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50 Foot Wave: Download Everything (2009) June 22, 2009

Posted by sjroby in Music.
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50 Foot Wave: 50 Foot Wave EP

50 Foot Wave: 50 Foot Wave EP

Kristin Hersh first appeared on the music scene as the leader of Throwing Muses, one of the first two American bands to be signed to the British 4AD label some twenty years or more ago (the other was the Pixies). She also started a series of solo albums many years back. And more recently, she started another group, 50 Foot Wave.

And now she’s making a lot of 50 Foot Wave stuff available for free right here.

I got some of it when it first appeared and wasn’t sold on it. Throwing Muses had a distinctive sound, and some of Hersh’s solo stuff was amazingly beautiful, but this just sounded like a tossed off bang and thrash exercise. But hey, free stuff, including a lot I didn’t already have. So I’m listening to it again and having a very different reaction. (Playing it really loud helps.) Yes, it rocks a lot harder than a lot of Hersh’s early stuff, but it does so well, and Hersh’s unique voice is still very much in the mix. Makes me want to go back and listen to some of the later Muses and solo stuff I didn’t listen to as much as the earlier albums, to see what I may have missed there.

What you get in the free package:

  • 50 Foot Wave EP (6 songs)
  • Golden Ocean (8 songs)
  • Free Music EP (5 songs)
  • Power & Light EP (1 song, but it’s 25 minutes long)
  • Instrumental EP (10 songs)
  • Live Tracks (10 songs)
  • Other Stuff (2 songs)

I’m going to go dig up my copies of In the Doghouse (reissue of the first album and a whole lot of other stuff) and Hips and Makers (Hersh’s first solo albums) RSN. And the other stuff before long, too.

Cadence Weapon: Separation Anxiety (2008) June 13, 2009

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Cadence Weapon: Separation Anxiety

Cadence Weapon: Separation Anxiety

Missed this when it first happened a few months ago. Cadence Weapon, rapper, producer, and the next poet laureate of the city of Edmonton (really), released a mixtape for whatever you’re willing to pay for it. I really liked his first proper album Breaking Kayfabe; it was energetic, smart, and didn’t rely on cliches, often using glitchy or retro electronic music rather than overly familiar samples. I haven’t played his second, Afterparty Babies, often enough yet to have much of an opinion on it, partly because I’m not crazy about the first track or two.

Reviewers pointed out that Afterparty Babies had a strong dance music feel, and I should perhaps have expected that Separation Anxiety would focus more on that than on hiphop. Few of the tracks are Cadence Weapon rap tracks; it’s mainly a dance music mix with remixed tracks from other artists, and you can go for a while without hearing any rapping from Cadence Weapon himself. Still, there’s some good stuff on here, and I didn’t pay the cost of a CD for it.

You can get it as 320kbps mp3s for any price you enter at http://www.cadenceweaponmusic.com. I didn’t try getting it for free, but I think it’s possible. Won’t give you much of a sense of what his albums are like, but it’s an easy introduction to an up and coming artist who seems likely to avoid being pigeonholed.

Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV (2009) June 13, 2009

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Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV

Nadja: When I See the Sun Always Shines on TV

What first caught my attention about Nadja was their name. It’s my youngest sister’s name, and it doesn’t tend to pop up very often. So when their album Truth Becomes Death appeared on eMusic a few years ago, I downloaded it for the hell of it. At first, I was mainly amused by the sheer bloodymindedness of the album: three tracks in 50 minutes, layers of drones and harsh guitar noise moving very slowly, sometimes sounding like a stretched heavy metal tape played way too slowly, sometimes like isolationist ambient, even sometimes — when most of the noise fades away late on the album — like slowcore. I got a few more Nadja albums, but the first one I really listened to a lot was Radiance of Shadows (three songs, 79 minutes). Despite being a lot longer, it seemed somehow more focused, and the textures stronger, the louder moments more forceful, the quiter moments not seeming like they were just there for the sake of contrast. Still a long way from mainstream accessibility, of course.

Nadja’s new album is still a fair distance from mainstream accessibility, but it’s as close as they’ve come yet. It’s a covers album, applying the Nadja sound to eight songs by other artists, ranging from shoegazers My Bloody Valentine to metal band Slayer, from singer songwriter Elliott Smith to 80s pop band A-Ha. At least one review has criticized the album on the grounds that these widely diverse songs all end up sounding roughly the same, and there’s some truth to that. It’s not easy to hear traces of the originals in many of these songs (My Bloody Valentine’s “Only Shallow” is the closest to the original). But it really tightens Nadja’s focus, with more of the songs having regular beats and reasonably clear though somewhat subdued vocals. There are still some long songs — the cover of Slayer’s “Dead Skin Mask” is ten minutes long, the Cure’s “Faith” nearly thirteen — but by Nadja’s standards, that’s short.

The squall of noise approach in Nadja’s sound has led people to categorize them as ambient doom, shoegazer metal, and other seemingly oxymoronic names. Justin Broadrick’s Jesu has also been tagged shoegazer metal, and for the first time there’s a bit of an audible similarity between Nadja and Jesu here. Jesu’s sound has become more clean and concise, refining the shoegazer, metal, and 80s gloom (e.g., Joy Division) sound, and Nadja is in a similar place here. I doubt they’ll stay here long, much less move any closer to the mainstream, but this is nonetheless a good, enjoyable album and the easiest approach into the sound of Nadja.

Oh, in case you were wondering, my sister Nadja doesn’t like what she’s heard of Nadja’s music. Alas.

Bat for Lashes: Two Suns (2009) June 1, 2009

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Bat for Lashes: Two Suns

There was a time when seeing someone called a new Kate Bush guaranteed I’d want to investigate the subject of the comparison. But in recent years, there have been too many disappointments. Take Joanna Newsom. Please.

So, I didn’t bother checking out Bat for Lashes until now. Bat for Lashes is British singer Natasha Khan, who’s been compared to Kate Bush and a few others I like. Turns out the comparison has some validity, and that I like Bat for Lashes. That’s not to say that Khan’s voice sounds much like Bush’s at all; instead, what they have in common is that they’re idiosyncratic, strong female creators of artsy but also catchy pop that covers a lot of stylistic ground and involves some creative use of electronics.

The variety in styles is made evident early on the album: English folk on “Sleep Alone,” gospel in “Peace of Mind,” Tori Amos piano-driven drama in “Moon and Moon” and “Siren Song”, a bit of Bjork here and there, maybe even a little Fleetwood Mac/Stevie Nicks in “Daniel”… if there’s an obvious Kate Bush comparison to be made, it’s with her album Hounds of Love, which is experimental and stylistically diverse while also offering some of Bush’s most accessible pop hit songs. The beat-driven “Pearl’s Dream” is a little reminiscent of the likes of the song “Hounds of Love.” As for more recent points of comparison, there are songs here that would sound just right played alongside Goldfrapp’s Seventh Tree or M83’s Saturdays=Youth.

Evidently I’ll have to check out the first Bat for Lashes album, Fur and Gold. This is good music, and I’m glad I got around to trying it out, despite the hype.