Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile’s solo side venture, Ducktails, carries on the tradition of lo-fi, short but sweet (although occasionally meanderingly jammy) experimental pop psychedelics of bands like Ariel Pink, War on Drugs, and great-grandaddies Guided By Voices. His third album, recorded at home without a whole lot of production value, sounds as such, but that’s exactly the appeal. His slightly muffled vocals and bright guitar tones render songs like the Dylan-esque “Hamilton Road” and the lilting “Killin’ the Vibe” charming in their simplicity. And at times, Mondanile gets interestingly weird, as on the spooky echo thumps of “The Razor’s Edge” or the stoned picking of the album’s last track, “Porch Projector.”
There are admittedly moments here when one wonders what the big deal is, as upon first pass, some of these songs sound like tunes any semi-capable basement musician could record him or herself. But taken as a whole, there’s something beyond the norm going on, a penchant for crafting concise nuggets of indie pop that skirt the border of oddity and make this album worth adding to your rotation.
Thank You release their new album, Golden Worry, on Thrill Jockey on 1/25, and on the strength of this hyperactive guitar and snare roll-heavy track, shit’s gonna be good. So much great music coming out of Baltimore these days, huh?
Dan Deacon is scoring the new Francis Ford Coppola film, Twixt Now and Sunrise. This is very odd but potentially amazing. The film stars Val Kilmer, Bruce Dern, Ben Chaplin, and Elle Fanning. Deacon and Coppola are also “collaborating on a larger level, details of which will be announced soon.” ???
From their forthcoming album for Sub Pop, Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will (great title), Mogwai present the track “San Pedro.” This is fairly straightforward rock for Mogwai, but it works all the same. An ode to the South Bay? Probably not, but I’m sure Mike Watt and my wife appreciate the nod.
Thunderball’s new album for the Washington, D.C.-based label, ESL Music, is slickly produced musical ennui, but it’s not really the trio’s fault. This type of lounge-y, electronic-based “world” music is nice for boutique hotel lobbies, but what’s essentially upgraded elevator music just doesn’t interest or delight at all – not to mention the fact that it’s damn hard to dance to.
So what’s the problem? Maybe it’s Thunderball’s supposed range. The album opens with “Enter the Brahmin,” a sitar-infused breakbeat track that bobs along, never breaking midtempo. Jump forward a few tracks to “Dub Science,” and suddenly Thunderball is dipping into reggae and dub with guest vocalist Zeebo crooning about sinsemilla. Then, just to see if you’re paying attention, the group gives you “Low Down Weather,” which is essentially smooth jazz. Sigh. So it goes, and so goes what passes these days for metropolitan, erudite, electronic music.
Taken at its actual semantic worth, the term “minimal,” when applied to music, should imply something pretty easy to pull off. The reality, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth. So many bands try to make “minimal” music that is actually just uninspired, talentless, or lazy. The new self-titled album from a singer named Anika, however, manages to be minimal, exciting, and varied all at the same time.
Anika’s success is no doubt helped immensely by the production from Portishead member Geoff Barrow’s band, Beak>. It’s not hard to recognize the Portishead aesthetic here, especially on a song like “The End of the World,” featuring a scattered snare beat and descending bassline that sounds like something off of Dummy. The overall musical feeling here is downtown NYC sometime around the late ’70s and early ’80s, or perhaps The Clash’s experiments in disco and dub, or PIL’s early deconstructed punk rock. Whatever the case, Anika’s Nico-esque vocals, vaguely foreign accent intact, are appealing as she intones (you can’t really call what she does singing) over a bevy of… wait for it… minimal beats.
Covering Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” as a simple dub tune, just reverb-soaked snare hits and a thumping bassline, may not sound like such a good idea, but it works well for Anika and Beak>. Songs like “Sadness Hides The Sun” and the opening track, “Terry,” are, at their core, broken down folk songs. Anika’s simple vocal melody morosely drones over scattered instrumentation, creating something completely new out of conventions you may recognize. Minimal? Yes. Perhaps a bit cold? Sure, but the songs on this album are complex in their emotion and unique in their construction, and that makes this one shine in this nascent new year.
SF-based electronic glitch producer and head of the Frite Nite label, Salva, has a new album coming out this February called Complex Housing. Get a preview of the track “Wake Ups” here – this is good shit.