaintops vid which seems to be co-starring 1970s Ron Wood; album Get Back is out Apr 29.

McBean overheard Jaffe drunkenly bragging in a backyard about her state of the art 80's VHS camera. Ambulance City will mark the first time they've worked together since 1431 while serving drinks at Joan of Arc's execution.

Inspired by Swedish Erotica, Cpl. Klinger, and totes non-poser aspirations.

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4th Mar 2014 - Add Comment - Tweet

Get Back into to the Pink Mountaintops

The first track from the new Pink Mountaintops album has landed. Check out North Hollywood Microwaves at Soundcloud. The Album Get Back arrives on April 28th.

Via Stereogum

(PS if anyone spots a bottle of Pink Mountainhops in London, let us know)

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5th Feb 2014 - Add Comment - Tweet

Promo Promo: Lightning Dust - Diamond

First video from the new Lightning Dust album Fantasy out June 25. MPfree here

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22nd May 2013 - Add Comment - Tweet

MPFree: Foxygen - Waitin' 4 U

In the mood for some loose Stonesy 70s rock? New Jagjaguwar band Foxygen are making a good job of filling that space at the moment. Here's Waitin' 4 U and Make It Known

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10th Jul 2012 - Add Comment - Tweet

New Dinosaur Jr

Watch The Corners, from the new one I Bet On Sky to be released September 18th, via Jagjaguwar. Rolling Stone had a chat with J here

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9th Jul 2012 - Add Comment - Tweet

Trailer Park: Year Zero ...with added Black Mountain

Trailer up for the epic surf movie 'Year Zero' from Globe. The movie itself looks pretty tasty, shot around the world on 16mm film ....but the real reason to get excited is the Black Mountain soundtrack.

The album features a few old classics (including 'Tyrants' - featuring my all time favourite drum licks) and a handful of unreleased tracks such as 'Phosphorescent Waves', 'Embrace Euphoria', 'In Sequence' and 'Mary Lou' - which you can download over at Jagjaguwar and listen to below.

The album is out April 2nd in the UK, April 3rd elswhere.

Via Stereogum.

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23rd Feb 2012 - Add Comment - Tweet

J Mascis: Bobblehead edition

Dinosaur Jr guitar legend now available in replica form

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27th Jan 2012 - Add Comment - Tweet

More Mountain Wilderness

More album and tour info from Black Mountain...

Wilderness Heart will be released by Jagjaguwar on September 13th. Tracklist for the 10 track album will consist of:

1. The Hair Song
2. Old Fangs (download it here)
3. Radiant Hearts
4. Rollercoaster
5. Let Spirits Ride
6. Buried By The Blues
7. The Way To Gone
8. Wilderness Heart
9. The Space Of Your Mind
10. Sadie

The band are playing two low-key shows at The Lexington in July, followed by some festivals and now another London show at Shepherd's Bush in October.

JULY
11th - Kinross - T in the Park Festival
13th - London - Lexington - SOLD OUT
14th - London - Lexington - SOLD OUT
16th - Southwold - Latitude Festiva

SEPTEMBER
4th - Oxford - Academy
5th - Birmingham - Hare & Hounds
8th - Brighton - Concorde
10th - Isle of Wight - Bestival
11th - Larmer Tree Gardens, Dorset - End Of The Road Festival
12th - Leeds - TJs Woodhouse Club
14th - Glasgow - Oran Mor
15th - Manchester - Academy 3
16th - Nottingham |Rescue Rooms

OCTOBER
7th - London - Shepherds Bush Empire

Support will come from the mighty Ladyhawk for the Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester and Nottingham shows. Tickets for the headline shows are a very reasonable £11, except for a still reasonable £14 in London. Tickets available here.

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15th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

Black Mountain

Old Fangs (Single)

Jagjaguwar

The first taste of Black Mountain's forthcoming album Wilderness Heart has arrived - and Old Fangs is no disappointment. Not exactly as expected, with the band moving their sound forward the best part of a decade to the late 70's/early 80's - but exactly as expected wouldn't be much fun would it? Empires will be smashed, dual vocals will rule and the psychedelic keyboards get their turn in the spotlight.

Wilderness Heart is due in September. Download Old Fangs now.

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11th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

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MPFree: Black Mountain

new Black Mountain track Old Fangs free if you hand over some email data; new album Wilderness Heart out September 14, 2010 (Sept. 13 in the UK)

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9th Jun 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

Promo Promo: Gayngs - Cry

new Jagjaguwar supergroup Gayngs w Justin "Bon Iver" Vernon

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5th May 2010 - Add Comment - Tweet

Volcano Choir

Unmap

Jagjaguwar

It was relatively late in coming, but the praise that followed Justin Vernon's debut Bon Iver project was unprecedented and warranted. The critics aren't messing about with this new side project featuring Vernon alongside fellow Wisconsinites Collections of Colonies Of Bees - and there has been much frenzied chatter about Unmap for a while now. While Unmap is certainly permeated with a similar bewitching presence as For Emma, Forever Ago it sounds less focused and just what a side-project tends to sound like. It has a different agenda from the music made under Bon Iver. It is totally studio produced and has more formalistic concerns like texture and ambiance than the emotional weight Bon Iver carried. Rather than a mission statement bursting to be released from one man, this sounds like a group of like-minded guys just enjoying the process of music making and all the more so given the success that one of these members has enjoyed of late. But they handle that with remarkable restraint and play down Vernon's now familiar tones to mere texture at times.

It's quite clear this is no Bon Iver follow-up, as the sultry notes of opener Husks And Shells drifts into earshot. With the gentlest of plucking and delicate textures Vernon introduces himself with a series of wordless harmonies that amble along with little fixed direction but create an arresting sense of desolation. He raises his voice in the last 20 seconds with a gradual crescendo that makes room for Seeplymouth, one of the strongest songs here. With a similar structure it builds with layered percussion, synth melody and looped vocals to a massive, unrelenting finale that booms with depth and refuses to let up. And when it does, out of the dust emerges Island, Is, a perfectly carved marble statue of a song that glistens with polished clarity. Vernon's vocals are given new buoyancy with the electronic soundscape that underlies them. Gradually layered levels of melody and intricate rhythm amble along with perfect direction this time and create a sense of warmth that has rarely surrounded this voice.

But for me that is where the magic starts to wane. The rest of the album tends to veer off into more directionless territory. This is indeed the sound of a group of guys enjoying a process but at times it sounds far too much like that. And Gather meanders along in an aimless haze of half baked hand clap rhythm and irritating harmonies while Mbira In The Morass sees Vernon experimenting with a new warble in his singing and when coupled with some awkward percussion the result is less than perfect to say the least. There are of course exceptions to this. The short burst of joy that is Cool Knowledge comes as a breath of fresh air and the reworking of Woods, the Bloodbank EP's curious end note, is a vast improvement and a much fuller and fascinating piece of work. But these delights are too few in the second half of this record and by the time it comes to an end, the treasures of the first half have already started to fade slightly.

For Emma, Forever Ago cast its spell on all who heard it and the effect of this spell is still present here, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I have felt it wearing off somewhat. What Unmap does do is prove that Vernon is no one-trick pony and has a clear passion for experimentation. This is an exciting prospect and one that hints at some truly stunning ideas yet to be realised, but those ideas seem slightly half baked here.

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5th Oct 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Volcano Choir

Bon Iver mainman Justin Vernon has got a new sideline called Volcano Choir up and running, teaming up with Collections Of Colonies Of Bees. Sounds like a more electronic version if the mpfree on Jagaguwar is anything to go by.

Listen on Spotify here. A review is in the pipeline...

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28th Sep 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

Oneida On Tour

Brooklyn's nouveau psychedelic rockers Oneida are bring their latest 3-hour epic Rated O to the UK.

August 16 Manchester, Islington Mill w/Teeth Of The Sea 8pm, £9 adv
August 17 Brighton, Prince Albert w/My Device + Teeth Of The Sea 8pm, £8 adv
August 18 London, Garage w/Mugstar + Teeth Of The Sea 7pm, £10 adv
August 19 Bristol, The Croft w/Cardinal Fuzz + Teeth Of The Sea 8pm, £7 adv
August 20 Cork, Crane Lane Theatre Midnight show, free entry
August 21 Belfast, Black Box w/What What + Bop Yestrum DJs 8pm, £10 adv
August 22 Dublin, Whelans 7.30pm, €15 adv

Get more Oneida (and other Jagjaguwar bands) info in the Jagjaguwar podcast.

 

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4th Aug 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

Lightning Dust

Infinite Light

Jagjaguwar

The Black Mountain Army are proving to be nothing if not consistent. Since releasing Black Mountain's barn-storming In The Future in 2008, the contributors have been working steadily through their alter egos - with Pinkmountaintops putting out the excellent Outside Love and now alumni Amber Webber and Joshua Wells releasing a second album under the Lightning Dust moniker. I'm expecting a breakthrough album from Blood Meridian next.

Webber's contribution to Black Mountain is not to be over-looked, with her sultry vocals pulling the band back from the brink of parody and adding a mournful sound to the mix. Her vocals also supplied some of the highlights on Outside Love - and she was sorely missed on the supporting tour. With Lightning Dust however, Webber is firmly centre stage - taking on the majority of the writing, as well as guitar and 95% of the vocals.

Where the self titled debut was spare and sultry, Infinite Light is a more filled out and polished affair - much like the latest albums from the previously mentioned strands - and that extra push pays out rich rewards. Where Lightning Dust occasionally strained or became just too sparse, Inifinte Light sweeps and soars, showing a much wider range. Opener Antonia Jane is a country-tinged affair, obligitary lead-free-download I Knew adds some catchy low-key disco electronics and is notable for Well's superb drumming, while the piano-led The Times even threatens to become a sing-a-long. There are mysterious synthesizers and luscious strings, which all add up to a strangely epic vibe - for what is still essentially a small, self-contained record. There's a consistency and clarity here that would make a perfect soundtrack, probably to a modern day western or double crossin' film noir.

That 5% of the vocals that Webber doesn't cover is where this album loses it's half star - momentarily slipping towards that musical theatre vibe as the male vocals intrude on Honest Man. So while the variations are welcome to a certain extent, it's still the mournful voice of Webber that scores the highlights here - leading us effortlessly through the swell of History, the pounding balladry of Wondering What Everyone Knows or the flawless closer Take It Home, which perfectly sums up everything good about this excellent band. Great drums, moody bass, strings that could go on forever and a soaring, epic vocal performance that will put shivers down your spine.

Unmissable.

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30th Jul 2009 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Oneida

Rated O

Jagjaguwar

With a running time of just under two hours Oneida's new triple-album Rated O is not going to be an experience for the faint-hearted, but much-like it's predecessor (Preteen Weaponry - review here) it's a long ride worth strapping in for. Certainly before you wade into this sonic battlefront, you'll want to make sure you're well prepared - most likely with cups of tea and a bong. Let me set the scene: Oneida are big on repetition, they're into bit-crunching and distortion, electronics and real instruments, overt noise and subtle change. Voices are sometimes a sound source rather than a means for conveying lyrics - and musically, there's an unresolved tension running through the whole album.

You might not get much out of this release by just dipping into it or letting shuffle throw you a sonic morsel - but if you're prepared to strap in for the full 110 minutes the experience becomes something more akin to a performance. The first disc is right at home alongside Preteen Weaponry, with a great deal of droning and looping and very much an electronic feel, then at disc two we take a sharp turn and Oneida play a set of songs which are surprisingly straight and structured in nature - this took me by surprise, and put the long psychedelic workouts into a different context. The songs put me in mind of Clinic - rich in ideas, riffs, arrangements, but with that post-dance inclusion of textured noise. Also not a million miles away from Can in spirit and, at times, sound.

The third part of the album has another distinctive feel to it - an altogether less aggressive attitude towards the long improvisations, a chill-out cousin of disc one, culminating in the 20 minute Folk Wisdom which gradually works the energy back up towards the feel of the opening disc.

With this release, Oneida can officially count me as a fan. I like this band because they are serious about what they do. There is a lot of jamming but they are not just fucking around. Years ago when Spiritualized were being mercilessly hyped as the second coming of psychedlia, I really hoped they were going to sound like this instead of the fey gauchos they tuned out to be.

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20th Jul 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Sunset Rubdown

Dragonslayer

Jagjaguwar

Ever since Sunset Rubdown's debut LP Shut Up I Am Dreaming made its welcome and permanent position in my life it has become quite clear that Spencer Krug's side project was threatening to upstage the main event. Now 3 years on and their third album sees the transformation complete. Never before has Wolf Parade sounded more like an afterthought and this band more like the powerhouse it has always threatened to be.

2007's Random Spirit Lover was a studio-built album, almost entirely written while recording and every layer being painstakingly overdubbed and adjusted. The result was tremendous but utterly overwhelming in its size and intensity. Dragonslayer is a totally different story. It is the product of a far more organic recording process with the music being left in its raw state and allowed to grow naturally. Strangely enough, having been born in a contrasting environment, Dragonslayer is just as momentous, but it's also an altogether different creation. Instead of pounding you into blissful submission Dragonslayer sprinkles angel dust in your eyes by way of some truly magnificent compositions and Spencer Krug's writing, which really have no place in a world this cynical.

Random Spirit Lover was all about excess. Almost every song launched into full blown magnitude during the first few bars with Krug filling every corner of each song with frenzied poetry. The first thing you notice about Dragonslayer is the space. The songs are long and the music is allowed time to really explore its territory. Instead of springing out of the blocks most songs here enjoy some of the most sublime introductions I've heard in a long time. Krug makes ambitious music and by gradually raising up these compositions in the way he does here transforms them into stella entities. I never thought he would ever top Shut Up I Am Only Dreaming Of Places Where Lovers Have Wings from the debut but Idiot Heart comes closer than anything else to stealing that crown. With a chugging guitar intro Krug simmers with brilliant clarity and patience. The instruments keep a low but weighty profile with a glorious guitar circling them with wild abandon. "You can't settle down until the Icarus in your blood drowns" mumbles Krug as the whole intricate construction swells in unison on the wing of this guitar work that never fails to light a fire in your heart in the brief time it is given to fly. In over six minutes in length this song dips and dives, hinting at finishing then changing course and hurtling off again.

Black Swan has a drum beat intro that runs for over a minute which is virtually unheard of from this band. Krug and his musicians explode periodically along this beat but then fade away to leave it running in its beautiful simplicity. The raw production employed on these songs is best seen in the lead guitar. On this song it flares and soars with unbridled energy then drops into the rhythm with expert timing. It really gives this album its feeling of limitlessness as it sings such heart wrenching melodies but with such gruff and gravely textures.

I could write endlessly about some of these songs, the dub rhythmical structure of You Go On Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II), the near electro sound that introduces Nightingale/December Song or the moment Camilla Wynne Ingr first utters her soft vocal pearls on Idiot Heart but music this precious should really be left to be experienced. I could write forever but always fall short of capturing the magic that lies in Krug's crazy heart. He sings of shooting stars, magical palaces, kings and queens and mouthfuls of butterfly wings because these are the only concepts that sit comfortably in this vast imagination. By hiding under the sheltering banner of a side project Krug has managed to sneak up the inside lane and rides comfortably upfront. Propelled by bluebird's wings and dragon's flames he's racing ahead as one of todays finest songwriters and with a band this strong behind him there really is no stopping this glorious insanity.

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29th Jun 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Song Of The Day Volume VI: I Knew

summer's (almost) here - what better time than to start another round of Song Of The Day with this track from Black Mountain offshoot Lightning Dust?

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23rd Jun 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

Infinite Lightning Dust

Looks like Amber Webber has a good excuse for missing the recent Pink Mountaintops tour - the Black Mountain vocalist has a new album out under the Lightning Dust formation, with fellow Vancouverian Black Mountaineer Joshua Wells.

"I Knew" is available for download now (mp3) - and it suggest that Infinite Light seems set to expand the band's sound from the minimalist magic of 2007's self-titled debut.

Out August 3rd on Jagjaguwar.

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15th Jun 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

Odawas

The Blue Depths

Jagjaguwar

WARNING: 1983 VERSION OF SCARFACE SOUNDTRACK SPOILER ALERT.

If there are three things the 1983 remake of Scarface is known for it is probably violence, swearing and a truly shocking synth-drenched soundtrack.

However, were it Michael Mann not Brian De Palma remaking Scarface in 1983. And were Tony Montana to be getting high on his own supply of marijuana and not cocaine. And were Tony Montana to come to realise that world wasn’t actually just ‘his’ but infact was there to be shared with Dolphins and Whales and other such sea dwelling mammals. And were Sir David Attenbrough to pop up at some point. Whether you would have a superior film or not is highly questionable, whether you would have a superior soundtrack however is highly likely. And the chances are it would sound something like this, the 4th album from Indiana’s Odawas. Subtle synth tinged oceanic influenced niceness with yet another high-pitched/reverbed/lovely vocal ala My Morning Jacket / Band of Horses / Great Lake Swimmers ……as Tony Montana would say "Oooh that's nice. Who is it?".

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15th May 2009 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Pink Mountaintops @ The Borderline, London, May 11th 2009

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11th May 2009

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Free Dinosaur

Dinosaur Jr are lumbering towards releasing a new album (Farm - due June 22nd on Pias/Jagjaguwar), but you can get a taste of the new jurassic era now, with a free download of I Want You To Know.

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5th May 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

The Pinkmountaintops

Outside Love

Jagjaguwar

While best described as a Black Mountain side-project, Pink Mountaintops' debut record in fact preceded that of Black Mountain - but with the epic, note-perfect release of 2007's In The Future, Black Mountain is now firmly established as the main project, while Pink Mountaintops retains a distinctly more casual vibe, blending laid-back, bluesy riffs, with campfire vocals and the occasional burst of lo-fi disco rock.

Opener Axis: Thrones of Love is Pink Mountaintops-plus and sets the tone for much of the record with its slow pace, big drums and mellow harmonies. As expected, this is a more developed release than the previous two Pink Mountiantops records - and much as In The Future expanded Black Mountain's sound and pushed them into a new league, Outside Love attempts to do the same. The songs are bigger, more polished and more produced - while still eschewing that note-perfect precision of In The Future, instead opting for a more laid-back affair - more along the country-honk lines of Sticky Fingers than the technical perfection of Van Halen. It's also a good ten minutes longer than either of the previous Pink Mountaintops records - at a whopping 43 minutes.

With the band's higher profile comes a more extensive roster of guests on the record and guest spots are provided here for Godspeed You! Black Emperor's Sophie Trudeau, Jackie O Motherfucker's Josh Stevenson and Superconductor's Keith Parry amongst others. However, it's Black Mountain regular Amber Webber who makes the most notable contribution here - adding her atmospheric vocals to the excellent While We Were Dreaming, which recalls her own Lightning Dust album. Title track Outside Love is one notable disappointment on the record, promising much but never quite delivering, with the lumbering guest vocals from sunnO)))'s Jesse Sykes dragging it down. Luckily the damage is quickly repaired by album stand-out, I Thank You which builds on all the band's strengths, recalling Exile On Main St-era Stones and channeling the aforementioned country-honk in just the right places. The Gayest Of Sunbeams offers a break from the honkytonk and heads back into the disco-rock territory that the band explored with the likes of Bad Boogie Ballin' or more recent single Single Life, before the epic finale of Closer To Heaven.

Make no mistake, this is a great record that is a major move forward from the band's previous efforts, but it's missing that magic ingredient that lifted Black Mountain from 'great' to 'unmissable', and for that I can't help but feel mildly disappointed. Of course, this should come as no surprise in the context of The Pinkmountaintops' previous efforts and in fact even follows the step-up attitude that lifted the Black Mountain mothership's recent masterpiece up ahead of their prior work.

Outside Love was never going to topple In The Future from the throne and it has no intention of trying. This is a totally different beast and on its own terms it's another very successful effort.

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28th Apr 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Swan Lake

Enemy Mine

Jagjaguwar

Comprised of members of Wolf Parade and The New Pornographers and originally operating under the name ‘Thunder Cloud’, Canada’s Swan Lake underwent a name change upon discovering their first choice was already taken (although not by Steven Segal who had already bagged ‘Thunderbox‘) and released a debut album, Beast Moans in 2006. So named, because its sound reminded band member Spencer Krug of  “…a bear dying in a tar pit.” Beast Moans was a mash-up of the trio’s very differing approach to song writing, layers of melodies and styles thrown into the mix to see what came out.

With new album Enemy Mine (Named after the 80's Science Fiction film starring Dennis Quaid) the band made a more concerted effort on tighter collaboration and although certainly more pleasant on the ear than an animal dying slowly, it is still in no great hurry to be taken home and cared for. Thanks largely to the spoken/sung style of other band member Daniel Bejar (Carey Mercer makes up the trio) Enemy Mine comes across as quite abrasive on first listen. It plays out like a collection of scenes from a musical. And a musical that takes itself quite seriously to boot. Which would be ok if any of the lyrics stood out and got you thinking, but on the first few listens it just sounds like a literary stream of consciousness, this from ‘Heartswam’ being my favourite so far:

“I was coming off something particularly strong, you had your gloves on, they looked fucking brutal”.

And I say so far, because I’m convinced Enemy Mine is going to get better. It’s three creators clearly didn’t make it to be picked up on the commute to work and put down with the coffee. There’s a lot more going on here than I can take in, during the few listens I’ve had - so I’m advancing it half a star in credit from its initial 2.5 score. It’s not an album I’m desperate to adopt, but neither is it one I’m ready to throw to the tarpits. Yet.

(As a side note, they originally were going to call the album ‘Before the Law’ after a Franz Kafka parable, but were tired of being constantly referred to as ‘literary’. I thought I’d help them out with this by lowering the brow a touch with name-checks to Steven Seagal and Dennis Quaid.)

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27th Mar 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Today in Dinosaur News: New Dinosaurs

it's all go go go in Jurassic Park today: some dude has dug up a whole load of new dinosaurs on the Isle Of Wight - and Jagjaguwar have signed Dinosaur Jr

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24th Feb 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

A Meeting of the minds

Ear-drum bursting old-timers Dinosaur Jr have another post-reunion album on the way - and have signed with killer label Jagjaguwar to release it.

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23rd Feb 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

Get Spotify. Now.

If you're not on board already, head over and register for a free account at Spotify and download their player now. Building on Nokia's badly presented, but solid concept of 'comes with music', the program works like iTunes, or a totally unlocked Last FM - but stores no music on your hard drive. Music is all delivered legally over the www as and when you play it, at a bitrate comparable to decent mp3 compression. A basic account is free, with the only concession being the occasional advert. And currently that is occasional - with only about 3 ads playing over 8 hours of continuos use at the moment, and most of them were for Spotify's own premium service. For that premium service you can pay 99p a day, or £9.99 a month for advert-free listening - which is hardly extortion.

The concept has come a long way since I last checked in, with the selection now being pretty thorough. Some of the usual cautious big-hitters (Beatles, Led Zep, Pink Floyd, Metallica) are absent, and a few labels are obviously not quite there yet (e.g. Sub Pop, Jagjaguwar) but on the whole the catalogue is on a simlar footing to iTunes - and they even have a few exclusives, like a one week heads-up on U2's new album.

Search for an album, press play and you're off. So easy it's ridiculous.

We're already using it heavily at Chimp HQ - particularly thanks to the built in support for Last FM, which lets us keep our charts up-to-date with minimum hassle - and I dare say this app (or at least the concept) will undoubtedly define the future of music, just as Napster, iPods and iTunes all have. You have been warned.

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#Music
#Tech

23rd Feb 2009 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

Pink Mountaintops are heading Outside Love

New Pink Mountaintops album coming May 5. Great guest list: Sophie Trudeau (A Silver Mt. Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor), Ted Bois (Destroyer), Jesse Sykes (Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, sunnO)))), Phil Wandscher (Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter, Whiskeytown), Josh Stevenson (Jackie O Motherfucker), Ashley Webber (The Organ, Bonnie Prince Billy), Amber Webber (Black Mountain, Lightning Dust), Matthew Camirand (Black Mountain, Blood Meridian), Joshua Wells (Black Mountain, Lightning Dust), Keith Parry (Superconductor, the Gay), and Tolan McNeil (Caroline Mark).

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9th Feb 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

Women

Women

Jagjaguwar

This debut from Canada's Women is certainly a rough diamond, but a diamond none the less. Recorded in Chad Vangallen's basement using ghetto blasters and old tape decks over four months Women continue the run of infectious lo-fi music that dominated last year but lace the whole thing with the slightest hint of melody. I would describe this band as the twisted wreckage that might occur after a multi-car pile up involving Animal Collective, The Beach Boys, Liars and Times New Viking. They have the unpredictable flair of Animal Collective, the drifting harmonies of The Beach Boys but can easily turn on you like a Liars sucker-punch. The Times New Viking reference is glaringly obvious as the whole thing bristles with tape hiss and guitar wash.

But where that band take the lo-fi sound to almost impenetrable lengths Women dangle things like song structure and melody tantalizingly close to the listener that it's hard to give up on them. The opening track Cameras is just glorious with it's warm jangle easing us in but after a mere one minute the whole thing descends into Lawncare, a pulsating, hollow and thoroughly unfriendly song that puts the listener on alert from the outset. But they'll rein you back in if you ever started to wander during the hard times with 50's tinged pop of Black Rice or the breakneck jangle of Shaking Hand, a song which awkwardly shifts between tempos with some incredibly nifty guitar work. The vocals are layered and muffled and often act as yet another instrument rather than forming the backbone of the sound. The album can shift from buried yet catchy pop hooks to pastoral instrumental sound experiments like Woodbine. It can also hit you with January 8th, the most Liars influenced track here. It's a relentless barrage of off-key guitars and crashing drums. It plays in the vicinity of recognition but ultimately carves it's own route through highly avant-guard noise. And it also runs into the final track Flashlights which finishes the record off with an all out assault using every instrument going. It's pure noise and acts as a warning to anyone who was about to form an opinion about what they just heard. This is a tough record yet full of rewarding moments. It crams in so many elements and manages to cram them all in to a very unique sound.

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28th Jan 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Bon Iver Hits The Charts

Bon Iver has hit the UK charts with his new single Blood Bank (review here), currently 'nestled between Pink and Rihanna in the hit parade', at number 37. That makes him Jagjaguwar's first top 40 single in the UK.....

He's also got a couple of tracks on the forthcoming Red Hot compilation, hopefully embedded below, along with a track from The Decemberists.

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26th Jan 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

Bon Iver

Blood Bank

Jagjaguwar

Hot on the heels of the masses of praise heaped on debut For Emma, Forever Ago goes this four track EP from Justin Vernon, alias Bon Iver. While Skinny Love may have become a breakout track, For Emma, Forever Ago was essentially a concept album, consistent in tone and deeply entrenched in the atmosphere of it's conception - out in the woods of Wisconsin. These additional tracks expand on that idea, but outside of the context of the complete album they seem a little lost, and with the exception of atmospheric lead track Blood Bank, none really come close to that stand alone success of Skinny Love.

That might be explained by the fact that Blood Bank was a left-over from the For Emma sessions, while the other three are post-breakthough recordings. Unless of course, there was a vocoder stashed away in that log cabin, as Vernon bravely (but unsuccessfully) attempts to reclaim the instrument from Cher on Woods.

Beach Baby is pleasant enough, while Babys repetitive multi-tracked piano gets a litlle much - but who's complaining? Any suggestion that For Emma was far from a one-off is more than welcome, as anticipation already starts to build for a follow-up proper.

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23rd Jan 2009 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Wilderness

(k)no(w)here

Jagjaguwar

It was just before the music stopped on my first listen through ‘(k)no(w)here’ that I thought the first track was going on a bit. Then I read the blurb.

“Conceived as one musical piece... The eight identifiable parts of ‘(k)no(w)here’ are not readily separated from each other, such is the flow from and into each part.”

Ah ha! Clever. Very good. Well done. Carry on.

So, hats off to the 4 Baltimore Art Rockers for doing that. It works really well. The ebb and flow of the album and the blending of tunes into one long track definitely helps build up the tension here. Someone wiser than me described their skill as ‘delaying gratification’ – and that sums it up nicely. Many of the songs here seem, Escher-like, to build and build. The full force is held back, before they let fly at just the right moment.

It’s a big expansive sound for a 4 piece. It’s nervous, it’s brooding and urgent. The angry asthmatic rasp of James Johnson – who is occasionally backed up by guitarist Colin McCann (aka Lord Dog Bird) – creates an engaging contrast with the music.

These dudes are quite serious about their output being artistic and honest. A fact which no doubt contributes to them being held in such high esteem from their label bosses at Jagjaguawar and beyond. Their output certainly isn’t pandering to any fad or fashion. While in places it reminds me a bit of Captain Beefheart in places, overall it feels original and beyond comparison (though do take into account my limited knowledge of art rock).

All up, I think this album is excellent. It’s a real grower. Note, though, that some of the magic is lost if you put it on shuffle.

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18th Nov 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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The Lord Dog Bird

The Lord Dog Bird

Jagjaguwar

The Lord Dog Bird is the solo alter ego of Colin McCann - the guitarist in the band Wilderness (review of their new album to follow) - and it was recorded at home on a 4-track by the spookily voiced Lord Colin himself. Sparse scratchy droning guitar, vocals and simple drums are the main ingredients here. This bare and basic sound adds authenticity and power to both voice and word. The atmosphere is a heavy claustrophobic mix of fear, honesty, and a tinge of optimism.

There is, though, a sense that these tunes are works in progress torn from a scrapbook. The similarity of the songs (both the sound and the composition), the presence of a couple of noodly instrumentals and the lo-fi nature of the whole piece gives it an unfinished feel. That said there are two exceptional tracks on here that elevate the whole damn thing:

“March To The Mountain” takes us on a compelling journey where the drums punch in to drive an urgent sense of being up against it. The words sound better delivered than written, but I like the way the end of the/my world is nigh gets expressed: “The sky is up above - the melting snow of love - and every rivers clogged - and you can’t find the sun.” The twin vocals on “The Gift Of Song In The Lions Den” add a haunting tone to this driven song that…Oh – bugger it – download and have a listen for yourself here.

This rather enjoyable 9 track album, released by the solidly rostered jagjaguwar label, was recorded when the main act were on an extended hiatus. Now, it might turn out that he has worked tirelessly to create this, his magnum opus, but I wonder if it might have reached a greater level of opus-ness if worked on for a bit longer.

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12th Nov 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Okkervil River

The Stand Ins

Jagjaguwar

Okkervil River are fast becoming the only band you need. Following last year's stunning album The Stage Names, Will Sheff gives us its sequel - The Stand Ins. It's the band's Amnesiac with the recording sessions for The Stage Names bearing so much fruit that a double album was momentarily considered. Thankfully they bit their tongue and kept us waiting and as much of a treat as The Stage Names was, emerging from the melancholy of Black Sheep Boy with such confidence and grandeur, The Stand Ins swift release simply serves as yet another underlining of the word 'special' when describing this band.

Artist WIlliam Schaff's embroidered artwork that adorned The Stage Names here depicts a haunting skeletal figure with an arm reaching up and out of sight. At the end of this arm is the hand that emerges from the quicksand on the previous cover and lets us know that The Stand Ins aims to be a deeper immersion into the theme of show biz that plagued Sheff's writing earlier. It's the underneath of The Stage Names, it's what goes on behind the scenes and it ain't a pretty picture.

With his cross hairs firmly trained on the world of stage and screen recently, it's the business surrounding good ol' rock n roll that Sheff has it in for here and he treads a strange and complicated line of using the very medium in question to draw our attention to its pitfalls and failings. Lead single Lost Coastlines introduces us to the journey that every band faces and the distance this ship can take you from your starting point. It describes the joys and hardships faced when trying to keep a band together, and ironically, he does this with the help of his old band mate Jonathan Meiburg who, as you all will know, recently left Okkervil River to concentrate on Shearwater. Pop Lie is a scathing attack on the dishonesty of pop music and the manipulation that is used to gather in the fans. He doesn't stop there, and goes on to accuse the fans themselves of lying in the act of singing along. Is he separating himself and his writing from this deceit or telling us, his fans, that we are all a bunch of liars ourselves? Within this doubt lies the success of these songs.

Quite often Sheff places himself on the other side of the limelight, questioning the sanity of adoration. In Starry Stairs, Sheff assumes the supporting role watching the object of his affection being stared at by "these curious sets of eyes" while his heart is stretched to its elastic limit. Similarly in Blue Tulip, Sheff's amorous goals are kept at bay and, downtrodden and beaten, he graciously exclaims "Hats off to my distant hope, I'm held back by a velvet rope." This velvet rope becomes the main theme of Sheff's writing at the moment, standing in for something or someone that keeps us from our truth or our natural home.

Musically Sheff's bow is becoming multi stringed in the most thrilling of progressions. The energetic leap from Black Sheep Boy to The Stage Names was stunning and is continued here. This album follows a similar structure putting it's mightiest songs forward to lead the charge with the more contemplative foot-soldiers following close behind, plotting every step. Lost Highways is the sparing partner to The Stage Names' Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Is It with the jauntiest of basslines rolling unashamedly throughout with Meiburg's croon adding rich texture. The vocals on Singer Songwriter ooze out with a forked tongue as we hear of the musicians who bitch about their woe's when they have everything, while Blue Tulip reluctantly builds to its climax by way of heavy, plodding beats, wailing vocals and an eventual outpouring of the grittiest guitar. As Sheff describes his "distant hope" that is getting ever further away from him the cymbals crash around his words like exploding stars. He portrays a desire of celestial proportions and through the musical magnitude we see his hope collapse like a universe in the final stages of disappearing into itself.

This band may have evolved in the most colossal way since its beginnings but the key facts remain firmly intact. Sheff's direction and obsessive attention to detail make his work endlessly listenable and his courage and forward thinking that led his band out of the type of songwriting that made their name has given rise to this inability to stop creating. The only reason for this album to fall slightly short of its predecessor is that the distance covered between albums hasn't been as jaw-dropping but it seems hardly fair to penalize one creation for being merely as brilliant as the previous one.

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6th Oct 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Bowerbirds

Hymns For A Dark Horse

Dead Oceans

In their original incarnation, Bowerbirds were a duo consisting of guitarist and principal songwriter Phil Moore and accomplished painter Beth Tacular (great name) assuming accordion and percussion duties. Before the recording of their debut album, Hymns For A Dark Horse, they were joined by Mark Paulson who has added vital instrumental layering to their compositions, bringing piano, violin and added percussion to the band. This album was originally released in 2007 on Burly Time Records but is given a rerun this August with added tracks by the Jagjaguar affiliate Dead Oceans. Currently on tour with Bon Iver, Bowerbirds continue the gentle wave of grass-roots American folk that is warming hearts across the globe.

An unassuming Hooves nudges this record into the light as it emerges quiet and lonely. The accordion provides glimmers of warmth until the multiple vocals arrive for the chorus. All these elements are exploited to greater effect on the following track. In Our Talons assumes a brisker pace with homemade drums click-clacking in the distant background and the rising voices lifting the song to its climax of "No, you're not alone." Dark Horse's violins soar with gentle melancholic sunshine like kind words spoken to a broken heart.

It's the group harmonies that provide the essential ingredient on this album. Moore's solo vocals have an easy croon to them but it's when he is joined by what sounds like more than 2 more voices that each song is lifted from simple singer/songwriter outpourings to majestic pieces of heartfelt beauty. Musically each song relies on two main factors, the whispering accordion that faithfully accompanies each vocal journey, and secondly it's the DIY drum beats that follow behind. As if being played with sticks on the kitchen table, this makeshift beat provides the record with its earthy rawness and as they seem to come from way back in the distance they provide a hollow element to the sound. The inevitable reaction that takes place when this emptiness is filled by the gathering vocal harmonies is the ultimate success of the record.

The comparisons to the aforementioned Bon Iver come not simply through the record company they are both associated with, but from an obvious ethos that surrounds the music they create and the life they live outside of this music. Moore and Tacular live in an Airstream trailer on a quiet plot of land on the outskirts of Raleigh in North Carolina and it's this sort of organic, rural and simple way of life that permeates every second of this record. It informs its unpretentious wishes and helps deliver on its honest expression. There are differences of course: Bon Iver aims to conjure a greater sense of loneliness and does it with dazzling effect. Hymns isn't so dazzling and Moore's voice lacks the captivation of Justin Vernon's and when left alone for too long can slip into a mediocre folk sound. Album closer Matchstick Maker illustrates this tendency to tread water. With no obvious centre to the song it can drift along in an unfocused haze as if guided by Adem. But thankfully for us this seldom happens and the result is a work of real beauty. Jagjaguar and it's affiliated labels are providing the backbone to this years top releases and while Bowerbirds may not leap from the pile like some of the others, it resides near the top of the heap as a band clearly in love with their craft.

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31st Jul 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Oneida

Preteen Weaponry

Jagjaguwar

Once there was a time - long before the term was appropriated by Hi-NRG progtastic disco monkeys - that Trance was a good thing. Bunches of like minded musicians, possibly experiencing an advanced state of chemical refreshment, would set the tapes rolling with minimal discussion about what would happen. The US had Miles Davis and the Grateful Dead, Europe had Krautrock and in the UK we had, err, Hawkwind. All good tho'. The kind of music that proudly invited the listener to get loaded and go with it.

Preteen Weaponry is a 3-part jam lasting 40 minutes, so if the thought of that doesn't in some way appeal to you then read no further. If, however, you enjoy hearing musicians exploring and improvising on a phat spaced-out groove, then strap in and set the controls for the heart of the sun.

What makes this record work so well is the way it comes together fairly slowly in the first section - the musicians trying to work out their own spaces in the mix, getting hold of the groove - and then all of a sudden they lock together and the swirling jagged mass of noises becomes one big unified sound. Guitars and old-skool synths thru effects become indistinguishable, clouds of phase and echo reverberate behind a solid yet frantic drummer, whilst something (whatever) holds a pulse note or phrase. Listening to it really tranced me out (like, totally) and I mean that as a huge compliment. As someone who's had a lifelong addiction to music I can often find myself over-analysing what I'm hearing - deciding I don't like a guitar sound or the reverb on the drums or some other nit-pickin' shit - but this record doesn't allow anyone to do that. It starts, it goes, it goes some more, it keeps going, and you either go with it or you don't. My advice is :- go with it.

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29th Jul 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Ladyhawk

Shots

Jagjaguwar

I've yet to hear 'the first great album of the year' or 'the second' for that matter, so it's with a clear conscience and complete disregard for continuity that I give the first great album of the year title to Vancouver's Ladyhawk and their great album - Shots.

OK, so it's nearly April and I'm not listening to as much new music as I used to. Partly because of various grown-up commitments and partly because there's just too much new music out there. For someone who used to base his musical jumps into the unknown on an appearance in a trusted band's Thank You list (or failing that usually buying anything on Sub Pop) - the alternative music choice in 2008 can be quite overwhelming.

An old-school rock band then, with guitars bass and drums - that stand and fall by the quality of the songs rather than a quirky hook, look or attitude, is to this cynic, a 21st century blessing. In this respect, I suppose Shots shares more in common with Black Mountain, than Vampire Weekend. Little surprise perhaps, as Ladyhawk share a label with their fellow Canadians.

Recorded in an abandoned farmhouse, over a booze-fuelled two weeks, Shots is the soundtrack to one of the great parties. Rocking hard in places, edgy and introspective in others, it's a party that could spiral out of control at any minute, but one you definitely don't want to leave. Like Neil Young and his honeyslide powered On The Beach, Shots really captures the mood of its recording.

I Don't Always Know What You're Saying kicks things off and sets the mood; with a reverbed and fuzzy production that sounds exactly like it was recorded in a booze-fuelled abandoned farmhouse. S.T.H.D., Fear and Corpse Paint, maintain the tempo - dark, edgy, rocking. Before they slow it down for a couple of tracks, I'll Be Your Ashtray calls to mind yet more fellow Canadian's - Magnolia Electric Company (“I'll be your ashtray. Because I only want to feel you burning.”) whilst Faces of Death carries the melancholic air of too much whiskey.

But before getting too down, the party kicks off again with Night, You're Beautiful a self-explanatory title that could neatly sum-up Shots. You get the idea that Ladyhawk love the night - not in a whitefaced-Gothic kind of way, more that all the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll is going on after hours ( “Darkness you touch my soul. And you fill my heart. And you make me burn when we're apart”) They love the night so much, they even include a few “do-do-do” backing vocals amongst the sludge guitars.

And what better way to round all that off than with an eleven minute epic. Ghost Blues is in no hurry to get anywhere, and even lulls you into thinking that they've succumbed to a bit of self-indulgence. Then, around the 6 minute mark, the band let out a mighty Primal Scream; a call round a campfire for a higher spirit to take them home, probably a call to the Pagan God of Awesome Parties - whose number, without doubt, is in Ladyhawk's favourites.

A. Great. Album.

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25th Mar 2008 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Black Mountain

In The Future

Jagjaguwar

The first great record of 2008 has arrived. From the opening monster riff of Stormy High, prepare to be taken on a power ride that few bands can seem to muster these days. Second track, Angels, has the end of album flourishes that most bands would hold back for the final number, but here it only serves to get things started. This album will kick down the door and roar through your house like a hoard of vikings.

The cover artwork might suggest hocus-pocus and a fuzzy 70's psychedelia, but this is certainly not a nostalgic wander through riffs-gone-by. Where Wolfmother's tongues seem to remain firmly in cheek, Black Mountain have no air of pastiche and treat the music with the respect it deserves.

While 2005's Black Mountain showed hints of what this band were capable of, those hints were quickly matched by a wide variety of side projects - from the looser sound of Pink Mountaintops, through Matt Camarind's Blood Meridian and most recently with Amber Webber's Lightning Dust. Stephen McBean reconvened Black Mountain to record a follow up in 2006, but their various commitments led to an abortive start. Once the schedules cleared out however, the band knuckled down for a solid stint and laid down a burst of material in a matter of weeks. Surprising, as this is a record that seems so coherent and focussed you would assume a masterpiece level build-up was involved.

Their awesome live shows recently introduced the new tracks, showing this to be an album of raw power. A huge guitar sound, monster drums (most epic on the blistering finale of Tyrants) and only a keyboard to add a few extra flourishes to tracks like Wucan. Amber Webber's back up vocals add a further dimension, regularly jostling for prime position and taking centre stage on a couple of album highlights, such as the rumbling Queens Will Play.

The album scores so highly due to it's cohesiveness as a single piece of work, that you rarely feel like breaking up. In the days of the free mp3 that in itself is a rarity, but here it adds another dimension to all the songs, as you know you're never far away from a monster rock-out. There's tension here and the great range of highs and lows add light and dark, packing out this superb album. There's barely a bum note here, from the sweeping epic ups-and-downs of Tyrants to the acoustic subtlety of Stay Free. Even noodle-free 17 minute epic Bright Lights has it's five star moments.

The record has already taken a hammering over the last few weeks, but shows no sign of tiredness and I can see this one sitting in the favourites for the long haul.


Coming to an eardrum near you: January 21st 2008
There's a limited edition available while stocks last, with a second disc of 3 bonus non-album tracks. Do it.

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9th Jan 2008 - 2 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Dead Canadian Jaguwars

There's a new favourite record label at Chimpomatic HQ, or should I say labels. Secretly Canadian have been putting out quality artists like Magnolia Electric Co / Jason Molina, Richard Swift, David Vandervelde and Scout Niblett since 1996 - and found major success in the last few years with Anthony & The Johnsons and The Earlies. Although based in Indiana, there are strong Canadian connections with the label - which plays host to several bands from the world's 'third best' musical country.

Sister label Jagjaguwar also started in 1996, before the two became closely affiliated in 1999. Home to the "Black Mountain Army" collective (Black Mountain, Pink Mountaintops, Lightning Dust etc), the label also boasts Alex Delivery, Daniel Johnston, Okkervil River, Oneida and Wolf Parade side-project Sunset Rubdown.

Although based in Austin, Dead Oceans is the new third member of the family, sharing staff and facilities with the other labels and signing the highly praised Dirty Projectors, as well as Phosphorescent, Citay and Bishop Allen.

This year has seen a barrage of quality releases from the group, so we've rounded up a bunch of them here. All this coincides nicely with last night's Black Mountain concert and sets the scene for their new album In The Future, due January 2008. Our review for that will be up after Christmas, but rest assured it's likely to be your favourite record of 2008.

Reviews

Black Mountain - Live at Cargo
Phosphorescent - Pride
Citay - Little Kingdom
Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala
Bobb Trimble - Iron Curtain Innocence / Harvest Of Dreams
Bishop Allen - The Broken String
Sunset Rubdown - Random Spirit Lover
Richard Youngs - Autumn Response

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7th Dec 2007 - Add Comment - Tweet

Sunset Rubdown

Random Spirit Lover

Jagjaguwar

With their third album Sunset Rubdown present you with 2 options. (A) You could buy the album and listen to it a lot of times or (B) You could attach a balloon to a hose pipe, turn on the tap as far as it could go and put your face close to the ever expanding sack of tension. The result would be the same except for one difference. With option (B) you would get a more than refreshing blast in the face as the balloon bursts showering you with water. With option (A) the balloon would burst every 30 seconds and instead of a torrent of water pouring out, great birds of prey would launch forth from their captivity showering gold dust from their outstretched wings on any one lucky enough to witness this magical splendor.

Random Spirit Lover
tests the elastic limits of both the album as a structure and your listening patience. It is crammed full of the most complex and intricate music heard since their last record and by building tension constantly it looks you square in the eyes and asks "how much are you willing to take?" Spencer Krug is the tour de force behind this project and it was his exquisite turn of phrase that dazzled in last years Shut Up I Am Dreaming. This time it's the grand musical arrangements that sweep you up in their daunting majesty and carry you away to lands never seen by the human eye. The songs give a fleeting glance to convention hinting at chorus and verse but bleed into one-another so completely that it would be impossible to separate this record into singles.

From the word go The Mending Of The Gown comes out of the blocks at an alarming pace. and the pounding piano and screeching guitar do their best to keep up with Krug's impatient vocals that tumble out like a rapid stream of consciousness. The songs are crammed with more instruments than are healthy and with multi layered vocals an all-encompassing wall of sound is created. This is where the listener can easily become overwhelmed but the album is cleverly paced with just enough pauses in this sound barrage to keep you onboard, like the opening drum/vocals on The Courtesan Has Sung. This slight glimpse of space makes the monstrous guitar that welcomes back the wall of sound seem even more thrilling.

Krug's work is always high drama and this album more than most has an unquestionable theatricality to it. His lyrics are steeped in antique narrative and invoke wild, fairy-tale imagery of magicians and courtesans or riding around on leopards throwing dead birds in the air. But with the addition of the music Random Spirit Lover is more akin to an opera both in its scale and ambition and in the fact that quite often you don't have clue what is going on and frequently think about leaving. And this time will come for us all believe me. The first prong of this attack is with the arrival of Colt Stands Up, Grows Horns. It is obviously the stories dream sequence where all rules are forgotten and the song descends into an unbearable spiral of synthesizers that never let up. And they continue through the next track like a nightmarish approach of madness. Thankfully the albums crowning glory rises triumphantly from this hell like a winged savior. The Taming Of The Hands That Came Back To Life is is the song to bring this record back to life. It;s a galloping, sword wielding knight riding into adversity. But sadly its bravery is soon overcome by Trumpet, Trumpet, Toot! Toot! Having been kept at bay for so long the fierce wall of sound returns bigger and fiercer than ever. It's wrath quashes our brave Knight into dust as the sound swells to terrifying levels and the entire structure of this record is threatened more than ever.

As you can see this music brings out the drama in us all and that is why it is such a special thing. It's like a girlfriend you just can't stay with but have to make yourself leave. It's a high maintenance ball buster that sometimes you just want to strangle but its ability to thrill at a moments notice and to transport you to far off places makes it virtually impossible to dismiss. It wont be the one you'll settle down with but it will claim a place in your heart forever.

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6th Dec 2007 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Richard Youngs

Autumn Response

Jagjaguwar

Sparse and simple, Richard Youngs is from the Elliot Smith school of minimal production, relying on lyrics and vocal power to win you over. Unfortunately his one studio trick of double-tracking his vocals on several songs make for difficult listening, and as a result Autumn Response album never really gets going.

Sticking to his Man + Guitar format, Youngs plays question and answer with himself, with very little change in pace or tempo.

17 minute epic Something Like Air brings the album to a close, but even here there's not much to recommend beyond the impressive length. It isn't Freebird though, just a very long variation on his other 8 songs...

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6th Dec 2007 - Add Comment - Tweet

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In The Future

Canadian rockers Black Mountain are taking a break from their side projects (Blood Meridian, Pink Mountaintops etc.) and are back with a new record - In The Future. January 21st to be exact, on the superb Jagjaguwar label.

They're starting their assault with a show at Cargo on the 5th of December, supported by the excellent Miracle Fortress.

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19th Nov 2007 - Add Comment - Tweet

Okkervil River

The Stage Names

Jagjaguwar

As the first beats of The Stage Names creeps into audible view any fan of this band will undoubtedly realise that times have changed since the fantastic Black Sheep Boy, Okkervile River's 2005 desperate triumph. With The Stage Names, front man Will Sheff has again managed a triumph but its of a wholly different nature. I guess you could call it a triumphant triumph which I would have thought was the best type. Black Sheep Boy had the power to almost drown you in melancholy as Sheff's tales of woe and despair were delivered with treacle like denseness over all encompassing soundscapes. Though he has by no means cheered up he is aiming his desperation to the heavens and the result is epic.

Sheff writes like a novelist and composes songs full of mysterious characters and plays out his worldly misgivings through each of their sad, broken-down lives. While Black Sheep Boy conjured up images of a time long past The Stage Names is very much rooted in the present. Here we see Sheffs characters as musicians, fans or failing victims of the show-biz mangle. All this is told with Sheff's unique lyrical ambiguity as he manages to swamp you with bookish poetry while always slipping a wink here and there to warn you not to take it all too seriously.

The first three tracks set the tempo high as the dirty riffs of Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe count you in, Unless It Kicks is an endlessly climbing rock powerhouse of a track while A Hand To Take Hold Of The Scene has a swaggeringly jovial jaunt as satisfying as a Love Cats-era Cure and as it descends into blasts of trumpet and backing 'doo doo doo's' we could be listening to Spoon. (Yes, it's that good.) But as thrilling as this opening run of songs is we know it can't continue and it just wouldn't be the same without Sheff providing us with ample opportunity to give in willingly to his unavoidable wave of blissful melancholia. Savannah Smiles is an achingly delicate tale of regret and lost moments while Girl In Port is Sheff at his storytelling best.

But if for some unimaginable reason, like you're mental, all this hasn't managed to convince you by the time you get to the penultimate John Allyn Smith Sails then you're given one last chance to reach out and grab this sorry talent by the scruff of its dirty neck. This is Sheff's tribute to the late John Berryman and it's his finest moments to date. Sheff adopts the first person as he chronicles the poets suicide but as a final twist of the grimmest humor he turns the song into a masterful rendition of the Beach Boys Sloop John B. As he launches himself to his death 'with a book in each hand,' the sorry admission, "this is the worst trip I've ever been on," rings out with laughable desperation and this songwriters genius is immortalised for ever.

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7th Sep 2007 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Lightning Dust

Lightning Dust

Jagjaguwar

Who would have thought that the strange and beguiling space-rock monster of Black Mountain would bear so much fruit since its magnificent debut in 2005. This awesome beast has spewed from its depths many fascinating side projects and this most recent one is no exception. Formed by Amber Webber and Joshua Wells this debut album is the total opposite to the mothership's blend of psychedelic rock and penetrating guitars and yet touches the same grand heights. Webber's haunting vocals form the backbone of the sound and the result is a compelling collection of songs that have the quiet power to make you shiver with icy discomfort as in the hollow Take Me Back. Webber's vocal depth was only hinted at on the Black Mountain debut but its power is fully realised here. She sings with such ease and yet commands an epic respect. Her voice can seem up-close and intimate as in the beautiful Castles And Caves and yet conjure up visions of sprawling, desolate landscapes seen on one of the albums highlights Heaven.

Lightning Dust sees Webber emerge from the other side of the dominating rock of Black Mountain with proof that the time spent in its all-encompassing shadow only strengthened her talents and in many respects informed her own work. One of the interesting things about this record is its ability to suggest the same vastness and space as Black Mountain but with a much lighter touch. It's a delicate thing that evokes grandeur by offering emptiness and is another tick in the box of this Vancouver collective and its fantastic record label Jagjaguar.

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3rd Sep 2007 - Add Comment - Tweet

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Alex Delivery

Star Destroyer

This new release from the always-worth-a-listen Jagjaguwar label is a curious little thing indeed. It's packed full of fractured beats and trickling melodies that all struggle to be heard amid the ever-present fog of noise that make up this intriguing collection of songs. New York's Alex Delivery have here a fuzzy blend of prog rock, Krautrock and Brighton rock mixing spacey distortion with deafening drums, mumbled vocals and delicate melodies that seem to emerge from disused seaside piers or children's playgrounds.

Self-sabotage is also a favored method here as on the opening track Komad. At just over 10 minutes this song treads the fine line between an utter captivating courage to set up a glorious song structure only to completely demolish it and an irritating tendency to never give you what you think you want. Like a rusty swing in a disused playground this song creeks into view only to be joined by crashing drums and frontman Robert Lombardo's gritty vocals. The swing keeps on creaking for about 5 more minutes until it slowly morphs into a field of distorted synths and muffled beats. Rainbows lays down a bed of delicate clicks that sound like millions of sampled insects then scatters over the top an achingly nostalgic melody. Lombardo's vocals shuffle through all this in a lazy manner but you can rest assured that its the scratchy insect noises that eventually win out and the melody is soon confined to a distant memory.

Scotty is the sound of a crippled merry-go-round on board a sinking oil tanker, its sweet, playful loops barely audible over the crashing sounds all around. But then Sheath-Wet seems to hint at this merry-go-round staging something of a resurrection as its melody rises slowly from the depths, joined by the clumsy clattering of various hard surfaces this plods on for over 11 minutes with vocals drifting in whenever they can be bothered. I don't mean in any way to sound negative about this approach as it is strangely beguiling and if you stick with this song you never want it to finish and at some points you wonder if it ever will. It loops round in a hypnotic, self absorbed fuzz like a child spinning around, eventually losing balance.

As the art work suggests this record has an other-worldly feeling, often mirroring the illogical structure of a dream where nothing seems to fit together but the more time you spend with it the more this disconnection seems to make sense. Until, that is, you try to explain it to someone once it's finished and they look at you blankly, waiting for you to stop. A bit like what I'm trying to do now so I'll shut up and let you experience it for yourself on my recommendation. (I think.)

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5th Jun 2007 - 1 comments - Add Comment - Tweet

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Oneida

Happy New Year

Jagjaguwar

This is the eighth full-length album from this Brooklyn trio. On the whole it's a pretty patchy affair but when it's good it's great, as on the album masterpiece Up With People. This epic assault, clocking in at nearly eight minutes, is the reason to get this album. It's by far the heaviest song on the album with relentless guitars that sound like an engine refusing to start - calling to mind speed metal heroes Anthrax. Although Oneida fail to reach these heights again, the rest of Happy New Year is an interesting listen spanning many genres and tempos, but somehow falling short.

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7th Aug 2006 - Add Comment - Tweet

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