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Kyle   

Two albums that have captured my attention of late, both of which I heard too late to add to my Best of 2007 list:

The Blow - Paper Television

For a good time call: 1-800-the-blow. Seriously this is some crazy dance stuff. While I never anticipated that a Mirah meets the Postal Service hybrid could be a good thing, I was wrong. This album combines the best of those two artists and makes some serious ear candy. Driving hasn't been this fun in awhile.

Math and Physics Club - Math and Physics Club

Really, I should hate this. It's really obvious these guys like Belle and Sebastian. Guess what so do I. With all the sad sack writing and by-the-numbers soft jangly pop numbers, I could scream "cliche!" and move on. But I can't. There is something about the honesty in this that has captivated me. Sure it's not original music, but it is done with honesty and integrity. This isn't the sexiest music around. They're making albums like this because this is the music they like and it moves them. I can't fault them for that. And besides, they do it well. I can't help but get sucked in.

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This isn't new new, but I recently downloaded Actionslacks' 2001 release The Scene's Out of Sight and I am sooo enjoying it. I'm not sure how to describe. You can listen to some of the songs at their site - try "Shining Jewels" or "Folding Chair" for a taste of the goodies. Plus? Awesome band name!

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Helene   
1. Therion: Gothic Kaballah

The greatest overblown symphinc Euro-prog metal ever.

Sweet! I didn't know they were releasing an album this year. I love Lemuria/Sirius B. It's one of the odder/more interesting entries in that genre, I think.

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Hugues   
I've been listening to the new Deerhoof, which I find alternately charming, wonderful, and frustrating.

So do I, they're on Tomlab in Europe now. Only ten tracks this time, which is good I think, as there were twenty on the previous one, and it was too much, I didn't enjoy everything from start to finish. This time I'm charmed by the few ethereal tracks on the album. I love the sound of this band, but I'd like to be more surprised by the compositions, the ideas aren't all great enough. That said on first impressions.

Just to add that Deerhoof album has grown on me. It's probably their best so far.

In another field: I'm listening to Bo Ramsey's Stranger Blues right now, and it's really fine.

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opus   

I've been listening to the self-titled debut from The Brothers Martin. "Debut", however, feels like the wrong word, since the members -- Jason and Ronnie Martin -- have been around for years via Starflyer 59 and Joy Electric (respectively), and since they got there start together in Dance House Children. At its best, The Brothers Martin is a wonderful slice of ultra-catchy synth-laced indie-pop that, of course, hearkens back to the 80s ("Fears To Remember").

But there are moments where it feels less like a true collaboration and more like something that's a little slapped together -- where Ronnie's synth elements and Jason's indie-rock elements don't quite mesh as well. Considering the talents of those involved, the sum is somewhat less than the whole of its parts, but when the album does hit its stride, there's nothing catchier.

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Greg P   

I spent this afternoon listening to the debut album by Ola Podrida, which I've really really cozied-up to. Pastoral and textured without being anemic or whiny. This sort of hushed folkiness usually bores the living crap out of me, but something about this is different and i cant quite put my finger on it yet. I'm looking forward to spending more time with this one.

Also enjoying the new Eluvium...

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I just saw this in an online chat with the Washington Post's music critic, and it caught me offguard. Big Time.

Adams Morgan, Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the fantastic review of Mary Chapin Carpenter's new CD. I've been a fan since she was playing DC clubs back in the '80s and it's wonderful to see that she's still producing such amazing new music.

J. Freedom du Lac: You can thank the great Bill Friskics-Warren for that review. He went deep. And yes, it's a marvelous album.

What the..? MCC has a new album out that people are raving about? I love her stuff but stopped buying her music several years ago, having had my fill of her always tasteful, poetic songs. I've heard her past couple of CDs, and they're fine. But there's no reinvention -- not that that's necessary. It's just that I don't find the CDs compelling.

Now I'm wondering if this latest CD, which I might have ignored, demands my attention. [bTW, I missed the Post's review of the CD. I'll go dig it up...]

Edited by Christian

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opus   
SILMARIL - the recent CD collating music by the legendary, and simultaneously almost unknown, Silmarils, from Milwaukee, who released an amazing self-pressed album in 1973 called "GIVEN TIME OR THE SEVERAL...". This album of tormented and exalted Christian music, which overflows with love and with anguish, really moved me. -- remarks by David Tibet of Current 93 who also recommended Rickie Lee Jones' Sermon ON Exposition Boulevard as his favorite new recording.)

You can read more on SIlmaril at Locus Music here, or on the album itself here.

What is it with all of this Christian psych-folk coming out now? First The Christ Tree and now this? Hopefully, this means that someone will re-issue The Revolutionary Army Of The Infant Jesus sometime soon.

Max Richter - Songs Form Before

This is a gorgeous album. I think I like The Blue Notebooks a little better, but this one is lovely in its own right. The music is absolutely perfect for the selected Murakami passages.

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opus   
As for Revolutionary Army of the Infant Jesus, until it formally is reissued, you may want to contant yourself with this.

Cool! I have the Gift Of Tears/Mirror double CD (my review), but missed out on picking up the Paradis EP.

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opus   
Arve Henriksen (of Supersilent) - Strjon on Rune Grammofon

How does this compare to Supersilent?

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opus   
Not as 'jazzy,' or rhythmic per se, an a bit more abstract as a result; but wonderfully minimal, more ambient and sometimes genuinely ccreepy. Henriksen also goes by the name DeathProd, in fact an entire 4 disc box set came out of that material. He's wonderful really.

I found a site that had a couple of sound samples and I see what you mean.

I've got one of the Deathprod discs -- Morals And Dogma -- which I like. I'm not into dark ambient music as much as I once was, but I still appreciate a nice gloomy, wintry soundscape as much as ever. (Also, Deathprod is actually Helge Sten, one of Henriksen's bandmates.)

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yank_eh   

On a whim, I recently picked up the album Wolves, by My Latest Novel. It's not going to make any all time greatest lists but it is a surprisingly solid and refreshing effort. Belle and Sebastian comparisons are marginally justified--probably better to just describe the sound though. Alternately expansive (think strings and big drums) and folky, and peppered with equally dualistic layers of vocals (loud chants over delicious Scottish speak-singing). I am quite pleased with the purchase.

Edited by yank_eh

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SOFT MACHINE Reossiues: German remasters of titles Third through 7, all gorgeously remastered and cheap,. Third contains a bonuns disc of live material from the BBC.

I'm really glad to see this. Soft Machine may be the most underrated and unknown of the '70s prog bands, and I hope the reissues find a new audience. The version of the band with Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayres (Soft Machine I and II; ah, the glory days of Roman numerals) is my favorite, but the additions of Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean were very fine moves, and these albums are wonderful. SM offered a great fusion of prog rock and jazz, and they never wrote one song about elves, orcs, topographic oceans, or Ayn Rand. Those are all pluses in my book.

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opus   
On a whim, I recently picked up the album Wolves, by My Latest Novel. It's not going to make any all time greatest lists but it is a surprisingly solid and refreshing effort. Belle and Sebastian comparisons are marginally justified--probably better to just describe the sound though. Alternately expansive (think strings and big drums) and folky, and peppered with equally dualistic layers of vocals (loud chants over delicious Scottish speak-singing). I am quite pleased with the purchase.

I like this album. You're right, it's nothing groundbreaking, but just very solid.

I just picked up Low's Drums And Guns yesterday, and I'm enjoying it. It's probably their most difficult album since the Songs For A Dead Pilot EP, but I've always been drawn to their more experimental and obtuse material -- Songs For A Dead Pilot, The Curtain Hits The Cast, Trust -- then their more "accessible" output.

There are parts of Drums And Guns where the recording techniques -- everything is panned either to the left or the right, and recorded very thinly -- feel a little gimmicky, but on the whole, I've found it very interesting and even haunting. It probably won't supplant my favorite Low recordings, but I'm liking it more than The Great Destroyer.

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opus   

Stars Of The Lid - And Their Refinement Of The Decline

Considering my predilection for ambient music, it's surprising to me that I haven't got into SOTL's music more than I have. Their sounds are lovely enough -- huge, expansive washes of guitar and synth drones, with bits of cello and found sounds here and there, that move at a stately pace -- but it's never really gripped me all that much. That being said, I've been enjoying And Their Refinement Of The Decline quite a bit. At nearly two hours, there's a lot to wade through -- or more accurately, drift through. And some of it does fade into the background. But much of it is lovely and quite stirring, solemn and awe-inspiring.

The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters

I really, really liked The Twilight Sad's previous EP. Bits of My Bloody Valentine's dreampop, Mogwai's post-rock, Arab Strap's melancholy, and a lot of cathartic, raucous rock n' roll. A third of Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, the group's debut full-length, consists of tracks from the first EP, so it feels like a bit of a rehash. Actually, the entire album feels like a bit of a rehash, as the band follows the same basic formula time after time. Start off delicately, then slowly pile on layer after layer of guitars, and then, when it seems like the song can't take anymore, pile on about 15 more layers of distortion until it all implodes in an avalanche of noise tearing itself apart while lead singer James Graham sings about childhood trauma, sordid love affairs, and whatnot in his thick Scottish burr. Sometimes it's a little monotonous, but sometimes, it's amazing.

Joy Electric - The Otherly Opus

I know many, many folks who deride and ridicule Ronnie Martin for a lot of things. In my mind, he's a pop genius. Labelling Joy Electric's music "synth-pop" always feels a little lazy to me. How many synth-pop musicians write fairy tale-laden odes to Nikola Tesla and the joys of domestic life, or in the case of The Otherly Opus, craft a concept album about the fall of Mankind and antedeluvian history? I've always been a fan of We Are The Music Makers, so I really dif the first half of this one. Meanwhile, the second half finds Martin breaking out a bit, with a greater emphasis on the vocals.

Daniel Maze - Lifeguard EP

A 15-minute EP of bubbly, bouncy electronica that can be downloaded in its entirety for free. Not groundbreaking, but very enjoyable and gets me ready for long summer evenings -- or at least, to remember long summer evenings from my childhood. "Waiting for the Bubbles to Disappear" is an especially gorgeous track.

The Mary Onettes - Void EP

I love anything that smacks of shoegazer pop. Right behind that, though, is anything that smacks of early/mid 80s post-punk/synth-pop. You know what I'm talking about: The Smiths, The Cure, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, etc. And in that regard, Void is one of the best things I've heard all year. The influences are readily apparent, but the Swedish group embodies them so easily and gracefully, it sounds revolutionary all over again, especially when the singer's (whose name escapes me at the moment) voice arcs high overhead on the title track. You can listen to the entire EP here.

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Kyle   
The Mary Onettes - Void EP

I love anything that smacks of shoegazer pop. Right behind that, though, is anything that smacks of early/mid 80s post-punk/synth-pop. You know what I'm talking about: The Smiths, The Cure, New Order, Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, etc. And in that regard, Void is one of the best things I've heard all year. The influences are readily apparent, but the Swedish group embodies them so easily and gracefully, it sounds revolutionary all over again, especially when the singer's (whose name escapes me at the moment) voice arcs high overhead on the title track. You can listen to the entire EP here.

I've listened to "Lost", a track from their self-titled album, half dozen times or so times and I have to say I like what I've heard. It sure has an 80's british sound to it. In fact every time it has come up on my i-pod I've had to check the artist because it sounded so very 80's but it was nobody that I was familiar with. I've been pretty intrigued as to what the rest of their album is like.

One album I'd like to mention is The Postmarks by the Postmarks. It's a pretty little synth-pop number with pretty little female vocals. At first it's pretty unassuming, but the delicate beauty of the whole thing gets under your skin and you're taken in my its simple charm. I'm a bit sad that the weather is turning nicer as it has been the perfect winter evening soundtrack for providing warmth and comfort to the cold house. However, I'm pretty certain it will flow nicely into spring and early summer driving music scoring the return of green and flowers and all that spring offers.

Edited by Kyle

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Anders   

I'm going to throw in a recommendation for the new Kings of Leon, Because of the Times. I'm really digging it.

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Greg P   
I'm going to throw in a recommendation for the new Kings of Leon, Because of the Times. I'm really digging it.
I got it a several weeks ago and hated it-- a supreme letdown considering how much I liked Aha Shake. On the first few listens I just couldnt hear any songs that throttled me like The Bucket or King of the Rodeo. I put the album away and expected to pretty much never listen to it again.

This week, out of sheer boredom I suppose, I gave it another chance and had a very different response. I ended up listening to it at work all day. Still doesnt have the memorable tunes of their sophomore disc, but a fun ride nonetheless.

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I'm going to throw in a recommendation for the new Kings of Leon, Because of the Times. I'm really digging it.
I got it a several weeks ago and hated it-- a supreme letdown considering how much I liked Aha Shake. On the first few listens I just couldnt hear any songs that throttled me like The Bucket or King of the Rodeo. I put the album away and expected to pretty much never listen to it again.

This week, out of sheer boredom I suppose, I gave it another chance and had a very different response. I ended up listening to it at work all day. Still doesnt have the memorable tunes of their sophomore disc, but a fun ride nonetheless.

I think Because of the Times is pretty good as well, but it does take some time to sink in. It's a much more layered, must less in-yer-face album that the first two. But I appreciate that the band is stretching out a bit musically while still offering a couple great rockers in "It's My Party" and "Black Thumbnail." I also appreciate what appears to be some newfound lyrical maturity. I realize that Redneck Moron is a time-honored American musical stereotype, but I'm always glad when bands move beyond it.

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stu   
I just picked up Low's Drums And Guns yesterday, and I'm enjoying it. It's probably their most difficult album since the Songs For A Dead Pilot EP, but I've always been drawn to their more experimental and obtuse material -- Songs For A Dead Pilot, The Curtain Hits The Cast, Trust -- then their more "accessible" output.

There are parts of Drums And Guns where the recording techniques -- everything is panned either to the left or the right, and recorded very thinly -- feel a little gimmicky, but on the whole, I've found it very interesting and even haunting. It probably won't supplant my favorite Low recordings, but I'm liking it more than The Great Destroyer.

I listened to the first few tracks in a record shop before buying it for a friend the other day. Track one had all the brutal awkwardness of the end of 'Heroin' by the Velvet Underground. Quite a brave move for an opening track. Tracks two and three sounded pretty special though, might have to give it a listen.

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opus   
I just picked up Low's Drums And Guns yesterday, and I'm enjoying it. It's probably their most difficult album since the Songs For A Dead Pilot EP, but I've always been drawn to their more experimental and obtuse material -- Songs For A Dead Pilot, The Curtain Hits The Cast, Trust -- then their more "accessible" output.

There are parts of Drums And Guns where the recording techniques -- everything is panned either to the left or the right, and recorded very thinly -- feel a little gimmicky, but on the whole, I've found it very interesting and even haunting. It probably won't supplant my favorite Low recordings, but I'm liking it more than The Great Destroyer.

I listened to the first few tracks in a record shop before buying it for a friend the other day. Track one had all the brutal awkwardness of the end of 'Heroin' by the Velvet Underground. Quite a brave move for an opening track. Tracks two and three sounded pretty special though, might have to give it a listen.

Drums And Guns has really grown on me in a big way (my admittedly glowing review). I still have a special fondness for their "stereotypical" albums, such as I Could Live In Hope and The Curtain Hits The Cast, but Drums And Guns is really growing in my estimation. I definitely like it better than a lot of their more recent stuff, especially The Great Destroyer.

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opus   

Trembling Blue Stars - The Last Holy Writer

If you've heard one Trembling Blue Stars album, you've basically heard them all -- jangly guitars, new wave-y synths, and song after song full of sad sack lyrics about this or that unrequited love. What makes the formula work (for the most part, at least) is Bob Wratten's voice. Some folks might find it a little too wan and pale, but it works for me. (MySpace Page)

Rumskib - Rumskib

I wouldn't at all be surprised if the only albums that Rumskib listened to while growing up were My Bloody Valentine's Loveless and the Cocteau Twins' Garlands. Not that I mind, of course -- I've been listening to this disc almost non-stop since I got it. There are some filler pieces, but the good stuff is a perfect example of "beautiful noise," as layer upon layer of brittle, jagged guitar noise is turned into something beautiful by lovely vocals. "Springtime" and "Dreampoppers Tribute" are some of the best shoegaze songs I've heard in quite some time. (MySpace Page)

RF & Lili De La Mora - Eleven Continents

I've been a fan of Ryan Francesconi's electronic music for quite some time. This collaboration, however, finds him stripping away most of the glitchy, bubbling synthetic sounds for a largely acoustic affair. What hasn't changed, however, is his eye for detail. These are gorgeous, intricate little songs that continue the same elegant, elegiac tone of his electronic music. And for added indie cred, Joanna Newsom contributes harp and vocals to several of the songs, which works wonderfully. (MySpace Page)

At Swim Two Birds - Returning To The Scene Of Crime...

At Swim Two Birds' Roger Quigley's voice reminds me a lot of David Sylvian's voice. They both possess the same rich, emotive tenor. Of course, Sylvian never sang about illicit affairs, sordid liaisons, and murder. Returning... is a study in contrasts. The lyrical content is often dark and disturbing -- think Arab Strap or Nick Cave and his murder ballads -- but the music that surrounds it as quite gorgeous in contrast, with delicate acoustic guitars, subtle western flourishes, and stray bits of piano. And the intimate, confessional manner of the record -- at times, Quigley sounds way too close for comfort -- makes it all the more absorbing. (MySpace Page)

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Kyle   
The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters

I really, really liked The Twilight Sad's previous EP. Bits of My Bloody Valentine's dreampop, Mogwai's post-rock, Arab Strap's melancholy, and a lot of cathartic, raucous rock n' roll. A third of Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, the group's debut full-length, consists of tracks from the first EP, so it feels like a bit of a rehash. Actually, the entire album feels like a bit of a rehash, as the band follows the same basic formula time after time. Start off delicately, then slowly pile on layer after layer of guitars, and then, when it seems like the song can't take anymore, pile on about 15 more layers of distortion until it all implodes in an avalanche of noise tearing itself apart while lead singer James Graham sings about childhood trauma, sordid love affairs, and whatnot in his thick Scottish burr. Sometimes it's a little monotonous, but sometimes, it's amazing.

I was just about to mention this album when I noticed you've already written about it. I don't listen to this type of music as much as Opus, so take this as you will - I think this album is really great. I never heard the EP, so didn't have to deal with the feelings of rehash. It was all new to these ears. It takes Aerogramme's metallic guitar crushings and comines the sung-spoken vocals of the Arab Strap (minus the sleaze). It succeeds in creating a cascade of noise without ever collapsing under its own weight.I suppose it could be argued as being monotonous at times, its brief number of tracks and running time keep it from being so. More often than not I equate albums to seasons of the year. I'm a bit disappointed this is coming out in the Spring because for me it feels like a perfect mid-winter, stormy weather type of album.

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I really, really, really like the new Maria McKee album Late December.

It's easily my favorite album of hers since Life is Sweet. I wasn't terribly fond of High Dive, and Peddlin' Dreams had some soulful highlights that reminded me of Lone Justice days... but this is fantastic and fresh. It's a big, boisterous, boldly produced record that mixes the fiery zeal of Life is Sweet with a much more colorful weave of instruments and styles, and some powerful gospel-style backing vocals. I don't have the musical vocabulary of Thom Jurek to describe everything she's doing here... but it really works.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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