Thursday, April 26, 2012

Totally Unauthorized 2012 1st Quarter Report: January - March

I've begun compiling my playlist for 2012, and the plan is to issue quarterly reports running down the best individual tracks. Here are the highlights from the first three months of 2012:


Alcest - Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles

With their blend of shoegaze, black metal and prog, French outfit Alcest has gained a heady reputation even among those who don't listen to much metal. The music sounds important; the opening riff and vocal work sounds like something that might be the soundtrack for a march into a Nordic battlefield or something. Crushing riffs are complemented by quieter, cleaner guitar work, and the agonized shrieks are offset by beautiful clean vocals. By the time the final notes fade out, you'll feel like you've experienced a lifetime in the course of a single track.

Cloud Nothings - Wasted Days

In raw post-punk tradition, Cloud Nothings bring us the tale of a life where each day goes by faster and faster, with little and less taking place. Dylan Baldi screams his heart (and guts) out on this one, punctuated by a blistering and bleak instrumental build up followed by some of the most raucous vocals this side of Sonic Youth. Make no mistake, it's the closest you'll want to come to the fallout of a life gone down the drain.

Kathleen Edwards - House Full of Empty Rooms

When it comes to living arrangements, Edwards makes a strong case for favoring apartment rental rather than buying a home. The Canadian singer/songwriter weaves a melancholy and pensive tale while describing a relationship that's lost its luster. It's tough to doubt the sincerity of Kathleen's words or voice here.


Goatwhore - In Deathless Tradition

Fast, unrelenting, and brutal, Goatwhore's "In Deathless Tradition" impresses by paying homage to blackened death metal's old guard. Louis B. Falgoust II delivers a ghastly performance, while the guitar battery grinds out one of the best riffs on the album.

Swallow the Sun - This Cut is the Deepest

Finnish doom metallers Swallow the Sun are renowned for unleashing a tidal wave of crushing rage, but here they opt for a softer approach. Mikko Kotamaki's ephemeral vocals float to the surface of the mix, while his band produces a lush backdrop that is melodic and moving. Few bands are capable of measuring the depth of your regret like Swallow the Sun.

Sleigh Bells - Demons

The Brooklyn noise collective's sophomore album Reign of Terror may be getting attention for a slew of pop singles, but this track is just good fun. Grinding guitars complement the amped up cheerleader shouts of Alexis Krauss, which lends itself to being a perfect track for sporting events or Zumba classes.

Brad Mehldau - 26

Brad Mehldau has steadily cemented his position as one of jazz's most exciting artists, and the arrival of his latest critically acclaimed disc is plenty of reason to jump for joy. The notes flow effortlessly from the keys of Mehldau's piano; his playing is evocative, thought provoking, and well constructed. Bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard lay down the foundation for joyous music that serves as the perfect soundtrack for the coming of spring.

Soap&Skin - Voyage Voyage

Experimental pianist Anja Plaschg is well known for composing erratic classical music, along with constructing a twisted bed of Apehx Twin inspired electronica, but her hallmark has the emotion she delivers to her music. "Voyage" sounds like it could be part of the soundtrack to a foreign film, with Plaschg's mournful wail setting the tone for an absolutely heart rending tune.

The Big Sleep - Four Wishes

Perhaps one of the greatest indictments of indie rock is that how often it forgets to rock. Brooklyn trio The Big Sleep seeks to remedy this with a slab of dark driving hard rock. Guitarist Danny Barria plays with speed and precision, while Sonya Balchandani seeks to hypnotize you with her vocal work. In the end, the only criminal aspect about the band is how delicious those riffs are.  

Link: The Big Sleep - Four Wishes

Brothertiger - I've Been Waiting

Brothertiger's Golden Years album is an exemplary piece of chillwave, and is also great springtime music. Thick, heavy synthesizer lines are paired with a shimmering, playful melody running over the top, and complemented perfectly with moody vocals. It's a fantastic tune to just close your eyes and drift away to.

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