FlyLo took to Soundcloud on Monday to clean out his closet by posting a few previously unreleased demos and remixes. And having taken a listen to the material, I’m very happy he didn’t just sit on these or toss em away. A lot of this material is incredibly dope. Check out his Massive Attack remix as well as the “OG Version” of “Pseudo Nymph”. He has since transferred the material to Bandcamp, where they are now available to download.
It’s been awhile since we last heard new material from Seattle’s Fleet Foxes (2008 to be exact). So if you fell deeply in love with their debut album and/or their lush single “White Winter Hymnal”, it would be understandable if you were impatiently wondering what the hell they’ve been up to over those two years. Well, as it turns out they’ve been very very hard at work on their sophomore LP: fine tuning their form of baroque, harmonic folk-pop; intricately crafting their lush, string-laced melodies; mining the depth’s of lead-singer Robin Pecknold‘s already impressive vocals; and lovingly perfecting their songwriting. Apparently they even trashed a version of the record that they had completed back in 2009 because it wasn’t what they were looking for. Does that mean that Helplessness Blues is as good as their self-titled debut? Absolutely not. No, it means that their new album is much better than anything they’ve ever done before.
Although it is quite different from their previous effort, there is no question that this is the same band – but it is a band that has clearly grown in the two years since we last heard from them. You have the same rustic earthiness informing the instrumentation and Pecknold’s unmistakeable, soaring vocals anchoring the core of each track. And like its predecessor, Helplessness Blues is also simultaneously savory and sweet with sincere emotional complexity. But it is even more dense, lush, orchestrated, emotionally-connective, and intricately crafted than Fleet Foxes. It pairs well with Kasey’s recipe for Rancho Gordo beans with sausage, pistachios and honey which is surprising, sweet, savory, satisfying and demonstrates a relatively complex flavor profile. I won’t say the recipe is a culinary masterpiece, but I will say this recipe is a true “go-to” recipe – one that will delight you with each bite. It is is easy to throw together, but also far more exciting than it might appear at first blush.
So yeah, Fleet Foxes managed to avoid the sophomore slump. Indeed, Helplessness Blues is a true masterpiece of the caliber that most bands never achieve. It is an album for an album-lover. In fact, I intentionally haven’t singled out any of the tracks for this review because it seems to me that this is an album best listened to as an album. It is dense, lush, orchestrated, emotionally-connective, intricately crafted, and unquestionably rewards repeated, careful listens. The songs slowly unfurl with melodies that can connect on first listen, but which are crafted with an intricacy that will defy attempts to take it all in on with one listen. This all may sound like hyperbole, but I truly think this album is worth every word of praise.
The album won’t be officially released until May, but like most albums nowadays – it leaked. But judging from the bands reaction to the leak, it is an album Fleet Foxes are clearly proud of (as they should be). In fact, Robin Pecknold stated on Twitter (in between tweets about picking up a copy of Radiohead’s newspaper and how much he loved Radiohead’s track “Codex”) that he was glad it was out there for the world to hear: “Thanks for checking out the record! Very much hope you enjoy!” His only concern was that the original leak wasn’t high quality. Because he wanted it heard in the way the band intended it, they even worked hard to get a higher quality version on the web. Subsequently, he tweeted that if you are going to download it, he would like you to get “the one thats over a 100mb.” Irregardless of whether or not you decide to download the leak (which I won’t go so far as to recommend whether or not I may have done so myself), I can say that if you are like me, it is one you’ll definitely want to buy on vinyl once it is officially released. Oh, and it is already available for pre-order from Insound, if you want to go ahead and get that out of the way.
As you are aware, there is a non-negotiable clause in every music-blogger’s blogging contract that requires us to prepare our yearly “Best of” lists around this time of year. Nonetheless, there is no requirement that we create three separate year-end lists, and yet that is exactly what I plan to do. Call me an “over-achiever” if you must, but I really feel like multiple lists are necessary. You see, although I’m quite proud of my “Top Albums of 2010” list, I felt that it won’t capture how awesome 2010 was for music by a long shot (and I think 2010 was a very good year for music). So, I’ve also crafted this whittled-out-of-wood “Top 7″ Vinyl Releases of 2010” list and a roughly-hewn “Top EPs of 2010” list in addition to the “Top Albums List.” Oh, and the December 2010 mix? It will collect my favorite digital only singles released this year.
Clever readers will recognize that the artists on these two lists didn’t just release some of the best music of 2010, but that many of these artists will also be releasing some of the most anticipated debut full-lengths in 2011 (i.e. Cults, Tennis, Memoryhouse, Levek, Shabazz Palaces, Wise Blood, Seapony, and Hard Mix, for example). Others will be releasing highly anticipated follow-ups to their 2010 debuts. So while my “Top Albums of 2010” list will hopefully highlight some music you may have missed this year, these first two lists are, to some degree, my way of pointing forward as to the music to watch our for next year.
But let’s not make this a one way street. Let me know who released your favorite vinyl 7″ from 2010.
I’ve never had strong feelings one way or another about short bread. Instead, at bakeries I’d just glance at it with disinterest while targeting the sexier looking pastries and cookies. But the lavender and sea-salt short bread Kasey is featuring in the Kitchen has definitely given me reason to rethink that strategy. This shortbread is crumbly, buttery and delicious. In fact, it turns out shortbread can be sexy. And so, this shortbread pairs well with the sexy & crumbly Le Podium#1 by the Paris-based quintet La Femme.
Their debut EP, Le Podium#1, overflows with wet-reverb, echo and menacing-amounts of ambience resulting in what I would describe as darkly erotic, lo-fi surf rock. The opener “Sur La Planche” (which translates to ‘On The Board’) features a dark, locomotive rhythm that beautifully captures the essence of early 1960’s surf-rock while taking it for a new spin: as if they were writing about the thrills of riding giant waves during a heavy storm. The equally rhythmic and sinistrally sexy “Telegraphe” propels forward through chugging percussion and haunted-house keys. The EP’s third track is another solid cut, “La Femme Ressort”, features bright-bouncy keyboard alongside ominous guitar chimes, sparsely reverbating bass and a clattering, marching percussion. It is really good stuff, and without question this is going to be a band to watch in 2011.
On a side note, the picture above is not the album cover. The actual album cover is slightly hard to find – though censored versions are abound (it is a NSFW photographic remake of French painter Gustave Courbet’s painting L’Origine du monde). The EP is available digitally and on 10″ vinyl via their bandcamp page.