Archive for September, 2010

Gold Panda – Lucky Shiner (Ghostly)

September 20, 2010

For Juno Records

The buzz has been building for fledgling Chelmsford, Essex producer Gold Panda for awhile now, and after lauded remixes for the likes of Bloc Party, Simian Mobile Disco, HEALTH, and Lemonade (to name a few), as well as the release of some quality singles, Gold Panda has dropped his debut album Lucky Shiner on the cusp of autumn.

For those of you unfamiliar with Gold Panda’s sound, an immediate reference point could be imagining the gifted lovechild of Four Tet and The Field. But this is not to imply that GP sounds too much like either of these artists, just that his music evokes them. Therefore, beatier tracks like “Vanilla Minus”, “Snow & Taxis”, and “Marriage” will no doubt remind listeners of The Field’s knack for hypnotic loop-based techno. Yet what makes it different is Gold Panda’s talent for adding a distinct emotional element to his songs, one that is quite strong but doesn’t fully reveal itself until repeated listens.

Gold Panda’s ability to eke out emotion, coupled with a quirky, more abstract air, is where the Four Tet comparison comes in — with tracks like “Same Dream China”, “After We Talked”, and the already revered “You”, being excellent examples of this side of Gold Panda’s musical palette. “Same Dream China” is an early highlight, which features Steve Reich chimes that build on a loop, subtle bass, and a tweaked sample of a traditional stringed Chinese instrument. It’s one of those tracks that might elude you at first, but after a few spins have you playing on repeat.

There really is something infectious with Lucky Shiner, which simply comes down to the fact that it invokes an introspective yet warm mood in the end — one that seems to correspond snugly with the beginning of the autumn season. There are no lyrics throughout the album, but it still plays out as deeply personal, and judging by the track titles this seems to be the case. Hence, what we have is a smattering of Gold Panda’s autobiography thus far, told aurally rather than orally, with a touch of his passion for Eastern cultures thrown in for good measure. Lucky Shiner is a solid and diverse debut, and worth every bit of anticipation and hype bestowed upon it. Check it.

Mux Mool – Wax Rose Saturday EP

September 16, 2010

For Juno Records

Hot on the heels of his critically acclaimed debut album “Skulltaste”, Brian Lindgren aka Mux Mool returns with an EP of remixes, one new track, and his own remix of “Wax Rose Saturday”, which he has dubbed a “remux”. The album opens with Mool’s remux, and you’d never know it came from the original track if he didn’t tell you. This new “Wax Rose” is pure analogue and a much warmer affair than the bleepy original, sounding a bit like labelmate Dabrye, with some smooth vocoder thrown in for good measure. It gets one’s head bobbing, and segues nicely into new track “Valley Girls”, which is one of the best songs he has released to date — a simple slow jam with a subtle yet spooky synthline that bumps so nice you’ll want to play it twice before moving on to the remixes.

Daso’s remix of “Enceladus” is the clear-cut highlight here, a sprawling 7 minute 4/4 banger that has the dancefloor in its sights from the get go. Hints of house and disco are meshed in with Mool’s original dirty funk to smashing effect, creating a definite hitter for all you late-night DJs hoping to carry the party until the wee ones. Shigeto’s take on “Morning Strut” switches the rhythm around while still maintaining the original track’s piano line, while Paul White tweaks “Wolf Tone Symphony” and Alex B tries his hand at “Hog Knuckles” by upping the pitch and tempo, but in my opinion that track is arguably already pitch perfect in its original form. Nevertheless, this is an excellent addendum to Mux Mool’s sound in 2010, and definitely worth checking out.

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

September 14, 2010

When Arcade Fire exploded out of Montreal with their acclaimed album Funeral, I had just left la belle province myself for school in the Maritimes. And even though I enjoyed Funeral’s intensity and emotion, personally I was still heavily entrenched in electronic music and was willfully allowing most new “rock” music to pass me by for looped blips and deep bass. Around that time, I was getting into the poppier side of electronic music with Hot Chip’s first album Coming on Strong, and now five years later, I’ve done a complete 360, where I’m allowing the new Hot Chip to pass me by (and dismissing it as tripe) and falling headlong for Arcade Fire’s third full-length album The Suburbs.

And what an album it is. One that blossoms a bit more with each successive listen, and one that is full of dynamic and proper indie rock songs that subtly recall your favourite musicians from the last 30 years. A small list: The Boss, The Beatles, The Byrds, The Who, The Doors, Heart, Cyndi Lauper, U2, Yo La Tengo, Broken Social Scene, Bon Iver, David Byrne, oh yeah, and Arcade Fire. It is an amazingly calculated and mature collection of songs that immediately churns up a strong sense of nostalgia and emotion. But for this listener, the reason The Suburbs is such a genuine winner, and the reason it will most likely top my list for 2010, is the lyrics. They really resonate with me.

I think it’s because I’m at about the same age and same place mentally as the band — this liminal space between the end of youth and the start of adulthood — where I can now look back on my life with some real perspective, and the idea of “settling down” is actually beginning to seem like something valid, and something I’ve always truly wanted for myself yet up to this point have constantly denied.

So yes, the lyrics strike a definitive chord with me, and (depending on the day and my mood) I can barely make it through the opening track without my eyes glossing over. When Butler sings: “I want a daughter while I’m still young / I want to hold her hand and show her some beauty, before this damage is done…” it turns the emotion button churning deep in my guts, and I feel like his lyrics are suddenly speaking for me.

I’m unsure if a twenty-year old listener would feel the same, but lines like “All my old friends, they don’t know me now” and “You cut your hair, I never saw you again” from the Springsteen influenced “Suburban War” send me reeling back to high school and images of old friends loved yet forgotten who have gone on to start families of their own and get real jobs and move into freshly built houses in cities and suburbs across Canada and beyond.

And I guess, besides the reprise at the end of the album, this would be where the main Beatles influence comes in. John and Paul knew how to lyrically hammer down the emotion as well as speak to the kids of an era. And I wonder: What contemporary album has had lyrics that actually, truly speak to my generation? “A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido?” I think not. The Suburbs is the Nevermind of twenty years later, where we no longer want to oh well, whatever, nevermind — now what we want to do is remember the past, and take hold of all the stupid mistakes and amazing strides we made to get to exactly where we happen to be now.

And sometimes I think to myself, what the fuck have I been doing for 30 years, because I ain’t quite there yet. Not by a long shot. And I start to freak out and panic and wonder what the hell went wrong? But then I take a deep breath and realize that it’s all right, because I am getting there, just not as fast and sure as I had initially (and naively) expected. Patience, persistence, and resolve are tough little bastards to hone, but definitely worth continually pursuing . . .

But I digress. “Month of May”, “Ready to Start” and “We Used to Wait” are solid and tight rockers that you can blast in your living room and get swept away in. “Modern Man” and “Rococo” are also great songs with strong lyrics, and “The Suburbs”, “Deep Blue”, “Suburban War”, “Sprawl I / II” pack the emotional wallops with tight changes and great orchestral accompaniment to boot. And then the lyrics of the end reprise sums it all up beautifully:

If I could have it back
All the time that we wasted
I’d only waste it again
If I could have it back
You know I’d love to waste it again
Waste it again and again and again

Check it out if you haven’t already. Love, ml.