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For better or worse, I've been paying about as much attention to music lately as I pay to books and movies—i.e., I'm a consumer, not a connoisseur. I do a bit of digging on my own, but most of my non-video game media purchases are helter-skelter, word-of-mouth affairs. Just the same, there was a bunch of music that came out this year than I bought and liked, so I thought I'd share it with you all.

Delorean - Subiza. You never think that an album is going to be able to live up to itself. After the first minute of this record I thought to myself, "This... this can't be, like, my favorite album ever, right? It can't keep this up." But it does. It's billed as dance music, but it's really just good music. Perfect blend of upbeat and melancholy, of ragged and polish. If you don't like this album, we can't be friends.

Four Tet - There Is Love In You. Rounds is basically my desert island album. There Is Love In You is the first thing Mr. Hebden has released in a while that stands up to it. It's very different from Rounds but just as rich.

School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire. Over the past few years, I have been discovering new things about myself, such as my deep-seated fetish for shoegaze and classic-era 4AD. So yes, the offspring of My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins is every bit as amazing as I thought it would be.

Guster - Easy Wonderful. The album's title consists of two adjectives that describe the album! After many long years, Guster has learned how to make music without trying too hard. This is the album of a band (finally) firmly in their comfort zone, and it is so much fun to listen to.

(Check out this post on Warp Skip for my top three video games of the year.)
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... and by all accounts I've done some pretty damn nerdy things in my life. Head on over to happyfrappy.com to download my NES-ified adaptations of two popular Guster songs: What You Wish For (from Lost and Gone Forever) and Manifest Destiny (from the upcoming Ganging Up on the Sun). Members of the Guster messageboard rave, "holy crap! someone has nanoloops!" before getting distracted by an animated GIF in someone's signature.

I didn't do it with Nanoloop, actually (69 EUR? Who can afford that?). I did it in Schism Tracker. There are a number of people on my friends list for whom NES music and its faithful reproduction are an abiding love and concern. Guys: I'm sorry if I messed this one up. I tried to be as faithful to the NES sound as I could!

(And yes, I know I'm about six months too late for this kind of thing.)
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Disregard the meaningless pseudonym; this cover of Guster's "Dear Valentine" over at happyfrappy.com is all me. Sarahoneyface on the happyfrappy.com message board says, "i LOVE it!" for whatever it's worth. Anyway, give it a listen if you have a second. (This bootleg recording will give you an idea of what "Dear Valentine" will actually sound like when it comes out on Guster's upcoming album.)

Here is my post about happyfrappy.com from last year.

The Sigur Rós show last week at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden was a disaster. Amina's set was obscured behind the sight and sound of hundreds of people taking their seats, noisily stumbling in the darkness, the light of the ushers' flashlights constantly shining in everyone's faces. The couple seated behind me thought Sigur Rós' set would be an ideal place and time to carry out a lover's tiff, conducted mostly in whispers but occasionally emerging, butterfly-like, as barked invective ("You're an asshole." "Shut up, you whore."). Two rows ahead of me a large man, baked as biscotti, he was fried, constantly waved his arms in the air, either in an attempt to lend a little Bernstein to the affair, or to fly. It was impossible to tell. At intervals he chose to sing along in a screeching falsetto and, at one point, earnestly yelped "GODSPEED, EVERYONE!" During the pause in "Viðrar Vel" people started shouting insults at each other. Had the band not been so awesome and the venue's sound engineering so impeccable I probably would have gone home in tears.
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Guster clambered up the ladder of commercial success early in their career, mostly through sheer tenacity and showmanship (nary a female have I met who, after seeing Brian Rosenworcel's frantic conguery, did not want to have his babies). As a result, we've been able to witness their maturation from Indigo Girls-aping, Jackopierce-covering weenies to literate, confident musos with, well, chops.

Last Friday at the Nokia Theatre they demonstrated their surprising prowess: Great Escape (from their second album) rose like a hot air balloon from all the new life they breathed into it - the tinny strums on the record gave way to fat distortion, and the nonsensical bridge we all know and love (circle circle dot dot dot) was replaced with a tease from the Violent Femmes' Kiss Off. Diane is now not just their best song on record (from Keep It Together, their latest) but also one of the finest songs in their repertoire: they used to fudge this song badly when played live, but now it's brilliant. Even Center Of Attention - one of the weaker songs in Guster's post-Parachute catalog - sounded punchy and new. Compare it to an early bootleg and you'd think a different band was playing it.

Keep It Together bore witness of a newly liberated band's growing pains - every song seemed to pull the band in a different stylistic direction - but the new material debuted on this tour has a clear direction and clean execution. I fully expect Ganging Up On The Sun (or whatever they decide to call the new record) will be the Damn Pop Record of 2006. (Listen to Manifest Destiny, The Captain, The Beginning Of The End, and One Man Wrecking Machine on this excellent bootleg.)

This is my fear, though: confidence leads to stagnation. Guster compels us because of the lengths they're willing to cross to compensate for their shortcomings: their heartfelt, wide-eyed ballads, their humorous on-stage shenanigans, their insistence on "no sticks!" on Lost And Gone Forever. They're quirky, which attracts obsession and the establishment of an identity. Guster's quirks are their fan's quirks - they're our quirks. Outsiders couldn't hope to understand them. In their attempt to become the band they've always wanted to be, Guster needs to make sure that they don't become just like everyone else.

Pelt's latest recording seemed bland and boring to me - I like drone, but I could find no compelling reason to sit through their lengthy, unmoving, thirty-minute tracks. The record, however, is a cadaverous shadow of the live experience. A monochromatic cacophony of frantic Fahey-esque guitar, squeezeboxes, double-stop violin and harmonium builds into a crescendo, spins out of control, then crumbles into a chorus of gongs, which Tibetan singing bowls gradually slice and dice then fade to nothingness. The denouement came when the sines from four bowls emerged as a major chord, bringing with it the trembling, unexpected sense of well-being that sets apart all great music. Pelt convinces you that making noise is no easy feat, and then make it seem effortless: You may think that their music is chaotic, until you see them tiptoeing across the stage, moving to a new instrument, in an effort not to interrupt it. The experience was akin to being a frog boiled alive and I must have looked mighty strange at the end of the performance, huddled up next to the stage, agape.

Marissa Nadler was the first of three performers on a bill with Pelt and Earth Sunday night (I didn't stick around for Earth, wasn't in the mood for doom sludge metal or whatever). She's this year's Joanna Newsom and if you like the folk music and you don't have her new record then, quite franky, you disgust me. Her songs and arrangements are briskly laconic, and her sense of her chosen style is so clear as to be almost forceful. She is a British folk singer (Scottish, actually, judging from those velarized L's), modern trends have placed no fingers on her, she exists entirely within her own forgotten and/or imaginary world. I was captivated.
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... so you don't have to!

Enter happyfrappy.com, a clearinghouse for Guster covers - "by fans, for fans." Surely you don't have time to sift through the entire site for the cream of the crop. Ridiculous. You are not a tree that grows minutes and seconds. But I'll bet you just can't contain your curiousity. "What have they cooked up," you ask yourself. "Something good! Probably. Maybe."

Since myth's weblog has always been about helping out its readers, here's a list of favorites that the boys down in our music review department came up with.

The Bishop Elect's reckless cover of Amsterdam injects all of the sarcasm that Rosenworcel's lyrics actually require for the song to work. Somehow it manages to spin out of control even at half the speed of the original.

Note to the two hundred people who chose to cover Airport Song: adding a phaser effect to your vocals and/or the entire mix will not make your recording "spooky." The only way to do that is to sing like you have just barely escaped from a high-security prison for psychopaths, like Lawrence Solomon has. Exhibit A for the prosecution. Apparently he stole a drum machine on the way out.

Maybe the vocals are a bit too Surfacing, but Sara O'Reilly enchants with her delicate version of Two Points for Honesty. She sings the harmonies you always heard in your head while listening to this song! The ones Guster couldn't be bothered with.

Guster fans! It's time to stop your ridiculous posturing. Parachute is not a very good album. You know it; I know it. We all know it. David Kerman probably knows it, but that didn't stop him from producing this honest, heart-felt rendition of Guster's crappiest song.

Dear Jimmy Rowles: your cover of X-Ray Eyes is awesome. I guess Incubus is okay, but here is a Mountain Goats album. Sincerely, Adam

Sarah Dunn has built a tiny, intricate acapella machine from All The Way Up To Heaven.

If you've ever thought to yourself, "Man, wouldn't it be great if Guster had gone back in time and taught Parachute to the Red Krayola, circa God Bless The Red Krayola And All Who Sail With It?" then hoo-boy does Brumation have a song for you.

On the other hand, it wouldn't take time travel for Bright Eyes to learn a Guster song, but surely Oberst is busy enough with all the hookers and smack. In the meantime, try to sate yourself with Nicholas Jones' vaguely Bright Eyes-ish cover of So Long. The shift to 4/4 makes this much snappier than the original. Good decision. Bravo!

March 2016

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