Fall/Winter Singles Spectacular, 2006

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December is upon us and the holidays aren’t far from now. So why not add some stocking stuffers for those music fan loved ones? Here are some EPs and singles from the past couple of months that we recommend highly.

Voxtrot – Your Biggest Fan (Playlouderecordings)

After inking a deal with Playlouderecordings earlier this year, Voxtrot arrives with their third EP, a preview of sorts to their forthcoming album, which may still be a little while ahead of us. While fewer in tracks than its predecessors, Your Biggest Fan no less provides listeners with more than a tease, each of these three tracks as wonderful as wonderful as what came before. The title track is a jangly, Beatlesque bit of pep, with Ramesh Srivastava’s signature singalong melodies and humble charm. “Trouble” is more of an obvious choice of single, oddly enough, packed with hooks and a Belle & Sebastian like piano riff. Its hooky chorus of “understand it’s a curse/you’ve got trouble in your blood” is nearly impossible to shake from one’s head, and as always, each part, from intro to verse to bridge, is impeccably placed and sequenced. To close things off, the band tones it down with the acoustic “Sway,” a gentle pretty song that amounts to their most minimal and delicate track released to date. These Austinites know how to pen a bit of melodic artistry better than most bands today, and even if that full-length isn’t quite ready, there’s no question it shall be well worth the wait. – Jeff Terich

Sigur Rós – Saeglópur (Filter)

“Never has Sigur Rós sounded so frighteningly ominous.”

That’s what I said about the song “Saeglópur” in my review of their fourth album, Takk…. The thunderous drums nearly drowning out the pining falsetto of Jon Birgisson emphasize the incredible emotional undercurrent running through the song. It’s almost as if the song itself is a cry for help against overwhelming odds. Listening to the song again reminds me of how much I love this band. It’s one of the few acts existing in which I try to obtain every release, as the band delivers with every go-round. Take for instance the Sigur 1 / Sigur 9 EP, containing videos and songs from their album, ( ), or their ballet backing performance, Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do. The Saeglópur EP is no exception. Besides the balance of menace and glorious magnificence in the title track, there is the short piano based instrumental “Refur,” the somewhat Icelandic version of U2’s “MLK” in “Ó Fridur,” and the ever-escalating percussive layers of “Kafari.” Add to that videos for the three best songs on the preceding album, this EP’s title track, “Hoppípolla” and “Glósóli,” and you have a more than worthy stopgap measure before the quartet’s fifth, one I await eagerly. – Terrance Terich

Midnight Movies – Patient Eye (New Line)

Los Angeles may synonymous with the most obvious of rock stereotypes—punk nihilism, indulgent Laurel Canyon AM pop, butt rock, Jane’s Addiction—but one of its most intriguing contributions to music of late is the subtler, more exotic Midnight Movies. Finding their niche between the ethereal mystique of recent Blonde Redhead and the buzzing farfisa drones of early Stereolab, Midnight Movies is that rare type of pop band that makes something bold and unique out of slight shades and nuances. That said, “Patient Eye” is a catchy song that rocks in a late night, seductive sort of way. Its b-side, a cover of Syd Barrett’s “Golden Hair,” is much more oblique fare, floating in a nebulous cloud of ambience and psychedelia. Considering it’s Barrett’s, though, that’s really the only way it could possibly come out. – Jeff Terich

Idyllists – Idyllists EP (Baby Hurricane)

For those longing for the days of Suede and the Smiths, there is a US-UK connection making hook heavy danceable pop for mopesters, that being the Idyllists. Vocalist Ian Webber is from England, the musicians are from all over the states, and now are all residing in Los Angeles. From first listen, and repeated thereafter, the Idyllists seem to have it all, a rhythm section groovy enough for any disco record, guitars that honor that Butler and Marr tradition, keys that really sing, and an earnest vocal style that seems to say, “This is all too easy for me.” This slick quintet hasn’t quite broken into the big time, but has received enough attention to garner spots on all the major indie radio station playlists, especially for the songs “11:07” and “Touch & Go,” both infectious enough to break out the hazmat suits. Expect big things from the Idyllists, or at least for NME to call them `the greatest musical human beings to ever walk the planet.’ – TT

Bang Gang – Find What You Get EP (From Nowhere – Bang)

In spite of a name that sounds like a raunchy porno flick and having arrived in the States three years after debuting in Europe, Iceland’s Bang Gang is most definitely a band to watch in the coming months. Find What You Get comes as a preview to the US issue of Something Wrong, which will arrive in March. Fronted by Bardi Johannsson, BG is yet one more piece of evidence (in a year that has presented nearly endless exhibits) that mind-blowing musical talent is ingrained in Scandinavian genes. Find What You Get is a gorgeously dark pop treat, mixing heady shoegazer textures with Radiohead-like ambition and folky twee pop reminiscent of If You’re Feeling Sinisterera Belle & Sebastian. Organic, yet laced with just the right touch of effects, each of these songs displays how powerful and yet simple a great pop song can be. Johannsson, whether genetically blessed or not, has an amazing set of songs to share, their haunting tones making for perfect winter listening. But with a full-length just around the corner, this promises to be an exciting spring. – JT

Adam Gnade – Shout the Rafters Down! EP (Drowned in Sound)

Who says you need to have a great singing voice to be a rock star? Adam Gnade speaks his way through another release, this one the EP called Shout the Rafters Down! After an old-timey protest title song, Gnade gets back to the business of spoken word, the kind he practiced to perfection on his previous album, Run, Hide, Retreat, Surrender. The third track, “We Live Nowhere and Know No One” forms somewhat of a hybrid of the first two, a stomp-rocker with spoken lyrics that finds Gnade in new territory, one that could be an entirely new genre. Imagine a mixture of Kid Rock, Bruce Springsteen, Beck and Jim Carroll and you might come close. Part of the brilliance of Gnade’s work is that you can isolate its parts and enjoy them separately, or as the incredible mixture he intended. “Hymn California” is just such a song, with a funky guitar, drum and keyboard track backing Gnade’s ode to my, his and Treble’s home state. Gnade’s previous album was a breath of fresh air, this EP is even better. – TT

The Why Because – Musicshapes (Musicshapes)

Take a gander at The Why Because’s MySpace page, and you’ll discover that the Bay Area post-rock outfit lists a range of influences longer and more diverse than could possibly make sense in contributing to one band’s sound. Yet, after hearing their latest release, Musicshapes, the pieces start to fall together. Bringing to mind the spacious explorations of electric Miles Davis, the oddball structures and sounds of Gang Gang Dance, the repetition of Can, and even some funk and hip-hop influences as well. Their long list of influences may have played some part in the long run, but in reality, there is very little quite like The Why Because. Though only five tracks long, Musicshapes is a lengthy release, carrying each song with loose structures into unforeseen horizons. Truly captivating stuff. As a side note, Dax Pierson of Subtle also contributed to this release, and the band included a heartfelt dedication in the liner notes to Pierson, who became severely injured and paralyzed in a van accident last year. – JT

Luke Temple – 2007 Album Preview EP (Mill Pond)

Singer / songwriter Luke Temple, born in Salem, Massachusetts (a witch! He’s a witch!) but having spent time in nearly everyplace in the states, has given Treble a sneak preview of his upcoming 2007 untitled album! He’s settled now in the Northwest after signing with Seattle’s Mill Pond Records, and fellow Emerald City resident Ben Gibbard calls him `one of the prettiest voices in all of indie rock.’ Well, in these new songs, Temple combines his pretty falsetto with some pretty strange circus sounds and odd choices of tune as he seemingly becomes a Frankenstein’s monster of Art Garfunkel, Wayne Coyne, Nina Simone. The new songs, “Serious,” “The Owl Song” and “Time Rolls a Hill” are experimental to say the least, featuring biorhythmic keyboard weirdness, dissonant banjoes and Temple’s affected vocals. It’s as if Sufjan Stevens channeled Jeff Buckley to cover Who songs. Yeah, it’s like that. – TT

Joemca – Joemca (jum+ka) (One Stone Productions)

I used to be in a band called Cuneyt, and as you may have guessed, nobody knew how to pronounce our name. We pronounced it “kyoo-net,” though we were later informed that the proper Turkish way to say the name (taken from max action Turkish film star Cuneyt Arkin) was “je-nayt”. Go figure. So I find it both smart and courteous on the part of Brooklyn based songwriter Joemca to provide a pronunciation example for listeners on the cover of his debut EP. Now that we know how to say his name, let’s focus on the music. Joemca has been compared to Bono, Bjork and Rufus Wainwright, and truthfully, he’s got a little bit of all three in his songwriting style. In his electronic pop compositions, there’s a touch of Bjork’s danceability, U2’s anthemic power and Rufus Wainwright’s theatrical pop sensibility. Yet the melody of piano driven “Glass Eyes” most closely resembles “Stairway to Heaven” upon initial listen. That’s where the Led Zeppelin comparisons come to an end, however, as Joemca is an artist concerned more with beautifully beat-laden bedroom pop than a combo of hard-hitting blues metal and Druid inspired lyrics. – JT

Langhorne Slim – Engine EP (V2)

Are we sure that ‘Langhorne Slim’ isn’t a fake name for Bob Dylan when he wants to record somewhat anonymously? The first track off of Slim’s V2 EP debut, “English Tea” sounds so much like Dylan that he should probably donate some royalties to the Minneapolis mumbler. By the second song, however, Slim sheds the Dylan impression for a sound all his own. That second song, “Restless” is like a brilliant supercollision of folk atoms of the ’30s and today’s folk sound. “Honey Pie” is a balls-out freakout that could make Frank Black stand up and take notice. “Sweet Olive Tree” brings back the Dylan similarity, especially due to his vocal delivery, but is the better of nearly every Dylan track written since 1976. That might be blasphemy to some, but Langhorne Slim is that talented a songwriter and performer. With Josh Ritter’s keyboardist, Sam Kassirer, in tow, as well as superproducer Brian Deck (Iron & Wine, Modest Mouse), Slim’s next album could be the barometer for modern folk for years to come. – TT

The Life and Times – The Magician EP (Japan only) (Stiff Slack)

Once upon a time, J. Robbins ruled a little musical empire, not only fronting his own D.C. post-hardcore band Jawbox, but also being part of a label of such music, deSoto, and producing band after band of D.C. post-hardcore band Jawbox soundalikes. Chances are, when you see the name J. Robbins on a CD label, you could expect a particular sound. Thankfully, in recent years that has not been the case. For instance, Murder by Death and Against Me! seem to defy the Jawbox blueprint, but none go so far as to sound as exhilaratingly raw and fresh as Allan Epley. Epley was once in the Kansas City post-hardcore band Shiner, signed to the D.C. post-hardcore label deSoto, and released the now cult classic album, The Egg, one of the most underrated albums of the early part of this decade, possibly overshadowed due to 9/11 thanks to frightened Americans looking for songs less frightening than “Imagine.” But what do you do post-post-hardcore? If you’re Epley, you form the Life and Times, a stunning mix of rock and experimental textures. It’s not quite shoegaze, not quite prog, not quite hardcore or even pop, but it is all of these things in an intense blend that no one has ever come close to achieving. Seriously the most daring music I’ve heard since OK Computer. – TT

Zookeeper – Zookeeper EP (Bellecitypop!)

After having fronted both Mineral and The Gloria Record, Austin songwriter Chris Simpson has moved away from his denser, more emo-leaning background into much more of a classic pop sound with his new group, Zookeeper. On their debut EP, Zookeeper paints a cheerfully melancholy portrait with songs ranging from the Brian Wiilson-esque “I Live in the Mess You Are,” to the more Elliott Smith sounding “Tax Collector.” The centerpiece, the atmospheric, yet twangy “Flood of Love,” is the real treat, a track that combines the emotional power of Simpson’s previous bands with a Jon Brion like pop whimsy, creating a wonderful pop symphony that’s not to be missed. It’s funny that Zookeeper hails from Austin, however, considering how much the group has so much of a California sound—both in their love of classic ’60s and ’70s pop, and in their similarities to current bands like Earlimart and Grandaddy. No matter the locale, this EP is a winner. – JT

Dirty Projectors – New Attitude (Marriage)

There’s something fucked here. I could tell mostly because the first track was called `Fucked For Life’, but that was only the beginning of the EP. It was like trying anything new, except this was something a little bit more than just new. This was fucked and new. Fucking new, to turn a phrase. There was a spice of cacophony in the music. It was a twinge of pain on the ears’ taste buds, but not a deterrent at all. It was what made the music as enjoyable as a buffalo wing. It was exotic in a bizarre sense that let my mind go to new, sometimes scary places, and my body would shiver at the thoughts that would process without flinch. The music transformed the beautiful into a dualistic creature, a Janus with two faces, one of traditional beauty full of structure and finesse, the second face prized for its deformity and irregularity, taking pride in how close to a face it could look without being grounded in the idea of a face. This music was much more than music, it was a testament to how even the ugliest and unkempt sounds and chords, when arranged in the right way could move people in all the same ways any beautiful music could, with the hips, with the head, with the mind. This is what was disturbing. It was the feeling of uncertainty before the dentist shoots laughing gas into my lungs. Do I really want this guy who I don’t really know all that well and with kind of hairy arms to have complete control over my sedated body? Would I wake up with the sight of him zipping up his fly and wonder if my hallucinations from the laughing gas had any sexual connotations? It was serious stuff to worry about, but the laughing gas gets to me before I can really take molestation into any kind serious consideration, and my throat garbles a mixture of giggles and hiccups, and I feel the front of my brain getting heavy turning to stone, feeling sort of stoned myself, I go with whatever my body does and not worry about how fucked the situation may or may not be.

There’s something fucked here. Who cares? – Paul Bozzo

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