Music February 23, 2010 By Lily Moayeri

Rough Trade

Rough Trade

themorningbenders title the morning benders: Big Echo

When you are a young, smart group, whose initial recordings are done without much supervision, there is a good chance your later albums will turn out sounding entirely different. This is the case with Northern California’s The Morning Benders. For the band’s follow-up to 2008’s Talking Through Tin Cans, group leader Christopher Chu takes on co-production duties with Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. Attempting a lo-fidelity approach again (as on Tin Cans), Big Echo crackles with the hiss of purported vinyl. “Cold War (Nice Clean Fight)” is the most upbeat with a bouncy acoustic guitar and thrumming bass drum tightened by a simple chorus. “All Day Daylight” has a bit of a bite with edgy riffs and hand claps. But for the most part, Big Echo is slow and calculated, the rhythms moving at a leisurely pace. This unhurried attitude is also adopted by Chu’s vocals, which harmonize fluidly, reverberating with the others. Keeping with Tin Cans’ spirit of brevity, none of the songs on Big Echo take too long to get to the point — or labor it once they arrive there. The Morning Benders may not win any originality points, but they have climbed up a few rungs on the songwriting ladder.

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Buy this at iTunes.

Music February 2, 2010 By Lily Moayeri
fabriclive 49 Buraka Som Sistema: FabricLive 49

buraka title Buraka Som Sistema: FabricLive 49

Buraka Som Sistema do it as well live — if not better — than in the studio. Taking the input of Angolan analog techno and modern Portuguese dance, and mixing it with the almost forgotten experimentation of kuduro, the Portuguese collective has created a ferocious new animal. This mixture is explored in-depth on its full-lengths From Buraka To The World and Black Diamond. Buraka’s installment in the FabricLive series showcases what it does live. Raging electro stabs and belching basslines race through this devastating mix. Skream’s “Fick” honks away as Zomby’s “Dynamite Sandwich” rubs and flutters its way to the declarations of Crime Mob’s “Rock Yo Hips” and the hiccups of DJ Malvado’s “Puto Mekie”. The best bits on FabricLive 49 are Buraka’s own compositions and remixes. These escalate the energy level to another place, crunching and smashing everything in their path. The mix moves rapidly, giving you only the choice parts of the selected cuts. This is done skillfully with tracks so appropriate, it propels you around the dance floor — the rapid shifts unfelt.

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Music October 6, 2009 By Lily Moayeri
raveonettes cover The Raveonettes: In And Out Of Control
Vice Records

raveonettes title The Raveonettes: In And Out Of Control

In And Out Of Control is the Raveonettes’ happiest album to date. The Danish duo, whose adulation of the surf rock of the ‘60s and the shoegazing rock of the ‘90s is well documented, shrugs off both those characteristics this time around. Instead of Everly Brothers harmonies and twanging guitars, there are big choruses and bubblegum pop. The subjects broached on In And Out Of Control are uncomfortable in nature and read like public service announcements: “Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)”, “Suicide”, “D.R.U.G.S.”, and “Breaking Into Cars”. But the goofily upbeat way the two deliver their messages disguises serious lyrics in a haze of sing-along-able fun and lightheartedness.

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The Raveonettes – Suicide

Music September 18, 2009 By Lily Moayeri
the big pink cover The Big Pink

thebigpink title The Big Pink

The Big Pink is love obsessed. The duo’s debut album, A Brief History Of Love, features three songs with “love” in the title. Whether spelled out or not, however, the sentiment appears on all the tracks. But the sonics behind the Big Pink’s love obsession are all harsh noise and fuzzy aggression. A bit Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a bit Jesus and Mary Chain, a bit Atari Teenage Riot (with whom vocalist Robbie Furze played for a while), The Big Pink has a way with writing songs that are instantly familiar. You might think you have heard it before, but it just sounds like something you heard before. At the same time, A Brief History Of Love is all new, original post-shoegazing. “Dominos” has a strident pace that demands a sing-along. In contrast, Furze’s drones on “Frisk” are of a driving nature that pull up rather than drag down.

A Brief History Of Love will be released in the United States on September 22.

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The Big Pink – Frisk

Music August 18, 2009 By Lily Moayeri
penate cover Jack Peñate
XL Recordings

penate title Jack Peñate

Jack Peñate is desperate for you to forget his first album, Matinee, and focus on his new one. In case the message wasn’t clear enough, it is right there in the title, Everything Is New. Peñate has reinvented himself as a brand new entity. Gone is the self-indulgent, snobbish, and superior attitude of the debut. In its place is carefully crafted modern-day soul — not in the conventional sense, however, but the British interpretation of it. This means emotive vocals that aren’t overwrought with vibrato. Rather, Peñate showcases his vocal abilities with empathy and genuineness of emotion that have no choice but to ring true. Afrobeats, handclaps, and scatterings of a gospel choir charge these tastefully melodic songs. Driving world rhythms are the identifiers of “Let’s All Die” and “Give Yourself Away”. But it is the heralding horns and tough dance pace of “Be The One” and the bold statements of “Tonight’s Today”, balanced against island-tinged percussion, that give the album its bite. With Everything Is New, Peñate has redeemed himself enough to inspire us to hit “reset” where he’s concerned.

Music July 15, 2009 By Lily Moayeri
kitty page1 Kitty, Daisy & Lewis
DH Records / Mercer Street Records

kittydaisylewis title Kitty, Daisy & Lewis

Quiffs, pompadours, and ducktails. Skintight skirts. Super-high heels. Ill-fitting broad-shouldered jackets. It’s either a ’50s theme party or a Kitty, Daisy & Lewis gig. The three Durham siblings, all under 20 years of age, may not be sure who Nirvana is, but ask them about any of their three favorite Louises — Louis Jordan, Louis Freeman, or Louis Armstrong — and they can school you.
     Kitty, Daisy & Lewis tend to favor music from half a century ago. Their impressive multi-instrumental abilities (at their July 7th show at the Echo in Los Angeles, we saw guitars, drums, harmonicas, pianos, ukuleles, banjos, trombones, and accordions, not to mention a double bass, scattered about onstage) are dedicated to recreating sounds from a pre-digital time. These same instruments, plus a few more, will be found in their North London home where Lewis Durham has set up a recording studio. It is here that they completed their self-titled debut (out August 11). A combination of select covers spanning from the ’20s to the ’50s, Kitty, Daisy & Lewis’ track-list also features five original songs penned by one or all three of the siblings.
     Entirely analogue — as is expected — Kitty, Daisy & Lewis has the crackle of vinyl embedded in it.

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Kitty, Daisy & Lewis – Going Up The Country

Music June 9, 2009 By Lily Moayeri
zee Zee Avi

zee title Zee Avi

Zee Avi has not had breakfast. She has not had lunch. At twenty minutes to 6 p.m., she is wolfing down her first meal of the day. This is not a good start on the eve of a tour that is going to last until the end of summer. Sounding like Avi is 73 rather than 23, the Malaysian native’s self-titled debut has an old world jazz and lounge feel to it. Strums of acoustic guitar drive sparse songs showcasing Avi’s crackly vocals.
     Avi takes cues from all the music she has been exposed to over her limited years—from classic rock and oldies to hard rock to jazz. She also bears the influence of her various places of residence. Starting her life in Borneo, at 12 she moved to Kuala Lumpur, at 17 to London, and then at 22 to Southern California. While London may be an obvious musical reference point for Avi, the singer/songwriter circuit in Malaysia must not be discounted.
     “We get big acts back home, mainstream stuff, boy bands, pop bands,” says Avi. “But people underestimate the local music scene. We have an amazing local music scene, which quite surprised me when I first got into it. They are such amazing people and they make amazing music. They’re all different from each other, really unique. And they all ended up being my friends.”

Music November 19, 2008 By Lily Moayeri
pier1 Late of the Pier

pier title1 Late of the Pier

The youthful vigor of Late Of The Pier bursts from the British quartet’s debut full-length, Fantasy Black Channel. This is witnessed in the amalgamation of high-energy styles topped with ska bounces and punk sneers. Mainly, however, it’s their electro-rock/synth-pop sensibility fused with inventive and contagious dance hooks that makes Channel effective. The carousel swing of “Random Firl” is balanced by the rapid rolls of “Heartbeat”, while the bleeps of “The Enemy are the Future” temper the grinding crunch of “Whitesnake”. There isn’t a genre Pier hasn’t plundered, but with their unfailing exuberance, it all works.