It’s time again to turn the music down and put on your art-critic monocles and top hats. Yes, today is the day we judge 2010 releases strictly on their visual packaging aesthetics as opposed to their auditory aptitude. It’s also a way to highlight the ‘other’ artists who have created the artwork and often don’t get the credit besides a sub-par blurb in the liner notes. 2010 was filed with beautiful artwork and it has been a struggle to dwindle them down to 5, but alas, my favorites are to be found below. Just like last year, I’m looking at the entire package; composition, balance, tone, meaning and originality. Use of text is not necessary as we saw last year, but when it is used, it must compliment the piece as a whole. I don’t claim to be an expert, but when looking back through this year’s album artwork, here are the ones that caught my eye.
Posts Tagged ‘swim’
Remix artists rejoice! Daniel Snaith is back and he brings with him a fresh palette of sublime beats for you to disassemble. Continuing to add to his extensive discography, his latest Swim was just released via Merge Records, his first full length since Andorra, released in 2007. Snaith, hailing from Ontario, utilizes a full band on the record, and the product sounds like a digital and electro production alone. In fact, it’s stunning what kind of layering Snaith accomplishes using traditional instruments like soprano sax, flute, and trombone.
The opening track “Odessa” is a good intro to the record and holds one of the more catchy bass lines. The tambourine throughout is sometimes distracting on first listen, but quickly fades as your ear dissects different angles. Immediately upon the first listen, one thing is certain. This is party music. Straight ‘get off your ass and dance’ music. Actually, it’s the best kind of party music; the type that sneaks up you. You know the feeling; the party is still young and you want to make it a little livelier. This is a good scenario for Swim. It’s the kind of music that doesn’t dominate the room, but politely sits in the corner, simmering like Boeuf Bougiuignon. When you least expect it, you find yourself tapping your foot or nodding your head. That’s right where Snaith wants you. He plays with moods in the simplest way possible, but it’s nothing flashy. Think Ghostland sans Capes; but with harmonies instead.
The next track “Sun” shows a more melodic side than the opener, but continues the simple electro beats. The rhythm builds to a vast crescendo, and if you don’t move at least some part of your body during which; you should probably check your pulse. For all I enjoyed on “Sun”, “Kalli” quickly brought me down. It is perhaps the most intrusive track of the album, like a jazz improv going horribly wrong. Maybe I don’t understand the nuances of Caribou, but this was like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Luckily, “Found out” gets the groove back with some of the best songwriting on the release. ”Bowls”, the longest track on the album has showcases disharmonious chimes played against harp strumming. It’s an unusual instrumental, but that segues into a stripped down beat that might have you looking around the room thinking you tripped over a cord and unplugged a speaker. It’s not the catchiest song on the album, but here Snaith shows off his ability to layer every sound imaginable into a somewhat literate dance number. For me, I’ll stick to the vocal tracks.
“Leave House” and “Hannibal” get the party vibe back, as Caribou channels his inner Hot Chip on the former. And as always, you can always add more cowbell as heard on the latter. The shortest track “Lalibela”, could be considered transitional, leading into the final track, but in its own right, it is a gem. Finishing on a very strong note, no doubt my favorite track on the album “Jamelia” is sublime. The subtlety, the beat, the vocals, the instrumentation; it’s like a difficult jigsaw puzzle and you just found the last piece. It builds to a massive extended crescendo before trailing off slowly. For me, it quickly prompted a second listen to the album as a whole. I can’t say that about many release so far this year. Overall, it’s a short release, but it shows what Snaith does well in no uncertain terms. It’s straight forward, but dense, utilizing layering in unique ways. Next time you have a party, be sure to grab this one.
The Glands released this album in 2000. I came across it a little after that via good taste. This has been an album that consistently comes into my playlist year after year after year. For me, it’s the perfect album, and one I will listen to for years.
When the alarm bell rings in “Livin Was Easy” you know that you’re in for an awakening. Here we come across the dirty driving guitar work made famous by Built to Spill on Nothing Wrong with Love. Singing about a time when things were easier, Russ Shapiro wins you over on the opening track.
Then comes “Swim.” It’s full of a trouncing piano beat that keeps the pace for the entire song. There’s no choice other than to bob your head with this track. I often use this on mix tapes for friends, and I’ve never heard a complaint.
Suddenly, the pace is flipped up. The band offers a slow burner here in “Mayflower,” which resembles a lot of present day dream pop. The guitar shoots off into the background of the song, as Shapiro slowly soothes you with his voice. Special.
“Lovetown” is up next. It sounds an awful lot like Dear Catastrophe Waitress-era Belle and Sebastian. The difference is that The Glands were here first. Lyrics are kind of sparse here, but the song drives on through, pushing you with the fuzziest of bass lines.
Afterwards, you get the rushing pace of “Straight Down,” which is just a solid rock track. Everything about this song epitomizes what indie pop was all about in the early days, before it got too bogged down with seven member collectives and such.
If you like a little alt-country in your ears, then you can grab hold of “Fortress.” The vocals match every inch of this song–almost as if Shapiro is walking you slowly escorting you through his words. He brings it down just a bit, then blasts straight into “Work It Out.” Everything about this song sounds extremely modern, yet it precedes its own sound.
“Ground” is a song that brings us back to a lot of the dreaminess in pop music. You could leave out the lyrics and still find yourself traveling through this song with ease. I guess a popular way to label this song is to throw out that word ambient. There you go, I did it.
I love “Favorite American.” It’s an acoustic number accompanied by some interesting reverb on the vocals, which give it that dark bubbling effect that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club seem to have perfected. It’s got a political undertone, but it’s one that would only become relevant a few years following the release of the album, so decipher the code.
In the closing three minutes, “Breathe Out” kind of lets me out. It’s not a bad song by any means, it just doesn’t hold up to the rest of the album. There is some light synthesizer that awkwardly keeps track of time, while the vocals just sort of float in midair.
Fans of Grandaddy, Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Flaming Lips, Wilco and The Wrens will all find themselves loving this album. You can even say that a lot of those bands followed in the steps of The Glands, but their short-lived career makes it hard to assess their lasting effects.
I know it’s hard to take the words of another man on buying something that you’ve never heard of in your life, or perhaps you have, but take my word here. Go to iTunes and buy this. You will thank me for it later on, or I hope you do.