Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Beatification Of The Beat

Every so often I indulge and treat myself to a "Brian Saturday." Usually it happens when I'm hungover. It entails waking up late (today that would be 1:30pm) and going out and doing some record shopping. It's all a way to justify devouring some greasy food - which I did after making some sweet vinyl finds (Cold Cave's Death Comes Close 12", Ringo Deathstarr's Sparkle, and used copies of The Raveonettes' Lust Lust Lust and Xymox's Blind Hearts 12"). All of this was an excuse to spend a lazy night in listening to my new purchases and watching some DVDs. First up was a documentary on Joy Division followed by my umpteenth viewing of 24 Hour Party People. Steve Coogan's portrayal of Tony Wilson is so convincing that I was confused by what the real Tony Wilson (rest his soul) looked like in the Joy Division documentary.

This is my absolute favorite part in 24 Hour Party People.

Obviously, being one myself, that whole line about applauding the DJ is what hits me, but the way he ends it with "Welcome to Manchester" makes me wish I experienced that era firsthand.

Naturally, with all this Factory Records-related stuff I was inspired to put together a mixtape of some of my favorite songs to come from that Manchester label. The main culprits are on here (Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays) but so are some lesser-known acts, as well (including LA post punks, Abecedarians.) So as always, listen loud and become immersed.

Factory Music
Note: Every track on this playlist except for "Pulling My Fingers Off" is also up on Spotify - Factory Music [Random Ramblings & Mixtapes]
1. Joy Division, "Isolation"
2. Abecedarians, "Smiling Monarchs"
3. Section 25, "Looking From A Hilltop (Megamix)"
4. Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, "Electricity"
5. A Certain Ratio, "Shack Up"
6. New Order, "Blue Monday"
7. Electronic, "Get The Message (DNA remix)"
8. Happy Mondays, "Step On"
9. The Wendys, "Pulling My Fingers Off"

Monday, January 23, 2012

Looking Forward - Part 2

For some reason, I convinced myself that the release of The Big Pink's Future This would satisfy my neverending search for new music. And while it's no secret that I dig Future This very much, it only made my need for new sounds a bit worse. February is almost/only a week away but it couldn't get here fast enough. I'm promised a lot of new releases that month: School Of Seven Bells' Ghostory, A Place To Bury Strangers' Onwards To The Wall, hell, even a new Sleigh Bells album! So being that I'm very impatient (and maybe a tad obsessive), I've gone and put together a 2nd mixtape of music both new and new-to-me, in an effort to speed up time. But before we get there, a quick rundown of some of my favorite new discoveries that made it onto this mixtape:

I stumbled across this band only because I found out that they'd be touring with The Joy Formidable (along with A Place To Bury Strangers -- it's safe to say that I'm über-stoked for this tour to come to Boston.) After listening to "The Hours" I was pretty mesmerized. I'm a little late getting to their debut EP, From Silence, but better late than never, right? Especially since I can't stop listening to them...I've described them to friends as a slightly darker Beach House.

Someone mentioned to me that this UK band was opening for The Horrors overseas. And one listen to their instantly addictive debut single made it apparent why they'd be paired with them. Just like The Horrors, TOY mixes Krautrock, psych, and even a bit of shoegaze. Even better is that they've made their first single, "Left Myself Behind" and its b-side, "Clock Chime" available as a free download.

HVN233 - TOY 'Left Myself Behind' & 'Clock Chime' by heavenlyrecordings

OK, so I have a thing for British bands. This band has got hype going for them and have already been compared to The Vaccines (last year's overhyped British band crush.) Even more impressive is the fact that to date, the band has only released 3 singles. It was tough for me to choose which one makes the mixtape; it was between a ballad with handclaps or a rousing sing-along. Handclaps won, obvi. But here's the rousing sing-along as performed on Later...with Jools Holland.

Black Marble
This Brooklyn duo plays up to all of my weaknesses. Post-punk with cold minimal synths that end up sounding like early Cure with a touch of Joy Division. It should go without saying that there's a little gothiness to this. I kind of love it.

And now, a couple of streams that I'm not able to included on the mixtape but am still super excited for (both due out in February.)

Sleigh Bells, "Comeback Kid"
I'm still a total sucker for this noise-pop duo. Between the shredding guitars, the machine gun rhythms, and Alexis Krauss' sugary vocals, I don't know what my favorite part of their sound is.

Comeback Kid by Sleigh Bells

Band Of Skulls, "Bruises"
This band is proof that not everything I listen to falls under dreampop/shoegaze, post-punk, or industrial/goth. A power trio that specializes in brawny Zeppelin-sized rock. The chorus of this one makes me want to throw devil horns into the air.

  Band of Skulls - Bruises by Vagrant Records

Now, finally, onto the mixtape:

Anticipation 2012 - Vol. 2
1. Exitmusic, "The Hours"
2. School Of Seven Bells, "Lafaye"
3. Spector, "Never Fade Away"
4. TOY, "Left Myself Behind"
5. Cloud Nothings, "Cut You"
6. Black Marble, "Pretender"
7. Expensive Looks, "Nothing More"
8. Trust, "Sulk"
9. Porcelain Raft, "Put Me To Sleep"
10. Santigold, "Big Mouth"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wicked Game? Really?

Admittedly, this is going to come off as a bit of a rant and I'm totally okay with that. But for serious...why does it seem that everyone is doing a cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game"? Granted, these aren't bands I completely LOVE doing a version of the song, but still, it seems like every time I turn around someone is trying their hand at it. Last year alone, WU LYF and Washed Out each did a cover and just today I stumbled upon Rewards doing their own version -- theirs happens to have Alia Shawkat, better known to everyone as Maeby "Marry Me!" Fünke. Still, I just don't get the appeal of the song. I never liked it. The only good part of the song was the video and even that I couldn't stomach for very long. Sure, Helena Christensen in all her gorgeousness is frolicking around practically naked on a beach, but that visual is COMPLETELY ruined by Chris Isaak looking like he barely gives a crap that she's even there all the while he's trying to do his best Roy Orbison. This video is the VERY reason I hate pretty boys. He's not even trying and he gets the girl. Ugh.

Well, at least the good to come out of all this is that it gave me a reason to compile a quick mixtape of cool cover songs. And as an extra bonus, none of them are "Wicked Game."

Please, No more "Wicked Game" covers!

1. Depeche Mode, "So Cruel":  Dave Gahan is one of my all-time favorite lead singers. I've heard many people come close to sounding like him but his charisma is damn near untouchable. Even when he's crooning he sounds like he's trying to seduce the listener. And what's not to like about this- Depeche Mode covering a U2 song off the often-underrated Achtung Baby. You had me at "Depeche Mode."

2. The Twilight Sad, "Never Tear Us Apart": It's no secret how much I love INXS. I've gone on record on numerous occasions saying that Kick was the first tape I ever bought with my own money. Hell, this song made it onto Mixtape For A Crush. And even more recently, this band of Scots made it onto the Anticipation 2012 mixtape. So the inclusion of this cover is pretty much a no-brainer. One of my favorite love songs done by a band with a lead singer whose Scottish accent is so thick that singing along to it actually counts as doing a Sean Connery impression.

3. S.C.U.M., "586": Recently, NME included a CD with an issue of their magazine. It was a track-by-track tribute to New Order's awesome 1983 album, Power, Corruption & Lies with each song done by a different artist. There's some decent stuff on it like Destroyer doing a great version of "Leave Me Alone" and The Golden Filter with an interesting take on "Age Of Consent." S.C.U.M., however, just happens to be one of my favorite recent finds. Hearing their interpretation of "586" made me remember how dark and awesome the original was. Part of me feels guilty for needing that reminder.

4. HEALTH, "Goth Star": A surprisingly straightforward cover of a Pictureplane song. The thing that makes this one enjoyable for me is knowing how downright noisy HEALTH can be and how much restraint they show here.

5. Hank and Cupcakes, "She's Lost Control": Covering Joy Division can always be a little tricky. There are some really good ones (see: NIN's "Dead Souls" and LCD Soundsystem's "No Love Lost") and then some that are just plain offensive (both Paul Young and Fall Out Boy have done versions of "Love Will Tear Us Apart" -- as a sidenote, I just went on YouTube to listen to a bit of FOB's cover and is just way worse than you can possibly imagine.) Anyway, Hank and Cupcakes keep the spirit of the original while adding just a bit of dark dance pop flare.

6. Kele, "Goodbye Horses": This one is a faithful cover of the Q Lazzarus song. It stands out to me more because Kele (of Bloc Party) put out a solo album, The Boxer, that pretty much sucked. This song almost makes up for how bad that album was...almost.

7. Holy Ghost! featuring Nancy Whang, "I Wanted To Tell Her": Full disclosure- I'm partial to this one because not only is it a cover of a Ministry song, but it's one off of With Sympathy, an album that Al Jourgensen himself wants to forget. It's back when Uncle Al sang in a fake British accent and made cheesy electropop way before he got all pissed off and pretty much created the template for industrial-metal and started dressing like a psycho-goth cowboy. Anyway, Holy Ghost! do some justice to the song right down to its rubbery funk bassline. And also it features Nancy Whang formerly of LCD Soundsystem and currently still one of my indie crushes.

8. Karen O with Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, "Immigrant Song": Not many people know that I used to be a pretty big Led Zeppelin fan. So this one is another no-brainer for me. Also it's a good excuse to include something Trent Reznor had a hand in doing. Add to that the fact that I always pointed out how "Zero" from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' It's Blitz had a guitar riff that sounded like it was lifted straight from NIN's playbook. Put it all together and this seems like a match made in heaven.

9. The Horrors, "Suffragette City": David Bowie covers fall into the same category as Joy Division covers. They can be awesome (see: Bauhaus' "Ziggy Stardust") or they can be a complete and utter desecration (I still haven't forgiven Jakob Dylan for The Wallflowers' horrendous cover of "Heroes.") Luckily, this one falls into the former category.

10. 93 Million Miles From The Sun, "Never Understand": An English shoegaze band covering, well, the quintessential shoegazers, The Jesus And Mary Chain. Not much more to say about this other than to praise its awesomeness. All hail The Mary Chain!

11. Japandroids, "Racer X": Not many bands have the balls to cover Big Black. This Vancouver fuzz-punk duo not only does just that, but they do it like this song was theirs all along. I still remember seeing them do this song live and thinking "HOLY CRAP...It's a Big Black song!" Then realizing that I could be the only one in the audience who knew that fact.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Looking Forward

I think it's safe to say that I'm all done with any and all Best of 2011 lists and DJ sets. That's not to say I didn't have fun digging through all the cool music that came out last year but now I think I'm ready to look forward instead of back. So here we are about two weeks into 2012 and I'm itching for new music. The downside though, is that there hasn't been a lot of new stuff to actually come out yet. But what we do have are bands and labels releasing previews of forthcoming albums - a stream of a new single here, a free MP3 there. It pretty much turns into a big tease to someone with an addictive personality like me because now I'm literally fiending for new stuff to obsess over.

Here's a quick rundown of just a handful of some of my anticipated releases of 2012 complete with download links to some free music the bands have put out to whet some appetites.

Future This - The Big Pink (due out January 17th)
I am very stoked for this album to come out. And as luck would have it, 4AD releases it next Tuesday. I even pre-ordered it...on vinyl, of course. I'll admit I even listened to it in full thanks to a stream up on Spin's website and I very much dig it. The first two singles that they leaked are great- one being "Hit The Ground (Superman)" which has a pretty sweet sample of Laurie Anderson's "O Superman." But the first song they previewed off the album, "Stay Gold," pretty much picks up where their great 2009 album, A Brief History Of Love left off. They made that one available on their Facebook page. Grab it here:

No One Can Ever Know - The Twilight Sad (due out February)
It's no secret that I love shoegaze. I also have a bit of a soft spot for Scottish accents. The Twilight Sad fulfills the need for both of those things. I've seen this band a few times and they're awesomely loud. But judging by the first couple of songs they put out off this record, they seem to have toned down the volume a little without sacrificing songwriting. "Another Bed" is my favorite of the bunch, so far, mainly because of its underlying synth pulse...yet another thing I love in music. 


Ghostory - School Of Seven Bells (due out February 28th)
School Of Seven Bells' last album, 2010's Disconnect From Desire was a favorite of mine. It tied together my love of dreampop, shoegaze, and electropop. Ghostory seems to bring a little goth into the equation. Not a big surprise seeing as the duo has been known to cover Siouxsie & The Banshees' "Kiss Them For Me" live (and yes, they do a pretty awesome version of it.) 

Here's a stream of the latest single from Ghostory, a mesmerizing track called "Lafaye"

And a stream/MP3 download of the album's equally great first track, "The Night"

Mixed Emotions - Tanlines (due out March 20th)
It's probably a coincidence that this Brooklyn electropop duo named their long-overdue full-length album after the last good Rolling Stones song (yeah, I said it...the only good song off of Steel Wheels.) On Mixed Emotions' lead single, "Brothers," they keep things simple, catchy, and pop-friendly. 

Onwards To The Wall - A Place To Bury Strangers (due out February 7th)
Easily one of my favorite bands of the last few years. And they have the best band name. I only wish they'd have cool looking merch because I would happily rock a shirt with their name on it. I can only suspect that this 5-song EP will continue the band's assault on the senses - so much so that earplugs should be included.

OK so there you go...a few things to look forward to in the coming months. 

And of course, a mixtape follows. Aside from most of the tracks mentioned above, also included are new songs from techno duo, Motor whose latest single, "Man Made Machine" is a stompy EBM track that features the vocal talents of Depeche Mode's Martin L. Gore, the debut single from VCMG who also happens to feature Gore alongside of DM alum, Vince Clarke, a preview track from the forthcoming album from synth-psych Brooklynites, Bear In Heaven, some gritty hardcore-inflected punk from California's Ceremony (not to be confused with Virginia shoegazers of the same name), and some great dark yet danceable post-punk from Boston's Autochrome who is set to put out a 7-song release in March. And rounding things out is one from noisy New York post-punks, Pop. 1280. Now onto the mixtape.

Anticipation 2012
1. The Big Pink, "Stay Gold"
2. The Twilight Sad, "Another Bed"
3. Autochrome, "Senses"
4. School Of Seven Bells, "The Night"
5. Bear In Heaven, "The Reflection Of You"
6. Tanlines, "Brothers"
7. Motor, "Man Made Machine" (featuring Martin L. Gore)
8. VCMG, "Spock"
9. Pop. 1280, "Bodies In The Dunes"
10. Ceremony, "Hysteria"
11. A Place To Bury Strangers, "So Far Away"

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A New Year - A New Name

With a new year upon us, I figured it was about time to make some changes. I openly admit that I essentially started Random Ramblings Of DJ Brian L. so I'd have a place to post whatever random music lists I can think of, which is to say my year-end lists. Aside from those, it would be relatively quiet around this blog. So my New Year's Resolution is to post more. The change was initially inspired by my love of making mix CDs for friends and from my own actual DJ sets; more recently though, it was spurred on by how much fun I had compiling streamable playlists on Spotify and on to include in my last few posts especially on Mixtape For A Crush. So with all that said, we unveil the newly christened Random Ramblings & Mixtapes.

Some mixtapes will have a theme to it and some may not. It'll pretty much be anything goes (sticking with the whole Random Ramblings nature) but mostly it will be my way of sharing some of my favorite music. And like any mixtape, you might find something new to love or you might rediscover something that slipped through the cracks. Whatever the case might be, I invite you to turn it up and become immersed.

And of course, to celebrate our new name and the New Year, here's our first mixtape of 2012. It's pretty easy to figure out the theme here - and really, it was a good excuse to put some Suede, Utah Saints, and The Jesus And Mary Chain onto a mix.

Everything's New
(A majority of this playlist is also up on Spotify - unfortunately, I was unable to find Utah Saints or the Mary Chain cover):  Everything's New [Random Ramblings & Mixtapes])
1. !!!, "A New Name"
2. Utah Saints, "New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84)"
3. Suede, "New Generation"
4. The Jesus And Mary Chain, "New Kind Of Kick (Live)"
5. INXS, "New Sensation"
6. Mew, "New Terrain"
7. M83, "New Map"
8. The Horrors, "Whole New Way"
9. Refused, "New Noise"