Sunday, September 23, 2012

August Backtracks

Here it is, the beginning of a new season and it just so happens to coincide with our August Backtracks mixtape. So as the weather begins to cool, we turn the calendar back one page and take a listen to the songs that got the "overplayed" treatment. Taking a look at what made the cut on this playlist is a good indicator of the kind of month August ended up becoming -- at times pretty and swirling and at times ugly and abrasive (at least, in the case of one of the selections.) Either way, it's all worthy of turning the volume up as loud as it goes.


August 2012 Mixtape
1. Lykke Li, "Silver Springs": Full disclosure #1 - I hate Fleetwood Mac. I wish I could say otherwise, but I'd be lying. A few years ago while going through old records at my family's house, I found Rumours and brought it back to Boston with me but upon listening to it, I realized how much I can't stand them. Full disclosure #2 - I love Lykke Li. Now, put the two things together, and it turns out my love of Lykke Li outweighs my hatred of Fleetwood Mac.

2. Swans, "The Seer Returns": Michael Gira's Swans is one of those bands I consider to be a "hard sell" to friends. Which is another way of saying that they're an acquired taste. My first exposure to the band was their appropriately titled, 1994 album, The Great Annihilator. An album so intensely dark that I often described it as "making Disintegration sound like Pet Sounds." The Seer, the second album since Gira reformed Swans, overflows with two hours of music spread out over two discs (3 of the albums 10 tracks clock in at over 19 minutes each.) It's challenging to say the least -- at one moment plodding and suffocating, and during others exhilarating and cathartic. "The Seer Returns" is a droning yet hypnotic, 6-minute piece that serves as a brief respite from the rest of the album's smothering nature.

3. Moon King, "Only Child":  File Moon King with the handful of bands I discovered via Pitchfork. In all honesty, they're a bit of a mystery to me. The only thing I really know of them is that they feature a member of the band Doldrums. What I do know is that their latest EP Obsession I is a great collection of dark, dreamy, yet driving indie rock that takes its influences from Cocteau Twins and Siouxsie & The Banshees.

4. Wild Nothing, "Paradise": Virginia isn't known for being a hotbed for shoegaze and dreampop, yet that's exactly where Jack Tatum, the mastermind behind Wild Nothing, calls home. His band's 2010 debut, Gemini was a promising and at times, lo-fi collection of 80's-inspired indie pop. But on the follow-up, Nocturne, the production quality is drastically improved resulting in some of Wild Nothing's  best work. On "Paradise," shades of indie rock's past are still present, but like much of Nocturne, the blurry sight-lines are greatly cleared up.

5. Spector, "Twenty Nothing": Despite a difficult-to-Google band name, London five-piece, Spector have all the makings of a quick-on-the-rise UK band. After 4 impressive singles, they finally released a debut album, Enjoy It While It Lasts, a jolt of whip-smart, heart-on-the-sleeve songs. "Twenty Nothing" is one of the albums instantly catchy offerings, somehow finding a comfortable middle ground between The Killers' bravado and Pulp's wise-cracking sass.

6. Kitten, "Cut It Out": It's hard to believe that singer Chloe Chaidez of LA buzz band, Kitten, is only 17 years old, still a few years away from being old enough to legally drink alcohol. Yet, like much of their latest self-titled EP, the single "Cut It Out" is a lacerating slab of gritty yet catchy indie pop. At such a young age, Chaidez has a shot at becoming the next Karen O or Robyn; either option would be more than commendable.

7. Divine Fits, "Baby Gets Worse": This indie supergroup's first single appeared here just last month (or more accurately on last month's July Backtracks). Quickly following "My Love Is Real" with a full-length, A Thing Called Divine Fits, it's apparent that it took no time for Spoon's Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade/Handsome Furs' Dan Bockner, and New Bomb Turk, Sam Brown to gel in the studio. New Wave synths saturate much of the album (in a good way, of course) resulting in some of the most invigorating material from everyone involved. The scuffed-up synthpop of "Baby Gets Worse" is one of the album's many standout tracks.

8. Niki & The Dove, "Somebody": Speaking of synthpop, Stockholm's Niki & The Dove finally surface with their debut album, Instinct. And while their initial singles framed the duo as a more pop-oriented version of fellow Swedes, The Knife, the rest of their output reveals a wider range of influences. With "Somebody," they show off a warm-blooded synth-funk pulse almost paying homage to Prince. And that's a very good thing.

9. Factory Floor, "Two Different Ways (Perc Remix)": We close out this Monthly Backtracks mixtape with UK trio, Factory Floor. Their mix of post-punk, minimal electro, coldwave, and industrial music is just the right combination of all things I love so it should come as no surprise at how instantly obsessed I became. The original version of "Two Different Ways" came out last year on DFA but this throbbing techno mix may have just outdone it.

So there you have it. Summer ends, Autumn begins, everything gets cooler, even the music. As always, listen loud and become immersed.

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