urgency to bleed

(musical ramblings.)

jesse well this is awkward
Despite what may be posted here, I honestly don't advocate exclusively downloading music without giving back to the artists. They put a lot of time and money into their work and I completely understand that. What I do advocate is trying before buying which is sometimes not possible to do thoroughly with 30-second clips or a song or two from an official site. That's the space that I'm trying to fill. I'm sure a lot of you, like me, don't have the money to invest in an artist you haven't thoroughly evaluated first. I love the feeling of holding a brand new CD in my hands, something tangible, complete with album art and liner notes, but more importantly, I love the feeling of supporting an artist whose music I truly admire. I hope anyone reading this feels the same way and thinks about purchasing the music you come to discover here. I can't really do much about it if you don't, but I can try to persuade you anyway.

For all links, change xx to tt.

A few notes about the tags:

Each post is tagged according to the artist or band it contains music by, so if you're looking for someone specific, it's probably easiest to go straight to the tags page and see if they're in the list.

If you find a post tagged with "!dead links" and you really want a song that was in it, I can probably upload it for you again if you ask nicely.

Also, I've tagged most of the posts with category tags to make it easier to browse through older posts, especially if you're looking for a certain one. For convenience, here's the rundown:

Best of 2007 Lists
Best of 2008 Lists
Best of 2009 Lists
Best of 2010 Lists
Best of 2011 Lists

Artist Features
Concert/Album Reviews
Song of the Day Posts (Older)
Song of the Week Posts (Newer)
Themed Posts

All I have left to say is that I hope you enjoy the music I post here. If you do, it would be a very kind gesture to leave a short thank you comment. Being greedy and rude isn't very cool. I'd also love it if you added me as a friend - I promise I don't bite and that way, it's easier to stay up-to-date on the latest posts. Now, let's get on to more music!

Song(s) of the Week #4
jesse well this is awkward
Well, it didn't take me very long to get way behind in posting, did it? Anyway, as an apology, here are three really kick-ass songs for your listening pleasure. (Also, I kind of got progressively wordier with each one, sorry.)

Tennis - Origins

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Whispertown - Parallel

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Parenthetical Girls - The Former

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Bonus time! If, like me, you cannot get enough Zac Pennington, download this new song from Jherek Bischoff for free! Taken from his upcoming release, Composed, it's lovely first and foremost because Bischoff's string compositions and arrangements are absolutely gorgeous. Secondly, Pennington has contributed his lyrical and vocal talent to the track and sounds as fantastically idiosyncratic as ever. Oh, also, Soko guests too, if you're into her.

Song of the Week #3
jesse well this is awkward

I'm a bit late on this week's post but, anyway, I thought I'd stick with the recent releases theme. I was first turned on to Bowerbirds when I saw them open for Joanna Newsom back in 2010 (has it really been two years already?!?). They put on a fantastic show, which prompted me to pick up their then latest album, Upper Air, afterwards. Though I liked a few songs, I never truly got into the album as a whole until recently, but now I think it's absolutely gorgeous and its just released follow-up, The Clearing, might be even more so. It doesn't exactly veer far off-course in terms of the sound Bowerbirds has established with their first two albums: organic, mainly acoustic folk-rock anchored by Phil Moore's Andrew Bird-esque warble and his heavily nature-influenced lyrics and Beth Tacular's airy harmonies and warmly playful accordion accompaniment. However, it's difficult to fault the band for sticking to what they do best when they do it so damn well. The Clearing contains some of their finest songs yet; in fact, the first half of the album is rather close to flawless, from sprawling opener "Tuck the Darkness In" to the quirky, Tacular-led "In the Yard" to the trifecta of perfection that begins with the track featured here, "Stitch the Hem." The best thing about the song is how it both packs an immediate punch with its catchy chorus and simmers slowly in the back of your mind, listen by listen coaxing you into believing it may in fact be one of the best things you've ever heard. If anything, it will certainly be one of the most beautiful. If Moore and Tacular's impossibly smooth harmonizing, better here than ever, fails to win you over, well, then, I think you should probably have your ears checked immediately.

Song of the Week #2
jesse well this is awkward

Who could bear the things in my head?Collapse )

Song of the Week #1
i put a pearl in the ground
I've decided I'm going to try this format out exclusively for awhile. It gives me a chance to tell everyone about the things I'm obsessed with still, but without making me feel like I have to churn posts out at a rate of every couple of days. Also, I plan to be more in-depth with these than with my old songs of the day.

I'm torn in more than one direction.Collapse )

jesse well this is awkward
Guess who feels like an asshole right now? Yep, me. I knew it was a bad sign when I started skipping days between posting reviews and I knew it would only get worse once I started school again... so, of course, fast forward a month later and I still haven't revealed my top three. I'm sure anyone who once would have cared hates me by now. I also don't have proper reviews to post with these. Not because they aren't good. Naturally, they are very good. I just don't have it in me to write about them at length. So I'm mostly going to let the music speak for itself, though I do have a few half-hearted words to go along with it. Seriously, ignore how flaky I am in my posting habits and just listen to it, please.

Yeah, because the suspense really needs to be built up more.Collapse )

Alright, now I'm probably going to disappear again for... awhile. The foreseeable future. You can keep up with me here or on Tumblr, where I need more friends!

hand that pen over to me poetaster!
Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind of Fix

Hey, everybody, A Different Kind of Fix is probably one of the year's best albums that you haven't heard; seriously, is it just me or has this album flown way under the radar? I haven't seen very many people at all talking about it, at least not here in the States. Even if the rest of the album was utterly horrible (which, obviously, it is not), "Shuffle" is the best pop song, bar none, that I've heard all year - hell, it's probably battling with one or two others for the best song of 2011, period. It's that good (and, in an alternate universe, should be a massive radio hit). The song showcases everything Bombay Bicycle Club has to offer at its absolute peak: the instrumentation is interesting (note the repeated piano motif that sounds a bit like a little kid hitting the keys at random and the electronic sampling that also reoccurs throughout the song) but not off-putting, Jack Steadman's vocals are quirky and highly individual but not polarizing and the melodies are diverse enough that, though it follows in the vein of a classic pop song, it also retains a sense of unpredictability. Basically, the song is immediate and traditional enough to appeal to a mass audience while also being creative and refreshing enough to impress those music aficionados who are a little harder to please - it's truly the best of both worlds. The rest of the album works in a similar way: there may not be anything too edgy here but it isn't simply a rehash of things we've all heard before either. The technique of heavy repetition in a single song can easily backfire and become boring or tedious to listen to but the repetition in opener "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep" gives the song a hypnotic and driving quality that is anything but dull; it sets the bar for the rest of the album extremely high. Luckily, Bombay Bicycle Club best themselves time and time again. Vocalist Lucy Rose contributes to several tracks and her clean, airy timbre contrasts well with Steadman's characteristic warble. On the almost tropical-sounding "Lights Out, Words Gone," her subtle backing vocals only contribute to the song's unique atmosphere, like a cool island breeze, and her effortlessly light repetition of the song's title in "Leave It" leads beautifully into the more intense sections of the song, which find Steadman singing passionately, "Don't you go evade me now/Come see what you've done/I keep thinking lately how/All these feelings won." Other highlights include "Bad Timing," which is slightly more jarring and experimental than anything else on the album, "What You Want," another basically flawless pop song, and devastating closer "Still." In this final song, Steadman sings purely in a wavering, heartbreaking falsetto such potent lines as, "Did he fill the empty spaces/Was he everything I'm not?/There's no force behind my mouth/But in just three words he brings you down/There's a movement out the door, I swear, but no/Your lips, they stay perfectly still." The way this last word is electronically drawn out, simmering just beneath the vocal layers of the chorus, lends an even more unsettling effect to the song. It's an intensely emotional finale, most similar in style to the minimal, acoustic balladry of last year's Flaws but dialed way up to ten, and it'll stay with you long after listening. As a whole, A Different Kind of Fix is one of the most immensely listenable albums I've heard in a long time - it's certainly the one I've most often felt the urge to put on.

jesse well this is awkward
Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness

It's staggering to consider how prolific Los Campesinos! has been since the band released their debut full-length, Hold on Now, Youngster..., in 2008; less than four years later, Hello Sadness is their fourth album (along with a rather impressive array of single releases and b-sides). Even more staggering is just how much the band has evolved musically in that span of time. To play the dark, brooding Hello Sadness next to the buoyant, youthful Hold on Now, Youngster... makes for a stark contrast in both mood and complexity. Yet, at the same time, both sound distinctly like Los Campesinos! albums, impossible to mistake for anything else. While Gareth's vocals have deepened and become less erratic, his acerbic lyrics more introspective and mature and the infectious melodies subtler and more experimental, these essential elements that set the band apart from others of their ilk still remain. "By Your Hand" and "Hello Sadness," with their bouncy choruses set off by rather depressing lyrics ("It's only hope that springs eternal/And that's the reason why/This dripping from my broken heart/Is never running dry"), are among the catchiest songs the band has ever concocted; they also display a stunning amount of depth, building on the heightened emotional resonance of last year's Romance Is Boring. In fact, the heart-wrenching "To Tundra" brings to mind one of that album's late highlights, "The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of the Future," with its gradual build-up to an impassioned finale, which finds Gareth pleading in a wounded wail, "Take a body to water/Take a body to tundra/Just take me with you as well." Also memorable in the second half of the album are "The Black Bird, the Dark Slope" and "Baby I Got the Death Rattle," the latter for Gareth's characteristically self-deprecating and humorous lyrics ("You are an angel, that's why you pray/And I am an ass and that's why I bray") and the former for its soaring chorus, a rare solo moment for Gareth's sister, Kim. As a replacement for former female vocalist Aleksandra, she is utilized mostly for harmonies throughout Hello Sadness, which makes her raspy, slightly soulful turn in the spotlight all the more delightful. At only ten songs, Hello Sadness is a much more compact affair than its predecessor and it is also much more consistent, without a moment of filler. It is the band's most accomplished album to date and it'll be a difficult one to top - though I think the members of Los Campesinos! have already proven they're quite capable of outdoing themselves time and time again.

jesse well this is awkward
I really do have three of these to post today. They're written and everything this time, promise.

Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know

At first, A Creature I Don't Know seems like Laura Marling's chilliest album to date. Gone is the earnest romanticism of Alas I Cannot Swim. Gone too is most of the unbridled passion and world-weary cynicism of I Speak Because I Can. The absence of these qualities may initially make the album appear to be less of an accomplishment than its predecessors, slight and strangely closed-off. Even the most bombastic songs - the darkly playful horn-infused "The Muse," the sinister and bluesy slow-building rocker "The Beast" - sound naked and blunt, simplistic in a way that even the most reserved, stripped-down moments on I Speak Because I Can were not. It's hard to pinpoint what exactly makes the album so initially impenetrable: is it the no-frills, organic production that perhaps sometimes falls a little too flat? Is it the more abstract, impersonal lyrics or the fact that Marling's voice remains, for the most part, on a low simmer? Though these slight changes may at first keep the listener distanced from the music, ultimately, it is also these changes that makes A Creature I Don't Know such a beautiful album. It is possible that the songs here will not immediately hit you emotionally, the way that I Speak Because I Can felt like such a punch to the gut; their simplicity and subtlety is instead more like a slowly-twisting knife - they root themselves inside of your brain, ever so slightly chipping away with every listen until, suddenly, they become some of the most tender, aching and genuinely affecting sounds you've ever heard. This time, the impact of Marling's voice is not in its volume or intensity but in the barely perceptible changes in inflection it can undergo in a single line and the impact of her lyrics is not in their barely-contained anger but in what lies beneath the surface of that anger. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the three-track run of "Salinas," "The Beast" and "Night After Night." Emotionally dizzying on all levels, it is actually in their quiet beginnings that they most shine - nothing is more heartbreaking than Marling's understated, slightly husky voice barely rising above a whisper with only a gently-strummed acoustic guitar for accompaniment. The way she utters certain lines, imbuing them with far deeper meaning than comes across simply in the words ("That gun will turn before the sun starts to burn, understand;" "He lies, he lies, so sweet that I choke;" "Dear lover forgiven, my love is driven by rage"), is stunning to say the least. "I Was Just a Card" and "Don't Ask Me Why" are less sprawling and adventurous musically but thanks to some lovely string arrangements and, again, Marling's impressive talent both vocally and lyrically, just as affecting. The lyrics in "Don't Ask Me Why," particularly, are downright poetic: "I took the wind from the sea/I took the blood from an arrow/I took the wisdom of spring/I was thrown and blown and tossed and turned until/Time found its hand and called it an end/Me and time, we go way back when/I was a child/And I always knew why." A Creature I Don't Know is not an album that wears its heart on its sleeve - but do not let that lead you to believe it does not have a heart at all. Marling only keeps growing better and she is also an artist who does not seem content to settle; her musical future is wide open.

kneel and crawl to hell and back
I apologize. I missed a couple days because I had a bit of trouble writing this review and/or I just felt incredibly lazy. Anyway, I may or may not post one or two more reviews today to catch up. Either that or this'll just take a bit longer than I expected.

Lykke Li - Wounded Rhymes

Wounded Rhymes is, oddly, one of the most playful albums I've heard this year but also one of the most melancholy. The insanely catchy melodies and Lykke Li's uniquely cheeky delivery make it an incredibly fun and addictive listen. At the same time, that voice, an intriguing combination of girlish and husky, can just as easily transform into something achingly mournful. That, along with the album's slower, subtler moments and its boom-y, spacious production, lend Wounded Rhymes a far more mature, reflective, even bleak quality than Li's lightweight debut, Youth Novels. As both a songwriter and a performer, Li's growth over the past few years is obvious and remarkable. What is most stunning about Wounded Rhymes is the confidence it exudes and the fact that it carries such a distinct sound - yet Li's newfound confidence never grows overbearing. Though the album's most immediately infectious tracks - "Youth Knows No Pain," "Get Some," "Rich Kids Blues" - find Li tossing out quick-witted, sarcasm-laced lyrics in an aggressively flirtatious way (most memorably, the oft-repeated guarantee, "I'm your prostitute/You gon' get some"), she is also capable of dialing down the cockiness to genuinely tug at the listener's heartstrings. "Love Out of Lust" is a gorgeously languorous track, a sort of slow-motion dance song, rich, expansive and cinematic. The album's emotional peak, "I Know Places," is an incredibly stripped-down ballad which allows Li to give her most plaintive, truly goosebump-raising vocal performance, sucking the listener completely into the song's sorrowful realm. The moments that shine brightest, though, fall between these extremes. There's "I Follow Rivers," which is just as catchy as any of the previously-mentioned tracks but also just eccentric enough and just dark enough to leave a real, long-lasting impact. It's actually oddly unsettling, with its slightly off-kilter percussion, quirky and child-like in an almost creepy way, and lyrics that are maddeningly cryptic, but not enough to keep you from listening over and over again. "Sadness Is a Blessing" is far less eerie but just as captivating. It most successfully embodies the layered, echo-laden '70s pop style that informs the entire album and it features what is probably Li's most technically impressive vocal. Also, for being so deceptively cutesy, the chorus is one of the album's bleakest: "Sadness is a blessing/Sadness is a pearl/Sadness is my boyfriend/Oh, sadness, I'm your girl." Wounded Rhymes, as a whole, is memorable not only for showcasing such a drastic change in sound and leap in artistry but also, simply, for being one of the finest albums of the year from beginning to end. Li may not be the best composer or lyricist or vocalist on this list but the fearlessness she displays on Wounded Rhymes has been one of my biggest - and best - surprises this year. I didn't go into this album expecting to adore it, which makes it all the more satisfying that it managed to win me over so thoroughly.


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