Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Explosions in the sky (contains no Explosions in the Sky)

In honor of July 4th, or July 3rd depending on your plans, odds are you're going to be watching some fireworks this weekend to celebrate America's inevitable triumph over the Chinese (I'm assuming). I put together a playlist featuring some old gems and new jams that I feel act like an aural firework show. It's right around 30 minutes long, which is the average length of fireworks shows I believe. So, if it runs properly, it should sync up. The list, like a fireworks display, slowly builds, with textures and colors and simple flourishes. There are "ooh, aah" moments, but in general it's just meant to be absorbed/stared at. And the finale jars, but brings it all to catharsis.

Best listened to: Staring up at the sky, optimally on mushrooms, with headphones on as fireworks hail overhead.

Track List:
01. Hockey - Mercenary Days
02. Vampire Weekend - California English Pt. 2
03. J Dilla - Lightworks
04. The Books - Beautiful People
05. M83 - We Own The Sky
06. Candy Claws - Silent Time of Earth
07. My Bloody Valentine - Blown A Wish
08. Cocteau Twins - Lorelei
09. Light Pollution - Oh, Ivory!
10. Animal Collective - Grass

Look Up,

Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Impressions: American Slang

The Gaslight Anthem, in every review I've ever read, has invariably been compared to Bruce Springsteen. New Jersey heartland rock sound certainly has a pigeon-hole. This is their third full-length, following up the much acclaimed '59 Sound. Here are my initial responses:

American Slang

They start anthemic early. That fist-pumping rock sound is definitely a style that's gotta be hard to break out of.

I don't think Brian Fallon's voice has the gravitas to really sell the sound they're going for.

"I've got your name tattooed inside of my arm." I feel like I'll be able to pick out a line from every song that I really like.

A good tone-setting opener.

Stay Lucky

A bit more playful on the pacing/riff for this track.

"Mama never told me there'd be days like these 'til it was much too late to recover."

Once again, I don't hear any frustration or fury in this song. It's like Fallon is telling stories about people he knew from his own home town, like a reporter more than a participator.

Bring It On
My roommate walking through the room: "Is this Lucero?" Me. "Yeah, basically."

I'm trying to not be a hater. I really like this style of music. I like that bands like this exist. But, there has to be something that distinguishes you from the others. And on initial impressions I feel like I've hear these songs before.

The Diamond Church Street Choir

Nice change of pace track.

Great hook!

And the Springsteen imagery is pretty thinly veiled on this one: "And the cars pass by in the rain/University boys and the girls fill the bars/While I'm just waiting for the light to change/And the steam heat pours from the bodies on the floor"

OK. If you're going to do anthemic rock, crank that guitar! If you're going to come in massive on the chorus; get massive! I find my head bobbing along, but not the teeth-gritting, neck tensing I should be doing on such a nice hook. Production fail, I think.

The Queen of Lower Chelsea

Another mid-pacer.

This songs a bit soft/affected for my taste. It seems like it was meant to get girls into the band. Which means it felt calculating.


Here we go! This is what I want from The Gaslight Anthem. Something a bit breakneck with a hint of tension, and some emphatic vocals.

"But the clothes I wore just don't fill my soul anymore." Alright. Probably the best track on the album so far. This is a song that Craig Finn should have written but didn't.

Link to lyrics. Read. Very good.


I think this song sounds most emblematic of their overall sound, which is unfortunate. There's nothing guttural, just tired and recycled imagery that's been played out again and again. Like, boxing as a metaphor. Come on...

Old Haunts

I'm just going to go out on a limb and say that this is prosaic songwriting. Bands like the Hold Steady, the National, Constantines, Drive-By Truckers, etc. don't have to write songs that have already been written. Not to say they don't wear their influences on their sleeves; they just don't evoke the automatic "homage" status that I think plagues TGA (and the reason why every review automatically uses Springsteen as a reference point).

The Spirit of Jazz

Another good stab at the fast-paced track/strong foray into the anthemic chorus. But once again, same arguments.

The bassline bounces on the track like something off of
American Idiot, if you can believe it.

Fallon's vocals sound a bit affected here.

We Did It When We Were Young

This song has a nice slow build. Definitely an appropriate closing track.

Listening to this album it really surprises me that Milwaukee's The Championship isn't bigger. I would put any of their work up against this album and probably prefer it.

I know I've been pretty negative here, but I don't mean to be. There is a lot of good. The songwriting on the whole is emotive, succinct and oftentimes gut-wrenching. But, as previously stated, there is a certain recycle factor to them. I've heard these stories before in Springsteen and Strummer, which makes me wonder if Brian Fallon ever experienced a lot of what he sings about, or if he just liked the imagery/narratives in his favorite songs enough to want to write songs like that. Then, I might go further and say I'd like to see songs from them about the stories that enraptured them from within their favorite songs. I'm sure that's been done too; but it feels more honest than this.

Best Listened To:
Live. It has to be. The production missteps (soft guitars/vocals) have to be corrected live with sheer tenacity and volume.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New Connection

It's always a joy to stumble across a fellow music fan who has nearly identical taste as you - it's really the best way to discover new artists of which you've never heard (that was for you, Cous). I was listening to some 8tracks mixes today at work, since I had the office to myself, and I came across molloy_hh somehow (not really sure how it happened - must've blacked out). Of all the songs I heard, this one jumped out at me the most, although not at first. 

  Korallreven - The Truest Faith (Ghostape Remix) by lighthouseflashing 

It starts out as a drums-only party. Then some vocals start showing up, hanging out in the hallway. As their numbers grow, so does their confidence, and they patiently make their way inside. They're followed by a fashionably late bass who brought along some steady single-note hits, who keep sneaking up on the guests and freaking everyone out. Soon enough, the drums get tired of being out-numbered and go on the porch for a smoke, leaving behind a beautiful cacophony of sound.

And although it's not as great as the remix (in my humble opinion), here's the original, for your reference:

  Korallreven - The Truest Faith by lighthouseflashing  


Monday, June 21, 2010

No Joy/No Summer/Yes

<a href="http://nojoy.bandcamp.com/album/no-joy">No Summer by No Joy</a>

So I came across this little gem last week, and it's been on pretty steady rotation ever since. I am a big supporter of that grungy guitar/Cocteau-ish jaded melody and shoegazey experimentation. No Joy, from Montreal, is a duo of ladies (I'm pretty positive). Give it a listen. Check 'em out. I think ya might like it!


Friday, June 18, 2010

June at Dusk: a VBtk 8tracks mix

My brain has been inundated with great music lately, so I made a mix to force some of it out and make room for more. Ideal listening is around 7:30 on a Friday night. In a relaxed environment. Lay down if you really want to.

1. Pears - Shorts - I started using Twitter this past week, and for those who say it's good for nothing, this song is proof against that claim. Some guy called DavidReyneke started following me, so I followed him back and found a mix he made that led off with an excellent track by Pears. The whole album has the same light, summery vibe, and you can download it (legally) here for free! 
2. Toro Y Moi - Leave Everywhere - my only previous exposure to Toro Y Moi was a sample-centric song called Blessa, which sounds nothing at all like Leave Everywhere. I've got some digging to do...
3. Here We Go Magic - Casual - Luke Temple sure has this sound nailed down. This song twists and turns down all sort of back alleys, but never falls off track. 
4. Wild Nothing - Live In Dreams - this is the lead track on Gemini, and it sets a perfect tone for the record - much like how Caring Is Creepy sets up The Shins' Oh! Inverted World perfectly. If you time things well, this song will come on just as you notice the sun setting. Everyone is talking about this band, and all the praise is warranted.
5. Palpitation - Red White Golden Stripes - this song is from a mix my friend Jack made. The chorus is perfect, especially when it hits the first time. I originally thought that this song was too long (I have a tendency to do that), but I now understand their structure. 
6. Twin Sister - I Want A House - yeah, so this is probably my favorite song right now. The first half is pretty pleasant - nothing too striking - but the second half...I never want it to end. It's refreshing to hear a new band from Brooklyn that doesn't default to a lo-fi sloppy sound. The rhythm section is so good! While Twin Sister is not performing at Pitchfork Fest, they will be playing on the Saturday night at Lincoln Hall. Or, for the MKE peeps, they'll be at Cactus Club on Sunday, July 18. 
7. Minus Story - Hybrid Moments - this isn't a new song (it's from 2005), but it recently came on my iPod via shuffle, and I was reminded how much I love it. It's a Misfits cover, but Minus Story really makes it their own. I get goosebumps when I hear this song. Seriously. And the second half of this song is the exact opposite of the second half of I Want A House. This was no accident.
8. Woods - Mornin' Time - love the drums on this track. Mr. Earle sure does know how to write a melody. 

Hope you enjoy the mix. If you want any of the mp3s, just send me a message or leave a comment. 


First Impressions: Beach Fossils

One of the things we want to stress here in the Lighthouse is conciseness. We want to glean the best music (and provide caution to the overhyped) so you don't have to waste your time on the legwork. We love the legwork. That takes a lot of trust on your end; trust that our tastes mesh with yours, or, if nothing else, we can justify where we come from on our likes and dislikes.

First impressions was Tim's idea. Essentially, it acts as a live blog of an album listening; a track-by-track breakdown going through a record, picking out high and low points, drawing comparisons, etc.

I admit I'm blog-late (a month [fuck internet immediacy]) on Beach Fossils, but to be honest, I haven't heard too much buzz about them to force me to listen to their self-titled full-length debut on Captured Tracks. Knowing little about the band going in (aside from their name, which says way more than it should about their sound) I had these reactions:

First Impressions:

Alright. I dig the lo-fi aesthetic. I think this is a good trend, and generally a neat evolution in music. Woodsist/Real Estate all those guys are the counter-weight to those bands who look for polish to compensate for limited ability.

The vocals sound great. I don't know if that's harmony or just double-tracking, but the way it's produced gives a great effect.

Cool interplay between the guitars.

"I don't know what I feel, but I feel it all tonight."

"cleanly picked single notes stacked over complementary bass patterns and unobtrusive drums." -Pitchfork

I think there's kind of an unspoken callback to Television in the guitars

The whole beach vibe has been done to death. But when I hear music like this, it evokes images of the unweeded, dreary Fall, turbulent-watered beaches seen in Eternal Sunshine. This doesn't make me want to lay in the sun. This makes me want to stare at waves crashing on jagged rocks.

Lazy Day
Lyrically the album is very slice-of-life. And for a Brooklyn band writing about "lazy day"s I can't help but think their parents may still be paying their rent.

Twelve Roses
I really love the harmony/melody on the chorus. And conciseness. This seems like a Tim song (short, 2:20)

This album has a great, great flow. That may be attributed to a lack of variance between songs. But that also means there's a clear vision throughout, which makes for a pleasant listening experience.

I'm finding something to like in every one of these tracks.

Golden Age
There's a nice distortion to the kick in this song. I really dig the drum sound.

Heavy on the reverb for the vocals. I like the way it sounds. Again. This album is very pleasant to listen to.

Love the drums kicking back in at ~4 min.

Window View
This song harkens to the vibe I got from Bonfires on the Heath. Really, really mellow. Perfect for sleeping.

The Horse
Nothing super-standout about this track. Just a good continuation of the album.

Wide Awake
I like the introduction of the synth to this song. It seems to have taken a backseat on the rest of the record, but it fits really well here.

I also like how the reverb level changes on the vocals throughout the album. That shows that there was a fair amount of thought put into the production of each track. Not just, "OK, set the levels, let's do this."

OK... The water sounds/gulls is a bit of an overstatement, even for an outro. I guess it's acceptable, but I would have preferred not having it.

That's it! Overall impressions: Beach Fossils fits into the mosaic of their strange sub-genre. This album is not to be written off if you like this style and aesthetic. It's essential for its category. Best listened to: driving home from a vacation from your normal life.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ahoy! or, Welcome Aboard!

Well hello there! Or, ahoy, as is the decorum of this blog. I'm glad to be a part of the team here at The Lighthouse Flashing. Tim, if you haven't noticed, is a pleasure to read, and in general is a pleasure to work with. I'm excited for this because I think we're going to push each other to update more, and maybe do something original with a music blog (our #1 goal).

What you can expect from me: acerbic sense of humor, sometimes bordering on the offensive; brash generalizations; passion for the things I love, and equal passion in the opposite direction; openness to suggestion and want for debate and discussion (find me on Twitter @BubbleWolf or e-mail at EFHelinWI@gmail.com). I hope this blog becomes more of an interactive experience than just us spouting opinions.

So, to give you a little barometer of my taste, I'm re-posting my top tracks from the first quarter of 2010. These were songs that struck me in one way or another.

01. Crystal Castles - Doe Deer
I love how every CC review begins, "Holy shit we wanted to hate this album, but..." BUT this song is just manic as all get-out. The fuzz and wail; the way the electronics seem to evolve into an uncontrollable force the more the song progresses. This baby's raw energy.

02. Yeasayer - Ambling Alp
I've heard a fair amount of beef about the Yeasayer record. Perhaps it's justified. I've kind of grown a tendency of immediate eyeroll at the mention of an 80s-pop influenced record. I think this song is a commendable way to approach it; have your own sound, let the influence bleed through in choice aspects of the recording (in this case, those massive stadium drums). And I just like the hook a lot. "Wear your wounds with pride." And also that sick organ solo at the end.

03. Surfer Blood - Fast Jabroni
On the whole, the Surfer Blood record seemed a bit derivative. I'm contradicting myself already. Because this song is essentially one of those trendy 80s throwback tracks. I guess I love the melody enough to excuse the things I don't like about it? I also like how it takes the pop-punk-ish turn at the "Just think it over" part. It didn't have to, but maybe that's what makes it good. It's kind of a breezy, fun song that I can see having a lot of replay, especially during summer.

04. Woods - Suffering Season
Oh, Woods. Woods is so bizarre. Because they seem like they've got this schizophrenic are-we-psychedelic-or-are-we-a-folk-band thing going. But with this song they just subvert expectations and say, "let's just write an incredible pop song in our own way." "Who knows what tomorrow will bring?" Amen. This seems more like a mission statement for them as a band than just a song lyric. I love the drum double-time change-up, which I know can be a source of contention for some. It just does it for me.

05. Nada Surf - Electrocution
Nada Surf? What the hell. This is a cover of someone called Bill Fox, with whom I am unfamiliar. This is just a solid pop rock song with great harmonies and a fantastic progression. You know, sometimes that's all it really takes.

06. Sonny & The Sunsets - She Plays Yo-Yo With My Mind
Sonny & the Sunsets' record Tomorrow is Alright is great, with a lot of great tracks. But for some reason, this song, which was done for the second (fantastic) Raven Sings the Blues compilation is the best I've heard from them. I love the pace, the way it builds, the smoothness in instrumentation. Overall, just a cool ass song.

07. Adam Green - What Makes Him Act So Bad?
So Adam Green, one half of one of my most reviled groups of all time, The Moldy Peaches, wrote a fucking gem of a song here. Like the Sonny song, it's just a mellow, well-paced rock song. And as a person who has been questioning why I am the way I am, I can surely agree with the sentiment.

08. Joanna Newsom - On A Good Day
Have One On Me is still pretty hard for me to get into. I love certain tracks, but listening front to back is like knocking off The Fountainhead in an afternoon. This song just shows that she doesn't need to write ambling narratives to write great songs. "Hey hey hey the end is near. On a good day you can see the end from here." That might be my favorite line of the year so far.

09. The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
High Violet is the only album so far this year that I can legit put up there with my favorites of the past few years (to decade). "Bloodbuzz" hits so hard on almost every level. Those mechanical, precise yet aggressive drums; the deep, foreboding piano; Matt's dark yet brilliant vocals. This track has all the makings of a great National song. And it's a single, which is sweet.

10. Titus Andronicus - No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future
I have proclaimed this as my favorite track of the year, but I'm not so sure anymore. It's way up there ("Suffering Season" may have the honor right now). I have been starting to feel a disconnect from the more electronic side of the indie spectrum. I think that there's going to be a backlash to the Beach Houses and Yeasayers out there in favor of more angry rock music. I love this song's emotion and honesty, and it's such a refreshing change from songs that don't really seem to be about anything.

11. Harlem - Friendly Ghost
This was the best show I saw of the first quarter so far, far and away, hands down. Harlem has potential to do a lot of great things. It's always a close call between this song and "Gay Human Bones." I chose this one because it's more concise. And I love the melody.

12. Sleigh Bells - Rill Rill
I have a lot of conflicting views on Sleigh Bells. On one hand, they write some good pop songs. On the other hand, they feel like a band created by some hipster-capitalization machine. Treats
completely feels like Brooklyn bait, but so be it. How can an album be so loud and abrasive and yet so gay at the same time? They have this weird dichotomy of wanting to be hard and wanting to be super poppy, and I'm not sure if it's successful. Having said all that, I think the album would be a wash without "Rill Rill," which stands out in that it isn't their super-loud formula. This song is going to soundtrack summers; and I don't see that as a bad thing.

13. LCD Soundsystem - I Can Change
I've been watching a fair amount of interviews with James Murphy recently; and jeez that guy's smart. That intelligence in range of influence is felt in the music, and his intelligence of the human condition is reflected in his lyrics. I'm excited for
This is Happening to grow on me more and more, because I feel it's only going to start making more and more sense the older I get. I think there hasn't been a straight LCD backlash yet because Murphy has never dumbed shit down to his listeners. He assumes that the people he's writing for are in, or have been in, the same places he is/was; which might not necessarily the case. But he puts himself out there. There's a bizarre reverse psychology in his music; where most artists do their best to write something relatable, Murphy is opening his door up and asking you to walk in, not meeting you on the front lawn. And that's brave, and the payoff is great.

That's all for me. I look forward to writing and listening to and for you all. If there's anything you'd like to see that you feel you haven't, please let us know and we'll take it all into consideration.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lighthouse Expansion (It's Rock and Roll Time)

The Lighthouse Flashing would like to extend a hearty "welcome" to the newest member of our (my) team. Besides being my future cousin-in-law, Erik has earned a spot in The Lighthouse because of his excellent taste in music, his willingness to waste hours upon hours looking for new mp3s online, and his promise to post more than once a week.

So, throw the switch - it's rock and roll time.

  GBV - Over The Neptune / Mesh Gear Fox by lighthouseflashing 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lucky 'Cause She Likes You

Robyn Hitchcock's new album Propellor Time might just be my favorite thing he's ever done. It continues in the vein of 2006's Ole! Tarantula, but is a little more focused and confident. He wisely surrounds himself with excellent musicians (most notably Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey) and delivers an entire album's worth of memorable tunes. 

The one currently demanding the most repeated plays is Luckiness:  
  Robyn Hitchcock - Luckiness by lighthouseflashing

Not too bad for a song that was recorded live, eh?

Another track I've been digging lately is the album opener, Star of Venus:
  Robyn Hitchcock - Star Of Venus by lighthouseflashing

It really does a great job setting the tone for the rest of the album. 2010 is turning out to be the year of the Old Pros, with my other current favorite albums being from artists who have been writing songs for a while now (The National, Gord Downie, and Woods).