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13Ghosts

Garland of Bottle Flies

(Skybucket; US: 8 Nov 2011; UK: 8 Nov 2011)

Review [10.Jan.2012]
Review [3.Jan.2012]


13Ghosts
Garland of Bottle Flies


Garland of Bottleflies exists where several dark fringe lines cross. It’s a rock ‘n’ roll record at turns quiet and brash, but its conflicted, restless, paranoid, violent, literate Southern Gothic heart elevates it above most other records released in 2011. Principal songwriter/vocalist Bradley Armstrong paints a number of bleak portraits—a man cryptically revealing that he has killed his woman, a man discussing medication with his doctor, a blow-by-blow account of the world’s most epic bar fight—that all bristle with this restless energy of people just trying to find their way. It’s a record that travels in circles that many of us don’t know, but its basic feeling of unease with the world around us should feel all too familiar with many listeners who find themselves entranced by this record’s confused, often medicated glow. Andrew Gilstrap


 

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Akron/Family

S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT

(Dead Oceans; US: 8 Feb 2011; UK: 17 Jan 2011)

Review [9.Feb.2011]


Akron/Family
S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT


On paper, Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT (say that ten times fast—or just once) is presented as Akron/Family’s most deliriously experimental release yet. Supposedly the record arrived on Dead Oceans’ doorstep in the form of “four blown out song fragments on a TDK CDR in a ziplock bag, three pictures, and a typewritten note”, plus a diorama. The band cites “underground Japanese noise cassettes” and “emotional Cagean field recordings” among its inspiration; the record, they claim, was recorded in an abandoned Detroit train station. Despite all the mythology, however, the album works because its most cosmic moments (opener “Silly Bears”, “A Aaa O A Way”, “Say What You Want To”) are so well buoyed by achingly gorgeous slices of psych-pop. “Island”, “Fuji II (Single Pane)”, and “Cast a Net” are particularly shimmering highlights—not only of this album, but this band’s prolific six-year winning streak. Zach Schonfeld


 

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Julianna Barwick

The Magic Place

(Asthmatic Kitty; US: 22 Feb 2011; UK: 2 May 2011)

Review [14.Jun.2011]


Julianna Barwick
The Magic Place


Considering how nuanced Julianna Barwick’s indescribable music is, it’s not entirely surprising that it might slip through the cracks or be missed altogether. But her first long-player The Magic Place is the quintessential example of an album that grows on you with repeated listens: What on first blush sounds like pleasant background music that transforms new-agey strains into art-pop reveals itself to be much more over time. The seamlessly connected tracks on The Magic Place work on the micro level as well as on the grandest scale, as subtle touches like sparse loops, simple piano notes, and Barwick’s ethereal voice build on one another to create impressionistic compositions that could probably fill the most awe-inspiring gothic cathedral. At its best, The Magic Place taps into a sense of spirituality that can reach the smallest iota of one’s soul and feel universal all at the same time. Arnold Pan


 

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Beastwars

Beastwars

(Destroy; US: 9 May 2011)

Review [30.Sep.2012]


Beastwars
Beastwars


A home-country top 20 debut, sold-out shows, rock award nominations, an acclaimed video, award winning cover art and a beer brewed in their honor—New Zealand’s downtempo titans Beastwars had a triumphant 2011. The band’s self-titled debut—recorded in a scant few days and spilling over with palpable urgency—is the unacknowledged, mutated and illegitimate child of an extremely unholy union between the Jesus Lizard, early Soundgarden and Black Sabbath. Fronted by a lead singer whose unsettling charisma has all the hypnotism of a manically unhinged end-times preacher, Beastwars deliver primordial sermons from the crumbling mount. With a crushing blend of apocalyptic terror slathered with lugubrious atmospherics, the band’s twisted psychedelic narratives are set around stripped-back distorting riffs that revel in their dissonance. Cathartic, claustrophobic and oozing with peril, the rotten heart of the Antipodes has never been so spectacularly, or wantonly, exposed. Craig Hayes


 

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Beastie Boys

Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2

(Capitol; US: 3 May 2011; UK: 2 May 2011)

Review [1.May.2011]


Beastie Boys
Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2


I haven’t picked up Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2 for a few months. But once I gave it another spin, I was amazed at how easily the songs came back into memory. The playful strut of “Nonstop Disco Powerpack”, the Kenny Rogers roaster namedrop in “Long Burn the Fire” and the thomping “Too Many Rappers” quickly come to mind. For the Beastie Boys, the best way to commemorate surviving a cancer scare is to keep partying—and if the scene has changed, you can always pretend it hasn’t. Hot Sauce may not be the reinvention fans have hoped for since Check Your Head, but what it lacks in surprises more than makes up for in exuberance. It’s only fitting that the same year the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band released an album that justifies their inclusion with rock’s elite.  Sean McCarthy


 

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Beirut

The Rip Tide

(Pompeii; US: 30 Aug 2011; UK: 30 Aug 2011)

Review [1.Sep.2011]


Beirut
The Rip Tide


In 2006, Beirut’s Zach Condon released his debut Gulag Orkestaras a wunderkind—a bizarre 19-year-old, whose music would’ve sat equally as comfortably in 1906. Now five years later, The Rip Tideis the work of a grizzled (for a 25-year-old) veteran less concerned with making a splash than simply playing the music he enjoys. The Eastern European influence is still there—just check the accordion pumps that open the album—but it’s undeniably more radio friendly (assuming your preferred station is NPR). The album does mark an effort to be his most relatable, both in terms of pop leaning songwriting and the inward nature of the lyrics. Condon’s tendency to jump sharply between influences leaves him forever unpredictable but after The Rip Tide one can be certain whatever he does do next it will be assured, and unmistakably Beirut. Jesse Fox


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