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by Daniel Ross

24 Feb 2011


The Acorn (Rolf Klausener, middle)

With their latest LP, No Ghost, Canadian folk-poppers the Acorn have done a strange thing: scaling down and de-glorifying their craft (after the immaculate Glory Hope Mountain from 2008), making it seem like a wonderful progression towards a woodsy, utopian breed of rock. There is an awful lot of joy in the record, as if time spent recording it in the wilderness—they retreated to an isolated cabin to piece the tunes together—was as freeing an experience as it should be, and the heaviness of Glory Hope Mountain had been lifted. Rolf Klausener was on hand to curtly and efficiently answer a few questions about No Ghost and shed a little light on its gestation.

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No Ghost—first things first, it’s not a concept album. In fact, there aren’t really any large themes drawing it together as such. Did you want to move away from the scale of Glory Hope Mountain?

In short, yes. The process of writing and recording No Ghost had little planning being it other than the location. Writing GHM was an all-encompassing affair which, creatively, dominated the better part of two years. For better or worse, we wanted No Ghost to be a lot less premeditated and commit to whatever came out of the cottage sessions.

by Stefan Nickum

23 Feb 2011


To pair Jamie XX’s interest in this territory with a musical figure like Gil Scott-Heron makes even more sense than perhaps the original conceit of I’m New Here. On Jamie’s official, Scott-Heron-approved remix record poignantly titled We’re New Here, Jamie bring Scott-Heron’s voice into the underground in the spirit of Heron himself. The breakbeat sounds of dubstep, hip-hop, and UK garage are at work here, and their relevancy to Heron’s spacious, spoken-word jazz material is essential.

Gil Scott-Heron and Jamie XX - We’re New Here (XL Recordings)

Last year poet, proto-rapper, and avant-garde jazz pillar Gil Scott-Heron returned to the fold with his first album in decades. Released on Richard Russell’s inimitable XL Recordings imprint I’m New Here is a collaborative affair between Russell and Scott-Heron that saw the revolutionary artist in the context of a sparse pastiche of 21st century electronic sounds. The result seemed to celebrate Scott-Heron’s legacy with a dose of nostalgia at the same time it launched Scott-Heron’s graying, monolithic voice into the future. The title said as much, re-casting Scott-Heron as a timeless figure, his visionary soul as new and fearless, as it was old and wise.

I’m New Here was undeniably Scott-Heron’s record, despite the musical crafting by Russell, and yet the potential for exploring the tensions between Heron’s legacy and his relationship to the underground of today could be mined even further.  Enter Jamie XX of breakout London R&B rock outfit the XX. Jamie is the band’s principal producer and supplier of the group’s electronic elements, and has—since the group’s meteoric rise—been making a name for himself as a member of the UK’s underground “bass music” scene.

by Evan Sawdey

22 Feb 2011


Photo: Hama Sanders

Alex Ebert has had a hell of a career, and he should know: he’s actually had two of them.

Ebert’s first career was in the early 2000s, when his electro-rock group Ima Robot released its eponymous debut album to decent success.  Lead by the snappy single “Dynomite” (which had a delightfully outrageous video to go along with it), the group picked up a decent following, touring with the likes of Hot Hot Heat while getting promotional support from the likes of MTV2’s underground-exposure program Subterranean.  The band’s 2006 follow-up album Monument to the Masses, however, received a much chillier reception than expected, and single “Creeps Me Out” stalled, with Ebert eventually releasing the gender-bending (and amazingly well done) promo clip for album-highlight “Lovers in Captivity” on his own, much to the chagrin of his label.  Needless to say, things got cool between artist and label at that point, and Ebert disappeared.

by Corey Beasley

21 Feb 2011


“Bankrupt on Selling” is a rare breed in Modest Mouse’s gruff bestiary: an acoustic ballad. The Lonesome Crowded West previously had the acoustic guitar take the forefront on “Jesus Christ Was an Only Child”, but that track is just as raw and seething as the most plugged-in material on this record. “Bankrupt on Selling”, on the other hand, takes things into definitively different territory. Isaac Brock has written a few of these in his tenure—“Lives” from The Moon & Antarctica(2000) and the much-maligned “Blame It on the Tetons” from Good News for People Who Love Bad News(2004) come to mind. But where that Good News track teeters dangerously on the edge of tedium, “Bankrupt on Selling” manages its melancholy with an expert hand, making it one of the most moving songs on an album full of full-steam heartwrenchers.

Rarely one to use minor chords to carry the weight of his most lacerating lyrics, Brock indulges on “Bankrupt on Selling”. The song’s basic four-chord progression does use the minor key in the way typical of perpetually lachrymose singer-songwriters, but the resonance of the track rests in the other elements of its composition. Original guitarist Dann Gallucci provides an airy, subtle accompaniment to Brock’s foundation, his clean electric picking through the melody and supplementing it without overtaking the mix. In fact, Brock shoulders the whole brunt of the performance, without Eric Judy’s rhythmic counterpoints or Jeremiah Green’s busy drumming to provide support. He does so with grace, a word not often associated with Modest Mouse’s squall.

by Jason Mendelsohn and Eric Klinger

18 Feb 2011


Mendelsohn: I think, out of all the albums we’ve talked about thus far, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon may loom the largest. It’s beloved, it’s reviled, it’s taken on a life of its own beyond that of its creators to represent some sort of cultural movement that involved panel vans with paintings of half-naked women riding Pegasus on the side of them. Commercially, it’s virtually unmatched but critically, it isn’t loved across the board. Thoughts?

Klinger: I’ve never liked this album.

I didn’t like it when my eighth-grade chums were trying to tell me how deep and heavy it is. I didn’t like it in college when it became inextricably paired with a damp towel across the bottom of a dorm room door. And while I’ve certainly mellowed in my disdain for it as I’ve come to realize that there are more important things in this world to be outraged by, I don’t especially like it now.

I’ve now listened to it several times in preparation for this piece, and about the best I can say about it is that sonically it’s quite impressive, making it far and away Alan Parsons’ finest achievement (sorry, I Robot).

Mendelsohn: Finally, an album you don’t like. Personally, I think Dark Side may be the perfect rock record. All killer—no filler! But before we get into that, I need some clarification. Is your disdain directed at just Dark Side or is it Pink Floyd in general?

Klinger: I’m the sort of person who thinks that Pink Floyd never fully recovered from losing Syd Barrett. But I do remember thinking “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” was fun when it was a hit—you know, because I was 11 and I thought school was boring. What does that say?

Since then, I’ve revisited most of their catalog, and I’m inclined to believe that most of their 1970s output is strictly for the bean bag chair. I realize this is something akin to rock heresy, but I don’t care. To my ears, Dark Side of the Moon lacks much in the way of punch. Oomph. Zazz.

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