Youth Lagoon: The Year Of Hibernation

When the year began Trevor Powers started making music in his bedroom at Boise State, Idaho. Powers said, he must write songs because there would be so many things in his head that would hunt him, so he sings about problems, fear and veils it in beautiful melodies and soundscapes. As he put some mp3 on his MySpace, Youth Lagoon soon got recognized by Pitchfork and suddenly was mentioned on blogs everywhere. Then he signed to Fat Possum as they realized Year Of Hibernation is going to explode when it’s coming out, so they did. And so it is.

With the current hype of new-forming chillwave- and electronica-bands you really have to sort out the great ones. Fortunately there are enough to mention like I Break Horses, Active Child, Purity Ring or the now focused Youth Lagoon. They all brought great debuts out 2011, a year where everybody seems to get his money’s worth. There weren’t as much revivals of presumed dead genres and upcoming music ever and I think this year will be recognized in the future as a about-face in the right direction of music.

So Year Of Hibernation is an 8-track-record and I soaked every single minute of it, starting with Afternoon. Powers’ style of making music is a very mute one but very effective. Every song is a build-up to get the listeners the best thrills they every had. So Afternoon is followed by Cannons, previously seen on the internet as most of the tracks couriously appeared on YouTube, few released by Powers itself, few taken from leaks. I plead guilty by spinning Year Of Hibernation about twenty times before it officially was released but I’ll definitely going to buy this. So Cannons is another highlight out of eight on this album, there’s simply no bad song on this. Daydream starts catchy, ends with beautiful shoutings and melodies. The following tracks July and Montana are two of my favourite songs of 2011. July starts nearly mute but still listenable keyboards and murmuring vocals, ends up with another great build-up, done perfectly. Beautiful, beautiful tunes. Montana is even better, one of the most beautiful and sad tunes I have ever heard in a long time. I also love the music video to Montana, which understood the song perfectly in my opinion. I always get thrills all over my body when I listen to this piece of art.

Posters is another great track with prefect happy-melancholic melodies and Powers’ voice I already took to heart. Seventeen handles from his youth as a teenager, when he ‘hunted snakes’ and his mother said to him ‘Don’t stop imagining. The day that you do is the day that you die.’ The last track on Year Of Hibernation is called The Hunt. I did not really got the lyrics but the themes are something like loving and subjection. It’s a beautiful ending for a beautiful record, a highlight in 2011 and lovely piece of art for everyone who loves music.

  • 9.2/10

Big Troubles: Romantic Comedy

Big Troubles from Ridgewood, New Jersey, formed somewhere in 2009/10 after being friends since high-school and been in several bands together, currently signed to Slumberland Records brought out their second full-length Romantic Comedy after a number of 7” and EPs. They are currently touring with The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Young Prisms and Real Estate and you can locate their sound somewhere in this edge. It’s a style of lo-fi dream pop with lyrical themes such as romance, as the title of the record says, loss of love and things like that. But enough informations, I’ll give it a spin.

Romantic Comedy starts with a lovely opener called She Smiles For Pictures. I like the guitar melody and the keyboard effects and already took the voices from Alex Craig and Ian Drennan to my heart. Misery let me even think of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart again which is definitely not a bad thing because I loved Belong and can’t get enough of stuff in the same musical style that want to bring the Billy Corgan-feeling back to life. Make It Worse is in the same shoegazy style and I love it, as well as Sad Girls. You can call it a rip-off of something and you could be right with that argument but I simply like it so why should I criticise it. And about vocal lines like ‘Love is in the air, but I don’t care, ’cause I don’t want to love anymore’ you just can smile about it and don’t judge them. You’ll Be Laughing is a mid-tempo style with a remarkable background guitar-line to break-up the first half of Romantic Comedy.

Second half starts with one of my favourites of this record called Minor Keys and for the first time played a more straight-forward style of Shoegaze in the third minute that lets me think of Loveless. It is followed by Softer Than Science which is as the title says again calm and peaceful but still likeable, though one of the unspectacular songs on Romantic Comedy. Time Bomb, again as the title says more noisy and experimental. Succesfull, another highlight on this record in my opinion. We have already arrived at the last two track, Engine and Never Mine. The first of the two is some relaxing mid-tempo dream pop where the roots are clearly somewhere Pavement- or Dinosaur Jr.-like with the pinch of originality. Never Mine, like the most on Romantic Comedy is a nicely done closure, stroke the guitar for the last time, aspirate into the mic for the last time and leave the listener in a pleased and entire mood.

I really liked Romantic Comedy and there were almost no bad songs on this. I would really like to see them blowing up in the upcoming weeks and want to recommend it to a fan of every artist I mentioned in this review, you can’t do something wrong by listening to Romantic Comedy. So what are you waiting for, do it!

  • 8.3/10

Mikal Cronin: s/t

Hailing from Laguna Beach, California surf and rock’n’roll fanatist Mikal Cronin takes you back to the 90’s with his refreshing mix of noise and garage with the typical surf-vibe of the Californian music scene. He already released the 7” Gone in 2010. Guest appearances from Ty Segall, with whom he collaborated already in 2009 releasing Reverse Shark Attack, John Dwyer and Mootheart makes the whole thing even more interesting and so his solo-debut was issued by Trouble In Mind records and dropped the market yesterday.

The album starts furious with Is It Alright, a nice surf-rock opener with many interestin tempo changes and a freaking awesome flute at the end that let me think about Audience or Jethro Tull. Apathy has positive borrowings of Oasis or something in that direction though Oasis wasn’t really interesting for me at all and they also can’t hit me with Beady Eye too, but back again to Mikal Cronin. Apathy is again full of noise and interesting things, heard it the third time through and I always found something new in his songs. On Green And Blue the vocals are absorbed behind a noisy guitar wall with some catchy gypsy minor, also a very intersting track. Get Along is some typical surf-rock track with that Californian brand mark I already mentioned before. Next song title Slow Down is very fitting, it’s an almost ambient keyboard track with relaxing Mikal Conin vox, nice discharger to get ready for the second half.

Gone and Situation are again surfy garage-rock tracks that bring back last feelings for warm temperatures and the beach. Again And Again repeates this scheme, though I liked this track much better than the previous few, again some tempo changes and interesting things to celebrate on this track, highlight. Hold On Me is a slower track in the style of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. or Yuck, to name a newer example. And with The Way Thing Go we are already at the last track, seemed to be shorter which is a good thing. The last track is calm but powerful and effective and in my opinion one of the best on the album that turned into a faster direction after about three minutes and showed the garage and even punk influences for the last time. Another good idea was getting off-beat to the end to make it even more chaotic and let it all end into blank noise. Successfull!

This record came out of nothing but was so nice and refreshing in my opinion. Mentioned it already, it is on repeat and most of the songs are already stuck in my head and not seem to let me loose. I expected nothing else though because I already loved the Ty Segall collab. Check him out also if you want more of this style of music. I am excited to hear more of Mikal Cronin in the future and hope this wasn’t his last solo record. Hot new release!

  • 8.3/10

Neon Indian: Era Extrana

Alan Palomo’s second strike as electronic artist Neon Indian is called Era Extrana. Physic Chasms, his first record, gained high popularity and good critics such as Pitchfork listed it numer 14 of the ’50 greatest albums of 2009′ and Rolling Stones named Neon Indian it ‘one of the hottest new artist of 2010’. I was stoked for this release because I loved Physic Chasms and the new record was teased with several little cuts of the new record such as Heart: Attack which is also the opener for Era Extrana. And so finally it is on the market and we can listen to it, and that’s what I’ll do now.

I really liked the teasers Heart: Attack, Heart: Decay and Heart: Release when they came out and they really fit into the whole album. I also liked Polish Girl, which also was released previously with a music video. But I absolutely loved The Blindside Kiss and Hex Girlfriend, which are my new favourites of him along with Physic Chasms. Cool tracks were also Fallout and the title track Era Extrana, slow and relaxing, just as chillwave should be. Halogen (I Could Be A Shadow) and Future Sick are cool tracks too but Suns Irrupt beats the shit out of them and is another highlight on Era Extrana. Side note, I don’t know but the cover artwork so beautifully fits to the tracks, you could close your eyes while listening to this and you would see these colors passing by. And so we are already at the last track called Arcade Blues. The background melody are the sounds from an old 80’s arcade machine, very nice. I loved these arcades when i was younger and so this track brings up memories, beautiful and sadly at the same time.

This is another great record out of a row of awesome new releases this month and comes next after St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy. I even liked it a bit better than other chillwave appearances like Washed Out’s new record Within And Without or I Break Horses’ record but I have to admit that they did great work on their debut. Neon Indian did two great records in his three years existence and is definitely one of the best chillwave artists out there. He did not changed his sound on this record, he just did what he can do best and I loved it.

  • 8.4/10

St. Vincent: Strange Mercy

American singer Annie Clark alias St. Vincent brought out her third record Strange Mercy. She changed from the style of the second album Actor with symphonic parts to a more synthesizer lasting rock with blustering bass- and guitar-parts by herself. She names her influences Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa. As she went to a party when she was twelve and everyone brought some vinyl she didn’t play Ace Of Base, she played Aqualung from Jethro Tull. And as she grew up in a musical family the condition were good to born a new rock star. By the way St. Vincent is the hospital in which Dylan Thomas died.

The album starts with some strange synthies, a heavenlike voice of Annie Clarke and some catchy guitarriffs. The refrain is a blurping organ and Annie shouting the title of the song. Chloe In The Afternoon is a catchy and memorable opener for a hopefully great album. Cruel has also a very catchy guitartune that instantly get stuck in the head and a very nice ‘sing-along’-part. After two faster and fancy tracks Cheerleader starts calm but turns out in a synthesizer firework. She perfectly finds the balance between freaky synth and serious vocalparts. Surgeon, the fourth track should be the highlight of the record as I heard from several voices but I am a bit sobered by this track, the synths and vocals just did not hit me enough on this song though the part from 3:40 until the end was freaking awesome and really disturbing. One of the best moments on the record for sure. Northern Lights is more in the rock style with strong riffing and for the first time not constant synth but used at the right parts and so also this song is succesfull. The title track on Strange Mercy as well as Neutered Fruits are again slower and with well considered effects. They’re nice not the best songs on Strange Mercy though. A nice bridge was Champagne Year, nice and calm. Dilletante has a great groove and again nice synths, guitars and effects though not the best vocals on the album. Though Hysterical Strength and Year Of The Tiger are two more highlights of the album. The pace was put down to calm the listener with smooth and groovy synth parts and perfectly finished a strong new record of St. Vincent.

There were highlights and awesome fresh new ideas on Strange Mercy though not every track impressed me. But the sum of good songs outweighed the bad ones. But I sensed that the first half was a bit better than the second though to the end there were again two great songs. It is definitely one of the better releases in the last few months. Annie Clark for the win.

  • 8.4/10

(Get Strange Mercy here)

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