Friday, April 27, 2007

Coconut Records - Minding My Own Business

As many people probably know, before Jason Schwartzman landed his role as Max in Wes Anderson's Rushmore, he was a drummer for the band Phantom Planet. After his acting career took off, he eventually left the band to pursue acting full-time, although he continued to write bits and pieces of music on his own (some of which ended up on the soundtrack for movies he starred in). Recently he decided to sit down and record an whole new album with the help of Incubus guitarist Mike Einziger, calling the new solo project Coconut Records.

Yes, as confusing as it may be, that's actually the band name... his record label is called Young Baby Records. The music does resemble Phantom Planet a bit, with that sort of Beach Boys-esque 60's pop rock sound, but as many others have pointed out, it also resembles Phoenix and Weezer at points too. While the album is a bit uneven, the stand out tracks are simply fantastic. You can order the Coconut Records debut album Nighttiming from the Young Baby Records website now. (Incidentally, Phantom Planet have also released details about a new album of their own, to be released sometime this summer. Oh the irony!)

» Bonus Track: Nighttiming

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Danielson - Propaganda For A Comic Strip

Secretly Canadian have just put out their 100th release this week, and although in truth their albums have been numbering well over 100 for a while now, the century mark had been reserved a while back for something particularly special. To celebrate this milestone, and the label's 11th anniversary, they got a large number of bands that have been on the label over the years to cover each other's songs... which is always a fun idea. The result is an album they are simply calling SC100. Having just recently enjoyed the documentary Danielson: A Family Movie on DVD (you can hear Jay's audio review of the movie over on The Documentary Blog) I naturally gravitated toward their contribution to the album, a cover of Dave Fischoff's "Propaganda For A Comic Strip". As a nice companion piece, you can also hear the Danielson Famile song "Fruitful Weekend" being reworked by June Panic... the very band responsible for SC001! Now how's that for a history lesson?

» Bonus Track: June Panic - Fruitful Weekend
» Buy it on Amazon

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Polysics - Dream Ramming Down

Hey, guess who unveiled yet another new release right under our noses? Only the hardest working musical lifeforms in Japan, new wave synth-punks Polysics! Less than a month after I posted about their latest single "Catch On Everywhere", the band had another full-length album in Japanese stores called Karate House. It contains all three of their most recent singles, plus one b-side and 12 more brand new songs! How they can continue to generate so much new material is beyond me, although it's inevitable that some of the songs start to blend together after a while. By now you probably know if their rambunctious style of bleepified electro-punk is your cup of tea, but personally I can't recommend these tracks enough. "Dream Ramming Down" is another sugary pop tune sung by female keyboardist Kayo, while "Polysics or Die!!!!" (a new song, despite the fact that their 2005 North American greatest hits compilation had the same name) is possibly the most spot-on imitation of Devo they've ever done (and that's saying a lot).

» Bonus Track: Polysics or Die!!!!
» Buy it on Amazon (Import)

World's End Girlfriend - Ghost of a Horse Under the Chandelier

I first heard about World's End Girlfriend when they released a split CD with Mono last year. As I looked into the band's back catalogue, however, I began to get even more intrigued. It turns out that World's End Girlfriend is a one-man project; self-taught Japanese composer Katsuhiko Maeda combined his interest in classical music with experimental guitars, ambient sounds and electronic beats starting at the young age of 13. Now, six full length albums later, he has made a name for himself and drawn international acclaim. His latest release, Hurtbreak Wonderland came out on Human Highway Records last month and forges ahead with another collection of daring sonic landscapes. The closest comparison I can come up with is the Icelandic group Mum, but his music is still unlike anything else I have heard before. Although the album is hit and miss for me, songs like the epic "Ghost of a Horse Under the Chandlelier" combine classical piano with glitchy digital rhythms for maximum mind-blowage.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Handsome Furs - Cannot Get Started

Are you kidding me? Another Wolf Parade side project?! This is getting a little bit ridiculous. But before you jump to any conclusions, it's been mainly Spencer Krug stealing the spotlight lately as he splits his time among Frog Eyes, Swan Lake and Sunset Rubdown. This time we're talking about the other half of the songwriting duo, Dan Boeckner, who has decided to branch out and show us something a little more personal himself. Handsome Furs finds Boeckner and his fiancee Alexei Perry performing music with nothing more than guitars and a drum machine. As you might expect, it's a bit stripped down, but it still retains the power of his raspy vocals and the dingy rattle and hum of Wolf Parade. The album's called Plague Park, and there is a definite theme of "restless disdain for both urban life and smaller towns", as the Sub Pop write-up so eloquently observes. Look for it in stores on May 22nd.

» Bonus Track: Dead + Rural
» Pre-order it on Amazon

Neon Neon - Trick or Treat

As Super Furry Animals fans await the upcoming release of Hey Venus! (rumoured to be dropping sometime late this summer), they can sink their teeth into another side project from frontman Gruff Rhys. This isn't just another solo album though, this is a full blown electro/hip-hop collaboration with Boom Bip that also features appearances from Spank Rock, Fat Lip and Har Mar Superstar (among others). They are going under the name Neon Neon, and the album is reportedly a concept album based on the life of John Delorean, automobile engineer and creator of (you guessed it!) the Delorean!

The first track "Trick or Treat" is now playing on their MySpace page... this MP3 is just a rip of that stream (only 96k unfortunately). However, if the song is any indication of what the rest of the album will be like, I will be first in line to buy it when it finally sees the light of day. Stay tuned to MySpace and the Lex Records website for more announcements.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stars - Set Yourself On Fire (Montag Remix)

Back in 2004 when Stars released their brilliant 3rd album Set Yourself On Fire, I hadn't really heard of them before and they seemed to come out of nowhere. Now, a few years later, they've gotten some serious airplay (in Canada at least) and made a name for themselves as part of Broken Social Scene's Arts & Crafts label. We're still waiting for their follow-up to Set Yourself On Fire, but next month they will release a remix album entitled Do You Trust Your Friends?.

As much as people are getting a little carried away with the remix trend lately, I can't help but be interested when a favourite band of mine gets re-interpreted by another group of talented musicians. The thing I like most about this remix album is that they've "kept it in the family" so to speak -- all of the contributors hail from Canada with the exception of Minotaur Shock. Check out this track from the highly underrated Montag; he's not re-inventing the wheel here but rather enhancing the original with beautiful bells, beeps and beats. The CD hits stores on May 22nd.

» Bonus Track: The Big Fight (Minotaur Shock Remix)
» Pre-order it on Amazon